Ding Dong Chicken

Whenever I miss our old home in Charlotte, North Carolina I start to crave Ding Dong Chicken. For those of you who have never experienced the awesomeness that is Ding Dong Chicken, follow me down this rabbit hole, you won’t be sorry. I first discovered Ding Dong Chicken at a local place in Uptown Charlotte called Pinky’s Westside Grill. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Charlotte, but we have a rocky history together.

The first time Jerimiah and I met for lunch at Pinky’s we ran across it while we were exploring Uptown not long after we moved to the Charlotte area. At the time we lived one county over, in a small town called Denver, NC that lacks any real places to eat good food. There were the local favorites like the Mexican place by Aldi’s or the Sports Page, but if you wanted one-of-a-kind, cool, new food you had to go to Charlotte.

Jerimiah had just started his new job and was making the 40 minute drive into Uptown everyday. On Fridays I would sometimes meet him for lunch, once school started and Jackson was securely in his fun, safe kindergarten class all day. These occasional lunch meetings were good for both of us. At the time I was considering applying to grad school in Charlotte, he was just learning the area, and we had started to think about moving into the city. We originally stumbled upon Pinky’s because of the VW Beetle that sits on the roof of the place. We liked the outward appearance of the place and we just knew the food would be tasty.

But we didn’t go that day, we went somewhere else. It wasn’t until some of the people at Jerimiah’s office were telling him he had to try Pinky’s that we actually went in one day. On this particular day it was spring, and just starting to get warm outside. The restaurant was full, which is normal at lunchtime, so we opted for the outside patio so we could get seated immediately. We don’t normally sit on patios, so I was feeling a little off already. Then there was the fact that it was our first time there, there were so many options on the menu, and I’m not great with options, and the fact that I could see inside and it looked cool and fun, and we felt banished to the patio. I dunno, I guess I am saying I let all these things get to me when I ordered, so I did what a naive person does, I sorta freaked out and ordered something I wouldn’t normally order: A tuna melt. Even Jerimiah looked at me and said, “Tuna?” Like, I don’t even really eat tuna, ever. I shook my head frantically and handed the menu back to the server. A few minutes later my tuna salad sandwich came out, along with Jerimiah’s awesome-looking turkey burger and I quickly resented my decision. I was mad at myself and at Pinky’s. But I didn’t give up.

Below is a sample of their menu, maybe you can see my frustration.

So the next time we went to Pinky’s we waited for a table inside. We soaked in the fun, cool atmosphere. We asked the server what to get. And she said, “Anything, as long as it is Ding Dong Style.” Well I had no idea what that meant but I said, “I’ll have the Ding Dong Chicken!” And my life was transformed.

Listen, I know this sounds nuts. Like Missy, a damn chicken sandwich can’t change your life, but if you’ve been following this Popeyes v. Chick-fil-a thing, you know it can. PS… Had the Popeyes sandwich, and yeah, it’s awesome. Way better than those Chick-fil-a sandwiches dripping in closeted homophobia and kindness. But still, neither are better than the Ding Dong Chicken at Pinky’s. Allow me to introduce you:

What is that, Missy?! It is a marinated and grilled chicken breast, free from antibiotics and all the gross stuff. It is smack dab between a yummy sesame seed bun (though your bread options are immense, even gluten-free if you are one of those nutcases). Then it is topped with crunchy peanut butter, sriracha, and coleslaw. It is important to know that everything is topped in coleslaw in North Carolina. I’m not a fan of coleslaw, but this one is a cilantro-honey slaw, and it’s amazeballs.

So what do I do now, that I live so very far away from my Ding Dong Chicken? I make it at home, duh! Here’s how I do it, if you want to try it yourself.

10 Easy Steps to Homemade Ding Dong Chicken

  1. First you go to your favorite place to get chicken breasts. Mine is wherever they are on sale that week, usually Kroger. Then you buy your meat. Then you marinate your meat in either a Thai marinate, or in Teriyaki. Both seem to give the flavor you are looking for.
  2. Then one evening, while you are trying to do a bunch of things, remember that you have that chicken you are marinating and you have to cook it that night or it will go bad. So run outside and fire up the grill.
  3. Keep the dog away from you by shouting, “Get back, asshole” whenever he approaches. Throw a ball if need be.
  4. Once you think the grill is hot enough (because your thermostat thing has been broken for like seven years) throw the marinated chicken on the grill.
  5. Close the grill, throw the ball, and continue to spray paint that bookshelf you bought at the Goodwill. Remember to only spray paint in the grass because you can just mow it. Don’t do it on your deck, lest you accidentally get your thrift store patio furniture covered in white chalk paint. You realize you paid more for the paint than you did the actual shelf, right? Nevermind, what’s the dog licking on the ground by the grill?
  6. Check on the chicken. Ohhh, it smells good. Okay, flip it.
  7. Go back to spray painting. Should you be using a mask? Are you getting a little high off this spray paint? How do people get high off it? Is that called huffing? Is that how people get high really quickly? What was the K2 stuff someone was talking to you about the other day? Hey did you get crunchy peanut butter at Kroger?
  8. Yell for your kid or partner or cat to bring you a platter so you can put the chicken on it to take it inside. Abandon the bookshelf, you will finish it before the next hurricane comes through.
  9. Plate the chicken. Here is where you can really let your personality shine. Do you want to use your nice Fiestaware? Or do you prefer that plate you got to help you with portion control? No, that one will just depress you. Just use the platter.
  10. Spoon out some crunchy peanut butter that you found in the back of the pantry (scrape off the marshmallow fluff that is stuck to the top of it, or don’t your call, might be good). Then grab the sriracha from the fridge and squirt it over the top. About this time other people will start to walk into the kitchen because the smell is so good. Your partner may say something like, “What did you make?” Take the platter, grab a knife, yell something about how you are the only one who has any damn sense in this house, and run into the laundry room to eat your Ding Dong Chicken in peace and quiet.

Oh yeah, add coleslaw if you live in North Carolina.

You’re welcome.

M.

Pulling Weeds

There’s something so satisfying about pulling weeds from the garden, or the flower bed, or from in between the cracks of cement, the places weeds like, but are always unwanted. I reach my hand down, deep down into the dirt and I grab a handful of the green, prickly leaves and I spin them all up in my hand together. Then with a twist and a flick of the wrist the roots spring up. If they are a particularly difficult weed, they may take a tug or two, but when they finally break, and if you listen close enough, you can hear a little popping sound when the root releases. I love that sound. I love the feeling of accomplishment, the way you are left with a clear, new space to see what you actually want to see, need to see. It’s the beginning of a clearing up of sorts. It’s the same way I feel after coming out of the fog of depression.

It’s never the same, this popping, clearing, new beginning. It’s always dependent on what I’ve been sad about, what time of the year it is, how my medicine has held up, how my therapist has held up, how my support system has held me up. It’s never the same, but it’s always sort of the same.

This time, for instance, I have wanted to spend all my time working on art projects, cleaning up old, rusty treasure I find at thrift stores. This time I have taken myself into the art of turning trash into treasure and it has helped immensely. Last time, though, it was just binge-watching Netflix shows about women in prison. It’s a system, trust me. This time I have been coming in, and going back out again. In and out, in and out. The fog lifts for a few days, then pulls me back in. It’s been the world that has done it to me this time. And the time of the year.

But today I was picking weeds. Pulling them up by their leaves, listening for the pop, waiting for the clearing. Today I felt the sun on my shoulders and the warm winds of late summer on my back. Today I felt rested and happy, so things were different. But tomorrow, who knows. Or the day after that. Or the day after that…

I’ve started looking out at to the garden more, thinking about my life. My roots, my dirt, my blooming flowers, and my even larger blooming weeds. I can’t help but take stock on some days. How grateful I am for what I have! How grateful and full I feel sometimes. But only sometimes.

I know there is a chemical off in my brain. I know there are reasons that I think how I do, and act how I do. I know there is something that triggers for me, the good days, the bad days, the big, wonderful days, and I am working on getting them all right. All aligned for the better. But even on those days, when I’m picking weeds just to hear the pop, I know there will be a day coming down the line where I will want to plant more flowers, move about in the world with others, and love myself a little more. Here’s to more of those days, friends.

As always, take care of others, but also take care of yourself.

M.

Monadnock in the Sky

We finally made it to the most visited place in Georgia, and no, it’s not Ludacris’ house. Well, I guess it could be Luda’s house, but according to the official Georgia Tourism Center it’s Stone Mountain. So… they are probably wrong, but we went to Stone Mountain. Like any tourist-y type of thing I knew something about Stone Mountain before I went. I knew some things from what you hear by those who have visited, and I know some things from the locals, and well like any good attraction, those two things don’t mesh up very well.

I knew before we moved to Georgia, for instance, that Stone Mountain was a giant mountain made of stone. I had also heard most of the property surrounding the mountains itself (which is owned by the State of Georgia) is owned or operated by the same family who owns Silver Dollar City is in Branson, Missouri. That’s where we used to live. We lived there for ten years in fact, another fun, little tourist-y place that just doesn’t add up to the hype you hear about it. But I digress. Somewhere along the line that crazy family from Missouri bought property at Stone Mountain and turned it into a mini-amusement park, because Capitalism? Don’t ask me why the rich do what the rich do.

I’m digressing. We did Stone Mountain yesterday, but not the “fun” overpriced, tchotchke Stone Mountain, nay, we walked the face of the monadnock, all the way up to the summit nearly 1,700 feet above sea level, and we were rewarded with amazing views of Atlanta and the surrounding areas. We didn’t stay for the laser light show. We didn’t look at the the large rock-relif etched into the side (the largest bas-relief in the world), and we didn’t ask what they think happened to the latest of the missing hikers, or the woman who plummeted to her death a couple of years ago. We sorta just, you know, pretended to be tourists. (I even wore my LSU tank top which garnered many a “Geaux Tigers” from fellow hikers. Le sigh.)

The rock-relief on it’s north face, if you’re wondering, is of three Confederate generals: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Maybe Stonewall’s name is what gave them the idea to carve it in 1916 (it wasn’t actually completed until 1972, because we do things slow in Georgia, okaaaaay). But like most things southern, it soon became hallowed ground for the KKK and other racist pieces-of-shit about town. (Ironically, the part of town that Stone Mountain is in is predominantly black. Which makes a lot of the ahem, more white of the tourists, a bit nervous.) I wish I were making this shit up.

So Jerimiah, Jackson, and I hiked the 1.3 miles up the mountain and the 1.3 miles back down yesterday morning. (In my opinion, the walk down was worse. It worked my thighs, which are not strong. Meanwhile, Jerimiah did not like the hike up which was a lot of cardio and worked the calves. To each their own.) This was after a fifteen minute walk to the park because we parked at the visitor center and walked over. Hiking the mountain is free of course, so long as you pay the $20 to park in the parking lot. So a lot of locals either pay $40 for a yearly parking pass, or park somewhere nearby and walk in. We went with the “free” parking yesterday because we weren’t sure what to expect.

We didn’t take Duke because we checked ahead and it said that dogs can’t climb the mountain. But that didn’t stop people from taking their dogs (because people are horrible) and one pot-bellied pig, of which we passed on the way up and Jackson legit stopped in his tracks and said, “What the…?” while pointing to the pig, whose tiny legs were working hard behind his mom and dad. He was also not on a leash, though he had on a little fashion collar, it was, well, exactly what you would expect to see on a giant rock mountain, on Labor Day Weekend, in the middle of Georgia. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen a pot-bellied pig hiking the mountain, or at least three drunk grandpas, I would have worried.

Anyhoo, the walk up was more rough than we anticipated. In fact, we had to make several stops. Jerimiah thought he might throw-up, and Jackson said on multiple occasions that we were probably all gonna die. The worst part was the “handrail” action, about 3/4 the way up. It gets very steep for a small section and they have mounted a handrail into the mountain to help you along. For awhile I was moving, but like, not really going anywhere, if that makes sense. Yeah. It was rough for us, meanwhile, my son ran up to the top. Other people were like, uh, how do I say this, jogging up the face of the mountain? So, maybe just get yourself into a bit of shape before attempting this. Of course, if you want to get to the summit you can take the gondola, but just know that I will make mad fun of you when you do.

Buuuut, remember when I said we were rewarded at the top?

Awesome views, cool breezes, the feeling of being in the clouds, and the Summit Snackbar, which has bathrooms, free water fountains, and in Jackson’s case, frozen chocolate bananas to get you back to optimal health.

One of the coolest features about the summit are these ponds that form throughout the year. In the winter and spring the rain catches in these holes (not the scientific term, I’m sure) and by the start of summer there are fish in them. You can see Jackson on the stones of one of the bigger ponds in the picture. Jackson asked how the fish got in there and Jerimiah started to explain evolution to him, and that’s when it hit me that it might be hard to visit Stone Mountain if you are one of those “Earth is only 6,000 years old” and “evolution is not real” people. #EekFace But at least you will be rewarded at the bottom with a rock-relief of some of your heroes. I assume.

So the long and the short of it is this: If you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods (we live about ten minutes from Stone Mountain, GA) and you like a fun adventure that involves scaling rocks, possibly breaking one or both of your legs, and feeling like you are in the clouds, then please go and hike Stone Mountain! We will even go with you! But not too late in the day, or too early in the morning, that’s when people die and get robbed. (Shhh, they don’t like to tell tourists that!) And if you want us to stay for the laser light show we will, but please know that I have trained my son to scream, “Wicked d-bag, assholes!” (in a Boston accent) at any depiction of Confederate generals. So, there’s that.

Love you guys, and I really did love my hike up the giant monadnock in the sky, but next time, Luda’s house.

M.

Tender Wings of Desire

I’ve been reading a collection of essays titled “Growing Up Poor.” I’ve been reading this book because one, I grew up poor and figured I could relate to some of the essays. Two, I am currently working on an essay about what it is like to grow up poor, and one should read what one writes. And three, the cover was so enticing that I had to buy it. Yes. I judge books by their covers. Le sigh. We all do. Am I talking about just books here? Yes. But also no. We do judge actual books by their covers because for the most part it’s easy to do. Some authors lay it all out there on the cover. Romance novels are my favorite. Not to read, just to look at the covers. Here, let’s look at a few together, shall we?

Boats, and horses, and hairy chests, oh my! That last one is not real, but man oh man do I wish. Colonel Sanders, a drumstick, and a pretty lady, that’s a love triangle I can get behind. And the other ones, well you know the whole plot before you even open the book: Intimate moments in a horse barn, with a hairy-chested dude who you should not want to have intimate moments with because he is:

A. A servant on your father’s farm

B. Your dead husband’s best friend

C. The stranger you met in the Motel 6 hot tub

I used to read romance novels. I did. When I was a teenager I got way into them, like Tina from Bob’s Burgers and Jimmy Pesto’s butt into them. Hormones. Gross. I read mostly V.C. Andrews. You know who I’m talking about, that Flowers in the Attic shit. Your mom thought it was no big deal because it’s most likely just a suspense novel. I mean it’s about kids locked in an attic, what could be romantic about that. #Incest

I’m a little more mature in my reading choices now, though I still judge books by their covers. A brightly colored cover can grab my attention from across a bookstore faster than the Dollanganger brother and sister can make a baby. I’m drawn to bright covers with geometric colors, just as much as the sad ones with a dark hues and an old dog sitting under a willow tree. I guess it’s not so much what the cover says about the book, as much as it is about what the cover says to me. Here are a couple of my current favorite covers (I have not read all of these books quite yet, but the covers make me want to):

I guess maybe I don’t have a book cover “type,” but I certainly let the covers guide me. I have read three books just this year based solely off their covers, and I enjoyed every one of them. But maybe I was destined to? Anywhere, these are the three:

And countless more pretty-covered books are waiting on my bookshelf to be read. That’s it then. I judge books by their covers, and I am okay with that.

M.

Grasshoppers

I used to be afraid of grasshoppers. When I was a kid I refused to walk through tall grass, not because there could be a snake, rather because there could be a family of tiny, quick grasshoppers lurking. I didn’t like the surprise of the grasshopper. I thought grasshoppers would just lay in wait, stalking their victims, waiting for the perfect time to hop up at your arm, or your face, or your shin, then hop away, leaving you paralyzed with fear and possibly some disease that only grasshopper had. Listen, I was a strange kid. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about patience. If you’re a child of the 70s you probably remember the show “Kung Fu” and the Kung Fu Master telling his student, “When you can snatch the pebble from my hand ‘Grasshopper’ it will be time to go.” Of course the eager student wants to snatch it right away. He isn’t patient, so it takes him some time to get it, three or four seasons if my memory serves. I’m not a child of the 70s, but my older sister is and “be patient young grasshopper,” was said around my mom’s house. Recently it’s been playing on repeat around my house too.

For the last couple of years we have lived in this temporary state of being. Never knowing when things will change, how things will change, why things will change, but always sensing a change is coming. You get used to the feeling, and it isn’t that uncommon for us, both coming from families with military members. We have watched our families and friends live this life for some time. The constant moves, shifting communities, changing schools, new jobs, new friends. Jerimiah even did it as a kid. He went to elementary school, middle school, and high school in three different cities. I, on the other hand, was born and raised in Leavenworth. I didn’t leave until I was 22, and even then Jerimiah and I sort of assumed we’d move to Southern Missouri, well, for good. And now here we are, far away from that place and those people, but not yet in our “forever home” and quite sure we won’t be for some time. It’s not for the faint of heart, this kind of living, it’s also not for the less patient of us.

I am very impatient. Have I said this before? I can’t let paint dry, y’all. Like I will fuck up some paint by touching it too many times, leaving fingerprints, having to do it all over again because I wouldn’t just heed the warning, “Let dry for fifteen minutes.” I can’t wait fifteen minutes! My husband can’t buy me birthday presents because I will give him an idea of what I want, then I will go buy it the next day myself because I NEED IT RIGHT NOW! I’m guilty of skipping ahead in books, refusing to go places because the line is too long and there is no way for me to skip it. I have this great idea for a novel, it’s been nagging me and nagging me for a couple of years now but I won’t sit down to write it because I know it will take too long. AHHHHHH!

But here I am. Here we are, getting a dose of patience injected into our lives. It seems like every day for the last couple of weeks someone or something has told me to slow down and be patient. My doctor reminded me that weight loss is a game of patience. My husband reminded me that if you take the time to research, it will be easier in the long run. His boss asked for him to be patient because a transition is coming. He has called me this week and I have had to tell him to be patient. I have called him this week and he has had to remind me to be patient. Patience. Patience. Patience.

I was on a walk yesterday when a grasshopper jumped out of the grass and attacked my shoe. I stopped for a minute, looked down at him. He was small, and shaking. He was sitting on my shoe, holding onto my laces. I remembered the way I would scream and jump around when I was a kid, until the grasshopper would go flying. I smiled remembering. Then I politely asked the grasshopper if he would like a ride, to which he said, “Sure thing lady, let’s hit up Target.” And so we did.

M.

The Wheel Thing

When I was in fifth grade the cool thing to do was hit up the skating rink. I was a horrible skater. Like very, very bad. But I’d been to the skating rink for as long as I could remember. Leavenworth is a small town, only about 45,000 people or so. Which means on the weekends there isn’t much for kids to do. The teenagers worshipped The Wheel Thing which was the name of the local skating rink. Having an older, cool, teenage sister I was privy to The Wheel Thing well before it was appropriate for me to be, and by the time I was in fifth grade I spent every Friday night there with all the other pre-teens and teenagers.

The Wheel Thing opened up shop in 1970, and by 1986 had switched owners to Kay and Ron Beaman, who up until last year were the sole proprietors and the iconic pair who sold you tickets, picked out your skates, and made you a kick-ass Suicide from the soda machine. Ron even sometimes ran the mic for a limbo session in his rainbow suspenders and funny mustache.

I started going skating “by myself” (sans my older sister or mother sitting on one of the carpeted benches watching me) when I was in fifth grade, and I skated through most of middle school there too.

The Wheel Thing had a large half paved, half graveled parking lot. My mom would whip her old 1972 Dodge Cornett into the lot at dusk on Friday nights to drop me off. I would hop out, my head down, hoping no one would see me in that old beater. I’d sling my purple and white skates onto my shoulder, and race toward the double doors.

There was one entrance door and one exit door. Depending on when you got there on Friday evenings, there could either be a line out the entrance door, down the front steps, or just a few kids waiting inside the hot, stinky corridor between the outside doors and the inside doors. There was a small window on one side of the corridor where Kay would sell tickets. I don’t remember how much it was to skate on the weekends, but I do remember that my mom would give me a five dollar bill and that covered both my entrance, my speed skate rental (if I got really crazy and wanted to upgrade) and usually one soda for the whole night. Afterward I had to reuse the cup at the water fountain.

The corridor was the worse part of The Wheel Thing. If the line was long you had to wait in that small, smelly area, its carpet reeking with teenage sweat and dirty socks. A smell that only a skating rink offers. Not to mention the fact that the second set of doors were not glass, which meant you had no idea how many people were there, if your friends had made it yet, or if your crush had showed up. You had to wait, your skate laces digging into your shoulder, in that stinky, little room, wondering about all the fun that was going on inside. You could hear the muffled music. You could catch a glimpse of neon light under the cracks of the door, but it wasn’t until your turn to pay at the window, when you could crane your neck around to see who was in there. Usually I would spot my friend Melody, who seemed to live at The Wheel Thing, and my heart would jump up into my chest with relief.

The next few hours were always a blur. There would be couples skate, where you would hope a boy asked you to hold holds and slowly skate around the oval rink, your sweaty hands entwined, while older, much better skaters would skate like they were dancing, the boy even skating backwards. Then there was limbo, which always made me fall by the third round. There was that game where the cute DJ brought out the giant fuzzy dice and rolled them and you had to stand on a number until your number was rolled and you were eliminated. You always wanted to win that one because you got a free song dedication and a suicide at the snack bar!

On one of my birthdays, maybe my 12th or 13th, my friends told the cute DJ it was my birthday. For birthdays they would make all of you go out into the center of the rink and the whole place would sing happy birthday to you. They would scream it. I remember standing in the middle of a bunch of sweaty Virgos, my face red from sweat and embarrassment, my fingers pushed into my ears, and a smile across my face. It was the worst day ever, but also the best day ever.

As we got older, boys became more involved with our trips to The Wheel Thing. We would plan our outings with them at school, but not tell our mothers, who probably knew about our plans anyway. It was a way to “date” before you could actually “date.” To be fair, I did the least amount of Wheel Thing dating, I mainly just watched my friends run into the dark corners with their boyfriends and steal kisses. I was usually the look-out, until the one night I wasn’t. I was so nervous the whole time. My boyfriend and I snuck into the back corner, between two pinball machines. He was just as nervous as I was. It was a quick kiss, just to say we had done it, then I worried for hours whether or not I would have to marry him. I didn’t like him all that much.

At the end of the evening, one of the parent’s would pick us up. Usually Melody’s mom, in her Trans Am with the cool t-tops. We would pile into the backseat, our skates jammed at our feet on the floorboard, too many young, sweaty girls in the back. Melody’s mom would jam music, and we would hold our hands and arms out the open windows so the wind could blow our sweat, and our sins, away.

RIP The Wheel Thing, you are in a lot of fond memories.

M.

Westview Cemetary

We’re fans of cemeteries. Maybe that’s odd, probably that’s odd, but we don’t mind being odd. We enjoy strolling through the grassy slopes, reading the names, honoring the deceased. We all have our thing. Jackson likes to look for the “cool” statues and the “cool” people buried there, he’s also always on the hunt for a ghost wandering the grounds (he’s read too much Harry Potter and is expecting a Nearly-Headless Nick). Jerimiah and I like the architecture. We like the mausoleums and the crypts. I secretly like to wonder about the people buried in them. I read a name and envision their story, their life, that’s the writer in me. I wonder about the people who still come to visit their lost loves, that’s the empath in me. Or maybe it’s the romantic in me. Either way, I hope people come to visit their lost loves.

We’ve visited a couple of really unique cemeteries in the last few years. We were accidentally locked in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va for a few minutes, when we stopped for the scenic views and to pay our respects to Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. Luckily the man closing the gates came back.

At Arlington we talked with Jackson about generals and presidents. About politicians and war heroes. We stood at the Eternal Flame and let him take it all in, even though we know it is way above his head. For now.

We visited St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans this summer. We walked along the catacombs, and admired the restorations. We met some locals who told us how tourists tend to disrespect their hallowed grounds. We apologized on behalf of those people, though there is no way to make amends.

Life has settled back into a routine around here over the last couple of weeks, so we have finally started to explore our new-to-us city, Atlanta. So it should be no surprise a cemetery was on our list of places to see. This time it was Westview Cemetery.

Westview is the largest cemetery in the southeast United States and it’s about 20 minutes from our house. It is home to war heroes, confederate generals, rappers, politicians, ministers, and businessmen. The founder of Coca-Cola, Asa Candler, is buried there and Jackson was very interested in visiting his memorial. I think he was secretly hoping it was shaped like a giant bottle of Coke (spoiler: it is not).

Along with Westview being the largest cemetery in the Southeast (600 acres, over 100,000 people buried there), it also has a couple other unique characteristics. For one, the Civil War Battle of Ezra Church happened on that land in 1864. Twenty years later the cemetery was opened after Oakland Cemetery, the more famous of the two, filled up. Then there’s the four structures at the cemetery. There’s a Confederate Memorial, a Water Tower (which is often mistaken for a Civil War-era look-out tower, or the place where Rapunzel let down her hair), a Receiving Tomb (which housed excess bodies during the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918), and lastly, the stunning Westview Abby, which is home to a chapel and a mausoleum. Westview Abby was built in 1943 and houses 11,444 entombments. It is the largest structure of its kind ever built under one roof, and it is a sight to behold.

The day we wandered into the cemetery a storm was just about to blow through Atlanta. In fact, it started right as we were leaving and it ended up being quite a storm, sending lightening down in many spots. Several people were injured at the PGA Tour Championship just a few miles down the road, when a tree was struck by lightening, and some lost power in their homes for a better part of the day. But it didn’t rain while we were there, which means I was able to snap some pictures, and I’m sharing them here with you today. If you ever get the chance to visit Atlanta, make sure to stop by and pay your respects. And if cemeteries are not your thing, that’s okay. But remember, you might end up in one someday, so maybe start checking them out. 🙂

M.

Throughout the mausoleum there are several stained glass panels depicting Jesus Christ’s life from nativity through crucifixion and resurrection.
Explaining entombments

My New Doctor

I had my annual exam this morning with my new doctor in Atlanta. There wouldn’t normally be much to report, it’s usually the same old song and dance. I need to lose weight. Get my medication right. But today I met my new NP, and things were different. She’s sweet, and young, and resourceful. She’s an immigrant, who left Iran ten years ago with her brother to escape religious persecution. She was raised in the Bahá’í Faith. It’s a more progressive sect of Islam. Women are viewed as equals in her religion, but still not in Iran. In Iran she was treated poorly because of her religion. She was not allowed to go to college. Her parents could not own a business, or work for the government, schools, etc. they can only work for private companies. The ones that will hire them. Her life was hard growing up, and if it weren’t for her opportunity to come here, she isn’t sure where she would be.

She didn’t just offer up this information about herself, of course. She just asked a normal “doctor” question.

NP: How many pregnancies?

Me: Two.

NP: How many children?

Me: One.

This is when the doctor usually says she’s sorry for my loss. She may ask what happened, depending on what I’m there for, she may not. Today my sweet, young, Farsi-speaking NP simply said, “Tell me about your baby.”

What came next was a ten-minute conversation about how abortion, especially ones like mine, where the baby isn’t viable, are totally okay in Iran. In most of that part of the world. That this stigma here in the US, we did that to ourselves, and she thinks it’s nuts. “No one,” she told me, “No one in Iran would have expected you to carry your daughter to full-term. You’d seem crazy to them if you did that.” She went on to tell me a bit about her life and religion. She told me she thinks the powers that be in her new country, our country, use the issue of abortion to hide what they are actually doing. It’s all a game with them. They don’t see the women.

It’s weird, and a little funny how things happen. I forget that sometimes. I’ve been torturing myself all week. A wreck with guilt, as I am every year around this time, for something that I just shouldn’t have guilt about.

I was reminded of this today. I was reminded by someone who didn’t need to know my why, or my how, or my when. She just needed to see the struggle in my eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder as I struggled to sit upright, my open gown covering nothing of my upper body, my breasts hanging out all over the place, and she said, “Look at me.” I looked at her. “I would have done the same thing you did. You’re strong. Strong to know the toll that would take on you. Strong mentally to know what was best for you and to do it.” Then she took my hand and helped me sit straight up. Helped me close up the front of my gown. Helped me straighten my crown.

There’s good out there, y’all. Everyday, everywhere. And it comes to you when you need it.

❤️

M.

The Day After Yesterday

Yesterday is over. I wait all year to get through the month of August, and though I still technically have a few more days left, the month is over for me. If I can get through my daughter’s birthday, well then, I can get through anything. She would have been eight years old yesterday. We would have had a party. Who knows what kind. Maybe a Minecraft party, thrown with her big brother as the host. Maybe a retro party like Jackson had last year, full of clowns, and bright colors, and a bounce house. Maybe she would have wanted a Disney princess party, or a Toy Story party, maybe she would have loved a llama party like her mommy. I think about these things.

Of course any of those parties would hinge on the fact that she would have had to be born. And then she would have had to be born “normal,” nor “abnormal” like it was written on all the paperwork. She would have had to shaken off that extra chromosome somehow. She would have had to be a totally different daughter. The one I imagined in my head, not the one she actually was.

I’m not losing it, don’t worry. I’m just letting you into my brain on the day after the eighth anniversary of losing my daughter. I cried in my therapist’s office last week. I told her that I have been having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I told her that I’ve been waking up thinking about death. Existential dread, sure, but so much more. She assured me that it was okay, and in fact normal, for eight years later to have this happen. It will also be normal in 20 years. And in 30 years. Because grief doesn’t stop just because you want it to. You can’t will it away.

I cried for the better part of an hour, while my husband held me yesterday afternoon. My people texted me. Thinking about you. With hearts and hugs. I’m here if you want to talk. I appreciate it all. I appreciate the love and support you give to us, but I am also sorry. Sorry that you have to send that text. Sorry if you feel like I talk about her more than I should. We all have our ways I guess, this is mine. I say her name, I tell her story, I educate people when I can. And I have learned that’s okay. But on August 25th I sort of just shut down. And I’m slowly learning that’s okay too.

The day after yesterday is better. Brighter. More possibilities lie ahead. So thanks to those who helped me get through, especially Jerimiah, Jackson, and Duke. Three outta four ain’t bad.

M.

Worth Leavin’

When I was in high school my mom and I moved into an apartment complex with townhouses. This was the biggest, nicest place we had ever lived in, and it was near the high school and near my mom’s work. It had three levels, including an unfinished basement for storage and laundry. The kitchen, living room, and a bathroom were on the main floor, and there were three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. All the bedrooms were roughly the same size, so my mom took a room on one end of the hall and gave me the room on the other end, next to the bathroom. I don’t remember what was in the middle bedroom. It’s possible it was home to my mom’s small china hutch, the one that houses relics from years past. It’s possible it had a dresser for extra clothes, or maybe my mom’s old green rocking chair. I don’t think it had an extra bed. I don’t think we ever had a bed we would consider “extra.”

I might not remember too much about the second bedroom, but I do remember quite a bit about that townhouse, and the years I lived there. I remember the night someone threw a brick into our neighbor’s glass window and stole a bunch of money from him while he slept upstairs. I remember the way the apartment complex gave way to a trailer park, the “good” trailer park. I remember that when the grass got cut the maintenance men did it so fast, that they missed large portions of it. I remember the rollings hills in between the rows of houses. I remember the playground. The basketball court. The laundry room. The dark, poop brown of the cabinets. I remember the small slab of concrete off the back sliding door where we kept an old, unused grill. I remember the constant feeling of being pressed down, while we lived there. What felt like the inability to catch my breath. The thought that this was it. This was as nice as my life was going to get. The concern that I was in this cycle of poverty, and there was no way out.

It’s a nasty feeling, feeling like you are stuck in a place that you don’t want to be. I would take evening walks around the apartment complex, sometimes down through the trailer park and envision what my life might be. Would I live in a trailer one day? Was it bad to live in one? Some of them looked nice. They had fenced yards, and little pop-up pools. Some had add-ons and car ports. Was this my next step? Did I get married, buy a trailer, have a couple of kids, and work my 40 hours a week, while I watched my husband drink beer with the other men in the trailer park on Sunday afternoons? It all seemed too sad. Too real. Much too real.

I remember walking on the other side of the street one day. There was a subdivision on that side that I had never been through before. The street that separated us was a busy five lane road that ran from one side of town, where the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing met, to the other side of town, ending at the Federal Prison. It wasn’t too hopeful for a sad teenage girl, my hometown. The thing I noticed first about this subdivision, was that unlike my apartment complex, they had a wooden privacy fence running the length of their property, shielding their quiet backyards, and their precious children, from the traffic that clogged up that street.

The more I walked, the more I noticed about the people who lived there. Two car garages meant two parents. Two parents meant more income. More income meant treehouses, and soccer teams, and trips to Florida in the summertime, all things I had no idea about. I pieced together what I knew about my friends’ families. The nice houses they had, the way their mother’s were home all day with stews in crockpots, and at the dinner table at night helping with homework. During this time my mother had developed a gambling addiction, and spent most of her evenings at the casinos in Kansas City. So had my sisters and a few close friends. I was alone a lot of the time, but that was okay by me. It gave me time to dream of my leaving. That was the running joke as a teenager in Leavenworth. Wasn’t Leavenworth really just Worth Leavin’?

I’ve come to see that as a critical point in my life. My walking, my meandering around my hometown. Wondering what would happen to me if I left, more importantly, what would happen to me if I stayed. I knew then, on the day that I walked through that subdivision, that I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

Sometimes I get sad when I think back to the choices I made. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed. Sometimes I wish I could help other people leave. Sometimes I just want to tell that younger Missy that it is all okay. That she is different, and a little weird, and yeah, maybe she doesn’t belong there, or anywhere, but that it will all make sense. One day.

M.

The In-between Girl

As far back as I can remember I have felt out of place. I’ve felt like I didn’t belong. Like I was one kind of girl, living in a world where it was best to be the other kind of girl. It wasn’t until grad school, and my introduction to the term Imposter Syndrome, that I had some sense of what I had been feeling for so long. Where I come from, people don’t go to grad school. Where I come from, people don’t go to college, some don’t even earn a high school diploma. They opt instead, for their GED at 16 years old or at 40, whenever the need arises for them to get a pay raise at their hourly job. Their hourly job is at the warehouse where they load the UPS trucks at four am, or down at the Walmart, where a HS diploma can mean the difference between $9/hr and $9.50/hr. So you can imagine my surprise, when sitting in a giant auditorium at UNC Charlotte—feeling completely out of place and wondering why the English department let me into their program—when those big, bold letters came across the screen: Imposter Syndrome. My jaw dropped. Me, a small-town Kansas girl who should have just put her head down and taken a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office or as a cashier at a grocery store, was actually realizing a dream that, to some, seemed ridiculous. Reading those words and finally understanding what I had been feeling my whole life, well it was a surprise, but it was also a new sort of freedom, albeit one that didn’t last very long.

I finished grad school, if you are wondering, and I got by okay. It became clear to other people, pretty quickly, that I should be there. Classmates, professors, my family. But it was never clear to me. I struggled with not fitting in the whole time I was there. I was too old to hang out with the other students, I was too young to feel a camaraderie with the instructors. I was too shy to get involved with organizations, I was too direct to be good at sparking conversation. I showed up to things I wasn’t expected to, and missed events they had planned for me to attend. I didn’t feel like I was in the right concentration, so I switched my major in my second year, where I felt even more out of place than before. The list goes on. And now here I am, a woman from a history of blue-collar workers, explaining why art is important to a family who doesn’t “get me,” while my back is to a world of intellectuals, fellow artists and writers, a new and economically advantaged group of friends who have no idea what government cheese tastes like, and I am feeling out of place, again. I’m stuck in-between these two worlds, and sometimes I don’t think I belong to either.

I’m not unique, then again I’m not claiming to be. There is a whole host of people like me. People who’ve left the Section 8 houses. People who looked into the mirror and decided this life is not for them. People who have scraped their way into college or trade school. People who have taken $100 and turned it into a million dollars. And there they are, feeling like they don’t belong. The weight of their own history pulling them down. I’m not complaining either, even though it might seem that way. I know I did what was right for me. And I know that my family back home is proud of me. They may not get what I do, or what I write, or how I see the world, but I know they are proud that I did what I set out to do. I’m not a cautionary tale, like some of the others, rather an example to follow. And I constantly carry that on my back, as I reach behind and pull up the next generation who are looking for a way out.

But in the moment, in the day to day, I never know how I will feel. I never know how out of place I look toting a $50 bottle of wine to an event I have been invited to because I know someone, who knows someone, who is hosting a writers group that focuses on art as a form of healing. But I feel it. I never know how people will take me when I go back home, run into an old friend at CVS, give them a hug, ask how they have been, with a stupid, genuine grin, as I listen to the happenings of my old hometown. I always wonder if they see me as an outsider. Because I feel like one.

I wish this was a teachable moment of some kind. I like teachable moments, but it isn’t. This is just me, admitting the way I feel a lot of the time. Maybe this will resonate with some of you, maybe not. But if I can, let me just say this: People worry a lot. People feel like they don’t fit in. People feel like outsiders. If you are one of the confident ones, bring those people into your fold. Ask them to participate. Give them a shot. They may never feel like they belong, but at least they won’t feel like they don’t.

M.

Burger King Hysterectomy

I’ve been in a major slump this week. Like major. This time of year always gets to me because this is the time of year I lost my daughter. If you want to get up to speed on that you can read this: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/08/20/august/ or this: http://mudseasonreview.com/author/melissa-goodnight/ and you should be all caught up. But the other day when I was explaining to my husband how I’ve been feeling this week, I used the phrase “profound sadness” and I meant it. I meant it, but I am not sure it explains exactly how I feel, but it is probably pretty close. I started to wonder why this year was hitting me that much harder than other years and, I think, quite simply, that there is something else I haven’t properly dealt with that needs some attention, my decision to have a hysterectomy last year.

Now listen, I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of it. Some of you really don’t care to know all that, but if you do just ask me, I will tell you EVERYTHING, cause I’m that kinda person. But I will say that because of some issues I was having, I was a candidate for a hysterectomy. Not a “Full Hysterectomy,” just a partial, so I elected to have it done. So last May I had my uterus and Fallopian tubes removed. They left my ovaries so I wasn’t a 36-year-old going into menopause (thank you so much for that, doc) but the rest they took out and threw away in a trash can behind the Burger King. Well, maybe not. But in my mind that’s what happened.

My Burger King uterus was a Mess with a capital M, but it had served me well through two pregnancies, so it was a little bit sad. Now, have I enjoyed not having a period since then? Uh yes, absolutely. It’s a new kind of freedom that I haven’t had since I was 12 years old, and I highly recommend the procedure if any of you are considering it. Highly. Recommend. (And if you are in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend you doing it at Novant! I had THE BEST experience there!) But I digress.

The hysterectomy came as a surprise to a lot of people, because for the four years leading up to my decision, Jerimiah and I had been trying to have another baby. We struggled with infertility after we lost Lydia in 2011, and we came to be diagnosed with “Unexplained Secondary Infertility”. In fact, if you go back in this blog, like way back, you will see that my first ever post was the night before I was headed in to have a “procedure” done to start the fertility process. I did have it done. And a couple more procedures. In fact, we got to the point where we had to either go all in, like $50,000 all in, or back off and hope for a miracle. Jerimiah and I both decided at that moment that we would rather spend $50,000 on the adoption process than on trying to get pregnant, so we went with the “trying for a miracle” and well, the miracle never came.

Meanwhile, I was more and more bogged down with all the aforementioned “issues” each month, until I was finally so fed up, fed up with the issues, fed up with my body rebelling against me, fed up with the constant depression every month when I was not pregnant, that I said enough is enough and decided to make a final decision. And boy is it a final decision. In fact, I didn’t realize how final it really is, and now I’m dealing with all these feelings, for the first time, because over the last year I sort of just shoved them down. Hmpf. Way to go, Missy.

I mean, I knew what a hysterectomy was going into it. I had to sign so many papers that my hand cramped. Yes, I get it, I get it, I said to my doctor. No more babies for me. And yes, I did get it. But what I didn’t think about was all the feelings I would have after I could not have any more babies. I know I am not making myself clear here, partly because I am working it out for the first time myself (there will probably be a series of “Burger King Hysterectomy” coming at y’all) and partly because it’s a weird thing to write about, but I will get better.

What I mean to say is that I sometimes want another baby. Bleh. That is hard to admit. But I certainly didn’t want to try to do it the way we were doing it. And I certainly know it isn’t possible anymore, and I am almost certain that I don’t ACTUALLY want another baby. Like, I like this life that I have. I love that we have one. That we can take off and go whenever we want. That we get to travel and experience things, and that we have one kick-ass kid already. But sometimes, when I am already sad, I start to miss Lydia, then I start to think I sold myself short. Myself, my husband, my son. Even though, let me say, everyone was behind my decision, myself included. Gah. It must be the hormones. Maybe I can get someone down at the ‘ol BK to take out my ovaries too?

Well, I’m rambling now. I will keep thinking on this topic, you guys think on it too, and maybe we can come up with a conclusion? And no, not just a Missy is nuts conclusion. We already know this, that is taking the easy way out. Try harder, you guys. I am counting on you.

M.

August

August always catches me by surprise. It’s a busy month. It’s my husband’s birthday month. Then some last-minute fun before back-to-school. Then back-to-school, which always comes with some sort of challenge. New school, not the teacher we wanted, refusal to change underwear on the first day, you know, normal boy stuff. Then once we get into the swing of things, I finally feel a routine coming back. I have time to write again, I have time to breath again, then BAM! It hits me. This profound sadness. And it’s always around the middle of the month. And it always confuses me, like what the actual hell Missy?! Why are you sad, so much is going well right now. Then, at three am, during a night I’ve been unable to fall asleep, it hits me. It’s August again.

August 2011, was the worst month of my life. I remember back to my husband’s 29th birthday. Back to the weeks that followed. Back to the test results and the nights in the hospital. I start to remember my daughter. I start to subconsciously say her name. I talk more about her without even realizing. Jackson starts to ask questions, play what-ifs. Mommy, do you think Lydia would like cars like I do? I assure him that she would. I assure him that being her big brother he would have been able to teach her all about cars, and trucks, and technology. They would have been able to play soccer and basketball together. He could have taught her how to swim, and cheered her on at her swim meets. They could have secrets and inside jokes, certainly be each other’s best friend. He smiles, tells me that he doesn’t mind being an only child, but that sometimes it would be nice to have her around.

I lose sight of all the good I have in my life during the month of August. I have more bad days than good ones. And every year I wait for these feelings not to come. I hope they won’t. I push them back down, thinking certainly this year it won’t hurt so much. Certainly this year I will get a break from these emotions. But I’m wrong. They come back. And even though I am surprised when they come, and upset with myself, I am learning how to show myself a little more grace. To not beat myself up for having a bad day here or there. It’s just work. I’m always working on it.

Grieving takes time, I know this. And here I am at year eight, and I am waiting for a time for the grieving to stop. And what scares me, what really gets to me, is the idea that it may never stop. That this is my life now. That every August this profound sadness will creep up into my chest. And I will cough and cough trying to rid myself of it, but I won’t be able to. It will just be something I will have to live with. Forever. I think that is what makes me the most sad now. I think I have properly dealt with the feelings of loss. The actual pain that losing my baby caused me. But I think too, that this feeling of lingering sadness will never be dealt with. Will never go away.

That’s a dramatic, albeit true thought that I live with. That it isn’t the loss of my daughter that I will eventually succumb to, rather the grief that surfaces every, single, year. Month. Week. Day. The grief that won’t allow me to breathe. The grief that won’t allow me to move on. If there is anything to move on to.

I have nothing new to say today. Just to love those who you love. Love those who need love. Love those you know, those you don’t. Spread the love and light out in the world today. For people like me, who can’t muster it. For people like Lydia who will never feel it. For people who will never feel whole again. Because it does make a difference.

M.

Grouchy About TP

Why are there ads and commercials for toilet paper? Which adults out there do not have a favorite toilet paper? Why do people need convincing on this topic? Are there people who are still, I dunno in their thirties, and flipping between toilet paper brands? Is it the damn millienials? I can say that now, because apparently I am an Xennial (somewhere between a Gen X-er and a millennial) so I can blame them for things now. Those damn millennials!

As a grown-ass thirty-something adult, I know which brand of toilet paper I like, and I am not changing. I am not looking for coupons. I am not looking for sales or deals or BuY tHiS nOw ads! I am looking for comfort and plush 2-ply, and I have found it, and I don’t want to see bears wiping their asses anymore. Why Charmin? People are already buying you. Why bears wiping their asses?

And stop trying to come up with inventive ways to use toilet paper. Listen, it is for one thing and one thing only. It’s like how Q-tip prints all the ways you can use Q-tips on the back of their packaging. You can use it to clean your keyboard?! Really? Really, Q-tip? Yeah, I know the medical community came out and said, “Don’t stick things in your ears!” but something tells me they meant penis. Like, don’t stick penis in your ear. You know?

I’m sorry you guys.

It’s 7:30 am and I am already off the damn rails.

Maybe I should go back to bed.

Maybe I should roll out my bulk, two-ply and lay on top of it. Cover myself in it like a sleeping bag. Like a cozy, plush, sleeping bag. Until my husband comes home and finds me, takes one look at me, and mumbles something about buying Charmin.

M.

Anthony Elementary School

I Googled my elementary school today. I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe seeing all the back to school photos of friends’ kids. Maybe dropping my own child at his first day of his last year in elementary school. Maybe I’m feeling sad, nostalgic, old. Either way, I Googled the old girl and was surprised by what I didn’t remember about Anthony Elementary School, and what I did.

Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas was built in 1950*, funded in part, by a grant from the Ford Foundation. It was named after the Daniel Read Anthony family, who first came to Leavenworth from Massachusetts in 1854 with the first Emigrant Aid Company. The First Emigrant Aid Company was responsible for bringing Free State settlers to vote against Kansas becoming a slave state. Daniel R. Anthony may not be as well known outside of Leavenworth, where he was both a conductor of the local Underground Railroad and the owner of the Leavenworth Times (Kansas’ oldest newspaper) but his sister, Susan B. Anthony, might ring a bell. I knew none of this back then. I have a faint memory of learning about Susan B. Anthony and her family. I have an even fainter memory of connecting those dots in my head when I was maybe a second grader. I remember thinking she was pretty and strong. What I did know about my school was that it was a Title I, low-performing elementary school in the 1980s, smack dab in the middle of the “good” side of town and the “not good” side of town, and it brought a lot of different worlds together.

My mother walked me up to the front door of Anthony when I was a very tall five-year-old. Having a September birthday, I would turn six just two weeks after school started, always making me one of the oldest kids in my class. I would be nearly 19 when I graduated high school. But I wasn’t thinking about high school that day, I was thinking about not wrinkling my dress. I was wondering if my mother would stay with me all day. I was sliding around from sweaty feet in slick sandals.

My classroom was brightly colored. It housed a row of cubes where we’d put our Kleenex boxes and paint, wall hooks for backpacks and lunchboxes, and an upright piano. I didn’t have a lunchbox. I was a free-lunch kid. I didn’t know that on my first day of kindergarten, but by middle school this fact would push my head lower and lower down, everyday, as I moved through the hot food line. On my first day of kindergarten, however, my head was high, albeit full of anxiety. I smiled when Mrs. McKim, my very tall, very lovely teacher took my hand and showed me where my desk was. I followed her, looking back a few times to make sure my mom was still there. She was, standing with the other parents at the back of the classroom, much too close to the door for my liking. In my memory this is when things get jumbled, but my mom remembers it pretty clearly. I started to cry. And I didn’t stop crying for three days.

On day two, Mrs. McKim let my mom come inside the classroom again. They tried to console me, to introduce me to new friends, but I couldn’t see anyone through the tears clouding my vision. On day three, Mrs. McKim watched me walk into the classroom, and just when my mom was about to follow, she stopped her, and closed the classroom door. I panicked. I ran to the door to watch the scene unfold. My mother was crying outside the door, I was crying inside the door. Mrs. McKim, her hand on my mother’s shaking shoulder, told her it would be best to leave. Just leave me there, and walk away. I hated Mrs. McKim for this, for much longer than I should have. It wasn’t until my son went to preschool, and his teacher told me to go, while he screamed and groped for me and she held him back, that I realized what Mrs. McKim had done. And how important it was to do.

That day Mrs. McKim switched her tactic with me too. She let me sit at my desk and cry for an hour or so, then she pulled me aside and told me that I was disrupting the class and would have to go sit in the library, right across the hall, all by myself. A few minutes later I was all alone at a desk in the library. The librarian Mrs. Simmons, was busy walking around shelving books, big kids were coming in and out looking oddly at me. I sat, crying, until it felt like I had no more tears to cry. Then Mrs. Simmons walked in with two of my classmates, Robin and Pam. She walked up to my desk and introduced them both. She said they were girls in my class, and that made them my friends. Pam, whose sweet, chubby cheeks shined in the library light, asked me if I would be her friend. I said yes. Then Robin and Pam stood on each side of me and took me back to the classroom, hand in hand. I never cried again in kindergarten.

A few years ago my sweet friend Pam died. An undiagnosed medical condition, if I remember correctly. She never lost her sweetness, though. Not one ounce, even when we drifted apart years later. I can still see her chubby, rosy cheeks. I can still feel her hand in mine. I still remember her earnestness. Her need to be my friend. Her determination to make me feel safe.

It’s been a long time since I stepped foot inside Anthony Elementary School. An even longer time since I have felt that particular pain. The kind that sticks with you. The kind that shapes you. I may have went to a Title I, low-performing school in an economically diverse area of the Midwest, but I never felt underserved or overlooked. I felt lucky. I felt content. And today I am feeling thankful.

Thanks, Anthony Elementary School. For the teachers like Mrs. McKim, Mrs. Coughran, Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Heim. Thanks for Mrs. Albright, and Mrs. Simmons, and Mrs. Parks. For Coach Hendee and Mr. Parks. Thanks for the lifelong friendships. Thanks for the blacktop and Oregon Trail. Thanks for the Halloween parades and the fifth grade talent show. Thanks for being a safe-haven, for a painfully shy little girl who is the woman she is today because of the foundation you gave her.

M.

*It’s important to note that Anthony has been through a few renovations, including a major overhaul in 2010, and has survived in Leavenworth, where many of the other schools have been vacated, or turned into housing or commercial spaces. I’ve included a current picture below to show the progress.