Tag Archives: family

Nostalgia Under The Plastic Stars.

I spent Wednesday night into Thursday at my mother’s house so I could help assemble the Thanksgiving day meal.  I wasn’t so much a cook as a cook’s helper; I peeled a shitload of apples and potatoes, washed some counters, cut up some vegetables, stuffed some celery, and did all of the other time consuming grunt work that would have bogged my mum down from making what will inevitably be my death row meal request:  her New England style sausage stuffing.

(Does threatening to commit a death row scale crime in jest constitute announcing intent?  If so everyone reading this has just become an accessory, SUCKERS. ).

Later that night, after wrestling with the dogs to take a fucking chill pill and sleep despite our strange surroundings, I was really surprised when I shut the guest room light out to see the ceiling start to glow with little plastic stars.  I have to admit I had a zen moment staring up at them:

I’d put those stars up when I lived at home, and more than ten years later (going on fifteen, I think?) they’re still there.  I told my parents I was glad to see them, and my stepfather said he liked them there, that it was a nostalgia thing having them on the ceiling.  His son had them, I think his daughter had them, and I had them.  It’s a small reminder of what we were like when we were little people as opposed to the quasi-but-barely-functioning adults we’ve become.

Of course, the nostalgia bit prompted my mom to share a doozy of  Hillary story that I figure I’ll blab about for your entertainment.  As a miniature, I had a Cabbage Patch doll named Lyle Bailey.  I mentioned him before in the Creepy Doll post, though he was not THE creepy doll.  He was just your standard, run of the mill Cabbage Patch with a big bald dome and a blue onesie pajama.

At Least He Didn't Look Like This

Now, keep in mind this was the early 80’s, so Cabbage Patch Kids were the “stand in line for hours and kill your neighbors if they cut in front of you” toy.  To get one, you had to know someone in the industry (Child World employees were all the rage in ’82), threaten others with severed horse heads, or trade your prison cigarettes and first born male child.  Possibly all of the above.  Every kid in the universe wanted a Crappage Patch doll from Santa, and some parents had to take offers they simply couldn’t refuse to provide for their needy spawnlings.  My parents were no different.

The good news was, their mafioso level antics of procuring me a Cabbage Patch kid paid off.  I loved the damn thing.  When Laren wasn’t being dragged around, Lyle Bailey was, and to this day I remember the weird baby powder perfume smell they chemically infused his head with.  It was too sweet and slightly plasticky, and I’d sniff him almost like I was huffing paint.

Fast forward a little to a grocery store adventure with mom, me, and Lyle Bailey. I  was four, and thus old enough to not have to ride in the carriage if I didn’t want to.  How foolish I was, opting out of that awesome little shopping cart seat.  I wish they had adult sized ones now.  I’d make Dave push me around.  AHEM.  ANYWAY.  So yeah, mom was pushing the carriage and doing the aisle sweeps thing people do when they’re grocery shopping, and I was tottering behind her actually quiet for once.  That was when she noticed the people walking the opposite way from her, as in those who could see past her to the small Hillary behind, smiling and laughing.

Slow motion spin, the knots forming in the pit of her stomach, because she just knew I was doing something awful.  And oh was I!  I’d tugged my shirt down to my navel and had shoved Lyle Bailey up to my four-year-old booblet.  My mother’s eyes bugged out and she shriek-asked what I was doing, and in a very loud, very proud voice, I announced to all of Shaws Supermarket that I WAS BREASTFEEDING LYLE BAILEY.

I had an aunt who’d recently had a baby, and I’d seen the breastfeeding bit, and . . . yeah.  I think I had the luckiest Cabbage Patch Kid in the world.  I took real good care of him, yes I did.  The studio audience at Shaws was wildly entertained, and I don’t know if Mom laughed or was utterly mortified, but I was told very firmly that that was not an appropriate thing to do with my doll in public.  I don’t really remember how I took that news, but I was sort of a shithead as a kid so I probably Hulked out and screamed or something.

I think Mom still has the Lyle Bailey doll upstairs in the den closet.  At least, I think I spied him when I was in a search for a laptop cord sometime last year.  I leave him with her, because I’d hate for one of my dogs to accidentally maul a 30 year old doll, and by all accounts, Lyle Bailey went through a lot under my ministrations.  He deserves a peaceful, quiet retirement.  At least I can confidently say now that I’d never ever breastfeed a Cabbage Patch Kid in public.

At home?  Well.  I can make no promises.  And that’s why Lyle Bailey has to stay away.

The Mother Ship.

I don’t know at what point my mother went from being a figure of terrifying authority to a friend, but somewhere along the line this happened, and I don’t think I can properly put into words how glad I am for it. A little history for those that might not know so this rambling wall of text makes sense: my grandmother died three years ago. She was one of my best friends in the entire world. In fact, as a little kid I spent almost as much time at her house as my own house. Mum and I lived with Gram up until I was about six, and after that (until I was seventeen) we lived right down the street from her, which meant as I passed her house on my way home from school, I’d stop in. She was my babysitter, secondary mother, and all around sounding board. To say that I wish every single day she was still with me is an understatement. I wish she could see that my writing has progressed and that I’m working on publication. She always said I was a lot like her, and though I don’t believe I have Dorothy’s steel (that woman was a battleship, no shit) I like to think I got her smarts, her humor, and her ability to spin a word or two. If Awakenings gets published, I got the okay from Lauren to put an “In memory of” line in there for her at the beginning. Lauren’s pretty fucking swell in my mind.

For all of the lovely things I can say about my grandmother, one thing I don’t like admitting to myself is that her loss correlated with a new-found appreciation of the relationship I have with my Mum. Lemonade from lemons, maybe, but it’s really crappy looking at your life’s most traumatizing moment and finding something good there. There’s multiple layers to this, of course, and all of them are pretty self evident, but I’ve had a lot of time to mull this over lately, so please bear with as I wax about my life.

When Gram was alive, she used to say “you’ll miss me when I’m gone, kid”, almost like it was a threat, and I think it was because my grandmother saw the relationship between me and my mother as this tentative, rocky thing that – with the slightest provocation – could go volatile. She viewed herself as the neutral party who could (and would) act as a translator and mediator when Mum and I clashed. For a time, she wasn’t that far off the mark. Don’t get me wrong, Mom and I had a decent relationship most of the time, but we got frustrated with each other a lot, too. I thought my mother was a hard ass, and though my mother always loved me, she’d get frustrated that I had so much potential and so little motivation. At the time I resented the crap out of her for that, but I think a lot of that was immaturity talking. I’m a lot more cognizant now that I have a terrible case of “big brains, little drive” when it comes to things that don’t interest me. Set me down on something that catches my fancy? I’m unstoppable. But I’m awfully choosy about what constitutes “worthy of my interest”, and it’s gotten me into some shitty situations in the past. Most of these situations are my own damned fault.

No parent wants to see their kid suffer. I think it’s probably twice as hard to see your kid suffer because they’re repeatedly shooting themselves in their own dick. And I? Was a dick shooter. So my mother got pissed off with me a lot. Most parents in her position probably would have, too.

Gram passed three years this coming March. There was a fuck ton of tension broiling around then. Everyone was worked up, sad, frustrated. To be blunt, I ended up having a nervous breakdown. I’d like to say that’s an exaggeration, but it’s really not. I took her death so poorly my stomach ended up rotting itself, a lot of pent up bullshit came to the surface, and I’m still struggling to get myself situated all this time later. It wasn’t until after she died that I realized I had a new challenge on my hands, too. Now that she was gone, I had to actually talk TO my mother. Directly. See, I’d gotten into this habit of streaming a good chunk of my conversations with my mother through Dorothy first, so she’d give me advice, pointers, and her thoughts on things before I even got started with my mother. It was like I prefaced every conversation with Mum by cross-checking with her agent. Weird, huh? Yeah, I didn’t understand how weird that was either until I was faced with having to go straight to the source and was completely cowed by the prospect.

Weirder still to me (at first) was that when I actually got the stones to pick up the phone? It wasn’t the scary, terrifying thing I envisioned. In fact, I liked my mother a whole lot more when we talked to each other without all of that preliminary bullshit. I felt like we actually communicated in a healthy way instead of some bizarro-world filtered conversation that I’d conjured with my grandmother. It was . . . a relief. It was nice. It was something I enjoyed doing. And it’s just gotten better.

Now I can’t say for sure if it was the loss of the translator that made me feel closer to my mom, or if it’s just something that happens when women hit 30. My best guess is that it’s a combination of both. I’ve flat out asked other women when Mom went from THE MOTHER SHIP to Friend-Mom, and it seems to be a common theme that you hit your late 20’s or early 30’s and BAM! Mom becomes a buddy – someone you can call and chat with about anything instead of talking to her only when the shit hits the fan because she’s an authoritative figure.

I’m probably going all deep on this topic because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and even more than Christmas or Halloween, this is (and always was) my favorite holiday. When Gram retired from cooking way back when, my mother took over. For a while she did huge family holidays, but when that became too much work, it was just Gram, me, Mom and Drew. Some years Dave was there, others he wasn’t, but that core group was always at the table. It’s felt a whole lot quieter since we lost Dot (though I will never forget that the last Thanksgiving we had with her she only ate potatoes and stuffing and said screw the turkey, she was too old to eat shit she didn’t like), and though the family is a little smaller and the dynamic has changed some, I’m thankful for what I’ve got.

Which is my mom, and this new awesome thinger I’ve got going on with her. It’s good. I hope other folks get to experience something like this, too, cause it’s pretty neat.