Title: Sharon van Ivan
Author: Sharon van Ivan
Publisher: Cygnet Press
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Juggle and Hide is award-winning writer Sharon van Ivan’s dizzying story of her unconventional, often harrowing, and sometimes hilarious life. With a childhood split between time with her alcoholic mother in Akron, Ohio and her gambling dad in Brooklyn, New York, as well as other challenging family members along the way, she was destined to find comfort on the edge and in the company of highly creative and self-destructive individuals.
Hers is a story of getting drunk and getting sober, of triumphs and failures in her work as an actor and screenwriter, and of exhilarating love affairs, including her twenty-year relationship with the renowned artist Charles Pfahl. The book is quirky and compelling, and engaging on many levels. Sharon takes the reader on a roller coaster ride into the depths of personal tragedy with unexpected outcomes.
I cannot remember a time when I was not my mother’s keeper.
I stare at the back of my mother’s head. I sit on her bed. I look over her shoulder and see in the three-sided dressing table mirror that her face is slightly puffy from having her teeth pulled earlier in the day… all of them… and insisting the hack dentist fit the dentures over her raw gums.
“Reach in there and get me my lipstick.”
I dig around in her navy blue leather purse, find a shiny black tube and hold it out to her.
“Revlon. Persian Melon.”
When she reaches for it, I see how beautiful her nails are. Also, Persian Melon.
She slathers the orangish-red lipstick on, under and over her swollen lips and then smacks her lips together.
“You are damned lucky. You got your father’s lips. Get me a Kleenex.”
I hand one to her and she gently blots her puckered lips. I continue to gaze at the back of her head while she finishes putting on her going-out-tonight face.
“Get my shoes, and don’t ask which ones.”
A bit of rummaging in her overflowing closet and I find the new navy blue sling-back pumps she bought to match the dress she is wearing tonight.
She slips the shoes on, stands up and looks at herself for a long time in the distorting full-length mirror on the wall next to her closet.
”You’re beautiful, Mommy.”
“I make myself beautiful. See how everything matches: shoes, purse, dress, everything. Blue. Promise me you will never, never buy cheap makeup.”
And without looking at me, she hisses,
“Stop biting your nails or you won’t ever get a husband. Do I have any lipstick on my teeth?”
She bares her new false teeth in sort of a smile.
I shake my head. She looks like a movie star. I wish I had long curly auburn hair and creamy white skin. My hair is straight and dirty blonde like my father’s.
On the way to the front door, she reminds me to not ask her again what time she will come home.
“I lost my keys. You’ll have to let me in.”
Then she is gone.
The sweet smell of Arpege cologne or toilet water or perfume—it annoys her that I never knew which is which— is all that is left of her.
I clean up her getting-ready--to-go-out mess.
Afterward I go to bed fully clothed not knowing whom she might bring home or whether I will even hear her when she bangs on the door. I pray aloud to someone—to anyone—to keep her safe.
At three a.m., I walk the two long blocks to Pete’s.
I stand outside for a few minutes beneath the neon sign flashing “Pete’s View Lunch.” There is no view. There is no window. And I don’t think they serve lunch.
The door is propped open with an old brown wooden chair. Taking a deep breath and walking into the crowded bar, with the sickening smell of stale beer, cigarettes and misplaced rage all around me, I search for Pete.
Pete spots me right away.
Pete has no teeth. Not even one.
“Looking for Mommy?”
He winks at me and points with his middle finger toward the back. I want to ask him why he has no index fingers, but my mind is on finding my mother.
I push my way through the drunks to the back of the dark narrow room to the bathroom.
I open the door and there she is lying face down on the filthy floor, near the once white toilet.
She has on one navy-blue shoe, but her purse is gone. I roll her over with some difficulty and see that the Persian Melon is all but gone, too.
I wet my hands in the disgusting sink and splash cold water on her face.
“What the hell are you doing here, you goddamn little spy? Always watching me.”
In an attempt to sit up, she bangs her head on the empty toilet paper holder.
Pete knocks on the door.
“You girls decent?”
He sticks his head in and holds the door open.
“She was in rare form tonight. Caused a real stink with Carney Wells and Crazy Marie.”
“Come on. Mommy, let’s go home.”
“Leave me alone. What are you doing here anyway?”
Then she sees Pete.
“Pete, honey, get me a Seven and Seven.”
Pete looks at me and winks again.
“You’ve had your last drink for tonight. I called you and your kid a cab.”
Pete and I pull, push, and shove her into the yellow City Cab. He gives the driver our address on Jewett Street and a couple of dollars.
“Thank you, Pete.”
He leans into the cab and gives me a sloppy wet kiss.
On the way home, my mother puts her head in my lap and curses me over and over again for ruining her night, her life.
At our place, I ask the driver to please help me get my mother inside. He is a nice guy. He helps me.
Once inside, she wrenches herself away from us and stumbles and lands on the couch.
The cab driver looks at me like I’m a sideshow freak.
“What are you about six years old?”
I quickly lock the door after he leaves.
Then I hear my baby brother cry out from his crib in my bedroom.
“It’s okay, Bobby. Go to sleep now. Mommy’s home. Mommy’s home.”