Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nowhere America: Sweet Mariah May

Sweet Mariah May

 In this small town that I grew up in; this village, this small farming community tucked away deep in the middle of nowhere, my mom, my brothers and I, plus a family of five from Sri Lanka pretty much made up the entire minority population – enough to represent .0083 percent of the population if I calculated correctly.

 (On a side note, one of the boys from Sri Lanka was around our age and we hung out together quite a bit.  When he first arrived to our town he pronounced his name David as "Dah-veed"....It didn't take long for him change over to the pronunciation that the locals were accustomed to hearing.  Also he would proclaim “Ay let a fahrt..”  That soon gave way to the simplified “I farted.”  Anyway, I just found it amusing...)

 Mariah May, the only black person that I would meet and become friends with until after I graduated from high school (graduating class of thirty three) and first left this small town, pushed our minority representation up to .00917 percent of our tiny village's population.

(And while we are talking percentages I would wager that .00917 consumed .999 of all the rice in our small community....)

 I have no underlying reason for quantifying my minority status aside from just giving some further insight as to who I am......(Who am I talking too?  It's not like I'm going to seriously consider publishing this....I'm just doing this to keep Kenny off my back....Isn't that right, Kenny?)  With a few exceptions, I have never felt like a minority, and so, never gave my unique skin color a second thought.

I remember hearing stories of the Klan and saw the pictures of the Catholic ( --- hmm --- was it church or school?) that I have been told that they burned down.  But that story had it's origins at least a couple of generations before I was born so I don't feel comfortable either confirming or denying it ever took place.  The winners write the history books --- and you can't always trust history.

Anyhoo (no that's not a typo)  this place, for me, (personal adolescent self loathing aside) has always been and always will be really is a nice place to live…..I just had to crash and burn to figure that out.

 But anyway.....I'm veering off topic.

 Mariah May --- Sweet Mariah May --- was, in the opinion of a very young boy, quite possibly the nicest person on the face of the planet. 

 The nursing home that was just up the block from where I lived was a place that Mariah frequently visited. She had no relatives there -- she was just there to offer company to those who had none.

 Let's face it; a nursing home is the last stop in life. For many unfortunate individuals it's the loneliest, most isolated feeling they will ever experience. Not a fitting end, in my opinion.

However, there are those people that choose to reside in a nursing home of their own free will.  I actually knew a husband and wife that were very well off -- he owning a construction company -- that seemed perfectly content with living in the home.  For the life of me I couldn't ever figure out why.

 Sadly, there are those individuals that because of their medical condition have to be there it's not a simple matter of choice. Even sadder are those individuals who are there because heartless relatives didn't want to take the time to deal with a family member that they really wanted no part of.  Having worked in a nursing home for the first year after my high school graduation, I know from experience that this unfortunate reality happens a lot more than anyone is really willing to admit.

Don't believe me?  Show up on Christmas Day and see how many residence are still there --- alone.....

It's a crying shame.....There are a lot of great stories that could be shared in those homes; if only there was someone there to listen.

Mariah May WAS there --- for as many of these lonely people as she could make time for.  She never did anything extravagant; maybe (if possible) take them out to dinner or sit around the kitchen table and shoot the breeze. Or maybe she sat at their bedside and read the paper to them.

 To those confined to a bed or a wheel chair with nothing to do but look out the window, Mariah's simple gestures meant the world.  For the last days of their lives Mariah was their everything.

 Now that I sit back and think about it I don't recall ever seeing any of Mariah's family stopping in for a visit. (It's not like I was there all the time) So maybe the time she spent with her nursing home friends was every bit as meaningful to her as to those she made smile and help pass the time.

 But if she was lonely I was never aware of it.  Mariah was a kind old sole with a beautiful smile.  I can't remember if she had all of her teeth or just falsies but it didn't matter.  Her smile was as beautiful as the warm soul that resided inside her old body.

 Well.....Until she went to mow the trailer park that she owned.  Then she became the most dangerous weapon in the neighborhood. (Oh, sweet baby Jesus.....)

 The trailer park Mariah owned was just across the alley from the house I grew up in and where Kenny lives now.

 Whenever Mariah pulled into the trailer park with her little truck, towing her little trailer, hauling her little rusted red and white riding mower all the neighborhood kids, wide eyed and with accelerated heart beats, would scatter.

 Nothing tightened a sphincter faster than to hear some kid scream, “It's Mariah!!! Run!!!”  Suddenly, an entire neighborhood full of kids busted ass to get as far away as possible from the angelic danger that was lurking about in the trailer park. 

 The trailer park that Mariah mowed had little tiny yards, if you could even call those sparse patches that, around each trailer, with large patches of loose gravel in between.  Actually, I would say that only about a third of the trailer park was grass. The rest was rock.

 The problem was that Mariah would fire up her riding lawn mower, lower the deck, and keep it lowered the whole time she was mowing.  She would finish mowing a patch of grass and then ride across the gravel lot to the next patch of grass, launching whizzing projectiles all across the neighborhood.

 I had been hit in the leg and I believe Kenny caught a rock in the rib cage.  Thank goodness for Mariah this was long before the days of the sue happy mentality.  Every parent in the neighborhood just said, “What were you doing back there?  You know you're supposed to run when Mariah mows.”

 The logic, to this day, still escapes me...... I've seen my dad go apeshit at a baseball game when a base runner ran into his infielder as he tried to make a play on the ball.

"You gotta call that, blue!!!!" he scream, "You're gonna get one of my kids hurt!!!"

But a pointy, high velocity rock shot out by a riding mower blade?

"What are you thinking, boy?  Just go play in the front yard until she's done."

Ah.....Yeah.....I got nothin'.....

 My best guess is that perhaps there may have to been two trains of thought at work with this typical adult response:

1.  All the adults had their vehicles parked in a garage so they didn’t have to worry about dents and.....

2.  Mariah was such a nice person that no one had the heart to tell her that her motorized stone thrower was leaving bruises on their kids.

Of course you couldn't tell her anything while she was mowing anyway.  Once she put her head phones on she didn't hear a thing.

Looking back I can just imagine Mariah being completely lost oblivion; blissfully ignorant to the screaming chaos going on all about her as she sang along with Billie Holiday on her headphones.  (I have no idea if Mariah liked Billy Holiday.  I'm just guessing that she would have.....It's some really good music)

The closest building to Mariah's trailer park was an old tin shed in my backyard.  One afternoon as Mariah pulled into the park and all the kids scattered I decided that I wanted to know what it sounded like when Mariah's little riding mower launched a rock into the side of the shed.

 Well, allow me to be a little more specifice. I had heard rocks hit the shed from the outside on several occasions.  I wanted to know what it sounded like from the inside of the shed.

Since there was no electricity I left the door to the tin shed open so that I could have a little light.  Plus, with it being the middle of summer and the tin shed lacking for insulation, the open door offered just a little bit of relief from the stagnant and almost suffocating heat that I found myself sitting in.

The sweat rolled off of my forehead and rolled down my back -- my shirt was saturated. But I was determined to know what it sounded like inside the shed whan a Mariah rock pelted it's tin siding. 

I didn't have to wait long.

I involuntarily jumped when the first rock hit the shed......POP!!!!  I had no idea that a rock hitting off the shed could be that loud or that the rock could hit with that much force.  Soon, other sounds followed.  BAM!!!!  BANG!!!!! POP-a-POP-a-POP.....

Before the tin shed incident I had already had a healthy respect for the power of Mariah's tiny riding mower.  But I had no idea just how powerful, well, at least in the mind of a nine year old, Mariah’s mower was.

As soon as I felt I was safe I bolted out of the tin shed and ran into the house.  I didn't even bother taking the time to close the door to the shed....Screw it, I'll get it later. My new respect for the power of Mariah's mower was matched with a heightened sense of fear....I was in full flight mode as I ran for home.

Still -- paralyzing fear, bruises and all --- she remains in my fond memories as truly one of the nicest people I have ever met.

I wonder what ever happened the sweet Mariah May?  She was getting on in years when I was just a pup so I'm sure she's gone to see the Lord above by now. I'm guessing that she's probably having a grand time with her nursing home friends, drinking good coffee and eating wonderful dinners....

And I bet she has a brand new shiny riding lawn mower to mow her trailer park in the sky – a large lot with thick green grass and completely devoid of gravel.....