25. August 2006 · Comments Off on Family Dynamic · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

So, Sgt/Cpl Blondie (as of this Monday to be College Freshman Blondie, hopefully over the next seven years to metamorphose into Dr. Blondie, DVM) and I were in the main post office this week to return unopened, some book club selections that I swear, I swear I had gone on line and said I declined but which turned up in the mail anyway and I only hope if I return enough of them refused they’ll cancel my membership anyway because I only signed up to get the four books at 50 cents or a dollar, or whatever, and I’ll sign up again next decade to get some cheap books….oh where was I? Got it. Post office.

There was a young man in line behind us with two small children at their most totally charming stage of life… which is at about 4 or 5. Old enough to be over the terrible twos, and damn grateful are we for all of that, and not old enough to begin laughing at your lamentable taste in oldies on the radio. The two children, a boy and a girl, were teasing their Fond Papa, trying to make him turn around and look out through the plate glass window-wall of the area where everyone lines up for stamps. Someone in the parking lot, they insisted to their Fond Papa, was trying to steal their car! And of course, he was teasing them in return, by not looking… which reminded me very much of what an awful tease my own father was.

I imagine it was because Dad was an only child; not only that, the only adored child of Granny Dodie, who could give the proverbial over-protective Jewish mother many valuable, and guilt-inducing lessons. Perhaps if Dad had been able to tease younger siblings… at least, it would have watered down Granny Dodie’s motherly instincts to a degree somewhat less overwhelming. I am fairly certain many of her own friends must have gotten damned tired of hearing her talk about Dad. On the other hand, Mom said that the one of the most wonderful things about marrying Dad was the fact that Granny Dodie and Grandpa Al instantly and unquestioningly accepted her as a daughter; she was theirs by virtue of marrying their son, the focus of unstinting adoration and approval— heady brew after her own parents’ difficult marriage, and the death of their own oldest child during WWII.

But Dad still was an awful tease. The little scene in the post office reminded me of the time at Redwood house when my little brother Sander was a toddler, on one of those evenings when we sat out on the terrace under the grape pergola and watched the reflected sunset fading off the mountains opposite. My younger brother JP and my sister Pippy sat on the shallow stairs that led up to the terrace, while Sander played on the lawn below, and Dad relaxed on one of the chairs on the terrace… maybe the canvas butterfly chair. We had one of those huge, canvas butterfly chairs, then. He looked out over our heads, at Sander on the lawn with his toys and remarked casually,
“You know, there is a very large tarantula, crawling across the lawn towards the baby.”
This had all the hallmarks of one of Dad’s teases. Of course, he was trying to make us look, so of course we didn’t.
“There is a large tarantula on the lawn, and it is crawling straight at the baby,” Dad insisted, with a perfectly straight face. “Really.”
Umm. Yeah. Sure, Daddy.

But eventually we broke, and looked over our shoulders, and oh, my god, there was a huge tarantula, all hairy legs and science-fiction googly segmented eyes, about four feet away and crawling straight at our baby brother. I flew off the steps and snatched him up, and JP flew straight into the kitchen for a mason jar and a tight-fitting lid.

As I was relating this to Blondie, the postal clerk begged me to please stop talking about nasty things like this, spiders and small children, she was deathly afraid to step out of her own house on most days, thanks to tales like this… although the children and their father did seem vastly amused.

I think it may have been a good and charitable thing that I waited to tell Blondie about the other spider story and Dad, until we were out in the parking lot. That would have been the time when he was in the midst of a craze for skin-diving, and used to go with certain of his friends to shallow-water dive, and had a rubbery black skin-diving suit, with a breathing mask, and long black flippers and all the accoutrements… and we often visited some of his friends’ houses, and watch our fathers melt lead to cast diving weights … why did they have to do this themselves, I wonder now? This would have been in about 1960 or so, when we were living in the White Cottage, in an era when anyone wishing to indulge in odd hobbies had perforce to resort to D-I-Y, I suppose.
Anyway, he came back from one of those diving excursions, driving the Plymouth station-wagon that was our main car then, with a great salt-water scented heap of sea gleanings in the back, covered with a couple of wet burlap sacks. He always brought back interesting things from these trips; abalone shells, and cork floats adorned with shell encrustations, this, that and the other.

“I have something to show you!” he said, enthusiastically, to JP and I. I would have been about six, JP about four… just the totally gullible age, and we followed him eagerly to the back of the Plymouth, while he undid the window and the gate, reached under the burlap… and brought out a huge black, many-clawed, many-limbed spidery-looking thing. It was a spider crab, of course, but it looked like the world hugest, most menacing spider imaginable.

He chased us with it, twice around the White-Cottage’s half-acre backyard, JP and I screaming every step of the way. Amazing stamina, when you think on it, really. I still do not care for spiders, although I can cope with them as long as they are smaller than a quarter… which might have been Dad’s inadvertent point.

The postal clerk would be screaming still, I think

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