IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

old friends

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let me set the stage:  black leather couches tufted with copper studs, an oil painting of a swarthy gentleman, scattered cut-crystal glasses filled with rum and Coke, cigarettes red-tipped languishing in marble ashtrays picked up at road-side souvenir shops from Houston or Biloxi. In the corner of the living room a record player, big as a refrigerator, constantly spinning K.C. and The Sunshine Band; Earth, Wind, and Fire; The Isley Brothers. Four children under the age of 9.

But before you call child services, those were the days of my mother and father, and my Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike, behaving like weird adults with secret jokes and veiled references to sex and other grown-up things.  Those were the days when Linda's and Mike's three children and myself (my brother was a late-comer to the show) put on theater in the living room.  I was always director, costumier and lead actor. (Some things are written in stone).

However, before all these children came along, my mom and Aunt Linda had to eat pork chop spaghetti.


Yes, forget about hot peppers or long walks.  Pork chop spaghetti is the labor starter.  Aunt Linda's first child, Celeste, and I were born 6 weeks apart.  We were inseparable.  

Celeste wanted to be a nurse, but that dream would be squashed by the time she was 6 when she was diagnosed with childhood leukemia.  All eight of us made two-car caravans to Houston and the Ronald McDonald House.  After treatment, when Celeste's vomiting subsided, we would go to Six Flags or the Natural Museum, both of which we loved.  I remember sitting in a gondola high above Houston, and at the museum, each of us picking which natural stone or seashell was the prettiest that day, that summer, that year.

I have no idea why our parents thought this hospital visit was good.  I could hear children screaming. Spinal taps piercing pliable skin and searching for marrow.  Babushkas wrapping around Prednisone-puffed faces.

I don't think about those days.   I think about us dressed for Mardi Gras in pale lemon and soft green satin motley.  I remember making dried bean dinners in my playhouse.  I think about us playing Barbie together, discussing motherhood and my disinterest in it.  I remember playing school teacher, bank teller, and shop girl.  I think about first razors, first bras, and first crushes:  Clint Pepper's soft blonde curls at my fingertips, hesitating at the back of a boy's neck, dancing softly to Styx"s "Babe."

I went home to visit family recently.  There were some old friends and flames I had hoped to run into. You know the ones: really great memories, trouble in a hand-basket, those who fortified who you are, but mostly the ones you want to see how good you look!  

But seeing those people wasn't meant to be.  I was meant to see Celeste.  

My brother and I took a ride.  We wanted to see our grandmother's house, slated for demolition. Between Hurricane Katrina and other natural calamities, (rain, wind, heat, humidity, the wear and tear of 3 boys) the house can no longer stand.  To borrow from Audre Lorde, "it is kneeling like a sinner in the rain."  The fig tree still stands in the back yard, and if you could transplant 75 year old trees, I would.


Our grandmother's house is one block over from Aunt Linda's and Uncle Mike's.  When we drove around the corner, the street was lined with cars, some of them with license plates non-Louisiana.  This is a big, extended family, full of nieces and nephews, so when there's a nonla plate, people are there for a reason.

My brother and I had a short discussion between the house and the stop sign, contemplated the basic rudeness of dropping in unannounced and the safety of the groceries in the bed of the truck and decided to stop, just for a minute.

Now, let me see if I can capture the moment.  I hid behind my brother;  Aunt Linda, who is David's Godmother, sees him and whoops with excitement.  Then, (remember lead actress in all), I peek over his shoulder and the whoop becomes a hoot and holler!  We walk into the dining room, where all good Southerners congregate, and within seconds Celeste must have heard my name, and pushes her mother, my brother, her sister, and all other small blood relatives out of the way to hug me.

Let me explain.  I am not a hugger.  I do not have emotions worth posting.  I am a rock.  

I was a rock that wept like Jesus himself opened it up and said, go ahead; weep.

Because when you meet your best friend after a 20 year hiatus, which is just life, and nothing more, and you feel every memory come sweeping up from some dark box, you weep, you feel childhood, and home. You feel love.  

-written by guest blogger Michelle Ladwig

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