Stronghold

Day 1

I forgot how aggressively loud the birds are here. When I was growing up, they were my foes on weekend and summer mornings. Sleeping in was a precious thing, it still is. I can’t believe it, these birds are still greedy motherfuckers.

A particularly mundane bird would always wake me outside my window in the summers. Only capable of two notes, but loud and confident enough to star in a community theatre production of Oklahoma. “Oh what a beautiful morning!” it'd sing boldly and off key. My entire day would then start on that bird’s "DOOOOO dooooo" over and over again.

My mom’s house smells like stale cat. This is Day 1 of me back on the farm. I’m almost 31, and I recently quit my job as a cruise director for a small cruise line based in America. It was an awful job. Not because the passengers were older than dust and the staff were goddamn infants, but because I was once again doing a job I didn’t actually want to do while being underpaid and overworked. Now I’m living with my mother back in South Dakota. My mother needs help, and I need to figure out what I’m doing, so it’d be a win win if these birds would shut the fuck up.

I take it back, there is an aggressive smell of cats in my mother’s house. My mother’s house is also aggressively full of things, and my eyes are aggressively itchy, either from the abundant foliage in my mother’s jungle of a yard, or the cat hair covering the maze of junk that is my childhood home.

Mom had dogs for a while after I left home and my dad was gone. They all died. A large acreage in prairie country isn’t a place for shih tzus. Winters are brutal, wild animals roam, and little dogs are stupid. She had a couple hearty dogs that stuck around for a while longer, but age and/or the highway at the end of our driveway got them. Now it's cats, before only running wild on our land, now running wild through stacks of antique magazines and boxes piled high filled with vintage linens or aged perfume bottles. The cats from my childhood would eat dry food left out for them in the garage and they’d leave us mangled voles and mice scattered throughout the yard as thanks.

Growing up I never had an actual pet, just the hoards of feral farm cats and a few oversized friend's or neighbor’s dogs we watched and I was too afraid to touch. When I tell people I've never had a pet of my own, they tend to look very shocked, like I was denied basic nutrition as a child. I want to assure you I had very fulfilling friendships with my stuffed animals. With some humans, too. I will never see why people rely so heavily on the devotion and admiration of anything, let alone an animal that humans took out of the wild to domesticate for our own uses. Not that I don't want one, I totally want a dog someday. No one can deny they're cute as fuck, but the fur getting everywhere thing is an issue, just for the itch factor alone. Either way, the notion of an animal that relies on me for love and meals sounds nice enough, but isn’t welcome at this juncture. For example, these cats. They’re perfectly nice, as far as cats are capable, so barely, but they’re only adding to the disorder and filth that is my mother’s house. It smells terrible. We all know what cat piss smells like. Ammonia, hatred, and yellowing teeth. When I watched Grey Garden’s, why I didn’t feel chills? I was watching my future unfold.

I'm being unfair, my mom was away for a few days, so of course the litter boxes are full, or the cats had their way with a duvet while the mistress wasn't home. I enjoy being dramatic, but I will say there are some spooky similarities between my mother’s and my situation and the Edith Bouvier Beales of South Hampton. A failed and some would say aging musical theatre major is living with her mother, a single socialite. Being a socialite of Dell Rapids, South Dakota is very different than the elite of the East Coast, but my mom is nevertheless a Sioux River Socialite (title I'm coining right now). She knows practically everyone in the county and everyone knows and loves her. I also know Little Edie didn't study musical theatre, because useless degrees like that didn’t exist back then. Women went to college for something practical, like finding a rich husband. Much like Little Edie, my depression spiral will lead me towards singing and dancing in the living room alone, surrounded by junk wearing a fabulous outfit concocted from scavenged goods. Maybe I’ll skin the cats and feel my Cruella DeVil fantasy. It would lack uniformity, though, patchwork

isn’t my style.

I don’t miss New York at all. I took the cruise director position mainly to leave the monotonous life I was leading there. You read that and think that monotonous and New York don’t mix, but you’d be surprised. When the stress of living in that city permeates every day of your life, it gets old. A city of extremes. The poorest and most desperate people you’ll ever see living on the street below the richest most oblivious mongrels known to mankind. And you're forced to see them and all the jaded in-betweens as soon as you step out your door. Claustrophobia combined with callous disregard sprinkled with power walking. Add a lot of alcohol in my case. Well everyone’s case, really. It’s impossible to live in New York and not become an addict of something. A person often compulsively uses weed, work, exercise, booze, or something harder to cope with the sheer oppressiveness of living like a sardine in the city of opportunity smelling like urine. Good luck with moderation my friends.

Now here I am back in South Dakota again. When a passenger on the ship asked me where I was from and I replied, he said, “People actually live there?” and then cackled like he was Johnny Carson interviewing an actress he only sees as a pair of legs. Old men are assholes. Rich old men. Rich old white men. An obvious observation, but it doesn't fully sink in until you’re serving a 77 year old man his third Manhattan in an hour and he insists on telling you a story he thinks is fascinating because he’s telling it (so it must be), all the while speaking entirely too close to your face despite your efforts to back away respectfully. He just doesn’t get the hint. He’s recently eaten a crab puff, too, or so you assume from the contents of his mouth inches from your own.

The birds still won’t shut up! OK honestly, it’s nice. Would I rather wake up to the sounds of chirping or to the sounds of homeless people arguing about Trump while rattling the garbage cans outside our building to find bottles and cans. I realize I've fixated on the birds to avoid leaving my bed. To avoid leaving my room, really, and therefore avoid the cat smell and the general disarray of the house. Not like my room is a sanctuary from my mother’s habits. Her boxes of collectibles and random crap have spilled into the room only a year ago I left clutter free. Over three years ago, before I moved to New York, I lived with my mom off and on for a year, slowly trying to clean the house. It didn’t last.

Let me clarify about my mother: she’s always been a collector and very good at selling random nonsense. She has a good eye and obsessively watches any antiques show television has to offer. The money she makes from the sales supports my stupid and struggling brother's, my young sister at times, and sometimes my aunt whose children live in million dollar homes. And now ME! Ain't Mom lucky? She’s smart, funny, and kind, but is definitely a hoarder. Compulsive shopping is a credit lined streak that flows thickly through our family line. Take this minor example: yesterday she wanted a pair of Calvin Klein Jeans for sale for $4 at the local Catholic ran thrift store in Dell Rapids called Padres, but Monday at Padres is bag day. If you stuff a whole paper bag full of junk, you get that bag for a dollar. Cheaper than bottled water! If I could choose between bottled water and the paper bagged treasures my mother brought home, I’d choose bottled water. All this because my mom wanted a pair of the cheapest jeans on the market. My mother is very considerate, though, probably the most considerate person I know. In the bag were two pairs of jeans (well one because I don’t consider jeggings denim) and some shirts for myself or my various family members. She also has a penchant for fake flowers and baskets, like all midwestern mothers, so there was the ugliest glitter painted wire basket I’ve ever seen with plastic crystals hanging around the lip like the sad dead eyes of my old restaurant manager. Barely a glint left.

Just random shit like that. Shit she doesn’t need.

It piles up, she claims she needs this or that, but she's really just

keeping Padres in business and bringing me home used clothing some bitch I went to high school with probably wore. The same story over and over again. I found this for such a deal, and it’s worth this much! Can you believe it?

No I can’t. I can’t believe how many “priceless” possessions people used to own that my mother insists on buying. I don’t care if it’s for a quarter or five bucks, no one needs 30 antique Mason jars.

I’ve been living out of a suitcase for months now, and I would like to have a real bedroom now. I feel sulky, I'm confused, and of course my skin is breaking out. I'm a teenager once again, hiding from the morning in my bedroom. It's appropriate that for some reason I’ve been binge watching Charmed on Netflix. I’ve never watched it before, I grew up scoffing any WB nightly drama, despite having very limited channels on our TV. Cable was a luxury weren't afforded. I guess I will be watching Charmed while I undertake this mess. Something about the late 90’s fashion, hokey magic, and annoyingly quirky dialogue soothes me.

#family #comedy #southdakota #blog #dysfunctional #mother #bird #pets #hoarder

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