Miss Pat sat

Miss Pat babysat my brother and I after our mom died. She sat in our recliner and watched Donahue and other daytime programs while my dad was at work. She sat on my brother’s water ring toss game and broke it, which made him sad and then angry. (Miss Pat’s sister, Donna, did the same thing to my water ring toss game a few days later.)

Miss Pat mostly sat but she also went upstairs every morning to make up the beds. This is when I turned the lock on the outside of my bedroom door (which tells you the kind of kid I was) and went downstairs to change the channel and watch Deputy Dawg in what I thought would be peace but was instead her beating loudly on the door and, later, my behind.

I always assumed I loved Miss Pat but see now I probably did not. I did not love her scratchy shift dresses, which resembled the kind of curtains you might see in a bank. I did not love the way she smelled like unwashed hair or how her glasses were so thick they made her eyes look tiny and far away. I did not love how she hogged the TV or blamed me once for eating an entire gallon of Neopolitan. Today I might surrender with a sheepish guilty as charged and outstretched palms, but back then I was maybe four-years old.

Miss Pat was married to Mr. Bill. In my memory, he looks like Bert from Sesame Street. Bert’s the tall, skinny one in case you get confused like me. Mr. Bill was tall and skinny with a uni-brow and not much hair on top. Miss Pat was short and fat with stick-up black hair and, come to think of it, even a cheerful, funny laugh like Ernie. Instead of pigeons, Mr. Bill loved sweet tea which Miss Pat made up in jugs and kept in our avocado green refrigerator with the Mr. Yuk sticker on the door. I remember Mr. Bill carrying a metal lunch pail at all times, though this is probably a false memory.

Pat and Bill were childless and lived in a cinderblock apartment building in town. We visited once and I remember endless rooms with strange children and toys and the overwhelming smell of cat piss, which I had never smelled before. This might also be a false memory or fever dream. Pat’s sister Donna had a house outside town with crumbling front steps and a mug with a ceramic frog at the bottom that you didn’t know was there until you were halfway through your drink. Donna and Pat watched and snickered as those beady eyes scared and then thrilled me. It was an excellent prank.

My dad remarried. Miss Pat was let go. We moved hours away to another part of the state. One spring my grandmother looked up Miss Pat and we met her at the grand opening of a mall not far from where I used to live. I had my picture taken next to Sylvester the cat holding a bouquet of balloons. Miss Pat was not in the picture, but I don’t know where it is anyway. I never saw Miss Pat again. I forget how my dad found out she died from ovarian cancer a few years later. It made me sad to think about Mr. Bill missing her. Who would make his sweet tea?

Some things I did love about Miss Pat: she called me Kristy. She had a friend who told me thunder was the sound of angels bowling, even if I couldn’t quite picture my mom in angel wings and bowling shoes. Miss Pat didn’t get bent out of shape when I did things like stuff raisins in my favorite matchbox car and pretend one was the driver and the other his dog. When Miss Pat drove to the Pantry Pride and the bank, we both sat in the front with the windows rolled down, our sweaty thighs glued to vinyl seats and hair blowing free as the wind.

18 thoughts on “Miss Pat sat

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  1. I have read this twice, and love it. Raisins riding around in a matchbox car. Mr. Bill the Bert/Ernie man. “I remember Mr. Bill carrying a metal lunch pail at all times…” makes me smile, but also really captures the character of persistent childhood memories.

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      1. Mr. Bill sounds more cool than his wife. One of my grandmothers has always been hard of hearing, and she told me that they used to steer people who were deaf or hard of hearing, into plumbing or maintenance jobs.
        I went to school with a kid who always wore strong glasses, but was still very athletic and popular (I think prescription goggles for basketball). His eyes looked tiny, like Miss Pat’s, and the skin around them was very pale, so to me, his eyes behind the thick glass looked like they were living in an aquarium.
        I wonder if more details will surface in your memory, maybe overnight.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Bill wore thick glasses too. I remember him as a gentle giant. I want to say he worked for the electric company. Pat was significantly overweight so I can’t imagine her getting down on the floor to play games or otherwise keep up with two small kids. I believe she was reliable and generally agreeable. Donahue, on the other hand…that guy still rubs me the wrong way.

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  2. The thunder was the sounds angels bowling, I heard that as a child and really believed it! Thanks for that memory I thought my mom was the one who made that up!! Great snapshot of our childhood.

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  3. The first line is heartbreaking, so that I doubt Miss Pat ever had a chance, not that she did much to earn one!
    I loved the title and had images of a Dick and Jane illustrated version in my head as I read. Loved the description of Mr. Bill too.

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  4. Absolutely loving this memory vignette. I have so many, little snippets in time.
    The last line made me recall my own 6-year-old memories of riding in my mom’s Dodge Dart, windows down, no seat belts, just her arm coming over when we stopped short. Always a pleasure to read your stories:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are some very memorable descriptions of Miss Pat and Mr. Bill. Proof of the adage, “gone but not forgotten.” The effect we have on people, no matter how brief or passing, is truly incalculable. Really beautiful tribute to that, and to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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