It’s been kind of a depressing week in Maudland, what with the “flu“* and the aftermath of the trip to see Mom.
As usual, the visit started off fine. Mom sequestered the dogs downstairs before our arrival. She’d done her annual carpet cleaning in anticipation of our visit, and the smell of dog urine was temporarily overpowered by fresh bowlsful of cinnamon-scented potpourri placed in windowsills and on tables. It smelled like the Big Red Factory had moved in. It was an improvement.
“Hey, great potpourri, Mom,” I said.
“I got twenty bags of it on sale after last Christmas,” she said. “I’ll give you some to take home.”
The next morning I nearly slipped in a puddle of dog piss as Sister and I walked through the front door. A horde of filthy Poodles, Pomeranians, West Highland Terriers, and other small, white dogs yapped at my feet. They jumped up and scratched my legs through my jeans. They wiped their food-encrusted moustaches on my arms when I tried to fend them off.
Mom scolded them: “No, Zachy! No, Patton! Noo, Abigail!” She pulled out a flyswatter and smacked them with it until they ran into the next room. Three minutes later, they were back, leaping.
I tried calling the Pit Bull over to frighten them away, but even Bud was intimidated. He lay down at my feet and served as a sort of trampoline for the little dogs, which were now able to scratch my arms and neck and lick my face even though I was standing.
That second day it was revealed that my stepfather has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his service in Vietnam. Stepfather showed me the paperwork he needs to fill out to receive disability benefits and said the Wellbutrin was working well. He also filled me in on several rape cases in the area that he believed to be the product of women with axes to grind and bad reputations.
Mom spent a good deal of time speculating that “all [Sister and I] talk about is what a bad mother [she] is.”
By the final day, Sister and I were ready to hurl ourselves down the side of Bear Wallow Mountain, which Mom insisted upon driving to the top of even after we ended up on a dirt road staring down people who said, “this is private property.” Stepfather turned around when we encounted one man fondling a shotgun that leaned against his truck.
“Well, I guess it’s just as well that we turned around,” Mom said, “because Maud said she had to pee and if we made her go to the top of the mountain anyway, she’d just use that as more proof of what a terrible mother I am.”
“Shut up, Mom,” Sister said.
“That’s just exactly the kind of thing she’d tell her friends,” Mom continued.
“Shut up,” Stepfather said.
I looked out the window in silence.
“You don’t think there’s anything redeeming about me, do you, Maud?” Mom said, turning around to look at me from the front seat.
There was a pause.
“Sure, Mom, you have lots of good traits,” I said.
Sister sighed and rolled down her window. “Jesus.”
“You’re always willing to help out a stray animal,” I offered.
Mom kept looking at me.
“And you’re very generous with strangers.”
“You’re not making me feel better about my parenting skills, Maud,” Mom said.
Stepfather interrupted. “Look, here we are at some bathrooms.”
I swung the door open, climbed out of the car. Sister followed.
Mom called after us, “I just want you girls to know I was up all night worrying about what a bad mother ya’ll think I am.”
Anyway. I should mention that Asheville, North Carolina is a beautiful city. It has many fine restaurants and coffee shops downtown. Good people live there. My family is not representative.
Links may follow later today.
*Fuckyouverymuch, Dana! I was sick.