It’s 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, and I have spent the last three hours sitting on my sofa enjoying being back in New York, in my own apartment. And it the most amazing thing, not one person has screamed “Motherfucker”, not one person has made disparaging remarks about “Mexicans” or “Niggers”, the temperature in the apartment is well above freezing, and there isn’t a well meaning mother shoving cookies in my direction telling me to go ahead…”have one more.” Perhaps you can already discover the differences between my life in Kentucky and my life in New York. If not, well I’ll spend a couple of paragraphs explaining.
I was hired about six weeks ago to do the lighting for a musical at a small college in Central Kentucky. I worked at this school when I lived in Kentucky years ago and was very aware of the limitations. They were however, willing to pay me a decent sum of money to come to Kentucky for 10 days and design the lights for their musical. They also provided me with transportation from NYC to KY and a rental car to use while I was there. The school was close enough that I could stay with my mom while I was there and save everyone some money. And thus I went to Kentucky for 11 days.
This is the longest I’ve been in the area since my father died. I’m usually only there three or four days at most and in the past year each visit has been less than 48 hours. This is perfect for me. I love my family to death but I can only take them in small doses. And when I say small doses. I mean small doses.
We’ll start with my mom’s house. My mom lives in a modest ranch style home that was built in the 1960’s. She and my father bought the house about 8 years ago. It was too much house for them then, and it’s way too much house for my mom now. Unfortunately, I have been unable to convince her to even try and sell it. She’s convinced that she’ll have no where to go if she does. As long as she makes the payments, she’s got a roof over her head. The only problem is it REALLY IS WAY TOO MUCH HOUSE for her.
My mother has never been a good housekeeper. I didn’t grow up in a house where everything was in it’s place and there was no dust on things. Once every six months or so, my mom would take the day off work and scrub from top to bottom and the house would be perfect. For a day or two. To this day, it’s the mode of cleaning that I use. I keep things somewhat put in place. And then every six months or so I scrub from top to bottom. For my mom though, this no longer works. She’s almost 70 and not in the best physical shape so cleaning at all causes her great pain. She does the best she can but it’s not very good. I’ve offered to try and help hire someone to help her out, but she says no. She also won’t allow me to help when I’m home. As you can tell she’s very stubborn.
All of this translates into a very dusty, not very clean house. Which for me, means that my allergies are in full force by the time I drop my bags in my bedroom. This trip, I started popping Claritin-D before I got there which helped some. But still there were several nights that I sneezed well over 50 or 60 times, before I was finally able to get comfortable and fall asleep. The other reason I have allergy problems at my mom’s house is that her roof leaked for well over a year before it was discovered and repaired. I would bet money that there is an insane build up of mold in her house. I’m surprised she’s not sick all the time. But except for her physical ability to get around she’s great.
My mother is also a obsessive worrier. There have been many times in her life that she’s become overwhelmed with things in her life to the point of making her sick. The day I got my driver’s license and drove for the first time by myself, she fainted in the grocery store. A little dramatic yes, but that’s my mom. Since my dad died the thing she worries about most is the cost of fuel. The cost of gas for the car, and the cost of gas to heat the house. For this reason, she won’t drive anywhere she doesn’t HAVE to go to. And she keeps the thermostat set on 52. At least that’s what it was on two nights ago when the temperature outside was 21. Needless to say, I froze my ass off, and that was with four blankets. I finally convinced her that I was freezing and she boosted the temp to 62. Not a lot better, but it was some improvement.
And then, when I get up, there is more candy, cookies, sweets, etc. to feast on than any person needs to have. My mother’s dining room table is covered with bags of different kinds of candy (none of it was for trick or treat) at least three or four kinds of cookies, then there are pies, chips, ice cream, pop tarts, crackers, popcorn, etc. It’s a disaster area for someone who likes food as much as I do. I think I gained 10 pounds this week. I tried for about the first three or four days until I gave in. And then I said fuck it. It was just too much to pass by and not help myself to it.
All of this and I haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving Dinner. My mother decided that since it had been exactly 10 years since I was in Kentucky for Thanksgiving, that we should have our family gathering on November 10. This way I could be there, everyone was available to come and it would be just like Thanksgiving…only earlier. As of yesterday, I realize that I never want to attend another family function ever. I just don’t like them. I don’t like the people. I don’t like the people. I don’t like the people.
Any of my friends who have met any of my family will tell you that there is a serious disconnect between me and my family. It’s clear that I don’t fit in and it’s often suggested that I was stolen as a baby and that’s why. My friend Michelle has made these assumptions, and my friend Todd is just baffled by it. So what happens when I get together with my family… I sit around and pretend not to be offended by the bigoted racists remarks that are made. There is constant talk about the Mexicans who live next door and across the street. I won’t get into it here, but they are not kind remarks. It gets even worse when we talk about the “little colored boy” who lives down the street. Or the “bunch of niggers” that were at the Wal-Mart the other day. I’m only able to do this for a short time, until I blow my fuse and piss everyone off.
It wouldn’t be so bad (well it probably would be) if this didn’t all take place at dinner. We are supposed to be having a dinner of Thanksgiving and people are talking about this stuff. Then in the middle of all this the word “motherfucker” is tossed out 6 or 7 times. Then Ronnie calls Tony a “pussy” and then Scott gets pissed off and calls Jessie a “prick”. And then everyone gets mad because Scott is being mean to his children. Oh, yeah, each and every one of the bigots has bred insuring a long line of bigots to come.
And at some point, I decided I just want to be home. Not at my mom’s house, but home in New York. In the privacy of my home. Where I can have civilized conversation, without insulting half the people in the room. Where I can sit and be me without being judged and without people thinking that I am better than they are.
And that my friends was the family portion of my trip to Kentucky. By the way, my mom is NOT one of the racists at the table. She’s actually very progressive and very liberal. Which sets her apart from the rest of them as well. I’ve yet to figure out how that happened. I do know that it drives me crazy to be there, and to be there for 10 days is mind numbing. But I managed and I didn’t yell at anyone, and for the most part everyone was happy. Well sort of.