Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Purgatory of the Little Red Pants

I hate when I get a cold or the flu and I'm well enough to think of all the work I need to do, but not well enough to do it. I should have walked the dog. I should have changed the sheets and run the vacuum.  I should have disinfected every surface I touched and some that I didn't.  I wanted to do a dozen other things, play on my blog account, discuss life with my book club, and go to Elliott Bay Books when I had to go into Seattle for essential Scout stuff anyway. I love Elliott Bay Books.

I just can't keep up.  Just now, I tried to use the google app to get information from a barcode about a book I like. I'm hopelessly good at making mistakes with technology when I don't feel well. I couldn't get it to work. It's as if part of my brain was sneezed out at 102 mph with a spray of virus and will take time to grow back.

The book is 'Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me' by Ian Morgan Cron. This guy has the gift of being able to make me laugh one minute, cry the next, then go back to laughing again. He relates a story about how the 'Shepherd on WOR' radio show saved his life. Jean Shepherd wrote 'A Christmas Story,' the movie about the boy who kept being told, "You'll put your eye out" when he asked for a rifle for Christmas.

Oh, I could tell you that part of the story, but it might ruin it for you. Just believe me when I tell you that Cron is very good at telling how hard it is to be a kid. My childhood was not at all like his, but there are currents of familiar themes.

There was the time when my mom bought me a pair of red polyester pants that were two sizes too small because she was embarrassed I wasn't willowy like my sister. I even showed her the higher size number on my other pants, but to no avail.  She wouldn't exchange them for the right size, saying that they 'should' fit.  They didn't.   Those pants hung in my closet like a bright red poisonous mushroom.  I didn't really want to tell you that my mother still chose my clothes in the morning when I was ten, but she did.  Being the youngest, I spent the first half of my life just trying to become grown up, even to the age that I was.  I begged to shave my legs when my fur grew in.  I begged for a bra, when my new breasts were obvious under the white T-shirts.  I hated the birthday cards I was given that were of clowns and pink hearts that all but said, "So glad you're finally 4!" 

If I had been allowed to choose my own clothing, there were three or four items that would have been shoved to the end of the row and never touched.  I tried to push the hanger back and squeeze the red pants tightly between other clothes, but the more my mind screamed, 'Not the red pants, not the red pants, not the red pants,' the more likely my mother was to seek them out and pair them with a short white shirt. 

I was afraid that if I moved one iota in those pants, they would rip out in the seat.  There is nothing more serious on the playground than ripping out your pants when you're already aware of the words chubby, stocky, and the dreaded husky, words mostly used by your mother.  So when the ball dropped and I was forced to wear the red pants, I spent the entire day trying to stay as straight as possible, which looks pretty strange in one of those little all-in-one school desks, and recess was a standing-room-only affair.  It got pretty boring just standing there watching everyone else play on the swings, the monkey bars, and the big slide.

Every time I took those pants off after school, I could see that the butt seam had stretched just a little more.  Eventually, it was a three quarter inch line of threads holding the two halves together.  I must have whined too much because my mother refused to retire these poor red pants, saying that I needed to get good use out of them before school ended.  We weren't poor for God's sake, just buy me a pair of pants that fit my butt!  I didn't say that.  I knew that one more word would place me in the hell of wearing them even longer.  I could see her insisting that I wear them on my honeymoon, bending down to get into the limo at the church with 300 of my best friends watching and hearing a loud 'RIP' as my butt finally came flying out of its purgatorial encasement. 

I haven't even mentioned that the button in front left a red mark on my stomach for a couple of days after I was levered into them with a pry bar for a day at school.  I won't tell you that the seams holding the zipper on had also begun to spread, taking up some of the slack the butt seam couldn't handle. 

The torture of wearing the red pants wasn't in ever having anyone discover the tear in the back when it finally became too large to ignore.  The torture was in struggling on and on in the hell of the red pants as they hung in the balance just before they popped.  I had gotten in the habit of wearing a long hot sweat shirt whenever my mom ordered me to wear them, thus hoping that no one could see the ever-expanding rip.  I could feel little bits of my skin getting pinched in the tensioned threads, but at least no one could see them.  The problem with the jacket was that it was late spring and it was hot out.  I knew it was a trade-off, sweating the way I did, but it seemed worth it.  Sometimes, when I was safely ensconced in my school desk, I'd pull it off, but invariably, the teacher would ask me to write something brilliant on the chalk board and I'd have to throw it back on before I turned my red butt toward the entire classroom.  I knew how ridiculous I looked pulling down the back of that sweatshirt.  I didn't care.   No one was going to know about those red pants. 

They finally split for good just a week before school let out for the summer.  I went into the cloakroom and could see my white underwear clearly across a two inch spread that went most of the way up my backside to the waistband.  There were still threads vainly holding the pants together.  These managed to saw little lines in my butt cheeks before I walked home stiffly and still stifling in my long sweatshirt after school.  I quietly took off the poor red pants and put them into the laundry, knowing that even my mother couldn't make me wear them again. 

Can you tell?  I want to grow up to be like Ian Morgan Cron.  Write on, Ian. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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