A voice from the pit
Turns out I’m part of an under-reported minority; adoptees. You don’t hear much about those of us with multiple meanings for basic family terms. And would you expect patriarchal male dominance to mean a girl stands an almost two times greater chance being taking into a home than a boy?
Adoptees are so thoroughly ignored that overall statistics are unavailable.
Personally, in middle age learning I was illegitimate and adopted opened my awareness. The process was mentally and emotionally upsetting, but I found constructive advantages being a bastard. It suits me.
No longer bound by birth ties I felt what I’ll describe as liberation.
Generally comfortable in an ob-server role, outside looking in, was my territory by birth. Observe. At an early age I remember mother nightly putting on beauty cream and dad quietly commenting “It’s not working.” Then there’d be yelling.
By the time I reached age 20 I was in dad’s “It’s not working” camp. None of that stopped mother’s habit or (such as it was) our acceptance of it.
Bluntly honest, I confess dad and I kept our teasing leashed for one reason; food.
Dad’s wife – my mother – was a cook. Growing up I experienced the main forms of wife-mother food handling. (Yeah, yeah, I know, sexist.)
Well, dad knew his way around a Betts lathe. Mom knew her fried chicken. If they wanted the other’s skills neither showed it.) There were mothers’ who cooked, those who prepared a meal, and those who made food available. My friends, like me, were essentially useless; not even decorative unless dressed up to wear pained expressions. Numbskull Joey whose realm was throwing and blowing things up (ideal traits for boyhood pals) became Saint Joseph the Divine at my house.
On his knees barefoot in a brown robe he did novenas around our kitchen floor praying for a breaded pork chop to fall from above. Aside from food competition I didn’t much appreciate that version of Joey, but I understood it. At home his food came direct from box or can. Boy-Ar-De was a chef after all. In his house that was more than enough.
Joey’s house offered a different living style where a boy in underwear could stand at the kitchen sink and shovel-pour milk and cereal in the general direction of his face (milk on bare feet was easily rinsed, so the best breakfast attire was casual – I once suggested he eat in the shower, but the idea may have been too progressive for him).
In my house the same behavior was a hanging offense to be repeated along with drawing and quartering until I was convinced of my crime. But, with a cook like my mother delinquency was not a sane option.
I wasn’t good due to any virtue. Be-ing good was best practice. Common sense said stay on the good side of the gravy boat. Everyone in my house knew and accepted this.
If dad got a three-day series of his favorite meals he’d look at mother and ask “What did you buy?” Mother, as if on my channel, would say “Nothing. It’s on Lay-Away.”
The basics thus established we went on with thick homemade (or kitchen) fries and whatever else was wrangled from raw ingredients.
Seems to me, too, that in those days aside from stems, cherry stones and string bean strings we ate damn near everything as being healthy, good-for-you and not wasteful. Waste of food would cast a boy in a special kind of Hell where he stood in a shower of cold water while food he couldn’t get in his mouth bounced off his tearful face. If I was good it was because I liked the benefit package.
But, really now, how bad could I be? I never went anywhere or did anything. How could I be bad? Asked where I’d been the answer had to be “Nowhere.” And what did I do, “Nothing.” These were the safest answers.
Who could deny when flopped on the TV room couch (nylon frizz that made your flesh look like a battlefield) I was not the personification of nothing going nowhere. Our couch and my room were easily the geographical center of world nothingness, a celestial void where nothing happened.
To a son who never went anyplace to do anything my mother would shake her head and intone “You stand there lying to your own mother.” I did not have another mother to lie to or I’d have lied to her as well, but the sad truth was I went nowhere and pretty much did as little as possible while there; essentially nothing: a hard truth to bear.
People tell me I’m cruel making fun of family and mother. (You should see my impersonation, its good.) But there was no cruelty telling mom her beauty cream needed help. Those words were merely dialog for my bit part in the Mother Rules show.
Those (you may be one) with moral objection to “unfeeling” words miss the extra-moral view of family as theater. Every day my family added another version of Kabuki. (Imagine orange-mane Trump as the Kabuki Lion, but before going Yay or Nay find out what role the Lion had before it becomes Lion.)
In traditional theater conflicts, loyalties, rivalries and aspirations are played out before an audience. In my house actors and audience were the same.
Kabuki, see it. With a piercing flute note Long-suffering Mother appears abruptly center stage in The Kitchen where she recites her ritual part.
Then in a clatter of wooden blocks Unappreciative Son steps exaggeratedly onto stage left where he scorns Long-suffering before asking boldly “What’s t’ eat?”
Suddenly, a drum and light comes on stage right where Penurious Father is seen glowering enthroned, resentful that Long-suffering and Unappreciative ignore him who brings home the monetary gift of the gods that makes all possible.
Long-suffering (a much larger role than Penurious) has the most ways to dramatically portray her many sufferings. Penurious is essentially stuck to complaint figuring out how to save money he doesn’t have.
Except to seek food or money Unappreciative ignores center and right stages before going off to the sound of samisen playing to do nothing off stage in his room.