Sunday, September 02, 2007
I was thinking about Jamie Dawn, as I was throwing-up in a church confessional turned restroom in South Bend, Indiana.
I guess I’d better back up a bit…
First of all, I hate to throw-up and don’t do it very often. I even hate all of the words and nick-names for throwing up. The word “puke” sends me over the edge. I can remember vividly the dozen times in my life that I have thrown-up. It has kept me from being a drunk or bulimic. I have a really strong stomach. I have given CPR, butchered cows, seen my Dad’s severed finger and witnessed the miracle of childbirth and not felt the least bit sick.
Okay, back to the story.
My dear brother-in-law Ron’s father died and the funeral mass was today. The plan was to meet Mom at her house at 7:00 and then we would meet Dad at the “Pepper Place.” I had no idea what/where the Pepper Place is; I just assumed she was talking about a restaurant, so I didn’t pay much attention. The day started out off-kilter when I woke up at 7:00 (I hit the snooze alarm thinking it was a work day)! I called Mom, brushed my teeth, stuck my hair in a bun, slipped a dress over my head and shoved my feet into shoes as I ran out the door. I arrived at Mom’s house at 7:15, expecting to jump in the car and go.
Mom was still cleaning out her car, deciding what necklace she was going to wear, getting drinking straws for the glove box and pretty much puttering around which made me want to jump out of my skin. I opened the car door to help and was overwhelmed by the stench.
Mom explained that Dad put a jar of tomato juice in her car and she couldn’t find it when she got home. She assumed that Dad never put it in here car, so she forgot about it…for several 90-degree days. It was under the seat the whole time. My allergies are pretty bad right now, so I was taking comfort in the fact that I could not smell very well. Mom said she had some air deodorizer that would take care of it. I was ensconced in the passenger seat when she came out and fogged the car with strong spicy potpourri scent. I launched myself out of the car and gasping for breath.
By now, it is 7:45 and we have not pulled out of the driveway yet. We finally headed out and Mom drove east. I asked her where we were going and she said State Road 31, which is west. We got pointed in the right direction and Mom asked me how to get to the Pepper Place. I told her that I had no idea. She kept saying I did –“the Pepper Place, the Salt Factory”. We had a very frustrating who’s-on-first conversation.
“You don’t know how to get to your brother’s place?”
“No! The Salt and Pepper Place!”
“JR owns a restaurant?”
“The factory!” [JR owns a plastics and injection molding plant across town.]
“No! The salt and pepper plant!”
“JR makes salt and pepper?” [By now both mom and I am super frustrated]
Once we both calmed down and listened to each other, I learned that JR purchased a factory that makes and fills salt and pepper shakers. The kind you see packaged together in grocery stores. Not that it helped me find the location, but now I knew that JR owned a “pepper plant.” I tried to call Dad and his cell phone went right to voice mail, not that he had it with him as it turned out. We finally spotted him and his giant Suburban. I shot out of the car thinking/hoping/praying that we were taking Dad’s vehicle. Nope. Back in to the hot spicy thick with potpourri rotten tomato stinky car.
I don’t know if I mentioned that my parents are separated. Overall, they are usually okay around each other – but typically there is an undercurrent of tension, which manifests itself in extreme, exaggerated politeness. Mom tells very long, never getting to the point stories and Dad is not hearing very well these days. Which means repeating the long stories. Mom tends to punch the gas when she drives, and then lets the car slow down, punch the gas, lets the car slow down, punch the gas…. to be fair, Dad does the same thing, so it really didn’t matter which one was driving.
Are you still with me? Toxic smell car, two parents -- one can’t hear the other can’t stop talking. And lurchy driving. The bright spot? I finally knew the true meaning of hitonious.
South Bend is about two and a half hours from Indianapolis. About half way in to the trip I asked Mom to pull over at the next restroom. She passed several and stopped only when I begged. We pulled over at a truck stop and Mom followed me in. I was sure I was going to be sick, but she went in to the restroom first and I was able to talk myself out of it by the time it was my turn.
We all jumped back in the car, this time with a big bag of potato chips. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I opened the magazine I’d brought with me to distract myself from the crunching and potato chip smell. Oh oh, the magazine had a perfume sample attached.
I was feeling really woozy by now and then the traffic stopped for a motorcycle accident. I kept praying the Hail Mary for the motorcyclist and the repetition helped my tummy a bit.
We finally made it to South Bend (did I mention it was the first Notre Dame home football game of the season?) and I was directing Mom to the church. She kept pointing the car to every church and bell tower she saw, “No Mom, not yet” “But it is a church” “Yes, but not the one we want”
I finally saw St. Hedwig’s and we pulled in to the parking lot. After much discussion between Mom and Dad about where to park... the discussion was what direction the sun was coming from and the possibility of shade…I was finally able to flee the car. You see Mom’s car will not unlock the passenger doors until the car is turned off.
I walked around the parking lot a bit and walked in to the church. The no air-conditioned, 130 years of incense layered with old people smell historic church.
That is when I found the restroom that used to be a confession box. And thought of Jamie Dawn and the word hitonious as I was throwing-up. As much as I hate the term “praying to the porcelain god” I took it to a higher level.