Saturday, June 19, 2010

Private Ralph

I feel like I start many of my blog entries with the line, I finally get it.  Or at least, I find that phrase running through my mind several times a day.  Because it seems like I am constantly reaching these profound epiphanies, these sudden realizations and understandings as to why my mother did or said things that I had long-since chalked up to her being completely insane.

Why she often threatened to move out of our house (usually accompanied by the declaration that she was quote Sick Of It or had Had It; what this nebulous 'It' was I also never knew until I had kids.  It meant Us).

Why she often buried her face in her hands at the dinner table as squabbling, hunger strikes and my father's inevitable mad-face aimed at someone across the table went on around her. (This act would sometimes be immediately followed by her threat to move out.)

Why she kicked personal items of mine (books, sticker albums, flattened Cabbage Patch Kids) beneath my door as she blew by my room at 90 miles an hour (her passive-aggressive way of telling me to stop leaving my crap everywhere), or why she often closed my bedroom door as she strode down the hall (her passive-aggressive way of shutting me and my room out of her life until I cleaned up my pig-sty).

Why she obsessive-compulsively straightened throw rugs, placemats, hand towels, anything that looked slightly crooked or skewed (and my sister and I took great joy in making these things crooked again, then gleefully watched as our mother paused long enough to readjust whatever had been moved as she hurried past.  What sick little shits we were).  I find myself doing the same OCD straightening, and even recently yelled at Rollie for bunching up the hand-towels instead of smoothing them nicely.  It was my first real Sleeping With The Enemy moment.

My latest Mom Realization came the other night when I was awakened at 11 o'clock by Rollie crying pitifully at the foot of my bed.  At first I thought he'd just had a vivid nightmare, and carried him back to to his room in an attempt to tuck him in and return to my dream of Matt Damon in tight white shorts.  But as I sat with him on his bed and tried to soothe him, his cries became more pronounced, and I realized that I was about to be on the business end of a good old-fashioned cookie toss.

We made it to the bathroom just in time.  After a few rounds of puking, Rollie calmed down long enough to ask me why he was 'spitting up so much,' and I launched into a quasi-scientific explanation about how his tummy was getting rid of little germies that were making him feel sick.  Then I returned him to his room and laid him on his bed...and was kind of at a loss.  What if he started puking again?  I place his garbage can beside his bed, but that somehow seemed grossly insufficient (and I do mean grossly).  There were too many hard-to-clean surfaces in his room, too many crevices and carpet fibers for vomit particles to hide in and cling to.

And so I was reminded of my days growing up in a house with one designated bathroom for all of us kids to share.  If one of us came down with the pukes, instead of staying in our rooms with some sort of bedside vessel, we were quarantined to the bathroom, on a bedroll on the tile floor, where we spent a miserable night shivering and drifting in and out of consciousness.  In the mornings we were vaguely aware of being dragged, bedroll and all, out of the bathroom and into the hallway, where we'd lay like a hobo against the wall, wallowing in self-pity as our siblings carried on their morning routines, conspicuously holding their noses and complaining loudly that they didn't want any throw-up germs.

What I finally get is why my mother put us in the bathroom.  The last thing she wanted to deal with was cleaning vomit off of bedspreads, floors, rugs, awaked hour after hour, not only by the puker him or herself, but by siblings who had to share a room with the condemned and had to listen to the awful noises of said condemned unceremoniously barfing into a mixing bowl.  And in a family the size of the Brady Bunch living in a modest house in the suburbs, private space wasn't always readily available.  If you wanted to spend a quiet evening puking your guts out, you'd better be prepared to sleep on the bathroom floor.

Luckily for me, I had a lot of experience doing this, so that by the time college rolled around, I could puke and pass out on any horizontal surface on any given night and sleep it off....

So yeah, Mom.  I feel ya.  It took me 30 years, a marriage, two kids and one night spent on Rollie's floor and leaping up at the slightest sound of him snuffling in his sleep...but I feel ya.


  1. Two thumbs up! Well written and a nice nod to your mother.

  2. I still cannot even look at a foam Eggshell thing without feeling like I'm going to barf.

    I still think she could have invested in an air mattress.

  3. I absolutely get the giggles reading your blog, thank you. I totally relate...3 boys, 1 girl, and a mom that had OCD. I feel ya. Once again, thanks for sharing- I've been needing to smile. Your great and I love how ya keep it real!