Soooo, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia and we found it. No, seriously. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve lost my damn mind. But I swear, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, right past a Home Depot. And we found it. Stay with me here, it’s a long sordid story full of grandmas, and shopping, and a trip to Cook-Out, but it ends with a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, so it’s totes worth it.
It was last summer and my mom was in town visiting. She decided she wanted to go to Kohls to look around because #KohlsCash and #SeniorCitizens go together like Taylor Swift and shorty shorts. Some things are just meant to be, that’s all. So we headed to the nearest Kohls, which is like 20 minutes away. Along the way I caught a glimpse of something poking over some trees, just outside our city limits. Over yonder, as they say in Georgia, just past the Home Depot.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, just that it was something possibly grand, exquisite even, and that I would need to do some digging. But then my mom was all, “Is anybody hungry?” which is her way of telling us that she is hungry and we need to stop for food. Like now. (Side note: She also says things like, “Is anyone cold?” and “Does anyone have to pee so bad they think they might pee in their pants?” You know, things like that.) Anywho, Jerimiah pulled into a Cook-Out because honestly it was the first one we saw here in Georgia and having just moved from North Carolina it, well, it felt like home. If you don’t know about Cook-Out now you do. #Amazing
As we ate lunch at Cook-Out I Googled: “Big white temple looking thing in Lilburn, Georgia” and lo and behold the Google Goddess answered.
There is indeed a giant, gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia. It’s in Lilburn, Georgia to be precise, but since Atlanta has the largest Metro area ever, it’s considered the Atlanta temple.
The temple itself was built strictly by volunteers on top of what used to be a skating rink. Volunteering is a cornerstone of the Hindu religion and it is known as Seva, or selfless volunteering. It took 1.3 million volunteers working two million (wo)man hours to complete the temple in a little over 17 months. It is made of three types of stone, Turkish Limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone. That’s it. Just those three stones. According to their website more than 34,000 individual pieces were carved by hand in India, shipped to the USA and assembled in Lilburn like a giant 3-D puzzle in accordance with the ancient Hindu architecture scripture. I can feel you guys still think I’m a liar, liar pants on fire, so here’s a picture of Jackson standing in front of it in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, which is fitting because this place is BIG! Like Disney BIG!
The Temple, or Mandir, is a place of worship for people who practice Hinduism. This particular Mandir is for people who practice Swaminarayan Hinduism and, although there are two million Mandirs globally, and 450 in the United States (with the most in Texas) the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn is the largest Mandir outside of India. Whew knew?!
Okay, so there we were back at Cook-Out and we were debating to stop by the Mandir after our trip to Kohls. I’m pretty sure my Mom had no idea what we were talking about and I was not pronouncing Swaminarayan correctly, but we decided since it was on the way home, why not? I think my Mom was still a little nervous, being a Baptist and all, but she went along with it. I bought her ice cream. Then helped her use her Kohls Cash, so it seemed fair for her not to complain.
When we got to the Mandir we weren’t sure where to go, or how to act, or what have you. I mean, we are not Hindu. We didn’t want to pretend to be. And I can honestly say that none of us have ever been to a sacred temple of any kind. Not our style (previously). So we drove very slowly in, thinking we might get asked to leave, but no, they waved at us, showed us where to park, and were all around very friendly. Though I think my Mom and Jackson were still a bit confused by the whole thing. Me? I was just in awe. This is the picture I took when we got out of the car.
A storm was rolling in and I think my Mom was both worried about her hair getting wet and about all the people who did not look like her. This was a lot for a 75-year-old from Kansas, but she didn’t say much. She just looked around, slowly climbed the steps, and stood in awe. I even caught her snapping a few pics, which may seem weird to some, but it is encouraged here. They worked hard on this building and they want you to take pictures. Of the outside, not the inside. Since it is a traditional Mandir the inside is a place of quiet and calm. A place reserved for meditation, prayer, and solitude. But in order to get inside you have to your legs covered, of which none of us did! But don’t worry, they are prepared for crazy, white people.
When we reached the top of the steps a man greeted us and asked if we wanted to go inside. We said, “Of course,” though again, I was the only one super sure about it, and he told us we’d have to cover our legs. He gave us all a long black piece of cloth, and we wrapped it around our legs like a skirt, then we were allowed to enter.
Inside was like something I had never seen before. There were beautiful carvings everywhere, and the room used for prayer and meditation was covered in marble and glass (all the floors are marble and you have to take off your shoes at the entrance too).
It was very quiet in there, as most of the visitors were praying. But upstairs there was a room not unlike the main floor of a cathedral. In fact, I was suddenly transported back to that time we spent an hour or so exploring St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There were people worshipping in the middle of a large room, sit on the marble floor, and others walking all around the edges to visit statues of various deities in the Hindu faith, much like at St. Patrick’s and St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in New Orleans. It was just that instead of the bust of Joan of Arc, there was a statue of Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj. Same. Same.
I was totally drawn into the quiet of the place, like most churches I have been in. I like quiet, have I mentioned that? I’m a fan of quiet. Though I did feel rushed by my Mom who asked, “Does anyone have to pee?” and my son who was asking in very loud tones, “Why are they walking in circles around that statue?” (See postscript). I did not have an answer for him, but I did sense it was time for us to leave the inside. So we did. But I tell you what, I have plans to go back. Alone. And if you’re ever in Atlanta, maybe I suggest you check it out too? It really is a lovely place. The last picture is from the back of the Mandir. I made Jerimiah stop as we were driving out to take it. I mean, come on!
We were all impressed by the structure, and I think we all learned something that do too, though it may have been different things, we all learned something.
When we got home I posted some of the pics on FB and told people to get there if they are in the area. My Mom asked me to tag her in the pictures, so I did, and one of her “church friends” commented immediately that she “felt sorry that we were in an area that had a large Hindu population” and continued to display her accepting, Christian nature, by adding how disgraceful it is to worship more than one God and asking when Trump was going to send them all packing. Then she blessed us, I’m pretty sure, and my Mom said, “Oh, she’s crazy. Delete that comment.” And so I did.
PS… I have an answer for Jackson regarding his astute observation, “Why are they walking in circles?” It’s called circumambulating. Because Hindu temples are built where positive energy flows, the main idol is placed in the center of that gravitational force on a copper plate so it can beam the waves of positivity. People who practice Hindu believe that our energy is drained throughout the day (I hear that!) and when they visit the temple they are restored, particularly if they go to the main idol. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the main idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it.
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?!
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.
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).
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.
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!”
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.
*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. ❤
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.
Harry Motherfucking Potter (not it’s official title) was a little after my time. In fact, I remember being forced to read the first book in a children’s lit class my freshman year and I wanted to bang my head against the wall. This was way back, back when I read the whole text that was assigned to me. I was 18, I was pissy, I was usually high from weed, and I was a little emo. I thought Harry Motherfucking Potter was the dumbest shit ever. Then, in January of 2018 we decided as a family to read the whole series (which was gaining traction in Jackson’s world at that time, damn fourth graders and their HP obsessions) and now here we are, two years later and last night we started the last book and you guys, the series has been a fucking DELIGHT! I love Harry Motherfucking Potter, and I’m not ashamed to say it anymore.
If you have never read it before, and plan on it, I suggest you stop here because I am about to spoiler alert the shit out of you, okay? Okay, stop reading, go on about your day. Visit your local library to grab a copy. Or better yet, run over to your friendly, local bookstore and purchase your ass the first four books that have been illustrated (they are only up to the first four) because they are amazing, here is a pic of them for reference:
No, here comes a BIG spoiler. Go on now, GIT!
The week of Christmas we were finishing up The Half-Blood Prince (my favorite so far) and Jackson had two complete meltdowns. Two of them, y’all. Melt. Downs. Like needing to excuse himself, go hide in his room, and cry for hours. The first one was when Harry got Slughorn and Hagrid all drunked up after Aragog’s funeral, in order to get Slughorn’s horcrux memory. At first I could not figure out for the life of me what that was about. Like why was he so upset about it. Later on I realized that he saw what Harry did as a betrayal and that he had not seen Harry as that kind of person before. Listen, I had. I know Harry and his stupid tricks (he’s not my favorite character, Hermione is obvi) and this did not surprise me in the slightest. But Jackson, his big-hearted, honest nature, was not okay after this whole scene. The lying, the sneaking, the Felix Felicis, it all added up to turmoil for him. But that wasn’t the worst.
Last spoiler warning, be gone!
The worst night was the night before we left for vacation. The second to last chapter. Dumbledore’s death. Sigh. Listen, it shook me too. But I had a sense it was coming because you know, reader, writer, purveyor of tricks of the trade, but Jackson was shocked! Absolutely, terrified at how it all went down and he lost his shit, as any good reader of the series should have. He excused himself, and sobbed into his pillow. We checked on him several times, tried to comfort him. But honestly this was his first beloved character death and we knew he needed to process it. So when he finally asked to be left alone, to have his door closed (something we never usually allow because of my anxiety and need to hear him breathing at night) we slowly crept out and closed his door behind us. At some point he fell asleep.
The next day we asked if he wanted to finish the last chapter, which included the beloved professor’s funeral and he said no. He said he couldn’t do it right now, and it took us two more weeks to finish the book.
What’s funny to me, is that through the whole process of grieving Dumbledore, he kept saying, “I’m so dumb. This is so dumb. It’s a book!” I’m not sure why he thought that. If someone said that to him. If he just innately thought this was something that you don’t do, but I assured him that this is something that happens. We invest. We’ve been with Professor Dumbledore for two years now. He’s been the topic of many conversations. He was a great wizard, and an even better friend and confidant to Harry, and well, this happens when a book, a series like Harry Motherfucking Potter, gets you under its spell. We told him he shouldn’t feel ashamed. He should feel happy that he found a series that he loved that much.
This is all to say that this has been a fun, agonizing couple of years for us. And I hope that Jackson has learned many lessons from this series, but more importantly I hope he remembers how it made him feel. I hope he remembers grieving over the great professor. I hope he remembers how triumphant he felt each time Harry battled, and beat Voldemort. I hope he takes with him the friendships between the characters, strives to live a life as noble as Ron or study as hard as Hermione, or yes, even possess the confidence and shear stupidity, at times, of Harry. Because this series is about so much more than a little magic wand, and I’m so happy Jerimiah and I shared this experience with him.
We started the last book last night, and the normal sense of urgency wasn’t there. I think we all want this one to linger a little longer. I sure hope it does.
Back in October my mom came to stay with us for a month. One afternoon, early on in her visit, we went to a food festival and it wasn’t super fun. I was stressed out by the crowds and the fact that no one, not my mom, my son, nor my husband knew what they wanted to eat, or didn’t want to eat. For the first half hour they just followed me around in a line, in the middle of this crowded place, and relied on me to pick food for them, to find somewhere for them to eat, to get the tickets, to choose the vendors. And finally I fucking snapped, as one does from time to time. I sat my mom and son down with a hot dog and a soda, and I grabbed my husband’s arm, took him away for a minute and said, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, DUDE?!” He realized then that he needed to step up and help a little, but he was overwhelmed too. Why we thought that was a good idea, I’ll still never know, but we learned a valuable lesson that day. We just can’t bite off more than we can chew.
That night I was feeling better. We had come home and relaxed, planned some activities for later in the week. I was treading lightly because my mother often tells me that I treat her like a child, say for instance when I grab her arm when she steps off of a curb. I do this because she suffers from neuropathy, and well, that’s never going to get better. She needs a cane, but she refuses. So instead she hopes she steps correctly when she steps off curbs and such. If my sister grabs her arm, my sister is helping her. If I do it, I’m treating her like a child. Then again, if I don’t grab her arm, then sometimes I am “being mean” to her. It’s a lose/lose situation with my mother. It always has been. I’m used to it.
So there I was, throwing ideas out about things we could do, but I was being mindful of a few facts. Like for instance, my mom can’t sit still for too long because she says it hurts her back and joints. She also can’t walk for too long because of the same reasons. So I am careful when planning things, not too much walking, or at least places to rest. Not too much sitting, long plays are out. As I was offering things, she was not giving me much to work with. I kept asking, “Does that sound like fun?” and she kept saying, “Whatever you guys want to do.” So finally I told her that, no, it wasn’t whatever we wanted to do, we have to account for a lot of things and I want to make sure it is something she can handle doing. That’s when she looked at me, dead in the eye and asked, “Did you take your pills today?”
I was taken aback, quite frankly. Because when someone asks, “Did you take your pills today?” what they are really saying is, “I think you are being crazy, and maybe if you took your pills you would feel better.” So I asked my mother what was bothering her. I asked her this because I have had enough therapy to know that she was projecting. See, my mother has pills she is supposed to take every day. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, but she won’t take them. She thinks it’s the kind of thing you can skip doing for weeks at a time, which means they will never help her, because no, that isn’t how those pills work. And even if I had missed a dose of my pill that’s okay, because the pills I take stay in my system, they build up every day. That’s how those kinds of pills work. I know this. She knows this. It’s all common knowledge.
So my mother did a very my mother thing and went into a tirade about how I am mean to her. About how my sisters don’t treat her this way. About how she just can’t handle me and my “ways.” I suspect my “ways” are honest, adult, conversation. I ignored that, because it is the best thing to do, and I went on to explain that asking someone if they “took their pills” is incredibly rude and she needs to stop saying it. She went downstairs in tears and probably called my sister to tell her I was being mean. I’m beyond moved by any of that at this point.
But this is maybe something you all need to know. Some of you anyway. Well, two things really: 1. It’s not okay to ask someone on medication for mental illness if they in fact took their pills, unless, they are so low down, that you are honestly afraid that they haven’t been taking their pills and that they are to the point where you should be seeking medical attention for them. And even then, it should only be to someone who you know, and love, and that you are in this fight for, or with, every day. Like my husband could ask me that. He could ask me that and really mean, “Have you given up on yourself, because I haven’t.” But when my mother says it, she’s just being mean.
And 2. It is completely okay and necessary to tell people this. To set boundaries with your family members and friends. If someone is routinely asking you this, in the manner that is mean or uncaring, just to prove a point, rather than to the guts to say, “You know what, you’re being a little wonky right now, let’s talk” then you need to tell them that it is mean and that they need to stop. This is not the only time when this is okay to say to someone. Boundaries are very important and you should not feel uncomfortable about setting them.
A couple of days later my mom said she asks my sister this a lot when she is “being crazy.” I asked her if my sister got upset when she said it and she said no. I assured her that yes, she probably did, but that she won’t tell her. My other sister, I told her, probably would get mad. That’s when she told me she likes to say things to that sister to make her mad sometimes, she finds it funny. So yeah, that’s the kinda mom I’m dealing with. I know I usually only share cool, funny stories about my mom, but trust, it’s not all cool and funny. And I’m sure your relationships with your parents or family members aren’t all cool and funny too. And when it’s not, then try to help them, and if they don’t want the help, then leave. You don’t need that shit. And they will learn. Or they won’t. And either way, at least you can say that you tried.
Go forth and set boundaries today, y’all. It will help, I promise.
I struggle with my weight. I always have. The first time I can remember thinking that I was fat was when I was nearly four years old. I was at K-Mart with my mom and she was thumbing though the sales rack of the children’s section, and I was hiding in between the circular display. I did this a lot as a kid. In fact, most of the memories I have of shopping with my mother involve her frantically looking for me, after I had wedged myself inside a self-made shelter of some kind. Clothing display racks, toilet paper piles, I even once hid for an entire shopping trip in the bottom of the cart under an empty box. I’m sure my therapist has some stuff to say about that, but let’s save that for another day.
So there I was, inside the actual rack of clothes, standing completely still, watching my mother’s feet go around and around the rack, when I heard a familiar voice approach. It was a woman who my mother knew. Not so much a friend, more like a friend of a friend. I knew her enough to recognize her voice, but still couldn’t remember her name. They exchanged pleasantries, then my mom remarked that she was looking for some new summer clothes for me. The woman offered to help and started thumbing through the rack too. A couple moments passed and she held up an outfit. This was the 80s, mind you, and outfits at K-Mart in the 80s came in two pieces. Shirts with matching shorts. How about this one, the woman asked my mother. My mother told the woman that it was too small. She went on to tell the woman that I was a size 6X. This was the first time that I heard a letter associated with a size of clothing. The woman gasped. She’s not even in preschool yet, right? The woman wondered aloud. Right, my mom said. She’s four this September. Then my mother politely excused herself and called for me. I emerged from my cocoon of clothes and the woman looked very surprised, but she smiled and waved us goodbye. That night I asked my much older, much cooler sister what the X meant in 6X. She said it meant “extra large,” and thus began my journey into being extra.
The thing is, I wasn’t always an extra large, but even when I wasn’t I still felt like it. In elementary school, for example, fifth grade, I was well into adult sizes, but not anywhere near extra large. Middle school, I was still clocking in at a medium or large. But compared to the other girls I was always Extra. Always. Even in high school, on the track team, working out five to seven days a week, limiting my calories, I was still an extra large compared to the other girls. Everything about me was just bigger. Except of course, my confidence.
By college, however, I was definitely into extra. A few years later, double extra. And now, here at this moment, the absolute most extra I have ever been, having just come off whacked-out hormones from a hysterectomy, pills that made me pack on the pounds, and a killer case of the blues. Extra, extra, extra.
I’m fat. I don’t try to hide it, how can I? It’s not like a mental illness that you can cover up with alcohol or self-sabotage. It’s a physical condition. I don’t need to tell people I’m fat, they meet me and can see it for themselves. What really chaps my ass though, is when people assume I like being fat, or that I am not actively trying. I’m trying. I’m always trying. And please don’t mistake me for one of those fat girls who feels good in her skin, because I am not. I LOVE Lizzo, I think she’s incredible and beautiful, but I don’t have her confidence. I don’t have her ability to feel comfortable at the weight I am at. I don’t have other talents that take the pressure off my appearence. I’m just a normal girl, in a normal fat-shaming world, trying to get by. (But I’m super grateful for the big girls out there shaping the way we talk about ourselves and see ourselves as women, because some days I really need it!) It’s just that I have always been extra large, and well, you do get used to it.
This isn’t a diatribe. This isn’t a “feel sorry for me post,” I don’t write those. Nor is this a “light a fire under my ass and start eating healthy” post. I eat healthy. That’s the thing. I have a kid, a kid who is genetically predisposed to being extra, so I work really hard to make sure he is not, and that includes leading by example. But something isn’t right in my body, it hasn’t been for many moons now, particularly after pregnancy, and trauma, and I’m working to get that worked out. It’s just a process, a really long, daunting process.
And the thing is, this isn’t a “fewer calories in, more calories out” fix. Believe me, I’ve tried that. This is deeper than “Keto” or a “30-day cleanse”, as it is for most of us who were always extra. It’s a process. You don’t got from the little girl who hides in clothing racks because she is afraid of people, to suddenly grown up one day and not having any issues. That’s not a thing. My mental health affects my physical health. That is true for all of us. And it can take decades to rectify.
I’m just here to say, don’t quit trying. That’s all. I see you. You are not lazy. You are educated on what you are putting into your body. You are trying to get your mental health under control. You are trying to figure out what makes you tic. How your hormones work. What insulin resistance looks like. How past trauma is holding you back. I see you, and I think you are doing a great job.
As for the little three year old who wore a 6X, she’s okay. She will be okay. One foot in front of the other.