Monday, March 30, 2009

Tales of Sixth Grade Summoning and Such

***Warning...this could probably be offensive to some people. But, hey, the setting is a time when we weren't politically correct. There was no such thing as political correctness. The "Special Ed" class wasn't called "The Resource Room." "Retarded" was used in place of "Mentally Handicapped." ****

Sally and Jane (names changed, of course) were my best friends. They were sisters, seperated by a grade, and their mom was an elder in the little Methodist church in our small town. I was their token heathen. The child they would save. I'd gone to church when I was younger with my grandma, but generally, I didn't attend unless I'd spent the night at Sally and Jane's house.

When they said the Lord's Prayer at a meal, I'd peek at the plaque on the wall because I didn't know it. They dragged me off to retreats, complete with stories about the Rapture - with felt board stories about kids being left to roam the earth alone because they hadn't accepted Jesus. One minute they were walking down the street with their parents, and poof! The next minute no more parents as they'd ascended to heaven. That's what you got when you were a sinner and all.

All they had to do is get me to ask Jesus into my heart, and there'd be one more jewel to toss at Jesus in the end, I suppose. They were good people, and I wasn't opposed to the Biblical teachings I was absorbing. It was a small price to pay for the fun and mayhem Sally, Jane, and I had.

I spent a lot of time at their house after my parents divorced the summer after fourth grade. We'd strip the cushions off the couch to do tumbling in the living room. Sometimes, we'd take a couple rolls of caps and a hammer out to the sidewalk for a make-shift seance. "Devil, if you're here, let us know," Sally would say before striking the red paper and waiting for a bang.

She had the white cat handy to throw at anyone who might get possessed...because as she told us, the devil was afraid of white cats, so all we had to do was toss Felicia into the face of the possessed, and voila! We'd be free once again.

When we grew tired of reading teen magazines like "Tiger Beat" and "Sixteen," we'd hop on our bicycles for a ride around the neighborhood. We were out minding our own business, riding our bikes, when Betsy(name changed) saw us.

Think "Electric Company" and "Hey, you guys," bellowed out in the distance.

Oh shit, it was Betsy. Yes, we said shit because we were in sixth grade and trying our hand at cussing. Plus, it was Indiana, and there wasn't much to do besides ride our bikes, have seances, and practice swearing.

The thing about Betsy was that she was in Special Ed because she was retarded. Physically, she looked somewhat normal, though she was our age and had boobs bigger than most adults we knew. She always looked like she needed to wash her hair. She grunted and laughed a lot, which set me on edge. Sometimes, the noises she made were almost primal, which made me worry what she would do next. I feared she'd hug me; other times, I feared she'd try to kill me. Another thing about her was you couldn't shake her once she latched on for the afternoon.

When her voice rang out behind us, there were two options- run like the wind or stick around for some entertainment. We opted for the former, but would get the latter before the day was over. We cut our ride short and headed back to Sally and Jane's house.

Betsy showed up at the door about ten minutes later, sweating and sucking wind from the four block run after us. Except she didn't really show up at the door. She climbed into the bush outside their kitchen window. We looked up from our snack of cookies and milk and there she was with her face pressed against the glass. Her nose and lips contorted against the glass. We shrieked simultaneously.

Sarah, their mom, went to the door, coaxing Betsy out of the bush. With this, we groaned simultaneously. We knew she was going to invite her in. It was a given.

We watched her suck down a couple cookies and a glass of milk before retiring to the family room. Her milk mustache, complete with cookie crumbs turned my stomach. If the truth be told, she scared me more than she annoyed me.

Sally popped in a VCR tape of "Nightmare Theater" that she recorded on a Saturday night. Scary movies terrified Betsy. We knew this, but again, it was Indiana, and why not watch her cry because she didn't want to watch "The Hand." We had to be nice to her and couldn't tell her to beat it. So, in other words, we made her visit as uncomfortable as possible.

The rage at the time was cinnamon toothpicks. We'd buy them in the little cellophane packages at the drug store, but the store-bought ones lacked a certain something - probably the ability to blister your tongue while delivering the cinnamon flavor. We started making our own by buying cinnamon oil that would render you blind for a day if you happened to touch your eyes after touching a toothpick.

The longer the toothpicks were soaked, the hotter they were. Sally had a batch brewing in the kitchen window going on two days of soaking. Betsy had asked for one more, and Sally wouldn't oblige.

I was lucky to get one, too. While we were friends, she wasn't always overly nice to me, either. I'd spent an afternoon hiding in a closet one day so that Jane's friend Karen wouldn't know that I was there. Sally had given me a cup of grape kool-aid and some candy to snack on during my stay in the closet. It was a long couple hours after it hit my bladder.

One other time, they made me hide in the stairwell behind the closed door so Karen wouldn't know I was there. She didn't like to visit when I was there because she'd end up picked on. It was the pecking order, I guess. At least that time, the cupboard at the bottom of the stairs served as their pantry, so I had plenty of snacks to pass my time.

We savored our cinnamon toothpicks from a previously completed batch when Betsy announced she had to poop. She went to the bathroom, and didn't come back right away. She stood in the kitchen. Busted. Toothpicks that had been in the tiny bottle of fire were missing.

"Betsy, did you take those toothpicks?" Sally asked her.

Betsy merely shook her head no, her lips tightly pressed.

Of course, we knew she had them in her mouth. At least ten of them by best estimation.

"Besty, are you lying? Jesus doesn't like liars," Jane said.

She shook her head no again. So we waited. Betsy's eyes began to water. Drool started trickling out the corners of her mouth. Still she insisted she didn't have the toothpicks as her face turned red. It seemed like a lifetime passed as we watched for something to happen next. Finally, she spit the toothpicks out and ran for the door.

Sarah asked where she went, and we said she had to go home, which was perfectly fine with us. We gathered a few rolls of caps and headed to the sidewalk to see if we could summon Elvis Presley or my dead grandpa.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mr. Sandman? Bring me a dream...and preferably not a nightmare

I suffer, to the best of my ability to give it a name, something I like to call seasonal-can't-sleep-for-nothing syndrome. It's happened every year at the beginning of spring and again just as summer is making its way into fall since I was about 19 years old. Now that I think about it, I don't believe I was afflicted during that time I lived in AZ. Hmm.

I don't know what causes it. The only thing I do know is that it can be maddening. I lie there in bed listening to the night noises, which loosely translates into everyone snoring except for me. Even the new puppy snores. (That's an entire post of its own, so I'll save the puppy chronicles for another rant.)

Even more maddening are the thoughts that tromp around in my grey matter before I finally drift off. It's the perfect time to worry and fixate over the economy, my unemployment, my son graduating high school in May, being 40 (yet another entry for later), and trying to figure out the last name of the girl Connie in middle school who started out with one name, but was adopted by her step-dad, and then she moved away. Oh, and yeah, she was in my group in choir and we did a commercial for peanut butter as our project, and man oh man, what was her last name and whatever happened to her? And don't I have a middle school yearbook around here somewhere? Maybe I should look for that tomorrow and sneak a peek to solve that mystery. But where would it be? It might be in the trunk in the closet. I should really clean that closet. Oh, but there's so many other things I should be doing. I'm so behind on everything. And, man, this economy and recession are scaring me, and the cost of groceries are going up, and wow, so is everything else. Stupid Ethanol driving up costs for farmers to feed their livestock, so even milk is more expensive. And what is her last name?

Is it any wonder I can't sleep?

So, sometimes, I sing in my head. Everyone can be thankful for this because I couldn't carry a tune if it had a handle and was somehow affixed to my body with velcro and bungee straps. I don't know how some of these tunes get in my head, but I suspect it came about when I thought about the trunk and its contents.

Last night, it was this song.

Go ahead and listen and watch. You'll be glad you did. Really.

Okay, not so glad are you?

I didn't know that Ray Stevens sang "Along Came Jones" until I googled it this morning. I expect I heard it by "The Coasters" on one of those compilation albums that I loved so much as a child. Growing up, I had a special fondness for silly songs that told stories.

"And then he grabbed her...and then....he tied her up...and then...a train started coming...and then and then...along came Jones...." It didn't matter what else I tried thinking about, these lyrics kept cropping back up into my head.

One might think I'd dream about being tied to the railroad tracks, but I didn't. Nope. I dreamed that a girl I was friends with in high school was perming my hair. She got bored and decided to stop, leaving me with half a head of perm rollers. I started rolling myself only to discover my hair was dreadlocks and I couldn't roll it around those tiny rods.

Today, I'll shuffle through the day, hoping for some decent sleep tonight...and I just might try to solve the mystery of the girl named Connie between yawns and the undying desire to nap.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You're So Weird

"I can't wait to move out. When I leave, I'm never coming back to this house. Not even to visit. You are so WEIRD. You're overprotective. You're WEIRD," my youngest, soon-to-be 16 year old child lamented in the middle of the front yard, loud enough for half the neighborhood to hear.

He was pissed because he was up before noon on a Saturday. He was pissed that he was asked to do something besides hang out at his friend's house across the street, or sit around playing Halo and texting his girlfriend.

We may as well asked for a couple pints of blood and some vital organs when we had him outside helping to clean up the yard. After a couple months of ice and wind storms, compiled with the fact that the snow flew before the last of the leaves were raked, topped off with every piece of trash in the neighborhood manages to blow into our yard, we had some work to do.

The temps hovered around 50, the sun shined, and my son bitched.

I suppose my feelings might have been hurt by his admission that he wanted to leave and never come back. Perhaps, it should have tugged at my heart and made me sad. It didn't, though. I've been through this before with my other son. When he neared the tender age of 16, he thought I was the devil. I'm sure the only difference two years later is that he no longer "thinks" but "knows" I'm the devil.

"This your first day here?" I asked my son.

"Huh?" he replied, ever so eloquent.

"I'm weird. Are you just figuring this out?"

"Don't talk to me. You're weird," he said, and picked up the rake to continue on with leaf removal.

Seriously, though, it's taken him nearly 16 years to figure out his mother is weird? Was this a new discovery?

I would have loved to know what qualified me as weird in his eyes. I know I'm a bit left of center, off-kelter, out in left field, and don't exactly see things as others do. In fact, my drummer is prone to fits of epilepsy followed by bouts of narcolepsy. My beat is erratic or non-existant.

I watched my son rake as I sat there on the picnic table. More a man than a child these days, I fondly remembered when he thought of me in a different light, when I was mommy and not some weirdo he was forced to live with because of a random arrival into this world in a genetic game of Russian roulette. He was once a little boy who reveled in a game of peek-a-boo, laughed at my funny faces, and curled up beside me on the couch and fell asleep.

I didn't long for those days. I know this is course of motherhood. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers become pre-teens. Pre-teens transform into these monsters known as teenagers. It may be years before my "weirdness" is overlooked.

"I mean it. I'm moving out and never coming back," my son sneered just loud enough for me to hear as my husband rounded the corner of the house, his phone doubling as a mp3 player on his hip.

"We're not going to take it, no we're not going to take it, we're not going to take it anymore...." played out in the silence between my dear child and me.

My husband paused long enough to dance in the front yard to a song that had been an anthem of our youth. I smiled - at the reminder of my own teenage angst, my husband's dancing abilities (or lack thereof), and my son's reaction. I smiled because I'm not the only weird one.

"Oh mannnn, you're both so weird. Ugh. I can't stand it. Stop dancing. Weirdo!"