Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pig-Swine

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You can’t think of anything funny, so—to save yourself from a negative day—you go inside yourself to dig up what might have been funny in the past.

You can only think of yourself as the butt of jokes, the one who made everyone else laugh.

When you were five, you liked to play hide-and-seek, but your older siblings were so much older than you that they could not quite be bothered to hide. Instead, they trailed you around the house and yard—always out of your sight—making themselves unfindable. Frustrated, you would ask your dad, “Where is everybody?” He would smile because they were right behind you.

You developed an anxiety disorder.

One day, one of your older sisters decided to drag you by your ankles across the length of the house. Your shirt rode up, resulting in a rug burn that rivaled a slave’s whipping.

You were mad for the first time in your life, but you were not allowed to swear. You didn’t even know any swear words. So you stood up, confronted this older sister—blood staining the back of your shirt—and you made up a dirty word: pig-swine. You knew that pigs were bad and swines were worse.

“Pig-swine!” you howled. Then you attacked your sister by pinching her belly. That would be the extent of violence in your life: pinching older siblings’ bellies and yelling, “Pig-swine!” whenever you felt intimidated, unappreciated, or used.

It didn’t work then, and you’re sure it wouldn’t work now.

You held a mass in your bedroom during the Super Bowl when you were eight. For this, you pressed the life out of sandwich bread to make wafers, and dumped all of your older sisters’ bottles of perfume into a soup bowl to make holy water. Everybody came to your mass during half-time, but you got yelled at later.

You farted one time while everyone was watching Happy Days…maybe you were ten, almost a grown-up by then. You were sitting in a big wing-back chair in the back of the living room and thought you could get away with it. Due to your special luck in the world, the wings trumpeted the noise and the smell of your fart to the rest of the people in the room, who happened to be your older sisters lying in front of the TV with their boyfriends.

Everyone turned their heads—five or six faces looking at you with disgust, some of them really cute guys—and one sister said, “Katie, oh my God.”

You shrunk.

You were the only person in the world who had ever farted.

***
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You are timid and shy by nature, overwhelmed sometimes with adult needs and rules. Your best and most favorite place is your parents’ closet. The older kids who really don’t live in the house anymore have no idea how cool this space is. Behind your parents’ hanging clothes—in the space underneath the stairs that lead up to your sisters’ world—are the sleeping bags.

This is where your parents store the early history of their life. You’re too young to remember all the camping trips, but for some reason you love these green bags.
They’re all rolled up and forest green. There are seven of them, all cloth, all harboring the smells and ideas and history of a family. You go back there with a flashlight and a book, not even knowing that you’re hiding.

Your mother calls out, “Kathryn, where are you!?” Crawling out of the back of the closet, you give away your third-grade secrets. The older girls are hanging around and you get confident. Unfortunately for you, confidence manifests itself with swinging on the refrigerator door. For some reason, you throw your eighty pounds onto the open swinging door like it’s a carnival ride.

What were you thinking?

Your mother comes around the corner and spanks your butt. As she should have. Any mother would have.

This is the first spanking that you’ve ever received, and the last. Shamed and tearful, you retreat back to the closet.

You overhear a heated conversation taking place in the kitchen, grown women arguing about whether or not it’s okay to spank a child who has been so good up to this point.

Your mother says, “She was swinging on the refrigerator door! That is unacceptable!”

Your sisters shake their heads. They’re still in training.

***

Feeling like an example, you trundle towards the rest of your life. You learn new swear words, but rarely use them. You long for that pile of forest green sleeping bags.

You keep being funny.

4 comments:

  1. No one, not even a parent, is perfect. Everyone generally does the best they can, given their upbringing, their nature, their intelligence, and their ability for introspection. A hard thing to understand when you are ten, and even harder to live with when we get older and those who should be the closest and kindest to us haven't changed much.

    That's when you try to find like-minded friends and create a new sort of family :)

    You are very open here, and for that I admire you.

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  2. I admire your willingness to show your vulnerability. We all are, but you talk about it openly and honestly.

    Contrary to Mary Englebreit's coffee mug saying, family does not put the fun in dysFUNctional.

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  3. Kate, you are great. Love your brutal honesty. Your posts are so entertaining, thank you.

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  4. Kate: R u sure you didn't grow up with me in the Seyfert house? Don't remember green sleeping bags but army blankets and cots! too funny....
    Kay

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