Every so often, I post a memory from the life of my best friend, Elaine, (as told to me by her.) A disclaimer for her family members: the events happened, but at times it’s tricky getting inside someone else’s mind, even someone I know as well as I know her. Some things may not be exactly how you remember, but how she remembers once it gets spit out of my mind and gets to the page.
Once a summer we would all pile into the car at the hottest time of the year and drive from California to Texas to see some relative or another. It was always hot and sticky in the back seat and I was always sandwiched between my brothers, one of which I loved, one of which was just plain mean. Invariably, he would do something that would get the wrath of our parents crashing down on all of us. My Mom would grab whatever was nearest her and aimed for anyone she could reach.
In my Dad’s world, stopping the car for any reason was considered an unsuccessful road trip. His idea of a rest stop was peeing by the side of the road. He thought anything less than straight through constituted failure, and if we were the cause of the stopping, we got the belt, usually the buckle end, and as any self-respecting Texan knows, unless you have a belt buckle as big as a hubcap, it doesn’t count for much.
There was a motel along Route 66 that had places that looked like real tee pees you could stay in. I was enamored of it and every summer I begged to stay there. I didn’t cry because my Mom had told me that tears and emotion were useless so I knew that would never work.
My memory is foggy at this point because something makes me think we did, but we could have just stopped and looked. A likely scenario was that maybe my Dad relented just once and the experience was so awful he used that ever after as excuse to keep on driving.
This particular trip one of the stops we made was my Mom’s Aunt Mag’s house. It was an old farmhouse just like you’d see in the movies. Aunt Mag prided herself on her cleanliness and her house was always swept clean.
Bobby and I were transfixed by a nest of dirt dobbers near the front porch and we exclaimed out loud, “What are those?” My Mom hissed, “Ssshhhh. Your Aunt Mag would be horrified if she saw that.” Neither she nor my Uncle could see very well. She threatened us within an inch of our lives if we got into any trouble.
That was no problem, we stationed ourselves near the front porch where we sat transfixed for the duration. We were amazed that each time the door opened, those things flew out of the nest and into the house and when it opened again they came back out. In and out, in and out, we sat and watched. We were easily amused.
Aunt Mag was impressed. She didn’t know what we were watching. She exclaimed, “Well, aren’t these two just the most well-behaved children, where’s the other one?”
That would be our other brother, the one who must not be named. He was most certainly somewhere kicking a dog, pulling wings of a butterfly or stepping on frogs.
Another thing I remember about that farmhouse was that there was an old spigot of water out back. It had been there for years with a constant drip. The water had carved the rock below into a perfect conical shape, like an inverted volcano. No body had disturbed it all those years. Our Mom warned us to leave it where it was. Our brother who must not be named took it, of course.
Last time I saw it, it was in his possession.
picture credit: Mindy Georges, some rights reserved, flickr creative commons.