I wasn’t a graceful kid. In fact, Mama rather sarcastically called me “Grace” until well after I entered high school. I had quite the complex for a number of years, and then suddenly, I didn’t anymore. Maybe it was because I watched someone move who truly looked like they shouldn’t and figured I couldn’t possibly do any worse. Or maybe I saw a heavy person dancing and thought they looked great; if they could Continue reading “When we dance”
In my first semester at my out-of-state university, I had an English Literature teacher who was probably five or six years younger than I. I wasn’t particularly bothered by this. At the university level, it’s a fair bet that whoever is teaching the class has had enough education to choke a horse; the woman was more educated than I ever had any intention of being. I liked her quite a lot, Continue reading “Inheritance”
Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, and I’ll tell you the truth: sometimes, it really pisses me off that I’m the kind of person who can’t refrain from remembering shit like that. Not that I hate the man, because really, I don’t. There’s just sort of a void in the place where he should be. Like…you know how people are always talking about the father-daughter bond? Well, if it weren’t for my husband’s relationship with his Continue reading “It’s the four-time-supplier-of-genetic-material’s birthday tomorrow.”
Mama used to say that if only she would’ve had someone to help her pull her wagon, things would’ve been a lot easier for all of us. She meant another adult, of course, but what she got was a couple of kids. We weren’t very good pullers, my oldest brother and I, but our hearts were in the right place. We tried.
Since I starting “dating” my sweet husband in 2015, I’ve thought a lot about that “pulling the wagon” image of Mama’s. It’s apt, actually. Those little red wagons aren’t at all easy to pull, particularly if the terrain is rough or if you get it too heavily loaded. When we were growing up, there were very few patches of smooth ground. And there were four of us, so the wagon’s burden was never light. Some of us fell out sometimes. We got hurt or lost or both.
When Hubby and I got together, his wagon had been stuck in the mud for so long that he’d given up trying to move it. The kids had taken it over and made a useless mess of it; it was no longer fit to move anything anywhere or to keep anyone out of harm’s way. Indeed, they all had cuts and scrapes from the wagon’s rusty edges, and we worried (and still worry) about infections that never fully go away, that could be life-threatening.
My husband is a hard worker and he brings home a decent paycheck. He is also a wonderful man with a huge heart, and for several years before I arrived on the scene, he was dad, mom, and sole breadwinner for his three children. Unfortunately, it was just him trying to do all those things (aside from occasional help from his visiting mom). Like Mama, he needed serious, permanent help to pull his wagon, and the oldest boy (no matter how good his intentions) wasn’t getting the job done.
When I talk to Hubby about that time, he says there was no opportunity for anything except triage, trying desperately to prioritize on the fly and decide who most needed help. I can’t imagine how horrific it must’ve been for him to see all his babies in trouble and to only be able to offer temporary help to the one who was bleeding out the fastest. I’m sure his persistent worrying (over a situation he had no power to fix) is to blame for most of his current wrinkles and health problems.
I knew my husband for 25 years before we ever got together, and I think every day about how much different both of our lives would’ve been if it hadn’t taken so long, if we both hadn’t taken so much damage beforehand. I came in to our relationship with a feeling of worthlessness that was directly tied to how much money I was making. He came in with the persistent and nagging feeling that he was solely responsible for getting these three little people he’d made into adulthood alive.
I’ve said it before, but I think I was born to be a mother. As soon as I walked through the door, I started trying to make a safe home for these kids that I really didn’t know at all except through occasional pictures and stories my sister (in-law) told. At the beginning, hubby gave me $400 a week to buy groceries and the stuff the kids needed. They had to come to me with their requests instead of to their dad. I cleaned, went grocery shopping, cooked actual food, and enforced a go-home time for the oldest’s friends. (Hubby was working midnights, and five days a week, I had to make sure nobody ended up injured, traumatized or dead.) I bought clothes and school supplies, toiletries and tampons. I discouraged Hamburger Helper and fast food wherever possible because none of them needed to continue to live that way now that I was there. Hubby seemed to drop 50 pounds overnight.
My very presence was enough to ensure that within a few months, the kids had new beds and we lived in a nicer house in a better neighborhood. There was also a new school for the youngest two (the oldest moved away when he hit 18) and car insurance for my husband, who hadn’t been able to round up the extra money to start it while he was busy putting out fires. This fall he’s going back to school to pursue a dream and to work toward getting the hell out of the factory.
The point of all this is, the experience of marrying my sweet husband and becoming step-mom to these awesome (if occasionally irksome) kids has shown me once and for all what it truly means to be and to have a partner, how it feels to help someone pull their wagon and to know that they are there to help you pull yours, and how sometimes you can help without bringing a single dime of your own to the table. I would never have guessed. Seriously. That was not at all the lesson I’d spent the preceding years of my adulthood learning.
Even more than a year later, it still blows me away when my husband (or my mom or my sister) points out all the ways that the lives of these three people have changed and improved in the time I’ve known them. I say “I didn’t do anything. I just showed up.”
My husband says “Baby. I love you. You’re so silly.”
*Inspired by The Daily Post prompt Partner.
I was divorced from my first husband for 21 years before I hit the proverbial lottery and managed to get this one to say “I do.” I was young for that first marriage — awfully, painfully, irritatingly young. He was a nice guy — a decade older than me — but to this day, I cannot fathom how on earth I ever could’ve been immature enough to find him at all interesting. I’m also at a loss to explain why I didn’t listen to what my mother had to say on the subject, epic Wise Woman that she is. The only possible excuse I can muster is that he was pretty cute, and I was 20 years old. My brain wasn’t yet fully formed.
In the intervening years between the demise of my first marriage and the start of my second, I had occasion to see other relationships up close — both those that seemed built on bedrock and those that everyone in their right minds could see racing toward termination. I began to notice, of all things, the women’s wedding rings. Admittedly, it’s more than probable that the highly unscientific study that follows was based solely on my own short-lived and ill-advised first marriage; but it also seems to me that this is the way with all the real-life and common sense knowledge we acquire in our time on the planet, so I’m gonna go ahead and keep talking.
Anyway. I like shimmer and glitz and shine as much as the next girl, and I had even more appreciation for it as a 20-year-old. That first wedding ring was cookie-cutter, yellow gold, part of a 3 piece set. All of the pieces had diamonds, albeit only small ones. The existence of the diamonds in my ring(s) was (at the time) more important to me than their size. I was insistent on bling to such an extent that I didn’t even make a thing out of preferring white gold. I detest yellow gold. It looks horrible against my skin. But it was what everybody else had, and I was by God gonna keep up with the Joneses.
The good news is, when I got divorced a year later, it was no problem at all to pawn my rings. =)
What I began to notice in the years after my divorce was the frequency with which the blingy ringed people got divorced vs. the people who wore simple gold or silver bands. Also, the folks who had huge, massive-debt-incurring weddings vs. those who were married at a courthouse or in Grandpa’s barn. Seriously…I know there are exceptions to the rule here (I can think of at least a few of my own friends), but if you really look around, take stock, and ask questions, you’d be amazed at the extent to which this shit holds true. (Heh…I’ve also seen it where the couple did the big wedding and the blingy rings and then stayed together for 50 years when they absolutely should have gotten divorced ten minutes after they were married because staying together was obviously no good for anyone involved.) In any case, I saw it often enough that it changed my entire way of thinking about marriage and about weddings in general. I told anyone who would listen that if I ever got married again, it would be in a courthouse, and we’d both have simple wedding bands.
Mostly, that’s exactly what I did. We were married in a courthouse, and our families stood up with us. Hubby has a simple titanium band. I, however, ended up re-purposing my mom’s (very shimmery) wedding ring (which she’d had custom made into a dinner ring some years before). Hubby and I had it fitted with a new, thicker band and plated with white gold to cover the yellow. I adore the thing. It makes me happy every time I look at it, but not because of the diamonds. No…I love it because it’s one of a kind. It’s like nothing anyone else possesses or has ever seen.
Which coincidentally is exactly how I feel about my husband, my mom, and the family I married into. Even if it had no shimmer at all, it would still shine.
via WordPress Daily Prompt — Shimmer
I am from a tinny-sounding radio on the kitchen counter, a wooden porch swing that occasionally fell down on one end, and Matchbox cars and GI Joes playing with Barbie. I am from a hundred books before age thirteen, soda bottles exchanged for sno-cones, and going down to Farm Fresh for a bag of penny candy or some sour straws. I’m from Dr. Seuss and made up stories, from 4-actor plays and pageants performed on a dining-room chair stage for an appreciative audience of one.
I am from the dilapidated brown-shingled house that used to have porch railing, but gave it up about two years into the third boy, from wooden clothes racks and radiators used to dry clothes after the dryer quit. I am from windows left open at night and screened-in patios in the rain, from mother-hung drywall, partially kid-painted walls, and kicked-in front doors. I’m from the house with the 3-foot deep mudhole “fort” in the backyard, where the mama was better at “catch” than anyone else, where jumping in mud puddles was encouraged.
I am from the daffodils, peonies, irises, poppies, roses and petunias in my grandma’s yard, from the marigolds my Grampa Wendell stuck in my hair, from the purple flocks and tiger lilies that grew sparsely in our neighborhood and that N once tried to sell out of our little red wagon. I am from exotic flower loving stock, but I’m almost positive that the three generations of women in our family would identify themselves as wildflowers if asked. I am from people who grow where they’re planted.
I am from 3am Nintendo games, singing in the truck, and fist fights, from mayo and lettuce sandwiches and fierce loyalty. I am from a flattop Gibson guitar, a flute I buried in the backyard, and jitterbugging in the kitchen. I’m from Music as a Means of Survival, from strangely named psychotic cats and unnaturally smart dogs, from a mother who convinced us we could learn to swim in the water hose, and who made sure we looked better than everyone else on Halloween (even if our costumes were homemade). I am from the rusted-out swingset where we played while Mama hung clothes on the line. I am from Grandma, who taught me to love Tony Bennett and Andy Williams, and who freaked me out with her ability to sit with her legs around her neck at age seventy. I’m from Mama, who makes me laugh every time I talk to her, who always wants to “pick my brain” about something, who tries to show me how to exact Joy from the people around me and from the small every day moments that make up our lives.
I am from the Martins who have weak hearts, the Meltons who lived on religion and passion and very nearly starved to death, and the Hodgeses who have greasy hair, bad teeth, and drinking problems – the first two of which I didn’t manage to escape. But really, I am from the same strong line of “gypsy people” that spawned all the women back to my Grandma Faye, from folks who made their family where they found it and always had a sparkle in their eye.
I am from Sunday afternoon drives in the country and the illusion of getting away, from McDonalds french fries stuck between the cushions of the back seat and Dilly Bars when our ship came in. I am from homemade “bowl” haircuts, apple pies, and sugar cookies; from a mother who didn’t eat vegetables and a Grandma who did, and from a brother who learned to cook steak better than my dad ever could.
I am from “you’re a late bloomer” and “that boy’s got a nice package,” from “that’s…interesting” and “there is no reality, just perception.”
I am from “use your Presbyterian personality,” from “sing in my ear,” and “the hymnal’s too close, I can’t see it.” I am from a family who realized early that the pastor was a yutz; from, during-church note-passers and candy-eaters and squabble breaker-uppers. I am from faith that just is, and from understanding there is something more without needing to define it with doctrines, creeds, or any other follow-the-leader mentality.
I’m from small-town rural Illinois, from ice cream churned by hand on the front porch, from Mom’s macaroni and cheese and bag-boiled mixed vegetables, and from Grandma’s chicken noodles and broccoli.
I am from a woman who reunited with her runaway first husband fifty years later, and a woman who chased her husband down with a large green truck before she found Al-Anon. I am from Oletta and Gwyn, from Juli and Rachel, from Aunt Wuss, Aunt Millis, and Aunt Sylvia.
I am from a stack of unfinished baby albums, from a typed booklet full of the first gazillion wonderful things I said, from a few studio pictures and thousands of snapshots that were far better than they should’ve been given the limits of 110 cameras. I am from Peter, Paul, and Mary, from Simon & Garfunkel, from Judds songs and always singing harmony. I am from the family that always sang, no matter what. It echoes…and remains.
I am from a collection of strong women, from three brothers I love beyond reason, and…from me.
*The “I Am From…” thing made the online journal rounds several years ago; everybody I knew did it at least once. If you’d like to make your own, the template is here. If you do it, leave a link in the comments so I can see!
My mother can be truly tenacious. Many are the times in my life that I’ve been grateful to look behind or beside me and find her there. Always — even when I’ve disappointed her or done something utterly ridiculous — I know she’s there if I need her. She refers to herself as “a big dog”. Not all the time, but like: “I took your grandmother to her appointment today because the doctor wouldn’t answer her questions and she needed a Big Dog.”
Yesterday, I told her that, as a Leo (and the single defining force in our collective universe), she was to blame for all her children being “freaks of nature.” I say this kindly, and in the funniest way possible, but in actuality, I think there’s an element of truth to it. The five of us cannot gather anywhere without being the center of attention. She says “well honey, that’s just because we’re fascinatin!” And there’s truth in that. I’ve never met anyone else like us. We all naturally gravitate toward intellect, learning, and wit. Throw in my mother’s penchant toward creativity and strangeness (regardless of the situation), and well, you got yourself a buncha freaks. Smart freaks who talk about interesting things, but freaks nonetheless. In fact, I’ll bet there isn’t a one of us that wasn’t “different” before the age of three.
As an example, I give you J, my youngest brother. First, the basics: Like his sister, he learns about the things that he’s interested in quickly and is able to apply that knowledge. He’s good at his job and knows it well, he’s intuitive and knowledge-seeking, and he’s excellent at correctly judging situations and people. Now, the kicker: He’s a fucking freak. When I was home last, he did his traditional “humiliate Mama in the grocery store routine.” This has been an ongoing thing with them for years, but this was the first time I actually saw it play out firsthand.
My mother works with developmentally disabled adults. Years ago, when J was in junior high, her job had an in-service on “the proper treatment of blind people.” J just happened to be there that day; he’d gotten out of school early, so he was on the sidelines being uncharacteristically quiet and still, waiting on her to get off work. Now, the in-service was a serious thing. They were having it because their staff was often inconsiderate to the blind people in their care. They’d forget to tell them to step down or they’d steer them too close to objects in their path, and since the blind person’s hand is always on one shoulder or the other (and they’re always on one side or the other) they’d end up getting hurt. So, this in-service involved just the staff, leading each other around blindfolded, trying to learn how to be sensitive to the very existence of the people who were relying on them. J watched all this passively, silently. But somewhere in his little freak brain, he also integrated it. We saw hide nor hair of it for years. Then, some years later, it popped up in the grocery store.
The story goes, Mom was in a bad mood. Some bitch did something to her at work, and she was walking around with the “don’t fuck with the big dog” face. I hear it’s a Leo thing. Anyway. So J puts his hand on her shoulder. Now, we’re a somewhat affectionate family. I pat/pinch the boys’ asses being stupid, they put their arms around both me and mom when they think we need it. So Mama didn’t really notice the hand on her shoulder – not until she realized that she was garnering stares from everyone she and J passed in the aisles of the supermarket.
J was pretending to be blind. And so far, she’d walked him into a couple endcap displays and a wall of Coke products. He’d stumble for a moment, pat his way around, and walk with his hand out at the right level till he “found” her again. When she looked up and over her shoulder at him after she noticed people staring (J’s about 6’4), she saw that his eyes were sort of heavy-lidded, fixed on some invisible point ahead that never changed. He was doing the perfect imitation of a blind person. So, she punched him in the stomach (and this woman’s playful punches are NOT painless) and told him to stop it. And naturally (after he gave her a visual demonstration of what he’d been doing), she couldn’t stop laughing, which was J’s objective from the beginning.
Now, I had the privilege to see some of this when I was home last, though by now Mom has learned to immediately smack J’s hand off her shoulder when they’re in a public place. To compensate for this, J has adapted a vocal routine to go along with the physical. “Mom? Mom! Where are you? You’ve left me again. Has anyone seen my mom? Hi! (touching a stranger) I’m a blind person, can you help me find my mom?” And he’s standing stock-still in the middle of the aisle with his hand uselessly reaching into the air around him. Now, I don’t know who you think I am, but I do not have the ability to keep a straight face in the presence of The Funny. (My middle brother, T, has it, and I’m totally envious. It makes him a terrific joke-teller.) So I’m laughing my completely loud and distinctive laugh, Mama’s moving quickly down the aisle trying to pretend she doesn’t notice or know the blind person who’s very loudly asking for his mother, and T and N are shaking their heads and following her, chuckling to themselves. It takes me a moment to realize that I look a little cruel, standing five or six feet away from a blind person in a supermarket laughing my ass off. When I do, I walk up to J and put my arm around his significantly-higher waist and we walk off smiling to find Mama.
Normal people – nay, even just fascinating people – do not do these things. These are the actions of freaks. Once again, I use this term with all possible humor; I certainly wouldn’t have my family any other way.
ADDENDUM: I called Mom at work to read her this story, knowing she a) probably needed cheering and b) thinks I’m far too distant from my family nowadays and needs to know I’m still the same person. She said, and I quote: “Yes, but you’ve said nowhere that I’m actually a very nice person, small and petite of frame, and generally a delight to be around! You talk about the ‘big dog’ and people are going to think I’m a big woman. Why can’t you use the nickname you gave me? ‘Mamasita’ makes me sound so cute.” This, from a woman who yanked people from car windows when I was a child, and parked behind people who stole her parking place so they couldn’t leave in recent years. Naturally, I mentioned these behaviors, to which she said “well, what do normal people do when assholes steal their parking place?” I said, “we cuss, loudly, from the confines of our car.” She said, “well that’s not healthy. That’s bottling up your anger; it’s passive/aggressive behavior. You know I don’t believe in passive/aggressive behavior.”
This is exactly my point. I love my family, but freaks we are, and ever shall be.
This entry was originally posted in May 2005 when I was living 1650 miles away from home and missing my family. I’m reposting it today in honor of Mama’s birthday and her continuing role as Big Dog and Freak-in-Chief.
For quite a few years, there was no steady money coming into our house. When it finally arrived, we went for car rides and ate McDonald’s and Hardees for days on end. Mama didn’t like to cook and didn’t really know how. Plus, she didn’t have a thrifty bone in her body. She had no idea what to do with our occasional bursts of money; certainly, it never occurred to her to stock up on groceries or to prepay bills. But she liked to drive, and we all liked to ride. And it goes without saying that none of the four of us kids had a problem with the fast food diet.
At the times when we were a two-car family, Mama always named the car that was ours. Dad’s car didn’t get a name because we weren’t usually allowed to ride in it. On the rare occasions when we did, it wasn’t fun for any of us, so no one felt compelled to give the vehicle an affectionate nickname. Over the years we had a couple of Monte Carlos, a Pinto, a 9-seater station wagon (aptly named “the goat wagon”) that was a piece of crap before we ever got it, and an extremely ugly and extraordinarily loud green utility truck.
We were a musical family, and I don’t say that lightly. Every single day for all five of us, there was music. Mama played the guitar. We sang in the kitchen while we did dishes. We sang in church on Sundays. We sang on the front porch and didn’t care if the whole neighborhood looked on. We sang as we drove down the road on all of our many weekend drives out into the unexplored middle of nowhere in a fifty-mile radius around our small town. By the time I entered the fifth grade, I sang harmony better than any adult I knew, and my brothers (who at the time ranged in age from four to eight) had no problem picking a part — whether it was Mom’s or mine — and sticking to it. Music was our escape. No matter what bad luck or circumstance threw our way, no matter if we didn’t have heat or electricity or hot water or a decent dad, we always had each other and we always had music.
It was about this time — during the height of our music-filled days — that our old Monte Carlo drew its last breath and Mom (in a single afternoon of used car shopping) stumbled upon the vehicle that stayed in our family until I entered high school. I don’t know where she got it or what she paid for it, but my inclination is to say that it must have come from one of the union guys my dad knew. I can’t imagine anyone else in our little town driving around in a rusty old utility vehicle.
I was horrified when I first saw it; I had to ride to school in that thing. My brothers, on the other hand, all thought it was wonderful beyond imagination. The truck was GI Joe green! It had doors and hatches everywhere, was perfect for climbing, and all four of us could ride cross-legged on top of the roll-out bed cover holding on to the rusty iron bar that rose just above and behind the cab. We were all very careful not to get stuck by any rough metal edges on the sides and bed, and I’m sure Mom was vigilant in her warnings of what would happen if we did get cut by something. Nobody wanted a doctor’s visit and/or a tetanus shot, and yet, over and over, the four of us climbed up from the ground, grabbing each other’s hands and pulling one another into position, little ones in the middle.
Mostly, we rode at night. The heat inside the house always seemed worse as evening wore closer to bedtime, and our nighttime rides were the best kind of reprieve — one last cool off lark before the lights went out.
We cruised the neighborhood at a top speed of ten or twelve miles an hour, but mostly Mom kept it around five or six. Almost unfailingly, a kid from the block ran out to the curb to ask if he could ride, too. Mom wouldn’t let them — not unless they rode in the cab with her. She didn’t want anybody getting knocked down from up there, she said, and it was too crowded on top already. We never asked to let anybody else ride. While we rode, we sang after-dark, less raucous versions of our favorite car songs. But a lot of the time, we were just quiet, listening to the night sounds of the world that was sometimes much too hard in the daylight. We all calmed down on those rides, and maybe none of us had even realized we were wound up until we felt ourselves gradually winding down. For as young as we were, we had a lot to deal with in our lives. We just didn’t really know it because we were singing the whole time.
There was happiness on the roof of that old rusty truck in the summertime, but we were just as happy come that first winter when we realized that with the windows up, Old Green (as we lovingly called the truck) was like singing in a concert hall, despite the fact that the five of us were wedged in pretty tight. No one’s voice got lost and every part could be heard. The acoustics were perfect. We sang all the old standards, awed by the full-bodied noise that almost seemed to rattle our eardrums with its intensity. We sang Christmas carols and the typical kid songs that we had learned at school; we sang Peter, Paul, and Mary and Simon and Garfunkel and The Judds until our voices were gone and the windows were too foggy to see through. Then we all sat forward in the seat and wiped our mitten hands in messy, uneven streaks across the windshield until it was clear enough for Mom to slowly steer the way back home.
Although I wouldn’t have had the words (or the depth of understanding) to have voiced such an opinion back then, in more recent years, I’ve come to understand that Old Green was not just a rusty old truck any more than my mother was just different without reason. Her difference — and the difference of that old truck — became the great stories of our collective childhood, not to mention the moments that we clung to when (as my colorful mother would say) “the shit came down.” I feel pretty certain that the four of us owe our survival to both of them.
Years later, when we went to sell Old Green, my mother lifted her GI Joe green and rust hood, pulled a six foot tulip poplar through the smoke-blackened machinery from the ground below, walked around to the driver’s door, coerced it open with not a little yanking (and some growling metal protests from the truck), and started her right up.
“She’s a helluva gal,” my mother told the buyer. “She’ll get you where you’re going.” She patted the cracked dash lovingly, half amazed that the truck had started and half wishing that it hadn’t.
Mom would say, ‘People don’t need to know everything about us,’ so she didn’t tell the man that Old Green had great acoustics. She didn’t say that on nights when you were sitting outside a bar with your four kids waiting for your asshole husband to come out, or come home, or give you some grocery money, Old Green was a great place to sing and pass the time. (She also didn’t mention the time that she nearly ran the bastard down in the parking lot of one of these same bars, my brother hysterically screaming at her from the other end of the bench seat: “Mom! What are you doing?!”) She didn’t say that there was an old pullout metal bed cover in back either, or that on sticky nights, four insanely hot children could catch a good breeze from up there, rolling slowly through a neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks. She didn’t say that you could fairly easily damage your twelve-year-old for life by dropping her off at school in the Old Girl — not only as a result of the truck’s appearance, but also because one couldn’t exactly make a silent entrance when driving it. While Mama talked and the buyer stood there nodding, I remembered my daily mortification. In short order, I also remembered what Mama always had to say on the subject: “It builds character, honey. One of these days, you’re gonna be awful glad you aren’t like everybody else.” Turns out, she was right.
What she did tell the man who bought our truck (and whose face I cannot recall) was that in cold weather, the Old Girl needed to warm up for a while, that the side storage cabinets were rusted through and wouldn’t keep anything secure, that the starter was on the floor, the shift was on the column, there weren’t any seat belts, and that the passenger door occasionally opened on a whim and spilled out a passenger or two on the outside of a tight turn. He looked a little shocked at that last bit, I remember, but my mother’s mood was not such that she reassured him about what happened after the people had fallen out.
She didn’t want to sell. None of us did. Old Green brought us joyfully through some of the worst years of our lives. She was part of the family.
via Daily Prompt: Harmonize
Y’all, I can pass right on by the fried chicken and the french fries and the mozzarella cheese sticks and anything else that’s cooked in fat and sold in fast food restaurants. But Jesus on a bicycle with no helmet, I cannot pass by the Sixlets…or actually any chocolate, come to think of it. And the soft serve vanilla ice cream? To echo a certain badly written Twilight character, it’s my own personal brand of heroin.
I’ve done so well in the last few weeks. I managed to get ten pounds down after our return home from the beach. But today has not been good. I went grocery shopping with my step-daughter, and ended up buying all that cheap, nutrient-void junk food that tastes so good you just can’t make yourself stop eating it till it’s gone. Long story short, I ended up going over my calories for the day by 200. Tomorrow is likely to be more of the same, and probably worse; it’s my step-son’s birthday, and there’s a damn Dairy Queen ice cream cake in the freezer. I probably don’t need to tell you that I didn’t go for the small one. Mama always says that “for a dollar more you can go first class,” and in this case, two dollars took the cake from “probably too small to feed four” to “almost big enough to feed ten.” I’m counting on there being leftover cake that everyone else will forget to eat and that I will probably obsess over until it’s gone. If I had any sense of self-preservation, I’d make a vow to not log a single calorie for the next couple days, but knowing how very Type A I can be, I can pretty much guarantee that each one will be meticulously counted regardless of what it does to my self-esteem.
I did go swimming this morning with Mom though. We took the water weights and moved around a little while we visited and talked about the other people in the pool. You’d think we never saw one another, the way we carry on. Maybe this is just the way maturing mother-daughter relationships are, but I feel like we’re probably a little more appreciative of our time together than most. Until the end of 2014, I had been 650 miles away from her for 14 years. I’m hopeful that we’ll have many more years together to continue being inappropriate in public; the women in our family tend to be unnaturally long-lived, even when they chose to spend the majority of their lives doing unhealthy things like smoking and drinking.
Actually, now that I think about it, I’m going to blame today’s transgression of the diet on those girls in my gene pool who lived way too damn long. If it weren’t for them, I might be a little more careful about how I treated my body.
L’chaim, grannies. And shalom, y’all.
Mama is pretty sure she’s won the son-in-law lottery. She outright says so all the time, but last night, she called needing help with one of her poems-in-progress and asked me to list the qualities that make me describe my husband as the best person I know. I’m not very good at the lists (and let me assure you, this is not the first such request that I’ve received from her over the years), and so I did a lot of hem-ing and haw-ing and stammering around the edges of the subject with no idea in what direction I should go first.
Why is my new husband the best person I know? Basically, she was asking what I loved about him, and anyone who’s ever been asked that question knows that it’s not so easy to answer, particularly without sounding like you’re running for reelection as the mayor of Shmaltztown. Obviously, that’s never been me. I’m also not the girl who oohs and aahs over romantic dinners or flowers on special occasions: In other words, it takes a different kind of man–and a different kind of relationship–to get my attention in the first place, let alone keep it.
I have to admit that it helps that I’ve known the man since he wasn’t a man at all. When I met him, he was a too-tall 12-year-old with Tim Curry lips, an unfailing respect for his mother, and a kindness that is truly unheard of in a kid. Despite a first marriage that began before his teenage years ended, three kids in six years, a given up dream for a job in the medical field, a medical discharge from his second dream job in the Air Force, and disappointment of every sort at every turn, by the time I saw him again in 2013, he was still the person I remembered–how does anyone manage to stay so decent after all that shit? We smiled at one another constantly, and I felt totally at ease with him in a way that I never had with any other person to whom I was attracted. Almost from the start, I wondered how we’d managed to get and stay so far away from one another for almost all of our adult lives.
Our absence from one another’s lives seems particularly farfetched when you consider the following: His sister is my best friend to such a degree that I stopped calling her my friend and started calling her my sister years ago. When I moved back to Illinois from North Carolina at the end of 2014, I moved into his mom and sister’s house. All of this ready-made closeness to his family (even independent of my relationship to him) made us getting together a total no-brainer, especially for me; I had just come from a 14 year relationship wherein I was kept as far outside the family circle of the person I was with as it’s possible to be. In his/our family, I couldn’t possibly feel any more included and loved than I do. Admittedly, he got a little something from the deal as well: he had a ready-made family in need of a mother figure, and I was a mother who had only ever wanted a family to care for. He got someone to take care of him and to help him hold his life together in a real, consistent, and sustainable way, and I got someone who looks at me as though he can’t wait to keep looking at me until (and after) the wrinkles on my face will comfortably hold a ten day rain.
We are quiet together. We read many of the same books and enjoy most of the same music and television shows. We are accomplished car singers with widely varied repertoires. We both detest the president (and liars in general) and want more than anything to run off to a secluded cabin in the woods where we will have so few visitors that whoever finally discovers our bodies will likely only find the bones. We take pointless day trips in the car just so we can share space only with one another. (Sometimes, he takes me cruising through the really bad parts of St. Louis so he can show me how good our life together really is…ha!) He dyes my hair every month without fail, and there’s never so much a hint of griping about it. He amuses me. I mean really. Most of the days we spend together end with me lying in bed massaging the area around my cheekbones, knowing that I’ve once again over-exercised my facial muscles, and I’m going to have to think real hard before I smile the next day, assess whether or not it’s worth the pain.
Mostly, I just can’t believe my luck. How does a person who has made the mistakes I have end up with a man like this? He works hard. He loves consistently and well, without any games or pretense. He is generous and kind, smart and funny, and he’s secure enough to let me be all of the great (and not-so-great) things I am, too. He might be younger than me, but there is sometimes an emotional maturity about him that humbles me right down to the soles of my spoiled rotten feet.
In short, I have no idea how I got him (or really what the heck he sees in me), but I’m keeping him as long as I possibly can.
But I didn’t say nearly all of that to Mom because a) it would’ve made me cry, and b) her poem is for little kids and definitely not that long.