Even at her most subdued, my birth-mother is hardly what you'd call conventional.
The daughter of an ancient aristocratic family fallen on hard times, she has lived a varied life that's included taking powerful men for lovers, hobnobbing with celebrities, battling drug addiction, enduring wretched poverty, and dabbling from time to time in organized crime.
Occasionally echoes of this extraordinary past will pop up in her present.
To this day her lip will curl at the mention of Robert Plant--"We dated," she offers darkly--and she still chuckles knowingly if the topic turns to Madonna. No one can quite work out what's so funny, and her explanation of "she's fun" leaves much to be desired.
There is, of course, a more insidious side to Anne's early misadventures.
She once, during a routine conversation about what a pain traffic police are, shot me an appraising look and asked, "You ever flipped a car off a bridge?"
Another time I'd been spacing out through one of her stories and snapped back when I heard, "I didn't even know it was a drug deal until my friend took a gun out and shot the guy in the head."
So we ought to know to expect the unusual from her. It's a reasonable anticipation. But still.
Powell sounded more bewildered than scared when he called me the other day.
"Dude, I fucking hate it up here," said the 21-year-old brother who's been living with Anne for the last few months. "There's nothing to do and she is just nuts."
"Yeah, I know," I said, recalling my own struggles with Anne's tempestuous personality and wild flashes of temper. "She's a huge drama queen."
"No," he said. "It's not even that. I mean she's literally fucking crazy. Like, the other day, I went out to her jeep to grab my iPod. I just grabbed the keys and walked out there without asking her."
"Yeah," I said. I was waiting to hear how our birth-mother had exploded with outrage at Powell's opening her car without permission.
"So I unlock the door and sitting there in the passenger's seat is a loaded automatic AK-47."
I stood up straight.
"Are you kidding?"
"No, I'm not kidding."
My face scrunched up into an expression of confusion.
"Is that even legal?"
"BB, of course it's not legal," Powell sighed. "I just cannot believe how insane it is up here."
"Well, what did she say about it?"
"That's the thing," he said. "She acted like it was nothing. You should have seen it. Her face went totally blank and she said, 'Antiquing is a competitive business.'"
"'Antiquing is a competitive business?'" I repeated incredulously.
"Yeah, and then she walked out of the room."
"You're telling me."
"Crazy. Hey, are you coming down for Thanksgiving?"
"Yeah, Dad's going to pick me up on Monday."
"Alright, cool. I'll see you soon then."
Thursday, November 10, 2011
In May of 2004 I was newly turned 16 and preoccupied with my family's impending departure from Beautiful Town, which finally took place at the end of the month. To my adolescent self the two and a half years we'd spent there seemed like an eternity and it was heart wrenching to leave the only place I'd been happy to call home.
May 5, 2004
I stayed after for Algebra today, and Dad asked if I’d actually been in detention. What? I can’t believe he doesn’t trust me! I mean, jeez, it’s not like I’m some kid who gets into trouble all the time; in two years of high school I’ve had three detentions! I don’t think that my most recent one was justified.
School was so funny today that I thought I’d collapse, especially in third mod. I should explain. In Chorus, a new student teacher is helping our regular choral director, Ms. Chorus Teacher. The student teacher’s name is Mr. Blowfish [so christened for his resemblance to the animal whenever he sang]. Oh, my gosh. Words just don’t do justice to the hilarity that man never fails to evoke.
May 6, 2004
Well, this is unexpected. You see, I was in Journal 10 yesterday. At the evening’s conclusion I calmly put the journal into a drawer underneath of my desk, but when I got home the desk was gone. The journal (along with Journals 8 and 9) has been packed away. We’re moving, you see, and quite soon. My mother got promoted so we have to relocate to Central City, Deep South State. Right now we’re leaving Beautiful Town, Native State. We’ve been here for two years, and they were some of the best times in my young life.
May 9, 2004
I received a little card from Perfect Cousin today. It was issued by her school, announcing that graduation ceremonies will be held on May 23, 2004. Enclosed were two pictures of Perfect Cousin. In one she wore her cap and gown, and in the other she is elegantly dressed and made up. I can’t believe that Perfect will graduate from high school in two weeks.
When I first met her she was only ten years old.
I mean, this is the girl who we did séances with and who acted as Perfect, Queen of Renaldi. It’s just difficult to comprehend how quickly the years are passing before they’re already gone.
Last night I think I connected with Jesus. I was sitting in the hot tub, staring up at a single bright star, thinking about Lord Jesus and about the future. In that moment I felt so comforted, as if my Savior was right there with me, and I knew that everything would be okay. Then my logic rose its head in question, and a terrible thought occurred to me: what if I was just a coincidentally formed biological product of evolution staring up at a burning ball of gas billions of miles distant, receiving assurance from a deity that wasn’t there? I told myself that it couldn’t be, and I got out of the hot tub.
May 16, 2004
“I feel like I’ve known you forever,” First Twin said yesterday.
His words seemed to explain everything perfectly. We feel like we’ve known them forever, too. And it’s going to be so strange, not living in the same neighborhood, not playing tag, not ever seeing our friends again. I’m going to miss this place so much. It’s hard to imagine how everything will be.
Tonight is Mom’s last night here.
May 18, 2004
Blonde Friend and I spoke tonight. She might come over to my house on Friday afternoon, just to hang out and rehash old times. I feel like it’s something we have to do. She and I have been friends forever. I wouldn’t feel right about leaving without meeting her again.
In the same way, it’s like a hole in my heart that Lacrosse Boy and Military Boy probably won’t come over this weekend. I thought it would all go on forever. That’s really how it seemed.
May 22, 2004
My last Saturday here was a beautiful, sun-soaked day. I still can’t quite grasp that this is truly my last weekend living here. I’m thinking, “Oh, we’ll do this next weekend,” but there is no next weekend. It’s very odd. I’ve spent so many Fridays and Saturdays with all of my friends that I suppose I thought it would go on forever.
Today was a wondrous conclusion to two years of happiness and joy. What magic we had! How blessed were we to be surrounded by so many funny, intelligent, talented, incredible people! I thank God for these two years. I've been so blessed.
May 26, 2004
Today was Operation Get Your Food On, the party my friends threw for me in U.S. History. It's a memory that I’ll treasure forever. It was, across the board, a resounding success. I walked into United States History carrying Doritos, plastic cups, and root beer, while yelling, “Midwestern Pirate!” Brianna had potato chips; Anne-Marie had doughnuts; Minders had tortillas, salsa, and plates; and some kind soul thought to bring in chocolate chip cookies, Fig Newtons, and Oreos. It was all quite a going-away present.
May 28, 2004
Yesterday, May 27, 2004, was a fitting send-off from Beautiful Town High School. In first mod I had to leave Crazy English Teacher's room so as to better take my final exam (which consisted of a criticism on Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”). Second mod was Algebra with Midget Math Teacher. I didn’t even pretend to pay attention, but rather I read. Good old Midget Math Teacher, in characteristic Midget Math Teacher style, had me shut my book and she gave me a worksheet. At the end of class she suggested (as politely as possible) that I not take any other math courses. I’m inclined to agree with her, but I worry that without math I won’t get into a good college. I’ll just have to suffer through and hope to God that He’ll help me.
Third mod (Chorus), was full of yearbook signings and goodbyes. I adopted several popular songs to my own lyrics (“Oh, Baby, Baby,” “I Can Save You”) with hilarious results.
Fourth mod was la clase de espanol with non other than la Evsterooni, otherwise known as Ms. Evans. I was about ten minutes late and I suppose they thought I wasn’t going to make it because the room erupted into cheers and clapping when I entered and Brunette Girl started crying.
I went into a back room to take my final, then emerged at the very end of class, still unfinished. Evsterooni agreed to let me take it home if I used the honor code, which essentially consists of the teacher hoping that I don’t cheat and lie about it. Me being me I wouldn’t cheat. I mean, there was a Spanish-English dictionary sitting right on the desk where I was taking my exam and I didn’t even open it. Not the smartest thing that Evster’s ever done, I can say that (leaving that dictionary on the desk).
I went home and an hour later we drove out of Beautiful Town. It was two years and five months to the day.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
In most ways this Halloween was completely conventional. Throughout the day on October 28th, a Friday, I dithered about what kind of costume I would wear and hadn't made a decision by the following morning. On Saturday afternoon, hours before the party I was attending, I threw together a lamentably pathetic ensemble and then on Saturday night drank entirely too much and passed out before anyone else.
All of those things were normal.
What wasn't normal, however, was the glorious surprise we received on October 29th: snow.
As I've mentioned before, Major University is particularly beautiful during the brief moment when summer is rusting into frost.
Autumns here are replete with skies of deep navy blue, grasses grown a darker green, and trees whose golden and amber ornaments glitter like dancing flames when illuminated by warm sunshine. I love these things but have long cast jealous eyes to the bloggers of the North.
This year, this one time at least, I beat them to the punch.
It wasn't a lot of snow, of course, and none of it stuck to the ground, but for October 29th in Southern State it was cause enough for celebration. I squealed with shocked happiness when I looked outside and saw the flakes coming down, then hurried out to enjoy the event.
Up until this point I'd wanted an October snow forever. I hope every year for it to happen, and occasionally I've even had dreams about it (these usually involve my frolicking with exaggerated happiness through a field of flowers that are somehow still in bloom as I am enveloped in snow that is somehow warm). When the much awaited early snow at last came, though, I had one thought that crowded out all the others: my hands are cold.
I bundled up and headed over to the Major University book store, where I bought an umbrella and gloves that I promptly lost within two days. For a few hours there, though, I felt very seasonal.
When I arrived at the dining hall I found it filled with students seeking refuge from the cold weather in warm food. I was lucky enough to run into a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and we sat sipping hot chocolate as he told me about his fiancée's bizarre family troubles and snow fell steadily outside.
Before much time had passed the snow was done coming down and I, sans Laquesha (who was apprehensive of potentially icy road conditions) was on my way with Professional Guy to the Old Dorm party. "Old Dorm" refers to a dormitory on Major University's campus, now given over to Freshmen housing, in which a large group of mutual friends lived and met between 2005 and 2008. I, as an alien 19-year-old arrival on the Old Dorm floor in 2007, was one of the last to be inducted into the circle but have always considered my random placement there one of the great fortunes of my life. Now, even years later, we refer to our far-flung brotherhood simply as "Old Dorm," and even those of us who did not occupy the hall at the same time have managed to become quite good friends.
They are a warm and off-beat group of people. I like to flatter myself that I fit in with them.
In addition to the joys of old friends and new snow, however, I took away from Halloween a valuable lesson: I cannot drink liquor. My flimsiness even when under the influence of negligible amounts of beer should have led me to this conclusion long ago, but once I had a little bit of rum in me I somehow became magically convinced that I was capable of handling more. To make a long story short, I was at more than three but not quite four mixed drinks when I all but passed out. The next morning I felt ill and saw a string of calls of which I had no memory made from my phone at three o'clock in the morning. The cell phone record was conclusive evidence that, for the first time in my life, I'd blacked out.
"I'm going back to my old rule," I told Blonde Friend the next day. "A shot or two of liquor at the start of the night and then nothing but beer the rest of the way. I don't get sick, I don't black out, I don't get hung over. It's a good arrangement."
Tomorrow I'm headed home for a weekend that will include, given my parents' absence on Saturday night, the first sleepover I've had in a good long while. I'm excited about it. There are a lot of difficulties for me right now, and in the midst of that I'm happy for weekends home and slumber parties and Halloween reunions. I'm happy I got snow in October.