I was recently discussing mental health issues with someone when something very significant dawned on me.
No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has at least one crazy (odd, eccentric, unusual) person in their family tree. In my family there are so many, they practically swing from the branches.
When I was a girl, my Maw Maw would throw me in the car and we’d drive over to see my cousin Wayne.
I didn’t like to go see Wayne and I’d try every way in the world to get out of it without actually coming out and saying I didn’t want to go. That’s because I loved my Grandmother more than anything in the world and would have done anything she asked of me. Besides, when she’d tell me how much Wayne loved it when I visited, what was I gonna do? Not make Wayne happy?
I should tell you that my cousin suffered from some sort of malady which I’m sure has an actual real medical name, but which my Southern family never knew or possibly couldn’t pronounce. That’s why my whole young life Cousin Wayne was known as a “water head”.
I have no idea how old he was, but I do know that all you could see in his bed was a regular sized body and a gigantic head. I mean like a huge, big head. It was misshapen and distorted somewhat, so I can see where my family got the idea that his head was filled with water.
So what does a young girl who is terrified of water-heads and a water-headed, bed-bound relative talk about during visits? Well, mostly how I enjoyed being able to walk around while simultaneously turning my head and how it sucked he couldn’t get out of bed or his head would roll off.
Nothing! We talked about nothing! I spent all my time there trying not to look at his giant head.
“Tell Wayne bye, Shurry,” Maw Maw would say.
“Tell Wayne you’ll come back to see him soon”.
“I’ll come back to see you soon, Wayne.”
I had only two things on my mind. Getting away from Wayne and making sure I didn’t catch whatever cooties he had. I was also very careful not to drink their water. One never knows how one winds up with a water head.
I had another cousin named Everett. He was very loving and very loud. As a grown man he’d run up to anyone he came across, throw his big arms around them and ask, “Is you my kin folks?”
I did not have the same appreciation for Everett as did the rest of my family. I knew he was a nice man to be sure, but I was compelled by my desire to flee from him and scream at the top of my lungs when he’d make a run for me.
There I’d be screaming for my life and running around the yard waving my arms over my head while a grown man chased me trying to determine if I was indeed his kin folks…even though he saw me all the time. Behind him in this bizarre scene would be other relatives commanding me to stop running because he wasn’t going to hurt me. “He only wants to give you some sugar!”
Like hell he was. I was pretty sure that if either my water-headed cousin or my kin folk cousin gave me sugar, it would be the same as a zombie eating my brain. Next thing you know, I’d be one of them.
Not all the peculiar people in my family were male. I remember one female who was in her early twenties. She was on my Father’s side and for that I was grateful because it meant my maternal Maw Maw couldn’t make me hang out with her. I have no idea what exactly was wrong with this chick or even how I came to be related to her. All I remember is that she was always very concerned that her belly button had disappeared.
As a small obsessive-compulsive girl I found the notion that belly buttons could disappear a life changing chunk of knowledge. After much thought, I determined they did not so much disappear as they fell back into stomachs. It was then that I made the resolution never to lie on my back for too long so that my own personal belly button did not need to be retrieved by some invasive and most certainly painful medical procedure.
I also sort of became one with my belly button so that I was completely in tune with how it was feeling at any given time. If I felt at all like it might be slipping, I would walk around with my stomach pushed out using as much force as I could. I’m happy to report this plan of action resulted in no button slippage whatsoever. It also resulted in making me look like I was always either very hungry or very pregnant.
At seven years old, I’m sure no one thought I was pregnant. You can’t even get married in North Carolina until you are at least ten.
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