I had forgotten what it was like to live with people who were on hair triggers all the time. When I was growing up I had considered it mostly Digger and Claire. Once I thought about, though, I realized it was also my sisters. But when you’re a kid and you go off it’s “just a tantrum” and no one cares that much. Whereas when an adult loses it, it’s a big deal because there are consequences. Or there can be.
I remember Remo’s house being a refuge if for no other reason than it was really hard to get a rise out of him. Learning that there was a place where I didn’t have to watch every little thing I said or did took a while, but having that place probably saved my life.
The day Ziggy left was a Saturday. Janine was working a double shift at Sears, and she left Landon with us, optimistic that between Court and me and Remo and Claire we’d keep him out of trouble. Our instructions were to put him to bed at 7:30 pm. It happened closer to eight, though, because Court decided to make dinner for us all and it took her longer than she thought it would. It had been a relatively calm day with Janine out of the house and Claire taking a mid-afternoon nap.
She declared herself worn out again after dinner and Remo and she disappeared into her room so he could tuck her in. Court and I sat on the couch in the living room, reading.
Court didn’t look up from her book to ask, “So what’s your take on it?”
“The Remo-Mom relationship.”
I did look up from the issue of SPIN I was reading, but mostly to look at the colored lights blinking on the Christmas tree. “What do you mean, my take? Like, what do I think about it? I don’t know what to think. Ziggy thinks it’s a bit nuts. He can’t imagine either of us going to care for an ex who’s dying.”
“And yet Ziggy can’t imagine having an ex who doesn’t want to get back together at some point, either.”
“I don’t mean that he would, only that he can’t imagine it.” She smiled but still hadn’t looked up. “Do you think Remo still loves her?”
“You’d think doing what he’s doing would be proof, but I don’t feel it.” I kept my voice low. “I think he’s more motivated by guilt than love. He’s doing it to prove something.”
“I have no idea.”
A little while later Remo came down and said he was heading back to the motel. “We should get some sleep if we’re all going to mass tomorrow.”
“Oh, shit, is that tomorrow?” Courtney groaned. “I was hoping that Christmas sort of pre-empted regular church.”
“It’s tomorrow,” Remo assured her.
I told him I’d be along in a little while and he said he’d see me in the morning.
“You going to go?” I asked Court, when we were alone again.
“I was going to say hell no, but I admit I’m curious about it after all you told me. I barely remember what Catholic church is like.”
“What was evangelical church like?”
“Ugh, just awful. A lot of telling people how awful they were to make sure they didn’t get any ideas about leaving, because if they did they wouldn’t be saved, complete with bogus mistranslations of the Bible as so-called evidence. Plus their music sucked.”
I didn’t press her on the issue of whether she was going to go or not, and we went back to our reading. A little while later, I realized she’d fallen asleep on her side of the couch.
I slipped off the couch and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, just letting myself be mesmerized by the blinking, multicolored lights. Something whirred softly nearby–a mechanical ornament plugged into the light string with a group of tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh around and around.
Something rustled from the direction of the stairs, and there was Landon, pulling a blanket with him. He came all the way over to me with it.
I suppose I was supposed to say something grown-up like Aren’t you supposed to be in bed? or What are you doing up? But I decided to say nothing. I went back to looking at the tree and Landon say down next to me and did the same thing. He was as quiet as the proverbial mouse. We sat there for a long time, watching the tree, and I was sort of amazed that the kid could be that quiet for that long.
The spell was broken when Courtney snored suddenly, which made both Landon and me giggle.
“You should go back to bed,” I said to him in a low voice.
He ignored what I said. “Where’s Uncle Ziggy?”
“He had to go back to New York to sing in a concert.”
Landon frowned, trying to work that one out. “Sing in a concert?”
“Yes. Did you know Ziggy is a singer?” He still didn’t look like he understood what I meant. “You know how when we go to church there are the people up there who sing the songs? Kind of like that, but for a lot more people. That’s his job.”
“Oh, okay.” Landon seemed to accept the explanation. “What’s your job?”
I tried to think of the explanation that would make sense to a five-year-old. “I play the guitar while Ziggy sings.”
“Then why did he go without you?”
Good question, kid. Good question. Probably because Mills was a big part of this production and so they didn’t want me clashing with him, and also because no one wanted to seem like they were heartless enough to pull me away from my mother’s side. I left it at, “It’s just this one time.”
But that got me thinking about where my career was headed and all that crap all over again. And I realized I hadn’t actually done my finger exercises in a few days. It felt weird to realize I hadn’t made a conscious decision not to do them. I’d just stopped without realizing it.
It was nearly midnight and Janine would be home soon. “You better get back in bed before your mom gets home or we’ll both be in trouble,” I pointed out. “You don’t have to go back to sleep, but you do have to be in bed.”
“Come tuck me in?”
“Okay.” I followed him back up to his room, which was slowed by the size of the blanket, but once he climbed into the top bunk I spread the blanket over him and tucked it in around the edges. It was the first time I realized that “tucking in” was a literal thing and not just an expression. Or maybe I just took it too literally but, you know, I didn’t want him to be chilly.
And then I went back and stared at the tree lights a bit more before I tried waking Courtney. She was having none of it, so I just tucked the afghan in around her, too, and went back to the motel by myself.
(ICYMI: Yesterday there were liner notes! For the first time in like three years, I think? Enjoy ’em. Daron did them himself!)