Lacey watched the partially crusty, green-brown booger in Grandpa's nose play peek-a-boo with the rest of the dinner guests at the Gates thirteenth annual Fourth of July barbecue. Her mom whispered into the ear of the ninety three year old man and motioned for him to wipe his nose.
“What?” he said too loudly, her mom blushed.
“Oh for heaven's sake Paul,” Lacey's grandma said, “you have a booger hanging from the end of your nose.”
He wiped his hand across his face and the disgusting chunk of naturally occurring rubber cement rolled from the end of his nose and on to the back of his hand. The eating had stopped and the cringing had begun. It was a slow motion movie scene, everyone stared, with the exception of Uncle Dale who's eyes never left his plate. His fork scraping second rate china, the only sound in a room where the air seemed to be quickly disappearing.
Grandpa flicked his hand and the booger went airborne. There was a collaborative gasp, a cacophony of lamentations and two “grosses.” The booger soared to a majestic height of six feet above the table, seemingly suspended in mid air at the crest of its flight, spinning, stretching and eventually coming to rest on top of Aunt Mava's traditional barbecue delight, frog eye salad.
“Dear God Paul,” Lacey's grandma said bowing and shaking her head ashamedly.
“Daaadddyyyyy....don't you have a hanky,” her mom said, eyes glassy with welling tears.
“It scared me,” Lacey's grandpa said, "sorry.”
Mom grabbed the salad and hurried to the kitchen, and Lacey followed.
“This is why I didn't want to come to this freaking barbecue mom.”
“Lacey, not now,” she leaned, hands on the counter, head hung, hair in her face, trying to regain her composure.
“Our family is a bunch of back country, red neck hillbillies that never have anything to say or a new story to tell...a gaggle of retards.”
Lacey's mother snapped to, “You just watch your mouth young lady and get back in there. It's you they come to see you know.”
“Mom, if I hurried I could still make it to Heather's house in time to go to the....”
“Get back out there, now!”
Stiff legged and as sure as ever that she was adopted, Lacey returned to her spot at the dinner table, her mother hot on her heels. There was no way she was going to eat another bite after the booger incident, but it didn't seem to be stopping the gaggle from stuffing a weeks worth of calories into their pie holes in one sitting. She crossed her arm and stared nowhere in particular with a rather rotten scowl on her face. After all, her mother could make her stay, but she couldn't make her be happy. She decided she would stay this way for the rest of the night, or at least until desert, she had been eying the chocolate cake that her cousin Rose Marie had brought, and she new well, in this house ,that bitchiness wouldn't buy a slice.
“So Lacey,” Aunt Mava spoke, a false smile plastered across her chicken waddle jowls, “what have you been doing with you summer?”
All conversation had once again stopped, only this time all eyes were trained on Lacey. If ever there were a first time that a teenage girl grasped the concept of good and evil, the recognition of power, the immutable size of the brick wall of will possessed by each and every thirteen year old female, this was that day of reckoning for Lacey. She felt a warmth wash over her body, a vibration worked it's way from her toes to her cheeks, she tasted the syrupy sweetness of control and had the feeling that she would be feasting on it heavily for the rest of her life. She waited the awkward eternity before answering. Unfolding her arms, she drew in a deep breath, cocked her head at an angle as if in thought and began....
“I started my period last week.”
The gasps were more than audible this time, they were almost deafening, second only in volume to the sound of jaws hitting the table.
“Mom bought Kotex, but I think I would prefer OB, no environmentally unfriendly applicator to contend with once I to start using tampons instead of napkins. What do you use Auntie?”
Her pasted on girly smile still radiated just enough contempt to be detected by most of the women but none of the men at the table. Lacey's father turned to her mother, mortified, face frozen in shock.
“I thought you were going to have a little talk with her,” he spat through clenched teeth.
The tears were back, “I did, I did.....sort of. Well I didn't have time to explain....ohhhh jumping jelly beans Roger I forgot.”
“Lacey honey,” her fathers voice whiny and high pitched, “We just don't talk about things like that at the table.”
“I thought you told me that it was natural.”
Lacey's mother stood up and turned toward Lacey and glared. A smirk played at the corners of Lacey's mouth. She watched as her mother angrily stomped from the room. Slowly the utensils started to work again, surprised looks and quiet murmurings not so quick to fade. Lacey's mother returned with the chocolate cake and a small paper bag. She left the cake at one end of the table and told Lacey's father to start cutting and serving the cake to the guests. She worked her way to Lacey's end of the table with the paper bag, asked Rose Marie if she might sit next to her daughter and Rose Marie moved.
Lacey stared warily at her mother. Her mother had a look in her eye that Lacey didn't like or quite understand. The look was stern and angry but......in control, in an out of control way. For the second time that day Lacey had an epiphany concerning control and this time it didn't feel quite as warm and fuzzy.
“Well dear,” her mom said softly, “I can see you are so much an adult now and I am afraid that I have neglected my duties as a mother and have not given you all the things you need as a woman for making proper decisions..you know...the talk.”
Lacey's stomach started getting nervous. She started to open her mouth but her mother put her finger to her lips and shushed her.
“I figure that while we have them here, we could have the whole family get in on this learning moment, you know, give you some advice.....lessons from people who have been there, kind of a family hygiene night.” She stood up and dumped the contents of the bag on the table and out spilled tampons, various forms of contraception, a training bra and a handful of condoms.
“Would you like to go first Mava?” Aunt Mava couldn't speak, couldn't move. Lacey's face had gone from stark white to rubber ball red within a matter of seconds. Her lip began to quiver and now it was her turn for the tears.
Lacey's mom suddenly feeling guilty and regretting her choice in child rearing tactics, stood up and pulled a ten dollar bill from the pocket of her blouse. “Go.....be careful”. Lacey bolted from the table an disappeared. Her mother sat back and started to cry again, looked at her own mother and asked her what she was going to do with that child.
“Well you sure has hell embarrassed her....and all of us. Kinda like the time I caught you smoking and making out with the Smith kid in the barn. Made you smoke a whole pack at the dinner table that night. Maybe it wasn't right, but you didn't smoke no more after that.”
“That's all you can do”