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Friday
Feb092007

Sexual Stigmata

In the beginning... Genesis

“Get away from me, you filthy thing.” My grandmother hissed the sentence that would take up residence in Mom's heart - an unruly tenant for decades. Mom sobbed. A tall weed of a girl folding into herself like an accordian.

Her high school boyfriend, Paul, huddled next to her on the piano bench in the family room, awkwardly patting her leg. His mother sat next to him.
“But I want to marry her.” Despite the fact that Mom was pregnant with another man's (boy, really) child, her boyfriend wanted to marry her. He had told his parents, who adored Mom, and they all agreed marriage would be best. Paul was in love with Mom. Mom was in love with Paul. So she said.

Dad was unreliable. Dad was a partyer. Paul was safe. A solid choice. He wanted to marry Mom in the Mormon temple.
“Why do you want to marry her?” Grandma asked. “It’s not even your baby.”
“I love her.”
“We can have the wedding here.” Paul’s mother tried to steer the conversation onto less bumpy terrain and fiddled with the cuff of her blouse, face filled with compassion as she watched my sobbing mother be ignored by her parents.

That night, as Mom shuffled guiltily to her bedroom, her young face stained with tears, Grandpa, a quiet man who spent his life being bullied by his wife, grabbed Mom and pulled her close.
“That’s okay darlin’," He whispered the second sentence that would stick with Mom for life. "I still love you, you’re still my baby.” Later, Mom started awake in the middle of the night. A nightmare? No. A shadowy figure hovered menacingly over her as she struggled to wake up. As Mom's eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, she recognized her mother’s familiar nightgown and pink spongey hair curlers.
“Slut!” Grandma hissed.

Mom sprang from bed, hastily jammed her clothes into a bag and checked into a seedy motel that hunkered in Utah Valley, located directly in the ominous shadow cast by the Provo Mormon temple. The temple. House of the holy. No room for sinners there. Only the most righteous may view it's hallowed halls and walk it's marble floors. Hospital for sinner? No sir. House of the holy? You betch'er Book of Mormon!

Little girl lost. What to do? Where to go? Who to call? No one knew where Mom was. For a week she sat in a musty armchair, stared at the wall and wiped away tears as my older brother grew inside her.

Ultimately, her big sister tracked her down and forced her to return home, a place Mom no longer felt safe or even loved. While Grandma prayed about Mom’s fate, Mom fretted over the course her life had taken. Sick with guilt. And pregnancy hormones. Here she’d been taught her entire life not to let the boys touch her and she’d gone and done exactly what her mother had always warned about. She was a failure. A filthy failure.

Suddenly, action.
“You’re coming with me.” My grandmother, and grandpa - embarrassed but obediently following his wife's lead, dragged Mom to my Dad’s house where she demanded to see his mother in order to discuss the “situation”.

Grandma pounded on the front door of the tiny cottage I would eventually come to know as Grandma Butler's house.
“Well, well. Come on in.” Dad held the door open while my grandma, grandpa and my humiliated Mom scuttled into the living room. Dad rambled down the hall toward the bathroom where his Mom was taking a bath.
“Mom, you probably ought to come out here.”
“Craig, I’m taking a bath right now” Grandma Butler, a stoic woman who had escaped the wrath of an alcoholic and raised five boys on her own, was an unflappable Cadillac of a woman. Drove smoothly through life, quietly shifting gears on steep inclines, rarely breaking down.

“Mom, you probably ought to come out here. Elaine’s pregnant.”
“Oh Craig. Oh Craig.” She said calmly, disappointing licking the edges of the words.
Dad sauntered back into the living room where my grandma stood, hair wrapped in pink sponge curlers.
“Well, she’ll be out in a minute.”
Mom hiccupped, stared at the carpet and began to sob.
“I want to know what you’re going to do about this, young man.” Grandma’s curlers vibrated with rage.
“You know what... this is like a whole goddamn soap opera.” Dad drawled tiredly.
“Oh, it sure is mister and I bet you have plenty of time during your day to sit around and watch ‘em don’t you, feller?” Grandma pointed her press-on nail accusingly.
“Oh Erma.” Grandpa put a hand on her shoulder as Dad’s mom, Grandma Butler, scurried from the bathroom, hastily tying her robe.
“My goodness.” she said when she saw the strangers assembled uncomfortably in her small living room.
“Well I tell you what he needs to do, he needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility!” Grandma continued without acknowledging Grandma Butler.
“Erma!” Grandpa warned.
"My goodness." Grandma Butler repeated.
Without taking a breath, Grandma continued accusing the room at large, "he’s a filthy young man who’s probably never been to church a day in his life!”
“Erma calm down!”
“Bill shut up!”
“Erma stop it”
“Shut up Bill.“
“She’s going to marry her boyfriend Paul!” Grandma shouted. “He goes to church!”
“Whatever’s gotta happen's gotta happen, so we’ll see you later.” Dad ushered the group outside and shut the door on my Grandma’s shocked face.

A few sleepless nights later Mom was sitting meekly in her living room with her best friend Merilee as Grandma planned the upcoming wedding to Paul.
“We’ll invite Brother and Sister Johnson. And the Langstons. But we have got to find a wedding dress that hides your stomach. I don’t need the neighbors knowing our business. Oh dear, what will the neighbors think?”

Stricken with guilt, Mom remained silent, struggling to appease the angry woman by conceding the wedding preparations to her. But Mom’s friend Merilee knew the truth. Mom was in love with Dad.

In the middle of Grandma’s wedding, to Mom’s great horror, Merilee began to cry.
“You don’t know really how Elaine feels.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Grandma asked.
“Elaine feels like she has to marry Paul” Merilee swiped at the tears streaking down her face.
“Well of course she does, she’s pregnant and she can’t marry that good-for-nothing Craig.”
“But she loves Craig!” Merilee shouted.

At that moment the doorbell chimed throughout the house silencing both women and signaling the beginning of something else entirely. Muttering under her breath... "good-for-nothing-never-been-to-church..." Grandma hefted herself from the couch and opened the door.

Speak of the devil.

There stood Dad, chin jutting obstinately, long hair flowing across slender shoulders, eyes shooting blue sparks.
Nobody’s gonna marry Elaine but me.” And the dye was cast. The events leading to my eventual birth on this earth had been set in motion.