Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, dear Susan

Today is my cousin Susan's birthday. She told me which one, but just in case she doesn't want the word to get out, I'll just say that she's two years older than I am. And since I am 32, that makes her 34. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Susan, Susan....where to begin with Susan?

Well, first of all, she grew up in the south and I grew up as a Yankee, but she likes me anyway. She got the golf gene that everyone in our family was born with except for me, probably the double whammy from her mother, my Aunt Peg, a sweet little Alpha Chi co-ed from Ball State University and from her dad, my uncle Hampton Auld, who placed 5th in the 1980 Senior Open, shooting a 296 on the East Course of the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Isn't that just the coolest name? Hampton Auld. With a name like that, wouldn't you just figure that he was a highly celebrated golf pro at several different swanky clubs in the southeastern part of our country? There's even a memorial to him at one particularly beautiful golf course. He played on the Seniors Tour in the years 1980-1984 and 1988.

Because we grew up, went to college and married in different parts of the country, Susan and I didn't really know one another well until about ten years ago. But I have to say, these past ten years have been some of the best. There couldn't be anyone funnier.

For instance, one of our mutual friends once took a pack of gum from her purse and offered it to Susan. "Would you like a piece of gum?" our friend asked politely.

"No, thank you," said Susan, in her inimitable soft Southern belle drawl. "I like the taste in my mouth."

Now, how often do you hear people saying, "I like the taste in my mouth"? What would the people who make Tic-Tacs and chewing gum and mint pastilles and Binaca do with someone like this? The whole point of being human is that you're not supposed to like the natural taste of your mouth; you're supposed to mask it and do everything but set up one of those Glade Plug-Ins in there to rid yourself of that natural mouth-taste, but that's Susan for you.

Laugh? I nearly come unglued every time I think of that story.

Susan and I got off to a rocky start when we were children, which makes the fact that we love each other now even nicer. When I was about four and she was six, she came to Indiana to visit her grandma, who was my great-grandma. I was used to being the cute little blonde about the place and did not take kindly to this intrusion from this other cute little blonde, especially because she was all fetching and adorable and I was a stolid lump of a child.

Anyway, I had some toys at our mutual grandma's house, some wooden stick-type things that you stuck into these round jobbies to make different structures. I can't remember what they were called -- the name is right on the tip of my left frontal lobe -- but I can't remember. At any rate, they were probably bought for me as an educational sort of plaything, to help me perfect my fine motor and critical thinking skills, because evidently even then, my family suspected that I was going to grow up having to still count on my fingers and not be able to balance a checkbook.

I never built anything with them, though. I always pretended that the long sticks were spaghetti and that the little round pieces were meatballs. I would arrange these wooden sticks and pieces on the china plates of my little tea set and offer the adults everlasting servings of wooden spaghetti, which they would pretend to eat with many, "Num num num!" sounds. [edited to add: TINKER TOYS -- that was the name of those things!]

It must have been excruciatingly dull, but the adults were very good sports about it. Susan -- or Susie, as everyone called her then -- wasn't.

Little Susie, the baby of her family, didn't want to play Spaghetti Party with me. She wanted to do something else, namely read her dumb book. I can't even begin to tell you how this enraged my four-year-old self, this casual dismissal of my wooden pasta. You see, Susie might have been the baby of her family, but I was the baby grandchild, the only little one who lived in central Indiana, other than our cousin John Lloyd, who was in his twenties by then. (Our cousin Carol lived in Indiana, too, but she lived in Madison, which is far away in the southern part of the state. And besides, she wasn't there on this particular day -- I reserved my tortures for Carol when she was trapped with me at the family vacation house at Wall Lake.)

I was unaccustomed to being thwarted.

So was Susie.

She ignored my repeated requests to play Spaghetti Party with me, deliberately turning her back and burying her nose in her book, which infuriated me still further. I had only just turned four and didn't learn to read until later on that year. The fact that Susie wouldn't play with me and was engaging in an activity that she knew I couldn't participate in, like pole vaulting or golf cart driving (another story), added fuel to my fire.

So what else could I do but go and carefully select one of the teacups from my little china set, creep up behind her, and bash her on the head with the cup?

Well, the blood was immediate.

As were the screams. Susie flung her book aside and ran for the kitchen, holding her head, bawling. My great-grandma and grandma picked her up and laid her on the enamel dish drainer while Susie hiccuped out the whole story, carrying on like I'd snuck up behind her with a tomahawk and had taken a piece of her scalp to wear on the strap of my seersucker sundress. My grandmas were frantically searching through Susie's blonde hair for the source of the blood, hoping that she wouldn't need stitches.

Meanwhile, I stood in the living room, watching this from a distance, wondering when I was going to get in trouble and how bad it was going to be, considering the fact that I had never been in trouble with either of these women before. I was also bleeding all over the carpet because I was the one who was hurt. Not Susie, who was still daintily weeping about two hours later and holding her little hand over the place on her head where I attacked her.

When the attention turned to me -- finally! -- no one seemed to be nearly as concerned about my hand. Probably because I wasn't crying. I still have the scar, actually. I. Still. Bear. The. Scar.

On my hand, and in my soul.

We were taken out later in the week to each get a new doll, really fancy dolls with satin petticoats and lacy bonnets, and Susie threw a fit because we both wanted the pink doll, but I was still so mortified about hitting her with the teacup that I just didn't have the energy to pitch a fit of my own, which I most assuredly would have because I was the younger and she was older and everybody knows that the littlest catches all the breaks, right, Carol?

I ended up with the blue doll and I never liked her. I mean, blue? I don't think so.

I think Susie still has her pink doll.

Carol has forgiven me for the torments I put her and her Barbies through at the lake.

Lilly, Susie's older sister, luckily missed all of the teacup and Barbie adventures and so she has no recollection of my brattiness to color her feelings toward me today.

On another occasion at the lake house, Carol had to give Susie her Slinky because Susie cried for it.

Susie is much different than this now, of course. She's beautiful and hilarious and generous. She has two amazing daughters (those girls with the French names), one who is all grown up now and working in Washington D.C. and a younger one who just completed her freshman year at Pepperdine. Susie is also a butt-kicking Arbonne sales representative and I love her.

Happy birthday, Susie. I'll see you with Carol and Lilly in THREE MORE WEEKS. I promise to stay away from your cups, mugs and other breakable drinkware. I will humbly drink my margaritas from plastic.


CousinCarol said...

I received a slinky from Susie a few years ago, you didn't receive a pink doll?? Wonderful story, Shelley. Happy Birthday Susie! Love, Carol

Shelley said...

Okay, Susan.


Kbg said...

Let me get this bash someone over the head with a teacup, resulting in actual blood loss, throw a fit over Tinker Toys, AND THEN YOU GET REWARDED WITH A NEW DOLL???? I knew there was something lacking in my childhood...LOL. Or, maybe it is that blonde thing....

Shelley said...

[with dignity] The blood loss came from me. Plus, my grandma was entirely convinced that Little Shelley Could Do No Wrong. It was the constant theme of my childhood.

That was just an awesome way for a grandma to be, lemme tell you.

Lilly said...

That's the best telling of the teacup story I've heard. Actually, the only story I ever heard went like this: SHELLEY HIT ME WITH A TEACUP. End of story.

Shelley said...

Susie sent me an email, saying that there were some "interesting corrections" to add to the Mt. Summit Teacup Massacre, but that's okay because I. Still. Bear. The. Scar.

That scar is all the proof I need to show that I was in the right. Or...something like that.