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postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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postmodernfamilyblog.wordpress.com

I'm a mother of twin toddlers and two adult daughters. My dad says I ran the engine and the caboose on grandchildren, but I'm having a really hard time driving the potty train. (They always told me boys were harder!) I am passionate about family, football, politics, and good books, and I'm liable to blog about any one of them on any given week.

In my 50s with a far-from-empty nest

Being a mother of five-year-old twin boys at 53 is a whole nother level of tired. Like 4th-circle-of-eternal-boulder-pushing-with-Sisyphus-riding-piggy-back tired.

Some days I just don’t know where I’m going to get the energy.

The boys’ constant demand for attention is so… demanding. The endless bickering, boundless messes, bottomless hunger… it all saps my energy.

While they themselves are unending bands of the stuff, bouncing and careening over any and all semblance of peace and order. And legos and play doh. And happy meal toys and wrappers. And the last remaining vestiges of nerves that make up my life.

I wonder… can I steal some of that energy? Harness it for the stamina I need to entertain these green goblins of go-gettedness for the next fourteen hours? The next fifteen years? Because I seem to have zero reserves of go-gettedness left. Zilch.

I don’t recall being anywhere near this kind of tired when my girls where little. But then again, I wasn’t anywhere near this kind of age when my girls were little. I was a young mom to young kids. Now I’m a — well, let’s just say an older mom to young kids.

Which makes my life way more than a wee-bit more exhausting. I would swear I’m anemic, but they’ve tested me for that.

Mercy. Most days I beg for mercy. And mercifully, most days, there’s the swimming pool.

Swimming is their favorite right now. They love to splash in the coolness, to feel the ripples across their shoulders, to dive beneath the surface and hear their warbling words come out in whomps that burst in bubbles above their drifting curls.

So I take them to the pool. For them — and for me. It gives them play. And it gives me peace.

It’s the easiest part of my day right now. Demands diminish in the calm, soft ripples of silver and blue. The boys splash and play like sweet little sprites, and I’m granted a sweet disconnect from the harshness of my real — and really hard — world. Until…

My goggles are slipping! I’m hungry! My noodle is missing! There’s a frog in the pool! Parker won’t talk to me! Tate broke my head! I’m hungry!!!

The whines cut the calm like a chainsaw, severing it into the bloody little jagged pieces of pandemonium that is my life.

And it dawns on me. I’m not anemic. I’m exsanguinated. There’s nothing left to bleed.

I saw a story the other day from the Wall Street Journal celebrating a slew of women in their fifties, empty-nesters with newfound freedom to fly the coop and reinvent themselves.

One woman picked up and moved to the crater of a volcano. Another biked across the United States in a peace sign pattern. A third went snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. None though, said, “Hey, I’ll raise a second set of kids.” None.

Many women I know commented on the article, saying they’d had their children early, and now they were living their best lives.

Well… I had my children early. And I had my children late. My nest is ragged and worn, with a whole lotta years left to go.

Perhaps there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies after 40, much less 48.

And now, in my summer of 53, with school about to begin again, and Sisyphus and his boulder on my back, and my 5 year old twins in my nest, and me on my own for the next six months while my husband resumes his football duties — I refuse to believe I can’t still reinvent myself. In my fifties. With a far-from-empty nest.

I will work even harder to make this writing dream of mine come true.

I will continue to carve out words from the smallest slivers of time. I will keep stringing stolen seconds into sentences. I will keep climbing the steep and thorny path of progress while keeping my nestlings as content as two five-year-old boys can possibly be. Which isn’t very. And not often.

But I will not give in. Because inside the exhaustion of it all, there is also inspiration. And there is also breathtaking beauty.

This morning, my little goblins came creeping into my bedroom at Seven-Zero-Zero, as my oldest son says. (They are NOT allowed to leave their rooms until that six-five-nine has flipped. And they waste nary a second once it has.)

For a minute, I SO wanted to bark at them to go back where they came from and just let mama sleep.

But then, they are where they came from… curled up on my body like fiddlehead ferns, tentacles tracing my cheek, lips kissing my eyelids, chattering away like baby birds about their daddy and the swimming pool and the desperate need to water the garden before it rains. We have to GET UP… NOW. And how could I be mad at that?

They are where they came from, and they are where they belong. For this season. And for always.

And yes, there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies at fifty. But you know what? I’m not most women.

I can raise these boys with the grace and the grit they deserve. With the same grace and grit I raised my girls with. I will. They deserve no less.

And I can also write my memoirs and my musings and murder my little darlings (it’s a writing metaphor, please do not be alarmed…) with the grace and the grit that I deserve, too. I can and I will.

Because I’m not most women.

I had my children early, and I had my children late. My family is beautiful and messy and more-than-I-can-handle most Mondays and a whole lot of other days, too. But still… I am absolutely living my best life AND reinventing myself, too.

And while I’m not swimming with turtles off a Darwinian desert isle, it is still survival of the fittest in all its glory. It’s all fight AND all flight. And while most days I feel I’ve been exsanguinated, I’m not dead yet.

Have Mercy!

we won’t go back where we came from

Why are Americans yelling at other Americans to go back where they came from? What has our country become?

Apparently, a hate-spewing-and-mongering place where if you aren’t white and a man, you must not belong. Where you definitely don’t belong on a platform where you’ll be heard.

I mean, that was definitely the case for me as a girl growing up. I was white (which made my life a little easier), but not male. So I was just supposed to shut up and let the white patriarchy “take care of everything” for me.

I knew a long time ago that sort of governing body wasn’t for me. I wanted a voice. I didn’t just want it — I needed it. So I fought hard for it and I found it. And there’s no way in hell im going back where I came from. 

And now I’m willing to fight hard for these congresswomen and for all women — to be strong and belong. 

I really thought our country had moved past such a heinous viewpoint. But now, that’s pretty much all I see and all I hear. White men in power telling women to go back where they came from, whatever that means. 

And I honestly think I know what that means. They want women to go back to the days of their youth (the men’s youth, where women stayed silent and submissive). There are even some women (quite a few of them, actually) chanting right along. Serena Joy would be so proud…

Well, this woman is not going back where she came from. I’m using my voice for more than parroting the patriarchy. I learned what that could get me a long time ago, and I’ll be f***ed if I’m going back to that place again. Legitimately.

So I will persist in stating my opinions and in fighting for my voice, my body, my rights. For all our rights.

Because despite the fact that women make less on the dollar than the average man and we hold less seats in our “representative” government, we are STILL equal citizens in the eyes of the law. 

But if we don’t keep fighting, I’m not sure that will stay the case. If we don’t keep fighting and speaking up and demanding change and demanding accountability, our representative government might very well go back to the government of 1776… All white. All male. And all, by the way, immigrant. There’s a piece of white, patriarchal irony for ya.

Goats, Origami, and Vows

cranes

Today is Mike’s and my seven-year wedding anniversary. Our wedding was a lot like us – eclectic and quirky.

We wed on a goat farm under a giant oak next to a babbling creek. A thousand paper cranes bore witness, along with about fifty of our most cherished family and friends.

There was a belt of active thunderstorms all day long (we got rain on our wedding day – excellent luck, I hear), but a donut hole of blue skies kept our ceremony dry — or as dry as a muggy, mid-July night in Georgia can possibly be.

One of my favorite wedding photos is of Mike and me from behind, his hand at the small of my back, while sweat pearls on my shoulders and beads on my spine. It’s not glamorous, by any means. But it’s real. Like our love.

hot

We put the wedding together in a few, quick weeks. You heard right — weeks, not months. SIX Weeks to be exact.

Mike proposed on Memorial Day (to my dog, by the way) and we didn’t want to wait until the following summer, so we crossed our fingers and made it happen. Apparently we thrive in chaos. I guess it was our trial run for raising twin boys. If we could pull off venue and invitations, dress and catering, cake and honeymoon — the whole nine yards — in a month-and-a-half, we could handle anything.

So yes, Mike proposed to my dachshund. I guess he knows how much I loved the little wiener (No, that’s not an Asian joke!). And while he didn’t EXACTLY propose to her, somehow in my misguided and vodka-fogged, post-Memorial Day party brain, I thought he was talking to her when he dropped on one knee beside me on the love seat. I very nearly missed the question, the question I’d been anticipating for a while. (We’d been dating quite exclusively and seriously for four years, after all.) Sometimes I’m a dumbass.

craneseverywhere

Anyways, once all that got cleared up and I said yes, the game clock began. We knew we had virtually no time, but we also knew we wanted all of our choices to mean something. (Sounds ironic, coming from a woman who thought her future husband chose her dog, but still…)

I knew I wanted cranes: 1000 origami cranes, to be exact. As a nod to Mike’s Asian heritage. 1000 origami cranes threaded with fishing line for the illusion of flight, and strung here, there and yonder-where.

And I wanted a post-Edwardian era gown — the time period of Downton Abbey’s glory; the time period of Agatha Christie’s country house mysteries; the time period of my beloved grandmother’s youth. Those were my two wishes. The rest could fall as it may.

edwardian

The dress came easy. I found it online. When it came, it fit perfectly. The only dress I ever tried on. I felt delicious and decadent — like Lady Mary or Clarissa Dalloway. So the dress came easy.

The cranes… eh, not so much. Anything mathematical is not my forte. And origami, whether it actually is or is not, felt mathematical to me – all those congruent right triangles and bisected angles. I just couldn’t seem to grasp it.

That is until my seven-year-old nephew Jackson taught us how to make them over a veeeeerrrryyy long weekend in Scottsdale. Jackson is an origami wizard. He can craft the Taj Mahal, if given ten minutes and a tissue. He tutored us patiently and precisely, and with a lot of help and some martini time outs (for me, not him), I finally mastered it. Which meant we only had approximately 999 more to go before game time.

Now the goat farm was, quite simply, destiny. For some odd and glorious reason, goats have played a pivotal role in Mike’s and my courtship, from the goat raffle (yes, you read right) I was running when I met him that first football season (we’re weird ‘round these parts) to the charming and bizarre Goats on the Roof general store we visited one Spring Break, we sort of have a weird and wonderful connection with bearded billies. Combine that with the fact that Bethany’s best friend’s family has a goat farm and BAM! Goat farm, it was — complete with tire swing.

tireswing

The rest feels like a blur. A big, glorious purple and gold blur– Mike’s college colors and our chosen palette. The ring bearer’s “pillow” was a prized football. We used books and borrowed vases for centerpieces. I found the perfect shoes – which were plain and simple pumps, laced up and layered in all sorts of awesomeness via Etsy.

Family from near and far arrived to help steam dresses, arrange flowers, decorate the venue, cook Korean BBQ, and participate in the ceremony. One niece played the violin; another read e.e. cummings. My nephews lit the lanterns; Mike’s carried the rings. My brother-in-law, a film editor in Hollywood, shot the video.

Everything, I mean everything, just folded together into a masterpiece. Like our 1000 cranes, we layered, creased, pressed and adjusted until, “Voila!” — dream nuptials in a nanosecond.

football

My girls were my bridesmaids, and while I don’t necessarily recommend the turbulent and tumultuous past required to use your very own daughters in your bridal party, I must say… I must explain… well… when I try to voice what it felt like — having them stand there at the altar with me, supporting and loving me, supporting and loving Mike; opening their arms and hearts and lives to allow him to join our intimate little clan of incandescence and joy… words fail me. I’m at a loss. Let’s just say, it was THE special ingredient, THE added love element that made the wedding as absolutely perfect as perfect can be.

meandthegirls

There are so many other tiny tidbits I could share, including my grandmother’s posthumous contribution, our extended Peters metaphor, hangover knavery, and inadvertent F bombs, but I think I should quit while I’m ahead.

Let’s just say that as Mike and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary, I was reminded of how unbelievably blessed we truly are. Our wedding was perfect because of our families. Correction… Family. Our nuclear and extended crews melded into a giant conglomeration of love and crazy and talent — and helped us pull off the impossible: a wedding in six weeks.

And on that sublime and sultry July night seven years ago, we were folded, pressed, and pleated into a multilayered, multifaceted masterpiece of a fine, new family.

Expectations Make a Good Team into a Great One

Every summer, prior to season kickoff, the football team sets goals. Sets expectations. What they want and need to accomplish if they are to have a winning season.

Expectations, when met, make a good team into a great one.

The reason I’m wrangling this metaphor is because I just read a post from a football wife asking for some support and advice. Her husband has been gone all summer — from sunup till way-past sundown every day, and the season has yet to begin. This wife is feeling neglected and alone. She needed a sounding board and some legitimate suggestions on how to broach the subject with her husband. She got both from most. But not from all. From one wife, she got something else entirely.

One wife of a football coach told another wife of a football coach to have zero expectations and then she won’t be disappointed.

And that rankles me, y’all. Bad.

It gets me all sorts of riled up. Blood-pressure-through-the-roof, expletive-laden, all sorts of riled up. Because what did she really just tell that wife?

She told her that she comes last. That she doesn’t deserve her man’s love, respect, or time. That her needs aren’t important. Quite simply, that she’s not important.

She regurgitated the debilitating dogma that society has fed women since forever: Support your man. Hold down the fort. Love and look after him when he’s around. Miss him when he’s gone. And expect nothing in return. Then… if you get more than that… well… go you!

Now, if y’all know me, you know my history, and you know exactly how I feel when somebody tells a woman she shouldn’t have expectations. You can pretty much guess what came out of my mouth. And it wasn’t pretty. (But it was pretty French.)

As women, we deserve more. As wives… in a marriage… a partnership… a team, if you will… we absolutely deserve more.

Women are so much more than helpmate and safe harbor. We are so much more than simple cisterns to be filled with our man’s hopes, desires, and offspring — contrary to centuries of saying otherwise.

Women have voices and women have value.

And as partners in our marriages we should have expectations. And those expectations should be met. Even in a football marriage. Especially in a football marriage.

Both of you want to win — at football and at marriage. If you didn’t, neither one of you would have gotten involved with either marriage or football. (And tell the truth, football wives, you knew what you were getting into when you married him. Well, for the most part you knew.) And because you both willingly signed up for this crazy life, you’re both now shouldering an insane amount of responsibility.

He’s shouldering the needs of a full squad of teenaged boys with all their adolescent edges and angst. And he’s balancing the demands of a season-full of practice and bus and meal and game schedules. Plus carrying the ungodly stress of parental and community politics. And he doesn’t come home until he’s put it all to bed. Well after dark. Till the field house is quiet and calm. Deceptively so. The weight of it all can be unbearable.

And you’re balancing and carrying and shouldering, too. Everything else. Jobs, hearth, home, kids. All the study and practice and play and bath and story and bed times. Plus the ungodly stress of all the tantrums and fistfights and set-it-all-right politics. And he doesn’t come home until you’ve put it all to bed. Well after dark. Till the house is quiet and calm. Deceptively so. The weight of it all can be unbearable.

It’s easy to get resentful. On both sides. Because from each respective side, it appears the other has it easier. Well, guess what? Neither has it easy.

To keep our marriage healthy and happy, my guy and I BOTH have expectations. As we should.

Mine are simple, but effective: Communication and Kisses.

Communication is my bread and butter. It sustains me. Before the day begins, we have breakfast. Together. Always. It’s my special 20 minutes of “Just Us” time while the boys are still in bed. Cereal, coffee and simple chit-chat — my fuel for the day.

Then he sends me little texts as power snacks all day long. And for lunch, sweet love notes on my sandwich bag. He makes all the lunches — it’s just one way he helps lighten my load. That plus laundry — preloaded in a delay cycle a couple times a week. (I hit the jackpot with my coach. He exceeds my expectations. Constantly.)

And then there’s the kisses. Lots and lots of kisses. At wake up. Before leaving for work. With emojis on the phone. And real ones when he gets home. Always before games. And always after games.

Always and forever, lots and lots of kisses. Without them, I more-than-sort- of-self-destruct. It’s well documented. So he gives me plenty.

Plenty of communication and kisses. It’s on the game plan.

And as for his expectations, they’re a whole lot of the same — especially, believe it or not, the communication part. Because if I don’t tell him when something’s bothering me or something’s not working, he’ll spend all sorts of time he doesn’t have trying to fix it — totally blind. And that’s not fair to either one of us.

Yes, football and marriage are team sports. And for the team to get stronger and for the game to go well, each member needs their expectations set and then met. That’s what makes a good team into a great one.

And everybody wins. Everybody.

A Parable of Three Fated Sisters

Memory. Charity. Promise. Three women. Three beautiful sisters with three beautiful names.

But the beauty stops where the limitations began. Imparted by their forefathers… Remember your place. Nurture others. Earn your reward.

And so it began.

Memory lived her life in the past– a far-from-accurate, completely-black-and-white past, shaded by perceptions and surroundings. What he wanted. How he felt. Where he’d been. Had she done it right? It all dictated how she lived her present and looked to her future. All from the past. Memory just couldn’t live in the moment. Her moment.

Then there was Charity. She gave herself away. All of her self. To everyone. Her family, her friends, her lover, her home, her job. Until there was nothing left of her but a shell of a woman with a beautiful, empty name. A Charity case.

And finally, there was Promise. Her strength lay in her looking to the future — and overlooking the past and present. Ignoring any injustice. Keeping her eye on the prize. Always waiting on the earned reward of being the dutiful, obedient woman. Waiting for her destiny to unfold. Always waiting. A Promise yet to be found.

Three sisters. Their lives short-changed by society’s pigeon holes: Remember your place; Nurture; Obey. And all that is good and holy will surely come to you.

Bull shit.

Don’t be kept in a cage of society’s invention. Lift up your heads, sisters. Climb out of your relegated roles.

Don’t give yourself away — Charity begins at home. Use your past to build your present. Use your Memory to make your mark. Bring your Promise to fruition by building it — not waiting on it.

Ignore what the world wants you to be, Sisters, and be who YOU want to be.

Cockadoodle Carnage and Bathtub Baptism

I was baptized in a bathtub. The exact same tub that housed the sinewy corpses of dozens of elderly, free-range chickens just one week before.

By this time, our family had moved into a new house in a decent neighborhood — nary a naked hippy or homeless grad student to be found. Plenty of drunks though. It was the era of the cocktail hour, after all.

Ours was a yellow split level, with redwood deck and screened porch and a crawl space just big enough to lock away our Llewellyn Setter, Belle — the second-best quail dog who ever did live. When she wasn’t in heat.

When she was in heat, she was an infernal creature chained inside the crawl space, where she commenced to fumigate the entire house with ripe, gamey smells that drove my mama half-crazy. No amount of Spic and Span could rid the house of that stench.

But back to the cockadoodle carnage and bathtub baptism…

Daddy decided one day that poultry production would be an economic way to feed his evangelical, not-a-cult-yet, bible-study group. That, and he could trade rough-hewn fence posts for a couple hundred Plymouth Rock hens, so why not?

As a newly-ordained shepherd in the Discipleship Movement of the 70s, he took his duties seriously. And one of those duties was to provide for his flock. We had a newly-planted victory garden with acres of okra and peas. And now we had chickens.

Let me tell ya, physicists have no business playing farmer. And in this tale, there are TWO physicists… my dad and his fellow Ole Miss faculty member, Dan. (We’ll call him Dan because he was a no-nonsense Yankee with clipped vowels from Michigan State, so Boaz or Silas as a scriptural pseudonym just never would fit.) So, Dan it is.

Now this was a cockamamie scheme (wink, wink) from the get go, for all sorts of reasons. First off, these were some tough old birds — Methuselah-old in chicken years. To say they were ready for the Purina pet food factory would NOT be an exaggeration. That, plus the fact Daddy didn’t have the proper equipment to butcher and clean poultry were just two reasons.

But a man who understood alpha particles and chaos theory wasn’t gonna let a bunch of chickens get the best of him. So he gathered up his meagre-but-eager flock of neophytes and in no time, they’d assembled a paltry little poultry production line:

  • machete
  • canning pots
  • table for plucking
  • buck knife
  • bathtub

The carnage began in the backyard. It was like Salome and John the Baptist out there — chickens losing heads right and left — with a particularly large and gregarious gentleman wielding the machete. We’ll call him Rufus because, well, he had red hair and lived in a trailer park, so it suits him. That, plus he’s the hunter who taught Daddy to pop off quail heads and feed them to Belle as her point-and-retrieve reward. (The ensuing belches rivaled Hell’s sulfurous fumes.) If a red-haired, trailer-park-living, bird-dog loving southern man ain’t tailor-made for the name Rufus, I don’t know who is.

Back in the kitchen, Daddy baptized the newly-headless chickens in 20-qt speckled enamel pots chock full of rapidly boiling water. (He was always looking to dunk somebody, so this was great practice.) The birds got two minutes each, just prior to plucking. No more. No less. Too long, boiled flesh. Too less, torn breasts.

The plucking came next. In the hallway. With a dagger. (Not really. I just couldn’t pass on the Clue allusion …). But it really did happen in the hallway, only with bare hands.

It was a sticky, heinous job. Rufus (after making mincemeat of the machete business) and Dan-the-physics-man found themselves covered top to toe in soaking-wet, blue and black and white and silver feathers. They looked like fish with fluffy scales. Or Harpies.

Harpies are typically half-bird, half-female creatures, but travel back to Oxford in the summer of ’76 and you’ll find two of the male variety, squatting over a table, fingers puckered from plucking, lashes dripping with downy detritus — one well over six feet; the other, not-so-much.

Last on the production line, the newly-naked corpses were tossed upstairs to the bathroom, where they lost their innards and feet at the hands of Hiram — a former Vietnam chopper pilot. Entrails were dropped in orange paint buckets, birds in the ice-filled tub.

Where they were left in waiting on the womenfolk.

The women were charged with dissection — 200 cadavers at ten pieces each. No small undertaking. Even with steel buck knifes. And once the dismemberment was final, the job was far from over.

Those chickens had come to a sticky end. And my mother soon found herself in the STICKIEST of situations.

Here’s a little-known chicken butchering fact (at least for physicists-turned farmers): If the fatty scent glands of a chicken aren’t excised properly, they leech a stinky, oily grease.

And these weren’t. So these did. All over Mama’s gold fiberglass tub/shower combo…

The clean-up was monumental. Exxon Valdiz monumental. No way Dawn Dishwashing Liquid was taking that grease out of her way. It stucketh to that tub closer than a brother.

Second little-known chicken butchering fact: fatty scent glands are the mark of Cain. They are made of impenetrable stuff.

My mama scrubbed her fingers raw. That grease still probably lingers to this day, haunting all past, present and future tenants.

Which brings us to our baptism side of the story on a Saturday evening a week or so later… when this narrator was washed in the blood of the lamb — and the oil of the fatty scent glands of two-hundred plymouth rock poultry.

I had just walked down the aisle as a junior bridesmaid and is a day that will forever live in fondness and infamy.

For the wedding, I wore a dotted swiss, lemon yellow dress with square neck and white rick rack. The collar just highlighted the tiny raised mole above my right breast — along with my burgeoning need for a training bra.

Those sprouting acorn-sized lumps must’ve constituted an emergency. That, plus the strawberry lip gloss the bride smeared across my mouth like a Sodomite stain…

Whatever the prompting, I found myself sitting in a tub full of water in a scooter skirt and tank, Daddy praying fervently over my soul.

I’m sure I looked wild-eyed and mortified.

I’d attended baptisms before, but never my own. And always at the riverside. Never tub-side. Where was the murky water? The threat of cottonmouth nests? The promise of fried chicken and RC Cola after? This felt all wrong.

Rufus, Hiram, and Dan made it the requisite Two-or-Three-Or-More-Are-Gathered-in-my-Name official. They sang a slightly off-tune “Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray,” which calmed me. A little.

Until Daddy dunked me.

At ten, I was a long-legged filly (maybe another reason Daddy decided he could tary not one second more), so I’m not entirely certain my knobby knees made it under. Which is worrisome. Because it’s total dunk or no deal in Daddy’s nondenominational eyes. On sprinkle or pour, he casts aspersions.

But my noggin knocked fiberglass, of this I know. So here’s hoping it stuck.

I know the grease from the 200 fatty scent glands of the Plymouth Rock hens stuck. My hair had enough oil to light the lamps of the ten virgins in the parable for perpetuity.

I was one prepared virgin, at least. I know this much is true…

(And as for those chickens… chewy and tough as Methuselah’s boots. All Mama could do was grind them down to chicken salad — with a wallop of Duke’s mayonnaise and a half-a-patch of dill weed, you could still taste those fatty scent glands.)

My kind of Sexy

…is a summertime morning striptease. (It’s not what you think. Tell my husband not to get too excited.)

Summer mornings are my favorite. Especially ones like today. Do-nothing mornings — where I can sit and watch the fog drift in wisps on the silvery light — moth-wings light, lamb’s wool light, low-slung and easy.

I love to watch the sky unwind those ribbons of lambs-wool light, to slowly unwrap the earth — a long, sensual striptease revealing round, lush tree tops, and soft, dripping foliage.

The katydids swell with approval, the birds erupt in chorus, a woodpecker pulses the beat.

Somewhere amid the clover, a bee, slow from his overindulgence on nectar the night before, treads water in the liquid air. Not quite ready to start his day, not quite ready to get busy.

I get it. It’s so easy to overindulge in the potent nectar of these perfect summer days. The sun is long and tempting, and nature bursts free of her seams. She is hot and completely undone.

Gardens grow blousy with feverish growth and roadsides explode, keeping pace.

And we, as humans, we just want to imbibe. There is just so much fun to be had. Trails. Rivers. Beaches. Pools. Family. Friendship. Fireworks. Fun.

Like the wings of the hummingbirds at my feeder, summer is a blur of glittering seconds, so fast you can only see where it’s been, rarely standing still to see the up-close-and-perfect detail.

We cram action, hummingbird style, into layers and layers of summertime fun. Time is a frenzy most days.

But this morning I’m taking it slow. Because slow is my kind of sexy.

My boys — they get bored. All three of them. They like action. They like fun. And to them, sitting still and soaking it all in is a far cry from fun. So they’ve gathered up their things and taken off to the pool.

But me, I’m saddled up in this morning, eager to sit for a spell. Literally. Waiting for a spell. For creativity to light, to take up my fingers, to tickle my keyboard, and to unchain my mind.

And it takes awhile. The words appear slow, a tantalizing striptease.

Tendrils of misty promise, backlit by vision, fuzzy and opaque, flit about, flirting with my senses. Then, slivers of clarity — a single word, tweaked and pulled to a taut, perfect pearl. More coaxing ensues, until finally, big, rounded handfuls of glittering splendor are revealed. Eager and pliable. Hot and ready to couple and link.

It takes time to tease words into the light –to convince them to unveil their secrets and put themselves on full display.

And time is a frenzy most days.

But today, even the hummingbirds have slowed their windspeed. They defy their nature and perch at the feeder. Drinking deeply. Soaking in the sweet syrup of summertime.

It is — or was — a beautiful, do-nothing morning, succulent and ripe, and ready to open, to yield her secrets beneath my eager persistence.

But now. Now our time together is done. The show is over. Life demands my attention more than my words.

But as always, I’m left yearning for more. And that is my kind of sexy.

A Juxtaposed American Tragedy: Hope and Salvation, Denial and Death

They lay there together among the weeds and reeds. One barefoot, the other shod. One grown-up, the other child. A father and daughter. Floating loosely face down upon the shore of hope and salvation. Denied.

The flotsam and jetsam of political power play.

In a land that espouses Christianity, no Christian charity was to be found.

***

This past week, my family travelled north in a Ford f150 with brand new tires and wifi adaptor to keep two easily-bored boys from being easily bored. We fled the heat and humidity of the South for a week, on a quest for tall bluegrass and frozen custard.

This past year, another family travelled north. On bare feet and a diehard determination to keep a two-year-old daughter alive. They fled the abject poverty and gang violence of a civil war, on a quest for hope and salvation.

Two journeys northward. One for reunion. One for asylum.

Two families. One American. One Salvadoran.

Two realities: Hope and Salvation. Denial and death.

***

I live an amazing life. My husband and I discussed it just this past week as we were driving the long road home from up north. We had endured some hardships and misery along the way, thanks to short tempers and weak wifi, and we were trying to remind ourselves how truly blessed we are:

We have a safe, secure home, beautiful children, wonderful jobs, good health, plenty of food, a decently stable political climate — as stable as a country being led by an angry, ego-fueled, unintelligent, power-hungry, despot-leaning POTUS can possibly be — but still, stable enough that I’m not swimming for my life, my children clinging to my back as terror consumes us.

I try to imagine what that would be like, strapping my child to my back, wrapped in the fragile cocoon of a wet t-shirt, certain-death lying below us in the water and below us to the South.

I try to imagine risking everything for a chance to give my children safety and food and a decently-stable political climate. I try to imagine having none of these things. Having nothing but my children.

I would face all obstacles to give my children hope and salvation. And this, at least, I can relate to.

I try again to imagine myself barefoot at the border after months and months of walking. If I were to go through the proper checkpoints my child will be put in a cage. Kept cold. Kept hungry. Kept from me. Perhaps forever. I have heard these stories.

I am hungry, tired, dirty, and homeless; my child is hungry, tired, dirty, and homeless. But we are together. It is all we have. That, plus hope for salvation.

So instead of entering at the checkpoints, I wade into the water. By entering, I long to wash away the hunger, the exhaustion, the dirt. I long for new life. A literal baptism. Salvation waits on the other side.

Only salvation does not come.

After all this father and child endured, the miles they travelled, the extreme hardships they endured, the monumental challenges they overcame… they were ultimately ill-equipped to survive the darkness they met at the border. The border they believed held salvation.

Instead of hope, they found horror; instead of mercy, they found death.

Theirs was no family vacation to the north. There’s was a sojourn into the dark and grainy soul of modern-day America.

***

Juxtaposition. Two opposite things, laying side by side, made more powerful by their contrast. The juxtaposition of this desperate father and child is a powerful one. It stirs anger in many of us. And action.

But will it stir enough of us? Will it spur enough of us? To take action. To write our legislators. To send supplies. To lend aid. To protest.

To fight for the souls of these desperate families.

To fight for the souls of ourselves.

Because we are currently hiding behind righteousness and rules, but we are wallowing in horror and hate.It is a powerful and profound contrast. And it demands action.

Do something about it.

***

One way to help is to help fund hygiene kits for those inside ICE custody. If you live in Georgia… The Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and El Refugio are sponsoring a month-long event called Ayudamos, translated: We help. For the next month all over Georgia, they are collecting clothing and basic toiletries, and creating hygiene kits for the people most affected by these cruel immigration policies. El Refugio provides support to men in ICE custody at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA and their families.

Here is a link to the Amazon Hygiene Kit Party Wish List…
https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/QMOME4W1GDTQ?ref_=wl_share

The Southern Gothic Cradle that Kick-Started a Cult

We didn’t have gypsies or midgets living next door to us. Seems that’s always major criteria for living a truly gothic southern childhood.

True Flannery style, though, we did have a bible salesman – my father — selling scripture to anyone he could hold captive. And there was a prosthetic, too. And leg braces, straight-up-Forrest-Gump style. And plenty of twisted scripture. 

Sometimes people with the best hearts can make the worst choices. I heard that line last night and I immediately thought of my father and the choices he made so long ago that sucked him, and us right along with him, into a spiritual cyclone of incredibly destructive dimensions.

Growing up, we lived in a brick ranch on a dirt road just off the Ole Miss campus. There was a carport off the kitchen, a horse shed out back, a fern gully due south, and blackberry brambles as far as the eye could see. Our neighbors consisted of a one-eyed drunk, a couple of naked hippies, a random homeless grad student, and lots and lots of snakes.  I’d say all that qualifies as a veritable cornucopia of southern gothic ingredients.

Technically speaking, the road we lived on was gravel, but I remember one spring it rained 92 out of the 90 days and the gravel all washed away. Front porch mudslides and a mudbound VW bus became our new normal. That season, we subsisted on hot pickled okra and well water until my mother hitched a ride to the local Jitney Jungle atop a backhoe for peanut butter and bananas. 

Now, I told you there’d be a prosthetic in this story, and I don’t lie. (I may embellish, but I never lie.) That drunk next door — the one over the gully and through the mud? He had a glass eye, and any given night, he’d wander up our way and knock on the carport door. If I answered, he’d knuckle his eye out, pop it in his mouth, and roll it around on his tongue like a jawbreaker. Then he’d spit it out and offer it up to me. I had wet-the-bed- night-terrors over it. 

Even though he probably died years ago, for anonymity purposes, I’ll call him Shine – if not for the prosthetic spit-shines, then for his moonshine pilgrimages. You see, Shine would show up looking for liquor or ladies, or both, almost every single night. It got to where Mama was afraid to answer her own door. 

If Daddy was home, he’d carpe the diem and minister to Shine’s soul. I think that’s where his passion for scripture truly set fire. My father was fairly lost himself at the time — his own father having recently passed — and I’ve heard an existential crisis like that makes a body vulnerable to cultish ways. 

Regardless, there in our kitchen, my dad would fire up the Holy Spirit and force-feed scripture and coffee down Shine’s throat till he got a bellyful and went off in search of better spirits. 

Now Shine wasn’t the only strange and suspect man we’d find in our kitchen back then. The grad student Sellers (not sure if that was his first name or last, but I know he’s dead of suicide now, so I’ll name him) studied physics by day and lived in his car in our side yard by night. Every morning, he’d steal into our kitchen to swig milk straight out of the wax carton. 

I was a toddler then, in leg braces (didn’t I promise ya?). Dr. Stone told my folks I had some sort of rotational deformity, I think, so I wore the human equivalent of a leather and metal horse harness every night, and wasn’t allowed in the kitchen until my mother unshackled me every morning. The screws in the feet chewed up the linoleum, leaving Mama in a tizzy. 

So I’d watch Sellers quietly from the hallway as he unfolded the spout and chugged away. (I did a whole lot of watching back then and not a lot of talking. More on that in a moment.) Every single thing about Sellers was disheveled. His head, with its matted tufts of hair, his chest, with its pale, pudgy flesh, his Hanes briefs, with their drooping posterior.

He drove my mother crazy. But he was my father’s most faithful disciple — somehow fascinated with my Daddy’s frenzied spiritual awakenings. As far as my father was concerned, Sellers could do no wrong. 

Those naked hippies though — Dad made it pretty clear they could do no right. They lived on the other side of us from Shine.  Of all the neighbors, they scared me the least and Dad the most. 

To me, the most fascinating thing about them wasn’t their nakedness, but their giant outdoor waterbed. It sat about thirty feet from their back porch, hidden by jutting canna lilies with giant purple stalks and flaming red tips. The flowers sheltered the hippies from view when they laid naked in the sunshine. 

I watched them from a rusted-out Chevy perched among a mess of brambles at their tree line. A sapling had sprouted through the floorboards and crept through the passenger window. It housed a whole lot of spiders and an occasional garden snake. And me. From my vantage point, I pretended I was a member of the Swiss Family Robinson surveying the natives in their natural habitat.  

I don’t remember him much, just that he had long, lanky limbs and hair. But her, she was an Ole Miss beauty queen drop out with caramel skin and honey hair and (according to my father’s definition of hippies) a love of mind-altering substances. A few years later, she was involved in a terrible car crash that left her in a wheelchair the remainder of her days. 

She once gave me a Mrs. Beasley doll from Family Affair fame. It had a blue polka dot body, frizzy blond hair, and a non-functioning pull string. This Ole Miss Beauty Queen was probably twenty years my senior, but at four-years-old, she became my closest friend and the closest thing I will ever know to a goddess. Or a hippie, for that matter, I guess.

There were other people in my life in those early days, too. Every Wednesday night, Dad hosted prayer meetings in our living room where he strummed his guitar with a pick and sang Delta Dawn with my mother. I don’t remember much about the folks there. Just that they were mostly college kids who probably wanted an A in my father’s physics lab. 

My father often prophesied about the end of days and always shouted in tongues. There was also some laying-on of hands and some casting out of demons. It all fell just short of snake handling, though.

So, there you have it. The southern gothic roots that propogated my father’s crazy, cultish curiosity with off-the-grid faith. And it all stemmed from a good heart, recently broken by a father’s death.

Still, it was all a bit much for a toddler in leg braces to absorb. But absorb, I did. And like it or not, it proved good fodder for a future writer.

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