In June, dad and I left Philly for real and the pale green house with the white shutters on Claire Road in Katherine Falls just on the edge of town officially became our home. I had to keep saying that to myself to make it seem real: Our new home on Claire Road in Katherine Falls. It wasn’t exactly growing on me.
I was thankful now that dad had chosen to make our move in the summer so I wouldn’t be thrown to whatever wolves would be roaming the halls in my future high school. Dad took me to a meeting with the principal soon after we moved in. She only did a slight double take when she saw me - the hair, I’m sure - but she seemed okay.
It was kind of nice that we both sat in the sofa in her office instead of her staring at me from behind her desk. I was also impressed that she didn’t write anything down while we talked. Most of the questions she asked I expected and I’m sure I gave her the answers she expected as well.
“So how do you like Katherine Falls so far?”
“It’s pretty nice.” It’s too quiet and nowhere near as cool as Philly.
“Do you have a favorite subject?”
“Probably science.” Nope, but science might be the closest.
“Have you made any new friends or had a chance to meet any of the students?”
"Um, no, not really.” And I’m good with that.
“Well, it’s summer and I’m sure you’ll run into a few of them.”
“Cool.” So not cool.
That night dad ordered a sausage and pepper pizza from a place called Ricko’s and I have to say it was pretty damn good. “Recommended by our new best friends,” he said between chews.
“Who?” I said and grabbed a second slice. They may have actually figured out pizza around here.
“You remember the couple that owns that theater?” he answered. “I ran into Mrs. Barzcik when I went in town for a few errands and she said it was the best around. She also asked about you.”
“Oh, right. Awesome.” I wished I had been there to see her.
We were sitting on the floor even though the worn blue sofa had made it’s way here along with everything else and was already in place. “It’s a Costello tradition to sit on the floor of your new home on the first night and eat take out,” dad said. “Your mom and I did this when we got our first apartment together.”
“What did you and mom eat when you bought the house in Philly?”
He paused, smiling. “Chinese. Mom had beef lo mein and I had szechuan shrimp. Oh, and wonton soup. You had Gerber’s peas I think.”
“You could have at least gotten me a Gerber’s egg roll,” I joked.
I knew he would remember. Dad seems to remember everything about their time together. I was jealous that he had more memories of mom to look back on than me. When I reached back as far as I could the earliest thing I remembered was sitting on mom’s lap watching a movie. We were both laughing. She had her warm arms around me and it was like the world was laughing and shaking with us.
On the radio was Corey Hart singing about wearing sunglasses at night. Weird words but a good song. I pictured mom wearing her sunglasses. She had this favorite pair but for some reason I couldn’t remember exactly what they looked like. Were they plastic?
“Mrs. Barzcik said that they’re looking for some help this summer if you’re looking for a job.”
“Um, am I looking for a job?” I said and reached for my third piece. Ricky’s pizza was good but for some reason the last piece was feeling weird in my stomach. I put down the slice.
“Well,” he said, “I think it’s probably just doing a bit of help with the cleaning and maybe selling some tickets but it’s a start and maybe it will help you get a bit familiar with the town, you know meet some kids and all. I know everything is going to be new - ”
“I’ll be fine dad,” I said quickly. Weren’t they silver? The more I tried to remember the sunglasses and picture them on her the harder it was to see her eyes. Mom had green eyes, beautiful green eyes but could I see them when she put them on?
Where were those sunglasses? Did we throw them away? They were her favorite and I remember when she bought them on the boardwalk in Ocean City...wait, was it Cape May?
I looked around the living room and suddenly it was too big. There weren’t even any pictures on the walls yet. Nothing looked like it belonged here, like all the furniture was pretending to be something it wasn’t.
Most of what we owned was still in boxes. Did we pack her sunglasses as well? I remembered aunt Josephine coming over and helping dad go through mom’s things to decide what should be donated. I stayed upstairs in my room that day. Did they even know that they were her favorite and that I helped her pick them out? Are they sitting in some discount bin in a Goodwill? I should have said something, should have gone downstairs to tell them they were important...
The only things we kept of mom was packed in cardboard boxes and sitting upstairs in empty rooms. All the important stuff, the sounds, smells and memories were waiting for us back on Pine Street in Philly. We left them and we left mom.
Dad had gotten quiet and that made me feel worse. Now I have to worry about his feelings. I’m tired of being the only woman in his life. It was pathetic and this pizza sucked.
I slammed the top of the pizza box closed and climbed the stairs to my new room. I think dad said my name but I can’t be sure. The light wasn’t on and that was fine with me. I heard the music stop downstairs. I pictured dad sitting by himself with a crumpled pizza box in front of him and I got pissed all over again but his time at myself.
I pushed the boxes off my bed, letting them spill out onto the floor and sat down. The familiarity of it comforted me. I realized that it was the only thing in the last twelve hours that felt right. I cried and put my hands over my face, feeling the warmth run into my palms. I wanted my damn mom. Dad was doing the best he could, I knew that. I’m glad he didn’t come up here after me to talk or anything. I think I’d start screaming.
I laid back and stayed there for a while. The light outside the window faded. Dad eventually checked on me by gently tapping on my door and I told him I was okay and tried to make it sound like I meant it. His footsteps moved towards his room and the door closed. I waited until it got too dark to see in my room to turn on the light and saw my handy work.
Well, this is what happens when you uproot a teenage girl who just lost her mother and drop her in the midle of nowhere with no friends. Destruction.
I can’t talk to him about this stuff. Not the way I feel right now. It’s not just about mom, it’s about feeling like crap half the time and getting pains in my body that I never had before. The girls in my class sometimes talked about it but I was always too nervous to ask questions because that would be weird and who the hell wants to be the one who asks the librarian for a book on mentrual cramps? All I know is that it’s supposed to happen and if I did try to talk to dad about it he would probably run into the basement and never, ever come back out. Who was I going to go to around here? No friends, no mom….well, you know what I mean...
Dad was definitely not ready for this...those times when I really just don’t want to deal with anything, even myself. I wished I could walk out of my body like a snake leaving it’s skin behind and then come back after it felt better. He never had to deal with “becoming a woman” while the the woman who was supposed to teach you about these things was gone. He didn’t know anything about periods or tampons or a million other things that only girls and women have to consider.
It’s not his fault and my left brain knows that. My right brain wants to punch everything in the face right now.
I gathered up the mess I made and put it back in the boxes. Jesus, it’s so strange to see everything you had in your room condensed down to cardboard boxes.
When I had to pack I didn’t want to listen to instructions from dad about how to organize my stuff and maybe I was a bit of a bitch about it but I didn’t label anything “tapes” or “books” or “socks” as he suggested. He also said something about consolidating and reducing but it was more noise by then. There was no way that I was leaving anything behind so I threw it all into eight boxes and labeled each one, “MY SHIT”.
Dad gave me a look but took each and fit it snugly into the back of the truck. Then they got buried by the rest of the stuff from the house.
Now looking around my room, I saw that at least half of the boxes were filled with my movie stuff: books, posters, video tapes and magazines. Jesus. They almost outnumbered my clothes boxes. What the hell does THAT say about me?
I walked quietly to his room and heard his voice. I opened the door. He was sitting on his bed and had a picture of mom in his hand. He turned to me, a bit pale and his brown hair hanging down over his wet eyes. I’ve never seen anyone in my life looking so confused and it broke my heart. “I’m asking her for advice,” he said, his bottom lip trembling, and placed the picture in the box near his bed. "But she's not answering right now."
“I think she would say,” I said as I walked over and sat with him, “Steven, let your daughter cut your hair.” I ruffled his hair gently and mumbled an apology. He smiled, blinked and nodded. Maybe I didn’t realize how hard this was on him as well. He always has been able to put on the happy mask more than me. He hugged me and asked if it would be weird if we both had the same hair cut.
“Not at all,” I said.
“Movie?” he asked and kissed my head.
The television was already downstairs and plugged in. That was one of the first things to do, I made sure of that. I hooked up the vhs (cable would be hooked up in a few days) and, since it was his turn, I let him choose.
We sat on the floor of our new living room eating the rest of the pizza while the giant ants of Them! ate soldiers and townspeople to my