Monday, June 18, 2007

A Little Pink House on the Beach

OK, so that’s not exactly how it happened. I know some jackasses do actually wake up one morning and say “I’m going to solve all my life’s problems by selling drugs” but my mother didn’t and you shouldn’t either, because it’s a sure path to misery. Trust me.

My mom, who is going to have to have a name if this story is to continue, was sad. We’ll call her Sissy, because that’s what her family calls her still. In the South every oldest sister in pretty much every family, is called Sis or Sissy. No one can think of my mother as anything other than Sissy, and all her myriad nieces and nephews call her Aunt Sis, which cracks me up because that’s like calling someone Uncle Brother or Grandpop Son. It’s ridiculous. It’s my family. We have long since established that all of them are insane.

So Sissy was sad. She lost her little girl, her trailer, her job, her cats and her beat up car that didn’t go over 40 miles an hour was on its way out too. Things just don’t get much worse. When people get in a jam like this one, especially if they are 19 year old girls with no education and no skills, often they make bad decisions out of just really god damned needing to feel good in the right here and right now. That’s pretty much what happened.

Sissy dumped her boyfriend JT who would later go on to find The Lord as well as the health benefits of mangosteen juice. She exchanged him for a new boyfriend Jim, who was mild and who had rich parents. Here is where Sissy made mistake number one. She was desperate and she and Jim moved in together after knowing one another for all of approximately three days. This is as sure a path to misery as becoming a drug dealer. Don’t do this either. I don’t care how in love you think you are, you never move in with someone after three days or even three weeks for that matter and don’t go sending me a bunch of stories about people who did and how it worked out because I’ll just think you’re lying anyway.

Not only did Sissy and Jim move in together after a whopping three days, they moved into Jim’s parents’ beach house. Remember Jim had rich parents. Well, rich for Millpond anyway, which meant that they had two TVs and an above ground pool and maybe some kind of nice attachments for the pickup truck. Jim’s dad had prize Blue Tick Hounds, which were a source of pride and envy in Millpond. Jim’s parents were rich enough that Jim was lazy as hell and never did anything. Jim was downright sorry in his blatant and shameless laze. He got up at three in the afternoon, went back to bed at five, got up at seven and asked his mom to make him a pimento cheese sandwich, smoked some weed, watched some TV, slept some more, smoked some more weed and then listened to Wings. Somewhere in there his parents gave him money for all this which he spent on more weed, but since he was so damned triflin’ the drug dealer had to deliver. Now you know you got problems when you can’t even pick up your own drugs.

Jim’s parents were probably fiercely relieved when he announced that he was moving in with Sissy because at least it implied some movement on his part, which meant that he wouldn’t get the rotting bed sores they feared might fester on their sedentary son. They gladly offered up their beach house, as Jim knew they would. They didn’t use it and it was impossible to rent a beach house in Massacre Beach.

The beach house was not glamorous. Erase any and all images of idyllic dunes, clapboard and Adirondack chairs. Picture instead a vast expanse of mud and dead horseshoe crabs. The stench carried miles inland. Massacre Beach was desolate, lonely and depressing. With a name like that what did you expect?

Jim’s parents’ beach house was a three room, pink shack on stilts which overlooked a muddy bay. On overcast days, which meant about EVERY day, the bay was gray. On sunny days it was brown. You couldn’t go in the water unless you wanted to lose an arm to sand sharks or impale yourself on horseshoe crab tails. The best thing about the beach house was that it was cheap. The second best thing about the beach house was that your could party your ever lovin’ ass off in it because it was so remote that no police patrolled the area to arrest you and there were no neighbors to complain about the noise.

Sissy, in her deep depression began to smoke pot. It helped her concentrate, she believed and if she was ever to find a way to make a fortune and get her baby back, she needed a clear head to come up with a solution. Yes, I know this makes no sense, but it did to her. She sat on the dreary sand and dug holes into which she poured hot wax to make candles. Then she got really good at macramé. Jim became a permanent fixture on a bean bag in the living room. After a couple weeks they didn’t have any food so Sissy found a rowboat and a cane pole and went out into that scary, nasty bay to fish for flounder. She cleaned and filleted them herself. Then she got a string and used the fish heads to crab in the creeks. Behind the shed where the rowboat lived, a patch of blackberries climbed. Beach plums flourished all over the shore, and that’s what she ate. When I came to visit on the weekends, that’s what I ate too.

I was allowed to visit my mother two weekends per month. Sissy’s former in-laws were extremely strict about how this went down. Once, her beat up car broke down on the way back in Millpond and she brought me back two hours late on a Sunday night. They took her to court and she lost visitation for a whole month. She became more desperate and more sad. The sadder she got the more pot she smoked and the more macramé she did.

Sissy decided she needed a friend in the court system and she needed some money. She decided to take her sand candles and her macramé and go sit outside the courthouse selling her arts and crafts projects. This way she could make some money and get to know the people who came and went from the courthouse every day. Remember this part of the story. This will prove very important later on.

You will never believe this, but people really liked Sissy’s candles and plant hangers. This was the early seventies and she was quite talented. She used the money to buy something to eat and more art supplies. People got to know her. Pretty soon lawyers and judges called her by name and asked for special scents of candles and plant hangers in their wives’ favorite colors. After a while they knew her story. That was that pretty, blonde girl selling crafts to get her baby girl back. Her name was Sissy. Ain’t she pretty? She sure is. She’s sellin’ that so she can get her baby girl back. Let me get a plant hanger. I’ll take three of them candles sweetie.

Of course, in total she didn’t even make twenty dollars a week, but it was something. She got her story out there and it was a good story. She got herself fed and she made enough to buy cinnamon and sugar so that on the weekends she could fix me cinnamon toast. Somehow she found a German Shepherd and he took up residence under the stilted, pink beach house.

Jim had yet to move. At all. Not even an inch. Now he was totally inconvenienced because when he needed money from his parents he had to drive all the way in town to get it. He made Sissy do it. Can you all believe that she did?

One time Sissy took me with her to Jim’s parents’ house to pick up money and Jim’s dear mother gave me a teddy. This was no ordinary teddy. My Teddy was pure white, like snow – a small polar bear with a purple satin ribbon. You would have thought I was handed the Baby Jesus himself. Still the sight of polar bears makes me weep, especially when they swim for hundreds of miles in iceless seas looking for rest and fat seals. Teddy was my world. I never let him go.

One morning I woke up at the pink beach house and Teddy was gone. The world had come to an end. Jim still hadn’t moved so it couldn’t have been him. I was inconsolable.

Sissy eventually located Teddy, no longer pure white, but now the sodden grey of the overcast bay. Teddy was dead, mauled by the German Shepherd under the stilted pink house – ears hanging, paws severed, purple satin ribbon chewed ragged. It was horrible. Honestly, I can’t even write about it, it was that bad. His left eye was so scratched up he looked like he had cataracts.

I cried all day and refused to let my mother throw Teddy in the trash. Believe me, she tried. She thought I was crazy. Finally, and only because she was terrified I wouldn’t love her anymore, she gave in.

“Do not tell Mommom Jewel I let this happen.” She told me, fearing my grandmother’s wrath.

She thought my biological father’s mother, who approved of nothing she did and probably rightfully so, would use this as one more example of how utterly unfit a mother she was. What kind of a parent lets their child’s favorite bear be attacked and murdered by a mangy dog?

I was still sobbing and clutching the critically injured bear when we climbed the steps to Mommom and Pop’s house where I lived. Sissy knew she had some explaining to do.

This was her most dreaded hour. She hated those Sunday nights when she dropped me off, crying and snot nosed at my grandparents’ house. She knew it would be 12 more, long days before she saw me again. Every weekend with me passed too quickly.

“Jewel, the dog got a hold of Teddy.” Sissy explained regretfully.
That instant something softened in my grandmother. My mother saw it and softened too.

“Come inside.” Jewel said. She had never invited my mother inside since the divorce.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, now get in here out of that cold. You’re lettin’ all the heat out.”

We stepped into the bright living room.

“Get your coats off and let me see that bear.”

“It’s pretty bad.”

“There ain’t nothin’, nothin’, that can’t be fixed.” Mommom Jewel said.

The two women, sworn enemies, worked together for hours, in the house where my mother was not welcome, to fix this bear. First they soaked Teddy in bleach. Then they ran him through the washer, tumbled him in the dryer and took the hair dryer to him. They cut up a pink washcloth and patched the ends of his paws where the dog had gnawed the stuffing out, so it looked like he had pink paw pads. They found some pink felt in the sewing basket and my mom reconstructed the insides of Teddy’s ears. Mommom Jewel found Teddy a new, golden ribbon and then combed his fur which had previously been fuzzy, but which was now quite nappy. My mother had the brilliant idea of reglazing his glass eyes with clear nail polish. Instant cataract surgery. Teddy could see again.

Sissy and Jewel were pleased with their results. They woke me up to show me the new Teddy.

“Teddy ain’t the same as he used to be, but he is still your Teddy and he still loves you just like you love him.” My mother explained.

“And sometimes in life accidents happen. Things get messed up. Teddy’s get hurt, but we promise you, we will always be there to fix things as best we can.” Mommom Jewel continued. “Do you still like Teddy?”

“Yes. I said. I like Teddy no matter what bad things happen to him. He is my Teddy like you are my Mommy and you are my Mommom.” I said, because I was a prodigious, articulate genius at two years old. Did you think anything less of me?

Luckily my biological father was off in Japan doing missionary work or this may have never been possible.

Sissy left her former in laws’ house that night feeling a shift had occurred. The women remained cold to one another for years, but they always had an unspoken understanding. They both loved me more than life. They’d both die for me and they knew the other felt the same so they couldn’t hate one another and later on, this would pay off. But not for a long, long time.

This is not the happy ending just yet. We haven’t even hardly gotten started.

Remember Jim? He still hadn’t moved and he was on Sissy’s last nerve. Do you know where Sissy had to go right after she left Mommom Jewel’s house with tears in her eyes? She had to go to Jim’s drug dealer who refused to deliver all the way out to Massacre Beach. Can you believe the nerve? Sissy and the drug dealer couldn’t either. Sissy was so mad and sick of it she swore she was leaving Jim as soon as she could find a place to live. The problem was, her period was three weeks late. Sissy just found out she was pregnant.


Anonymous said...

You are writing a book, right? Please? We can't be the only 423 people in the world that find you SCINTILLATING. This makes me (sarcasm ON) So happy I wrote about BEING EXCITED TO GET CARDED yesterday.

Course, I could probably write about my crazy hippy parents, but they read my site and might not appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

OH MY GOD! I did not see that last line coming. You are such an awesome writer! You keep me hanging on tenterhooks. I can't wait to read more. And I can't wait for a book from you.

Miss Souris said...

Oh dear, I nearly cried on the loss of Teddy... :(
And again when he was revived!

Mim said...

What a cliffhanger!

ADW said...

Great. You are giving me the reader's equivalent of blue balls. Thanks a lot.

More, more, more.

Anonymous said...

Pregnant huh?

So I'm guessing Jim had moved around some at one time or another.

Great writing - please please please keep it coming.

MP said...

My name is MP and I am a Wide Lawns addict.
I click your blog every day hoping for a new post.
My mom's aunt was named Sis..but they didn't call her Aunt Sis, just Sis. My grandma was a teacher and her name was Hortense. They called her Teach. (these people were river boat families that were originialy from So Ill)

Anonymous said...

I'm a Sissy, too. My mom and my brother call me that.

Architect Critic said...

Wow. My first thought when finishing your post was, "This would make a good TV drama." Or maybe a movie. When you finish the book, make sure you secure the screenplay rights. . .

charlotte said... Seriously, your story-telling ability is simply shining.

Anonymous said...

I hope we don't have to wait another whole week for the next part. :p I think I'll die!

(Just joking, exSW. Take your time.)

jeff said...

Well, I was going to say something, but Faithful Reader Guy beat me to it at 9:49AM....

Anonymous said...

I cried over this ... omgd you are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

i was upset when u wouldnt be writing about the crazy wide lawns residents but I'm glad i waited it out. your blog is like a good book i want to curl up with. i could read and buy a whole series. you have an incredible gift and i'm glad that you feel more inspired to write this way. i too was creatively stunted by my work. so i took a note from you and left my subserviant job and now i'm back on the path of designing. thank u thank u

Anonymous said...

lol I was wondering when I'd get my next fix. Argh I wanna read more now. Great blog. Your life stories are like no others I've ever read. As my toddler would say, "awesome kewl". Love your writing as always.

Anonymous said...


Don't leave us hanging for another week.. :(

Leonesse said...

Bravo! Bravo!


Oh, wrong art form....

I cannot wait for your book. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Write the damn book already! You WILL succeed. Get going girl...fame and wealth await you. By the way, I made red velvet cupcakes on Sunday (with cream cheese frosting, of course) and thought about you and Dr. C's class! :-) I had never heard of red velvet anything until I met you.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when your posts end, they really draw me in. By the way, I felt the same way about my Cabbage Patch doll...and I still have her. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness, another entry. I check every day. Sometimes twice a day.

sarah said...

You have some serious writing talent young miss! Thanks for the brilliant story telling!

Anonymous said...

I thought I was going to miss your stories about the crazy folks at Wide Lawns, but your new subject matter is so good I don't miss them at all. I can really relate to your stories in a lot of ways, and they are just as interesting. Please keep up the good work!!! I hope that your new job is going well. I hope that your grandfather will be ok also.

Anonymous said...

my only sibling is a brother and now 40 years later he is still "little brother" to everyone in the family.

It's not just sis sometimes.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Just.. WOW. I was completely drawn in and I cried when Teddy got fixed. I would definitely buy your novel. Please please keep writing. Your voice really speaks to me.

I have been an avid Wide Lawns reader for a long time and your writing just gets better and better with each post.

Andria said...

I am hooked! I can't wait to read the next entry!!!

JDogg said...

What a great retelling of the events that passed. It won't be long and we'll hear about your moves north.

zorra said...

When are you writing a book?

My cousin's on my mama's side have an Uncle Son on the other side of their family. Do you think people ever do that in Oregon or Minnesota? Me neither.

SkippyMom said...

Missionary? Oh...I agree, you MUST write a book.

You have to - the blog is not going to cut your brilliant writing style and imagination...


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