Monday, June 11, 2007

Father's Day, Part I

Last week I somehow ended up at the Mullet House, a fish fry/ raw bar that we have around here, which upon stepping into, will immediately catapult you back to 1974. It has red vinyl booths, amber tiffany lamps hanging over the fake wood tables, and they give you a big basket of blueberry muffins as an appetizer. If you get there past 6 the place is deserted because all the old people who frequent it start coming at 3 for the extra early bird special. As my mother eloquently put it the people who go there are so old their kids are dead. The Mullet House does serve some excellent fried shrimp, and you don't have to get dressed up to go since everyone else dining around you is legally blind anyway.

Sometimes I can catch my mother in the right mood and get her to tell me stories. Now that I'm older I can begin to piece together some of the mysteries of my life from what she remembers. The night we went to the Mullet House she was in the right mood. I caught her as she smoked a cigarette outside and asked her how the hell she ever ended up with my biological father, because it is a mystery I've never quite gotten and it bothers me. It's hard for me to ask anyone about him because everyone just starts throwing a huge fit.

My mother gets touchy sometimes because she wants me to banish all memory of his existence and sees any curiosity about him as an insult to my real father who raised me and loves me. I don't exactly see it as devaluing him just because I have questions about how I came to be, but she does and so I have to tread lightly when asking. I don't want to hurt feelings, I just want to make sense of who I am and where I come from.

The only other person I can ask is my biological father's mother, Mommom Jewel and she gets mad because it upsets her that her son is a lunatic who abandoned his child, except that instead of just saying she's upset about that, she acts like it is half my fault, which it isn't. Then she gets all defensive and pissed off and will only say good things, which are obviously not accurate. The only things she told me about him that seemed to have any speck of truth was that I have the same handwriting as he does and that we are both terrible patients at the doctor's office and refuse to go to the dentist until we are absolutely dying and have teeth falling out onto our dinner plates. I thought, what an odd thing to have in common. Of all things, we both hate dentists, but lots of people hate dentists.

So at the Mullet House my mother brought up my biological father, known as BF from here on out because I don't want to write the entire thing. She mentioned him because his wife is dying of breast cancer, suffering unimaginably with it, an has a blog about her breast cancer. Please respect their privacy and don't try to go find it, no matter what I say about them. My mom read in his wife's blog that the end was near and we talked about how sad the whole thing was. Someday I will talk to you about this woman and the things she did to me, but not in this story. Since my mother brought them up in conversation and not me I was able to ask her how on earth she ended up with BF in the first place.

She said they started going out when she was 12, in the 8th grade and that in Millpond you just stayed with one person back then, since there were only like 5 people anyway and 3 of them were your cousins. She said he had a nice family (he does), was smart (he is) and that they used to sit at Mommom Jewel and Pop Byron's house and eat Chef Boyardee pizzas while watching TV. She also said that everyone got married in their senior year and that things were so unhappy in her home that she wanted to get out and have a home of her own. Back then she saw her only option for escape as marriage. She really didn't think things out, but she was only 17.

Poppop June, my mother's father, the one I'm named after, was doing well with his trucking company and could afford to give them a nice wedding. My mother wore an empire waist chiffon gown and blue eyeshadow. Her hair was freshly bleached. They had the reception at the Fire Hall, or if you are from Millpond, the FAR Hall, although it is very close. It was catered, which is unheard of. To this day most Millpond weddings are strictly potluck.

A week before the wedding, after the final dress fitting, BF got mad at my mother over some small infraction and pinched her squarely on the arm, making a huge black and blue that she had to lie about to everyone who asked about it. It was too late to back out. She had no choice, but she said she knew she was making a terrible mistake, but at least she'd be out of her house and at least she'd have me.

The honeymoon was awful. They went to a motel for the night, leaving their own reception so early that she didn't get to toss her bouquet of pink carnations or eat some of the catered roast beef. The next morning they checked out and went back to her now in-laws house to watch the Superbowl. How's that for romance?

They fought the whole time she was pregnant with me. They had a huge fight over my name not being Robin Sue and they fought some more over my crying. BF's temper got worse and worse and mostly I lied in my crib crying as he ransacked the trailer one day in a rage over something. I was crying because I think as a baby I wanted to opt out. There had been a mistake and I was with the wrong family. It wasn't supposed to be this way. How did I end up in a trailer near a pine forest with a man who smashed every glass and plate in the kitchen cabinets because his dinner wasn't hot enough?

"God, I told you I wanted to be a writer. Where are my English professor parents? Why am I not in a Cambridge colonial?" I cried.

"I'm giving you something to write about." said God.

It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind. I think when in Heaven I mentioned I wanted to be a writer I hadn't intended Southern Gothic to be my genre. But it is, and here I am now, writing.

In less than a year my mother had enough of that. By then her parents were having marital troubles. Her brother od'd on drugs and had to be institutionalized. Aunt Kiki was running wild at 13 and getting into drugs herself. My mother had no money and a beat up car that wouldn't go over 40 miles and hour. No one wanted to hear about her problems because they all had their own problems, but she left anyway and for this I commend her more than almost anything else she's done. A lot of women just stay and take the shit and get kicked around like dogs and let their babies get kicked around like dogs and nothing ever changes until maybe someone dies or eventually runs off with someone else. But at 18 years old, with no life skills, no education and never having had a job, my mother packed me up and took off in the beat up car that wouldn't go over 40 miles an hour.

Shortly thereafter she was divorced and had an apartment with a girl named Doreen. The two of them worked at Woody's Ranch House. My mother waited tables. She wore a maroon polyester uniform with a ruffled apron and her duties included wiping up the salad bar and asking truckers if they preferred Woody’s Sweet n Smoky or the Five Alarm on their baby backs. It was awful. She could never find a babysitter for me. Sometimes Doreen would watch me but once my mother came home and found me wet and hungry while Doreen did bong hits. Sometimes my mother's new boyfriend JT watched me, but he was barely 20 and didn't know what to do with a baby. This has nothing to do with the story, but JT and my mom are still friends. He found God and has fallen for several multi-level marketing schemes.

None of my grandparents wanted to watch me.

"You wanted to get married and have a baby so bad, now deal with it." they all said.

Sometimes my cousin Keith babysat. Keith was crazy and just got back from Vietnam, shell shocked beyond repair. He still isn't normal. I ran into him in the Millpond Wal-Mart and he reminded me of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. He doesn't make a lot of eye contact.

My mother didn’t last long at Woody’s Ranch House. She’s always had a problem with authority figures and she quit when her boss yelled at her in front of her best customers for letting the shredded iceberg in the salad bar get brown on the edges and for not picking the fallen chickpeas up off of the carpet often enough. After that she worked at a pizza place and almost got fired because she had to call in one night because she didn't have anyone to watch me. Then the beat up car broke down and it took all of her money to fix it. She was 18, broke and completely alone.

My mother went to her former in-laws and begged them for help. BF moved back in with his parents and lived in their basement, where he brooded and became more angry and bitter. She begged them to please just watch me for a weekend so she could work two doubles at the pizza place and make enough cash to satisfy her landlord.

"Please, take the baby and my cats for the weekend and I'll be back for them Sunday night when I get off work." she pleaded.

"Fine." they said.

She left the two cats in my grandparents' basement and dropped me off with a playpen and some feety pajamas. I was about one year old, but this is my first memory.

I am alone. I want my mother. I don't know where I am. I am in a bed and not my crib and I want someone to wind up my orange hippo that sings "Go to Sleep Go to Sleep." I cry and cry for a bottle, which they won't give me because they think I'm too old. They won't let the cats come upstairs so I can play with them. I cry and cry at the basement door and my father won't open it and bring me down to where he is and the cats are.

My mother worked her ass off all weekend.

"You can have the cats but you aren't taking the baby."

My biological father found his ultimate revenge. He knew the best way to hurt my mother and to get her back was to take me away from her. She claims my grandparents were in on it, and honestly I don't know. I tend to think, or hope, that they felt they could take better care of me than an 18 year old waitress who couldn't find a decent babysitter. Who knows? Maybe they wanted a little girl after having three boys. I will never know the truth, and I want to think the best of them. Looking back I'm actually thankful for them because they did provide me a stable, happy home that was about as normal as I was going to get. They provided me a nine year foundation which allowed me to handle things like monkeys, moving 29 times and fiancés getting other girls pregnant.

My mother was devastated, but on some level I think she knew I'd be better off with my grandmother who didn't work and who could be with me every hour of every day. My mother didn't have the money or the capacity to fight. She barely had a place to live herself and she had just dumped JT, who was really nice, but just not the man for her.

She realized that to get me back she needed money. She needed a house, stability and income. She couldn't get that slapping down twenty five cent slices of pizza all day. She believed she wasn't smart, so she never imagined college. Instead, she plotted and schemed while her heart bled for her little baby who cried for her each night. She would do whatever it took to get me back.

My mother day dreamed of a life in which she could prove to everyone that she wasn't a dumb hick. She wanted a flashy car that went over 40 miles an hour. She'd have a pretty house, all decorated with macramé and terrariums. She would buy me a canopy bed and white Persian kittens. I'd have a collection of china dolls and a snow cone machine. Everyone would see that she was the best mother in the world and that she could be more than a waitress in a pizza place. But how would she accomplish all this?

She'd sell drugs of course.

And that ironically, in the most twisted, strange way possible is how she came to find my real father, the one who loves me and cares for me; the one who willfully chose me as his daughter. This is the beginning of a real love story. This is not just the story of how a desperate country girl fell in love with a handsome Israeli boy while selling drugs in South Florida. Instead it's the story of how a whole, very unlikely family fell in love and made it work when no one in the entire world said it could.


Reserved Stipulation said...

I can't wait to hear the next part!

Talula said...

When I get to the end of your posts, it's like this:

I'm on my knees, shaking my fists at the sky, crying out "NOOOOOO!!! I need more!"

Thankfully, I know you are good for it.

Charissa said...

I want to read the next part too! As a mom,I can't imagine how your mom's heart must have ached having to leave you behind. I'm actually getting a bit teary eyed. If this were a book, I think it'd be the type I'd stay up all night reading.

JDogg said...

Thanks you for this story, again, you found a great way to describe your young childhood.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say except... wow...

Hey, you mentioned a new job in your previous post... don't leave us hanging!

booda baby said...

It's not for me to say, because I liked all your other stuff, too, but I REALLY like the temperature and the texture and the distance you've got going in these. They are beautiful pieces. That's my opinion and (as I seem to be saying a LOT today), I'm sticking with it. :)

MP said...

The quality of your posts are similar to that of some of my favoirte authors..your humor and timing is great and I HATE that I have to wait for more.
June! Hah!

Anonymous said...

Subservient No More-

That was wonderful!! Like everyone else, I can't wait for more.
You are truly destined to be a writer.
I guess God knew what He was doing when He made your genre Southern Gothic.
-signed, Cat Lover who does miss the Carla stories.

amy said...

I can't wait to hear the rest!

Anonymous said...

WOW I have tears in my eyes after reading this story.
I too became a mother at age 18 and was in an abusive situation and somehow got out of the whole thing but I never had to give up my kids and I can tell you that it took your mother a lot of courage to let you stay, I almost had to do it once and it breaks my heart just to think about it. I'm glad you are writing about your life it's far more interesting than rich spoiled people and it's great.

liz said...

that was just beautiful. i cant wait to read the rest!

Elizabeth said...

I was worried when you said you were going to change the focus of your blog.

I was wrong. Great stuff, I really really like the new direction you're going. Well written 'n' interesting!

I check you about once a day, and if new posts (like today) I'll read 'em twice.

Maya said...

As I was just saying to my readers a moment ago, "That WL gal shore 'nuff is a wonderful story-teller."
Thanks for giving me your opinion on the food and many more thanks for this story. Just out of sheer curiousity, did you or your mom ever see Riding in Cars With Boys? I'm not a big Drew Barrymore fan, but this...reminds me a bit of your story.

Anonymous said...

Kinda tears at your heartstrings huh. A lot of mothers would do as much as they could for their kids. Makes my "heart smile" seeing my little girl's face light up with happiness. I can't wait to read your next entry.


zorra said...

As always when you write about her, I am in awe of your mother.

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a beginning. I totally understand your mom's dilemma. My parents would have taken the same made your bed, you lay in it. While that makes you an extremely strong human being, especially if your a woman, it's just crazy that these bible thumping hypocrites could be so harsh with a young mother and baby. I can't wait to hear more. I already love your mom for her courage in an unkind world

Charlotte said...

Your posts are like a really good book; you don't want them to end. I'm loving the new direction of your blog!

Anonymous said...

GOOD GOD!!!! This is fantastic stuff! You are a genius. Thank you SO much!

Love, Shari Ann

ADW said...

More, more, more. I am so happy that you are actually writing what you want to write about now.

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