Chapter 31 1968 – I-Day

After the Thanksgiving meal was finished, I retreated to his room, listening to his records and making a sincere attempt at avoiding Betty. To think she was his cousin and what he’d done… He couldn’t think of it and had to keep his mind elsewhere.

He pulled out the latest copy of Circus magazine. It was one of his favorites because it let him read about the latest groups of the day, told about the glamorous lives of the rock stars, and most of all, all the advertisements about guitars.

I could lose himself in reading for hours, and when he was interrupted by a knock on his door, he didn’t respond right away. A second, harder knock got his attention.

“What?” he called out.

It was Juliette, “Your uncle is leaving. Come and say goodbye.”

I wanted to avoid Betty at all costs, but it seems there was no avoiding it. He came in to the room, gave his Aunt a hug, shook his Uncle’s hand, and waved goodbye to Betty before retreating to his room.

A few moments later his mother returned. “You didn’t treat Elizabeth very nicely today. I thought you’d be excited to see her after all these years.”

“I see her all the time,” I revealed. “She’s in the band. I didn’t know who she was until today. She’s always hanging out with the snooty girls.” He had to find some excuse for his seeming disinterest.

“Well, I think you should make an effort to get to know her better. She’s a very nice girls.”

I had known her better that he ever wanted to again.

A few days later, another I-Day had rolled around. Like so many other holidays, it had been an appreciated day off from work and school, but falling so close to Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays, its importance was diminishing. A number of schools and businesses no longer observed it, and even the Mall family focused more on birthday activities than on the national holiday. A late session lame duck congressional vote nearly succeeded in removing it as an official holiday, but enough votes weren’t mustered to pass the legislation. Some say it was in deference to President-Elect Nixon, as it was under the administration where he served as Vice President that the holiday was first established.

As it was I’s fifteenth birthday, he was becoming a bit disinterested in it himself. With the Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, and the thought of time off from school, away from Betty’s presence, he wished the days in between passed even faster.

When Christmas did finally arrive, I was delighted to discover that Spike’s family was coming over for dinner. He had wanted to renew his friendship with Spike, which had seen better days. But when they did arrive, it was just Buddy, Annette and an eleven-year old Angela.

I asked, “Where’s Spike?”

Annette looked to Buddy, and then simply said, “Adrian is spending Christmas with his grandparents.”

Henry and Juliette were well aware of the relationship Annette had with Buddy’s former in-laws, and did not press the question any further.

The families sat down for dinner, and Angela was seated next to I. I did not appreciate having this little girl next to him, but he didn’t really have any choice. Angela told him, “My brother told me you have a girlfriend.”

I tried to ignore the implied question. “I haven’t talked to your brother for a long time. How would he know anything about me?”

“He said the other kids at school were talking about it.” Angela was determined to keep the conversation going.

“What’s this about a girlfriend, I?” Juliette asked. “You didn’t tell me you had one.”

“I don’t!” I was emphatic. “They just probably saw me talking to someone and are trying to spread rumors. Some kids at school are just plain mean.”

“I’ll be your girlfriend,” Angela pursued.

I stared at her, “You’re just a little girl.”

“I’m not a little girl!” Angela protested. “I’m almost twelve. I got my period last week!”

Annette nearly spit out the coffee she was drinking, and Buddy started to chuckle.

“Angela!” Annette cried. “That’s not proper dinner table talk.”

Angela deferred to her mother’s manners correction and dropped her interrogation of I. A few snickers from the parents gradually faded into general conversation, and the whole “girlfriend” matter was dropped.