By Des Jedeikin
are plenty of reasons I enjoyed having young parents. Sipping Mommy's
lime daiquiri while we watched The Muppet Show together.
Frankenberry for breakfast, Booberry for lunch and Count Chocula
for dinner whenever Daddy was in charge. Sitting at the bar enjoying
all-you-can-eat tacos and maraschino cherries, while my mom worked
as a cocktail waitress at the Monday Night Football happy hour in
the Jacksonville, Florida hotspot, Bombay Bicycle Club. "Partay!"
my mom would say after she told me the babysitter had canceled and
I would have to go to work with her! And how could I forget the
excitement of cable television, staying up late with Daddy, who
let me eat Cremora powdered coffee creamer straight from the jar,
as we watched Porky's: The Movie. "Look at the size
of those pig's balls" he'd scream with laughter, as I looked
at him adoringly.
things still amuse me. Other parenting decisions they made, although
enjoyable at the time, have begun to seem a little more questionable.
These decisions range from small (letting me eat people's discarded
fried shrimp tails at a BBQ, taking pictures of me when I was a
toddler wearing a stuffed bra) to large (waking up one morning to
find Mommy and Daddy passed out naked and in the 69 position, letting
me have a wild raccoon as a pet). In a childhood of American cheese
tacos and a disturbing awareness of un-groomed hippie nudity, perceptions
of normalcy are oddly skewed.
point to be made about having immature parents is that while they
score high marks in the playmate department, they usually flunk
out when it comes to actually teaching their children how to grow
up. Their emotional maturity gets stunted at the level it was when
they had you, making it extremely possible to eclipse their maturity
level as an elementary school student. I was a gifted child and
managed to become the adult of the house at age five. I confess
that I did reap a lot of benefits by being able to outwit and manipulate
my parents, but there were times when I could have used someone
with a few more leadership qualities. It is one thing to get out
of trouble by promising to share your Halloween bounty, but when
some serious shit goes down, you don't want someone who thinks it's
a good idea to remove a loose baby tooth by tying it to a doorknob
and then slamming the door.
my dad had a laissez-faire parenting style, my mom had an inkling
they should be doing something to guide me. Her primary method of
"guiding" me through transitions or trauma was to take
me to Red Lobster, and give me the good news/bad news option. The
good news/bad news option was always a frightening prospect coming
from a former knocked-up high school dropout who survived off the
glimmer of hope that any remotely good news might bring her. With
my mom it was always more of a bad news/ "look-on-the-bright-side
less worse news" choice.
I was eight years old my mom came up with an amazing good news/bad
news scenario. I knew it was bad because not only were we having
lunch at Red Lobster, but I was finally allowed to order the surf
and turf (my first dream come true!) and I was even allowed to get
a Shirley Temple (I had already decided that if ever I was on death
row this would be my last meal -- with a Dairy Queen banana split
for dessert). When she asked me which news I would prefer to hear
first, I stared blankly, my brain short-circuited by the enormity
of the possibilities. It was very difficult to concentrate because
I had run out of my melted butter-like substance. As I tried to
get our waitress's attention, Mom decided it was best to tell me
the bad news first. I could tell she was serious because she had
the pained expression of thought on her face and the scent of crème
de menthe on her breath (my mom only drinks daiquiris and grasshoppers).
I felt slightly underdressed in my halter-top short set, for what
was sure to be an important life moment.
I have some bad news," she said with all the learned feeling
of a TV mom on a very special episode. "Daddy and I are getting
She looked like she really felt bad for me, so I knew that I was
supposed to be traumatized by this news. But quite frankly, I was
an extremely jaded eight-year-old. I knew how to play the game.
I said doing my best, wounded prime-time moppet imitation. I knew
I was expected to be really upset, but my child survival instincts
kicked in and I thought about what I would ask for to make me feel
better, all that cheap junk that is a waste of money -- Wacky Packages
trading cards, Chunkies, and real "Day of the Week" underwear,
not the cheap Pic-n-Save brand that she bought me, the ones that
included the inexplicable "'weekend" pair. I was so busy
planning my life as a spoiled divorced child, with parents buying
my love with Cabbage Patch Dolls and Pound Puppies, I completely
forgot that I also had some "look-on-the-bright-side less worse
news" coming my way.
don't be too upset because the truth is he's not your real father
I have pinpointed this as the exact moment when I started eating
mind was flooded with questions. No fight for custody? No loser
parent kidnapping me, dying my hair and changing my name to Jennifer,
convincing me that it's all some exciting game of playacting? Does
this mean I can't watch the basic cable premiere of Motel Hell
this weekend with "him?" In my head I was franticly screaming
these questions. For a moment a look crossed her face, a look that
said, "This kid is fucked," but the look faded as she
nervously sucked on her Alaskan king crab leg in an attempt to reassure
me that everything was fine as she waited for the hard-hitting questions
of a child scorned.
I have your hush puppies?" I said.
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