Sunday, September 16, 2007

the mug

Daddy-O moved in with G, his fiancee, a couple of months ago, and he's planning on putting his house on the market soon. They're not going to move out of state for at least two years, but with the housing market as shitty as it is, he figured that he might as well get it ready as soon as possible. (G lives in a highly coveted area of Minneapolis---Josh Hartnett used to be her neighbor until his fans found out where he lived---and, since there will probably be no problem whatsoever selling her house, there's not as much of a rush.) Anyway, Daddy-O asked if I could come back to Minnesota for his retirement party and to go through the basement and retrieve anything I wanted and put everything else in piles for sale, donation, or trash.

On Thursday, at the obscene hour of 3AM, I dragged myself out of bed, showered, scarfed down breakfast, and drove myself to the Van Nuys airport shuttle. I parked my car, rode the bus, waited in the terminal for about an hour, and then boarded my flight. I sat in the very last row of the plane, next to an elderly woman and her son, a loud man in his forties who thought it was hysterical to yell "We're all gonna die!" whenever we hit turbulence.

Oh, how I wished that an air marshal was on board to smash his face into the floor and handcuff him, and that the flight would end with him being dragged away for a cavity search and extensive questioning.

Other than that dick, the flight wasn't too bad. I wasn't able to sleep because of the turbulence and ensuing comments from Prickass McDickerson, but I had my DS with me, and the time went by quickly.

My brother R picked me up at the airport, and we stopped for lunch before heading back to the house. The walls had been repainted, and the light fixtures had been replaced with gorgeous bronze and glass chandeliers. There are still a few more improvements to be made, but overall the house looks much better than it did the last time I was here.

Daddy-O came over around 4, and we went to Famous Dave's for dinner and then back to the house to talk. He asked me to keep an eye out for certain things when I'm organizing, especially any of the books my grandfather wrote...which, to our astonishment, sell for over $250 on Ebay. (Not, of course, that we WOULD sell them.)

I had the house to myself on Friday; Daddy-O was helping get things organized for the party, and R wasn't able to get the day off work. To my delight, I got to sleep in THE bed last night. I obviously haven't slept in every bed in the world, but I cannot imagine that there's one more comfortable than this one. It's like having the best orgasm of your life and then falling asleep on a mattress filled with kitten fur, marshmallows, and clouds.

I woke up feeling completely relaxed and more than a little hedonistic, so I ate breakfast in bed while reading the new issue of People. When I was done, I reluctantly got out of bed, showered, and then headed down to the basement storage room to get to work.

It took about two minutes for me to be engulfed in tears.

A tin of Christmas ornaments, including the only one left from the set my parents bought for their first Christmas together.

The blue rhinestone-studded collar that my beloved Sprite wore from the time he was a kitten up until the day he died.

Yearbooks filled with the faces of people who hated me for no reason, who called me things that haunt me to this day, who would wait for me outside the bathroom and blindside me with a fist to the head...and yes, there are kind people in there too, and people I loved in secret, and my precious Spock.

A photo of me in fifth grade, wearing a blue velour dress and a gap-toothed smile, my unruly hair bound up in blue ribboned ponytails.

Most of all, so many memories of my mom.

In the corner of the storage room, the cane she used after she learned to walk again. She decoupaged it with butterflies because, as she put it, "They're a symbol of new beginnings...and besides, I have a lot of free time now!" I closed my fingers around the handle and thought, This is something she touched.

Bedpans, a walker, bags of gauze and surgical tape. A box of latex gloves. Pamphlets about post-paralysis sex that we used to giggle over like schoolgirls.

A crate full of albums. I take Led Zeppelin out and remember the time I was sitting behind a boy named Jesse in 9th grade biology who was bitching about his mom throwing his Led Zeppelin albums in the trash. He turned around and demanded, "Would your parents do that to you?"

"My parents have a lot of Led Zeppelin albums," I said, and for one class at least, I was cool.

And here's my 12" single of Soft Cell's song "It's A Mug's Game". Mom really liked this one, thought it was funny, especially the part where he sings about "throwing up like it was Christmas".

This picture hurts my heart. It's Mom dressed up in a Minnesota Twins uniform, and she looks so cute and happy. We went to Glamour Shots at the Mall of America because I wanted to get a picture taken for M1, and since they had a special going on, she decided to get one too. I look like a country singer, with my too-dark lipstick and my thumbs hooked cornily under the lapels of a sequinned jacket; she looks adorable.

She wasn't sick yet.

And in the next box, something that makes me suck in my breath in recognition.

It looks harmless enough, but this is the thing that hurts me the most, proof of an ugly heart and an unworthy daughter. It is one of many reasons I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself.

I was in junior high, and I was miserable. My one friend was two years ahead of me and at a different school, so I ate my lunch sitting in a bathroom stall and then I'd head to the library to read. People were at the height of their cruelty, fueled by junk food and raging hormones and the general unpleasantness that comes with being on the brink of adolescence, and more often than not, I was their target. My dad and I did not get along at all. The only things that made me truly happy were video games, reading, spending time with my mom, and daydreaming about eloping with John Taylor of Duran Duran.

Anyway, I was taking an art class, and one of our assignments was to make a coffee mug out of clay. I've never had any artistic talent whatsoever---I like to say that I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler---and my mug came out of the kiln misshapen, to the collective schadenfreudian delight of my classmates. I glumly slopped poisonous green paint over it, and after it was graded (I seem to recall that the teacher took pity on me and gave it a C), I took it home to Mom.

"I love it!" she cried, turning it around in her hands, and her smile was genuine. "Thank you so much!"

It may have been ugly, but at least the sentiment was true: I had written "I LOVE YOU NUMBER ONE MOM!!!!!!" on the side.

I don't remember when this next anecdote took place, exactly. I wish I couldn't remember it at all.

I was excited because Mom had promised to take me to the bowling alley after school so I could play Ladybug, a Pac-Man ripoff that was one of my favorite video games. But when I got home, she said she wasn't feeling well, and asked if she could take me another day.

I whined and pleaded, and when she showed no signs of budging, I picked up that ugly fucking coffee mug and I looked her right in her tired eyes and I said, "I'll break this stupid mug!"

She sat there for a moment, her hands in her lap, and she shook her head slowly and said, "Oh, C." Then she got up, picked up her purse, and took me to the bowling alley, where I played Ladybug, my stomach roiling with acid. I knew I had done a horrible thing, and I wished I could take it back, but I kept playing until my quarters were gone. I kept playing even though I could see her out of the corner of my eye, and she was obviously so tired, and I kept playing.

And we rode home in silence. I did not apologize. I don't know that I even felt all that bad at the time; my biggest worry was that she would tell my dad, and this was back when he still had a temper, and it would not have gone unpunished.

I will keep the Christmas ornaments and Sprite's collar and the yearbooks and the photos.

The medical supplies will be donated.

The records will be listed on Ebay.

And as much as I want to throw the mug away, this symbol of a child's cruelty and selfishness, I must bring it back with me so I will not be tempted to forget.