Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sisterly Love

Sometimes I pretend I’m deaf when shopping at Rite Aid. I don’t want to have any idle chatter with the check out person. There is one particular place I go where the checker behind the counter, Muhammad, is quite chatty. I saw it coming before I approached for the first time five years ago. To every shopper he would say:

“How are you today? Did you find everything you were looking for? How are the babies? Have you seen Spiderman 3?”

When it was my turn, he started in on my shopping needs, the weather, my lovely blue, house coat. (Whatever the heck that was. I typically had on jeans and a t-shirt.)

I gave him a dull stare, then blurted, “ Uh?” like the hearing impaired characters do in movies.

Then I twisted my mouth around and made weird sounds before tugging on my ear lobes. Muhammad kept going on about some hurricane near Miami and that is when I started to sign. I have no idea how to sign but I know how to wiggle my fingers, point to my eyes, my mouth, then cross my heart.

I can be a total asshole sometimes.

Finally he understood, then immediately felt bad, his whole body sagged; though he tried to hide this by keeping up with the big grin. He kept mouthing thank you and bowing.

Now, whenever I go in, he says, “HOW ARE YOU?” Exaggerated. Loud. I give him a weak smile; then he rushes through my order because of his own discomfort.

On another occasion, in Pavilions, with another chatty checker, name- tagged, Vanispela, she started in, “Would you like paper or plastic?”
“Sorry I no comprende the Engli.”
Then she repeated the phrase in Spanish.
“No, still no comprende.”

I continued my charade. She ran out of known languages, then started to bag in plastic and left me alone.

I don’t like talking to strangers. I really don’t like people much at all. Unless I do. Sometimes I am in a fine mood and want to talk. But mostly I don’t. I really dislike errands of any kind, so there is rarely an occasion I am in a chatty, or pithy, fun mood when on of these loathsome treks.

When I was 15 and living in Tiburon, I used to see Ethel, or Vivian Vance, at our local gourmet Shoppe. She was always juiced, buying cookies and celebrating life right there in the check out line. I would watch her in awe and think, that is how I want to be. Drunk and happy when doing menial tasks.

I loved her and sometimes would hang around the store waiting for her cookies.


I also just like to mess with people. My younger sister of five years, Caryn, is similar to me. When we shop together, often one of us pretends to be blind. Usually her. I like to drag her down the food aisles and make her bump into cereal boxes or canned soups.

Then she yells really loud “Hey, careful jackass!” Then, “Where do you guys keep the Depends! My sister is incontinent, in this continent!”

Caryn can be a real clown. Because she is acting blind, we also steal things. She would take caviar, gourmet cheese rounds, doggie treats, and shove them in her coat pocket. Small expensive items. We don’t even like caviar or cheese and don’t own a dog but it’s a handy size. We just want to get caught so we can go through our blind routine.

“She stole what!” I would shout, aghast, as we stood outside. “Caryn, what did you do? She probably thought she threw it in the basket,” I would explain to the security guard, my eyes welling up. “She’s not only blind but kind of slow. She had a brain tumor when she was ten, lost her eye sight and we think the radical bouts of chemo affected other stuff. You know, mental stuff.” Of course he would let us go. Sometimes even let us keep what we jacked.

The "Caryn has a brain tumor" part is actually true. A few years after all the chemo and radiation and hair loss and emotional calamity, we started our blind girl in the store routine.

Interestingly, as we grew up and went our separate ways, we continued to share our hatred for idle chatter with store clerks and our love for stealing small objects. I later came to find out she too continued our tradition of pretending to be deaf or foreign.

Whenever she visits, and we find ourselves in the super market or a drug store, without talking or pre-planning we fall into this act. Sometimes we pretend we are both deaf and perform sign language to each other; then have a silent fight, signing with our hands very aggressively as we walk down the aisles; a sisterly spat. Often this escalates into full blown fisticuffs.

She adds emphasis by making grunting noises, snorts and screams. Sometimes we switch mid-stream or add-on, so when we reach the counter we are both not only deaf, but from say, Sweden, and no comprende anything. So when a Muhammad type smiles and asks a question, we mouth nonsense in what we believe might be a Swedish accent.

“Yaah, yaah… Ahhh. Windmills! Clogs! Ahhh!” shaking our heads in unison and phony relief.

We also despise K-Mart as it brings back horrible childhood memories of when our father dragged us on foot, over a mile in the sub-zero weather, so he could buy a 2-pound bag of roasted peanuts, we went all out a few months back and pretended to be blind, deaf, dumb and foreign.

“Let’s go German,” Caryn suggested before we split up in house wares, then wandered around like blind drunks, knocking things over and bumping into other shoppers, until we met back up in the Jaclyn Smith clothing department; we had always agreed she was the prettiest of the Angels.

During this routine, we quite enjoyed picking up the size-40 double H cup bras, throwing them up like parachutes then not really caring how or where they fell. Seasoned disability posers that we had become, we knew no one would say anything to us, and we often attracted a rather large crowd.

“My breasts are she’s a floating,” I would blurt, arms forward, swatting at nothing. Caryn would typically be feeling around in the clearance bin, gathering a kind of fake frustration. “Ahh, no good vezenstarch!”

“La vezenstarch eech kack bok,” 


Caryn would then approach me, arms outstretched, zombie-style.

“Zeeezter, zeezter!”

In this commotion I saw her jam some bikini underwear down her pants. A saleslady approached us.

“Are you okay?”

“Ezenztezin. Yah, gazentite.”

Caryn came to my side and we huddled together, holding in laughter as the crowd stared. Here, I thought I owed them a way out.

“Viva la douche!” I said, switching to a French accent, “Viva la douche!” raising our arms in victory, as if to say, all is fine. We had left the lingerie department a mess, but we both shared this sense of entitlement, that we could do what we wanted in K-mart, to make up for all those awful peanut runs.

We had gone to K-Mart to get my sister a cheap blow dryer, but had long forgotten. Which was ultimately okay because she doesn’t have any hair anyway.

My sister doesn’t visit much anymore. She moved to the beach a couple years ago; and the drive got to be too much, particularly since she started having seizures behind the wheel.

The seizure diagnosis, while causing great panic within my family, especially my mother, who wails hysterically from her remote island off Seattle, like somehow this would cure my sister, did finally explain things. For example, Caryn and I would be walking down a busy street and she would randomly drift into a busy intersection, causing complete chaos, then turn around as though nothing happened.  “I know, I don’t like Coldplay either.”

She never remembered any of it. They were mini blackouts and no one actually addressed this behavior. I can’t speak for others, like her friends or Starbucks co-workers, but for my own part, I thought she was distracted, odd, like the rest of the family. But somehow I was to blame. Mom and Caryn concluded all of this was my fault. Maybe because I was the biggest asshole.

So, now she can’t drive of course, unless she goes on heavy medication which she refuses to take because of the weight gain.

“I’d rather be thin and never leave the house, than fat and social.”

Thus, I don’t see her anymore. I do miss her and our shenanigans. And it’s possible that is why I keep up my hearing impaired act so insistently with Muhammad.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on sisters, seizers, family matters, theft, fake disabilities and well, weird.

I have no idea how old I am....

This may have something to do with the Grand Canyon divide between my kid's ages, what feels like my 7 lives, or simply my fading memory. I could have sworn, let's say on a Bible, that I was a child during the Woodstock weekend. Child, meaning, a girl who still played with Barbie Dolls and played dress up. My older sisters were the ones pretending to air guitar Beatles songs and I have a faint memory of the eldest crying when Jimi Hendrix died. I thought he was one of her class mates. Okay, so, perhaps it was the times. Kids were kids. 8 year olds did not go to rock concerts and raves. I live in a split world.

My girls, 6, are all about make-up they can't wear, mini dresses, they can't wear and say things like "For damn sakes mom! We're 6 already!"

This is causing me great confusion. I barely remember being 6, but my sole purpose was using the The Easy Bake Oven. My girls use the real oven, with real ingredients and frankly, their cookies are better than mine.

With a son nestled in a Children of the Corn college, albeit a great one, but still, who knew Pittsburgh was the midwest? And 2 little girls who want to be Hannah Montana, and my memories all now becoming quite blurry, I honestly can't remember how old I was as Woodstock raged on. Weirdly, I do have a vivid memory of when JFK was killed because my mother and all of her friends, then our entire neighborhood, fell into a kind of grief I had never seen before. A river of tears seemed to pour down our tree-lined street. I was quite young, but do remember eveyone sitting around the TV watching, weeping and wailing.

Of course I can look at dates and figure it out in 5 seconds, but the other part of this is I stopped counting birthdays after 40, adding further confusion. What's the point? I think the real shock will hit me when someone asks if my girls are my grand-daughters. They certainly could be and I have noticed lately girls having babies while still in their teens.

My husband doesn't even know my actual age, as he is younger and we like to say we are the same age. Well, okay, I do. But then he started getting older, and I stayed the same age, so, in fact he is now older than me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where is all began...CISCO'S Spell

After my 2nd marraige to a wonderful man who actually never wanted children because he believes in over-population, and having fallen in love with me and my 7-year old son, he asked if I would consider having another. I agreed to this, at the time, another little baby seemed perfect. At our wedding my good friend Allegra Huston and her fabulous mate/husband came over to our table ; now Cisco is a Shaman, a decendent of Pancho Villa, a wonderul man and an incredible dancer. He really put us to shame when we had our "first" dance.

He said to us: "May the world bless you with many offspring." I thought it was a sweet thing to say and I really didn't believe I would have anymore offspring, though had agreed. So not too long later, I became pregnant with twins! And to this day I blame him. Or thank him. Not sure which. He has powers I have only seen glimpses of. The two of them have their own beautiful little boy and own a river rafting company in New Mexico. Allegra is a great writer and just published her new book, LOVE CHILD; one would need a map and graph to figure out the Huston family tree, which she generously provides in the book.

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I took to the bed. It just couldn't be true. How in the world could I do this, plus raise my son, plus work, etc.

The first 2 years are pretty much a blur. Pumping, feeding, watching Oprah, talking politics with my Gautamalen nanny.

"When I had my babies, I would go to the farm next door and milk the cow to feed them."

This did put things in a kind of perspective.

My son suggested I put them on E-bay as they would fetch great money. But I loved them so.

I can write this now because they are 6, and while still difficult, (what isn't) it all seems managable, despite this horrible recession. The girls are so incredibly self-sufficient I'm considering asking them to start driving to their own play dates. Then there is their wonderful dad they adore and who is having all the firsts with them. But I did draw the line when he wanted them to ride actual motorcyles at years old. Instead he got them tool kits, a knife set and lumber so they could all build a tree house. Honestly, I am lucky to even keep a tree alive.

"Mom, not to hurt your feelings, but we like dad better than you."

Honestly, that is fine with me. But once I take them river rafting with Cisco...Los Rios River Runners

Father decides to choose babysitter

Well, since my bright idea of hiring a lovely girl didn't work out so well, dad got involved. But he thought best to get two babysitters for our girls. I have NO idea where he found them, but he is kind of like a super dad, like he built their tree house, takes them to awful places like the zoo and train town. I later find out these girls are friends from his assistant at his office looking to pick up some extra cash.

Me:  What do they do at the office? Do they have experience with kids?
Husband:  Why does  that even matter? The last five had pages of references and experience and they were common thieves. I think one has a little brother.
Me:  So, do they file or what?
Husband: File? Yeah, they send out morse code too.

Yeah, yeah. Make fun. So it's been a while since I worked in an actual office. But I personally could use my files cleaned out and organized. I remembering reading that messy offices often cost corporate America billions of dollars a year. Put that in perspective and I ought to be rich. Maybe these girls could multi-task.

Husband really wanted a red head, or two, but here they come. My girls of course like them; they play dress up, put on make-up, paint their toes...the girls seem "normal" and when they are here, the girls have zero interest in me, which is a good thing because I have to work and such. But the day they arrived in their swim suits (we don't have a pool) was a little disconcerting. But not to my girls. They just put on their own. Back yard hose day! Between all the texting and chatting on their cells, they managed to keep the girls entertained.

They could honestly just do nothing at all, and the girls would be joy-filled. Given my kids were five, just having teenage girly energy in the house kept them jazzed up.

"Hey girls, go draw a horse!"

The girls would run to the art room and perform this task. They never asked, "Hey girls, go clean your room. It was always, "Hey, go take all of your 250 Pet Shop toys, give them names, then line them up in the hallway!!"  Why didn't I think of that? This could take hours. The girls were smart.

With my kids busy and the sitters texting, I found my opportunity. I waltzed into the kitchen.

"So, I was wondering if you gals could help me with my file cabinets. You seem so organized and we have a minute here."

They stared at me as though they had no idea who I was.

"Oh. We are here to babysit." They went back to their texting.  Up close, they were not too much older than my young things. I decided not to push it. My girls liked them, and they were quietly playing. That's worth the price of their admission.

I went back to my work cave. The good news is my college boy isn't here. Because the girls would forget why they were here at all. More than once young college boy would hijack a sitter.

A few months back, a different pretty girl, (a Craigslit babysitter) college boy, the girls and I went for a walk. In less than five minutes, college boy and sitter were two blocks ahead; while I wrangled and fought with the girls, no help in sight. "We don't even want to walk to be with you, Mom! Go home!"

Not to mention, I was carrying all of their precious toys they insist on such walks... stuffies, dino's, water bottles, novels. At one point I could no longer see college boy and sitter, but being me, I paid the pretty sitter when her shift was up and asked her back!

Not me ^^^^ but you get the picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

She seemed so perfect!

I lost track of all the nannies and baby sitters I've had over the years, but now, the girls are older and they like, well, younger girls, not grandma types. She spoke their language, played games, giggled a lot. The girl picture here, Shiney, seemed ideal. She came over, let the girls play with her bangles and hair clips, they just loved her. So after some shady references and a quick interview, like any mom in a hurry, you fall into a kind of wishful thinking. When they girls were tiny, honestly, I would have left them with a homeless guy... but Shiney, well, was Shiney.

By day 2, I noticed some things: pearls missing, a pair of designer jeans, and she was always carring around tabloids. But I was desperate so I overlooked these little oddities. Then on day 3, I returned home after a couple hours, and Shiney was passed out on the living room, face down. At first I thought she was dead, but that was not my immediate concern. I ran around the house looking for my kids and they were safely tucked away in their tree house.

I jostled Shiney, who finally came to, and she said she took too much allergy medicines. And then admitted she wasn't really a babysitter, but an actress whose only goal was to be on Gossip Girl. She new I worked in the business and thought that somehow would help her. Thank goodness my kids take care of themselves. I have never taken allergy medicine, but the girl could barely stand up. That is when I noticed track marks on her arms.

"She needed a nap, mom. After all the cookies she ate."

Monday, August 24, 2009

No head, nice cozy outfit...

I gave a little more thought as to why my 6-year old daugher might prefer this facsimile of a mother. I say facsimile because from a distance, and staying say, hip level, this mannequin could pass for me. In fact I have the outfit. But it was more, because I was standing right there, in a version of the outfit, with my messy hair, frezied expression as we were running late as always, (translate:no time for toy store) and even though she had no head, or feet, her hands were very smooth, youthful. Thing One found a comfort holding her. She even spoke to her and asked if she'd like to come home. She spoke to her arm. It was clear she had no head. But it was important for A to not acknowledge this because to her, she had found the perfect replacement. She would never talk, clearly didn't have witchy hands because she had no feet, never move, aka, always available, so it was kind of heartbreaking when I had to pull A off the thing. Shoppers of course stared, the help thought we were stealing her, there was a small scene. But honestly, nothing I am not used to.

"You can just buy the outfit!" This coming front a rather snooty sales clerk; how can you be snooty and work at the Gap?!

"For you information, little Miss Missy, I have the damn outfit. She likes the wooden display mom."

Snooty and a co-worker shared a look of horror. "MOM! AS IF! L-O-L!" As in, this outfit is for young people you old bitch.

"Can't we take her, pleeeeeeze, Mom, pleeeez?" Thing One was crying now, holding on for dear life to the wooden mom as I tried to pry her away, and then wooden mom fell over. She crashed to the ground and all I kept thinking was, thank god she didn't have a head. A rolling head is not an image for a 6-year old. But her arm fell off and A screamed.

"Mom!" And she ran to her like a nurse attending a dying patient.

The shop girls were simply frozen. So I jumped into action, found the arm rolling under a dusty skirt rack, and slammed the arm back on the wooden mom. I propped her back up, adjusted her clothing. Thing One finally stopped crying, and looked at me with gratitude. Maybe I wasn't so bad after all.

"We'll be sure to visit her next time we come."

My daughter seemed satisfied with this.

"Okay. Can we go to the toy store now?"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Keep it REAL!!

Some good friends of mine recently moved up North for work reasons and left behind their home because it didn't sell. So it stands empty. It's a beautiful Spanish house. Given it is across the street and I have seen my fare share of people moving in, destroying all the original architecture, maligning it's intregrity, to the point where someone cut down a 75 year old OAK TREE! because "wood was bad luck" I simply can't take it anymore. A lovely home overnight seemingly turns ito a yellow box with no trees when no one is looking. SO, I keep an eye on who is touring the home and if I think they might be unsuitable, I wander over and we talk about the history of the home, the original beauty, the Bechnamel fireplace; then if I get a hint that their plan is to paint over the tile, wood work, built-in cabinets, remove the clay tile roof.. etc; then I let it slip out. "You know the history right? Why it's empty?" They stare at me, waiting. "Yeah, poor kids. After a vagrant broke in and shot the father, he then strangled my friend, took her wedding ring and their best dishware." They just keep staring. "Thank god the kids didn't see. They are with super nice relatives now, so it's okay. But, it like, happened right where you are standing."

At this, they both gasped and move into another spot.
"I am so sorry. I thought for sure someone would tell you! Those pesky realtors. Anything to make a deal, right?"

Typically, by now the couple have bolted out of the house.

"I hope I didn't dissuade you!" I yell as they run. "It's a great neighborhood other than that! It's just the recession!"

Okay so I can't cook, what of it?

Before I was married, I would sometimes try to impress my boyfriends by ordering in and then pretending I cooked the perfect meal. I had read somewhere that a way to a man's heart is his stomach. I thought that was really lame, but I worked my ass off picking up those dinners from high-end restaurants. After I got married, all that went out the window. I have two specials. Pasta with red sauce and pasta with red sauce including meatballs from Trader Joes. Any idiot can microwave vegetables, so that is always the side dish. Occasionally I will break down and bake cookies, which I might add, I do really well. Even if I am the one that eats them all.

My son, now away in college, caught on pretty quick since so many of my pots and pans were always in the trash because I would forget I had something going on in the kitchen. So, he quickly adapted to ordering in. And eating out. He also has a great appreciation for good food. If there is a great meal, say across the street, he will be there.

The girls, at 6, have also now caught on. They also love to eat out, but in these hard times, I've had to pull back and buy some hot dogs. They like sushi, Lawreys, Ruth's Steak House, etc. Exactly like big bro. So I really tried one night to cook. I baked a chicken, which came out perfect, but NO ONE ate it. They requested a hot dog. And I know kids need their vegetables, fresh. So, this is what I ended up with. I think the girls thought it was an art installation. My husband will eat anything, so he actually took what you see and threw it in a pot and out came some kind of soup that suddenly the girls couldn't wait to eat. Because DADDY made it. In fact, it's all they talked about, when will the soup be ready, I can't wait to tell Alexis about the soup, why can't you make us dinner every night dad. Mom doesn't know how to cook anything. Ever. That's good.

This recession is killing me. My blonde hair is looking brownish for some reason and my plump face is dry and my lawn looks like total white trash, and I am often forced to tell people my gardener took his life because he couldn't feed his 12 kids. I have one thing going for me here however, I love to clean. Actually, I'm not sure I am cleaning, but I love to be on my hands and needs scrubbing stuff. Maniacally. I cleaned the bathroom floor five times. The rest of the house now has to wait, but the damn bathroom is spotless...for today.