Baby, it’s cold outside

I woke up to a deliciously chilly temperature of 25 degrees outdoors. Of course, it’s only delicious to me because I am not outdoors, I am in my artificially heated nest, under a binkie, with socks on and a cup of hot coffee. I will, however, go out to experience the cold first hand in just a bit…probably after my second cup of java. The dog is already stalking me on the bed, targeting me with those beady orbits of laser-intensity pleading. Must. Not. Make. Eye. Contact. When I succumb to her frontal assaults and take her outside immediately, in the rain, in the snow, in the blazing heat…I find that she has played me. Again. She runs around, sniffing everything, digging, eating unidentifiable things in the mud…and does not excrete anything. So. I ain’t playin’. She’s a con, and a crack head – she got her secondary treat already this morning, so…I repeat…I do not feel the need to contribute to her addictive behavior rituals any longer. We’re gonna need an intervention before too long, and I’m not willing to facilitate that, or pay for it. So, the little cur is S.O.L. on getting her way.

On another subject entirely, I remain completely amazed that someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene has been elected to the halls of Congress. She is full-on crazy, and not the fun or amusing kind of crazy, the dangerous kind of crazy. Apparently, she believes the California wildfires were the result of secret Jewish space lasers. This kind of thinking is the product of too many violent video games, perhaps? It sounds like a cartoon, in actuality, and she resembles a cartoon…like maybe Lucy from “Peanuts” all grown up, with a handgun, and still mean and sadistic as ever. Where the hell is Peppermint Patty when you need her? Regardless, this woman needs to be expelled from the House, although I do have some pause about negating the will of the equally crazy people who elected her. I do support her being removed from committee assignment, though. She’s not fit to provide input on groceries let alone education. Goodness. I have encountered more sensible people at AA meetings, while they were still drunk.

And on another subject even farther removed…and back to me…was thinking about my parents this morning. Always an interesting topic for me these days. I was remembering the night of my high school graduation. Graduation ceremonies at my high school were quite the big deal. It was Catholic all-girls school, finishing school by the old-time standards, I guess…but with some academic excellence. We pristine young ladies did not graduate in cap and gown, we took the stage in…formal bridal-type attire. White, of course. With a bouquet of red roses. It really was quite beautiful, and was something of a debut into society. Or college. Oh, the places you’ll go, said Dr. Seuss’ Horton. I knew I was going to college, but I really didn’t quite know what that meant, except freedom and not having to wear that god-awful blue and white school attire. We even wore saddle oxfords, which I really believed were instruments of Satanic abuse. When I first enrolled at that school, in the 6th grade, the uniform skirts were a sort of small-paned plaid or houndstooth check, navy blue, black, and white. Pleated. At some point, they changed the skirt to a navy blue and white plaid, medium to large pane, still pleated I think (can’t quite remember). Some of us used to pull the white threads out, one by one, until we had a solid blue fabric, and of course the nuns frowned upon that mightily. The school blouse was white, and in 6th grade, there was the option of monogramming the collar. The uniform sweater was navy blue, and not just any navy blue sweater – there was a certain place to purchase the, it could have been the school, can’t quite remember that either. Regardless, there were a great many rules about one’s attire. I am surprised they didn’t have official panties, or maybe they did and I just didn’t get the memorandum on that. I do believe there was a rule that you had to wear them, however, which became more of an issue in high school, I would imagine. It was New Orleans, and as with many things in New Orleans, we were somewhere in between tradition and current reality, so some things were way more relaxed by the time I graduated than when I started, but … you still had to toe the party line. In your saddle oxfords, of course.

So, I digressed a bit there, but back to my parents. Apparently, it was my mother who drove the decision to send me to that private school. My father wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it, but he didn’t really put his foot down or anything (not that it would have mattered – my mother was the only alpha dog in the house). Just like when she decided I needed to repeat kindergarten, because I was just too immature at 4, she decided that I needed more of a challenge than my parochial school provided in grades K through 5. So, off I went to private school…with white people. This proved to be rather traumatic, because all the kids at my parochial school looked like me, and I was considered pretty smart. All of a sudden, here I was in this sea of white faces (there were a half-dozen or so Black girls in my class of 64) and I was having academic trouble. I wasn’t considered any kind of academic star, and then there was a socio-economic class divide. My parents were school teachers – a large percentage of the other girls’ parents (at least their dads) were doctors, lawyers, something. They had more money, had bigger houses, had bigger cars, had better toys. I noticed that pretty quickly, and felt…out of place. That never really left me. But that’s a much longer story, for another day.

Back to high school, and high school graduation. My parents had already gotten divorced by the time I graduated, and my mother outright hated my father at that point. She knew, and I knew, that he had left her for this other woman (I still call her the Chihuahua, a short brown yappy thing with big eyes). She had been accusing him of having an affair with her for years, which of course he denied or kept quiet, but *whoomp* there it was. So my mother was one big pot of bitter witches brew, and that was usually spewed on me after my father had left the house for the last time. That’s when I became stupid, was never going to amount to anything, and gruesome men that she pointed out to me on the street were “my last chance”. Little did she know…. But, suffice it to say that her spiritual and emotional abuse was at stellar levels, and I believed it. I didn’t think I was going to amount to much, and that also stayed with me up front for me many, many years. It still rears its ugly head from time to time.

With all that going on in the house, just me and her, I didn’t have very much of a relationship with dear old Dad. He had been saying for years that my mother had “warped my mind” against him. It took me another 30 years to figure out that he had not done anything to give me an alternative version of him, to forge any kind of relationship with me. When she wasn’t in the picture, he was OK with me, we were fine, but he let her abuse him and abuse me, and I had to figure a lot of things out for myself. Since he was physically absent a lot of the time…working, at a job and the other woman, i guess he was a busy boy…I had only my mother’s view of the world, and of him, to rely on. I didn’t realize for decades how angry that made me, how I felt that he didn’t care, that what she was saying about me must have been true because he didn’t dispute it or disagree with it. He came home after his second job, got a cocktail or a beer, sat down in his special chair to watch television, and usually went to sleep. Usually, she had taken him to task about SOMETHING, or complained about me for SOMETHING, and the carping just went on and on and fucking on. He got another drink. I never saw him falling down drunk or anything, and he talked normally, but he would always tell people that if they had to deal with my mother, they’d drink, too. Somewhere in there, I learned that drinking was some kind of escape, and I held onto that.

The night of the graduation was a big deal for me, of course. My grandmother and my great-aunts had come in from Lake Charles because the only grand-daughter was the star of the hour. I was in heaven because my grandmother was there, and she was so radiant in her pride. She was proud OF ME! i had on this stupid white gown (a bridesmaid’s gown, from a ritzy bridal shop – me trying to select a gown that fit and that i could stand to wear should have been a sit-com episode) and these stupid red roses, but I was on stage. And there was applause for us. They were able to announce that I had received a scholarship to Tulane, which was only supposed to be for one semester but we didn’t know that and kept asking for it for almost the duration of my college career, but that is also another story entirely). So, the stern looking nun managed to turn up the corners of her mouth when calling my name to receive my diploma, and i managed to walk somewhat normally across the stage to snatch it from her wooden arm. But I was … a graduate. Damn. I had begun to have doubts in 10th grade that I would ever make it, but here I was. A graduate! My mother was proud, my grandmother was proud, my great-aunts were proud. Life was good. I was a good person, I had nothing that I was hiding in my room, no secrets that would change the way people felt about me. That was all non-existent during the event, and for the first time in SO long, I was at peace. Maybe even happy.

As everyone was milling about for photo opportunities after the ceremony, with clinking glasses and the titter of those who understood social graces, someone nudged at my billowing sleeve to get my attention. I cannot remember who that was, but they said, “Your father is at the back door.”. I might have responded, I might not have made a sound, but I remember walking back into the building, and down the hallway, and to the door in question. I am sure I didn’t tell my mother or anyone with me where I was going. I went alone, as I still do when there’s something heavy for me to deal with. My father was standing awkwardly at the doorway; i don’t believe there was anyone else around. He was properly attired, looked quite respectable, not like some undesirable or anything. Just a man. He probably said something, I don’t remember, but I remember him holding out a small gift-wrapped box and kind of smiled (he wasn’t a big grinner or anything, unless something really tickled him or he’d had a few drinks and was with buddies). I took it. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how I should react. I was thinking someone was watching, and I didn’t feel…free. He was only there for a couple of minutes, then it was done, and I might have said I need to get back inside, and he said OK, and then he walked away. He walked away. I think I felt some kind of way, but I don’t remember what that feeling was. I told my mother, of course, and she immediately derided him for coming to the back door, slinking around. I think some kind of way I felt like he gave a shit, that I understood what a risk that was for him and how she had been the wall between me and him. But I couldn’t say that. I didn’t understand that, and it was too overwhelming to contemplate, especially since the glass were clinking again that night and I put it away in my mind for the next 30 or so years. I opened the gift later, at home, and it was a rather nice ladies clutch wallet, with a coin compartment that had a clasp. I remember it distinctly, it was real leather with a fabric insert, and it was a gold or mustard yellow color. I still remember that like it was sitting right in front of me. My daddy did that. My daddy did a lot of things, but that one was good. I wish I could have told him that.

So, that is what came to mind this morning. I am not understanding why that is so emotional right now. I am feeling that I let him down, that I gave him a reason to walk away, and never come back. That I gave him a reason to believe that he was right, that she had “warped my mind” against him, and that I was the one who had walked away. It took me a very, very long time (and a lot of therapy) to become convinced that it wasn’t my fault, that I was a child, and he was the adult. That I was a child, and she was the adult. We all had these inappropriate role reversals, and sometimes I was the only adult in the house. That wasn’t right, but it was normal. I might have been functioning as the only adult, but I had no fucking idea what I was doing, and neither did they. I had consequences, and I guess they did as well. My father was not a happy man. He did marry the Chihuahua, but I don’t know if that made him happy. He died at 68. He had a pacemaker, and he was on dialysis, in ICU. That doesn’t sound like a particularly happy ending to me, but maybe there are no happy endings.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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