As a parent, I often watch my children and reflect back to the chaotic time when I was their ages. Before the age of ten I had experimented with all sorts of things considered for, “adults only.” I knew the taste of Brandy, the smell of marijuana,
I could recognize a gram of cocaine and a bottle of barbiturates. I knew the scratchy sensation of toilet paper stuffed down my shirt, balled into imaginary breasts. I’d felt the tiny tentacles at the head-end of a French Tickler and had tasted the flavor of oral sex.
My history, like being wrapped in a paper bag, left me un-naturally ripe with curiosity about what my children really know. And it makes me wonder if I’ve ever inadvertently exposed them to anything inappropriate, and the answer is probably, (um, yes.) To what extent, I can’t really say. Luckily for me, and them, I have age on my side and experience, wish I could say the same about my mother.
My mother, (cue sarcastic southern accent, “bless her heart.”) poor thing, was either too young and naïve to notice how bright, precocious, and tenacious I was, or she was just too wrapped up in herself to tune-in until it was too late-I’d already picked up on everything I needed to know about how to get fucked up and pregnant. Once she realized whom she was dealing with-the prodigy of nosiness, she started calling me, “Bugs.” (As in Bugs bunny with the big ears who hears everything.)
It happened one day when she was on the phone-her personal Jesus-talking to one of her friends about a child molestation case. I froze in my tracks, held my breath and listened with all my faculties. They were talking about her friend’s son, a kid I knew well. I heard my mother say, “Don’t you dare let that mother-fucker ever see those kids again. I didn’t move muscle, listening so intently to the silence, wondering what her friend on the line was saying. My mother appeared in front of me with the length of phone-cord pulled tight behind her. “Shannon, What are you doing?” My toes tingled, the muscles on my head pulled my ears back from my face as I spoke, “Nothing.” She barked, “Get out of here, Bugs!” My fear left me as confusion took over my left eyebrow rose, as the other dropped, “What is Bugs?” I asked her. She pointed for me to get out and then walked away.
The next day we packed the Capri Classic and headed out to the country to see her friend, and her friend’s four kids. I was buzzing all over like Nancy Drew with a clue, so excited to be on an adventure. Driving along, I knew my mom was in a good mood since she was going to spend the weekend talking about all her shit with her friend.
I asked her, “Why did you call me Bugs yesterday?” She glanced at me, “Because, Shannon, you hear everything. Nothing gets by you.” I giggled, please with myself.
I loved nothing more than being part of the adult drama of my mom’s friend- a family life that seemed more fucked up than mine- and visiting the doublewide trailer they called home. I found trailer life exciting and entertaining in a way mine wasn’t, it seemed exotic and free, like a summer night at the carnival.
We drove a while and then turned off onto a red-clay-dusty road that caused our tires to spit pebbles, and roll in a trail of smoke. A few bony dogs greeted us by running the length of our car, chasing it, and barking as we made our way into the clearing. Through the field of weeds we saw a few homes in decay, frowning as they sunk into the ground. There were rusted out cars, one wheel, two wheels, hoods open, doors ajar, a leaning tool shed, and other half-standing-unnamable structures. Skeletons’ of old appliances decorated the landscape telling the story of human remains, now housed wildlife. The refrigerators became rodent high-rises, the insides of stoves renovated as opossums’ nests, and toilet bowls served as mosquito breeding grounds, and a waterhole to drown unwanted kittens and puppies.
Settled at the base of the dirt road stood their perfectly upright doublewide, complete with cinder blocks, and covered in stunning aluminum, parked next to it was a used up Oldsmobile with balding tires. Walking towards the front door an enormous web hanging off the side of the roof caught my eye. Sitting dead center was a fat-bellied spider. Heaps of trash littered the yard and random shoes were strewn about. Filth runneth over like a dumpsite, piles of dog shit were everywhere, but to me it was the most interesting place in world. I couldn’t wait to get inside.
TBD. “That’s, that’s all folks.” (for now)