Control And Entropy

13 Feb

I wonder if ancestral mamas, when their kiddies left the cave at the ripe old age of maybe 10 or so, swept the ground, lit the torch, poured themselves a hefty glass of creek wine, and looking around, thought of how they might redecorate.

I left the nest at the ripe old age of 16, after several years of being enough of a pain in the butt I thought for sure my mother would only deem my absence a relief.  While that may have been true, she was nonetheless a tough mama and fought for the daughter she should have, at that point, cared little about.  Citing irreconcilable differences with her, I ran into the arms (more precisely, apartment) of a boyfriend, who, if not abusive, was only one argument away.  He, like I, had been raised without many accoutrements of the otherwise middle-class neighborhoods we lived in.  He, unlike I, had a mother who, at least for a time, preferred the bars to her children.  I made several scouting expeditions with him on weeknights, looking for the next dark bar she might be in, and waited in the car while he found some way to finagle her out of those uninhabitable places to take her home to tuck in his baby brother and sister, while his sister four years his junior sucked down her cigarettes, kept the phone in her hand, and swore endlessly under her breath, sparing the littler ones curses to which she was wholly entitled.

My own parents, not knowing the details of my late night whereabouts but understandably uncomfortable with my current living situation, tried to wrest me from that upstairs apartment on Parker Drive and back into the long and lonely ranch house that now only my mother occupied. I explained to them calmly, and I’m sure with face-smackingly-worthy smugness, that I was not moving back home and if they wanted me out of Parker Drive, they would have to provide another place for me to stay.  That place, I had already calculated, was my father’s now-empty bachelor pad (by this time, he was spending his days at a job in Chicago and his nights with his then girlfriend, now wife, which we all knew this but he was face-smackingly-worthy cagey about it anyway).  I knew the place on East Holmes was empty, save for a living room that contained a mint mid-century sofa, a handful of books (a dusty Bible and Jonathan Livingston Seagull among them), and a small cache of LPs, standing (laying them flat would bend them, I’m sure he had determined), with one that inexplicably memorably had a man with an afro, surrounded by women of varying skin tones, and the words “Variety Is the Spice of Life” on the back cover.  In the remaining rooms (a kitchenette, which was clean but unremarkable), there was not much more than a meticulously made bed (single), and a one-person shower with tiny shampoo bottles on the tile floor in the corner.  It was perfect.

To my parent’s credit, they saw past my connivances, and let me stay at East Holmes anyway.  Maybe now I romanticize the reason — they must have known that I was mature enough and simply needed some freedom, and of course would be responsible with it — the truth is it was probably just one of the countless disputes they couldn’t resolve because their conclusions (and all that led up to them) were anchored in opposite ends of existence.  Most likely, entropy claimed its prize (and so did I).

In all my 41 years (nearing 42), it’s true that East Holmes probably is as free as I’ll ever be.  So I thank my parents for that (in)decision.

When I returned home for a brief period, a year (and five months pregnant) later, I was stunned to see gorgeous cream, plush carpeting blanketing the expanse of the living room in the house where I grew up.  All the years I had been there (the house was purchased when I was four in 1975 – when we moved in I was 5), that room had long suffered the indignity of threadbare carpet of a dull green (puke-colored on bad days, olive when the sun encouraged it, hopelessly).  My two sisters and I spent our youths pounding the life out of that thin thing, from summers where our bodies nearly bore holes in front of the tv or in late night fights with five or more girls circling the expanse of the house, chasing each other, laughing and fighting, grabbing hair and telephones, fists and ponytails flying).  And now, here was this new living room — shockingly bright, and probably beautiful, but barely recognizable.

I realized.  Mom had moved on.  She was redecorating.  The last of her baby birds had flown the nest and in place of the swoony weepy sadness I had expected to see, was this brand spanking new carpet with the look of wedding cake frosting.  She had a brand new white rug.  And, soon, I was gonna have a baby.  I started looking for an apartment that week.

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