Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Star Man

Sundays loomed over my weekend like a dark, black, scary hole in outer space. I would have that sinking feeling in my stomach, a feeling that I didn’t know at the time was anxiety. A shadow of impending doom that started at my brain and ended at my toes.
On Sundays, we went to CHURCH.

Every. Single. Sunday. We went. I absolutely hated going. It wasn’t actually the act of being in church that I hated, but rather being part of the shit show that is a family with two parents and four children trying to get out the goddamn door every Sunday morning in a respectable manner, happily skipping off to church to get our Jesus on like good little Catholics.

My parents most likely had our best interests in mind when they decided religion was going to be a big part of our lives. Religion and being Catholic in general were meant to be positive forces in our life and sometimes it was. I loved my CCD classes. I liked making the sacraments, my communion dress that my grandmother made was the bomb, and one year my mom even taught CCD. So, it was not all bad.  The act of getting up and getting to church by 10am on Sunday mornings though, sucked.

I was probably around 12 or 13 when I really started to hate going to church. When you are 12 and 13 you basically hate everything, including your parents, so, I really don’t feel too badly about this sentiment. Before that, I still was not a big fan, but I sang in the children’s choir and sometimes did the readings, and that was fun. “A reading from the book of Wisdom.”

I was also in the Christmas pageant a few times, my last time being I guess in 7th grade when I threw a fit when I was cast as a donkey or some unglamorous animal because I was one of the shortest children in the pageant. I was literally like, “No, bitches. I am going to be one of heavens beautiful angels because, PRETTY DRESSES AND WINGS!” I will never forget Mrs. Korchinski walking up to me, smooshing my cheeks and lips together, telling me through gritted teeth to stop being a brat, and making me go kneel in a pew. Today she would probably get arrested for that, but you know what? I got to be an angel, so sometimes it’s okay to throw a hissy fit. Donkey Indeed!

The other bad thing about Sundays, is that Jill and I were supposed to go to go to the library and “study” for 3 hours after church and you can imagine that that “after church activity” went over like a big bowl of fucking cherries.  We usually went to the mall after our parents dropped us off at the library which probably contributed to the downfall of my high school GPA, but I digress. 

By the time we all got in the car to head to the House of Christ, the only religion that was happening was everyone praying that no one killed each other, and my mom screaming Holy Mary Mother of God!  But not in a good way. Jill was of course my age, Caitlin was probably 6 years old, and Ryan was 3. So, I’m sure it was a difficult morning for my parents, and I guess now I do admire their dedication, even though I think it’s kind of silly and pointless.

My dad was always SO MAD that my hair was never dry by the time we left the house, and I think I had some type of post nasal drip that was mostly related to anxiety, and he would get even more pissed over my snorkeling and nose blowing that only happened on Sundays. My parents always argued, not to mention getting one lone 3-year-old to do anything at all is like wrangling 20 slippery drunk people into the paddy wagon. Sunday mornings were loud, stressful…dreadful, and someone was always crying.

If I were going to take my family somewhere every single Sunday morning, it would have to be somewhere awesome. And frankly, that place on a Sunday morning doesn’t exist for me. I can barely stand to get everybody breakfast, so loading four kids up in a car all dressed up to pray is basically up there with being cremated alive.
But God Bless my parents, they did it until I turned 18 years old, moved out, and promptly became an atheist!

Johnny is my dad. I have not seen him since I was 6 years old. He left my mom when my twin sister Jill and I were two.  When I was 6 years old, my mother’s second husband, Jim Kelly adopted me and Jill I think in 1983.
It was 1997. I was 22.  Uncle Mike came to pick me up at work at 8PM, which was very strange. No one had called me to say he was coming, and he never picked me up anyway. The hairs on my neck immediately stood up and I though one of my grandparents had died.  I could tell by his face something was wrong.
“It is not Gram or Pop or anyone in our immediate family.”
I stared at him to go on.
 “I just can’t be the one to tell you,” he said, before I could say anything. I still felt panicky.
I asked if it was my boyfriend. No. I asked if it was one of my friends. No. I looked out the window and I felt like I was going to throw up. I knew it was Johnny. I did not ask Uncle Mike anything else.
We drove to my parents’ house in New Jersey in total silence. When I got out of the car Uncle Mike gave me a hug and a kiss and told me he was sorry. He knew I knew. My mom opened the door and she was crying, my dad Jim was crying. Jill was there crying. I just started to cry too.  “Johnny is dead.”
Johnny was a drug addict and alcoholic. My mom was 18 when I was born and he was 17. Some people are notmeant to be parents, and I had accepted that about him, but I always had this fantasy that I would get to meet him and ask him ….what? I don’t even know what I would ask him.
“Why did you leave us?” I guess I was glad he left us. I had a very nice life with mom and dad Jim, Jim’s family treated my sister and I as their own from the moment they met us and often say the totally forget that the adoption even happened. I’m very secure with my family and I love them so much.
My mom was so angry at him. My dad felt terrible. I felt so bad for Jill.  I felt like I was falling, falling falling, falling. Why couldn’t he just have gotten his shit together? How could I have a dead drug addict dad?  I didn’t know whether or not I should feel embarrassed.  All of a sudden I remembered cigarette smoke and an orange ash tray. No one had said anything for a while. I looked at my mom.
“Was there an orange ash tray in the apartment?’ My mom just stared at me.
I remembered the Beatles playing, I remembered Johnny chasing us and laughing, Mean Mr. Mustard? Why did I all of a sudden remember that song? I remember a wicker chair. I remembered lots of voices and sleeping in a bed with my mom and sister. I remembered the carpet. But how? I was only two when we lived there. I remembered so much yelling. I remembered looking at a bowl of soup while they were yelling.  I remembered jumping in a fountain with him. Was that a dream?

Waiting in the car. Waiting, waiting waiting. Disappointment. Devastation.  He will come next time. Let’s go back to Gram’s. I always cried, Jill never cried. But now we were both crying. 

Look at your Fish

I was walking with my (at the time) 5 year old daughter Georgia. We were zipping up the block street in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, as we always do. We were coming home from something, maybe school, or a birthday party. I can’t even remember if it was a weekend, but I do remember that it was raining. I wanted to hurry and get home and I was dragging poor Georgia by the arm in an effort to beat the impending doom of a thunderstorm.
As we quickly jog/walked up the street I heard Georgia say something, and I asked her to repeat it because I, as a busy adult, was in no way, shape, or form paying attention to her cute little voice.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“I like that painting of the Art Museum.”
“What?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“The picture above that restaurant. I see the Art Museum, and all of the other statues that we sometimes look at.”
I still have no idea what she is talking about. We have passed Bridgids Philadelphia, a restaurant on 24th Street, where I have lived since 1999, not to mention my great great grandparents, great grandparent, and grandparents all lived on this street.
I’m staring at the building trying to figure out what the heck she is talking about, and she’s pointing up.
There is a MURAL on the top of the building that goes all the way down to the side of the restaurant. I have never noticed it. I am stunned. How the heck have I never noticed? It’s huge, it’s the Art Museum, waterfalls, Rocky statue, The Thinker, and a big crate of beer that has fallen over and the beer “spills” down the side of the restaurant. It is colorful, there are big clouds. How have I never noticed this? I have walked up 24th Street 10 million times. I am totally bewildered.
“Georgia, I didn’t even know that was there!” She just started laughing at me and we kept on running up the block, but I am so bothered by the fact that I have never noticed this huge mural right in front of my face. 
Georgia notices everything. Tiny, tiny details about the scenery around her, she is not saddled with the weight of adulthood. She stops to look at rocks, she examines leaves, she knows every type of car she sees, and she stops and smells every flower she can. (Living in the city, most flowers are in pots!)
Georgia knows how to see. It is one of the things I admire in her, and something that I have tried to learn to do ever since that funny rainy day. She is the poster girl for “Stop and Smell the Roses.” She takes her time, and admires everything. It takes some people years and years to learn this skill. 
Part of me thinks it’s a product of her age, but I also remember her being such and observant baby.  
I hope she carries this skill with her through the rest of her life. I hope she will always be able to see.