The piano recital

Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a concert pianist.

Only problem is I am quite horrible at piano.

But I had decided when I was a little girl, I wanted to play.

Mama wasn’t so sure about this.

“Is this going to be like your dream of being a ballerina?” she asked.

She may have forgotten but she was the one who nixed that dream in the bud.

She told her chubby child – me – to walk across the floor on tiptoes without tripping.

Given the impossible task, I grabbed a Twinkie and turned on Scooby Doo.

Piano, I promised, would be different.

Granny called Miss Suzanne, not just any piano teacher but the best piano teacher in our town.

Miss Suzanne had seen me around school and probably wasn’t so sure; Granny had to do some high-pressure selling.

“She is very musically inclined,” she said into the phone. “She has always loved music. Although we don’t know what is wrong with her, she don’t like country music. But everything else she does. She’s been humming since she was in Pampers and I think she has got a natural talent for it.”

Somehow, she convinced Miss Suzanne to give me lessons.

I was excited – not only was I on my way to being a concert pianist, but, Miss Suzanne would get me out of class twice a week for my lessons!

I remember walking down that long hallway with the piano room.

Now that I think about it, they probably hid the piano room in the bowels of the school, so no one could hear some of the blood curdling sounds that came out of that room.

My first few weeks, I was actually fairly decent.

I caught on quickly and I loved the idea of learning music, begging for a piano so I could play all day and all night.

One afternoon, I came home to find an upright piano delivered.

“I wanted a baby grand piano,” I said.

“Where are we going to put a baby grand piano?” Mama asked. “This is fine.”

I was so excited. At least until I found out that meant I could now do theory.

Theory, I soon learned, was just a fancy word for music homework.

“I can’t do this!” I wailed. “It’s too much work! I am just a child!”

Mama had no sympathy.

“You are not quitting, so you just need to learn to get beyond that thinking.”

“I am giving up my childhood for this!”

In reality, it had been like three weeks. But in child years, that was an eternity.

Mama didn’t let me quit.

No matter how much I whined or carried on, Mama made me stick with it.

“It’s building character,” she would tell me when I protested.

“You could save this money you are spending on piano lessons for something else,” I said.
“It’s okay,” Mama assured me. “I don’t mind spending money on something that is enriching your life.”

Mama insisted I was going to do what I needed to; if I was supposed to do theory, then I was going to do it. Even if it meant doing it before school.

In fact, Mama was very pro-piano until she went to my first recital.

I remember thinking this was a big deal.

Sure, I had sang in group performances for school and church, but this, this was different.

I was going to have my own little solo piece.

Miss Suzanne took us all to the Methodist church downtown to practice and for a trial run.

I can still remember the way the church smelled and the way the wooden pews creaked with all of us sitting on them. Even the way the light through the stained-glass windows danced on the floor.

This felt like it may be my big opportunity to be a concert pianist!

Until a friend I had grown up with arrived.

He had left our school a few years before but was still taking piano with Miss Suzanne.

Miss Suzanne had him practice first.

It was like watching a young Mozart or Beethoven play.

He made it look so effortless, so easy.

I guess she wanted to showcase her best student first – hoping the rest of us would be as good as he was.

I was a couple of kids after, and I was triumphant mess.

I had asked Miss Suzanne if I could leave after my song and she told me no; we had to be there to support our fellow pianists.

I wanted to run and hide. I considered crawling under the pews to escape.

When it was over, and I was the biggest failure of the recital, I ran to Mama and Granny.

Granny told Miss Suzanne maybe she should have saved the boy for last. “Putting him first is setting the bar awfully high,” she said. “Are we entirely sure all of these children needed to be in the recital…like Sudie?”

Miss Suzanne had hoped it gave us something to work towards, to have a goal to practice for and to have the glory of a performance.

“How much did you practice?” Mama asked me when I told her how embarrassed I was.

“I didn’t,” I said. I have never been able to tell a lie, and I wasn’t about to start then.

“I see,” she said. “Perhaps if you had practiced, you would have done better.”

“I doubt it,” I began. “I think I need to just quit.”

Mama looked at me and patted my head gently. “No.”

“What?” I was horrible, I had embarrassed myself in front of a church full of people. And she was going to let me keep playing?

“You are not giving up just because you didn’t do well in your first recital,” she said. “You’re sticking with it, Kitten.”

And I did.

For eight years.

“Did you ever learn how to play piano well?” my own child asked.

Nope, I sure didn’t. But I did learn how to never give up.

 

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No one listens to the baby

I am used to being ignored.

You’d think being the only child, only grandchild and only niece would have meant I had a house full of grown-ups, hanging on my every word.

Nope.

At least not when I grew up.

Granted, when I was smaller, I may have said things they found adorable.

I was asked cute questions, like what was my favorite animal, who did I think was the best college football team, and what did I want to be when I grew up.

My answers were anything with fur, four legs and a tail; UGA; and, since I was about 3, I wanted to write ‘stories.’ Not much has changed.

But once I hit a certain age, one where I may have actually gotten a lick of sense in my head – something Granny said I was sorely lacking for most of my life – no one seemed to think I knew anything.

Somehow, I was still the baby of the family, but I was just bigger.

And my family thought I only knew about things that were pretty much along the lines of favorite animals, football teams, and television shows.

To prove this point, my uncle had an outrageous medical bill once he could not get resolved. He didn’t know why it was so high, and Granny, even with all of her tactics, could not get to the bottom of it either.

“Why don’t you let me look at it?” I offered.

You would have thought I had suggested I was going to split an atom on my grandmother’s kitchen table.

My uncle looked at my dumbfounded. “What in the world would you know about a hospital bill, baby?” he asked, shaking his head and walking off.

It was my turn to look dumbfounded. At the time, I was in college and working for two surgeons. And doing of all things – processing insurance.

“Granny, I think I can help with this,” I said.

Granny shook her head. “You’re just the baby. You don’t know nothing about this kind of stuff.”

“Actually, I do. I deal with this all day at work. Please let me look at it.”

She shook her head. “Ain’t no need in you messing with it. You may get it all jumbled up anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. They wouldn’t let me look at something I handled every day, but two days later when my uncle received a mailer from the Publisher’s Clearing House, he gave that to me and told me to figure out what magazines he needed to order to win.

“None of them,” I said. “I hate to tell you this, but it is a scam.”

“Well, I want Sports Illustrated and TV Guide, so see if their prices are good.”

I could price check magazine orders but not even see an insurance claim?

That evening, Granny knocked on my door.

“Don’t you breathe a word of this, but see what you can do.” She handed me the paperwork.

Were they really, finally, going to trust me with grown up stuff?

It took me a couple of days of making phone calls, but I managed to get the bill resolved.

When my uncle received the new revised statement, he was shocked. “The baby did this?” he asked.

“She did,” Granny said.

You would have thought that would have ingrained some level of trust in me, but no, I was still the family baby and any attempt to offer advice or suggestions continued to be ignored.

Mama sometimes ask my opinion, but then disregards it.

I have tried to tell them about things that would make life easier and they completely dismiss it.

But, let two people get the boot on my uncle’s favorite show and he knows who to ask.
“He still thinks all I know about is TV shows and frivolous things, doesn’t he?” I asked Mama.
“He just knows you can find out for him.”

“He knows I Google.”

“If I had a Google, he’d still want me to ask you,” Mama said.

You would think they would have a bit more faith in me, but in their eyes, I am still the baby.

At least to a certain degree.

When Cole was born, he became the baby of the family.

“No one listens to me,” Cole lamented one day. “I was trying to explain something to Nennie, but she didn’t believe me.”

I completely understood.

It looked like the baby torch was being passed off to very capable hands.

 

The sleepover embargo

I was 11 years old before I ever spent the night away from home.

To call Mama overprotective was an understatement.

She didn’t want me spending the night with people she didn’t know or feel comfortable with. She had her reasons, as crazy and fantastical as they were.

Once, I befriended a new girl in my class and she had a spend the night party.

I could not go.

“I don’t know her,” Mama stated simply.

“You aren’t the one invited; I am.”

This logic went no where with Mama. She didn’t care.

A few months later, the girl had another spend the night party. This time, she made it a point to painfully exclude me, telling me quite haughtily that, “My mother is real funny about who I invite.”
I assured her my mother was even funnier about where I went, so it was not a problem as I would not have been allowed to attend anyway.

There were times I felt like she was the meanest mother in the world. Surely, she was only doing this to make me a friendless, social outcast.

Anytime someone invited me to spend the night, Mama had to know who their parents were, where they lived, and where they worked.

“Do you know the mother’s maiden name?” she would ask.

Whether I had it or not, she turned the information over to Granny.

Long before the days of Google, there was Granny. And Granny was more thorough than the FBI when it came to background checks and the vetting process.

Within fifteen minutes, that woman had found out everything to be known about the person, down to parking violations, any warts removed and what pew they sat on in church.

“You ain’t going to this gal’s house,” Granny declared. “I done found out all kinds of stuff about her distant cousins.”

“Distant cousins! What does that have to do with me spending the night?” I cried.
“You don’t know if that no-good distant cousin is gonna show up the night you’re there. A bunch of hooligans, the lot of them,” Granny said.

And with that said, I knew I was not going anywhere.

Until the Girls in Action group at church had a sleepover.

“Please. Please, please, please let me go,” I begged.

Mama had known the two women who were over the group practically all of her life; heck, she even worked with one of them!

This would be it, the first time I would get to spend the night at someone’s house other than mine.

“I am not sure I want you to go,” she said.

“You can’t use your old excuses, Mama. You know these people. Granny knows these people. We go to church with them! You have no good reason why I can’t go.”
At this, Granny snorted. She knew as well as I did, if Mama wanted an excuse as to why I couldn’t do something, she would find it.

She was the woman who told a science teacher once I couldn’t go on a 4-H trip to Jekyll Island because it may sink. The woman tried to argue with her but decided to save her time and sanity.

By some miracle, I got to go.

My first time sleeping over at someone else’s house with other girls!

Let me tell you, it was nothing like I thought.

They wanted to stay up and talk.

I wanted to sleep. I was kind of tired. Being excited was exhausting.

I was scared of the shadows in the house; it’s one thing when you know the creaks and moans of the floors in your own place but in something new, it was terrifying.

There were other sounds that I didn’t hear at home. The ice maker in the freezer sounded like a monster trying to break through the wall. Seeing the lights of neighbors bouncing on the backyard through the sliding glass doors could have been UFO’s landing for all I knew.

I laid there awake, all night, waiting for dawn to break so I could leave.

When I saw the sun creeping through the trees, I rolled up the sleeping bag and grabbed my stuff, not even bothering to change out of my pj’s and went to tell the grown-ups good bye.

“Honey, are you sure your mother is even here?” one asked.

“Oh, she’s here, don’t worry.”
And she was.
Out in the driveway sat Mama in her little blue Ford Escort, her chimney of cigarette smoke curling out of the driver’s window while she sipped a cup of coffee from a gas station.

I wondered if she had slept out there; odds are, she did.

It was fun, but, I missed home.

Over the years, I spent the night with a few other friends but not many. Mama’s rules were still just as strict, and Granny still ran background checks.

I just realized there was no place quite like home for my introverted self.

When I was much older, I realized why Mama was maybe so protective; perhaps there was a method to her madness after all.

My own child, now 13, has never spent the night away from home.

Thankfully, he hasn’t expressed any interest in it.

Maybe he knows I was trained by two of the best in the Mama-ing business and my snooping skills can rival Granny’s sometimes. She still, to this day, was better than Google, even posthumously.

A few weeks ago, a conversation occurred as to whether or not to call the parents of a teenager holding a New Year’s Eve overnight party.

The other parent mentioned her daughter thought it was embarrassing.

“Embarrassing?” I thought.

Good thing she didn’t have my Mama or Granny.

A phone call to the parents would have been the least of her worries.

 

The Return of the Crazy Cat Lady

Once upon a time, I had close to 20 cats.

This may seem a bit much to some, but for me, it was quite normal.

Only about 10 were in the house with me, which wasn’t as bad as one would think.

In fact, if you were only in the house for a few minutes, you may not even know they were there, until you started feeling like you were being watched and slowly saw ears rise from behind the couch or from under something to cautiously size you up.

The others were in another house we had on the property, referred to as the Cat House.

This led to a professor thinking I was the madam of Mercer after he received some salacious information from a classmate.

When I married my ex-husband and moved away, sadly, my kitties stayed with my family back home.

I was heartsick.

“You are probably the original Crazy Cat Lady,” my ex told me one day.

I think he meant it as an insult; I took it as a compliment.

The ex swore he was allergic to cats, and truth be told, I probably am a little bit too.

For a large portion of my life, I have had some kind of stuffy nose that began pretty much around the time I got my first cat, the one Mama told me not to pick up and bring into the house to which I promptly ignored and did just that.

But that didn’t stop me from scooping up the little grey striped feral kitten that I found outside my office one day and bringing him home.

“That cat is not coming inside this house,” the ex declared with an authority he did not possess. I paid him about as much attention as I did my Mama and brought the kittie inside, naming him Callahan.

Only problem was, Dirty Harry didn’t really like anyone and when I got my beagle, Pepper, a few months later, she thought he was a real-life chew toy. He eventually went to live on a neighbor’s farm.

For the last 14 years, my heart has only known dogs.

Until one day this spring, a little tiny tortoiseshell kitten showed up.

The first thing I told Cole was to not pick her up.

He listened to me as much as I did my mama and held her close to his chest.

He named her Bella, Italian for beautiful, and she is, all fluffy fall colors and a tiny face.

My previous experience with kitties had taught me another one would probably show up and a few days later, I saw it.

I felt like I was being watched when I was feeding Bella and slowly looked towards the edge of the woods. I expected to see a bear sitting there, wondering why I had never extended a bowl of kibble as courtesy.

Instead, I saw yellow eyes shrouded in a skinny, black body. I could almost see its ribs.

It would not come to me but watched cautiously.

I peeked out the window later and saw Bella letting it eat with her.

The next day, I took an extra bowl with me to feed it. “You can come eat, too,” I said. “And I’m calling you Freya.”

Still, the black kittie was cautious. Bella, on the other hand, knew she was loved and mewed her gratitude.

When I fed them the next day, I watched Freya approach the food as I walked away. She was beginning to trust me, slowly but she was.

On the following day, I kneeled and motioned for her to come to me, and surprisingly, she did. She was so thin, scarred up and its tail looked broken. And, she was a he.

“So, I guess Freya’s not a good name for you, is it?” I said, petting him. “How about Frank? Short for Saint Francis of Assissi and Frank Sinatra. You can be the Purrman of the Barn.”

It wasn’t long before Frank would let me hold him for long periods of time, purring as he cradled up against my shoulder. He’s not a big lap cuddler; that’s Bella job.

And she is a big biscuit maker, too.

The other day, I was looking at the various cat food choices and couldn’t find the one they liked. An employee asked if I needed help.

We got in a long conversation about the differences in pate versus chopped; gravy, sauces, and the merits of dry food. I took out my phone to show her the 100’s of pictures I have.

“You wouldn’t believe this fluffy, plushy kittie was scrawny when he showed up a few months ago,” I said, showing her a picture of Frank.

He is like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree; he went from being frighteningly thin to being a gorgeous cat who knows he’s loved by all. Well, with the exception of the Doodle. The pittie mix is not too sure about the cats yet.

I ended up talking to the lady for about 20 minutes.

Cole recounted this to his father later.

“She doesn’t even like talking to people she knows in the store,” he began. “She was showing this stranger pictures of Frank and Bella and talking to her like they were best friends. It’s insane how many pictures she has of them on her phone. I haven’t even seen her take that many photos. They talked forever. They literally bonded over Friskies and Meow Mix.”

“Did the other lady have cats, too?” Lamar asked.

“Yes, three,” he affirmed. “But they were blocking the aisle, talking and looking at pictures.”

“Crazy cat ladies don’t care, Cole,” Lamar said.

And he’s right. We don’t.

Of mothers & sons – and sometimes, daughters

“Mama, can I tell you something?”

This question is asked several times a day.

Usually, it is about one of his favorite shows.

He updates me on the latest episode or shows me clips of it.

Or he tells me about the latest gaming system he’s come across, or a new game.

Sometimes, he shows me what he is doing in his game and how it works.
He loves the graphics and it is common for him to ask me to watch him as he plays so I can see his progress.

Or, he wants to tell me about a song he just heard and ask what I think about it.

“Do you like it?” he asks.

“I liked this song a lot,” I tell him and point out which one and why.

I try not to be critical or negative because even though he’s a teenager now, he’s still in such a highly formative time. And kids get enough criticism and negativity without us bashing stuff when they are eager to share it with us.

“Wanna listen to another one?” he asks.

“Sure.”

He ends up playing me the whole CD.

Heavy metal was my way of rebelling just as rap and punk are his – a soft rebellion but a rebellion nonetheless. I know more about his music than I do mine.

Sometimes, he wants to see the video so we watch it on YouTube.

He always asks me first, knowing that YouTube may have stuff on there that’s not exactly appropriate.

“Do you want to know why I like this?” he asks.

“Tell me,” I say.

And you know what?

I sit and listen.

I watch.

I pay attention to what he’s sharing with me.

There were times I was growing up that Mama didn’t listen to me.

Or, she rolled her eyes and thought my interests were silly.

“You don’t need a new Mouse album,” she said.
“Ratt,” I corrected.

“Same difference.”

“How do you call this music? All the men you like are wearing makeup and have bigger hair than you!”

“You may love Prince but Elvis was and will always be King.”

“Are you watching another movie with Canoe Reeves?”

I spent 90 percent of my teenage years rolling my eyes and wishing my Mama would stop being so critical of everything I liked.

It got to the point I didn’t want to tell her anything I liked because she would make fun of it or be just downright snarky.

She still does it, to a degree.

“Why do you color your hair? I think that is so ridiculous. God gave you a perfectly fine color of hair and you should leave it alone.”

I say nothing. Arguing about why I like something is pointless.

Just like a few weeks ago, my son decided to cut his hair.

His hair, that he had grown out for a year because he wanted it to be like Joey Ramone’s.

When he decided he wanted to grow it out, he asked me what I thought.
“It’s your hair,” was my response.

When he wanted to cut it, I admit, I was sad to see it go. I loved it and thought it was pretty but as my son told me, a boy’s hair is not supposed to be pretty.

After he got it cut, he asked me what I thought.
“I like it,” I said.

“Honest?”

“Honest.” And I do.

It was his choice, his preference, his likes – not mine.

“Did you want to watch The Simpsons?” I ask.

“Really?”

I nod.

He sits next to me on the couch.
“Thank you for always taking an interest in what I like,” he says. “I know you don’t really like The Simpsons.”

“But you do, and that means I have an interest in it.”

As long as he is eager and excited to share what he is interested in with me, I am going to listen.

I am going to watch it or watch him play.

I am going to Google it to make sure it is appropriate and find out everything I can.

I will always listen to his music and allow him to have that freedom of expression with what he likes.

If he wants to share and tell me what’s important in his world, I am going to gladly be a part of it.

“You don’t have to watch this if you don’t want to,” he says.

Nope, I will. I know when my Mama was snarky about things, I quit sharing those details with her. It’s no fun having someone you love rip your stuff apart.

As long as it is important to him, it will be important to me.

“Always?” he asks.

Always.

Ordinary Gratitude

Even before Halloween was over, Christmas was right beside it.
Literally.

On the shelves in the grocery store, Halloween candy was stacked beside Claxton fruit cakes.

It was kind of premature, I thought, but that’s how many things are now.

We are being rushed through the motions of life without being able to enjoy each holiday as it occurs before we are thrust into the next one.

Not just the holidays, either. We are rushed through every day – hurry up and wait.
Hurry, hurry, hurry.
You must always be busy.

The minute you accomplish this One Big Thing, you should be ready to start your Next Bigger Thing.

It is exhausting.

I don’t even know if we enjoy what we achieve or take time to appreciate what it took to get there.

We are just so busy rushing full steam ahead after the next thing.
I try to write in a gratitude journal every morning.

‘Try’ being the operative word here.

Some mornings, I end up not having time or I don’t make the time.

It helps me when my attitude gets crummy, and boy, let me tell you, sometimes my attitude is pretty lousy.

There’s some mornings, I just write, ‘thank you’ several times to get my mind and heart in the spirit of being thankful – I can be in such a funk that is it hard to think about everything I have been blessed with.

It’s funny how even when you try to be present and focused on practicing daily gratitude, it easily slips out of your habit.

And it’s funny how random conversations can sometimes occur to bring us back into that spirit of gratitude again.

While speaking with another parent last week, she mentioned how she enjoyed being able to spend so much time with her kids. “I am grateful for every moment I get to spend with them; not every mom gets that, especially if their work makes them work late. I may not be a professional career woman, but I am happy, and they are happy.”

Another conversation reminded me of the slower paced life we have here, which is something to be grateful for.

“I couldn’t imagine living in downtown Atlanta,” the lady commented. “I am grateful for our slower, dirt-road life.”

Right there within 24 hours I had two moments put in front of me to be reflect on things that I am thankful for – being able to spend so much time with my son and having a very quiet, peaceful life.

 

Don’t get me wrong; I never, not ever, take these for granted. But there may be moments I don’t focus on being as grateful as I should.

As we enter the month of November, we may start thinking more in terms of the bigger, grander things – those big miracles that are status makers on social media.

The moments that we think are life changing…sure, these are worthy of our gratitude.

But sometimes, it’s those ordinary, everyday things that can yield the longer-term effects of gratitude.

So, what if, just for today we were just thankful for the little, the tiny things that we take for granted, the things that we think are just kind of ordinary and maybe because of their simplicity, we think they aren’t worthy of our gratitude?

What if we were just thankful for those things?

And what if, that was all we ever needed to do?

 

The Spirit of Halloween

I think our little cabin is haunted.

There. I said it.

In fact, I am pretty sure we have ghosts. Maybe more than one.

Cole has found an apparition in a photo.

And, we have had some pretty dang strange things happen here.

“I just saw someone on the porch,” I said one day.

I did – it looked like someone was walking across the porch and then walked through the wall into our bedroom.

I tell Lamar about this with no response.

He thinks a lot of things that he doesn’t mention outright: I need to wear my glasses more than I should; I was tired; my eyes played tricks on me; I have watched too many reruns of The Ghost Whisperer.

I don’t care what he thinks or says.

We have ghosts.

Mama saw one once.

She was staying with us to keep Cole and called me at work.
“Will you go by the store on your way home and get me some bologna? I don’t like being here with all this healthy stuff you people have.”

I sighed but told her I would.

“And some white bread – I can’t have this stuff with all these nuts and seeds in it.”

I told her I would get her some white bread and saved my speech about how bad it was for her until later.

“Oh, yeah, one more thing. Why didn’t you tell me you had a ghost here?”

I was silent.

She saw it too? I had thought perhaps I had a moment of imagination gone wild.

“What did you see?” I asked.

“A ghost. Or a reflection of it, rather. I had turned the TV off, so the baby could sleep and saw it in the screen. It looked like he was wearing a long coat with a hat – kind of like a Quaker or someone from the Tombstone time. You know, Wyatt Earp.”

Drats.

“I’m not scared, but I think you need to tell him to go to the light. That’s what Sylvia Browne would suggest.”

Now, Mama also thinks that my child is Elvis reincarnated because Sylvia Browne said he would come back in the year 2004. The woman doesn’t even believe in reincarnation but she heard Sylvia say it on an episode of Montel Williams so it must be true.

I told her I would and promised to get her some bologna and Sunbeam.

That was just one of the ghosts.

We have had quite a few.

Since the entry to my study does not have a door, I have curtains that reach the floor to hide my space.

One night, the curtains parted and moved.

Doodle saw it, too. The little pittie ran in there to investigate and promptly ran back out.

Being ferocious, she ran behind my chair and peeked out, shaking the whole time.

That’s the least of it though.

We have had things moved around with no explanation.

Cole once borrowed my tweezers to get a splinter out of his hand.

They have never been found after he put them back in my room.

“I put them right here,” he showed me.

We scoured the counter, the floor – no sign of them.

Maybe the ghost had a splinter too?

Just a few weeks ago, my car keys were missing.

They were not in the two usual spots I put them.

We looked everywhere.

I checked the table. They were not there.

They weren’t hanging by the fridge, either.

Cole went out to make sure they weren’t left in the car or I had sat them down outside somewhere.

I was dumping my purse on the couch when Cole came back in.

“Mom, look.”

There in the middle of the table were my keys.

“Did you find them?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Did you?”

He shook his head as well.

Speechless, we left.

One morning, I found Cole sleeping on the couch.

“Why are you out here?” I asked as I woke him.

“My light was too bright.”

“Your light? Why didn’t you turn it off?” I asked.

“I did. It kept coming back on.”

When I went in his room to check the lamp, it was off.

That evening, I asked him if he wanted to sleep on the couch again.

As he said, “No, Mom, it’s fine,” the lamp in his room came on.

Needless to say, he slept in the living room that night.

And here we are, getting closer to the night where the veil is supposed to be the thinnest.

In the spirit of Halloween, someone asked me the other day if we got a lot of trick-or-treaters.

“No, not really,” I replied. “Worse.”
“Eggers? Toilet paper rollers?”

Gosh, I hadn’t heard of that happening in years. Kids still do that?
“No, ghosts,” I said to their surprise.
“Are you serious?”

I think my expression showed I was.

It’s OK though.

I’d think I was a little wack-a-doodle too, if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

I just wish if they were going to mess with stuff, they would at least clean.

The randomly missing remote

I spent probably six hours one Saturday watching something I didn’t really to watch.

“Can I turn it?” my husband asked.

“Sure,” I said. “If you can find the remote.”

“What?”

“Can’t find the remote. That’s why I have sat here and watched 12 episodes of The Golden Girls back to back.”

Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Blanche Deveraux but six hours is a lot for one gal to take.

But not being able to find one – just one – remote in this house can lead to a host of television horrors.

“Which one?” he asked.

“All of ‘em.”

If one can create an issue, all four can be even more problematic.

And this one TV has at least four various remotes.

There is the Dish remote, which can also turn on the TV and of course, change the channel.

It actually has a really neat little feature where you can push a button on the receiver and it will locate the missing remote.

Unless it is buried in the depths of a chair or couch which apparently has the strength to block the signal. Or, had somehow been lost in a pile of laundry in the basket and then said basket is scooted into another room.

Then there is the remote that goes with the television.

To be kind of blah compared to the Dish one, this little remote is kind of the grand poobah of remotes.

This single remote allows us to switch between the satellite, the Roku, the DVD player and even the antiquated VHS player that desperately needs to be cleaned.

However, this remote will no longer change the channel on the TV. Without it, we can’t watch anything but TV.

And I am not a big fan of TV.

The remote for the Roku was dropped one too many times and no longer works, so we have to use the app on my phone.

The DVD player has a separate remote. In fact, I think we have two since we had saved the one from the previous DVD player when it died.

I have no idea where the VHS remote is; it may not have even had one since it is 18 years old. It was made back in the days of big buttons clearly labeled with their function of “rewind” or “fast-forward.”

How we lose them is beyond me.

I have tried to corral them all in one little wooden tray on the coffee table.

That lasts about five minutes.

I have found remotes besides cereal boxes, in the freezer, in the bathroom.

I desperately want to know why this happens.

How does one pick up the remote and leave it in another room? More importantly, why does one take the remote with them when they leave the room?

“You are just so scared I am going to turn it from whatever you’re watching that you are a remote wanderer,” I accuse.

This is denied.

It’s the truth though; he turns the channel on me if I turn my back so he naturally thinks I will turn it from his “Ancient Aliens” marathon. And I would, too.

My child has never lived in a remote-less world. Even the air conditioner has a remote.

He finds it hard to believe that I grew up in a world of rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil and having to actually get up and change the channel.

“And you had to stand there and continuing turning it until you found something everyone wanted to watch,” I told him.

I am not sure he believed me. He was more fascinated by the foil wrapped antennae.

“Once, the knob fell off and the only way we could get it to turn the channel was to stick a knife in it,” I told him. “It was hillbilly engineering at its best.”

“A knife? Who came up with that idea?” he asked.

“Me, of course,” I said. Nennie suggested tweezers; for some reason, that woman thinks tweezers can do everything that Murphy’s Oil can’t do.

My child was not impressed. He was busy looking for the grand poobah remote and of course, it was nowhere to be found.

We looked for 20 minutes.

We watched Netflix for four days.

“I think we accidentally threw it away,” Cole pondered.

“It’s here somewhere,” I said. “We just haven’t opened the right drawer yet or found the right laundry basket.”

I had even searched the dryer. It was often a treasure trove of stuff I hadn’t seen in a while.

“Are we sure it is not in the chair?”

Cole said he had checked. But, I know that chair – that chair was able to hide things in its vast innards.

I reached my hand in between the cushions all the way to the bones of the chair and there, perched on the metal workings was the remote.

“Yay!” Cole exclaimed. “Now I can watch my show!”

He looked around.

“Where’s the Dish remote?” he asked.

And it never fails: the one that’s missing is the one we need.

With age comes wisdom

A recent conversation about tomatoes made me think of some of the things I wanted to share with my son now that he was at the ripe old age of 13.

It started with him asking if tomatoes were indeed a fruit. He was puzzled by this.

“You wouldn’t put them in a fruit salad, would you?” he asked. “That would be gross.”

Not all wisdom is so easy to figure out, is it?

Sometimes it comes after a hard-learned and often life-changing lesson.

I thought of the areas of life where it may be helpful to have a bit of preparation and then realized, life in general needed a Clif Notes version to help navigate it. And I thought maybe a cheat sheet would be nice.

So, I started writing some personal wisdoms that I hoped would help my son as he continued to traverse life and all of its lessons.

Make sure you marry someone you like.

Notice I didn’t say love. We use “love” for too many things and there will be times you don’t love your spouse – at all. But make sure you like them. You don’t have to have the same hobbies; you don’t have to like the same things. It could be boring if you did. But make sure you have the same morals and ethics, or you will need more than like and love to make up for a lack of character.

I knew I liked my husband when we were dating and I called to cancel our dinner plans because my beagle, Pepper, had got in the cabinet and binged on her dry food until she was sick. Instead of letting me deal with a sick pup alone, he showed up with a pizza for us and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol for the dog. Every time I am not really loving him that much, I think of him sitting on my kitchen floor giving Pep medicine.

Which leads me to the next piece of wisdom.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals.

My grandfather used to tell me he could tell everything he needed to know about a person by how they treated animals. My Pop, as hot-tempered and gruff as he could be, was a softie when it came to anything with four legs and fur. And if someone was not kind to animals, he said it often reflected a lot of their character. I have found he is usually right.

Don’t judge someone based on what they drive or what they wear.

Those superficial trappings often don’t give a very accurate picture about the success or character of a person. I have witnessed people being treated differently when they were in work clothes versus a suit or when they climbed out of a more expensive vehicle. None of those things matter and we don’t know the situation. Even better, don’t judge someone ever. Period.

Don’t judge anyone.

You don’t have any right to pass judgement on anyone’s life. Not everyone has the same opportunities or comes from the same environment that prepares them for certain things. Sometimes, people may make the wrong choice but it was the best one they could make at the time. They shouldn’t have it thrown in their faces the rest of their life; it is counter-productive and doesn’t allow them to grow.

It’s OK to not have a huge circle of friends if you have the right ones.

I have learned over my lifetime I have a very, very small group of friends. I may know a lot of people, but there are very few that really, truly care about me. Make sure in that circle you have one that will give you the hard truths with love. I am thankful I have at least one that I know will tell me when I am being a grand dork. And I know out of my friends who will hear the unspoken pain behind my words. The beauty? It’s the same friend.

And make sure those friends are truly rooting for you. If you don’t know who is, watch who doesn’t cheer for your success. They aren’t there for you, only to see you struggle.

Don’t discuss religion or politics with anyone.

It’s no one’s business what you believe. Let your actions reflect your beliefs rather than having to argue your opinion. People often can’t be swayed and will only dig in deeper to prove their point.

And remember, your character and actions always speaks louder than an opinion.

Always let people you care about know.

You never know when the last time you speak to someone will be the last. The pain and guilt you feel if you have unsaid things is torturous. Trust me.

Avocadoes are fruit, too.

And like tomatoes would be horrible in a fruit salad. But, if you smash them with some tomatoes, onions, lime, salt, you may have a good dip for chips. Just don’t put them with cantaloupe or honeydew.

As I wrote the list, I found more and more things that I needed to add. The list may, in fact, be endless. But knowing not to put tomatoes in a fruit salad is a pretty good start.

 

Growing up quickly and surely

He turns 13 this weekend.

Thirteen.

The age he becomes a man, he tells me.

I tell him he’s not a man yet.

He disagrees and tells me he is.

He’s at that age where he is teetering between precious childhood and stepping into a world that feels a bit more grown up.

I feel him growing up and it makes me sad.

I miss the small child who eagerly grabbed my hand as we would walk across a parking lot, his smile beaming up at me.

The little boy that used to crawl into his mother’s lap constantly now says he’s too big.

No more cuddling him until he falls asleep.

No more special little rituals that we once did.

As I cleaned out my office this weekend, a task long overdue, I came across so many little mementos of just a few years ago that made me pause.

Drawings, some just scribbles, but full of hearts that he had made for me.

Notes we had passed back and forth on days I would be at work and he would be home, that I hid around the house for him to find were tucked into the nooks and crannies of my space for safe keeping.

I sat in the floor and carefully looked at each of them as I softly cried.

It seemed like it had just been yesterday he had been this small tot, and I was his “sweet girl” and his “heart.”

Now, it felt like he was trying to pull away little by little.

He keeps trying to assert his independence in dozens of little ways.
“I can make my own food, you know. I know how to use the stove.”
“I don’t like you using the gas,” I reply.

He sighs as he puts the food back up. “I am capable of using it. I know how. You just won’t let me. Why?”

Because, cooking for him is the one thing I have left.

The one thing no one else could do like Mama; Daddy has never been able to make his food, not even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Cole even preferred my cooking to Granny’s, saying when right past his toddler stage that Granny’s food was good, but it wasn’t Mama’s.

And now, he wants to make his own food.

“Can you take me somewhere and I will buy us lunch?” he asks. “My treat.”
“No,” I say.

He sighs again. “Then just let me cook. I can do it.”

I stop and look at him – really look at him.
He’s my height now, but tall and lean. His face that once had cute cherubic features is now getting angular and showing the shadow of a moustache.

His voice cracked a little the other day and it made me tear up again.

His hair that he has spent the last year growing out in aspirations of Keanu Reeves’ style in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is now getting on his nerves and he wants it cut.

We argue over the style he can get. “It’s my hair,” he tells me. “That’s what you said when I asked if I could grow it out.”
But I know the shorter cut will make him look older and that pains me.

“Are you going to get his hair cut?” Mama asks me.

The best ally for any child is the grandmother. Even if the grandmother may not have let her own child do the same thing the grandchild wants to do.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I don’t want it short. I like it long.”

“Well, he said he wants it short and he knows how he wants it.”

“I still am his mother and I still have some say in how he gets his hair cut,” I said.

“Why don’t you want him to get it cut?”

“Because…” I searched for the words. “I just feel like he is growing up too fast and the short hair will make him look older.”

Mama was quiet for a few moments before she softly said, “It’s OK to let him grow up, you know. If anything, it will be pretty amazing to see the incredible person he is destined to be.”

I know he will be an amazing adult. What I have wanted for him is to have a compassionate heart, to have his own opinion that he expresses respectfully, and to always treat everyone equally with love and kindness.
He does that now. He always has, without me having to teach him.

I ran into his former kindergarten teacher a few weeks ago, and Cole sat, talking to her about “when he had been a child.” She lovingly told me after he bounced away for a few moments, “He’s growing up, you know.”
I nodded. She squeezed me. “It’s OK, honey. He’s a great kid and will be a great man.

He will be fine. And you will be, too.”

As I tucked all my memories into a file box labeled “Sentimental,” Cole peeked in my office.
“Can I please use the stove? I am so hungry and didn’t want to bother you.”

He expected me to say no, I know. But instead, I urged him to be careful.
“Really? I can use the stove? For real?”

I nodded.
“Thank you! I will be careful, I promise. I promise. Can I make you something?”
I shook my head no.
He was growing up. Rapidly and slowly at the same time, in front of my very eyes, as he teeters that line. But, forever my baby, he always will be.

No matter what.