the daily challenges presented to a single mother of six
children, none equal the energy expended in the perpetual search
for money. A woman can either work two or three jobs at minimum
wage or try to sell her body for a slightly higher scale of pay.
With the relatively sexless body of a nine-year old boy, I could
not imagine anyone buying it. Since I lacked promiscuity,
education, a base of salient skills, and had six children under
ten, I began to realize I was nothing more than a target.
This particular target set out a few decades ago to find a job,
become educated, and raise those kids alone.
In a strange
set of circumstances, due I am sure, to my physically
overstressed, and deliriously stretched-out mentality I began to
recognize the presence of more than just my own brood.
There began to appear on a daily basis, metaphysical
personifications with actual personalities distinguishable by
their behavior. In spite of my intensified attention to their
detailed intervention into my life, I found it strangely
satisfying to attribute their unusual activities to that of my
children. As such, I began to refer to them as "The Bodies":
Nobody, Everybody, Somebody, and Anybody.
their names and idiosyncratic proclivities, I discovered my
favorite among the strangely non-physical beings temporarily
inhabiting my home. Nobody loved vegetables and Nobody ate them.
Nobody completed assigned homework, and Nobody followed my
organizational chart. Nobody remained polite and cheerful and
Nobody washed dishes. Nobody picked their clothes up from the
floor and Nobody claimed ownership of the jeans thrown there.
In spite of my extraordinarily reasonable and especially
pleasant nature, I was surprised by the specious presence of
Somebody who lost my cranberry sweater, misplaced my Libra ring,
removed the covers and pillows from my bed, and in fact was a
suspect in the loss of my favorite champagne flute, an elegant
piece of crystal stem-ware I especially loved. I often envisioned
a world in which I might own two of them, and regularly hid money
in a sacrificial sugar bowl, hoping to find a duplicate. The
bowl, the money, and the flute were quite simply missing. The
rhetoric went something like this:
my champagne flute, ravished my sugar bowl, and absconded with
$3.42!" True, I was somewhat hysterical, and may have
been screaming, however I demanded an immediate resolution. My
eldest countered with her inherited ideological preference for
"Why blame Somebody when it
could have been Anybody? " Daughters two and three
agreed, arguing for the defense, insisting that Everybody had
access to the cupboard, and Nobody may have actually been the
"Nobody?" I was stunned. "How
could it be Nobody?"
It was obvious to me that
Somebody took these things because they were in fact gone, and
perhaps had broken my one and only remnant of another life. For
reasons beyond my control, the children blamed Anybody and
Everybody, an accusation far beyond spectacular which seemed
relatively outrageous, however, I could imagine such an act of
agrestic behavior by unscrupulous persons such as those referred
to by my children. Since Everybody hangs out at the mall,
stays out late, smokes cigarettes, talks incessantly on the
telephone, and uses bad words, I could easily be swayed. There
were, in fact, dozens of their pilfering pals whose fingerprints
were daily wiped away. The miscreant might just be Anybody, a
mysteriously vague personification, not entirely trustworthy.
At the end of the investigation, Nobody claimed responsibility.
Since Nobody confessed and with the evidence removed, we
concluded that Nobody should be punished, however, when Nobody is
liable, nothing gets done. When I confronted them, my children
assured me that I was biased against Everybody, their favorite of
the strangely iconoclastic representational bodies residing in
"Since, as you say, Everybody always
behaves badly," daughter's two and three proclaimed, "and
Anybody could be guilty as charged, Somebody might consider your
conclusions slightly confusing".
The clarity of my
argument took a mercurial drop as my children turned it against
me and I seemed to have lost another battle. Nobody seemed
interested in the issues, and with Nobody as an ally, Everybody
seemed to be satisfied.
When the dog produced five
puppies, Nobody came to my aid and Everybody hid behind Anybody
with an alibi. Nobody verified the father of this error in
judgment, which led me back to the ongoing, but unresolved
argument of assessing ownership of jeans thrown disrespectfully
to the ground. The girls all wore the same size which led me to
begin an investigation into certain very specific worn spots
accompanied by appliquéd butterflies, and various other
relatively personalized creations and tell-tale indications of
In a moment of unforeseen
frustration, I ran screaming through the house in an
unprofessional, albeit succinct, non-prejudicial rant.
throwing all of these jeans in the garbage!" I stated
further that, "Persons owning these jeans and those who knew
the gender of the dog must be held liable for their actions".
Emboldened, I added that, "People must ultimately be held
responsible for their actions."
daughters, four and five engaged in a strategy that included
youth and innocence as a viable defense against sexual knowledge,
an argument I was not about to enter, and most certainly Anybody
could lose, as such, Everybody might claim a significant victory.
As for the jeans, Nobody claimed them and I laundered them in
The dog, apparently a female, was named
"Gretchen" as my children seemed to think she was a
"Dutch Terrior", a previously undiscovered breed, and
bestowed upon her a fabricated pedigree. Gretchen, a dog with
neurotic tendencies was terrified by the presence of the children
and slowly but surely, and unknown to me, deposited all five of
her puppies under my bed.
Also unknown to me was the fact
that I was allergic to puppy dander. Everybody blamed my extreme
bronchial distress to the fact that I worked in a bar eight hours
a night, and spent eight hours a day in a "sick" office
building. Somebody suggested I stay home, clean house and make
cookies, an excellent, but thoroughly impractical solution. After
much discussion, Everybody concluded we must remove the animals.
Anybody could see the logic of it and although Nobody objected,
the eldest daughter was sent out on her bicycle with a small
lunch, a wagon, and six "for-free" dogs. I was
miraculously "cured", returned to work, and food was on
the table again.
When daughter number five began bizarre
episodes of limping, and doctors suggested to me that her
behavior was a production of symptoms associated with a
psychoneurosis motivated by my neglect of her, I wondered if this
child was emulating her sister who had also lost her ability to
walk for a period of time. I pulled that one around in a wagon
because she said, "I can't walk." That child was often
found napping on the sidewalk by neighbors, who actually believed
her and considered me a nut.
Because I worked three jobs
and left my children to their imagination, I suspect the arrival
of the personifications of parental authority absolved my
children from the exacting consequences of believable behavior.
When the cat ran into a car, I was in another county, far away in
a hospital attempting to manage the operation of daughter number
four, a child who required screws in her thigh. The apparent
theory for her slipping epiphysis was associated with a
congenital factor however under sedation this child admitted to
stomping aluminum cans into a kind of "shoe-heel" and
stomped on them daily for fun. The doctor who performed the
operation lost his son on the eve of the operation due to a
broken neck achieved while performing on a trampoline. I
had no money to pay the doctor and the doctor did not bill me.
Upon our arrival back home at last, we placed the
crutches for my daughter at the bottom of the stairs. The cat,
with a broken leg, and wearing a cast, sat quietly next to the
rather large barrier, a sentinel perhaps. Visiting children came
with their mothers and were amazed by the size of the crutches
for such a small cat. Tutu, a rare "Chocolate-Point"
Siamese was no doubt expensive in the past, but had fallen on
hard times, landing on our doorstep and scooped up for play by
daughter number five who dressed her in frilly doll's clothing
and pushed her around in a wicker basket banging recklessly into
When her leg was healed and the cast
removed, Tutu sprayed the sofa I designed and waited six months
to receive. On the day I removed the plastic that cat not only
dictated its territorial arena with a disgusting skunk-like odor,
it rendered the sofa helpless by tearing to shreds the arms,
sides and back of its frame. Nobody knew of course the cat was a
male, and Nobody assisted me with its removal.
disappeared one day along with the dog, her five puppies, and
some turtles. The turtles were actually unintentionally ground up
after they had become seriously strange looking, and were
unidentifiable as a species. A Great Dane was then
introduced to our family by daughter number five, a dog so large
that I thought it must be a horse. I noticed it while
painting the kitchen ceiling a special color. I thought tomato
soup red would work quite nicely with the yellow shag rug I had
kind of destroyed when I attempted to create kinetic sculpture,
which exploded during an experiment. It had not occurred to me
that adding one more drop of catalyst would produce such an
effect in the resin.
I snipped the "shag" down
with manicure scissors believing that I might manufacture a kind
of "short shag", maybe something unusual, pulling the
hardened acrylic shards which had burst into glass-like pieces. I
believed there existed the possibility of a "golf-link-like
short, grassy carpet. The tomato-soup ceiling was almost a
success but had a "lumpy" appearance, the result of the
hardened acrylic thrown by the blast. While drying, pieces of
pasta thrown previously, slipped a bit and created a bas-relief
effect, a kind of Art Deco over-all arrangement; an
interesting almost sunburst look, useful perhaps in Xanado.
of my four jobs involved the completion of 8"x10",
detailed ink renderings with copy, of fashions shown in local
boutiques. I was paid $25 per each piece, which were then
selected to be advertised in "The Bee", a Marin County
publication, and considered to be quite prestigious. I pinned the
clothing to the tomato-soup walls of the dining room to achieve
fluidity and often spent many sleepless nights engaged in the
project. While working at an off-premises location, Somebody
removed the seriously expensive dresses from the wall leaving me
with nothing to render and nothing to return. I was sued of
course, but with no tactile resources, Nobody collected,
reassuring me of the fact that Nobody would stand by me. In
the meantime and for reasons unknown to me, my children were
adamant that the Great Dane should live with us, an absurd option
of course since there was no money for food. Happily, that animal
left through the back door on the same evening of the day he was
dragged through the front. Somebody must have left the door
open! I began to look at these creatures as a happy accident,
something like a solution to the extraordinary problems that had
become a barrier while raising six children. I liked them and
remained positive in spite of the incredibly negative behavior
attributed to them. I liked blaming them for bad behavior and I
especially liked our discussions about them. When Everybody
was using drugs, daughter number one removed herself from her
infatuation with that relationship, finding it exclusive of her
siblings. Nobody told her to quit and Nobody was amazed. Because
my children were collectively against anything I advocated, I
used whatever measures were available to me to police their
In spite of the fact that my easel was situated
in the dining room, and painting was an avenue devoted to the
notion of income, my son insisted on bouncing his basketball
against the canvas, a strange behavior I found both interesting
and annoying. A commissioned painting requires a specific result,
unlike creative adventures which allow for spontaneous reactions,
say serendipity. In the unlikely event of a sponsor spending
money on a painting created absent that sponsor's particular
investment in the ideation, most artists are unpaid. That my
adorable son could enhance my work with his basketball is no more
unrealistic than my own expectations.
Not long after the
arrival of the unexpected bodies, an unexpected opportunity arose
to move three thousand miles from the strange and often
misunderstood neighborhood in which my children and I occupied.
The person I promised to marry in exchange for the opportunity to
survive elected to force an ultimatum. I could either marry the
guy or lose our home. Few decisions were made in less time.
only did I sell every piece of furniture not nailed to the floor,
I sold furnishings actually nailed to the floor, including every
appliance that came with the bloody semi-ownership of the
condominium, including the bathroom fixtures. With an array of
checks from an astounding number of accommodating neighbors, I
found an agent of Cadillac who was happy to pay me to drive
across the country in their stunning white, boat-like car, upon
which I balanced two beautiful bicycles. The experience will live
forever in the minds of my children and I doubt anyone in their
right mind could ever reproduce such an event. I awakened my
children at 3:00 am to see an extraordinary circumstance. In Salt
Lake City, the sky actually created an umbrella of falling stars
surrounding the available space with a spectacular show produced
by the lack of artificial lights. Unbelievably stunning, a
show of magic, something my children would never again witness.
The trip to California with six children was a bit of an
illusion, something an intelligent person would refer to as a
fantasy, however, in 1973, all things seemed possible, including
a home for my children. Nobody led the way and ended our
traveling at the northern-most corners of a place in Marin
County. Somebody found a place to stay and Everybody loved it.
The really strange part of the process began the following day.
Nobody was able to cash the deposited checks, a rather positive
experience since all of the purchases including the rent were
based on that transaction, however, the checks could not be
verified. Since the bank was incapable of turning the deposits
into cash, the account was in effect frozen, an operational, and
strange effect of the deposited checks by persons who wrote them
to me for the sale of items that did not all belong to me. It was
becoming increasing clear to me that I was about to become a
criminal. Of what nature I was unclear, but I suspected Nobody
would come to my aid and in the end I would require the
assistance of Somebody or in fact Anybody with a legal
background. However, moving three thousand miles seemed to cool
the professed ardor of my intended, and he was quietly assuaged
with the ownership of my darling home, leaving me free to wander
for which I was grateful.
Finding a home for six children
and one adult in the 70's proved to be a challenge. The
home I chose to rent did not allow children, so I lied and said I
had none. We moved in, all seven of us, along with our
metaphysical recreations, three pillows and a coffee pot. The
rent would of course become an issue due to the freeze on the
account, and I was forced to return the fire-engine red sports
car that did not start which was in fact a blessing. With no way
to attach the money, the used car dealer was unable to manage the
disposition and just picked it up.
In the meantime I
found a waitress position which allowed me to "steal"
food and toilet paper from the restaurant and feed my children.
Nobody objected, and I continued to become a felon, a career
objective that Somebody considered difficult to comprehend, and a
course of action perceived by Anybody as unwise. While slicing
turkey one day I recognized the fact that Everybody was open to
criminal behavior, and Nobody would protect them from
prosecution. With my first paycheck I reimbursed my employer and
begged to be forgiven. Nobody was,as usual, there for me
and I was fired. My landlord, an unwilling participant in an
ongoing lawsuit against him for allowing children to live in that
complex, caved under the pressure and forced me to leave. By the
time I returned home on Christmas Eve, the children were all
sitting outside on the grass, the eldest held the coffee pot.
If Somebody had an idea Nobody was discussing it and if
Everybody thought we were beaten by this we looked
Anybody with a positive solution. I decided to hide the
children once again and find a home, this time with no money at
all, a delicate task, but not entirely impossible. The kids and I
were gathered at a gas station when it occurred to me that the
bank might finally have released the checks written for the stuff
I sold. As amazing as it may seem the bank actually allowed me to
withdraw almost $3,000.00, an astronomical amount of money
We ate something other than tea and toast
for the first time in three months. After renting a room at
Howard Johnson for showers, clean sheets, and television, we
snuggled into a discussion of room service. Somebody suggested
that Everybody would benefit from a walk to the nearest fast-food
joint, an option Nobody found satisfactory, and was concluded to
be thrift-oriented. In the end, the desire to eat actual food
out-weighed all practical other-oriented solutions.
Whatever happiness may be derived while raising children, the joy
of feeding them trumps all others, the prospect of not feeding
them is in fact the most deleterious.
Sitting in the
booth of a restaurant with a serious claim to the best seafood in
the world, my darlings ordered hamburgers with cheese.
don't like fish," my daughters proclaimed," especially
fish with bones".
Somebody suggested lobster as it
has none, a fact Everybody agreed upon and Anybody could see that
was the best choice. Nobody, once again came to my aid.
"Lobster it is," I declared, and lobster it was
for our re-entry into the world of normalcy.
dinner blew a magnificent hole in our funds it also produced a
significant burst of energy and emotional well-being. We found a
very simple home; an extremely rural cottage, the kind some might
describe as "shack-like", available however to mothers
with children. By padding my resume with outrageous lies, I found
a job and bought a car that not only started on command, but had
a functioning reverse gear, and joined other working moms
dropping their kids off at school.
In the end it was a
simple project: a task devoted to the ordinary notion of keeping
six children alive; an idea developed while skirting them through
negotiations with an exceptional parent and the evolution of an
association with unrealistic and entirely imaginative
personalities, all willing to support their creative endeavors,
specific ideations, and loving pursuits. Through a prism of four
decades past, I cannot see how it was done, but can only recall
the joy of raising six children on my own.