When I was a little girl, my parents lives were full of work and chores and things to do.
My Dad was full of adventures and friendships. Of course he had his five brothers, my uncles, which meant he had a leg up in adventure department. Those guys were always thinking up something crazy funny to do. Dad had neighbor friends, too. I knew those men; I saw them all the time: Men that loved to laugh and play card games, and baseball with us kids. Men who tried to teach us kids how to play old-fashioned games like Kick the Can or Flag Football, and looked all down in the dumps when we wanted to play our own games. We preferred “Freeze-tag” and “Piggy in My Pen.”
Dad had some mysterious friends, too. Army Buddies and Work Friends. I hardly ever saw those friends, I only heard their stories. I had a good imagination, so I got to see movies in my head about all the stories Dad told. Plus, Dad eyes twinked, and his lip twitched up on one side, no matter how hard he tried to hide that the funny part was coming. Dad loved to tell stories, and Mom was the best listener in the world. She even liked to listen to my stories, which were way less exciting than Dad’s.
Dad’s friend, Hal King, was an Army Buddy. He had a wife, Rosalyn, who was Mom’s friend back before any of them got married and had kids and jobs and laundry to keep them busy. After a while, they stopped going to beer gardens together and only saw each other a few times a year, and after that, hardly at all. I think Hal and Rosalyn was some kid’s godparents and visa-versa, but everyone pretty much forgot about that after the baptism day. I know my godmother forgot all about me, and my godfather remembered, but he forgot to tell me he remembered, so in the end, it was about the same as forgetting.
Hal and Rosalyn King had a bunch of kids: Colleen (Deanna’s age), and Randy (Bonita’s age), and Laurie (Vickie’s age), and another boy who was one of the Little Kid’s age, whose names I forgot. I wondered why no adult friends or neighbors or aunts or uncles had kids my age. Maybe God had a leftover baby from the year before and looked around for a place with some extra love, and since my mom lost a couple of babies, he threw me down to my family as a make-up bonus, figuring I knew how to fit in, and I liked being alone a lot, so everything would work out just fine. God knows everything, and I was pretty sure he liked pulling jokes, too.
I never called Hal King, Mr. King like I was supposed to. No way would I ever call him just plain old Hal; that was too much like he was my friend, instead of an elder. He was always Hal King, or the two of them were Hal and Rosalyn King. If I wanted to talk about Rosalyn all by herself, which I hardly ever did, she was Colleen’s mom. I never called her plain old Rosalyn or Rosalyn King; she always got attached to someone else. Moms were hardly worth talking about anyway; one was just like another. When Moms did talk, they usually said, “Set the table,” and “Hang up your coat,” or “Stop that,” and “Get down from there.” All the Moms I knew should have been in the Army. They were super-good at giving out orders and not taking any guff. Plus, my mom could sing that song about “Never get rich, diggin’ a ditch. You’re in the Army now.” She could probably dig a ditch, too; she could do anything she set her mind to. On second thought, she’d probably show us Big Kids how to do it and then tell us to do it. She could be a sergeant, like Bilco, that’s for sure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_FRxh_xDFc
Colleen’s Mom was tall, with shoulder length hair, all wavy like a movie star or a Breck lady. Her words came from way deep in her throat, which made me think maybe she was from another country or maybe even New York City.
Anyways, Hal King had a black mustache and eyebrows like Groucho Marx. His mouth turned up in a smile and his eyes crinked like he was about to tell a joke. He smoked a pipe like Grandpa did, so he always smelled like roasted cherries. I bet that’s a tinsy bit what Santa Claus looked like back before he got to be all white-haired and fat and satisfied from all the cookies and milk kids left him. Hal King was way up there tall, with long, long legs, and no bulges coming over his belt, which made his belt look about half-way to his armpits. Dad and all his brothers had belts that slipped down under their bellies, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot depending on who was winning the diet contest and which aunt was expecting a baby. Mom said husbands got thin when they stopped being satisfied; that’s why a man always got thinner when their wife’s belly got big with a baby. Mom’s friends laughed and nodded their heads and looked at each other side-ways, like Mom was the wisest woman in the world. Moms were a lot more fun to listen to when they were talking to other moms and not to a kid. I liked to hide under the dining room table and just listen to them. Maybe moms were real people before they got married and had kids and laundry and cooking and cleaning.
It’s funny how I learned so much about my parents from listening and watching. They were really fun people, with a life before me and a future together. They had family and friends, new and old, and some yet to come. Hey, come to think of it, my parents were an awful lot like me.