Mrs. G's Catholic grade school was sometimes as confining as the securely fastened top button of the regulation white, peter pan collared shirt which took shelter beneath her below-the-knee plaid jumper.
Entries in Back in the Day (70)
When Mrs. G. loaded up her '67 red VW Bug to head to college, she took along her high school boyfriend, Eric, and her goldfish, Roxy. Both of them were unfailingly loyal. Eric held Roxy in her glass bowl as they hurtled down I-5 from Portland to Eugene.
One of the conditions of Mrs. G's parents paying for college was Mrs. G. giving the Greek system a try. Mrs. G's stepfather had fond memories of his fraternity days and he wanted Mrs. G. to create some of her own. So, in pursuit of higher education, Mrs. G. reluctantly played along and was invited to join the Delta Gamma house at the University of Oregon. One of the most "popular" sororities on campus, it was also referred to as Delta Glamma because it was chock full of fake-tanned blondes dressed like the Kennedys at a clam bake in Hyannisport and The White House because several members had an eager affection for Blow. As you can imagine, Mrs. G. fit right in.
Since Mrs. G. was a pledge, she shared a room with her sorority Big Sister. Mrs. G's portion of the room included two drawers and a quarter of a closet. She never fully unpacked her suitcase. No one slept in their rooms but rather in a "sleeping porch," which was simply a large room filled with bunk beds where 45 girls crashed. The sleeping porch was Mrs. G's nightmare. She couldn't sleep with all snoring, lip smacking and narcissistic consumption of her air. She would lie in bed and imagine all the hot breath permeating the room. It was paradise...for Ted Bundy.
Because of her lack of personal space, Eric agreed to keep Roxy at his place. He, too, was living in a fraternity, a more civilized space where you got your own room with your own bed in it. Roxy lived on Eric's dresser and Mrs. G. would come over daily to feed her and make out with Eric. It worked for all involved.
As hell week approached, the weekly ceremony where you commit to being a full fledged member of the sorority, Mrs. G. started secretly looking for studio apartments. She'd heard rumors that hell week included nudity, blindfolds, car trunks, sketchy second locations and beer bongs. Though only nineteen, Mrs. G. was actually born a 36-year-old, leery of horseplay, monkey business and local law enforcement. Hell week? Uh uh. She wasn't having it. She wasn't having any of it. She broke the news to her parents and sorority sisters and moved out.
Her boyfriend Eric chose to go through hell week and other than being hung over and exhausted, he seemed none the worse for wear. Mrs. G. pressed him for details of his hazing but he kept his fraternity oath and refused to share even one detail of the most chaste depravity. When Mrs. G. headed to the stairs to feed Roxy (and make out), Eric stopped her and told her he had some bad news: Roxy had inexplicably died.
Mrs. G. gasped. Roxy was relatively young in goldfish years. It was an untimely death. And then it hit Mrs. G. like a two ton truck. Hell week.
"Did you eat Roxy?" Mrs. G. screamed.
Eric insisted he had not.
"Just tell me," Mrs. G. lied, "If they made you eat my goldfish, I will understand. I know the demands of hell week can be excruciating. Just tell me the truth and we can put it behind us."
"I swear I didn't eat Roxy," Eric said, "She just died."
Mrs. G. let it rest.
But just for a bit.
Nothing was ever the same for she and Eric. She didn't trust him as far as she could throw him. When he kissed her, she tasted aquarium.
Three weeks later Mrs. G. called it quits. It's impossible to devote yourself to someone who might have eaten your pet.
Mrs. G. will never really know without actual proof if Eric ate Roxy but, frankly, Mrs. G. doesn't need proof. Judge and jury, she knows the bastard did it.
Mrs. G. has forgiven Eric but she can't speak for Roxy, who, sadly, is unable to speak for herself, her life cut so wretchedly short. But if there are goldfish in the afterlife, Eric had better watch his sorry ass.
In 1979, Mrs. G. was thirteen and at her first girl/boy party. The party was in the basement of her friend Lisa Street's house, where Lisa's mom showcased her vintage collection of Avon perfume bottles, the sweet scent of Moon Wind and Hawaiian White Ginger hovered above the sweaty, adolescent air. The lava lamps smoldered...
Mrs. G. has mentioned in the past that she went through a hard core Geraldine Ferraro phase in high school. In 1983, Geraldine Ferraro was a candidate for Vice President, and Mrs. G, a junior in high school, was an ardent fan. She passed out Mondale/Ferraro flyers on the streets of Portland until someone (she assumes it was a Republican...maybe a Libertarian) threw a Dr. Pepper can at her head. After that, she packed it in for the remainder of the campaign. Her Democratic loyalty did not weather the possibility of brain damage. All the same, her Ferraro loyalty was fierce even though she was too young to vote.
1984, photo taken by Darren L. who was a right winger but drove Mrs. G. downtown for gas money
Mrs. G. was never good at team sports. Besides her genetic predisposition to teetering, tripping over air and, then, bursting into tears, her desire to please her fellow teammates eclipsed any eagerness to win. She shuffled across the competition continuum in order to secure her spot at the next slumber party. Mrs. G. would chuck the softball way past first to make sure Stephanie Simon was safe or ram the basketball underhanded into Charlie Peters' kidneys to snag the foul for the girls' team. She was a loose cannon, her only strategy to get out alive and well liked. In sixth grade she gave up team sports altogether.
So she was surprised and skeptical her junior year in high school when the cross country coach, Mrs. Hornaday -- a tall, skeletal woman with a dyed black pageboy haircut and a slash of red lipstick across her heavily creased mouth -- approached her about joining the team. Mrs. G. explained she wasn't into team sports but Mrs. Hornaday, frantically rubbing the nap on the left arm of her midnight blue velour track suit, explained when you were running, you were only competing with yourself. Competing with herself, unless it involved plowing through and shrinking the stack of library books on her night stand, sounded uninteresting, pointless to Mrs. G. This, combined with her congenital fear of falling, led her to tell Mrs. Hornaday thank you, really, but no thank you. "I'll see you tomorrow. Practice is at 4:00," Mrs. Hornaday said, unfazed by Mrs. G's polite refusal. "It will look good on your transcript." Mrs. Hornaday, a frail, sickly looking woman who could have been 45 or 65, twitched down the hall like a hyper thyroid without saying goodbye.
Still a pleaser, Mrs. G. showed up the next day. Mrs. Hornaday, a stopwatch in one hand and a cigarette in the other, introduced her to the team and explained the drill, which was to simply to run behind everyone else as fast as she could...after she ate two hamburgers. Each practice, Mrs. Hornaday, a big believer in iron and meat, would show up with a bag of Krystal hamburgers, mini square burgers which tasted like food warming lamps and sweat and insist each runner chow down. By week four of practice, Mrs. G. felt more confident -- she hadn't fallen once -- though she was consistently the last runner in. The minute Mrs. Hornaday saw Mrs. G. clearing the wooded path, she would shout, "That's my girl, Copeland, haul it on in." Mrs. G. would haul it on in only to discover, once again, the large orange thermos of Gatorade empty. Slowly realizing the satisfaction of being less of a pleaser, Mrs. G. would address the injustice of the lack of hydration to her faster, bastarding bastard teammates. "Get over it," Mrs. Hornaday, swallowed up in smoke and Taboo perfume, would say, offering Mrs. G. a swig of her cold coffee. "There's always someone a step or two ahead of you. Just keep going and deal with it."
Mrs. G. dealt with it until she graduated, roused and galvanized by a brittle boned, phlegmy-lunged woman of indeterminate age who she could probably break in half.
You can't predict who is going to move you (or make you move). Watch and listen carefully. Mrs. G. never ran again but she keeps hauling it on in, a step or two behind, and deals with it. The only difference, now she brings her own drink.