Forgiveness is harder than it sounds

I am going to admit something not too pretty here: I have a hard time with forgiveness.
I can hold a grudge and think up reasons to not forgive someone all day long.
It’s not healthy, I know.
And sometimes, forgiveness comes with conditions. Or at least, begrudgingly.
My hardened heart comes honestly, I think.
My Granny prided herself on her unforgiveness.
She could tell you how long it had been since she had last spoke to someone, why they had quarreled and give you every reason why she was justified in her anger.
“I ain’t spoke to her in 55 years, and I ain’t got no plans to speak to her now,” Granny said about someone one day when she heard they were gravely ill.
“They may pass away,” I told her.
This did not sway Granny. “I doubt it,” she said. “They are too mean to die. And more than likely, this is a ruse to see how many flowers they get or who still cares. They won’t be getting that from the likes of me!”
I thought she was made of some tough stuff to feel that way – to not care that someone may pass away without resolving those unmended hurts. But Granny did not care.
Mama, for the most part, can carry a grudge herself.

 
She still to this day cannot stand my first grade teacher.
Granted, the woman should not have been allowed in a class room, but Mama still cannot let go of her hatred towards that woman.
“Mama, I don’t worry about that woman,” I said one day after Mama was commenting her disgust. “And that was how long ago? Can you do like an overplayed Disney princess and let it go?”
“No, I cannot. She probably scarred you and countless others. She had no place in a classroom.”
True, that woman should not have been allowed to mold young minds. But she’s probably close to a 100 years old if she’s alive now…. surely she had asked for some sort of penance?
Mama didn’t care.
I sighed. I had my own grudges to nurse.
Don’t you hate it when you are comfortable with your grudges and justified in your anger and things keep popping up in your face?
Topics focused on forgiveness continually pop up on your emails, news feed and other areas.
You start to think, “Hmmm…maybe this is some kind of message?”
And then someone you simply adore starts talking about the very thing.
Forgiveness.
Oh, bother, as Winnie the Pooh would say.
I had heard all this forgiveness stuff before – who hasn’t? – but had not put it in action yet.
Like my Mama and Granny before me, I had taken great pride in not forgiving someone or letting a hurt fester to the point it was beyond repair.
I had let my heart get darkened and hardened, leaving out the possibility that maybe I was wrong or that maybe the other person had been going through something else.
I sat and listened. Truly listened, I wanted to add.
I listened to hear how we are supposed to forgive and let healing happen.
And how forgiveness really is something we are supposed to work on.
“But what if…” I thought.
They didn’t know what this person did to me.
It didn’t take into account the pain I had felt or how that person had treated me.
Nor did it mention that I may be completely right in my anger or feelings.
I was, too.
Let me tell you, if you sat down and heard my side of things, you’d realize I was right and that the other people were wrong and they didn’t deserve forgiveness or compassion or even kindness.
I didn’t want to forgive.
Didn’t that mean it was OK what they did?
Didn’t it mean that I was giving in and letting their actions go unnoticed?
I thought about all the people who had wronged me – the people who had lied, the ones who had let me down, didn’t do what they promised, and who had ended up hurting me when I least expected it.
How could I forgive that?
And here was someone I thought so much of, saying how we needed to go to the person and explain how we – not them, we – had been affected by the situation and ask for forgiveness about how we had felt and reacted.
We – or rather, me.
What if I had reacted in haste or pain and taken things the wrong way?
What if I had been the one in the wrong – and not the other person?
What if I had missed out on having someone I loved in my life because I had been an equine rear for too long without going to them?
I could hear Granny’s voice in my head, telling me it didn’t matter, it was never our fault, we were never wrong and no one – no one deserved forgiveness, least of all us because we never did anything wrong.
She may have been right; this is something I have struggled with for over 40 years and undoubtedly will a bit longer.
Holding grudges and having a hardened heart was something we had nurtured for quite a while and had elevated to an art form. But sometimes, forgiveness isn’t for others; it’s for us.
And maybe, some forgiveness is in order.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”

 

 

It all comes out in the wash

“He’s a little boy,” is the logic my husband gives me for just about everything our child does.
This was his response to Cole deciding he only wanted to wear one shirt, day in and day out.
The same shirt.
Every day.
“When I was a little boy, I did that,” Lamar said. “I had certain things I liked to wear all the time.”
Yeah, when I was a little girl, I did, too. They were called shoes.
“He has to wear something other than that one shirt,” was my response.
It was ignored by everyone male in my house.
Now, that one shirt was not just any one shirt, mind you.
It was the Steven Universe shirt.
A simple shirt by design, a red tee with a big yellow star in the middle.
The day it arrived, he took it out of the package and put it on, not heeding my normal rule of washing everything first.
And there it stayed for God knows how long.
“Cole, let me wash it,” I would say on a daily basis.
“I don’t want to take it off,” he would tell me. “I love it, Mama. I had wanted this for so long.”
“It’s got to be washed,” I said. “It has pizza stains; when’s the last time you had pizza?”
He was not happy but he acquiesced.
The sacred shirt was washed.
And even though it was supposed to be pre-shrunk, it shrank.
“Oh no!” he wailed. “It’s ruined!”
Oh, dang. Now he’d never let me wash anything ever again.
He ran to his tablet to Google how to un-shrink shrunken clothes.
“Fabric softener,” he said between breathes. “Spray fabric softener on it to release the fibers.”
So we did. “Let’s pull it,” I suggested.
“Pull it?”
“If it works on control tops, it will work on a shirt.”
So we sprayed it some more and I took one end and he the other and we gently pulled.
It helped.
“It’s still not as long as it was originally,” he said. He knew this because he had another Steven
Universe shirt that came at the same time but was saving; he had compared the two when he got them and now had the red one on top, seeing the less than a millimeter difference.
“It will be OK,” I told him.
He frowned and slipped the shirt back on.
“It’s not going back in the dryer again. Ever,” he declared.
I returned to my daily begging to let me wash it; he refused.
The child will even put it on after he takes a shower.
“Cole!” I exclaimed. “Put on a clean shirt! That’s disgusting that you put that shirt back on!”
He sticks his chin out defiantly.
“No, it’s not. My shirt is clean. I don’t do anything to get dirty – I really don’t even need a shower. I haven’t even been outside this summer because I am scared of Zika!”
I sighed. I was in the midst of a battle I had zero strategy to fight.
I finally managed to wrestle the shirt from him one evening and promised I would hand wash it and let it air dry. And I did, putting it in the tub with a Tide pack and getting on my knees to wash it.
I suddenly had a very astute appreciation for the modern conveniences of washers and dryers.

Hours later, I heard him bemoan that somehow, it still shrunk.
“That’s not possible!” I said.
He leveled a disappointing stare at me. “Well, it is. I’m never washing my lucky shirt again.”
How had this shirt somehow become lucky? I wondered.
“He’s a little boy, you just don’t understand because you are a mama,” Lamar said. “Little boys have lucky shirts, don’t like taking showers, and like gross things. He will change soon enough.”
I wasn’t sure about that; his father was in his 50s and hadn’t evolved that much.
I wasn’t going to fuss with him.
I just knew that shirt needed to be washed and on a regular basis.
Granted, I knew his fear. I had a lovely long, white Ralph Lauren sundress one summer that made me look thin even though it had pockets. I probably would have worn it on my wedding day, I loved it so much. I didn’t even wear it that often, because, well…it was white. Me and white clothes are a recipe for disaster and usually mean I spilled everything permanent on it.
But one day, I asked Mama to wash it.
Mama, the grand poobha of laundry. The woman cannot cook to save her life – or ours – but she can make everything smell April fresh and soft and fluffy.
My dress mysteriously disappeared and Mama even tried to gaslight me into believing I had never had a white sundress.
“I don’t recall such a dress,” she said through her Virginia Slim fog.
“Are you sure? You fussed about paying $80 for a dress I could only wear a few months out of the year.”
She didn’t even flinch.
“I fuss about a lot of your overpriced clothes,” she said. “You always like those hoity toity things.”
“Uh-huh. Well, you washed it about three weeks ago and I haven’t seen it since.”
One day, I found it, or what remained of it rather, under the kitchen sink.
It was in tatters, knotted together.
Mama had put bleach in the laundry, thinking it would help keep the brightness of the white but instead, it had eaten through the fibers and turned it into what looked like a giant cat toy.
The fact it was in a bag, shoved in a bucket in the very back and covered with a cutting board was proof the crazy redhead had hid her crime.
I sat in the kitchen floor and cried, and this time it wasn’t because I thought my Mama was trying to poison me with her cooking.
I recounted this story to my own child, hoping he would know I understood where he was coming from and that I would take care of his shirt.
I believed that one day he would trust me to wash his favorite lucky shirt again.
Finally, finally, he peeled off the shirt and handed it to me.
“It’s time,” he said solemnly.
Into the tub it went, with another Tide pack. I had to scrub stains of things out that were unidentifiable, ground in and possibly organic in nature.
I didn’t ask.
When you finally get to wash the sacred shirt, you do so free of judgment -and questions, because somethings, you just don’t want to know.
But the sacred, lucky shirt was clean.
At least for a little while.

The Abbreviated Summer (8/24/2016)

Summer won’t be officially over until September 5, when we put all our white shoes and linen pants away.

But, summer was really over a week or so ago when school started.

“Summer’s over?” my child said, exasperated one Sunday evening when he was told he had to start the next day. “I literally just got out!”

It sure felt like it. Compared to the summers of my youth, his were over in a blink of an eye.

When I was his age, summer seemed eternal.

Somethings I didn’t like. I wasn’t a fan of the heat, we never went on vacation and with Mama working nights, my mornings were spent poking her multiple times until she woke up.

But somethings were so simple, I realize now how perfect they were.

A big deal for me was Mama taking a friend and me to the movies every summer, sitting a safe distance away so as to give us an air of independence while keeping a watchful eye.

Somehow, Mama always fell just trying to get up from her seat.

She claimed it was because she had a hard time adjusting to the light after sitting in the dark for two hours; I always replied her feet and the ability to move them had nothing to do with the lighting.

More than likely, it had something to do with the fact she was a tad bit clutzy. But picking Mama up from the popcorn shrapnel and sticky stuff we hoped was only Mellow Yellow was as much as a tradition as the summer blockbuster.

There were evenings sitting in the living room with the back door opened, listening to the crickets while we snapped peas.

It just took a few moments for me and Granny to find a rhythm that matched the cadence of the bugs humming in the night.

It could be hot and miserable, but somehow sitting with Granny as we snapped and shucked corns and shelled peas, it didn’t bother us much.

Even though this was work – Granny often put most of our evening efforts into the freezer for the winter – to me, it was the best fun I could have.

Sometimes, she’d make homemade ice cream for us, or her sweetened milk, taking regular milk and adding sugar, vanilla and ice.

My days were spent at the big library in town, sometimes, I even poked Mama enough while she was asleep that we got there before they opened and I was one of the first to walk in and smell all the knowledge on the shelves. I’d check out books by the stacks and spend my days curled up in the chair with my cat reading.

Of course, maybe my favorite summer activity was just the little joy rides Mama and I would take.
They always started at The Store to get gas in her little blue Ford Escort and to get ice cold Cokes out of the chest freezer – in the glass bottle, thank you – and packs of peanuts.

We were cool before Barbara Mandrell claimed she was.

Off we’d go, through the backroads of Oconee County, riding into Morgan County and eventually Clarke County. Mama loved nothing more than finding some old country road, usually one lined with picket fences and thick trees and discovering where they went, so that was how we spent many dusky summer evenings.

And we didn’t go back until after Labor Day, not the beginning of August.

“Why is my summer so short?” Cole asked, wanting more time.

“I don’t know,” I replied. I really wasn’t sure. It made no sense to me and I would love for him to have the long breaks like I did.

But he’s already been back in school for two weeks now.

Good thing my summer was much longer; there wouldn’t have been enough time to enjoy it all.

The Birthday Party Blues (7/27/2016)

My child is already making his birthday list, putting a corgi at the top followed by Pokemon cards and DS games.

His birthday is months away, mind you.

But, he starts early. Real early. And that’s OK. It’s my way of making up for never having him a real, official birthday party.

Just hearing about friend’s planning parties for their own children is usually enough to give me hives.

All the elaborate stuff that goes into it – jump-jumps, petting zoos, themes.

What happened to just cake and ice cream?

I’m not knocking those who do the big deal birthday parties at all; they are just not something I would do and didn’t even want when I was a kid.

Nope, even when I was a kid, birthday parties kind of freaked me out.

Who in the world ever thought running around a bunch of chairs, with balloons on them nonetheless, to fight with other kids in a game of “Musical Chairs” was fun?
It was terrifying.

For one thing, the sound of a balloon popping is terrifying. Particularly if under your tater. Running around a bunch of chairs is not fun either.

It made me feel like a real life Jack in the Box toy, which also scared the stew out of me, except instead of popping up, we were popping down.

Then there was usually a pin the tail on the donkey thing. Yeah, give kids something with basically a needle and blindfold them. It made me question all the rules of safety I had been cautioned about. I mean, what was next – running with scissors?

The worst though was my own birthday party one year.

I was so excited about having my friends come over, but Mama probably chained smoked two packs of Virginia Slims while she got everything ready.

And nothing made Mama more scared than seeing a car pull up for someone to drop their child off at the party and peel away.
Mama watched the car drive away in a panic.

“Does your Mama know when the party’s over?” she asked as the child made her way inside. “She knows to come back and get you, right? Right? Where did she go? Some place close?”

I didn’t know why Mama was so upset but I think she wanted to cry. She asked me who the kid was and I told her I didn’t know. She came in toting a gift though; she couldn’t be too bad.

She wanted to sit on the couch with the other moms, but she couldn’t.

She had to make sure everything went smoothly, meaning someone wasn’t sticking their fingers in the cake.

We played the games – no musical chairs with the balloons or pin the tail on the donkey. I can’t remember what we played but it definitely wasn’t that.

As we settled in for cake and ice cream, Mama was ready to breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone knew cake and ice cream meant the party was wrapping up.

Just as Mama was thinking she had survived, she found two kids jumping on her bed.

I’m not sure how she got them down but she did and she didn’t even scream.

Maybe it was because she knew the party was about to be over.

Soon, mamas were grabbing up coats and gathering their children, thanking Mama for the party. Knowing my Mama, she was ready for them all to leave so she could chain smoke for the next two hours.

We still didn’t know if that kid’s mama was coming back or not.

Eventually, she did. It was about an hour or two after the party ended but she finally came back.

We still don’t know who that kid was.

That was the last birthday party I had at home.

“Mama, can I have a birthday party – a real one? Not at school?” Cole asked me years ago.

He had had all his parties at school which meant I brought something to the school to celebrate. One year, I even took a piñata to day care then realized that was about as bad as the pin the tail on the donkey thing.

Multiple kids running around and needing to be watched and entertained, the dogs panicking and probably getting stuck under the bed while they hid, trying to make small talk with parents while I wanted to introvert…

“No. I think I am going to take a hard pass on that,” I said. “But, I will make it up to you. I promise.”

So he starts his birthday wish list in July.

He gets one really cool gift and some small other ones; I get to keep my sanity.

 

 

The Good Old Days (7/20/2016)

Growing up, Granny loved to tell me stories about what she called, “the good old days.”

Tales involving picking cotton, drawing water from a well, and all of her siblings having to share one bed during the winter to stay warm.

“This was the good old days?” I asked her once.

“Yes,” she was replied. “They was.”

That’s how Granny, talked too. She dropped out of school, maybe in third grade or so, to help work the fields. She didn’t speak proper grammar and didn’t care. It never stopped her from getting her point across.

Her stories included growing up in the Depression and how they survived. Huddling around the wood burning stove to stay warm, wearing clothes until threadbare, and never throwing anything away. She was a packrat of the highest caliber, because she grew up in poverty.

“What are you going to make with this?” I asked her once, moving a huge garbage bag containing fabric off the couch.

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll make something. Don’t you worry about it. Clothes, curtains, quilts. It’ll get used.”

And it would, too.

The woman would wash and re-use aluminum foil and Ziploc bags and thought if someone was using thick Dixie plates at a dinner and threw them away, they were “just showing how high fa-lootin’ they was.” Dishes were not supposed to be disposable.

She told me about riding the bus to Plattsburg, New York, alone, to get to Pop. They had eloped, Granny lying to her mother that she was spending the night at a cousin’s house, and the next morning, my grandfather headed back to where ever he was stationed in the Army. Granny went back home to her mama and daddy, never breathing a word she was married until she announced she was heading north. Their wedding night was only their third date.

“How in the world could you let Pop go back up there and not go with him?” I asked.

“Back then, you did what you had to. He was in the Army and he had to save up money to get me a bus ticket,” was her no nonsense reply.

Those times, were not easy, nor were the years that followed and they made steel run through veins. She was resilient and tough.

“Why do you always talk about those times, Granny?” I asked her one day as she started up on one of her yarns for the umpteenth time.

“Because they was the good old days, Lit’l Un.”

Good? How in the world could she describe them as good?

All she told me about was how poor they were, how they struggled, how getting through the day was sometimes a miracle of itself.

“How was that good?” I wanted to know.

“It just was. If you was breathin’ and on the other side of the ground, it was good.”

Her stories were woven around my grandfather serving in World War II, my uncle in Viet Nam. Mama, she said, made her proud because she had a job that was in an office and didn’t have to do the labor she had.
“You never tell her you are proud of her,” I said to her once. “That may make her feel better, you know.”

Granny stuck her chin out, not one to be chastised for anything. “She don’t need to know if I am proud of her or not; I am and that’s all that cussed matters.”

After over 20 years of hearing her stories, I started to tune them out or make her change the conversation. “You’ve told me this already, old woman,” I’d tell her.

“Yeah, well you ain’t listened, old gal,” she said in return.

How I’d love to hear her old stories again. The only thing close to it I have is, thankfully, a DVD my beloved cousin, Dotty, made of her talking and telling some of her stories to them.

I miss her stories and more importantly, I miss her common sense about the things that happened in the world around us. Especially lately, I’ve yearned for her comfort, for her wisdom, and for her just declaring that things would be OK and we would survive – meaning all of us – because that was the only choice we had.

It seemed like her focus was always about surviving, just surviving one thing from the next. How in the world could she consider those ‘good old days?’

I asked her that one day.

The question actually struck her speechless for a moment. “One day, you’ll understand. It ain’t about the little petty problems or any of this other junk. It’s about the moment, and being with family and friends. Don’t matter how much money you got, that stuff’s fleeting. It mattered about how much love.”

She had the ones she loved around her.

Maybe it was the good old days after all.

The Original Stay-cationers (7/6/16)

While everyone else is uploading pictures of their toes in the sand, or a view of the ocean set against the backdrop of their tanned legs, the Crouches are staying home.
Again.
For the 13th year in a row.
No loading up the van and heading south to Florida and its heat. There’s no sandy beaches in my future nor in my recent past.
And in a way, I am kind of OK with that.
I am not a huge vacationer to begin with. Even when I was a child, we didn’t go anywhere.
Mama asked me once if I wanted to go to Disneyland; whether or not she would have taken me, I don’t know. But I remember asking her how much walking was involved and after considering having to use public restrooms along with countless others, I told her I’d rather go to the library instead.
Maybe it’s because the one time we tried to venture anywhere for any length of time, it seemed like something always happened.
I was maybe 5-years old the first time my family decided to go anywhere.
This was a big deal – huge, actually, because my grandfather agreed to go and it was on a Sunday.
So there must not have been any kind of sporting event on TV that day that he had to watch.
It was spontaneous; I had got up to get ready for church and Granny had announced we were not going.
“Did church go out of business?” I asked over my Fruity Pebbles.
“No, but we are going to do something today we ain’t never done; we going on a day trip.”
Granny called to inform the preacher he was on his own this Sunday, she was not there to keep the congregation in line and God help him, keep them awake, either.
Mama worked all the time, Pop & Bobby worked all the time and were self-employed, and Granny worked and thought she kept a tri-county portion of the state in line. There was no time for vacations or up until now, a day trip.
But here we were, loading into Granny’s Oldsmobile, all of us, and heading – of all things – out of state to North Carolina.
We went to Cherokee, in all its gaudy glory.
I was amazed at how everything looked, and all the Native American regalia that was displayed in shops. I wanted one of everything; I think Mama decided on a pair of moccasins and a headdress with a toy bow and arrow. Why she refused to get me a real one, I have no idea. I was protesting this fact when a man dressed in Native American buckskin told me I needed to respect my mother.
All I knew was based on the size of his headdress, he must have been the head guy, so I shut up. Until he decided to flirt with my Mama. The crazy redhead seemed to like it too.
“He was handsome,” she giggled when I grabbed her hand to pull her away.
I was tired. I was hungry. My feet hurt. I was ready to go.
We had been there about one hour and 15 minutes.
I stated my complaints. “We drove all the way here – out of the dadblamed state. You gonna have fun it if I have to make you!” was Granny’s response.
I didn’t, but I knew better than to say anything else.
Maybe it was the boiled peanuts, or maybe I was carsick because I ventured out of state, but by the time I got home, I was feeling quite queasy.
Granny called the preacher to make sure the church had not imploded or Jesus hadn’t come back in her absence. He assured her the church was still standing and that Jesus wouldn’t make any decisions without consulting her first.
The next week, Granny found chewing gum – chewing gum, which she never allowed in her nursery – stuck in the carpet.
You would have thought all 10 commandments had been broken as the old gal was in the floor muttering under her breathe as she scrubbed.
“See! See there! That’s why we don’t go nowhere!” she screamed at me.
It wasn’t my idea to go anywhere but she wanted me to understand her logic train.
I just felt sorry for whoever was going to receive her wrath.
You’d think Granny would learn, but the next year on another Sunday, she decided we were going to Stone Mountain.
She called and told the preacher, reminding him about the gum from the year before. He assured her no gum would be chewed while she was gone.
We walked around, found a funnel cake for me, followed by ice cream, then watermelon. We walked some more. My uncle asked me if I wanted to walk up to the top.
“Why would anyone want to do that?” I cried.
He asked if I wanted to ride the cable car to the top instead. “Good lord, no!”
He went alone instead.
Mama complained about the heat. “You know I get sun poisoning real easy. It’s too hot!”
Someone got the grand idea for us to take a riverboat ride. The thing wasn’t going that fast, really, but watching the water rolling and swaying was enough to make me really, really sick.
“Maybe it was the funnel cake,” my uncle suggested.
“Or maybe it was the watermelon,” my grandfather said.
“Yeah, or the ice cream,” my uncle added.
I was sick. So sick. And ready to go home.
I think we were maybe there 2 hours.
As we headed back home, we realized we didn’t need to go anywhere. Not for a few days, and sure not for a week or longer. Heck, we were doing good to get to the grocery store once a week without some major catastrophe.
Granny set it in stone when she declared, “That’s it. We’ve tried day trips and this mess ain’t working! We ain’t going nowhere ever again!”
And I pretty much haven’t gone anywhere since then. Why tempt fate when it seems to be something my family just isn’t good at doing?
At least I don’t have to worry about the vacation laundry.

Why All Roads Lead to Dairy Queen (6/22/2016)

Before I knew of the solace of cheesecake, there was the single flavored mecca of Dairy Queen.

My Sunday memories included going to church where I spent an hour worried more about what Granny saw me doing than Jesus (her wrath was immediate and in this life, not the hereafter) and followed by a pilgrimage to Dairy Queen.

How he got stuck in his Sunday cone ritual, I will never know but it was something to look forward to every week.

“Why you gotta go Dairy Queen every cussed week, Bob?” Granny demanded once as she pointed the Oldsmobile in the direction of a dipped cone.

“’ Cause,” was my grandfather’s reply.

One Sunday, Granny did the unthinkable – she informed my grandfather she was not going to town for his cone.

I sat in the back seat and waited for the thunder to boom.

“What you mean, woman?”

“I mean, Bob, I got a roast on and I didn’t roll out my biscuits before we left this morning. I gotta get home and make my bread.”

To Granny, not having biscuits at Sunday dinner was as sacrilegious as someone wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

“So that means I can’t get my ice cream?” He was not following her line of logic here.

“That’s right, Bob.”

My grandfather grunted. “I’m getting an ice cream if it means stopping at The Store to get one.”

My grandmother, fresh from church and full of the Holy Spirit – and needing to make her biscuits – didn’t want to argue anymore, so she decided she would stop at The Store (that was the actual name of the store) and get Pop a sundae cone.

“It’s not the same,” he said between bites.

My pre-Sunday dinner ice cream was one of those banana and chocolate popsicles that looked and sounded in theory a lot better than it tasted.

Granny made her biscuits and after we ate, Pop got up from the table and announced he’d be waiting in the car.

“For what?” Granny asked.

“For you to take me to the Brazier, woman. I had that pitiful little gas station cone and you made your biscuits; now, we going to Dairy Queen!”

Not wanting to violate Sunday, Granny took us to get ice cream. Pop got his large dipped cone and I got a peanut buster parfait.

Getting ice cream wasn’t just our Sunday tradition, but was where we, along with 100’s of other people, headed after the fireworks on the Fourth of July every year.

After we had sat in the Bi-Lo parking lot for hours, waiting to see the revelry, we found ourselves grossly disappointed when they fizzled out in the sky in about 5 minutes.

“You mean we sat here for that, to now have to fight all these people through the drive thru?” was my grandfather’s complaint.

The line was long, too. It just about reached down to the parking lot we had left.

“Bob, you ain’t expecting me to sit in this line are you?”

“I sat through those pitiful excuses for fireworks. I am getting a cone.”

The following year, we just went to Dairy Queen; we were able to see the fireworks just as well and Pop was happy. Sitting in the parking lot meant he could go in and get another ice cream if he wanted it and he usually did.

Any of Pop’s directions out of town often involved us ending up at the ice cream restaurant.

“Robert,” Granny began. She was mad, really mad; she used his whole name.

“I thought you said you asked your friend for directions.”

“I did,” he answered, as she handed him his ice cream.

Apparently, Pop’s inquiry was how to get to his favorite place in this new town not get us to our destination. We were lost somewhere around Atlanta and it took us hours to get home.

However, we did know where every Dairy Queen was in about 12 counties.

To this day, nothing can give me the same comfort. It reminds me of my grandfather and my childhood, all at once, and a time when ice cream made everything better.

‘Cause all roads lead to ice cream, and if they don’t, they should.

Snips, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails (6/1/2016)

A dear, dear friend once gave me a check list of things to follow as the mother of a boy.

One, was to expect to never at any given time have enough food in the house. Even if I had just been to the grocery store, there would never be enough food to fill the vacuous black hole of a boy’s stomach.

She was right about that, as I feel like most days, all I do is feed him.

She also warned my house would never be clean again.

Heck, it hadn’t been clean before, so that didn’t really bother me.

Her next heeding was to always check his pockets because sometimes, living things may find shelter there. Especially if he is wearing pants with a lot of pockets.
“And you don’t want to find out the hard way that amphibians cannot survive a washing machine cycle,” she cautioned.

By the time Cole reached double digits on his age, I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief.

He hadn’t stuffed a frog or anything else living in the pockets of his pants, leaving the critters to their natural habitats where he would study them each night, armed with a flashlight and a journal.

He wasn’t particularly fascinated with violent video games or movies as some of his peers had been. Sure, he liked his Nintendo DS but it was not an everyday toy.

He loves old cars, and has a definite opinion on what kind of car he was going to get when he could drive at age 30.

All in all, he has been a rarity of sorts, being well behaved, thinking on his own, and having his own opinions on things that sometimes rivaled my own.

So, when he my precious little lump of boyish charm decided he loathed baths, I was shocked.

This is the child that once used my whole brand new bottle of fragrant body wash in his bath – so he could “smell good for the ladies,” he declared. He was in pre-k at the time.

Just a year ago, I was buying him banana scented Minion body wash and now, I am arguing with him as to why he needs a shower every day.

“I don’t smell yet,” he will say.

“Cole, you don’t wait until you smell – you take a bath every day!”

“Well, I don’t do anything to get dirty,” he said.

“You shed dead skin daily, it’s mixed with oil, and dirt, and other stuff your body produces.”
This was science and instead of my child finding it gross, he exclaimed, “Cool!” and wonder if he could watch it happen.

“No,” I sighed, not really sure.

I could not relate to this new-found aversion to cleanliness. As a child, any time a bath was drawn, I would get in the tub, even when it wasn’t for me. I would beg to take a third, sometimes fourth bath as a child because I loved being clean.

But I was a little girl. A little girl who propped up on her stuffed animals and read them books all day while eating Little Debbies.

A little girl who never broke a sweat, and seldom went outdoors.

This is a little boy – a very busy, active, always outside little boy who sweats.

“But I don’t stink – yet,” he will say.

And that’s another thing: little boys seem to like noxious odors that can gag a 100-lb German shepherd.

Cole took his shoes off one night and wiggled his socked toes, pointing a foot at Ava.

The big dog promptly fell over and shuddered.

He giggled with glee.

“Cole, get in the shower before you get in bed,” I said.
“Never!” he cried.

He tells me he has a protective layer going on and when he takes a shower, it removes the barrier between him and the outer world, allowing germs and the like to go through his pores.

“Do you have any idea how long it takes to build up a good solid barrier?” he asked in all seriousness.

Bathing the 100-lb German shepherd is actually easier than finagling him to get a shower; and she will nearly kill you.

For Mother’s Day, my child gifted me with Mom coupons, telling me I could redeem them for showers. “Cole, you are supposed to take a shower every day,” I replied.

“Well, you only got two coupons for that, so not sure how that will work out.” The coupons were specifically for a “Scrub –a-Dub Hug,” which meant he’d get a shower and even hug me later instead of complain about the cruelty of water and soap.

I fuss, I beg, I plead, I bargain – boy, do I bargain – all to no avail.

“He’s a little boy,” his father says. “Little boys all go through that stage where they hate baths and they want to see how gross they can get.”

When would this stage end? How long would it last? He was enjoying being as icky and gross as he could get away with.

“Don’t worry,” Lamar said. “Once he gets interested in a girl – and I mean a real girl his own age – he will start caring if he has a bath or not.”

This did not comfort me at all.

The only way to get my little boy, all snips, snails, and puppy dog tails, to care about whether or not he was clean was if he was interested in a girl?

If only that checklist came with instructions on how to handle the heartache of little boys growing up, I would be better prepared.

 

That Mama’s Intuition (5/25/2016)

There was no getting past Mama.

The woman claimed she had eyes in the back of her head, which led me to dig furiously through her hair while she slept when I was a small child.

But Mama had a keen sense of when I was doing something I shouldn’t, was in trouble, or just all around in a pickle, often of my own doing.

I spent most of my earlier years wondering how my Mama knew what I was doing or more accurately, had done, outside of her presence.

And this was years, decades even, before we had the technology we have now.

No, Mama had her own GPS system that ran on what she called Mama ESP.

Once, when I was heading out with a friend, Mama cautioned us we better not be cruising with any boys, without looking up from her crossword puzzle.

“Oh, we won’t,” my friend replied.

A few hours later when we pulled back into the parking lot to pick up another friend’s car at the Winn-Dixie, there sat Mama, on the hood of her car, like a little skinny red-headed angry hood ornament, breathing fire from her Virginia Slim 120.

She tried to pull me from the backseat, the first of many occasions where she would try to pull me out of a moving vehicle.

“You lied!” she had screeched as she continued to try to pull me through the window. I am not entirely certain the window was even down but rather, she was executing something straight out of “The Matrix,” only about 20 years earlier.

I was embarrassed and more accurately, scared. I had been caught in a lie by the red-headed dragon herself. And I think she was going to do more than just put me on restriction or hide my phone.

Somehow, somehow, one of my friends saved me and used some Jedi mind trick to convince Mama to let me go home with her. I am still not sure how this happened, as Mama didn’t really like her, but the girl had pulled off a “This is not the droids you’re looking for” move with such aplomb, I would have thought she was Obi Wan Kenobi in the flesh.

When I got in my friend’s car, I looked at her and said, “I don’t know how you managed that, but thank you. You just spared the skin on my hinney.”

My friend shook her head, “I just don’t know how she knew where we were. It’s like she’s psychic or something.”

Or something.

I asked Mama the next day how she knew where I was. She was barely speaking to me and giving me the silent treatment which meant she scowled at me with disappointment most of the day.

“I have my ways,” was all she said.

“What ways?” I asked.

Was it smoke signals she sent out from her Virginia Slim?

Did they go to other chain smoking mothers to keep a lookout for daughters with rebellious attitudes, big hair, and too much makeup? And boyfriends who could be described pretty much the same way?

Whatever it was, she knew where to find me, and where I had been.

On a few occasions, this internal tracking system came in handy in circumstances that didn’t involve me being caught in a lie.

Once after going to a friend’s house to sit out by the pool, I suffered a pretty severe sunburn. I was miserable. I also may have had a slight case of sun poisoning. I managed to whimper my way through a late night run of “Pretty Woman” at the theater, but only because I was promised extra butter on my popcorn.

I wouldn’t dream of asking my friends to drive me 30 minutes back home; I had to be a trouper and tough it out. Besides, wasn’t this how you got a good base tan?

But all I wanted was my Mama.

She had never been to my friends’ house, and it was late; I couldn’t ask her to drive all the way out there after she had worked until 2 in the morning.

I was so busy whimpering I didn’t see the headlights of Mama’s car as they flooded the driveway at my friend’s house. Even though it was late, Mama drove out there to get me.
She gave me an emphatic gasp when she saw how burned I was. “Oh, dear,” she began. “I am so glad I came on to get you; you may need to go to the emergency room.”

“Did someone call you?” I asked.
Mama shook her head, gently leading me to the car. Everything hurt. I felt like I was overcooked and even my hair felt extra crispy.

“No,” she said.

“Then how did you know?….”

“A mother just knows,” she said.

She never told me how she knew, or how she found my friend’s house in the dark when she had never been there before. This was decades before cell phones with Siri and navigation, which even now, I am sure my now fluffy, slightly darker haired smoke-free dragon would mess up.

She took me home where it took me a week and a lot of vinegar baths from Granny to survive the burn.

I still don’t know how she figured all these things out.

Just the other day, I asked Cole something, very direct when I already knew the answer.

He gasped in horror. “How did you know that, Mama? Are you violating my privacy? I have rights you know!”

I hadn’t violated any rights.
I was a mother.

And some things, we just know.

Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission

Cole wants a corgi.

He saw one on a television show recently and fell in love with their squatty little bodies immediately.

He made a horrible mistake however. He asked his father if he could get one.

“No.”

The only time his father says this word is when it involves bringing home another pup as Lamar is usually the care-giver and the scooper of the yard.

Had Cole asked if they could ride their bikes sans helmets down the side of a waterfall or set something on fire, Lamar would have eagerly agreed.

But this time, Cole asked for a pup and Lamar shut him down.

A battle has ensued for weeks now, with Cole trying to convince his father why he needs a corgi.

Lamar, however, is unyielding.

Cole is even trying to convince him by telling him the merits of the pups.
“They are herding dogs,” Cole begins. “You love herding dogs.”

“I prefer German shepherds,” Lamar replied.
“But, but, but—”

Cole stops his sentence short realizing his father is not budging.

Taking his laptop and a pen, he sat at the table, furiously punching at the keyboard, then scribbling on his paper. Shortly afterwards, he stood in front of his father with an essay he had drafted to present his case.

I was impressed – the child had not only researched the breed but prepared a good argument for the corgi case.

Lamar sighed but still refused to budge.

“What am I gonna do?” Cole asked me later. “He’s not gonna let me get a corgi, is he?”

Cole was so upset he called in his reinforcements, the one ally he has no matter what, and the only one who will stand up to his parents: Nennie.

And Nennie, of course, thought the child deserved a corgi and was quite beside herself to hear her only grandchild had been told no.

“Is something wrong with Lamar?” she asked me. “He said no.”

Not just to Cole, she added but about a dog.

“Mama, have you met Lamar? He always says “no” anytime I or Cole say we are going to get anything. If I say, “Let’s get a dog,” he automatically says no. I just have to show up with one.”

Then it hit me.

That’s how I had brought home the last two; I just ceremoniously showed up, toting a puppy. It’s pretty much what I did with Mama when I was growing up any time a stray cat wandered into the yard.

A habit I picked up from my uncle, who still brings in every stray he can.

When my uncle came home with another dog one day, Granny fussed.

This was not unusual, the old gal fussed about everything. But she particularly liked to fuss about anything that had to be fed.

My gentle, quiet uncle ignored her.

A few years later, I found a kitten, all tiny and covered in fleas. We immediately took it to the vet.

While we waited, I looked at my uncle and whispered, “Is Granny gonna be mad at us?”

My uncle laughed. “Probably.”

Of course she would be — she was breathing, so she was mad about something.

“What are we gonna do?” I asked.

“Well, if we ask her, we know what she’s gonna say, right?”

I nodded.

I think Granny held the copyright on “No.”

“So, it’s better if we just take the kitten on home and ride it out. She’ll get over it in a couple of days or find something else to get mad about. Eventually, she’ll forgive us.”

He was right. She was furious at first but thankfully, her sister Bonnie ticked her off about something else and she had a new rant to focus on.

I wasn’t sure how my uncle knew this would happen. Then, I realized: he learned it from the old gal herself.

I had outgrown my tiny closet and sorely needed a place to put my clothes. I was a teenage girl – clothes were an obsession. I had found an armoire that was perfect but expensive so no one would buy it for me.

Mama’s sensible suggestion was to put my clothes in the drawers when she left them folded on my bed.

I thought that was insane.

These were peplum skirts, cropped jackets, Bedazzled sweaters, and other high-fashion horrors.

I couldn’t put them in drawers.

Mama’s other not-so-sensible suggestion was to weed out my clothes; there were only 7 days in the week, I couldn’t possibly need 17 pairs of jeans.

Granny told me she would come up with a solution.

“Don’t you worry about it,” she told me when I asked what she was going to do.

The following day, my Pop had a message to call a contractor. Being a roofer who worked with most of the contractors in our town, Pop called him back, thinking it was about a house he needed to cover.

When he got off the phone he bounded down the hallway looking for my grandmother.

“Helen, did you call and ask about quotes to add on to the house?” he demanded.

Granny didn’t even look up from the biscuits she was making. “I did.”

“What in the dickens were you thinking?” he asked.

“I was thinking that Sue needed a better way to hang her clothes up. And since no one wants to get her something suitable, I figured we’d just go ahead and add on to her room there and get her a closet and her own bathroom, too.”

The next day, my armoire arrived from the furniture store.

“Would you have really added on to my room if he hadn’t bought it for me?” I asked.

The old gal gave me an opossum-eating briars grin and said, “Yes, I would have.”

“What if he had a fit?”

The smile grew bigger.

“Well, Shug, it’s better to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission any day.”

As long as he asked, the answer Cole would get would be no.

But maybe asking forgiveness would at least get him the dog.