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.

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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.

 

 

Tall Tales & Little Lies

I come from a long line of juddywhackers.

From childhood on, I was surrounded by a bunch of grown-ups who had no problem stretching, embellishing and sometimes completely fabricating the truth if it suited whatever fable they were concocting.

Oftentimes, these scenarios involved a very naïve and gullible chubbikins, also known as yours truly.

It started with my dear, sweet Uncle Bobby, a man who would not hurt a fly but would pull my leg all day.

He was largely responsible for my round shape as a child, bringing me brownies, donuts, and candy bars on a daily basis.

And they always included an elaborate tale with them.

He saw my face light up one day when he told me he had got me something extra-super special as he handed me a cupcake with swirly frosting and sprinkles on top. A pastry far fancier than Granny’s sprinkle-shy cakes.

I oohed and ahhed over it; it was a cupcake fit for a princess.  It was almost too pretty to eat but that wouldn’t stop me now and wouldn’t slow me down then.

“Is this for me?” I asked.

He nodded. “And you want to what else? I made that special – just for you!”

“You made it?” I exclaimed, frosted crumbs dropping from my lips.
“I did. They let me go in the bakery and make it just for you! I put all of those sprinkles on there, too.”

This was the tale he gave for every sweet treat he got me. According to his tales, that man was in more bakeries, candy manufacturers and ice cream shops than he was fox holes in Viet Nam.

And now that I look back on it, this whole “especially for you” is probably what contributed to me thinking nothing can make you feel as good as a donut or a dozen.

Granny’s tales didn’t involve food but were often used to either entertain me or dissuade me from doing something.

I was told fables of folly about how my face was going to freeze and I was going to have 10 little girls who were just as sassy and mean as me. That last one usually stopped me in my tracks.

She often spun her tales around growing up and doing things like picking cotton and keeping opossums out of the chicken house.

And one time, a bull was involved.

“I was told to go put the cows up,” she began. “So off I went. I headed out to the pasture where they were and had to herd them up. This was a tough thing for just a small child to do. I was younger than you when I did this.”
“How did you herd them?”
“I clapped my hands at them and told them they needed to come home because Mama was not going to rest until they did – and they knew how ornery she was. You know that saying, ‘til the cows come home?’ Well, I’ve never been given proper credit but I do believe I was the one that said it first.”

“And they all went back to the barn?”

“Yes, they did. All but one. And this one was out in this other field. I had to walk all the way over there – it was far, too. It didn’t seem that far when I was just a-looking at this cow but when I started walking it in the heat it was.

“Anyway, I was about halfway across the field when I realized something – that was not a cow.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“It was a bull! A great big old ill bull. And there I was, in this pasture with it, hooting and hollering for it come on home.”
“What happened?”

“I’m telling you!” she exclaimed. “This bull, he was huge, maybe three times bigger than my Oldsmobile, and he was angry. He charged towards me and I knew I was a goner. I thought, that’s it. I am not gonna die at the horns of this bull. I am going to fight and get him back in the barn if it is the very last thing I do.
“He came running towards me and I went under him. Just dove straight down like I was going for the bases in baseball. I had a mouthful of dirt when I came up but I didn’t care. I had managed to get behind it and even though that bull was going probably 30 miles an hour, I grabbed hold of its tail and held on. He snorted and tore across the pasture and I was just a bumping along like a tin can in the back. He’d go one way, and I’d go the other.”
“I held on for dear life – I knew if I let go, he would surely kill me. And finally, I realized he would go the way I twisted his tail. So I’d twist it to the right and there’d he go. Or I’d twist it to the left. I got him back to the barn and when he went in, I let go and shut the barn door. Daddy always said I was able to handle that bull better than anybody after that.”

“You could have been killed, Granny!”

“Nah,” she said. “I was meaner than that bull. I couldn’t die.”

I asked her brother, G.E., once if it was true.

“I’m going to tell you the truth – as it is known to me,” he said, a serious look on his face.  “It wasn’t just one bull, it was two. And Helen stared one down and made the poor thing run off – our daddy was still looking for that bull until the day he died. Sometimes, we would think we heard it booing –”

“Booing?”

“Yes, child, booing. Cows moo, bulls boo. We thought we would hear it off in the distance booing but it never did come home. Helen had scared it that bad. Daddy may have lost a prize bull.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Truth?”

“You don’t think I would tell you a juddywhacker, do you?”

I honestly wasn’t sure. I had heard some mighty big tales.

And somewhere, in betwixt and between, there was some teeny, tiny kernels of truth.

Kindness matters

Since I was a little girl, Mama has always preached kindness.

She believes it costs nothing to be kind and sometimes, those gestures – no matter how small – can go a long way.

Even though it has been a part of my life’s mission to do the complete opposite of what Mama tells me to do, I have heeded her advice.

Respect for everyone, regardless of their title or position was another one of Mama’s sermons when I was younger.

“Treat everyone with respect,” she would direct me. “Think about how you would feel if that were you. Or me. Or someone else you love. Even if you don’t mind them.”

As much as I hate to admit Mama is ever right, her words have rung true more times than I can count.

It helped me get one of my favorite jobs years ago after I had just moved here.

I had faxed my resume the night before but was worried it didn’t go through. Lots of things can happen with a fax – the machine could have been out of paper, it may have been lodged between spam faxes about cruise deals or it may have inadvertently been tossed. And I wanted this job.

I went in search of the place, hoping to talk to whoever was hiring.

I was greeted by a young woman sitting at the desk and I smiled, hoping I had found an ally.

I had, thankfully; but little did I know the woman acting as receptionist was the wife of the managing partner of the company.
“And it didn’t matter,” Mama said when I told her. “You would have treated her the same regardless.”

True, I would have; but, I have also sat in that chair and similar positions enough times to know some people think they can talk to you and treat you any way they want if they feel like you are the low girl on the totem pole.
I think they forget those positions are the gatekeepers who determine who gets through to the people they want to talk to. Rudeness doesn’t open the gate; kindness and respect do.

But it’s a shame that people treat someone poorly, just because they think they can.

Over the weekend, we went to one of our favorite places for lunch. I had called in the order but told them I knew we would probably add chips and drinks once we got there.

Since it is one of our usual places, I quickly realized the girl standing behind the counter was new.

It was a weird and confusing order to begin with because, well, we’re weird and confusing people. There were vegetarian sandwiches without the usual condiments and salad plates and pickles. All kinds of food craziness.

First, we had to add the drinks.

And then, I had promised Cole cake. There was a choice between carrot and some kind of heavenly lemon pound cake. Cole went with the lemon but was eyeing the cookies, too.

Then, Cole swapped out his usual chips for another brand after the cashier had rung it up, so she was trying to void that off because they were a different price.

I don’t think she had had to ring up a slightly crazed woman and her pre-teen son who had not eaten all day yet.

Somehow, the total was $119.99.

She let out a soft groan. She hit buttons on the register to no avail. Someone came over to look at it and told her the only way to get rid of it was to void the whole thing and re-ring it.

“I am so sorry,” she began. “I’ve got to ring everything up again.”
“That’s OK,” I said. I felt like it my fault, like in our low-blood sugar and hangry state, we had somehow caused the snafu. I looked over my shoulder at the people behind me and offered my apologies. It really did feel like it was my fault – and the girl was brand spanking new. They should have warned her about us.

When she finished and gave me the total, she laughed, “That’s a lot better than $119, isn’t it?”

I laughed as well and told her my son could probably eat that much in one sitting, so I hadn’t been really shocked.

As we settled into a booth to eat, the lady who had been behind us in line walked by and said, “The girl at the register is just new and she’s learning. It’s only her second day. But she did good, didn’t she?”

“She did. I figured she was new and everyone deserves a learning curve.”

The lady smiled. “I agree. And thank you for being so kind about it. A lot of people would have been rude or upset.”

“Oh, gosh, no. I’ve been there and I didn’t handle myself as calmly as she did!”

The lady smiled again. “Well, I just wanted to thank you… she’s my daughter, and I appreciate the fact you were kind to her.”

I didn’t know the cashier’s mother was behind me. I know if that were my child and someone was rude to them, especially when they were learning, I would be heartbroken and probably a more than a little bit angry. That interaction could have gone a totally different way, just because of attitude.

Or my raising.

We never know who is behind us, watching, observing and seeing how we treat others.

Kindness, in all things and no matter how small a gesture it may seem, matters.

It’s the end of the Georgia Cyclone…and I feel fine (7/26/2017)

Unlike many of my friends growing up, I didn’t have a season pass to Six Flags.

If something wasn’t in Athens, it was too far away, according to Mama.

And Mama was hyper-overprotective so, I couldn’t even go with my friends when I was invited.

I’d beg and plead for her to let me go.
“You won’t like it,” she told me simply.

How could she know what I would like when she wouldn’t let me see for myself?

I continued to beg and plead. She still said no.

My friends eventually quit asking me.
“Your Mama never lets you go with us,” was the explanation one friend was kind enough to offer.

“You take me,” I begged her.

Mama refused, citing first she didn’t know how to get there, where it was, or anything about Six Flags.

“Your mama is doing good to ride a Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair,” Granny said. “You sure don’t want her ridin’ no Scream Machine. She will be sick for days. Plus, she don’t do the sun. She’s allergic.”

My childhood was void of Six Flags until my Junior year and one of my best, dearest friends decided we had to rectify this.

The fact I had never been to Six Flags came up when she was saying how excited she was about the Georgia Cyclone.

Most people couldn’t understand how I was such an anomaly of childhood and even though she had known me for a few years, she could not fathom how I had not been to Six Flags.
“We will go Sunday!” she said, declaring we would do a double date.

I’ll admit; I was nervous. Some of those rides did look scary.

I somehow managed to stifle down the fear – I didn’t have to ride anything if I didn’t want to – but I couldn’t choke down the embarrassment.

The boy I was dating – and I use that term loosely as I don’t want to remember much if anything about that experience – conveniently left his wallet in his truck when we met my friend, Ashley, in Snellville.

He didn’t mention this fact until right as we pulled up at the gate.

I was so embarrassed. Were we going to have to turn around and go back, after we just drove what seemed like light years to get there?

Ashley and her boyfriend had to pay our way in; I am guessing she had surmised from her previous dealings with him that he was the kind of putz who would pull something like that.

Off we went to find rides.

I think anytime I try to enjoy some kind of outdoor event it has to be on the hottest day on Earth. It was sweltering.

I think the soles of my Keds melted at some point because my feet felt burned. Maybe it was because I was doing a lot of walking and I have always been a sit on my tater type of gal.

I didn’t ride most of the rides; I took one look and chickened out. I was fine with sitting – more than fine actually – while everyone else rode them though.

I also learned when you were at Six Flags you pretty much stayed there all day.

My “When are we getting there” questions morphed into “When are we leaving?”

And wouldn’t you know it? The one ride I did get brave enough to ride left me drenched.

To add insult to injury, the cheap little weasel didn’t want me to drift out of his sight, so he would hold on to the belt loop of my blue jean shorts.

I tried to pull away from him but he held tight like it was a leash and I eventually ended up slapping his hand away.

I was mortified.

It was 257 degrees; my clothes were soaking wet; I was pretty sure some kid threw up in my hair; and this greasy soon-to-be ex-mistake of mine was trying to keep me literally within arm’s length.

Was this why Mama told me I wouldn’t like Six Flags?

I tried to skip school the next day as I was recovering from the trauma. Ashley actually had to literally drag me out of bed and make me go, telling me the only way to get over someone holding my belt loops was to be amongst friends.

I never went back to Six Flags. I think I went to White Water once and I am pretty sure someone told me they were taking me to get donuts or something. Me and water parks go as well as Mama and the Tilt-A-Whirl.

The other day, I came across a news article that said the Georgia Cyclone was being taken out of commission this Sunday.

It made me think of my one foray to the theme park some 17 years ago.

“Mama, am I ever gonna go to Six Flags?” Cole asked after I announced the wooden roller coaster was being retired.

“Probably not,” I told him.

“You won’t like it. Just trust me.”

 

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.