I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star (4 page)

BOOK: I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star
13.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

But, not so fast, Mollie … She took an eight-year detour in the convent before going to nursing school. Yeah, my mom was engaged to Jesus. She got kicked out before she took her final (marriage to Jesus) vows, but she says she has no regrets about that either because she feels like she gave her best (most potentially whorish—my words) years to the Lord until the mother superior finally kicked her out, saying she felt my mom would be better suited serving God in a more “secular” environment. You see, my mom was a bit of a rebel nun. Even then, she always loved a makeover. It was long enough ago that nuns still wore
habits—and there was no such thing as casual Friday in the convent, those ladies were
at all times—but that didn’t stop Sister Mollie from trying to improve her fellow sisters’ personal nun style. She would shave heads, give perms, and pick out new eyeglasses, and she even bought herself a red bathing suit when a local parishioner invited all the nuns to go swimming in his pool one hot afternoon. (He’s no dummy. Imagine if that were today, the YouTube video …) Well, that episode was the last straw, as my mom explains it, and the Nun Boss basically fired my mom, but even though she was a failed nun and never got to marry God, she went home feeling as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Apparently, she never heard a calling. She knew she didn’t belong there, and she told me that every time her sister
Judy would come for a visit, Judy would say, “Are you ready to come home with us yet?” So, when she broke off her engagement to Jesus, my mom confessed to my grandpa that she’d always
wanted to go to nursing school and that was her true calling. Still to this day, she has no idea how he came up with the money, but her dad found a way to send her to a nursing school in Cleveland. Normally, I’d take this opportunity to plug the Catholic nursing school for girls she attended, but it’s a parking lot now.

Sister Mary Elizabeth Ann, a.k.a. Mollie Evans

When she went off to college, she was poor, she had many odd jobs, she sewed her own clothes, she couldn’t go home often, but she was happy. And then she met my dad and got even happier. They were fixed up on a blind date just like my husband and me! My mom wasn’t even supposed to go out with him that night, her roommate was. But the roommate was sick, so she begged my mom to come in her place. I don’t think it was love at first sight for them either (see “Love Not at First Sight,”
this page
), but she says that they had more fun than any of the other couples they were out with that night. It didn’t hurt that her boyfriend back home had recently been admitted to a mental hospital, so she didn’t have anything to lose by saying yes when my father asked if he could write to her from his college in Buffalo. And he did. Every day. For two years. You’d think that there would be some special box in their basement filled with his letters, but no, that’s not Mollie’s style. Unless she’s lying to me, she threw them all out. She claims they were boring, but, Jesus, that’s over six hundred letters … that’s prolific. Maybe they were porny, and she was nervous I’d stumble across them someday. Gross.

After the wedding came the move to Detroit. My poor mom. She spent her learning-to-keep-house years in the convent, so she had no idea how to cook or clean for her new husband. On top of that, she was afraid to drive in Detroit (because of the traffic; I don’t think we had invented carjacking yet), and she didn’t have
any friends there. But she always blooms where she’s planted and soon got promoted from regular nurse to running her unit at the hospital. She hosted fondue parties for my dad’s work friends, organized scavenger hunts with other couples, and finally found herself knocked up. Depending on which of my parents you ask on what day, I was either planned or a mistake, but either way the result was the same, me!

As alike as we are, there are ways in which we are so different, and the traits we don’t share are the ones that I envy in her. She is such a hard worker and is obsessed with education. After moving to Detroit, she went back to school and got a master’s degree, then on to try to get a PhD. I ruined that for her, unfortunately. Stupid me. I got tired of my mom being gone during the day for work and at night when she went to class, so she eventually dropped out of the PhD program. Sorry, Mom. She didn’t stop educating herself, though. She did go back to college again, at the same time as I did, and got a second master’s in hospice care. And had a whole second career as a hospice nurse when I left home. I admire her ability to manage and run things. I don’t have that. I am a terrible goal accomplisher and delegator. I wish she would have passed some of that down my way.

Sometimes growing up in a house with my mom felt a little like growing up in an
I Love Lucy
episode. She always tried her hardest, but there was usually some wild outcome when she would try to do things on her own. There was the year when she forgot to turn the oven on at Thanksgiving and the turkey was still frozen when we went to take it out. You’re probably wondering, as many do, why she didn’t check on it at all. Yeah, I know. My dad had to run out that night and find a ham at the twenty-four-hour grocery store. Or when she decided to have a surprise fourth-birthday party for me at my babysitter’s house, but since it was summer vacation and all my friends were scattered all over the
Detroit area, she just had my babysitter’s daughter, who was twice my age, invite her friends. So, I woke up from my nap and wandered into the living room, and there were about twelve strangers screaming “
” at me. I don’t think I’d ever even had a birthday party before, not to mention a surprise party. Needless to say, I screamed, ran back into my babysitter’s bedroom, and cried. A few years later my mom hosted a party for me at our house, and almost immediately the kids started telling me my Kool-Aid tasted weird and because of that they hated me. I ran inside to the kitchen, where my mom was making small talk with some other moms, and told her, through tears, that no one liked me anymore because my Kool-Aid was bad. Another mom tasted it and did a spit take. “Didn’t you add any sugar to this?” she asked. My mom said, “No. You’re supposed to add sugar? I’ve never made this before.” Maybe Kool-Aid is different now, but back then you added about a full cup of sugar to the pitcher, and without it, it was just colored water. My dad is diabetic, so my mom just never added sugar to anything. And kids are assholes. I also remember the time she decided to bathe my bird, Sydney. We had a huge hundred-pound retriever who had a real hard-on for that bird. Well, my father and I woke up one Saturday morning to the sound of my mom screaming. This was not necessarily unusual, but still, we ran down the stairs frantically to find my dog with his mouth full of yellow feathers and my mom trying to pry it open. R.I.P., Sydney. One of my favorite Mollie moments, though, was a total
Terms of Endearment
reenactment in an ER after I broke a toe and they were taking forever. Well, those nurses got a real treat that night from my mom, who made it sound as if I were a professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet and every minute they didn’t treat me was potentially career damaging and we would be suing for all my lost wages.

She would hide Christmas presents so well she would forget about them until she found them months/years later. Which was
somewhat disappointing on Christmas Day, but fun when they turned up after the fact.

I’m sure all the craziness was what made my dad love her so much. There was never a dull moment, and for an engineer that’s pretty awesome. If I didn’t come home from school to find her in a power suit, heels, and rubber gloves pulling panty hose out of my dog’s asshole, I might find a new baby grand piano in what used to be the family room but was now the music room. She’s never been able to figure out how to turn on the TV or watch a DVD, but she can run an entire hospital, go to college, and find time to hit up T.J.Maxx on the way home. I admire her selflessness, energy, and positivity, and as a stepmom I hope I have some of those same traits.

She is not shy about rewarding herself for goals accomplished, and one year, when I was very young, I remember she bought herself a mink coat. I know it’s not PC now to have fur, but it was four thousand degrees below zero in Detroit in the winter, and fur really is the warmest. I have such a vivid memory of riding home at night with my parents: it would be past my bedtime, and I would fall asleep on my mom’s lap, my face buried in her mink coat. I know, I know, you can’t let kids ride on your lap anymore, but back then it was different. I would always wake up as we pulled in to our driveway but pretend I was still sleeping, hoping that my parents wouldn’t want to wake me and I could stay like that all night. Warm, my mom’s arms holding me tight, smelling her perfume, and feeling the soft fur of her jacket all over my face. I have that mink coat now. I don’t wear it often, I don’t need to in L.A., and I worry about having an activist throw paint on me, but when I’m feeling especially Mollie-sick, I will get it out of my closet and bury my face in it. It takes me immediately back to those nights in the car with her when I felt so safe and loved. Even if I was a fender bender away from being launched out the front windshield, I wouldn’t trade those car rides on my mom’s lap for anything.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

, and I seemed to be getting serious about it. I don’t remember exactly why my parents pulled me out of Miss Bunny’s School of Dance, which was conveniently located a few miles away from our house, or if they even wanted to, but they started driving me twenty-plus minutes out of the way to the Milligan School of Ballet. And for some reason, it was decided that dance was my thing.

See, all kids had a thing, and I didn’t have a thing yet. I wasn’t sporty—I tried soccer once, it wasn’t good. I was resentful that I had to miss morning cartoons on Saturdays. It was cold outside on those fall mornings, and I really wanted to just be home and cozy up in front of the TV while my mom made pancakes. Also, my dad was the assistant coach, which ensured that we fought a lot about soccer. I didn’t want to do it, but he made me stick the season out, and then I quit.

Then there were the instruments, piano and flute to be specific. My mom was obsessed with a boy I went to grade school with, Tony Bonamici (he goes by Anthony now, or at least on the Internet he does), and he was a child piano prodigy when we
were seven. I couldn’t compete with that! But my mom was convinced that if I practiced more, I could play like Tony. I didn’t practice, because I knew I’d never play like that kid. I don’t care what Malcolm Gladwell says about ten thousand hours; if I practiced thirty thousand hours, I
wouldn’t play like Tony. He had music in his soul. I just liked listening to my Madonna records, and practicing the piano really cut into that time for me.

There were art classes, ice-skating, swimming lessons, and I think I even signed up for hockey at one point, but the practices were at 6:00 a.m., and that wasn’t a good time for me. Early and cold were both not options after failing at soccer. Clearly I was running out of time to find a thing and get good at it, so dance was sort of a last-ditch effort. I started ballet classes when I was nine years old, which in dancer years might as well be thirty-two. But I was really skinny, so I looked like a ballerina, and even if I wasn’t a great dancer, sometimes it’s all about looking the part. I liked dancing, I liked my dance friends (one of them had a pool), I liked all the different classes Miss Bunny offered, and it was located in a strip mall next door to a video rental store, so we usually rented a movie a few nights a week after class. This was before the days of Blockbuster. (I guess we are now in post-Blockbuster days. Weird.) So, dancing stuck and it seemed like I had finally found a thing.

Now that I’m a stepparent, I can imagine the stress my lack of a thing caused my parents. I mean, when people ask you about your kids, what do you say if they don’t have a thing? “Sally is such a mellow girl; she is happy just lying on the sofa for hours.” Or, “Doug was so cute watching TV all night last night.” No parent really wants to say that. You want to say, “Abe hit a home run at Little League last weekend,” and “Gretchen got the violin solo in
Peter and the Wolf
in her school orchestra.” “Bob rescued all the hostages in
Call of Duty
last night” just doesn’t cut it at company holiday parties and family reunions.

Anyway, moving dance studios to the Milligan School of Ballet was a big step for me. This was a serious ballet academy that focused on classical Russian ballet. No more modern, tap, or jazz (what is jazz dancing anyway?)—it was serious Russian ballet only from now on. It turned out I was
bad at classical Russian ballet, and serious classical ballerinas are (generally) total bitches. That didn’t stop me from torturing myself for several years while trying to get better at it (I never did) and trying to persuade those bitches to like me (they never would). The main problem was I
like I would be really good at ballet because I was so skinny. I think even my instructor Miss Karen Milligan would agree the disparity between my look and my ability was frustrating. However, I credit the time I spent on stage dancing, no matter my skill level, with giving me the confidence to try out for the high school musical and the magnet acting program as well. Well, I got cast in the chorus of the musical and made it into the acting program, somehow. It was fun, more fun than the regular high school classes. Toward the end of high school I was getting cast in some real roles in the musicals and plays. Acting was starting to feel like something I liked doing; at least I liked it better than dancing. Maybe my “thing” was changing.

BOOK: I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star
13.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
The Guild by Jean Johnson
The Devil Colony by James Rollins
Hold the Dark: A Novel by William Giraldi
Ablutions by Patrick Dewitt
Destined to Be Three by Mia Ashlinn
Her Fill-In Fiancé by Stacy Connelly
Dead Man's Bones by Susan Wittig Albert