Sunday, April 6, 2014

What I find in the Attic

What I Found in the Attic

I found some pictures today when I was cleaning the attic. They were pictures of my great-aunt Glenna and her husband, Paul, taken by Charleston Newspapers and mailed to them along a card thanking her for participating in an interview. Apparently they had interviewed housewives asking if they used a budget. Here was her quote:
"No, I don't fool with one. I found that I spend it all anyway, so I don't worry about it. I spend all my husband's money and save mine for a rainy day. A budget is supposed to be used to tell you how much to spend. In my case, it would just be a record of how much I've spent."
I can hear her say this. She was such a spitfire, always wound up over something and in stark contrast to her husband's mellow personality. I loved them together. I think my first love was falling in love with their love.
Their last name was Darlington, and she called him by his initials, P.D. Everything that was his (flashlights, tools, etc) was labeled with his initials. His initials were  also on the gifts that he'd bought for her, I guess because she didn't want to forget that he was the giver. She kept every Valentine's candy box, every birthday and Christmas card, and I still have them in his military trunk. She just signed her cards "me".
As I mentioned, she was wild. Her favorite expression was, "Somebody oughta slap the shit outta (fill-in-the-blank)." It pertained to whomever she was upset with that day. She would watch the news, see a story about child abuse, and exclaim, "Now! Somebody oughta slap the shit outta anyone that could hurt a child!" Or she would be watching a talk show and call out, "Somebody oughta slap the shit outta any woman who has four men that could be the daddy of that baby."
She thought that the president, the governor, local politicians, and the water commissioner needed the shit slapped out of them from time to time. When city water came to the holler, she fought hard to not hook up to it and to not pay extra for sewer hook up. I remember her going to every meeting of the Armstrong Creek Public Service District to slap them with her opinion on the issue. I also remember that when she flat out refused to pay, a policeman came and P.D. had to sign their paperwork. I was sure they were taking him to jail.
P.D. took all this in stride. He would meet her rants with quiet replies:
" Now, Glenna."
"Well, I declare."  
"A fellar has a time." Sometimes he would just chuckle.
They did their own thing, and neither of them cared what others thought. In the summertime, he would sit on the porch in just his boxers, and she would wear only a pair of shorts and a bra. They didn't rush to throw on clothes if company was coming. You found them as they were. Glenna cleaned house about twice a year, and they only washed dishes once a week.
But when they did wash the dishes, they always did it together, and it took them most of Saturday night. When she did clean the house, she was very meticulous and would "take out a room" and clean everything in it before putting it back. And even though they sat around the house in their underwear or thread-bare rags, when they did dress up and go out, nobody could exude more class. He wore a fedora and three-piece suits. She could look like a 1940s movie diva. They complimented each other so well. They balanced each other out.
 I've written about them many times, but I don't know that I've ever truly captured them. Maybe they fought. Certainly they did, but I never saw it. They never had kids, but all the kids wanted to hang out at their house because of slow-paced peacefulness they created. Sit on the porch in your underwear for hours drinking beer in the summertime. Hole up in the winter and cook fried potatoes, biscuits, ham, chocolate fudge. She didn't cook big most of the time, but when she did decide to, it was a feast.
They gave me all my ideas about what is supposed to be, a fairy tale. Something that probably wasn't as perfect as it seemed, but my heart can't be convinced of that. My childlike inner self will not allow my adult mind to whittle away at the perfection I've created for them. I measure my own relationships against theirs and come back disappointed. It's not my fault, and it's not his either, but it's not there.
My mind is the attic where I keep these things. Tucked away, protected, untouchable. The basement of my soul, my foundation, is so penetrated by these roots. Penetrated and anchored. Anchored but tied down. I don't know if I can ever leave this house, this land. I don't  know how much of me is me and how much of me is them.
I've spent my adult life searching for, homesick for, something that may have never existed in the first place, and not surprisingly, I've failed. My path is like new vine clinging fiercely to old branches. Branches that died long ago, that would have fallen away and gone back to the earth had the vine not clung so tightly. But the vines are magical and strong. The fairies come out at night and thread those vines along the branches. I know this to be truth because she told me so. I can't let that go.

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