Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Ash Trays, Picnic Benches, and Horror Movies

With the passing of my mom, my sisters and I have naturally been doing some reminiscing as we look through her photographs and possessions.

In her china cabinet, I found two very old ash trays.  One was actually quite pretty -- made of what I believe is called "milk glass."  Now my mom had not smoked since about 1972, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins' disease.  My mom really loved to smoke.  She started when she was 14 years old (1947).  She and her friends used to sneak down to the creek behind their Catholic high school to indulge themselves in this past-time.  Upon being diagnosed with a disease that was most often fatal in those days, though, the doctor unceremoniously told her, "Quit, or die."  Quit, she did.  And took up incessant gum-chewing instead.  Eventually, she gave that up, too.  Dental problems, you know.  Anyway, finding these ash trays, which nobody had used for AT LEAST 40 years, made me laugh.  Why?  Because my mother was anything but a pack rat.  My mother did not keep useless things.  She tossed old stuff with a vengeance.  Finding that she had kept these ashtrays was, therefore, quite intriguing to me.  Remembrances of a carefree, slightly rebellious youth, I suppose.

And hanging out with my sisters, remembering our childhood, brought back memories of incidents long-forgotten.  Like the time I purposely dropped a picnic bench on my foot to avoid getting in trouble with my mother.  I was probably about 8 years old.  My younger sister and I were playing in the back yard of our home, when I did something that made her extremely angry.  I don't remember what I did, but it was most likely mean and nasty.  My sister yelled and cried, announcing that she was "going to tell Mommy."  I was terrified of this.  This could not be allowed to happen.  My mother could be pretty fearsome when we got in trouble, and I wished to avoid her wrath at any cost.  "Don't tell her," I pleaded.  And then I got an idea.  "I'll do something to myself, and then we'll be even," I told my sibling.  This was agreeable to her.  So I took our picnic bench, which was made of solid wood, and tipped it onto the top of my foot.  Man, it hurt like hell.  But, my sister was satisfied that justice had been done, so it was worth it.  To me, anyway.  What I did not count on was an absolutely enormous bruise forming on the top of my foot, which of course was quite visible to my mother when she spotted it one evening as I was getting ready for bed.  She demanded to know what had happened, and the whole story ended up coming out.  I think I got a spanking.  So, in the end, I guess I got two punishments instead of one. 

As I looked through the house with my sisters, I also recalled all the great parties my parents gave.  My parents loved parties.  I remember New Year's Eves as a little girl, when us kids were put to bed and then all my parents' friends would come over.  There was wonderful food laid out on the dining room table -- stuffed veal pocket, lovely rolls, salads, salami and cheese, olives and pickles.  And in the kitchen were all the makings of any kind of "high ball" one might desire.  In the living room, swing dancing would be going on.  My dad was a kick-ass swing dancer.  Now, you might wonder how I know all about what went on at these parties if I had been put to bed.  But, I ask you, why in the world would I stay in bed?  I used to quietly sneak out of bed and down the hallway, where I would take up my post.  The end of the hallway provided a great vantage point to see all the action.  I would sit there, curled up in a tiny ball so as to make myself less visible, for what seemed like hours on end.  I also used to take up this secret hiding place in the hallway when my mother would watch horror movies on the TV in the living room late at night.  My mother absolutely loved horror movies, and I was quite curious as to what they were all about.  My most vivid memory is of a scene in which some woman was being buried alive by being covered with large stones by a bunch of mean men.  I really didn't understand why this woman didn't just whomp the asses of those mean men.  They didn't seem to be armed or anything.  To this day, one of the things that most pisses me off in movies and TV shows is when women get grabbed by men who really aren't that formidable- looking, and they just scream and flail around.  I guess they are waiting to be rescued by Ben McKenzie (See?  I found a way to talk about him.  Ha!)  Somebody needs to talk to these women, though, because Ben McKenzie just might not show up.  But, I digress.

In some ways, this past week has been really hard.  I have missed my dad greatly since he passed away about two years ago, and I am now missing my mom.  I am really blessed to have had them as parents.  They were really good people, and tried to teach their kids to be really good people.  But, they were also a lot of fun and a little bit edgy -- and that makes me smile.

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