Monday, February 12, 2007

Monsters are My Mac n' Cheese

When I was growing up I had to move a lot because of my dad's job. He was an aeronautical engineer, and we had to move every two years. I started out in Sacramento, and moved all over the U.S. As a result I had to start a new school every couple of years, and was always the "new girl" in class. I preferred that label to, "Pee Smelling Girl" or "The Girl Who Eats Paste." It took me forever to learn how to tell time, because my new school had already covered the subject by the time I got there. I think I was in fourth grade before I understood that quarter-after wasn't twenty-five minutes.

My dad was a huge sci-fi, horror fan, and my mom always worried about her little girl preferring Frankenstein instead of Barbie. (I had a Barbie doll but I shaved her hair off). He had a twisted sense of humor, and I remember when I was little he would hand-decorate Easter eggs with Dracula and Teenage Werewolf faces for me to find.

My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mom, myself, and my two brothers moved up to Portland from San Diego. Most of my extended family was in Portland, where my mom grew up, so we had a huge support system with grandparents, a great grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. The house we moved into was a large three story, built in the early 1900's. It was kind of creepy, but that wasn't a bad thing. I have to say I was really lucky because my Grandma supported my horror addiction, and would take us on trips to the used bookstore, Longfellow's on Division, to pick up Tales From the Crypt and old Mad paperback books.

The neighbors across the street took us under their wing, and made us feel welcome. They had like a million kids, and were more than happy to take on three more. The smell of Creepy Crawler goo always permeated the air. After school we would go over to their house and watch Batman, The Munsters, and The Adams Family. We all knew Batman was crap, but it was fun to heckle.

Halloween in Portland seemed like something magical to me. I know it sounds corny, but growing up in Southern Californial we didn't have seasons, and there were a lot of kids being kidnapped and hurt, so we had to trick or treat during the day. It sucked. It was so amazing to come to a place where there were huge, old trees lining the streets, with the wind blowing the orange leaves everywhere. There were kids wandering the streets, at night, without parents having to shepherd them. I felt sorry for the teenagers that had to haul us around, but I'm pretty sure they got a percentage of our candy take.

During the summer we were shipped off to my Dad's house in San Diego for a couple of weeks or a month. My dad had re-married by then, so we would spend the time with his new wife, Rita, an ex-stripper from Texas, and her three kids, all of whom had different daddies. We were sort of like the Brady Bunch, but I was the only girl, and I was Jan. My mom wasn't thrilled, but she felt is was necessary.

One of the highlights of our summer visits was being able to spend time with my dad watching horror movies, and science fiction shows. I remember watching the original Night of the Living Dead with everyone, which gave birth to my ongoing Zombie anxiety dreams growing up. Saturday afternoons we would watch "Seymour Presents." It was just like Elvira, but no boobs. One movie was so low budget they couldn't afford the entire eyeball covered costumes for everyone, so only the three people in the front row of the invading alien team got to wear the full costume. The guys in the back were stuck with half-eyeball, half-black tights. It was classic.

My stepbrothers, who were older and wiser, pointed out that my dad was usually pretty much wasted while we were watching the shows. He always kept a mini-fridge full of Budweiser next to the couch, which he would would work through during the afternoon. This didn't seem odd at the time. Drinking in California in the early 70's was "glamorous", and you could bring your kids into the bar with you while you drank. However, one afternoon my dad decided to tune the station by moving the entire 300 lb., 70's TV console, as opposed to adjusting the bunny ears. Maybe a little extreme, but we were having fun, and hey, I'll take my quality time where I can get it.

Passing on the tradition (not the beer fridge part), my son grew up with horror and sci-fi. He was addicted to Ghostbusters when it came on video. All I can say is thank God it wasn't Barney. I probably haven't been the best mom as far as his viewing habits. I didn't think he was paying attention to what his dad and I were watching when he was three, until we went to Tower Video to rent a movie, and he yells out, "I want to see the exploding babe, boob movie mom!" This of course being the movie Frankenhooker. Who knew?

He's 18 now, and lives up with his dad in the Puget Sound (better schools and acres of forests). When he comes down to visit, rainy Saturdays are horror movie or TV show marathons. We trade back and forth, and I have to agree to be open-minded about some of his picks, and vice-versa. I thought Slither kicked ass, especially since the lead was Nathan Fillion, from Firefly, his favorite series. He wasn't as impressed.

Our routine is, get up, check the weather, don't shower, grab all the blankets and pillows off the beds, make a camp on the couch, put out bowls of stuff to eat, and stuff to drink, and we're good for the day. Of course this is after a sensible breakfast, and doing flash cards for an hour to prep him for the LSAT test. Not.

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