Work in Progress

As the brainy eldest daughter of a hard-working plumber and his cantankerous wife, my mother played well with the cards life dealt her. After WWII, Jeanette Floyd contracted rheumatic fever, an affliction that left her bedridden for most of her first year in elementary school. While her sisters Dianne and Nancy played outside their modest upstate New York home, mom taught herself to read and write—not an easy task for a waifish adolescent who tipped the scales at 38 pounds. My grandfather owned pipe wrenches that weighed more than his first daughter.

Sinks and toilets being what they were in the middle of the last century—specifically, heavy leaden tubs into which corpulent homeowners flushed gristle and maxi pads with alacrity—George Floyd eventually exhausted his professional prospects in Pearl River, New York. With dreams of condo crappers dancing in his head, Pop Pop, grandma and their their three daughters hopped in the family’s Bel Air and moved to the Sunshine State. For her younger sisters, the trip was one big pajama party on I-75. For my teen-aged mother, it was a nightmare.

Bradenton—the final resting place on grandpa’s continental journey—was 20 minutes west of a private men’s club in Rubonia, Florida. On a clear night, you could almost see the feiry glow of its burning cross in the night sky. If grandpa wanted to earn a good living as a plumber on Florida’s rapidly expanding Gulf Coast, he picked the right place to do it. As far as mom was concerned, Bradenton, Florida, and every redneck who lived there was full of shit.

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