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Reflections September 2016

Agelessly Yours

Weird Isn’t the Word

By Karen White-Walker

Tobacco spit-colored drapes subbed as doors until one day Mom just yanked those dungeon-looking suckers down, and then every room in the house was sunny but deprived of privacy. I guess our parents couldn’t afford to buy doors and food, pay for doctor’s and dentist’s bills, and a Catholic education, so they came up with a cockamamie solution.

You know what sustains us in our later years, but can also rob us of the moment if we dwell too long and hard? It’s our wacky, weird, and wonderful memories that we would never ever share with absolutely anyone for fear they’d think our family was a little on the nutty side.

I’m sharing. Hey, at my age I should worry about what others think. But have you ever noticed how when something scary happens and you reminisce about it years later, it actually becomes funny?

We five kids forgave our parents for moving us, back in the 1950s, from a cute modern home on a charming city street to an old farmhouse plunked in the middle of a cherry orchard. The only thing beautiful about the whole set‑up were the May cherry blossoms that looked like slightly pink, tiny bits of delicate clouds that had descended to earth.

The rest was all crap. How two incredibly wonderful parents saw promise in a house that should have been dragged out to the side of the road with a “FREE” sign testifies to the fact that creativity and optimism reigned in their hearts. An interior decorator’s nightmare resided in our house. Tobacco spit-colored drapes subbed as doors until one day Mom just yanked those dungeon-looking suckers down, and then every room in the house was sunny but deprived of privacy. I guess our parents couldn’t afford to buy doors and food, pay for doctor’s and dentist’s bills, and a Catholic education, so they came up with a cockamamie solution. How two smart people could have conceived of such a notion, attests to strains of stupidity in their genetic makeup. It was that one heavy, wooden “portable” door that was expected to be manually moved from room to room by kids who didn’t have the strength or inclination to pick up their dirty clothes from their bedroom floor.

When Mom and Dad were dressing, they’d angle the door at a slant and voila! They had all the privacy they needed. Same thing when Mike needed a temporary door in front of his room, and ditto for us four sisters who shared one bedroom. Joyce, with a low tolerance level, couldn’t stand sharing, so one of the two closets became her bedroom. Lucky for her she weighed about 95 pounds or she’d never would have fit into that cubbyhole.

One sister is lucky, the other one is not. One sister is safely ensconced in her closet and the other is out in the hall with an unknown hazard. Poor Beth, she was afraid of that big wooden door from the very beginning. You could see her zigzagging down the hall as she was carrying it to our room. I couldn’t even offer to help because the hall was too narrow for two people to maneuver anything. On that dark day I think things might have turned out very differently if it wasn’t for her county-western, Dolly Parton-style hairdo. I tell ya, if the doorway was even an eighth of an inch smaller, her head wouldn’t have fit through.

“Gotta remember to put the door at a 60-degree angle,” Beth muttered to herself, but “30, 60, 90 degrees, what difference does it make?” she thought aloud.

The difference was almost between life and death.

I can still hear that horrible crashing thud, still envision myself running out of the bedroom, not seeing or hearing Beth and screaming, “Beth is dead, she’s dead!”

“Where is Beth?” Michael calmly inquired as he emerged from his room. Our very mature‑for‑his‑age brother always reacted with his intellect rather than his emotions. Hysterically sobbing Joyce and Mary Paula flung themselves on TOP of the fallen door that had flattened our sister. Our frantic mother barely made it up the stairs, but she had the presence of mind to push the girls away and, with trembling hands, lifted up the door, expecting to find the worst. And why not? Hadn’t the whole family paraded into last Sunday’s Mass a good fifteen minutes late?

You can’t just give God a few minutes out of a whole week and expect prayers to be answered like, “Please dear God, don’t let Beth be, you know, the D‑word.” But God doesn’t hold a grudge, so there lay Beth, face down and breathing! She had been knocked out cold, and a wet cloth on her face is what revived her after it had been applied to OUR faces, the useless trio that her three sisters were. Even through all that fat hair of hers, a big goose egg was emerging, but all that mattered is that she was alive and hopefully not brain‑damaged.

Don’t expect me to EVER tell you about our pillow set‑up. Our family does have some pride, you know.

(Footnote: That ugly farmhouse eventually became like a mini-estate, with passersby slowing down for a look, and not, instead, speeding by.)

 

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