Khristi, with an H

When I was born in 1981, my oldest sister Khristi was 16 years old. That’s right, sixteen! And today is her 29th birthday (I’ll let you do the math on that one) and I’d be amiss if I didn’t say something about my big, little, sister because even though our ages have made us feel worlds apart at times, she has taught me so much about what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, and a friend, that I am forever indebted to her. But not so much that I won’t make fun of her 4’11” stature, or her graying hair she tirelessly covers with “strawberry blond.” Because that’s what sisters do.

When I was very little, learning how to read and write well before I should have been learning how to read and write (thanks, mom), I had a hard time spelling my sister’s name. To be fair, I’ve seen her name spelled at least a dozen different ways. I had the “K” part down, and the “i” a the end, but I kept messing up the middle part. So for a short time, to help me remember how to spell it when I’d write lists of family members to practice my writing at four-years-old, my mom would say, “Remember, it’s Khristi with an h.” One time I ran up to my big sister and I yelled, “Your name has an h in it!” Khristi grabbed me up, spun me around, and laughed. Cause that’s what sisters do.

There are other things that sisters do. Sisters fight. And we’ve had our fair share, particularly when I was a teenager and she was a mom, struggling to raise four boys largely alone (her husband, though a local police officer, was also in the military and would sometimes be gone for a year at a time), and she relied on her family, me included, to help out. In fact, every summer I would babysit the boys during the day, and she would pay me to do this. It worked out. She got a pretty cheap sitter, and I made some pocket money. But, it was a job I loathed, because three boys (at that time) were a nightmare, and they just wanted to torment their Aunt Missy. Looking back, I’d give my left leg to spend one more summer running through the sprinkler with Josh and Corey, or watching a toddler Sammy run down the hallway and slam his door shut because I wouldn’t let him watch ANOTHER episode of Teletubbies. But, I just got Josh’s wedding invitation in the mail, and Samual already has two monsters of his own, so I mean, I’m pretty proud of what they have become too. But me being a teenager, and knowing much more than anyone else around me, I would often fight with my sister. She’d try to tell me that I’d “get it” one day, and I’d tell her that I hoped I wasn’t anything like anyone in my damn family! Oh the rebellion.

Turns out, as I’ve matured, realized that I actually know nothing about anything, especially how my sister made it thorough the rough days, I’ve realized I’m more like her than anyone else in my family. I’m a little tough sometimes, especially toward myself. I feel obligated to be honest, even about the things I’ve done in my life that aren’t so great, because like my sister, I’d rather control the conversation, than have people controlling it behind my back. I’m fiercely loyal. To a fault. I realize that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect, no one is even close to it, but while I hold people accountable for their actions, and assume they will do the same to me, I do so knowing that we all mess up from time to time, and then we work to make it better.

My sister Khristi has seen better days. She’s been married to a man, who for the most part treated her well. She’s had four awesome sons who would die for her. She’s been through a divorce, but she’s recovered. She’s reinvented herself time and again, and she’s still learning, even at 29, which is more than we can expect of a lot of people that have walked her shoes.

So my wish for Khristi on this 29th birthday, is that the needle keeps hitting “Full.” I hope that she stays full on the recent luck she’s had. I hope she stays full on love, on trust, and on loyalty, even to the friends who have wronged her, and yes, she has close friends who have wronged her, friends I can’t even forgive on her behalf (because sometimes, that’s what sisters do), but she can. Because she’s just that sort of person. I hope, more than anything else, that she stays full on love, forgiveness, and patience to herself.

I love you, Khristi with an h. I hope you have the happiest of 29th birthdays, and that Greg takes you somewhere nice to celebrate. I hope you get to see all the boys, and the grandkids, and I hope that someone tells you how wonderful you are. And just in case Beeb forgets to say it, “It’s time to do those roots, Sis.” 🙂

Love you.

M.

My siblings in the 70s. Scott, Khristi, and Belinda
With my big sisters, Christmas 1980-something
I mean, too cool for school.

Oh, For the Love of Dolly

My love for Dolly Parton knows no bounds. If you don’t know this about me, now you do. Take from that what you will. Which is why, when in Nashville, Tennessee, a place I find myself a couple times a year, I’m always on the lookout for Dolly. I’ve never ran across her, not in Nashville, not in Southern Missouri, not in Sevierville, not even in concert. But I’m always on the lookout to learn more about her, to emulate her caring, compassionate nature, and to understand what makes this woman, who doesn’t call herself a feminist, but is a feminist by all accounts, tick. So when my husband stumbled across the podcast “Dolly Parton’s America” and asked me if I’d listened to it yet, I was shocked that I didn’t even know it existed. Am I slipping off my Dolly train, I wondered, as I went back “through the years, wondering once again, back to the seasons of my youth…” No, I’m just not up to speed on a lot of podcasts.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is badass, just like Dolly.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is truthful, and honest, and raw. Just like Dolly.

Turns out “Dolly Parton’s America” is exactly what I needed in my life right now.

I learned a lot of new things about Dolly, but the most important thing I learned was that Dolly hasn’t always been the Dolly we see now. The Dolly of my childhood. The Dolly fighting for equality. The woman writing hundreds of songs about love and faith. In fact, Dolly was dark for sometime, in a bad place, and that led me down a rabbit-hole of Old Dolly, and now I’m more in love with her than ever before. Here, have a listen.

What though, Dolly?!

“My body aches the time is here it’s lonely in this place where I’m lying / Our baby has been born, but something’s wrong, it’s too still, I hear no crying / I guess in some strange way she knew she’d never have a father’s arms to hold her / So dying was her way of tellin’ me he wasn’t coming down from Dover…”

Oh, it gets worse than an illegitimate, still-born baby, y’all. Much worse.

Christ Missy, why you ruining our lives with this shit today? Okay, fair question. It would seem that Dolly, as happy, and as lovely, and as beautiful and talented as she is, had some hard times. Real hard times, y’all. Writing suicide notes, hard times, y’all. In fact, she said something on the podcast that stung pretty hard, because I myself have thought that exact same thing. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like this:

“I don’t think I wanted to kill myself. But I’d come to the point that I understood why people do it. I understood how a person can get to that point in their lives to think that this is the best solution.”

That’s a tough thing to admit. That’s a tough thing to admit to anyone. In fact, up until today I had only admitted that to my husband, but after hearing Dolly admit it on a podcast, I realized that I’m probably not the only person who understands that feeling. And that makes sharing her story, sharing my story, more urgent.

I’m not suicidal. Let me get that out of the way now. I’m doing pretty well right now, in fact. But I have been. I’ve been “wondering if I can remember the code to the gun safe” suicidal. That particular bout was brought on by a new medication I’d been put on the week I lost my daughter, and my doctors straightened it out pretty quickly. But only because I told my husband. Only because I talked about it.

And isn’t that the hard part? The talking about it.

I’m more in debt to Dolly today than I have ever felt before, because she had the courage to talk about something that a little, backwoods, girl from Tennessee should have been taught not to talk about. And I’m more conscious of the people out there who have taken their lives. And their family members. People I have known and people that I love, who are dealing with the world after losing their loved ones. I wish I could reach out and hug you all. Please know that I think about you and your loved ones who reached that point in their lives. I think about you and them. And I make an extra appointment with my therapist. Or I talk to my husband about how I’m feeling. Or I blog about Dolly Parton. And suicide prevention. Because we all have to start somewhere. And we all have to do something to make people feel a little more in control.

Listen to some Dolly today, y’all. One of those songs with a good beat and a little heart. Like my favorite from my childhood, which was maybe, sort of, absolutely the first time I ever heard the name Jackson, and decided I’d name my first son after him. Told ya I love Dolly…

Love to you all.

Be kind to one another, and yourself.

M.

Ballerina Confession

When I was about five years old, I desperately wanted to be a ballerina. I watched a cartoon, I can’t recall now, where a little girl was dancing with her dog. She was in a pink tutu and ballet slippers, and she was spinning around and around in a circle. My grandfather was alive at the time and living in our small apartment with us. He was fighting terminal cancer, though I didn’t know what that meant, and he was wheel-chair bound, with one arm already lost to the disease.

He sat, day in and day out, in his wheel chair, or in the big, brown chair in our living room with the wooden arms. He sat and he watched television, whatever was on, though he had his favorites, like Price is Right. My mom would cook breakfast, and lunch, and dinner for my grandpa and me. She would wheel him into the kitchen to eat. She would wheel him into the bathroom, move him from the chair to the toilet. She would bathe him. My sister and my mother would carry him up the flight of stairs from our basement apartment to get fresh air on nice days. I would watch television with him. That was my job.

The day we watched the spinning girl and her loyal dog, I jumped up and pretended to be her. I danced around my grandfather, whose toothless grin gave me the confidence to spin on my toes. He clapped his hands and told me I should be a ballerina. I agreed with a smile.

Then in the spring my grandfather died.

In the summer my neighbor said I was too fat to be a ballerina.

In the fall, we moved to a new house, I started kindergarten, and forgot about my dream.

I’ve done that from time to time. Forgotten about a dream. A goal. I’ve let people tell me what I’m capable of, and what I am not. I’ve been doing it again, as of late. Letting strangers, mostly, tell me what I am capable of and what I am not. What my limits of talent are. Where my lane is, and how I should best stay in it. We fall back into old patterns. We do what feels most comfortable. What we learned as children. How we learned to cope.

It’s only human nature.

M.

Kindergarten Playlist

I’ve been working on a longer piece of writing centered around my early childhood and like any good writer, I’m making a playlist to help me write. One that, if I’m lucky, will transport me back to those days. And weren’t those some days?! You see, I’m the youngest of four siblings, a brother and two sisters, and my closet sister in age is Belinda, who was eleven-years-old when I was born. Which means when I was in kindergarten, Belinda was a 17-year-old, living life hard on the fringes of high school in 1987. Which means when I make my kindergarten playlist it’s not just the Care Bears Soundtrack and The Good Ship Lollipop (which are both on there), but it’s also a lot of really long guitar riffs, really big hair, and well, this:

Is this love, that I’m feeling? Is this the love, I’ve been searching for? It must be, cause Whitesnake told me it was. In kindergarten. Yes, in kindergarten I thought at some point in my life, I’d be in a white dress, with a white thong up my ass, packing my bag, while my long-haired boyfriend (that is a boy right) watched me all sad like, then wrote a power ballad for me to come back. So, it might have had an impact on me or whatever.

Still confused, here’s another:

No actual idea what this man was singing about. Donkey park? Whistling? Hey, I like sparklers! Wait, the world is closing in? We’re close? Like brothers? What kind of accent is that even?

But like fucking clockwork man, I hear this song and boom! I am transported back into my sister’s bedroom. Her Bruce Springsteen poster, her American flag draped over her window. Her record playing spinning, Air Supply, or Poison, or maybe that really cool, new band REM? This one goes out to the one I love. This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind. Yeah suck it, preschool!

What was even more pathetic, was my desperate attempt to be in a song. The 80s, as you may recall, were a stunning time to be named something like Sherrie, or Amanda, or Rosanna. Rosanna. I’d listen anxiously waiting for there to be a song about Missy, somewhere, anywhere. But alas, bad girls were Janie, fast girls were Billie Jean. And who could possibly forget, Carrie from The Final Countdown, or maybe it was Kyrie. Yes, it was Kyrie Eleison. Of whom I thought was an actual person, btw, for a very, very long time, even though there was not one thin, blond woman in white in the whole video. Didn’t matter, I still thought I’d follow a boy with a mullet down every road he must travel. And if I was mad there were no songs about me, imagine how my sister felt. Belinda isn’t really an easy name to work into a song.

In fact, I’d have to wait for years and years for a song about Missy, but finally it came. Thanks, Airborne Toxic Event, you guys are too cool for this world.

So there you have it. My kindergarten playlist. All the Guns ‘n’ Roses, Cinderella, Boston, Kansas, and Starship you could ask for. Man, I’m really glad I found my own music when I got a bit older, and I’m really glad that this hotness didn’t mess me up in any way.

So I guess, thanks 1980s hair bands. Thanks, Belinda. And thanks to my mom for not realizing how inappropriate most of this was for me at the time.

Oh, and Beeb, you finally got a song too! They are some of my people, and I hope you love them like I loved Bon Jovi for you.

M.

How ‘bout Them Chiefs?!

I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I tossed and turned. Got caught up in reading some comment sections about the half-time performance (y’all some haters, JLo and Shakira literally ROCKED our socks off! Don’t be jealous, or racist.) And as far as I’m concerned, I’m now a lifetime fan of both ladies because y’all, THE CHIEFS WON THE SUPER BOWL! I couldn’t sleep because I was so amped up on chicken wings, fudge brownies, and sexual thoughts about Patrick Mahomes, or was it Shakira? Maybe it was Andy Reid? Doesn’t matter. At two am, I was like, it’s cool, who needs sleep?! Then I started searching for pictures of the times I made my son, who has no desire to watch football, and who isn’t allowed to play football (because some brains are worth saving) dress in Chiefs gear since he was a baby. I found some. Then I finally fell asleep. That is to say that this post is really just a post of pictures. A post of disappointment over the years, rooting for one of our favorite teams (Jerimiah is a Packers fan) and then getting our hearts broken repeatedly.

In fact, it wasn’t until the Royals won the World Series a few years back that we even knew what winning felt like, and you guys, it feels damn good. Some of us have been waiting on this win for longer than others of us in the Goodnight household. But the win is for us all.

It’s for Kansas City, it’s for Kansas and Missouri (even though our dumbass President doesn’t know which state the Chiefs play in). Shit, maybe I should clarify that real quick for some of you. Arrowhead is in Kansas City, Missouri. But Kansas City is split in half. Half in Kansas and half in Missouri. (But trust, you don’t want to be on the Kansas side of the city by yourself at night). But honestly, honestly, the Chiefs are one of those teams that belong to a lot of people, not just in two states. They belong to the Midwest. To all the men and women in little towns with tattered Chiefs flags hanging from their front porches. They belong to our families in Oklahoma and Arkansas. To our crew down in Southern Missouri who hosted parties every time the Chiefs made it into the bracket, then lost. To our friends out in western Kansas, with Chiefs banners stung across old barns on wheat fields. To our friends in the Flint Hills, in Jeff City, in St. Louis, cause I mean, St. Louis needs a win. The Chiefs belong to Nebraska, because college ball is only good for so long. They belong to the people who hate the Broncs and the Raiders. And yes, they belong to Kansas City, first and foremost.

Last night’s win is for our friends and family members, the ones in their sixties and seventies who have been waiting, relentlessly waiting, for this day. It’s for my mom and my mother-in-law, who have sat screaming at television screens for too long. It’s for our friends and family members who aren’t with us anymore. Who didn’t get to see the win here on Earth with us. Today, especially for me, it’s for my Uncle Arthur, and my nephew Little Scottie. Sending love and hugs to wherever you are. The Chiefs did it!

We celebrated bigly last night in the Goodnight house! Jerimiah, a true Kansas boy, let me scream and yell and run around, while he just smiled and laughed, “I can’t believe they pulled it off.” Jackson, who was born in Southern Missouri, high-fived me, more excited that he got to stay up past bedtime than watch that fourth quarter unfold like it did! And then there was me, just a 38-year-old Chiefs fan who was so used to saying, “We’ll get ‘em next year” that I pulled out all the stops to try to indeed “Get ‘em this year,” including making a prayer candle in honor of the ghost of Derrick Thomas. I have my beliefs, about who helped us this year, and my lucky things, but I gotta say none of that really matters. Those guys played a hell of a game, both teams did, and I congratulate the 49ers and their fans. They showed up. It’s just that the better team won. Wow, that’s crazy to say.

Hoping to get some sleep tonight, but until then, have a look at some Chiefs fans over the years! And HOW ‘BOUT THEM CHIEFS?!

M.

His first Chiefs jammies!
Game day with mama, 2010
Tracksuits and toddler Chiefs pride!
Indoctrination at its finest! Bentley was a HUGE Chiefs fan!
Rock climbing Chiefs fan!
Gearing up for a pre-season game against the Panthers!
My favorite jersey of all time!
A gift from Uncle Josh in our first year in North Carolina!
Watching the Chiefs play the Patriots in Washington DC with friends in 2019.
We were #10 for awhile in preschool.
The only Chiefs’ fan doing a prowl!
Chiefs were served a crummy loss at Arrowhead this day.
Super Bowl prepping
He knew what I needed for game day
They ordered me wings, and donned their brightest red
We won! Finally!

Ruthie

I’ve been wanting to share about my mom’s friend, Ruthie, for some time now, but I have been unable to. Ruth was one of my mother’s oldest friends and she died recently. She was a fiery, friendly, funny kinda gal, whose antics litter my childhood memories. I have so many stories to share about Ruthie, that it was hard for me to pick which ones to share. I wanted to share the kind of stories that would highlight who she was, at her core. I was going back and forth wondering if I share how she would let me sit up front with her in her VW Beetle and move the stick shift when I’d ride along on a beer run with her? What about how she would laugh at me while I danced around her dining room at the old house on Pine Street, while she played 1970s country music on her large stereo, shuffled cards and drank beer with my mom and a few others? What about when she lined all the neighborhood kids up at the pool down on Fourth Street and taught them all how to dive? Or her jokes, her hilarious, sometimes crude, usually not age-appropriate jokes? I just couldn’t decide. I couldn’t even decide if I would actually ever write about Ruthie. I couldn’t decide until two Sundays ago*.

Two Sundays ago the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans to clench the AFC Title and waltz their way into their first Super Bowl in 50 years, which they will be playing in this evening. Now listen, I don’t believe in angels. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or purgatory (unless you’ve even been stuck in line at IKEA), but I do believe in the human condition. I believe that people we love don’t really ever leave us. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s something I don’t care to have explained to me. But I know we are all made up of stars, and I believe, with no real reason or explanation, that Ruthie had something to do with the Chiefs’ win that night, and that’s when I knew that I had to tell the story of Ruthie.

I don’t know much about Ruthie’s life before she met my mom in the 1970s. I know she grew up in Leavenworth, I know she went to Leavenworth Senior High School in the same building that was my middle school many moons later. I know she was loved in the community. I know she was funny, and smart, and I knew as a child, that she had a pure heart. But otherwise, the Ruthie I know is the Ruthie she had became after marriage, and kids, and heartbreaks. Still, she was a force to behold.

Ruthie and my mom met when my mom was new in town. My mom walked into a bar with a run in her pantyhose one night. She didn’t have a car, and the night was young, so she walked up to a man sitting at the bar and asked him if he would give her a lift to the grocery store so she could buy a new pair of pantyhose. She offered to give him a couple of bucks for gas. He laughed at her and said, “Sure thing, as long as you can clear it with my wife.”

“Well, where’s your wife?” my mom asked, clenching her hose so they wouldn’t fall down.

The man pointed to the woman behind the bar. She was funny looking, a little rough around the edges, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, her own full draft beer sitting on the bar.

My mom walked right up to her, said her name was Margie, showed the woman the run in her hose, and asked if she minded if her husband gave her a lift to the store to buy a new pair. She offered the couple bucks in gas. Ruthie pulled the long 100 out of her mouth, looked my mom up and down, and said, “Sure thing, Sis. If you’re balls enough to ask me if my husband can take you to buy pantyhose, you’re alright.”

The man at the bar was Ronnie, Ruth’s husband, and Ruth, in case you missed that, was the bartender. Ruth and Ronnie became a part of my mom’s life from that day forward, and would remain, well into their seventies. They fussed and cussed at each other sometimes. They had spats and disagreements. They didn’t talk for some time toward the end of Ruthie’s life, but over all those decades, their families merged.

Ruthie with her sister, Dorothy (I always remember having fun times at her house up on “Billy Goat Hill” as a child), and three of her daughter’s, Robbie, Debbie, and Rhonda. They all babysat me at one time or another.

I was the youngest of all the kids in both families. I was so young that I grew up with Ruth and Ronnie’s grandkids, rather than their kids, though their youngest Julie was my primary babysitter after my sisters moved out of the house when I was in kindergarten. Mostly though, I got to hang out with the adults, because by the time I came along in 1981, they spent more and more time at home drinking beer, than hanging out at the bars. Some of my earliest memories are of Ruthie and some other ladies coming over to our apartment to play cards at our small kitchen table. They would drink beer and listen to sad country songs, Patsy, and Loretta, and Hank. They would play so long and so late that I would make a little pallet on the kitchen floor under the table, right next to my mom’s feet. I’d fall asleep there and wake up the next morning in my own bed. It was comforting, the cold linoleum under my Care Bears sheets. The smoke rolling over my head (my mom didn’t smoke, but she let Ruthie smoke in the house back in those days).

My mom back in the 80s, apparently they drank Coors for a little while. I only remember Budweiser or Bud Light.
Ruthie, at our apartment on Vilas, Christmas circa 1991-ish? Back when my mom still let her smoke inside our house. She was in a “Fancy” (Read: Clean) Royals shirt.

Later, when the card playing meandered over to Ruthie’s house, I’d climb onto their sofa, one room over from the dining room, I’d watch cable television (we never had cable) and I’d drift off to sleep with MTV on mute, while I listened to those familiar, sad songs from the dining room.

On warm summer nights, before the sun went down, Mom and Ruthie and Ruthie’s older daughters, Rhonda, or Robbie, or Debbie, would sit on the small front porch of their house on the corner of Pine and Fourth Streets, and listen to music, and drink beer, and talk about their week, how the Royals were doing (it never was too good), or who Ruthie had cut grass for that week. Ruthie would be propped up in her corner spot near the back of the porch in a lawn chair, a table next to her with a small radio (for the Royals and country music), a Diet Pepsi if she’d just come in from mowing, in a styrofoam Wood’s Cup. She’d have her Royals cap on, her cut off denim shorts, and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Her shoes, once white, by this time in the summer were faded green from grass, and her knee-high men’s socks would be pulled all the way up, with grass clippings hanging on for dear life. Summer Ruthie was a sight to behold. And I loved her for it. She was sweaty, and covered in grass, and she would sit there in that corner and wave at the people who drove by, drink her Diet Pepsi, until it was time to switch to beer, and she would tell stories. Ruthie was an amazing teller of stories, and she always had plenty, and my ears were always open, sitting on the cooler lid across from her and my mom on the tiny porch waiting for whatever was about to happen, because at Ruthie’s house something was always about to happen.

Dinner at our house, a rare occasion by this time. Looks like it was near Christmas. That’s a 6th grade me in the corner behind Ruthie, who is dressed up in a sweatshirt for the holidays, Ronnie is across the table to the left. This is at our old house on Osage Street in downtown Leavenworth. You can spot the elusive “Wood’s Cups” on the table.
A clean version of Summer Ruthie at our apartment on State Street, circa 1986-ish? That’s my sister Belinda in the background and the little boy is JW, one of Ruthie’s grandsons, and my playmate since the time he could walk. He terrorized me with snakes, and bugs, and scary stories for many summers in our childhood.

The summer was Ruthie’s time to shine. At some point in her life, she stopped bartending and switched to mowing grass. Ronnie worked construction, and devoted a lot of his time to the Mormon Church, of which Ruthie did not belong, and together they were staples in the community. Do-gooders, who would help any lost soul they came across. My mom was often on the receiving end of their goodness, often relying on Ruthie to fix a broken muffler on one of my mom’s old junkers, or let us sell items at their yard sales, which were always a big hit since their house was so well known, and in a great location on a busy street. Ruthie would swing by and cut our grass if she was in the neighborhood. Ronnie would slip my mom a $20 bill, that my mom always paid back, in between pay days at her job as a housekeeper. They were friends. And well, that’s what friends do.

I’d spend my summer days running up and down along the house with Rags, their dog. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but he was friendly, and furry, and he was permanently attached to a run on a close line, right next to the back door, which was sometimes used as the front door for the people in the know. In the evenings Ruthie’s grown kids would wonder over with their families and their kids, who were my playmates on those long nights. We’d catch lightening bugs and smear their light on our arms, chase each other around the backyard, filled with cars, and lawnmowers, and Rags’ excitedly wagging tail chasing us as far as his line would allow.

Cars would drive by and honk, and we’d stop and wave. Everyone waved when the cars honked, even though they cars were just honking for Ruthie. They all knew her and loved her. From the stuffiest, most uptight old ladies to the men who sometimes didn’t have a couch to sleep on, people drove by and honked, they walked by and sat for awhile on the stoop. Ruthie always offered a smoke, or a beer, or a Diet Pepsi. Ronnie often offered a ride to wherever they might be going. There was a lot of laughing on those long, humid summer nights. A lot of friendship, kinship, and fellowship.

As the sun would go down the party would move indoors. More people would stop over. One of Ruth or Ronnie’s sisters, or a neighbor. Julie might show up with a group of her teenage friends. One of my sisters might stop by if they were back in Leavenworth. And there always seemed to be more kids. Kids from everywhere. We’d stay outside until the called us indoors for the night. We’d tell ghost stories about the old house on Pine Street. Like the ghost that we were sure lived upstairs, which also happened to be the only place there was a bathroom in the house. Up a long, curvy, old, creaky staircase. I spent many nights holding in my pee for as long as I could, then running up and down those stairs, while Ruthie would yell, “Be careful, Missy. God damn, you’ll break your neck!”

Ruthie and me Christmas 1988-ish? Notice the Bud Light can, the Eight track tapes, and my dress that was obviously too short for me but it was my “nice” Christmas dress. #80s

As the years rolled on I stopped going over to Ruth and Ronnie’s with my mom, in lieu of slumber parties with my friends, or even later when I was a teenager, I’d rather stay at home alone and watch television, or listen to my music while my mom went over, or the adults went out to play darts or go bowling. I became “too cool” to sit on the stoop. God forbid someone see me. What I didn’t realize back then, was that Ruthie’s stoop was the cool place to be, and there have been many a nights since then that I have wished for just one more summer night on the corner of Pine and Fourth.

After I left Leavenworth, married, and had my first born, we went back to Leavenworth for a visit and stopped by Ruth and Ronnie’s. They had moved a couple of houses down, and the old house on Pine and Fourth was torn down. It was beyond repair. We introduced Baby Jackson to Ruth and Ronnie, and Ruthie bounced him up and down on her lap like she had all her grandchildren. Laughing and telling him inappropriate jokes.

Years later, the last time we saw Ruthie and Ronnie, Jackson was five years old. It was the summer before we moved to North Carolina. We took a long weekend in Leavenworth, and just as we were headed back to Southern Missouri I grabbed Jerimiah’s arm and said, “Wait, let’s run by Ruth and Ronnie’s!” It was evening time, and the Royals were playing, I knew they’d be at home.

When we got there we parked at the end of the long line of cars outside their house. We were about three houses down from where they lived, and I recognized most of the cars. There was Debbie’s car, and Ronnie’s old work van. There was Ruthie’s black Chevy, and another truck that I assumed belong to her son Johnny, or maybe Billy was back living with them. We walked up to the front door and knocked, as we peered inside. We didn’t see anyone, but we heard them. A whole clan of Logan’s from the backyard. We let ourselves into an empty house and followed the noise. When we stepped onto the back patio, the veranda Ruthie called it with a laugh and a slap on your arm, we were greeted with cheers and hugs.

“Well, look who it is!” Ruthie yelped, getting up from her recliner she had brought onto the veranda, along with a television, a stereo, and a ton of Royals and Chiefs memorabilia, under a canopy tent. Jackson stood and looked around, taking in all the noises and people. Ruthie grabbed him up in a big hug, and then offered him a Diet Pepsi. Then she showed us around. We hadn’t seen her in years by then so she wanted to show us all the updates, which were really just more Royals and Chiefs decorations, signed balls and posters, a Gretchen Wilson poster hung in her “Royals and Chiefs” room. We walked around and followed her as she pointed out pictures of grandkids, and great-grandkids by then. She offered Jackson every piece of candy or sweet we walked by, and he obliged, eating pie and a lollipop that she kept around for the kids. I caught a glimpse of her red Chief’s “brick.” The foam one from my childhood that she’d throw at the television and yell, “Sonofabitch!” when the Chiefs made a bad play. I smiled. Smelled the familiar smells. Remembered all those many years ago. The house was different and Ruthie was smaller by then, more frail looking, but somehow still mighty, still strong, still able, I knew, to entertain, to amuse, to tell a dirty joke or two. And I’m happy that my son got to meet the woman I knew and loved for so many years, even for just an hour.

On Sunday, August 18th, 2019, a week after the Chiefs beat the Bengals in a preseason game 38-17, I got the call that Ruthie had passed away. I cried, but not for long. Too suddenly the memories came flooding back, and I was forced to smile. The stoop on the porch. The Chief’s Brick. The day in the alley behind her house when she tied my mom’s car muffler up with a wire hanger, while she cursed and hammered under the car. The night I stayed up way past my bedtime to help string up lights on Ruthie’s St. Patrick’s Day float. The dirty joke about the nun I heard on her front porch when I was 12 years old and didn’t quite understand. I laughed aloud. Jerimiah asked me what was wrong, then I told him…

A bus full of Nuns falls of a cliff and they all die. They arrive at the gates of heaven and meet St. Peter. St. Peter says to them “Sisters, welcome to Heaven. In a moment I will let you all though the pearly gates, but before I may do that, I must ask each of you a single question. ”

St. Peter turns to the first Nun in the line and asks her “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” The Sister Responds “Well… there was this one time… that I kinda sorta… touched one with the tip of my pinky finger…” St. Peter says “Alright Sister, now dip the tip of your pinky finger in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted.” and she did so. St. Peter now turns to the second nun and says “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” “Well…. There was this one time… that I held one for a moment…” “Alright Sister, now just wash your hands in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted” and she does so. Now at this, there is a noise, a jostling in the line. It seems that one nun is trying to cut in front of another! St. Peter sees this and asks the Nun “Sister Susan, what is this? There is no rush!” Sister Susan responds “Well if I’m going to have to gargle this stuff, I’d rather do it before Sister Mary sticks her ass in it!”

Hey Ruthie, thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for the win. Let’s do it again today!

Go Chiefs!

M.

Ruth E. Logan

*I wrote this post last week in order to honor Ruthie the day the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, and I woke up yesterday morning, Saturday, February 1st, to the news that Ronnie had passed away. My heart is heavy today knowing that the Logan family is going through the loss of their father, and I’m sending love and hugs to all of them. This family, that was such a special part of my life for so many years, is having to bury a second parent in the coming days, and my heart breaks for them during these struggles. But the thing I know about the Logan Clan is that they are supported in a community who loved their parents, and they are supportive with one another. They will get through this. Ronnie was a religious man, and he devoted his life to two things: His family (even the ones not related by blood) and the Mormon Church. I know he is where he needs to be today, and I’m pretty sure it’s kicked back in a chair watching Ruthie throw her red brick at a television screen once again. ❤

This Explains So Much

Last time I visited Leavenworth, I went through my mom’s photo albums and took pictures of photos that I wanted to remember, either because they sparked a memory, or because they were too absurd to pass up. I’ve been going through these old pictures, which is sometimes scary because I never know what memories will surface from them. Like, will it be a good memory? Will it teach me about who I am? Or will it make me cringe? If a picture from my childhood makes me cringe, I simply jot that feeling down so I remember to talk to my therapist about it. She just loves a good challenge. Anyway, today I looking for a very specific picture for another post I am working on, when I came across this photo instead:

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot going on here. Let me break it down for you. My best guess on the year is 1987. That would make me about six-years-old, my older sister Belinda about sixteen-years-old maybe seventeen, depending on whether this photo was taken before or after July 10th. That’s a crapshoot. It’s obviously summer. I’m not holding any poppers, or snakes, or smoke balls, but that doesn’t mean much. Still could have been near the 4th of July.

My sister is the one standing next to me by the picnic table and the girl on the lounge, I think, is Shane. Shane was one of my sister’s friends, and aside from knowing that Shane drove a truck and had a boyfriend who once showed up at our house in the middle of the night to ask my mom if she would hold $10,000 cash for him for a few days, I don’t remember much about her. I do remember holding the $10,000 cash in my hands when my mom called me into the utility closet, closed the door, and asked me if I wanted to hold $10,000 cash to see what it felt like. I think I may have buried my lead.

My mom has to be the one taking the picture. I know this because suddenly I’m all too aware of what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the one and only time we ever attempted to go camping.

It had to have been Shane’s idea. Had to have been. Or maybe something Shane and my sister cooked up together while they were drinking Boone’s Farm, and chain smoking Marlboro Lights in the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot after my sister got off work. Why my mom and I were brought along, I can’t say. Shane was the only one with a working vehicle, unless this was that short time when my sister had that big land yacht with the dead-body trunk she bought off an old guy for $200. Who knows.

But I do remember with clarity now, that there was a tent. And a BBQ grill. We ate hot dogs. We sat in tall, itchy grass. Or probably just I did, maybe on a blanket, the adults had chairs. I remember my mom dousing me with that bottle of OFF on the table there, and her being overly anxious about the trash bag hanging off the table because of bears. I remember that my sister told her we didn’t have bears in Kansas. But she wasn’t convinced. And neither was I.

The orange bottle on the table is either lighter fluid or suntan lotion. Pretty sure that’s a bottle of drinking water on the seat of the table. Or maybe bathing water. Or washing your hands water. Or pouring over your privates after you peed water. It was probably for all of that.

At some point when I asked if I could swim in the lake, everyone yelled “NO!” all at once. I was allowed, however, to walk into the lake for a little bit, up to my ankles maybe? And then later my mother told me about one time when Belinda almost drowned in a lake and OMIGOD! That’s why I was terrified of water and a full-grown adult before I was taught how to swim. This explains so much.

Later, after the tent was set up, the campfire was roaring, and the stars were out and beautiful, I drifted off to sleep in a little pallet in the tent, only to be violently shaken awake about 2:00 am and told that we had to go home. Everyone had had enough of camping and my sister needed her own bed and toilet.

Yep, that was the one time my family attempted camping when I was a child. I’d call it a success.

M.