Mawkish

The first time I took a writing class where the professor instructed us to write creative nonfiction, I wrote a story about my sister. About how she would tease her hair, and as a child I would watch her in the mirror. She would tease, tease, tease, then she would ask if I wanted teased. Lots of teasing in the 80s. Lots of teasing with big sisters. I wrote my heart onto the pages for the first time ever. I made connections, pulled loose strings. I fell in love with the genre immediately. It called to me, to the little girl in the mirror, circling the big girl looking back through rose-colored glasses. I felt relieved that this sort of writing existed. I felt comforted.

I turned my essay in. My professor gave me a B. Made sure I knew he was being generous. He said my language was dramatic, yet lacking. He was a Shakespeare scholar. My subject choice, he said, was “saccharine”. Saccharine, I thumbed through my dictionary. Was that relating to sugar? Sweet, sticky? Overly sentimental. Mawkish. Why didn’t the Shakespeare scholar write mawkish on my essay? This was nearly fifteen years ago.

I’m hyperaware now of my own sentimentality.

I’m aware of what is expected, of what is tolerated in the genre.

I’m weary of bearded Shakespeare professors.

Still, I would have preferred mawkish.

M.

Merry Christmas!

My best friend texted me from 833 miles away, and she said Merry Christmas! Then she asked if I wanted to come stay the night at her house. I said sure! Said I’d be over with all my new toys. Then I smiled. I hope she did too, remembering all those years that we did that. All those years that on Christmas morning we’d excitedly call each other. We’d say Merry Christmas, cause our moms expected us to, then we’d jump into, “I got a new doll!” Or “I got a Walkman!” Rachel always got the cool shit, the “in” toy, while I usually got the Blue-Light Special from K-Mart, but still it was exciting. Then at some point, my mom and I would load up the car for Christmas dinner, usually at my sister’s house, and Rachel and her family would meet us there, and we’d eat, and eat. We’d watch A Christmas Story because TBS played it on a continuous loop all day, then we’d nap, or play Nintendo or PlayStation or whatever new games one of the kids got. Then we’d start pleading for our mom’s to let us have a sleepover. It was all just tradition, they’d stopped fighting it years before. My bag was already packed. I’d already stuffed all my new toys into a suitcase or a trash bag and they were in the trunk of my mom’s car. Then after dinner we’d load up Rachel’s mom’s car with all the stuff I brought and head to their house, where Rachel and I played until we would pass out with all our new toys, while attempting to keep her younger brother and sister out of her room, with little success. For years we did this. I don’t have a lot of Christmas memories that lack my best friend.

While ruminating this week on Christmas Magic, and what I want my own child to remember from his childhood, I’m a little sad. He doesn’t load up the car on Christmas afternoon and head to the family feast. The family feast happens at our home, alone, just the three of us. My son has never lived in Kansas. He’s never known the chaotic, albeit comforting, feeling of having a house full on Christmas morning. He doesn’t have a Rachel of his own.

But I still hope he remembers the magic. The Elf on the Shelf causing mayhem all month long. Tracking Santa on NORAD, watching Home Alone for the third time while we bake cookies for Santa and chop the carrots for the reindeer. He may not have the big family I did, but he still has the magic, and I think that’s important.

Meanwhile, Rachel is in Kansas with her husband and kids. I’m in Georgia with mine. We’re both fast approaching the age when the bags under our eyes don’t go away, and we suspect dairy is messing with our stomachs. We aren’t playing with dolls anymore, aren’t arguing over who got the better make-up set (who has time for make-up?!). Instead we are finding ways to laugh, to make time for each other, to remember the magic, even if it’s just a few times a year, 833 miles away.

Thanks for being part of my Christmas Magic for so many years, Rachel. I forgive you for breaking my Slinky that one time, and yeah, your Baby Alive was way cooler than my Baby Shivers. But it never mattered, it was just the time with my best friend that was important. Sure glad we have those memories to go back to.

Wishing you all a fun-filled day of new toys, love, friendship, and Christmas magic!

M.

Here’s some pics of Rachel and me through the years!

East Middle School

I’ve been staring at this picture for a long time now. Months, actually. For months this picture has been on my desktop. I found it while I was researching historical buildings in my hometown (don’t ask), and I snatched it up because this building doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone. Bulldozed. It’s just an empty lot there now and whenever I am back in Kansas I pass it, and a million memories come flooding back from that piece of land on the corner of 4th and Chestnut. Some of the memories are not even my own. They belong to my older sisters, friends, people who went to school in this building eons before I ever stepped foot in it.

The building was East Middle School when I was there in the mid-90s, but before that it was East Junior High, and before that it was Leavenworth Senior High, the first public high school in Leavenworth. And the more I look at it this picture, the more it conjures up, and the more sad I become. This was one heck of a school. Sure there was a tornado tunnel in the basement. And sure ceiling tiles routinely fell on us when we were in gym class. And even sure, sure, there were rats, but man, oh man, this school meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to a lot of people, and now it’s just gone.

I’m not sad of course to see the building gone. It was time for upgrades that the city couldn’t afford. So the church next door bought it, and even they couldn’t afford the upgrades, so eventually it was bulldozed. I’m sad in the way you get sad when you attach memories, deep, nostalgic, childhood memories to a place. A building. A room. A town. And then that place leaves. Or maybe you leave. And it feels like a betrayal. Even though I left this school, this community, this town, this state twenty years ago, I still feel betrayed, and also guilt, because betrayal is only one part of this mixed bag.

There was another empty field a block from where this one is now. It was owned by East Middle School and it was a regular part of our day to walk to the field for kickball games, or gym class, or games of baseball after school if you could scrounge up enough kids. But where this school was located, right in the heart of Leavenworth, across from City Hall, a couple of blocks from “Downtown,” across from the unemployment office, and next to the only pay-what-you-can walk in clinic in town, well, it wasn’t exactly what you would call a safe area. In fact, many times on the walk to our field, we would pass people smoking out of balconies, yelling things down to us. Our gym coach would tell us to ignore them. She’d tell all 30 or so of us middle school girls to walk in pairs, to ignore the looks from the old men shuffling by on the way to the senior center. We ignored the men and women, still drunk from the night before, arguing on stoops, about whether or not one of them had come home the night before. We ignored the racist gravity scribbled outside the little Korean grocery store, with the neon signs, inviting, but not overly welcoming. Today I wince as I remember, but back then, back then it was just part of this life. These memories serve me well sometimes. A reminder. These memories didn’t mean too much to me back then, but they are becoming more precious as the years drag on.

Once, the whole seventh grade walked to the gym lot, which is now a Domino’s Pizza, to set off rockets we had made in science class. It was a sticky-hot, midwestern day, but the blue sky and the clean air conjured up a song, so we sang. We walked down the cracked sidewalks, around the fire hydrants, past the Section 8 apartment complex, and through the open field across from the public library and we spontaneoulsy sang, “Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

We sang and we laughed. We ran around the field before the teachers calmed us. We yelled at passing cars. We listened for horns blaring. We blasted rockets into the air. We dreamed of what this life would one day be. I don’t think any of us envisioned an empty lot. Or a Domino’s pizza. Just blue skies as far as the eye could see.

M.

Christmas 1980-Something

I have a very distinct Christmas memory that floats in and out of my conscious thought every year. It’s 1988-ish. My oldest sister Khristi had just married and moved to Germany. It had to be near 1988, because my sister Belinda was at home. She was a senior in high school. She had feathered hair and wore a lot of stonewashed denim. Yes, there was a lot of denim, and an American flag on her bedroom wall, the kind you saw in Bruce Springsteen music videos, which seemed to be playing on repeat on our small, color television. It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and all I wanted was a Popples. Maybe a Strawberry Shortcake doll, or maybe one of those big mats that you could neatly fold out onto the carpet and color. It was like a giant coloring book. I just knew Santa would bring me all of these things. I had been very good all year, albeit very sad at the loss of one sister, and the imminent loss of another.

It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and my mother had been crying all day. She’d actually been crying for weeks now, I’d just lost track. Maybe I was trying not to see it. Maybe I’d been crying too. Crying when my mother cried. Crying when my sister cried. Crying when Khristi called from Germany. Crying when she didn’t. Time smushes together in moments of crying, when the weight of grief presses down on you.

It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and I sat in front of the colored television with my hot cocoa, while my mother cried on the couch behind me. Belinda went out, maybe with her boyfriend. I sat in front of our small color television and watched Frosty the Snowman, the old Rankin/Bass version from 1969. You know the one I mean, “I suppose it all started with the snow. It was a very special kind of snow, you see. The kind that made the happy, happier. The giddy, giddier.” I occasionally looked toward my stocking hanging on the wall and willed it to be filled with all the things I wanted. I occasionally looked out the window for the first snow. For the package that was to arrive from Germany. For my sister who should be at home.

The package came late, later than I imagined it should have on Christmas Eve. It was a large box. Postmarked to my mother, from a place called Kitzingen. I didn’t know then that it was a town in Bavaria. That it was part of the Franconia geographical region. That it was the largest producer of wine in that region. I didn’t know anything about Germany back then, except that there was a wall, and a lot of angry people, and Bruce Springsteen was mad about the wall like a lot of other people. I didn’t know if my sister was mad too.

My mother had stopped crying. My sister Belinda came home, as if willed by the Bavarian package. They sat me down in front of the tree, and my mother opened the big box with a pair of scissors. She slowly reached inside and began to hand gift-wrapped boxes to my sister, who gave them to me, and I carefully placed them under the tree. Slowly our Christmas tree filled with gifts. More than I could ever remember before. And certainly more than there would ever be again.

That night I would go to sleep between my mother and sister, in my mother’s double bed, in the back of the house. The next morning, I would walk back down the long hallway, my sister on one side of me, and my mother on the other, all three holding hands. I would shake at the thought of what Santa had brought me. What presents were wrapped in German paper. What happiness, what giddiness awaited me. And for a moment I was happy. And for a moment I was safe, between my mother and my remaining sister. And for a moment it was the best Christmas ever.

M.

I got my Popple! And much, much more. That’s the color television, and that’s the big box from Germany.

Nutter Butter Buddy

The first time I used a screen print machine I was a 19-year-old college drop-out, working at a factory that mass-produced 3M products by local prisoners. I wasn’t a prisoner. I also wasn’t a screen printer. But, I was one of the few people that knew how to work a computer, wouldn’t try to get high off the chemicals, and didn’t ask too many questions. The particular factory I worked at was just a five-minute drove from my house, which was good cause I didn’t have a car. My best friend suggested we both apply for the job one morning while we were on line at McDonalds. She was newly pregnant, looking for a job where she didn’t need to stand on her feet all day, and I was dabbling with the idea that college wasn’t for me, so we applied. Being recent high school graduates jumped us to the top of the application list. When neither of us pissed hot, we got hired. 

The company was, and still is I assume, a manufacturer of heating elements, circuits, and LED boards with facilities in both Kansas and Pennsylvania. In my hometown it was one of the few places you could get a decent paying job and benefits with only a high school education. The campus we worked at was also a member of the KansasWorks program, a program billed to “help non-working adults, who lack high school diplomas, learn new skills and find jobs.” This company also partners with the state prison for an Inmate Work Release program, which allows “eligible, non-violent prisoners to work learning new skills,” because studies show that the people who participate in these programs have lower rates of recidivism, and earn higher wages once they complete their sentence. And because Leavenworth is ripe with prisoners and you don’t have to pay them a lot.

Each station had a couple of inmates working on it, with a couple of civilians. My inmate was Lonnie. Because screen printing is a more delicate process than say, wire assembly, and because our equipment was large and stationary, there was only room for two people in the screen printing area, Lonnie and me. 

Lonnie was a big guy, at least six feet tall, probably closer to six and a half. He was quiet and sincere. He was obviously gay. You know the type I mean. He never said it, only eluded to it. Winking at the backs of cute men. Smiling a shy smile. He spoke with a pronounced lisp. He’d been in a prison a long time. I didn’t ask him much about his life, nor he mine. He got to work on a bus, one of those long, white inmate transport busses you might occasionally see on the highway. They would drop them off at 5:30 am, and be back to pick them up at 3:00 pm. We worked an eight-hour shift, with two breaks and a lunch. The inmates were not permitted to leave the property and some were not permitted to leave the building, even though the company owned several buildings on a large lot in the city. Lonnie was one of those inmates unable to leave the building. Lonnie was also one of the inmates who had to check-in with a prison guard every few hours. I didn’t know why for a long time, then one day I did.

Lonnie was a murderer. I’d heard this in whispers from other people, but the day Lonnie told me, well, I was still shocked. We were sitting on the steps by the vending machine sharing a Nutter Butter bar. We usually didn’t get to take breaks at the same time, since one of us had to stay at our station, keeping an eye on the ink wells, and what not. But on this day we were slow, so I had been moved to wire assembly. A job I absolutely loathed because it sounds exactly like what it is: You sit on a stool for eight hours and you assemble wires. Ugh. Anyway, because of this, Lonnie and I happened to be on break at the same time. My friend was on a different break, so I was alone, and Lonnie was the only person who sat next to me.

Maybe it was because we were away from our area. We didn’t have a job to focus on. Maybe it was because it had been about three months and he was comfortable with me. Maybe it was just his nature, but I gave him half of my Nutter Butter bar, something I knew I wasn’t supposed to do because that was considered contraband and he in turn thanked me, took a bite of it, and said, “I killed my lover.”

The thing is, I had never had anyone admit a murder to me before. In fact, I don’t think I have since either. Thankfully, I suppose. Yeah, thankfully. So I didn’t really know how to react. Like, do I say, “Oh, okay. Cool.” I mean, he was obviously caught and convicted. He knew what he did. He knew it was not okay. And now I knew what he did too. So there was this sort of awkward silence while we ate our Nutter Butter bars and listened to the sounds of our chews. Then after the Nutter Butter was gone, I looked at Lonnie and asked if he wanted another one. Sure, he said with a smile. Then I walked over and bought a second Nutter Butter bar. Came back, took my spot on the steps, and split the second bar with him. He said thank you and again, we chewed.

I had so many thoughts going through my head. Mainly questions. How? Who? Why? Where? I wasn’t afraid of Lonnie, not once, and this didn’t change anything. I just wanted to know what happened. Because Lonnie didn’t seem like a man who murdered for fun. But pretty soon our second Nutter Butter bars were gone, the bell rang for us to get back to our stations, and we parted ways. Later when I told my friend what he had said she gasped and said he was probably lying. That they wouldn’t let people convicted of murder work there. I shrugged in agreement, but I knew she was wrong.

A few months later Lonnie wasn’t there one day. A fellow inmate who sometimes worked with us came over to take his post. I asked where Lonnie was and the inmate said he was “in max,” which meant Lonnie had been locked up again. No halfway house, no more work-release. He went back in to maximum security. I was sad that I would never see Lonnie again.

A couple months later I quit. Enrolled at the University of Kansas, started my life over. But I have never forgotten about Lonnie. And I never will.

M.

Seasons

Busy times ahead. Busy times behind. I do love this season. Not just the holiday season, but also the season of life I’m in now. I’ve been thinking about this season of life recently, since the whole social media photo thing erupted last week. You know the one, “Share a picture from the last decade, and the current one” or something like that. Basically a chance to see how you’ve aged. What fun. I haven’t played on social media yet. I was going to, when I came across this photo:

This is a picture from a decade ago. It’s dated November 2009, but I remember the night and it wasn’t November. Not yet. It was Halloween. Jackson’s second Halloween. We had just spent the evening strolling down the Branson Landing with friends. He was Elmo. I was dressed as “Death” and I didn’t need to dress up much because I was sick. So very sick. I’d developed a fever sometime that day, and I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. But I couldn’t, because it was Halloween! And I was a mommy. A mommy of a toddler hopped up on candy. And sure Daddy was there, but I didn’t want to miss a second.

I think back more often than not and wish to be back in those days, but only for a moment. It’s the little things I miss. The hugs and the kisses. The amazement of everyday things. But Lord Jesus, there is a lot I DON’T miss! Ha! I don’t miss the all-nighters of crying from teeth popping in. Or the seemingly constant colds. The worry about him running off in the grocery store. Or meandering into the deep end of the pool. The anxiety that comes with monthly doctor appointments where he was charted against “the norm.” I don’t miss the lack of sleep. The constant, CONSTANT games of peek-a-boo and “I dropped my sippy cup now pick it up.” I don’t miss the diapers. And the diaper bag filled to the brim every time we left the house. I don’t miss it, but I do remember it.

Today I’m thinking about my friends in the thick of that season now, and I have several. I was a “young” mommy, though at 27, I didn’t feel so young. I have friends who are in this season of life right now and they are pushing 40 and omigod I love y’all and I just don’t know how you do it. But your babies love you, and your families love you, and I know, I know it sucks sometimes. You don’t have to pretend like it doesn’t, because it does. And maybe you tried for years, and maybe you think you can’t afford to complain or you will sound ungrateful. I get that too.

For years my friends didn’t complain, or even talk very much about their babies around me. Why should they? I had lost a baby, they didn’t want to bring that up to me. But listen, it’s okay. It’s okay to talk about your babies. It’s okay to complain. To not be present at all minutes of every day. It’s okay to let Paw Patrol help out sometimes. To skip a night of play, in order to read a book, or take a hot bath alone, with no children screaming at the door (if you can manage it). Its okay to not be so very happy about this season you find yourself in, because it will change. It will get easier. One day you will walk out of the house without an extra bag.

In fact, one day you will get to walk out of the house with just your bag, and your kid will have his own stuff. He will get his own shoes on. He will brush his own teeth, and dress himself. And you will wander into his room at night, when he is asleep, and you will look around. And for a moment you will wish he was sleeping in a crib, with his Elmo jammies on, a half-drank bottle next to him. But then you will see his walls covered in Harry Potter, or Star Wars, or Minecraft. You will open his drawers and see the clothes he put up all by himself. You will realize that he is growing independent. That he is needing you less and less. And sure, absolutely that is scary. But it is also freeing. It is so very freeing to know that you can breath. You can take a step back. You won’t worry less, trust this. But the worry changes. It evolves, sort of like you, and sort of like him.

So yeah, this is a tough season. It is. But slow down. Relax. Take it all in. I know some days it feels like the worst. Some days you are sick, but as a mommy you can’t really be sick, that’s not a thing, and I know that came as a surprise, but now here you are, afraid to even complain about the bad days and just wishing them away. But remember, a new season is just around the corner, and then another, then another. And if we keep trying to rush the season we are in, we will miss out on the really good stuff. The Elmo jammies and the wonder of a butterfly landing on our shoulder. The M&Ms of potty training, and the slobbery kisses. But no one is expecting you to be perfect in this season. No one is expecting you to be happy all the time, or available all the time. And if they are they have never been through this season, or they have forgotten, and it is okay to remind them. Remind them that it is a wonderful season BECAUSE it is a tough season, not in spite of it.

Love to all the mommies out there. I hope you get some sleep tonight.

M.

It’s a Good Life. Enjoy it.

The last couple of weeks that my mom was visiting us in Atlanta, the weather was not cooperating, so we looked for a couple of indoor things to do. We managed a cozy afternoon at the Jimmy Carter Center on one rainy, icky day. Then one glorious afternoon we made our way to a place we have wanted to visit since we moved here in April, The Center for Puppetry Arts! Now I know what you are thinking: Puppets? Cause I’m pretty sure that is what my mom was thinking too, when I was trying to pump her up for the experience. I’m also 99% sure that is what Jackson and Jerimiah were thinking too. Let me start over, I have wanted to visit The Center for Puppetry Arts since we moved here in April and everyone else was sorta, ehh about the whole thing. Until we got inside…

First of all, the Center is celebrating the 50 years of Sesame Street. So right away, we were all in shock to be face to face with some of our biggest idols. Umm, they had Big Bird AND Oscar the Grouch. Umm, they had Miss Piggy AND Kermit. Umm, they have the entire cast of Fraggle Motherfuckin Rock, y’all. All of them, even Sprocket my personal favorite. I mean, honestly, I don’t have a lot of words, so I won’t use many. I’ll use pictures instead.

First it was all about Jim Henson and how he came to be. Fascinating stuff, the way he thought and imagined. Then we got to meet some of the lesser known puppets, then hit the “backstage” area where we got to dabble with making our own show, as seen above. Then, the real shit hit the fan: We found Sesame Street, The Labyrinth, The Muppets, and Fraggle Rock! Hilarity ensued.

Deep breaths, puppet, muppet, and OG Street nerds, the shit is about to hit the fan…

The next few moments were spent with my mom and me trying to explain Fraggle Rock to Jackson and Jerimiah who both looked at us like we were nuts. “Yeah, so they lived in a series of caves and they maintained a complex culture and society, with each individual having rights and responsibilities. They had basic skills with tools and with rudimentary machinery, and the concept of war was known to them (although wars between Fraggles were very rare). Oh and! And, Fraggles live on a diet of vegetables, mainly radishes, and if they touch their heads together before falling asleep they can share dreams…”#Crickets

So first there was Sesame Street, which was Jackson’s actual JAM for the first four or five years of his life (mine and Jerimiah’s too), then there was Fraggle MFing Rock and the Muppets, which my mom and I adored watching when I was a kid, then Jerimiah found his Holy land…

THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, there was a whole other exhibit dedicated to the history of puppets, including puppets from all over the world, and THEN there was a whole other exhibit dedicated to the Dark Crystal! See below.

Okay, whew, let me take a breather before I get to the last pictures. And let me just tell you that if you are ever in the ATL, sure, go to the aquarium, and sure, visit Coke World, or CNN, or Centennial Park. But if you are a true Jim Henson fan, well then, there is only one place you need to go: The Center for Puppetry Arts!

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, y’all, and I’m sorry if you have just now, at this very moment, realized that I am a damn puppet nerd. But that’s just the facts, you know. I’ll leave you with these last few photos to entice you and to inspire you. And remember what Miss Piggy would always say, “I am who I am, why can’t you accept that about me?” #SlayGirl

M.

Cicadas

I’m used to lying in bed at night thinking up a million reasons not to go to sleep. I’m used to it, I’m pretty good at it, I’m seemingly always up for it. Tonight it’s the sirens. City living has its drawbacks. My son asked me if I remember falling asleep to those bugs in North Carolina. Those bugs were cicadas, and how could I forget? Only it wasn’t North Carolina that he’s remembering, it was Southern Missouri. It was 2011 and 2015. A mass emergence, both times. Different broods. The year his baby sister died, and the year we vanished. He’s misremembered, but he hasn’t forgotten. I suppose he never will. He’ll lie awake at some point undetermined, a slow year in his late thirties, and remember those bugs.

Maybe he’ll stop saying he misses Missouri. That he feels called back to it. That it’s his home. He doesn’t remember the Missouri I do. He was five when we left. He doesn’t know about the meth trails and the tweakers, the crisp, fall Ozark mornings with the bang of the hunter’s gun so close you look over your shoulder, paralyzed, but with an urge to run.

The cicadas come every 13 and 17 years. Maybe they were in North Carolina too. Maybe I don’t remember. Maybe they came above ground, wreaked havoc, went back down. A different brood. A different mass emergence. I don’t know enough about cicadas to say. I don’t know what to say about the cicadas. I just hold him when he runs into my room. The sirens startling his dreams.

Tonight I’m taken with that paralyzing urge. The gun, not from a hunter. The news. The shootings. The sirens. I’m stuck. Stuck between the urban landscape I’ve come to know, and the inability to get a good fucking night’s sleep. With or without the cicadas.

M.

Ok, Boomer

I’m not going to pretend to know what started this #OkBoomer hashtag, mainly because I have been trying not to watch news, or stay abreast on current events as of late because well, shitbag, dumpster fire world, and all, but every once in a while something comes across my social media bubble and pulls me into it. And today it is this #OkBoomer thing. And from what I have gathered it’s a slight, a knock at, a diss to, the Baby Boomers because they have a lot to say about the things Millennials and all the rest of the younger generations are doing, a lot of negative things, and if we really step back and observe, we can see that the Boomers are responsible for a lot of what is happening now. Because it takes literal decades to fuck shit up this bad. Yet, here they are, talking ’bout “Make America Great Again,” but that’s not even what I’m upset about.

I’m upset with the way they have this attitude about how “we,” as in the generations after them, can’t just work hard, pull up our bootstraps when times are hard, make more money, and “get it done” like they did. It’s as if they are so out of touch with reality that they honestly, hand-to-God, believe that’s still a thing that can happen. Uh, no. Times have changed, Boomers. This isn’t 1958. A dollar isn’t what a dollar was. You can’t work a part-time job and pay your way through college. You can’t make $8/hr and raise a family. You can’t have Union jobs now and expect to be taken care of, to not be made to fight for better wages and healthcare.

And a majority of us who are trying to get us out of the mess we are in, don’t remember a world even remotely resembling the one you had. Our childhood is marred with mass shootings in our schools, terrorists attacks, and war. Jesus, our friends are always at war. We all know someone who has been to Iraq, or Afghanistan, at one time or another. And we all know some who never came back. Meanwhile, I saw where that Disney woman, the heiress to the Disney fortune, asked what Millennials have accomplished in their life. What have we done? Um, survived? Is that not enough for you?

My personal favorite is the Boomers whacked-out advice like, “The problem is no one wants to work 70 hours a week anymore,” and “College isn’t for everyone, stop trying to push college on people.” Two things: 1. No college isn’t for everyone, but if you want to be able to survive, and not live paycheck to paycheck, and you don’t want to be in constant fear of losing your job, or going broke if you get sick, then you have to have a salaried gig with benefits, and guess who gets those jobs? College-educated people. And you know how I feel about higher education and critical thinking, you can’t have one without the other… 2. You are right, we DO NOT want to work 70 hours a week, and for the love of all that is holy, if you are working 70 hours a week, you are doing something very wrong. No one needs to work that much anymore. Technology has made our work lives easier, which has allowed us to be home with our families more, which has helped the economy, helped our parenting, helped our marriages, even helped equal out the roles in the home. (Seriously, if you’re working that much you are probably pretty ineffective at your job.) But guess what the Boomers don’t like: Equality. Being at home with family. Men in parenting roles. Because that isn’t how it was done back then, because they still are living in the “way back then.”

I saw this meme the other day that had an older gentleman, a Boomer, and it said, “Back in my day we didn’t get offended so easily…” and at the bottom it said, “Back in his day, they drained a whole pool if a black person stuck a toe in.” And yeah, it made a stunningly great point. But still, that’s not what I’m upset with. Boomers have never claimed to be self-aware, and we know they aren’t, Jesus, they wouldn’t go to a therapist if it meant saving their lives, let alone saving the lives of their children! What makes me upset is this form of nostalgia. That “Back in my day” bullshit. It’s fun for you to sit around in your underwear and yell, “Back at my day” at Fox News, but when it comes up in my newsfeed, you can bet your ass I will have some stuff to say about it.

Whew. I think I flipped my shit, y’all.

Sorry about that.

Actually, no, I’m not sorry.

I’m just a woman, stuck somewhere between a Millennial and who knows what or where else, trying to make my world better, my community better, my family better, by doing what I think is right. Every generation has had its breaking point, and I guess, I hope, this is ours. I hope we can push the Boomers aside (and the rest of the people who have no fucking clue) and actually get shit done. Get our climate straightened out. Get our oceans clean again. Save the damn bees. Elect representation that actually represents us. Educate all the people who want to be educated. Get all kids a hot meal everyday. Raise minimum wage. Lower higher education, prescription drug, and healthcare costs. Pass sensible gun laws. Jesus, there is so much more we want to do, and you know what, we might just do it.

And yes, I know the rhetoric, the discourse on the “Us v. Them” bullshit, unfortunately, that’s what it’s boiled down to. Either you are with us. With this planet, with the younger generations, and making this world better for ALL people, or you are against us. Time to make a choice. As my Boomer mom would say, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot.” Maybe you can relate to that.

M.

The Power of Rain

It’s raining today. Big, round droplets. The relentless kind of rain that I never experienced before I lived in the south. Before television meteorologist said things like, “Coastal shift” or “Gulf stream.” It’s raining today and it’s going to keep raining. That oppressive kind of rain. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed all day with a good book, or a good tv show, or a good bedfellow.

I like the rain because it helps me feel like I’m not alone. When it’s raining I know I’m not the only one stuck indoors, unable, unwilling, to go on about my normal life. It eases my fears of missing out on anything. Not much happens in the rain.

I remember having this thought for the first time, in Mrs. Nixon’s third grade classroom. It was a warm, fall day in Kansas. The storms were lined up to put on a show. Black skies, lightening, it was the sort of day in Kansas where one occasionally glances out a window, stays close to the weather radio, sits, stiff necked, on the edge of their seat. There was a war raging, 7,500 miles away across the Atlantic. Operation Desert Storm. My sisters’ husbands were there. I hoped it was raining.

It’s funny what the rain recalls, and sometimes sad. But that’s the sort of power it has over us. And I think I’m finally at peace with that.

I hope you’re staying dry today.

M.

On Becoming a Woman

One of my best friends did something really cool recently. Which really shouldn’t surprise you all that much because I have really cool friends, who do really cool things, but this one really knocked it out of the proverbial park. So my friend’s daughter was recently inducted into the Sisterhood. Yes, that Sisterhood, you know the one I mean, the one most little, middle school girls get inducted into eventually. It wasn’t that all shocking to my friend and her daughter that it happened, but still when it happens, it’s always a surprise. My friend had prepared her daughter, as one does I assume. Listen, I have a son, and I’m not going to even pretend to know how to handle something like that, but if I had a daughter I’d want to do what my friend did.

My friend sent an email to her closest friends (all women) and told them the news. Then she asked them for any advice they might have for her daughter. She wanted to inundate her daughter with goodness, and calm, and love. She wanted the sisterhood to share from its collective experiences. And I was amazed and awe-inspired by my friend and what she did. How cool of a mom she is to do something like that for her daughter. How lucky her daughter is. And if I’m being honest, I was super jealous.

Here’s what I got on the day before my 11th birthday when I woke up to stained sheets: “Oh no!” Yeah. That’s for sure what my mom, then my sisters, then my friends all said to me: “Oh no!” Or something like that. Then I got a very brief, very messy introduction to how maxi pads work (never tampons because my mom was convinced I’d die of I used them) and I was sent on about my day. That was it. Someone may have mumbled something about, “Becoming a woman” but certainly didn’t elaborate, which meant I spent years thinking that becoming a woman meant screaming at people once a month to “get the hell away from me I don’t want to talk to you!”

So that “Oh no!” followed me all through my life. Every. Single. Month. Oh no! I eventually taught myself how to use tampons, learned my own anatomy from a book, and asked enough of my friends what the signs of my period looked like, but still for the next 28 years of my life every month (save the months I was pregnant) I had a sinking Oh no! feeling. And I really wish that wasn’t the case.

So I started thinking, after being an honored recipient of this email from my friend, what sort of wisdom I could impart on her daughter. And I realized that I probably didn’t have any more wisdom than her obviously cool mom has, but that I did have a lot of feelings about this transition. Feelings that I have been hauling around with me for a long time. Things that I wish an adult woman would have shared with me when I was younger. So I decided to tell Little Missy all the stuff I wanted her to know. What follows might not be “wisdom” or even helpful, but it’s what I wish I had known way sooner than when I figured it out.

Dear Little Missy,

You are amazing! Like for actual real. Amazing. The limits to which your body will be pushed is astounding. Men could never handle what we go through. They just aren’t emotionally and mentally as strong as we are. Always remember that. Weaker sex? I don’t even know how that’s a thing. I mean sure their muscles might get bigger allowing them to lift heavy objects, but uh, lifting heavy objects isn’t gonna be as big a deal in your life as they say it will. It’s like stop, drop, and roll, or 9th grade algebra. Turns out you don’t need to worry all that much about it. I’m not bashing men here, just stating facts. And here are some more facts for you.

— It’s important to always have chocolate on hand. Like, always.

— Periods are erratic at first. It’s nothing you are doing wrong, it’s just your body trying to figure it out.

—Speaking of erratic, let’s talk about your mood. Girl, there are gonna be some rough days. Like, some days you may want to hide in your room all day, but chances are you won’t be able to because of school, or work, or practice, or family obligations, or because your gerbil died and you really need to get him out of that cage and buried in the backyard before he starts to smell. What the actual hell is wrong with you, Missy? How long has that gerbil been dead? Listen, the point is that you will have to push through. And you will push through. And this will be the beginning of a lot of bullshit you will have to “just push through” in your life. Welcome to being a woman!

— Middle school girls are weird. They sometimes have dead gerbils, okay. And sometimes they don’t like to shower. And sometimes they forget to brush their teeth or to put deodorant on. But you gotta try harder, Missy. You don’t want to be that “stinky” girl. Especially now, when once a month your underwear looks like a murder scene.

— So that’s another thing. You are trying to navigate this weird middle school world and this even weirder you are “becoming a woman” world and the two worlds are itchy and they don’t mash up well together. Please know that EVERY SINGLE OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRL is going through this EXACT same thing. You are not alone! Well, maybe you are alone with the dead gerbil thing, but the rest of the stuff you are not alone with. Some girls however, are like really good at pretending that they aren’t bothered by any of this. Some girls have mom’s who are actually, for real, models, or actresses, or just women who know how to contour their make-up. But even so, those girls are still going through exactly what you are going through. So be nice, but you know, take no shit.

— There are bound to be accidents. You will totally and completely bleed through your maxi pad in 6th grade science class on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Always keep a sweatshirt in your book bag for this very instance. There is no shame in tying that thing around your waist until you can get home and change your clothes. And shower. Remember, ahem, what we said about showering.

— I know, I know, you have no desire to have children. Today. But one day you might. So stop looking at this as a negative and start looking at it as a positive. This is the magic you were born with. This is what allows you to create an actual human being inside of you. You do that, girl! And trust me, joining the sisterhood may seem rough, but it is nothing compared to joining the ranks of motherhood. You are going through all this bullshit now to prepare you for the real shit later. Believe me, you will thank your body, over and over again. One day. Today though, it might be easier to lock yourself in your bathroom with a king size Twix bar and cry because you weren’t born a boy. But one day, one day you will be proud. It just takes time.

— Be kind to yourself. It’s so easy for you to be kind and nice to other people, especially other girls because you know they are going through the same thing, but you need to learn to be kind to yourself too. Some of those other girls will not reciprocate that kindness. Some of them will tease you because your belly is round, and your legs aren’t smooth, and you don’t know how to apply eye liner. But trust me, they don’t matter. The people who truly matter to you come when you are in the pits. When you are thumbing your way through your chemistry textbook for the fifth time and you still can’t figure any of it out, and you lock eyes with that cool, goth girl across the library and she gives you the, “What is this stuff even?” look and the next thing you know you are both under a table, eating Cheese-Its, talking about how much you don’t know. That’s when the real friendships form. In the meantime, you have to learn to like you. To treat yourself right. To love all your parts. Even the gross ones. The smelly armpits, and the bleeding vagina. The crooked toenails and the innie belly button. Just be nice to yourself, okay?

— Your body is not betraying you! Man, it feels like it doens’t it. It’s like the first time you run into your favorite park after school and suddenly you don’t fit into the little hole that starts the tunnel slide. You are dumbfounded. Didn’t your mom just bring you to this park like three months ago? Didn’t you used to run across that rope bridge without feeling unsteady on your feet? Oh your feet! They are huge now! And these boobs, what are they even?! Why did they have to pop up? I know this all feels so uncomfortable, but it won’t for much longer. You know when you are on a car trip, and it’s really long, and you keep checking your iPad to see if the hours are going by and the hours are just not going by and you honestly think you will burst if you don’t get to the dang beach already! It feels like that I know. This weird in-between space. But trust me. You’re gonna get to the beach one day. And you’re gonna rock a slimming, appropriate, one-piece swimsuit. 🙂

— Swimming. The beach. Pool parties and sleepovers. Vacations. Graduations. Your birthday. Special occasions. These days will all happen and the calendar Gods will not line up your special occasions with you being period-free. Those days suck. Did you remember that we started our period on our 11th birthday? Yeah, it started out rough. Don’t let a little blood dampen your spirits! Pun intended. Bring extra underwear. Always have a tampon or a maxi pad in your purse or book bag. It’s annoying, but it will save you in the future. However, just know that if you ever forget, or if Aunt Flo ever unexpectedly comes, it is totally normal and okay to ask any woman in the vicinity if they have anything. Someone always does, and no one ever judges you for it, cause we have all been there, sister.

— Google tampons and Maxi pads (know the chemical they use in them), Diva cups, that super, cool new underwear that you don’t even need to wear anything with! Learn about all of it, try them all. Try different brands and different “fits,” don’t get stuck with the same old mentality. Times changes, be willing to learn about your body and what works best for you. Don’t just use your mom’s same old brands. Branch out!

Okay, wow, I know I have said a lot here, and I have more to say. Many women do, if you just ask them. Never be ashamed or afraid to ask them! We will talk for hours about things. Not all women, but the really cool, nice ones will. And you never know unless you ask.

So I will leave you with this: There is no right way to be in your shoes. There is also bound to be uncomfortable days. They will happen. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are. How many Google searches you’ve read. How many times you have planned or packed, or re-packed, you will have surprises and hiccups along the way. But as long as you keep to your own truth, as long as you always strive to be the kindest, most badass version of yourself you can be, as long as you remember that what other people think of you is none of your business, well then, girl, you will be better off than a lot of us.

Oh, and remember what I said about the chocolate.

Welcome to the sisterhood. We are happy to have you.

Sending hugs and love. ❤

M.

Old Eckerd and Gov’ment Cheese

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.

But for real, educate yourself on the needs of Americans living below the poverty line (https://www.fns.usda.gov/csfp/commodity-supplemental-food-program) and always vote yes for taxes that help kids and senior citizens!

M.

429 Delaware Street

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.

M.

The Laundry Room

I was chatting with a friend the other day, when we veered into childhood anxiety—of which we both suffered from—and I remembered that I was claustrophobic for like five years as a kid. I had forgotten about it, because it’s something that I grew out of. In fact, nowadays I feel safest when any door I am behind is closed and locked, but when I was in elementary school I couldn’t deal with a closed door, let alone a locked one.

It started when my nephew, Little Scottie, and I were playing as kids. Little Scottie was my brother’s son. My brother and his girlfriend had Little Scottie when they were teenagers, and because my brother is 14 years older than me, I ended up being two years older than my nephew, which meant we were more like brother and sister, and we treated each other like that too. Mainly teasing and taunting, always picking at each other.

One day, when I was in kindergarten, which would have made Little Scottie about four, we were playing hide-and-seek and I ran into the laundry room to hide. He saw me hiding behind the dryer (I wasn’t a good hider) and when I jumped out to scare him, he grabbed the door knob and slammed the door closed before I could get him. I heard him go running down the hall screaming waiting for me to chase him, the only problem was that when he had slammed the old wooden door shut, it jammed. And just like that I was stuck in a small room.

I immediately panicked. That’s my gut reaction to all situations. I screamed for Little Scottie, but he was no doubt hiding somewhere far away. I looked around frantically trying to figure out what my options were. There was a small window in the laundry room that overlooked the front porch where the adults were all sitting. So I ran to the window, too small to see out of it, and screamed as loud as I could for as long as I could until I heard the commotion of people coming inside wondering what was wrong.

My mom got to the door first and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. “Missy,” her voice came through the door, “Unlock the door!” I explained through sobs at this point, that the door wasn’t locked. I heard someone say it was jammed then, and she tried the door again but this time used some muscle. Nothing.

Someone, maybe my brother, maybe my nephew’s step-dad, got the idea to come to the window and try to reach in and pull me out. They got the screen off, but I couldn’t get myself far enough up to them, and they were too big to fit far enough in to grab me. It occurred to me then, that this was my life. I’d have to live in the laundry room for the rest of my life. My mom would come bring my food through the window, and I’d spend my days listening to the neighbor kids play on my swing set in the front yard. The sobs came louder and quicker.

“Hold on now, Missy,” my mom’s voice came from the other side of the door, “I’m gonna pull these panels out.” Turns out it was one of those old, wooden doors that had slats in it. So with a little help from whomever that man was, and a hammer, my mom was able to pull the slats from the door until there was a hole large enough to pull me out. Whew! I was free. But that’s when the claustrophobia first started. For years afterward I would cry if I was left in a room with a closed door. Even when I was playing with friends. I’d always eye the door, ask them to keep it slightly ajar.

Eventually my fear subsided, and so did my friendship with my nephew. We grew apart. And three years ago he was murdered in cold blood by a monster of a man, and I never got to tell him that I know he didn’t jam the door on purpose. That I know he was just as scared as I was that day. That I still remember his little red face, matching his bright red hair, and the way he ran up to give me a hug when I was free that day. I can still see and feel it all. The warm sunshine of the day outside, pulsing down on my arms. And I hope he can too.

❤️

M.

Do You Like Wigs and Birds?

My mom wears a wig. She wouldn’t mind me telling you that, because she tells everyone that. When we walk into a restaurant, or a store, and another woman looks at my mom and says, “Oh I love your hair!” she immediately says, “Oh, it’s a wig.” Ahhhh! Stop it, I tell her later. Just say thank you and move on. But she has to say it, and I get why. It’s the same reason that I have to make a fat joke about myself whenever I am surrounded by thin women. I have to show them that I know that I am fat. I have to show them that I know that they know. We have to say it to clear the air, because we assume everyone is thinking it. It’s a thing, we all have our things. Moving on. I’ve been to three wig shops in the last three days. This is a new experience for me, and for my mom.

My mom isn’t new to wigs. She wore them when she was younger. Much younger. In her twenties and thirties. When I look back at the pictures of my mom holding me as a baby, her hair was black, and long, and always pulled up into a beehive of sorts. It was years later that I found out that wasn’t really her hair, well all of it. She wore wiglets, and wigs, and weaves, and wow!

The older I got the shorter her hair became. She stopped wearing the wigs, and decided to take care of her natural hair. But years of torture to her hair, four babies, not eating healthy, it all adds up and about ten years ago her hair started to really thin out. She fought it, and fought it, doing her weekly curling of her hair, and her semi-annual perms (that she did herself, or roped one of us kids into doing it for her). I did many of them, for many years. So much in fact that my childhood smells like hair chemicals in hot bathrooms. Oh, the headaches. Here’s a pic of my mom and sister, Belinda, in Michigan in the 70s. It was a “curler” day.

But she finally decided to go back to wigs a couple of years ago, and she asked me to take her to a wig shop in Charlotte, where I was living at the time. I Googled “Wigs Nearby” and only one popped up, so we went. It ended up being a very lovely, albeit pricey, place with many different styles and a no-nonsense kind of owner, who sort of told my mom what she was going to buy. I bought her that first (but not first)wig and we went on about our lives. She wore the heck out if, everyday, mostly all day for about a year. Then when we moved to Atlanta last year and she came to visit I took her to a “new” kind of wig shop. Think: Pink hair, blue afros, etc. It was a little unusual, and I wasn’t sure we’d find anything for her. In fact, we felt a little out of place when we first walked in, but by the time we had left she had a new red wig with blond bangs (not kidding) and she loved it! She wore it to church the first day she got home and all her friends LOVED it!

Then, because she hadn’t cared for wigs in so long, she sort of messed up her wigs. She combed them when they were wet! Gasp! She cut one of them herself. Eye roll. She even used normal hair shampoo on her synthetic wigs. Oh my! (BTW, neither of us knew this was all wrong! Haha. Remember, we are learning.)

So last week when she got here we watched some YouTube videos. We Googled, “how to wash synthetic wig hair,” we watched videos, read articles, and went to three new wig shops. And lo and behold she found herself two new wigs that look fantastic on her. And we paid half of what we did for the first one! So yeah, we are learning. Here’s a pic she wouldn’t want me to share with one of her new ones on (shh, don’t tell her):

Yeah, she’s single guys. She’s single, 75 years old, and ready to mingle. As long as you don’t mind wigs and birds. But NO “Trump fans” need apply, she isn’t having any of that nonsense.

Love you, Momma. Just wish you would have bought that long, pink one. Maybe next time.

M.