If You Go To Oklahoma, Don’t Forget Me

I was sitting cross-legged on the counter of the ladies ready-t0-wear store my Grandma managed eating red liquorice and drinking grape soda when I called home for the fifteenth time.  Where did my parents go?  I’d been staying with my grandparents for a week and Grandma wanted to know if Daddy was going to pick me up this Sunday and should she cook dinner.

I cradled the heavy yellow receiver and dialed over and over again.  All day.  Surely my brother would answer.   Even if they’d gone to the pool, that wouldn’t take six hours.  I wasn’t afraid.  Just really curious.

The next day, I started calling again at 9:00 AM.  They still weren’t answering and it was ballooning into an obsession for me. Where’d they go?  By 5:00 PM that night, my dad finally picked up.  My mouth was full of Juicy Fruit gum I’d helped myself to from my Grandmother’s purse.  “Where’ve ya’ll been?”

Image credit: wwp.greenwichmeantime.com

Image credit: wwp.greenwichmeantime.com

We went to Oklahoma,” Dad explained without further explanation.  I assumed he was kidding.  There’s no way my family would take off for a trip to Oklahoma without me.  My reasoning: You can’t take a trip when 1/3 of your children isn’t there.  Think of how stupid the pictures would look.  Hey, here’s the Tate family in Oklahoma.  But where’s Christie?  How odd she wasn’t there.

For family trips, the family members themselves are essential.

“Very funny. Grandma wants to know if you want chicken fried steak and okra or corn on Sunday? Are you still coming to get me after church?”

 “I’m pretty beat from the drive back from Oklahoma. How bout I come Tuesday?”

Wait. He was serious? They went to Oklahoma? Now my brother and sister would have stepped foot in more states that I had.  That’s not fair!  In my mind, Oklahoma was a western Disneyland– instead of wearing those mouse ears, everyone wore cowboy hats and red bandanas while strolling around eating cotton candy. 

How could they leave me behind?

I wanted to hang up, but mine was not a rebellious spirit.  I swallowed the Juicy Fruit and my pride. “Daddy, why’d you go to Oklahoma . . . without me?”  His answer didn’t quell the hurt– it was something about going to Ponka City to get a piece of antique furniture from some friend’s dead mother.

Later, everyone who got to go (everyone except me) would describe how awful the trip was–there was a story about a dead rat in front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken that we were sure would give my mom a case of PTSD for the rest of the 1980s.  They’d tell me about lumpy hotel beds, empty ice machines, and depressing slot machines in every gas station.

I didn’t care.  They’d left me behind and made memories that didn’t include me.  When you’re left behind, a dead rat in Kentucky Fried Chicken is like a saber tooth tiger on a safari– it’s exotic, it’s worth taking a picture of, and it’s something to be sad you missed.

I didn’t even get a t-shirt, but if I had, it should have said: “My family left me behind when they went on a fabulous 48-hour trip to Oklahoma and all I got were feelings of abandonment and a lifelong obsession with Oklahoma.”


55 thoughts on “If You Go To Oklahoma, Don’t Forget Me

  1. AWWWW… The dead rat and the drama Is what makes the trip memorable and….. Not fun necessarily, but something to talk about let’s say. I’m sorry you missed the trip. I can’t even think of a good way to get them back:).

  2. Oh you poor bunny! I especially related to you swallowing your gum and asking the question. The good news? Your writing keeps jumping off the page and without those early memories of abandonment, you know, you might not have such juicy, rich writing. Time for a thank you note to mom and pop! ;-( xoxo

  3. But did your siblings get Juicy Fruit? You had some adventures they didn’t, although they’re probably too old for you to rub that in now.

  4. So this begs the question…Did you ever end up going to Oklahoma? I totally relate to this. I went to camp every summer from the time I was 7, and since my sisters were younger and were still at home those first few years, they would always go somewhere with my parents, and I’m not in any of those pictures.

  5. Except only YOU got to be at Grandma’s. That sounds special! You must have been her favorite. And in the end, that was loads better than potential PTSD from KFC’s dead rat welcoming committee. I’ve been to Oklahoma. Not to insult anyone but…you’re not missing much. I’d rather have your Grandmother’s chicken fried steak and okra. –Lisa

  6. I don’t get it…WTF was that about that they didn’t take you with them…You aren’t a public embarrassment I would venture to assume, correct? Am I missing something?

    • I think they had a short window to go get an armoir and they didn’t want to disturb my time with my grandmother. They had no idea I would flip out and from their perspective, it was a horrible trip where rats died and a trailer hitch broke, so seriously, I won on that one.

      • well yeah I get it was a lousy trip but they didn’t know it would be … and I get your writing its done well (as always) …I just didn’t understand why theyd leave you w your grandma I guess…I would have flipped out too and I was raised by wolves.

  7. The only time my parents left me behind was when my grandmother died. They had a funeral and buried her without telling me. I was furious with them — for decades. Now that I’m older, I realize, they were trying to protect me from pain. It still sucked. I suppose being left out sucks no matter how you slice it.

    • I had a similar situation when that same grandmother died. They didn’t tell me she was super sick because I was studying for the bar exam. In the end, I was the one who made the choice not to attend funeral, which I regret every time I think of it. But I was mad they didn’t give me more warning.

  8. My mom lived in Ponka City as a kid, and it always sounded like the funnest place ever, just by its name. It seems that perhaps it’s actually not that great. BUT, I would have felt the same in your position.

    I love this post. It really brings back those memories of things that were so tragically IMPORTANT when you’re a kid. And if they feel important at the time, then no one can say they’re not.

    • Seriously? Your mom lived in Ponka City? I always thought it sounded amazing and I still do. Maybe for our second honeymoon we’ll take a tour of Oklahoma.

      • Actually, now that I think about it… the places she talks about most from her childhood were Ponka City, Chicago, and Houston. Whoa. (They moved to Houston when she was a teen and that’s where she met my dad, in university. Then they dodged the draft so now we’re all Canadian.) The world is tiny sometimes!
        I look forward to hearing about the romance to be had in Oklahoma.

      • The world is too small. I can’t stand it! Next you’re gonna tell me you have a long lost relative– Uncle Ave– from Waxahachie via Mobile, AL– in which case I’m gonna need a defibrilator.

  9. You so perfectly captured that child mentality! When my sister was little – maybe 5 or 6 – she asked about some pictures and why she wasn’t in them. My mom said, “You weren’t born yet.” My sister screamed, “Don’t say that!” and started crying. Feeling left out as a kid is just the worst.

    • It’s so funny. I got to stay with my grandma and have this great visit and BOOM! all I could think about was the glorious Oklahoma country side. Kids are so funny and tender like that.

  10. You painted this picture so well, now I need to go to OK and also find some southern fried goodness. As for a grandma who cooks healthy cuisine? No thanks. My gram’s not southern, but she was a great cook. and I have better memories of her house than any time spent in the car w/the family. I had to break it to my dad a few years ago that I hate car trips. I liked the destination, but getting there was never half the fun. He was shocked.

  11. This would be my kids. And honestly, me too. You could have gotten back at them with all of your stories about staying at your grandparents’ house, but isn’t it like a kid to focus on the horrible thing she missed instead of the fun she had?

    • Totally. I’ve carried pieces of that with me as an adult, but less and less as time goes by. Gratitude helps with that twisted thinking. I just didn’t know that then!

  12. I would have been upset too. As time passes, those horrible dead rat stories become the thing you laugh and groan over as a family – even if they were awful in the moment. It totally sucks to not be a part of that.

  13. Love this. Gorgeous writing. I relate to the being left out of things. I was beside myself after being away for a week (in sleep-away camp, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but I am) and my parents took my brother to Zipz Make Your Own Sundae – without me. Did I mention without me? Zipz – the Oklahoma of ice cream shops.

  14. Wonderfully descriptive…I can just picture you sitting up on that counter dialing home. My brother and sister are 14 and 16 years older than I am, so my family had this whole other life before I came along. They lived in California, Colorado and Louisiana. Albums full of pictures I’m not in. I don’t like it either.

  15. My brother and I went to grandmas for a week in the summers. It was our Disney land. She bought us candy roller skates tennis rackets. Gave us driving lessons on the highway at 11 and 12. Yes we actually
    Drove on the kaneville blacktop hwy. She told us some people play tennis on the grass and we felt bad for her because we thought she must be losing it.

    • Whoa, funny to see you here on the ol blog. Welcome to the comments section. My grandpa let us drive when we were that age too. It was incredibly bad ass.

  16. The dead rat was like a saber tooth tiger……I laughed heartily at that.
    Bless your heart. I loved this whole thing and must share with others. Youve also inspired me to blog a tale about my childhood. 🙂

  17. Next time you’re in Texas, whaddaya say OM and The Grammar Belle pack up and road trip it to OK? We should go gambling at Winstar, swing by the lake in Durant (pronounced Doo-rant), have a somber and historical moment at the bombing memorial in OKC and then hit up Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater. OUR memories will blow their dead rats right out of the Red River!

  18. Aw, that stinks that they left you behind! I’ll bet you had a wonderful time with your grandparents though. I can relate. My family went on a Caribbean cruise and didn’t invite me. It happened during adulthood, but I pout about it as if I were a kid. lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s