Do you ever wish everyone would just stop talking to you? I don’t mean blog comments–I can honestly say that there hasn’t been one time I’ve gotten a blog comment and gone, UGH. A COMMENT. Goddammit. Not once. I’m always glad to get those. Continue reading “June’s Room of Her Own”
Somehow this morning I got on the topic my my gramma's Real Romance magazines and now I'm obsessed.
My grandmother had a relatively large house–I mean, it was four bedrooms, and it had an upstairs and a downstairs and a large dining room with really cool open-in-with-a-latch windows that I failed to appreciate till I was old, and also a knotty pine kitchen, and I chose the house we rented in LA due to the knotty pine kitchen alone. Our tasteless landlady, who'd "updated" our 1920s house with brass everything and beige carpet, had threatened to "update" the kitchen and it would have been over my dead body had she removed that knotty pine while I was still living there.
Really, when you look at all the things I like, most of those things are because my grandmother had them at some point, for example screen doors with the person's initial in the metal. LOVE.
Anyway, despite her large-ish house, gramma had one bathroom only, which I guess is what people did in the old days, although I don't know how the hell you have five kids and a husband and one bathroom. Oh, and no shower, either. You had to take baths. I mean, that's efficient. Was everyone just late every day, or…?
By the time I came around, all of gramma's kids had gone except for my Uncle Jim, who tormented me reguarly, and my Aunt Kathy, who was already dating my Uncle Leo and in college and basically not home. So the upstairs was a pretty empty place, and the only reason you went up there was to go to the bathroom, and it was kind of dark and scary up there, and please see earlier reference to my Uncle Jim, who was a jerk.
He'd creep into one of the empty bedrooms and just quietly growl from the dark as I walked by. Or sometimes, if it was daytime, he'd go under a bed or lie on the landing with his eyes rolled back in his head. The worst part was, WEEKS would go by and he'd fail to scare me, either because he was bored or he was the most diabolical, evil person on earth (I suspect option 2), so I'd get complacent, and go pee all cheerfully and
out he'd jump from a bedroom and scare the CRAP right out of me, which is unfortunate seeing as I was just out of the bathroom.
But I digress.
The OTHER part of gramma's bathroom, the unscary, un-Uncle Jim part, was that you could spend many a delightful time in there. It smelled of Dove pink soap and Jean Nate and cigarettes, and there was a squishy toilet seat and it was warmer in there than the rest of the house, maybe because it was so small.
If this weren't lovely enough, on a little stool across from the toilet were gramma's many books and magazines, including, if I recall correctly, the book Mandingo, and please see above reference to how anything gramma had I later went on to like.
June's gramma. Encouraging June to ask for the dark meat, since 1965.
Not ONLY were there good romance novels up there, but also scads of magazines with titles like True Romance, True Confessions, Real Romance, Frustrated Housewife, There's No Internet Yet, and so on.
As I recall, these magazines were pretty racy. I remember my cousin Brigid and me–and right there is a bad combination at all times, always–taking a stack of those magazines, closing the door to one of the upstairs bedrooms, and reading aloud to each other in a screamy whisper voice as we learned words like "manhood" and phrases including "peaks of ecstasy."
I must have been about 8 when I read one of those stories on my own, and in it, a woman and her husband were getting ready in the morning, and he did something dreamy and romantic, and our heroine said she wished it was time for bed right then and there.
"God, she just woke up," I remember thinking. "Why does she wanna go back to sleep now? Weirdo."
When I was a teenager, I got a big stack of those magazines from gramma's house. I can't remember if she was throwing them out or what, but my best friend Donna and I splayed across the couch reading those stories out loud, and we didn't have to use whisper screamy giggly voice.
One woman had finally bagged some dude named Frankie, and they had athletic coitus. Our fearless narrator reported to us: "A drop of sweat from Frankie's nose. A precious gift."
You can imagine. My friend Donna and I will STILL say that to each other, and guess who's pissed that Christmas just passed? Because I so want to send her a vial with a small amount of liquid right now, because what a precious gift.
The point of all this is, I've spent the last hour online trying to read articles from those magazines circa 1970-1980, and the only choice you have is to buy them on eBay for ten thousand dollars apiece. What a rip. I totally shoulda saved gramma's volumes from back then.
They'd be a precious gift.
Thanks, everyone, for all your what-makes-life-worth-living comments yesterday. I guess for me it'd have to include:
- Kittens, of course.
- Puppies, of course.
- Adult dogs and cats and also leopards which I wish to kiss on the head not to mention llamas and really everyone in the animal kingdom except some bugs and reptiles. (One thing that does not make life worth living? People who feel the need to explain to you the difference between bugs and insects.)
- French roast coffee
- Towels right out of the dryer
- The Turkey Roost in Kawkawlin, Michigan
- Waking up near a lake and hearing it swoosh
- My friends Donna, Dottie, Hulk, Lisa, Cardinal, Sandy and Paula. I can call them and in two syllables and they know the joke.
- Being with my family when everyone talks at once
- The Little House books
- The smell of Vicks Vapo Rub
- Remembering the way Mr. Horkheimer would FLUMP right next to me as soon as I sat down. He just FELT gray. I don't know how to explain it further than that. He was a solid cat in every way.
- Ned. Even if Ned is temporary, even if Ned turns out to secretly be a woman or something. Ned.
- When you have a funny exchange with a complete stranger
- Inn of the Seventh Ray in Los Angeles
- The canopy of trees as you drive to my house
- Stories about my Uncle Jim
- The taquitos at El Azteco in East Lansing
- Nora Ephron
- My Aunt Mary's laugh
- The song Tempted by Squeeze
- Dancing with my cousins at wedding receptions. We used to be the fun young cousins, and now we're teetering into the weird doddering old aunts.
- When the dogwoods bloom
- Edsel's underbite
- Stories about my grandmother
- The way the sun shines into my back room in the morning
- Texts from Hulk
- Tallulah's sigh when she gallumphs onto the other pillow at night
- Your comments
- Getting presents when you aren't expecting any
- Allure's Best of Beauty issue
- Watching It's a Wonderful Life, When Harry Met Sally, Arthur or Annie Hall for the 349493923943rd time
- When the phone rings and it's someone you haven't talked to in years, but you're thrilled to hear from them now
So I guess offing myself is not in the cards at present. And I'm gonna turn on the radio and hear some other song and say, "OH THAT TOO! THIS MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING.
Sadly, that song will probably be by ABBA.
When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time at my grandmother's. At least half my childhood memories involve being at her house. I was the only grandkid in town; the others lived in Detroit, so who had favored status? Was it me?
And let me tell you what. The customer was always right when you were my grandmother's grandchild. I got to do whatever I wanted. All the snacks in the house were purchased per my liking, much to my Uncle Jim's ire.
(He was only 10 years older than me, so he was still there, and lived to make my life miserable, doing things like eating all my personal snacks before I got there and such. Fortunately as he got older and started bringing girls around, I was able to retaliate by thwarting his sex life dramatically. "I think I'll sit here with you guys!" I'd announce cheerily, after Gramma went to bed.)
The point is, I would sit on Gramma's lap and ask her to sing songs. It was like having a cushy juke box. "Gramma, sing about blue," I'd say. And lo and behold, she'd know a song about the color blue.
"Ohhhhh, bluuuuue is a color," she'd warble. "Ohhh, blue."
It took me years to figure out she was making songs up. I really thought she had an incredible repertoire until I was about nine. I was never the brightest bulb.
Believe it or not, this little story has a point. Not one that will change your life or anything, but still.
For the past maybe 35 years, pink has been my favorite color. Pink pink pink. Everyone knows it. I am all up in the pink. So to speak.
But recently I've begun to notice something.
Do you know blue is the most common favorite color in America? If you are familiar with my particular brand of narcissism, you know the last thing I want to be is common.
Crap. Blue crap.
And I don't like dark blue or royal blue. Just pale. Who knew you could change this way? I thought I was pink for life.
Oh, and while I'm on this topic, I went to see Blue Valentine yesterday, which was a depressing movie.
Left me feeling a little…you know.
Francis is up here, paying me a cheerful visit.
It took him an hour and 45 minutes to waddle into the room, and then another seven years to crawl up to the desk. I really wish I'd have paid attention, actually, to how he got up here, because usually I have to lift him. Now he is up here hissing down at Tallulah, who is barking up at him. They can't stand each other. It's like I have FOX News and MSNBC together, here.
In the meantime, Winston just strolled in and effortlessly leaped into the window. It was kind of sad, thinking of when Francis used to be able to do stuff like that. I wonder when the last time was that Francis could just leap up like a normal cat, before he got arthritis and all fat and old and such?
Do you ever think about stuff like that? The last time stuff happened?
Two summers ago, Marvin and I went back to Michigan because it was our 10-year wedding anniversary. We decided to spend the night at the bed-and-breakfast where we got married.
Here I am, on our 10-year anniversary, reenacting my wedding pose.
Anyway. So we went to my mother's house before we went to the bed and breakfast, because said B&B is in my hometown. My Uncle Jim dropped in, and we went in the back yard and sat, and then my Aunt Kathy came, and so did my Aunt Sue, and finally my stepfather came home from work. We were all just sitting around laughing and talking while my mother ran back and forth with 2937749235 items of food as she always does. Tallulah was there, too. She was just a puppy.
I remember my Uncle Jim laughing while Tallulah ran around my mother's back yard. I knew from the way he laughed that he thought my dog was cute, and I was proud of Talu.
I really didn't want to get up and go to our romantic dinner and evening, because I was having so much fun. But I think we had reservations, so we finally left.
That was the last time everything was normal with my family. The next time I saw my uncle, he was in the hospital with cancer. We all sat around and laughed again, but we all knew he was really sick. That day of our anniversary, July 18, 2008, was the last time everyone was healthy.
Am I the only one who thinks of stuff like that? The last time stuff happened? The last date you had with anyone else before you met your spouse, the last normal phone call you had with your best friend before you broke up with her, the last weekend to yourself you had before you had kids.
I was thinking about Francis the other night. He slept with us every single night without fail until the day we got Tallulah, and he's never slept with us since. Tallulah slept in a crate for her first year, so Francis could have kept on in the bed, but he was too mad. I think about that last night in February 2008, when poor Fran had his last night sleeping with people. Since then he sleeps alone on his angry chair.
Do you ever do this? Think of the last time something happened? Or am I just Sylvia Plath?
Marvin said I could find our hotel last night, so we are livin' it up at fancy Days Inn. I know! Puttin' on the ritz.
You should have seen my Uncle Jim's funeral. You probably can see a lot of it if you Google Jim Blondin. The news covered it several days in a row, locally, because a cop has not died in my hometown in 12 years. They interviewed my mother and my cousin Katie, both of whom you have heard about several times on my blog.
There was a giant motorcade of cop cars that went from the police station all the way to the funeral home, all through town. And my Uncle Bill rode on his motorcycle with some cops, too, in the motorcade. He and my Uncle Jim rode their bikes together all the time.
And it wasn't just cop cars. There were ambulance drivers, fire trucks, cop cars from other townships, even a city bus. I kind of worried about what everyone was doing for all their city police and fire needs at the time.
When they got to the funeral, they all lined up very solemnly and brought my uncle's hat and boots in. Then they one by one filed past his ashes at the front. Oh, it was something to see. There were tons of policemen there. I was so distraught that I had brought in my heroin. There was even a police doggie.
Then after the funeral (and yes, they told stories about Uncle Jim. Oh, I have new ones), they did the 21-gun salute, and played taps and got on the dispatch and called his badge number, over and over.
But there was no answer.
Oh. Calling all Kleenex.
So it was a good funeral, as funerals go. Standing room only. People in the hallway, even. The mayor was even there, who happens to be a friend of mine from way back, but still. It's cool to say the mayor was there and I think he came as the mayor and not as my friend, because I keep insisting he show up places in a giant Mayor McCheese head, and I think he is rethinking the friendship, anyway.
I also keep suggesting he show up places and start speeches with, "As mayor of the Munchkin City…"
This is why I am not successful and everyone else is.
Anyway we have, like, nine hours left to drive today because we did not get on the road till 6 p.m. We kept visiting with relatives. And when I say "we" I mean I visited with relatives while Marvin looked at his watch. He did the thing where I asked if he wanted to leave last night and he'd say, "It's up to you. I don't want to take you from your family. Totally up to you. It'd just be nice to get back, is all I'm saying. Totally up to you. I just have a lot of work to do at home. But it's your call. Your call 100%. Just be nice to get the dog. Is all. You let me know."
So it was my call.
So write you from home, because now Marvin is very subtly walking .08 inches behind this computer and clearing his throat, because apparently it is also my call when I wrap this post up, too.
Marvin just took the turtles back to school; the art teacher is going to take care of them for us. Our neighbor, Peg, is pet-sitting. Marvin also bought a bag of snacks that I do not enjoy (licorice and goldfish) (ugh), and we are off to Michigan for the funeral. Road trip! Snacks-I-hate road trip!
I just wanted to check in and say I may not be around tomorrow based on what horrific motel Marvin makes us stay in. My father was always very persnickety about nice hotels when I was growing up. I did not marry my father. Which, you know, is probably good because I think that is illegal. But Marvin will be all, "Oh! Look! The Crack and Lice Motel! This looks nice!"
We once stayed at The Wagon Wheel Motel and Bowling Alley. I am not making that up. Someone was arrested while we ate breakfast. This is why I am telling you we may not have Wi-Fi or whatever tomorrow. We may not have wallets tomorrow.
Before I go I wanted to tell you something sort of weird. I don't know. It's weird.
I don't know.
Okay, I'll tell you.
You know I got to go back and see Uncle Jim I think four times this year, and one of the times was on my birthday. He and I ate my birthday dinner next to each other, and he admired my new lawn edger my mother got me, and gave me tips, because Uncle Jim's lawn HAD TO BE PERFECT as did HIS HOUSE, as did HIS CLOTHING and physical appearance. He was a tad tidy. Did you ever meet Howard Hughes?
At any rate, after dinner we were the only two to wander into the living room. I guess we got away with not clearing the table because it was my birthday and because he was sick, although between you and me, in any other scenario neither he nor I were clear-the-table helpers anyway.
Somehow we got on the topic of spirituality. "Do you believe in God and spirits and all that stuff?" he asked me. "I never did growing up," I told him. "But now I kind of do," I said. "Why?"
"I keep seeing a white cat. I dream of a white cat all the time," he told me. He was really intense. "I don't know what it means."
"Well, I think it's Native Americans who believe you have a spirit animal. Maybe that's yours and it's helping guide you or something. Do you believe in that?"
"I don't know," he said, sitting back on the couch. "Sometimes." Then he dismissed it. "It's probably the medications they have me on."
I pretty much forgot that conversation, but after my Aunt Sue called me yesterday to say Jim had died, and after 86 more people I am related to called me in a row to say the same thing in rapid succession, I walked in here to the computer to tell it on my blog. I saw something out the window, really fast.
It looked like a white cat running past the window.
There are no white cats in our neighborhood. I hadn't been thinking of a white cat, or that story, at all. I just thought, "Was that a white cat?" cause you know I am up in cats, even in times of grief. And then half a second later, I gasped, remembering the story. I looked out the side window and saw nothing.
Now, it could have been a squirrel. Or my eyes could have been playing tricks on me.
Or it could have been a white cat. Saying, hey, I got him there!
I don't know.
Yesterday I called my Uncle Jim's house and left him a message. I didn't even know if he'd be able to listen to it; I wasn't sure if he was alert or what.
I told him that despite the COUNTLESS TIMES he scared me by leaping out of the bedrooms at Gramma's house, he had been a good uncle.
Certainly I have told you about how he used to scare me, haven't I? I think I have. But if you haven't heard the story, here it is.
Every Friday night, I would spend the night at my grandmother's house, and because my uncle is only 10 years older than me he was always there, too. You can imagine how it pleased him, being the BABY of the family, suddenly having my cute self (and I was cute, I am sorry) always over there every Friday night, my grandmother getting all excited that I was coming over, and so forth.
(You do not even want to know the nightmare this was scanning this in. The picture is like the size of a walnut. I think it came from a contact sheet. So it scanned all crooked. At the back in the flowered blazer is mom, in the bangs is Aunt Mary before she knew about QVC, then dad in his tie, then my grandfather, then Grammy, and my cute self. I look a little drunk.)
Gramma–who was from the other side of the family and why I showed the photo above is beyond me except it was the only one of me being little I could find–would buy all my favorite treats, and I'd get to watch my favorite shows (specifically The Brady Bunch, and seeing as there were only two other channels to choose from I cannot imagine what other dreck my uncle wanted to see instead. I mean, what else is there?).
One thing I really liked was peanut butter and marshmallow creme, all swirled up in one jar. Do you remember that?
That sounds delicious to me right now. At any rate, Uncle Jim would be so annoyed that I was coming over that he would eat the entire jar of peanut butter and marshmallow before I got there.
But the REAL thing he would do to torture me is he would scare me. Gramma had just one bathroom, and it was upstairs. Most of her kids had moved out, so there were lots of dark sort of abandoned bedrooms up there. The whole vibe at night was creepy. If you were going up there to go to the bathroom, you had to really mean business. I mean, you had to have had several cocktails.
Okay, I was four or whatever. I'd had no cocktails. But a lot of Tang had been consumed. I'd psych myself up. "Okay, I'm gonna run up there, do my thing, and maybe I'll even wash my hands down here, in the kitchen sink. Can I stand to have germs that long? Okay. It's a plan."
Now, Uncle Jim must have also felt the spookiness of the bathroom at night (by day that bathroom was delightful. Squishy toilet seat, a breeze moving the curtain in the window, a crocheted hoop-skirted lady covering the spare toilet-paper roll. It was only at night that eek!). Because what he'd do is, he'd wait till I came out of the bathroom and he'd
out of one of the dark scary abandoned bedrooms and
scream at me
and I would flap my hands around and shut my eyes and
yell for my grandmother and pretty much do everything he hoped for when he set out to scare me.
And he was so GOOD at it. He'd vary which bedroom he'd jump out of. Or sometimes he wouldn't leap at all, rather he'd just emit a low terrible growl from under one of the beds.
Even better, sometimes he'd LIE on the LANDING, arranging himself so he looked beheaded, rolling his eyes into the back of his head.
"GRAMMA!" Oh, I'd flap, flap, flap my hands. Being an only child, I had no semblance of cool whatsoever. I had no way to act not scared.
And sometimes he'd go a few weeks and not scare me at all. I do not know if he was that diabolical, if he was the Steven King of 14-year-olds, or if he simply was bored of scaring me. But just when I'd let my guard down and think it was okay to go back to the bathroom,
I happen to know that even now, as an adult, he would sometimes scare my Aunt Sue. He would pretend to be asleep and when she'd come to bed he'd leap up and scream at her.
Really if you think about it it was kind of me to call him, wasn't it?
Anyway, a few hours after I left my message, Aunt Sue called me.
"June? Jim got your message."
I waited. You know what I wanted her to say? I wanted her to say, "Your Uncle Jim said to tell you he never really liked you all that much."
Now, maybe that is not the kind of message you would like to get from someone in your family. But that would have been just such an Uncle Jim thing to have said. Oh, how I wanted to hear that. That, or, "Your Uncle Jim said to tell you you're an asshole."
What she said was that he was able to hold the phone up, and that he nodded that he heard the message. So at least I know he heard it. At least I know I got to tell him that.
I should have said, "Uncle Jim? ARRRRR!"
As I was looking for a picture of me as a youngster I found this:
It's from my high school graduation in 1983. I was about to turn 18 and Uncle Jim would be 28. Let's jam out to my mullet and what I'm sure I thought was a new wave shirt. I also enjoy Uncle Jim's Topsiders. And that damn cigarette.
I should have taken it out of his hand and stomped it into 250 pieces.