It was during our time living in the duplex that my obsession with neatness and cleanliness began. Right across the yard from us lived a wonderful latin family who had a daughter a couple of years older than me and a son, a couple of years younger. I became friends with the daughter. The family sort of took me under their wings, I am sure somewhat aware that there was trouble at my house. They would invite me over to eat every time the mom made enchilada’s and boy were they delicious! This period of time also began my passion for chocolate chip ice cream! After a dinner of enchilada’s, they would also serve chocolate chip ice cream, which I had never had before and I still have a love affair with to this day! In addition to educating me in the deliciousness of Mexican food and chocolate chip ice cream I also became fascinated by the cleanliness of their duplex…never had I seen a home so perfect, everything in it’s place and so beautifully decorated. At our duplex my sister, being about 1-2 years of age, had toys all over the house and after seeing the neighbors I became preoccupied with trying to keep our place neat, but to no avail. I would put the toys away and out my sister would bring them again. My parents laughed at me one time, said she is a baby and they are just toys. I can only guess that the stress of my emotional surroundings left me feeling that I had no control over anything, but this, the cleaning, was something I could actually, physically do something about so, thus, my first true obsession had begun.
My dad and his partner were still running the insurance agency and it was also at this time that my parents separated for the first time. My dad got an apartment and I remember my sister and I visiting him there, spending Saturday nights with him. My memory is so fuzzy about so many things; I do not know exactly how long they were separated but I know it was at least some months…maybe six to twelve. At this point, I still loved my dad to pieces and looked up to him. One day my dad came over to our duplex, I was still in bed, and he came and woke me up and said, “Cheryl we are going fishing today…fishing for boxes because I am moving back home with you, your sister and your mom!” I was elated and through my arms around him!
I know my dad did move back in, maybe even that weekend. It was also during this time that my dad found out his partner in the company was embezzling money; he bought my dad out of his share and my dad reenlisted in the Navy. It was not long after that we were packing boxes for real and moving to Millington, Tennessee, where my dad was in school for the military. I think we were only there maybe a year or two, but things seemed to be going ok. We lived in a very nice apartment complex and there I met a girl named Monica. Monica was my age and also had a little sister my sister’s age. The only problem was her mom was a single mom and they were never allowed to go outside, I usually would go to her back door and just talk to her at the back door! It was her responsibility to clean the house every single day, while her mom was working. I would always watch as she mopped the kitchen floor; it was the very last thing she would do after vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the bathrooms. So this just reinforced my cleanliness fetish.
I remember that winter it snowed and we were out of school for about a week. As I mentioned before, my mom was overprotective and refused to let us play in the snow, for fear we would get sick. I would sit in the window and watch the other kids making snow angels, snowmen and throwing snow at each other; how I longed to be able to go outside and play with them. Thankfully for Christmas that year my Aunt Dottie sent me the whole “Little House on the Prairie” set of books, so I spent the winter reading the books. I truly loved the series and read the books over and over again many times through the years.
Eventually our time in Tennessee came to an end and we again were packing our boxes, this time for the great state of Texas, where my dad was born.