The movers are here. The process has begun. There are boxes stacked against walls. Boxes stacked against furniture. Boxes stacked on top of other boxes. There are tubs, and armoires, and stools, standing guard, shielding the dirty floors. Those dirty oak floors are refinished. A relic left in a house that was all but scrapped. In a house still standing, 65 years later. Our house. 1920 Umstead Street. Our little, rental house that we have come to love. Our house. Not demolished, or stripped of its originality. 1920 Umstead Street, a house that has served, and will continue to serve, with a haunting resilience, in a neighborhood not unlike your own. But today, today the oak floors are dusty. They are dusty, and they are muddy, and they are neglected. Between the stacked boxes, one can occasionally catch a glimpse of lost buttons, or old receipts, or a paper clip, swept under a cabinet or a desks or a lazy-Sunday recliner. Today, dog hair battles loose rubber bands and old dryer sheets on the dusty oak floor. A lone Diet Coke cap has been kicked behind a stack of cardboard. The cardboard is still bound in plastic banding, waiting to be unleashed with one flick of a razor.
The movers are here, and time hasn’t stopped. People are still mowing their lawns. And pounding away at their keyboards. And walking their dogs. Sit! Stay. Heal. The movers are here and I’m hiding, alone one last time, remembering the day we moved in. Remembering the possibility that lay before us. Remembering the boxes, stacked, against furniture and on top of each other. I’m remembering the fresh paint on the walls and the fresh polish on the oak floors. I’m remembering the dog, the previous dog, that dog, that love-of-my-life, one-of-a-kind dog, Bentley, splayed out on the polished oak floors, basking in the warm glow of the cold December sun. I can see her, just over there. Over the empty water bottle, and the one left shoe, and that coat, that may or may not come along. I can see her, laying there, basking in the warm, cold sun. And she is happy.
The movers are here and they aren’t leaving until they have finished. They aren’t stopping until our little house, our cozy, charming, little rental house, is packed in a truck. They aren’t leaving until every white, clapboard cupboard has been emptied. Until there is no left shoe. Until there are no loose rubber bands, or paper clips, or half-empty jugs of olive oil left on display.
The movers are here, and they aren’t leaving until my life is packed neatly in a box, protected by papers, sorted by size. Put in its proper place. And locked away for safe keeping.
Well, stick my head in an oven and call me Sylvia, I’m feeling a little crazy today, y’all. I’ve been consumed lately with what I want out of my writing life. It is a difficult question to unpack because writing is my life, and I write about my life, and I write to share my life with others because I think it is important to do, but also I don’t really like to talk to people, or be the center of attention, because it makes me nervous, and when I am nervous I say whacked out things (see above) out of shear anxiety, mixed with a bit of delusion, and just a pinch of the carbon monoxide blues. But then I want to write so that people can see that it is a good thing to share about your life, even in the middle of a manic depressive episode, because maybe they will do it, and it will help them? And then I think is that the answer? Do I write to help other people look at their own lives and think they have stories worth telling and sharing, and is this all just a cathartic cycle that I want to let others know about?
I don’t fucking know. I mean surely, if I can share my stories (and trust me, they really aren’t that good) and people want to read them, then anyone can write, right? Then I think no, because not everyone is as transparent as me, or as sad as me, or as weird as me. And mainly, they just don’t have the time or the proper training, let’s call it, so they might need help. Then I spiral out of control, get into my car, drive to Food Lion and buy only one thing: A box of Oreos. Then I go home, put my pajamas on, crawl into bed, and eat said box of Oreos, while I binge-watch something on Netflix starring Toni Colette. What can I say, I’m a creature of habit.
Okay, whew. Don’t come over to check on me today, y’all. I’m really fine. No ovens are on. It’s just that I get consumed by thoughts about whether or not what I choose to do with my time, my blog, my words, my stories, is actually doing anything at all. And if it even matters whether or not it is. Why does it need to have a deeper meaning or purpose? Why can’t I just do it because it makes me happy and not worry about not contributing to society or community or making money or getting better at connecting with people? See, it’s a slippery slope. I’m gonna go get some Oreos.
One of the things that I often repeat to myself is: This is only temporary. It started when Jackson was a baby. He was colicky, and the doctor assured me that it was temporary. She said around 12 weeks old he would just stop one day. And he did. Sort of like a light switch. One evening, at exactly 12-weeks, he had his normal colicky meltdown, then the next day he didn’t. And Jerimiah and I decided right then and there, that if we can make it 12 weeks through a colicky baby (he had a three hour crying fit every night and the only two things that soothed him were the vacuum and standing in front of the open freezer door) then we could get through anything.
A couple of years later, while I was lying in the hospital bed waiting to give birth to my dead daughter, Jerimiah and I looked at each other and I said, “This is temporary”. And it was. What I really meant was, if I can live through watching my daughter’s irregular heart beat on the screen for the last time, then labor for five more hours, then I could make it through anything. And still today, when I find myself way down, deep down in the dumps, I think back to that day and I remind myself that this is all just temporary.
I have an amazing friend named Beth. We met four years ago, when we were both new to Charlotte, to North Carolina, to making friends as an adult, as a mommy. She’s been instrumental in getting me through the last year of my life, and I wouldn’t trade her for the whole world. Yesterday we painted the school rock together for the last time. Now mind you, she did all the planning, the procuring, and the art, as it were, to paint a rock for someone else’s child (a task she takes on because she is kind, and considerate, and a little crazy). I always just end up running up halfway through, begging to help (because in my mind I am an artist) and she obliges. We talk, and paint, and laugh.
Yesterday, while I was asking her why she does this for other people, she explained that she likes to know that a kid will be surprised in the morning. She likes to plan, and paint. Then she said that she likes the medium. After all, it’s only up until the next person comes and paints over it, right? It’s all just temporary. Well, of course I wanted to stop what I was doing right then, take her in my arms and cry. See, I’m moving next week. Not too far away, just from Charlotte to Atlanta. But Beth is moving soon too. Maybe to a place much further away than Atlanta. Things are changing. Rapidly. We have known this for some time, but it was all very ethereal before yesterday.
And why wouldn’t things change? Beth reminds me of the second law of thermodynamics, she tells me, “As we move forward, we move further into chaos”. And don’t we always move? And aren’t we always fighting the chaos? Won’t we ever learn?
It’s a lot, I know. It’s a lot for me. The temporary chaos of this day, this week, this month, year, life. I want to be accepting. I want to welcome it. I want to shout out to the cosmos, “Nice try, you! But you won’t get me this time.” But it will get me. The chaos will get me. The changes will get me. They will do more than get me, they will consume me. I can feel the pull already.
In the meantime, I would do best to remind myself that this is all just temporary. Like a giant rock, that routinely gets a fresh coat of paint, to make a kid smile.
In elementary school I participated in the Book It! Program. If you don’t know Book It! it was a program designed by Pizza Hut in the early 1980s. The then-president of the company was called to action by President Reagan, who asked big business to find valuable ways to help with education in America. Pizza Hut stepped up to the plate, literally and figuratively, with the Book It! Program. Book It! awarded elementary school children the chance to read appropriate-level books, in exchange for stickers, buttons, and you guessed it, free pizza! I don’t know much more about the program from the business side, but I did find an informative and fun article here, if you are so inclined: http://mentalfloss.com/article/501605/12-cheesy-facts-about-pizza-huts-book-it-program.
What I remember about Book It! was the awesome personal pan pizzas that you got whenever you finished your “chart”, which was a brightly colored poster board with the names of everyone in your class, and stars representing how many books you had read. For each book you got a sticker. For every ten books you read, you received a coupon for a personal pan pizza. This was a great incentive to kids who were not planning on reading ten books a month, a fun bonus for those of us who were, and a smart marketing move on behalf of Pizza Hut. I mean, parents will do more with less, for an excuse to NOT cook and do the dishes on a Friday night. It was a win-win, and honestly, one of my favorite memories from elementary school. We were sorta poor, and Pizza Hut was not a place we frequented. My mom cooked food at home, so once a month I knew I would get to go out to dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy, but my mom would take me to Pizza Hut. She would get us a water and a Diet Coke, then she would order two personal pan pizzas and we got one of them free. It was a sweet deal, and a fun evening for us because the nearest Pizza Hut was at the mall of sorts, in Leavenworth, called The Plaza. It had some shops in it, an arcade, a book store, ice cream, etc. It was small, but always exciting to go look around with my tummy full of free pizza. Sometimes, if it were near payday, we would walk around and dream of the stuff we wanted, then hit Baskin Robbins just before we drove home.
The other thing I remember about Book It! was how unfair it suddenly seemed one day in fifth grade. I was a fairly smart kid. No rocket scientist, but I was an avid reader, a strong reader, and a lover of books. One day my class came back inside from recess and sat at our desks with the lights off. This was something we did everyday. It was a rest time that Mrs. Coughran, our very patient teacher, bestowed upon us. Mrs. Coughran took this time to turn off the lights and let us rest our minds and bodies before we stumbled into whatever was next on the agenda. Everyday she would read aloud during this time, from a book that we all voted on. We had three choices. We could either listen while we rested our eyes (think: trying to get a quick snooze) or we could color or draw, or we could read our own book silently at our desk. I usually chose to read silently, especially when I was close to completing my ten books for the month.
One particular day I excused myself to the Book It! Chart to see how many books I had left. Mrs. Coughran or Mrs. Simmons, the school librarian, had to pick the books for us, as reading at your appropriate level was one of the requirements. On this day I meandered over to the chart to see which book I had next so I could decide if we had it in the classroom, or if I needed to go find it in the library. That is when the shock set in. My chart looked like this: Island of the Blue Dolphins, Indian in the Cupboard, Number the Stars, Anne Frank, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Giver, etc. etc. Meanwhile, a large number of the rest of the class were reading books like this: James and the Giant Peach, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Superfudge, and Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing. See a pattern here? I was getting saddled with these “big” books, which is how I thought of them, when really they were just more advanced subject matter, while my classmates read what amounted, to me anyway, as Dr. Seuss. I was pissed.
I went home that night and told my mom, who really had no idea what I was bitching about. She was convinced my teachers knew which books I should be reading, and what the hell was a Superfudge, anyway? She told me stop complaining, but she did offer to run me down to the public library so I could pick out whatever I wanted. I took the bait.
The next day at silent reading, I looked around the room before I lifted up my desk and snuck out my brand new public library copy of Pippi Longstocking. Now I had read Pippi Longstocking before. In fact, I had read all of them and watched the movies back in, ohh, second grade? But it was funny and short and I didn’t need to look up words in secret in my bedroom at night. I spent the better part of our fifteen minutes trying to hide the cover from Mrs. Coughran, who seemed to be inching closer to my desk. I figured if I could get the book done quickly, I could just run over and jot the title down and have her give me a sticker without her even looking at the cover. It was a tense few minutes.
I was still reading happily along to Pippi’s antics when someone switched the lights on without my knowing. I was so engrossed, I didn’t look up until Mrs. Coughran’s hand touched my arm. I looked up at her, my eyes wide, I had been caught. She knelt down next to my desk and asked me what I was reading. I showed her the cover. That’s a good one, she said, not taking her eyes off of me. I think it is a movie now too. I shook my head and gulped. Are you going to count that as one of your books this week? The question sort of stayed out there, in the air between us. I wasn’t sure what to say. I found the nerve, maybe from Pippi, to say, I think so.Okay, she said with a smile. I think that’s a good idea. But don’t forget that Mrs. Simmons wants you to finish “Number the Stars” this week too. I shook my head. Yes. Yes. The holocaust book, I remembered quickly. She smiled and walked away.
That afternoon as the bell rang, and we all ran to the freedom of our parent’s cars, Mrs. Coughran called for me. I stopped in the doorway, a little bit scared. She put her arms out for a hug and I fell into her. I had been so afraid she was mad at me. Then she looked me in the eyes. Reminded me to look her in the eyes, something she had been working on with me since day one, and she said that she was proud of me for being a class leader in the Book It! Program. She confided that we were probably set up to receive the coveted pizza party at the end of the year because of our hard work, and that I had really helped bring the class reading up. I smiled a shameful smile. Then she said to me, Remember, Missy. You are what you read.
We did end up earning a Book It! Pizza Hut party on the last week of school. We read and ate until we were too sick to read anymore, then we watched old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy and ate some more. Someone’s mom brought in cupcakes, another brought juice boxes, and Pizza Hut brought boxes of piping hot pepperoni pizza. We felt like royalty.
As most of you know, the husband is being relocated. His company, which shall remain nameless considering they probably don’t want to be associated with me, is a domestic, Fortune 300 company, with corporate and field operations, in a business that is stable and growing. He is on track to grow with this company, which is becoming unusual in this modern world. So, cool, cool, cool. Here is the thing, he’s been working from home for three weeks now. Le sigh. Let me stop here for a second and just say: I LOVE MY HUSBAND. Like LOVE him. I’m not saying that, then going around behind his back telling people that I hate him. Nah. He cool. We cool. And after seventeen years still very much in love and what not. Sex is good, cause I know you were wondering. It took a slight nosedive when we were trying to conceive just cause, well you know the deal, it wasn’t so much fun anymore as work, but after I had my hysterectomy, whew! Through the roof fun, ya know? Discovering parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. We have this thing…
It has taken me a long time to write this. Months, actually. Months of pacing my floorboards well into the night. Months of looking out my window for a sign, anything to come crashing down on me, begging me to stay for a few more weeks, a few more months. Fight more. Make this home. But nothing ever came. It isn’t surprising that it took me so long. It takes me a long time to get anything done. I used to be ashamed of that fact, but since I’ve known you, I’ve learned to appreciate this about myself. It’s not laziness. It’s not lack of motivation. It’s the opposite. It’s because when I invest in something, in someone, I invest my whole damn heart. And when you invest your whole damn heart, well, it takes time. You can’t leave on a whim. You can’t walk away without looking back three or four times. It’s a process. A lengthy, tumultuous process.
It seems silly, contrite, even dramatic, but Christ, I’m going to miss you, Charlotte. I’ve never left anywhere or anyone without wanting to. And even then, it is harder than it seems. When I left Leavenworth, Kansas many moons ago, I did so with a sadness that took me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. It’s true I had been working on my exit for 20 years, but still, I was totally and completely oblivious to what leaving actually meant. Through the entire process, though, I knew I was making the right decision. I knew this is what I had to do in order to launch. In order to learn and grow. So I pushed the sadness down, deep down, covering it with southern fried chicken and Arkansas BBQ.
Ten years later I left Southern Missouri. Again, I left because I knew I needed to. I knew it was the next right step for me, for us. I had a family by then. A husband eager for the adventure I had spent years cultivating in his mind. A five-year-old, on the cusp of kindergarten, a honestness inside him so profound that he didn’t once cry for his home, the only place he had ever known. Because he, like his mommy, craved new experiences, open roads, fun, and light, and merriment. In what seemed like an instant, we packed up a U-Haul, and we drove 1,000 miles in the stifling summer heat along I-40, eastbound. Then we took a right hand turn, and we found you.
Charlotte, my dear, I write this in love, honor, and humility, for I know you deserve more than what my words are capable of. Still, I refuse to carry the burden of forgetting to thank you for what you’ve meant to me these last five years. You were the city, after all, that I longed for. The city whose streets morphed me into the most honest version of myself. The bravest Missy anyone has ever seen.
Charlotte, it didn’t take long to learn how to navigate your patchy pavement, your potholes, and your politics. You wear your heart on your sleeve, waiting, hoping to be opened up by all of those who are willing. You taught me what it meant to be an outsider, to be hoping for acceptance. You taught this midwestern transplant about real, down home, southern hospitality. You taught me about peach cobbler and Cheerwine. You taught me that it is okay to not fit in. Then you taught me how to be accepted. You helped me shrug off the feeling that I was an imposter. A lost girl, tangled up in a city that I didn’t think wanted me, that I didn’t know I wanted.
Charlotte, you allowed me to truly let myself feel like I was a part of something. Which in turn allowed me to give freely of myself. To look past the trepidation of going out into the community, to the places I thought I feared, with the people I thought I feared. You taught me how to take their hands. To give what I had to give. You taught me how to receive what I didn’t know I needed. What I didn’t think I was worthy of. Charlotte, you taught me how to trust people again. You will forever be the place that taught me about the good and the bad of life. To understand those unlike me. To find common ground. You taught me about gentrification, all the horrible, ugly, heavy parts of it. About gratitude. About community. About moving forward together with people who are not like you, but also so very much like you.
Charlotte, I am not ashamed to say that I love you, your faults and all. Some don’t see your beauty. I’ve heard what they say about you. I’ve heard their true fear and ignorance of you. I’ve heard the complaints of your history, and your fast-paced progress. I’ve heard stories of your people, your streets, supposedly littered with graffiti and violence. But that’s not been my experience. Those aren’t the people who really know you, my dear. Those are the people who think they know you. The people too afraid, too out of touch, to get to the bottom of your heart. Too afraid to let their lives get knotted up in your streets and avenues, your museums, your schools, your churches, your neighborhoods, and your people. There isn’t an ounce of aggressiveness in you, Charlotte. There is only love and light, washed with an unmistakable sadness of underserved, underrepresented, undervalued people, trying to work together in the rapid, forward progression that has taken hold. There are people getting lost in the shuffle, Charlotte, but there are also people reaching down and lifting others up.
There are people at your schools who promote life-long learning. There are professors, and instructors, and counselors. There are people at Queens University, at UNC Charlotte. There are people at Idelwild Elementary School, and Thomasboro Academy, and Shamrock Gardens. There are people at CPCC, and The Arts Institute. There are beautiful, bright construction-paper fish lining the windows of Dilworth Elementary and silver robots at Mallard Creek STEM. There are flower beds at Paw Creek and an amazingly fun playground at Villa Heights. There are free lunches, and school picnics. Summer programs and school choirs. There are decorated lockers and national championship sports teams. There are teachers, principals, and bus drivers, that each morning, look into the eyes of their children, and tell them they are welcome. They are loved. And it makes all the difference, Charlotte. Your people make all the difference.
Charlotte, your parks are lovely. Your parks and your nature preserves and your gardens. Autumns at McDowell, down the luminary-lined roads in a wagon, make people feel like you are no longer in a bustling, urban city. Your dog park at Reedy Creek, its mixture of dust, and green, and friendly barking, allows for conversation and friendship, four-legged and two. From the geese who flank the pond at UNC Charlotte, backing up traffic on the roundabout, to the geese who nibble your pretzels at Freedom Park, your wildlife, your serenity, your escapes from the busy city life have calmed many. The excitement of an afternoon walk through Romare Bearden, the children in the fountains, ringing the bells, holding foot races across the wide open lawn, reminds me of my own languid summer days as a child. We’d glide over the beautiful lawn, take in an afternoon of baseball, cheering madly for the Knights, as they’d rally against Durham in the 10th inning. Then head over to Green’s for a chili-cheese dog.
And oh, the food! Charlotte, you are a food-lover’s paradise. From Amelie’s in NoDa to Pike’s in South End, there is a little something for everyone. Lunch at 300 East, dinner at Midwood Smokehouse (the only place this midwesterner can find good, down home, sticky, sweet sauce). Dutch Babies at The Original Pancake House and brunch at Bistro La Bon. Maybe a quick bite off the Pizza Peel buffet, or an order to go from Price’s Chicken Coop or Brooke’s Sandwich House. International House of Prayer offers up homemade specialties during the day, and there is always Midnight Diner, or Pinky’s, or South 21 if you just need good, greasy fries to soothe your soul.
Charlotte, I will miss you festivals and your beer. Your spontaneous parties at OMB and your giant Jenga game at Camp North End. Your Sunday afternoon dates with my 10-year-old at Abari’s Game Bar, where we first introduced him to a Super NES, and your fun hosting of Open Streets, where we were able to see a part of the city that we never had before via one of your many greenways. I will miss walks with my dog into Uptown, though the heavily guarded training fields of the Panthers, onto Trade Street and onward. I will miss the smiling faces at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library – Plaza Midwood branch, and at ImaginOn, where the entire staff seems only there to make my life easier, by helping my son find the Hank the Cowdog series, and tie his shoe, and teach him about projection in his theater class. I will miss your Thanksgiving Day parade, Charlotte, and your street vendors. I will miss the small, but mighty aquarium at Discovery Place. I will miss your weird collection of art and people on Tryon in Uptown, just after the sun has set, but before the bars open. I will miss you “Jesus Saves” guy. I will miss you Phoenix statue, and my desire to take a picture of every visitor to the city in front of it.
Charlotte, you came into my life at a turning point. You saw me through the early days of my son starting kindergarten. You helped me stay busy when my days were more quiet than I liked. You brought me into the fold of UNC Charlotte. You got me through three very long years of grad school, where my brain, my faith in myself, and my commitment were all tested beyond belief. You met me on the other side with the loveliest of new friends and mentors, all working their magic to put that spark back into my life, my writing, and my faith in good people. Kind people, smart, loving people.
Geez, the friends, Charlotte. The friends you gave me. The fun, amazing, lifelong friends, who always seemed to pop up at the perfect time. Some we have lost, more we have gained, but all of them, at some point in the last five years, have looked at me and smiled, a mutual understanding that our time spent together was not in vain. It was not lost on us. On who we are, or how we came to know each other. Or what we will always be, when it’s all said and done, and many, many miles separate us. I’m indebted to you for these lovely people, Charlotte. And much, much more.
Joan Didion once wrote, “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” I don’t know if this is what I have done here, Charlotte, but I have certainly tried, and I will certainly continue to try, for as long as you are present in my memory, to claim you, to obsess over you, year after year, month after month, as I drag my feet to say goodbye to the city I have come to love. The city that I have come to call home.
March 18th is Trisomy 18 Awareness Day. I don’t need to be made aware of Trisomy 18. I was made aware of it in August of 2011. I also don’t think the vast majority of the public needs to be made aware of it. Like a lot of other medical conditions, you don’t really know about Trisomy 18, or its similar conditions, Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 21, unless it comes crashing into your life. But, I do support the Trisomy 18 Foundation. And I do love and admire the people in the world who are out there living with Trisomy 18. And there are people in the world who are out there living with, and caring for those living with, Trisomy 18. So I do find it necessary to educate others on the condition. That’s what I call it, a condition.
Trisomy 18 is a condition caused by an error in cell division, known as meiotic disjunction. When this happens, instead of the normal pair of number 18 chromosome, an extra chromosome 18 results (a triple, hence tri) in the developing baby and disrupts the pattern of development in significant, life-threatening ways, even before birth. A Trisomy 18 error occurs in about 1 of every 2500 pregnancies in the United States, and 1 in 6000 live births. The numbers of total births is much higher because it includes significant numbers of stillbirths that occur in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.
Unlike Down Syndrome, which is also caused by an extra chromosome, the developmental issues caused by Trisomy 18 are associated with medical complications that are potentially life-threatening in the early months and years of life. Studies have shown that only 50% of babies who are carried to term will be born alive, and only 10% of those babies will live to see their first birthday. Most of the babies who survive are girls.
As I mentioned above, there are people living with Trisomy 18. Perhaps one of the better known children living with this condition is one-time Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s daughter, Bella. Bella turns eleven this year. She is a beautiful young lady, with well-equipped parents who have made it their mission to see that she lives a happy and adventure-filled life.
At the risk of being political, I will stop there. As the Santorums and I have little in common, other than having a daughter who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, but please be aware that not all people in this situation, or with babies who have life-altering disabilities, are capable to care for, and provide for, their children in such an amazing way. Just be considerate.
I’ll end with a link to the story that I wrote about our daughter Lydia. I suspect it will tell you all you need to know about our journey. As always, I welcome comments, questions, and thoughtful discussion on any topic I address. But remember, above all else, there are people in the world who are battling things you can’t even conceive of, things you do not know about, things you are not even slightly educated on. Be kind to all you meet.
I don’t usually get political. Bahahahaha! Just kidding, I get political all the damn time. I get political when it calls for it, when it doesn’t call for it, and when I’m drunk at a party and I say some shit like, Jesus, our president is a fucking piece of work, ehhh, then I nudge the very quiet guy next to me, who happens to be my husband, and he whispers, Dude, don’t do this here, it’s my boss’ house… In short, I get political any chance I can, but I wasn’t always this way. It has been in the last five years or so that I have found my voice and have come to educate myself on such topics as: Healthcare for all, women’s reproductive rights, the Supreme Court, our country’s diplomatic ties to China, and the LGBTQQIA+ community, of which I consider myself part of (Heeeyyy girl heeeeeyyyy! 😉 But I’m happily married, sorry for your luck.) And now that I have my voice, well, I don’t plan on shutting up anytime soon. Which leads me to memes that have been floating around my Facebook feed for a few months now. Some of them are photos with words over them, some of them are ugly paintings, some of them are pics of celebrities who apparently say negative things about people in the LGBTQQIA+ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and asexual, for those of you who do not know). Here is one example:
I know why many of my friends are sharing this one. They think it’s funny. In fact, it gets tons of likes and laughs and people comment things like, Now that is funny right there! and Truth! I don’t even know what a girl even looks like now (actual comments from FB). But the thing they all of these memes have in common is: Fear. These memes really stem from your fear. And here is how I came to that conclusion.
Let’s say you are at the grocery store. You want to get in and out. You go in there kinda knowing what you need, but you know you are in a hurry. If you’re like me you wrote a list, then you left the damn list on your desk, so you text your husband to ask what you need and he’s all, There was a list on your desk and you’re all, I forgot it and he’s all, This is why I told you to use your phone like a normal person, do you want me to download that app that has the… and you are like, Shut-up I don’t want to do this right now asshole, do we need bananas or not?! And you don’t, so you skip the fruits and vegetables, because ehh, and head straight for the ice cream. So you grab your 12 items or less and run up to the express lane. You are standing there bouncing up and down, while you juggle the ice cream, pack of discounted pork chops, and butter, while you look in desperation at the cashier to see if they are a fast one who has their shit together (can we just take a moment to thank the fast cashiers, they are amazing). Turns out they are fast and that makes you happy, but then you notice something. Is the cashier wearing a bow tie? That’s not part of the uniform, I mean, the men wear the bow ties, but not the women. But those are boobs under that shirt. And she is wearing lipstick, but her hair is buzzed short. You recognize that it’s about a two on the sides because that one time when you decided to cut your son’s hair the salon had to shave the sides to a two after your hack job. Hmm, you think to yourself, is that a man or a woman?
Now I’m gonna stop you right there and ask this: What difference does it make?
I’m going to go a step further and ask, when would it make a difference, in your actual life, to figure out what the person standing next to you on the train, or the person in the car who passed you, or the new co-worker, or the person cutting your lawn, or your insurance person is male, female, both, or neither? And I really want you to consider this, you guys. Like, when do you honestly feel like it matters to know “what a girl even looks like now”. Does it matter if you are hiring someone to be a server or a cashier or a doctor or an accountant? It shouldn’t, because #EqualPayForEqual work and all. Does it matter when the person has an actual hand in your life, like your hair-stylist, your housekeeper, or your yoga instructor? Honestly, the only time I could think that knowing the sex of someone (who wasn’t going to be a sexual partner), for me, is my gynecologist. Hand to the holy, spiritual universe, I only want a woman rooting around in my vagina every year with that long-ass cotton swab. I don’t even care if my gyno was born a woman, I just need to know that she gets it, when she’s pushing my breasts into weird shapes and I’m looking at the ceiling trying not to make eye contact.
You guys, I have been thinking about this for awhile now. Like, when would it actually, really, fucking matter in your normal, everyday life, to figure out what gender a person identifies as, short of them being someone who you are actually interested in seeing their genitals, because you think they are kinda hot, but you know you only like people with penises? The only people who really want to know if they are talking to a man or a woman are usually people who want to degrade the other sex in some way. Either they want to feel comfortable telling a sexist joke, or they want to offer the woman less money for the same job, or they want someone who is the opposite gender so they can flirt with them, or check them out, or feel superior (talking to dudes here). If you know who you are, and what you like, and you are kind, and try to always live your life that way, and you are solid in your sexuality and your preferences, what difference does it make how the person standing opposite you identifies? Answer: I doesn’t.
And here’s the thing, a lot of you say that.You say, I don’t care what you do or how you live your life, just leave me alone. But you don’t leave them alone. You fight for bathroom bills, and to stop Drag Queens from reading to kids. You share memes like the one above, and far, far worse ones, just to get a laugh from your friends who also say, Doesn’t matter to me if they are Black, white, purple, Gay, straight, whatever, I respect everyone who respects me. But they don’t.
So, why, oh why Wise Missy do we continue to talk about the LGBTQQIA+ community like we do? Why don’t we want trans people in the military, why don’t we want to talk about protecting trans kids, why do we still say shit like, I would rather drown my kids than let them ‘choose’ to be gay? Fear, y’all. It’s pretty straightforward, don’t ya think?
We absolutely fear what we don’t know, what we don’t understand, and in some instances, what we are trying very hard to push down in our own lives. Believe me, I know, I was there. My best friend in high school came out in our junior year, and I immediately stopped hanging with her, something I still regret to this day, and do you know why? Cause I was questioning my sexuality too and I thought if she was out, then people would assume I was a lesbian, and then I’d be labeled and ostrisirzised and I didn’t want that. I was afraid. And so are some of you, and that’s okay. It’s totally okay to be afraid of things you don’t understand. We all are. I am totally and completely terrified of sixth grade math, y’all, and you will find me routinely telling whomever will listen, Fuck 6th grade math! We don’t need that kind of shit in our lives!
But, uhh, yeah, we actually need 6th grade math, I just don’t understand it.
Now listen, we usually always wonder, right? Like in the grocery store scenario I would wonder if it was a man or a woman, or how that person identifies, it’s part of human nature. It’s what we have been taught to do. We wonder about people and that’s okay too. What isn’t okay, is using your fear to belittle, berate, harm, or otherwise oppress actual human-fucking-beings because the way they dress, or the way they talk, or whose genitals they like to touch, makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s gross, y’all. Stop it. Keep the wondering to yourself.
Now I know I have totally dumbed down this very complex topic, and let me just apologize to the LGBTQQIA+ community for the injustice I have done here. But please know that my goal is to actually make people think before they share shit like this. Think about the person on the other side of the check-out line, or the train, or the counter. Think for a second how it would feel to constantly feel like you don’t belong in your own body, then have to go out and feel like you also don’t belong in your own world. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ask questions to those who are living through it, who are striving and thriving. Ask questions to educate yourself, to quell the fear that runs under the surface. Ask questions and stop judging. Those two things can save us all a lot of time, and when we are talking about the LGBTQQIA+ community, it can also save lives.
Several months ago Jerimiah was told by his company that his role was changing and he would likely not be in the Charlotte area anymore. In reality, it was much more harsh, and he was forced to make his own destiny, in a sense, by filtering out areas in the US that we did not want to go. They wanted him, for example, to go a few places we have visited, but did not think would fit us. Think: Jefferson City, MO; Louisville, KY; Richmond, VA; The Middle of Nowhere, Mass; etc, etc. In short the list was scary. Then Atlanta reached out to him. Now mind you, the last time we visited Atlanta, GA, as we hit I-85 to head home, we looked at each other and said, out loud for the whole damn universe to hear, We are never going back to Atlanta. So yeah, we fucked ourselves royally. In two weeks we are moving to Atlanta, Georgia.
Now at first, at first, I was skeptical at best. I mean the reasons we didn’t like Atlanta are the reasons most people don’t like Atlanta. It’s crowded, it’s a bit run-down, it’s an urban city, sure, but it is smack-dab in the middle of one of those southern states. You know what I mean, the conservative ones. They just passed a Heartbeat Bill, for Baby Jebus’ sake. It is a place we were desperately trying to stay away from. And did I mention the traffic? The aggressive drivers? The homeless who have a penchant for lighting overpasses on fire? Then there are the ‘burbs. Buckhead comes to mind, because, well, that’s one nice place, that we could absolutely not afford to live in. And that is by design. There is intense, intense socio-economic segregation in and around the ATL. Intense.
But then friends came to our rescue. People who know people who know people who live in and around Atlanta. Decatur. Tucker. Smyrna. Marietta. Dunwoody. We started to feel better, though we suspect our friends were so eager to help because well, it wasn’t THEM moving to Atlanta. A sense of relief comes with learning you won’t, in fact, be moving to Atlanta, just visiting.
We were able to find a house, a cute, little ditty in one of those adorable ‘burbs (even though we know we are not ‘burb people, it feels like the best place to go before we get to know the city a bit better). We found the house. The company is moving us. We have all the paperwork signed. The forms faxed to the new school. The utilities on. The landscaper on deck. We found the nearest pool. We have signed up for events in the community. In a phrase, we are ready. Even though it doesn’t matter much if we are ready or not, it is coming.
As of April 1, 2019, we will be Georgia residents. No longer North Carolina residents. Not Missouri residents. Not Kansas residents. But Georgia residents. A residency that we didn’t necessary want, but one that we are getting, and well, we will make the best of it, because that is what we do. It is what we have always done. You can’t go forth in prosperity and happiness any other way. So, if you are so inclined, please wish us luck, and health, and happiness in this new adventure! And we will do the same for you!
In a quiet suburban home on a cul-de-sac, with a Subaru and a Honda Odyssey in the drive, seven girls cram into an upstairs guest bathroom. The walls are covered in a floral pattern, there are tooth brushes lining the sink, there is mold, unbeknownst to the home owners, growing beneath. Six of those girls jump into the bathtub and pull the shower curtain to hide their faces. They are shaking with nerves, but relieved they are not the girl who has to stand next to the light switch, for her role is much more dangerous. The girl by the light switch moves her hand slowly toward the switch and asks the group if they are ready. One girl squeals. One says she changed her mind and wants out. The others quickly grab her, pushing her deeper into the middle of Nike shorts and pink training bras, to be frozen at a later, undisclosed time. The bathroom goes dark. One girl channels some courage and she starts, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…
None of the girls know who Bloody Mary is. They’ve heard stories. Bloody Mary was a young girl who killed her parents. She was a teenager who lost a baby. She may or may not be Mary I, Queen of England, a matronly, forty-ish woman with stringy hair and zero fashion sense. Either way, Bloody Mary wants them. She needs them. She uses her fingernails to scratch their faces until they die. Bloody Mary wants, they think, to slowly kill them as to bathe in their virgin blood in the moon of a Saturday night.
Bloody Mary’s vengeful spirit only comes if you chant her name thirteen times. She only comes when summoned. And only pre-teen girls at a suburban slumber party can summon her. Only pre-teen suburban girls know that after the thirteenth time her name is said, red dots appear on the bathroom mirror. The dots mean she is with them. The dots mean they have done it.
Once, in my own bathroom, we summoned her. I reluctantly climbed into my own shower, pulled the curtain and watched my friends’ faces quickly disappear with a flip of the switch. Then, as if by intuition, we began to chant: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary… I thought about stopping it. I just knew it wouldn’t be true. I knew there would be no dots on the mirror, that the legend was a myth. One of my friends grabbed my sweaty hand. I tensed up.
The chanting speed leveled, but the excitement in our bodies raised our voices. We started to slowly rock back and forth, our bodies bumping in the tub, swaying back and forth with each Bloody and Mary. Maybe my mom would hear us and open the door. Maybe she would come in and save us, and say that this was ridiculous, and that there was no Bloody Mary, and that we needed to quiet down because it was nearly midnight. I listened for her footsteps, but the hallway was silent.
Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…
Feet inching toward the edge of the tub, hands to the shower curtain in anticipation. Sweaty hands and heads. Hot cotton candy, popcorn breathe sucked in hard. In just a moment we would be face to face with the frightening demon-woman who wanted to mutilate our faces in the name of her dead babies, or her Catholic sister, or her horrible parents. One more time and the truth would rise.
The light flipped on, the curtain splayed open, and there on the mirror, thirteen red dots of all shapes and sizes. We had released the deathly spirit! It took but three seconds for the gravity of the situation to set in. We sprang from the tub, feet over shins, shins over thighs, thighs pushing arms. One girl yelped in pain, another pulled herself over the threshold, as she’d been knocked to the floor. We ran down the hall, into the cool air of the open, well-lit living room. The words were nonsensical. There was crying. My mother stepped in the room, horror on her face, what had happened, who was hurt?!
Then, as quickly as she had come, she had left. Bloody Mary was gone, we had not a scratch on us. We knew because the girl who flipped the light switch, God bless her, had said so. We were safe. Bloody Mary had went on to torment the next house, in the next suburb, in the next cul-de-sac, in the next guest bathroom full of pre-teen girls, squirming and squealing in the anticipation of the summoning.
We are renters. Meaning we choose to rent our houses, rather than buy our houses. Call us what you will: Rotten Millennials, Killers of the American Dream, Bad Economists, Stupid. Whatever, doesn’t hurt our feelings. We don’t mind paying a premium for a house in a neighborhood we couldn’t otherwise afford, that allows us to send our son to a top-tier school. We don’t mind paying a premium to live in a house with a pool, or a house with one of those fancy refrigerators that talks. Because we value things that might be different than what others value, or (gasp!) that might be different than the values of our parent’s generation. One of the things we value is proximity to “cool shit”. Cool shit here being, museums, festivals, children’s libraries, theater performances, amusement parks, easy and quick access to both major highways and a large, international airport for easy traveling, etc, etc.
I’ve been dreaming about my grandfather, as of late. This is odd. I don’t normally dream of dead relatives. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. Usually my dreams are all related to my day-to-day life. If I have spent the afternoon with a particular friend, say, then I may dream about them that night. Maybe it is just a recap of what we did, or maybe that friend and I are hunting an alligator, because my dreams don’t always make sense. But my grandfather, this is new, and stress related, I think.
Normally my stress dreams take me back to my serving days. I will dream, for instance, that I am back working at Ruby Tuesday. It is a Friday night, we are short-staffed, and there is a line of guests out the door. I am assigned to “The Pit” and am triple or quadruple seated. I can’t find a pen, so I am taking orders by memory. I have one over-cooked steak, three wrong drinks, two people yelling at me, and no one can run my food that is dying in the window. The hostess just keeps seating my section. I put in a large order for cheese fries and am told that we are out of French fries. Out of French fries?! How is that possible?! Then I wake up sweaty and cold. Yelling something to the manager, who barely knows how to do my job, and slapping my husband’s arm because I think he is the soda machine and it’s sticking again. Oh, stress.
But the dreams about my grandfathers are different.
That word has been on my mind. Tattered. But not in the sense that you think. I haven’t been thinking of tattered clothes; worn out socks, hip jeans made to look abused. I’ve been thinking of what a tattered person looks like. A tattered life. A tattered mind. A tattered soul. The OED says tatter is from Middle English, slashed scraps of cloth. Being in poor condition. Yeah, I feel that some days.
I struggle with mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. I take pills to cope. I reject common ways of decompressing my stress. I don’t work out when I’m having a panic attack, or do yoga, even though I know it helps. I don’t meditate or focus on my breath. I don’t count to ten or repeat a word over and over until the feeling goes away.
I eat. I cry. I hide in my bathroom, or under my blankets, or in the closet with the door closed until the feeling of panic, willed by brain receptors not firing correctly, passes. If I’m in the car, I turn the radio up loud and I sing, oblivious to anyone watching. If I’m somewhere with people, in a situation I can’t get out of, I shut down. Unless there is wine, then I drink.
I’ve learned these coping mechanisms through trial and error, because these problems aren’t new. I don’t read self-help books. I feel a stigma with doing that. I don’t routinely visit a therapist, I always feel worse when I’m there. I don’t even take some of my medicine regularly. I almost forget it’s there when I really need it. In short, I have some work to do, but it’s on me. And that’s the problem.
I have no problem putting others’ needs in front of my own. My son is P1. I worry about his health, his sleep, his school work, his friends. I worry that he’s getting a cough. I worry about his mental health. Then there’s my husband. Is he happy or just content? I worry about my dog. Why does he bark that way? Does he need outside? Should I take him to the vet for this behavior? Then there’s my mom. My family. My friends. Then, there’s me. By the time I get down to me I shrug and say, “I’ll be alright.” Cause, I will. I always have been. But even as I say this, I know this way of thinking takes a toll.
It has taken a toll, on a lot of us.
The curious thing is, back before I was a mommy, way back, before I was even a wife, just loosely hanging on as an “adult” I never worried about any of this. I never worried about worrying about myself. Even when myself was all I really had to worry over. God, that doesn’t make sense, I know. In more ways than one, but that’s the best way I can say it. Back when I could focus on myself, and not feel guilty about it, I didn’t know enough to know that my mental health was abnormal. I’ve always been this way, I thought this was normal. Then I started to meet people who didn’t wake up crying at 2 am because they realized death was inevitable and how could I actually stop feeling this weight press down on my chest?! And I was like, hmpf, that’s weird.
I dunno. I guess I am having a down day today. We all do sometimes. And then it all sort of adds up. So consider this mindless chatter, this relentless cloud of sadness that sort of hangs around me. Consider it, I don’t know, a reminder. Check in on your people. Call your mom. Send a handwritten card to someone you care about. If you feel up to it. But try to put your feelings and emotions and mental health first for a change. Then see how the rest falls around you. I hear if you can master it, it is remarkable. Meanwhile, put on some new sweatpants. Take a shower. Wash your hair and don’t blow dry it. Get out of the tattered place and back into the sunshine.
Today I was listening to Cory Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who is one of 788 people campaiging for a Democratic presidential bid in 2020. For the most part he speaks with clarity, and he has a little of that Barack Obama confidence. Don’t misread this, he isn’t getting my vote in the primary, but I was trying to hear what he had to say. Then he said this, “When I was little my parents used to tell me to shoot for the moon, and even if I miss I would be high in the sky.” I cringed. First of all, that’s not the right quote. Did your parents just not know the right quote, or were you just trying to pull out some oft-recycled inspirational quote to end your speech and you stumbled a bit? I’m going with the latter, and that disturbs me for a lot of reasons, but none that are important enough to articulate here. I realized, however, that there were/are probably some people who shook their heads and said, “Yes, yes, Cory Booker! Fly high!” Both because they love him and because they too, believe in that sentiment, and more than likely find solace in inspirational quotes like that. We all do sometimes, right?
Then I started to think of the quotes that we rely on, and I started to wonder if there are good ones and bad ones. My short answer: Of course there are. So I have compiled a list of some that make me groan when I hear them and some that I live my life by. I am sure our lists are different, but this is my list. Let’s start first with Cory Booker’s favorite.
Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Listen, I’m no scientist, but there seems to be a lot of logistics to consider with this one. Like, are you in a rocket ship? Or are you just jumping up really high? Cause, uh, gravity? I mean, I get what is trying to be conveyed here, and honestly people like it so much because the message is very clear: If you try, you won’t regret it. There certainly are a lot of ones like this one, and this just isn’t my favorite. It is important to note that I am from Kansas. Born and raised. And our state motto is: Ad astra per aspera (to the stars through difficulty). Which is sort of a different spin on exactly the same thing.
In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.
Nah, I have a ton more regrets than the things I didn’t do. Like that time I opened the wrong door at a house party and caught sight of a gay-man orgy. Men, y’all. Lots of them. If that is your thing, cool. I love you. But it isn’t my thing and I want to delete it from my memory, but you know what they say, “So much penis in one room, stays with you forever.” Just no. To this quote, unless you are a high school basketball coach with a losing record.
Every moment matters!
I’m going to politely disagree. Once when I was so sick with the stomach flu, that I couldn’t do anything but run to the toilet, I decided to meander into the kitchen. I made it as far as the kitchen sink, when suddenly I had to vomit. So I leaned over the sink and let it all out. At some point, as I was blowing stomach acid up through my esophagus, I realized that I was also shitting my pants. But you know, I couldn’t stop doing either. So, umm, me thinks not every moment matters.
She believed she could, so she did.
Biggest problem with this one is the pronoun. She can’t just believe it and then do it, there are way more steps for her. First, she has to push all the nonsense out of her brain from her childhood like (Girls can’t run and you should only want to be a mom or a princess). If she is able to do that, then she has to work three times harder than he does, then she gets trampled on repeatedly. She then has to reject unwanted advances that promise her success in exchange for sexual favors. Then she has to put her personal life on hold to completely give herself to the work in exchange for 80 cents on the dollar of what he is paid. Then she has to take breaks so she can have the babies, then she has to go at it all again, but this time she has to start back at the beginning again, only now she is also the one responsible for the house, the kids, and getting her career or passions back on track. Y’all, it’s exhausting. We need better quotes for our girls.
Don’t take life too seriously, you won’t make it out alive.
Really? That’s the best we got here? How about real conversations about mortality to curb some of the existential fucking dread some of us live day in and day out with. Also, if you don’t take life a little seriously you will die way before you should.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Incorrect. People refuse to do easy stuff everyday. People refuse to return their carts to the cart corral. People refuse to recycle, which y’all, is literally just ordering a second trash can to be placed next to your current trash can and then throwing some things in that one. It is learning the difference between blue and green trash cans. People refuse to learn the difference between their, there, and they’re. People hire someone to clean their baseboards. People don’t put coats on their kids when it is 30 degrees outside. People don’t just do things that are easy. They really, really have to want to do it and there usually has to be a motivation. Monetary motivation works the best.
Difficult roads, often lead to beautiful destinations.
Oh, okay, some of y’all never been to the Ozarks and it shows. Sometimes difficult roads lead to meth houses, with large, round burn marks in the lawn and tin foil on all the windows. Sometimes the pit bull hops the fence and chases your ass back up that difficult road. And since you can’t run, you have to just throw yourself back down the difficult road and roll. Tuck and roll, bitches. Sometimes you roll into the woods and the dog gives up. Sometimes you hit your head on a rock and wake up ten hours later at the hospital, where the doctor accuses you of trying to get “Oxytocin”, and turns you out on the street with a bandage on your head and a fresh rabies shot. Not all roads are that difficult, but they for sure are not all that beautiful either.
The best revenge is success.
The best revenge for who? Now listen, I am not a big fan of revenge. I am more a fan of forgiveness. But, there are some instances where a strongly-worded email will just not do it. But if someone says we can’t do something, and we do it just to avenge our names, have we put energy into something that we really didn’t need to, just in order to make the other person go, “Oh, hum, look at that. They could do it.” Cause honestly that is usually the response. No one cares, dude. You are not that important. That is like when I go, “Oh this person hates me! Waaaaa!” Chances are they don’t hate me. Because in order for someone to hate you, they have to care enough about you to form an opinion. Christ, get over yourself, Missy.
Go big or go home.
Going home, every single time, y’all. Every. Single. Time. I like home. Home is safe and if I go big people look at me and I don’t like people to look at me. Unless it is from a distant and I am in heels.
Who said life is fair?
I like this best when the generation before us asks us that. Like when our parents generation is all, “Who said life was fair, you damn millennials?!” I like it then because YOU SAID IT YOU ASSHOLES! You raised us this way! You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell us we can be and do anything we want, then when we quit law school to become an abstract artist you can’t be all, “Hey wait. You can’t do that!” YOU SAID WE COULD!
It’s not all bad, y’all. In fact, there are still some quotes that I live my life by. I’m sure some people could find fault with these, but that’s okay, they always have my back!
Snitches get stitches.
Don’t be dumb.
Just because you are offended, does not mean you are right.
Onward and upward.
Bigger the risk, bigger the reward.
I also live by the words of Joan Didion and the original Maria on Sesame Street.
Listen, I am not gonna lie, this was a trip of a lifetime, for a lot of reasons. But should I, a 29-year-old mommy, have gone balls to the wall at Mardi Gras? No. Yes. Maybe. I’m not sure. Seems like I may have had more fun had I been 21, single, without child, and totally okay with drug-fueled sex in a dark alleyway. And since there has never been a point in my life where I was cool with that, I’d say no. Probably not. Now I do want to take a moment to say that I am fully aware that this is not everyone’s experience at Mardi Gras. I even know that in New Orleans, Mardi Gras can be, and routinely is, a family affair. Especially for the Cajun and Creole people. What my friends and I did was 100%, young, white-people, tourist Mardi Gras, and I am glad that I did it, one time. I will never do it again. Though I am currently planning a family trip to New Orleans for later this year, and I am so unbelievably psyched about it because that city is beautiful and magnificent and full of history. Now, having said all of that, and properly apologizing to my Louisiana kith and kin (I am so sorry, y’all), let me tell you about the dumbest thing I did in New Orleans.
As I mentioned in Part Deux, the group did a history tour while we were there and Melody, Kasey, and I were smitten with what we learned. Some of what we learned about was the voodoo that surrounds the city and its people. Because of this, we made a point of visiting Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 before leaving town on the last day. We picked this cemetery for a specific reason. It was the best known cemetery in a place of known cemeteries and it was supposedly the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodoo priestess. Fun fact, Marie Laveau and I share the same birthday, September 10th. I used to think that was cool.
Anyway, the cemetery itself, on the north side of Basin Street, was a lovely testament to those buried there. Considering we knew by then how some of the New Orleans dead were treated, this seemed to be quite nice. There were some remarkable above-ground vaults and very detailed workmanship on many of the crypts. We took a few snapshots of the different tombs and then quickly made our way to Marie Laveau’s final resting spot.
Legend predicates that you must not touch Marie Laveau’s tomb, rightly so, UNLESS you leave a sacrifice, or she will make your life a living hell. Well, I did not know this at the time. I saw the many trinkets left around the tomb, but paid little mind to them. I had been so caught up with her life, from recently reading about her, that I was eager to just see where she was supposedly resting. I say supposedly because whether or not her remains are in there is constantly disputed. Either way, when I saw it I sort of lost my shit and went right up to it and touched it. And that is when shit hit the fan.
It sort of gives me the chills thinking about it now. I feel like I am being watched as I type this, and you guys, I am not “into” this sort of thing. But what I did that day, and the events that transpired over the next year, while most likely, probably, coincidental, serve as a reminder that you should never mess with the dark arts and to this day my plan is to go back to their tombs and place sacrifices on both of them in an attempt to make right my wrongdoings. To show respect. To say I am so very sorry to these two amazing women.
This all happened at the end of February 2011. 2011 turned out to be the worst year of my whole life for a number of reasons, ones I won’t explain here, because well, some of it is just too unbelievable. And I know, I know, most of you are all, Christ, Missy! None of that had anything to do with touching a VooDoo Queen’s tomb and not leaving a sacrifice, but I mean, do we know that for sure? No. No we don’t.
Look it, if you have made it to the end of this series of unfortunate events, bless you child. This has been one bumpy ride and I wrote this strictly for myself and my best friends. A ride down memory lane never hurt anyone, not physically anyway. I do, eight years later, look back at this trip so fondly. I look at my friends, at my MIL, at the rag-tag team of weirdos and I smile. I am glad I did it with them. Glad I lived through a once-in-a-lifetime experience with ladies who know how to take a joke. Know how to laugh at themselves. Know how to have fun, and be sad, and learn, and trust the collective. I am grateful for a husband and son who don’t mind if I run off from time to time with my girls. Who trust I always come home alive and disease-free. I learned a lot on this trip. A lot about people and a lot about myself, which may seem like a lot to put on a silly girls trip to Mardi Gras, but nah, it isn’t.
I also learned about the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is a fickle lady. She’s electric, but she’s gloomy. She is fast, she is slow. She will show you a good time, sometimes at a price. She will fill your mind with things you didn’t know possible, then she will burden you with doubt. She will give you a collection of ugly memories. She will offer up her own kind of repentance. She will make you tingly all over. She will lift you way, way up. And if you let her, she will pull you way, way down. New Orleans is the woman you didn’t know you needed, at a time you didn’t know you needed her. And I love her. And I am afraid of her. And I miss her terribly. And I want her. And on a good day, I plan to see her again. And on a bad day, I wish I never had.
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