“Families are just, so much. They are much. Yeah,” She nodded her head as if confirming some larger truth.
Then she proceeded to tell me about hers. The little idiosyncrasies. The minute details that cumulate to something bigger; some nameless amalgam of personalities. They had six children, Georgia and Sherman. Six children and one and a half parents, after the accident. They had been hauling their possessions down to Chico from Escondido, Sherman hauling the trailer with a truck and Georgia driving the kids in a station wagon. The trailer began to sway and the truck began to fishtail. Sherman ran off the road. Acoma for 4 months and half the man awoke. “He can’t talk much, can’t reason much either, but he can reason better than he can talk,” she explained. She kept crocheting as she told me the tiny tragedies that made up her life.
“Parenting six kids while Sherman was in Acoma was like Bedlam,” she paused from her work, looking down at her hands, still beautiful as if the years had been kind to them and unforgiving to the rest. “I found out then that Sherman had taught them to shoplift. My children were a little band of thieves, coming home and showing off their loot in Steve’s bedroom to see who had done the best. I stood by Sherman and when he awoke from his sleep I just wanted to beat him for turning my kids astray.” She looked me full in the face and asked, “But what good would that have done? I did my best. I did the best I could. You know the funny thing? When the trailer went off that embankment our color television fell out. And it was just fine. My husband only had half a brain that worked, and the television was just fine.” Again she paused and looked at her hands, deftly knitting yarn together. “Have you ever watched TBN?”
I shook my head no. “No TV,” I said.
“No TV,” she echoed and resumed her work. “Well, when Sheman was in Acoma and the TV survived the accident unscathed I found TBN. God is so good. How could I not think that? After everything I had to believe that. How could I not? All my kids ended up doing some time in jail or prison, but God is so good. He had a plan, it all worked out for the best. Steve, he has a little 5 year old, going on 6 now. She is just an angel child. The sweetest nature. She is his and Lori’s, and Lori had 2 kids from a previous marriage. The younger boy has a sweet nature. The older, well, he is just going to have to learn things by himself. Yeah. Things all turned out for the best. God is so good. Except for Mary. Mary is my problem child. I wish I could help her. But I can’t,” She gave me a pleading look, “I can’t. She has to figure that out on her own. I just hope she does before she is too old.”
The yarn, in piles and heaps in her quilted bag, was forming into something beneath the movement of those beautiful and flitting hands. “Mary has 5 kids of her own. When Mary was living in Southern California I took her kids in for a while. I took them to a Goodwill and bought them underwear and clothes, all the little underwear that I could find. They didn’t have anything. What they had their mother and their dad, who ended up running out, had sold for drugs. They all live in Redding now. One kid ended up moving there and the others ended up that way by one friend or another. I feel like family kind of gravitates toward each other, inevitably. None of them get along—how could they? They never knew a home.”
She adjusted her work. “You know what color this is? It is not quite a turquoise. My grandchild asked for it, that sweet natured boy. Some blue that starts with a ‘C’.” I shook my head. “Oh well, I wasn’t sure, but it will come to me. Anyway, Mary. She lived with me for one and a half years somewhat recently. She was sitting on the porch and came in and said, ‘Momma, the ground is bubbling—it is going to explode!’ She has a way with words; a flair for the dramatic. She meant the septic. Well, we called them out to work on it, they did a good job, you couldn’t tell they had fixed it. Came out real quick too. My landlord was there and asked about the dog. Well, Sherman and I can’t have dogs there. I mean, we can, but it would have cost us $500, nonrefundable. I said, ‘Oh, that is Mary’s dog.’ She is perceptive, always has been. When she was young she was an angel child. Always wanting to help, anticipating my wants and needs. Well, she picked up real quick what was happening. And she left that very day, packed up her dog, her few possessions in a—I think it was a suburban—and moved up to Redding. She didn’t want to cause me any trouble and it had been too long that I had been letting her live there, really. She has a job at a casino up there. She lives in a tent. She recently got another tent so she could have some storage. It is good for her being separate, away from people. I think she finds peace there. She recently took to gambling, I hear. But you can only gamble so much of a paycheck before paying the bills. I wish she would find God. But I can’t do that for her.”
She told me about Mary getting hit in the head with a coffee can by her brother when she was just a child and never being quite the same. “A cloud came over her,” she whispered. “I think the devil came to her then, and being so young and not knowing any better she took his hand.” I could see Georgia had demons of her own. I wanted to touch her, stop her hand from crocheting afghans for all her children and their children, but they kept working. She was trying to knit her family together with each stitch.
“They aren’t perfect. But they are my family. I know them, the goods and the bads. I understand them. They are so much.” She began to pack up her work. “See, all this for asking about what I was making.” She smiled sadly, and looked at her hands. And then she looked at me with a smile that held all the truth of a life lived. “Cerulean blue. How could I forget, honey? It is cerulean blue he asked for.”
I looked up cerulean blue later. To think, a child would ask for such a color. In Classical times cerulean was used to describe blue pigments. But because the colors were mixed with coppers and cobaltous oxides, the pigments were unsatisfactory for the blues of skies because of their greenish hues and lack of permanence. Once cerulean blue was created it superseded all other blues in preference for the painting of skies. Something permanent and un-fleeting in color.