Every summer he was home, my male parent, Warren, would wake us all up at 4:00 AM and tell us we had ten minutes to get into the car. Getting in a car to go on vacation with Warren was hell.
Sometimes, though, he was away on business, and mom would drive us. Then, it was a whole different story. Every time one of us kids would go “Oooo, what’s that? I want to go there!” Mommy Jekyll would stop the car and let us.
We visited Jesse James town, Silver Dollar City, you name it. Every tourist trap that dotted the side of the road, our mom let us stop at. This was back in the day, before any of these places were built up and all looked alike. People would take their time and chat with children and answer all our questions.
We saw a man wrestle an alligator, a snake pop balloons with its pointy fangs, and a talking minah bird that had its tongue split because the owner thought that would help it to talk.
We bought little toy monkeys made out of real fur, that got real bugs in it after the monkeys sat in the hot car for days. We went inside a real mine that had an old, blind donkey for hauling, and we all got real quartz crystals.
One time, we spread our picnic blanket by the side of the highway and started eating our lunch. Then, we heard a sound I’d never heard before.
“What’s that?” we all asked mom.
“Pick up your things quickly and come back over this way.” she answered, as she bundled our picnic up into the blanket. After we had backed up, she explained that it was a rattlesnake that didn’t like us being there. (Then we wanted to go back and see it, of course!)
Another time, it was raining so hard that no one could see the front hood of the car. Mom pulled over by the side of the road. The rain turned into hail bigger than Paul’s goggling eyes.
The balls made big crashing sounds on the car windshield. Our mom turned around over the front seat and smilingly asked “Isn’t this exciting?”
What a mom.
Mommy Jekyll was adventurous at home, too. Often, after church on Sunday, she would let us steer her. We’d tell her “Turn left here”, or “Go straight and then turn right up there”, and so forth, until we all wound up somewhere none of us had been before. Then, she’d slowly wend our way back along a different route, poking along to see if there was anything interesting to see.
Because we lived close to the border of northern New Jersey, farm country then, a lot of times these Sunday detours would take us next to a roadside fruit stand. Then we’d have the extra treat of eating fresh strawberries, or a perfect watermelon.
Ah, THOSE were the good old days.
Macy Girl recently pointed out that this aspect of our mom which I so enjoyed and viewed as something she did for our benefit may not have been done with us in mind at all. For when she was younger and in better shape, mom would take off on an annual solo road trip and wander at will, taking great pleasure in this.
(It is interesting and, to a degree, disconcerting to me, that I take after Mommy Jekyll in her wanderlust and lack of concern over travelling sans partner.)
It wasn’t only during travel that Mommy Jekyll appeared. For some unknown reason, mom would occasionally awaken in a jolly mood–a mood which she was willing to share with just one of us.
Don’t ask me how we four children sensed this, but sense it we did. We would gather in the front foyer for a hurried, hushed conference:
“It’s one of mom’s good days–whose turn is it?”
“No it isn’t! You just had her time before last!”
“Oh yeah…I think it’s Paul’s turn.”
We were cutthroat, vicious beasts to each other much of the time, but we were scrupulously fair to each other on these occasions. The winning child would subtly ease her or his way toward mom whilst the others surreptitiously faded into various quiet corners, leaving mom with only one child upon whom to rain her rare bounty. Off the two would go, shopping, exploring, to the the movies, or whatever they chose.
None of us were jealous, for our turns would come. The favored child of the day would return and regale us with the details of the treats and endearments they had experienced, and the vicarious pleasure would sustain us until then.
ADDENDUM ON JOY AND PAIN AND TRUTH
Initial vacation paragraphs are a little inexact, as well as the 4:00 departure. I just wanted to give an overall impression. Those story parts alone may slightly vary from literal truth.
There were times of happiness in our household I didn’t include. We children did play together sometimes, and had fun sometimes. Mommy and Mr. Jekyll acted almost like normal parents sometimes. We even had family jokes. I’ll post about some of the good times someday.
There were evils I didn’t include. One I mentioned in a comment response: Mommy Hyde stopped buying me clothes at age 16. Another: My first term at college, Mommy Hyde packed up and gave away everything I owned. (Macy Girl’s things were kept for years.) Yet another: Shortly after she sat by my side while I was diagnosed diabetic, Mommy Hyde showed up at my college dorm bearing gifts: A grocery bag full of candies, sugar cereals, and cookies.
Part 6 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
Epitaph for Mean