Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
Dylan believes that Joe and I bordered on the edge of abusive while raising him.
Not physically… but mentally.
He seems to think games like “Goat Man” and “Sanctuary” and “Mean Mommy” and “I’m Blind” were meant to torment him, but we try to explain that they were just good fun or in some cases… meant to protect and educate.
Dylan was prone to taking off his clothes and running away when he was a baby so Joe, my X, invented “Goat Man” basically, “The Boogie Man” so that whenever Dylan ran away he could shout, “Goat Man! Goat Man!” and Dylan would scurry to the safety of the house. You don’t want your child running around the neighborhood naked. It may have been good fun back in the day, but now…. that’s a big no.
We didn’t think about the lasting effects of “Goat Man” … a monster that would now live forever in our child’s imagination. We just thought “Goat Man” would live until Dylan was old enough to understand that we created G.M. just to protect him. No… we were wrong. Dylan is now 22 years old and if I stood outside in the dark and yelled “Goat Man! Goat Man! Goat Man!” Dylan would still scream and scurry for the safety of the house afraid that a little hoof footed evil man was about to nab him in a matter of seconds.
“Mean Mommy” was one of my games and it was my way of letting Dylan know what was in store for him if he should so happen to cross the line and break Mommy’s rules. Any time he would do something terribly naughty, I would make crazy eyes at him, switch my voice into a high pitched tone and say, “Mean mommy” and Dylan would freak out and beg me to stop afraid that I had gone crazy and might kill him.
I was 26 when I invented this game, not much more of a baby myself… but I would still invent it again right now if it meant Dylan would turn into the great person that I believe him to be today.
So…. the day I invented “Sanctuary” I never thought anything would go terribly wrong…. I just thought it would be fun to beat Dylan with a yellow plastic stick ball bat while shouting “Sanctuary!” dragging my right leg behind me as I pretended to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame while Dylan scurried along the floor screaming “No Quasimodo! NO!”
We were half way through the living room, then rounding the corner of the hallway with Dylan crawling on his hands and knees, while I smacked his butt with the yellow plastic bat as he squealed and giggled with delight and tried to escape me.
At that time, we still had carpet in our home but it was old and worn and in some of the door frames, sharp carpet nails had become exposed due to the many years of heavy foot traffic.
Dylan rounded a corner to hide in a bedroom when the top of his fat, soft, pink baby Fred Flintstone foot, caught on one of the large sharp rusty nails which ripped his foot wide open.
He flipped over, covered his foot in shock and terror, little arms shaking in pain and anger before he looked up at me and screamed, “LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME!”
His face was that of ultimate betrayal.
I thought he was being overly dramatic until he removed his hand and I saw the damage: exposed meat and a fat gaping mouth of a wound.
Joe had come running when he heard the commotion and after seeing the injury, and then giving me a look that could have frozen hell, placed a clean towel over Dylan’s foot, carried him to the car and we rushed him to the emergency room.
They took us straight in and in a matter of minutes, Dylan was sitting on a hospital bed as they took our information and a nurse went to get the doctor.
When the doctor arrived, he asked that Joe and I take a seat in the chairs against the wall and wait while he spoke to Dylan privately. I did not know that this was normal practice, that doctors often speak to children alone to check for child abuse. A police officer from child protective services was also called in to listen. I’m not sure if they just hang out at the hospital waiting for these types of cases or if they called him in specially.
I could see Dylan’s little rounded back… he was still sniffling as children do after a hard cry and his shoulders would pulse up and down every few moments as he tried to catch his breath.
The doctor pulled up a chair and sat down facing Dylan. Because of our location, we could view the doctor’s face, the officer’s face… but nothing of Dylan’s expression.
The doctor said very calmly, “Dylan. Tell us exactly what happened.”
And Dylan replied in broken sobs, “My mom… was BEATING ME… with a Baaaaaattttt.”
You can’t even imagine the look on the doctor’s face… I don’t know if I can even describe it… he looked at me like I was the biggest moron in the world. I swear… it wasn’t a “You are obviously a child abuser” look it was a “How the hell did you come up with such a stupid game like Sanctuary Quasimodo you idiot?”
The child protective officer looked at Joe like he was the devil and I could feel shame radiate from Joe’s entire being before he looked at me and whispered, “We’re so going to jail.”
But we didn’t go to jail. We never went to jail for raising Dylan. They stitched up his foot and sent him home with the crazy woman and the devil after Dylan through broken sobs explained while having his foot stitched up that it was just a game… and that he loved his mom and dad very much.
I’m sure if Dylan is reading this now… he wishes he could go back in time and give us a taste of our own medicine. Maybe a game called, “Send Mommy and Daddy to Jail”
Sound good Dylan?
It wasn’t like I planned to break the law.
I’m a Nationally Certified public educator for Christ’s sake but… sometimes, my inner “I Love Lucy” mixes with my former “Punk Rock Persona” and creates some type of alter-ego that I imagine has a name like, Frankie Smith, who sports wild red hair, drives a 1969 Fastback Chevelle, and has a tattoo of a large sacred heart branded across her chest with the slogan, “Jesus loves you but he’s still working on loving me.”
It was a school night, probably what is referred to as Indian Summer on the East Coast and “Santa Ana Wind” weather on the West. Amy and I were walking in the park after hours. This is something that people are allowed to do but, the Nature Center, a sort of wild life preserve within the park, home to coyotes, opossums, bunnies, snakes, and a slew of water turtles, is gated and locked and off limits after five pm every evening.
We were on the road that meanders next to it… the wind blowing warm… the street lights every hundred yards or so punctuating the silhouettes of the big beautiful trees as they swayed wildly in the wind.
Amy and I were prattling on about something when one of us… I’m not sure who but I would bet money Amy would say, “It was you dork.” Thought it would be a good idea to climb the six-foot chain link fence, break into the Nature Center, and walk the trails through the forested area at night, alone, believing that it would be lovely to have the paths all to ourselves.
Actually, now that I’m writing this… I can say with 100 percent surety that I was the one that came up with this idiotic plan.
But we have been friends for many years and Amy knows how persuasive I can actually be…. and our antics do always end up as really great stories later, so… there’s my justification.
We wandered off the road and walked into the brush by the fence that borders the flood canal. We started to climb the chain link several times but stopped each time we heard a small group of bicyclists passing by us.
Maybe we were paranoid.
Maybe we were having second thoughts.
But by the fourth time of jumping down and squatting in a bush I finally shouted, “Fuck it,” and hustled my ass over the fence and landed cleanly on the other side.
Amy’s face registered a mix of admiration at my clean climb and complete despair when she realized we were actually really going through with this. I stood and waited for her to climb up and over all the while feeling a childlike sense of glee. I had ALWAYS wanted to break into the Nature Center since I was about thirteen-years-old. So many of my friends had already done it in junior high or high school. Some… to make out… some to get high… and some to actually fish the ponds. I felt as Stephen Chbosky once wrote “Infinite” not taking into consideration that I was NOT 13 and “Infinite” but 40 and “finite.”
As soon as Amy jumped safely to my side of the fence, we ran through the brush to the trail and giggled like idiots at our stealth sneakiness. We were criminals. We were law breakers. We were suburban commandos. Seriously? We were idiots. Who the hell does shit like this in their 40’s?
We walked the back path, the one that takes you by what we call “the lake” but actually is about the size of a large pond and watched as the sun began to set right before we came up to the area we called: the pine forest.
Now, the pine forest area is actually quite creepy even during the day time. There is something about it that is reminiscent of the 70’s slasher movies where young “stupids” are often ambushed while walking, or skipping, or chattering lamely through the brush.
Amy and I were no different than these characters. Actually, I think we even commented on how we “felt” like characters in Friday the 13th as we passed the lake and headed to the forest.
We were just turning the bend in the path, that would lead us right next to the woods, when we saw something that will forever stick in my memory as the moment when I thought I would actually die of a heart attack just from viewing something. A large man, dressed entirely in black with a ski mask on, stepped out of the woods, stood firmly on the path, and stared us down before… without a word… he took one step back into the treeline and disappeared.
I’m surprised Amy and I didn’t just simultaneously shit our pants and then pass out.
My mind instantly calculated how fast we could get to the front gate and the security phone and would we be fast enough to defeat our attacker.
I mean come on…. no one survives in the slasher movies. They believe all the way up until the bitter end, even gloat about it, which we all know is the kiss of death, that they got away and then next thing you know Kevin Bacon’s throat has an arrow sticking through it.
It took me barely a split second to look at Amy and scream, “RUN!”
We booked it down the service path, cut across by the bramble bush tunnel, ran past the meadow, over the two bridges to the front gate in what seemed like a moment. Our breathing was rough and raspy, our hearts pounding, unable to keep up with our bodies. Even when we arrived at the well lit, neatly trimmed area by the front office, we still couldn’t stop from turning around and watching our backs sure that we would look across the front pond and see… well… the iconic photo of Jason emerging out of the woods of course.
Now, we knew once we picked up the security phone, the rangers would be there in a matter of seconds, their office we could view across the street but… I didn’t want to call. I could just see the local newspaper headline the next day, “Popular high school teacher arrested for breaking into the Nature Center. Is this the type of Public Servant we want shaping the minds of our children?”
I knocked a large metal trash can over and up-ended it. I shoved it next to the fence and told Amy to hold it while I climbed. Now, to this day, I’m not sure if Amy just didn’t “hear” me say, “Hold the trash can while I climb” or if Amy was feeling a bit passive-aggressive after I convinced her to break into the Nature Center, and then forced her to run from Jason, and now, I was making her wait to be the last person out, expecting her to hold the trash can for me when really… the heroic thing to do on my part was to let Amy climb first, but either way… as I threw my right leg over the fence, Amy did not hold the trash can and the weight of my body pushing up and over, knocked the large green can sideways and sent me tumbling down with it. I was fine until my right ankle, bashed against the rounded rim of the can and then rolled the rest of the way across it as my weight bared down upon it.
I knew immediately that it was broken. It wasn’t broken in the “your ankle is hanging off your foot,” or even “your bone is sticking out of your skin” type of way… but it was definitely inoperable.
I don’t remember if I yelled at Amy… but I probably did…. I was pissed. Mainly at myself but ready to take it out on anyone for that matter… In fact… if I could have walked then… I’m sure I would of picked up a LARGE stick and hobbled back to beat the holy hell out of that guy who scared the shit out of us in the first place.
I had a feeling it was most likely, one of my own high school students anyway, playing paint ball or smoking pot… or forest tag with his friends… and I imagine when he stepped out of the forest, trying to terrify what he assumed to be one of his own cronies and came face-to-face with MY GOD… Ms. Wood my Period Three English teacher… actually shit himself, passed out, and upon awakening ran to the back fence where due to his young age, was able to leap it clean without the help of a trashcan and was probably sitting in the 24-hour Jack in the Box, eating 99 cent tacos and bragging to all of his friends how he got away from “The Man.”
My imagination running wild was actually causing me to become infuriated.
I got up, no help from Amy, (who I shall note one time ALSO let me fall off one of the exercise apparatus at the park stating, “It was too funny not to. You looked just like one of the guys in the Matrix… falling all slow motion and shit”) and rolled the trash can to another gate which had a wide gap at the top and was used as a service truck entrance.
I knew if we could climb up the trash can to the gap, all we would have to do would be to slide through and then use the chain that connected the lock as a foothold on the other side to get down. It worked beautifully and soon we were back in the warmth of the mini-van.
I drove directly to Stephen’s house, my new man at that time, who looked at the state of our clothing, our worn faces, and my ankle which was now twice it’s normal size, completely black and blue and said, “What the hell were you thinking?”
How do you respond to a question like that?
Hey Stephen, well… I was thinking with my 13-year-old brain that breaking into the Nature Center was a GREAT idea!
Or… I was thinking I’m 40 if I don’t do it now… when will I ever do it?
Or maybe.. I was thinking, what a great way to fuck up my friend and my ankle all at once. Hooray for me!
Everything I thought about saying sounded absolutely stupid as I sat on the couch with even his dog looking at me like I was a complete moron before I finally mumbled, “I don’t know.”
Stephen went off to the kitchen to get me an ice bag and Amy started laughing uncontrollably, in that way you do when you know you aren’t supposed to laugh and so you try to hold it in but it just keeps coming out in silent bursts of nervous energy.
I had to go to the doctor the next day of course and yes… I did have a hairline fracture in my ankle which took over two months to heal and about a year and half before it even stopped hurting.
I’m now 46 and yes I still walk in the Nature Center almost daily… and once in awhile as I pass the forest I think of that night where I let myself be deviant and failed.
I can’t lie, it has become a good story… and I feel sorta “outlaw” when I think about it. And I’m glad that Amy was not injured due to my stupidity. But there is something in me that still wishes I hadn’t run… think if I had just convinced Amy to start acting completely insane, and we ran wildly through the forest, middle-aged “Ophelias” gone insane and Mr. Ski-mask could have been the one screaming and running… the idiot falling off the green trash can, in the bright light of the front gate.
It could have been brilliant.
I like to drive in the mini van. Feel free to make fun. Feel free to laugh. But the mini van offers me satisfaction that no other car can offer…I don’t care if it is scratched. In fact, I relish in the idea. I still have the mark on the door panel where Dylan W. and Dylan J. fired tennis balls at me while I raced back and forth down the street throwing the ones that came in the window back out at them. I like to get in the mini van and turn on the air and drop people off and pick people up and ask people to come along and talk to people on the phone through the speaker so that everyone in the car can join in the conversation. I love the mini van. My punk friends, the ones that are now 40 years old and still refusing to drive a mini van laugh at me as I blast past their houses. The car full to the brim with the Millikan Water Polo team. Ramones, The Who—or even the soundtrack of Westside Story blasting out of the open windows. They don’t understand that the mini van is a mini universe on wheels and I…I am the Commander and Chief of the world. The President of the car. I decide who gets in, who gets out. Where we go, and what path we take to get there. I can speed up and scare the shit out of everyone or I can slow down and infuriate even the most patient passenger. Ahhh the power of it is lost to them…Stuck in the punk world of the 1980’s they have forgotten what punk means. I am now punk. I refuse to drive a hotrod, get a tattoo, or go with the group…I am now the punk rock mini van commander.
And so, you can imagine my chagrin when I am interrupted while running an errand in my mini van. It’s Lexi on the cell phone. Lex, my 21-year-old daughter. A disgusting girl. The kind of girl that I would love to hate if I could but because she is my daughter, I’m not allowed. Lexi is 6 feet tall. Honestly 6 feet. I still don’t understand how a child of such gargantuan proportions ever came out of my vaginal cavity but I’m too embarrassed to bring it up for fear that people will think that I have the largest expanding hooch in the world. Lexi. 10lbs. 8 ounces of joy! Bullshit. 10lbsd 8 ounces of here comes trouble for the rest of your life. Lexi. 6 feet tall about 145 pounds. She is a cross between Uma Thurman and Heidi Klum. An Amazon woman that Pigmy queen produced. She has perfect skin, perfect boobs, and a butt that can still wear size 4T Fruit of the Loom under-roos. She can sing, she can dance, she is smart, she is a smart ass, she can do anything and do it well. The only ugly thing on the child is her feet…her size 11 feet that she doesn’t seem to understand she needs to hold up her 6 foot Amazon frame. She hates her feet and so I am happy. Happy to know that there is actually one flaw on her whole 6 foot frame that I can make fun of on a regular basis.
I am of the belief that it is necessary to raise a child with some sort of self-esteem issue so that they never believe that they are the be all and end all of everyone’s existence. A way I guess of keeping Lexi in line with the rest of us flawed and fucked up human beings. So, when she waltzes into the living room in a polka dot string bikini (and I swear she does) and looks in the grand gold mirror and poses (no matter who is present) and says, “Look at me…I’m so fat…I’m so ugly” I can actually say…”No, you’re not fat…you’re not ugly…but you might want to do something about that weird giant toe on your left foot” the pleasure is immeasurable.
No beautiful people should be allowed to get away without a flaw.
So it’s Lexi. Lexi on the phone and she is in tears. Lexi is crying and whining and asking when I will be back home. Now on most days, I might instantly snap at Lex. She has a tendency to truly be a drama queen. Everything plays out to her like a soap opera. The storylines of the events of her life are so confusing and convoluted with incestuous twists and turns that to write about them would sound like fiction. Bad fiction. But it would be truth.
However, on this occasion, I wait before I snap. Lex and I have recently been to the doctor because the beautiful person is ill and unlike the flawed weird big toe, this is not something I can wish upon my girl. She is sick. Sick enough for serious evaluations by Dr. Gem our new woman internist. Dr. Gem whom we waited over two hours to see just because we heard that she was that good. Two hours…and when we finally get into a room, I make a comment to Lexi behind closed doors that I think Tom, her ex-boyfriend from Clinton Massachusetts, looks like he might smell of bad fish if you were a stranger and didn’t know him and hadn’t gotten a chance to smell him yet, and that is when Dr. Gem knocks and then appears in the doorway. She has an odd look on her face, one that leads me to automatically believe that she has overheard only a partial amount of this conversation and that she now believes that I have been making slanderous comments about her obvious Asian heritage by talking about “smelling of fish” from behind her examining room door. So I smile big and try to explain and realize she doesn’t know what the hell I am talking about and could care less what I am mumbling about Lexi’s ex-boyfriend.
Dr. Gem begins to examine Lex and as she does so, she begins to ask her questions. This is when I find out what my daughter has really been doing over the last six months. She has been throwing up, passing out and losing weight. She has been drinking nightly, smoking daily, weeding weekly, and eating crappy. I sit with my eyes locked on Lexi’s…ready to kick her ass and kill her and at the same time, hoping that the problem really is as simple as too much partying…too much “21”. Dr Gem doesn’t seem to think it is though. I can tell by her face that she is concerned. When she pulls a thermometer out and finds that Lex is running a low-grade fever, she decides that a full work up is necessary and so she writes it up and sends us to the lab.
We go to the lab where we then find out that Lexi must give blood from both arms, urinate in a plastic cup, and …special surprise for us…take three stool samples daily and scoop them into little plastic jars for the next three days.
So Lex…on the phone…crying and whining…gets out of being snapped at immediately today.
“Mom, when are you coming home?” She whines and desperation and moaning have now moved in. I ask her why she needs me home and I try to remain calm. I do this for two reasons. One, she is really sick and deserves my patience and compassion and two, I don’t want her to know that I am truly worried about such a disgustingly beautiful person. So she then says, “I can’t do this stool sample mom…it’s making me throw up…It’s making me sick…I need you to come home and do it for me.” And that is when I lose it…that is when I know, that Lex truly does deserve the S-N-A-P, because what you don’t know about Lex is that Lex, the beautiful one…Picks up dead bodies for a living. Yes, dead bodies.
She started almost two years ago. The bodies. I thought it wouldn’t last. I honestly thought that someone that looked like that would not last one hour picking up dead bodies from homes and hospitals and who knows where else she gets them but she did. Lexi with a job, recommended by a family friend, as a body snatcher. So here is my girl, my Victoria’s Secret Uma-Heidi Thurman-Klum girl, picking up dead bodies for a living…and this same girl is now calling me on the phone to tell me. That she honestly can’t scoop her own shit?
So I say to her…in my best mom voice…my best I’m the principal and listen to how disgusted I am with you voice, “You can pick up a dead body that is blue and so covered in mold that it looks like the guy is wearing a plaid robe but you can’t scoop a small bit of your own shit and put it in the sample bottle?” …She cries, “Yesssss” and then I hear her gag as if she is about to chuck. So I go off, a complete tirade, about how I am not coming home to scoop her crap. I refuse. I’ve already served my time. I scooped shit from birth to three and I’m done. Two asses; Hers and Dylan’s and now it’s time for them to take care of business on their own.
I make her scoop her shit while I talk her through it on the phone and all the while I am picturing everything that I have witnessed in the last year. Lexi burning rubber around the corner in a white hearse. Ozzie blasting from the open windows, coffin in the back. She stops by the side of the house; waves at me while I water the lawn and waits only long enough for my mouth to drop when I realize she has a body in the back. Then she gives me a huge rock, “WAAAAAaaaAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” at the top of her lungs, flips the universal rock sign (now known as the sign of the devil made music by Christian Fundamentalists), and spins the wheels burning rubber again as she leaves. It isn’t until two days later that I realize my mom was smart enough to run out behind me and take a Polaroid snapshot of Lex throwing the sign as she sped away. The picture now hangs on the refrigerator door, proudly held up by a sticker from Spencer’s gift and gag shop that reads…I SEE DEAD PEOPLE…Scoop the shit Lex. Scoop the shit.
I think of the time that I come in from work to find a note on the bar that says, “Pick up Fernando Hernandez, flight 462, Delta, LAX, arrives 7pm.” The kitchen bar where all of our communication takes place. The bar, which usually holds notes about live people but today, my mom tells me, the note is for Lex. Fernando will be arriving from Mexico tonight but Fernando has no idea he’s flying and no idea that he’s dead in fact, and on his way back to L.A. Scoop the shit.
I think about the time that Lex caught me on my ride home from a business meeting to tell me that she was really upset because she was at the morgue and her bodies weren’t ready yet. Margie, my good friend sitting next to me in the car, looking at me as if to say, “Please don’t tell me that this is truly what motherhood entails.” Lily, her own daughter, still years away from this type of adolescent body snatching fun! Scoop the shit Lex. Scoop the shit.
And so this is how it goes…me in my mini van…Lex at home scooping her own shit until we get it done. Done and then, Lexi is finally calm. The shit has been scooped and labeled, and so I can once again go back to being Commander and Chief of my world. A world without beautiful people, dead bodies or little jars of labeled shit. A world where the Ramones shout “Gabba Gabba Hey!” from my speakers as I navigate the city streets of Long Beach—Looking for people to pick up—Looking for people to drop off—enjoying the air while running my daily mundane errands—pleased to know that my van carries only live passengers—no need to speak to Lex before climbing on board. Just a typical day in my suburban punk rock mini van as I command the world.