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10:12 a.m. - 2010-07-24
A Tree Grew in Podunkville

Good gravy, I hate to be lame and crab about the weather, but in the 2 hours I've been up the temp has already risen 10 degrees. It's not even 9:00am yet. It's going to be a bad'un today. I'm stalling about closing the windows and turning on the a/c, not out of financial or environmental concerns, but simply because the sealed up feeling and accompanying racket from my window unit make me feel a bit claustrophobic.

A neurosis I don't have for the most part, claustrophobia. Quite the opposite, I usually find comfort in small places. One of my favorite havens when I was a kid was the linen closet. I guess it was really a wee storage room shelved floor to ceiling on all four sides, but we kept the linens in it and some of the odd miscellany any household has, so that 4'x4' space was called the linen closet. I'd go in there with a couple of books and make a nest with the rolled up sleeping bags and a comforter and spend the afternoon happily reading in the glow of the bare bulb overhead. My sisters sneered and mocked and pointed to this as yet another example of my weirdness. Who in her right mind spends the day in a closet? I did, and not just for the comfort and privacy either. 'Out of sight, out of mind', you know?

My dopey sisters never did twig to the reality that in my hidey-hole I was safe from being pressed into service by our mother and her love of the random chore assignments. Nothing honked her off more than the sight of a child sitting around enjoying herself. So those dim sisters of mine would plop down in front of the TV in the den and before the first commercial came on Mommy Dearest had rousted them up and set them to doing any old hateful piece of work she could think of. Dusting the baseboards for the third time that week. Wiping already sparkling cabinet fronts. Poking invisible crumbs and non-existent dust kitties out from under the fridge with an unbent wire hanger. Not from any urgent need for those things to be done, please understand our house was so spotless you could manufacture microchips in any room at any time. It's just that the old bag loathed the idea that any of us might actually relax and be at peace for a minute and if she caught us 'doing nothing' she immediately found something 'worthy' for us to do. Her view was that children were a horrible burden who'd ruined her life and thus we owed her…big time. The only way we could begin to pay back our debt was constant and unrelenting work. Even when there was absolutely nothing left to be done she'd invent something.

I was 9 the first time I read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' and when Katie Nolan's father and his view on childrearing was described as 'The father has the fun of begetting them, puts as little as possible into the raising of them, and then sets them to work as early as possible to begin making a profit from them for the father's comfort' I just nodded and wondered why Betty Smith made such a big deal out of that and why Thomas Rommely was considered such a villain. Weren't all parents like this? It wasn't for many more years that I found out otherwise.

Something Mick and I have gone 'round about many times. He insists I should have stood on my rights and rebelled or run away or stabbed my mother while she slept, anything but my obedient acquiesce to my mother's brutal and horribly unjust way of going on. I always point out that kids can only live what they know. My life had never been any different, I had no examples to judge things by. When visiting friends and their moms spoke nicely and hugged their kids and encouraged them to have fun I assumed it was like my house and that when I left the moms would beat and yell at and put my friends to work. My mom didn't pull her crap in front of others either, you know? She always put on her Gracious Lady act when we had company. Which wasn't often, she resented feeding us, no way was she going to put out milk and cookies for anyone else's kids. At least not any more often than she absolutely had to. But I truly didn't know how bad things were at my house. Oh, I had some vague ideas that things might be 'off' a little, but I knew enough kids who also came to school sporting bruises and broken bones and who turned cheesy white if they were out playing and their folks' car came down the street. Being terrified of your parents wasn't just my gig, you dig? Most of the kids in the neighborhood were scared of their parents. It was just the way things were. So when Tara's mom yelled out the backdoor for her to get her ass home and Tara took off at a dead run we never questioned it. Or when Gene came into class with another black eye and a wad of bloody toilet paper hanging out of his leaking nose at most you might nod and give him a "It's okay, man" smile of sympathetic solidarity.

It was what it was. Another fact of life from those golden glorious good old days. You know, the ones Palin, Beck, and the Tea Partiers keep crying we need to get back to.

I'll pass on that, thanks. ~LA

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