A naïve teenage girl in her senior year of high school comes home to find all her belongings packed and sitting on the front porch. Airstream's abusive father, who silently laments the loss of his baseball career, and a mother, who lives in a world convinced she is Cleopatra before Cleopatra was Cleopatra, have decided Air is a "commie-pinko" since she reads Ramparts and the Berkeley Barb.
From an early age, Air realized in order to survive her bizarre family life she had to protect her authentic self. Whimsical, innately talented, and fiercely independent by nature, Air struggles to piece her life together as she finds herself continually caught in you've-got-to-be-kidding-me circumstances.
The author marvelously portrays heart retching stories with wit and humor. Despite being emotionally abandoned by her parents, Air becomes an engrossing, strong and fascinating young woman, determined to be a successful artist without any formal training.
Ingenious and persistent, Air is on a mission to confront her demons and multi-personalities, surmounting the endless, inexplicable far-fetched absurdly funny bumps in the road to prove she is lovable and worthy of love. Air's life path is far from normal.
|Product dimensions:||8.90(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.40(d)|
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Arrivals and Departures from Normal
By Lana Jean Rose
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 Lana Jean Rose
All rights reserved.
"Dinner's ready!" yelled D. J., Airstream's mother. Debbie Jane was her mom's real name.
Air; her two younger brothers, Ron and Jim; and her dad, Mitchell, all sat down at the table with the usual apprehension. Dinners were the highlight of the day for D. J. since this was the time she'd announce her latest plans for her new project.
Air sat tensely and stared at her mother. She could feel the beginnings of an achy tummy accompanied with the onset of the loss of her appetite. Mitchell just sat there staring out the window with a look that said, Jesus, here we go again. The family could sense D. J. was just a little too happy, which was a signal of a looming announcement.
Her plans were a reminder to the kids that they dare not bring any of their friends' home from school. No doubt, Air and her dad and brothers were about to hear all about what would be the latest in a series of creations that looked like the early works of Tim Burton, if he had lived in Texas in the fifties. She did not create anything normal or pleasant to the eye; it was not in her nature. She said normal things were ugly and her creations were "un-use-u-elle" and true art. She was convinced everyone envied her talents.
D. J. set fried chicken and okra in the middle of the table. She sat down and smiled at everyone. "Daddy!" she squealed in a way that had way too much zealousness in it. "I think it's 'bout time we did some re-deck-er-ate-in!"
The family moaned in unison, and little Jimmy, who was six years old, started crying. Air tried to soothe him while she rubbed her own tummy.
In Texas, everyone knew there was a general unspoken rule that sheep followed sheep — as in, ever'-ba-dee's house otta look like ever'-ba-dee else's house. D. J. did everything in her power to explain to the family her deep belief they were "u-nique" and different from everyone else.
"Mom, what kind of redecorating are you thinking about?" Air asked, as if she was interested rather than apprehensive and about ready to throw up. "I think the house is perfect. It looks as nice as everyone else's house in the neighborhood."
"Wh-elle now, honey, that's e-zack-u-lee my point, ack-shoe-ally! Ain't no sense us tryin' ta be like ever'-ba-dee else 'cuz we're u-nique! How many times I gotta remind y'all we're special and we outta be proud!"
Air sat there staring at her plate. She thought about how her mother spent so much time "creating" instead of being a mother. Creating was not something other mothers did, and D. J. was always up to something bizarre and extremely embarrassing. D. J.'s deep Texas accent upset Air as well. It was as though she wanted more attention than she deserved, so she'd make a point of drawing out every word. Air remembered when she was barely five years old and D. J. had come to her and said, "Airstream, honey, if ya ever meet up with the devil, ya just lookie him straight in his eyes and ya tell him you ain't got no time for him! Ya just keep right on a-walkin'!
D. J. was a tiny, bird-boned woman, barely five feet tall, skinny as a rail, and with long, coal-black hair and beady, dark brown eyes. She hadn't always looked that way. When she was a little girl, she'd had beautiful blonde hair with soft curls and skin as white as pearls. When she was sixteen years old, her beautiful blonde hair started growing black roots, startling everyone who knew her. Her skin had transformed as well, her extremely fair complexion slowly becoming a dark olive. Her parents made sure pictures of D. J. as a child were displayed as prominently and profusely as possible to prove she'd come from pure German descent. Everyone in the family was fair skinned, had a freckled complexion, strawberry or blond hair, and brown eyes. The family felt tremendous pressure to make up a story about what the hell had caused D. J. to go through the inexplicable physical transition.
Of course, everyone in town whispered that she was "possessed." Some said God had simply "willed" this blessing, and they were all just to accept "his way." This may have been the beginning of D. J.'s hardheadedness about "the way."
"There ain't nobody gettin' in my way!" she would chant while creating.
She was considered the black sheep of the family. She emitted a presence that warned others, "Don'tcha even think of fuckin' with me." She was forever telling the kids, "Honey, we're unique!" She rebelled against everything her parents told her she should do whether it was the way she wore her hair or the way she dressed. She wanted to be different. She did not want to go to church or participate in normal family activities. She was convinced other women were evil and would stab you in the back given the chance.
Every Sunday, all the family members, aunts, uncles, and cousins, gathered at Air's parents' house for Sunday brunch. Air prayed her Mom would, for once, go into the parlor with all of her sisters and paint "purdy little roses" on thin, eggshell china plates. D. J. would have nothing to do with the useless activity. She would remark, "That ain't art! It's just wasted earth life time!"
Air's grandparents, Papaw and Mamaw, were the heads of one of the wealthiest and most prominent Texas families. They owned thousands of acres of cornfields and herds of Black Angus cattle. Papaw was a Mason and a very remote man, except when it came to any family decisions. Mamaw was always quiet, rarely uttering a word.
Sadly, the family had a big secret. Just as her hair was coming in black, D. J. had run off with her girlfriend to experience New Orleans for the weekend without permission. The very first night, she met a truck driver and fell in love with him and ended up getting herself "preggers."
Since Papaw and Mamaw's main concern was to keep the family's name from being "tainted," they told all their friends D. J. had been accepted into a famous fashion house in Paris and would study fashion design for three years. They told everyone D. J. had been preparing for this for quite a while and had the deep "feelin'" that she should pack and be prepared to fly to Paris in a moment's notice. In fact, they lied and said she'd actually already flown over to Paris and had even met an ambassador's son she was quite fond of. Mamaw thought this story would work and D. J. would be allowed back home after the child was two years old.
Meanwhile, Papaw and Mamaw made arrangements to send D. J. to live in New Orleans with Mitchell, the truck driver, in one of Papaw's trailer properties, which he owned all over the United States. Mamaw kept telling elaborate stories of how D. J. had met the man of her dreams in Europe. She'd update the community at church each Sunday. Mamaw and Papaw would act real proud, since D. J.'s new love was supposed to be from a prominent French family, and they'd hint about their suspicions of a weddin' in the plannin'.
In reality, Air's father held down two jobs. One was as a vegetable truck driver, and the other was making sure D. J. was always busy because "idle hands were the work of the devil." It was true. D. J. was always up to something that would make eyes roll, whether it was the way she was dressed or the forever coming response — "My God, D. J., what in hell is that?' — to her latest fashion "dee-zign." Did she, for example, realize her pink-stained white tennis shoes didn't have any shoelaces?
"Wh-elle, of course they don't; it's the latest style!"
When Air was born, she was given the name Airstream. Papaw had allowed Mitchell and D. J. to live in a deluxe Airstream trailer in New Orleans. D. J. thought the name Airstream was "u-nique" and would be a great name for their new baby girl. Mitchell just shook his head. He was becoming used to being told how things were going to be.
Finally, the time came for D. J., Mitchell, and Airstream to move "back to the States." They were given a very lush, overabundant, Texas-style homecoming party. Everyone who was anyone was invited, including relatives who lived out of state. Of course everyone came to see the son of a diplomat and the new baby. But if truth be known, they were all really there to see if D. J. still had jet-black hair and look to see the color of the little girl's hair and skin. Mamaw almost fainted with relief when she saw Airstream's strawberry blonde hair and big brown eyes.
"Oh! Praise the Lord; she's a beautiful little girl! Look, Pa — she sure looks like her mama did when she was a little girl, doesn't she? We'll all pray she will grow up to be a beautiful, rare brown-eyed, strawberry-blonde young woman of German descent!"
Everyone started crying and glared at D. J.
D. J. just smiled back with a slight smirk, holding Mitchell's arm tightly.
Little did D. J. know, Papaw had already arranged the little family's entire future. There in Texas, D. J. and Mitchell would be treated like they were Mamaw and Papaw's own Barbie and Ken dolls. D. J. would go crazy when, after the party, she'd learn that her father had bought a huge two-story brick home in a prominent neighborhood where they would live and two Cadillac's, one for each of them to drive; had picked out the private school Airstream would attend; and had provided all three with complete attire for every occasion they might need to attend. The house was fully furnished with the latest of furniture styles; a highly prized German shepherd; and, of course, two live-in maids.
And while Papaw had arranged the family's future, Mamaw had done some arranging of her own — of the past. The welcome party hadn't been going long when Mamaw started telling everybody her tale of how the child had gotten her name.
D. J. glared at her mother. "Oh now, Mama, let's keep some stories sacred. We don't have to tell 'em all our secrets."
Papaw jumped in. "Apparently, D. J. was always tickled pink how quick the flight from one country to another seemed to be. Mitchell always reminded her of the jet airstreams the plane could catch."
Mamaw beamed at the crowd and continued her storytelling. "As I'm sure y'all kin imagine, Mitchell owns his own plane. And that's all it took! They both decided that, with all the traveling they were doing, it would be appropriate to name their firstborn Airstream! Don't you think it's a lovely and unusual name? She'll grow up to be quite the unusual, extraordinary young lady, no doubt!"
Mamaw sighed. "Oh wh-elle," she added, "y'all kin see just how much Mitchell adores her. Lookie at the way he holds her around that tiny little waist of hers."
Throughout the party, Mamaw's gushing continued. "I think he has at least three castles!" she told anyone who would listen. "Apparently, it's a way of life over there in E-your-row-pee. I just can't imagine why they go to all that fuss. And his family just loves her. You should see the beautiful new E-your-row-pee gowns she now owns. And ever' one of them was designed just for her! There ain't another gown like each of them in the world."
Thank God I was only two years old when all those lies were being told, Air thought. She knew she would have said something to the contrary as Mamaw went on and on. I just wish to God Mother would quit repeating the stories to me over and over, word for word.
"Airstream! Airstream!" Her mother's voice cut into her reverie. "Did ya hear any of my new re-deck-er-atin' ideas? Where is your mind? And why aren'tcha eating? Ya just asked me a question, and when I gave ya my answer, ya just stared at your plate! Wh-elle? What d'ya think of my new project ideas?"
"I'm sorry, Mom. What were you saying you were going to do? I was thinking about my homework. I really have a lot of homework tonight. May I be excused from the table?" Air asked politely.
"Not just yet, young lady. I said I think it's 'bout time we did some re-deck-er-ate-in' around here! I want the living room to just flow on in the kitchen!"
"Oh yeah, I remember now. Mom, I think the house looks great just as it is."
"Wh-elle, I think if we continue this here Japanesey kitchen design on in ta the living room, it'd look be-u-t-ful!"
"Whatcha think, Daddy?" D. J. asked impatiently.
Air looked at her father and could see his loss for words. Air remembered last week when she'd come home from school to find D. J. had painted the kitchen ceiling bright tangerine and the walls a darker tangerine. She'd already had Daddy put up some black paneling, which ran from the floor up the wall about six feet. She had hung a black, ball-shaped Japanese lamp made of paper over the kitchen table. She loved the "panellin'" so much she made Daddy continue to "run it on into the living room."
"Wh-elle, I think the panellin' in the living room would look much purdier if we were to paint it green!"
"Green! There's nothing in there that would match green!"
"Wh-elle, not yet there ain't, but I got pa-lans for that room, honey."
She left the conversation at that. Daddy didn't comment one way or the other. He knew she was on a mission, and he didn't dare ask her what she had in mind.
"Wh-elle, I've decided that ta-mar-ra I'm gonna paint that panellin' in the living room green. I've already bought the paint!"
"I thought we'd already gone over this. There is nothing in there that would match green."
"Wh-elle, yes, there is; it just ain't in there yet."
"What do you mean it ain't in there yet?"
"Oh now, honey, I just wantcha ta do me a little favor. I wantcha ta build me a waterfall! I got it all pa-land out! I got these here designs right here. Would ya like to see 'em?"
"Waterfall! What kind of waterfall, Mom?" Air asked loudly and a little too defiantly.
"You watch your language, little lady! Yeap! We're gonna have us a waterfall! We kin pick up some see-ment and maybe some of them colored aquarium pebbles. I think I'll line the bottoms of each of the bowls with 'em."
"Each of the bowls? What do you mean each of the bowls, Mom?"
"Wh-elle, I've designed this here Japanesey waterfall that has these here three tiers that'll be full of water, and they're gonna flow from the top and end up in the bottom bowl and then go back up to the top and start all over. Oh! It's gonna be so u-nique! And I figger we could put the couch over there next to the winda and the stuffed owls and that ole turtle your granddaddy killed right next to the waterfall! What'd ya think? Oh honey! You kin figger out some way to make the water flow from one bowl to another, can'tcha, Mitchell? Just like a real waterfall in Yosemite, California?"
Air looked at her father as he sat there trying not to choke on his food. He didn't lift his head from his plate. She prayed he'd put his foot down, but he didn't.
Air again asked to be excused. She went straight to her room. She slammed the door and threw herself onto her bed. She looked around at the beautiful furniture her mamaw had chosen for her. Her canopy bed looked like a princess bed. It was fully draped from side to side with vintage handmade pink lace, and in some areas the lace was pulled back with stunning large satin bows. Her pink handmade silk quilt had belonged to her great grandmother. The family said she was the most beautiful creature most had ever seen. D. J. had a younger sister, Jacqueline, who was as gorgeous as her great grandmother.
Air remembered her aunt once taking her out shopping to buy her a birthday present. Men would stop her and tell her how beautiful she was. D. J. was jealous of her sister. D. J. knew her parents favored her sister and her children more than they did D. J. and her family. Airstream realized her mother was right about mamaw favoring Jacqueline. She watched as mamaw doted over her and her cousins. Jacqueline had her own seamstress and all her clothes were one of a kind. She never wore an outfit twice and made sure everyone knew she donated her clothes immediately after wearing them to the local charity.
Air looked down at the pink satin sheets that matched her quilt. It was truly a princess room Air could share with no one. She stared at her many beautiful handmade German dolls that had been special ordered from Germany. She wanted to be as beautiful as the dolls someday. Air had a photograph of her great grandmother next to the German dolls and thought she was the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. Her face looked just like the porcelain faces of all hand-painted doll's faces. They were dressed in silk brocade gowns with tiny red blossoms. The gowns had V-necks and the sleeves flowed out into wide bells. The gowns were replicas of gowns worn by German queens. They were breathtaking and extremely delicate. Air wasn't allowed to play with them but she daydreamed that when she grew up she would wear gowns like these and look as beautiful and elegant as her great grandmother did. She imagined she would be the most popular girl in town and sought after by all the boys.
Excerpted from Arrivals and Departures from Normal by Lana Jean Rose. Copyright © 2015 Lana Jean Rose. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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