This was written in my Navelgazing Midwife blog on October 10, 2006, right before Meghann’s wedding to Brian. It was a weird route to finding it, but I am really glad I came across it. It’s hilarious and offers a window into my crazy family. And, damn, I am an awesome storyteller!
In its original state, I didn’t use everyone’s names, but their roles in the upcoming wedding. It made reading terribly cumbersome, so I am editing it to add their names. My former partner is a transman, but was presenting as a woman when this was written. I am fixing his name and pronouns. I am also adding photos; the original was all text.
My mom was 21 when I was born, but she could have been 16. I was her little dolly. She hated for me to get dirty and gave me baths at least 4 times a day, changing my clothes each time and making sure my hair was curled and never out of place. She loved putting ribbons in my hair and patent leather shoes on my feet. I remember twirling frilly skirts from the earliest of ages. I still twirl frilly skirts.
My mom didn’t have the best time as a new mom since my dad liked to hunt and was raised in a typical Cuban way of “you, woman, you stay home and raise the kids and I, the man, will do whatever I damn well please.” It was rather shocking for mom to be left alone with one, and quickly two little girls who hollered a lot (I hollered more than my more docile sister… surprising, I’m sure).
3000 miles from anyone she knew and living in the California desert, she got pregnant and had yet another child before they got orders to Orlando, a mere 400 miles from some family in Miami. Her life finally brightened.
My Early Life
I remember mom’s day to day life of drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking about diets. I remember her struggling to do exercises with the lady on TV (in leotards, no less) and yacking with the neighbors on the telephone that had a party line of 6 people. (Do any of you young-un’s even know what a party line is?!) All of us kids in the neighborhood walked to school together, played together, knew every detail about each others’ lives (or so we thought) and many of us dated and ended up marrying and having kids with each other.
Mom got a job when I was in junior high and I remember her falling asleep under the sunlamp several times (loooooong before tanning booths & tanning spray) and not being able to sit down, but having to work in her polyester uniform all night long.
Our relationship with mom became endless scribbles on notepads – crayons, pencils, pens, markers – anything handy was fair game for writing the “Need $20 for band” notes. No “thanks” or anything. Just the command. What a brat I was. Mom’s notes in return said things like, “Turn roast on at 4 and then throw carrots in at 4:30. Eat at 5:30. Love!” Mom kept those notebooks for years, all dog-eared and stained. I wish I had them now.
Mental Illness Creeps In
I’ve written about mom’s issues with mental illness and suicide attempts. We’ll skip that part. Suffice it to say it had a tad of an impact on my life and relationship with her.
Mental illness runs like a chased bunny rabbit in our family. From grandparents that killed themselves to alcoholic and drug addict great-grandparents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings, we could erect an asylum and keep the census at capacity with slick ease. Every shade of mental illness presents itself in the annals of my family, too. We have us a whole lotta depression, but sprinkles of schizophrenia, plenty of bipolar disorder (but rarely any mania, usually with hypomania presenting as normal behavior) and the ever-popular child and spouse abusers with and without violent tendencies. Oh, and let’s not forget all the eating disorders that are possible, either. We have all those, too. Doesn’t it sound like fun?
My mom used to hide her keys from herself. We continually were on the search for mom’s keys. It was a constant mission. When we were going to go somewhere, from the time I was twirling my skirts, I began looking for mom’s keys to the car. We’d find them in amazingly strange places including in the back of the freezer behind the hamburger meat (where the placenta would be in my freezer now) or in her lingerie drawer under the marabou lined crotch-less panties. The only limitations on where we were to look were 1. either in the house 2. in the yard in the grass 3. in the car 4. in the trunk 5. at the neighbor’s house (which neighbor’s house was anyone’s guess). You can imagine that once I was in charge of my own keys I put up a key holder next to the door in every home I have ever lived in. It is the FIRST THING I put up when I move into a place. (so far) I have never lost a set of keys in my house. Ever.
I lose other things, though. The can opener. The salt shaker. Words. Chunks of time.
Remember, too, how funky my mom is – that she loooooooooves gangsta rap music. I am not lying and those of you that know me have seen her license plate and seen her email address and know I am not lying. My nearly 70-year old mother sings gangsta rap word for word and rocks like kids in their teens. It is surreal and looks like computer animation. Someone should make a video of her. I swear they should. I made her cry once because I told her Tupac Shakur wasn’t a poet. My daughter Meghann told me I was never allowed to make grandma cry again, so I no longer argue with her about rap music. I just sigh and give a sallow smile.
We ARE Weird
Meghann, my oldest daughter, also my UC baby, is getting married in less than 2 weeks. When her fiancé Brian started learning about the family, I made sure he knew about the looooooooooooooooooooooong history of mental illness in the family and that he might have to visit his future wife in the cuckoo house one day. He said his family was weird, too, and I had to clarify the difference between Uncle Ned wearing a Superman cape at all Thanksgiving dinners and having to take psychotropic medications for the rest of your life to keep from carving one’s arm up like that holiday’s turkey. He nodded, saying he understood. Still not sure if he does. He might not yet.
So, when I heard tell that Brian made a comment that our family was “weird,” I bristled. Weird? Excuse me? How so?
My Fairy Daughter
Well, see, Aimee, my baby girl child, likes to wear fairy wings. Yeah, she is 20 years old, but so what. She’s my kid, after all.
In fact, Meghann wears fairy wings a lot, too, but that’s besides the point of this story.
So, Meghann considered having Aimee (maid of honor) wear fairy wings down the aisle at the wedding, but thought the conservative Christian in-law family might crap too stinky, so decided to get her the wings to wear at the reception. Meggie got the wings to match Aimee’s Maid of Honor dress and called to tell me how HUGE they are and they are gorgeous and she can’t wait to surprise her fairy sister with them and that she found a place that might allow her sister to wear a new pair of wings all the time so she could just live in wings every day if she wanted to. I was touched and wiped a tear. Not lying.
So, that very day, I sent Meghann a picture of her fairy sister Aimee with her boyfriend that I’d taken on the beach at sunset. This is when the “weird” comment comes into play.
Brian says, “Your family’s weird,” because we have a fairy child and she’s gonna wear wings at the reception (so big she’s gonna knock people over with them apparently. Gonna make for some dandy photographic moments, if you ask me). In defense, Meghann says, “YOUR family’s weird!”
I had to gently explain to dear Meghann that calling names like “weird” opens the door to more name-calling and to please refrain and that if he is thinking we are weird NOW, what the hell is he going to think in 10 years? I asked her to use some other words like “quirky,” and “colorful,” and “adventurous.” She just laughed and said we were weird.
Freakin’ Dress Shopping
So, I’m at Nordstrom’s and I am looking for clothes for the wedding. Her colors are chocolate and raspberry, but the bridesmaids are wearing latte and a lighter pink. (This really is going somewhere, I promise.) Not wanting to look like a bridesmaid, I am lost as to what color to buy – chocolate brown or latte… what color belt… or a scarf… a sash? something for my head? a hat? do I not wear her colors at all? Do I look like a drag queen altogether? Or do I dress like a Southern Baptist? I dial Meghann’s phone. She is my Consultant-In-All-Matters (most of all when it comes to her wedding). She doesn’t answer. I call again, leaving a message. Where the heck is she? She always answers.
I grab dresses, go the dressing room, try them on, ask my Zack what he thinks (he barely looks up from the video poker he’s playing on his Treo) and dial Meggie yet again. No answer. Crap. I pick the dark chocolate brown because it is so flippin’ tight I won’t have to wear a bra and is off my shoulders and will terrorize the Southern Baptists by baring my tattoos. We migrate to the scarf section. I flit through all the choices and am disturbed I can’t find what I want. I call my daughter again. No answer. I am getting huffy now. Leaving nasty messages on her machine.
“Where ARE you! I am having an OUTFIT CRISIS and I NEED YOU! Will you PLEASE call me back NOW so you can HELP ME!”
And I go search out the saleslady who wants to sell me everything (and does) because Zack is sitting playing on the Treo and will just hand over the credit card when it’s all said and done and she knows that.
She helps me find a beautiful pink silk sash for my belly (my gooshie belly kinda smooshes out and I needed a girdle, but I can’t find one in my size… where’s that corset when I need one?!) and then we found a cashmere Pashmina to cover my shoulders during the service in the church. I got some lovely crystal bracelets and earrings to match the sash and all the while I am punching Meghann’s number over and over. Is she in a car accident? Did she fall off the face of the earth? Where in god’s name is she?
Finally, as I am poring over the Pashminas, I think, “Brian!” and call HIS phone!
“Hey! I am having a HUGE outfit crisis… can you PLEASE ask Meghann to PLEASE call her mother NOW so she can help me NOW? Thanks so much. See you soon!”
About an hour later, my daughter calls laughing her head off, telling me she was painting something or other in the yard for the wedding and had her phone in the car. She said, “Mom. Remember that weird discussion? Well, you just sealed our family’s fate.” I was confused. She said, “Mom. You called Brian’s phone with an OUTFIT CRISIS! That ranks up there as weird!” I pouted and whispered, “Not to me.” She laughed and said, “Not to me, either, mom. Not to me, either.”
So, my parents are not married anymore, but mom is in touch with dad’s family periodically. Mom called me (in San Diego) to tell me to quit bugging her about not having bought a plane ticket yet… from Orlando to San Antonio (“It’s a mother hen, not a daughter hen!”). While we were on the phone, she tells me my uncle (my dad’s brother) has died, but I am baffled because no one, especially dad, who went to San Antonio for the wedding early, has said a word about it. When she was on the phone telling me this, Meggie was driving to go see my dad, who apparently was in silent mourning (not wanting to disrupt the wedding festivities?). I asked mom when he died and she said 2 days ago.
I got off the phone with mom and called Meghann really quickly to tell her of my uncle dying, but that my dad wasn’t talking about it… maybe she could whisper in his ear, “I’m sorry about your brother,” or some such. She said she was a few minutes away and needed to pay attention to the directions.
10 minutes later, I get a call back from my mom and she says, “You know. I don’t think your uncle died.” Blinking, I didn’t even know what to say. “What?!?!” “Well, you know, your aunt has such a thick accent, maybe she said he was die-ING, not dead.” I screamed that I had to go, I’d call her back.
I dialed Meghann FAST.
“Hello?” “Don’t say anything to my dad about his brother! Grandma doesn’t think he’s really dead.” “What?!?” hysterical laughing “Mom!!” “I don’t even know how to explain it. Just don’t say anything. I’ll tell you later.”
She hung up laughing so hard I could see tears rolling down her cheeks and I am sure I heard the words, “Weird, weird, weird!!!!” seeping through her guffawing lips.
My Destiny Awaits
I was telling the story to my guru childbirth teacher friend and whining that I was destined to follow in my mother’s footsteps. I shook my head and sighed that in 10 years I was going to be as crazy as my mom.
She laughed and waved her hand in the air as she walked away saying, “Bullshit, you don’t even like rap!”
Nope. I sure don’t.