Before classes started I took a tour of my new school with my mom and the principal, Mr Albert. It helped ease some of the anxiety I was having about switching schools and starting the second grade. He seemed nice and told my mom he thought I’d do well. My mom breathed a breath of relief, hoping she wasn’t going to have to deal with me being in and out of his office, like before. They were calling me A.J. instead of Arthur which helped reinforce the idea of a new life. I felt good while I was being given the tour, but as I left a strange twinge of worry fell on me. I’m not sure where it came from. Ominously looking back at the school, out the window of my mom’s 1990 maroon Pontiac Grand Am, I thought to myself at least they’ll be weekends.
That night at home we had a surprise visit from my Uncle Habron, Aunt Rose, and Cousin Curtis. I had never met any of them but it was cool to be around an older cousin, I thought. Curtis was 13. He was named after my father. My Dad didn’t love the idea of him being named after him though. He always thought they gave out his name prematurely. What if he wanted to give the name to his own child one day?
When I was younger I thought Curtis would’ve been a cooler name than Arthur but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to embrace it. I’ve always had a weird relationship with my name. Let’s be honest, it’s an old person’s name. The name Arthur is very typecast. When you’re Arthur, your fate is so clandestine, there’s no way you aren’t going to read books and wear glasses. Now granted, I’ve kind of been able to make it work for me somehow, being the nerdy, intellectual if you will, that I am. But I’ve always envied people with cool names. Not only is my first name Arthur but my middle name is Whitlow! Can you believe that? Arthur Whitlow. What kind of name is that? What my parents were thinking will forever be a mystery. I know I was named after my two grandfathers but still. I mean, you know you would never name your kids after me. When I present it like that, I usually win the argument, when people try to be nice and tell me my name isn’t peculiar.
Back to my Dad’s brother’s surprise visit. The biggest surprise of it all was yet to come. Apparently my Aunt and Uncle were having some unidentified problem that required leaving their child. So unbeknownst to my mother, she was now going to have a third child living with her for an unspecified amount of time. It was as if she didn’t get a say in the matter. They essentially left their kid on her doorstep, stork style.
It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, my dad disappeared again. He would literally escape in the middle of the day. One time we found him in the driveway in his car about to take off. He wouldn’t tell anyone he was leaving and be gone for days at least. Even with his wife taking care of essentially 3 of his children.
It was tough on my mom, all of a sudden raising a 13 year old. She had no experience with teenagers, finding condoms, and having to deal with 8th grade melodrama. It was outside of her current realm of parenting at the time.
I couldn’t see how difficult it was for her then. I liked having a ‘big brother’, most of the time.
So here I was, starting at a new school, with a new name, and a new family member…