Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll
My first impression of Rosemary Russell was that of a sweet grand-motherly type. She was a bespectacled, rotund lady with an engaging smile and tight curly gray hair. I later found out that it was a wig – the result of numerous chemo treatments, but at the time, she was just my new friend, Kelly’s, mom.
Kelly had offered me a ride home from school one day in ninth grade. When her parent’s car pulled up and I saw Rosemary, my initial thought was that she was Kelly’s grandmother – she was that much older than most of the mom’s I knew – certainly mine. But Kelly had been born when her mother was almost forty-three, ancient at that time, and had an older sister, Char, who was fifteen years her senior.
I was even more astonished when Kelly opened the driver’s door and told her mother to “move your sweet ass over so I can drive.” I waited in shock for Rosemary to morph into a gargoyle and swallow Kelly’s head, but she just smiled good-naturedly and slid over. As we cruised to my house, I listened in amazement as mother and daughter carried on a less than g-rated conversation, fraught with just about every four-letter word I had ever heard. Apparently, swearing was not an issue in the Russell household.
I am not a prude. I enjoy profanity as much as the next gal, but I was much more selective in choosing my audience. Hell, when I was eight, we even had a “swear swing,” that required the user, as they pumped to the highest heights, to change the words of popular tunes to reflect every four-letter word they knew (A few that spring to mind – “Raindrops Keep #&^*ing up My Head” and “Bridge Over *$#& ed up Water”).
But my parents were never big on “potty mouths” and swearing was frowned upon in our household, more as a rule of etiquette rather than a decree of morality. And it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I had the courage, as I was driving away in my VW Beetle, to yell out the window, “F$%# off!” to my angry parents.
What did bother Rosemary were drugs and alcohol. She was fervently opposed to any contraband and her rule was that none was to be allowed in her house. Now, I will vehemently deny that Kelly and I were involved in any alcohol or illegal substance activity, but I will give up the fact that my boyfriend, Dan was. He was a pot-smoker, and one night he left his pot pipe in the cushions of the couch after an all night party at Kelly’s that many of our friends had attended.
Kelly and I were working furiously to get the spilled candle wax out of the rug (place newspaper over the mess and use a hot iron on the paper – soaks the wax right up), when Dan knocked on the door. Rosemary, an RN, had just returned home from the night-shift at the hospital, and was relaxing on the couch with a cup of Earl Grey as she watched me and Kelly iron the carpet.
I knew what Dan had come for. The pipe was his favorite piece of paraphernalia and he wanted it back. The trick would be working around Rosemary’s imposing figure.
“Good Sunday morning, Dan. How’s your mother?” Rosemary smiled sweetly as she took a sip from her cup.
“Uh, she’s fine.” I could feel Dan’s eyes on me as he looked for support, but I kept my head down and focused on a particularly stubborn hunk of wax.
“You’re up early. Here to help with the carpet cleaning?”
“Um, no, but um, I think I left my . . . wallet, yeah, my wallet, here last night. Did anyone find it?” Again I felt Dan’s eye’s on my back. Again, I ignored him.
“Feel free to look around,” Rosemary offered. “What does it look like?”
“You know – just normal. Black I think.” Dan began to crawl around the room on his hands and knees peering under the sofa and behind the plant.
“Where do you think you left it?”
“I guess it could be anywhere,” Dan continued, as he lifted a pillow from a chair.
“Could it be in the sofa?” Rosemary said. “Could this be it!”
She dramatically reached in the folds of her nightgown and pulled out the pipe then triumphantly thrust it into the air. “Is this what you’re looking for? Is this your wallet, Dan?” She glared at him over her silver cat-eyes.
By this time, Kelly and I had sat back on our heels, absorbed in the cat and mouse game playing out in front of us.
He looked at me but I just shrugged my shoulders. I wasn’t about to get involved in this situation that would most certainly entail a protracted discussion on the evils of marijuana. He was on his own.
At that point, Dan must have decided that the best defense was a good offense. “That’s mine, Rosemary,” he said in the bravest voice he could muster.
“Not anymore, mister. You know how I feel about doing the pot. You broke my rules. It’s now my marijuana … smoking … thing …” She tucked the pipe in her ample bosom.
“But, Rosemary,” Dan protested. “That cost ten dollars. It’s my best pipe – I got it in Mexico.”
“I know dear. I’m sorry.” But she didn’t look sorry.
She waited patiently for a moment before Dan lost the stare down, then she closed the deal. “Dan, will you please give your mother my regards when you go home?”
Dan got the hint and left, mumbling under his breath, knowing that not only had he lost his best pipe, but that Rosemary had gotten the best of him.
“You girls need to finish up,” she said cheerily as she drained the last of her tea. “We need to have another little chat about the rules.”
We groaned, but knew we were getting off easily. There was so much more that she didn’t know. If she did, a lecture wouldn’t be the punishment.
After a drawn out fight, Rosemary Russell lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away when I was twenty-three. She always wanted us to remember the happy circumstances of her life, rather than the sad ones of her death. This is a Rosemary story that always cracks me up.