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Bones and Garbage

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May. 16th, 2014 | 01:04 am

Bones and Garbage (by Darrick Patrick)

My mother was a trash digger.  She used to go through people's garbage and have me help her with it.  We would be out cruising, she'd see a pile of someone's rubbish, and the car would stop.  When I was a child in the 1980s, this was fairly embarrassing for me.  I remember kids from the neighborhood going past us in their family vehicles, pointing and laughing.  There would always be a good amount of teasing about it in the coming days at school.

Of course, unbeknownst to them, we didn't actually need to be shifting through trash.  My mom was always a creative person and used to incorporate items that she had found into a lot of the art pieces she put together.  It was really cool to see her transform something that was left to rot into artwork that she'd end up selling for decent money.  Usually she would sling them at a bar, restaurant, or a metal show.  Her quick way to have a bit of extra cash coming into her purse while she was out partying.

Other than stopping at those random heaps of junk on the side of the road, we also spent quite a bit of time at different trash dumps and drop-offs.  The place of excavation I remember going to the most with her in my younger days was in the back area of Union Cemetery in Northridge, Ohio.  Located within Dayton, this is the older cemetery that is on Wagner Ford Road across the street from the larger Willow View Cemetery.

There used to be a spot in the rear of Union Cemetery where people would drop off loads of trash.  Not the nasty types of household garbage, but more so the stuff that probably should have been taken to an incinerator or an antique dealer.  Just all sorts of weird things that weren't discarded elsewhere for some reason that would end up there.  Rita loved to pick through it all and load the car up with the strangest items she could find.

When going into the graveyard on our trash missions, we would pass the old Beardshear Chapel that is located on the property.  It always had a creepy vibe to me as a kid, reminding me of one of those grainy horror movies from the early '70s that was steep in religious terror.  This went hand in hand to me in my youthful mind with the stories of the witch's grave in Union Cemetery, which generally made my experience there with mom that much more interesting.

Being herself, my mother told me that we are related to the woman in the cemetery that everyone refers to as the "witch".  So, when the other kids at school tell stories about the witch, be sure to remember that she's your family.  Rita would tell me, "You can hear her bones out here sometimes.  Listen, boy."  I would, of course, keep an ear out for the sounds of skeletal spirit as I searched the trash piles.

Another spooky element that added to this particular site was Rita leaving out of there with dead animals in plastic bags.  Half of the time we showed up to the cemetery, there would be some sort of small carcasses laying around in the debris.  Mom used to take the dead home, boil out the pollutants, bleach the bones, and then use the pieces to construct different articles of jewelry.  She always had skulls and bone art around her various houses ever since I could remember.

She would also use bones that were from meat products bought at the store, or chicken bones from fast food joints.  The ones she acquired out amongst nature and trash though are the memorable pieces for me.  Shit like that kind of stuck out to me as a kid.

While on the subject of Rita and her trash, I remember when I brought it up to her again about how I was kind of embarrassed that she made me dig with her.  This was in 1992 or 1993, when I was around twelve years old.  We were living in the third ward of New Orleans and mom had made a habit of looking through all of our neighbor's stuff they threw out around the neighborhood.  I had a little girlfriend I recently landed around the block, and I didn't want her to see my mother scrounging through garbage.

Mom said she understood and that she wouldn't do it anymore.  Along comes the first time after that conversation that I'm on the porch with my new girlfriend.  I was out there spitting whatever flavor a 12-year-old can come up with, trying to look smooth in front of the young lady.  The front door opens and mom's head pops out.  "Darrick, you need have your girlfriend go on down the road or wherever she's going."

I tried to play off what Rita said and continued chatting it up with my girl.  Mom tells me again that I need to call it quits for the time being and tell my company to leave.  Without really thinking about it, I ask her "Why?!" in a defiantly teenage manner.

Rita snaps back, "Because the neighbors just tossed out a load of trash and you need to go drag it across the road for me.  Send that little girl's ass home.  Get across the fucking street, grab those bags, and see if you can find us something in there to eat tonight too."  Needless to say, I felt pretty humiliated at the time.  Fairly sure that was about the end of that girl being my girlfriend as well.

Mom had a funny sense of humor like that, especially if it had to do with me questioning her ways of going about things.  To be fair, I think I had done some stupid kid stuff on that day and that was part of my punishment.  She knew by that point a blow to my ego was worse to me than being grounded or getting physical discipline.

As for the trash shifting really, other than classmates badgering me about it, I actually had a fun time with mom.  It was cool to search around in piles of stuff and find things that my mother would like.  It was always neat to see her do what she did with what we found.


Older story involving my mother Rita Patrick (R.I.P.)

For the growing list: http://darrickpatrick.livejournal.com/120723.html


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