Friday, August 29, 2008

Mammaries, Like The corners of My Boobs

I'm sorry - that was a completely miseading title, wasn't it? I'm a firm believer in paraphrasing sappy ass songs, and that is one of my personal bests. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to sing the rest of it to you - it's somewhat blue (somewhat - ahahahahaha!), and I was actually going somewhere else with this post.


It's hard to believe how fast time goes by. It was only last week, it seems, that I was holding my first born, freaking out over the immense responsibility I had taken on. And now, in the blink of an eye or two, it's 11 years later, and my little Professor is on his way to teendom. What the hell happened? I haven't gotten any older, how did he? At any rate, he's still one of my very favorite people in the whole wide world, and not just because he lets me ramble on and on about the English Reformation and the Birth of Piracy in the New World ("I could just listen to you talk forever, Mom") What a delightful suck-up!

Happy Birthday Professor! (singing, "and many moooore!")

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Vodka Mom tagged me for this meme, because I am "a smart ass". With an accolade like that, how can I resist? The problem lies in the fact that I am just not unspectacular. Nope, not a bit. Every moment of my larger-than life is sparkling, scintillating, amazing. I even crap epic. But for my darling martini-mixing mamacita, I'll try to dredge up something dull and humdrum.

Are you buying this yet?

A) I am a vampire. No really, I can't abide daytime. Nothing says "what the fuck is wrong with my life?" like getting up at O Dark Hundred. I love the nightlife. I've got to boogie.

2) I love throwing dinner parties, and I'm rather good at it, but I rarely do. Every time I have a party my family comes over, and my brothers try to burn down my house. Or they chip a piece of depression glass. Or plug the toilet (it's that epic feces thing again - it's genetic or something).

D) Despite my adamance in buying only the all-natural ice cream at the grocery store, when I get near one of those accursed Dairy Queens, all bets are off. Natural-Schmatural. Butterfinger Blizzards are my personal plasma fix.

9) I am a ridiculous marshmallow animal lover (snakes, not so much). I was standing in my front yard the other night, trying to tame a baby deer to my presence, and wondering if he would like catfood or if I should just go get some corn for him. He was starting to act curious about me, when Simon started stalking him. Stupid cat - he thinks he's going to bag that deer!

Q) My mother is the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn. I bet you didn't know that. She told me herself, after a pitcher of whiskey sours, when I was 14, but I was suspicious. I mean, did Anne Boleyn really have an Irish brogue? (Sorry, that was really a spectacular piece of trivia, wasn't it? I did tell you...)

Omega) Okay, wait. I got one. An unspectacular thing about me. No, seriously, I got one. I - dammit. It's gone.

Now because I'm an acknowledged smart ass, and a rule breaker to boot, I'm not going to link to anyone. Besides, I know ya'll would kick my aforementioned buttocks. BUT, if you would like to take this meme and run with it, give me a holler and I'll append this with any and all linkage, ah-ight?

And in other news...

Bea has posted her side of our Saturday night at the Palace. It's about as close as you're going to get to an alternate or worst-case ending. (How come no one wanted the Scooby Doo ending? Or like a Pride and Predjudice one? I could have done those.)

Appended to add: No one believes I'm a smart ass? Really? I gotta lay off the touchy feelie posts for awhile - I must be getting too deep.

Oh, and I thought of one finally, for #Omega: I won't let my kids eat junk food, but when they're at school, sometimes I treat myself on the sly. Shhhh, don't tell them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Night At The Palace

I couldn't resist - I had to throw out a few crumbs , just to tease you.

Okay. Are you ready? You sure? I could go do the meme I'm supposed to do this week...No?

So we arrived at the palace, just a few minutes after 6 pm. The eroding driveway was so overgrown that Bea almost missed it, and when I pointed it out, she said, disbelieving, "Really? Is is safe?" I led her up the brick stairs that were almost invisible under an invading blanket of ivy and we were met at the top by Cleo, who hugged us both and asked after all the family.

See now, it would have been harder to get through, but infinitely better blog fodder if she had been doing her on-stage thing. Now you all think I'm making up the Sarah Bernhardt/Cleopatra thing, which I wasn't, but then she had to go and act all normal and shit. It's like some kind of radar or something.

We went in and settled ourselves on the wonderful old screened porch that sits atop the garage. It's always been one of my favorite spots in this house, and it's certainly one of the coolest. There was a drape that hid the door from view, and as a child, I would hide there when I'd had enough of playing, enjoying Cleo's escalating ire at not being able to find me. Bea and I had brought along a cooler of party beverages, but Cleo was just coming off a 9 day juice fast and was drinking vegetable broth, so she abstained.

There, are you happy? She was drinking vegetable broth, instead of eating, for crying out loud, and that's only the tip of that girl's iceberg. The last time I went to the beach with her she freaked out all the local color with her hairy arm-pitted, sun saluting yoga stuff. Folks just aren't that groovular around here.

We talked about her mom, and her last few months. We brought up the obligatory ancient history and discussed possible whys for some of her mother's more traumatic and showy moments in parenting, how it affected all of us in different ways. We didn't eulogize the woman, but neither did we eviscerate her, because where does that get any of us, especially now? I was relieved to hear Cleo talk about her mother in such an insightful way; glad I wasn't going to have to pick her up and re piece her sense of self back together. She seemed to have found deeper understanding and peace with her mother, in those last months spent together, and for her sake, I was grateful. Closure is so important in getting on with your life, and easier to achieve with a living person.

I asked her if she remembered the time we were approached in the park by a man in a trench coat. He wanted to show us "a little something" and our answers were polar opposites: she said yes, and I said no, as I dragged her from the park. Since that particular memory is from the same period she had blanked out on years before, I wasn't surprised she didn't recall it. It is my fate as a historian that I remember what others forget.

We also talked about our love lives and what we were doing in the here and now. Cleo included Bea in these conversations, and was a kinder, gentler hostess than I have ever remembered. All in all, and rather anti-climactically, we had a lovely evening together. Even Bea would concur.


I feel kind of ashamed of myself for building you up, just to say, "Yeah, it was alright", but Cleo did tell me she's planning on having one of her famous birthday parties in October. Now those are never staid or dull.

So stay tuned - October is just around the corner!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dinner And A Show

The two women walked silently out of the sushi bar and got in an old Toyota, it’s once silver finish now more of a primer gray. They were almost out of the parking lot before the passenger spoke:

“You know, if she’s really acting up we won’t stay long, I promise. I really appreciate you coming with me, but I wish you had ordered sushi – now I feel all indebted and shit. Does this mean I have to be nice to you, too?”

The driver smiled knowingly, at the decrepit inside joke, and with an uncanny Yoda-sense she replied, knowing it would be more soothing than kindness:

“Beotch! I’m waiting to see how bad this night turns out, before I send you my bill!”
They laughed together and drove on towards the palace.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Sweet Jesus!
It's the last weekend before school starts and the guys are going out of town.
That means Bea and I should be whooping it up, except...

Except that I've committed us (in every sense of the word) to a Saturday night of sipping fruit juice (fruit juice! dammit!) in the house of a dead woman, while we watch her daughter, Sarah Bernhardt, perform the role of Cleopatra.

Yeah, that was me, freakin Joanie of Arc, who signed us up for this gig.

Bea, true friend that she is, has been very gracious, but I know this isn't her idea of fun. It doesn't help that, even after 20 years, Cleo can't remember Bea's name. It's the kind of girl she is, and a big part of why I keep my distance from Chez Cleo.

"Nobody puts Bea in a corner."

So Bea, I want to apologize in advance for the blatant rudeness you will be subjected to tomorrow. I cannot thank you enough for going with me into the Palace of Self Absorption, and being the lifeline of sanity I know I'm going to need.

So, sushi? It's on me...!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Muddy Waters

The phone call came today, from my friend whose mother died. I was afraid she would be brittle and unyielding in her coping; impossibly imprisoned in her fairy tale tower of protection, but grief had levelled her. On the phone, she sounded like the girl I knew so long ago, her older, more interior self. As we talked a million memories, some muddy and indistinct, others crystalline, bobbed to the surface of the silty depths of my mind.

Reaching for those memories down in the sludgy bottom of my consciousness, I hesitated. My fear of what might be lingering, lurking there in the sediment, forgotten, kept me from trawling through that dormant, long buried past. For now.

I think it's time to drain the pool, and clean out the debris.

We are getting together on Saturday to visit with each other, to reconnect. In part, to pay my respects, but also to grieve together, something I'm surprised to discover I need to do.

As much as I have vilified her mother, painted her as a narcissistic monster of selfishness (and she was), as an adult I recognize her impact on my life. I realize that my memories are colored in crayon, the memories of a child, and there were undoubtedly undercurrents and dynamics I was ignorant of that played into the scenes I witnessed. I owe it to myself and my friend to steel my nerve and dig into that past, if only to affirm our bond to each other as situational siblings, but maybe also to make some sense of the things that haunt us both.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Few Things You Might Not Know

Bennie Waddell has twice described me as an iced tea sipping, firefly catching, laid back good ole Southern girl. While this is very flattering, in truth, I am none of those things. I feel compelled to 'fess up to you, so you don't get the wrong idea about me, though, in truth, you might like the fiction better.
  • I am not a Southerner, though I have lived in the south for almost 40 years. I think that's what's called a "Damn Yankee" - the ones who don't leave. As much as I love the South, there is a part of me that will always yearn for the Great Lakes. Okay, two parts of me: my heart and my stomach.

  • There are many things about the South I love and embrace - Barbeque, hush puppies, shrimp and grits, biscuits, okra (if it's done right), the way a little snow stops the whole world - but iced tea is NOT one of them. Neither are Brunswick Stew, collard greens, sausage gravy, NASCAR, or Pepsi as a breakfast beverage.

  • Beverages of choice for me are (in order of importance on a daily basis): coffee, water, Coca Cola, seltzer, Dr. Pepper, orange juice, Newcastle, Red Drinks, margaritas.

  • I would SO kick my kids' asses if they caught any kind of wildlife, including fireflies. We have a No Intervention policy here concerning the fauna.

  • I am not a particularly laid back individual - actually, I'm kind of a monkey on the edge, but I play calm and cool really well, don't I? (In related content, I have been quoted as saying, "I'm a HAPPY person, DAMMIT!")

So while I just love Bennie for thinking I'm a groovy hippie Southern girl, I have to admit - I'm just not that cool. But I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express once - does that count for anything?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Smudge of Embarrassment on Your Collar

I was at the grocery store the other day, without the kids, meandering the aisles. I stopped in the medicine aisle to buy some ibuprofen. Next to me was this guy, your average joe, looking for something. He started in the pain relievers and wandered down the aisle, looking lost, as I got my drugs and went to check out.

I didn't think much of him until I noticed him checking out next to me. He scanned something that evidently didn't have a bar code, because the uppity You-Scan computer informed him and the world that a cashier was needed, STAT. I glanced at what he was buying - it was four; count em -4 boxes of Midol.

I couldn't help it - I laughed out loud.

I said to him: "It's bad enough that you get sent to buy this stuff, but then the register won't ring it up and has to announce storewide that you need help. Buddy, you are in Man Hell!"

Evidently it was funnier to me, but then, I'm not the guy buying Midol.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


It's mid-August and summer is passing before my lazy eyes. The flower beds have been beaten down by heat and Japanese beetles, and all that remains to delight the eye are the rogue flowers of the climbing weeds, like cow itch or morning glories. They creep into the beds and up the trees, hide under the bee balm and Gerber daisies, waiting for their moment to emerge. It's almost like they know; I haven't the heart to destroy anything that blooms in late summer. I haven't the heart for many things right now. With the passing season comes the reality that I have to do something about Jasper. Right now, and for a few months more, it'll be warm enough for her to live comfortably outdoors, but come late October, maybe November if it stays warm, I have to say goodbye and ease this old cat out of life. She's the last of the cats from our college years, and the end of an era, and in spite of her random piddling ways, I love her and will miss her. With her goes that last tangible thread that led to my youth, my life before this one.

Ever onward and upward, still, it's hard not to look behind as you leave a chapter forever. The kids are gone this week, up to visit with my sister. The silence is wonderful, and soul refreshing, but I miss the nectar of their sweet laughter and warm hugs.
My garden, seemingly empty and bereft, in spite of being overgrown, but hidden green peppers burgeon and ripen in anticipation of the boys' return. And ripe tomatoes make BLTs sublime. On Friday, August 15, I will be guest posting over at A Work of Art for Bennie Waddell, who's on vacation. Come check it out!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"They Really Like Me!" - Sally Field

Bennie Waddell, over at A Work of Art just totally made my day! He's put up a review and link to my post Exploratory Soul Surgery and I'm just bowled over by the praise! Thank you Bennie - you know I love you too!
Go check him out - he's got the best video up right now, about "Redneck Chihuahuas". I laughed my ass off watching it, and I defy anyone to watch it and not get at least a chuckle out of it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Childhood Memory

There are moments in time that are so vivid, we can almost reach out and touch them.

I am 4.

I am standing in between a pair of sheets drying on the line. Through the gap in the sheets, the ellipse of sky above me is pale blue and filled with puffy, lake-born clouds, scudding by on the Northern summer breeze. I breathe in the scent of Tide and cotton, but there is also the sharper smells of earth and grass.

In my cloak of white, my fortress of fiber,

I am invisible. I am safe.

It is a moment trapped in the amber of my memory, fossilized into something gemlike.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Exploratory Soul Surgery

The elderly mother of a childhood friend died over the weekend, and I went to the reception/wake that was held for her. I hadn't spoken with my friend for a couple of years, partly because she moved out to Arizona, and partly because when she did come home to visit she always wanted to reconnect with 20-30 friends at the same time, in a celebrity/paparazzi kind of gathering, which, in my opinion, isn't really about reconnecting with any of those people - it's about stroking an ego and feeding an exhibitionist's jones for attention. Maybe I'm just inflexible, but I just can't stoke that bonfire of vanity.

Walking into that house took me back to 10 years old. I instinctively looked to see if there was still a curtain by the entrance to the screened porch to hide behind. The energy of her life, the deceased, was still palpable in every room, or maybe it was just my vivid memories. I stood testament to so much in that house. A stream of folks wandered in and out of the reception. I recognized some, but others were too transformed by time for me to easily recognize them. The big elephant in the house that day was the absence of my friend, at her mother's memorial. Her older sister made excuses for her absence, explaining she had to attend a yoga workshop out west, but her rolling eyes added an editorial I understood too well.

The story, the dynamics that set this scene in motion, go much deeper than a simple power struggle. Despite having several sisters, my friend was, in many ways, an only child. She was a post-40 Whoops child, and her sisters were all but grown up and out of the house when she came along, so she enjoyed and suffered the full brunt of her mother's attention and neglect. Her mother was a very bright woman, both academically and artistically, but she was also extremely competitive and often angry at the world around her. Her marriage broke up when my friend was about 3 or 4 and she never remarried, choosing to live and raise her youngest daughter alone.

I don't think I can effectively summarize the myriad stories of my childhood that played out at their house, that are part and parcel of my friend's no-show. Some are good stories. Little girls playing dress up with a box of antique petticoats, riding side saddle on almost as antique Schwinn bicycles, transformed by imagination into glorious steeds. Dazzling late night parties peopled by local celebrities and politicians, where we were introduced as a pair of precocious princesses, and oh, how we loved to play the part! I enjoyed a rarified upbringing in that house, exposed to books, art, theatre, politics, and the then burgeoning feminist movement, and I owe all of that to my friend's mother. But there are darker stories of her influence as well.

Some are downright nightmares; cataclysmic storms of misplaced rage, apathetic neglect of both her child and her home. In my mind images of spacious rooms with elegant furnishings; a baby grand piano in a room full of windows, antique portraits of ancestors hung above family heirlooms, are juxtaposed against images of a refrigerator full of spoiled food, a basement crawling with almost sentient mold, and a woman whose variable moods and deadly temper made me grateful for my own batshit crazy parents, and the fact I could go home at 5 o'clock. We were never quite sure what would tip her off; a dirty towel on the floor, a broken ashtray, but we knew, once she got going it wasn't going to end until someone was shredded and in tears.

My friend told me once about a bad experience she had while partying - that she had all these really traumatic images of her mother and her grandmother boil up and she couldn't tell where it had come from. She thought it had all been a product of her inebriation, but as she described the images to me, I was horrified. They weren't fabrications, they were suppressed memories of her childhood. I knew what they were because I had been present for many of them, and it is not my luck in life that I can forget, though I wished I had, so I could have feigned ignorance for her sake.

I can't say with authority why my friend wasn't there at that memorial/wake/reception. All I can tell you is what I know of what came before, and even then, I feel like there is a ghost who wants to shut my mouth.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On The Edge of Reason

It sounded like a good idea at the time:

With school out I haven't had any real need to have a car every day, and since the hub-man is still driving the Grandma-mobile (a 1987 Chrysler with only 50,000 miles on it - oh, and no AC.), it made sense to let him have my beloved Toyota Corolla ("Take you there, it will - cost you much, it won't" - Yoda). We could save on filling up two tanks with gas and he could ride in air conditioned comfort during the dog days of summer. We want to buy a new car, but where was the sense in making car payments all summer when we didn't have to? Oh yeah, we're some farty-smarties, being all frugal.

Reality Check:
I have two of the best behaved kids in the world - no really, they're good guys. They are kids though, so some days they bank off of the walls; some days they're evil as snakes, and fight with each other. Putting them to work calms them down like magic, and banning them from playing together for the rest of the day invariably makes it irresistable for them stay away from each other for long. They're easy, more or less - it's the fractious, antsy, twitchy mom I'm having problems with.

I feel like I'm trapped at home, drowning under an ocean of dirty clothes and monotony. While it's great to be able to stay up and sleep in, I miss my quiet time in the morning, after the guys are at school. I could think. There wasn't any chirping, "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom,Mom..." ad nauseum. It hasn't helped that the hub-man has had to work longer hours lately, on a fairly important project at work, so there's no grown up besides me until 8 or 9 some nights. And when he's tired, he's not much better than a grumpy toddler, really. So yeah, I'm jonesing for some grown ups. Did I mention that Bea is leaving me next week? Psychotic break-time, anyone?

My oldest cat, Jasper, is on her last leg these days. She's become so incontinent we've had to keep her outside, the guilt of which impels me to feed her three times a day and change her water, replete with ice cubes. I also set up a bed for her arthritic old bones to lie upon, but come fall, if she hasn't just turned up her toes, I'm going to have to do the deed and gas her. This, of course, isn't much of a mood booster.

Just like the sun, when it goes behind a cloud, I know things will clear up, all will be resolved, and I will be back to my usual self. It's just in the meantime, "I'm looking down, Shrek!"