Childhood Bonding Experiences with my Father, Some of Which Were a Little Traumatic

When I was a child, kids were reared very differently than they are today– especially in Texas.  My dad was “Texas” through and through.  When my mom went into labor while my dad was attending Yale, he brought a jar of dirt he’d dug up before they’d moved to Connecticut and insisted on placing it under the delivery bed so that he could tell everyone his first child was born on Texas soil.  My dad and I had some great– and occasionally really gross or fairly dangerous– times together.

For instance, my father was an avid hunter– because Texas, ya’ll– so I ate a lot of venison.  That wasn’t the bad part- venison is actually pretty awesome when it’s not game-y (I would like to say, however, that I do not advocate hunting, even for food, because we have these great things called grocery stores now).  In addition to eating a lot of recently murdered animals, I also grew up around dozens of mounted heads and hides (and one gigantic snake skin from an enormous snake my dad killed while doing a geological survey for Exxon).  My dad did not believe in wasting any animal parts that could be eaten or used for home decor or given as gifts. He once gave my mother a set of taxidermied turkey feet. She thought he was doing some voodoo shit on her.  He also believed in doing the “cleaning” himself.

**WARNING: This next part is super-gross, so don’t read it if you don’t have a strong stomach or get offended by descriptions of dead animals!!**

One day when I was about three years old, I wandered out the front door of my grandparents’ ranch house and was not at all surprised to discover an entire deer hanging from a tree with a giant hole cut in its side.  Next to the deer stood my father, covered in deer blood and dropping the last handful of deer guts into the pile he’d made on the ground.

“Whatcha doin’?” I asked, probably very cutely.

“I’m cleaning the deer I shot,” my dad replied, no attempt to shield me from the disgusting animal carcass.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.  (I was going through the ‘question everything’ phase.)

“It means I take out the guts and take the skin off, so we can eat it,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Can I see it?” I queried.

“Sure,” he said, stepping back, giving me room to inspect the deer.  So I toddled over to it and poked at it a little and very probably put my finger in its nose because I was known to violate animals’ cranial orifices when I was little.  Seeing shit like this is almost certainly why.  I inspected every inch of the deer until I got to the gaping hole in its side and then stuck my head inside to look at the inside of the deer.  That happened, people.  And do you know what my father did?  Did he snatch me up in horror and try to explain how gross and potentially messy and dangerous that could be?  Nooooo.  My father felt the correct response to this inexplicably icky action was to lift up the deer’s tail, peek through its butthole, and happily exclaim, “Peekaboo!”  To which I responded by laughing hysterically.  So then and there, my father and I played a ten-minute game of peekaboo, using the asshole of a dead deer.  And I know I am remembering it correctly because my dad, when he was still alive, used this story to illustrate to his friends how “Texas” his only daughter was.  This explains so much…

He also proudly taught me how to clean his shotgun, and I used to look forward to it after every hunting trip.  He would take out his case of tools and gun oil (I loved the smell of gun oil as a kid), and he would let me screw the pieces of the plunger-thing together (I don’t know what it’s called, but you use it to clean the barrel).  Then he would thread a piece of cloth through the thing on the end that looked like a giant needle-eye.  He would let me shove it into the barrel and get it all clean, and then he would let me help him polish the gun all over.  Most parents wouldn’t want their small children exposed to firearms, but my dad wasn’t most people.  He thought I should know all about guns so I wouldn’t try to play with them, and I thought it was the funnest thing in the world.  I was not a typical little girl.

Think back to your last intestinal bug.  Was it a miserable day or two of running back and forth between the bed and the toilet?  Not at our house.  At our house, when you had a stomach virus, you were confined to the bathroom by my mother, who would not even chance someone barfing on the carpet.  She would make you a pallet and put the nine-inch, black and white TV on the bathroom counter.  You would snuggle into your warm, puffy pallet, watch cartoons, and get up occasionally to puke or be force-fed Pedialyte mixed with Sprite (back then they only had one flavor of Pedialyte– sweat) or to get an anti-nausea suppository rudely poked up your backside (no joke).

On this particular occasion, because Dad and I were both sick, my mom let us camp out in the master bath to give us room to get to the toilet without tripping over each other.  When we got bored with the TV and started to feel a little better, I snuck to my room and grabbed my cassette recorder.  I thought one of the most hilarious forms of amusement was to record myself on a blank tape and play it back over and over.  I brought the tape recorder back to the bathroom, and Dad and I spent the next two hours recording ourselves making fart sounds, singing, and making “bomb” sound effects.  Nothing passes the time when you’re sick like being trapped in a bathroom with your dad, a TV, and a tape recorder.  I saved that tape and played it over and over for the next two weeks, giggling behind my hand the whole time.

My dad and I had some great– and unusual– bonding moments.  He liked to tell the story of the time I saved him from a snake when I was four.  We were at my grandparents’ ranch again (lots of gross stories occurred there, often involving peril to life and limb), and we were getting ready to take the canoe out on the pond for a little fishing.  My dad had the oars and fishing poles, and I proudly dragged the tackle box along with both hands.  It was winter, so we weren’t really watching for snakes because they should have all been hiding underground or under rocks and stuff.

Dad laid the oars on the ground at the edge of the icy water and gripped the canoe on one side to flip it over.  As the six-foot, metal boat turned over and exposed the hard ground beneath, I caught a glimpse of something orange-y and white in the grass.  I looked closer and saw what I knew, even at age four, to be a Copperhead.  It was slow-moving because of the cold, and but even so, I saw it pull its head back as though readying itself to strike at my father, who was less than two feet from it and had yet to see it.

“DAD, THERE’S A SNAKE!!!” I yelled.  In one swift motion, he grabbed one of the heavy, wooden oars, looked to where I was pointing, and brought the flat end down hard on the snake’s head.  Then he hugged me tight and thanked me.

“We need to get a picture!” he exclaimed.  So we ran back to the cabin and told my grandpa what had happened.  He followed us back to the pond with the camera.  After poking at the snake a few times to make sure it was really dead, my dad scooped it up on the end of an oar and sat me on his knee while my grandpa took a couple of shots.  For the next few weeks, my dad proudly told anyone who would listen about how his four-year old had surely saved him from a venomous snake bite, twenty miles from the the nearest hospital.  Every time we flipped through our photo albums after that, Dad would point to the picture and say, “Remember when you saved me from Copperhead?”  And I would feel proud too– and thankful.

Dad and I had some strange and sometimes idiotic adventures, and I loved them all.  I also love that I have his wicked, sarcastic sense of humor.  I love that I can see him in my son and my brothers.  I love that I have these great memories of using my dad’s golf clubs to whack the heads off the mushrooms in the backyard every spring, and I love that he  introduced me the Beach Boys when I was eight.  I love that he always had a sports car and would sing “Barbara Ann” to me along with the stereo while we drove to the beach.  He called me “B,” and to this day no one else is allowed to call me that.

My dad would be fifty-nine years old today, and I am currently the same age he was when he died.  When I remember my dad, I smile.  I can never watch a bad ’80s horror movie or a Godzilla movie without thinking of him.  And how many kids can say they learned to read from the Sunday comics, while sitting on their dad’s knee?  My dad was funny and incredibly intelligent and also very, very complicated.  I look back on some of the very strange things we did together and– even though some of them are a little disturbing (like the deer peekaboo) or dangerous (like the snake)– I am grateful for every one of them.

Why Animals are Better at Teaching Sex Ed

Before you think I’m an unconscionable pervert, this post is not about bestiality.  It’s about how kids growing up in the Midwest learn about sex far before we take sex ed in school.  When I was a kid, I thought my family were the only freaks who learned the facts of life from, well, wildlife, but my husband recently put that fear to rest by informing me that he learned about sex from… tortoises.  Yup.  Tortoises.  Just about the least sexy animal in the world, next to hippos.  And giraffes.  Giraffes are very unsexy.

My darling husband, visiting the zoo with his dad as a young child, had no idea that he was about to be traumatized forever.  As the hubby and his dad wandered toward the tortoise pen, they heard a strange, unidentifiable sound: “Wwwwwoooooowwwww…  Wwwwooooooowwwww….  Wwwwwoooooooowwwww…”  They followed the sound, curious as to what it could be, and saw a crowd gathered.  Pushing their way to the front, they saw two tortoises, one perched awkwardly on top of the other, the top tortoise weirdly making the “Wwwwooooowwww…” sound over and over.  My husband and his dad looked at each other, and my kindergarten aged hubby imitated the tortoises: “Wwwwwoooowwww…”  His dad made the same sound back at him: “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  And this became their private joke any time they both saw something awesome.  “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  This explains… a lot…

Not quite as bad as tortoises– but definitely disturbing– was learning about sex from livestock.  Growing up, my family owned lots of horses and cows.  I still feel bad for my brothers because I can see how this would cause some insecurity in the male department.  Being the oldest, I was a little more educated than A1 and A2.  So when they saw our horses mounting each other for the first time, I had to answer some uncomfortable questions.  Being the excellent older sister that I was, I took full advantage of the opportunity to do as much psychological damage as I could to my little brothers.  It was hilarious.  There’s nothing like telling a three-foot-tall person that he is going to remain exactly the same size, grow a member the size of a horse’s when he hits puberty, and then have to reproduce in exactly the same position as a horse.  The facial expression is beyond priceless. (Almost as priceless is watching a miniature pony try desperately to mount a palomino that’s about fifteen hands high.)

Parents, take a lesson– unless you want to try ineffectually for years to undo lots of mental trauma and eventually end up paying for a decade of therapy, just have “the talk” with your kids. It’s uncomfortable, we all hate it, and no one can look each other in the eye for a couple of weeks. But it’s preferable to catching your two sons measuring their wieners every day and then asking you how long before they grow horse dicks. No one wants to have that conversation.

How a Camel Tried to Eat my Face and Other Reminiscences

When I was three years old, a camel tried to eat my face.  My mom had taken me to the Houston Zoo, and back then they only put glass or tall fences around the obviously dangerous predators– alligators, lions, gorillas, etc.  Camels, apparently, were viewed as docile and tame enough to allow toddlers access (despite their propensity for spitting).  I don’t know if what I experienced is typical of camels or if this particular camel just happened to be an asshole– either way, it traumatized the hell outta me.

My mother stood back with A1 (my first brother) in his blue stroller, and I climbed up on the log pen that prevented the camels from wandering around like free-range douche bags.  Evidently, I found the camel that was creative enough to come up with a way to assault the general public despite his captivity.  As I leaned over the top of the fence, holding on to the top log, a large and rather smelly camel lumbered over to me– and promptly wrapped its entire mouth around my tiny head.  I remember seeing the camel walk towards me, then suddenly being enveloped in very wet darkness.  The next thing I knew, someone’s arms were around me, rescuing me from the camel’s oral embrace.  I was so shocked I didn’t know whether to cry or pass out or poop.  So I just stood there, camel saliva dripping from my face and hair, and stared in dazed astonishment at my mother– who was looking back at me with the same open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression– and then at the stranger who had had the presence of mind to rescue me.  (My mother was remarkably terrible in an emergency; her panic mode kicked into overdrive pretty fast, and then she was useless.  I learned how to handle 911 situations by the time I was ten.  As a result, I am now excellent to have around in a crisis.)

When I got older, and began retelling the story to my friends– because I thought it sounded pretty awesome that I had narrowly escaped being devoured by a large and massively stinky mammal– my mom told the story from her perspective.  She watched in horror, panic making her immobile, as the camel slurped my face into its mouth.  Fortunately, some other mom (who apparently was actually functional in emergency situations) sprinted over and yanked me away.  Hearing that, I was very glad that the camel hadn’t bitten down, or I might have been accidentally beheaded.  Or be-faced.  De-faced?  What’s the word for having your face ripped off?

I eventually developed a fear of the Houston Zoo because bad things tended to happen to me there.  As well as almost being eaten alive by an animal that isn’t supposed to be all that dangerous, I was also sneezed on by an elephant.  I’m pretty sure I’m the reason they started putting double-fences and very deep ditches around even the “safe” animals.  I was riding around in my stroller, probably looking adorable, and my mom wheeled me up to the wire fence that separated the elephants from the spectators.  One elephant turned its trunk straight at me and sneezed with such force that it required a sink bath in the public restroom and a full change of clothes.  In addition, when I went to the zoo with my grandpa as a small child, some weird, older couple grabbed me by both arms and tried to run off with me.  I screamed my head off to alert my grandpa because my parents had instilled in me a specific terror of kidnappers (as most parents did to their children in ’80s).  My grandpa yanked me away from them and, as I recall, said a lot of words to them that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap had I repeated them.  So between the camel assault, the elephant attack, and the kidnapping attempt, I really disliked the zoo.  (Aside from the hot dogs.  The hot dogs were awesome.)

In fact, my spastic parents helped make me scared of just about everything and everyone.  If they weren’t telling me about kidnappers (which I’m sure was just their misguided way of trying to keep me from running off in public), they were talking about burglars.  There were a couple of times when houses in our neighborhood were robbed– despite living in a really nice area– and I heard a few too many burglar stories.  I was afflicted with insomnia and almost nightly nightmares as a child, so I was awake pretty often in the middle of the night.  I would lie there in bed, listening for the intruder I was positive would eventually come, and the moment I heard the slightest creak or groan of the house settling, I would run wake my dad and tell him to get his gun.  So he would dutifully, and groggily, grab his pistol from the bedside table (because in Texas, in the 80s, lots of dads slept with pistols next to the bed) and walk through the house checking for criminals.  Then he would reassure me, tuck me back in bed, and order me not to wake him up again unless the house was on fire.  But he didn’t understand– my bedroom was the first room in the hallway off the living room!  When the burglars came, they would come to my room first, and they’d probably kidnap me for good measure!  Then they’d send my parents a ransom note, and I would be forced to sleep in a basement with no TV and eat nothing but disgusting vegetables until I was rescued.  (I had a weird idea both of burglars and kidnappers.)

My fear of kidnappers was so severe that I would throw a hysterical fit any time my mom tried to leave me in the car while she filled the gas tank.  And when I went out in public with my dad, he couldn’t use the restroom until he got home because I would insist on going in with him to make sure I was safe.  Once he took me to the circus, and on the way back we had to stop for gas.  He needed to use the facilities and told me to wait right outside the door.  Which I did.  For about ten seconds.  The moment a strange man walked toward the restroom, I burst into the men’s room, screaming my head off, and startled my dad so badly that he peed all up the wall and all down his pants.

I wish I had some profound lesson from all of this (other than “Don’t tell your kids about burglars or kidnappers” and “Don’t get close to elephants”).  But really, what I got out of all of this crap is this 1) There is a fine line between teaching your kids to be cautious and scaring the ever-living-fuckity-fuck out of them and 2) Camels are dicks.  For real.  They are just about the biggest assholes in the animal kingdom.  Followed closely by elephants.

My Youngest Brother is Nuttier Than Squirrel Shit

My baby brother was a runt when he was little.  He was a tiny baby and was always the smallest kid in his class– until he hit high school and suddenly turned into G.I. Joe.  I think it may have been his midget-ness, coupled with the never-ending torture that my middle brother and I put him through, that spawned in him a need to prove himself.  And that he did, in every way possible.

A2 (as I have referred to him in previous posts) was the kind of kid who jumped off the top of the jungle gym and on the way down remembered, “Oh yeah, I have to land…”  He was so absent-minded and non-observant that the house once literally almost burned down around him while he obliviously watched TV.  (My mother got out of the shower and walked into the living room, which had completely filled with smoke from a very burnt turkey in the oven, and A2 looked up at her in complete surprise when she shrieked and asked him how in the hell of all shits he hadn’t noticed.)  And he feared nothing.  That is not a good combination.

A2 got stitched back together more times in the first ten years of his life than his brother and I have in all of our years put together up to this point.  The fact that he would eat virtually anything for money provided no end of amusement to A1 and me over the years.  The father of one of his friends once made the mistake of handing him an unopened box of Milk Bones and offering him a dollar for every one he ate.  He ate all thirty-five.  It was this fearlessness and ability to eat things that would kill a normal person that made him a perfect candidate for the military.  And it prepared him well.

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that, on bivouac, you get nothing but severely rationed rations.  Basically a square of cardboard meat and flammable, powdered creamer twice a day.  After being in the woods for a week, A2 and his guys wandered back onto their base and passed a dumpster.  On top of the trash in the dumpster was a Papa John’s box, and it called to them like a siren.  Upon opening it, they discovered half an  uneaten pizza.  So A2 and his buddies sat down on the ground next to the dumpster and went Godzilla on the trash pizza.  As they were wolfing it down, their CO walked by and gasped in horror when he realized what they were doing.  “What the hell is wrong with you guys??!” he cried.  “I threw that pizza out yesterday!!”

Once on an open-ocean swim, A2 and his swim buddy stopped to tread water for a moment.  “Damn, man, I’m thirsty,” A2 said.  And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a half-full bottle of Gatorade floated past.  Not bothering to consider how long it might have been floating, or whether he might contract three kinds of hepatitis, A2 promptly downed part of the bottle, then offered the rest to his swim buddy.  He also once ate candy off the ground on the sidewalk.  Opened candy.  He has the immune system of a cyborg and the stomach of a trash compactor.

His next ocean adventure was a little less fortuitous.  He was doing a polar bear swim with the rest of the guys in his troop, and they made a bet to see who could last longest in the icy water.  A2, of course, won.  As he dragged himself back to the beach triumphantly, he realized that he was getting some funny looks.  Finally, he looked down and realized that there was a large and very alive jellyfish wrapped tightly around his calf.  He was so numb from the cold water that he couldn’t feel it.  Prying it off was the stuff of legends.  And now, among his guys, A2 is the stuff of legends.

I like to think that some of the torture A1 and I exposed him to as children helped prepare him for his life in the military.  He does seem to take everything in stride better than most.  Things that would either make me scream in horror or vomit profusely have no effect on him.  I view it as a excellent argument for the validation of shooting your sibling in the nipples with a BB gun for target practice.  Imagine all the times he found himself in a terrible situation and thought, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as getting tagged in the nips with BBs,” or “At least I’m not being force-fed dog poo (go read my previous posts for the story on that one).”  Yup, sibling torture surely made my youngest brother the G.I. Joe lookalike he is today.  You’re welcome, little bro.  I will be a dick for your well-being any day.

Awesome Convos I’ve Had with my Kids and Things I Never Thought I’d Say or Do Until I Became a Mom

This is a collection of hilarious interactions with my kids and things I’ve said and done as a mother that would’ve seemed very strange– or unthinkable– to me before the birth of my first child.


 

Convo with my daughters, R and G, when they were ages six and three years, respectively:

R: (pointing to a picture of me as a baby) Mom, I look just like you!

Me: Yes, you do, baby.  You look just like Mommy.

G: Do I look like you, Mom?

Me: No, you look more like your dad (referring to my ex).

G: (without missing a beat, loudly and furiously) HEY, I’M NOT BALD!!!!

Me: laughing hysterically


 

My son, age three years, sits down to pee on the toilet at my grandparents’ house where, for some reason, the bathroom is carpeted:

Me: Make sure you point it in the potty.

J: Point what?

Me: Your tallywhacker.

J: What’s a tacky-whacker??

Me: Your penis. Weiner.

J: My penis is named tacky-whacker???!!!


 

The following illustrates more than anything else how very much I love my son:

J was going through a phase where bugs and snakes were the most fascinating things in the world. And I could handle the terrarium with the benign grass snakes in it and the mason jars full of snails (that bred and laid 5,000 eggs and had to be released at our local park before they took over the house) and the caterpillars that we raised to butterflies. But then came the nightmare creature.

My ex and I were up in the Texas Hill Country, which is home to all sorts of horrible bugs and snakes. One morning we found a 6-inch long centipede on the porch, so the ex trapped it in two Styrofoam cups, and we took it home to J. I could hear it skittering around in the cups the whole ride home and was terrified that it would break free and eat us. We put it in yet another plastic terrarium and gave it to J, and he lost his mind over it and named it Slasher. I literally had nightmares about it escaping its cage and munching us all to death with its appalling mandibles. I researched it and found out that it was a common and very aggressive red-headed centipede.  So aggressive, in fact, that it would stand up on its very back legs to snatch bugs from us when we opened the lid to feed it, so we resorted to feeding it with tongs.  Its diet consisted of enormous, green katydids that we caught in the garden.  It occasionally molted and eventually grew to be nearly a foot long– no exaggeration.  It lived for a year in that terrarium, consistently horrifying all of us, except for J, and giving me nightmares on a semi-regular basis.  I’m reasonably certain it was actually spawned by the devil in the deepest bowels of hell.


 

My middle child has always been very independent and insisted on doing everything on her own, frustrating the hell out of herself from time to time.  Potty-training and switching to big-girl underpants was no exception.  I was once interrupted while putting away laundry by the sound of a tiny voice grunting and whining in the hallway.  I peeked around the doorway to see R rolling around on the floor, red-faced and struggling with all her might to pull on a pair of her new undies.  At first I was confused as to why she seemed unable to get them up past her thighs, and she was so furiously pissed off that she was starting to scream in rage.  When I sat down next to her and put my hand on her to get her to quit squirming for a second, I saw that she had actually stuffed one leg is the waistband and was trying to get the leg-hole up around her waist (basically she’d put them on sideways).  When I got her calmed down, I showed her how to find the waistband by looking for the tag.  I will never forget her cute, little self, rolling around on the floor and squealing like a piggy as she tried desperately to get that leg-hole up over her butt.


The following are actual statements I have made (some more than once) since becoming a mother:

  • Don’t ride the cat.
  • Stop licking your armpit.
  • Don’t feed the cat popcorn.
  • Stop farting on your sister.
  • Don’t strip in public.
  • Please stop headbutting me in the tailbone.
  • Please don’t burp like a trucker at family gatherings (this to my seven-year old daughter).
  • Stop throwing bananas.
  • Please stop lifting my shirt in public to look at my tattoos.
  • Quit banging your head on the shopping cart handle.  We’re getting looks.
  • Get your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  • Please don’t take off your diaper and throw it across the room after you pee in it.
  • Tossing your plate upside down on the floor is not the proper way to tell me you’re done eating.
  • Popsicles are not dinner food.
  • No, you may not go out in public wearing a purple unibrow that you drew on your face with my eye shadow.
  • Please do not ever again sneak into bed with me at 5:00 a.m. to cut my hair.
  • If you ever again fart in yoga class and then blame it on me, I will stop letting you go with me.
  • It’s not okay to call out your great-grandma on her farts in public.  She’s old, and she can’t help it.  She probably doesn’t realize she did it.
  • It is not necessary to name your poop.
  • Farting on command is not a talent– it’s a health hazard.
  • The cat’s tail is not a handle.  Do not use it to carry her around the house.
  • Diapers are not fuel– please don’t take yours off and toss it in the fireplace to make the fire bigger.
  • No, the lemons on the lemon tree in your great-grandparents’ backyard are not yellow because you peed on the tree when you were swimming and didn’t want to dry off to go use the bathroom.  You can’t believe everything your great-grandpa tells you.
  • Yes, girls do have ovaries, but boys do not have “underies.”  Please do not believe– or repeat– anything your uncles tell you.

 

I was once riding in the car with my son, my grandmother, and my aunt.  J was about two years old and was singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to himself as he looked out the window.  After a few verses he sang, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!  And on that farm he had a dick-dick, E-I-E-I-O!  With a dick-dick here and dick-dick there!  Here a dick!  There a dick!  Everywhere a dick-dick!  Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!”  I glanced at great-grandmother, whose eyes were round with shock, and at my aunt, who was shaking with barely contained laughter, and sighed and closed my eyes.  “Well,” I shrugged, “at least he knows Old MacDonald is a dude.”

 

 

The Time I Totally Saw a For-Real Ghost

Let me preface this by saying that it is exactly what the title implies– an actual encounter I had with a ghost.  This is amazing for two reasons:
1) I was a firm skeptic until it happened, and even after the event, it took me a few months to accept that I hadn’t hallucinated it;
2) I am THE biggest wuss who has ever lived in the history of mankind, except for my dear mother, and the fact that I did not go legally insane or physically die is a miracle in and of itself. 

I used to love historic buildings.  I was the annoying person who would sneak away from the tour group to go investigate areas that were off-limits to the public and later get caught and asked to leave while trying on a trunk of old hats (that did happen).  So when I had the opportunity to stay at a 200-year old plantation in Louisiana, I just about lost my mind with extreme joy.  I was planning to find secret passages and shit, ya’ll.  And maybe buried treasure.  I gleefully packed my “explorer” clothes (all black for being sneaky and kind of old because I didn’t want to get dust and musty smell on my nice stuff) and mapped out my route using the online floorplan.  I knew where the secret passages would likely be located.  And the treasure.

My excitement reached fever pitch as we rounded the dirt road and came up the driveway to the three-story mansion.   It was majestically coated in golden light from the setting sun and was surrounded by small outbuildings and acres of sugar cane.   I was bouncing in my seat like a toddler on cocaine by the time we parked the car, squealing like a piggy.  The only thing that marred my jubilation was a small, niggling feeling of uneasiness in the back of my mind.  I didn’t know what it was or what was causing it, but I was getting a little bit of a weird vibe from the place, as though the ground were vibrating with some sort of energy.  I pushed it to the back of my mind and zipped around the property the way a hummingbird goes after a flower garden.  I looked at every barn, every shed, every old farm implement, every old car and tractor.  I peeked inside every box and trunk I could find.  It was too late to tour the main house, so I explored all the outbuildings instead. 

The only place I didn’t go was our room.  We were staying in a brick building, separate from the main house,  that used to be the kitchen back when kitchens were kept outside in case of fire.  It had been turned into a double bungalow.  We had a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and massive fireplace.   And every time I went inside, I got the motherfucking creeps like nobody’s goddamn business.  I could swear up and down that someone was watching me in there.  Every time I turned my back to the room– to use the sink or turn down the bed– I had to stop every few seconds and glance over my shoulder, so I minimized my time in that area.  As night rolled in, we realized that there was a faint glow of fire all along the horizon behind the house.  They were burning the sugar cane.  It was so beautiful,  no lights except for the stars and the flames in the inky blackness.  After awhile, I grew tired, so we went inside to go to bed.

Because of my growing uneasiness, I made my ex leave the TV on until I fell asleep.   Despite the light and sound from the television, I could hear loud creaks and groans and occasional pops, all of which I assumed to be the old building settling as the cool, night air sank around us.  After about an hour of adjusting and readjusting my position, throwing blankets and pillows all over the place, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.  Sometime after that, my ex turned the TV off, and every sound of the building settling would startle me half-awake. 

I woke up fully at 3:30 in the morning– I remember because the red numbers on the clock next to the bed were the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes.  The numbers looked funny though, as if there were a fog floating in front of them.  I blinked a couple of times, assuming it was my eyes since I had just woken up.  But as I blinked, the fog actually grew denser, and I suddenly realized that it was forming into a shape.  To my complete and utter horror,  the black fog took the shape of a woman in a long dress.  I couldn’t see her features, but I got the distinct impression of a lady in 19th century servant dress with her hair tied up in a scarf.  I didn’t get a feeling of evil from her, but just the fact that I was seeing her at all was enough to scare the living daylights out of me.  I tried to reach over and shake my ex awake when I discovered that I could not, in actuality, move.   I was so terrified that I was completely incapable of exerting any control over my muscles.  I had no idea what to do besides panic (because panicking always helps), so that’s what I did.  It seemed like minutes that I was stuck in that frightened, immobile state, staring at the figure next to the bed, but in reality it was probably only a few seconds.  I blinked and suddenly recovered myself, so I did what any normal adult would do– I punched my ex in the face as hard as I could and screamed at the top of my lungs, “TURN ON THE FUCKING LIGHT FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!”  Most people don’t respond well when woken from a sound sleep with a right hook to the face, but in my defense, most people also do not respond well when woken from an unsound sleep by a friggin’ ghost. 

My ex sat bolt upright and turned on the lamp, yelling, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???”  I couldn’t answer.  I just sat there hugging my knees and shaking and sweating profusely like a boxer at a prize fight.  “Just turn on the TV,” I said.   “Why the hell did you punch me in the face to watch TV???!”  He exclaimed in disbelief.   “I HAD A NIGHTMARE!! JUST TURN IT ON!!” I yelled back.  So he huffily grabbed the remote and turned on the television, the light and noise of which enabled me to relax enough to doze a little.  

After tossing and turning the rest of the night, we got up about 6:30 and went to the main house for breakfast.  While we ate, and my ex bitched repeatedly about being absuively awoken in the middle of the night, I tried to explain what I had experienced, which I still didn’t fully understand myself.  After we ate, the caretaker asked if we’d like a tour of the property.  So we followed him around as he took us from the front yard all the way through to the attic, telling us along the way about the many murders, suicides, and executions that had occurred there over the past 200 years.  And the ghost stories.  I began to understand why I had felt so uneasy the whole time we’d been there. 

“Now that you’re about to leave,” he said, “I’ll tell you what happened in your room.”  And he proceeded to tell us how, 170 years earlier, the cook had been poisoned by another servant and had died there in the kitchen where we had spent the night.  He also told us how people often claim to see her in the middle of the night, standing next to the bed or sitting in the chair in the corner of the room.  As he told us this story, I watched my ex’s eyes grow wider and wider, as I’m sure my own were doing, and I felt the blood drain from my face.  My ex turned to me and said, “Tell him about your dream.”  Which is what my ex assumed it was, since he couldn’t believe in anything he hadn’t seen himself because he’s an enormous butthole, but that’s a story for another day.  So, wringing my hands and tripping over my words, I told the guy in detail what had happened.  And the look on the caretaker’s face never changed.  He listened to my story and at the end of it said, “You have no idea how many times I’ve heard that same story.”  Which totally didn’t help because I’d been hoping he’d say something along the lines of, “Ghosts aren’t real.  I just told you all that crap to freak you out, and we drugged you to make you hallucinate your encounter.  You’re a twat for being so gullible.” 

After that night, I became obsessed with finding out more about the paranormal,  thereby better understanding my own experience.  And since that night, I have had more experiences, although none quite so shocking.  I have learned that there is a lot more to the world than I ever thought possible, that it is much bigger and is made up of far more than anything I could imagine.  And that’s pretty fucking cool.  I have also learned that ghosts are dicks, and they seriously should be a little more gentle about making their existence known to people, instead of shocking a perfectly innocent person out of a sound sleep in the middle of the goddamned night.  You, ghost, are an asshole.

I Suspect my Brothers Might be a Little Bit Immortal

I’m pretty sure that my brothers, if not immortal, at least posses some sort of super power that makes them immune to serious injury and death.  I came to this conclusion after looking back over our childhood and marveling at all the things we did to each other that, reasonably,  should have resulted in hospitalization at the very least.  But the worst thing that ever happened was stitches.  Lots and lots of stitches.

One of the worst whoopins (that’s Texas vernacular for ‘spanking,’ which is something most parents did to their kids when I was growing up) I ever received was the result of me putting my brother’s head through the windshield of our mom’s minivan.  Before you conclude that I was a monstrous demon-child, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  I had two brothers, one three years younger than I and the other six years younger.  For the purpose of this post, we’ll call the older one A-1 and the younger A-2 (as both of their names start with A).  Mom often made the mistake of leaving A-1 and me in the car while she ran inside with A-2 to grab milk or whatever  (preferring the inevitable hysterics we would cause to be kept in the parking lot and knowing that A-2 was unlikely to survive whatever we might do to him).  A-1 was in the front seat– this was before airbags, when no kid over age three rode in a carseat– and was sitting on his knees, leaning forward over the dashboard.   Being the excellent big sister that I was, I reared back and, using all the force my tiny body could muster,  punched A-1 straight in the ass.  I was small, but he was smaller, so his whole body flew forward.  Straight into the windshield.  I watched in horror, and time seemed to slow painfully,  as A-1’s head made contact with the safety glass.  A huge spiderweb of cracks appeared in the glass, radiating from the point of contact across the entire passenger side half of the windshield.  My short life flashed before my eyes, and I will  never ever ever as long as I live forget the look on my mother’s face when she walked up to the minivan.  I have, however, blocked out the actual corporal punishment, which is probably very fortunate.   In fact, I received so very many whoopins that they all just run together like one, big mega-whoopin.  A-1, by the way, came out of the incident completely unscathed and found great amusement in my resulting consequences.

Then there was the time I busted A-2’s head open,  and he had to get what turned out to be one of many sets of stitches.  I used to trip my brothers when we were kids because I was nine, and it was funny.  One day I got tired of wearing glasses, which I didn’t really need anyway (plus I hated the frames because my mom made me get red ones, and I wanted pink), so I decided A-2 would break them for me.  I carefully placed them on my bedroom floor, a little out of the way so A-2 wouldn’t see them, and called my youngest brother into my room.  I told him I wanted to time him and see how many times he could run in a circle around the room in a minute.   So he took off and, of course, stepped on my glasses.  I told him it was no big deal and to keep running, which he did– by then I had a better idea.  In addition to breaking my glasses for me– and I had A-2 do this because he was too young to get in trouble, so I wasn’t an ass all the time– I could derive some entertainment by tripping him.  Usually, when I tripped my brothers, the worst that would happen is that it would piss them off, but they would start laughing when they saw me laughing.   I never intended for A-2 to get hurt, but I was also incapable of forethought at that age.  So A-2 kept running, and I stuck my foot out, and down he went.  Face first into the rocking chair.  He didn’t cry, just turned and looked at me very surprised.  Then I saw the line of blood forming on his forehead.   When the thin line turned into a full-on faucet,  I got concerned and ran to get my mom.  I tried telling her that A-2 had tripped on his own, but he was old enough to speak for himself, so the jig was up almost immediately.   My punishment was that I had to ride in the back seat, holding A-2’s head in my lap as I pressed a bloody rag to his forehead, while our mom drove to the emergency clinic. Plus a whoopin’.

Before you decide that I am just a very terrible human being, bent on fratricide, I wasn’t the only one causing peril to life and limb.  There was also the time that A-1 sliced A-2’s chin open with a machete.  They were eight and five at the time, and before you ask why an eight-year old was playing with a machete, let me explain– because Texas.  If you grew up in Texas before 1995, you most likely knew how to wield a machete, a hunting knife, and a .22 well before puberty.  So my brothers were traipsing through the woods at our grandparents’ ranch, and A-1– being the protective older brother– was clomping through the brush in front of A-2, ineffectually knocking vines and plants out of their path.  A-2, being the most non-observant child I ever met in my life, was staring up at birds and got a little too close to A-1’s wildly-swinging machete arm.  So the machete ended up embedded about half an inch into his chin, resulting in yet more stitches and a funny-looking chin bandage that I made fun off every day for two weeks.   A-2 did not get a whoopin’ because our dad said it was an “accident.”  Pfft.  Technicality.

But A-1 definitely was not an angel, as much as he tried to put out that vibe.  I will never forget the day he knocked down A-2 in the backyard,  sat on his chest, and stuffed dog poo in his mouth.  And when our dad got home and was told what had happened, he made A-1 go pick up a piece of dog poo and put it in his own mouth.  And then my mom yelled at both A-1 and my dad because she said everyone was going to get worms.  I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound awesome.

There was also the time when A-1 and I were going through a fistfight phase, and our mom had to break up half a dozen fights a day.  And she would make us hug afterward, which we hated.   On one particularly bad day she took us to Walmart, and by the time she pulled into the parking lot, we were whacking the crap out of each other in the back seat.  Our poor mom, out of patience at this point, left us to have it out in the car while she took A-2 into Walmart with her.  She did her shopping and came back out to find both A-1 and me in tears.  We didn’t touch each other for a week.  

I have a thousand other stories like this.  I can’t believe CPS never showed up at our house.   Our childhood sounds a little savage to me now, considering that my kids rarely even call each other butthead, and I’d die before I’d “whoop” any of them.  Simpler times, people.  Simpler times.