The secret past love life of Mama (4/30/2014)

My child is a natural born romantic. He completely believes in love at first sight, soul mates and all that mushy love propaganda.

Instead of being some future Lothario, I am quite certain Cole will be a “one and done” type of man, finding that one girl to marry and take until the end of time.

So imagine his shock, his surprise when he found out that Mama had had a crush on a boy long before his daddy.

“You what?” he asked from the backseat, leaning forward as if he had misheard.

“I said: ‘That was the boy I just knew I was going to marry when I was younger.'”

The simmering glare beneath his lashes showed his disapproval.

“What about Daddy?” he asked.

“Cole, I didn’t know your father then. Besides, you know I have been married before.”

“You should have known Daddy. And as for you being married before, we all are allowed one mistake in life. Mine was that day I got a ham sandwich at lunch instead of turkey … and ate it anyway because I was starving.”

Only my child would see a correlation between a ham sandwich and a failed marriage. However, both did involve swine.

“Was there more than one?” he asked.

“More than one what? Ex-husband? No. Just the one. That was enough.”

“No,” Cole pressed, an interrogatory tone to his voice. That child is going to be an attorney one day, I just know it. “How many other boys did you think you were going to marry when you were younger?”

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.

“You don’t know?” he was shocked beyond words at this. In fact, my child, who much like his Mama is never speechless, couldn’t say a word for a few minutes.

“Tell me about them,” was his directive.

“There’s not much to tell,” I replied.

“Tell me about them,” he repeated.

I sighed. Where to start? Like I said, there really wasn’t much to tell. But I told the child what I knew.

The main one, the boy of all boys, was a boy I grew up with at church. He was tan with a beautiful smile, even when he had a mouth full of metal. At one point, that boy got a perm that made him look like he had an afro.

Despite his poor hairstyle choices, I was enamored of him. I spent my Sunday’s staring at him across the congregation, doodling his name on my bulletin and drawing hearts around it. I would write Sudie Adler (Not his real name, mind you. He is still alive and well somewhere in the vicinity of the Classic City) on the top of the bulletin and just knew we would have three or four or five kids. I was in love. Don Adler did not know I existed, but I was going to marry him.

My best friend would roll her eyes and shake her head.

I had two strikes going against me. One, she didn’t mention; she didn’t have to. I was aware I was chubby.

Boys didn’t notice girls whose shape was round instead of curvy.

And, I was two years younger than Don – a horrific no-no back in the day of high school coolness.

I shamelessly stalked this boy, learning how to drive on his road as I went back and forth past his house. I made my best friend drive me by there too when she got her license until one day she pulled up in the driveway and honked the horn. I screamed like I was being chased by a chainsaw wielding serial killer.

“What are you doing?” I had cried.

“You make me do this every week; it’s time you got off the pot and announced to the Almighty Don Adler your undying love and devotion!” she said.

I slinked to the floorboard of her car. The horrors, the horrors – surely, I would die from embarrassment right on the spot.

But, I didn’t. Thankfully, my best friend knew he and his family were gone that day and did that to hopefully give me confidence to learn how to face my crush. All it did was teach me to not ask her to drive by his house anymore.

Any stalking I did from then on out, I had to do on my own or at the wheel of Mama. Or I called his number to hear his answering machine message just about every day. He had a Tone Loc song in the background; I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

One day I got up the nerve to ask him out – something that was unheard of back then -but I had to. It was the summer debutante ball and I needed a date. He couldn’t take me, but was polite in his let down, doing his gentlemanly best to not crush my feelings.

He was going out of town that weekend but could we maybe go out for lunch after church when he got back? Who knew Pizza Hut could be so romantic?

“What happened to this Donny person?” Cole interrupted to ask.

“He married someone, and they have two kids now, I think.” I wasn’t real sure even though his grandmother and Granny were close friends.

“So even before you married that other person, you had liked another boy?” For Cole, the fact that Mama had thought she was going to marry someone other than his daddy was just devastating news.

“How many others were there besides this Don Adler person?” he asked.

I didn’t answer but distracted him with the offer of Dairy Queen.

It’s best the rest stays secret.

Nothing is sacred (4/23/2104)

A diary is such a treasured, sacred little book, holding secret thoughts, the most private of details.

Until your mama finds it.

Then nothing is secret or private or remotely sacred any more.

Mama found my diary when I was around 7. I had written that I loved everybody but hated my P.E. coach. Mama found it sweet that I loved the rest of humankind and all critters but wondered why I hated my coach.

I poked my lip out, embarrassed and upset she had found the diary and retreated to my room to the solace of my stuffed animals. They never stole peeks into my diary. Nor did they think my youthful love for the word ‘cute.’

“What kind of diary did you have when you were a little girl?” Cole asked out of the blue one day.

I couldn’t remember how it looked, but I remembered the small brass lock on the side, with the key hanging off. Lot of good that lock did.

“I want a diary,” Cole said. “But I need a box with a lock first.”

I wasn’t sure how the two were related, so I asked him.

He gave me that expression that only an omnipotent 9-year-old can offer. “Um, Mama, I have to have a box with a lock to hide it in.”

I was a little slow on the uptake that day. “Why?”

The look – again.

“So you and Daddy won’t read it.”

“Sweetheart, do not worry. I won’t read your diary.”

“How do I know that?” he asked.

“Because I am giving you my word.”

He thought about that. I am a pretty trustworthy parent. If I say I am going to do something – even if it is something I may not be particularly excited about doing, like taking him to a community pool full of other people’s nook and cranny dirt – if I say something, I do it. Lamar, on the other hand, may not.

“What about Daddy?”

“Your father won’t bother your diary,” I promised.

He wasn’t absolutely certain of this.

“I still want a box. With a lock.”

“OK, we will get you a box with a lock.”

The box with the lock was no problem. I had a neat little wooden box with a latch on it that a small padlock fit through. He was happy with that. Now, to find the diary.

Not an easy task, finding a diary for a young boy’s confidential thoughts to be transposed. Most of the little books I found were bedazzled with fairies, princesses or bright, colorful flowers.

“You may have to just use a small, plain notebook,” I suggested as we surveyed the offerings one afternoon.

This did not make my child happy. If anything, he wanted something unique. Not just a small composition notebook.

Finding nothing, we returned home. He did have the really neat wooden box with a lock on it that he could put his top-secret stuff in. Until, he forgot where he put the key.

“I can’t find the key,” he told me in a hurried voice one evening. “And my best Pokemon cards are in there.”

No key to be found. We searched high and low, near and far. In all my best hiding places too, thinking he may have stuck it there. The key was not there but I did discover I needed a new, better hiding place; my emergency Dove chocolate was gone.

“Break the lock,” he solemnly asked of me.

“No,” I said. “That will break the latch and then it won’t lock.” I tried picking it but my lock picking skills are rusty.

“Let’s give it until tomorrow,” I suggested. “I don’t want to break it and then you not be able to use the box to put your diary in – when we finally find you one.”

He nodded, giving me a gentle hug. “Thank you, Mama,” he said.

Sure enough, the next day, he found the key and was able to retrieve his Pokemon cards from their safekeeping.

“I am glad I didn’t have you break the lock,” he began. “But now, I don’t think a diary will really fit in there. Look…” he held the box open for me to see. “It’s not really big on the inside.”

It wasn’t. But at the same time, I doubted we would ever find a diary for him.

Then, wonder beyond wonder, we found something almost, just almost perfect. It was a journal, but not just any journal. The cover was made to look like a vintage comic book, with Spider-Man crawling up the side of a building on the front. In the sea of pink, paisley and floral blank books – a journal a boy could use. And of course, Batman mechanical pencils were required as well.

“It won’t fit in the box,” Cole said, eyeing his new book.

“It will be OK,” I promised. “We won’t read it.”

He happily started scribing away. What, I don’t know, but he was busy writing in his new journal.

Mama called the other day. I thought she was crying at first.

“What is wrong?” I asked.

“I have been going through Granny’s stuff,” she began, trying to catch her breath. “And I found another one of your diaries.” She chortled some more. “Oh my Lord, Kitten … you were precious. Listen to this: Busy, busy day today: Ate breakfast, watched my cartoons, read a book. Whew! What a day.”

She roared with laughter.

“Hey. For a chubby kid, that was a lot.” My cheeks were burning, 30 plus years later. That was sacred stuff. I can only hope my grandmother had put it away for safekeeping. Not to laugh raucously at my lack of social life.

“You put in here ‘My coach is not quite as tough as he thinks he is. No man wearing those shorts is that tough.’ Why did you have it in for that coach?” she asked between her peals of laughter.

“Because, he told me I was chubby once and needed to run laps. I knew I was chubby. I didn’t need a coach telling me that when I was a child.”

“Well, this is good stuff. You want me to keep this for you?”

“I want you to put it back where you found it and stop reading it. That was personal. It was my private diary!”

Mama didn’t think so. She thought it was, in her words, “precious.”

I was mortified.

Cole had nothing to be worried about. His parents would always respect his privacy and never dream of breaching his sacred writings.

His Nennie, however, was a totally different nosy story though. To her, nothing was sacred.

A lesson in friendship (4/16/2014)

“Mama, can I talk to you?” Cole asked me quietly one evening.

“Of course,” was my reply, wondering what was wrong.

“Mama, I don’t think I am friends with someone anymore,” he said.

He had curled up on the arm of my chair, a pensive expression on his face.

“What happened?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I am not sure exactly. But I thought someone was a good friend, but he was only nice to me when I had my Pokemon cards with me and he wanted to trade. He is never nice to me unless he thinks I can give him something and he is nicer to that other kid that always is trashing my stuff.”

I sighed. Nothing hurts a mother more than seeing their child hurt, especially when it is something you can’t put a Band-Aid on to make it all better.

“I am so sorry to hear that,” I began. “That has to be very disappointing and hurtful.” He nodded. “And as hurtful as it is, maybe it is better you found this out now, instead of later when you think he is a better friend than he is.”

It was my child’s turn to sigh, not agreeing fully with what I had said.

I knew how he felt. I had dealt with similar circumstances when I was a child; heck, we all have. I know Mama remembers to this very day her same encounter.

She had been given a big bag full of candy that she took to school, thinking she would share with her friends Connie and Cherry.

Suddenly, she was surrounded by all these other children – children she never had spoken to before – wanting to be her friend, their hand out for a piece of candy and another, until her bag was empty.

“That taught me an important lesson that day,” Mama told me.

“To not take your bag of candy to school?” I asked.

“No,” Mama had said. “It taught me that people will only be your friend and be nice to you as long as you are giving them something. Once you run out of what they want, whatever they can use you for, they will soon disappear.”

Maybe Mama was right. It didn’t even have to be limited to just children. Some adults were far worse.

There are some people who only know my email or phone number when they need something – that advice, that marketing help, the free life coach, whatever they need – but suddenly vanish once that well has run dry.

I have quietly, gently shifted them out of my life.

They probably may not realize it or maybe they have – if they have needed something and noticed I didn’t eagerly reply for the sake of being a good friend.

But here was my child, hurting because he always tried to be a friend, tried to be nice and kind and realizing that sadly, not everyone treats you that way in return. And worse, finding out that some people just flat out will use you.

He felt better about things as the following days passed. I didn’t press him for information, knowing he will come to me when he needed to talk.

And that day came.

“Mama, remember me telling you about that guy I am not friends with anymore?”

I nodded.

“Well, I don’t think we are friends anymore, but I am still nice to him. I am just not taking my Pokemon cards to trade with him and I am not spending a whole lot of my free time with him. Do you think that is OK?”

I did.

“Cole, baby, part of what you have to learn how to do is how to get along with people, even when they are not fair, even when you know how they are and maybe don’t like them. You still have to deal with them at school, at work, somewhere. So I think you are learning a very important lesson. I think you are learning who your friends are and what qualities you want in a friend; and, you are learning how to be a good friend, too.”

“I like being a good friend,” he said.

I knew he did. Being an only child puts a lot of emphasis on friendships.

“Do you think I will have these friends I have now – the ones that are my real friends, I mean – forever?” he asked.

I thought of how friendships change, evolve and sometimes end. I thought of how when Granny died, two of my friends who showed up at the funeral home I had known since I was 4 years old, and even though I hadn’t seen them in decades, they were there. One sat with my Mama the night before the funeral; the other, was not only my kindergarten teacher but the mother of a dear friend.

“Baby, some people you will know when they walk into your life, you never want them to leave and they won’t. They will be there forever. Some, won’t stay long enough for many reasons – they move away, change jobs, you don’t get to see them anymore – and you will be sad when it ends, but remember the laughs. So enjoy each friend while you have them. And always remember, use things, not people.”

He nodded, letting this sink in.

“Because you know, Mama, things and people can both be used up, the difference is, things can be replaced. People, you can’t. Once you’ve broken that trust with a friend, you never, not ever get it back.”

My child was so right. Both people and things may be used, but only things could be replaced.


Good girls finish last (4/9/2014)

Angel Doodle is not a good girl. She likes it that way. The little caramel colored pittie mix doesn’t even pretend to be good.

“You are not a good girl!” Lamar will scold her as she hides in the basket of shame, tearing up whatever her latest conquest is. Sometimes it’s socks. This particular morning, it was Cole’s carved slingshot.

She also ate holes in one of Lamar’s fleece pullovers in the same morning. We are not sure why, but she did.

My leopard print fuzzy bedroom slippers also are missing their soles thanks to the Doodle.

“Who’s a good girl? Who’s my good girl?” Lamar will say. I know he’s talking either to Ava the German Shepherd or Pumpkin the Border collie. Angel Doodle does not care about being a good girl.

“You need to praise the Doodle,” I will tell him.

Lamar ignores my admonishment. Maybe he could tell her she tore up Cole’s flip flops in record time or that he has never seen a dog stick their whole body in the trash can quite like she does. Surely being told she is not a good girl daily is detrimental to her doggie self-esteem.

“I tell her she is a pretty girl,” Lamar said. “She is a pretty little chunky monkey.”

Angel knows she is a pretty girl too. We have caught her sitting on the end of the bed, admiring herself in the dresser mirror. She did that for about 30 minutes one day, turning her head side to side as she fully appraised her cuteness.

“She is a sweet girl,” I added. “I think she is the sweetest dog I have ever had.”

She is. Angel Doodle doesn’t have the first mean bone in her body. If anything, the pittie mix is the peacemaker and mediator between Ava and Pumpkin.

Usually, Pumpkin is the instigator, trying to assert her alphaness, growling at Ava, who could really care less. But Angel gets in between them, showering puppy kisses on both, stopping the argument before it even gets started.

The only time she has ever growled is when we attempt to move her over when she is sound asleep in the middle of the bed. Yes, she sleeps with us every night. She is still the “baby” and thinks she is supposed to be a co-sleeper. But if you move her out of her spot -which is lengthwise across the middle of the bed where no one else can sleep – she will sleep growl at you to express her dislike.

“I don’t know what’s worse,” Cole will say, “that growl that sounds far worse than it is, or the two-minute stare she gives you afterwards. You just know she’s gonna eat a shoe the next morning.”

Angel has even taken up my late Venus’ job of watching over Cole. I took a photo of the two of them the other morning, the dog’s arms wrapped around Cole and sent it to Mama.

She texted back, “Is Cole OK? Check on him.”

I told her he was fine and sleeping.

An hour later, when Lamar went to wake him, Doodle stood over him, protecting her charge, pushing Lamar away. Turned out, Cole was having chills with a low grade fever. The doodle knew and wouldn’t leave his side.

“She is a good girl,” Mama said, trying to defend the pup. “She is. She just has a different approach than the other two.”

“She’s not a good girl, Mama nor does she aspire to be,” I replied. “She’s two out of three – she’s pretty and sweet but she is not a good girl.”

“Y’all are going to give that dog a complex,” Mama said.

I doubt that.

Angel usually seems to enjoy life more than any dog I have ever seen. While Pumpkin gets her whiskers twisted at the shenanigans of the younger two’s rough housing and often feels obligated to do the right thing because she is the responsible one. I can understand and relate to how Pumpkin feels sometimes. I wish I could let loose and dig a hole big enough to stick myself in like the Doodle does. But I have to be serious and the upholder of decorum.

Angel is a free spirit, running to our neighbor’s house to see what they are up to. She likes to visit with their dogs, too. They are evidently conferring about the best way to catch a squirrel and holding conferences about the deer that love to hang out on the hill between our homes.

She will shamelessly jump up to steal food off the counter while I make dinner, running with her bounty to her basket of shame to eat it.

“I still think she is a good girl,” Mama will protest. She’s mistaken, I will tell her.

“She’s not, Mama. But you know what? She gets treats, she steals food, and she tears up just about everything we don’t put up on a high shelf. Her pack loves her, even when Pumpkin gets annoyed with her, she loves her and Ava’s her best friend. She gets loved on constantly – I kiss that dog’s forehead until my lips are chapped. So why should she be a good girl? She’s the antithesis of a good girl and life is pretty ding-dang sweet for the Doodle.”

Mama had to agree.

Angel Doodle had found her sweet spot. She wasn’t a good girl. She was a naughty, misbehaving little dog. And that had far more perks than being good.

Something’s gotta go (4/2/2014)


I inherited my pack-rat tendencies from Granny, along with the dusting allergy.

Granny was a product of the Great Depression and feared throwing anything – and I mean anything – away, least she may need it at some vague point in the future.

I may not have been raised during the Great Depression, but I have that same inherent fear that the second I toss something, I will need it.

But my house/cabin/walk-in closet is not big enough to handle a lot of clutter and mess. Nor does it hold enough storage space to hide the mess either.

Cole’s room, in particular, is a spot of contention as he inherited that fear of tossing as well.

Several years ago, Lamar made Cole clean his room. My precious progeny had already survived the Nennie Clean of 2009, when Mama came and cleaned his room armed with big black garbage bags and a Swiffer. He didn’t speak to her or about her for three whole weeks. Nennie’s name was not to be uttered. And there he was, being ordered to clean out his room by his father.

Cole dropped to the floor, in song: “Oh Lord, Jesus, help me Father, I don’t know why this man is so mean.”

It was even better to hear it as his voice took a deep gospel tone to it, one you would hear emanating from country churches that didn’t have cushions on the pews and used handheld fans for air conditioning. It held a poetic tone, as he repeated his verse, wondering why his father was so unfair.

Stuff had been carefully put up, away and some things, like Legos that had been crushed by my boots, tossed. But for everything tossed, my child had to replace so his room was back to packrat proportions.

“We can’t even get in there,” was Lamar’s statement. “There may be a bear in there and we not know it.”

A good possibility. I am always thankful when I pull up to the house and a bear is not on the porch, kicking back with a cold one.

Lamar must have eaten his Wheaties that morning, because he dove in, purging our child’s room.

“Don’t you throw anything away, even if it looks broken; Cole may be saving it to fix and he will know if it’s gone,” I cautioned.

Lamar didn’t agree but knew Cole would not be happy if even the tiniest piece was discarded without his consent.

Hours later, a semblance of order appeared among the plush pigs, Transformers and Lego cities. My child even had a rug on his floor – we had forgotten there was a rug in there – and Cole was thrilled. He still has to organize and sort his toys, but he said he was excited about his father’s attempt to regain practical use of square footage.

“Now,” Lamar began, surveying my office. “What about your stuff?”

I’m working on it. I am, really. My girlfriend Court (the one famous for telling me if she waited until my house was clean before she came over, she’d never see me) told me about something called “40 bags in 40 days.”

Her explanation described how over the course of 40 days, you went through your house and got rid of a total of 40 bags of stuff you didn’t need any more. I kind of liked that notion – minus the whole “what if I need it later” fear I have. But I started anyway and in my clutter concentrate spot – my office.

In one day, I had five bags full. They were grocery bags, but were crammed full. Mostly paper – how many receipts for gas did I need to keep?

Even after the bags piled up, there was still a lot of junk in there.

“I can’t tell a difference,” I said forlornly.

“I can,” Lamar said. “You just have a lot of stuff. You need to get rid of some of the bigger stuff you don’t use.”

I use all my “big stuff,” I thought.

The only things I had that were big were my computer and my makeup cases. Those are both pretty dang necessary.

I looked around the whole house, looking for possible things I don’t use that would free up needed space.

Yes, I have tons of stuff in the kitchen I don’t use. I will though, and you can really never have too many springform pans. What if I had an emergency and needed to make two cheesecakes at once? It has happened before.

My eyes fell on the biggest, ugliest space eater upper I had ever seen and I knew it would be one that the minute I get rid of it, I will say I needed it back: The treadmill.

Hulked in the corner of the living room, its sole purpose had been to put shoes up on so Angel wouldn’t eat them in her basket of shame.

Something needs to go, and this would be a good thing to get rid of.

“You are right,” I told Lamar. “We need to clear out this clutter. So I will get rid of the treadmill.”

The treadmill I had begged for, the treadmill he broke down and bought me and the treadmill I have only used a dozen of times.

It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.