Saturday, April 05, 2008

And The Exciting Conclusion of "Why I Hate My Mother"

Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me set the scene. I grew up on farmland, the nearest paved road invisible although not really that far away. Our turn-of-the-century homesteader's house was situated in the center of a sprawling yard, which was bordered in a couple of places by isolated fields. The rest was scrub oak and pine forests moistened by the occasional patch of swamp. Our house was close enough to an active set of railroad tracks that the windows rattled during the regular passing of trains, but they were far enough away that none of our pets ever died there except for a pair of homosexual ducks who fulfilled a suicide pact there one day.

You get used to the rumbling of the trains to the point you start to not even notice their passing, but you never forget the sight of two avian lovers lying in eternal rest upon the tracks. That image sticks with your forever. They were our own semi-aquatic counterculture Romeo and Juliet, and we loved them.

That sounds all wonderful and idyllic on the outside with all the trees, the fields of pesticide-soaked cotton and soybeans, and the open-minded livestock, but there was a much more sinister side of my childhood. The setting may have looked beautiful but it felt like Hell (if Hell were a sauna and not a bonfire). Spring and fall temperatures regularly reached the 90s and the humidity was usually at such a high level that taking paper outside left it flopping damply within minutes. During the summer months the sun would beat down through the soupy air and you would feel like your own personal pot o' chitterlings simmering in the moist atmosphere.

(I feel compelled by my own personal obsession with honesty to let you know that I never actually have eaten chitterlings (pronounced chitlins), nor have I ever been in the situation of having been offered some even though the stores around here always carry an ample stock. I just thought the simile was appropriate for the tone of this piece.)

Into this abusive environment we were released by our schools each May for our two months of trying to avoid exposure to the outside world. My sister and I weren't couch potatoes. We spent most of mid-fall through mid-spring wandering the fields and forests surrounding our home. I have wonderful memories of maggot-infested mushrooms, nearly running into a bobcat, bursting out of the underbrush into a strange backyard inhabited by an angry bulldog, and going all Scarface on the fire ants that colonized the border of our driveway. There's no more wholesome entertainment on this earth than to break open a fire ant bed and try to see how many of the invasive bastards you can squash with your fingers against the hot, rough concrete before their tiny red army rolls over you leaving behind a constellation of tiny little blisters with their venomous stings.

Ah, childhood.

The summer was evil, though. While my sister and I loved the outdoors, we also loved breathing, something that became difficult to do outside sometime around May 1. Unfortunately it was during this time of extreme heat and air the consistency of vanilla custard that we were left home with our mom, the teacher. After 10 months dealing with the annoying spawn of other people, she just didn't have the patience left to deal with her own relatively well behaved children for a full 24-7. Thus, several times a week she'd force us out of the front door and refuse to grant us readmission for hours at a time, often during the hottest, most miserable part of the day. We'd sit in the shade of the giant oak and refuse to have fun, not that I'm sure there was any to be had. After all, it's totally impossible to entertain yourself as a child when someone tells you to. It has to come from within. Otherwise it just brings out your stubborn streak and you martyr yourself in the hot sun refusing to even kill the ants at your feet.

I think this is why I hate the summer, and ultimately the outdoors in general, so much now in my adulthood. Because I was forced to go outside and enjoy the day I learned to despise it. I gradually even lost the desire to massacre ants and shoot myself in the foot with a BB gun to see if it was just as weak of a gun as I thought it was. (It was, even though it would have been funnier had I been mistaken in my assumption.) By the time I was a teen, I rarely went outside in daylight hours. By the time I was in college, I'd learned to depend on indoor exercise equipment for all of my calorie burning needs, but eventually I got tired of the smell of oiled parts and the feel of plastic and metal and quit exercising altogether. When I'm old, fat, diabetic and awaiting the amputation of my right foot on my 65th birthday because of my chronic aversion to the sun, I'll know to blame my mom for sending me outside on those miserable days in July when I was a young child.

On the brighter side, I don't really have to worry about skin cancer. I'll at least have that going for me.


Mickey said...

Great post. Summertime in the south sucks, except for the occasional trip to a swimmin' hole.

Let's enjoy the spring while it lasts.

Chris said...

Sounds like another good reason to move out of South Georgia.

I'm usually OK with the summer heat, except on the very hottest days, usually in late July or August. But the weather is so sporadic here, I can generally expect to get a few cloudy, 75-degree days scattered in to keep me from melting.

Courtney said...

Poor duckies.

Jacob said...

Thank you, Courtney. You're the only person who got the point of the whole story.

Julie said...

So not true. You are already at risk for skin cancer since you spent the formative years of your childhood outside burning under the sun.