Last October I decided to take this blog seriously. As seriously as one can take a blog with 100 followers. (Listen, I’m not being ungrateful. I see you all. And I’m grateful for your readership and friendship, or more likely that my life makes you feel better about your own life. Either way, thanks for the follows, y’all!) So, last October I decided to try to write as much as possible on here. It was more a test. A litmus test, to see if I was even capable of writing everyday. Or every other day. And I’m happy to say that I have been mildly successful. In fact, I realized pretty quickly that if I write, people come to read. Likewise, if I don’t write, people don’t come. It’s all very Field of Dreams-ish round these parts. If you write it, they will come.
So I’ve been writing. Some months are easier than others. This summer was a little slow with all my travels, but my blog has been on an uptick over the last couple of months, both because of my recent publication in an actual fucking poetry collection, and with a very personal blog that resonated with people. And you guys know that is my only goal with my writing, right? That it resonates with people. That people can read what I write and laugh, or smile, or get angry, well that’s all bonus material. What I really need is just one person to read my writing and shake their head in agreement, while they lick the Cheeto dust off their fingers and says, “Mmmhmm, girl, yes! Yes, girl! I have been there too! Thank you!” Which is why I write about things like mental health. Because somewhere, someone sitting in bed, wide-awake at three o’clock in the morning, needs to know they are not alone.
Anywho, this is a thank you post, even though it doesn’t seem like it. Man, I’m bad at this. Thanks for making my year of blogging successful. Thanks for reading my random thoughts and weird-ass stories. Thanks for liking and commenting and sharing. Thanks for, you know, just being there in the ether. I feel y’all. Not in a creepy way. In a real, spiritually-connected way. And I really do hope I make your day better.
My mom told me a story the other day about the time I was almost hit by a reckless driver. She was dropping me off at school. I must have been a freshman, or maybe it was early sophomore year. That’s when she was still driving me to school everyday, rather than me hitching rides with friends. The street that runs perpendicular to my high school had a stop sign right across from the entrance I used to go into school everyday. So my mom would sort of roll up to the stop sign, and stop long enough for me to hop out, then she’d make sure I got safely across the street before she turned right and headed to work. The whole drop-off probably took less than 30 seconds, on average, because my mom drove an ugly, beat-up 1984 Chevy Nova, with one door that was primed, but not painted. It wasn’t ideal for my teenage psyche to be dropped off each day, so I tried my best to not be seen by anyone.
The street that I had to cross, 10th Avenue, was pretty busy in the morning. 10th Avenue is one of the main arteries that runs through Leavenworth, and it leads all the way from the city limits, to the road that leads to the entrance of Fort Leavenworth. So one can imagine that every school day, in a high school with roughly 1,200 students, it was clogged up a bit there. Sometimes my mom would be waiting to turn long after I had already crossed the street.
This particular day she did her slow roll to a stop. There were several cars behind us, as there usually were, and I hopped out. The road was busy like normal, so I had to stand for a few seconds before I could safely cross. There was no crossing guard at this section of 10th Avenue. Eventually there was a break in the traffic and my mom watched me step out into the street to cross. That’s when a car from the line behind her jetted out of line, cut her off, and turned right, crossing my path at the moment I was starting to take my leave of the corner. I apparently stepped back, a little bewildered, while my mom screamed obscenities. Then I went on about my day.
I do not remember this moment. To be clear when she asked me about it, I was confused. I have no recollection of ever being “almost hit” at high school. I guess it just wasn’t a big deal to me. But to my mother, to any mother, it would be the sort of heart-sinking feeling you don’t forget.
It’s funny what we remember and what we don’t. What sticks with us. What teaches us lessons. I’ve always been careful when crossing a street. And I’ve crossed a lot of streets alone, even as a child. And maybe there was a reason. Maybe this was the reason. I just don’t know.
I’m still on Arizona time, which is three hours behind our time. Which is why I’m wide awake at 2:00 am, contemplating life, as I stare at the light coming through the crack in the curtain. Well, it’s part of the reason. There are other reasons.
Like, my child is going on his first-field trip alone tomorrow. He won’t be alone, alone, just without me. I’ve ALWAYS chaperoned his field trips, but I didn’t this one, and I’m nervous. It’s to the Holocaust Museum at Kennesaw State. I’m not worried about the subject matter (we took him to the Smithsonian one in Washington, DC earlier this year), it’s all the other things that worry me. Will he take the time to stop and eat his lunch? Will he be mindful of his actions? Will he be respectful of the history? Will he ask pointed and thoughtful questions? Will he let his best buddies get him off track? Will the bus be safe on the highway? Will his teacher be nearby if gets sad? I have concerns.
Then there’s all the other things of life. My work I’ve been putting off, with the deadline this week. My mom’s last three days in town with us. Halloween. Spirit Night. Field Day. Husband leaving for another week of work. Dentist appointment. Therapy. It’s all happening this week. And it’s all piling on top of the fact that I was gone for five days. There’s guilt there, right? Even though there shouldn’t be. Even though my husband and son haven’t said anything about it. It’s just there. In my head. Mom guilt.
Today I told my husband I’m always afraid when I leave, that they will realize they get along fine without me. Worst fear, right? That you’re not the glue that holds the family together. He was shocked. He scoffed a little and said, “Yeah, we get by. But that’s all we do. Get by.” Then he hugged me and told me he was glad to have me home. The dog, he informed me, had been depressed. This I could believe.
So yeah. I’m wide awake at 2:00 am. But it’s only 11:00 pm in Tucson. So, it’s not too bad.
Y’all know I take pics. Like I’m addicted to capturing the moment, to the point that I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on what is actually happening. Let’s just say, I’m aware of my problem. I’m not in denial. I also don’t necessarily see a need to fix it. I’m that girl that loves nothing more than finding an old box of photos and rummaging through them on a cold night in November. Reliving the memories in those photos. Remembering the feelings. It’s a good thing, as Martha would say. A good thing.
And so I live my life in a constant state of wanting to snap a picture, and wanting to live in the moment. I want my son to have tangible memories of me when I’m gone, and I want them of my friends and family when they are gone, or just really far away, which is just how it is. How it has been for over twenty years now. Those closest to me, live the farthest away. And pictures help.
But this week, while visiting one of my oldest and bestest friends in Arizona, I actually, for real, put my phone down. Sure I took some pics, like this one of her four-month-old, Bexley:
Because I wanted to remember how she fell asleep with her “Chuppie” half in and half out. I wanted to remember her stork bite. Her little pink blanket. I wanted to remember the feeling of holding this precious baby. Of her instant love for me, and mine for her. And when it’s January, and I’m having a poop day, and I’m wishing for the warm Arizona sun, this will help. But I took many more mental snapshots this week, than I did actual ones.
Like game night last night. When we introduced Melody’s mom Carla to Cards Against Humanity. (That’s always a crapshoot when you introduce moms to that game!) and Carla kicked our ass. Like had our actual numbers. She played the game, didn’t let the game play her. And at one point, when she played a particular graphic card, and it won (her son-in-law picked the winning card), we all looked at her and she whispered, “Shiiiit” because she had to own up to that card. It sent us all into genuine, hard, belly laughs. And she couldn’t help but smile. Snapshot.
Or this morning, when I had awkward couple of hours before my plane left. Long enough to pack and get clean, but not long enough to go do something fun. I sat on the couch with Miss Bexley, while Melody laid next to us, and I watched Bexley sleep. Because sleeping babies are the best. And when she was sleeping she was dreaming. And smiling. Snapshot.
Yesterday, when Nashville (Mel’s first grader) and I were playing Legos on my bed. I said, “Pretend Emperor Zerg came and he had them under mind control.” Nash said, “Oh I have Emperor Zerg!” And he ran off. I expected him to come back with another little LEGO guy. Instead he walked in the room with a GIANT Emperor Zerg (from Toy Story) and I was shocked, and thought it was hilarious. Snapshot.
And now here I am. Standing in the airport. Waiting to board my flight to Chicago (where I’ll probably take more pictures) and I just snapped an actual picture to remember this moment. But honestly, I didn’t need to. Because there are some trips, some people, some places, we won’t forget.
Yesterday I spent the day in Arizona wine country with friends. Turns out that yes, things can grow in the desert. Not just prickly things and snakes. But lovely things, like grapes, and long-distance friendships, and beautiful, blue-eyed baby girls.
Yesterday was one of those days with the ability to save those who need a bit of saving. You know the kinda days I’m talking about: when the stars align, the sisterhood converges, and the desert abides. When the chaos of life slinks off your shoulders. When you find yourself in an unexpected place, with perfectly, imperfect people.
Today I’m thankful for the yesterdays in my life. To the planes that arrived on time. To the cramped cars, and the funny Border Patrol men. To the cough drop talks, and the woman with the sangria from California. For the girl gangs I’m apart of. And the ones I don’t yet know.
I have this friend, I used to consider her a devout Christian, like when she’d say things like, “You can pray the gay away” (I’m paraphrasing), I’d wince a bit, but move on because we all have our unfounded beliefs, that’s how our brains work. This week she shared her belief on social media that good, Jesus-following Christians, should not celebrate Halloween. I pushed back. Because sometimes we all need push back. We all need reminded that just because we think a certain way, because we’ve studied what we think is “the” truth, there are many more “truths” out there. I ended up DMing her, hoping to explain this. Because she kept saying she was sharing “The” truth and I felt compelled to remind her, like all religions, these are beliefs, not truths. But I don’t think she understood.
That’s how our brain works though, y’all. When we believe something and we repeat it over and over again, “Halloween bad,” then our brain starts to go, “Oh yeah, Halloween bad. And people who celebrate Halloween, bad.” And I think I have a good handle on this friend. I think she’s just trying to serve people. I think she has a servant’s heart, for the most part, but she hasn’t yet realized that you can’t “Halloween bad” people into doing things. But, the post she shared came from a preacher, and the one she wrote on the topic was sparked by what she heard a preacher say at his service. Which means brimstone and fire is being pushed from the pulpit. I’ve heard pastors like this. I’ve seen what they do. How they work. These people believe they have Christ on their side and can say and do what they want. But, uh, don’t we all have Jesus on our side? Isn’t that like, his thing? Y’all, I know some of you who hang with me a lot get tired of hearing this, but, Imma say it again, and hope it sticks: Jesus is not a primary source. No one is taking you seriously when you throw down some, “Well Jesus told me…” Well, I guess some people are taking you seriously, that’s how preachers work. And you know what is at the root of that work? Fear.
Back to my friend. What was even more disturbing about this whole conversation with her, was the way she spoke of Halloween. The fear she had of it. She said she puts on an armor, practices “spiritual warfare.” She said this in the same breath (rather paragraph) that she said she doesn’t worry about things because “Jesus is above all of that.” So which is it? Do we have to be suited up, live in a warfare mindset to love Jesus, or do we trust that he’s bigger than any of it? If you ask me, any type of warfare is rooted in fear, and I have enough fear to last me my whole life, I don’t need my religion bogging me down with it too.
But that’s how religion works, right? That’s why our brains love it! Religion eases our fears. It gives us something to believe in, to cling to when life isn’t going so well. Religion explains a lot of shit that our overworked brains just can’t process. The meaning of life. Why we die. Religion can, and does, explain a whole host of uncomfortable topics for us. Hard topics. That we just don’t want to deal with. I mean if you ask me the Greeks did it the best. All those awesome Gods to explain away all the shit they just couldn’t wrap their minds around! Persephone was my favorite, the way she made all the flowers bloom! Girl, you so special!
At one point in our conversation I suggested my friend was a good writer, one who had the capacity to make people feel united. Help isolated mommas who were just trying to find a community, and sometimes a church community is all they have. And I suggested she keep to less trivial topics, least she be part of the cog that is turning young people, young mothers especially, away from church. I was thinking more along the lines of sharing her stories of redemption. The goodness in her church community. Helping to solve hated and bigotry with her words. She said that getting people to see that the celebrating Halloween is not Christ-like is VERY important to her. Right now. I guess I was calling her to something she just isn’t ready for. Spiritually or creatively. Because if celebrating Halloween is one of the worst things that we are doing in our world right now, then well, my friend’s brain is already elsewhere.
If you’re reading this right now, I’m alive! Well, maybe not. I wrote this two days before today and that means it’s Sunday. Or is it Monday? No, today is Wednesday, but I wrote this on Sunday. Or Monday. Or at some point when I was not 35,000 feet above the ground, but I planned to post it while I was 35,000 feet above the ground. I did this so that I wouldn’t use my blog as an excuse to write while I was on the plane, because I don’t need to be writing a blog post right now, I mean, not right, right now, but on Wednesday at nine am, because I really, actually need to be working on a project for my friend Megan who I work on projects for sometimes. But it is sort of a boring project (sorry Megan, but you know what I mean), so I have been putting it off all week in lieu of writing blog posts, but not writing actual writing, like that damn essay I’ve been working on for four months now about that time I walked into my Uncle Arthur’s barn and saw a hanging deer bleeding out and then we all ate deer chili. What? What, Missy?
Uhhh. Huh huh.
I don’t know.
I think what I am saying is that I am in a plane, probably above your head, right… right… now! And I am working on some editing, not writing an essay about a dead deer, and even though that is what I need to be doing right… right… then! I am not doing it then, and I am not doing it now.
Hey, do you guys remember Beavis and Butthead? Remember? On MTV? I didn’t watch it a lot because we were poor and didn’t have cable, but sometimes I did get to see it at friends’ houses and they always did this laugh, you know which one I mean: Uhhhh huuuuh huh huh. It was usually right after someone said a word like: Penetration.
Uhhhh. Huuuuuh. Huh huh.
I guess my brain is fried. That happens sometimes. Next stop, California!
Wednesday I am flying out to visit my friends in Arizona! I am so excited about this trip. First of all, I am traveling alone. Which means I have no one to worry about, but myself. Now you know I LOVE my family. And if I’m being super honest, I am very bummed that Jerimiah and Jackson are not coming with me because I love to travel with them and I am meeting a new baby that I want them to meet too! But the timing did not work with their schedules, so I am going alone. It has been a long time since I have travelled alone, and I am sorta excited about not having to pack three people. Kennel a dog. Fight with my 11-year-old about Arizona-appropriate clothing, etc. You know, the mommy logistics of travel. Instead, I can just pack myself, walk from the car to the security desk at the airport, show my own ticket, not worry about where everyone’s shoes ended up, grab myself whatever I want to eat for breakfast, and get on my damn plane. Wow. Amazing.
But the nervous part? Well, for all the shit I give the Atlanta airport (and I give it a lot of shit, because it is the busiest airport, uhhh, ever) I have never navigated my way through it. I have never flown in or out of the ATL. I’ve never taken the SkyTrain, or snaked my way through that security nightmare. I have only ever heard about it from my husband and friends. I have also never been through LAX, and because I used miles for this flight, thanks #AmericanAirlines, and I only paid $12, I have layovers. One on the way there, and one on the way back. I detest layovers, but I’m not gonna complain, because #TwelveDollars. So I go from Atlanta to LA, then from LA to Tucson. Then on the way back I go from Tucson to Chicago O’Hare (which I have been through, and it’s not too bad), then back to Atlanta. Whew.
I keep having all these thoughts about the first time I ever flew alone. I was 18 and on a flight from Kansas City (MCI) to Boston’s Logan (BOS). This was pre-9/11, which of course meant I just kind of walked onto the plane. I might have had to show a ticket, I’m sure I did, but it was Kansas City and it was 2000, and I was young and stupid and remember very little. I think people still smoked in the airport back then. Maybe.
Anyway, I had a six a.m. flight, and I had to go through Detroit. I was on a Northwest flight, remember them? And Detroit was their “hub” and if you have never been to the DTW, well, just consider this a blessing and move on about your life. Right before take-off I had a panic attack. Like, a real one, y’all. An honest to God, could not breathe, thought I was going to pass out, was willing to open an “Exit” door, panic attack. I didn’t know what to do. The sun was just coming up over Kansas City, and I just kept telling myself to watch the sun. Watch the sun, watch the sun, watch the sun. I repeated over and over again to myself. And before I knew it I had a glass of OJ in front of me and a bagel with cream cheese (they still served food on flights back then) and I had managed to slow my breathing, and recline my seat, and just watch the sun.
My palms get a little sweaty when I think back to that day. And I’m pretty sure I never told anyone about that panic attack. I was embarrassed to say the least. But it was real. And sometimes when we are taxing to take-off I remember that day. Then I find the sun, and close my eyes. Usually I reach for my husband’s hand, or give my son’s leg a reassuring pat. I can never be stressed when he is watching, because I don’t want him to be stressed. But this time… hmmm.
I will be fine. I am pretty sure. Yes, I will. But I guess keep your eyes on the sky on Wednesday. And if you see a news report about a woman pulling an emergency exit in an American Airlines flight en route to LAX, well, I guess maybe just send up some good thoughts!
But for real, I will let you guys know when I land safely in Tucson. 🙂 And of course, I will share pics of the new baby!
My therapists name is Patsy. I’ve written about her before, but I used a fake name to hide her identify because she probably doesn’t want her name associated in any way shape or form with this here blog ‘o’ mine, but today I decided that’s too damn bad because well, first of all there are a lot of Patsys in this world, and probably some of them are therapists, and also I really like Patsy and want to tell you guys about her. So, let me start over and say that my therapists name is Patsy and she’s pretty cool.
Last week she told me that she feels like she always tells me to “lie” to my family, but in a way she does, and in a way I need her to tell me to do that. Take for instance when I have to get some alone time because my mom has been at my house visiting for two weeks, and we all took an eight-hour road trip together over a long weekend and I have been feeling like I always have to talk to someone every second of every day because someone is always talking to me every second of every day. Patsy said, “Tell them you don’t feel well, and go hide in your room.” Ah, see that? Patsy just gets me.
She apologized right after, but really, I’m sorta out of options here. I told her not to worry because I already do this. I’ve been doing this for literal years. To my mom, my husband, my son, my friends. I will be all, “Oh, I have to poop. Sorry, it’s gonna be a while. You know ‘ol Missy and her gastrointestinal problems…” then I hide in the bathroom for half an hour so I don’t have to talk to anyone, or make any decisions for anyone, or pretend to be engrossed in a story about that one time my friend’s cat got out of the house and showed back up three months later with three kittens and a penchant for blood. I mean, it’s a good story, but one can only hear it so many times, so I lie and I sit in the bathroom and I listen to nothing but fucking silence. I love silence. LOVE IT.
Before my regular visits with Patsy, I would get therapy anyway I could, while telling people that therapy just wasn’t for me. I would watch Brene Brown or Oprah on repeat and hope that I learned something. I would sit on park benches and listen to other people talk, hoping they would say something inspirational. I would write. I would listen to music, I would binge watch shows about women in prison to make myself feel better about my life. Patsy sorta ended all that for me. Patsy has a calming presence. Which is way good for me. She isn’t afraid of silence, which sometimes I just need in my bi-weekly hour session. But she also can tell when we just need to jump in and get started.
Last week I was fifteen minutes late to my appointment. I HATE being late, but I had the time wrong in my calendar, and well, I just messed up. Plain and simple. Not to mention the fact that I was in the line at Starbucks when I realized I had messed up. Jerimiah was with me and he was all, “Tell her it was my fault!” (He always makes this offer to me, about anything. If I do something wrong, or say something wrong, or hurtful, he will say, “Just blame it on me!” I usually don’t, because I’m too damn honest. But the offer is nice.) When I relayed the story to Patsy, because of course I told her the truth, because I can’t lie to her—which is coincidently one of the ways I know I can really trust someone. Always has been. If I can’t lie to them, I know they are nice, and good, and my kinda people—so I didn’t lie to Patsy and she was all, “Where is the damn Starbucks? Did you leave it in the car cause you didn’t want me to see?” And I was all, “Duh.” And she was all, “Dude, don’t do that! Always bring the Starbucks in with you.” Ahhh, Patsy.
Why am I telling you about Patsy? I dunno. Because I am currently “not feeling well” and I am in my room, alone, with the door closed, while my husband and mom and kid watch a movie downstairs, and I just realized how there’s no getting around that I NEED to do this sometimes. And I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Patsy said that. And she’s a professional. So I should listen to her. I also, probably, want to take this time to tell you all to get yourself a Patsy. Or a Susan. Or an Angela. Or a Bill or a Mark. Some therapist, with some therapist-sounding name. And check in with them every once in a while. It’s helpful. And nice. Even if you just sit in silence for an hour. It’s so totally worth it.
Sunday mornings were never easy for me. Especially pre-Jackson. Pre-Jackson I always worked on Sunday mornings, because pre-Jackson I lacked a college education, and that meant I had jobs that paid little, involved menial work, and often times required me to work weekends, because if you work in the hospitality industry, or retail, and you don’t have kids guess what you work? Yeah, the shit shifts. In the restaurant business Sunday mornings blow for a multitude of reasons, hungover people calling out, late cooks, dirty store from the slackers that worked Saturday night close, but mainly it’s the uppity after-church patrons who have the capacity, and oftentimes the desire, to screw up your morning with a negative, hateful attitude. What?! Aren’t people filled with joy and grace after just having been filled by the good Lord’s word? You’d think, but nah. They saved up all their patience and restraint while they were at church, which means their brunch server gets the shaft. But this post isn’t about those assholes, this post is about a Sunday morning shift that I didn’t mind working, at Buster’s Video/Laundromat.
Another video store, Missy, are you serious? Dead. I have worked at three video stores in my life. 1. Home Video the place with the, ahem, “backroom” that I told y’all about last week. 2. Blockbuster, which I promise will get its own post one day, and 3. Buster’s Video/Laundromat, which was an obvious knock-off of Blockbuster, which is kinda why I liked it so much, expcept for that one teensy difference, the laundromat attached to it. (Well, technically I worked at four video stores, because I worked for both corporate Blockbuster and a franchise, and although they were the same video store brand, they were way different. Christ, Missy, stay on topic!)
Buster’s Video/Laundromat was unique because of the laundromat situation, but also because Buster’s Video was independently owned and operated. There were three of them (that I remember) in Southern Missouri, between Ozark and Hollister, and I worked at the one in Hollister, Missouri, which is a little town right across Lake Taneycomo, a stone’s throw away from Branson. And as I might have mentioned it was the only one that had a laundromat attached to it. And yes, it was attached. And yes, I was responsible for running the laundromat and the video store at the same time. And yes, the laundromat was called the “Ye Old Wash House” and yes, it was as fucking bizarre as it sounds. I even found some pics because I know sometimes y’all think I am a lying sack of shit. These are all current pics, so it wasn’t this nice when I worked there, but in the first one you can see the whole building. Buster’s was right under the “Parking in Back” sign, that was the front door of the video store, and yeah I parked in the back which was a gravel pit, and that is where the Buster Patrons parked too.
This second pic shows some major updating since the time I worked there, which was around 2004. And when I saw the pics of the inside I was AMAZED because not much has changed, and really, it should have by now.
Oh, you know what, I take that back. It didn’t have video games back then. So there you go. Same white folding tables, though. Same “Homestyle Washers” (though the sign is new), same old blue chairs and tile floor, and same old quarter machine that I wanted to kill. Literally. Strangle it. (The more I look at the pics, the more I assume they busted down the Buster’s walls and made the “Ye Old Wash House” bigger and more badass. Which really is what they should have done from the get-go because how Buster’s made any money, I will never know. But they made enough to pay me $8/hour, so whateves.
So why did I love this place on Sunday mornings? Because no one comes to the damn video store on Sunday mornings, and even less people do their laundry on Sunday mornings. People sleep in, I guess. Or maybe go to church. But I had to be there at nine a.m. every Sunday to open both the laundromat and the video store, and sometimes, if I was very lucky, I wouldn’t talk to a soul until noon. And since my shift ended 2:00 pm, it was the best of best days.
I would walk through slowly, usually with my fresh Diet Coke straight from the vending machine. I would close all the dryer doors, and make sure the lights were on to signify all was ready to rock and roll. I would turn the televisions on, stock the shelves with the rental returns from the night before, and pick an awesome movie to start my day with. Usually an oldie but a goodie like “Empire Records” or anything with Janeane Garofalo. It was a small store, the laundromat took up most of the room in the building, but it did have games, movies, and miscelanious video store items like posters, candy, and lighters. You always need lighters.
Then I would sit my ass on the stool behind the counter and wait, and watch my movie, and drink my Diet Coke, and sometimes order food for delivery from the pizza place around the corner, or sometimes just eat something out of the vending machine. On cold days in the winter, I would take some quarters out of the “In case people lose quarters in the vending machine” drawer, and turn on a couple of dryers and sit on the old blue chairs and watch the television in there. The same movie played on all the televisions, which I was often reminded of by the “manager” when he would stop in and I would have an R-rated movie playing. “Misssssy,” he’d slither, “Family-friendly.” Oh right. I’d run over and stick Toy Story in.
I don’t remember too much about the manager, other than he was sort of weird and sounded like a snake when he talked. But, I mean, he was a forty-something who managed a small chain of video stores in the Ozarks, so… I’m being nice here.
So there you have it. Buster’s Video and Laundromat. Or to be sure, Buster’s Video and Ye Old Wash House Laundromat, but you know, same, same.
I watched that video of Meghan Markle today. You know that one where the reporter asks her if she is okay, and she basically says no, that she isn’t okay, that she hasn’t been okay, and then she thanks him for even asking her. Did you see it? If not, Google it. Because as soon as I saw it I wanted to cry. Not because I feel sorry for this very rich, very powerful member of the Royal Family (although, yeah I do), but because all I could think was, “I’ve been there, sister. And it sucks.” I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re at the bottom, and anyone, a relative stranger, asks if you are okay and you realize, shit, no. No, I’m not okay. And you realize it, and they realize it, and the whole thing just feels bad.
I was there, not with a reporter, but I was there. With my hair stuck up in a bun, dried breast milk on my shirt, jamming boxes of diapers and wipes onto the conveyer belt at Target. I was there, in my sweat pants, and my oversized shirts. In my sneakers. No make-up. I wasn’t in heels, thankfully I didn’t need to be. I wasn’t in a white dress three weeks after giving birth, thankfully, because the whole world wasn’t watching me. Thankfully. Thankfully the whole world didn’t criticize my clothing, or the way I held my son, or the way I looked “too emotional” one day, or “not emotional enough” the next. I can’t imagine, if I’m being honest, what that would have felt like. What that could feel like in those days after having a newborn. After becoming a mommy for the first time. I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to make it out the other side.
I’m just feeling sad today, y’all. Sad and a little angry that we do this to women like Meghan. That we do this to women. That we do this to each other. We all know. Every, single mother knows the pain, the guilt, the hormones, the emotions. Every mother knows. Every person who has loved a new mother knows. Every partner, or sister, or grandmother, or best friend has picked up on the feelings and the stress that comes with being a new mommy. So why do we continue to act like it isn’t a struggle everyday? Why do we judge each other so harshly? I’m just really tired of it, y’all. So very tired of it.
I’m not there anymore. I’m not hiding in my bathroom, listening to my son cry it out in his crib, while my dog paws at the door. I’m not counting down the hours until my husband comes home so I can pass off the baby for some sleep, or a shower, or a rerun of a funny show to take my mind away from where it had been. I’m not there anymore, but so many women are, and we just can’t forget that.
Be kind. I think that’s what I’m asking today. Be kind to the Meghan Markles of the world. Be kind to the Missys of the world. To all the mommies. The ones with newborns, the ones with toddlers, the ones with teens, the ones with 40-year-olds. Check on your friends and be kind. And for the love of all that is holy, leave Meghan Markle alone. She’s just trying to figure it all out.
I learned about commodities early on. Maybe first grade with Mrs. Heim, the teacher who also owned a dairy farm. Or maybe second grade with Mrs. Parker, the teacher who taught us how to balance checkbooks and pretended like I didn’t toot right next to her at reading time. Either way, what I was taught in school about “commodities” was not the experience I had with “commodities,” and it took me years to work it all out in my head. My trusty Pocket Oxford tells me that “commodities” is: “A raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.” But when I was a kid and heard the word “commodities” it meant standing in long lines at the Kansas National Guard Armory on Fourth Street for hours on end, in the blistering cold, and the sticky heat, waiting for bags and boxes of government cheese.
What I am talking about is quite simply the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. It is a government-sponsored program that serves low-income households, with one or more assistance programs in place, several times a year, by supplementing household food staples like rice, canned milk, cheese, cereal, eggs, and non-perishable, canned foods. This was all true when I was a kid, though when I Google the program now it seems to be aimed at people 60 years and older. Which is great, because I know a lot of senior citizens who benefit from this program, but I hope they still offer commodities to EVERYONE who needs it, because I know there are still families and young children who would benefit from this program as well.
Regardless, I have a few, sporadic memories of sitting on the cold, concrete floors of the Armory Building (which is now a CVS Pharmacy, but not before it was an Eckerd Pharmacy, so now it’s just called “Old Eckerd,” by my mother, rather than the “old Armory” or “CVS.” And, as if you needed to ask, she just doesn’t trust “Old Eckerd.”) Anywho, Old Eckerd is where we went twice a year to pick up our gov’ment cheese, among other commodities, but oh the cheese.
What does gov’ment cheese taste like, Missy? The best I can come up with on the cheese is this. Go to Kroger, or Food Lion, and buy yourself a knock-off version of Velveeta Cheese, you know the kind that’s in a cardboard box, and you have to lift the lid off, then pull out the silver-wrapped, sticky cheese? Yeah, buy yourself a knock-off brand of that. Then go home, open it up, place it in your shower and go on about your business. Take your showers, but don’t touch the cheese, then around day four cut a slice off and eat it. Yep, that’s what Old Eckerd, gov’ment cheese tastes like.
Listen, I am not knocking this program. It was and still is a very necessary program. And I am happy that it exists, and I was happy to eat the food when we got it, though mainly it was evaporated milk and the absolute grossest peanut butter I have ever had in my life. It’s the same peanut butter they stick in MREs for the Army when they go out to the field, and trust, it is not good. But again, it’s free. And at the end of the month, when your family’s food stamps ran out, and you were between paychecks, it was the best peanut butter you have ever had. Especially on some unsalted, saltines…
And I know, I know, you think I am making this up. But nah. It’s real. So real in fact, that my mom still, to this day, has canned milk in her pantry. I can’t tell you what year it is from, but my best guess would be 1990, pre-Operation Desert Storm. So yeah, there’s that.
Now don’t all of you run out at once and try to get you some pre-Operation Desert Storm, gov’ment cheese. Check with your local “Old Eckerd” for times and assistance. But if you are ever in the market for some recipes on how to make some scratch biscuits from one can of milk and two packets of salt, hit me up. And if you absolutely have no idea what I am talking about, then good on you, and your rich, son-of-a-bitch family.
On the corner of Delaware and Fifth Streets in my hometown sits an old, red brick building. The Leavenworth Historical Society calls this building an example of “early 20th Century Revival and Colonial Revival design,” built at the turn of the 20th century. The locals just call it “The Corner Pharmacy.” My mom and I would go down to The Corner Pharmacy when I was a kid, on Saturday afternoons if she had a little change in her pocket, for a grilled cheese sandwich—and if we were lucky—a milkshake to boot. Sometimes we’d stop in for a late breakfast after particularly early basketball games at Nettie Hartnett Elementary. The grill was always piping hot on those Saturdays, with what seemed like a hundred fried egg sandwiches lined up in a row. The Corner Pharmacy was a pharmacy, but it was so much more than that. It was one of the last true relics of small-town prairie life, in a Kansas town that was quickly learning that if it was going to stay relevant, some things would need to change.
If you ask anyone born and raised in Leavenworth they can tell you countless stories about The Corner Pharmacy. The friendly Pharmacist, old whats-his-name, his wife, and teenage son. It was all very Olive Kitteridge from the outside. At some point he’d opened up the diner on the east side of the building and started flipping those fried egg sandwiches for waiting customers. They can tell you, some in painstaking detail, about the black pier frames, and single bay windows extending above the parapet, the wide entablature and decorative cornice, but if you ask what was above The Corner Pharmacy, who sat behind those old bay windows, they might not know. But I do.
In the spring of 1987, I was just finishing up my first year of kindergarten. I had a pretty good handle on my numbers, all the way up past 100. You can ask my mom, I recited them to her ad nauseam while she cleaned the floors, or dusted the wooden window sills, or mowed the yard with the old green push mower. I would walk behind her, believing she could hear me, believing she wanted to hear me, and recite all I had learned. I could count by ones, twos, fives, or tens. Lady’s choice. I was proud. I stuck my chest out, though it still didn’t poke out further than my round belly. I could read. I could write. I was even doing math, a fact that amazed my mother who often said math was her worst subject.
That spring, however, my mother was given an opportunity to finish something she had given up on a long time before, her high school education. On the second floor of 429 Delaware, directly over The Corner Pharmacy, a class was being assembled. A GED class. One for women and men. For those who received assistance from the state, from the government. For people who wanted to better their lives and the lives of their children. And my mom nervoulsy signed up.
I don’t know the logistics of the class. I don’t remember who taught it, or how many times we had to go downtown to the stuffy, carpeted room above The Corner Pharmacy, but I do remember my mother’s scowled face, as she sat on a metal chair, next to another woman, and did math calculations that made no sense to me. I remember sitting under the plastic and metal folding tables, while she worked out the equations, often thrusting her hands below the table to count on her fingers, while the teacher reminded her to try to do “mental math.” I’d count my numbers in my head every time the teacher said that. Hoping to send some of those important numbers telepathically to my mom.
Of course, my mom wasn’t doing kindergarten math. She was doing high school algebra, which if I am being honest, might as well been a foreign language to her, and years later to me. But in that hot room, with a laundry basket of used toys to keep me occupied, and those big bay windows to peer out of, I didn’t know any of that then. I just knew that every time my mother got frustrated, every time she closed the book in aggravation, every time she told the teacher she just couldn’t do it, someone, either the teacher or some other student in the room, would assure her that she could.
Some days I couldn’t stand to watch her make her way through her workbook, so I would sit in those bay windows and watch the traffic below. I would wonder what a “GED” was, whether or not I would have to take the same test, whether or not I would be good at math. I would keep quiet, hold my bladder the whole time, and never interrupt my mother. I may not have understood what was happening, or the gravity of the situation. The way that this had the potential to change my mother’s life. Our lives. But I knew it was important to her, even if I didn’t know or couldn’t remember why. The only thing I do remember, with great certainty, is the day the brown envelope came in the mail. The way she opened it up, smiled down at that piece of paper, said she had done it, she had passed her test, then promptly hid the certificate in her top drawer. Never to be discussed again.
My mom made a decision that day in the spring of 1987, and while all that hard work, those calculations, and late nights may have only amounted to a dollar more an hour at her job, it did wonders for me. It did wonders for my commitment to education, the value I know it can bring to your life. I’m a first-generation college graduate, but I am not a first-generation high school graduate, thanks in part, to the room behind the bay windows on top of The Corner Pharmacy.
You remember the part of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Charlie and Mr. Wonka shoot out through the roof of the candy factory? Of course you do! It was such a great part of the movie. We just found out that Charlie now owns all of that great factory and is a rich man, which is wonderful since his grandpa is too sick to work (even though he has no problem singing and dancing). Anyway, I have always loved that part of the movie, and I have always been afraid a real elevator will do that one day. Like, for real. I am terrified of elevators, and it’s only part claustrophobia. The other part is the Great Glass Elevator. It’s like how I won’t take baths because I think the bottom will open up and suck me under like in Nightmare on Elm Street, you know what I mean?
I’ve been so scared of getting stuck in an elevator my whole life, that the ONE time it did happen, I totally and completely lost my shit. And I am ashamed to say, several people saw me lose it.
So there we were, at a hotel in Myrtle Beach (I know, I know, I’ve learned my lesson. We don’t go to Dirty Myrtle anymore, but not because of this incident, because eww…) Anyway, there we were outside in the hot tub, the sun had set and a storm blew in. I was there with Jerimiah, Jackson, and my best friend Rachel and her whole family. There was eight of us total. We all decided to head back to our room, which was on like the 10th floor, and because of the storm, everyone in the resort was headed back to their rooms too. Which made the elevator area very crowded. So I got a little nervous, because again, I am afraid of being trapped in an elevator, especially with people I don’t know. So when the first one came down and all the people in my crew loaded up in it, with ALL the other people standing there waiting, I passed. I just couldn’t risk it. I said I would meet them up there, and I stayed put to wait for the second one. Jerimiah decided to stay with me, which ended up being a good thing.
The next elevator came down and dinged. It opened up and no one was on it, so we hopped on. The door closed and I was feeling okay. Then the power flickered in the elevator and it just sort of stopped its humming. You know, that humming that elevators have. At first I thought maybe the door was about to open. Like maybe someone had hit the button after the door closed, but nothing happened. The elevator didn’t move. The door didn’t open. It just sat there. I looked at Jerimiah and he immediately stepped into action.
“It’s probably just a kink,” he said, then he hit the open door button. When nothing happened I completely and totally lost my shit. I immediately started sweating. I grabbed his hand and told him we were gonna die in this elevator, that the air was going to be sucked out of it. Dramatic? Yep. PS… this was right after that cruise ship elevator mishap where those people were crushed and blood came spewing out of the elevator like a real-life damn horror movie. Google it. I can’t even add a link here because it stresses me out too much to recall.
Anyway, my glorious husband was all, “It’s okay.” And he hit the “help” button. We heard some rustling and cracking from the other end and I screamed, assuming that we were headed straight up at break-neck speed, to crash through the roof of the hotel and be shot to our deaths into the ocean. Dear Baby Jesus, don’t let me die at Dirty Myrtle.
Then I did what any sane person would do, I started pounding my fists on the door yelling for someone to help. Turns out, there were a bunch of people on the outside of the elevator. Turns out we had never left the ground. Turns out the hotel knew it was stuck and had already called the maintenance guy over. Turns out this happened from time to time at this hotel.
Meanwhile, J was communicating via the little phone with the fire department, who also knew because they had been alerted, and they told him not to worry, we were in no danger. I was sweating though my clothes. Should I strip? I should strip my bathing suit off, right? I wanted to know. “Dear God, no, just calm down,” as he kept touched my arm and told me we were okay. I just couldn’t believe him in that moment because I was steady waiting to blast the fuck off.
Turned out though, we were okay. We didn’t die in an elevator in Dirty Myrtle. And I am 90% sure I have shared this story with y’all before, but that is how traumatic it was. And I’m in a hotel this week, and every time I am in one I remember this incident. So there’s that. You are like my therapist today. Thanks, y’all. Thanks.
We’ve been in Louisiana again this week. The last time we left Baton Rouge I said, “Good riddance, may I never see you again!” Then I screamed something in made-up French like, “Tu es stupide et je ne te reverrai jamais! Je ne laisserai pas les bons moments rouler! Puis-je ne jamais vous revoir!” And flipped I-12 the bird. Anywho, I’m back.
This time we had my mom with us. Which was good, in a way, because Jerimiah, Jackson, Duke, and I are way over the touristy stuff, (which is what we had to do again on Sunday because my mom had never been to New Orleans!) So there we were, back in NOLA and doing the touristy-type things again, when it hit us why we are not fans: New Orleans is just a really sad place, y’all. Well, most of the Deep South is, but New Orleans is worse because of the tourists that come through and wreck the city, deplete the resources, don’t give two shits about the local people, and do it all while they are drunk and screaming, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” So I guess it isn’t NOLA that I dislike, it’s the people who come and treat it like shit. Then try to make up for it by throwing a few bucks in a street performer bucket, or take a Haunted Tour and pretend they don’t really just want to stop at the baby grave yard for beers. (Listen, I’ve done that nonsense before. I’ve been to Mardi Gras as a dumb, 20-something, and I’m sorry. You live, you learn. #WhiteDumbGirlShit)
But my mom, on the other hand, is a 75-year-old white girl who just wanted to see the sights, take pics of the Catholic Basilica for her Catholic friends, and step foot on a streetcar. No hand grenades need apply. So we did that. She had an experience for sure (pics below). We took her on the streetcar and the city bus, because the streetcar on Canal is down near the portion of Canal Street where the Hard Rock Hotel came crumbling down, killing one and injuring dozens more. (They are still looking for three more people who are lost in the rubble.) So we had to take a bus around that location. Then we walked down to Jackson Square, had lunch at the Market Cafe, walked through the French Market, and made our way up Bourbon Street. My mom was in awe of the massive amounts of people, meanwhile this was the least crowded I’ve ever seen the French Quarter. And it was only 80 degrees out and we were boiling hot, so there’s that. But still, a ton of drunk people by noon, the smell of urine wafting through the air, and horse shit, always horse shit. Oh, French Quarter.
And there I was. Looking at Jerimiah. Eyeing Jackson. We all had that look in our eyes. That look that said, “This doesn’t feel right.” Because well, it just doesn’t. I know, I know, New Orleans is a tourist Mecca for fun, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. There is so much history there, so much wrongdoing went on there. So much still left to fix, and well, the three of us are just too sensitive to that sort of thing. We trudged on. We drove my mom through the Lower Ninth Ward because she didn’t understand what levees we were talking about, and that felt wrong. It felt wrong for her not to understand the devastation that happened there, but it also felt wrong to be tourists in a neighborhood where people are still just trying to get by, to rebuild, to forget about being treated like animals. But geez, there’s no way to forget. And forgive. How could there be?
And maybe that’s it. Maybe I have only known the post-Katrina New Orleans. Maybe it used to be different than it is now. Maybe it was more fun back then. Maybe the locals were more forgiving. Maybe there was more harmony, but if there was, it isn’t there anymore. The locals don’t like the tourists, but understand their necessity. The tourists vomit and pee on the street corners where slave auctions took place in the 1700s. So I mean… While we were eating lunch we watched a white man and a black man get into a fight over bread on the ground at Jackson Square. It was a silly situation, but the emotions were real. And the anger wasn’t really about bread on the ground.
So yeah, it’s some depressing shit. But there’s no real way for people like me, white people with privilege, to talk about shame without making the “other” feel like shit or seeming to use them as fodder, so I gotta stop. Here’s some pictures of my mom enjoying her first (and probably only) time in The Big Easy. I think she had all the fun she could stand.