Her name was Jeanie, at least I think it was. She came to live with us when I was about eleven years old. I remember washing the dishes with her after dinner one evening, she was washing and I was rinsing. She accidentally splashed water on her belly. She started to giggle and told me that meant she would marry a drunk, and she laughed. I don’t know how my face responded, but inside I was astonished. Really? How could dishwater splashed onto someone’s belly mean that? What was a drunk anyway? Someone who drank alcohol, I am sure! Oh no, so will I, I have done that many times! I took everything so damn literally when I was younger.
My mother left my father when I was eleven years old. We went from poor-to poorer. My mother was pregnant with her seventh child. She moved us into a very big rental house and took in three women with “problems”. I don’t know what all their problems were, but one of the ladies, her name was Connie, she cried a lot, uncontrollably. Jeanie, I remember, was more light-hearted, at least sometimes. She could be giggly and fun, but she could also be sullen and somber. I liked her. The third woman was an old lady we called Aunt Bee. She had dementia. She wandered off a lot and my brother and I had to get on our bikes and ride around town looking for her. One day the ladies left, they were just gone. Well, except Aunt Bee, she died in her sleep one night. It was weird, I remember feeling panicked at first, but my mother was very calm. I don’t know if I ever knew what happened to Connie and Jeanie.
Many years passed before I ever thought of them again. Then one day while washing the dishes, a bunch of water splashed out of the sink and soaked my belly, and I had the thought, “I am going to marry a drunk”! I stood frozen as the memories played out like a short film. When I came back, I chuckled and thought (possibly out loud), I’d not only married a drunk, I’d become one.
I have thought of Jeanie and her little superstition (or maybe it was her way of laughing something terrible off) every time I splash water on my belly while washing the dishes, and I wonder about her, I wonder what went so wrong in her life that she needed to live in a home to be looked after. Perhaps she and Connie both suffered from depression, I suppose that makes the most sense. I think of how potentially bad things could have gone. I think of my mother pregnant, supporting six other children. The desperation she must have felt, the desperation all the women must have felt. I think of the pain and the fear. I can see Jeanie’s face and see the two of us in that moment by the sink. I can hear her words, her giggle, and my heart breaks.
Phaedra Kimball is a full-time Sociology major. After living in Los Angeles, CA. for 20 years pursuing the life of an actor, and artist, she and her small family moved to a quieter life in Montana. Phaedra is passionate about politics, societal issues, learning, new art forms, and having new adventures.