I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Dad, the D*mn H*ll *ss King

My father's really done it. Just like he said he would. He's moved back to Jamaica.

Me, I never knew Jamaica.  

Jamaica came to me in oily packages, carried in an auntie's suitcase. "Bun" an' cheese, hard dough with guava jelly,ackee and saltfish. It was in the patois that would sneak into my father's speech when talking cricket smack to his countrymen or exhorting me to "Comb your hair, you look like a rasta." In the hackneyed double entendres of his calypso records and the smell of petroleum, allspice, and clove.

Every few years, when I would visit, the nearest referent that came to my suburban mind was of Tommy and Annika accompanying Pippi Longstocking to the island where the natives have made her father a king. Later, "The Simpsons" would capture the zeitgeist completely...

What's everyone's problem? I'm glad we're stranded! It'll be just like the Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing! We're gonna live like kings! D*mn, h*ll, *ss kings!

[As "Under the Sea" plays, a fantasy sequence is imagined with the kids living in a wonderful tree settlement. Martin takes a shower. Wendell uses a water slide. Sherri and Terri drive a bamboo and grass car. Ralph pigs out on food and a monkey butler brings Nelson a drink. Back to reality.]

And every night the monkey butlers will regale us with jungle stories.

How many monkey butlers will there be?

One at first. But he'll train others.

[All the kids marvel at such a great future. Bart climbs down from the rock.]

Good, let's get to work! Me and Nelson will build the treehouse. Martin, draw up plans for a coconut radio, and if possible, a coconut Nintendo system...

My father was no reality check. Despite all evidence to the contrary, his persistently romanticized memories of his island in the sun wooed everyone around him, including two American wives in succession. And then alienated two wives in succession when they realized he wasn't kidding about returning.

The mania to go home again infected many in the extended family. A cousin living in the US on a green card, when his legs were injured in a car wreck, got a big fat settlement, left his wife, and built a big house in Jamaica where he lived like a damn hell ass king, tended to by a fleet of cheap labor nurses. When the cheap labor nurses stole his money and burned his big house to the ground with his paraplegic behind still in it, and he had to beg his wife to sponsor him again, we all thought that would cure my father. But no, his dream lived on.

By all accounts, they've welcomed the native son, killed the fatted calf, and so on. He might not be living like a d*mn h*ll *ss king, but he's got a manservant and a driver and belongs to the club. He'll never have to pour the condensed milk into his own tea again. Now he's on us to move there. He'll get us all cush jobs and the kids will attend the finest boarding schools. what do I know? He's probably got it right.