A Tiger Drive Truth
We have a condo in Florida. The previous owners decorated it with tiki bars, surfboards, and lots of mustard-yellow and dark brown paint. The tiki-ness and boards are gone, and we began the battle with the wall colors last week. As always*, we are using Behr’s Beach House White, and as always, I painted a heart for Ted on the dark brown wall. It’s a tip I learned from my dad, Dick. I used it in my novel, Tiger Drive:
“From this angle, Janice could see the side of the playhouse where Harry had spray-painted a white heart and cupid’s arrow. He’d been drinking and painted it from an odd angle, standing in a narrow space, stretching his arm over his head. As a result, the arrow was backward and upside down. The feathers were on the bottom right-hand side, and the tip of the arrow pierced the upper left curve of the heart. Cupid wouldn’t be impressed, but Janice had been.Chapter 22, Tiger Drive by Teri Case
Harry had painted, Harry-N-Janice in the middle.One thing about her husband, he was one of a kind, and he’d always done little things here and there that made her laugh. For a few seconds, she allowed herself to feel what she’d felt nine years before on Valentine’s Day. After he’d unveiled his clumsy art, he had taken her out for Hawaiian pizza. Just the two of them. No kids and no pepperoni. Other customers had screaming children, but not Harry and her. They found a corner table, ate their Canadian bacon and pineapple, drank draught beer, and listened to the songs they selected on the jukebox. When they stumbled home, they accidentally conceived the last of the lot, Justin. When Justin was born C-section, she smartened up and had her tubes tied.”
There are several real-life moments I added to Tiger Drive. They are moments that I continue to hold dear or remain curious about because there are no answers.
As I painted Teri -n- Ted on the wall, I recalled the time my dad painted Dick -n- Bonnie on the mustard-yellow trailer exterior wall outside the kitchen window. For those of you who’ve read Tiger Drive, another truth is my dad did buy two trailers and put them together, passing it off as a double-wide trailer. While it gave us much-needed space, the second trailer blocked the window above the kitchen sink where we (alright, mostly my mom) stood to wash the dishes.
I remember waking up and seeing my dad’s clumsy heart-art outside the window. I remember my Mom’s and siblings’ expressions, ranging from confused to humored. I thought it was romantic, but my dad, who had most likely painted it while tipsy or full-out drunk, had seemed quite embarrassed, even vulnerable, once sober and in the light of day.
My family loved each other, but we rarely expressed our love with physical affection or words of love. Honestly, we were awkward about showing love, and I’ll go as far as to say that when I was young, showing love meant someone was weak. Fortunately, once my siblings started having children, we all became a bunch of overtly loving, hug-addicted people. We hug and say we love each other always now. We dote on our nieces and nephews (young or grown). My siblings are all very attentive to their significant others. It’s lovely, and it’s liberating. Heck, I even hug strangers when they let me.
In hindsight, I think my mom and dad actually wanted more affection in their lives. But they were raised during different times than us. My dad’s sister, Betty, once wrote,
“I think my siblings craved more affection from my parents, but things weren’t like that then. We lived during a time of world war. There wasn’t time for it.”
Both my mom and dad showed their love with acts of service. For example, my dad once pulled apart wires for hours that he took from the landfill, outside in the freezing winter, to find enough copper to take to the scrapyard for cash so I could join the junior ski program with my friends. My mom would stay up until the early hours of the morning sewing us Valentine’s Day gifts, rainbow mobiles, and Halloween costumes. She’d make miniature pancakes for my Barbie dolls. My mom would randomly drop off Happy Meals at school for several of us kids, making us the coolest kids at lunch recess, and as my sister, Crystal, recently pointed out, our mom would make us tacos but take the extra time to fry flour tortillas.
Now, the shell frying might not seem like much to others, but my mom had at least seven kids to feed–eight counting my dad (wink)–at any given time. She helped us with our homework after school, cleaned the house, and often took a waitressing job at night. She was exhausted, yet when she made tacos she took the extra time to fry tortilla shells. My sister asked her recently why she took that extra step when she already had so much to do.
My mom said, “Because you all liked them.”
That’s love, people.
Mom, I know you’re reading this newsletter because you read every single one of my newsletters. I know life hasn’t been easy for you, and there were many challenges. Thanks for loving us the best you could and thanks for being you.
Friends, there’s a book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you ever want to explore how you give love, receive love, or how your loved ones love and want to be loved (because each individual might need to receive love differently than the way they give it), it’s worth a read.
Were you raised with affection? What stands out? And how do you love now? Or if you have a memory about your parents, I’m all ears, I mean eyes.
Before I go, congratulations to Tammy D. for winning the drawing for a free copy of Dikkon Eberhart’s memoir, The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir which I wrote about last week. And thank you to everyone for your generous feedback and for entering the drawing. I wish I could afford to give everyone a copy!
I’ll end this week’s newsletter by sending you each a cyber hug (because I’m huggy now!) and by saying thanks for being you.
*Since 2014, we’ve moved four times and painted three times.