Monday, August 16, 2010

RL Is Stranger Than Fiction, Part One

Pastor Mott's diary entries (see the last post) have gotten me thinking. I've had all kinds of ideas about Phebe's life swirling around in my head these last few months. Mostly they resemble romance novel scenarios. Set in Colonial times. So, you know, not really very realistic. And accidentally stumbling on the Baptist Church records (on-line, no less), finding her name and not only that, but something pretty major concerning her life and the life of her family, is kind of stunning to me. It's not something I could've come up with, really. And this made me realize, that, really, I have no imagination about this kind of thing. I'm better at researching and reading and facts. Left-brained things. I would never have guessed her to be so strong, so dramatic. But it happened.

Then I got to thinking about how this whole lack of imagination thing extends not just to how I imagine historical figures, but how I have very little imagination when trying to predict the behavior of people around me right now. My husband, yes, but he's very predictable. My kids, too. My mom and sister, too. Wow, that's quite a few, you might say, but really, that's it.

And even then, they surprise me fairly regularly. Particularly some of the things my husband says. He's very funny sometimes. Great one-liners. Some friends were talking about the glamour birthday party that their 4 year old daughter was invited to. She's a shy girl, and these kinds of parties involve, usually, dressing up, getting hair and makeup done, nails done, etc. The most cringe-worthy part (the whole thing is pretty cringe-worthy to me, but what the hell do I know) is at the end of the party, when the girls have to walk on the runway or the red carpet and show off their beauty (I guess?). So the shy girls have trouble at this point, usually. And that's what I don't like. Anyway, my husband's response to this was, and I quote verbatim, "Well, the best part must've been at the very end when they went off to do a few lines and then throw up." See? Funny. Out of nowhere.

OK, but his behavior and the behavior of the other members of my close family is very predictable. Well, this is interesting, because I'm kind of splitting hairs. They may be predictable, but the exact way they do things is always surprising. That's what I can't ever imagine. For instance, I predicted that my mother and I would have difficulty working together to decorate my daughter's room. This was right after we moved down to Middletown. So, we went to Kohl's with the kids, which is never fun, and walked around looking at comforters. She said, "What about this one?" And I replied, "Well, I'm not too big on that graphic print. It's primary colors and I don't know about that. Kind of bold." To which she replied, "Well, that's rich, coming from someone who dresses their daughter in polyester Princess nightgowns." See? Out of nowhere. I had no response. I don't know, maybe I deserved it. I did call her casual suggestion for a comforter gaudy. Well, not really, but she interpreted bold as gaudy.

This is why I don't think I could write fiction. Or why I'm in awe of anyone who does. True life, or real life as it's commonly called on the interwebs, is always way more weird and unexpected than anything I could ever come up with in my imagination. Oh, and I have tons of examples. So this'll be a two-parter.

My brother and father, also for example. Let's start with my brother. Every single time, lately, that I hear anything about him, it's that he's going on another vacation to some sunny, beautiful place. They already live in a beach town in Florida, and have tons of boats, and basically do things on the weekends that are very vacation like, but again, what the hell do I know. They also have financial problems. Well, that's a whole big thing which I will probably never write about due to potential legal actions in the future (you really don't want to know). Anyway, they complain about financial problems constantly. Well, then, you'd think, and rightly so, maybe cut down on the vacations? But I said that to him once and he basically freaked out, went on a bender which precipitated his wife "leaving" him, but that was only for a day or so and then, basically, after a few more days, things went back to normal. So that didn't work. And then still, when I talk to my mom and get the update on them, I find out, nearly every single time, that they are planning, yet again, to go to the Keys, or the British Virgin Isles, or some other fantastic place. And every single time, I'm surprised and then angry. Maybe I should start predicting that he'll go on vacation every month. Then I won't be surprised and maybe not so angry.

Now that I realize it, I predicted that Phebe and her husband probably did not have a great marriage. They're not buried together, and he was, by all accounts a bastard. But the exact way it played out is not something I could've imagined. And I still don't know what happened in the last forty years of their life together. I'm dying to know, actually.

Let's get back to my family. Last example today, I think. So my father came out to visit us, for the first time in my new house, a few months ago. I could've predicted that he wouldn't bring anything for his grandkids, even though it was right after his grandson's second birthday, which he in no way acknowledged. So I expected nothing. And what happened? Something even more awesome than nothing. Oh, before I tell you what he brought, I should tell you that he's seventy-two and completely demented at this point due to alcoholism. It's actually pretty amazing that he came to visit me alone at all. How he got around New York City at all is pretty amazing. But then, they have taxi drivers and Penn Station has policemen and information booths to help. So he managed to get here, via NJ Transit, from Penn Station after spending a few days in the city. He stayed exactly 19 hours. For twelve of those hours, he was asleep. So about 3 hours Friday evening and then 4 hours Saturday morning he actually spent with us, before he went back to the city. As expected.

What he brought was unexpected. I'm in the kitchen, doing something, and he's in the living room/playroom with the kids. He has his bag with him and makes a big production about having a gift for them. "Mary, your Granddaddy brought you something! Now, come on over here. Are you ready?" Oh, and he's from Mississippi and lately has really really lapsed into the exaggerated accent ALL the time. Part of the reason people help him, I guess. So, what does he give her? An apple. The free apple he got from the breakfast bar at his hotel in New York. And, God bless her, she goes, "Oh, wow, I love apples!" and she walks into the kitchen to show me. No sarcasm yet for her. She doesn't know what that means. But me? Well, I'm not sarcastic either to him about it, because at that point, I was pretty speechless. And then for my two year old? An orange! Also from the free breakfast bar! He thought it was a ball. Which made him happy too.

So, you see? I couldn't have come up with that had I tried. Alright, more tomorrow. All about my adventures in on-line Twilight-land. You're scared, aren't you? It's fine. It'll be fine. And funny. And weird. And completely unpredictable. For that I hadn't had years and years of observation to be able to comfortably predict anything. It's all new to me, how the interwebs work. Late to the party there.

More tomorrow...

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