Over My Head

It’s night. Gravel crunches under the tires of the old Dodge Ram as it rattles, just a few mph too fast, down the two lane track leading to our house. It’s years before the streetlights will be installed on Old County Road, and the truck’s headlights fan out, casting a milky glow over the chest-high weeds that grow along the ditch banks bordering the lane.

The truck’s air conditioner hasn’t worked in years, which would be a problem during the day, but the cool night air mixes sweetly with the gravel dust as it floods in the open windows. As we roll past our neighbor’s expansive back yard, the scent of freshly-cut grass and wild onions layers over the dust smell, almost canceling out the danker smells of the truck – work boots, old chip bags, spilled soda, sweat, wood shavings…the things that make up my father at 33. He shifts at the wheel, a slight rise and tilt of his tailbone, giving a second of relief to his bad left hip. The pain always gets worse when he’s irritated about something. Right now he’s irritated about something my mother has just said.

My mother sits on the passenger side, elbow on the window ledge, fingers tapping the top of the cab. She is 28, with silky brown hair and a long, straight nose that, to my five-year-old mind, just begs to be grasped between thumb and forefinger with a giggly “honk”. She is quick to smile and hug and race, and I’ve already done my fair share of trying her patience, but she’s also monumentally slow to anger. It’s no surprise that her voice bears all the marks of true patience, floating demurely alongside my father’s gruffly barked opinion, right over my head. I find myself sandwiched between the points in their argument.

“But if he loves her…”, she says.

“What does it matter if he loves her? It’s still wrong.”

“But, Butch, if she loves him and he loves her, and if he can take care of her…isn’t that all we could – ”

“How, Pat? How’s he going to take care of her? And what if they have babies, what then? They’ll be outcasts!”

“Babe, all I’m saying is that if she’s in love, and he’s good to her, I don’t care what color he is – brown, green, purple with polka dots. And it’s not going to be up to us, anyway, so you’d better get used to it.”

“If she marries a black guy, she’s out of the family, Patricia. That’s final.”

“Well, not my family.”

The truck whips into our driveway, nearly taking out the mailbox. It slows to a crawl, weaving its way down the rutted path, lined by two acres of woodland that threatens to reclaim the road, the house, and us one day. Ahead, the front porch light flickers into view. My mother grabs her purse and the bags of groceries sitting at her feet in the floorboard. She gets out of the cab before the truck’s engine sputters off, stalking towards the front porch without a backwards glance.

My father sighs deeply, turns off the headlights, then takes the keys out of the ignition. Then he just sits there for a moment. It’s just me and him. I know that something big just happened, but it doesn’t make much sense. I’m little, but they sometimes talk about me like I’m a grownup. I have a sneaking suspicion that my mother won the fight, but it doesn’t matter. There are much bigger problems on my horizon. For instance, right now, tying my shoes is looking to be an insurmountable obstacle. I squirm. I’m old enough to unbuckle my own seatbelt, but this one sticks and needs an adult to push the button. I’m waiting for him to push the button so I can go inside, too. There was Neapolitan ice cream in one of those shopping bags.

He opens the truck door and steps out. “Come on, Boo Bear.”

I make a show of kicking my legs and trying to squeeze out of the safety belt, and we both laugh. He reaches in and unbuckles it, then helps me climb out of the driver’s side, letting me hold his index finger as we walk to the house.

I love strawberry ice cream. One day I’m going to change my name to Strawberry. Wouldn’t it be funny to be named Strawberry and get married to a purple polka-dotted man? What color would our babies be, I wonder?

3 Days Later (or “Attack of the Parents!”)

I’ve decided I’m not going to just let this blog slide (much, anyway) because I’ve reached my goal age. I’m still not at my goal weight, so let’s keep going. Today’s going to be a very interesting day, to say the least. To start it off…

Today’s Weight: 154.8 lbs

The scale said 154.6 lbs the first time this morning, and I was psyched, but then it climbed back up that extra notch every successive weigh in. That’s OK, though. I think the last time I hit 154 was two years ago around this time of year. This time it’s staying off.

Now what about today is going to be interesting, you ask? My parents are coming to town for a visit. This kind of situation can be weird, fun, and a little stressful even in the best of times, but what makes this quite singular is that my parents have never visited me before. They did come into town for a day to drop me off at college in 1999, and they also came back into town for a day to see me graduate in 2003, but other than those two days, nothing in all these years. I’ve lived in New Orleans for a little over 9 years now, and with a 3 year lay-over in Chicago, and they’ve never just come to see me and hang out. They hate the city and everything about it.

To be fair, I only tend to go home once every couple of years lately, since I happen to not believe in going broke to go on vacation to a split level in the middle of nowhere, with no activity around for miles and no car to get to that activity, even if there was something. In fact, I haven’t laid eyes on my parents for two years, so this is going to be interesting. They never did seem to be able to recognize me at the airport, so I’m sure it’s going to be another awkward reunion.

On top of this, my mother has never flown a commercial airline flight before. The last week was peppered with weird questions that most people in the Western world have known the answer to for years, like, should I put a lock on my bag? and, Why CAN’T I bring a drink with me? There was also a frantic last minute search on my part to make sure it was definitely OK to bring along homemade sausages for an in-flight snack. It turns out it’s not against the law to bring them, as long as they’re wrapped securely and go through the x-ray like everything else. I didn’t have the heart to bring up the fact that everyone within nose-shot was going to hate them for opening up stinky sausages in a closed space. It’s just so frickin’ weird when people bring along meals from home for their flight, not to mention how odd it is that a 2 hour flight would create the sense of desperation that they might starve. Are my parents hobbits?

They’re going to freak out at how little I eat in comparison to them. They’re also going to freak out about lots of things – people, cars, tall buildings, prices, loud noises, rude staff, no parking spaces, having to walk places…

I’m hoping this weekend will be good, but I’m very short tempered when it comes to listening to complaints. I don’t know if I’m going to hold up under the strain of both parents. I’m not that great of a tourguide. We’ll see. I’m hoping to get them out of the city for much of the trip.

The worst I’ve yet to describe, though. The worst? I’m introducing my parents to my boyfriend’s parents. Alone. No boyfriend – he’s away on business and couldn’t get home in time. The other set of parents is awesome. They live here, so they know how the city works (and doesn’t). They’re also used to urban spaces, having originally come from Long Island. They’re pretty normal in all the ways my parents aren’t. Not that it’s bad to be different, just that it makes it harder for me to figure out a common ground. I wish Dan was here, or that I could just not introduce them and wait for it to happen later. But it might be years before both sets of parents are in the same place again, so that just isn’t feasible.

Argh.

I’m going to go pour myself a cup of watery soy yogurt and an iced coffee, and get some real work done while I dread 11:40am.

Catch you guys on the flip side; wish me luck. I have a feeling I’m really going to need it.