|April 17, 1969. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I was eight years old and floating (at least initially) on Cloud Nine, because I was going to be in a wedding. I remember twirling around in my brand-new, mint-green dress wearing my shiny, black patent-leather shoes. Mama braided my hair as she whispered in my ear how lovely I was going to look carrying my bouquet of flowers, walking down the aisle. Visions of grandeur were swirling around in my head. For all of my nervous excitement you would have thought I was the bride! (At eight years old? Hello, this wasnt West Virginia!) No, I was going to be the flower girl at my Mamas wedding.
Therein lies the rub. Now mind you, I was totally looking forward to this wedding. From my childs eye, it sounded pretty much like a big ol party to me. All of our friends and relatives were coming, and most importantly, there was gonna be cake. Id go anywhere that there was even a hint of a promise of a slice of cake.
So I was tickled with the idea of the wedding; it was just the whole Make Room for Stepdaddy part of this program that I was having trouble wrapping my eight-year-old mind around. I couldnt shake this feeling that some seismic shifts were getting ready to occur in my world! Best of times, worst of times? Yup.
To understand my misgivings, youd have to understand that Id had it really good up until that moment. I came into this world the much-beloved mascot on a team that had weathered some pretty rough times (of which I would remain completely oblivious).
I entered the scene after the dust of divorce had settled; bitterness and recriminations were becoming faint memories, yet the loss and bewilderment that had touched the hearts of my older brother and sister was still a bit raw. Mama and Daddys divorce became final right after I was born. The way I heard tell it, my Dad had been in the Navy, and Mom said they got along beautifully as long as he was out at sea. He would pen volumes of the most beautiful love letters to her, describing the world and all of his adventures in it. Mama would write back to him that all was fine at home, and the weather was nice. I can only assume that I got my love of words from him. They were both wonderful people separately, but a mismatch together from the start. Different temperaments, different faiths and shall I say it? Yes, I must. He was a Yankee born and bred! Nuff said.
After 11 years of marriage and two children, they decided to call it quits. Oops, not so fast. After they separated, Mama found out that she was pregnant with me. My sister Debbie actually takes credit for that. She said she would sit in the bathroom when she was a little girl, crying her eyes out and praying to God for Him to give her a precious little sister of her own to love.
And miracles of miracles, I arrived!
Of course she also says that after I was born, she went back into that bathroom, crying her eyes out and praying for Him to take me back, as obviously there had been some horrible miscommunication on her part. I can only assume a wailing, colicky newborn was not exactly what she had in mind. As I always tell her, maybe she should have been a wee more specific when petitioning Our Lord in prayer.
Before I was born, Mama and my brother and sister moved back home with my Mamas parents, Nana and Granddaddy, who, along with my Mama, were the most precious people on the face of Gods green earth. At a time when they should have been enjoying their Golden Years, they wholeheartedly took to starting life all over again with kids and a new baby on the way. Mama and my grandparents bought a lovely house in Suburbia, and with love and determination, they set about to make it our home. I was welcomed home from the hospital into pert-near Utopia!
When I was older, my Nana would tell me that some people might have thought my birth was an accident or not the best timing in the world, but my arrival restored hope and laughter to my family. Mind you, I never got a big head from all of this attention...I meanI was not under any delusions that I was the little Messiah come to save my family. No, I was just totally doted on by them all, and believe me, the feeling was decidedly mutual. I adored my Mama, loved my grandparents and pretty much hero-worshipped my big brother and sister.
I was somewhat awestruck being the baby in a multi-generational home, mainly because at any given moment of any given day, someone in that family adored me! Not all at once, mind you. I was, after all, a kid, and kids will be kids...meaning, I could be, in turn, charming, annoying, adorable, entertaining, or sometimes, just plain rotten! But for every second that someone in that house was annoyed with me, there was someone else that thought I hung the moon. Yeah, life was sweet!
Being raised a good Southern girl, I was taught to love God and Country (in that order, thank you), respect my elders, and be in church every time those doors opened. Who would have ever predicted that it would be in that very same Independent Southern Baptist Church that the world as I knew it would be rocked. For it was at that very same church that my sweet Mama met the man that she would marry that fateful night in 1969.
He was a gentle, handsome man that had tried in vain to get Moms attention for quite some time, but Mama had no intention of going down that road again (Honey, she invented the phrase Been there, done that, got the video). In fact, until I was seven years old, Mama had never once ventured into the dating world. She went to work, came home, tended the house and us kids, then went to church on Sundays.
She had so completely devoted her life to us that you can only imagine my shock and awe when she finally agreed to go with this man to Dunkin Dine for coffee after prayer meeting. Thank goodness she had the good sense to take me with her whenever they went out. I am sure this thrilled him to no end. They would sit and talk over coffee and pie about the preachers message while I sat across from them in the little booth eating (what else) cake.
I can only assume that my future stepfather used some kind of Jedi mind control over me, because I started looking forward to our little dates. Eventually, he started coming to our house for Sunday supper. I must admit, he was a wonderfully-talented musician, able to play the guitar and the harmonica beautifully. He also had a way with a story, sometimes making me laugh so hard milk would fly out my nose (I guess I always had a little trouble controlling my fluids).
Like water on a rock, he slowly wore me down and won me over with humor, music, and cake. Smart man. Then one day, Mama asked my brother and my sister and me what we thought about her marrying HIM. I didnt really see the pointwerent we all happy just the way it was? I mean, I liked him alright and all, but even at eight, I could tell he didnt light up quite as brightly as the rest of my family did when I walked into a room.
I knew he liked me well enough, but I was pretty sure he didnt ADORE me. While my family had always found me precious, I had the sneaky suspicion he thought I was a little more like precocious (if I had known that word at the time!). But, wanting Mama to be happy, and with a quivering hope that maybe it would be kinda cool to be like all of my other friends families (mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a dog), I gave a tentative blessing to this union.
As the weeks past, I started to get a little excited as the wedding plans unfolded (every girl loves a party). It was decided that I would be the aforementioned flower girl, my brother would be a groomsman, and my sis would be the maid of honor! Coolio! Then the wheels came off this wedding bus the moment I heard Mama and my Nana talking about the honeymoon.
Honeymoon well, this came out of left field! They were discussing hotel arrangements, and I piped up asking where we were going. Imagine my absolute disbelief when I was informed that I wouldnt be going anywhere. What? Hey, hadnt I been a part of this whole shindig up till now? See, Mama had never been away from home without us before, so there was some major separation anxiety swirling around in my little head. But, Nana told me that we would have loads of fun while Mama was away, and then she reminded me that I had my best friend, Elaines slumber party to go to right after the wedding anyway.
It was Elaines 10th birthday party, and reminding me of it didnt exactly allay my anxiety. When spending the night away from home, I had a tendency to get a little homesick when it was time for bed. At home, after Mama fell asleep, I could tiptoe down the hall and crawl into Nana and Granddaddys bed to watch Johnny Carson with them till I fell asleep.
As the big day approached, my trepidations grew threefold; First, I was getting a stepdaddy (was that good or bad? I just didnt know yet, but I knew our family dynamics would surely change). Secondly, Mama was going on a vacation, or Honeymoon, if ya will, without me (ouch!) And thirdly, I kinda felt I was being sprinted off to this slumber party right after the wedding in a vain attempt to try and redirect my attention from the above-mentioned number one and number two trepidations.
When the big day arrived, with love in my heart for my Mama and my family, I decided to be brave and face the unknown with all the courage my little eight-year-old self could muster. I kept my head high, held my flowers proudly, and flashed a hope-filled, if somewhat tremulous, smile at my mom. She was my role model, my hero, and my soft spot to land in a hard world! We had always been a team; we always would be. Maybe we had just recruited another player.
I got through the ceremony just fine (it was lovely by the way, thank you for asking), but at the reception, I started getting a little nervous thinking about Moms imminent departure and about this whole slumber party thingee. Watching Mom and Stepdad pose for pictures, I started throwing back cup after cup of punchdrowning my sorrows in lime sherbet punch, I suppose. With my insides sloshing, there was certainly no room for cake! Whod a-thunk it?
Finally it was time for the newlyweds to make their exit. Before I could burst into tears as I watched that Man drive away with my Mama, Aunt Barbara (who also happened to be Elaines mother) put her arm around me and directed me into her car. I told her I needed to get my suitcase, but she told me it had already been put in the trunk. Talk about a quick getawayhoney, they had me out of there in a flash. Were they really afraid I was gonna grab onto the bumper of Mamas car and let myself be dragged along the streets of Atlanta to the secret honeymoon location? Please!!! Well, actually I had thought of that, but the roadburn alone would have killed me long before we made it to the hotel.
So, off we went, Aunt Barbara and me, to Decatur for my first official slumber party. By the way, Aunt Barbara was not really my aunt, but schooling ya in all things Southern, when a lady is a life-long friend of your mamas, she is crowned with the Unofficial Aunt title. She had been Moms best friend for well over 20 years, and she loved me like one of her own. As we got to her house, I asked who else from Church would be there, and she said I was the only one from Church coming to the party; the other eight girls were all from Elaines class at school. Oh Lord, could this night get any worse? (Stay tunedIT DEFINITELY COULD!!!).
Elaine and I didnt go to the same school, so I wouldnt know any of the other girls there. Oh thats just swell...I was to spend the night with eight veritable strangers. Id have to pretend to be interested as they gossiped about people I dont know, all the while, in the back of my mind Id be worried sick about my Mom. At this point, I was starting to think that we didnt really know a lot about this guy who just took my mom away. Shouldnt we have done a background check on him?! You know, Ted Bundy seemed really nice at first, too. Oh, what had we gotten ourselves into? If you had looked up the definition of anxiety in the dictionary at this point, youd have found my strickened face staring back at ya!
After some awkward first moments of trying to get everyones name straight, it wasnt really so bad after all. The ice was broken a bit by making prank phone calls, painting our toenails, drinking sodas, eating popcorn, and watching old movies on TV (this was pre-VCR players and DVDs, so it was slim pickins). But even though I was still the outsider in the bunch, I think they all kinda liked me. I have always had a tendency to grow on people (yeah, just like an antibiotic-resistant fungus, I know, I know!).
Id had a rather busy day, with the wedding and all the drama surrounding it, so when midnight came and it was time for bed, I didnt even mind. I was actually kinda sleepy. All ten of us crawled into Elaines queen-size bed like a litter of kittens (or a family in the afore-mentioned West Virginia). I was snugly nestled in the middle of the pack, surrounded by arms, legs, heads and feet. The lights were all turned out, and I can still remember the moonlight shining in through the window, throwing shadows onto the walls.
I finally started settling in, not to the comforting familiar sounds of Johnny Carson in the background, but of absolute silence, broken only occasionally by the sound of a few girls snoring. I began to drift off to sleep, but not before wondering what my Mama was doing (I am glad at eight years old that I had absolutely NO IDEA about anything in that department or I would have had to poke out my minds eye with a rusted grapefruit spoon). Good night and God Bless us everyone!
I awoke with a start about three hours later. And yes, my first coherent thought really was, Oh Lord, not here, not tonight! Please let the earth open up and swallow me whole! Rest assured at about this time I was rethinking all those glasses of punch and sodas I had downed earlier because I WET THE BED! And I dont mean I just wet the bed, I mean I soaked it like I was a human soaker hose.
Oh why couldnt I have just been at home in my own bed when this calamity occurred? But, NO, I had just peed on eight Strangers! I cant really say for sure that it would have been any better or made that much of a difference if I had just peed on friends, but come on, STRANGERS!!
Help me, Lord! I was frantic at this point, absolutely frantic. My mind raced; I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears (so loudly that it almost, but not quite, drowned out the voices in my head).RUN! ESCAPE! MUST GET OUT OF HERE! This was the litany going round and round in my head. I tried desperately to think clearly and to assess the damage. Ever so gingerly I checked out the girl on my leftSara, I thinkor was her name Michelle? Or Patty? Oh heaven help me, it just seems the height of rudeness not to know the names of the girls you have just peed on, doesnt it?
Well, whoever she was, she was soaked. I checked out the girl to my right. Lets just call her Stephanie. Ditto. Soaked. And she didnt smell too great either, come to think of it. When we went to bed, I had thought how sweetly we resembled a sleeping litter of kittens; now they were going to wake up thinking theyd slept in the litter box. ESCAPE ! MUST ESCAPE!! I crawled over the mass of sleeping bodies (couldnt help but notice that it wasnt just the girls right next to me that had gotten drenched. No sir, my Super Pee had made it out to about three girls deep on each side of me. Stupid punch! The sheet was waterlogged and so were we.
I quietly untangled myself from the sleeping girls and made my way off the bed. ESCAPE! MUST GET OUT OF HERE! I crawled on my hands and knees on a cold, CREAKY, hardwood floor making my way to the bedroom door. I VERY SLOWLY pulled the door open and slithered out of the room (or should I say swam out of the room?)
My heart was pounding so loudly that I was sure it would wake the house. I lifted the receiver and started to dial the rotary phone. Of course our home number was rife with nines and zeros. The clickety-click sound of the dial was deafening to me. This was taking forever! PLEASE! PLEASE DONT LET ANYONE WAKE UP! I PEED ON STRANGERS (like the voice in my head thought that I had forgotten that delicious morsel of news)!!!
The phone was ringing. My granddaddy answered. I hoarsely whispered, Come get me NOW!
Lord love him, he didnt even question why. He just said he was on his way! Then I had to make it down the stairs without making a sound. I slid down on my butt, one stair at a time (probably leaving a wet trail behind me). Finally, I bumped my way down to the last step, crawled across the foyer floor and struggled to unlock the front door. It wouldnt budge.
PLEASE!!! I stopped my struggling for a minute to assess my situation. I PEED ON STRANGERS! Okay, got that already. My suitcase and my eyeglasses were still up in Elaines room. Leave em! Those girls upstairs were going to eventually wake up, and they were going to notice that I was gone and that they smelled like ammonia! Well, I couldnt worry about that at that particular moment, I just knew I didnt want to be there when that happened. MUST GO!!! ESCAPE!!! I couldnt even imagine what they would think, but I was pretty sure I wrecked any chances of us all becoming BFFS. Stupid punch!!!
Embarrassment and shame flooded my heart. I was humiliated and I just wanted to run home. SANCTUARY!!! I saw Granddaddys headlights in their driveway and I pushed on the lock one last time with all my strength and it gave way. I opened the door, and it creaked loudly. Bit-by-bit, I inched my way out onto the porch. I didnt even push the door closed. Too much noise. I ran to the car, threw my arms around Granddaddys neck and cried. He didnt ask any questions; he could see I was wet and the smell was pretty much unavoidable. I remember cuddling up next to him on that big bench seat (there werent any seatbelt laws to protect me back then). He didnt mind that I was getting his pajama bottoms wet and stinky (yes, he came to get me in his pajamas) or that I was probably ruining his cars upholstery.
He told me everything always seems better in the light of day after a good nights rest. He knew how tired and utterly miserable his little girl was. I rested my head on his shoulder. We were the only car on the road at that time of the night; Glenn Miller played softly on the radio. When we drove into the garage, Granddaddy picked me up and carried me into the house where he got me cleaned up and in dry p.j.s. He then took me into the kitchen and fixed me his famous toasted homemade pimento cheese sandwich (not only a southern delicacy, a Granddaddy-and-Lisa tradition).
We were both bone-tired, and I dont remember a lot of conversationjust him patting my hand and smiling while I finished my snack. When we were done, we crawled into bed with Nana. She woke, and Granddaddy assured her that in the morning he would fill her in. I cuddled between the two of them. Safe. Secure. Unconditionally loved. I felt so much better right then that I even hoped Mama was having a good time and not missing me too terriblyand maybe I had overreacted. Maybe it wasnt as bad as it had seemed at the time. It was, after all, just an accident, right? NO, I PEED ON STRANGERS!!! Yeah, it was still really bad! But I went to sleep with Nana and Granddaddy each holding my hands.
|I was dreaming again. Oh No. This time I heard a doorbell ringing and the pounding of a door. And had I heard a phone earlier? Phones werent in bedrooms back then, so if it had rung, it certainly hadnt jarred us out of our deep sleep. But the persistent knocking on the door was not subsiding, nor was it a dream after all.
Granddaddy finally got up and made his way to the front door. I peered around the hallway to see what was what. As he opened the door, I saw two policemen. POLICEMEN?! Oh my Lord, sure, I had assumed there might be some repercussions coming after last night, BUT WAS IT REALLY AN ARRESTABLE OFFENSE???
My stomach clenched into a huge knot, and I was pretty sure that pimento cheese sandwich was going to be making a reappearance. Jail? JAIL?! I didnt know if they were at the front door because I PEED ON STRANGERS or because I left the scene of the crime. My knees were shaking as the policeman continued to talk to my granddad. You know, at eight, my only real concept of prison was from the Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry had a two-cell jail and Otis, the town drunk, was pretty much a regular in it. As I was pondering what my cell might look like and if all the other prisoners would be as friendly as Otis appeared to be, Granddaddy called me to the front door.
One of the officers told me that my Aunt Barbara had been scared to death when she woke up and found me gone. She told them that my suitcase was right where I had left it and the front door was standing wide open when they all got up. When she couldnt get anyone to answer our phone here at home, she felt it was her duty to call the police department and report me as kidnapped.
Waves of emotion flooded over me all at once. First, I was relieved that I wasnt being arrested after all. I really didnt think I could handle the Big House! (After the previous night, I wouldnt want to be the inmate that had the bunk below mine, would you?)
Secondly, I was a little amused that Aunt Barbara would think a kidnapper would want to break into her house and take the little myopic girl in the middle of the pack WHO HAD PEED ON STRANGERS! Unless she thought the kidnapper had scared the pee out of me. Hey, now that was a thought! Maybe they would have believednah, too far fetched, even for me.
Well, alls well that ends well, I had always heard. Granddaddy explained the real situation to the officers and then went to call my Aunt to apologize for everything. I stood at the door as the police officers walked back to their patrol car, bemused smiles on their faces.
One of the officers said to the other as they climbed into the cruiser, I guess we can just write this one up as a One-eleven.
A One-Eleven? Whats that? the other officer asked, puzzled.
The first officer flashed a grizzled-but-understanding grin. Piss and Run, he said as he put the car in gear, backing out of the driveway.
Lisa Love, a talented and insightful writer with a skewed sense of humor, looks for, and often finds the absurd masquerading as the mundane.
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