Wednesday, July 18, 2012



I've been hearing for a few weeks now about how our lives are NOT sculpted over the course of our existence. I've felt for a long time, as my views have become clarified, that my parents are not responsible for the predicaments I've found myself in over the years. They are not responsible for the bad choices I made or for the depression and anxiety I was encumbered with, in some cases for years. No, all of that lies squarely on my head. The acknowledgement and acceptance of this is immensely freeing and it is also (to use a word that normally makes me gag) "empowering." 

The freeing part I feel because, I don't have to walk around with all that nasty old guilt, and bitterness and toxic goo anymore. I'm free to love and honor my parents for the people that they were. And fine people they were. They were just fucked up, like the rest of us. They were also fucked up in some very entertaining ways.

So, since we're all adults here (or presumably. If not, warning. Racy story ahead) I may as well trot out this little family gem. Disclaimer: I do not remember this. I slept through the whole thing, in my bed, snug as a bug in a rug. 

At the time this occurred, it was high summer in Muskegon, Michigan, in 1960. I was 4 years old. We lived at 1692 Peck Street. I remember this because my mother drummed this into my head in case I ever wandered off and some kindly stranger found me and asked where I lived (in 1960!) I guess if Jack the Ripper found me, I would rattle this off parrot-like before he slit my throat. Anyway, the house we lived in was an old, big Victorian built in 1892. We lived on the entire 2nd floor and the whole front of the house had dormered window seats in a sort of half circle on one corner and you could see directly across the street, where what was considered in the day, an "old folks' home" was located. 

The "old folks' home" was very genteel, and I suspect now was where very wealthy elderly people stayed. There were ice cream socials in the summer and Christmas parties in the winter for the entire neighborhood. This was, for all intents and purposes, still the fifties. Men and women still observed the proprieties. My mother wore stunning hats and gloves to church every Sunday. She had one hat that was a cloche-type hat made of feathers that were the approximate color of her hair. The priest greeting the celebrants one Sunday was not going to let her in until, without a word, she lifted her hat. Formalities were strictly observed everywhere in those days.

Anyway, we had a few cats. We always had a few somethings around. Cats were always in the mix. We had dogs. Had a couple of turtles. Horses. Daddy brought home a tarantula once. Ma wasn't too crazy about him, but he got to stay as long as he stayed in his cage. I guess she didn't want me cuddling up with him for a snooze. Mice, the usual stuff. Oh, we had an accidental bobcat once; I'll save him for another time. Anyway, these cats we had in Muskegon had a penchant for bringing presents in the house. I know all cats do this, but these two brothers, by the names of "Hermit" and "Wad" (I don't know why, my Daddy named them cryptically; and wouldn't explain) brought stuff in that wasn't dead. Hell, they brought stuff in that was still kicking and fighting about half the time. They also used to bring their movable cat fights right into the kitchen through their kitty door at 3 am. Who doesn't want to hear all that screeching and howling at close quarters, especially early in the day? Talk about a wake up call!

Well, apparently this time, Dumb and Stupider found themselves a flying squirrel and it was injured, but not so injured as to not be afraid for it's life.
So, this damned thing is hopping and skipping from the back of the couch, to a lamp, to a fireplace mantel, to a chair, to a table and making a god-awful racket! My heroic father leaps out of bed, charges into the living room, turns on every light and starts chasing the squirrel around. All he needs is a red "S" on his chest. And some pants. Any pants. The cats are trying to catch the squirrel. My father is tripping over the cats. He's yelling, "Sheila, get me my Air Force gloves!" My mother comes out with the gloves. She's running around, chasing him. He's still after the squirrel. Chaos. All the lights are on, all the curtains are open. It's 8:30 at night. At this point, my mom notices they're both naked and she's turning off all the lights behind my father, who keeps turning them on. After a few minutes of all this to-ing and fro-ing and chasing, I think the squirrel and my dad just ran into each other. My father caught the little squirrel with while wearing his gloves.  Now, to put him somewhere safe, where Cheech and Chong can't get him.

Oh yeah. We had a parakeet at the time who wouldn't live in his cage. He lived on top of his cage. That was the meanest little bastard that ever lived. His name was Pongo or something like that. He could mimic the cats, my mom and he hated my dad. The rule was, Pongo had to go in his cage at supper time because he would "bathe" in your food. Seriously. We discovered that little charming trait, when he proceeded to "swim" through everybody's homemade pea soup one night. Boy, was my mom pissed! Where he ever came from I have no idea. Probably one of my parents' enemies gave him to us. Anyway, one night it was time to eat and Pongo knew he had to go in his cage, so the fight begins. I have this memory of my father, chasing this little flying rat down this long hallway, until it looks like they're going to disappear over the horizon, and then, what seems like hours later, they grow ever larger. It was like a Road Runner cartoon. At times, My dad would "trick" Pongo and put ice cream in his cage. You couldn't fall back on that very often.

So, not-Rocky the flying squirrel recovered in Pongo's cage, and slept in one of my father's fur-lined Air Force gloves until he recovered from the trauma of being chased by cats and crazy naked people. The genteel old folks didn't speak to us for awhile until they forgot who were, I guess. The cats continued to bring us "gifts." 

**With thanks to Dr. Fab for this idea. I was commenting on her post about the bats. Check out her website. She is very cool and writes sci fi as well!
Post a Comment