"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Saturday, October 2, 2010

You're Okay, I'm Okay

Here's where my story takes a dozen different turns.  Go down one road and it's all Direll and danger and abuse.  Another road is 5th grade and the bully that was Melinda Lee.  Still another road is dad and his own drug addiction, a road splintered off from an association with Direll.  And then there's me.

By 5th grade, I thought maybe I'd be a teacher, inspired by my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. George from La Crescenta Elementary.  I also fancied being a writer, having dabbled in short stories and the beginnings of a script for my favorite show of the time, "The Love Boat."  I loved playing Barbies and paper dolls, and as much as I loved playing with then, I loved naming them.  I became fascinated with names, making lists and lists of them, alphabetically.  Girls names, mostly, although at one point out of obligatory duty, I made lists of boys' names and last names.

I was also addicted to soap operas although I couldn't understand most of what happened.  I couldn't believe that people who kissed would actually do so with their mouths open and tongues intertwining, intermingling.

I watched Luke and Laura play out on my TV all summer,and was mildly devastated that I couldn't watch during the school year (pre-VCR).  I couldn't even watch their wedding, so widely viewed across the country.  When I learned later that Laura would be leaving the show, I was wholly devastated.

It was the first time that Matthew and Julie and I would be home entirely by ourselves that first summer in Santa Monica.  I imagine that my mom either a) couldn't afford proper childcare; b) thought that the fact that she worked right down the street was good enough; or c) assumed I was quite old enough to watch both brother and sister even though no clear guidelines were ever really set.

My mom for years had tried to instigate some sort of chore responsibility to us. At one time, she very creatively made a system using poker chips and the corresponding chores.  Chips could be saved up to be redeemed for some kind of reward.  (Funnily, I used this system later on to create an incentive based program for work.)

Matthew had absolutely no will or desire for chores.  Turns out, he couldn't be bribed either.  Mom gave up any expectation and thus no punishment was handed out for not helping out around the house.

I became a chore Nazi; a little Hitler, if you will.  Even if my mom wasn't going to say it outright, I took no hesitation in asserting my power, my in-chargeness, not that Matt or Julie really listened to me.  Mostly they rolled their eyes and half-heartedly performed some tasks.  I was bossy, bitchy, mean, nagging.  All my anxiety and worries and unhappiness was unleashed on my siblings.  I look back with regret at my snippiness, my unkindness towards them.  It could have been so different, but in my mind we had to have the kitchen clean, the carpet vacuumed, toys picked up before Mom got home so she would have something to be happy about.  I don't know if it mattered to her or not.  Probably it just helped solidify the codependency within my family, within me.

Before we moved to Santa Monica - probably sometime in 1979, my dad moved out of Montrose. If I remember correctly, he lost his job - don't know why - and moved in with his parents.  He must have been in his mid-thirties.  After that he moved into a condo in Monrovia that was either purchased by his parents or purchased with his parents.  It was a long commute between Monrovia and Santa Monica.  Dad wasn't happy about it.  I remember vaguely having a worry that he wouldn't want to see us every other weekend as it had always been.  He would get so angry at the traffic.  It would take him an hour to come get us on Friday afternoons and then another hour to get back.  It was hard to see him so mad and I would worry it would put him in a bad mood for our weekend.  I couldn't understand that it had nothing to do with us.

Sometimes we would go to Bob's Big Boy for dinner.  We would have clam chowder and spaghetti with chili and cheese for dinner.  Dad always drank coffee.  We would do fun things on the weekend.  We'd go to the drive-in, bringing buttered popcorn in a paper bag, candy and soda.  Of course, Dad would smoke pot.  Everybody would fart.  I can't forget my little sister, maybe 5 years old, squealing, "I beefed!"  It was so fun to be silly.

As I said before, Dad was the one who got me reading, and he fostered my love of reading by keeping me in supply of my favorite books.  We'd visit the bookstore regularly on those weekend visits.  I got to know the characteristics of each store we might visit.  This store had a good supply of these books, that store was better for those books.  And Daddy let me get however many books I wanted.  He never said he couldn't afford it, never stifled my reading.

Going to Dad's house was always fun.  He liked to make us laugh.  It was fun to be silly.  By the time he lived at the condo on Royal Oaks Drive he was smoking pot all day long.  Sometimes he used a bong, other times a pipe, other times he rolled a joint.  He didn't hide it at all.  He even educated us a little, meaning that any questions we asked he answered openly.  He became quite the pot farmer, filling his atrium with potted marijuana plants (he used to keep them in the backyard until some kids found them and stole them).  it was normal to us that he smoked all the time, even in the car.  It never concerned us when he drove with an open container.  We trusted him.

All the same we knew it was illegal.  I knew I couldn't tell my friends what he did.  One time, I even invited my friend, Melinda, to spend the weekend at Dad's with me.  I was surprised he'd said yes, knowing that he was going to have to hide his use.  None of my friends ever knew that he was stoned all the time.

Daddy had a temper sometimes.  While he was never violent, he occasionally took things out on us by getting mad, stomping around, yelling. It was fearsome.  For someone who was so easy to joke around, it was disturbing when he would get angry.  My response was to be as good as possible.

Dad wasn't afraid of crying in front of us.  Occasionally, I would walk in on him crying into a towel.  I would ask him what was wrong.  He would say he was depressed.  It never occurred to me to ask why, or perhaps if I did, his response would be, "I'm just depressed."  I'm not even sure I really knew what depressed was.  I knew it meant being sad, but I didn't think of it as a condition.  Sometimes seeing him cry would make me cry.  It was unsettling to see him that way, even though it helped teach me that it's okay to show your feelings.  When Mommy and Daddy first separated, I would feel like crying on Sunday nights.  I would tell Dad and he would talk to me and tell me it was okay.

Still, to see Daddy upset like that just made me try harder to make him happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment