Monday, November 22, 2010

Burke vs. Brooks

Again I have very few memories of the years of 2, 3 & 4.  But I will fill in what I know.  Some point in the year we lived in with Papa & Grandma, Bob returned to the scene.  We moved to Eden.  A small community in VA.  Funny thing is, as many times I have been back to Virginia I have never been back to that particular place.  I do remember the day my parents rented the house from a Dairy farmer.  They had those great "Tupperware" animals, you remember the three pieces of an animal were interchangeable. The elephant, dachshund and giraffe you were supposed to take them apart and reassemble them into a mutant giraffe, dog, elephant. And this wasn't a small dairy, it was a huge fully automated dairy.  The house I remember rather well too, it was a two story little house with a horse barn next door.  I remember walking under the horses I was so small. For years I believed that I would saddle those horses on my own and go out for early morning rides. Remember I was 3.   I think I must have been 20 something before I realized that those early morning rides where actually dreams. 

Some of life's givens became evident in that house.  First, Carol was a gardener.  At my grandparent's there was a big garden, with peanuts and peas, and cucumbers.  I remember my great grandfather in that garden. At the house in Eden, Carol negotiated her first large plot.  This would be the case in every house after that for many years to come.  The bigger the plot the happier she would be.  This house had a huge garden plot that was down the hill from the house. Gardening was how we spent most of our summer days.  Carol was a talented gardner.  Our counter tops were covered with fresh "Bushbellows".  "Bushbellows" was my word for vegtables, not sure what the connection is but that was my word for it and it was adopted by most of the family for many years to come.  I remember eating red peppers like apples.  I remember spooning the seeds out of the center of a yellowed cucumber which would have been too biter to eat sliced but the seeds were so yummy.  I remember getting up early to go down to the garden to work on it. 

On of those early mornings lead to another one of lifes givens.  I hate cold cereal.  I was served Raisin Bran, looked harmless enough, big smiling Sunshine with his "two scoops" no one warned me what would happen if those flakes were allowed to sit in the milk too long. Those happy flakes became the most god awful bowl of brown mush.  Carol demanded I eat it, I just couldn't! It was disgusting, all mushy in my mouth and slimy with milk.  Blehhh! I threw up.  That wouldn't get me off the hook, oh no!  Carol made me finish it.  I still shutter at the idea of super soggy cereal.  I was done with cereal.  Don't like it, don't eat cold cereal. I would discover later in my life that cold cereal was near a religion for my college friends, one that I would not partake in. I never feed cold cereal to my kids either except in a pinch.  I have made my peace with the Smiling Sun, I have had good Raisin Bran since but as a rule I avoid cold cereal.

Next major event was the Raggedy Ann dolls.  I am breaking out in a cold sweat thinking about telling this story cause it is one of those things that forever will haunt me.  My grandmother was very good with crafts, she decided to make Raggedy Ann dolls for me and Chelsea.  They were perfect.  Hand sewn and spot on.  We were 2 & 3 and had no appreciation for what they were.  Bob was painting something with black paint....yes you see it coming.  We dipped the heads into the black paint and drug those beautiful dolls along the wall down the hall and up the stairs and then began painting each other.  That is where they found us, and that is were I got beat good.  My grandmother would never forgive us, she never forgot either.  For the rest of Grandma's life we heard about those beautiful dolls and the paint. I was 3 years old Grandma, really how was I to know how much time you spent? No matter, never would she make me another doll.  And 25 years later she bought a pair of not nearly as nice Raggedy Ann dolls that she displayed on the bed of her RV and each time I was in the presence of those dolls...she would mention the dolls she made for us. I hate Raggedy Ann and Andy!

Puppy Dog lived in Eden too.  She was our short haired border collie. The first of many dogs in my life and a super dog at that.  I remember Carol telling people the dog's name to strangers and being a little sheepish about it.  Again I didn't know what was so wrong with her name, Chelsea and I thought Puppy-dog was the perfect name for her and we loved that dog.  Puppy-dog was a rabbit hunter, she would chase down a rabbit with ease.  Here is the kicker, she wouldn't eat the baby bunnies.  She would bring home tiny hairless bunnies, eyes still closed, in her mouth for us to raise.  Bob put these baby bunnies in a terrarium where they would grow up and die.  Then Puppy-dog would eat them. My first lesson in the circle of life. 

Something happened in this house where my parents were separating again.  I don't know any details but I know this is the point where the grandparents stopped being friends. This is a big deal because my grand fathers where BEST FRIENDS.  No kidding, they were in the Army together.  My grandpa Brooks introduced my Grandma & Papa.  They were each others best men in the weddings that were just a month apart.  The grandma's were not as close but it does seam a little too perfect that the oldest son married the only daughter of two best friends.  My grandparents had united in the demand that if Carol & Bob were going to sleep under either roof they would have to get married.  No living in sin.  And it was true that my parents had known each other for their entire lives, can you imagine?  Stuff that fairy tales are made of huh?  Yeah, well when it got bad, it got really bad.  Both set of grand parents blamed the other for raising awful kids and they both believed that they should get custody of the grandkids and that each would be better at raising us.

There was a big fight and Bob was leaving.  In the midst of this fight he grabbed me and stuck me in the truck.  There was a lot of yelling, I remember crying and reaching, with out stretched arms, for my mom. I remember Bob pushing me back against the seat.  I understood that Bob intended to take me and separate me from my sister. As Bob tried to drive away, Carol stepped in front of the truck.  Bob was not taking either of us.  While they argued, Carol signaled to me to get out of the truck, I jumped out and ran. There was no need for therapy from that little scene, I wouldn't have separation anxiety after all. And, in an attempt to make me feel better, Carol explained that Bob didn't want me because I was too much like her and that Chelsea was the one that the Brooks's wanted.  Yeah, that wouldn't stick with me for EVER! This was a theme that ran through our lives.  I was a Burke, Chelsea was a Brooks.  Funny thing was I was the favorite of the Brooks's and Chelsea was the Burkes's favorite. The lines were drawn, it was on, Burkes vs. Brooks.

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