Although from the same town Mom and Dad attended different junior high schools. I am told by several women who knew my father at that time, that girls from both junior highs would swoon in the retelling of stories about the long haired lothario who got up to all sorts of high jinx. But it wasn’t until high school that Mom caught her first glimpse of the notorious Butler boy.
It was the early seventies, Jim Morrison and Robert Plant were rocking the scene so Dad, in an unusual move among Mormons, grew his blonde hair long. The problem with that? Male students attending Orem High School were required to keep their hair above the collar. To keep the principal at bay, my enterprising young dad acquired a wig of short artificial hair and wore it to school every day.
It was unlikely that my parents would ever speak to each other. Their worlds had no occasion to collide. Mom dated the same popular boy throughout her high school years. Paul was a good Mormon boy who squired Mom to every single Homecoming, Prom, and football game.
Despite the fact that Paul graduated a year ahead of Mom, the two continued to date throughout her senior year. Towards the end of that school year Mom was sitting in the student lounge when Dad, sporting his wig, strolled languidly into the room.
“Hey.” He said to the leggy blonde sitting on the bench.
“Hi.” Mom replied shyly. She later told me she thought Dad looked like the blue-eyed depictions of Jesus one can find in most Christian pamphlets
“I’ve seen you around. What’s your name?”
“Yeah. I know your friend Jim.” The words were casual, the emotions were not.
They saw each other in the hallway after that. Dad would pass Mom and give her a knowing little smile that sent a flush spidering up her cheeks. She couldn’t let anybody know she thought the “Butler boy” was hot. He wasn’t fit company for a good Mormon girl aspiring to a temple marriage so she wisely kept her burgeoning feelings to herself.
A few days after their first conversation school was letting out for the day and Mom caught a glimpse of Dad leaving the building. Clutching her books tightly to her chest she watched as he rambled to the edge of school property, reached up and pulled off his short, brown wig, sending a mop of long, blonde hair tumbling down his back.
“Ohhh.” She sucked in her breath.
“What did you say, Elaine?” her friend Cathy asked.
“Nothing. Just thinking about a test I have in Math class.” Mom replied guiltily.
“So what’s Paul up to? Is he glad to be out in the real world?”
“Who? Oh PAUL! Yeah, he’s doing great. Got a job. Doing great!” Mom slid her eyes to where Dad was sauntering down the sidewalk. He had taken off his shirt and had partially stuffed it into his back pocket where it dangled down his pants like a bandana.
Mom was well aware of his reputation with the ladies. But what girl can resist the bad boy? From James Dean to Colin Farrell, the bad boys have had an impassioned grip on the tender hearts and minds of good little girls the world over.
So, dear reader, you can well imagine the storm of emotions that thundered through Mom's delicate Mormon mind when she found herself attracted to the rebel with the long hair, best known for smoking pot behind the high school gymnasium. She had assumed she’d be marrying Paul and living happily ever after. And then Dad came along.
After weeks of ardent glances exchanged in the school hall, Dad asked Mom to go to a keg party up in the canyon.
“What’s a keg party?” Mom wanted to know.
“You’ll see.” Dad chuckled at Mom’s innocence. “Just come.”
Mom didn’t tell anyone she was meeting Dad, including of course, her boyfriend Paul.
“Heeeeeeey.” Dad lit up like the bonfire he was standing next to and stepped away from the gathering of motley slackers and women of questionable morals to greet Mom. "You made it."
Several of the hardened girls, sporting tight pants and heavy eyeliner fired dirty looks in Mom’s direction. She was an intruder. A good girl who didn’t fit in. They didn’t appreciate her virtuosity highlighting their debaucherous behavior, stealing one of their boys.
Dad was very respectful of Mom, hovering protectively when any of the other boys got too close, monitoring her exchanges with his friends, ready to step in if Mom appeared uncomfortable. There was no hand holding, no kissing, but the heat between them crackled to life like the bonfire before them.
Unlike the bonfire, relations with my parents didn’t get any hotter that night. They went back to school and their respective lives. Tests were taken, books read, lockers opened and closed and before they knew it, their careers at Orem High School were drawing to a close.
It was graduation night. Mom had the option of attending a school dance or going to another keg party in the canyon. Her brain told her the dance but her heart opted for the keg party. Rumors that Dad was going to burn his wig in a ceremonial nod toward graduation proved difficult to resist.
She stood apart from the crowd she was so incompatible with, a group of classmates that had always intrigued her. Watch now as the golden boy tosses his wig into the fire and the crowd cheers. Embers dance into the black sky like fireflies on a windy night, several boys begin using chunks of firewood like drum sticks, beating rhythms into rocks, and before she knows it she is letting go of the good little girl inside, saying goodbye to the life she thought she would lead. Watch her at eighteen, her whole life before her,laughing, singing, drinking beer and getting drunk for the very first time in her sheltered life.
Despite the fact that he felt she was out of his league, Dad was completely enamored with the angelic blonde. Bad boys fall in love with the good girls and the good girls fall in love with the bad boys. Like a budding rose, the classic love story slowly unfurled over that long, hot summer.
Mom nabbed a summer job at a shake shop. Dad walked down to visit her he has said so he could 'watch her bend over in her cute, little uniform'. Over the course of the summer of ‘73 Mom attempted to break up with her high school boyfriend, Paul. They’d fight, get back together, fight. But, as Dad wasn’t the type of guy to have a girlfriend, Mom wasn’t necessarily his girl either. Oh, they went on dates and he alluded that he didn’t do that kind of thing with just anyone. He might have sex with girls here and there, but date? Nuh-uh.
Summer melted into fall, fall scraped along toward winter. On Thanksgiving Dad invited Mom over to his house. It was a crisp evening, the kind of sharp, pungent air that only autumn can produce. Leaves scratched along the sidewalk, a chill nipped at their noses and the distinct zing of impending snow flavored the night. They meandered down the sidewalk, ultimately stepping into an apple orchard. The stars shone down like diamonds nestled on velvet and they made love in the damp weeds.
A few weeks after Christmas, a few days after her nineteenth birthday, Mom began to feel sick. She was still living at home while working graveyards at an electronics company. Every morning she’d come home and throw up in the bushes near the side door so her parents wouldn't ask questions.
“I’m tired.” she’d whisper, throat like sandpaper from all the retching, as she staggered dizzily inside. But she knew. Two days later a doctor confirmed her worst fear. She was pregnant.