Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Lucy's Maman Did When She Was Little


We got back from Vermont yesterday. We were there for the wedding of our friends, Brian and Thom. They got married on a field in the town near Sugarbush Mountain. We, however, arrived just after the marriage, in time for the reception afterward, because we were stuck in traffic with a baby who howls and sobs and gives “how can you do this to me” eyes when we are in the car. Fun. But the leaves were beautiful, as Laurent kept reminding me. Emile, along with his sister, has inherited my hatred of cars. At least neither of them does what I did, which was to vomit on every car trip. As I lived in Minneapolis, and my father up near Moorhead, and my mother's family in Iowa, we drove a lot. We always brought along plastic bags. It was a constant of my childhood—I get spanked when I go to a restaurant, and I throw up when I get into a car. It's amazing I love going to restaurants. Still hate the car.

What Lucy's Maman Did When She Was Little

During the ride, Lucy kept asking me to tell her funny things I did when I was little. She wants one or two of these little anecdotes per day, and I need to start stockpiling them. Finally, a way to connect on a human level, instead of the constant guerilla versus dictator that runs rampant through our interactions.

So, here's one. My mother, back when she was still in her alcoholic haze, used to send my sister and I away for a month at a time during the summer, because she “couldn't stand the sight of us.” I remember one summer, I think I must have been eight years old, when we went off to our grandmother's place in Woodward, Iowa. As usual, we packed for ourselves, and I chose my favorite outfits, and only my favorite outfits: two identical bib overall shorts, with little bear buttons, and one yellow nighty top with bloomers, which my mother had made for me. For a whole month of playing with equally parentally equipped cousins, and eating cinnamon toast and Nestle Quick for every meal, I wore these three outfits, with no distinction between night and day. Lucy, was that funny?

I always liked staying at my chain smoking, solitaire playing, march music listening, popcorn eating grandmother's house, but it wasn't for her sake. She was a mean old viper, who told my cousin Courtney that she would end up like her mother, too poor to have a place to shit in. Which Courtney might have, but I hope not. I hope her children are washed more frequently than we were. I liked going to my grandmother's because of the freedom, and the cousins, and running wild over the whole town, from playground to cemetery, day and night, to the neighbors' bomb shelter that we were sure was a troll's house. We had the upstairs to ourselves, at least until I set fire to it by accident. I was only playing with a lighter and some polyester quilting squares, totally innocent, really. (Should we tell the adults downstairs that the house is about to explode? No, we should not, we should all just run outside and watch.) I loved the games of Star Wars, and fairies, and climbing in the old cherry tree (from which we always heard the croaked warning, “If you kids fall out of that tree and break a leg, don't you come running to me...”) Though I wasn't cared for, at least no one ever made me feel unwelcome, contrary to my experience in my own home.

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