Khristi, with an H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you.

M.

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

Kindergarten Playlist

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

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

Still confused, here’s another:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

The Laundry Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❤️

M.

It’s My Birthday!

As you probably know by now, today is my 38th birthday. And listen, this is the first year that I have not kept a running count somewhere of the days until my birthday. It’s exhausting. It is also the first year I haven’t really celebrated a “Birthday Week” for myself. Jerimiah was in Baton Rouge for most of it, and while he sent me little Amazon packages everyday, it wasn’t the same as him being here to celebrate, so by Sunday I was feeling a little blue. Then a friend said, “Birthday Smirthday” and I was all, maybe she’s right. Maybe it isn’t so much the celebration of getting things, or doing things, as much as like, I dunno, appreciating how far you have come as a person. If you read my blog yesterday you know how far I think I have come. If you didn’t read it, check it out. I only use the F-word once. See, I’m growing up. Haha, just kidding. #ForFucksSake

Anyway, that’s not the thing I am here to talk to you about today. Today I am here to not talk, if that is possible, rather just share some pics. So, please enjoy some “Missy in various stages” pics for my birthday. It’s like my gift to you. Now where are my gifts, assholes?

Kidding. Kind of.

M.

Above: Toucan Sam and me, My sister’s broken leg and my butt, Belinda and me at “The Bears” at the Leavenworth Plaza.

Above: Christmas 1980-something, Carrying a totally 80s chair, sitting on the floor in front of the tv with my baby doll, duh.

Above: My mom’s creepy boyfriend, Bill on the birthday he bought me a bike, Breakfast in bed on your birthday was a tradition in our house (also, check that shirt out #RaisedRoyal), With Barbie and my favorite Popples.

Polaroids were a big hit in our house in the 80s. Though I couldn’t tell you who it was that owned a fancy camera like that. Probably whomever owned that fancy truck. Cause that wasn’t ours. We didn’t have a car. That was our front yard though! Right next to BK. A BK with a funhouse! (Processed Food is the best!)

Above: I’m trying to half-heartedly feed a prairie dog at Prairie Dog Park in Lawton, Oklahoma. If he would have gotten any closer, though, I would have shit my denim skirt. Also, there is me in a sweater with a “D” on it. This one has stumped me for years. There is no “D” in any of my names, so…garage sale find maybe? The last pic is with my sisters, the Christmas, I believe, before Khristi moved to Germany.

My frist camera! I remember how cool this was and how bad-ass I thought I was going to be with it hanging around my neck.

Above: Is that a boy in the bathtub? No, just me in like third grade. One time my mom nailed a wooden basketball hoop to a tree at just the right height for me to always do a slam dunk. Last pic: Peace, love, and Tweety Bird.

Middle school dance, anyone? I’m pretty sure I didn’t dance with anyone. High school graduation with my BFF, Lee Anne, and posing on a stack of hay in my sister’s front yard right after high school. I was WAY into khakis and button-ups.

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.

Little Missy

“…I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. ” – Joan Didion

Mama Joan wrote those words in 1968 in Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I was listening to the audiobook today, as I sometimes do when I have too much on my mind and can’t seem to get any words out, or have no time to think, or I haven’t had my morning coffee. In fact, I was sitting in the Starbucks line, my poodle Duke beside me, tangled up in his leash but refusing to let me help. I already had a headache. I was thinking of the traffic ahead of me, and wishing I was drinking a glass of wine poolside. Doesn’t matter where. Las Vegas, San Diego, Puerto Rico. The point is, I was wishing I was anywhere else but here. 

Then she said the words: “…keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be…” . Well, she didn’t say them, Diane Keaton said them. Diane Keaton does a lovely job of bringing Mama Joan’s word to your ear. I’ll go ahead and stick the link here, if you are so inclined: https://www.amazon.com/Audible-Studios-Slouching-Towards-Bethlehem/dp/B0095PE98K

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. The people we used to be. 

There are so many former iterations of “Missy” that sometimes I get lost when I think about her. But “Little Missy”, is my favorite. She is small, but big for her age. She has very long hair (as her mother refused to cut it until third grade) which, by the way, is how her and I mark the end of her time in our lives. She had a round belly, round cheeks, round everything. She was soft and round with feet she thought were too big, with an idolization of her big sisters that bordered blasphemy. 

Yes, Little Missy is my favorite. She was quiet, much too shy, and sometimes when there were a lot of people at her house or commotion outside, she would run and hide in her white and red toy box that had doors that slid open like a window. She would overhear her mother say, “Oh you know Little Missy, she has a nervous stomach.” Because that is what anxiety was called in the 1980s. A nervous stomach. 

One of her sisters would eventually come into the room she shared with them, slide open the toy box and coax her out with a cookie or a promise to comb her hair or rub her feet. She much enjoyed all three of those things, not unlike a pet, spoiled and cared for, with a nervous energy that followed them wherever they went. 

Yes, Little Missy is my favorite. She’d pride herself on her My Little Pony collection, but was not above playing Transformers in the dirt with that little blond-haired boy who lived in the apartment above them. And when the little blond-haired boy moved, and the family from Asia came in his place, she was also not above spending hours listening to the teenage girl talk about skirts, and boys, and American music. She would politely accept an invitation to dinner and walk up the stairs behind her big sister filled with the knowledge that little girls should’t talk much and you should never be the first one done with dinner. It was impolite. And it didn’t matter if the food was very good, don’t ask for more. And it didn’t matter if the food was bad, say it was good. Little Missy was often confused, but did as she was told. 

Yes, Little Missy is my favorite. She didn’t like to draw attention to herself so she never acted out in school. Always turned her work in on time. Never went outside of her comfort zone. In first grade, at 2:55 everyday her stomach would be in knots. She would ask to be excused to get a drink of water, then she would anxiously walk past the water fountain to the front door where she could see the parents’ cars lined up in anticipation for the bell to ring at 3:00 pm. She sought out her mother’s car, an old 1972 Dodge, breathe a sigh of relief, then go pack up her things. Only once was her mother’s car not there by 2:55. Only once she silently cried inside the door until her teacher came looking for her. Only once she had to wait until 3:10, because her mother’s car had not started from work, and she was running behind. 

Yes, Little Missy is my favorite. She was not a know-it-all like Teenage Missy, she wasn’t a confused high-schooler, temporary mixed up with the wrong crowd. She wasn’t a college drop-out, wasn’t a bad friend. She wasn’t a skipper of school, or a rude to her mother. She didn’t push the boundaries of trust or contemplate running away. Little Missy sat on the old tan couch watching CareBears, eating strawberry ice cream, and laughed at the way her grandpa said words, with his southern accent and no teeth. 

I miss you, Little Missy. I miss you and your own toothless grin, your thirst to read big books, your naive need for approval and acceptance. But most of all, I miss the way you saw the world.

M.