Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'm not getting on a soapbox today. Promise.

Saturday morning.  It's pouring rain outside.  We're attending a wedding at 2 p.m.; a Catholic wedding - only my second ever Catholic wedding.  At least I won't be quite so lost this time; I've attended two Catholic services so far this year, I'm becoming an old pro.  I have nothing to wear, so I'm going shopping this morning to find something.  Cross your fingers and say a little prayer that no one gets killed in this process, will you?  I'm not a good clothes shopper.  I hate clothes shopping, and I usually come home hating myself.

I'm pretty excited about this wedding, strangely enough; I haven't cared much for weddings since my divorce, sort of the way baby showers are off limits since my miscarriage.  But this wedding, this is a wedding I'm looking forward to because the party is going to be kick-rockin'-awesome.  The bride is the daughter of a man and woman my Daddy's known since the late seventies; he was roommates with both of them when he got out of the Army and came back to Kentucky.  (That's the part of the story that always made me go "huh?  why was a girl living with you?"  I hope you're there with me, because I'm going to tell you...)

Daddy was living in a house in Taylorsville with several other guys, three or four, and one of them, Gary, was dating a girl named Tina.  Tina lived in an apartment upstairs from a funeral home.  She was smart and spunky and skinny and completely belonged in the seventies, with her flipped back hair and itty bitty bikini.  One sunny afternoon, Tina decided she was going to sunbathe.  On the front lawn.  Of the funeral home.  During a wake.  (There's a chance I made that "during a wake" part up, but it makes the story funnier, doesn't it?)  Tina was asked to vacate her apartment, which she came to understand when her belongings were thrown out on the front lawn.  When she showed up on their doorstep with all her things and a sob story about no place to go, the guys couldn't send her away.  That's how she came to live with a bunch of dudes.

Tina and Gary eventually married and moved to the Highlands in Louisville.  (That's where the hippies live.)  They had a house that was, in my childhood eyes, huge and open and eccentric and colorful and awesome; I think it was the first house I was ever in that had 10-foot ceilings, and I'm sure that detail influenced my opinion greatly.  There was one big living room downstairs full of bookshelves and knick-knacks (I've mentioned my love of all things clutter, I believe?)  The kitchen was off to the left, with white cabinets and white appliances and a white tile floor.  The stairs were on the far right of the living room, and there was no handrail; I remember clinging to the far wall on my way upstairs, knowing if I got too close to the right I'd fall onto the bookcases below.  At the top of the stairs was Caitlin's bedroom, and then Tina & Gary's room beyond that; I remember thinking I wouldn't want my parents to traipse through my bedroom every morning and night.

I loved going to Tina & Gary's house.  Tina talked to me like I was a grown-up and I liked that.  I remember when Caitlin was born - I remember holding her when she was teeny and new and bundled in a blanket; it's my first memory of holding a baby.  Caitlin and I became friends, even though we didn't see each other often; they were zoo members and would often invite Momma and I to join them for the day.  I spent the night at their house, and from one of those visits comes my most vivid memory of Tina, the one that defines her in my mind as being a free spirit:

It was morning.  Caitlin and I were eating cereal or waffles or something at the little table in the kitchen; Tina came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her...mostly.  I diverted my eyes; nakedness wasn't something you frequently saw in my household.  I mean, there was that one time when I had that awful nightmare and woke up screaming and Momma came running into my bedroom in her panties and nothing else, and there was Daddy right behind her in his tighty-whities; but that was a pretty isolated event.  We weren't prudes, we just kept ourselves clothed most of the time.  Anyhow, Tina noticed my embarrassment, and she called me on it:

"What's wrong, Nat?"  She flung open her towel and shook it from side to side, as if she were trying to dry off her back, her large breasts swaying from side to side, her belly jiggling - "They're just BOOBIES!!!"  Caitlin jumped up and yelled "Boobies!!!"  and ran over and grabbed Tina's right breast and bounced it up and down a couple times.  They were laughing hysterically.  I was too, in a nervous 'what the fuck just happened' sort of way.  Tina closed up her towel and went on to explain how nudity is nothing to be ashamed of, we're all made of the same parts.

A few years later, Tina decided she wanted to be a doctor, so, at 35, she went back to school and did just that.  She thrilled me with stories of Gross Anatomy and disgusted me with tales from her residency (like the one about the lady who had a horrible smell coming from her girl parts and couldn't figure out why, for weeks, until she saw Tina and Tina discovered a three-week-old forgotten tampon that was mouldering in the lady's vag.  I understand if you need a moment to puke now.  I'm sorry.)  She promised to deliver my first-born child free of charge, so long as I was married and a college graduate.

They moved to Ohio, and our visits stopped for years.  We went to see them once; they owned a farm and horses.  Gary let me ride, but put me bareback on a horse that hadn't been ridden in weeks, and I was immediately thrown.  It was my first time on a horse.  I got back on, with a saddle, but my opinion of horses was forever changed.  I was 13.  Caitlin was away at school.

I tried to find Tina a few times over the years, but I never knew where she was living.  I'd heard she was working at Bellevue in New York, after deciding medicine wasn't for her and psychiatry was where it was at; I heard she had a private practice down near Mammoth Cave, KY.  She popped up again a few years back, showing up on Momma & Daddy's doorstep unannounced, like a surprise party wrapped up in one person.  We connected a few months later and had dinner and shared a joint, talking of our lives and how they're nothing like we'd pictured 20 years ago, but I've not seen her since.

Today will be good.  I've not seen Caitlin since before we hit puberty.  Many of Momma & Daddy's friends will be there, and that guarantees a good time will be had by all.  And if I don't leave right now to go shopping, I'm not going to have anything to wear and there will be a major clothing-crisis-meltdown, so I'd better go.

Happy Saturday, Friends!  I hope it's sunny where you are, even if only in your heart.  :)

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