Wednesday, October 21, 2009

*This week's homework was to start with the line, "I didn't know it at the time, but everything was about to change."


I didn’t know it at the time, but everything was about to change. Actually, “about” is over stating, it, but still, looking back, that’s when it all began, my thing with Mary.

Dad’s in the living room. He’s always in the living room when he’s home, just him, his beanbag ashtray, Salem menthols and a gold colored plastic cup filled with ice and some kind of alcohol. I don’t know the name of it, but I do know this: it stinks and it’s not his first. Mom calls the glass a tumbler and Dad goes back to the cupboard in the kitchen at least three or four times per night to refill the tumbler and the ice. He likes it cold, I guess. When dad and his tumbler get going we all know to stay away. Nobody even needs to tell me this, it’s just common sense, I mean who wants to be near all that smoke and sit in a dark room while dad does whatever it is he’s doing besides drinking and smoking, mostly watching TV, I guess, and something Mom calls brooding.

When Dad’s not in the living room, then Mike and I turn the TV around, we just shove the stand it’s on and move it so it’s not facing Dad’s chair anymore, and people that want to be serious about watching their shows can see it. We watch “Brady Bunch” on Friday nights and right after that we watch “The Partridge Family,” then it’s time to go to bed.

But the night that changed everything, I walked into that dark, smoky room to get the book I left in there after school, ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME, MARGARET. I walked right into that room with Dad, the Salems and the tumbler and Dad bolted from his paisley covered rocking chair he got in The Orient. “You’re the next Virgin Mary!” Dad said. Only he didn’t say it like that so much, more like, “Yooooou’re… the… neeeeeext… VIRRRRRRGIN… MAAAARY!” like he was really p.o.’d. I’m not sure why he was the one sounding p.o.’d, I was the one that just wanted to get my book and get out, I wasn’t expecting to hear that.

Now I’m not sure what to do with that information. I’m pretty sure he’s wrong, I mean how many Virgin Marys does one world need, anyway? Grandma says Jesus will come again to judge the quick and the dead. She says quick means living. I don’t see why Jesus would need to actually go through that whole being born thing again, though, I mean he’s already been here once, you know?

But here’s the thing. Now I’m obsessed with Mary, which is a problem because we are not Catholic, and Mary is for the Catholics, and being a Catholic would be just as bad as being a Mormon. Dad actually said to me, “I’d rather you marry a BLACK man than a Catholic!” And he was just standing in the kitchen that time; he hadn’t even gone into the living room with the Salems and the tumbler yet. So, there’s the problem with Mary. Liking her is opening a whole can of worms.

The Catholics worship Mary, Mom says. We are only supposed to worship God, and possibly his only son, Jesus, but that’s it. The rest are false gods, and you don’t even need to put a capital “g” in gods because they are not even important. That is one thing that Mom and Grandma definitely agree on: false gods. People that wear a lot of make up and spend a lot of time in front of the mirror are vain, and making beauty their false god, too. Pretty much anything can be a false god, anything that makes you forget about God with a capital “G.”

“Dad,” I asked him once, “why don’t you like the Catholics?”

“Because of the pope,” he said, “and how the pope won’t let them use birth control.”

I know all about birth control, we learned about it last year in 5th grade. I also know that Mom and Dad practice the only 100% reliable method: abstinence. That’s because Dad sleeps upstairs, and Mom sleeps downstairs, and you have sex right before you fall asleep at night, so that’s how I know.

Maybe if Dad had said he’d rather I marry a Catholic than a black, I’d be obsessed with African Americans. Maybe if he'd said I was going to be the next Amelia Earhart I'd be preoccupied with flight. Maybe I’ll never know. But from that moment on, I wanted to know more and more about Mary, and if Catholics were my route to her, I would put myself on that path, however round about.

* Photo from


Anonymous said...

Your story brought me back to my own childhood, not the drinking, but the dad sitting there, alone, brooding, absent.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a well written story - it's like I was there watching it happen!!

jess wilson said...

Thank you for sharing this, Carrie. It's riveting writing.

Deb Shucka said...

The abstinence thing made me laugh out loud! And I love the connection with that particular Judy Blume book, and the fact that you'd risk messing with your dad's space to get it.

The perfect introduction to your relationship with Mary.

Nancy said...

What I love most about your childhood writings is that the voice is so genuine; its young and innocent and totally you. Great writing. If this were the opening to a book, I would feel as though I found a great one to curl up with.

Ask Me Anything said...

She's baaaccckkk!

Wanda said...

Wow. Powerful.

Jerri said...

I can smell the cigarette smoke, Carrie. And the sweat and the fear.

Take an A.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Evocative. Amazing how these events shape us, and you describe them so well.

marge said...

Couldn't put it down. Well written. Smelled the air, felt the tension and laughed out loud.

Amber said...

Oh, I love this! Everything about it. You are so good.


She said...

Awesome rendering and very believable and authentic child's voice! We could have grown up in the same house, you know!

Good thing we will be growing old together! said...

Wow Carrie. I could see the whole thing. The bean bag ash tray. The crazy eyes. The tumbler.


Alicia (aka Dr. Mom) said...

this was great. I was enthralled from beginning to end!

Laurie said...

Carrie, this is a stunning piece--a perfect short story in itself--a microstory. It's perfect, and it's meaningful. Thank you.