Long jean skirt, big pink socks and a hand puppet: Episode 7



What, you’re telling me you wouldn’t want to enter into a courtship with this person? (Don’t ask me what “MP” stands for, either, I don’t remember.)

2001 continued: Mom was pregnant with Baby P during this time. She used to go on cleaning sprees where she would run through the house grabbing all the “stuff” that was lying around and throwing it away or hiding it. Sometimes these were things we would rather have kept, like shoes and books. She screamed and wanted to know why we never listened and why we left stuff lying around. Dad worked long hours and, when he came home, she was often upset with him, too, for working long hours and for not being there to make us listen to her or clean up.

Dad really wasn’t home very much. He often worked late, he went to seminary in the evenings, and the weekends were taken up with church drama. When we were little he used to take us out and do fun things with us, but not any more. I remembered Dad being a fun and reasonable person when I was smaller. He used to wrestle with us, play old songs on his guitar for us and take us out for ice cream and cheeseburgers. Sometimes Mom disapproved of him doing these things with us, but he did them anyway. I felt like he was the more normal parent and could usually be counted on to be the voice of reason.

Now things were different. If Mom didn’t want Dad to do something, he just didn’t do it. He just went along with whatever she wanted to do to keep her from being upset. And if any of us kids made her upset, he told us we needed to go make her not be upset. So we were all always trying hard to keep her from being upset. That was the main order of business in our house.

I remember just wanting everything to be normal. I wanted to be normal so, so badly.

I remember thinking maybe if we had more comfortable chairs and put some pictures on the walls, and had knickknacks sitting on end tables like my grandmas did, that we’d be more normal. I’m not sure why I thought this. Mom liked clean surfaces and square wood furniture sitting around the edges of the walls. We had one couch downstairs and one armchair upstairs. I went on a kind of campaign to remedy this – every time we went someplace with pictures or armchairs, I’d say “isn’t that nice” or “maybe we should get a loveseat.” It never worked.

I also had a burning desire to know whether, if our family had lived in pioneer times or medieval times, we would still have been weird homeschoolers. I wondered whether we were just misfits because we had been born into the wrong era, and if there had ever been a period in history when Mom would have approved of everything and we could just have fit in and been normal. I asked sneaky questions about this. “Mom, do you think if we had lived in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day, we would have gone to the one-room schoolhouse with the rest of the children?” (She said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. I imagine so,” which didn’t help.)

September: I turned 13. That was my Shirley Temple birthday where I got a Shirley Temple doll, and also a couple of Shirley videos (but we had to fast-forward over the parts with the romance, and the parts where Shirley was dancing to jazz). I was pretty creepily obsessed with Shirley Temple for a lot of that year. Then I heard a sermon on making idols out of things and thought I must be making an idol out of her, and suppressed all thoughts of her, which was hard.

The day after my birthday, hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center. Dad came home in the middle of the day and told us. I was upstairs rummaging in mom’s sock drawer, looking for some socks to wear to my piano lesson, and I came down to hear the news. Dad explained what was going on, but we were not allowed to watch or listen to any of the news coverage then or later. I heard that the President had declared a war on terror, and I thought it was weird that we were still getting up every morning and eating oatmeal when there was a war going on.

Baby P was born in late September. Mom got a bunch of old Disney VHS tapes from yard sales – Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians – and we watched them on the video player in the basement while she was sick. It was my job to make the younger kids bury their heads in the pillows when the dogs kissed each other or the clowns got drunk. When Mom felt better, she put all the videos in a box and hid them.

October or November: Mom went to the raw milk convention and came back with a jar of raw milk in the stroller instead of Baby P. (Dad was holding Baby P.) She also had this book called “Nourishing Traditions” from the Weston A. Price Foundation. “Nourishing Traditions” contained the findings of a man who had traveled around the world interviewing natives from primitive cultures and asking them what they ate that kept them from getting cavities and osteoporosis. The first part of the book showed many pictures of natives with beautiful teeth, and the second part had recipes and instructions for duplicating the natives’ diet, which was very expensive and complex.

We started easing into the Weston A. Price diet and getting sprouted grain bread, fermented butter and organic organ meats from Whole Foods. Mom found a black market raw milk dealer to get illegal milk from. His name was Lotho Sackville-Baggins and he had a very dirty farm. Mom told us that we should be grateful we were eating this diet because it was very expensive, but I was mainly just thankful that it was not morally wrong to eat protein now. My period started again.

I went to a homeschool convention with Mom and Dad sometime this fall and they said they had something to tell me. We packed these awful egg salad sandwiches made with yogurt instead of mayonnaise, because mayonnaise was processed. At the end of the day I asked them what they were going to tell me and Mom said, “Uh, you know where babies come from right?” I said yes. (After all, I had figured out how bottom-bumping worked quite some time ago.) “You know it’s wrong if you’re not married, right?” I said yes and started to cry. That was the end of the conversation.

To be continued!


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