Lessons learned from the mat

Lessons learned from the mat.

I knew Cole needed a sport this summer.

After being homeschooled and missing his peers, he needed the social interaction and the discipline of a sport.

I say that, and I am not a huge sports fan, despite that former life as a sports reporter.

I didn’t want him to play football – the equipment would likely weigh more than him, and honestly, I think it can be too rough.

Putting your baby in a bubble is frowned upon on a football field.

Lamar thankfully vetoed football, too.

He has a good arm for baseball, but I have seen people get hit with the ball.

“He may one day be the pitcher for the Braves, making millions of dollars – you could just sit, drink wine, and read all day,” Lamar tempted me.

“He could also get really hurt if he took a line drive to the cranium. No.”

He would probably do well in basketball, but he’s never really acted like he cared for it.

Cole asked if he could be a cyclist to which we both resoundingly said, “No.”

That didn’t leave a whole lot leftover.

“How about wrestling?” I asked. “Would you like to try wrestling?”

Cole eagerly agreed.

I am sure visions of John Cena and the other wrestlers on the WWE were flashing through his mind.

It was a far cry from body slams and smashing chairs, but Cole loved it.

Of course, I flinched every time I saw him crash to the mat. So I made sure he didn’t catch me watching him. I didn’t want to embarrass him with my worry face.

“Did you throw anyone out of the ring?” Mama wanted to know.

“No, Nennie – there’s not even a ring like that. It’s wrestling, not wrasslin,'” he explained.

The pronunciation makes a big difference, mind you.

While I was watching, but not trying to be conspicuous about it, Lamar was watching intently.

Mothers and fathers have different ideas about the areas where children need to be pushed.

I’ve always been more of an encourager, play to the strengths type of person. Lamar’s always had more patience than I did, being able to teach Cole how to tie shoes when I couldn’t.

But this was different.

This was sports.

“Be aggressive, be aggressive,” I heard Cole saying one night.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“Daddy told me I gotta get aggressive. So I am gonna be aggressive.”

I don’t like aggressiveness. At all. I sighed and told Lamar I didn’t.

“He’s got to get aggressive out there. Sports is channeled aggression,” I was told.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like sports.

I don’t like all the aggression and the ‘might makes right.’

Which is why I leaned towards wrestling, as it was a little fairer in that you competed in your weight class.

Still, I am not a fan of aggression.

“If there were prizes or something like that, Cole’s attitude would be different,” I said. “This is his social time and he wants to talk to someone his own age about boy stuff. If he saw it as a competition, he would probably react different.”

“He’s just gotta be more aggressive,” Lamar repeated. “Just watch him without worrying he’s getting hurt for a few minutes, you’ll see what I am talking about.”

I frowned, but I did it.

For a few moments, I watched Cole and the other child he was wrestling with and saw the differences between the two.

Cole, when in a hold, gave in.

The other boy would resist bridge and push away, fighting until he had Cole pinned.

“Wow,” I said.

My gentle, tenderhearted child would give in.

My shy, painfully quiet husband was just as tenderhearted – maybe more so – but Cole does have my mouth.

Lamar is the one who has fought against odds that were not in his favor. It translated to a competitive edge when on the bike, and it just helped him in general off the bike.

“He’s not aggressive at all, is he?”

Lamar shook his head.

“He gives in too quickly, he lets the other kid just take him down. He’s got to learn how to resist and push back.”

When the practice was over, Cole bounded up, red faced and needing water.

“How did I do?” he asked, gulping his Powerade.

“Great!” we said in unison.

“When we get home, I want to go over some moves with you,” Lamar said. “To help you.”

Cole was immediately worried.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No,” Lamar said. “You did great. I just want you to get more aggressive, like we talked about.”

“I thought I was,” his face fell.

“Cole, I think Daddy is just saying, you’ve got to learn how to push back, to not give in. I want you to learn how to not give in so easily.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because – it’s important, Cole. Maybe the most important thing you can learn.”

He shook his head, sweat dropping to the floor. “It’s just wrestling, Mama, it’s just wrestling.”

Just like in life, we can give in when things get tough. Or we can push back, wait until the opponent gives in or gives some leeway and turn the situation around in our favor.

That’s definitely something we all need to learn.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the e-published novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”

The heart wants what the heart wants (6/17/2015)

No one plans on falling in love. Well, unless they sign up for dating sites. And even then, plans are sketchy.

But the easiest way to fall in love is to not be expecting it to happen and then it just does.

My child just thought he was going to attend Vacation Bible School.

He had no idea he was going to be love struck.

“Mama,” he began. “What did you think about that little boy that liked you when you were younger?”

“I thought he was sweet, why?”

“No reason.”

A few minutes passed. “Did you think he was weird for liking you?”

My answer was no, but when I was four, I wasn’t worried about boys. My focus was reading, coloring, naps, and an afternoon Hostess cupcake.

Not a lot has changed in nearly 40 years.

As I pondered the first boy who ever liked me, Cole went to his room, obviously preoccupied by my kindergarten romance.

When he emerged, he asked for an envelope.

Curious, I asked why he needed one.

“I’ll tell you later.”

I heard him tearing the envelopes up, frustrated.

A few moments passed before my child stood before me, a piece of paper folded up tightly into a neat little square.

“I don’t even know her name,” he said quietly.

“Who’s name?”

“This beautiful girl I met tonight,” he said. “She has long, dark hair and blue eyes. Did you see her?”

There were a dozen children there, I am sure I saw her but was not sure which girl he was talking about.

“I have no idea what her name is, though…” his voice trailed off as he held the square.

“Is that for her?” I asked.

He nodded. “I wrote her a letter. Do you want to read it?”

“Not if you don’t want me to,” I said.

He nodded. “I want you to.”

But instead, he read it to me. “I like you and think you are really neat. You probably don’t feel the same way, but maybe one day you will.”

The pureness of his words. The hope he put in it. He was a pure romantic through and through and I am not sure where he got it from other than his own abashed love of love.

The courage it took for my shy, yet charming little boy to write such words. If I had his courage to take risks, there’s no telling what I could do, would have done.

But the fear of my child being hurt, being rejected made my heart catch.

“Maybe you shouldn’t give it to her,” I cautioned.

“Oh, no,” he said. “I am giving it to her on the last night. I have to give it to her.”

The next night, he told me her name.

“And, she’s a little bit older than me,” he added. “But that’s okay.”

“How old is she?” I asked.

“13, going on 14,” he replied.

I didn’t say anything. That’s a good deal older, I thought, and girls are usually so much more mature than boys.

Cole is mature for his age – for the most part, or until someone tells a joke involving a bodily function – but still.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, as if he had read my mind. “And Daddy’s a lot older than you – almost 10 years older – so I don’t see what the big deal would be.”

“I didn’t say anything, baby,” I said. “Daddy is older, but we were grown when we met; it would have been…creepy and illegal…if he had tried to date me when I was 10 and he was 19.”

I had burst his love bubble unintentionally. I didn’t want him to be hurt and I had been the one to hurt him.

I could tell later he was upset over this revelation and the fact this beautiful girl was a considerable bit older than him.

“I was hoping she wouldn’t be that much older,” he admitted.

“I know,” I said. “But she could be in college when you are starting high school.”

He dropped his little chin and said, “I could go visit her and take her snacks, though.”

I squeezed him tight.

His heart, of course, was all about how to do something for someone else.

“But you aren’t going to give her the letter, are you?” I asked.

“I am, Mama,” he said. “I don’t care how old she is. It doesn’t change how I feel. The heart wants, what the heart wants.”

The week went by quickly, and on Friday, Cole forgot the letter.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“I can tell her, though,” he said. “Maybe that’s better.”

A small miracle happened. I kept my mouth shut. If my child had the gumption to tell a much older teenage girl he thought she was the neatest thing ever, I wasn’t going to stop him. I would, however, be there to comfort him and give him hot buttered popcorn with peanut M&M’s in it to soothe him. I decided, for once, to not meddle and hover, but let my child have some autonomy in his life.

Later that evening, I anxiously asked him how things went.

“I didn’t say anything,” he said. “I got too shy. I still have the letter, and I will see her again; I mean, we go to church together, you know?”

I smiled my understanding.

“And, besides, she will have plenty of time to get to know me and see how a few years won’t mean anything in love. I just think she is nice, she is pretty, and funny and sweet. She hasn’t got to know me yet, really.”

“By then, you may have just become really good friends, too,” I interjected. “And found someone more your age…”

“Oh, I don’t think so, sweet girl,” he said. “‘Cause the heart wants what the heart wants.”

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the e-published novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”

Granny & the cake plate (6/10/2015)

When Granny passed away last year, Mama had asked me what things of hers I wanted.

“Well, the old gal left me her dentures, so I reckon that’s what I will take,” was my reply.

Mama never understood our macabre sense of humor and gave me her annoyed sigh.

“What do you want? Is there anything you want?”

There was, actually.

I had always loved Granny’s dishes – the good ones she only used on holidays or if we had fancy company come over. Those were special and held good memories.

I wanted her Bible she gave me fits about. The pink one with the large print and Jesus’ words in red that my college best friend and myself had drove all over the perimeter of Atlanta (and probably the outskirts of Macon, too) to find, only for her to throw it back at me because it was absent the tabs labeling the books on the side.

“Old woman, at your age, why do you need the tabs when you were there when they were originally written on stone?”

She never used that Bible, instead carrying the same one that was about to fall apart to church with her Sunday after Sunday.

Lastly, I wanted her cake plate.

This was no ordinary cake plate.

It was “the” cake plate. A plate so simple, it invoked images of the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones.”

You knew when you saw that cake plate there was something special on it, and Granny had baked it.

That plate held hundreds of cakes over the years.

From her homemade coconut layer cake made with fresh coconut shaved between the layers – none of that bagged stuff either.

She would actually crack and peel coconuts, draining the milk, then shredding the coconut through her grinder to cook down with the milk and what one could only guess was a bag of sugar.

None of her cakes lasted long on her beloved cake plate.

When that old gal was in a baking mood, she could out-Paula Deen the queen of butter herself.

“I haven’t seen that plate in years,” Mama murmured. “Did she still have it?”

Oh, yes, she still had it. But it was after a near miss several years ago.

It was a lovely day, perfect for a fall festival.

Granny had been asked to bring a cake for the cake walk, an honor she took seriously.

However, on the eve of the fall festival, Granny realized her coconut cake would not fit another plate – you know, one of her regular plates she didn’t care if wasn’t returned-it would only fit the cake plate.

Granny put a piece of duct tape on the bottom and wrote her name and phone number on the bottom in blue Bic ink, because back then, that’s all we had.

Blue or black Bic pens.

I am sure if she could have engraved her name on it, she would have, but she just had a Bic.

She borrowed a Magic Marker from me to write over it, making sure her name and contact information was visible.

The cake had been placed in a box, in the trunk of her car, protected and swaddled so it would not squish the cake or hurt the sacred plate.

When she walked into the school, you would have thought Granny was carrying the Hope Diamond to be auctioned.

She was promptly greeted by a lady on the PTO, wanting to know what kind of cake Granny had made.

“My coconut,” Granny said, lifting her chin proudly.

She knew no one could make a coconut cake like she could.

The lady purred how she had hoped it was coconut, and tried to take the cake from Granny.

Big mistake – huge.

Granny knew then and there she had an adversary in her midst and she needed to be watched. Granny carried it on to the library annex and sat it on the table.

“I want a funnel cake,” I told Granny.

“You wait a minute,” she told me. “I’m gonna see who gets my cake.”

“Why, Granny?”

“I’m gonna make sure I know who gets my plate so I get it back.”

And she did.

Just so happened the same lady who tried to take the cake from Granny was the same one who won her cake in the cake walk.

“It was rigged. She’ll get my cake plate back to me, or else,” Granny scoffed under her breathe as she dragged me off in search of funnel cake.

A week went by, no plate. Then another week.

“Where’s that school directory, I am calling that heifer.”

Granny called. Several times.

She went to calling daily, as soon as she got home from work.

“You know who this is. I was wondering if you had any plans on returning my dadblamed cake plate anytime in this here decade. You have my number, I have left it 20 times on this cussed machine and it is on the bottom of my cake plate!”

Not one to be defeated by an answering machine, Granny called her husband’s office. He was a doctor. She told the receptionist it was an emergency and she needed to talk to him.

When he got on the phone, Granny asked him if his wife ever planned on getting her plate back to her.

The plate finally showed up at the front office for me to carry home.

“‘Bout time,” Granny said.

There may have been a security motorcade to escort the plate home, I don’t remember.

Years later, after doing a charity walk at school, that same doctor had to pick us up to drop us all off at our next destination. As he did his head count, he looked at me and said: “Sudie, dear, did your grandmother ever get her cake plate?”

“She did; if she hadn’t she would still be calling y’all,” I answered.

“That wasn’t even her cake plate,” Mama interjected when I was telling her about the ordeal. “It was mine.”

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

Mama was silent, so I asked again.

“It was your aunt’s,” she said quietly.

“Did she give it to you?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” Mama said. “She brought me something on it, and I washed it and put it up and didn’t..”

“And then when you got divorced, you found it, and kept it because you loved her so much, and wanted something to remember her by?”

“Not exactly. I found it and liked it, so I never told her I had it.”

“So that cake plate had a history of stealing associated with it? First you, then Granny stole it from you, and then that lady was trying to steal it from her.”

Mama said nothing. She was a cake plate thief herself and had no room to judge.

The cake plate, to this day, remains unfound.

All we figure is, Granny either hid it really well or the thing got stolen again.


If you can’t say anything nice (6/3/2015)

Mama always cautioned me about speaking ill of others.

Gossiping and toting tales were big no-no’s according to her.

“If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” she would say.

I would roll my eyes.

I was a youngster and knew what the nursery rhyme said on the matter: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

But for Mama, words were a pretty big deal and were shrouded in “don’ts.”

“Don’t say things that aren’t true. And sometimes, not saying or correcting what was said is just as bad because you are contributing to the problem.

“Don’t repeat things just because you heard them – it may be a lie you’re repeating.

“Don’t talk bad about people, especially to someone else; more than likely, you’ll be talking to their kin folks and they won’t appreciate it.

“Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face.”

And of course, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, her words felt like she was imposing some terrible punishment on me. They were words, right? Words don’t hurt.

But our words have so much power.

And words, even though they don’t break bones, can hurt far worse.

I neglected Mama’s heeding in all those areas and ended up causing myself a lot of drama, and others, a lot of pain.

I learned my lessons the hard way – I made the goof up’s and paid for them.

There’s nothing like seeing the face of someone you have said something about and seeing their hurt.

Knowing you caused someone else pain may be fun for some people out there, but not me.

I apologized profusely but knew my words could not be unsaid. Once they were uttered, they could not be taken back and they had hurt another person.

“I apologized, but it didn’t matter,” I had explained to Mama.

Mama listened to my complaint in silence – one of the few times she let me carry on and wail uninterrupted.

If anything, she would quickly interject her: “I told you this was going to happen, I told you, I told you, and you didn’t listen!”

Instead, she listened quietly before she asked, “Were you sorry you said it, or sorry you were caught?”

Truthfully, the answer was “both.”

I grew wiser and more cautious with my words, understanding the power they can yield.

I’ve even added some wisdom of my own: Is it necessary? Does it hurt? Does it help? If the answer to those three questions is no, I have been keeping my mouth shut.

And my fingers from commenting on many a thing.

Because now, our words go beyond what is just said behind someone’s back.

Our words can be used on public forums to spread gossip and rumors and things no one knows the first thing about.

It’s not like the day of yore when people would just talk on their phones in their homes about everyone. Or in the grocery store, or where ever they happened to be.

Now, they feel free to share their interpretations of events of which they have no intimate knowledge online.

Ironically, those who know the least are the most vocal in every situation.

Granny did always call the Internet the modern fool’s party line.

Maybe she was right.

I’ve never been a fan of rumors and now, I find gossip as distasteful as Mama.

Hearing someone suffering poor circumstances does not make me happy; it makes me feel dirty and ill, like I just swallowed a rotten egg.

I’ve learned to temper my conversation with compassion and understanding – that’s not to say I don’t have my opinions, because I do, I just feel like what I think about someone is my business and no one else’s.

Not everyone feels that way, unfortunately. And some folks feel like everyone needs to know what they think about everything-especially if it’s unnecessary, hurtful and unhelpful.

Mama’s words would urge me to find something pleasant or not speak.

Mama took the path of politeness and social boundaries. But what about those who kept talking even when it wasn’t nice?

“Tell them to shut it,” is what Granny would suggest. “What’s up with all this ‘be nice’ mess? If someone ain’t got nothing nice to say, and all they can do is run their mouth saying a bunch of lies and nonsense, tell ‘em to shut it. Shut it up tight! Tell ‘em to shut it, or you’ll shut it for ‘em!”

Mama’s method may be the more genteel, polite way of dealing with things, but I have to say, Granny’s is a lot more effective.