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I’ve been separating from my mother in various ways over the years: On my own with the cooked pea incident at three; then with the Eskimo hat at five--I knew I wasn't an Eskimo and couldn’t wear the fuzzy hat—-then at 12 I had an allowance and could make monetary choices, but wasn’t allowed bathing suits with mesh, bringing on three years of subversive catalog searching. Mom tried to ignore the whole operation but couldn't prevent that one black mesh plunge V-neck swimsuit arriving from JC Penney, brown paper wrapped, which totally solidified my relationship with the first older boyfriend who mattered. My mother's assessment: “That man is a wild Indian.” How did she know? She had to have known. As a matter of fact, he looked a lot like my father at that age.
Was her comment a deterrent at sixteen? Nooo. I could hardly keep hold of my legwarmers and the mustard-gas yellow eye shadow opening my eyes to this opportunity: No no you guys, he’s Italian! He loves me. He’s teaching me new music I had no idea about. He’s probably a lot more normal than me. And he’s a frickin’ smart football scholar in college and I love love love him. Plus the way he makes time for his little sister and brother makes me lonesome for the times when my older siblings did the same for me.
My father exiled this beautiful interloper to the patio, and then to the back lawn; that’s where I lost a lot of my potential mistakes, the older and younger cute boys who my parents didn’t want me to form attachments to because we were always moving anyway. If they could just get rid of that one, life would be easier. But each one left a permanent impression on my heart: each boy I dated in my grade, the couple of older boy/men I dated, and then the prize-winning super-Mario Monkey/Cat Italian kid who whisked me away from my controlled environment by just rolling up to our front door with a four-wheeler in the back of his truck and yelling, “You ready?!”
Free again, I ran down those doorsteps with the skip of a girl who knows that being grounded on a 2000 mile road trip back home to Minnesota holds no candle to a rumbling afternoon with the best looking Italian boy available at the time, all for me. We played like grown-ups at the cabin of our final resting...resting, finally, on some rumpled pull-out couch, my Cat-Boy/Italian super-full moon of the night said to me, “You’re a ten.” His confidence in me did a world of good.
It still does.