It’s my mom’s birthday. She’s turning 76 today, and I believe this is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her. It’s been nearly a year now. We celebrated her 75th birthday last year by flying her out here for a few weeks, but that’s not an option now. And I did intend to get to Kansas City before now, but life as we know has other plans.
My mom is a Virgo like me, and I’m not sure that was a good thing growing up. But the older I get the more I recognize the things I appreciate in myself are the things I got from her. My bend toward honesty. My loyalty to people who deserve it, and some who don’t. My sense of humor. My stance on the treatment of those unlike me. The smaller, the weaker, those in need.
I’m fortunate to still have my mother around, and I’ll get to see her soon enough. But for today, in honor of my mom, I’ll take a page from her book and say, have a great day. Talk to a stranger. Hug your kids. Appreciate the small things. Eat a bowl of French onion soup for your sadness. Commune with the birds. And laugh at something, yourself included, if you can.
I’m in kindergarten and I’m hunkered behind our living room chair, my back against the wood paneling of our living room, and I have my sister’s portable cassette player. No idea where my sister is. There’s a faint sound of the mower in the background. My mother was probably out mowing the front lawn. I’m eating slices of cheese, the Kraft singles kind, only it’s not really Kraft because we couldn’t afford that kind. It’s an off brand yellow cheese and I’m pulling the piece into smaller pieces and sitting them around a plastic Tupperware plate, while the sound of some newsman blares through the recorded cassette tape I am listening to. The back of the chair has a large piece of wood running along it and I have my feet up against that piece of wood.
So there I am, eating my cheese, my back against wood, my feet on wood, listening to a recording that my mother made five years before. It’s a recording of the news from January 20, 1980. An hour after Reagan is inaugurated. It is a recording of the moment Ayatollah released the 52 American hostages from Iran. I am smitten with this recording and listen to it often.
Today, nearly 35 years after my mom made that recording in her small living room apartment on State Street, I have some questions. How did I get my hands on that tape? Did she want me to hear it? Why was I obsessed with a recording of hostages being released at six years old? Why did my mother feel the need to record that in the first place? She was barely pregnant with me the day the American diplomats were flown to Germany to the welcoming embrace of President Jimmy Carter, who had worked for over a year to free them, but just lost the general election and was robbed of the last heroic act of his presidency. What compelled her? Was it the state of the country at the time? Was everyone gathered around their television screens that afternoon, waiting, anticipating, feeling it was their patriotic duty to listen, to record history unfolding, with their American flag newspapers Scotch-taped into their wooden window frames? I can’t be sure. I just don’t know that country. That world. My mother, at that time.
I do know the feeling though. The feeling that what is happening, right now, in the present moment, feels in some way so important that we have to record it, write it, etch it into our collective memory for future generations to dust off and read, listen to, with their cheesy fingers sliding between pause and play, while the voices of those long gone cry and scream in release.
I woke up thinking about church today. Probably because it’s Sunday, certainly not because I’m a churchgoer. I’ve never been a churchgoers. I was never forced to go to church as a child, never had religion thrust upon me. My mom used to say she’d let her kids decide what to believe, though she herself was a Christian, it didn’t much matter back then what we believed in, as long as we were good, kind people. And we are. All of us. But we maybe didn’t go the path she expected.
I’m married to an atheist. The good kind. He doesn’t need a higher power to keep him in line. He likes to say that he does all the raping and pillaging he wants to, which is zero. He isn’t “acting” good in this life for fear of what the next will hold. He’s a good person because he’s a good person.
I’m in a “complicated” relationship with Jesus. God, well, I’m not a fan. But Jesus seemed cool, the man Jesus anyway. But even on my best days I can’t wrap my mind around church. Around organized religion. Too much hate, judgement, and evil takes places in many of those four walls, and I’ll pass. I’ll get my “church” the old-fashioned way, walking with Jesus alone, communing with nature, talking to y’all on this here blog.
My son has been raised with grandparents who don’t shy away from talking religion with him. My mom taught him to pray (she’s become very religious in her senior years and I’m sure regrets that whole “let my kids figure it out themselves” deal she did). So since Jackson was small she’s talked about her love for God to him, which is why I was pretty surprised the other day when he said, “Santa Claus is real, you know. He’s a real person, not like God who is just a belief.” Ouch. That’s some shit he made up in his own mind. Seems Santa, a jolly man who has magic and cares about all the children in the world, is easier to believe in than a God who makes people spew hate and judgment towards others. Of course my happy, kind, empathetic son believes in a man who has flying reindeer and brings smiles to children. And of course my smart, logical, realistic son can’t get behind a belief that spreads hate and has caused war and killing and disease. A belief people blindly stand behind. A belief that neglects some children based on how they came into this world, where they live, or how they practice their own faith. Of course.
So yeah, we aren’t headed to church today. But we are headed down to the lake for some fun, food, and fellowship. Is there anything else you can ask of a Sunday?
Today is Mother’s Day, and while I am a firm believer that Mothers should be appreciated way more than one day a year, it is hard for people to do. I mean Mothers sometimes get a bad rap, you know? We are the ones doling out kisses, and fixing up boo-boos, sure. But we are also the ones trying to cook dinner, yet again, keep the house clean, make sure your homework gets done, and squash your dreams of more video game time with friends, so eh, it is what it is.
But today I want to remind everyone that Mothers come in all different forms. There are many ladies I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to. Many ladies in my life who have stepped up in one way or another to be like a mother to me, when my mother couldn’t, or later in life when I wouldn’t let her.
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, of course, to my sisters, and to my husband’s Mother. But also to the Mothers who have taught me about life, about the sisterhood of women, about friendship, about parenting, about how to love yourself. All of these women deserve a thank you, and while some of them are not actual mothers, they have taken on that role for me and for others, and they deserve our gratitude today.
I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the Doggo and Kitty Mothers, who fiercely love their babies, and do everything they can to protect them.
Happy Mother’s Day to the Mothers who are trying or have tried desperately to become a Mother. Your day is coming. It is hard, please keep trying.
Happy Mother’s Day to my friends who have lost their babies. Man this is a tough day to be reminded of your children, but I know you think of them everyday. You deserve to be celebrated. I see you. I support you. I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day to the Grandmothers, Aunts, Sisters, Cousins, Momma’s Best Friends, and Godmothers. It takes a village, and if you have been chosen to be part of it, you are truly needed and blessed.
Happy Mother’s Day to the new Mommies. The ones whose gift today is a day alone, or a morning to sleep in, or a quiet bath. Take that time for yourself. Cherish it.
Happy Mother’s Day to the single Mothers or the Mothers whose partner just isn’t a true partner. I can’t imagine what you deal with everyday, but know that it is okay to take a break. To send the kids to the grandparents, or the friend’s who are willing to babysit. Do it. Let someone help you today. You deserve it.
Happy Mother’s Day to the teachers who act as Mothers, quite literally, for some of your kiddos. Thank you. Thank you for recognizing when your student needs a hug, or a word of encouragement, because they might not be getting it at home. I know you miss them right now, they miss you too.
Happy Mother’s Day to the nurses, doctors, paramedics. To the grocery workers, social workers, police offers. Happy Mother’s Day to the delivery drivers, Post Office Workers, servers and bartenders. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers out there risking their lives and their children’s well-being to help our country during this hard time. We appreciate you.
Happy Mothers Day to all the people out there who have loved a child, taken the time to be part of their life, taught them, laughed with them, shielded them from harm. You are doing the real work in this world, and I appreciate you.
Motherhood is truly the best hood I’ve been apart of, even the painful parts have been worth it. Thank you all for your help along the way.
Listen, I recognize what I’m about to talk about is small potatoes compared to what people are dealing with right now. And I want to take a moment and say I wish I could help you all in some way. And I am VERY grateful that my husband has a steady job, with a great company, and he gets to work full-time from home and still get his full salary. The one that supports all of us, and allows me to sit here and write blog posts about what I’m about to write a blog post about. Like, you are all doing the real work here, not me, and neither is my damn dishwasher.
I am team dishwasher. I refuse (unless I absolutely have to) to do dishes by hand. It’s asinine. And ridiculous. And why would you want to waste your time, not get your dishes the most clean, possibly make your whole family sick, and did I mention waste your time, doing dishes by hand? It makes no sense. And I know, I know that there are people that disagree with me, that’s why I literally Googled: “Is wishing dishes by hand better than using a dishwasher.” Because I thought, maybe they are right?! No. I’m right. Dishwashers are better for the environment, better for your dishes, better for your back, and an all around better option for washing dishes. And here are the articles you can read if you don’t want to Google it (names of articles have been changed for comedic purposes).
I have been thinking a lot on this for the last two weeks because our dishwasher is BROKEN! That’s right. Shot. Motherboard fried. The dishwasher guy came out two weeks ago, said it was the motherboard, ordered a new one (it took a week), then when he came back to replace it, realized another wire had been fried, and then had to order that wire (still waiting on wire to come in). So there’s that. We gave the guy some grace though because, well, how could you not? Jerimiah was all, “Shit, I’d have done the same thing.” You open it up, see the broken motherboard and assume that’s the only problem. I get it, I get it. But I’m still pissed that I have dishpan hands.
To be fair Jerimiah has been doing most of the washing, and I have been doing all the complaining (and some of the drying). Jackson, well he was absolved of dishwashing duties the first time I saw him ask the dog to lick one of the plates clean for him. Jerimiah and I have even resorted to, “Hey, wanna have a little date night and wash dishes together?” Because it LITERALLY TAKES THAT LONG TO WASH DISHES BY HAND. Why do people waste their time on this? Seriously? Do you just hate your family that much, that you would rather spend all day at the sink? After dinner I want to sit and enjoy my family, not stand at the sink and watch them enjoy each other. I kid, I know you guys love your family. But also we’d rather you sit with us than stand at the sink and wash dishes, and to be fair NO ONE wants to stand at the sink and help you. But guilt prevails. (Looking at our mothers, sisters, and various family members here…)
I think it boils down to a generational thing. Most of the people I know who still do dishes by hand are a little suspect of “modern dishwashers,” and probably for good reason. I have seen pictures of those first dishwashers. They make me want to vomit just looking at them. But times have changed. Dishwashers really are badass now! And inexpensive. Not our dishwasher. Our dishwasher cost $1200. We have a $1200 dishwasher in our house. If I can’t trust a $1200 to do my dishes properly, to wash, rinse, sanitize, and dry, then what can I trust? But you don’t even need to spend a third of that on a good, solid, energy-efficient dishwasher to get your dishes better, more sanitized, and sparkling clean than you could ever do yourself. Here look:
These are all well within your stimulus check refunds, y’all! I know, I know, I won’t convince some of you. The “Machines are taking over!” My mother uses her dishwasher, to this day, as a drying rack. You know what I’ve been using as a drying rack? A towel on the counter. That’s not okay. It’s gross. But I refuse to spend any money on “washing dishes.” My dishwasher will come back to me soon. It will.
In the meantime, if you are still OBSESSED with washing dishes by hand (even though we have covered that it is very wrong, and should only be done when you absolutely need to) at least do this:
Use the hottest water you can stand (at least 110 degrees) and you have to keep it hot, when it starts to cool you have to add more water. See how impossible that is? You eventually run out of hot water… Consumer Reports recommends you use a small pot to do your dishes in, so you can keep the water hot, and the dishes from the gross bacteria that is ALWAYS in your sink.
For real, the kitchen is the grossest place in the house. Science says so. Not the bathroom, the kitchen.
NEVER leave the water just sitting there. Always use fresh, hot water whenever you do them. Water that has been sitting for about half an hour is too cold. Let alone water that sits all afternoon.
No sponges or old washcloths to wash dishes. You should have plastic or silicone brushes! Don’t use a sponge unless you know how to clean a sponge properly. Alert: You DO NOT know how to clean a sponge properly. Here, read this article from Time.
Wash the things that touch your mouth, and those that are the least soiled FIRST! That means (my husband will be upset to hear this) wash the silverware first, not last! Washing silverware last is how we get stomach “problems” among other things.
These are just a few tips. There are literally hundreds out there now. Basically the way we learned to wash dishes when we were kids is SUPER wrong and I think this falls under the “more you know” category. Or is it the “Know better, do better.” Yeah, one of those. A good place to start is the FDA requirements of commercial dishwashers and people who wash dishes in restaurants. I would hope you want your own dishes just as clean.
So there it is. Don’t be mad at me if you are “wash your own dishes” kinda person. We can still be friends. But listen, just know, that I probably won’t be helping you. I’ve already had my share of dishpan hands for the next few years…
“I’ll tell you what…” What, Missy? That’s what my Mom says, she says, “I’ll tell you what…” usually followed by something Dr. Phil said on t.v. or how mad she is at Trump. (My Mom’s a secret Democrat, shh, don’t tell anyone. She voted for Hillary.) My Mom also says things like, “Shit! Ope! I didn’t mean to say that.” Cause she’s a Baptist. But when I was a kid she used to say things like, “Well fuck me runnin’,” and “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” I don’t know about that last one. What are you even talking about today, Missy? I don’t know. Listen, I don’t know you guys. I just got off the phone with my mom and she said “I’ll tell you what, Dr. Phil said mothers should be paid $100,000 a year salary, and if that ain’t the truth.” That’s another of Mom’s lines, “If that ain’t the truth…well then I don’t know what is.”
I think what you are seeing now is a small glimpse inside my brain and how it is functioning nowadays. It’s off kilter. To say the least. I think probably everyone’s is. My husband’s is. My son’s is. My Mom’s is. It’s mainly stress-induced, yeah? And we are all battling it. If you aren’t battling it right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. This is a trying time. A chaotic, miserable, traumatic time, and if you are getting up everyday, opening up the blinds, reaching out by telephone or text to someone, saying hello to a neighbor when you check the mail, actually walking to the end of the driveway or the end of the porch to check the mail, well then, you’re doing it! Look at you! You’re making it work. Because this sucks, y’all. There’s no way around it. And if that ain’t the truth…
Yesterday Jackson painted small birdhouses that I had bought eons ago and stashed away for a rainy-day art project. He painted them and rode his scooter around the neighborhood sticking them on front porches to brighten up our neighbors’ days. We hope it worked to put a smile on their faces, but what it really did was brighten up our day. Then I shared pictures of him doing it on Instagram to hopefully brighten up friends’ days. I hope that worked too. I’ll share them now with you guys too.
We also started painting rocks to hide for kids to find on our walks, because we have been walking everyday and everyday we see families out and about with small ones, burning off energy. Today we started another family art project. Because art seems to bring us back to center. I think it does a lot of people, if you let it.
Our governor finally did the right thing this week, and he announced a shelter-in-place order, and he announced that we won’t be going back to school this year. And I know, man I know, it’s tough for kids, espeically my kid. My kid, who’s been to three elementary schools and who really wanted to finish strong at this one, with the best teacher, and the coolest, smartest, kindest classmates anyone could ask for. But we are making it work, and we know it’s sad that they won’t have a fifth-grade graduation or a fifth-grade day ‘o’ fun, but it’s okay. It’s one more way we are learning about selfless acts, and helping the greater good. Fifth grade is turning out to be a massive learning experience.
So that’s the bright side, yeah? The one I’m looking at anyway. The learning, the loving, the community that is going on around us. I’ll tell you what, we are watching our world change, in real time, and it’s scary, and sad, and traumatizing on the bad days. But on the good days, it’s an exercise in patience, in kindness, and in love. Geez, if that ain’t the truth.
I was sad to see that the NCAA basketball tournament was cancelled, among other sporting events, and I’m sure people are bummed by this. I’m bummed by this, but I can’t imagine how the students feel. The players, and coaches, the fans. But mainly the kids. March Madness is the most fun because I love college ball. I’ve talked about my love sports of before. How I played softball for like a decade. How I was on basketball teams in elementary, middle, and high school. Volleyball? Check. Track and field? I was a Varsity thrower. Duh. I even gave tennis and soccer a go once or twice, never cared much for either, but I was an eager participant on most occasions. But if I’m being very honest with myself, softball is still my absolute favorite sport to play, and basketball is my absolute favorite sport to watch, because well, I’m just too slow to be any good anymore. Though I haven’t lost my jump shot. Seriously, play me fool!
And although I especially like college ball, I have been known to hang at an NBA game more than once, especially when we lived in Charlotte. We were big fans of watching the Hornets play, and while we are still Hornets fans, I’ll never forget that time my husband took me to see my all-time favorite team play, The Boston Celtics. Priceless. And of course, I would love to sit court-side at a Lakers game one day. Hey, a girl can dream!
The reason I like college ball better than the NBA is because I don’t like all the slam dunks and showmanship. I really like down and dirty street ball, but there isn’t a “Down and Dirty Street Ball” league* to keep up with, so college it is. I love the way the fans love their team, their school. Some of my best memories as a kid, were the few times I got to go to a KU game at Allen Field House. How and why? I have no idea. I know once I went with my sister and her boyfriend, but I remember going a few times and it was amazing. This was back, way back, when Raef LaFrentz, and Paul Pierce (who went on to play for Boston), and Greg “Big O” Ostertag played. Jesus, why do I still remember those names?
I remember stepping into the front doors of Allen Field House in complete amazement. Here I was, probably fifth grade, totally in love with this school I dearly wanted to be part of (I eventually made it to KU as a student) and I wanted to chant ROCK CHALK! JAYHAWK! KU! on the top of Mt. Oread. And I did. Pure joy.
By middle school I was so in love with basketball, I could tell you all about the KU players, many of the Celtics players, and of course Michael Jordan, the best athlete in the whole world. That’s when I started asking my mom for a basketball hoop. The problem was two-fold. We were poor and we lived in a rental house on the “bad” part of town. If she had invested in a hoop, it would have to be one of those mobile hoops, which were just too expensive and the chances of someone walking off with it we too real. For sure, like they walked away with every bike I had while we lived there.
But one glorious day, I came home to, I shit you not, a piece of plywood painted blue, with a hoop attached to it, nailed into the damn tree in our side yard. Umm, not kidding. I have no idea where/how/what/who. My suspicion is my brother-in-law, or my mom’s friend Ruthie. But there it was, nailed to the damn dead tree in a pit of what amounted to mud, and a little Bir of run down grass, next to what I am pretty sure was a crackhouse. Yep. I played the shit out of that hoop. For years, y’all.
Listen, I don’t know how single moms do stuff, but they do it. Always. And this picture above is just a reminder that I was once the most important person in someone’s life. My mom wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But I’m beginning to see that she was doing the best she could with what she had. With what she knew. With what she was capable of. And I’m always reminded that it takes a village, y’all. And actual fucking village.
Anyway, we moved a few years later, though that was one of the houses we lived in the longest. Even though the neighborhood wasn’t ideal, the house was nice, clean, fairly new, and it was in walking distance to my middle school, and close to my mom’s work. It was just an old shotgun house, on the north side of town, with a wooden basketball hoop nailed to a tree. But it meant the world to me.
*I was flipping through Netflix the other day and found a show that follows prison basketball. I gasped. Jerimiah yelled, “Shit! No!” and I added it to my “Watch List.”
I’ve seen all the memes floating around about how toilet paper is flying off shelves, and what that has to do with the Covid-19 pandemic. I know people are making light of other’s actions, but I think we can all agree that it boils down to two things: A strong-held belief (mainly from Christianity) that the “End of times” is near, and a sense of loss of control when faced with such a chaotic, confusing, and scary time such as we find ourselves in now. The problem is, when the “End of timers” run and grab all the toilet paper and bottled water, it causes mass hysteria with those seemingly “normal” populations of people, who feel compelled, for no other reason than they see others doing it, to then go and do it. It helps them. It allows them to rest easy at night knowing that they won’t have to dig a shit hole in their backyard if in fact this is the rapture. Do I have your attention now? With the whole “shit hole” thing?
If you follow along closely you will know by now that today my nephew Josh is marrying his fiancé Sarah. They are a lovely young couple, with bright, talented futures ahead of them. They have already accomplished, in their mid twenties, things that others can only dream of. We were set to fly to Kansas City and be part of the ceremony this weekend, but we decided last minute (eight hours before our Uber came to get us) that we would not make the trip to Kansas City and back at this time. And it was for one reason only, Covid-19.
We spent all of the hours up to that final decision talking to friends and family. Jerimiah and I spent a lot of time looking blankly at each other. I knew that if we didn’t go we would be viewed by some family members as “crazy” or “dumb” or “Libtards” (yes, we have family members who use that word). So we had to decide, were we willing to risk carrying a deadly virus with us (Georgia is a state with high-incidence levels) to a place with not many cases, or would we rather suck it up and go, and not look dumb. We had to decide how we would feel if one of our loved ones became ill. We were set to see many loved ones who are over the age of 65, with various health problems. We had to decided how we would feel if we unknowingly transferred something to them. How we would feel if they contracted the virus from anywhere. If we had visited, whether or not they got it from us, we would always think we gave it to them. We would always blame ourselves. Whether or not they contracted anything from us, we’d always think it was us.
There were other factors. My mother is 75-years-old and lives in a retirement community. One that we would spend substantial time in.
Our son has asthma, and although Covid-19 seems to be staying clear of children, it’s not something you want to risk with asthma.
We didn’t want to unknowingly pass anything to a loved one. We have been in Atlanta in the last two weeks. We took public transit. We know of self-quarantined cases in the actual town we live in. We understand that community spread is real.
Then we heard other about family members who have been to places with high incidence in the last two weeks, and they are not taking this seriously. Family members our son would come in contact with.
Then my best friends’ husband got an email from the University he works at in Kansas. It listed states to stay clear of, Georgia was one of them.
Then our governor suggested the State of Georgia close schools. Jerimiah and I looked at each other. Then came the letter from the superintendent, moments later. They did close the schools. All Dekalb County, until further notice.
There we were, looking dumbly at each other, both with a million things on our minds, when Jerimiah finally said, “Do you think it will be easy to cancel everything?” I said, “Let’s find out.”
It was. Delta refunded everything. Marriott refunded everything. National Car Rental refunded everything. Rover, the app we use to book our dog sitter, refunded everything. No questions asked. No fees of any kind. That’s when we knew we had made the right decision. No one should be traveling right now, if they don’t need to be. And the travel industry knows that.
Were we bummed? You betcha. But we’ve realized over the last 24 hours that this isn’t about us, and too many people are acting like it is. Too many people are being selfish right now. That’s why the tp is flying off the shelves. That’s why there are still people booking flights and traveling to beaches. That’s why there are people walking around carrying a virus, unbeknownst to them, and passing it to their community, rather than being inconvenienced for a few days.
Now listen, I get it. Some people have to work. Some people have no other option. If they don’t work, they don’t get a paycheck. I am not talking about those people. I am also not discussing how horrible it is to cancel school when there are children who feel safest at school. When there are children that are only fed, at school. Those are other topics. Today, I’m just sharing our decision. What and who played a role in it. And I’m imploring you, please stay home if you are sick. Please don’t buy all the tp you can buy. Please leave a few bottles of hand sanitizer on the shelf. Please, for the love of all the shit holes, try to be a kind, civilized person who cares for others just as much as you care for yourself.
Every time I move and go a new eye doctor for the first time, I have a litany of shit to tell them. My mother’s macular degeneration comes up. Then there’s my light sensitivity on account of my incredibly light, blue eyes. Then at some point I have to tell them that I am not from the Ohio or Mississippi River Valley. They look at my tests, back at me, and ask if I’m sure I’m not from anywhere near the Ohio or Mississippi River Valley. I say yes, I’m sure. I’m from Kansas. But not chicken-farmer Kansas. I’ve never lived on a damn farm. Then they look confused and I say, “Listen, we had pet birds.”
I have an eye condition called Ocular Histoplasmosis. It’s from a fungus commonly found in the dust and soil of the Ohio and Mississippi River regions. You can contract the disease by inhaling dust with the fungal spores, usually carried and spread by chickens and other types of birds. If it is inhaled early in life, it can cause a usually symptom-free and self-limited infection throughout the body. But it may affect the eye by causing small areas of inflammation and scarring of the retina, which it has done to me.
There isn’t really a problem, not now anyway. But it’s something that the eye doctor has to continually check, to make sure it isn’t getting worse. Mine is not. Thankfully. And they are usually adament that pet birds won’t give it to you, but I have zero other explanations for it, except well, pet birds.
My mom likes pets that are self-contained. She’d probably be great with a pet turtle, if it weren’t for their sliminess. She likes caged animals. With minimal smell and hassle. Enter birds. Le sigh. Here is my mom with her first pair of birds from the early 1980s, just before I was born. These are the birds of my childhood, Fred and Barney, who in fact turned out to be Fred and Wilma, but we never changed their names.
Listen, I hated Fred and Barney. When I was really young they’d peck at my fingers when I tried to put their food bowl back, or fill their water. They LOVED my mom, hated me. Though they hated other people more than me, so I guess I was tolerable to them. They really didn’t like my sister, or any person who came into the house being loud. They didn’t like loud. I didn’t either, so it was good when my mom would yell at visitors, “Shhh, be quiet or the birds will start!” Cause trust, you didn’t want the birds to “start.”
Fred and Barney died one day. It was a sad-ass day. I remember being sad because of how sad my mom was, but I felt no real attachment to these birds, so I was like good riddance. Meanwhile, my mother grieved, as one does for a beloved pet. I gave her a hug, shrugged my shoulders, and went out to play. I thought that shit was finally over. I was wrong.
A few weeks later a friend said to my mom that she knew these two birds, they didn’t have names, just called Blue and Green, and did my mother want them. They were free. And came with their own, very nice cage. Did my mother want them? BRING THEM HERE NOW! she screeched. I think. I think she screeched that. It was like some backroom bird deal. She ran them over under the cover of darkness. I was half-asleep and very confused. I saw my mom’s face light up and I was like, “Shiiiiiiiit.”
The only thing I remember about these two, besides their constant squawking, fighting, and mildly displeasing nature, is that they could not be trusted when you opened their cage. They were escape artists, and more than once I found myself screaming down the hallway, running into my room and slamming the door, while my mom ran around with a towel screaming for me to help her “Catch the damn birds.” Jesus. “No,” I’d scream from under my blankets, “They’re your birds! Not mine!”
My mother was convinced her birds were always much smarter than we thought. She said she taught them tricks. Though to be fair, Fred and Barney knew how to “kiss.” My mom used to say to me every morning when I’d wake up since I was a toddler, “Kiss, kiss, Missy” in which I’d sleepy walk to her and give her a morning hug and kiss. She noticed one morning when she said it, the birds pecked each other. I thought she was nuts, but when she turned her attention to this, and really tried to work with them on it, they eventually got it. Yep, they knew “Kiss, kiss,” but they didn’t know “Shut up, you damn birds!” which would have been more helpful, if you ask me.
The birds were always a source of amusement for my friends who would come over. No one else had birds. My friends all had two-parent households, with two cars, and homes that they owned, and usually dogs and cats. You know, normal fucking pets. My friends were in awe of these birds. They’d sit and watch them, whistle at them, watch me feed them, that sort of shit. I despised it. All of it.
Then one day the second set of parakeets died. My mom cried, as she had the first time. And this time, so did I. I can’t be sure why, but I suspect somewhere around middle school I started to be comforted by these little assholes. When my mom was out at night, and I’d be nervously waiting for her to make it home safe, I’d sit in the living room with them and talk to them. They were good listeners. In fact, as long as you were paying them attention, you could talk to them all day. They’d just sit on their stoop and listen. Cock their head back and forth, occasionally interject a “SQWAAAA!” here or a peck on their bell there. Maybe they weren’t so bad.
I left Leavenworth not too long after the birds did. The next time I came home to visit my mom, she had a new bird. A friend had called. In the dead of the night. Saying that she knew someone, who knew someone, and did my mother want a Dove? Did my mother want a Dove?! You bet your ass she did! It was free, and it came with it’s own cage and everything. Her name was Baby, and she was the worst of the actual lot. But my son loved to visit with her, listen to her sing. pet her, yeah this bitch let you hold and pet her. She hated me though. Pecked at me every time I came near the cage. Eh, such is life.
Baby died last year. It was perhaps the roughest loss on my mother. No friend has called yet. Her house now sits silent. Lonesome. Maybe one day. Until then, RIP to the birds who have come before. They live a long time, in case you didn’t know, even “used” birds live longer than you’d expect. And they carry diseases. But that’s neither here nor there.
About six months ago I started checking out MFA programs. I know, I know, Missy you’ve already been to grad school, what the hell woman? Here’s the thing. I have always secretly wanted to earn my MFA in Creative Writing. Even years ago when I went into grad school at UNC Charlotte for a totally different concentration, I assumed I’d leave there and one day attempt to get into an MFA program. I wanted to do a full-residency program and sort of always assumed I would, one day. Then life changed, as it sometimes does. I earned my MA in Creative Writing and thought for a few months that was enough, but I was lying to myself.
So when we moved to Georgia I started scouting local programs, but didn’t find any that fit my life. Georgia State University has a solid, high-res program, and it’s right down the street. But, they didn’t offer Creative Non-fiction which is sorta my jam. Georgia College also offers a great program and it’s Flannery O’Conner’s old stomping grounds. But it is a full-res program and it’s a little over two hours away. Which means I would not get the experience I wanted. That’s when I started looking at low-res programs, and I stumbled on some really good ones. “Good” for me, anyway. But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about how the rules have changed at colleges and universities since I was last in school and now they require all students to show proof of immunizations, and the school I am applying to quite specifically wants my proof of MMR vaccinations. This would appear to be no big deal. That’s how it appeared to me, anyway. Even when the director of the program was all, “This might be hard to track down, there are options if you can’t find your records.” I was all, “Thanks for the advice, but I should be fine.” Y’all. I was not fine.
First I called my mom who swore to me two things: 1. I had all my vaccines. She remembers because I cried each time and it broke her heart. And she had to show that little piece of paper to each school I went to in the 80s and 90s. 2. She gave that little piece of paper to me over a decade ago upon my request. Sweet.
Over the next two days I ravaged my house looking for a piece of paper that I have no recollection of, and no idea where it would be. I found my baby book. I found multiple photo albums that had survived since 1981. I even found a rattle of mine, and what I think might be a lock of my hair, or the leftovers of some sort of rodent. But I did not find a small piece of paper that said I was fully vaccinated. So I called Mom back and asked her again. This is when she went into a tirade about how the school just needs to call her and she will verify. I explained that it doesn’t work like that, and I started to get a little suspicious.
That’s when I called Missouri State and UNC Charlotte to make sure they didn’t have anything on file for me. If I had the paper at some point, maybe it was because one of my previous schools needed it? They were both like, “Nah, dawg.” MSU didn’t require them when I went and UNC Charlotte didn’t require them for grad students taking evening classes the year I enrolled. They suggested I call my high school. That’s when shit got interesting.
I called Leavenworth High School and talked to the nurse. He was a friendly dude, who told me he would have no problem pulling up my records. He put me on a brief hold and came back on to tell me this: “I’m having problems pulling up your records.” . . .
It wasn’t my academic records that were the problem. In fact, he could tell me all about my time at LHS. He knew for instance that “Math is not your best subject,” but he couldn’t find proof of my immunization. But he was friendly and helpful, as I stated, so he told me that he would just look in the Kansas Database and I should pop right up. So I waited while he logged in. We chatted about Leavenworth, about where I was, and what I was doing. Good guy, really. Then he said, “Well that’s weird…”
The weird thing is that I am not in the Kansas Database. Not as Melissa Goodnight, not with my maiden name, not anywhere. There is no “Melissa” who graduated from LHS, who was born on my birthdate in the system. I simply don’t exist. I asked him how that could be. He told me that it’s possible that my doctor never submitted the paperwork when I was younger. He said it was all done on microfilm back then and sometimes the doctor’s office didn’t want to mess with it, so they were just like, “Ehh, it’ll work itself out.” Cool. Cool. Cool.
I called Mom. Mom screeched, “Did you tell him to call me?!” This was not registering. She did tell me that my doctor, who had done all my shots as a child, was now an 84-years-old retiree living in relative isolation. BUT she knew someone who knew someone who could get me his phone number and I could call him. Le sigh. She then suggested I call the hospital I was born at. Then she said, “Ope, you know what? They closed that place down a few months back. It was pretty bad.”
That’s when I started doing research into all the things that could be done. And I came across a blood test that they give all pregnant women. They test all pregnant women for Rubella antibodies. I felt a twinge of excitement and I contacted the hospital that I gave birth in and requested me records of vaccination and blood work. They obliged, and two days later I had a test that verified I tested positive for Rubella antibodies, but that was it. If I had given that small piece of paper to that hospital it never made it into my records. But this did mean that ten years ago I had enough antibodies in my system to fight Rubella, which had to mean I had my MMR when I was a kid. Then I contacted my insurance for any and all medical records they had and they said it would “take some time,” so I threw my head back, ate all the words I had said to the director of the program, and emailed him in despair.
He was quite comical in his response and we had it worked out pretty quickly that all I needed to do was either have an MMR titer done to show that I had antibodies to all three diseases, or get another vaccination. No big deal. Until the day I tried to do it.
Are you guys even still with me here? I mean I know. This is redunk. At this point I have no idea if I will even be admitted into the program, and I’m driving myself nuts trying to figure out what the hell an MMR titer is, whether my insurance will pay for it, who to see, etc. My insurance told me to just go to a lab place (they suggested one) show up, tell them what I need, and whamo. I’d be good to go. My insurance would pay 80% of whatever and that’s that.
So I showed up to the lab place (after the first two I Googled had been shut down) and told them I needed an MMR titer and they were all cool beans. We just need the order from your doctor. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
So a couple days ago I went to my doctor and told her all this. My lovely doctor was all, “Dude, you should have just called me.” Then she explained that because of the recent measles outbreaks she has been doing a lot of these MMR titers and people my age and older are coming back positive, yes, but with low numbers. So she suggested I get a dose of the vaccine regardless, then if we want to do a titer okay, but it wouldn’t hurt to be extra sure. So here I am, at my Target CVS about to get my MMR vaccine, which is probably my third or fourth dose of it but who fucking knows.
Turns out my insurance pays 100% for all vaccines, and my FAVORITE Pharmacist Rahul (whom I promised I would only ever write good things about) shot me up after telling me how this shot hurts, but not nearly as much as the Cholera one and I should be lucky I don’t live in India and have to get the Cholera one and can I please do him a solid and not look at the side effects because I’ll probably just think I’m dying. Geez. Rahul just gets me, you guys.
And here I am today. The day after. Tired as shit and with a fever. Which Rahul said would probably happen since it’s a live vaccine and my body is trying to attack it. Cool. Cool. Cool.
So there you have it. I was inoculated. Again. And when I shared this on FB today, my mom was the first one to comment…
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.