Actually, not crawfish. Lobster. Lobster lobster ha ha ha. One of my cousins (daddy's side) married a New England lady -- a stiff boring one like you read about in books, with straight dark hair and a very dry laugh and legion upon legion of colorless sweater sets -- and her family treated the Toast and the Rhodes sides of my own family to a good ole fashioned New England lobstah bake. So Dottie McB-Rhodes put on her best travelling suit and got on a sleeper train headed north, delicately coiffed platinum curls (are they white? are they blonde?) protected by an ivory cashmere scarf, lips painstakingly tinted, tongue carefully sharpened. Yes, now I sound like the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya sisterhood -- can't seem to forge my own identity at all -- but what are you gonna do. The woman sold me into an illegal marriage when I was eleven!
Our relationship has been a little rocky ever since my divorce at age thirteen, when I returned to the loving arms of Momma and Daddy. I spent most of my teen years screaming into the telephone at her while my mother wept silently in the shadows, long curtains of mascara disfiguring her white spiritual face. My grandmother believed I had failed her and the Church when my marriage disintigrated, and no one could really convince her that the whole thing was totally illegal and profane and wrong. She came every Christmas with presents -- pink lipsticks and little kitten heels and Bing Crosby records and Ella Fitzgerald records and padded, elasticized slips and cherry-red coats and old crystal atomizers for me, detective novels for my father & dusty books of French poems, boxes of figs, asparagus tongs & wicker lawn furniture for my mother -- and we let her come, but none of us really spoke to her. We just filed away her presents and drank eggnog in silence until she went to bed, when we would really celebrate. Once she made some snippy comment about my marriage and my parents literally pushed her out the door. I was as terrible a teen daughter as you could desire, but when we battled Dottie, we were always a united front.
Anyway, Dottie and I have made vague attempts at reconciliation, ever since I began to realize how similar we are: I can certainly imagine selling my own little granddaughter into white slavery, and though that might be her fault, I didn't really mind being a child bride. When people hear about it they think it's so weird & they always say, "Oh, poor you, you must be so traumatized, you must have so much trouble holding a normal relationship or trusting anyone or being able to love or be loved" & I always want to say, "Oh yes, yes, hold me," but in fact I don't think it's caused me much psychological damage at all. I certainly don't know anyone else who can hold a normal relationship or trust anyone or love or be loved -- do you? Anyway, I might as well forgive her. She's sharp as nails and pretty fucking wise and she has incredible style & knows all this interesting shit I'd like to know, & now that she's sooo old it's taken the edge off a little bit. But my mother still can't stand her: she blames her for the Valium addiction & the hospitalization and all that. Of course, Dottie's not responsible for my mother's dependence on grass and PCP and speed and hallucinogens in the 60s, is she, or for all of that intense promiscuity? Maybe a little. Anyway, it was kind of a weird lobster bake. My mother cracked the claws off her lobster as if she were cracking my grandmother's little golden arms right out of the sleeves of her beige linen sheath. My grandmother drank four gin-and-tonics and showed me how to eat steamers. She's very worldly. It was lovely: you open the shell and then you kind of wrench out the insides and pull off its dark rubbery rectum-thing and then you dip it in salt water to clean it and then you drown it in drawn butter and slurp it down. Dottie was enjoying a good one when Momma said, "That's exactly how you slurped down my daughter's innocence, you bitch," and I took off my shoes and ran down to play horseshoes with the men to get away from them, but then they came down to play horseshoes, too, and my grandmother, who has an incredible arm, hurled the cast-iron shoe in my mother's direction, and my mother, who has had things hurled at her by Dottie before, leapt into the cool, steel-blue sea that lapped at the edge of my cousin's property, below a little cliff where the horseshoe pits were. It was misty and someone had built a little fire by the water and some of the horseshoes had landed in the fire and we had been making jokes about making brands out of them, & the fire looked impressive and lovely but small against the huge still water: you couldn't look at both of them at once, it didn't make sense. And then there was my mother, her white garments spread out like lilies around her in the water (she was wearing some kind of caftan), her dark hair plastered to her white head, her lips getting a little blue, her mascara in fierce black ridges down the sides of her nose, only sputtering a little bit because she likes the cold. And Dottie standing there in her beige dress and her copper-colored wrap and her ivory scarf, the edges of the wrap and scarf fluttering and flickering in the wind, her halo of pale hair and her wrathful eyes, looking at my mother with contempt, and my mother looking at her with hatred, and the fire blazing at Dottie's feet and the water dark and strange reflecting my mother's face, and no one knew what was going to happen. Then Dottie said, "Somebody get that lunatic out of the water, she'll catch her death" and made her way up the rocky path to get some pie, and then two of the men hauled my mother out but she refused to go up to the house so we had to strip her down to her underclothes and wrap her in a blanket and sit her next to the fire until she was ready to go up and have a hot bath and put on a shell-pink sweater set and pair of stirrup pants owned by my cousin's wife, who looked as if she had never seen a fifty-year-old woman leap into the ocean before wearing a caftan for no good reason. Then we had lovely pie, peach and blueberry, and everyone took separate cars home. I expect an interesting postcard from Dottie any day now.Posted by anonymousblonde at septembre 04, 2002 01:25 PM