Thursday, September 4, 2008

This was my normal.

Insanity runs in my family. Not the locked-in-a-padded cell with Thorazine insane (though some would, no doubt, debate that would help), but more of the barking mad variety. When I was young I was a bit of a wild child, and therefore not often allowed to visit my friends homes, so I never realized that all mothers were not like mine. I did not know that not all mothers smoked and drank and danced around the house wailing to Janis Joplin at the top of their lungs until they just fell down and went to sleep in the foyer. I thought that was how things were done. Mimi (as my mother called herself - she was too young to be a mother and wanted no reminders of it) would often take her "cigarettes" and guitar and her black labeled bottle and climb up onto the roof at night after Trey and I had gone to bed and sing sad songs to the moon about lost loves at Scarborough Faire and dreaming of a world in peace... It became our lullaby as we laid there in the dark. It was normal. But the times, as they say, they were a'changing.

Elvis died. Then came John's assassination. Then Trey's father, Paul, punched a hole in the wall and left. I don't really remember him much from before he left, but I certainly remember him leaving. It was a three ring event in a psycho circus. He and Mimi were fighting (as usual) but before he could storm out, Mimi proceeded to chunk her old friend Jack at Paul's head, cascading an arc of amber colored courage all over Paul, the tacky orange sofa, and most of the wall. He pitched the bottle back at her, smashing it into the fireplace and sending glittering, stinking shards of glass everywhere. Mimi found this terribly funny and was rolling in the floor screaming in hysterical laughter. Paul was not nearly as amused. He picked Mimi up by her throat and reared back to knock her block off. At the last second, he dropped her to the floor and put his fist through the wall, all the way to the kitchen. That hole stayed in the wall until the day we moved out of that house years and years later; Paul never came back. Not for his clothes, his prized record collection, or even his daughter - nothing. It was the end to end all ends. Mimi became a whole new creature after that. And not in a good way.

I am not sure if she felt broken, defeated, or just fed up. I do know that after that, nothing was the same. We saw her less and less. When we did see her, sobriety was even more of a rarity. She took a job at some factory on the edge of town working nights and hired an evil, antiquated babysitter named Mizz Iris. Mizz Iris was having none of it from Trey and I. She reminded me of the witch from Hansel and Gretel or Snow White. Mom would come home in the mornings and end her day with a drink - or twenty. By lunch time she was out cold for the day. Mizz Iris would park her rather large and haggard ass in front of the monsterous television to watch The Price is Right and her hours of soaps. We were not allowed to speak, move, or even breathe too loudly. This was when my love for the great outdoors was born. I would have much rather endured a sunburn's sting than risk the wrath of whatever lurked at home. We escaped into fields of weeds that became magical kingdoms in which we both reigned as rulers with wild abandon. We played in the muddy creek behind the house becoming what looked like the spawn of Swamp Thing. We tore through town on our tiny bicycles until our muscles ached and we barely had the strength to walk our bikes back home. We flew through the air on ancient swing sets, letting go at the highest possible peak and launching ourselves into outer space - until we landed with a thud with a mouthful of dirt and grass. We created our own personal Terabithia. No one seemed to miss us; no one seemed to notice. Which was fine with us. In those weeds, and waters, and wilderness, we were free. Free from the screaming, and fighting, and chaos that was our normal. We reveled in our survivorship, never realizing what it was that we were doing at the time. It was not until many years later, after Trey died, that I realized the depth of the sanctuary we created for ourselves - and how much I still carry that with me today. I can't bear to be holed up indoors. I need sun, and grass, and swings, and mud, and the wind in my face or I run the risk of going as mad as the hatter that is my mother. The outdoors of my childhood is what I imagine Heaven to be like, and where I picture Trey at every time I think of her. I can't wait to get back there.