The workshift-over night-into the morning-until 11:24 am-just shy of noon, internal debate I had about whether or not I could reveal this, whether or not I wanted to display this in an essay, was exhausting. How controversial this subject is, how taboo it can be, for me to announce it in such a way, as a title, like a slap in the face, saying, “Yes, I am!” Even with the new laws in Massachusetts, legalizing marijuana, there seems to be a hesitance in the air a midst myself and fellow potheads to come out of the closet. It feels like a trap in a sense, as if the government is going to renege on the law as soon as I submit this essay.
My active imagination conjures up a scene in which the monopoly man bursts into the classroom screaming, “Just kidding, GO STRAIGHT TO JAIL, do not pass go, do not collect $200…”.
But wait, I don’t look or act like the typical pothead; most hear that word as a description of a particular “type” of person. Most picture Willie Nelson look alikes, squinty and glazed eyed boys, “like totally spacey”, hippies, or a bunch of kids with their beanies hanging low eating Doritos. No one pictures: Me…- the mother of three kids, step mom of two older children (from my first marriage), fourteen years of accounting experience (BORING), twice married-one time divorced, obedient, over worked, and now- college student, 33 year old- Reshawna. I dress and look like an everyday mom.
But really... I am. I smoke the cheeba, I buy heffers and zippers, sometimes I front and depending on my mood I may get an indica or a sativa, but I don’t go for very long without. In fact, the majority of my adult family smokes, my brother- the chef, my sister- the very articulate double major college student, my mother- the former comedian and retired restaurant manager; along with a slew of uncles, cousins, aunt’s and my other uncles-brothers-cousins-goldfish.... I have smoked with people who live in a gated community so yaknow they are “well off”, and another who has a vacation home, in addition to 2 other homes, and not sure what he does but he’s fucking smart and knows his shit, and… I could go on for quite some time but for the sake of making this an essay and not a list of pot smokers and their credentials, I will go on with my point; you can probably say, smoking was like a rite of passage in our family, while most parents take their kids out for their first drinks at 21, our mom smoked a joint with us. Our mom didn’t handle her booze very well…
“Let’s ride the choochoo!” she slurs after three wine coolers when I was a preteen, the one time I can remember her ever drinking… ever.
But she smoked and still smokes weed like a champ. She smoked it for as long as I can remember, and in the beginning she was just a pothead but around the time my little sister was born it had taken on a medicinal purpose. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This was about 17 years ago… with the ailments that come with this; mom spent most of her time, in her room, propped up on the right side of her king size bed, with her (weed) can, and cup of McDonald’s Sweet Tea on the nightstand. (I swear she has stock in it because she doesn’t drink anything else but this and a cup of coffee in the morning.)
Most people in this predicament would be very lonely, maybe worse… most would only be visited by family and close friends but not my mom. Not Miss Nancy. My mom, you see, she’s a people person, she’s a comedian, for real.
When we are all together, the story telling can go on for hours as we smoke and reflect. We gossip and make jokes, movie references are thrown in when appropriate, sometimes we rehash stories and sometimes we debate about other topics brought up. We take each others phones and eat mom’s snacks out of her stash can as she slaps our hands and gives me the death glare when I always snag the last oatmeal crème pie. We are all adults, we work hard during the day, and we are unwinding, bonding, sharing like any other family would over dinner, wine, or beer.
There have been times when I’ve walked into my mom’s bedroom, which served as the unannounced meeting place for entertainment in our social circle; in which there are so many people that there is nowhere to sit or stand; and there’s my mom with her tin in lap, orating a story to the audience, bursts of laughter and side conversations would erupt and there would be a cloud formed as various forms of smoking apparatuses are passed from hand to hand. Everyone in the room will be smiling, comfortable, like the cloud of smoke was silencing the nagging voices of daily living and sheltering us from the judgmental eye.
A few nights before I decided to “come clean” about being a pothead, and well, rather frankly, ratting my family out. I was having one of those days, you know, the willsomeone-just-shoot-me-days!…
I was fuming after I talked with my 12-year-old son’s ELA teacher for what seemed like the millionth time this year, saying that I am so sorry… again. This time because he ripped up last night’s homework in your face and he wrote fuck you on his test… and flipped you off as he left the class… are you sure that he was the one who threw a snow ball at your car as you drove by his bus stop?… No, I am sorry I cannot stand at the bus stop with him, he’s old enough… and I completely agree that he will serve the umpteenth detention but truly, honestly, he’s a good kid, he is just having issues with his dad, yaknow it’s the Monday after visitation… then call his therapist asking for a sooner appointment but, according to her observations, he’s a well-adjusted kid and no further appointments are necessary. I am dumbfounded; I am at a loss. With my head spinning and my blood pressure on high, I call my husband at work just to hear his soothing voice. He has a cool demeanor as usual, tells me everything will be ok, we’ll get through this. He’s right.
My cell phone rings again and I say goodbye to my husband who has, up to this point, stopped the heaving of the emotional roller coaster but it’s the elementary school…
“Yes, Mrs. Maine, can you pick up your daughter? She has a stomach ache?” says the nurse.
“Um, yes… er, be right there.” I pick her up to see that she’s not ill but rather crying and hugs me while I rub her head in the car and she sobs to me about that new girl in her class who keeps picking on her calling her names, like fat and stupid, but her pleas fell upon deaf ears so she went to the nurse and lied.
“Are you mad mommy?”
“No, Baby, not at all.” This is not the first time, I call and leave yet another message for her teacher asking if she can please talk with this other child, remove her from my child’s hearing distance, anything! Stop letting her pick on my kid, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! FUCKING DO SOMETHING!
Later that evening, after my six month old spits up on me, I’m not even sure if that’s new or old spit up, honestly, and when did she get me on the shoulder? I eat my dinner cold, and every ounce of me is spent, I call my mom.
“Mommy…” she hears it in my voice as soon as she picks up.
“Come over, my Lil Ramy, you’re not superwoman, I’ll roll a joint and rub your head.” These are my favorite words. I mean, there are some great lines she says, but this one is for me and only me.
I kiss my kids, goodnight. I beg my son to try harder at behaving tomorrow because I know how intelligent he is, and so shouldn’t his teachers, I mean the kid was walking at 9 months and talking full sentences before his first birthday, he even taught himself to ride a bike at 4 and ever since, he’s been building bikes out of scraps (my front porch resembles a bike shop). I have fed, diapered, bathed and finally put my 6-month-old to sleep, I listened to my 7 year old daughter read me the teddy bear book and brushed her teeth, I video chatted with my 20 year old stepdaughter and her daughter (I refuse to accept the title that implies), and text my other step daughter who is 18 years old, telling her that I poisoned her apple, why is she still alive? And that I miss her terribly.
I kiss my husband, who understands my peril, and head out the door to my mom’s.
As I enter her bedroom, I can feel the heaviness of the day on my shoulders, I feel a swift breeze whiz past me in the doorway. It smells of cinnamon incense, and a vision of a transparent face smiles at me.
“Hey guurl,” Krystal swoops past me, swinging her hips atop her six-inch thigh high boots, jeans, and silky tank top, she turns towards my mom beaming at her, “Oh, miss Nancy, how doya like dese?” As she puts her hands on her hips and cocks her leg just right so my mom can get a good profile of the boots…
I look at my mom and I see her not as she is today but as she was 17 years ago and my brother’s ex, is sitting angled behind her, carefully brushing and braiding her hair, smiling gaily. Danny, in his oversized jersey and joker hat, is laughing at something my mom said while leaning against the wall next to her nightstand.
But Danny’s been dead for years… killed by a drunk driver after he disregarded our pleas to stay that one night.
There’s the redhead PCA sprawled at the foot of the bed, hand splayed over her head in a dramatic display of playful suffering.
“Oh, Miss Nancy, oh how difficult it is to be your PCA.” Mom wide-mouthed laughed at her theatrics and pitch-blacked haired, Raven bellows loudly from by the dresser. Visions of people from the past and present are filling every corner of the room, and everyone is laughing. My mom is the only constant in the vision, laughing and talking and holding court. Telling various stories, and laughter fills the air…
I am startled from my vision, from the memories that seemed to intertwine and mingle as one in this room.
“Are you ok?” Mom has her can positioned in front of her, she has a half-rolled joint in her hand and she is looking at me quizzically. She looks a lot older than the vision, her long brown hair is a little matted from her pillow, she has a band-aid on her chin to cover one of the various sores that have developed as one of the many side effects of the various drugs prescribed to her. I really can’t fathom how radioactive Chinese hamster ovary cells being injected into her leg once a week can help anything but that’s modern medicine for you. No? Really. It’s called Interferon Beta-1A, look it up. The long scar on her throat is paler than the rest of her skin, and her eyes aren’t as bright as they once were, even though they still sparkle at times.
“If only this bed could talk, right?” She says, knowing that past ghosts had halted my presence in reality.
I sit in front of her and start to cry, I tell her about everything, from sun up to sun down and she hurries in rolling the joint. She lights it up as I continue to curse and babble, she interjects from time to time, trying to render some advice. She moves the can under her nightstand and instinctively, I lay my head in her lap. She runs her fingers through my hair and I keep talking until I feel I can’t say anymore.
We sit like that for a long while, her rubbing my head and my quiet breathing as it all melts out of me and I let go. I remember my visions when I first walked in her room. I look up at my mom surprised that her eyes were floating.
“You know there have been so many asses that have sat on this bed…” she states trying to lighten up the sting in the air. And we both giggle, “sometimes, I feel them at night, I’ll feel their butts on my bed.”
We talk for a while longer about some of them. How we wish Danny never left that night, if only he stayed, he’d still be here. He was one of the great ones taken too soon, how tragic and terrible it was to hear the simultaneous shatter of so many hearts while my mom kept screaming from her position upon her bed, “What do you MEAN???!!! HE’s gone, he’s coming back later…” and her voice break as she accepts that this kid she grew to love as her own was definitely not coming back later.
Maybe my brother’s ex, Jessica, if only she didn’t fall into the grips of heroin, maybe she would still be methodically brushing and braiding my mom’s hair. She was such a great person to be with; she was my ride and die. We spent many hours on my whimsical ideas of adventure and wasn’t her first natural high great enough? The one that I provided when I pulled an illegal U-turn on the Rhode Island highway to see the mansions. What a funny look she had on her face at that moment, I didn’t think she was gonna breathe. The thought made me belly laugh ending with a resounding sigh of disappointment of the knowledge that those days are over. We talked about everyone who popped up, Raven who had a massive crush on my brother, the red-head PCA (what was her name?), and even the brothers who I only knew as Sneaky and Lurky solely on their appearance.
Nowadays, it’s mostly just us; mom, my stepdad, my sister, and older brother. But the banter is always spirit lifting.
Potheads aren’t what you picture, like many who don’t conform to a preconstructed stereotype; we are your neighbors, relatives, and coworkers. We are like everyone else looking to relax and unwind at the end of the day. I would consider myself a responsible pothead, like there are responsible drinkers, to take the edge off at the end of the day... to take away the sting of the double-edge sword of life. A lot of times when the day is at an end, and I’m no longer mom, student, worker, step mom- I crawl in bed next to my husband and command my brain to shut off as the smoke fogs out the nagging voices, and helps my body relax but sometimes I need more than that. It’s these times that I go to my mom’s, where I can be with family and friends, or just be with my mom. It’s like when you step into her room you step out of the skin of a proper life and into a mending pot.