For reasons that were never made entirely clear to me, at age seven I was kept home for an entire school year. My mother later referred to this period as the time during which I was “pretending to be retarded.”
I have nothing to say in my own defense, aside from that it must have been the work of a creative genius. I wish I could remember this phenomenal performance. Or its motivation.
But here I draw a blank.
What surfaces instead is the memory of my rogue year. The magical epoch during which I successfully infiltrated my mother’s private life.
And by private life, I mean
That’s right. The Young and the Restless.
Then she’d say something motherly, like, “One word out of you and I’ll slap you silly.” So I’d sit stone still and not ask a single question during what was, initially, a very confusing period of education.
I took the most interest in Nikki Reed, the underprivileged but irresistible teen who eventually really makes something of herself and becomes a stripper at The Bayou. (Note: And yes, it is at The Bayou that Nikki later meets her soul mate, Victor Newman, who is, luckily, also available because by then his former wife, Julia, has discovered that Victor had trapped her lover in a secret dungeon in their mansion’s basement and left him.)
My mom preferred Nikki’s sister, Dr. Casey Reed. Not a bad choice. While Casey is more conventional than her sister, she is also promiscuous, and at some point even seduces Snapper, who we all know was played by this wiener, I mean winner:
As my year of knowledge and awareness progressed, Mom and I would engage in meaningful, commercial-length dialogue on the many vicissitudes of these admirable Reed girls. It was through this that she glimpsed in me a spark heretofore unseen.
To commemorate my quality apprenticeship as a daytime dramaholic, Mom honored me with my very own ceramic mug of coffee with cream and shitloads of sugar cubes.
By the time I returned to school, I was, to my mind, a burgeoning woman of incredible allure and complexity. And later when my parents would fight, and Mom would scream like a lunatic and throw plates across the kitchen, I had a reference for such behavior.
And after she’d stormed off to her bedroom and slammed the door, and Dad would be standing there shellshocked, I’d be able to suggest, “Just buy her a see-through nightie. Lilac is her favorite color, and she prefers silk to satin.”
Dad would just look at me like he didn’t know what had happened to his sweet little dumb girl. I’d hum Nadia’s Theme and sweep up the broken glass, hoping this would also mean that my kissing an unwilling boy at recess that day would be overlooked. Mom had the uncanny ability to turn our boring suburban life into a soap opera. And I was but a mere step behind her.
This was all a long time ago, but I’d be lying if I said that Mom and I are not still playing soap opera. We are estranged anymore, mostly a result of my rejecting her stagnating, redundant drama for my own younger, more vital drama. (the betrayal!)
The last time we spoke, I was calling to let her know that I was bearing an illegitimate child. (the promiscuity!) I could not contact the father as he was sequestered in a militia’d Buddhist Monastery. (the…Wow. Okay. I have no idea.)
I think Mom saw this as a real opportunity.
“Do you even begin to understand the ruin you’ve brought upon this family?” she asked, in that angry whisper way that so magnificently communicates contempt. It was a great line, and the delivery was fabulous. Were I not crying hysterically (the hormonal result of the pregnancy, no doubt), I might have applauded her.
That was more than twelve years ago. Sometimes I wonder if one day I’ll end up taking care of her. If I do, I hope that she’ll pretend to be retarded. I’ll wrap her up in a blanket and make her a sugary cup of coffee in her own special mug, and we’ll quietly sit down to find out what ever happened to
The Young and the Restless.