Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Babies In Baskets

I’m not much of a student. I like school alright – I get to see my friends and often the teachers are friends of the family. Honestly, I learn just fine – when it’s a topic I care to learn. Why do I have to learn how to sound out vowels & consonants when I can read the words perfectly as they sit on the page? I’m frustrated by the little squiggles and slash marks over the vowels and can’t really wrap my head around this. I can’t wait to get home. Eula Dean will be there.
Eula Dean is our “housekeeper” and occasional nanny, though we don’t call her that. We just call her Dean, even though most people call her Eula or Puddin’. When I see her car parked in front of the house, I haul ass to wherever she’s at (often scrubbing a tub or wiping the wooden handrails with lemon Pledge.) She’s part of our family, part of who we are and despite living on the other side of town from us, we are particularly lost without her. She is firm and insists on good behavior – she has no qualms about swatting my butt when I’ve stepped out of line, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she loves us. She tells me often I’m her favorite little white girl and I tell her she looks just like the woman on the Aunt Jemima Butter Lite Syrup bottle. She croons a belly laugh and while she’s wiping the tears from her eyes, she tells me “All you white people look alike too.” The best way to describe how she loves us is the way that she will come find me after a bad day at school. Dean innocently enters my bedroom to “lemon Pledge” something else and finds me sprawled on my tummy across my bed, hiding my tear stained cheeks in the crook of my elbow. Dean refuses to cautiously wait for an invitation. Her method is to scoop me up in her arms (even though I’m growing too big to be ‘scooped’ in anyone’s arms) and sit on the bed rocking me until the muffled sobs have turned into breathy attempts at composure. And I’ll be okay because of her.
            When Mom and Dad go out of town on business, Dean becomes our surrogate. Our meals are no longer eaten in restaurants - they morph into fried chicken or ham, spinach or green beans, cornbread and huge glasses of milk. We usually end up on the other side of town to join her at church – which I love! She lets me sing in church choir with her, swaying back and forth with the other altos and surprised by the sudden “Oh, yes sir!” or  “Amen!” that will be belted out during a good harmony or heartfelt lesson. She likes to “gussie me up” and braid my hair into multiple ponytails coming out of every side of my head as she watches her soap operas and puffs on a Marlboro. I am well taken care of – as are my brothers. Dean is ours and we are hers. To us, a comforting smell is that of stale cigarettes and Lemon Oil.
My bike is sparkly pink with a big white basket that I fully intend to carry a bunny rabbit in (as soon as I find and catch one.) I’m no stranger to animal capture. Not but a few weeks ago, I snuck a kitten up to my bedroom. I planned to feed it milk through a bottle and be so good to it that it’d never leave. That was short lived. I hadn’t planned on dealing with kitten bathroom issues. It must’ve been sick because within just a few minutes, it had leaked diarrhea all over my white shorts. Mom often wanted to know exactly what composed of the stains on our clothing so she could get them out. I can’t imagine surviving that conversation when I revealed it was “kitty cat diarrhea” so I changed my clothes and discarded the shorts in the alley dumpster. I returned the kitten where I’d found it and went on with my day.
Mom is pregnant and I will soon have a baby brother or sister. I figure it’d be best if I laid the animal-in-the-bike-basket plans to rest and just plan on driving the new baby around in that plasticbike basket. I announce my plans to Mom and she quickly suggests that I can certainly transport diapers in the basket, but not the baby. Somehow, that doesn’t sound near as fun. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baby Jessica Recounts.

Every morning in the small town of Pampa, Texas, I wake up in the flowers of my room. Today would be no different – as I opened my eyes, the pink and green wall-paper that my mother had carefully selected greeted me as it always did and the window light filtered through the venetian blinds softly so that I could open my eyes slowly and gently. Most little girls would love to live in my bedroom. My dresser drawers were covered in green gingham to match the pink and green theme. A small Jenny Lind table and chairs holds the bust of the lifesize Barbie head that I play ‘hairdresser’ with. A white toy box with my name printed in pink serves as a window seat. Looking out my window is one of the things I frequently spend 5 minute blocks of time doing since being on the second floor gives me the ability to see into our neighbor’s back yard. They never mow the back yard. Just the front yard. I suppose that’s partly why my neighbor friend always plays in ours. I’m glad she does.
I have an extension on my light switch so that I can reach it and turn my bedroom lights on and off. I’m not quite tall enough. My absolute favorite thing is a medium sized round plastic toybox, hot pink on bottom – but the best part is the doll house feature on top. I will save this for my own children one day.
I scamper down the stairs in my nightgown. It’s easy to scamper with great speed. Carpeted stairs just make me feel more sure-footed somehow. I’m hungry and I know Daddy’s probably awake and ready to make my breakfast. I enter the kitchen and see him (still in his bedtime clothing) rinsing something at the sink. My Daddy and I are tight. Like best friends. We hug ‘good morning’ and he asks if I’d like some eggs. I nod my head and he brings a large glass of milk for me to sip as he begins preparing my breakfast. I daydream. I don’t much care to visit this early. I’ll probably grow up to be a coffee drinker. It seems to wake up Grandma and Grandpa just fine.
The microwave beeps and I vaguely hear the door to the microwave close. My daydreams are halted when a hot bowl of microwaved scrambled eggs is placed in front of me. I devour them – Dad’s eggs are the best. Of course, no one makes eggs as often as he, so I don’t have much of a comparison to go by. I spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa pretty frequently. Grandma makes eggs in the pan and there’s always a slice of steak on my plate – and buttered toast. Dad must’ve loved growing up with her cooking!
I will go to school today. Daddy gently instructs me to go get ready for school – “and don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
I climb the stairs, pausing at the landing to play with the handrail. I want to make that squeaky sound of my sweaty hand creating friction on the lacquered wood. I remember my task and quickly zoom up the stairs before anyone tells me to get to it.
Mom always selects my clothing the night before. I see my outfit hanging on the handle of the louvered closet door, remove it from the hanger and put my clothes on.
It only feels like I’ve been in my room for five minutes but I’ve been daydreaming. I can hear my mother holler up the stairs to hurry me along. I jaunt across the hall to brush my teeth and check out Uncle Randy and Uncle Wayne. Uncle Randy and Uncle Wayne are my uncles. They passed away a few years ago in a plane crash but somehow I’ve found their silhouettes in the foiled orange and brown wall-paper of my bathroom. There are little sratches of missing wallpaper right next to the bathtub that resemble their profiles and I find good comfort in having such access to my uncles. I pointed it out to Dad once when he was giving me a bath, but he doesn’t like to talk about Uncle Wayne (his brother) or Uncle Randy. He must still be very, very sad. I try not to push it. I hope we never get rid of this wall-paper. It’ll be a death all over again.
I cannot style my own hair yet, so I see how quickly I can reach the bottom of the stairs. I hear Jason, my big brother talking to Dad in the kitchen, but I have to go see Mom for my hair-do. I am bringing the bow that was in the shirt pocket of my outfit. Mom is in her nightgown standing in the bathroom ready to do my hair. She’s standing next to a mug of hot tea (as she drinks every single morning.) The hairbrush is red and black and the bristles are a bit too long for my small head. It kind of hurts but I don’t want to complain so I watch mom in the mirror. She sticks her tongue out as she styles my hair. It looks bad, so I snicker. She looks in the mirror to see what I’m giggling about and pops her tongue back in her mouth. (That’s just what she does when she’s concentrating or busy.) Mom is finished so she gives me a love pat on my hiney and says “I love you, ladybug.” “I love you too, Mommy. Bye!”
I walk down the open hallway and find my coat slung across the banister that divides the dining room from the hallway. I slip into the piano room to grab my backpack from its’ proper place and wander into the kitchen. I suppose Jason is gone since Dad’s the only one in the room. He’s microwaving water for his hot tea. I can hear the diesel of his suburban growling. That growl is my ride to school.

Dad pulls up in front of the school. I look at him and he looks at me as he suddenly pops a finger into his mouth, moistens it and scrubs a bit of toothpaste from my chin. “I love you! Have a grand-slam day”(which is code for make perfect 100 grades today.) “I love you too Dad! I will!” I climb out of my seat and onto the curb. “Want me to bring a shrimp pizza to school?” Boy, do I ever! I grin big “YES! Yes! Oh thank you!”
Sometimes Dad and grandpa will come have lunch with me at school. You see, they work together at the family oil and gas business. They’re able to take longer breaks and treat me to special lunches. And they frequently do, especially when the cafeteria serves pigs in a blanket. And they share well. The kids who happen to be sitting next to me when Dad brings pizza will likely enjoy a few slices of pizza too… if they like shrimp. That’s Dad’s and my thing. We love shrimp. Dad’s a sailor and I’m his little mermaid. He’s got a J boat – 24 feet, we frequent Lake Meredith and often spend an entire summer in Corpus Christi – the best place I’ve ever been! We just swim and sail and if we’re with mom, we shop! Swim, sail, shop. We share this love of ocean, seafood, sunshine, and sand. It’s special that the Pampa Pizza Hut reserves shrimp for this special request – it brings a bit of the beach to this cowboy/roughneck town.