I don’t know what it’s like be my mother. I both fear her wrath and recognize her as simply being a human being. She has made it quite far, has lived quite a successful life, and, with the help of my father, made a wonderful life for her two children.
Now, I say two children.
The fact of the matter is that my father has frequently behaved as a third child. Yes, men mature slower than girls do, but if that’s the truth in my father’s case than he matures 1 year for everyone else’s dozen. And I mean this in a good way. If I was doing well in school and wanted him to play hooky from work so we could go to the Museum of Natural History or the Bronx Zoo, he would indulge me whenever he could. I knew early on where each and every scene of Ghost Busters 1 AND 2 where filmed because my father took me there. And I had a grasp of Renaissance art including both Italian and German artists by the time I was twelve because my father taught me their works and brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a regular basis.
Venus and Cupid, 1520 [MetropolitanMuseumOfArt]
I didn’t grow up in New York City, but I wasn’t too far outside of it. I knew train etiquette and was trusted to handle trips on my own from a fairly young age. I knew that the entrance to a museum was a suggested donation, but that if I could afford more than that request I should pay more, so that if I was too poor to pay once in while that was okay, too. And this is all because my dad was and is a good dad, mostly because no matter how old he gets he still always wants to have fun. And that flair of childishness has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion.
When I was a pre-teen and teen, too young to drive, but too cool for just about everything else, sleepovers were my life. I’d hang at Anna’s house, we’d stay at Joanna’s house, and sometimes Laura, Erica, and I would lock ourselves in my room for days.
My parents would pound on the door, “What ARE you doing in there?!”
“NOTHING!” We’d all scream before dissolving in giggles.
Looking back on it I see that “nothing” was the truth. We did literally nothing. When one is a teenage girl, you can spend solid weeks on end “doing stuff”, thinking everything that revolves around you – and it all revolves around you – is suuuuuuuper important. And, really you’re not doing anything at all. Obsessing. Talking about boys. Talking about girls. Talking about the girls who liked the boys that we liked and how those girls were stupid trash because they had the audacity to live. All the things we wanted that our parents were too stupid and bitchy to buy us, because obviously that’s the only reason we didn’t have everything; parents have all the money in the world and they just didn’t buy us stuff because they didn’t respect us as the super mature, blossoming adults we were. Duh. And we’d talk about that crap for hours.
Photo credit ThisNext.com
Ugh. I can’t even think about this right now. It just makes me want my life back. I’m not going to chance having a female offspring now, either. I’m just going to adopt a boy out of safety.
Anyway, one day I was heading over to stay at Anna’s place. Anna was perpetually grounded and every time she was grounded she was allowed to go out, allowed to have friends over, but NOT allowed to use the phone. Really emotionally messed up, right? And, remember: This is before both computers and cell phones. Neither texting nor those free 100 hour discs of AOL featuring their messenger had even been invented yet, though they weren’t far off. Anna’s mom was very kind next to Anna’s constantly punishing father, and she would call my Ma and ask if I would like to come over or meet Anna at the mall, etc. So this was one of the many times I was hanging with Grounded Anna.
And my father was dealing with losing his little girl. Hangin’ with him was no longer the coolest thing in the world. The year prior I had asked for my own phone line for a birthday gift, and having my own answering machine made me pretty hot shit. To make matters worse, a couple years prior, I had come home from working at a stable (I did this from the time I was ten to earn equestrian lessons) to declare that womanhood was upon me. And my mother had to take me right back out to the pharmacy (Target and WalMart hadn’t been invented yet, either) for “womanhood accouterments”. Playtex would be proud.
In an effort to keep me, his PDSL, under his wing, Dad would terrorize me as frequently as possible. And by “terrorize” I mean he was merely being playful; this was at a time when my parents took me and my brother’s ever constant shouts of “GOD! Why are you guys SO annoying?!” as “I love you, too.”
This is a photo titled “Parents Just Don’t Understand” from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
As I was heading over to Anna’s that meant that my parents would also try to go grocery shopping. We lived on the edge of town and Anna lived in the center, so why make extra unnecessary trips? Being a teenager meant that each happening that had no relation to my own personal wishes was a total inconvenience to me, especially having my space invaded by uncool people – or worse: my parents. My mother drove and, out of shear teasing, my father chose to sit in the backseat with me. It was double annoying – first the grocery store, now this?! Ohmygod, lame!
“Go away, Dad.”
“Ugh, you’re so lame.”
“Do not call your father lame!”
“Yeah, your mother will turn this car around and slap your nose into next Tuesday.”
I started to snicker.
“Damnit, Christopher, do not mock me in front of the kids.”
“You’re in troooooooouble!” I said mockingly to my father. Being “In Trouble” was, of course, the absolute worst fate that could befall a person at this point in my life.
To which he retorted by reaching over and flicking my nose.
I slapped his arm. And he flicked again.
“MOM!” I shouted.
Photo credit unknown
This cycle continued for quite a while. It took just under thirty minutes to get to Anna’s home and by the time we arrived both my father and I were red in the face from laughing, I was horse from squawking for Mom, and Mom was pissed that she had ever thought it was a good idea to get married or knocked up.
Once in the cozy darkness of my friend’s basement living room, Anna and I proceeded to forget we had parents all together. We locked the door, put on The Dark Crystal, and sat on the step in front of the fireplace and “smoked” her parents’ cigarettes. I put the word smoked in parenthesis because I’m not too convinced we were very competent inhalers. It was all pretty pathetic. And we puffed away in front of the fireplace so the smoke would go out the chimney and her parents would be none the wiser. Which they weren’t.
An hour or so into our super adult, not-smoking yet smoking, ultra mature time, Anna began to stare at me.
“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.”
Naturally, we thought it was soot from smoking out of the fireplace and I promptly trotted to the bathroom to wash my face. A few friends decided to pop by, as was regularly the case since one couldn’t simply call Anna, and we all settled down in the dark to watch a movie.
Photo credit NYBBIS
Jen the Gelfling was just about to interpret the prophecy from the wall etchings that he found outside of Kira’s village when Tom detached his face from Anna’s mouth and turned to me.
“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.” I slid off the couch, thumped into the bathroom, and washed my face. Again.
At 11pm Anna’s folks shouted downstairs that anyone who wasn’t myself or Anna had to bugger off their premises for the night, because they were so uncool about everything. Jeez. Remaining in the afterglow of movie darkness and an evening teenage rebellion, Anna and I had another cigarette, hunched in the fireplace, before heading off to bed.
“Damn, Kate! You. Are. A. Mess! You still have dirt on your nose!” She said between giggles.
I brushed my teeth and washed my fave oblivious to the fact that with each wash not a speck of the dirt was coming off. In fact, if anything, the dirt was getting dirtier. But it all became very clear to me what had happened once I woke up.
“Kate!” yelled Anna’s mother through the closed bedroom door.
“Yes,” I snorted, jolting awake.
“Your parents are coming to get you. They need to take your brother to the DMV near here.”
“Okay, thanks, Mrs. Millhouse.” I answered, face down still in my pillow. Not one for pajamas I slept in my jeans, generally on the floors of my friends’ rooms. All I ever did was change my tee shirt. Anna remained asleep. I stumbled sleepily to the bathroom and flicked on the lights.
Big bright lights. Florescent suckers, unapologeticly highlighting every flaw and blemish of the human face.
And any noses that had turned deep purple with bruising.
I almost jumped at the site of myself. With an almost painted precision, my little nose, the adorable one I had inherited from my mother, was almost black from bruising. As I stared I slowly began to smile, realizing the flicks of my playful father were the cause.
And he was gonna be in SO MUCH TROUBLE!
“KATE!” Anna’s mom shouted over the beeping of a car horn. “Your folks are here!”
“ThanksMissusMillhouse!” I rushed as I grabbed my coat from Anna’s room and bolted out the front door, turning to the side so her mom wouldn’t see my nose. I thought it was funny, yes, but I was still self-conscience about it.
I ran out to the car on hopped into the back seat next to my brother who immediately began to grin maliciously.
“You look like a dog! Hey, Ma, Kate looks like a dog!”
“Mathew, DO NOT CALL YOUR SISTER A D-“
My father’s swear, so seldom heard, silenced the car. My mother wrenched at the rear-view mirror to get a good look at me. I smiled politely as she did so, for it was not I who would be in trouble.
That was the last moment we had silence in the car that day.
And, though it took only about a week for my nose bruising to dissipate, my dad was grounded for quite a while.