Years ago, the Santa Barbara Independent published an essay of mine titled ‘When Reagan Came To Town’, in which I ratted out my mother’s dysfunctional/anger-riddled/bullying (all this despite being a pot-head) live-in lover for calling the police from our kitchen phone and threatening to shoot down security helicopters endlessly circling the neighborhood as then-President Reagan visited our nearby hospital. Secret Service were at our house within minutes, greeted at the front door by my beautiful mother dressed in a bright orange tube top and cut-off Bermuda blue jean shorts. I guess her garb and tan, slender limbs, Olivia Newton John frosted, feathered locks and big-smile did the trick: Our house was not searched, the perp not flushed from the shed in the backyard where he cowered with his cannabis. As teenaged-me stood behind my mother, listening to her cheery spiel about some mistake being made, not our phone, not our house, I sent get him vibes to the men, hoping the horror of living with a scumbag was about to be removed from our lives for good.

Unfortunately my vibes couldn’t penetrate mirrored aviator glasses: My mom’s perp hung out for another 10 years, although her children did not. One left at 16. I left at 17. Another left at 17. And the baby ran away when she was 14 to live with her best friend across town.

My mother passed away a year ago. I’d like to type out the memories that keep arriving, but I’m not sure grief-rage-memoir-writing in a pandemic is possible. I’ve turned to a small stack of books for help:

  1. Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott. Yes, we all know this book. I’ve read it 3 times and am back for more layered profundity and comfort.
  2. The Situation And The Story, Vivian Gornick
  3. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (can’t believe I haven’t read this)
  4. Lit, Mary Karr

In addition to the Reagan essay, I have others stuffed in a plastic box under the guestroom bed.

Pretty sure I’m in the process of pulling up my big girl pants and opening the box.

Yours in hailing the dysfunctional past with books, caffeine-induced courage and a therapist,


About PB Rippey

Writer, wife, mother, grateful. Fiction, memoir, poetry, kidlit (MG), member SCBWI.
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