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.”

 

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Everyone’s a critic (7/19/2017)

It seems like everyone’s a critic these days.

Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor have made it easy.

Just because someone has a keyboard and an opinion, they think it needs to be expressed.

It’s particularly easy when its anonymous. Keyboard warriors like to hide behind a fake name and complain and criticize others, in hopes of seeing the effect of their cruel words.

People seem to get a rush when they have had a less than stellar experience and can complain about it online.

Sadly, those types of comments are the ones that garner the most response, too.

Because the internet is not going to let someone post a complaint without everyone chiming in with their own two cents about it.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say….” Mama would begin.

“I know, I know. Don’t say anything at all.” How Granny got to speak was beyond me, because she never said anything nice. But Mama always urged me to not say anything that wasn’t nice and, I sincerely, earnestly try.

But people love to be critical and mean.

And it is something I just can’t comprehend.

Someone asked me recently if I took criticism well.

I told them it depends on the spirit in which it was given.

I’ve been around people who thought the best way to help someone was to tear them down, forgetting to ever build them back up.

Unfortunately, some of these people were in supervisory positions – how, I don’t know, because being critical to the point of soul crushing is not leadership.

But criticism, when it is given with the intention of being constructive and helping people change, can be helpful.

Still painful, nonetheless, but helpful.

If we haven’t been told how to correct a mistake the first time we make it, we don’t realize we’ve done anything wrong.

We think we are doing a good job – especially when we keep doing it and no one says anything.

When someone finally does say something, it stings. Horribly.

The even more frustrating part?

That uncomfortable space is where we grow.

It may not feel like it at first but it is.

I say this and I have the world’s thinnest skin.

But if someone is trying to help me improve, I appreciate the time it took for them to do it.

And in that awkward, uncomfortable space of hearing our flaws and missteps, we have to realize we are not being personally attacked but coached so we can do a better job.

It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t make us happy. It can be terrifying to hear we have messed up.

It can also be wonderful to hear what we’ve done right and hopefully if they are trying to help you, they should tell you what you did correctly.

“Do I even breathe right?” I remember asking someone who was particularly critical once.

“You do tend to sigh a lot,” the supervisor complained, which made me only sigh more.

Even though that was a particularly dry place to try to grow, it taught me how I wanted to be treated and how to treat people I worked with.

The sad thing is, there’s more people like this one out there – people who are trying to make others just as miserable as they are.

Instead of focusing on the areas that need improvement, I am going to focus on what they are doing right and hope that will be magnified.

And I am going to tell people too.

When I see something going right, I am going to call the manager to let them know. When I have a great experience, I am going to talk about that on Twitter.

No one likes a critic.

So I am going to start spreading praise like crazy and see how that goes.

 

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 annual return transit of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

My favorite season is fall. In fact, I wish it could be fall all year.

Bonfires, cooler weather, the leaves changing to burgundy, rust, and gold, and -even though I could care less – college football.

Despite all the fall things that bring me great joy, there is one thing that has wormed its way the seasonal landscape that makes me cringe: pumpkin spice lattes.

And everything flavored pumpkin spice.

Normally, I like fall flavored things.

Cinnamon, cardamom, clove and nutmeg are some of my favorite flavors.

When it comes to scents, my house smells like fall year round.

But when it comes to my taste buds and particularly my coffee, I just can’t do the orange colored concoction.

No, just no.

I tried one once, after one of my favorite baristas suggested it instead of my standard breve.
It was years ago but my taste buds have not yet recovered.

For me to say something is too sweet is rare – but this was too sweet.

I made the mistake of taking the lid off and seeing the orange color. The only acceptable colors for coffee are black and a cream-lightened version of that.

The atrocities of pumpkin spice have spread to other things like a flavored virus.

Candy, cereals, yogurt -everything now has a pumpkin spice spin to it.

Even ice cream.

Mama got the ice cream last year.

The thought of it made me cringe.

The texture alone coupled with the taste would make me gag.

“It’s good!” Mama declared.

I told her there was absolutely no way PSL ice cream could be good.

“It’s the best stuff ever,” she argued.

I reminded myself her taste buds were old and she is a terrible cook so this may taste good to her.
This is also the woman who thinks bologna should be its own food group.

Months later, we went to see her. Mama was pushing her inedible fixings on us yet again.

She ran down her list: boiled eggs, some kind of half-cooked frozen chicken wings, tenders, or nuggets with various types of breading, lettuce she shredded and put in a bowl, thusly calling it a salad (nothing else with it – just lettuce), and something burnt.

She rounded out the list with, “And, I’ve got pumpkin spice ice cream for dessert.”

“You got another thing of that?” I asked.

Mama tensed slightly. “No, it’s the same one.”

“The same one?”

She nodded.

“Don’t you think it may be freezer burned by now?”

“Oh, good,” she said. “That will hopefully kill the flavor.”

“Why didn’t you eat it? You loved it when I first talked to you.”

Mama thought carefully. She had sung the praises of pumpkin spice far too loud and a wee bit too early it had seemed.

“Have you ever had something that at first seemed really good? Like the first time you had it, it was delicious?”

I had. But the first pumpkin spice anything was not it.

“The first bowl tasted so good. The second one, was not as good. And the third one…was gross. I think I hit the mother load of pumpkin.”

I couldn’t imagine how much a mother load of pumpkin would be.

“Why haven’t you thrown it away if you aren’t going to eat it?” I asked.

“That tub was a small fortune! I am not throwing it away!” she replied. “Are you sure you don’t want to try it?”

“Well, after that appealing pitch, I can’t see why I wouldn’t but I am still gonna take a hard pass,” I told her.

She tried to get Cole to try but his mama didn’t raise no fool.

And here we are fast approaching pumpkin spice season. Not fall, not football season but pumpkin spice season.

I keep hoping there will be a pumpkin spice shortage but alas, there has not been. At least not yet. I’m sure if there was, it would be the end of civilization as we know it.

We’d have to go back to eating other seasonal things like caramel apples and S’mores like a bunch of savages.

And even so, Mama would still have that tub of ice cream.

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 Undergrad Continuum (8/17/2016)

The last few days, I have watched friends I graduated high school with ready their children for college.

I am not sure how this is possible since 1991 was really only 5 years ago so this seems to defy the laws of time.

But there they are, dropping off kids at their dorms hours away and into impending adulthood.

And it dawned on me: they are still babies.

Sure, when I graduated high school, I was ready to take on the world.

I think it mainly stemmed from being young and foolish enough to think I was invincible and that I was going to solve the world’s problems.

I knew everything, too.

Lord, have mercy at the depths and expanse of my omnipotent knowledge or lack thereof.

“I’m not quite sure why you going to school; you know everything,” Granny snorted one day.

I really thought I did.

So much so that I dropped out after my first quarter of paralegal studies because the classes started too early.

“Who can think that cussed early in the morning?” I asked.

Granny was furious; Mama, said nothing at first, until she got the phone bill. It was $8,926,274.12.

Or at least you would have thought it was given the hissy fit the crazy redhead pitched.

“Since you are taking some time to find yourself, you can find a job in the meantime,” she announced with aplomb one afternoon.

“I am your child; I should be able to reflect and be introspective on what I want to be when I grow up,” was my response.

“I can’t think of any better way to find out what you want to be than to learn what you sure don’t want.” She tossed the paper on my bed. “There’s the want ads; find yourself a job by the end of this week or the phone will be thrown out.”

She always struck a low blow, threatening my phone, my life line to the outer world beyond the graffiti walls of my bedroom.

I sighed. I had to get a job.

How was I going to find myself if I had to get a job?

But find one I did, waitressing during the lunch rush at a local restaurant.

When I complained about being tired and how customers were rude and demanding, Mama just asked me if I was ready to go back to school.

“I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be. It’s not fair to make an 18-year-old figure out what they want to be the rest of their life,” I told her, stomping into my room.

The next phone bill was $9,308, 237.11. (This was when it was long distance to call everywhere except your city and my future ex-husband was at school, 2 hours away.)

“You need to get another job,” Mama said, tossing the paper on my bed again.
“What!? Why?” I whined. “I can’t work another job!”

“Then get one full time job,” she said. “You only work part-time and aren’t in school; you can get another one. Or I will yank the phone out of the wall.”

So I got another job. And another.

I think at one time, I had about 37 part-time jobs.

I was exhausted.

“I’m going back to school,” I whined one day. “This working thing is killing me.”

“Have you figured out what you want to be when you grow up?” she asked.

Oh, heavens no. But I had a clear idea of what I didn’t.

The thought of sharing a communal shower and a room smaller than the one I grew up in did not appeal to me, so I commuted four days a week for four years.

When I graduated that sweltering hot day in June, I just knew I was officially grown and ready to take the world by storm. Before, I thought I was ready; now I was.

I walked out of the Macon auditorium and it hit me: I was really still just a baby.

I didn’t even know how to turn on utilities, how was I going to take on the world?

I was scared and didn’t know what I was doing but again, armed with foolish bravado I thought I could do anything. I’d figure it out, right?
Thankfully, I had the fallacy of my youth on my side to help cushion my errors.

But, it was that year off that helped me grow the most.
Mama taught me the most important lessons of all; she knew working some hard jobs would be good for me, would teach me how to deal with the public, and help me figure out what I wanted to be. She didn’t let me just wallow in my own ruminations either; she is not one to entertain apathy.

She let me think I knew everything while she quietly showed me I didn’t.

She also knew it would keep me off the phone so the bill didn’t go up into the billions.

As I think of all the college freshmen starting school this month, I think they have the whole world ahead of them and I envy that time in their lives.

It’s a scary, exciting, exhilarating time, and I am sure a few probably feel like that they know everything, like I did.

And at least, briefly, for a while, they will.

 

All Creatures Great and Small (8/10/2016)

“Mama,” the tone in his voice let me know something was wrong.

“What is it?” I asked.

I opened the bathroom door to find my son standing there, eyes full of pain. “One of the dogs stepped on this beautiful butterfly outside. They killed it. It was an accident, but…”

My heart pulled towards his tender heart, worrying about the butterfly.

“Would you feel better if we found it and buried it?”

He nodded, his eyes glistening with tears.

We walked out on the porch and Cole found the yellow and black butterfly almost immediately. “Here it is,” he said, his voice full of sadness.

I couldn’t tell if it was a Monarch or a Viceroy but it was gorgeous. I am pretty sure it was the one that had been out in the yard just a few days before, flitting around to greet us and nearly landing on my shoulder. The thought it may have been the same one somehow made me feel even sadder, as if we losing someone we knew.

I bent down to get it up and noticed it twitched its wings.

“It’s alive!” Cole cried.

Indeed, it was.

I righted it to its legs but it couldn’t fly. Its wings were too crumpled and damaged but it was alive.

“Can you fix a broken wing?” Cole asked me.

“I don’t know if that’s possible,” I told him.

“I’m going to Google it!” he said and off he ran to find out.

I looked for something to try to pick it up with that wouldn’t hurt it. I knew butterflies to be fragile and delicate.

I was able to balance it on a piece of paper but it wanted to crawl into my hands – was it just wanting what all of us want when we’re hurt, a compassionate touch? It was frantically moving its legs, as if it was wanting to make sure I could see it was alive.
But I worried about touching the wings, hearing all my life that if you touched their wings it would kill them.

I couldn’t remember but I wanted to make sure I didn’t do more harm than good.

When I was a little girl, I always tried to save little moths, finding them and trying to keep them safe and being so heartbroken when they ended up dying.

Cole had rescued a grasshopper a few years ago that appeared to have a broken leg and when it died, we both cried as we buried it.

I didn’t want to hurt it, even though it was quite insistent about wanting to be held.

Lifting it up closer, I noticed it had a face. At tiny, inquisitive, knowing face.

It was a little soul, just with wings.

Not much different than the mother opossum my uncle fed that time he found out it was eating the cat’s food. He had watched to see what was getting it, then followed it to find a dozen tiny babies.

Granny, not being as compassionate and being raised in a totally different time with a totally different attitude, promptly said, “Kill it.”

My uncle was horrified. “I’ll do no such of a thing, Mama,” he began. “She’s just trying to find food so she can feed her babies.”

Granny snorted her disapproval. “Then there’s just going to be more of them. You need to take care of ‘em of all – now.”

The only times my uncle ever told Granny ‘no’ was about animals and this was one of them. “I’m not; these are God’s creatures, just like you and me, and I am going to feed them.”

Granny couldn’t argue with that, so she just muttered something about how if he got rabies, he was going to wish he had listened to her.

Those little opossums grew up and went on their opossum way. Bobby often worried if he saw one hit, if it had been one he had fed.

Cole bounced back out, telling me there was a way to repair the wings but he wasn’t sure if we could do it. I looked at the information myself and did not feel the confidence to do it. “It looks like they can live with crippled wings, Mama,” he said. “As long as their body is not hurt, they can live.”

We got a pickle jar and put paper towels in it to cushion it. I mixed honey with water and put it on a paper towel for it to drink.

“What should we name her?” Cole asked.

“What do you want to name her?”

He thought for a moment. “Princess Diana. You always said you loved her.”

I smiled.
“What if she’s a boy?” Cole asked.

“Harry,” I said. “I like Prince William, too, but I have always adored Harry.”

I called Mama to tell her we had a butterfly in our menagerie now and I didn’t know where to find an entomologist.
“Maybe call UGA?” she suggested.

For once, I listened to my Mama and called.

The man assured me what I was doing was right and suggested I put her in a bigger jar.  I asked him how long her lifespan was. The scientist, probably sensing I was already attached, gently told me 1 to 2 weeks, with 4 being the longest.

That was not long enough for such beauty to exist, I thought solemnly.

I found her a much bigger home, a huge apothecary jar I bought years ago and never used. I put fresh paper towels in, and we added some leaves and branches for her. We left the top open with a laundry mesh over it so she could get plenty of air.

She likes to be in the window to get sun, and she loves classical music.

It’s been 5 days as I write this.

She’s losing more and more of her wings. But she’s still moving and waving, and will put her front legs up to my hand when I put it on the glass.

“How long do you think she will make it?” Cole asked.

I wasn’t sure.

“But, at least she will be loved while she’s here with us, won’t she?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.
Because that’s what all creatures – big or small – deserve.

 

Open mouth, insert the whole leg (8/3/2016)

Granny used to embarrass the stew out of us.
She didn’t care if what she said offended someone either.

If it was on her mind, it usually came out of her mouth.

When she met someone I worked with years ago, she pointed out he was old and bald.

A few years after that, she met a friend of mine and promptly told her she was overweight.

“Now, I know I am fat,” Granny began. “But I’m old. A young girl like yourself needs to watch your weight.”

Another friend emailed me to tell me she wasn’t coming by to meet Granny. “I know I am overweight; I don’t need to hear Granny declare it as a fact.”

I was mortified.

That was nothing.

She proceeded to tell everyone what she thought, male or female, young and old.

Mama was convinced we just couldn’t take her anywhere in public.

“She was hollering at some young college boys the other day,” Mama told me. “She wanted to stay in the car while I ran in Barnes & Noble and I came out to her hooting and hollering, asking them in they liked older women.”

I told Mama I was sure those UGA student thought she was joking.

“One was running. He almost ran into a car in the parking lot,” Mama said.

There had been a time where we just knew Granny said things that she knew were controversial.

Or as she put it, “I am just a-sayin’ what everybody else is a-thinkin’ and too dang scared to say.”

We were not entirely convinced about this. Some of the things she said, we found it hard to believe anyone would think.

“It’s like she gets started and doesn’t know how to stop,” I observed. “And she kind of feels like once she gets on a roll, she wants to see where it goes.”

Mama agreed.

We were just thankful Granny wasn’t online. Never getting that woman a computer was the biggest public service we ever did, as she would have shared her opinions and running commentary with everyone.

Mama, bless her heart, has never been one to say an unkind or rude thing to anyone. And, thankfully, she always tried to make me cautious about what I said.

My earliest memory of this was during an event at school, a clogging group took to the stage to dance.

I think this was maybe the first time I had actually seen clogging, and it was different, to say the least.

Usually, when something is different, we dismiss it as being odd and say something snarky or critical, especially if you are around 9 years old like I was.

Mama quickly tried to shush me.

It didn’t work, and I had moved on to how the dresses the girls were wearing were dorky.

Mama all but put her hand over my mouth.
“Would you please shush?” she asked.

“Why?”

“Someone may hear you,” she said.

“They way up there on the stage, they can’t hear me.”

The look on the face of the woman in front of us told Mama that she was the parent of one of the cloggers I was ridiculing from my Pretty Plus seat.

“It’s a free country,” my Granny interjected, shooting the lady a look in return. “She can say what she wants to.”
“And what if what she says hurts someone’s feelings or makes them mad?” Mama asked.

“Well, it’s still a free country. She’ll have to learn there’s consequences to what she says, but don’t be a shushing her because she don’t like this clogging. It ain’t like its fancy like square-dancing!”

That moment stayed with me and I have taught my own son to be aware of what he says in public. “Someone may take it the wrong way,” I would tell him.

But of course, while I have been trying to teach my child how to not do something, what do I go and do?

Yup, I go and open my mouth and say something I shouldn’t.

He was able to witness it, too.

“They’re right behind me, aren’t they?” I whispered.

He nodded, a slow, steady nod full of wisdom and empathy for his Mama’s mistake.

“Drats,” I muttered before bolting with my child in tow.

“How in the world did they manage to be right there behind me? That’s why we really shouldn’t say anything like that unless we know we are in the privacy of our home.”

Upset, I decided to call my Mama for comfort and tell her of my mishap.

She answered the phone, her sweet, genteel greeting giving me a safe place to land.
I launched into what happened, complete with the words that had been used.

“Kitten,” Mama interjected. “I’m gonna stop you right there…I am at the doctor’s office….
“And you are on speakerphone. So let me call you back.”
I slid to the floor.

We used to worry about my Granny saying stuff and sticking her foot in her mouth. I go straight for the thigh.

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.