My post yesterday was about fifth grade, and Jackson, so I decided to keep a theme this week, since it is the last week of school here in Georgia and start in kindergarten and work my way up. More for posterity for anything else. More because I have a kid that can’t always remember things like his teacher’s names, or who his friends were, and while the last six years has been a little crazy, and we’ve moved a few times, it is all still fresh in my mind, as it is with most parents. If you want to read about my traumatic and awkward kindergarten experience please read this post. I was not a “normal” kindergartner, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever been considered “normal.” And lucky, neither has my kid.
Jackson started elementary school in Branson, Missouri. We applied for the preschool program there and he was accepted, though they did tell us that while he could obviously read, knew his colors and numbers, he didn’t know how to “skip” and also, when instructed to build a tower from blocks, he first sorted the blocks by size and color. We weren’t 100% how to take that. They seemed bothered by it, meanwhile we watched the kid next to him licking the table, so… we just took it that our kid was a little advanced and maybe, I dunno, in the wrong place. He was, and he only did half a year of preschool because of it. We noticed he was not really learning, just picking up bad habits from other kids, so we pulled him out. But his teacher was the sweetest, Mrs. Rosebrough, she was just totally overwhelmed by kids licking tables and still pooping their pants, and when we pulled him she was all, “Yeah, Jackson doesn’t really NEED preschool.” Got it. Glad we payed $500 a month until that point. (Let’s talk about how preschool should be free. Another post? Okay.)
In the summer between preschool and kindergarten we sold a vehicle, our boat, and most of the rest of our shit, packed up a U-Haul, and hauled ass to North Carolina in search of better opportunity, which of course we found, and Jackson settled nicely into a school in a suburban part of Charlotte. He was there from kindergarten until halfway through third grade, when we moved into Charlotte and transferred him into a STEM Charter School. But this is about Kindergarten, so Kindergarten we shall discuss.
Look at this:
This kid of mine was made to go to school. Of course he already knew all the basics of kindergarten, how to read, write, and count, but he was such a social kid, who relied on friendships and fun, and Miss Gamble and Mrs. Turner (the BEST of kindergarten) made the classroom just that. Ms. Gamble was a young teacher, just her second year in the classroom, but she was one of those people who was born to do what she does. She recognized Jackson’s abilities quickly and he became a leader in the classroom. Often sitting in the rocking chair behind him reading stories to his class, which they just thought was the coolest. Kindergarten was a rough year for me, and having that classroom and those people around helped tremendously. I often joke that I grew more than Jackson did that year, because it is true.
This is where Jackson met his first little friends, some he still writes letters to or plays Minecraft with! He showed his true self in those years, and set himself on a path different than many of the kids. A top student, a true leader, a kind friend. Loyal, to a fault, and always, always interested in the cute, little blonde girls. (Eye roll)
This is also where his true fashion began to shine. The kids in that class were unbelievably kind (even if some of the parents were a total nightmare) and that kindness, love, and loyalty was fostered by Miss Gamble. The important thing was being nice, everything else would fall into place she said, and it did. When kindergarten was over we were so upset that Jackson and I literally sat in bed and cried all morning on the first day of summer break. We were so thankful to be part of such a wonderful classroom, and we cherish those memories, still today. We would love to reach out and thank every, single one of those parents, teachers, and kids who welcomed us that year, who made us feel special, and who still want to be part of our lives. We hope you always feel as special as we did.
So there you have it. Kindergarten. Not much to report. My kid got a line straight “S” and “P” or whatever letters they used. He maybe was a little advanced, but he learned that kindness was key, how to stick up for his friends, how to accept others, how to adapt, how to make friends, how to keep friends, and how to feel safe somewhere other than home. It set us up for success for the next five years and we could not be happier. Now for the pictures!
Yesterday was my 300th blog post and I had planned to do something awesome to celebrate that fact with you guys, then I had a busy week and got one day behind and when I wrote my post yesterday I didn’t realize it was number 300 and then I was actually like, “DAMN IT! I messed up my 300th post.” So this is actually post 301, but if you don’t tell anyone, I won’t tell anyone. Ahem, happy 300th post day! 300 posts seems like a lot to me, especially since I really just started blogging to ensure that I write something, anything with regularity. I guess I can call that a win. I have been writing everyday. In fact I have written everyday for the last eight weeks, some of it made it to this here blog, some of it hasn’t made it anywhere. Yet. Unofficially I want to write every, single day this year. Unofficially I want to do a lot of things. Unofficially I have big plans. Unofficially a lot of those plans involve Cheetos.
But alas, I’m here today celebrating a small victory. Looking for a bigger one out there looming, somewhere. But my 300th post seems something to celebrate. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe 500 or 1000 is more appropriate. But who really cares? I want to celebrate damn it! So to show my apprecation to you all, to those of you who are still around I’m going to share some pics with you that I have not shared before. The sort of pics that never “make the cut” when I’m writing one of my fun, exciting blogs. And hey, I might share an old “Mornings with Missy” video too, because I love you all and you deserve it. Hopefully you can use these “extras” to piece together some idea of who I am. Or, you can screenshot them and use them as ammunition against me when I run for office one day. Or become a famous model, whichever comes first.
But for real. Thanks for hanging with me for 300 (301) posts, and I hope you’ll stick around for my next 300, cause it’s about to get more interesting. I promise.
The above video was filmed in my closet in Charlotte, North Carolina a month or so before we moved to Atlanta. Enjoy!
Y’all know how schools have Spirit Nights wherein they partner with a particular restaurant and that restaurant gives some percentage of their proceeds back to the school? Well if you are new to this, the concept is pretty simple. The school (usually initiated by the PTA/PTO) reaches out to restaurants around the community and asks if they would like to host a Spirit Night. The restaurant, if they aren’t dumb, agrees. They get a crowd of people they might not normally get on a random Thursday night, and the school makes a little mullah. It’s a win-win. We have been to A LOT of these spirit nights at all three of the elementary schools we have attended since Jackson was in kindergarten, but the school we are at now (our personal favorite of the schools) knows how to show up at spirit night, y’all. Which is a great thing. If the restaurant is ready for us, that is.
So last Thursday we had this month’s Spirit Night at a pizza place. It was a local joint that we had never tried before, but seems to be popular with the community. I’m not sure if they’d never hosted a Spirit Night for our school before or what, but they were, ummm, how should I say this, not prepared. Now before I tell you this story, know that is comes from a place of love. Jerimiah and I both worked in the restaurant business, I did it for 10+ years in fact, and I know the trials and tribulations that go into it. The blood, sweat, and tears (hopefully not in the guests food) so I get it, but because of this we also know how it can be done right, and are always a little offended when it isn’t.
We got there right about 6:15 pm, sort of right in the middle of dinner rush, and the place wasn’t too packed. In fact, as the three of us looked around we were bummed at the lack of spirit from our school. Turns out the whole school was right behind us! In fact one minute there were about three families in line, the next there were about 10, and they just kept coming. Remember how I said we show up for Spirit Night?! This pizza place also does call-in orders, which you could also do for Spirit Night, so their phones were ringing off the hook too. They were suddenly busy, to say the least, but this should not have been shocking to anyone there.
Immediately Jackson found some friends and they all ran outside to play on the patio. It was a cool night, maybe 55 degrees, so no one was sitting outside, so they had this wide open patio (which was actually very cute with string lights and an outdoor fireplace) to run around and play. Jerimiah and I placed our order, and instead of little numbers they give you pictures of celebrities to keep track of table numbers. I thought that was cool, we had never come across that before. We got Prince, on a purple background, duh.
Jerimiah and I ordered caesar salads and 20 wings (we are trying to do low carb here, you guys) and we ordered Jackson two slices of cheese pizza. They sell pizza by the slice ($6 a slice, which was a little absurd since we had just been to NYC where the pizza is awesome and $2 a slice, but you know how it goes…) and they also sell whole pies, calzones, wings, meatball subs, the works. I was a little surprised when our bill at a pizza place was $50, but school spirit, blah, blah, blah.
We got our drink cups, and found a table next to some friends. I was busy in conversation with my friend Kelley, and we were talking about all the, ahem, slightly better pizza places around, while Jerimiah was sitting at the table, and Jackson and the kids were outside playing. I noticed at some point our salads got delivered, but I was still talking. We’d moved on to how we can change the world by then (my mom friends are amazing!) and Jerimiah started eating his salad.
Then a few minutes later a plate with 10 wings came out. Kelley was all, “Eat your food, we have to run.” And I went out with her to collect our kids. They took off and I brought Jackson in, assuming that our food was coming. Then we sat down. I started on my salad, Jerimiah finished his and started on the first plate of wings, and Jackson hopped up and down looking for friends who were coming in the door and asking about his two slices.
Forty-five minutes later, while Jerimiah was standing at the front counter asking why we never got our two slices of cheese pizza or ten more wings, they were all, “We delivered them…ummm…to someone.” Yeah. Needless to say Jerimiah just asked for a partial refund for the food we never received (at this point Jackson had not eaten and was pretty hungry from all the running around outside) and we had eaten side salads and five wings each, which was filling, but again, not what we ordered. They were convinced they had served our food to a wrong table, the cooks were adamant our food went out, somewhere, at sometime, and they were basically like, “Sorry, but you should have said something.” That’s when Jerimiah was all, “Uhh, my wife did say something.”
The thing is, when our salads come out, they didn’t have dressing with them. Jerimiah was so hungry by the time we had finally gotten it (about 25 minutes), that he ate it without noticing. I sat down and was all, where’s the dressing and he was all, “I dunno, I just ate mine.” (Eye roll. Men.) So I went up to the counter to ask for dressing. Then I asked, noticing their panicked faces behind the counter, about the rest of our order. The woman gave me my dressing, asked who we were (meaning which celebrity) I said, “Prince” and she walked over to the cooks. I heard them tell her that our food went out. So she came over and asked to visit our table. I brought her over and she was all, “Hmm, they said you got your food.” Nope, I told her. And she said, “I’m sorry, I’ll take care of it.” Twenty minutes after that is when Jerimiah approached the counter.
Anyway, even longer story short, they refunded us our whole ticket, which is not what Jerimiah wanted, but it was either a refund or we wait another 20 minutes (the kitchen was backed up by then, and apparently the counter girl had no recollection of walking to our table and talking to me) for the rest of our food, and may I remind you one order was literally just two slices of cheese pizza.
I must say I was very proud of Jerimiah throughout this whole thing. I was busy talking to even more people I knew, and he handled it without so much as a grimace. He apparently did get a little short when one of the women at the counter tried to say that we probably did get our food, we just didn’t realize it… umm… yeah. But I mean listen, we get it, we’ve been in the weeds before and lost some food, it’s just not the best idea to accuse the guest of getting the food, eating it, claiming they didn’t get it, and then, what? Discarding the evidence? They even pulled his receipt to make sure we had in fact ordered the “extra” 10 wings and two slices of cheese pizza. Ho hum.
We just had higher hopes for a restaurant who knew a slew of kids were coming in for dinner that night. Or maybe they didn’t because maybe they weren’t prepared for our school and our spirit! But now they know. PS… Who took our two slices of pizza and 10 wings and didn’t say, “This isn’t ours…” Hmm.
In the car I said, “So wait, all that and the school got nothing from us.” Jerimiah was like, “Jesus, I’d rather write the school a fifty dollar check than go through that again.” We laughed because it was true, and set off to find Jackson some food. It was late by this time (we’d been at the pizza joint for almost two hours) so we decided to drive through somewhere. It was decided that it would be Sonic since it was very close. So we ran over to Sonic to find it: SHUT DOWN, y’all! Seriously. It was like the dinner that would never end! But like Sonic just up and closed up shop. Not closed for the night, y’all, like done. Here look:
So we ended up at, you guessed it, our North Carolina favorite: Cookout! Cookout never disappoints, y’all. And Jackson was finally fed dinner at 8:30 pm, and we decided to never go back to that pizza joint again. Listen, I’m sure they are lovely people. And maybe their pizza is awesome (we don’t know, we never got to try it), but their wings were ehh, and their service even ehh-er (it’s kinda hard to get over being called a liar. Eek!) But you know, you live, you learn, then you go to Cookout. #NorthCarolinaRepresent
I hope our school made some money though, they certainly should have, and from what I heard from other families all was well for them, so maybe it was just us that had a trying time. Hopefully so!
I’m used to lying in bed at night thinking up a million reasons not to go to sleep. I’m used to it, I’m pretty good at it, I’m seemingly always up for it. Tonight it’s the sirens. City living has its drawbacks. My son asked me if I remember falling asleep to those bugs in North Carolina. Those bugs were cicadas, and how could I forget? Only it wasn’t North Carolina that he’s remembering, it was Southern Missouri. It was 2011 and 2015. A mass emergence, both times. Different broods. The year his baby sister died, and the year we vanished. He’s misremembered, but he hasn’t forgotten. I suppose he never will. He’ll lie awake at some point undetermined, a slow year in his late thirties, and remember those bugs.
Maybe he’ll stop saying he misses Missouri. That he feels called back to it. That it’s his home. He doesn’t remember the Missouri I do. He was five when we left. He doesn’t know about the meth trails and the tweakers, the crisp, fall Ozark mornings with the bang of the hunter’s gun so close you look over your shoulder, paralyzed, but with an urge to run.
The cicadas come every 13 and 17 years. Maybe they were in North Carolina too. Maybe I don’t remember. Maybe they came above ground, wreaked havoc, went back down. A different brood. A different mass emergence. I don’t know enough about cicadas to say. I don’t know what to say about the cicadas. I just hold him when he runs into my room. The sirens startling his dreams.
Tonight I’m taken with that paralyzing urge. The gun, not from a hunter. The news. The shootings. The sirens. I’m stuck. Stuck between the urban landscape I’ve come to know, and the inability to get a good fucking night’s sleep. With or without the cicadas.
It has taken me a long time to write this. Months, actually. Months of pacing my floorboards well into the night. Months of looking out my window for a sign, anything to come crashing down on me, begging me to stay for a few more weeks, a few more months. Fight more. Make this home. But nothing ever came. It isn’t surprising that it took me so long. It takes me a long time to get anything done. I used to be ashamed of that fact, but since I’ve known you, I’ve learned to appreciate this about myself. It’s not laziness. It’s not lack of motivation. It’s the opposite. It’s because when I invest in something, in someone, I invest my whole damn heart. And when you invest your whole damn heart, well, it takes time. You can’t leave on a whim. You can’t walk away without looking back three or four times. It’s a process. A lengthy, tumultuous process.
It seems silly, contrite, even dramatic, but Christ, I’m going to miss you, Charlotte. I’ve never left anywhere or anyone without wanting to. And even then, it is harder than it seems. When I left Leavenworth, Kansas many moons ago, I did so with a sadness that took me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. It’s true I had been working on my exit for 20 years, but still, I was totally and completely oblivious to what leaving actually meant. Through the entire process, though, I knew I was making the right decision. I knew this is what I had to do in order to launch. In order to learn and grow. So I pushed the sadness down, deep down, covering it with southern fried chicken and Arkansas BBQ.
Ten years later I left Southern Missouri. Again, I left because I knew I needed to. I knew it was the next right step for me, for us. I had a family by then. A husband eager for the adventure I had spent years cultivating in his mind. A five-year-old, on the cusp of kindergarten, a honestness inside him so profound that he didn’t once cry for his home, the only place he had ever known. Because he, like his mommy, craved new experiences, open roads, fun, and light, and merriment. In what seemed like an instant, we packed up a U-Haul, and we drove 1,000 miles in the stifling summer heat along I-40, eastbound. Then we took a right hand turn, and we found you.
Charlotte, my dear, I write this in love, honor, and humility, for I know you deserve more than what my words are capable of. Still, I refuse to carry the burden of forgetting to thank you for what you’ve meant to me these last five years. You were the city, after all, that I longed for. The city whose streets morphed me into the most honest version of myself. The bravest Missy anyone has ever seen.
Charlotte, it didn’t take long to learn how to navigate your patchy pavement, your potholes, and your politics. You wear your heart on your sleeve, waiting, hoping to be opened up by all of those who are willing. You taught me what it meant to be an outsider, to be hoping for acceptance. You taught this midwestern transplant about real, down home, southern hospitality. You taught me about peach cobbler and Cheerwine. You taught me that it is okay to not fit in. Then you taught me how to be accepted. You helped me shrug off the feeling that I was an imposter. A lost girl, tangled up in a city that I didn’t think wanted me, that I didn’t know I wanted.
Charlotte, you allowed me to truly let myself feel like I was a part of something. Which in turn allowed me to give freely of myself. To look past the trepidation of going out into the community, to the places I thought I feared, with the people I thought I feared. You taught me how to take their hands. To give what I had to give. You taught me how to receive what I didn’t know I needed. What I didn’t think I was worthy of. Charlotte, you taught me how to trust people again. You will forever be the place that taught me about the good and the bad of life. To understand those unlike me. To find common ground. You taught me about gentrification, all the horrible, ugly, heavy parts of it. About gratitude. About community. About moving forward together with people who are not like you, but also so very much like you.
Charlotte, I am not ashamed to say that I love you, your faults and all. Some don’t see your beauty. I’ve heard what they say about you. I’ve heard their true fear and ignorance of you. I’ve heard the complaints of your history, and your fast-paced progress. I’ve heard stories of your people, your streets, supposedly littered with graffiti and violence. But that’s not been my experience. Those aren’t the people who really know you, my dear. Those are the people who think they know you. The people too afraid, too out of touch, to get to the bottom of your heart. Too afraid to let their lives get knotted up in your streets and avenues, your museums, your schools, your churches, your neighborhoods, and your people. There isn’t an ounce of aggressiveness in you, Charlotte. There is only love and light, washed with an unmistakable sadness of underserved, underrepresented, undervalued people, trying to work together in the rapid, forward progression that has taken hold. There are people getting lost in the shuffle, Charlotte, but there are also people reaching down and lifting others up.
There are people at your schools who promote life-long learning. There are professors, and instructors, and counselors. There are people at Queens University, at UNC Charlotte. There are people at Idelwild Elementary School, and Thomasboro Academy, and Shamrock Gardens. There are people at CPCC, and The Arts Institute. There are beautiful, bright construction-paper fish lining the windows of Dilworth Elementary and silver robots at Mallard Creek STEM. There are flower beds at Paw Creek and an amazingly fun playground at Villa Heights. There are free lunches, and school picnics. Summer programs and school choirs. There are decorated lockers and national championship sports teams. There are teachers, principals, and bus drivers, that each morning, look into the eyes of their children, and tell them they are welcome. They are loved. And it makes all the difference, Charlotte. Your people make all the difference.
Charlotte, your parks are lovely. Your parks and your nature preserves and your gardens. Autumns at McDowell, down the luminary-lined roads in a wagon, make people feel like you are no longer in a bustling, urban city. Your dog park at Reedy Creek, its mixture of dust, and green, and friendly barking, allows for conversation and friendship, four-legged and two. From the geese who flank the pond at UNC Charlotte, backing up traffic on the roundabout, to the geese who nibble your pretzels at Freedom Park, your wildlife, your serenity, your escapes from the busy city life have calmed many. The excitement of an afternoon walk through Romare Bearden, the children in the fountains, ringing the bells, holding foot races across the wide open lawn, reminds me of my own languid summer days as a child. We’d glide over the beautiful lawn, take in an afternoon of baseball, cheering madly for the Knights, as they’d rally against Durham in the 10th inning. Then head over to Green’s for a chili-cheese dog.
And oh, the food! Charlotte, you are a food-lover’s paradise. From Amelie’s in NoDa to Pike’s in South End, there is a little something for everyone. Lunch at 300 East, dinner at Midwood Smokehouse (the only place this midwesterner can find good, down home, sticky, sweet sauce). Dutch Babies at The Original Pancake House and brunch at Bistro La Bon. Maybe a quick bite off the Pizza Peel buffet, or an order to go from Price’s Chicken Coop or Brooke’s Sandwich House. International House of Prayer offers up homemade specialties during the day, and there is always Midnight Diner, or Pinky’s, or South 21 if you just need good, greasy fries to soothe your soul.
Charlotte, I will miss you festivals and your beer. Your spontaneous parties at OMB and your giant Jenga game at Camp North End. Your Sunday afternoon dates with my 10-year-old at Abari’s Game Bar, where we first introduced him to a Super NES, and your fun hosting of Open Streets, where we were able to see a part of the city that we never had before via one of your many greenways. I will miss walks with my dog into Uptown, though the heavily guarded training fields of the Panthers, onto Trade Street and onward. I will miss the smiling faces at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library – Plaza Midwood branch, and at ImaginOn, where the entire staff seems only there to make my life easier, by helping my son find the Hank the Cowdog series, and tie his shoe, and teach him about projection in his theater class. I will miss your Thanksgiving Day parade, Charlotte, and your street vendors. I will miss the small, but mighty aquarium at Discovery Place. I will miss your weird collection of art and people on Tryon in Uptown, just after the sun has set, but before the bars open. I will miss you “Jesus Saves” guy. I will miss you Phoenix statue, and my desire to take a picture of every visitor to the city in front of it.
Charlotte, you came into my life at a turning point. You saw me through the early days of my son starting kindergarten. You helped me stay busy when my days were more quiet than I liked. You brought me into the fold of UNC Charlotte. You got me through three very long years of grad school, where my brain, my faith in myself, and my commitment were all tested beyond belief. You met me on the other side with the loveliest of new friends and mentors, all working their magic to put that spark back into my life, my writing, and my faith in good people. Kind people, smart, loving people.
Geez, the friends, Charlotte. The friends you gave me. The fun, amazing, lifelong friends, who always seemed to pop up at the perfect time. Some we have lost, more we have gained, but all of them, at some point in the last five years, have looked at me and smiled, a mutual understanding that our time spent together was not in vain. It was not lost on us. On who we are, or how we came to know each other. Or what we will always be, when it’s all said and done, and many, many miles separate us. I’m indebted to you for these lovely people, Charlotte. And much, much more.
Joan Didion once wrote, “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” I don’t know if this is what I have done here, Charlotte, but I have certainly tried, and I will certainly continue to try, for as long as you are present in my memory, to claim you, to obsess over you, year after year, month after month, as I drag my feet to say goodbye to the city I have come to love. The city that I have come to call home.