Mom number 2, that is, the evil stepmom. Mom number 1, the real one, wasn't into crafts.
Stepmom, however, would occasionally get creative. One of her most impressive works was taking a shy and naive 10 year old and turning her into a quivering mass of fear, unable to form normal relationships.
But we're not here to talk about my childhood today.
Stepmom was always coming up with money making ideas. One time she decided it would be fun open a daycare, an idea which didn't last long and had the end result, for me, of making everyone at my high school
think I'd gone off and had a baby over the summer when I showed up with one of mom's two month old charges one day because she was too ill to take care of the little guy/girl. (I don't remember. It was small and defenseless and I had to go to school to pick up something and everyone thought the baby was mine. Did wonders for my social standing.)
One time she had an idea about driftwood, around the time I was 14 or 15. She and my dad would comb the beaches up north for driftwood, which she would then bring home. Then she bought Christmassy crafty things, little Santas, little reindeer, little Christmas trees, fake snow, everything one would need to make a Christmas scene on driftwood, and she would attach said things to pieces of driftwood. Voila!
They were cute, and it gave her more things to put around the house to declare that Christmas was on its way.
And then she got her Big Idea. This was not her first big idea, nor would it be her last, but it was a big idea. She would, she declared, collect more driftwood, and make more Christmas themed driftwood pieces, and then sell them at a swap meet. "We'll make lots of money," she told me.
Why we? How did I get suckered into this? Well, I was the only girl left at home. My sisters had, wisely, fled the coop years before. My brothers were, well, boys, and therefore not expected to do crafty things. It wasn't boy-like. And she promised me a cut of the proceeds.
How could I resist a cut of the proceeds? Besides, it's not as if I had a choice, not really.
So we made little driftwoody things with a Christmas theme.
And then the plan went all to hell.
Stepmom planned for our swap meet debut to be at the tail end of summer, and in So. Cal. it's still pretty much summer at the tail end of summer. It's hot, and no one's thinking of Christmas yet. We were lucky to think of Christmas by December. And then she told me that in order to get a good spot at the swap meet we'd have to show up the night before and sleep in the car.
"We what?" I asked, totally perplexed. How could this be? A whole night alone with stepmom in our car? Was this part of some nefarious plot to drive me totally around the bend?
She firmly explained that in order to get a good spot, we'd have to show up early, and that meant the night before, and take our place in line, so when the swap meet opened in the morning we'd be sure of getting a good spot. The whole thing sounded bad to me, but I was already in, and it's not as if I could tell her no way, count me out.
The thought of spending a whole night alone with her in the car left me a trembling wreck -- what if she started in on me with complaints about my dress/behavior/skin/personality/shoes/appearance/manner/self? While this happened frequently enough, I could usually escape to my room shortly thereafter, or disappear into the forest, or something.
But alone in the car all night?
We packed the station wagon with our treasures and headed out to the swap meet, waving goodbye to dad and the boys, some of whom would drive out the next day to "help us out," which meant they'd show up to
make fun of our situation. There was already quite a line at the swap meet when we got there, and so we got in line, and we settled in for the night.
Is there anything more uncomfortable than spending the night sitting up in the car? I mean, really? Sure, it was a station wagon, but the rest of the car was packed with tables, chairs, supplies, and crafts.
We squirmed and we shifted and we sighed heavily. Every so often one of us would get up and go for a walk. Other swap meeters were roaming around too, and there were conversations going on, and laughter, and
tailgate parties. There is no privacy in the parking lot of an impending swap meet, which is one of my most favorite things.
There were none of my most favorite things that night. But we managed to get through it, and while it took entirely too long for dawn to break, that first hazy glimpse of the day was reassuring, and I knew that this hell would cease eventually.
We did not get a good spot at the swap meet. Even with showing up the night before, we did not show up early enough, and our space was in the back, in a little traveled area. We set up, and we got food from the snack bar, and we awaiting the opening of the swap meet, and after it opened we still waited.
The sun, while still low in the sky, was hot, and our Christmas driftwoods threatened to melt. I felt hung over, and stepmom was not her usual cheerful self. She hadn't taken the opportunity of having me captive to further erode my sense of self, which was no doubt contributing to her lack of interest -- she might have resented missing such a good opportunity. Stepmom considered improving me to be an important goal, though she rarely had hope that I'd become a productive member of society. She despaired of my condition, and I learned to despair of it right along with her.
The Dad and the brothers showed up, at least one brother, maybe more, and yet still there was nothing sold. I took Dad's presence as an opportunity to go off shopping for myself, and I returned with items of clothing that stepmom hated because, well, that was sort of my goal. She had hers, I had mine, and they weren't complementary.
We sat under the hot sun and we watched our Christmas driftwoods wilt. I'm not sure how the plastic of which they were made could wilt, but they did. They grew sadder as they realized how unwanted they were, and the occasional passer-by would say, "how cute," or "too soon for Christmas," or "where's the snack bar?" and there we sat, alone with our pathetic little driftwood creations.
We didn't wait until the end of the day to pack it all up and leave. We were tired and discouraged, and for me, a cut of nothing meant nothing.
Several days later, stepmom said, "We should do it closer to Christmas. I bet if we go back in November or the first part of December we'll do great."