baa baa black sheep

4.28.2006

Purses, Mummies, and Church Vans


12:31 p.m. Thursday

It's so beautiful outside. It's nearly intolerable to be in a small office, at a computer.

Yesterday morning when I entered the main office to clock in, the copy secretary walked up. I don't know her name. She has a large face and large hands and we always say hello. The other day she told me she liked my hair. Sometimes I compliment her shirt. "Morning!" she offered. "Good morning, how are you?" "Oh, sleepy today." "Yeah." "But with me, it's a state of being!" "Heh, I understand." "Last night, after dinner, I was on the couch--we eat supper in front of the tv you know because the kids want to watch tv while they eat they won't really eat without it--and I just fell asleep! And didn't wake up, and didn't wake up, and didn't wake up." I laughed a little in response. She moved closer and leaned on her desk.

"And I just slept and slept, and finally at ten o'clock I hear my husband just screaming at me, screaming 'GET UP GET UP!' And apparently he'd been screaming at me all night! And when I woke up he said, 'Well, were you planning on doing ANYTHING tonight?' because my 13 year old hadn't done his homework and hadn't taken a shower and I hadn't made any of the kids take a bath yet. He was so mad! At least he did the dishes, I'm so fortunate for that. But he said, 'But I don't know WHAT you're going to do about calling your PARENTS.' Because it was ten o'clock here but they're out east so it was midnight there! And no one would have been up. Well, my dad would have been up but he wouldn't have wanted to talk to me because he'd be sitting in the dark in his chair watching t.v. And my husband was mad about that."

I was edging toward the door, having pulled my mail from my mailbox. I'd been nodding and making appropriate sounds, but I felt trapped, didn't know what to say. Normally I do. I finally said, "Oh well, too bad for your husband!" and we both kind of laughed.

And I walked down to my office, looking through the mail and ignoring noisy students.

After school, as I was following the sidewalk to my car, I saw the little blond girl. She must belong to one of the teachers here--she waits with a younger ranch-ish sort of boy until school's out. She's skinny and pale and carries a big bag. She's probably around eight. She always looks up and me and carefully says, "Hi." I always smile and say hello.

A few days before, she walked with me down the hallway and asked me if I'm a student here. She was looking for someone. I didn't know where he was, so she walked with me for a bit. I told her I wasn't a student.

I've noticed I smile at her and at staff members here with my lips closed.

Last night I went to a purse party. In a small house, where most of the living room furniture had been moved to the bedrooms, were stacks and stacks of bags and wallets and piles of jewelry. It was crawling with women. Simply crawling. Women grabbing at purses and drinking appletinis and sloshing chocolate-tinis around dangerously. I really didn't know anyone there, until my sassy British boss arrived, peered into my glass and said, "What are you drinking?"

I believe this was the "fashionable set" in this town. Unlike most other women here, they were wearing make-up and jewelry, and were going insane over these purses from one to three seasons ago. I felt that I had been transported back in time 10-15 years. There were very very very darkly tanned women, which seemed strange in this mountain town where it's still snowing. High rise jeans, and teased up highlighted blond hair twisted into alligator clips with fluffy bangs. Teased hair in general. Tucked-in shirts. Snapping up purses that probably went out five years ago.

It's interesting here.

Some women were buying four or five purses. They were crying out over the crowd, "Jennie, does this look like me? Do you think this looks like me?" and "Can I really carry this green purse if I am wearing my purple tank?" and "Do these match enough?" and "Is this summery enough?" and "Oh, I just can't decide unless I look in a mirror!"

I bought a hobo bag that I'm aware went out last season or the season before. I almost feel silly for knowing that. I don't know why I care sometimes.

I think if I had my way most days I'd just wear a white men's undershirt and baggy ripped up jeans.

But I know what handbags went out last season, and I was always told you really shouldn't go into town without lipstick on. And there would always be those few days a year I'd trade the jeans and undershirt for a skirt and push-up bra.

8:18 a.m. Friday

Once, in third grade, the gifted class (lame) went to the St. Louis art museum for a field trip. We had been repeatedly warned not. to. touch. anything. We were each assigned a "buddy" to watch out for/watch out for us. But it was an Egyptian exhibit, and at the time I was very very into all things Egyptian tomb related. (I even did a science project about mummies, for some reason. Strange. Fascination. At one point I was fairly convinced a sarcophagus containing a mummy was under my bed.)

Part of the exhibit was a large stone carving on the wall, and it looked so smooth. Like silk. I felt breathless, thinking that hands hundreds and hundreds of years ago had carved that, had polished that. Hands that were dust now, hands that were gone. And I didn't even think, I reached out and ran my fingers down it. I wanted my hands to touch what those hands had built. The stone was chilled and slick. Like the surface of cold milk had turned to solid from liquid. I was there, my hands knew what those hands knew.

Magic.

And of course, the security guard immediately shouted at me.

And of course, I cried. And my buddy, a boy whom I had actually married on the playground in second grade and with whom I regularly played Ghostbusters even though he always made me be Slimer, patted me awkwardly on the back and told me not to worry.

But I felt so guilty.

All of the gifted class field trips (most trips, actually) saw me in some sort of emotional disaster, it seems. Once, all the gifted classes of Missouri went to the state capitol for something. (It clearly made a huge impression on me. All I remember was, there were a lot of people, and men in suits.) We were all supposed to wear the same t-shirt. Every gifted student in Missouri attending got his or her own white t-shirt, and there was a transparency sent out to the teachers. We were supposed to use puff paint to trace the pattern in the correct colors onto the shirt. (Bless the late 80's.) Only, I decided the colors were ugly and chose my own colors. Wording in black? How boring! After I finished, I was teased by my class, but didn't think it was a big deal. Until we went to that convention and I was the only one in a sea of kids in look alike t-shirts that had the wrong colors.

And kids from different schools asked me about it.

Mortifying!

And then when we went to space camp, which was my big first trip out-of-state without my parents (fourth grade, down to Alabama), on the way home somehow it worked out that I had to sit alone on the charter bus. I couldn't even sit with the teacher, because she was talking to some other chaperone. I felt very lonely and small.

On the very first out-of-town overnight trip I ever went on, which was in...first grade, maybe, to a two day girl's church camp something or other, someone stole my money. Drama! As everyone was loading into the church van to leave the next day, I told a chaperone I needed to use the restroom before we left. She told me to go, and when I returned after waiting in line in that messy yellow restroom, the van was gone. They had forgotten and left without me. I wandered around the parking lot a long time, sniffling a little. When I realized without a doubt that they were gone, I got excited. I figured I could just sort of steal from the vending machines (since someone had taken my fifteen dollars, you see), sneak into one of the cabins, and live there until the next year when they came back. But an adult saw me, asked what I was doing, and marched me back to the main chapel. I sat in the air conditioning in a pew, swinging my legs over the cold concrete floor, and tried to hear what the ladies in charge were whispering so frantically about. They were glancing at me, so it seemed suspicious.

Finally my group came back for me. It was almost an hour into their drive that they noticed I was gone, so it was about two hours before they got back. In their attempt to turn around, they backed the church van into a ditch, so that was exciting.

Apparently they kept saying to each other, "It sure is quiet! Sure is quiet!" Finally someone realized why it was so quiet--I wasn't there.

Beautiful.

11:30 a.m. Friday

It is disturbing how much I enjoy Triple Cheese Easy Mac.

black sheeped

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