CONFESSIONS OF AN URBAN SPRAWL GIRL

I thought I could say anything in the confessional. “Father, my bowling ball got stuck in the (bleeping) gutter. Then some (bleep) almost rolled his ball over my toes. If that wasn’t bad enough, the same (bleep) almost hit me with his car in the parking lot. But I was good Father. I really didn’t want his (bleeping) car leaving scratch marks all over my key.”

Venting doesn’t always go as planned. I had to repent that day for using inappropriate language, and was forced to dust the entire Tabernacle. But I have another confession to make. I work for a living, so I can afford to buy something that will keep me sane when trying to be a prudent person in society. Or at least when it comes to social surroundings. After a huge high school hiatus comes the reunions, those night long conclaves with former classmates. Similar in many ways to the Berlin Reunification, the gathering of Germans who fought for their freedom. Although I doubt any Deutschlander went on a diet or for a makeover before attending such an event.

I confess that the reason I looked a little bit better than Sheila McIlhooters was because I applied primer as a base for my makeup. It’s bad enough that I had to duct tape my mammaries several inches above their normal resting position. I get it. Men like to see a lot of flesh. But when some boobalicious babes bend down and flash their perky udders directly into your corneas, it tends to send a sigh of non-relief to those who have blueberries for bosoms. In theorizing, why spend a whole day face painting when you can simply lower the wattage in the overhead chandeliers, wear a Wonderbra, and act all Marilyn Monroe-ish. It didn’t matter. The men still gawked at Sheila’s vivacious personality. She had a chest that could shade the entire island of Grenada. The last time someone stared at me when I walked into a room was when I forgot to remove the Clearasil from my cheeks. So I must confess again. Without feeling the nudging necessity to participate, I made up an excuse why I couldn’t go to the latest reunion, forfeiting my chance to stand in front of a group of commentators who like to convey feeble impersonations of fondness. Plus, I suspected Barry Manilow would infiltrate the sound system by the powers that be. Being sprawled out on my couch and validating the dust accumulation seems far more enticing than being held captive by Copacabana. Besides, I would worry that the underlying tape might give way revealing my true shelf. It would be equally agonizing if the high school heartthrob showed up with a fifty inch thick waist and eyeglass lens.

I never did confess to a divine authority that I stole something once. I mean six times. So I’m confessing now. But it wasn’t just something, it was a lot of something’s. I’m always budget minded, so when I bought my house in Michigan, it needed to undergo the various vicissitudes of remodeling. This is where my financial flexibility required disciplinary action. Which was basically flipping a coin to see if I should renovate, or feed and clothe my still-at-home daughter. If it was the latter, my dismay could have only been resolved with liberal doses of antidepressants. Because I just couldn’t live with the hideous carpeting or kitchen cabinets that were built in 1880. Neither of them coordinated with my curtains. So I had to figure out a way of getting what I wanted without it putting me in the poor house.

Not that you can add kleptomania to my resume. But there might be a strict moral code in regards to hauling away boulders from the Home Depot parking lot medians. I thought they were there for the taking. I wanted a rock wall adjoining my kitchen with my dining room. The particular poundage of pebbles in question were perfect with their flat backings. I did let Home Depot personnel advise me on how to stack the stonework. Wiring, mortar, tools for removing flying mortar from my body after it set. Then I began to think things out. Contractor=my life savings+ my daughter’s birthday money. Or, do-it-yourself= a lot cheaper but a real pain in the back, then be dead and spread across my bed for a whole week. You can add cheapo to my resume, because simple arithmetic showed that there was only enough money in the kitty for a carton of milk. Nonetheless, I was willing to give up cow pasteurization for a new rock wall…. which led to the heist.

During those six trips of filling the trunk of my teensy Honda Del Sol sports car with felonious stones, you’d think I was training my triceps for a Ms. Universe contest. Not to mention being afraid that I would get caught dirty handed or my car tires would burst. Faced with the pastoral problem called conscience, Jiminy Cricket sure wasn’t around to be my guide. I only hoped that whoever caught me was carrying around a vat of holy water and had the divine power to anoint me during that confession. I ended up erecting the mountainous structure all by me little ol’ self, without wearing a ton of armor to prevent the large deadly minerals from falling and killing me in the process. Although I would have died with an accomplished smile on my face. I did leave enough chalky residue sprawled everywhere, and I’m not even a teacher.

It takes a very special rock stealer to admit that she was wrong. It made no sense to confess that story so soon, not when I was probably going on some other guilt trip. Which brings me to my next confessions. I have a closet filled with gourmet chocolates that I don’t really want to share. And my Cross Trainers has never been Cross Training.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

PERFECTLY REASONABLE EXPLANATIONS

“Go ask your father” and “I’m going to tell your dad” became staple statements in our household. The overwhelmingness of having ten children made my mother divert many things onto my dad. In my mind, there was no reasonable explanation for having that many kinfolk concentrated under one roof. It may have been safe to assume that having this many kids got my parents a reduced rate on mattresses and milk. I wonder if they ever considered buying a cow? These are questions I need to sort out with my dad while he’s still alive. If he doesn’t remember anything either, I’ll know where I inherited my forgetfulness.

What I do remember is that I was blessed being the eldest daughter. I got new clothes first and never had hand-me-downs. There were snapshots taken of me, when my other siblings were lucky if they got one picture of their high school graduation. That’s what happens. I suppose parents can all blame their lack of consistency and hand holding camera coordination on the blend of alcoholic ingredients after birthing a bestial herd. What other reasonable explanation would there be?

When Mom left this world, she willed me her Tequila Shrimp recipe. I noticed that she scratched off the 1/2 c. tequila and wrote down 1/2 a bottle. I’m a mother myself. So I totally got it. Except four was an awfully unusual age to have a hangover. It was right around that time that I sheared off every bloom in her tulip garden. I do remember having loads of fun with dads razor. At the time, I didn’t have a reasonable explanation for anything I did. But it’s all clear to me now. The terrible twos led me straight through the terrible teens. My mother had every right to ask me why there was shaving cream covering the tulip petals, the dogs tail, and my sisters bangs. I did urge everyone to watch their limbs if they were on the receiving end of my backlashes. Though I just wanna say, it wasn’t me who made that long distance call to Jamaica and ordered Jerk Chicken.

During my pre-teen stage, I had a harder time deciphering Mom’s words. I swore she told me to go play Spin the Bottle, when she really told me to get rid of my smirky grin or she’d throttle! I went ahead and gathered all the boys from the neighborhood into the garage. I came out with three hickies and a mighty thirst for a Coke. I asked Mom what French kissing was. Her perfectly reasonable explanation was that Paris was the only place on earth where people are allowed to kiss. Otherwise my lips would fall off. I inquired how I would ever learn to bob for apples or blow smoke rings from cigarettes. This is where “Go ask you father” originated. I remember running into mister hot lips Harrison after that game. He told me he wanted to someday settle down in that very same neighborhood, have a dozen children and live happily ever after with me. I said, “Fine. As long as we never kiss again. But can you narrow that dozen children down to a lower number, like one?”

Certain people must have been the exception to the kissing rule. Like the divorced neighbor who came over every Christmastime and kissed my mother under the mistletoe. Dad never questioned him, or her. But it made me nervous. I’m almost sure this was the same reason Spencer Tracy saw Katherine Hepburn while he was married to Louise Treadwell. I was afraid mistletoe represented everything that could possibly go wrong with the human race. It could be the cause of alienation of a spouses attention. The first time I witnessed the peck I told Mom, “I’m going to tell your husband.” I thought the only thing that would break up their marriage was the divorce level veggie dip mom kept on hand that contained way too much garlic. I watched enough super sleuthing television shows with Perry Mason to know exactly how to handle these things. Murder the man, and don’t get caught.

They say curiosity killed the cat. It almost killed me, and my mother after all my inquisitiveness.”Mom, why did God make slivers?” “Mom, if oranges are orange, why isn’t Red Skelton red?” “Mom, why is that man always coming over for a smooch?” Normally my mother told us to go ask our father. But in this case, she sat me down and clarified rather perfectly and rationally. In retrospect, I should have proposed having Ricky Nelson over for Christmas. He could have been the one giving me my first kiss.

As a teen, I tried keeping my questions much simpler. “Mother dear, can I have a car?” The only reasonable explanation she could give me was that it wouldn’t be fair to my siblings if I got my own means of transportation, and they couldn’t eat or be clothed for the rest of their time at home. If I was being entertained by the television, it was usually blocked by a sister, or a brother, or some sign that dishes needed to be washed, or a flying Frisbee. I tried tackling any culprits who were guilty of something, hoping sooner or later mummy and daddy would want to give them away. Maybe then we could have afforded to have Vidal Sassoon physically tame my frizzy strands, or I could ride to school in a Corvette Coupe. With a driver. And unlimited access to my favorite radio station. Besides, maybe then both my parents could have managed meditative weeks in some tropical Zen paradise sipping Mai Tais, with me tagging along.

By the powers of the verbal retention attained by my mother, any rational responses given to me in my growing years have inspired me to lie like a rug. I will always have perfectly reasonable explanations for anything I say and do.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

STUFF

I have treasured many things that I’ve collected over the years. For instance, the antique armchair that was given to me by an elderly neighbor. I loved that thing despite the rusted springy coils that were touching the floor. I nailed stiff plywood underneath it to lift the springs for seat-ability. Then after a home tailored reupholstering job, voila. A new/old chair.

When I moved to California, the first time my oldest daughter came to visit she said, “Good God mother! You didn’t really pay money to have that thing hauled across the country did you?” I said, “No. I got my kicks walking Route 66 with it on my back.” Of course her rebuttal came as no surprise. “Must you sneer?” I was ready to start a second family after that exchange to see if incubating newer offspring would lead to kinder genetics in favor of my stuff. I don’t have the chair anymore. I couldn’t take the harassment. I lugged it to the end of the driveway for trash pickup. My daughter said “It didn’t get there fast enough for me.” Wanting to get the last word in edgewise I told her, “If you wanted me to move it quicker, you should have had Andy Garcia showing up in front of the house a long time ago.”

Most of my ideas have obviously been ill-judged propositions of questionable merit. It was like trying to reason with Islamic negotiators The mere fact that I suggested spring cleaning while my teenagers were quarantined for a week on spring break is probably what started such umbrage. It’s also what probably started the quadrillion dollar Disney industry. Except you have to be the successor of a rich royal to be able to afford that trip every time the kids are off school. The most my kids could expect was Mary Poppins from our video player, and Minnie ears made out of paper plates. Which, when I think about it, should still be in their own assortment of saved stuff.

My garage served as a hoarded path to a motorcade of machines. So my objective was getting its contents organized sometime between sunrise and sunset, that same year. But I needed help from the comatose bodies that were still snoring at noon, a rich tradition that rests heavily upon the eyelids of teens. I did no such thing growing up. Sleep hours were strictly enforced so I would be bright eyed enough to tackle my parents stuff. My brothers were also forced to work if you could find them. I thought they were doing something far more pleasurable. Viewing Playboy pages was my guess.

I left a trail of M & M’s to the garage as one way to get my girls in tip top hyper shape to help me. At one point and saw my offspring planted in front of the television watching Monty Hall. I told her we could play Let’s Make a Deal in the garage. Unless she opened the garage door, she would never know whether she’d find a goat or a car. One time I tried getting my youngest to help rearrange things in her closet when I found her watching Family Feud. I said, “Survey says, children who attempt to gain control are usually shot at dawn.” We had our own family feud that day. She almost won.

One daughter questioned why the garage hadn’t been cleaned before. I said, “Well honeykins, when I was pregnant with you, I concentrated on building your healthy cardiovascular system just so you could be of some help to me today. And when you were a toddler, I had to make sure you weren’t sticking your tongue into the electrical sockets or going quietly into the streets unescorted so you could live long enough to make it to this point. And now that you are a teen, I have nurtured every organ in that body of yours so that my goal of getting a clean garage could be executed before you are.”

My deafness is now caused by the high pitched frequencies of groaning, and tapes of Michael Jackson. The musical conductor asked, “Anything dirty we can take to the trash, right Mom?” I told her to leave the water softener. And I was totally on to the kid who came to me with a cries of a raging fever, knowing full well she held the thermometer over a 100 watt lit bulb for several minutes. My loved ones also mentioned something about income inequality. Like they were really going to make money for laying around. Procrastination proceeded. They said they hadn’t even eaten breakfast. Which was excuse number forty-seven in the long line of attempts to being exonerated. It was a tossup whether to make pancakes, or let them suffer right through graduation if they didn’t snap it up. I was sure I wouldn’t be arrested for lynching, as most of the police officers in town were parents as well.

Of course no garage cleaning comes without arachnophobia. It’s the sort of thing you can’t avoid while playing cobwebby chess. I had to toss aside my stuff long enough to nurse any scare victims, hoping the girls wouldn’t hemorrhage their Ho Ho’s after finding God knows what within the confines of the disarray. Everything worsened once they saw the mouse. They provided more pitiful pleas, so I offered to help them pack their runaway bags. They could have made it to Tennessee by nightfall. The following day.

Time spent cleaning, 10%. Time spent complaining, 50%. Time spent messing around with stuff, 40%. Despite the recurring joys of my communal experience, I’d like to talk about Indian birthing traditions. Traumatizing as cleaning stuff sounds, they could have been tossed from a fifty foot tall temple that supposedly instills courage. Lucky for them I was somewhat civilized.

Before it was all said and still not done, the helper of the month award went to absolutely no one.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

DOCTOR DO-LITTLE

I had a gynecologist once who quite frankly, did not pass the family planning part of obstetrics when my firstborn was two weeks and seventeen hours overdue. Nor was he good at gender determination. He predicted a boy. Three times. Now I have a closet full of Tonka trucks and coveralls in blue.

Come to think of it, the licensed butcher made me believe that a Cesarean section was a region in Rome. All doctors inhabiting our glorious globe are characters of intrinsic gloom. When they are done with me, I either need a hug, or a fifteen shots of Chambord. They prescribe dinosaur capsules, which I will obediently force down my esophagus once they pulverize them into pieces the size of ice cream sprinkles, and they taste like ice cream sprinkles. I start experiencing impatience and wrist problems just getting the caps off prescription bottles. Then they want you to take the medication every day until they come up with another cure. I’ll probably find out that arugula is fattening and aspirin is extremely fatal for me. How precise is the Hippo-critical Oath when healthcare professionals swear upon healing gods to uphold specific standards? Yet they are never at their specific office at the specified time that I’ve made my appointment, let alone be fully capable of curing me. They can’t even detect problems when they are as obvious as severed limbs and shotgun wounds. The only doctors who have served me well are Dr. Scholl and Doc Martens.

Back when I had my first two children, it was a day like any other day, with plenty of sunshine headed my way. Until I went to the doctor. I had been walking around work like a drunken soldier-ess. So I went to see a general practitioner. It petrified me knowing he would make me gag for the trillionth time with a throat stick. What worried me more was seeing this man’s office filled with archaic types of forceps and literature on Bloodletting. Which is the ancient practitioners belief that sickness was merely the result of bad blood. My doctor’s diagnosis, or flippant guesstimation, was that I had a tumor. My mind was wobbling with the idea of two things. First, I’m going to die, so who will care for my children? Secondly, the big buffoon should really trim back his beard and hide his Hemorrhoidal hot iron. Both were about as likely as catching Larry Flynt reading the Bible. My first reaction to this news reached gasping proportions. Now I’m no symptomatic genius, but something else told me that my equilibrium was simply off.

I cried all the way home the day I got that wonderful evaluation. When you think about it, a mother usually sobs during sad movies, when her children are hurt, or when she’s out of chocolate. She shouldn’t be crying over the idea of impending termination. I would have probably gotten a brighter forecast if I charted astrologically what was really in store for me. Doctor Death put me on a treatment treadmill by prescribing enough pills to put me out permanently. Swallowing one almost killed me alone. After two weeks of stumbling around from the medications that caused even more dizziness, I decided to use my own remedy by going off everything completely. All the symptoms disappeared. I wanted to go back and tell the guy, “Doctor, doctor, what’s with that news? Now I’ve got a worse case of loathing you!” It just goes to show that by using my own self awareness, intuitive healing, and natural remedy, I too can be certified by a Medical Board of Behavioral Sciences. I’m not any healthier from taking prescribed supplements, just as I’m not any calmer from drinking chamomile teas. I have heard that whirling a washed bra around in the salad spinner can help protect its aging process. Maybe a quick tumble in the dryer after a shower can lengthen my life as well. After realizing that I wasn’t leaving this world quite yet, I did have to tell my children that their next mommy wasn’t going to let them have ice cream for dinner either. So be prepared to put up with me awhile longer.

I had to go back to the doctor’s office that same week all because my baby picked an unfavorable time to cram a cut carrot up her nose. My thinking again was, however she got it into her body, I didn’t care. I paid sixty bucks to have Slim Pickens use his own pair of pliers to pull the veggie. Although I didn’t have to take her to the doctor when she ate a whole box of Cheez-Its and half a box of Teddy Grahams. Instead, I had a emergency treated injury myself after falling onto her Lil’ Chef kitchen while flinging myself forward in an attempt to retrieve the packaged goodies from her grip. We all have our own vision of what constitutes fun. It’s my every desire to be counting the ceiling tiles in a physicians waiting room, eight hundred times. And it must be every child’s desire to sit crying while growing cobwebs, preparing for a man in a white coat to come rescue them and give them a sucker. If nothing else, I’ve learned that waiting rooms are excellent places to prepare for insane asylums.

I often wondered what certain prominent doctors would have done had I gone to them with my symptoms. I’m convinced that Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable would have told a joke and let laughter be his best medicine. Doogie Howser would have sang to me, “The neck bone’s connected to the head bone.” Surly Ben Casey would have said, “Darn it Patty, I’m a doctor. Not a miracle worker!” And Hawkeye Pierce would have told me that there’s nothing that can’t be cured without a martini and a pair of hedge trimmers.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

ART ATTACK

My middle child was the little gift that kept on giving. Her artful motif was often color coordinated in browns when she chugged along naked in her daddy’s sepia suede boots. They contrasted nicely with her diaper drooping, a raw umber necktie, and a mouth messy from chocolate morsels I was adding to cookie dough. Except I wasn’t sure if the brown on her fingertips came from the mixing bowl, or her dirty diaper. Her nickname was “Digger.” I couldn’t call her Snow White for obvious reasons. And I wasn’t sure whether I should call in a fecal expert, or make certain she was awarded full time residency at Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

I had a hard time hiding the hilarity from her glances filled with guilt whenever she was naughty. One day I caught my pint size Picasso redecorated the walls with anal related material. My face released a momentary ejection of terror, as if I was asked to recite the Magna Carta from memory. Silence is normally golden, unless you have a naked tyke running around. Then silence can be extremely questionable. It’s probably illegal in fifty states to thrash a child after she opens and digests every raisin box in the pantry, enough to loosen the secretion into a watery consistency, then use said stool to stain the lamp shades. Thanks to this mother, who placed the prune-like currants within reaching distance. But I’ll betcha there isn’t a female firing squad anywhere who would gun me down for stupidity. She became the butt of every joke. Even when the Good Humor truck came along, my toddler somehow turned an ice pop into a poopsicle.

Kids think it’s funny drawing images out of body waste. I thought it was funny confining them to a playpen. It would be even funnier if I had confined them to a playpen, in the bathroom, after I’ve launched my own sweet smelling ballistic missiles. I would never have made it without Pampers leak proof protection, and Sesame Street. My husband nicknamed her Quick Draw McGraw after my active volcano smeared the television screen and turned Elmo into an African American Muppet. Her daddy did wonder what I did all day long. When in reality, I was making sure only one of his socks came out of the dryer, while my toddler darkened everything in the house with her messy hands. In retrospect, I suppose I never gave her proper credit. Not everyone looked that good in brown. There were those ten or sixty-eight occasions when I had to hose down the living room, which rated somewhere between getting a barium enema, and not being able to get a babysitter. I spent most days at home spraying the house with disinfectants instead of doing what I liked doing, which was drawing. It was like telling Rembrandt he couldn’t sketch. I’ll never understand children who do crazy things. Just like I will never understand artists who never clean up after themselves. She did melt me with her Eskimo kisses. But I had to do a safety check before I let her touch me.

The same daughter made her artsy debut as a self taught cosmetologist. She put enough color on that face of hers throughout the teen years that I thought she had aliases. For all I knew she was practicing on her career as a KISS band member. The person who doesn’t observe the rules of proper make-up application shouldn’t be the same person who is in charge of painting her bedroom, especially when the colors are consistent with a Swastica symbol. I taught her to paint properly on the eve of her first job interview. The day came when she stopped cold turkey and wore no makeup at all. I was astonished, and must have stared at her for an hour. It was the unmasking of the beautiful face she has. Then came the art of bra fitting. Thankfully my daughter didn’t stand in front of her bedroom mirror with the same alarming look like I had remarking, “Mirror mirror on the door, please make my boobs size forty-four.” Breeding bosomy girls meant beheading teen boys. After that came the art of endless teen slang, the art of asking for a car, and begging for her own apartment. She graduated from high school after working her fingers to the bone.

When I finally had time for my own works of art, I spent many days in the basement contriving everything from paintings to whatever else came to my creative mind, without them being rump related. Painting was far more productive than retrieving to the dungeon to consume vapors from some Bong-type apparatus, that would have totally readjusted my motivation, and was the reason I didn’t want to clean my room during my own teen years. But not all art comes out the way we want it to, regardless of our motivation. I’m glad there were no innocent bystanders the day I took an eight iron to my wondrous bridge canvas creation. Even Claude Monet destroyed some of his greatest works. Mine wasn’t that great either. Probably because I tried mixing my media by putting watercolors and oils together. But mostly because it started out looking like Italy’s Ponte Vecchio stone arch structure, but once I was done with it, looked more like the bridge on the River Kwai. AFTER air raid attackers bombed it. In today’s poop culture, there are people with so much money that can spend it on a replica of a Venus de Milo statue made from panda dung. Personally, I prefer painting with acrylics. And dung only comes in brown.

There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who are artsy, those who aren’t artsy, and those who are just crafty and make sheep stomach lampshades, or soaps from human body fat. Creative people concoct from silly ideas in order to achieve those strokes of genius.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)