Baby Blue Buick

It was dark, cold and a little rainy —  they were all sitting in the car at the end of their main street where it met the highway, waiting for a bus to come. They were quite early, trying to make sure that the father wouldn’t miss it. The three little girls in the back seat were trying to content themselves. One of the girls was huffing on the window so that she could create a fog and watch the oncoming headlights create a dispersed orange glow. One of the other girls joined her in the activity. When the condensation started dripping, they’d wipe it off and huff again — sometime writing words first.

The mother and father were fairly silent. Not much was being said. Cold shoulders might have shrugged a little. He was headed off to a military post where he was currently stationed — quite far from them but close enough to ride the bus even though it might be a long, miserable ride — he probably had plans to drink along the way to keep himself content.

He came home sometimes on weekends and this had been one of those times.  He didn’t always show up — sometimes he stayed on the base where he was stationed, claiming he’d missed the bus but they all knew he’d stayed so that he could get drunk with his friends instead of showing up for them. And even though they longed to see him, by the time he’d been home very long, they were all wishing he’d leave again as soon as possible. He was often gone, sometimes overseas so they’d gotten fairly used to living without him and it seemed even harder to have him home, yet they were very mixed about their feelings. They thought they loved him, but it was more the way a victim stays attached to the one who’s victimizing — they kept hoping that he’d change — but they knew all the while they were hoping, things were really hard on Mummy. It just seemed easier all the way around if he’d stay gone.

They weren’t an affectionate family so there were mostly more shrugs or subtle body messages as they sent him off on the bus.

“Come home on the weekends if you are able”, the mother said and the girls responded favorably all the while wondering if they really meant it or if he could tell by the way they turned around so quickly that they might prefer he didn’t. Things were so peaceful when he was away but they missed him just the same. He was a part of them. He was Daddy.

They had all driven together one long weekend, up to where he was stationed, scouting around, thinking they’d get a house nearby so they could all stay with him and together. They stayed in billeting on the base while they were there looking and had a really nice room until an officer came and needed it and then they were booted out into a smaller one. They all hung out on the swings while a new room was made ready for them. It was a little embarrassing to be at the bottom of the totem pole.

They tried to make the best of things. Daddy played a line game with whoever would play with him while they were in their small room waiting for the next day to go out and look again. Several rows of dots in lines would be put on a piece of paper and then whoever was playing, any number of players, would take turns connecting them trying to complete a square so that the square could be claimed with an initial and whoever got the most squares at the end, won.

There was the smell of Palmolive soap in the air and that would be a memory that lingered for a lifetime — Palmolive soap recalling one of the few times Daddy took the time to play.

Palmolive soap changed their fragrance somewhere along the way so it was harder and harder to remember — but that line game stayed the same. If they ever played it, one of them would say, “Remember that time we stayed in billeting looking for a house and Daddy played this with us?”

There was one house with stairs and gold veined mirrors on the wall the stairs went up and there was some talk by the parents with the realtor about buying it. They all got so excited about the idea and could imagine that it would be a new start and a big step up into another way of living. The mother got cold feet, knowing full well, by then, that the father wasn’t very likely to change and then she’d have even more to try to manage. That idea fell through. It might just have been that their credit wasn’t worthy — the mother was still relieved at the same time disappointed that things couldn’t be the way they all were dreaming that their lives could be.

It’s hard having hope for an alcoholic. He did manage to get through the service, twenty years, and retire with an income. He lost one stripe along the way but because he was so handsome and charming, he almost always found his way back out of trouble — just long enough to get the twenty years in.

They’d take one more trip in that same 1950s baby blue Buick with its continental kit, the one they’d waited for the bus and looked for the house they didn’t get in. When Daddy retired, they took a trip to Canada to visit the mother’s family there — Daddy driving all the way to and back and staying sober the whole trip until he thought they were fairly safe in the mother’s hometown where they would be for an extended time visiting one relative or another.

Driving all across America, on turnpikes and highways, they slept in the car most nights but once or twice they took a room in a little motor hotel along the way. Even though he didn’t drink while he was driving, he was somber when he was sober and not a lot of fun and always in a hurry to get to the next time he could drink again. He drank in Nova Scotia but not so much that he made any kind of fools of them — just enough to calm his alcoholic nerves some. And all of their mother’s relatives thought that he was handsome and charming too — even though he got a little drunk — his good looks and charm appeased them.

They stayed in a big house that Grannie owned and rented rooms to student surveyors. It had two sets of stairs, one in the front and one that went up the back from the kitchen. Those stairs were very steep for little 8, 9, and 10 year old legs to manage, but they were the fun ones and the three girls took them the most to get up to the big room that they all stayed in.

There was another good memory of Daddy playing. He put them all in a sleigh and pulled them in it himself with an uncle helping. They laughed and laughed and Daddy looked so wonderful having fun that way. Mummy was doing her regular thing, making a movie of every move anyone made. For some reason, she wanted to remember these things — the good times and fun things they did — Mummy loved Daddy a lot, but he just wouldn’t or couldn’t quit drinking.

Their shoes all got wet from the snow and had to sit on the oven door to dry out. Daddy carried the littlest girls on his back to get them back in without getting their feet any wetter. The oldest was too independent. It was the first time any of them had seen snow so they had to play some in it but they didn’t have snow shoes. They were from California.

They met all their cousins and aunts and uncles and then it was time to go home.

The Grand Canyon had to be missed on the way that he was racing back home so he could finally drink the way he wanted. “We don’t have time”, he said. They did see a giant meteor crater — it must have been in the straight line along the route that they were taking. And each got a piece of asbestos before it was well known how bad it was to have it — some rose quarts and Apache tears as well — some memorabilia to recall the trip later in their lives.

They had been taken out of school for a whole month and were supposed to be taking notes along the way to inform their classes about the trip once they got back — a way to please the State most likely. They brought the rocks instead.

It wasn’t very long after that trip, a year or so about, that they shipped Daddy off to live with his mother and father hoping he would find a way to recover from the alcohol — they couldn’t think of another single thing that they could say or do to help him. He never came back the way they planned, but they decided it was better that he hadn’t if he’d never change — and he never did. The next family he devastated told them all about it, a long time later.

Poor Daddy. But he didn’t really try. He was from a drinking family with several brothers that struggled too. Most of them not as bad as he did. One of them managed to quit and the story was that one of his daughters had said some words that did the trick and he quit, just like that. One of Daddy’s daughters tried to find the words that would be a trick too — always looking for just the right ones to say that would shake him at his core. She never did and Daddy never looked back much after he left so there weren’t any chances to hope to change him, even if she had managed to find them. He would call once in awhile — only when he was drinking or drunk  — to tell them that he loved them. None of them were very convinced and started trying to be busy if or when he bothered.

They called themselves Little Women, the three daughters and the mother after Daddy left. Everything they did, they did the best they could to try to be a family. There were a lot of struggles but none as hard as dealing with a man pouring beer over kittens in a box, staggering all over falling all the time and the police coming, always sleeping off a hangover, yelling at their mother or pounding on her with his fists or wrecking the blue Buick — pawning all their things that he had bought on credit to get more money for drinking.

The mother got a good enough job and got a Rambler car that was considered a compact then and they would all take turns learning how to drive in it. “A lot easier than driving that big tank” the mother said, “but Daddy always wanted Buicks”. She’d had to learn to drive in it and she did with the help of a friend, because Daddy was away again when the writing on the wall got crystal clear and she knew she’d have to step up and take charge from then on.

“Daddy Dear, oh Daddy Dear. We wanted you to be a hero. You were only human and did the best that you were able. We tried to love you harder than you tried to be our Superman.
Daddy Dear, oh Daddy Dear, we know of all the values that were hiding in plain sight of you. We missed you when you went away but you knew too, it wouldn’t work the way it wasn’t working.”

Daddy called Mummy all the days of their lives. And Mummy always felt sad, but she did have all her movies and her three girls all grown up and happy for the most part. Mummy had made sure of that.


dots and lines game


Would He Interfere

Stories spin throughout the day, weaving this and that together into life.

“Cows should not be bred — cows that exist, sanctioned for wholesome living on their own.”

“Boy that man is handsome. Is he available, he’s too young, what is he doing with that cow?”

“Dogs are boys and cats are girls.”

“Negative thoughts will be our demise. Positive ones can change the world.”

“Would he interfere with movie watching? Cats and dogs don’t — probably neither do cows.”

“I only want a buddy (not a sweetheart).” ~ Patsy Montana, 1937

Mrs. Mitchell needed new carpeting in a condominium she and her Judge husband were moving to. The existing carpet was thick and lush and virtually new, but Mrs. Mitchell wanted peach and it was a shade of white. Judge, Mr. Mitchell traded stocks and was wealthy beyond all measure. Mrs. Mitchell played tennis and could only coordinate a house call around that favored timing.

Mrs. Mitchell kept cows for pets. She loved her cows. Where would they fit in the condo? Maybe the condo was just another investment right on the tennis court. The cows, where they were, had acreage and plenty of room to roam around the orange groves. Maybe the condition of the sale was that the cows could stay and she could visit.

Mrs. Mitchell didn’t care a hoot about what happened to the virtually new lush carpet that was being replaced with a lesser one, but peach. Even after all kinds of effort by the designer to divert it happening, off to the dump it went.

Bah humbug rich and entitled people.

Mrs. Mitchell later bought another house in Julian, CA and invited that designer to help her plan it too. The designer was excited, because that was one of her favorite places in the world and she hoped she’d get to measure things in person. The owner of the store knew Mrs. Mitchell from social circles and stole that job right out from under her without a blink of her evil eye — regardless that Mrs. Mitchell had been her client first. She hated that owner and got literally sick at the sight of her and ended up leaving for greener pastures. Mrs. Mitchell did nothing.

Bah humbug owners who feel entitled. Bah humbug to it all. Greed and wealth are partners. Greener pastures have to be made up in one’s mind.

So if she could change her world with positive thinking and seep a man out singly from the margins, movies and greener pastures would lose their value and cats and dogs nor cows would interfere.

Maybe he’d like the same movies.

Bah humbug wishful thinking.




Old Black Water

“I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes I’m tempted to have a drink. — But I never do.”

Dreams are weird. Terribly hard to describe. Maybe easier to make a movie to depict them — or a work of art.

Dali ~ The Persistence of Memory

Dali ~ The Persistence of Memory

Movies. She watches far too many of them but they are her way of staying sane — of feeling like she has company — of reminiscing feelings.

Not that reminiscing is a good thing, mind, but seems necessary at this time.

This time she is departed from loved ones — dogs, cats and most all of the people — family or considered family. It isn’t really loneliness. It is missing. Missing Mom’s house to go to and yard to play in while Mom cooks in the window above where she is playing. Missing sissy’s porch to sit on — of having a chat with her. Missing clipping Little Red’s fur coat with scissors and loving her the whole time. Not really missing picking up poop inside the house from Gertie’s accidents, but missing it just the same and Gertie’s sweet blind eyes. Missing seeing Tom at Safeway or at her front gate. Missing arguing with him or sharing agreement on topics of interest over a cup of senior coffee at Wendy’s.

They are all gone as are many of the people around town who have aged out and gone on too — people she had cleaned house or mended clothes for.

The little town is starting to feel too small. The City is starting to behave in ways she is fairly unhappy with. Maybe she is just noticing it because there is so little else to distract her.

She and Tom had talked about pooling resources and moving to New Mexico and whenever he was out on one of his vagabond trips he was assessing the culture and climate of wherever he was with her in mind. She had told him to look for an old abandoned motel with property that she could work on and they could convert to be a bed and breakfast or alternative housing unit. He had thought that might be a feasible idea — one that would be able to keep them still separated enough but meet each of their individual needs as well.

She knows in her heart that he would likely have abandoned her with the project and continued his vagabond habit but it was something that they could talk about and dream of and a way for them to consider not completely separating as he tried to find a way to leave her same town that he had long ago found way too small for his liking.

Tom is gone in the real sense now, and she has invested 16 years into trying to carve out her style of living. Though it seems to be going backwards, it is likely going full speed ahead. Even growing tomatoes has been a challenge, but such is the cycle of life. She had put out poisoned straw by mistake and things might simply be recovering from that. How can she leave it in such a state?

In her little carved out life, she has abandoned many things — TV, a washing machine, flushing her toilet, driving too much. She used to drive all the time whenever she needed to clear the cobwebs of her mind or sort them out. It wasn’t uncommon for her, back in the day, to set out on a driving expedition that would last for hours — maybe to Julian and back just to go and come. Julian was an even smaller town than where she is now but in her mind it had been huge. It had all the things she had dreamed of at one time, including a boy.

The Little Gardener

Image from the book, The Little Gardener ~ Emily Hughes

That boy liked horses and trouble and ended up marrying “a wonderful English girl”, who liked horses too, that he’d met while stationed in England. He’d been trying to survive the Air Force without being discharged dishonorably. Somehow the English girl must have factored into that survival.

He’d come home between getting out and getting the English girl moved with her horses from England to his little town. “You never know what might happen in that time.” he’d written in the blue letter.

She’d traveled out to visit him in the in-between time of horses and marriage and before she left he said, “If I thought you might commit suicide, I won’t marry her.”

She cried all the way home, listening to The Doobie Brothers, Black Water.

“Old black water, keep on rollin'”

She was affected for years whenever she heard that song. But she wasn’t going to commit suicide and she wasn’t going to lie either. That couldn’t have turned out good.

Years and years she’d make that round, that trek to Julian and back. Often she wouldn’t even stop — just drive through and back home. Once in awhile, she’d get out and walk around — trying to grasp the feelings of why it had all seemed like so much.

“Why had she done that?” she wondered. She figured it was a reminder of her own ability to survive in spite of loving a place or thing or boy. All those years ago, driving home crying, wondering how she’d survive, but she had.

Now to reminisce, because Julian is too far away in space and time, and because she doesn’t drive too much or have TV, she watches movies on DVD. Lately she found one with Tommy Lee Jones and hadn’t heard of it but figured if he was in it, it must be good and it was. Good enough anyway. Good enough to help her remember things she’d thought or thinks she’d like to have had or still have in her little, small town life.

In The Electric Mist, Tommy plays a non-drinking alcoholic detective. He apparently has been married to the same woman for years and has had a happy life with her — things she wishes she’d had or could have.

In the movie, Tommy is given a glass of iced tea that he doesn’t know is laced with LSD. He has hallucinations much like dreams that can’t be explained. The hallucinations correlate to events happening in his investigation, kind of leading him in a sense. Levon Helm plays in it too and he is another one of those people she misses that have gone on except in her mind or in a movie.

Her dreams lead her too. What are dreams except for the mind’s way of coping with or correlating life’s awake events?

Movies can be very much like dreaming. Movies suffice to bridge spaces left by boys who married girls with horses and the newer ones who fail to follow through or are yet to come. They help manifest the feelings of old of how the dream was schemed and attempted to be mapped and of a course that may still be able to be kept, with or without a boy. Of course, all the while waiting she hasn’t really been waiting.

Today on her walk she thought and thought like always. When she started out from home, it seemed so far away to the finish line, like so much drudgery.

We start out life that way, thinking things are so far away — like Christmas as a child, waiting for the next time Santa comes. Before we know it, we’re out of high school and upset about a boy who married an English girl. Suddenly we’re retired and walking up the last leg of a two-mile trek around a small town we feel stuck in and that boy divorced that girl in a few short years and who knows what he’s doing now.

She had been walking with her head down, watching her feet like in a trance when suddenly she looked up. It was the last little leg and up a steep hill. It was so gorgeous. The wild shrubs were gleaming, some with flowers already, in the back light of the Sun. The sky was crystal clear and blue as blue can be. The air was crisp, just right. She’d been looking at her old sneakers and the crummy old concrete beneath them all the while she could have been looking at the beauty before her. Of course she hadn’t been looking at her feet all along — but trying to get that last leg done and finally home, she had forced herself to focus in a methodical, mechanical way. It was starting to feel like drudgery.

Wishing life away.

She kept thinking about that movie and how Tommy’s character quit drinking and stayed sober. His friend, on the other hand had continued to drink and spent his life in misery. Being drunk is just another way of wishing life away.

Now when she checks out at the grocery, while everyone behind her is fidgeting and grumbling and wondering why the manager doesn’t put more cashiers in their stations so they can hurry off to somewhere, she tells the cashier, “No hurry, no worry.” She can see that they are stressed. “How is your day going so far?”

All too often one will say, “Oh, thank God it’s almost over!” She remembers feeling that way and of wishing time would pass and she could leave to be herself and not some robot drudging along.

“Why did you try to start a business when your house was bought and paid for?” her friend asked lately. The friend who spent over 30 years in the same County job, most of it drinking or drunk.

“I wanted to be Me.” she answered. Her friend still couldn’t get it. “Yeah, but your house was bought and paid for.”

“My payment is way less than your rent.” she reminds. “And a landlord can’t force me out or increase the rent. He can’t tell me not to have pets or dig in the yard. I can paint my walls any color I want and the interest is deductible.”

“Yeah, but your house was bought and paid for.” she imagines her friend is still thinking.

She doesn’t often wonder about that boy from Julian — as important as he was. She does sometimes wonder how she pulled herself away, as much as she wanted to stay. It was simply that her intuition was stronger than the inebriation and self-preservation had taken over.

“Old Black Water”, drunk on love she would remember it as. Puppy love.

She’s glad that she didn’t get more of her father’s drinking genes but got a healthier dose of the sober ones of her mother. “Do people have a choice on getting drunk or staying sober?” Her father didn’t seem to.

Dreams, movies, memories, are they means of escape or a way to keep on rollin’?  Seems it depends on the user. “Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me?” She’ll keep using that memory for healing. That boy, he was a good thing. He was her first lesson in being strong.

That’s why she had liked to drive to Julian. It was a way of remembering strength. Digging in the dirt of her mother’s yard is just a movie in her mind now, it is a reminder of the days of planning and scheming to have a yard of her own and of how strong she had been to get there and comforting to remember the support her mother gave along the way.

“The only things in this life that you really regret are the risks you didn’t take.” ~ Grumpy Old Men — it puts her to sleep at night –comfort and wisdom to sleep on. They are old friends preserved on film.

She guesses that she could put on the movie her mother left of her and her sisters’ growing years, but she thinks that would likely end in tears.

“Yeah, keep on shinin’ your light
Gonna make everything
Pretty mama, gonna make everything all right
And I ain’t got no worries
‘Cause I ain’t in no hurry at all”

Julian boy

Is that boy still alive she wonders…?