Eight to Twelve

Mom’s new husband, Oz, a 5’3” tall Cuban American, was very much in the picture now. He and Mom would literally roll up the carpet and dance for hours. The music had changed. There was no more Keely Smith—now there was an astonishing variety of country, Latin, jazz, pop, even gospel—anything that caught their fancy. Oz was irrepressible, singing and dancing in his every movement. So different from my dad, so good for my mother. At 5’8” barefoot, she fairly towered over him when they danced.
They embarrassed me, but I had to smile, just as long as they didn’t keep me awake on a school night, which they often did. I became the “little warden.” They were so inconsiderate and out of control, I knew someone had to step in, and of course that would be me. They seemed to find these little upbraidings of mine quite amusing. “We really must be more civil, dear,” Oz might say, his big white teeth gleaming at Mom. “The little warden has to go to school tomorrow.” And then, of course, they would continue dancing and forget all about me. One of their favorite lectures of mine was the one that began with my charging out of my bedroom yelling at them to turn down the music and ended with me sliding all the way across the living room floor on my ass. This party involved a group of middle-aged swingers swimming in the neighbor’s pool before rolling up the rug. “Oh, if you could only have seen yourself,” I’d hear over and over afterwards, “so indignant.”
“And with her little nightie flying up in the air like a sail.” Oz couldn’t control his snorting laugh.
Okay, fine. So I guess I didn’t make much headway with them… Their music, laughter, and the occasional rip roaring argument continued to disturb my sleep for the first few years of their marriage, and this was especially hard on me, because I really liked to sleep. A lot. It was similar in an odd way to the earlier experiences I’d had of trying to sleep while Mom cried. But now she was fine, so why was I still so upset? So tired? Sad?
Often, instead of mother, now it was me lying in bed crying.

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