Jim was home sick today with his ever-deepening cold/virus. He's honking and coughing and laying up in the bed.
Me? Housework, housework, housework followed by errands only to be invited to go on a thrift shop shopping binge by my friend from the old church I call Josie. I scored a Trivial Pursuit game we didn't have, vintage Vogue patterns in my size and beautiful measuring cups for my kitchen. They match a long gone set we got as wedding presents twenty six years ago, brown earthen ware very popular among the 70s crunchy granola brigade.
It was good to touch base with Josie, hear all about how her trip to Arizona the first three weeks of December went and to tell her about my own trip to San Antonio and parts of Louisiana, Alabama and up home to Virginia.
One of the things I've been shook up about and pondering is what happened with my pals I used to work with that I visited this trip. Kay, my maid of honor at my wedding, has had a not too dissimilar life trajectory than me. We're both long time married with kids, dealing with getting those children finished up with the educations and out of the nests. We both do things we love for a job and we're both happily settled with a home, family, life. I sneaked into her office and we visited for awhile.
I'd lost touch with Kay because of her moves and my own and just life in general. Kay and I had worked together at the restaurant I worked at in college. She had a room mate/best friend named Bonnie, who also worked with us. Bonnie I'd lost track of too.
But thanks to the wonders of that Facebook I've reconnected with both Bonnie and Kay.
I knew that Bonnie had unfortunately experienced something of a life filled with disappointment and tragedy. The guy she married that Kay and I tried to talk her out of marrying had abused her and her children, in fact he tried to burn down the house over their heads one night. He may have killed his son by one of his other wives. Lots of bad stuff that I don't have the heart to recount. Let's just say he was a very bad guy and he worked as a cop and later a prison guard.
One of the things I did as I was passing out of town was stop by Bonnie's place once I discovered she didn't have a car to drive in to meet me in town. That alone shocked me. You might be able to get along here and every place between here and Washington DC without a car but an automobile is essential for life in South Louisiana. The only bus I know of that runs in that part of the world is one that starts in the poor black section and runs straight to the rich areas, you can see the ladies getting off the bus in the richer areas dressed in starched maids uniforms. That's mass transit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. New Orleans mass transit is much better, but not by that much even if they used to have an extensive street car system.
Bonnie told me the night before we met that her Addison's disease had gotten much worse and she was now unable to work, so I wasn't entirely surprised to pull up in front of government housing apartments. The painted facade was peeling and the stains on the concrete floor of the hallways looked stained with dirt and spilled things I cannot contemplate.
Finding her apartment easily I finally saw Bonnie after twenty six years. Bonnie had been much more difficult to keep in contact with all these years between all the moves she and her ex made, the changed phone numbers, the midnight flits (I imagine knowing what the ex is like). She was happy to see me, as I was to see her but she seemed tired. Her sixteen year old daughter sat smoking and assorted kids from her room mate lay around the living room watching cartoons together as Bonnie and I talked.
One of the big surprises of seeing long ago people this trip was having so many of them telling me, "You were the wild girl!", which is funny considering I was more the 'adventurous spirit' one of my friends called me. Those carefree years before I married Jim and I worked and went to college were some of the happiest and fun I've ever known. I was free after a mercifully brief bad marriage made too young, I was young and the world lay before me like a glittering everyday Mardi Gras and I wanted to experience everything it held. I'm only sorry that some only remember me as 'wild' instead of a free spirit. I surfed, I bar hopped, I flirted, I went out to see Rocky Horror Picture Show once a month or so. I used to sing backup in my ex's band a few years before. Some wild, sounds pretty normal now.
What Bonnie had to say sort of stunned me. She told me that meeting me was a big eye opener to her and that I was one of the most influential people in her life. Because I was...drum roll please..'The Wild Girl'
I guess my free spirited ways must have seemed Sodom and Gomorrah wild to the daughter of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor's daughter who'd been sheltered all those years. She told me as she realized from her time with Kay and I how much her parents had kept her from knowing, the angrier she got until she was in outright rebellion against her parents, marrying Mr. Jerk just because her daddy hated him.
It was depressing to hear and see how much I did not have in common with my old friend. I hated seeing her living like that with not much in the way of hope or opportunities available. I hated that I have no real way to help her. But it was even more depressing to hear her talk about my supposedly wild self influencing her because I begged her not to marry Mr. Jerk. If I was such a role model why did she fall for him in the first place because I had always kicked the problematic ones to the curb once I realized that the guy had something skeevy or weird about them that I was uncomfortable with. Fifty first dates that never went any further.
Some my Mr. Jerks that never made it past date one.
Mr. Too Tight - asked me out on a date and took me to the Salvation Army Thrift Store for the date followed by a magnanimous offer to buy me whatever I wanted for dinner off the dollar menu at McDonalds.
Mr. Creepy Hot Tub - Took me out on a pleasant enough dinner and dancing date, then tried to take me back to his house for nekkid hot tub canoodling.
Mr. Crazy Ex Wife - He was a nice decent guy but his angry drunken ex wife crashed our date and started making drama about him and his kids and you name it.
Mr. I'll Cook You Dinner - went to his house and the only thing on the menu was whiskey and me.
...and a host of others that were so wrong for me and violated my own rules...
Even if I had been a free spirit I'd never date more than once a Mr. Jerk. Looking back I'd had pretty decent morals even if I didn't go to church. I didn't date married guys, I didn't drink to get drunk and I never stole, killed, raped or maraudered. It wasn't my style.
So how is it that someone that make just about every wrong choice in her personal life she could make is holding me up as their hero/role model from those days? She made choices I would never have made.
It was an unsettling visit to say the least. Will I see her again? I don't know. I'd hate to influence her even more. What would she do next? Rob a bank or turn to prostitution?