ARIZONA CHRONICLES PART 5 & 6

28 May

So, I could overcome the heat, dust storms and fatality around every corner because I was in love with two boys at the tender age of eight.  They were like photograph negatives of each other.  Dylan all blonde and light skinned, Daniel with his dark hair and dark eyes.  They also had very different opinions of me.  Dylan completely ignored my every word and attempt to make eye contact and Daniel would steal his mother’s jewelry and hand it to me at the bus stop in the morning.  When I received my first new bike with the purple seat and tassels hanging from the handlebars, it was Daniel who taught me to ride it and would cruise along side of me in case I fell.  When I inevitably fell, it was Daniel who picked me up.

By a mere stroke of chance, we had moved to a trailer not far from where Daniel lived in his.  When I say a trailer, I mean barely a two-room vacation pop up.  My parent’s bedroom was at one end, living room and kitchen at the other, and my sister and I slept on bunk beds in what was a hallway.  The entire trailer was about the size of a hotel room.  Not exactly the paradise we had planned, but there was good news.  We were having a house built in a new subdivision.  This would only be temporary.

What was not temporary was my mother’s new found excitement for Arizona living.  She began taking tennis lessons while we were at school, and started cooking again.  Well, she would make what was supposed to be food.  I don’t remember many dinners, I do believe I have repressed those memories.  There were sly attempts at sneaking us liver disguised as steak.  Thank goodness I had round cheeks I could stuff like a hamster with bites of liver and Brussels sprouts to spit out later when I went out to feed the dog.  She would rail against us wasting food, but her logic about kids in Africa did not hold water with me.  I was sure they were eating better than we were.

So, I went to school during the day, staring forlornly at Dylan and during the afternoon, I would ride my bike with Daniel and accept whatever piece of jewelry he had managed to filch from his mother.  Of course, my mom always made me give them back, but it was the thought that counts.  He adored me, and I in turn adored his adoration.  Really the perfect relationship.

During this time, my parents pretty much ignored me.  At night, I would sit with my sister watching a crummy television and thinking of stories to tell.  There was nothing better to me than making my baby sister laugh.  I would climb up on my top bunk, listening to the coyotes outside howling their goodnights and I did feel happy.  I was glad we had moved across the world.

All was well until my curiosity got the better of me.  Daniel was in our backyard and like any boy out in the woods, when he had to go, he just went.  He simply unzipped his pants and let loose in a small ditch.  Now, I was young and curious.  So instead of looking away, I stepped beside him and examined the goods, as any inquisitive young girl would.  I knew boys had different equipment.  I had seen my male cousins when they were babies.

To my mother who was washing dishes and watching from the window, this was apparently a huge deal.  To describe her as a screaming banshee is an understatement.  She snatched me up and drug me by the arm back into the hovel we called home.  There was a belt spanking and I was told what I had done was very nasty.  As I sat carefully on the edge of the bed, there were no tears.  So, I had seen a boy’s penis.  Big deal.  It wasn’t that impressive.

The next day she forbid me to see Daniel.  I told her I wouldn’t, but would just hop on my purple bike and hide it behind his shed while we sat in his room and listened to music on his tape player.  His mother adored me, she would make me homemade tortillas, and fruit punch.  She would occasionally trim the hair my mother butchered so it would grow back normally.  I use to pray she would want a daughter so much she would insist I come stay with her.

I felt sure I could still harbor dual crushes on Dylan and Daniel.  Dylan barely knew I existed anyway.  Well, that is not exactly true.  He did know I existed.  I had become the object of his teasing after I spilled an entire container of black paint on our teacher.  The room was divided.  Half thought I did it on purpose and admired me, and the other half just thought it was hilarious.  Dylan was one of the latter and would laugh every time there was a painting project.  My teacher did not.  I was not allowed to handle paint after that day.

Humiliation burned my cheeks with embarrassment.  Nothing worse than having the object of your affection think you’re a joke.  However, I learned to play along with it and in turn realized I could not at any point take myself too seriously.  In the whole scheme of things, spilling paint was such a small thing and it was actually very funny.  The look of horror on my teacher’s face as black paint splashed her white pants and white shirt was humorous.  Because I did not become upset with his teasing, Dylan actually began paying attention to me.  I was like a boy, he said, I didn’t freak out or cry.  So there it was.  The reason why over the years I would have more male friends than female.  Why I always seemed to have a boyfriend.  I was one of their tribe and they accepted me.

I was thrilled, elated and would sit at recess with Dylan every day listening to his stories of his older brother.  When he told me about “rubbers,” I pretended to know what he was talking about.  The image I had in my mind was not very accurate.  But I didn’t want to show my ignorance.  I also knew enough I could not ask my mother or father.

Everything would have been perfect, except one morning I woke up sicker than I had ever been.  I had eaten my mother’s dinner the night before, and surely that was the culprit.  My mom had a full day of tennis and whatever else she occupied her time with and insisted I had to go to school.  I couldn’t even get off the bathroom floor, let alone walk.  Begrudgingly, she called the nurse who suggested hot tea.  That was an even worse idea and there was suddenly pain.  I remember lying on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and staring at the ceiling light.  If I died, would Dylan always remember me as his first love?  Would Daniel?

There was also the thought of if I died; I hope my mother would be racked with guilt the rest of her life for yelling at me I was going to school.  When my mother returned to the bathroom, she looked worried and not for herself.  Surely, I could get some mileage out of this.

I remember words and phrases that sounded like “surgery,” “infection,” and “rectal exam.”  I was bent over and violated by a sympathetic doctor who then told my mother my appendix had burst and I was to be admitted.  I stood in line at admitting.  The pain was throbbing in my right side and I did not fully grasp what was to occur.  My mother was crying and all I could care about was the pain ending.

At one point the pain was so severe, I just remember blacking out and waking up in a gown and having an IV inserted into my hand.  The nurse looked at my mother who was crying hysterically at my side and rolled her eyes.  I smiled at her and she smiled back.  I’ll never forget that kind face and the pat she gave me on my head.  “You’re going to be just fine.”  She said, and I believed her.

Coincidentally, or maybe not if you believe in destiny, the surgeon who would be removing what was left of my appendix was from my hometown.  This dried my mother’s tears.  I thought they had flown someone in especially from Kentucky to cut me open.  For a brief shining moment I felt special.  This was quickly dashed when they gave me a shot of medicine that set my veins on fire and I found myself drifting to peaceful sleep.

My eyes opened to a nurse calling my name and gently shaking me.  My throat hurt and I could taste rubbing alcohol.  I could feel a throb in my side and asked if I had stitches.  I was disappointed they had glued the incision shut instead of cool black sutures I could show off.  She promised there would be a scar, so it wasn’t a total loss.

I was in the hospital for a week due to the infection.  What transpired was an endless string of meals consisting of jello and broth.  To this day, I still cannot stand jello.  The food was just this side of bearable compared to my mother’s dinners, so I didn’t complain.  There were visitors to entertain and gifts to accept.  My sister was not allowed to visit in the hospital, so she was taken to the movies by my father.  I still bring this up as practically child neglect.  How dare he choose to take her to the movies while my life was hanging on by a thread.

Then I was expelled from the hospital in a wheelchair and told I would be out of school for a couple more weeks.  I didn’t like school anyway, so this was just the news I was waiting for.  I was tucked in a bed with magazines and a radio and told to take it easy.  If I had more organs to donate, I would have surely volunteered them.  Even my mother seemed to have softened due to the guilt of almost sending her oldest child to school to die from sepsis.  I would take away from this experience a hard lesson.  The special treatment didn’t last long.  Queen for the day was a fleeting crown.

Within a week my mother was crawling out of her skin having to tend to her sick child and my little sister who did not understand I needed to rest.  Instead, she wanted to hear stories and touch my scar and share popsicles with me.  I think this was an important time for our bonding.  We became close and I feared she would inherit my incredible bursting appendix.  I became a little mother to her, and she was happy to have me around.  My mother, on the other hand, was ready to have her life back that included watching the Price is Right in peace.

I was ready to run and play myself.  I missed my friends and was anxious to be out of the house and in the fresh air.  I’m sure this extended period of togetherness forever altered my relationship with my mother.  She was already on the edge and to have a child have emergency surgery then be underfoot for almost a month must have been a lot to take.  I think maybe she resented me for the imposition on her already tenuous hold on her sanity.  It didn’t get any better after that.

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15 Responses to “ARIZONA CHRONICLES PART 5 & 6”

  1. reverend61 May 28, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    I have to say I think this memoir of yours – which I’ve not encountered before, being only a recent subscriber – is a fantastic piece of work. You write so vividly, I can feel the characters grow flesh and walk across the page like animations in some East European cartoon. There is a genuine sadness in what you write, but your wicked sense of humour cushions the blow of what must have been a painful childhood. It’s like drinking very strong, very bitter coffee with marshmallows. (And that was always one of my favourites.)

    • Cold Dead Heart May 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, it’s so appreciated. It is a little sad, but character building. We all have to overcome our childhoods, be them good or bad.

  2. Lemony (Gr)Egghead May 28, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this–the writing I mean. Excellent.

  3. silentlyheardonce May 28, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    I’ve read a lot of people who write their memoirs and they really can use the benefit of editors. You on the other hand are doing an excellent job.

  4. jmgoyder May 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Keep going – this is great. I couldn’t put it down so to speak!

    • Cold Dead Heart May 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      Thanks so much. Even though the topic can sometimes be painful, I really enjoyed writing it 🙂

      • jmgoyder May 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

        I know what you mean!

  5. myshadowthoughts May 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I nominated you for the “Thanks For Writing Award”; you can get the picture from my blog.

  6. Perfecting Motherhood May 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    You sure have a lot of memorable events about Arizona! When I was seven, I suffered terrible stomach ache, as in crawling on the floor, not being able to move. My mom sent me to school and by the next day, I was in even more pain and I had fever. My mother (who is a doctor, the worst type of parent when you’re sick if you ask me, or maybe it’s just her) finally took me to the hospital. I ended up 4 hours on the operating table to remove a Meckel diverticulum (similar to the appendix, but in another location of the intestine) as well as a part of my small intestine that had gone septic because of a major infection caused by the bursting. Another day of waiting and I would have died. My stay in the hospital wasn’t fun either. I got a nice infection on my scar and I got lice! I don’t wish this to any kid out there…

    • Cold Dead Heart May 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Oh boy…that was horrible! I’m glad the timing was perfect. But the lice was the topper. Amazing how details from our childhood stick with us.

      • Perfecting Motherhood May 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

        I have very few memories of my childhood. Most of them are probably repressed for the better. But this is hard to forget!

      • Cold Dead Heart May 30, 2012 at 10:31 am #

        Sometimes I wish I would have repressed more. My sister has entire years she can’t remember.

      • Perfecting Motherhood May 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        I don’t remember most of my childhood. Funny how the mind works for self-protection.

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