The first hotel room I paid for on my own was at the St. Francis Hotel, a transient hotel upstairs from some other business on Tremont St. in downtown Denver. The room cost me $3 or $4 for the night, and the bathroom was down the hall. I was 13.
Mother, Ralph, and I were living at the Elms Hotel, also on Tremont St. a few blocks up, and a block before the Brown Palace Hotel. I don’t even remember what was going on, but Mother and Ralph were drinking (duh) and fighting (duh), and I was fed up. Or maybe it was the night Mother was drunk (duh) and going crazy on me, and I slapped her (once), and then she went even more crazy. Either way, it was after dark and I had a few dollars in my pocket, so I just walked out, went down the street and got a room of my own.
I knew the manager there (because every body in the transient hotels knew all the other people who ran all the other places). I went to St. Francis because Homer and Jane owned the Elms, the St. Charles, and the Mecca, and I wanted to be apart from all of their collective shit.
And the manager at the St. Francis knew me, of course, and really didn’t want a minor renting a room in his hotel. But he also knew Mother and Ralph, and I told him I just wanted to go to sleep in peace and not deal with their drunken bullshit (but I didn’t use that word, since I was only 13), and I assured him I’d be up and gone back to my own hotel the next morning. He understood and let me have a room on the 3d floor away from any noise from his regular guests.
At 13 I already knew I was on my own in this world. By this time Mother had already left me alone without a word and gone for a day or two at a time, without food or money or explanation, so it was no surprise she didn’t come looking for me when I walked out. I don’t even remember if she was angry or anything when I got back to the hotel.
I don’t think I was enrolled in school at that particular time but I don’t remember. That whole period was a mess. But I did enroll myself for 9th grade at Morey Jr. High that August, and in November I turned 14. And then in late February of 69 I came home from school and discovered Mother wasn’t just missing but had completely moved her stuff out, and left my stuff behind.
No note, no indication of where she’d gone or what I was supposed to do.
My sense of “family” up until my 13th year was not very strong, anyway, but after the year in Denver, the word “family” meant nothing more than just blood relatives.
There will be a lot of reflections this year about what “family” means to me, based on my experience of what my experience of “family” was like. And it’s not about individual people; just the concept of “family”.