Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 54

A rare bit of good luck at the House of Musical Traditions in Berkeley Springs led them to find a farmhouse for rent just outside the rural artistic town. The West Virginia property was a hundred or so miles outside of Washington DC, just as Max had planned, and with the baby being born, everything was starting to fall into place. Although surrounded by beautiful hills, woodlands, and apple orchards, the house itself was in a dreadful state of disrepair. An old farmer and his wife had lived there for most of their sixty years of marriage until a sudden stroke rendered the woman comatose. While visiting his wife in the hospital, the husband had died of a sudden massive heart attack at her bedside, and she followed suit within forty-eight hours. Everything had been left in its place, assuming and awaiting their return, but they had simply never come back.

Under the kitchen sink, Alexis found a pink Depression glass bowl with open handles, circa 1930's, an ancient quilt in excellent condition, with soft gold and teal tassels, lovingly crafted by little old ladies in a circle, no doubt. With the peculiar and slightly creepy feeling of unexpected and untimely abandonment, there were still dishes in the sink in the old farmhouse, medicines in the bathroom cabinet, and the old woman's support hose on the towel rack behind the bathroom door. The water pipes under the house had burst in the previous winter's cold. The flue in the fireplace was blocked with debris. Thick layers of dirt and filth were everywhere among boxes of clothes that had never been removed by relatives. Huge pieces of sheetrock stood stacked against the living room wall for a remodeling job that had never come to pass. Cleaning the place was a Herculean task. For everything that needed to be done, four other things had to be done first. Max worked hard, and Alexis carried little Jordan in a front carrier so she could work using both hands. After a week's effort, quite unexpectedly, everything was finished. They walked out on the front porch as the sun was setting, sat down on the wooden swing, and looked at the long stretch of driveway leading to the bridge over the creek. All was still, except for the chirping of the crickets.

"Tomorrow I'll call the Philippines and order our wholesale heishi," said Max. "It's time to follow through."
Three months later the plans were in full swing. The Filipino shipment had been sizeable, and Alexis produced as many as twenty heishi chokers a day. Max found markets in the Georgetown area and was making runs to Washington, D.C. twice a week. Jordan was healthy and growing; already he weighed seventeen pounds. Max and Alexis made friends with other couples in the area, most of whom had tired of life in the city. Through the course of the summer, a half dozen couples developed a ritual of weekend get-togethers for potluck and volleyball.

But all was not peace and love at home. Once again their relationship seemed to be deteriorating. Throughout the summer and into the fall, Max began to bark at Alexis incessantly, complaining about the way she managed her household and the baby. If Jordan cried, Max expected his wife to continue taking action of some kind until the crying stopped, no matter what was required, even if it meant leaving the house so Max could get his sleep. As a new mother, Alexis had a mental list of things to try when the baby cried and wouldn't stop. Is he wet? Too hot? Too cold? Tired? Hungry? Teething? Restless? If he was still crying when she reached the bottom of the list, she'd start at the top again.

More than anything, Max was driven to provide, yet his whole focus seemed to be that of providing for his son's future, rather than for his family as a whole. He no longer treated Alexis as an integral part of the big picture; he acted as though she were nothing more than an assistant in the raising of his son. It got worse as he badgered her, and ran her ragged with physical and emotional demands.

Max was fanatical when it came to the subject of diapers. Alexis knew from other mothers that most babies went through perhaps twelve to fourteen diapers in twenty four hours. Yet because of Max, she used almost two dozen within the same time period. Other women used disposable; Max insisted on cotton. He insisted that they were not only cheaper, but also that his child must be surrounded by natural fabrics only. Not really cheaper, thought Alexis, I’m still the one who has to wash, dry, and fold them. Refusing to buy, or even accept as a gift, any article of clothing that contained any percentage of polyester, Max even argued with her over the use of waterproof plastic baby pants to cover the cotton diaper, until she convinced him there was absolutely no substitute.