The Gene Pool

Since Tricia passed away, and my days are consumed with caring for Isabella, memories of our childhood, seem to find their way into my thoughts. A time when Brandon, Tricia, and I, thought we were invincible, and live at least until 100. As children, Tricia and I promised each other when our husbands died, we’d live out our days together. We weren’t planning on murdering them, it just never occurred they may outlive us.
I am convinced our family had more guardian angels than most. This is not a prideful statement, for we just required more to stay alive. Trouble came natural to us. In order to prove this, I must point to the providers of our genes.
Daddy liked to ride storms as a boy, just as he saw the storm clouds rolling in, he picked the tallest tree he could find and climbed to the top. He rode that thing until the storm passed. He said tropical storms provided the wildest ride.
“I climbed a cedar tree on Chestnut Street and landed on North.” He once told me, which should be the first line of his memoirs.
Momma slept with her Sally. She grabbed Sally when the neighbor’s chickens started eating her azalea bushes. Screaming, I wrapped my legs and arms around her thigh, begging her not to shoot those precious chickens. She stretched out her leg like a tripod, aimed, and shot. Those chickens were perfectly aligned and one bullet swiped the heads off both. This is no fabrication, it was a blood bath. Those chickens were bumping into each other with no heads, and blood was spurting everywhere.
“Well, that serves em right.” she said as she brushed past me.
I never looked cross at Momma again.
We loved to climb trees. Tricia climbed a tree once and got stuck at the top, and Brandon climbed up to get her unstuck. We each claimed a tree in our yard. Tricia’s was a small dogwood (the lame one because she didn’t’ want to get stuck again) Once, I climbed my tall tree. I told Brandon, “Go get Momma” for I was proud and wanted a reaction from that lady. The top of the tree swayed in the wind and I wrapped my legs and arms around it. Mom came out of the house and looked up.
“Tammy you are high! You be careful coming down now!” She said, before going back into the house.
I realized then, she was a woman of great faith.
One dog day of summer, my cousin Linda and I decided to bleach our hair and ride the Sows at the same time. We poured on the peroxide, and climbed over the hog fence.
Linda stood in the middle of those huge beasts, and clapped her hands and screamed.
“Suey… Suey… Suey!”
They ran straight towards me, and as the stampede approached I crouched and lunged for them. I didn’t gain many feet, but did gain a peculiar odor to go with my beautiful platinum highlights.
While we’re on hogs, Brandon showed hogs for the 4-H Club. When he stepped up to show his hog, a runaway ran out squealing and landed between his legs. (ouch) He rode that hog backwards holding onto to it’s rump around the ring.
The crowd went wild. Mom and Dad were so proud. They stood and clapped for him as if it deserved an encore. The judges gave him a little extra money in his envelop for the entertainment.
We loved animals. In the seventh grade, Coach Polk my Science teacher announced, “Tomorrow is small pet day, you can bring your small pets to class.”
Brandon, Tricia, and I looked for that snake for hours. Popped him in an old aquarium and gave him a name. Albert was a hit! I held him intertwined in my fingers, and each time I turned towards Coach Polk he jumped back. When he asked me how long he’d been my pet, I didn’t lie.
“About 18 hours, we found him around seven last night. He was in the wood pile under a log.”
“Weren’t your parents scared you’d find a poisonous one?”
I laughed for everyone knew what poisonous snakes looked like. Truth be told, it didn’t occur to us.
Speaking of pets, we had many. Momma brought home everything and made it a pet. She tried to catch a mouse in the churchyard one Sunday. She slipped off her sandals and ran through the grass chasing the thing, while the congregation cheered her on. She caught it. A minute later she screamed.
“The darn thing bit me!” she said. She decided that wouldn’t be a good pet.
Another time, she brought this unusual caterpillar into the house, and put it in a jar on her dresser. She wanted to look it up in the encyclopedia because she’d never seen this lime green variety. The caterpillar wanted to educate her himself. Let’s just say, her arm swelled terribly. She said that wasn’t a good pet either.
Trouble followed Tricia too. One day that trouble was a twister, it toppled a grain storage container (silo), before heading straight for Linda and Tricia, who decided it was a good idea to walk home in a storm. Tricia held onto her umbrella, and Linda held onto Tricia’s foot. Thank goodness Linda won that battle or Tricia could have landed in Oz.
I think we all enjoyed a good adrenaline rush, but Brandon became addicted in his twenties. He lived on a sail boat, flew planes, parachuted, scuba dived, etc, anything he could do to keep Momma on her knees, he did.
One Friday, he decided he was going to sail to Tangier Island and eat some crabs. He didn’t check the weather.
A North Eastern blew through.
There was still no word by Sunday morning, and Momma marched up during the altar call, and told the pastor what her son did .
That evening he came home. The waves were so high he had to tie himself to the boat, and vomited for two days. Needless to say, he didn’t eat any crabs.
On Brandon’s last parachute jump, he talked Thomas (Tricia’s husband) into going with him. A Navy Seal was on the plane and asked to go up another 1,000 feet. By the time they reached that height, it was getting dark. They jumped anyway. Brandon radioed down for the airport to turn on the landing lights, and the airport radioed back they wouldn’t work. Brandon and Thomas steered their parachutes as they were instructed from the ground to miss the electrical wires.
Later Thomas said, “Brandon’s crazy. He’s going to kill me.”
I say to Thomas there’s still time for that.
Another jump Brandon took without a parachute this time, was from the 58 Bypass bridge. This is the bridge in Suffolk to end all, if you know what I mean. The bottom of his feet turned black, he couldn’t walk for a week.
Under that bridge we had a rope swing. At night,we tied up the boats, climbed to the top, and swung from the bridge, as our bodies hit the surface of the Nandsemond, the water glowed with Phytoplankton.
We forgot about the glow of the Phytoplankton the same night we forgot our swim suits. Tricia, our friend Kim Standridge, and I decided to swim in our underwear. Thomas and our “brothers” (guys like brothers) stayed up on the boat, to give us our privacy. Thomas and Tricia were married soon after that.(wink)
My boyfriend at the time had a metal boat with a huge Johnson motor on the back, when you started it up, the bow rose up out of the water. We loaded that boat up with friends and water bombs, we’d slip into the swampy reeds and surprise attack the other boats.
Once my Dad came down to the wharf, I put him in that boat and told him to hold on.
“Okay girl, show me what you got.” he challenged.
I put that boat on it’s side left and right trying to dump Dad into the Nandsemond. I was disappointed he still had a good grip.
We grew up around boats. Dad always had one. One hot Sunday after church we went out towards the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A lightning storm came through, I had my hand hanging over the side of the boat and there was a huge flash and a hot pain seared through my arm. My scream scared Daddy gray. He scooped me up and put me in the bedroom below. It wasn’t a direct hit, but the lightning bounced off a crab pot next to us and grounded itself in my arm. That didn’t feel too good.
I was scared of lightning for years after that. That’s why I chose to move to the lightning capital of the world. I faced my fears.
My husband would tell you before children, I often faced those fears in the closet. You see, I no longer thought I was invincible. I miss those carefree years, simply because my sister was in them. Isabella will never know her Aunt Tricia except through the stories.
I know my niece, nephews, and children believe they are indestructible too. I can see it by their trouble. We parents call each other to brag about what they’ve done. It starts with, “You won’t believe what (niece or nephews) did.” Of course, I pretend I can’t believe it, but I can…I’m not a bit surprised, just look at their gene pool.

March 2015

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