HOLLYWOOD CHILLS

A glimpse into one actor/writer's life in La-La Land. Part lampoon, part harpoon, all good.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

HOME-A-PHOBIA


I left home at age 16 to go to college and haven't returned except, of course, for family visits. I used to go home all the time when I attended the University of Florida; you know, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Laundry Day. I would time my visits to coincide with the last pair of clean underwear. And, of course, with my funds; when the ATM told me that I had just enough to pay the road tolls, I headed home. (In and between my parents still had to bail me out of financial quicksand more times than Elizabeth Taylor got married.) They were great. The food was, too; both of them were from the true South and, so, from cornbread, greens, and Shrimp Gumbo to Beef Wellington and Steak Au Puave, they really cooked their asses off. And yet, for years, I seemed to dread so many of the family visits. I used to time it and limit my visits to three days. "Small doses," I'd tell my friends. I knew I'd be okay on day one. By day two, my eye would start twitching; and by day three, I was feeling homicidal. I knew I had to leave or I'd wind up doing something that would get me 30 years in a 9 by 9 with a large and very friendly roommate named Bubba, Jesus, or Jamal. So, instead of taking a trip through the judicial system, I'd promptly kiss my Mom and Pop, race to the car with my laundry basket, and hit the road - screaming to myself and anyone that would listen, "Kill Me!" like Sigourney Weaver in Alien III, all the way up the Florida Turnpike until at least Orlando.

This is not to say that my folks are bad people. Far from it. Both were humanitarians who did tremendous good for the people of Southern Florida; and they put up with me - a hyperactive, epileptic drama queen. No easy task; I assure you. My fear (tension really) about going home was not a result of not liking them. I love them very much, actually. They just happened to possess certain traits that just happened to drive me crazy - you know, like making my eye twitch. To really paint you a picture, let me admit to you that for years after seeing films like Terms Of Endearment and Home For The Holidays, I assumed I was being watched. I just knew that super-secret Hollywood agents had somehow hidden a camera or a tape recorder in my childhood home and captured our goings-on for years, decades even. Where else could they have gotten that material from? It wasn't fiction. It was my life! They knew. And they were getting rich off of my dysfunctional family. (Actually, I prefer the term "semi-functional family," because they really did so much, so well, and for so long...I finally realized this once "The Brady Bunch" was canned and no longer on the air.)

This time, going home held no trepidation for me. I was actually looking forward to my visit with my Pop, brother, and newphews and niece. (I even met my brother's new girlfriend, Felice, who I mistakenly called "Febreeze.") I changed roles, though, and found myself cooking my ass off for them. Loads of hot pasta, garlic shrimp, and expensive steaks. I even baked brownies and a cake. Oh, God! Was I turning into Martha Stewart? Or, was I just learning how to spend time with them, to give back, and to create comfortable enviornments within which to simply experience each other? I prefer the latter, especially seeing Martha's latest public appearances. (Though I did play her once in wonderful video for the comedy troupe, "Circle In The Squirrel.")

And a good time, as they say, was had by all. We ate, drank, and talked about everything under the sun. My niece gave me the latest celebrity and local gossip; my nephew told me who was cool and who was so not cool in the music world; and my Pop reviewed all of world history and regaled us with fantastic stories of his childhood, growing up in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Who knew that being of such white trash roots could be so utterly fascinating and fun? Really.

My Pop is a trip. No other way to put it. He's brilliant and blind and walks with a lop-sided gait from arthritis for which he won't take any medicine. (The only fights we have are when he catches me crushing Alleve and trying to hide it in his food.) He was a teacher and had to retire when his eyesight finally went kapluey. But he never stopped learning, or teaching. You can ask him anything about history and he can give you the complete scoop. (I always fought to have him on my team when playing Trivial Pursuit; you just couldn't lose with him.) On this trip, he cooked his famous Slumgullion (don't ask; the ingredients might scare you, but it's totally delicious). And I took him on a "Man Date" to an old fashioned New York barber. We sat, side by side, as the barbers shaved both of our heads. It was great. I almost choked, though, when he asked his attendant (who was female) if women had the problem of pesky hair growth like men did. He was referring to the bushels he had springing from his ears. She laughed, conspiratorially said, "Yes," and proceeded to tell him about the waxing of ladies' moustaches. That's my dad: awkward, charming, and utterly adorable. If he were slicker, he could have been the politician, like my mother. Instead, he was just quiet and sort of omnipresent, like sun, wind and other natural forces.

The only seeming negative of the trip home was the constant reminder of my age. I nearly fainted when I saw my fourteen year old nephew - he towered over me at a whopping 5'11. So much for his old nickname, "Little Drew;" it, like so many of his shoes, just doesn't fit anymore. I couldn't help saying, "How could you do this to me? How could you grow up like that?" (Like it's all about me; right?) And I thought, "Hell, I used to change your diapers!" Now, he can kick my ass. But that's really a small price to pay - especially when there's Botox - for all of the warm benefits of home.

It's nice to be able to say that.

(Okay, it's nice to be able to say that and mean it.)

2 Comments:

Anonymous soulterrain said...

So glad to hear you and your Pop are exploring the luxury of liking each other. It's kind of like hot chocolate AND flannel jammies - all warm inside and out. He sounds like a wonderful man. (Does he still open the windows in the morning to "let all the farts out"?)

It's mystifying how things turn out. So much hinges on who's left standing. And speaking of age...let's think of it as increased multidimensional perspective with enhanced abilities for compassion. Sucks, doesn't it? You're wearing it very well, I must say.

Thanks for sharing. I miss my mommy.

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a nice posting - and it gives me hope that my disfunctional family relationships might some day - if I drink all my milk and all eat my spinach and say my prayers - just might morph into that space where I can enjoy my family as warmly as captured in your blog.

As an aside, I've been away too, too long. I can't believe I missed postings with Madonna photos! That will teach me.

Your reformed steady reader,
Lisa

12:25 PM  

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