Labor Day weekend was spent in West Virginia. Darling and I joined my parents and my youngest brother for a race Saturday morning. Dad ran 15 miles, the rest of us just did a 5k. I am proud to say I set a personal best time of just over thirty three minutes. Pitiful by standards of any serious runner, but a personal victory nonetheless. The pre-race dinner was held in the WV State Capitol. For all the jokes (and reality) of what a poor state West Virginia is, our capitol building is beautiful. It was a great setting for carb-loading the night before the race!
The race and a birthday party on Saturday were all our initial agenda included. Bear in mind, this would be Darling’s first visit with my friends and family back home. And the original agenda would have Darling meeting my brothers, dad, and my friends who would be in attendance at the birthday party. Not too overwhelming, eh?
But the best laid plans fell to waste. My crazy mama called on Thursday, and I invited her to join us at the birthday party (which was being held for one of my Godsons and his grandmother–who is also a dear friend). The arrangement was that we would pick her up at her house on the way to the party. She was thrilled with this invitation because it gave her an excuse to get out of our annual family reunion. I can’t say I blame her, this particular reunion is a gathering of my grandmother’s extended family–a group of people most of whom I wouldn’t recognize on the street. They raffle off cheap crap and “crafts”, eat unhealthy food, and and sit around talking about who has died since last year.
Also on Thursday, a client who I’m designing a house for back home called, hoping we would have a chance to meet if I were in town for the weekend. I agreed, as her house is currently being framed, and it’s a perfect time to make small changes or catch mistakes.
So we arrive in town, meet my brother and parents at the capital for dinner and as we are wrapping that up, stepmama tells us that it would make our Nana’s day if we stopped in for a visit. Sounded good to me, but she warned that Nana had just bought Sarah Palin’s book, so don’t dare bring up politics. (Nana, love her soul, spends her days watching Fox News and is a little prone to buying into conspiracy theories.) Luckily, politics didn’t come up that night.
We woke up the next morning at the crack of dawn and headed to our race. Once we underachievers finished our 5K, Darling and I took little brother to Nana’s house to get a quick shower while we waited for Dad to finish his 15 miler. Nana had been up til all hours reading her book. In the time it took little brother to shower, Darling and I were subject to such topics as: health care, the “ground zero mosque“, Muslims in general, and her hopes for the next election cycle. Now, I try to avoid discussions on politics and religion in general but I find it very hard to bite my tongue when people base their opinions on facts that are just flat wrong. But bite my tongue I did.
After dad finished his race (succeeding in beating last year’s time, I might add), we headed to breakfast with one of my aunts and uncles. The uncle, a commercial banker, had recently fallen over a curb and caught himself with his front teeth, which were broken down to nubs. He looked everybit the stereotypical West Virginian. After a delicious breakfast (I never would have thought to have avocado in an omelette, but mmmm….tasty!) my toothless uncle gave us a tour of his new house, a recently remodeled bungalow in what optimists would call a “transitioning” neighborhood.
After a quick meeting with my client, we headed an hour away to the town I grew up in. Mama called on the way, informing us that she was heading to the reunion after all, and we should pick her up there.
“Oh great!” I thought, knowing full well we wouldn’t be able to escape without speaking to a few dozen relatives. We arrived just after the junk/craft raffle, and in the midst of the auction. (The reunion organizers auction off the nicer junk to help pay for renting the space.)
Mom was seated with my grandmother and all my aunts and uncles from her side of the family. She held up a three foot tall scarecrow yard ornament. “Will y’all use this?” Before I could answer, one aunt whispered “Say yes or she’s going to put it on your sister’s grave.” So now we are the proud owners of a Dollar Store lawn decoration. We managed to escape the reunion fairly quickly, but poor Darling had to meet a dozen or so extended family members beforehand.
Off to the party we went. It was hosted at the home of a dear friend (the mother of my godsons) and her parents. Her dad is an excellent cook, and had pulled out all the stops for the event. As we sat there enjoying the food, our host told Darling that they “loved me like a family member, and have just adopted him as one of us.” While I imagine a normal person might feel proud that someone expressed such a thought about their child, we’re talking about my crazy mama here.
“Well, I’m the one that had him!” This is her answer for just about everything where her children are concerned. An uncomfortable exchange between the two ensued. For whatever reason she took great umbrage that someone else considered me as close as family. Maybe it’s because when I’m in town I stay with these particular friends and not my crazy mama, whose home I have not stayed in for at least 15 years. Maybe she feels the need to cling since I’m her only child now. Or maybe she’s just nuttier than squirrel shit. Take your pick.
That incident aside, mama was on her best behavior. She’s gotten off many of the medications that contributed to her craziness and was generally normal (for her) all afternoon. When we dropped mom off, she asked if we were heading back on Sunday or Monday. When I told her we were going home early to get a guest room painted, her eyes lit up.
“You gettin’ my room ready?”
“If you want to come down for a weekend anytime, we’ll have a room for you.”
“Well, I’s thinkin’ I’d come for a week or two.”
“No, no, no. I can’t take company for more than a couple days.”
“I’d cook and clean for ya!”
“In that case I can’t take company for more than one night.”
“Well bite me! I’m gonna tell my doctor I need a hysterectomy and come down there and recover with you.”
“We work during the day, we would be no help.”
“I wouldn’t need no help! They’d give me a prescription for Vicodin!”
“They’d need to give us a prescription of something to.”
It’s an ongoing conversation with mama. She wants to come visit because she “needs to get away.” It’s unclear to me what she needs to get away from. But she always thinks it’s my responsibility to get her to and from my home. “My car won’t make it. I’d get lost. I cain’t afford the gas!” And I know full well she would, if given the slightest opportunity, overstay her welcome to the point I’d end up flat out telling her to get out. Not to mention that she would drive me crazy the entire time.
Once we pulled away, I turned to Darling. “Well what did you think?”
“Oh God. I always thought you were exaggerating.” Nope, not one little bit. And poor Darling didn’t even get a taste of what she can be like.