Thursday, July 21, 2011

War of the Roses

There is something about the way women understand each other, especially women in the same family. And let's say that family is virtually overrun by men, most of them self-destructive in their youth and bitter and broken after they turn 35. The women in a family like this tend to watch all the drama unfold and, depending on the situation, either react with frighteningly vicious, cat-like reflexes or gather in small groups years later and play "tag" with those ghost stories of decades past.

These would be the women in my family, the Dupont side of things (of which my mother has more than earned her stripes being the common sense, take-no-prisoners type and besides my grandmother loved her, so she was "in" from the get-go). The other night a few of us were gathered in the corner of my yard (we left the men, i.e. my dad and uncle, to their light beers, the kids to the trampoline)and "got to talking" about how shit used to go down before we knew any better. It was my aunt who got the ball rolling. She was saying how, the other day, she and my uncle were having "a discussion" that their granddaughter was privy to. Well, to them, it was a discussion, to her it was an argument.

"She told us to stop fighting," my aunt said, smiling. "I just shook my head and told her we weren't fighting. I told her this was nowhere near fighting. Sheesh, girl."

My aunt shook her head, clearly in flashback mode to the days when fighting actually was just that. Knock down, drag out affairs that usually began with booze and ended with children crying at 2 a.m., bruising on both parties and a lot of head shaking for the next week. Any of this sound familiar? My mom started giggling, yes giggling, recalling a "row" she and my father had some 30 years ago.

"Oh, we were both half in the bag and the kids were asleep," she said. "Of course, we got into it about something, who the hell even knows now, and anyway he told me to get the hell out. So I did. I was halfway down the stairs when he come running after me and grabbed my arm."

"What'd he do?" my aunt asked, slightly amused.

"He said 'Where do you think you're going? You have children to care for!'"

We all started laughing then.

"Wow, Ma, you were almost home free," I said.

"Almost. It must have dawned on him what the next morning would look like for him with three kids under the age of 10 waiting for breakfast."

There were other tales, that's what happens when you combine wine spritzers with summer heat and family women. One about an aunt who loaded up her three kids into a Radio Flyer wagon and walked to the grocery store on a Friday night because her husband was out drinking his paycheck away. Mothers calling the cops on their sons, flying salad dressing bottles, broken window panes, full out wrestling matches on the living room floor.

"I wouldn't put up with that shit for a second," I said.
"It was different back then," my mom said with the utmost patience at my self-righteous disgust. "You just worked through it. Besides, where were you gonna go? None of us had jobs or money then."

My aunt nodded her head and lit a cigarette. "I sometimes don't know how you girls do it," she said. "Always looking around for hot guys, trying to make a living and have a life and raise kids on your own. Somewhere along the way I learned that security is sexy. It may not be perfect, but you make it work. At least you can sleep most nights."

Good goddamn point. Stability tends to have that "nice guys finish last" feel to it, but these days, in this life, it's getting some good press. Or it should. How nice would it be to for any of the other single parents I know to have somebody say, "Don't worry, I got this," and suddenly a meal is cooked or lunches are made for the week or the 900 loads of laundry that have been waiting for you to get out of work are all folded and put away? Or shit, even waking up and the coffee is made or you don't have to do the quick math in your head wondering if you've got the cash to take the kids out for pizza for one night.

Or, lo and behold, you're not the only one who notices that you're low on toilet paper.

I guess the grass is ALWAYS greener. At least I know the coffee's gonna get made, and the dinner is gonna materialize somehow and that paycheck will come...but once in awhile it makes me tired just thinking about it.

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