Monday, August 31, 2009

betty draper's got nothing on yvonne peterson...

My grandmother always had these incredible stories that no one believed but me. There was always a hint of racism, touches of elitism. Needless to say, I found her tales wildly fascinating. Tonight I shall share with you my three favorites, most likely prompting my mother and uncles to dispute everything. But these are the stories as I remember them, told to me by my grandmother, who had a tendency to sprinkle fairy dust.
1. The time she talked to Jesus.
When my grandmother was giving birth to her eldest, my mother Joanne, it was apparently a very difficult birth. To hear my grandmother tell it, blood was splattering the walls, everyone thought she was going to die, taking last nights as she flowed in and out of consciousness. My grandmother, in the midst of all of this, actually saw a tunnel of light. And so, ever the good Catholic, began to walk towards heaven. Suddenly, she heard a voice.
"It's not your time, Yvonne."
She stopped in the tunnel, turned around and was sucked back into the delivery room.
"Wait, wait, wait!" I stopped her. "Who was the voice?"
"I believe it to be the voice of Jesus Christ, dear."
I knew better than to ask what I was thinking. Jesus spoke English? Doubtful.
2. The attempted murder at the Christening.
My grandparents were upper middle class Republicans in Burlingame. So they did upper middle class Republicans in Burlingame kinds of things. There were lots of dinner parties, ornate broaches and lamps made out of fancy candlesticks. I think people's printed couches matched their printed wallpaper. Anyway, needless to say, these people are the kind of people who never revealed any personal struggles, bottling it up until it exploded dramatically. Sometime in the early 60's, my grandparents went to the party following a baptism. Everyone was standing around the living room and dining room having a "simply lovely time" as the mother of the baby, secretly suffering from post-partum depression, snuck upstairs with a kitchen knife and started stabbing the baby in it's crib.
My grandfather backed up at least part of this story to my mother, revealing that the child actually survived. He worried that when the kid grew up, his folks would have "a hell of time explaining those scars."
3. The retarded kid down the block.
If you're picturing the Draper residence on Mad Med, I think you're pretty close. Perhaps my mother's childhood home, which is always referred to by it's address much like a trendy restaurant, wasn't as large, but I've driven by it. This is the vibe. (Oh! I google mapped it!) Apparently, and this must have been after my mom and uncles left, a family with a "retarded" child moved in somewhere nearby. No one had any big problem with the "retarded" child but the new family regarded themselves as rather prominent. They had several other perfectly normal children and couldn't handle their own version of Rosemary Kennedy. So, according to my grandmother, one day they "just left the door open."
I had to hear this story more than once to finally ask, "What does that mean? I don't get it."
As delicately and vaguely as she could, my grandmother implied that the door was left open so the "retarded" child could leave, wandering into oblivion, never to be reported missing. The whole neighborhood knew about it, by the way.
My mother, the family member least likely to buy any of this and the least likely to be in my grandmother's presence during these tales, refuses to believe a word. My uncles, however, seem more inclined to the possibility at least some of this shit actually went down. They certainly believe that my grandmother gleefully spun me these yarns.
Because my uncles (Bill and Ted) have weird neighborhood stories of their own.
Bonus: The lady that watered the stream.
My mother's childhood home had a big backyard and I guess, down towards the back ran a stream, dividing their property from the home behind them. The people that lived in said home were a married couple who fought horribly. They'd have these huge, crazy arguments and when they did, my mother would run upstairs and cover her ears, feeling that none of this was any of her business. Her two younger brothers, Bill and Ted, instead got as close to the stream and the neighbors house as they could...to listen.
"She was nuts!" Bill would announce. "Insane! Seriously, I'm not kidding. She used to water the stream."
Bill then described often finding this woman, unhappy with her marriage and life and gorgeous home standing at the stream with a hose. She was literally watering the stream and staring off into the distance. I prefer to picture her with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, rollers in her hair and some type of inappropriate negligee...

1 comment:

Cali said...

Wait. Your uncles are Bill and Ted? When do we get to hear about their excellent adventures?