Thursday, March 17, 2005

Going Home

So the Original Party People (my parents) have once again conned me into going down south for the holiday.

Does your DNA mutate when you become a parent giving you some kind of super sonic guilt trip gene?

Technically Mississippi is not my home, as I was raised in a small Indiana town outside of Chicago. All my Father's family is down there though, and I spent a good part of my summers down there.

I hate the fucking south. I always have. Even when I was a kid I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs at everything that went on down there.

Before any of you southern readers get upset with me, hear me out. It's not the people, just the way of life. Southern people are some of the kindest, sincerest people I have ever met.

If only they could get off their asses and move at more then a snails pace, I'd be ok.... :)

You see, my Father, being 3/4 Native American, thought it was important for us to be in touch with those Native American roots. There weren't a hell of a lot of Indians running around a state ironically called Indiana, so my parents would ship us off to Mississippi to be with the paternal Grandparents for a month or two in the summer.

This also was the perfect opportunity for us to become farm hands, as my grandparents were farmers.

I fucking hate farming.

My Dad always wanted us to know what it truly meant to work, as we had it much easier then he did. This may well be the understatement of the year, as people that get two meals a day and had indoor plumbing had it easier then him.

What the hell would I tell my kids about my hardships growing up? That we didn't get cable until I was 11? That we had to cook shit on the stove until I was 12 because my Dad was certain microwaves were dangerous? That if we wanted to steal music we had to actually go to the store and physically steal it instead of downloading it???

I'm tangenting (is that a word?) Another post, another time....

Anyway...So we were shipped off to be cheap child labor for my Grandparents.

I'm thinking that I know why they are so slow down there. That farming shit is hard work. It's also hotter then hell, there are weird bugs that fly that really shouldn't be flying, and snakes that will kill you if they bite you.

When they finally stop working and stressing over all the scary shit they just shutdown? It could be a theory...

So my Granpda, who was proud as hell of his tractor, would climb up on that bad boy and drive it. We'd walk behind it with these big burlap sack thingies picking up potatoes, all the while dodging any kind of snake that may have been uprooted in the process.

Usually after about 20 minutes of this I was riding on the tractor with my Grandpa because I was a hysterical wreck after seeing my first snake. Like my Dad, Mel Looney (that's what we called him, and no I don't know why except that he was a bit eccentric) couldn't bear to see me upset.

I heart men...

So my brother and sister would walk behind doing their work and mine. Being the baby is a good thing, let me tell you.

He'd make up for it though, by giving me barn duty or something of the like. I got rather attached to a bull that I named George, and one summer was rather traumatized when I realized that the nice juicy burger that I was eating was in fact my sweet bull George (a shout out to my brother who told me, you know, after I had a couple of bites), causing me to not eat beef for about oh, 15 years or so.

I'm still not over it.

Our reward for being good little sweat shop workers wasn't exactly what I would call a reward. We were allowed to go down to the creek (pronounced Krik down there) to swim.

Now this was much different then swimming in my pool back at home. I believe I only did it once, and it was for about all of 30 seconds. You see, there are other things swimming with you as you swim around.

Things like water moccasins.

No fucking thanks.

The first time we went down there it was with our cousins. That was one of my favorite parts of going down south, having cousins. Up here it was just our little family, with not much in the way of an extended family.

That was until I found out my cousins were crazy fuckers.

We get to the creek, and jump in. Oh, it felt so good considering most days down there are like 100 degrees AND humid. This was until I saw a water moccasin swim by me, which prompted my sister, brother, and I to swim/run our way out of there screaming at the top of our lungs.

Our cousin's response? "They won't bother you if you don't bother them."

What the fuck??? Who would bother them? Who would knowingly swim with poisonous snakes?

My crazy fucker cousins, that's who. We held a united front and proclaimed we would never go into the creek again.

This caused much shame to my Grandparents, who labeled us white breaded Yankees.

A couple of weeks later we redeemed ourselves because after a family fishing trip we all knew how to clean fish and the crazy fucker cousins didn't.

Thank you maternal Grandpa, for showing us how to clean fish and clearing our good names.

So as you can tell, many things about the south and me just don't gel all that well.

I do cherish the memories of going down there, as I learned so much about my family history. I heard stories of my family walking the trail of tears. I heard about my Grandparents leaving the reservation because everyone was starving.

It really kind of cleared a lot of things up for me. We seem to have this ambition gene thing going in my family, and I never understood why my Grandparents didn't try to do better. They never particularity cared to own their own land. They would hunt for fur when things got really bad and they didn't have food.

Why didn't they do that all the time? My Dad had told me before that a couple of good Fox hides sometimes was more profitable then their intake from farming for the year.

It was because in their mind they were doing good. They had shelter, food (most of the time), and their family. In their culture, that was all they needed.

My Grandpa was a proud man. Big and strong, even in his 90's. He had a twinkle in his eyes, and a wicked sense of humor. A guitar was one of his best friends, and he would play music for hours for us, while my Grandma sang along with a voice that would put Aretha Franklin to shame.

Or maybe it was just because she was my Grandma. She was big too, not as in fat, but tall. She was 6' tall, with long, solid white hair. Even in her 90's, she was still gorgeous.

It was like she could see through you and feel all your pain. She was the most compassionate person I have ever met in my life. My Grandma could make anything ok.

My Grandma was diagnosed with leukemia at age 96, and acquired HIV through a blood transfusion. She had full blown AIDS by 98, and passed on soon after. My Grandfather was in perfect health at age 99, but as soon as her casket was lowered into the ground he completely lost his mind. He didn't know who we were, who he was, anything.

He died a month later. I suppose if you are married to someone for 79 years, it is a bit tough to live without them.

Soul mates they were my friends...

Being a late in life child, and my Father being a late in life child, didn't give me much time with them. I am so grateful for every second spent with them, and proud of my heritage and ancestors.

Where was I? Oh yes, I hate the fucking south. I suppose the rest of that will have to wait until tomorrow....

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