Saint Peggy and The Ugly Sinner

By all accounts, my mother was a saint and we were her little angels; four cherubic boys who went to church every Sunday. As we grew older, it was uttered more than once by admiring neighbor ladies “Oh, how lucky any girl would be to marry one of them Dameron boys.” 

The Trifecta: Bowl cut, acne and braces
We rarely needed to be separated during church service by my mother for punching each other in the leg or making fun of the way the Irish lay reader, Mr. Kilmartin said “fil-um”, a.k.a. film.

“Are you going to the fil-um?” I’d whisper to my comatose brother John who would start laughing uncontrollably.  

This would start a chain reaction of punches; from my older brother Chuck to John’s arm. John would complete the circle by passing it right along to my leg. I’d jerk which would wake up my youngest brother Matt, dozing on my mother’s lap.  My mother would do her part by pinching us hard through our itchy Sunday jackets and stand up to separate the offenders.

It was this type of behavior that prevented us from ever having a repeat babysitter.  When bedtime came we would dutifully march upstairs. I’d immediately slip through the second story window, walk on the flat roof to the edge, hop down onto the window air conditioning unit, jump to the ground, sashay to the front door, ring the doorbell and run. My brothers would sneak down the steps and so would begin a human game of “Wack-a-mole.”

When my mother came home we’d sit at the top of the steps and listen in.

“How were they?” my mother would ask.

“Perfect angels,” the harried babysitter would reply, but we’d never see her again.

Then my mother hired Peggy.  Peggy was eighteen, overweight, with short black hair, always wore jean overalls and a flannel shirt.  She had a deep monotone voice and we understood in a child’s way, that there was something different about her. Certainly, she didn’t take any shit, but there was something more, though we never over analyzed it. 

First came fear and then came love.

Peggy had no desire to talk to boyfriends on the phone or mindlessly watch TV.  She took us to the Seven-Eleven and bought us Slurpies.  She would come to our house and for no reason at all drive us to Lake Brandt and teach us how to fly fish.  We’d sit in a row boat near the lake's edge under low hanging branches where kamikaze bugs dove into the water. She’d patiently show us how to cast our line into that spot and keep the fly moving, imitating a drowning bug.

Once, I noticed her sleeves were rolled up and there was a bouquet of raised red splotches on her forearm.

“What are those?” I asked.

“Cigarette burns,” She replied.

“Who did that to you?”

“I did it to myself, because I needed to feel something.”

It was that straight forward and I never questioned it.

Peggy stuck with us until we became teenagers.  She dropped by one last time when I was a sensitive and gangly fifteen year old with braces on my teeth, a nose that grew faster than my face and pock marked skin.

“You have a handsome face that one day you’ll grow into,” She told me.

Sometimes I’ll see a bug scrambling on the pool surface and think of Peggy.  I’ll gently scoop it out and wonder what became of her, though I fear I know.  She was able to see an angel in my ugly ways and burned a mark there for me to always remember.

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