My mother taught “Family Life”. For the uninitiated, that means “sex ed”. She taught many other things, but the one she loved the most was teaching Family Life. She taught Division III kids, which meant ‘douche bags between the ages of 12 and 14’. I spent a fair amount of time in her staff room, and as I think I’ve mentioned before, no matter what horrible things you used to say about your teachers (or no matter what horrible things you currently say about your teachers), some of the things they say about their students are far more shocking. Usually because they have a better vocabulary and insight.
Mum was never shy to talk to kids about anything. Every year, someone in ‘question box’ would ask her to describe a blow job or ask whether she preferred anal during her period. My mother, somewhat unshakeable, would describe, with clinical precision, a blow job. Or she would say, “I’ve never particularly enjoyed anal, but everyone has different tastes. You might love it.” Half the time, she figured the kids wanted to see her blush or get embarrassed, and the other half of the time, they were just trying to see how risque she was willing to be (far more than they were, because again, she had a bigger vocabulary and far more experience). Eventually, everyone would settle down and the students would begin to ask real questions.
So when I was Very Young, my mother would just answer any questions I had about my body, or about her body, or about boy bodies, or about how they worked or what to expect or all of the above. She never made a big deal about it; she always answered the question I asked (by which I mean, when I said, “what are tampons for?” she said, “they catch the blood that is shed from the uterus during a woman’s menses” and not “a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina and that’s how babies are made”). In retrospect, and with children of my own who are, as children are wont to be, curious, my mother was effing awesome.
So imagine my surprise, when at six or seven, my mother found me in the bathtub, mounting a barbie (well!? What the hell did YOU do with barbies?) and rocking deliciously back and forth, and she shouted “OH MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? You’re going to permanently injure yourself and we’ll have to take you to the hospital and you’ll never be normal again!”
I stared at her.
But I didn’t stop mounting barbies in the tub.
Fast-forward twenty some years. Mum is dying in the hospital. She’s puffed up to three times her normal size because her kidneys have shut down. Her brain is fried. She’s on morphine. We’re sitting with her, and Da says, “Jesus, Judy. Stop that.”
I say, “What’s she doing?”
Da points. Mum has her hands down the front of her pants. I burst out laughing. “Go, Mum, Go!” I cheer.
Da glares at me.
I say, “What the hell, man? If you’re going on to meet Glory, why not do it with a smile on your face?”
Da has this moment where he’s not sure if he should bitch at me or not. “But…there’s people here….”
I shrug. “We’re her family, Da. I don’t care if she jills off.”
“‘S WHY WE CALLED YOU THAT HA-HA” Mum half-shouts in a thick slur.
My aunt says, “get it where you can, you know?”
Da decides it’s better to laugh than to cry, and sits back in his chair. We all sat there, with stupid grins on our faces, trying to look anywhere else in the room but at the woman we all loved in the last hours of her life, doing the one thing she still could to make herself feel good.