Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gilda, Gilda, Gilda

Gilda's cousin mailed her a joke. She left out the pictures that went along with it. Here is the joke.

The Eulogy. She married and had 13 children. Her husband died. She married again and had 7 more children. Again her husband died. But she remarried and this time had 5 more children. Alas, she finally died.

Standing before her coffin the preacher prayed for her. He thanked the Lord for this very loving woman and said "Lord, they're finally together." One mourner leaned over and quietly asked her friend, "Do you think he means her first, second, or third husband?" The friend replied, "I think he means her legs."

Gilda (pronounced Gee-l-da) has always been married to the same man. She has two boys, two girls. Once upon a time, she had a half-baked career as an actress, but so many other women did too, that she began play-acting at home and for her friends. Not charades, more like, creating drama and comedy to get it out of her system. Drama, mostly.

"Who do you think you are?" she'd scream at her teenage daughter. "If you don't like what I bought, just say so, but don't talk to me like that." She'd stomp off, usually to wash dishes or put in laundry.

"You have to go to school, get up," she'd bellow at her son, shaking him, jiggling his shoulders like he was a bowl of jello, touching his face--which caused him to roar at her like a lion since he had zits and everyone harped at him not to touch them.

"I'll get up, I'll get up," he'd say as he turned his head toward the wall and fell into a deep sleep.

Gilda announced to her husband that she was going to stay at her cousin's house for awhile. She had to think things over. Things weren't going well, he didn't help out at home, and well, enough just might be enough. What she really wanted, was to learn how to get along with her children, and for that matter with her husband.

She packed a suitcase, her pillow, the laptop, and drove away.

At first, it was fun. They watched a subtitled French movie, sat in the patio and drank tea. They ate pasta primavera. They went to a movie. They talked. They worked crossword puzzles together. Gilda chopped up carrots for her cousin's pet tortoises and watched them waddle over to their food, eating slower than slow. The tortoises made a tiny little hissing sound once in awhile, otherwise, they were quiet.

Her cousin studied a lot. She was getting an MBA. Gilda slept in the guest bedroom that had a futon on the floor, matchstick blinds and a large bright white tiled bathroom with one bath towel and one face towel.

Finally, on the fifth night, Gilda called home. Her husband answered the phone.

"Is everything alright?" she asked. "I haven't heard from you."

"You left in a huff, so why should I be eager to talk to you?" he said.

"How are the children?" she asked, her voice all quivery like she was going to cry any minute.

"Same as ever, doing fine," he replied. "What else do you want to know? I have things to do."

Gilda hung up. Devastated. They didn't care. They didn't miss her. Everythingwasfine, everythingwasfine, every-thing-was-fine. The house was probably a huge mess.

She told her cousin who laughed. Laughed out loud.

"I remember what your mother would say to you that made you furious," Gilda's cousin said, as she put her hands on her hips and pursed her lips and spat our the words. "Who do you think you are young lady, Mary Astor's daughter?"  

Gilda had to laugh even though she really did not want to. "I hated it and slammed a lot of doors," she said.

"When she left the house in a tizzy, you were glad to see her go," her cousin added. "Things quieted down for awhile."

"All I ever wanted was lots of kids, and a loving husband," Gilda started to cry as she said the words. "I've had the same stupid man all these years and four infuriating kids."

"I have tortoises," her cousin said without emotion, looking Gilda straight in the eye. "You got what you wanted."

Gilda packed up and drove home. The house was tidy, dishes in dishwasher, clothes in hamper. It was the middle of the day. The children were at school, her husband was at work. The dog welcomed her at the front door, jumping around and weaving around, between Gilda's legs.

"Are you trying to murder me?" she barked at him. "Stay out of my way."

This time, she heard her own drama. A cup of tea worth-of-time-later on the patio, she spied a green praying mantis on the tip of a rose leaf. Then another one, this one was brown.

In a brillant moment, Gilda recalled that last year her youngest son had brought home a container of tiny praying mantis to keep pests off the rose bushes, as her birthday gift. Both of the large, mature praying mantis sat quietly, gently, peacefully magnificent on their perches.