Idiot - Laura Clery


Oh, the Places I’ve Peed

I’m tall—six feet, to be exact. I’ve always been really tall for my age. Remember when Mary Poppins pulled that long-ass hat stand out of her Magic Bag? That’s what it was like when the doctors pulled me out of my mom’s vagina. With my full head of hair, I looked like a hat stand wearing a wig. Still do!

By the time I was fourteen, I had outgrown my twin-size bed. So naturally, I started sleeping on the living room couch. Which meant that sleep was soon replaced with infomercial watching. I’d wake up late every morning, my hat stand–body sprawled across the couch, surrounded by Post-its scribbled with 1-800 numbers and names of useless products: the after-party mess from my late-night infomercial benders. When my mom walked into the living room in the morning, I’d leap off the couch and accost her.

“MOM? Mom! We have to get the Hawaii Chair. We need it; you don’t understand—it’s only six easy payments of $19.99. You sit in it and it sways your butt around, and then you have abs in a MONTH. I saw the before and after! It’s real! Mom? Come back.”

I followed her into the kitchen and sat down on an insufferable regular chair. To give her the full picture, I swayed my hips on the chair. After watching her daughter grind awkwardly for a good five minutes, she said, “Laura, you’re just gonna sit on that thing for thirty minutes and then puke.” She didn’t get me the Hawaii Chair.

She never got me ANYTHING from infomercials. In spite of this deprivation, I did have a pretty happy childhood. I grew up in the most ideal suburb you could ever imagine: Downers Grove, Illinois—a working- /middle-class town twenty minutes outside Chicago.

Now you might be thinking, “Ha-ha! DOWNERS Grove? Is everyone on Xanax all the time?” If we’re gonna be realistic, then yeah, probably. Maybe that’s why everyone is so nice. It’s a chill suburb. All the children play out on the street, and the community is really close. I’m pretty sure we even got on a list of the “Top Ten Places to Raise Kids” in, like, 2006 or something. And almost nothing has changed since then. It’s a lovely place where you’re born and never leave.

Okay, that sounds more ominous than I mean. You never leave . . . in a good way! You don’t leave because it has everything you’d ever need! Take my parents, for example. They were both born a few minutes away in Oak Park, Illinois. They grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same high school. They had a love story straight from the movie Grease. My dad was a greaser, leather jacket and all. He was in a gang—well, a white, middle-class, high school gang. They just stole stuff, vandalized buildings, and smoked weed all the time. My mother, on the other hand, was a total prep. She was on the honor roll, a cheerleader, and had a reserved and sweet disposition. And when they were on opposite sides of town, they would both randomly break into the same song.

Okay, that last detail was a lie, but the rest is completely true.

They met at an April Fool’s party. My dad saw my mom from across the room and knew she was the one. He was sixteen and she was fifteen. That’s right, a decade and a half out of the womb and he knew she was the one. He asked her out again and again . . . and she repeatedly said no. In her defense, he had a girlfriend at the time.

When recounting the story, my dad jokingly complains, “She made me break up with my girlfriend!” He apparently did not want to. After he did, he and my mom started going out. And that was it. They married and had my eldest sister, Tracy; my middle sister, Colleen; and me, Laura. They settled in a home thirty minutes from the houses they grew up in.

Even though they upheld the local tradition of staying in the Chicagoland area, my parents were a bit of an anomaly in our pristine town. As just one example, in a suburb that embodied practicality, my dad bought my mother a Sebring convertible. This was in a city that has good weather for like . . . two weeks out of the year. Winters in Illinois are brutal and last forever, and my dad bought my mother a car