Home on the Range

I call Tulsa, Oklahoma home, but not by choice. When I was in the fourth grade, my mother kidnapped me and I moved to Oklahoma. That’s right- my mother kidnapped me. Sure, I was never in harms way, but still I was abducted. Whats the statue of limitations on that anyway? I’d still testify. She’d take the stand in her defense and adamantly deny it. I’ll let you be the judge.

Things weren’t going so well on the north side of town. My mom was tired of struggling and she wanted to leave Chicago. I didn’t know any of this. I lived with my father at the time and things were different for me. After a year or two of hard knocks, I was finally feeling at home in the ghetto ass, gang infested neighborhood we lived in. The only downside was that I didn’t see my brothers as much as I wanted to. But this was summertime Chicago. School was out of session. We were together.

Things were bad between my parents. For some reason they didn’t get along. I don’t know what was left of the love they once had for each other, but the frustration of years of petty strife was peaking. I blame their bad communication as the root of my ordeal, you know, being kidnapped by my mom.

My brothers and I were wasting the day away playing video games. If it weren’t for the nearness of the wall jack to the television we would have ignored the sound of it all together. The phone rang and rang. We didn’t get calls at that age, so we never picked up the phone, but after 20 rings, we decided it could be an emergency. My brothers nominated me to answer it. I picked up and spoke into the receiver, but no one spoke from the other end. The phone stayed silent a second longer before the dead dial tone let me know that a human being was listening on the other end of my hellos. I put the phone down and went back to playing video games with my brother. We played Nintendo. I cheated in Tecmo Bowl.

An hour or so later, the phone rings again. This time, I count 10 rings before I grab it. My father is on the other end of the phone cursing me for picking it up. I could always call out if there was an emergency he said. Why am I worried about who’s calling he said. 20 rings I explained. I didn’t understand why it was so much drama on some stupid Tuesday in August.

Not more than 20 minutes after my dads call, the phone rings again. I’m so pissed about the phone rules, I start making my own. I don’t even wait until it rings twice. I’m surprised to hear that its my mom calling. She asks how we are doing and says she can’t wait to see me before she hangs up and says she has to go. These are the two weirdest calls I’ve ever had in my life. It might be the chief reason why now I hate phone calls and love emails, texts, and etc.

Less than an hour later, my mom knocks on the door to my fathers bungalow apartment on south Peoria street. Home. I open the door and my mom steps in quickly closing the door behind us. She prods me and my brothers to gather our things so we can go to a movie. Its clearly not according to schedule so I’m a little hesitant. I lost my key so I couldn’t lock the door even if we did leave. But I’ve always honored thy mother, so I listened and begrudgingly packed my bags. Before we could step out the door, my dad stomped into the house and a small chaos ensued. Small because no punches were thrown. But a chaos none the less. I’ve never packed and unpacked so many things as fast as I did then, struggling around my brothers, as we hurled bags of clothes amassed for back to school. My mom and dad yelled for a few minutes but the police arrived almost immediately. Their arrival was so awkward, I wondered who summoned them. That didn’t matter of course. They were bombarding the scene right away. They put my father in handcuffs for no discernible reason and piled my brothers and me into the back of squad car no. 2 as my aunt Doris, who was waiting outside the entire time, followed in the caravan to the Vincennes Street police station.

We arrived at the station and one officer chaperoned us as we waited for my dad to be pulled from the back of the other cruiser. My mom and aunt were already waiting inside. Once my dad was inside, they herded us all into the bosses office. They explained the situation to him. He says she came to his house uninvited to take the boys. She says she has the right to custody over these two. That’s an easy one the police boss said. Split them up he said. Don’t separate us my dad said. Go with your brothers he tells me. We hug him and say our goodbyes with his hands still cuffed to the bench. He can’t even reach to hug us.

None of it made any sense. I’m clueless until we make it to my grandmothers house. Apparently she isn’t in on the snatch and run. She tells me I’m going to like living in Oklahoma. I ask her what the fuck is she talking about, in those words exactly. But it was a rhetorical question. My mothers actions said it all. Her checkmate was completed. There was no fighting or screaming or begging and pleading. As the motives behind the mornings events became clearer, it dawned on me the promise I’d made to my father. I felt obligated to join my brothers on this journey to a foreign land.

It would be days before I spoke to my mother and years before I forgave her. I am sure that I am not the first child to be uprooted from one state to another when parents separate. Some people have childhoods so traumatic that it would be insensitive for me to compare our lives. I felt tortured by the back of forth and moms house then dads house. Now it looked like I’d never see my father again. There are three moments in my life that have steered the course of my experiences so far, and my move to Tulsa was the first. The challenges we faced in Chicago were minuscule to the struggles we would encounter our first few years in Tulsa. The humbleness of our lives only stirred more resentment within me. I had it all in Chicago, or so it seemed.

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