Eye of Newt, Oil of Not Olay and Heroes
By Thursday, our Spring Break of “let’s go help the old people,” had beaten Man Child and me to the ground. We waved the white flag of surrender and my mother noticed it was a little gray, so she laundered it with bleach. The woman irons my dad’s boxer shorts and one could cut steak with the creases in his khakis. I remain a disappointment to them.
Pawpaw grabbed my offspring for an adventure. Man Child looked at me the way he did back when I dropped him off at Mothers Day Out. Twenty years ago, I would walk around the corner and cry. This day, I merely looked at him with remorse. Sorry, Dude, you’re on your own. I have my own battles to fight. I turned to my mom, who was panting like a puppy ready to play. Oh. Dear. God. She wanted to Do Things.
This is where I make a confession. Go ahead and ridicule. Spousal Unit does. I have become victim to the pyramid scheme of essential oils. I love these things. I love the oils. I want ALL the oils. Because I suck at pyramid schemes, I don’t ever talk anybody into repping the oils, therefore building the “pyramid” below me and perhaps earning income. I just buy the oils. Because. I want ALL the oils. Spousal Unit reminds me that we have two kids in college, a 14-year-old Honda Pilot and an extremely high maintenance horse and he’d love to retire some day.
Whatever. If he retires sooner rather than later, he’ll just get on my nerves banging around the house sooner rather than later. Besides, I’m going to write a novel that will make us rich. First, I have to find the perfect oil that will enhance my creativity. I don’t know why he doesn’t understand these things.
After all, I had to have a vintage camper in which to write a novel that will make us rich. And I had to have a roll top desk on which to write a novel that will make us rich. And if somebody would remove that damn pea from under my mattress, then perhaps I would rest well enough to be able to write a novel that will make us rich. I really don’t see the problem here.
Since I clearly wasn’t going to be able to stare at my navel (which tbh I haven’t seen for at least fifty pounds) or scroll through Facebook for hours on end, with my gitterdone overachieving mother in the same ZIP code as me, I wooed her with a day of sitting at the kitchen table and concocting essential oil elixirs.
I sat at the kitchen table. She buzzed around like a hummingbird, getting out coconut oil, melting coconut oil, finding containers, making tea, fixing breakfast, stirring coconut oil, fixing lunch. I used to think my dad was So Rude when he would growl at her from his recliner, “Would you just sit down!?!”
Mea culpa pater familias. I get it, dude. I get it.
We measured and stirred and sniffed and stirred and created our potions. And talked. Lordamercy our mouths were dry, we talked so much. I have never had trouble talking with my mom. She’s a listener. She’s wise. Nanna quotes are the foundation of my family. My kids will have an issue. They’ll ask for advice. My answer – 90% of the time is – “What does Nanna say?”
“When it seems like it’s everybody else, then it’s time to look at yourself.”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“Pretty is as pretty does.”
We were such overachievers that afternoon, that not only did we make a coconut oil-based pain reducing body cream, and catch up on all gossip, pertinent or not, we also solved all the world’s problems and fixed my sister up with three or four perfect men. Of course, those men were either in Hollywood, or married, or both, but the point is, we knew who was perfect for her. I don’t know why she never listens to us.
As the afternoon rolled on, we grabbed my niece from high school. Her car is in the shop and my lips are sealed. (She totally had a wreck, but since she’s okay and the car will be fixed, there’s no need to talk about it. I mean, it’s not like it was in the middle of town and her old neighbor and one of her teachers saw it. And it’s not like the mother of one of her friends was there and walked her through the experience as if my niece were her own daughter. ‘Cause, y’know in small towns nobody really helps one another, so nobody knows what’s going on and it’s not like if you have something go wrong, you’ve got thirty voicemail messages asking how people can help and three casseroles waiting at your front door.)
We arrived at Cabell-Midland High School, the sprawling educational home of nearly 2,000 students. Formed in 1994, when many West Virginia schools morphed from community to county wide, Cabell-Midland was born of two arch enemies: Milton High School and Barboursville High School. My dad still bears resentment. I think Barboursville must have beaten him in basketball or something and the man can hold a grudge. It didn’t bother me as much. I always thought Barboursville boys were cuter, anyway, so I was happy for my niece.
I did find fault with one issue at the school, however and since I had been fueled by the morning conversations with my mother, I knew we had the answers to fix everybody’s problems, including Cabell Midland’s afterschool pickup. I felt compelled to let the administration know that the schools in Nashville have a FAR superior method of picking kids up from school. For one thing we call it “hookup.” That right there will solve 90% of the problem. Change the name. For another thing, bumper cars is only fun at the fair. One way in. One way out. Traffic flows in the same direction at all times. And for the love of Pete, either get a stoplight, or somebody on Route 60 to direct traffic. Darwin reigns supreme in the Mountain State and it begins in high school when you’re pulling out onto a busy highway.
I refrained from marching into the principal’s office and giving him my free advice and instead navigated the parking lot. Sometimes I wish I were Catholic so I could justify crossing myself. With Niece safely in the car and strapped in with her trusty tennis racquet, I guided Pollyanna through the parking lot filled with teenager vehicles. There were fewer lifted trucks than I had imagined and more Toyota Corollas. Through the kindness of strangers under the age of 18 who allowed me to join the river of traffic, (you guys are SO gonna change the world), I made our way to Rt. 60, shut my eyes, put the pedal to the metal and turned left.
My sister won’t let me steal her daughter, bring her to Nashville and keep her. I don’t understand it, really I don’t. I love this kid. She is one of the most incredible creatures ever put on this earth. She’s gorgeous (looks exactly like my dang sibling), athletic, smart as a whip and funny as hell. Therefore, she belongs with me.
Alas, I am the only one who believes that, including the perfect niece. Therefore I just hoard the time I am given with her. On that day, she spent the afternoon with us at the kitchen table as we continued our witchcraft brewing of essential oil concoctions. We made a lavender-infused bath salt for relaxation and a peppermint drenched oil to help perk us up. We made a hair tonic, of which I immediately applied to my own scalp. It wasn’t pretty, but my niece laughed so it was worth it. We continued to solve the world’s problems, most of which center around the opposite sex.
We had to quit trash talking their gender when the men-folk came home from their morning adventures and settled in front of the television for an afternoon of Westerns. My dad watches the Western Channel as if it were his job. Because he’s a busy man, he rarely sits down and watches one movie from start to finish, but he says eventually he gets to see the entire flick. Sometimes he’ll catch the end of “True Grit” and at other times, he’ll watch the middle. Eventually, he’ll piece together the entire movie. This man meets his goals more than anybody I’ve ever known.
I learned the following day from Man Child, that during their Thursday adventure Pawpaw had met his goal of showing his grandson where Chuck Yeager had been born. Obviously West Virginia grows some tough critters and Chuck Yeager is among the toughest. For those who slept through history classes, General Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager is the fellow who first broke the sound barrier. Among other things, he was a combat pilot during WWII, and a test pilot for the Air Force. There is a bridge named after him, on the West Virginia Turnpike, and there is a rumor that is neither confirmed nor denied, that he flew UNDER that bridge on the day of its dedication.
Another tough old bird that hails from the uneven terrain of West Virginia is Hershell Woodrow “Woody” Williams who used to go to my parents’ church. Now he’s busy with Super Bowl coin tosses and such. Woody Williams is a Medal of Honor recipient. Something to do with Iwo Jima, a flame thrower and heroism. Seriously, you shouldn’t have slept through history.
My hero, dozing in his recliner, had spent the good part of the day driving my son all over Lincoln County the day after driving nearly 13 solid hours, so he could continue to show his grandson history lives outside of a textbook.
Without ever receiving a paycheck as such, my parents have always been teachers.
That evening, my sister and I went out to dinner, realizing that it hadn’t been the two of us in a couple of decades. We had more to say to one another than Christopher’s Eats closing time allowed. What is it about family that makes time go so quickly? Each day of this week was slipping past faster and faster and I was getting grouchy about it. Spousal Unit was leaving plaintive texts asking when I could talk on the phone. He missed us. I missed him. He used the dog as bait. I REALLY missed the dog. But I didn’t want to take a single second away from that rare thing of fully being where I actually was, even if it was acting goofy with my sister in the hair care section of Kroger.