From MGB to Minivan

Late this afternoon, I was taking our Princess to her gymnastics and dance classes, which she loves.  She was listening to music and I was in my own world as well when I saw it.  Up ahead.

An MGB.

Sure, it was on the back of a wrecker, but still.

An MGB.  You just don’t see those very often anymore.

I pointed it out to our Princess.  “I used to have one of those,” I said.  “I drove it to high school.”

She looked up, saw it, nodded, and went on with her life, nonplussed.

Well, sure, it wasn’t the Batmobile or Millennium Falcon, but show some respect, girl.

It took me back.  Way back.  After I turned sixteen, my Daddy and I went car shopping together. The first thing I’d check in each vehicle was the radio of course.  He would shake his head and turn it off.  Ahem.  The first car we looked at was a Dodge–maybe a Charger, but I’m not sure.  It was fairly old and had a cracked head.  I remember being assigned to write our own “Declaration of Independence” for English Composition my junior year.  I wrote mine on why it wasn’t a bad idea for me to get that car.  “A cracked head’s no big deal; folks walk around all the time with those.”  But Daddy voted no, since he’d be the one bringing it up to code, so to speak.  So…..next.

I don’t remember how many others we looked at before we found her.  My Grey Goose.  A 1970 silver/grey MGB.  Four in the floor.  Some rusted out spots in the floor too as I recall, but I didn’t care.  As I debated its merits in my mind, my Daddy said something that I have never forgotten, and it has affected many of my decisions since.

“Don’t settle.”

He went on to say, “If you want an MGB, a convertible, don’t settle.  Get it now.  The time is gonna come when you won’t have that choice.  One day when you have a family, you will need a vehicle with more room.  If you want something like this, now is the time.”

And so it was.

We brought her home, and I was thrilled.  She needed some work.  So the summer I was in Washington for a week with the Flint Electric Tour and Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta for six weeks, Daddy tweaked the engine, made repairs, and did what needed doing.  Actually I’m making stuff up–I don’t know what all he did.  She needed a lot of work, but the only thing I remember is him taking plywood and putting tar on it and creating a new and improved, without holes floorboard for my new car.  It was brilliant.  Daddy was brilliant.

My whole summer away–the summer before my senior year, I kept a picture with me of my Grey Goose.  I hoped that I would be able to drive her when I first got back, but she wasn’t quite ready.  I had driven the family’s Fiat Station Wagon when I needed to drive anytime during my junior year.  I was thrilled, when the car was ready, to be driving Sister, who was a freshman, and myself to school and back during my senior year.  No more school buses for us.  We had arrived.

Daddy got her all ready, and Sister and I made the twenty-minute drive to and from the high school together.  One day in particular, we had discussed that morning that if we hurried out after school, we might have time to take down the soft top, and drive home convertible style.  It was a beautiful day.  But of course we didn’t want to be the last ones leaving the parking lot, and I had to drop Sister off and get to work–thus the need to hurry.

As we passed in the hall, each on our way in the crowd to our fifth period class–the day almost over, I called out to Sister, “Hey, you still able to get out there quickly?”

She nodded and waved as she moved along the current of students with her friends.  My friend walking along had heard us and asked, “What are y’all doing after school?”

Without thinking, I answered, “Taking the top off so we can drive home.”

Y’all.  Have you ever met a high school boy?

Yep.  Of course it went there.  The whole joke that my sister and I were driving home topless.  Which we were, I suppose.  It was only made funnier by the fact that I practically had NERD stamped across my forehead back then.  Ahem.  (We are not talking about now, people.)

And that was the joke for a while.  That Sister and I drove topless.

Ah, memories.  You have to laugh, don’t you?

We thought we were so cool, driving by the middle school with all the sixth through eighth graders hanging around outside waiting for their buses to come, with our radio blaring songs like Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” on one of the many songs I loved from my “Chicago 17” cassette tape.  And by blaring, I mean at a level that we could hear the music, but not so much that we couldn’t hear any emergency vehicles that might approach.  Safety first.  I mean, being cool has its boundaries.

Tonight I’m thankful for that lesson my Daddy taught me.  So many times I’ve heard his voice, “Don’t settle.” And it has saved me from making poor choices on more than one occasion.  I’m grateful for this unexpected trip down memory lane.  I loved my MGB that got me through my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college.  I can still see her parked in the same parking lot I parked my family-mobile in for Alumnae weekend four days ago–behind the first floor of Persons dorm.  Most of all I appreciate my Daddy having some sort of amazing vision of where life would take me, knowing that if I passed by the joy of having my “fun” car as a young person, I might not get another opportunity.  What a gift that was.  I sure loved that car, and even more I love my Daddy who made it possible.

After all, how often does a girl get a chance to drive topless?

Love to all.

 

 

 

For the Seniors, and those who will be

Sunday night when I sat and listened to conversations among those about to graduate from my Alma Mater, I heard the stress and excitement and anxiety in their voices, in their days, in their plans.  As I listen to so many who are about to graduate, so many who are wrapping up their school year, I hear the frenzy and the panic and the trying to figure out how to get it all done before the year is over.  As they talked, the memory came back to me of one particular evening and a sandwich I made and took with me.  And what followed. 

 

The day was in spring

many moons ago

and the cherry blossoms covered the trees in rich abundance

creating a sanctuary for one who might seek it

like me

The sun was setting

dusk

the dark was settling upon the earth

but it was already in my heart

Fear, worry, concern, anxiety

trepidation

and maybe excitement and anticipation

Only a month left of classes

and finals

and graduation

That spring night felt like the beginning of the end

saying goodbye to my home for four years

the place that had birthed in me

a new person

stronger, wiser, smaller, with eyes more open

and more questions than answers

and a heart that was breaking for the things

I’d learned

and seen

and heard

and wanted to change

Wesleyan

As I sat on the cold concrete bench, tucked away

from the world

hidden by my tent of blossoms

it felt as though about the time

I’d learned the way of the syllabus

there would be no more

Life

doesn’t come with directions or syllabi

or a professor to advise

If you’re lucky

you have family and friends

to listen and share wisdom

but in the end

It’s all You

and Only You

I sat and slowly ate my pb and j

on wheat

that I’d prepared for my trek across campus

looking for answers

and peace

When I had spied the bench peeking

I sat and thought and was filled with the angst of the moment

I was about halfway through with my sandwich

when I looked down and realized

the bread

was

moldy

Tears

In that moment

I felt more lost than ever before

Moldy bread

I was hidden in the blossoms

in the world

I didn’t know what path to take

back to peace

back to the place I was meant to go

away from the tears and angst and moldy bread

The thing is–

the moldy bread didn’t kill me

It wasn’t pleasant, more in the mind than in the stomach

but it didn’t give me more than a moment’s pause

really

In life, those moments when it’s all bearing down on you

When the tears are at the surface

and the bread is moldy

and there are no directions

Time will pass

Friends will come alongside you

and it will

be

okay

again

and

moldy bread

it won’t kill you

 

 

That 20/20 Hindsight

Tonight I’ve been thinking about me way back when.  Maybe it’s being back home, going through things that are markers of our childhood and growing up years, I don’t know.  Whatever it is, it’s got my thoughts going back and wishing I could tell Then Me a few things that Now Me has learned as time went by. 

What I wish I’d known thirty years ago–

that it’s never that serious.

that of all those things I worried would happen, most never would.

that my body was absolutely okay.  The best it was going to be.  That I was beautiful, and the voice in my head talking about my weight or my ears sticking out too far or my elbows….it was lying to me.  None of that mattered.  I was beautiful.  Just like I was.

the brand of clothes I had…..or didn’t have…..did not matter as much as those who did have the “right” brands would lead me to believe.

my parents were smarter than I thought.

they really did love me.

they really weren’t the meanest people on earth.

and I am glad they were my parents.

one day they would become my best friends, and one day a while later I’d miss them with every breath.

a stick shift is cool to drive, and one day I would miss having one.

one day I would miss our house and home…..and all the people in it.

one day my siblings would be among my best friends.

no boy or guy or man is worth compromising what I believe.  Or shutting others out.  Or worthy of all of my time and attention.

no friend who really loves me will tell me just what I want to hear.

no job is small.  Every job is worth giving your all.  One day I would be glad I did.

the worst mistakes I would ever make wouldn’t be the less than satisfactory grades or the accidents I had…..they would be the words that came out of my mouth that I couldn’t take back.

my parents were way smarter than I ever gave them credit for, and they were dispensing wisdom I wish I paid more attention to.

my favorite color would change.  Often.

my favorite pillow would not.

the lady in England whom I met was right.  One day I would come to love planting flowers and thinking about which ones were my favorites.

clotheslines are cool.

one day I would miss the smell of sheets dried on the clothesline.

the number of times I rolled my eyes at my parents would come back to me in spades.

the music my parents loved and the shows they watched would become my favorites too.

when my friends asked me what I thought about this boy or that fella, I should have kept my mouth shut.

I would fall in love three times with people who couldn’t walk or talk or speak my name.

old people are the best.

The best.

old cars are the best.

old roads are the best.  Forget about the interstates.

old houses are the best–new ones feel a bit pretentious sometimes.

I would travel the world and never find a place that brings me comfort like the places I grew up–my Granny’s, my Great Aunt’s and home–Blackberry Flats.  Ever.

my faith is not static.  I should not be afraid of my evolving beliefs and growing questions.  It’s all part of growing up and learning about the world and all we believe.

it’s the little things I would remember the best.  I wish I had spent more time on the little things–like taking walks with my brother and playing games with my sisters.

if I want to be a writer, write.  If I want to be an artist, create.  If I want to be a storyteller, tell stories.  I need to make my own magic.  Not sit back and dream and wait.  Dream and then do.

in fourth grade, if I don’t tell the teacher why I put the quotation marks there, I will carry that for the rest of my life.  Stand up and speak out.  More.  At all.  Make my voice heard.  It matters.

I matter.

sticks and stones, well yeah, but words.  Sometimes they hurt most of all.

no matter how bad things were that I went through or dealt with, I would do it all again to keep my children from having to go through that pain and hurt.

the drive away from home in frustration and anger when I was a teenager was way shorter than the drive back as an adult when one of my parents was sick.

I wish I would have spent more time loving me and less time looking for someone to love.

More time swinging under the tree and dancing beneath the stars and less time worrying, “What if…..?”

I wish I had shared more grace and light and spent less time being afraid of the dark.

I wish, I would have, If only…..

but for tonight, I’m thankful for the journey I have had.  Thankful for the ones who guided me on it, who very likely spent much time in prayer over me and my ways.  I give thanks for friends who don’t just tell me what I want to hear and for my parents whom I miss more and more each day (especially today).  In the midst of looking back at what I wish I knew then, I am very glad to know what I know now.  Which in another twenty years (Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) probably won’t look like much in hindsight either. We’ll just have to see.

Until then, love to all.

 

 

 

Waking Up At Christmas

Oh the great arguments we used to have!

As the oldest, and a true loophole finder, I was often the one pleading our case.

“Five a.m.” I’d say.

“Not one minute before nine, ” my parents, the “other party,” would say.

“Six.”

“Eighty-thirty.”  They’d respond.

And so on.  Until usually, almost every year, the time was set.  7:00 a.m.

The time we were allowed to get our parents up on Christmas morning.

The rule in our house was that we did not go in and see what was under the tree without everyone else.

Most Christmas mornings, especially after Bubba was old enough to understand how exciting it all was, Sister, Mess Cat, and Bubba would come pile into my twin bed in the room I shared with Sister.

Around 5 a.m.

We would laugh in hushed tones and whisper excitedly, giving hints about what we had gotten or made for each other.  What we had gotten for Mama or Daddy.  What we thought Santa might actually bring us.  How hungry we were and ideas for how to sneak a peek without them knowing and how ready we were for 7:00 a.m. to be here already!

When it was a few minutes before seven we would creep down the hall to stand outside of my parents’ bedroom.  We were giggling and shivering and all aflutter with excitement.  When we figured it was 7 exactly, we would tap on their door, gently at first, and then with a little more insistence.

“Who is it?” one of them would call out in the dim light of morning.

We’d all giggle.  “It’s us!”

We would hear them stirring and the sounds of water running.  Mama, just about every year, would say, “Daddy is going to get a shower first, and then we’ll be ready.”

NOOOOOOOOOO!

We always laughed but I think there was a little fear in the back of our minds that he might really be going to take a shower, and oh my goodness, how could we ever wait that long?

And just when we thought we could not stand to wait any longer, nearly bouncing out of our skin with excitement and anticipation, their door would open and *oh relief* there they’d be, dressed and ready to go in and finally get this Christmas morning party started.

We would line up outside the living room door, and Mama would say, “Let me see if Santa has already come.”  She’d peek her head in, check it out, and then turn back to us and give us the okay to head on in.

Waking up on Christmas morning was always the best part of the day.

Back then I guess Mama and Daddy taught us about patience on Christmas morning.  In the years since, they taught us so much more about waking up at Christmas.

Waking up to others.  Those not gathered with us under the tree.  Those who maybe had no tree or family or even a home to gather with or in.  Since newly married they sponsored children through the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.  Something we didn’t know about until we were much older.  It was when I was in college that they taught us about really waking up.  They married on December 17.  Over the years we would give them different things as anniversary gifts.  One year we asked Mama what they would like for their anniversary, and she asked us to do something for others who needed something, that they didn’t need anything.

That was the first year the sibs and I went in together and had our eyes and hearts opened.  There was an elderly couple, living in an old, rather rundown house.  We took them groceries and a few treats for Christmas.  Bless them.  What precious, sweet folks.  They had so little but they were so filled with joy.

That’s what our parents were trying to get us to wake up to all those years on Christmas morning–to the idea that it’s not about what you have, or what’s under the tree, but who you have in your life.  Who is at your side, whispering and giggling on Christmas morning.  Who is walking with you as you journey through the years, the good times and the bad, the laughter and the tears.

The past few years, the tables have turned.  Mama and Daddy have come to our house on Christmas morning.  Some years they were earlier than others.  And then there was the Christmas of 2008.  The year before Daddy got sick.  It was Christmas morning.  I’d been up rather late the night before putting out the cookies and Coca-Cola for Santa.  It was 6:58. I only know this because I opened my eyes to check when I heard……

The doorbell.  Ringing all through the house.

Did I mention it was 6:58 a.m.?  In the morning?

They were quite tickled with themselves.

And once I realized that the Fella could appreciate the humor in the situation, I was delighted at their turnabout.  As were my young’uns.  Once they wiped the sleep out of their eyes.

What a great memory!

Then last year, Mama had talked about the possibility of not coming on Christmas morning because of the weather.  She told me on Christmas Eve that she would check the weather when she got up.  It was 4 a.m. when I realized that Cooter was running a fever.  My heart broke.  I knew that Mama didn’t need to be around him, as she was vulnerable to illness because of medication.  I didn’t want to wake her up, so I waited until 8 a.m. to call her.  No answer.  Ten minutes later.  Still no answer.

Three minutes later.  Her car in the driveway.  Oh yes!  Oh no.

I told her on the porch.  She looked at me and said, “Well, we just won’t hug today, but it will be okay.”  And she hugged me, wrinkled her nose, and let me know it all really would be okay.

And it was.  Better than okay.  I was able to have my last Christmas waking up to see my sweet and spunky Mama’s face.

My Mama, who taught me to wake up and look around me at what others needed and figure out what I could do, left us for a better place in February.  But she is still with us.  I know she is.  I was struggling this year with what I could wake up out of my grief and do this Christmas to help someone else.  And in the craziest of ways, things presented themselves.  Not what I would have thought of and not what I was expecting, but things that woke me up and blessed me anyway.  I’ve had my eyes opened, my heart torn, and my mind blown this holiday season. I’ve cried over what I’ve seen both good and bad, and I’ve laughed with joy.  And I know my Mama had something to do with it.  She liked to help me look outside of myself when I was on my pity pot.  In fact, she insisted on it.  That’s just how she rolled.

When Mama woke up in the mornings, the first thing she’d do was have a glass of chocolate milk.  It helped her feel better since she had to take so much medicine.

And that’s what we all need, isn’t it?  Something to help us get through the bitter and broken and hard to swallow moments in life.

So this Christmas morning, I will have a small glass of chocolate milk in her honor.  And remember all that she and Daddy taught me about waking up at Christmas and every day of the year.  It’s about those you can giggle with, walk with; it’s about looking around and helping when you can, and always keeping your chocolate milk handy.  When the world gets hard, nothing’s better than giggling sisters and brothers and all the chocolate you can find.

Merry Memory-Making!

Other Christmas memories from my childhood–

Daddy and Cherry Cordials

Keeping Christmas Everyday

Christmas a Hundred Years Before

O Christmas Tree

GPS Coordinates for Grace–About Losing, Seeking, and Finding

 

Today we went out geocaching for the first time with our friends from The Light at Bare Bulb Coffee.  They are like family to us, this group of folks who set out to try something new and learn a little about seeking and finding and apparently, patience.  And all about accepting there are some things we will never find no matter how hard we look.  We used GPS coordinates to seek the little treasures hidden along the trails, working together, poking and digging and laughing and pondering where would be the perfect hiding place.  Ah those tricky clues!

Our Geocaching Adventure today--a first for me and mine.

Our Geocaching Adventure today–a first for me and mine.

It was a beautiful day for wearing hoodies and vests and jackets and watching the patterns on the ground the sunlight made as it filtered through the trees.  At times it was hard to tell the difference between the grownups and the children.  In the end we arrived back at the starting point, having actually found one geocache and all with smiles on our faces.

Until.

Aub opened up the back door and called out that we’d been robbed.  Her purse that she had left under her sister’s jacket in the backseat was open and things were strewn all over the backseat.  When we realized it was her wallet, The Fella asked me about mine.  I opened the front door and looked down under the seat where I’d left it.  Nothing seemed to be disturbed.  Thank goodness.  As Aub searched it seemed that all they absconded with was her cash.  Which was sad enough, but not as bad as it could have been.  Rightfully so she was pretty upset.  As we began the drive home, tensions were high and our Princess started crying.  Aub turned to her, and Princess said, “I lost something too.  My DS.”  Remember how much she and Cooter wanted one of these?  I got really good bargains on the local bookoo site.  Bless her heart, she has done a really good job of taking care of it.  It’s not her fault someone reached in and took what wasn’t theirs.

Oh the tears.  Her heart was broken and suddenly what had been so wonderful was marred.  When we got home, Aub shook her head in anger and said, “I’m more mad about the DS than I am the money.”  She looked at her little sister.  “She will never be the same again.”

I know.  I know, and it makes me sad.

When I was little we didn’t lock our doors.  We lived in a little row of brick houses over on Boy Scout Road and all was safe.  There was a little girl living next door and sometimes we played together, though for the life of me, I can’t remember her name now.  One evening I told her I couldn’t play long because we were going to KMart after supper.  It was a pretty special event, because it was rare we did evening shopping trips like that.  When we returned home after dark, a light was on in the house and Mama’s jewelry box had been gone through.  The one thing missing?  Her ten commandments charm bracelet.  I’m not making this up folks.  I’m not sure exactly what all transpired, but the next day the little girl was at our front door apologizing and returning the bracelet.

Even though I knew who had done it and all was back in its proper place, my world had been changed.  To think that someone was in my house, my safe place, when I wasn’t there and I didn’t know about it.  It upset the heart, the mind, and the stomach.

Aub was about the same age when the house she and I were living in was broken into twice in a six week period.  They ransacked and took, between the two occasions, her change jar, her embroidered backpack, her VCR with her favorite Olive the Olive Reindeer movie in it, and a video camera that I was using for my grad school project.  It was terrifying.  Especially for Aub.  After the second time we set about finding somewhere else to live.  We moved in short order and got a dog who very quickly took it upon himself to let me know if someone so much as slowed down passing by our house.  Bosley was an awesome protector.

It took quite a while for us to feel safe again though.  As a matter of fact, there are times that the old fears come back full force.  When I walked in my house both of those times, I wasn’t sure if the person was still in the house or not.  The second time I was so angry that it had happened again, that I yelled out, daring him or her to show his/her face.  Yeah, anger can make us do a lot of foolish things, can’t it?

Today I felt that uneasy sensation come back.  That unsettling anxiety and feeling off-kilter.  Someone had been in our stuff, had made what felt safe and secure to us suddenly seem unsafe.  It broke my heart to see the six-year-old little girl in Aub’s eyes this afternoon–fearful all over again.  And mad.  They weren’t supposed to be able to get to us now.  How had this happened?  And then there was our Princess.  Her first time realizing that there’s some mean folks in this world.  She kept saying why would someone do that?  Why?  And, to keep it real, Cooter would pipe in with, “I’m the only one who didn’t get something stolen.”  Ummm, yeah, thanks buddy, keep that to yourself.  Please.

I kept thinking about Mama and how much I wanted to call and tell her about this.  And it was like she was on the other end of the line in my mind, saying how someone needed some praying for real bad.  Poor things, look at where their life had gotten to, taking things that weren’t theirs.  From a car parked at the entrance to a walking path.  Bless their hearts.  And then she’d probably point out how lucky we were that it wasn’t so much worse, to which I would respond sarcastically most likely because I wouldn’t be ready to hear THAT.  (We have conversations like this from time to time.  Still.) But in the end I’d probably say well, okay Mama you might be right.

And I guess I pegged the conversation pretty good. As much as I wanted to come home and hole up and be sad and depressed and mope for the rest of the weekend, Mess Cat wanted me to call her.  She had a Mama story to share.

One day they were on the way home in the car.  Out on the backroads where we live, you’ll pass folks walking from time to time.  Sometimes they’ll “white-line” it and other times they’ll get over on the grass when a car passes by, but on this particular day there was a fella who didn’t seem to be planning to do either one.  He just stayed in the road.  Mama made a comment like she wondered what was going on or something like that, and Mess Cat, being Mama’s girl and feeling protective, turned around and gave the man a dirty look.  He promptly made not one but two rather crude gestures with his hands.  Mess Cat said she’d never seen the gestures before that day, but judging from the look on his face, she was guessing it wasn’t good.

My sister told me that Mama just kept on driving and said, “Well my goodness, he sure is having a hard day to be acting like that.  I can only imagine what kind of day it has been for him. Poor fella.”

That.  That right there.  That’s my Mama.

When Mess Cat told me what Mama said (and sorry girl, I might not have gotten the story word for word), memories flooded back of Mama saying just such as that in different instances when I’d come in sharing the stories of the ugly comings and goings of folks.  She was just about always ready to give grace first and point fingers later (or usually not at all).

And so tonight as I think back over the day, I know that it was her voice that I was hearing when my heart went out to the person who desperately and quickly grabbed what they did from our car.  And it was her voice I heard when our Princess said, “I guess they must have really needed some money.”

I am thankful for a merciful robbery.  It really could have been so much worse.  I could still be on the phone right now calling and cancelling and so on.  I am so grateful that our Princess had a bounce in her step and a twinkle in her eye tonight before she went to sleep.  She will be okay again.  And I know it sounds superficial, but I’m glad they didn’t take Aub’s new GW Boutique Vera bag.  She was tickled to make such a find, and I’m glad that she didn’t lose it too.  I’m thankful for my sister to share stories with and to remember Mama  with and who will remind me of Mama’s wisdom when I need to hear it most.

It’s not been easy today, but I want to be like my Mama.  She was a GPS for grace–she’d show us the way to find it and give it and how to forgive and show compassion.  Her “coordinates” were spot on–there was no missing the direction she was pointing us in, because she was leading the way.  I want to give grace like that–grace that doesn’t make sense at all, today and everyday.  And I hope to show my children the way as well.  But most of all, no matter what else that person stole from us today, I don’t want to let him or her steal the joy of a fun-filled day with friends that are like family.  The beautiful day, time with folks we love, great conversations, laughter over our missteps, and the fun of being just where we were in the moment and not rushing to the next thing on the calendar.  That’s something that poor soul can’t take from me unless I let him.  If I do, then I’m the poor soul.  And I can’ t have that.  Nobody wants to go where those GPS pity pot coordinates will lead.  There’s for sure no treasure to be found there.

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Our New Forbidden Word

Toilet paper Español: Papel higiénico

Toilet paper Español: Papel higiénico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a question that a group of blogger friends are also writing about:  What words are off-limits in your house?

We have the standard no-no words.  Those I grew up calling “cuss” words.  I don’t even know if the littles have heard these words yet.  In our previous life, Aub heard them a lot, so I’m even more thankful she chooses not to say them.  I can’t help it–I just cringe when I hear one.  I’ve told Aub to be more creative than that–those words can just give the wrong impression in some situations.

Growing up the grown folks would tell us “Papa killed can’t.”  I always found the visuals in my head on that one rather fascinating.  My Papa?  Really?  We were reminded of this “fact” quite often.  Because we tended to say it quite often.  I can’t eat that.  I can’t pick up my room.  I can’t figure this out.  I can’t be nice to my sister.  Another word that was forbidden growing up was lie.  It wasn’t “don’t lie,” it was “don’t tell stories.”  You didn’t accuse someone of being a liar, he or she was a storyteller.  I don’t even know, but I do know that my skin crawls if my children say the “l” word.

There are words that are off-limits because of preference.  In college our director over the Resident Assistants refused to let us say dorm–they were Residence Halls.  Still today when I’m talking to Aub about her *gulp* dorm room, I look around waiting for someone to jump on me for it.  And there are words people can’t handle hearing.  Like Aub and the word “glands.”  Want to creep her out?  Say glands.  And “dead cat” will cause our Princess to give up eating any kinds of soft foods for three days.  Truth.  Don’t even ask how I know this.

Then there are the bathroom words.  Used in context I’m cool.  But for a while Cooter seemed to think his existence was based on how many times he could say those words in a day.  Out of context.  I assured him that his life did not depend on saying those words, but that his well-being might just depend on him not.  Oh my.

There are also the name calling words.  I wish I could say the words are never said in this house, but unfortunately they are from time to time.  And the repercussions follow.  Such words as dumb, stupid, hate, idiot–no no NO!  And I don’t allow them to comment on people’s bodies (including their own)–fat, skinny–no ma’am.  Folks can’t help how they are built.  Let it go. There are better things to talk about.

There are days I wish I could put any and all words related to Star Wars off-limits.  From the time Cooter wakes up in the morning, it is the Star Wars channel broadcasting from his mouth.  All Star Wars.  All the Time.   But as listed above, there are worse things that could come out of his mouth.  I suppose.  *sigh*

But there’s one word I don’t want to ever hear in my house again.  It occurred to me the other day (be prepared for what we call TMI–Too Much Information) when I was *ahem* in “the little girls’ room.”  There was no toilet paper.  How does that even happen?  But it does.  (There is an episode of a Disney show where the Mom is texting her family ITBWOTP…..”in the bathroom without toilet paper”–cracks me up every time.)  So I hollered.  There is nothing to do but HOLLER when you are stuck like that.  And hoped that one of the littles would hear me.

“Hey I need some toilet paper!”

Crickets.

“Anybody!  Somebody!  I need some toilet paper!”

I heard voices.

And then I said the word.

“NOW!!!!!”

And finally Cooter showed up to rescue me.  With one roll.  It’s his job to keep the bathrooms stocked.  I suppose since it’s his job I wish he had thought to bring more than one but at least I was no longer stuck.

Still when one is notifying the entire house and possibly this whole end of the street that she is in such a predicament, should she really have to clarify with a “NOW!”?

I vote no.

As I sat there waiting, with nothing else to do, I thought about that word.  How many times in a day I say it.  Go pick up your room.  Now.  Please come unload the dishwasher.  Now.  It’s time to do Math.  Now.  It’s time to go to gymnastics/the grocery store/the allergist.  Now.  Do any of these really need a time clarification?

Apparently so.

Or maybe I’m just not parenting properly.

Seems like I remember that if Mama had to say “now” I had crossed a line.  And yet, in the midst of the Lego Friends’ girls doing Wicket the Ewok’s hair in the salon before Darth Maul shows up to wreak havoc on everything, the littles are just not hearing what I’m saying.  They’re not picking up what I’m laying down.  They are NOT PAYING ATTENTION.  I suppose I say NOW in the place of repeating my instructions.  But that would only be effective if they heard what I said in the first place.  *sigh*

So I’m going to try to remove it from my repertoire and be more intentional in instructing my children….so they will hear me and follow directions right away.

Yeah.  A Mama can dream, can’t she?

For more stories about forbidden words, head over to Modern Family in Modern America, who is hosting this week, and there will be more stories linked at the bottom.

‘Cause Mama Said

"Because I'm the mother, that's why!"  A brilliant cup from Tervis.

“Because I’m the mother, that’s why!” My clever cup from Tervis.

Before our lives changed four years ago, Mama had been making a weekly trip to see my Great Aunt for years.  Tuesday was her day.  My Great Aunt was a mother to her, and their visits were times that they both treasured.  Occasionally one or the other of us children would go along, and after Daddy retired in 2003 he went sometimes, but mostly it was the two of them, visiting and taking on little projects around the house and yard.  And then there were the lunches with the banana pudding as dessert.  Whoa be the person who made them too late to get some of the one pan that was made daily at the Sidetracks restaurant.

Tuesdays were so ingrained that when I went to work full-time and Mama and Daddy kept Aub after school, Daddy arranged his schedule so he could leave work early on Tuesday and pick her up from school.  Tuesday became their day too.

But four years ago, when Daddy’s undecipherable symptoms hit full force unexpectedly, he was admitted to the hospital.  A week later he was moved to Emory where he stayed for over a month.  During that time, Mama was by his side the whole time.  The Tuesday visits were over for a while.  One of the first things Mama did was worry about my great Aunt.  She was in good health, but as often happens as the years go by, she was on many medications.  Each week before Mama left, she went to the kitchen counter, pulled down the many bottles of medication and vitamins and set them up in the 14-section medicine caddies.  Mama kept two completely set up in addition to the one for the current week–just in case she had to miss a week going down.

My great Aunt was a very bright woman, and since the death of her husband sixteen years before, very independent.  She and Mama had their own ways worked out.  So when I walked in that first week, scared and heartbroken over my Daddy, but determined to take this worry off of Mama’s list, I was a bit anxious.  Just as I had suspected, my great Aunt was having none of that–she did NOT want me to set up her medicine.  As she hadn’t done it in quite a while, I knew she was bluffing as she waved her hand at me, sitting in “her” chair, saying “Pshaw, I can do it.  Don’t you worry about it.  Come sit down and visit.”

Hmmmm.  Face my great Aunt or my Mama?  Who was I more willing to upset?

I sat for a few minutes and plotted and thought as we chatted about the weather and how Daddy was doing and so on.  Aub looked over at me and we exchanged a look.  I could tell she was interested to see how this was going to play out.  I was too.  Only I was the one who was risking making my aunt mad by going against her wishes.  Finally Mama’s words–my “out” my whole life–came back to me.

“Look if you don’t want to do something, if you know you shouldn’t, whatever, just blame it on me.  Say I won’t let you do it.”

Bing-o!

I got up from the couch and squatted next to my aunt’s chair.

“Ummm, we’re gonna have to leave in a few minutes and get on back home, but before I go, I’m just going to get your meds set up for next week, okay?”

“No, I already told you, you don’t have to worry about that.  I can do it later.  You just sit here and visit until you have to leave.” She waved that hand again.

I was ready this time.

I looked down and sighed.  I stared at my fingernails that were probably a disappointment to this beautiful and elegant lady in front of me.  I sighed again. “But see, Mama asked me to do it.  And she’s going to ask me later if I did.  And when I tell her no, she’s gonna beat me but good.  Please let me do it so she won’t beat me.”

A chuckle burst out unexpectedly.  She took a deep breath, and laughed even harder.  I had her.

“Well my gracious goodness, I certainly don’t want that on my conscience.  I guess you’d better do it then.  But I wish you wouldn’t worry about it.”

“No ma’am,” I said.  “I’m not worried about it, but I am worried about that beatin’.”

She laughed again and took the “tea cup” from our Princess and “sipped” on her tea.  “You go on ahead then. Do what you need to do.”

And our pattern was set.  From then on, each week, she would tell me not to worry, I’d tell her I was more worried about my Mama and her wrath and that promised beating.  And she would acquiesce.  Done.

I am thankful for Mama’s willingness to take the fall, to be the bad guy for me all my life.  If I was invited to do something that I really didn’t want to, that was my excuse.  If someone gave me a hard time about not doing one thing or another, I’d just shrug and sigh, so “burdened” by my overprotective parents–“My Mama won’t let me.”  If someone wondered why I was calling home or why I always did something a certain way, “Mama makes me.”  I appreciate that so much.  I still do it today.  If I ma’am someone and they wave it away, I always reply, “No ma’am, I’m sorry.  If I didn’t say ma’am to you my Mama (or my Granny) would come back and whoop me.”  (And really, physical discipline was not as common around our house as one might think from listening to me carry on.  But yeah, suffice to say, I don’t use my manners and act like I am somebody, one of them’s coming back to raise some kind of ruckus!)

I have told my children, especially my oldest, the same thing.  “Blame it on me.  You need an out, you got one.”  Yes, I want them to be strong and stand on their own and for what they know is right, but sometimes it helps to play the “Mama said” card for reinforcement.  After all, it works.  It convinced my great Aunt to change her mind–and that was no easy feat. ” ‘Cause Mama said”…..that’s the universal language for “this is how it’s gonna be.”

If It’s Broke ‘Round Here We Fix It

pic of pot lidYesterday I was cooking rice to go with my chipotle lime chicken and peppers.  I love rice.  I especially love it with chili and soups.  This is the best pot to cook it in, so I was very sad when, about a year ago, I cracked the lid, and it was no longer usable.

I tried using a saucer to cover the top while the rice cooked.  It worked okay but getting that very hot saucer off the top was quite difficult and, at times, painful.  I just had to make do.  But I refused to go buy another pot and lid.

It was when I was at the GW Boutique several months ago that I remembered something that Mama did years and years ago.  She had a skillet that she liked to use that either didn’t have a lid or the lid, just like mine, was disabled.  She went to a flea market about ten minutes from the house one day, and she found a glass lid the perfect size!  I remember thinking how ingenious that was.  She was not going to let go of a perfectly good skillet just because it didn’t have a lid.  And that skillet and lid are great partners still to this day.

So as I walked down the dishes aisle of this particular GW Boutique, I decided to give it a try.  And there on the bottom shelf, in the midst of a stack of lids of all shapes and sizes, was this lid.  I didn’t know if it would work for sure, as I hadn’t measured my pot, but for 88 cents, I figured it was worth a shot.

And look at it go!  Perfect.

Mama and Daddy raised us to be good stewards of our belongings and our world.  We didn’t throw things out.  Mama kept a mending pile, and she mended jeans and shirts and all kinds of things.  Daddy changed the oil in the vehicles himself and fixed furniture pieces and cars and squeaky hinges.  I can remember them buying an old beat up desk for a bargain price, stripping it and refinishing it.  It still sits in the same spot in the house at Blackberry Flats.  There was no buying something new for the sake of buying something new.  If you could make the old something work, that’s what you did.  I once found a child’s rocking chair, old and faded at the GW Boutique.  Daddy took it apart piece by piece, stained it, and put it back together.  Beautiful.  One of my treasures.

I love the country song, “Dirt Road Anthem,” sung by Jason Aldean.  I can still remember the first time I heard it.  In it there is a line “If it’s broke ’round here we fix it.”  Truth.  That in, a nutshell, is how I was raised.  The preceding line is “We like cornbread and biscuits” which is also truth.  (And you just gotta respect someone who makes a rhyme of biscuits and fixed it, don’t you think?)

Tonight I am thankful for the frugality and good stewardship of my parents and their efforts to pass that along to us.  I am thankful that there are GW Boutiques pretty close to all of my beaten paths, and that I have three children who not only put up with going, but who ask to go and “pop some tags” on a regular basis.  We don’t buy for the sake of buying, but if we find a bargain, we have been known to get quite excited.  And finally, I am thankful for that glass lid–a link to the past and a sign that I might just be turning into my Mama.  I should be so lucky.

Christmas a Hundred Years Before

Folk tale depiction of Father Christmas riding...

Folk tale depiction of Father Christmas riding on a goat. Perhaps an evolved version of the Swedish Tomte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s been a lot of talk today about Christmas in July, so it brought back one of my favorite Christmas memories.

In December 1989 a friend came home with me from college well before Christmas.  One morning we were awakened by the sound of jingle bells jingling.  Mama and Daddy had looks of surprise on their faces.  “It looks like the Christmas Spirit of 1889 came last night.”

We all gathered in the living room where, in a few weeks, we would celebrate Christmas around our yet to be chosen and decorated tree.  There was a sock laid out for each of us.  Inside the socks were a huge Bob’s peppermint stick, an orange, some nuts, and a penny, and the other matching sock.  I think that’s about right.

The cool thing is that my friend thought it was cool.  She talked about how neat it was that my parents would do something like that.  Looking back, yeah, I get it.  They were trying to help us GET the meaning of Christmas.  They had given us our own version of a “Little House” Christmas.  (I loved the Christmas episodes so much!) And I love that about my parents.  They were never much for letting us crawl back in our comfort zones and just hang out.  Both through their actions and their conversations, they challenged us in our thinking and beliefs, while at the same time being a safe place to land.  I want to be just like them when I grow up.

The other day my children were talking about underwear.  Stick with me here for a moment.  My little guy asked, “Mama, does it really mean that Santa loves you if he brings you underwear?”  Yes, I told them that.  And yes, Santa puts new underwear in your stocking around here–but only if you’ve been really, really good.  It means he REALLY loves you.  And that was going pretty well until Santa put “Olivia” underwear in our Princess’ stocking and she decided that maybe she was a little too grown, that she really didn’t want Olivia underoos. She was sweet about it though.  She appreciated them, but would ponder aloud every now and then, “I wonder why Santa thought I would love Olivia underwear.”   The oldest–she’s used to it.  Santa’s been upgrading her underwear drawer every Christmas for years.  And she never questioned it.  It’s these two littles and their questions that have made me wonder why Santa chose to make that a tradition.

And as I thought about it, I remembered that visit back to Christmas of 1889 and how Santa brought treats and things that were useful.  I guess maybe the underwear is a tip of the hat to that spirit of Christmas–where it doesn’t all have to be battery operated or come with instructions that take half the night to understand and the other half to follow.  Just good stuff, usually much needed, and a little fun.  (Well unless you’re me–they just don’t make fun underoos for us big girls.  And NO, the stuff from that place does not count.  We also want fun, whimsy, pictures of our favorite characters, and comfort.)  Anyway, it occurred to me that Santa remembers that year and what my parents were trying to instill in me back then, and he hopes to pass it along to this next generation.

Today when someone on the radio announced it was Christmas in July, I saw my littles’ eyes light up.  They asked what it meant and I told them.  I halfway expected them to ask how we were going to celebrate.  They were smart, and they didn’t; but if they had, we might have had to take a trip for new underwear.  Or socks.  (I think those things are bailing on me by the boatload.  Where do they go?!)  But that’s a story for another time.  May the true spirit of giving and Christmas be yours today and everyday!

Don’t Blink

pic of aardvark day

Today I took my oldest to college to register for classes.  Wow.  When did that even happen?  Seriously, just yesterday I was up with her three-month old self for three hours straight because she wanted to play and would not go to sleep.  And today?  We’re registering for COLLEGE CLASSES?  The world has gone insane.

My Aub is going to my Alma Mater, Wesleyan College.  I’m thrilled, but it was completely and totally her choice, which brings me even greater joy.  She told someone today she’d wanted to go since she was five.  I think back to her pulling out my yearbooks that were almost too heavy for her to tote, then crashing on her bed, flipping through pictures of those good ol’ days.  In a year she will have a yearbook of her own filled with her first year memories.  Again, wow.

After we arrived, we sat downstairs in an area that used to be either the post office or the snack bar; I’ve gotten so turned around I can’t be sure.  We were asked to arrive early and wait for her name to be called.  They called her name and off she went.  Without me.  Big steps, people, big steps.  For me, that is.  She was fine.  I sat and worked on my challenge I’ve given myself–not to fiddle with my cell phone while waiting.  I’m trying to take in all around me and visit with folks when appropriate.  As I sat back in the chair, I heard voices carrying from around the corner.  It seemed to be a Dad talking to his daughter about her class schedule.

“See…..this is what you want here.  This will give you time to get up, exercise, shower, and then get ready for class…..” Dad said.

Whaaaaat?

Then Mom shared, “When your Day Planner arrives–it’s like your agenda from school–you can put all these in it.”

Hmmmmm.

Aren’t they cute?  I mean, really, couldn’t you just hug ’em?  I don’t know if I ever saw the family as it was starting to get crowded.  But if I’d seen them, I would have had to resist the urge.

Y’all are precious.  You think you’ve got her days mapped out just how they should go, AND that they are going to go just that way.

And they might.  For a few days.

I can remember days of 8:15 classes (good news, baby girl–now they’re backed up 15 minutes to 8 on the dot!), rolling out of bed, hairbrush, toothbrush, grab my books and roll–arriving in class with about two seconds to spare.  No breakfast, no exercise, no morning meditation.  I am sure this was not how my parents would have suggested I prepare for my days of learning, and it wasn’t how I started off my college experience, but it was what it was.

These young women have the opportunity to re-create themselves.  They get to try, if they want, being the person who gets up two hours before class, jogs, showers, meets friends for breakfast, and then on to class.  Or the person who wears yoga pants and t-shirts to class everyday.  Or the person who has never really been athletic but joins her class soccer team…..or volleyball…..or takes a Zumba or water aerobics class.  The person who didn’t study in high school can become the studious one whom everyone turns to for help in preparing for the mid-term.  The young woman who hasn’t been on stage since her fourth grade class play can try out for the first play of the season and find her niche in Porter Auditorium.  Though she may never have been very outgoing before, she might decide to run for class vice-president and win the election.  She can begin college thinking she’s going to be a teacher but instead graduate with a Psychology degree and dreams of graduate school.  So many doors are opening for these young women, they only have to decide which ones to walk through.

And that’s what I try to remind myself.  When I tell my girl about the adventures I had there, I want to remember she will create her own adventures.  She may want to be on STUNT Committee or become a Peer Counselor and RA, but she MIGHT NOT.  She may never set foot on the stage of Porter or put a toe in the pool.  And that is okay.  Did you hear that, Aub?  It’s okay.  I share these stories just to share them.  No pressure, no expectations.  Except two.

Be who you are.  And (quoting Mama) be your very best self.

Unless of course–

Yeah.  Pretty much the best advice.  Ever.

Yeah. Pretty much the best advice. Ever.