Every adult at the party wanted me to be a part of the night, I made people laugh and I went out of my way to be funny, or so I thought. It was just the way I was. I would say anything to get a rise, especially Mummy. Most of the time it was just to make her act and look shocked at my statements. This particular night I said “Hey Auntie Viv why does Uncle Ca stutter so much?” I knew why he stuttered, his whole life he stuttered, it wasn’t his fault. I wasnt trying to be rude, i thought it was going to make everyone laugh. Well it did, maybe not outwardly, but lots of snickers were forming around their mouths. Unfortunately it turned my Mums British, clear pale, skin, suddenly look like she had been vqcationing in Miami and had a violent burn. “Apologize now young lady!” yelling at me, while gritting her teeth, with the embarrassed look of death on her face. Uncle Ca was just standing in line, filling his plate with fondue, trying hard not to laugh, but had the usual “you’re so bad” smile.
Sadly I was not asked the usual 3 times to go to bed, it had turned into the pulling me off the floor by Mummy with the usual hissing in my ear, and of course smiling so no one knew her anger, “If you don’t get up now I will find Daddy and he will drag you to bed, and I MEAN IT THIS TIME!” Oh boy, I thought, Mummy’s mad now. By this time I knew she was a little more than irritated. I dutifully obeyed this time but I had to drag out the goodnights, it wouldn’t be me without those good nights. Each second that I didn’t go to my bed, was one more second staying awake. “Goodnight Miss Joan, I love your lipstick, can I try it on before bed?” I pleaded. “One night sweetie, when you have more time before nighty night. I love you sweetie, give me a big kiss” Auntie Joan said with open arms. I made sure I hugged her real tight and gave her a big kiss on her overly, lipstick, enhanced mouth. I wanted so much to have that gorgeous deep purple hue with a hint of red color on my mouth, to see how “cool” I looked. Maybe I could keep it on if I didn’t brush my teeth, or wash my face in the morning! My friends would ak me so many questions, I was so excited. After she gave me a kiss I ran to our hall mirror just to pose with lipstick on my mouth. I didn’t care if i had to go to bed now, well just a little. The most important hugs had to be given to Auntie Viv and Uncle Ca. My mum pointed a finger in their direction and said “Now go over and say goodnight to your Auntie and Uncle, and Miss D. I want to hear “I’m sorry” before anything else, do you understand?” I said “Yes Mummy”. Now With Mummy I didnt care if I rolled my eyes, or made gestures behind her back, she wasn’t Daddy and the only thing important at this point in time was getting me to bed and making sure her company had enough fondue.
I went over to the dining room table where everyone was hanging out, talking, and getting so much bread for their fondue you would of thought they never saw bread and cheese before? I saw Uncle Ca and Auntie Viv, filling their mouths and plates at at an enormous rate of consumption that I nearly got sick watching them, but I stood there and said. “Uncle Ca you know I was just kidding, right? I love you!” Uncle Ca was an artist and always taught me how to be more than a young artist. He was also the kindest man I ever knew. He grew up in the “wilderness”, as my Daddy would say, in Canada and, as Daddy would always say “would walk 3 miles uphill just to sell his paintings”. He and Auntie Viv were more than family. They were fun, helped with Daddy’s ministry, and made me laugh all the time. I innocently continued “You’re not angry with me are you?” Both of them started to giggle. Auntie Viv started to laugh, and put my chin in her soft hands, lifting it so I would have to see her eyes. “Sweetie, you could never upset us, especially when Uncle Ca thinks the world of you. You are you, don’t ever change”. Suddenly the tiny tears flowed from my eyes, making me feel loved and miserable all at the same time. It seemed like adults had a way of making you feel sad for no reason, even when it was intended as love. I thought “Adults are hard to understand, maybe thats why I need to grow up fast so I can figure this all out”.
I finished my goodnights, there are only so many ways you can say goodnight, and I started my march up to my bedroom which I shared with my sisters, the obedient ones. “Goodnight Mummy” my sisters would say, “Goodnight my darlings” Mummy said to them. They were all tucked in like little kangaroos in a pouch. I hated them, they were perfect, their teeth were always brushed, faces washed and never gave Mum a minute of trouble. I wanted to tell them, “Oh be quiet go back into your pouch, at least I have more fun!”, but I didn’t. I still tried another tactic to stay up, “Mummy please why can’t I just sit and draw, I won’t keep the girls up, I’ll draw in the hallway. I’m not tired, its still light out, pleeessse”!? I wouldnt give in, but Mummy wouldn’t either, “Sweetheart I am tired, I have guests downstairs, and you are not going to keep your sisters up! Period!” Without skipping a beat Mummy used the word, of all words, the big D, Daddy! She got louder and said “GET INTO BED OR I WILL GET DADDY” Again the word “daddy”! Daddy always meant loud noises and crying, not from me, mostly from my sisters. They were afraid they would be in trouble. Never understood that one. So I conceded, again, jumped into bed and Mummy always said “Good night my Darlings, lets pray now” We folded our hands, prayed for all the poor people we needed to reach out to so God would help them, prayed that Jesus would help us sleep through the night and wake to a new day. Our prayers took longer to say then it did to wash our faces, brush or not to brush our teeth, depending on how much I wanted clean teeth, and to get into bed. I will always say the ritual of bedtime did help us relax unless you were me, on a Sunday night with adults downstairs, having more fun than I was. Now it was a race to get back downstairs and hide, that was my ritual.
After Mummy left, the door was left open, they said it was because we were afraid of the dark, no I wasn’t. Daddy knew if I moved an inch, even with socks on, I was moving to the bedroom door to escape. After endless nights of being caught escaping, I set up a plan to leave my bed of comfort. When i knew the girls were sleeping soundly, I became a spider, using my “eight legs and arms”. I slowly crawled to the end of the bed, and quietly moved onto one of my sisters bed. A mouse would of been louder than me. From there I had my chair lined up to step onto, jumped like “Spider-Man” and used my tipy toes to move on the fluffy carpeted landing. I always played a game in my mind, “quiet as an Indian”. I was taught Indians attacked the “white man” because they would sneak up on them. I was on all fours, taking each step at a time, like a crouching tiger ready to prey on his turf. The adult room was finally mine! The sunken in 1960’s, shabby cool living room. I don’t mean “shabby chic”. It had golden yellow carpet, with mustard yellow sofas, and wallpaper that screamed “BIG FLOWERS” it was my idea of “cool”. To be quiet I had to be a junior James Bond or an “I Spy” actor. Bill Cosby would of been proud. I didn’t jump in and say “See you can’t hold me down” hands on my side like Superman. No I cowered in the corner of the our gorgeous veneer dining room. That furniture would fall apart if anyone over 150 lbs sat on it. Every week my mum would actual polish veneer, polish fake wood? But it was the neatest dining room set ever. With the yellow shag carpet under the table, and the flimsy china cabinet next to the table, it was complete. The doors would always fall off if you needed that “special” plate and tea cup though. You would have to hold one side of the door so everything didn’t come crashing out. A true classic. We knew we didn’t have much, but what we had was clean, and guests loved to visit us weekly. They’d relish in my mums cooking and famous fondue mixes. They would soak up daddy’s take on the Bible, and always, always, loved on us kids, because we were all family.