I am starting to think Julia Sugarbaker was right. This is the South, and we don’t ask if you’ve got crazy folks in your family, we ask which side are they on.
We know her answer was the same as mine – “Both.”
I am trying to define ‘crazy.’
I am not referring to people who have a medical diagnosis of some kind either; I am talking about those folks that are just, well, crazy.
They think the world and all the planets in the universe revolve around them.
It’s the obnoxious ones, the rude ones, the ones we all run from when we see them in the grocery store.
I know one so dreadful, my husband earned some extra brownie points by texting me to say “cray cray on aisle 4 – run!” I have never got out of a grocery store so fast in my life.
He got to ride his bike that weekend with no fussing at all from me.
I was talking about this epidemic of crazy just the other day when it was brought to my attention, I may be crazy too.
“You hate to go outside the city limits!” my friend Katie said.
True. I do.
“You don’t think you aren’t a little bit crazy?” she asked.
“I know I am crazy,” I said. “I’m just aware of my craziness and that’s part of why I try to keep my crazy contained.”
And I like to think that my version of crazy is really considered to be more along the lines of eccentricities.
But then I am reminded of a quote that crazy’s what you call average, every day folks and eccentric is reserved for folks who have old money.
So maybe I need to embrace crazy and just get down and dirty with it.
I guess I could qualify as crazy. But not your garden variety crazy, I want to do something really unique, like collect pieces of lint or maybe only eat one color of M&Ms. I do hide chocolate, does that help make me uniquely crazy?
I wish I could come up with something that strikes me as more one of a kind. I don’t want to be a normal run of the mill crazy. That would just be disappointing.
What if, after it was all said and done, I was really more normal than I thought?
This thought worried me.
Lamar seemed to think I had nothing to worry about. I think Cole was certain too, but he just patted me on the arm and gave me an “Oh, sweet girl,” before he ran off to play.
I asked Mama if she thought my eccentricities were not quantitative enough to warrant me being deemed crazy.
Mama told me she thought in a lot of ways, I was kind of normal.
She quickly added that, I had nothing to worry about; I had plenty of crazy running through my veins that would eventually take precedence.
“You sure?” I asked her. I was starting to think I was not living up to my heritage as a southerner.
“Oh yes,” she said. “Look at your family – we feed stray opossums, your grandmother keeps a shotgun under her bed -“
“Granny still keeps a gun under her bed?”
Mama ignored my question.
“Don’t worry about the definition so much; you are the type of person who would get a pet pig and ride it around in a convertible like Suzanne Sugarbaker did. You did used to take that evil beagle to the drive thru at the Chick-fil-A, after all.”
True, I did. Pepper used to bark her order into the machine and would get a chicken filet and a dog biscuit at the window.
“.., and I don’t even want to know what you think about me that qualifies as crazy.”
“Well, you did once eat a vending machine hot dog,” I said. It landed her in the hospital with food poisoning, too. I tried to limit my vending machine choices to 3 Musketeers and bags of Lays.
“Twice, I ate vending machine hot dogs twice; they were good, too.”
“I can’t believe you would think that. Who eats a hot dog out of a vending machine?” I questioned. Then it dawned on me. My own Mama would. She did. Twice.
“Kitten, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I think you are safe.”
I may not be completely crazy yet, but I think I am close.
If you had asked me six months ago if I was going to get another dog anytime soon, I would have said no.
I had my two remaining pack members and had decided I would just love them. I was being selfish and didn’t want to put myself through any more potential heartache.
But I think John Lennon said it best when he said life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. (I wonder how many dogs he had…he had to have a few to have that depth of wisdom.)
An innocent post on Facebook led me to our fourth German Shepherd and a new member of our pack. Ava.
Oh, she was gorgeous, all big ears and wide smile in the photo I saw.
The first thing that struck me was how much she looked like Comet, Lamar’s first shepherd and Roubaix’s sire.
Comet had been the 120 – pound hulk of a dog who had been the Gibbs to my quirky Abby-ness. I swear, if he had been able to slap me upside the head, he probably would have.
But he had loved me and I him, as I did Venus and Roubaix – having unique, special relationships with each of them. I will always believe Venus was my true soul mate, my Velcro dog, the one who ‘got’ me; Roubaix was my spoiled boy, the mischievous one, the one who when he grieved himself to death after his mother passed, I couldn’t bring myself to write about him because that made it real.
I had said “no more” – I would love Pumpkin and Angel Doodle and that would be it. No more – such a permanent stance.
Cole had told me when I lost the evil beagle and Venus within a week of each other that the love I had would be greater than the pain.
And here I was, heading to my hometown to get this new love.
I woke up that morning, nervous, anxious and excited.
This was the first time a family decision had been made about getting a dog – usually, it was me, rescuing one and bringing it home, Lamar shaking his head, wondering what kind of crazy dog woman he had married.
I prayed that morning, prayed for her sweet family that was wanting her to go to a good home, prayed for her to adjust well, for our dogs to adjust well, prayed for us all to be a happy family.
But we talked it over, under and through and knew our hearts, no matter our fears, needed this. Needed her.
We wondered what the other two pups would think.
“I know what Pumpkin’s going to tell Doodle,” I said. “‘I told you, I told you – you think you are the baby and just you wait – that girl will bring home another dog. I told you, I told you!'”
I’m not sure if that’s what Pumpkin really said or not, but she got her whiskers twisted. Even though that little border collie had not been happy about her promotion to alpha dog, she wasn’t so sure she was willing to give it up to a new, bigger sheriff in town.
Angel Doodle Loopy Loo hid behind my legs and peeked at her before finding her confidence to shower her with her sweet puppy pittie mix kisses. Ava seemed to relish the attention.
In person, she was even more like Comet – the way she walked, the way she held herself. Her inquisitive nature, her hearing Cole’s loud playing in the bedroom made her sprint to check on him.
She immediately took to following Lamar’s every step, like Roubaix did, being his shadow.
I thought of the times I had fussed about the accidents, the drool, the trash that had been systematically dismantled from the kitchen to the corner of the living room.
How when they were gone, I sobbed and said if I had it to do over again, I would never, not ever, fuss about what my dogs did again.
My time with them was too short and messes and accidents can be cleaned up. My attitude with the collie and the doodle had become one of less fuss, more forgiveness.
Even as I typed this, big Batman like ears peered over the screen of my laptop, before her smile appeared. A quick pup kiss, and she was off to check on Cole again before returning to her new designated spot on the couch.
Cole was right, the time had come where the fear of the pain would be outweighed by the love of a dog.
One thing Mama always told me was to never make fun of the way a person looked. She said that was just terrible for someone to make fun of someone based on something they had no control or say so in whatsoever.
“They could stay home,” was Granny’s tart response.
Mama, in case y’all hadn’t noticed, was the gentler influence in my life, the honey; Granny has always been the vinegar.
“That could be said for you for a number of reasons too, Mother,” was my Mama’s quiet reply.
I had heard Mama’s reminders, feeling pangs of sadness when I would hear people making fun of someone who was not the typical ‘pretty’ they were supposed to be.
Maybe their clothes were not the newest or latest fashion. Maybe they battled acne. Maybe, and oftentimes, they were chubby like me – or it was me they were making fun of.
And I admit, shamefully, that there were times, that I made a snarky comment or more about someone. But when I told Mama, the admonishments were enough to make me never want to do it again.
Then I started noticing, there were some people who were pretty, but their actions weren’t necessarily attractive.
Mama would remind me that beauty is only skin deep. I was too young to understand what that meant, so she explained how sometimes people could be pretty on the outside, but sometimes they weren’t real pretty on the inside.
Or as Granny put it, “Ugly goes all the way to the bone.”
That comment would get a sideways glare and a frown from Mama.
“Is that true?” I asked. Did ugly go all the way to the bone?
Granny was quick to give an affirmative, but Mama reasoned that it was more about how a person’s attitude, their heart were reflected to the outer world.
“Pretty is as pretty does,” Granny said. “And some folks ain’t got a lick of pretty in ’em if you go by their ways.”
This whole thing of prettiness and ways worried me somewhat. Were we judged by our looks, or by the way we acted – or both?
I had seen some women and men who may not be considered attractive traditionally to be transformed by their personalities once you got to know them. Mama would say that was their real beauty shining through.
I saw people who were supposed to be beautiful or attractive that just turned me off – the fakeness, the multiple selfies, begging for attention – to the point no matter how superficially pretty they were, they were not that pretty to me because they were too in love with themselves.
Sure, we blame the media, the advertisements for making us feel bad about the way we look, but maybe we do the bulk of it as we compare ourselves to others, to our past selves. Maybe we should try to find that inner beauty shining through instead of trying to find things to tear them apart over.
As Cole and I watched TV one night, I asked him if he thought the girl on the screen was pretty. He studied her in earnest for a second.
“She’s pretty on the outside,” he began. “But not inside. Or at least the character she plays is not.”
“What makes you think that?” I asked.
“Because, sweet girl, pretty is all the way to the bone.”
“Don’t you mean ugly is all the way to the bone?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Pretty just goes all the way through you and even if you may not have a lot of makeup or jewelry or things like that, if you are a good and nice person, your pretty goes all over you. It makes a person pretty to the bone.”
It was the paradox of Granny’s saying, putting his Cole-spin on it and I had to say, I liked his theory much better.
“Mama, did you have time outs when you were a child?” Cole asked one day.
It had been eons since Cole had been put in time out. For the most part, he had been a pretty well-behaved child and time outs were like torture to him.
“Lord, no,” I answered.
“Then what did they do back then? Did you have to move your clip?”
“We didn’t move our clips either,” was my response.
“Then what in the world did they do back then?” You would have thought I lived in the medieval times of child rearing given the lack of time out and clip moving.
“You got your tater whooped,” I told him.
My child was aghast. A physical punishment? How inhumane. The horrors.
“Nennie whooped you?” he cried.
“Well, sometimes. Usually, it was Granny. Nennie didn’t really spank me until I was older.”
Let me rephrase that: Mama tore my tater up later and it was during my teenage years, starting around 14 when my mouth opened up and the things coming out of it were so full of venom, I am surprised she didn’t pack me up and put me on a bus to Alburquerue or some place without a mall. Whatever she did to me from 14 on, I undoubtedly deserved and then some.
When I was younger, no matter what I did, if I could make Mama laugh, I was safe. A pretty good safety technique.
Again, that worked until I was 14. Then, the things that came out of my mouth may have made my friends and cohorts giggle at my brazenness, but my words had Mama mastering the skill of the behind her head backhand without even dropping the ash off her Virginia Slim 120.
Granny, on the other hand, probably is the originator of the phrase “smack you so hard your teeth will rattle.”
I told Mama once the old gal is the reason my bite is off, despite braces. Mama blamed it on me not wearing the retainer.
“Nope, I can tell you the night my bite went off and why. You just have to remember that the statute of limitations on stuff from my childhood has expired.”
I remembered the night too well. A friend and I had gone cruising, which is all there was to do and meant we were driving around endlessly in the Piggly Wiggly shopping center. I am sure some big-hair heavy metal was blasting from my friend’s mother’s Cutlass because we were just that cool.
Now, Mama would not have let me gone if she had thought I was up to those kind of shenanigans. Granny neither. So I told a small candy coated lie: I told Granny we were going to the football game. Except, I worded it as “we are going by the game,” which in my mind, was not really a lie; we drove by the school as we headed to the Pig.
Of course, we failed to notice that there was no one there because the game was supposed to be in Winder. And this was decades before cell phones existed, so no way to send a text asking what was going on or the score.
Just like there was no way to know that Granny would be a diligent little spy and would be listening to the game on the radio so she could quiz me later, including her little tidbit of knowledge that the game was in Winder and clearly outside of my boundary line.
I hoped to escape the old woman once I got home. She had made her seven-layer chocolate delight while I was gone and it would be in the fridge. In fact, I had been thinking about that all night. As I closed the door to the fridge, there stood the old woman. I about dropped my bowl of pudding.
She smiled. I should have known that was not a good sign. She never smiles unless she’s about to kill you. She’s like an opossum bearing its teeth before it attacks the chicken house.
“So, how was the game?” she asked.
“Good,” I said. What was in that pudding stuff, I wondered? It had to have cream cheese and cool whip to be so good.
“Was it? Did you see anyone you know?”
“Yeah, saw a lot of folks.” Not a lie, they were just in the Pig parking lot.
“Do you remember the final score?” she asked.
“We were winning when we left, we ducked out a little bit early to hit Pizza-” no sooner had I said those words then bam, said the lady, she popped me across the face with her right hand, causing me to drop my seven-layer chocolate delight to the floor.
“You are lying as you breathe. They got their tails smashed all over that field tonight. Except, you wouldn’t know that because the game, you lying little thing, was in Winder.”
For some reason, Granny never told Mama about that night. Probably because she knew she knocked my bite off and made my nose tingle she popped me so hard.
“Granny slapped you?” Cole asked, his eyes wide and round.
“Yes, Cole, she did. I shouldn’t have lied to her though.”
“She shouldn’t have slapped you,” was his logic.
“So Nennie didn’t spank you or slap you when you were younger?” he asked.
“No, not when I was younger,” I said. “What she did was actually far more effective and scarier.”
Cole’s eyes widened even more. “What did she do?”
“It’s the whisper threat,” I began. “When I was little, any time I thought about showing my tater or pitching a fit, Mama would just bend down, usually pinching the tiniest bit of flesh on the back of my arm and smile, while she whispered, ‘you even think of showing your tail and I will take you out of here so quick and tear your hinney up – do you understand? Smile and nod if you do.'”
“Did that work?” Cole wanted to know.
“Oh shoot yeah,” I said. “Having someone smile and whisper to you they were gonna whoop you was far more effective than having someone scream at you.”
He thought about this for a second then said, “Hey, that’s what you’ve done with me before, haven’t you?”
I said nothing. I didn’t have to. Sparing the rod doesn’t spoil the child, but whispering you will tear their tail up scares the misbehaving right out of them.