The Devil’s in the DNA: Chapter Twelve – Pippi Longstockings -Guest Blogger
Work has been so busy…no time for blogging. I should be sleeping and/or completing notes that were due today, but I don’t want to. Many interesting, joyful, and sad things have been going on this week. Interesting thoughts floating through my mind like driftwood down a slow, lazy river.
Interesting how the mind uses past and present experiences to interpret what it sees. Especially when it is on television. Hubbie and I were watching a show. A couple was caught in a trap…one partner trying desperately to save the other. They had many shared experiences; in many different lifetimes, but in this one they shared a child. As it became clear that either one or both would die, one begged the other to save his life. The other refused, vowing to never leave and never be separated. They died together. As I watched, all I could think of was that if my husband and I were in the same position, if I were trapped and he could save himself, I would have grabbed his face and demanded that he leave and return home to raise our child. If I had any power in the world left in me to protect my child in any way I would do it. After a bit, I turned to my husband. His eyes were glinting with moisture. I told him my thoughts. He said that he had just been thinking the same thing. I told him that if he felt any guilt for entertaining the thought of leaving me to die in order to protect our child that he could let it go. For it would be what I would want.
We watched the next show. After it was over an episode teaser came on…Mother v. Mother. One mother would do anything to protect her offspring; one would to anything to protect her entire species. As I typed that I got a different spin than the one I had interpreted. At the time I turned to my husband and asked, “Who do you think would win? Mother protecting her child, or mother after world domination?” Without hesitation he responded, “Mother protecting her child.” After contemplation of child v. species, I would still have to say I would prefer to sacrifice myself for my species rather than my child. Species be damned. As long as my child survives, the rest of you can just go fuck yourselves.
No offence. I’d die for you all, but my child? Uh…I’d really have to think about that. I’m not freakin’ God, or anything. I’m human!
Random off-shoot diatribe…wow, huh…I wonder. I wonder about how powerful a story would be if a Father sacrificed his only son for the welfare of an entire race? How that might inspire people to sacrifice their young for the good of the people. Huh…just a thought.
I digress yet again, Bubelleh. But fathers are on my mind tonight.
My first friend in the whole entire world…let’s call her Pippi. Any of you ever read the stories of Peppi Longstockings? The redhead in braids, the bad-ass who could lift an Appaloosa horse above her head? That’s her. Pippi can do it. That’s my first friend, Pippi. Her father died today. That man was in almost every one of my best childhood memories. He was the Episcopal pastor for the church in the town we moved to when I was three years old. No, not the one who I almost shot, his name really was Scott. I swear.
Pippi’s family was unlike any I had ever experienced in my three long years of life upon this rock. Pippi’s mother was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was Cajun and had this incredibly thick, beautiful, flowing, long, red hair. My friend Pippi had the same hair. Pippi and I were such a match. The redhead and the toe-head. She called me “Lemony,” a combination of my hair and my name. I love that name. Since I was nineteen I have been dying my hair red. Ask me if you think this family had any influence on me.
You remember me banging my LazyBoy pulpit? Yeah, I wanted to be like Pippi’s dad. But he was not fire and brimstone; no…he was so kind and so lovely. His sermons as compared to the Methodist “we don’t care as long as you tithe” and the Baptist “you will burn in hell no matter what you do” sermons that I was accustomed to were a drink of cool, fresh water. And the communions were “real” to boot! He was actually who I wanted to emulate. I wanted Peppi’s father to be my father. Her mother to be my mother. Peppi and I scratched off many a scab to be blood sisters and performed many other rituals to tie us together as family. There is more to the story, but not now.
There is a scratched up black and white picture my father has…of all of the gang back in the 70’s. It reminds me of the pictures I have of my “gang” and me. My father, swarthy and smirk lipped, Unka Mike, who had polio, in his wheelchair hoisting a glass, Mr. Brown who survived Vietnam only to come home with PTSD, night terrors, and the urge to beat his wife…and a few others, but…in this particular picture…unaligned with all the others, Pippi’s father’s head sticks out disembodied…smiling a beatific smile. Not an “I’m hiding a secret” smile – although there were plenty of those to be had – but a smile of light and laughter. Some would look at the picture, at the rows of people dutifully standing in place, full-bodied and ready – and state that the “floating head” was out of place. Perhaps. But I have always found that the image of Pippi’s father always emerged where it “should not” and consistently brought with it a fantastical smile and sparkling eyes that if you looked closely enough and paid attention…you could see God.
I remember when I heard that Pippi and her family were to move away. I was accustomed to the ritual of pastors and priests moving along, I got that. But for the love of all that was holy this was MY FAMILY!! We visited them once in their new town. All I remember of that trip was that Pippi’s brother had dug these vast tunnels in the earth in the back yard. How much more bizarre can he get!?! (A lawyer, it turned out.) Then I heard they were moving to Nebraska. What the hell is a Nebraska?! The states were explained to me and with that distance I was sure that I would never see them again. I was wrong.
Remember when I told you about when my parents took me onto the front porch and told me they were getting a divorce? I don’t remember that. That is the story my parents tell me. This is my memory: I burst into tears and run through the house. As I run to my room I pass through the dining room. Pippi is there. Standing in an empty room. I run past her as she turns to watch me disappear into the hall. I fall onto my bed and begin to cry. My father comes into my room. He kneels at my bed, begs my forgiveness and cries with his head on my lap as I stoke his hair and tell him it will be all right. The next thing I remember I am in Nebraska with my friend Pippi and her family. That’s my actual memory of it. Not at all what really happened.
My parents actually did send me to Nebraska…that was not a fabrication. I don’t know how long I stayed. Most likely long enough for my mother to clean out the house and to procure an apartment. What I do remember is sketchy at best. I remember family meals. I remember learning how to make Kool-Aid for the first time and how I was aghast at how much sugar you had to add to make it taste good. To this day, when I taste cherry Kool-Aid I think of this family. I learned that after each meal that if you cleaned up there was no work to be done in the morning. I learned how to buy cigarettes even if you are eleven years old, and why a teenage boy would opt to live in the attic rather than down with the rest of the family. I also went to my first rock concert. Def Leppard. Never heard of them. Opening act…Uriah Heep. I knew Uriah from Dickens, but not as an iconic Brittish rock band. And what is that thing the concert-goers are passing about? A bomb? A what? A bong? What is that?!
I wanted Pippi’s family to be my family, I admit. I wanted to steal it. I felt and still feel a little guilty about it. Once Pippi’s dad and my dad woke Pippi’s mother at three o’clock in the morning because they had taken drunk and gone crawfish hunting. They begged her to cook some etouffée. They had caught just enough crawdads to make one tiny serving of etouffée for each of us. Pippi’s mom was cool enough to make it, can you believe it? Woken at three o’clock in the morning by drunk and slobbering men…and she did it. My mother would have killed someone for much less. That was the best etouffée I have ever had. Her family had a magic that I felt mine did not have. I guess all children feel that way at one point or another. Maybe. I hope so.
I just wanted to write a little about Pippi and her family. I cannot imagine the loss they are feeling right now. I am feeling my own loss in my own way. Thank you, Pippi’s dad. Thank you for allowing me into your family. I cherish my memories and I cherish your family. Always.
This blog was written by the oh so talented Miss Emily.
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