Donna also casually mentioned that she was on a reality show on that aired on TLC in 2004, so of course I asked her to elaborate. If anyone feels like looking up archived episodes of a short-lived program called Help Wanted, Donna will be the one dumpster diving and car chasing to be a Private Investigator. She came in second! (Which is probably for the better since she would hardly have time to write if she was a P.I.)
When Things Went Sour
from Door to Door: A Memoir
By Donna Talarico
from Door to Door: A Memoir
By Donna Talarico
Dominic’s Pizza. Alpine Ski Shop. Matirko Hardware. My school. We were passing all the familiar scenery on Route 940, headed toward Mount Pocono. I was on my way to meet someone unfamiliar.
“You're gonna like him,” my mom said, ashing out the window of her Camaro. The car she wanted everyone to know she drove because she had a personalized license plate that said “LORI-60”.
“Is he more like Gary or Dad?” I asked. She had met a new guy. He was a new regular at Woody’s, a painter who’d come into the bar after work. My mom thought it was cute that, sometimes, he'd have a little paint in his hair.
“I don't know. Gary I guess,” she said, turning the radio dial to find a station not playing a commercial.
Just when I went to open my mouth to ask more questions, the thought was replaced with “We Built This City” by Starship.
“Do it, ma!” I begged.
Mom beeped the horn in sync with the synthesizer at just the right part of the chorus. We built this city... beep beep! She did that all the time and my friends and I thought it was the best.
Joe lived in a private development, Pocono Country Place, just like almost everyone in the Poconos. Jasmine lived in Emerald Lakes, Cori in Arrowhead Lakes, Grandmom and Theresa in Briar Crest Woods. I was one of only a few people I knew who lived along the rural main roads without the amenities of a private pool or lake or clubhouse. Joe didn't have his own house, though; he lived with his married friends, Carol and Tom.
The smell of sauerkraut greeted us when we walked into the small ranch home. I would have squeezed my nose shut as some swimmers do when they dive, but that would have been rude. I liked sauerkraut and all, but I hated how sour it smelled. Mom introduced me to Carol and Tom first. Carol was in the kitchen making dinner: a big pot of pork and, of course, sauerkraut. That looked OK, but I was happy to see another pot filled my favorite food in the world, mashed potatoes. I wondered if Mom had told Joe how much I liked mashed potatoes or if it was just a coincidence. Either way, I knew Carol’s couldn't possibly be as tasty as my mom's famous, creamy mashed potatoes with gobs of butter and the right amount of salt and pepper. I was hoping dinner would start soon, as I pictured a yellow waterfall pouring down a white hill of potatoes. Although I wanted to keep an eye on the potatoes, to avoid being asked to help set the table, I sat down on the couch with Tom.
“Oh, hi Lori,” I soon heard a man say. I turned around and saw him enter the kitchen. He planted a kiss my mom’s cheek. “Where's your little girl?”
As they headed toward me, I inspected this new man. He had a very large Adam’s apple poking from his neck. He was about my mom's height, stocky with brown, fluffy, feathered hair, kind of like Mom’s. He wore blue jeans and a tight white t-shirt and white high-top Reeboks. Also like Mom.
When she introduced me to Joe, he handed me a bag of Starburst candy. Not a pack, but a big, value bag with dozens of chewy candies inside. I was told to save them for after we ate. During dinner, I took three helpings of mashed potatoes, hid some fatty pieces of pork inside my napkin, and told Carol, Tom and Joe things my mom already knew about me, like how I wanted to be an actress (like Alyssa Milano) or a detective (like Nancy Drew) or maybe even a bartender (like Mom). They asked questions about school and I told them I liked English and social studies and that I had the preamble to the constitution memorized. I told them that, tomorrow, I had a spelling test and that I would probably get another hundred percent because I was one of the best spellers at Tobyhanna Elementary Center.
Joe seemed OK, even though he smoked like Mom. He made the adults laugh, so I laughed too, even though I didn’t understand what I was laughing at. After dinner and dishes, Tom and Carol went into their bedroom, while Mom, Joe, and I watched TV on the couch. I started to eat my Starbursts and pretended not to notice Joe stroking my mom’s leg. Soon, Mom and Joe disappeared into a bedroom to talk about adult stuff. I waited patiently with the bag of Starburst on my lap. I was getting bored, so I ate all the Starbursts, except the yellow. They were sour and made my eyes water and I didn't like them very much. An hour later, I was still waiting, so I ate all the yellow ones too. They still didn't come back, so I threw the empty bag on the coffee table, sprawled out on the couch and eventually fell asleep. No pillow. No blanket. Still in my clothes.
It took me a few moments to figure out where I was when I woke up in the morning. It smelled the same way, like coffee and smoke, but yet it wasn’t home. The TV was still on, Channel 16 news. I sat up and looked into the kitchen. Carol was drinking coffee. When I told her I had to go to school, she went down the hall to a room and woke up my mom; but, over her first cup of coffee, Mom reasoned it was too late to take me all the way back home to get ready for school in time. Joe came into the kitchen and said good morning to everyone. His hair was messy, not as fluffy and I felt differently about him this time.
“You eat all those Starbursts?” he asked, pouring coffee into a mug.
“Even the yellow ones,” I said.