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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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My Aunts in Shining Armor

As I’ve been combing my recipes searching for something extra special to fix this weekend — just because — I’ve run across certain dishes that remind me of three extraordinary women in my life… women whose love and sacrifice have made me who I am today.

These women creatively acquired me through the bonds of blood and grit and good, old-fashioned love. These women took me in and made me their own. They taught me to know my potential and to believe in it. They taught me that women are strong. That women are powerful. That women are capable. They taught me that women have a voice and that we should use it. These women are my aunts — my three graces, my three fates, my three wise women. And the recipes that remind me of them are as deeply rich and provocative and inspirational as my aunts themselves…

First, there’s my Aunt Jan and her “Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie.” It’s the perfect blend of glistening, syrup-soaked berries steeped in puddles of juice under clouds of whipped cream.

I have no idea who Mrs. Norris is, but I’m here to tell you that this pie is my Aunt Jan in a pastry shell.  It perfectly parallels her zany, vibrant nature. She’s sweet and tart and sparkling with pizzazz. She’s never met a stranger and she’s never been ignored.

She taught me to make this pie during what I call “The Summer of Grandma” – a two-month stint during which my cousins and Jan and I built pie after pie in a humid, east Tennessee kitchen trying anything and everything to get my grandmother to eat. She was slipping away from us, but she still had a hankering for sweetness.

And so we built pies. Pecan pie. And Chocolate pie. And Lemon Meringue — so high and coiffed that women in Texas could likely haul pictures to their hairdressers as inspiration. And finally, Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie – the Mother Superior of pies – just like Jan, our family matriarch after my grandmother passed away.

The baton was passed, and Jan became our pulse and our promise. She’s a talker and she’s a doer. If you want it coordinated and you want it done, call Jan. And she’s a lover. When she hugs you, you find yourself wrapped in clouds of pillow-y bosoms, which she inherited from my grandma (and which, I might add, skipped me in the gene pool). And you find yourself believing in rainbows and unicorns and holy grails.

Because Jan makes the impossible possible. She is quick-witted and confident, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She pushed me and pulled me and pep-talked me into going back to school. Through her, I learned to trust in myself and the God-given gifts that she assured me I had and that I needed to hone.

Without Jan, I never would have trusted my mind or my voice. She taught me that what I think and feel matters. She pushed me to tell it like I see it and to hold strong to my principles. She made the impossible possible in me.

jan

Now, Jan’s twin sister Ann isn’t much of a baker. Instead, she sticks to main dishes, and she’s most famous for her tenderloins stuffed with apples and pecans and fragrant herbs – a savory, nourishing dish indicative of her steady, nurturing soul.

Ann and I have some sort of kindred connection. I felt it from the first time we ever sat down and REALLY talked – on my grandmother’s front steps after I was deposited there by a distant father in a diesel Isuzu and a feverish faith. Ann and I played with kittens and plotted the trajectory of my life on those semicircle steps beneath the crab-apple stone siding and cedar shingles of my grandmother’s house.

Ann embodies most closely who I truly am: intuitive and observant, reserved and resilient, capable and calm. Her eyes are still water on stone, are snow clouds at dusk – and when they meet mine, they see things. Things hidden in shame or for protection.

But with Ann, every trembling, buried burden or bruise is safe. It is better than safe – it is healed. Because she has a ministering nature that soothes and mends. It was her job. Literally. She is a retired ER doc, and I promise you, she did more than heal bodies in her years of service. She calmed hearts and settled souls – mine included. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without her.

annandpat2

And finally, there’s Pat, Ann’s wife, and my aunt by marriage. Pat is our family’s Tupelo honey. Her voice is southern nectar and so is her love. She never has a negative word to say to or about anyone. She sweetens the lives of all of us by spreading her joy and her sweet, sanguine good sense. Any recipe with honey, honey bun to  hotty toddy, reminds me of my beloved Pat. Lover of animals and humanitarian causes alike, she is generosity and goodness with a smile carved from moonstone and a heart made of gold.

My fondest memory of Pat is when several of us piled into a car to take a little trek over the mountains and through the woods– in a snow storm– to visit the Biltmore House. The roads grew slushy and slippery, and Pat’s mother, who was ailing at the time, grew car sick.

When we pulled to the side (more like slid to the side) of the interstate, her sweet, ailing mama proceeded to lose her dinner, right along with her upper teeth.  Pat sweetly swiveled her back into the backseat and then paddled through drifts of snowy vomit in search of the delinquent dentures.

That is Pat: unflappable, ever capable, and always willing to go the extra mile for family. She is as warm and soothing as  Tupelo honey. Her love glows deep and rich, and she moths us all to hearth and home with her warmth. She has always encouraged me to dream big and to reach high, but to never lose touch with my roots – because family feeds the soul.

And thanks to my family — and particularly my three incomparable and beautiful aunts — my heart is full to bursting and my cup runneth over.

Birthday Cakes: a simple symbol for the complex, multi-layered loves of your life

In our house, birthdays are a big deal. And birthday cakes are a big part of that big deal. They are something to be thought long and hard over and then hand-crafted with lots and lots of love — and labor. If it doesn’t take hours and hours to craft that magical milestone confection topped with icing and flames and dripping wax, then you need to seriously reevaluate your relationship. Somebody doesn’t love you enough. Or you don’t love them enough. That’s my theory. (Not really… well, maybe really.)

A good solid relationship demands at least three hours of dedicated, uninterrupted baking. That’s the birthday cake rule of thumb. At least in my house.

It began when I was little. My mom is the master of birthday cakes from scratch: castle cakes with turrets and flags, yellow layer cakes with pink frosting and roses, maple pecan pound cakes…

I kept the tradition going when my girls were little. I wanted to give them some sort of celebration worthy of the love they had given me — and the cakes my mom had always made.  So I went all out when planning their birthdays. They had themed parties with dozens of attendees. We hosted murder mysteries, scavenger hunts, plundering pirate feasts, and ginormous movie premiers. I planned for months and baked in marathons. Their cakes were always homemade and, though hardly Pinterest-worthy, were fueled and filled with love.

Then came the boys… the twins. And the birthday-cake-stakes were multiplied – and way more than simply times two. These boys have been challenging for a number of reasons — the first being, there were two of them. At once. And they never slept. And did I mention there were two of them. At once…

But, then, to add insult to injury, when their first birthday rolled around, I had to come up with a way to bake up a super-scrumptious birthday cake worth all the love and laughter and sleepless nights the boys had brought into my life. And all without dairy — with nary a milk protein to be found!

Holy Mother of Ganache!

Bake a cake without cream? without chocolate? without butter? These are the key ingredients and foundations of layer cakes and healthy relationships the world over… They are the flutter in the belly, the dilation in the pupil, the surge in the heartstrings. They are the LOOK and TASTE and LANGUAGE of love — of deep, abiding love.

The way I figured it, a cake without dairy would be flat and leave you feeling unfulfilled. Like a song without accompaniment — no guitar, no piano, not even a tambourine. (I must confess this was prior to my exposure to the pure, acapella sounds of Pentatonix. I was so, so very naïve – about music and about cakes… You see, really good cakes – and really good music – CAN be made without the traditional accompaniments.)

…because I found a cake that is moist and dense and decadent and CHOCOLATE with absolutely, positively NO dairy ingredients. Instead, it uses almond milk and coconut oil and applesauce and cocoa and coffee. And witchcraft. Sweet, sweet sacharine sorcery. It is the best damn chocolate cake I’ve ever made. Or ever had. And from now until eternity, it is the only chocolate cake I will ever, ever make again.

Amen and pass the birthday candles.

So yes, the boys presented me with a birthday cake challenge, but I’m here to say my biggest, ongoing challenge has to do with my nay-saying, anti-birthday-establishment husband.

Somehow, I married a man who hates birthdays. No. Worse. He doesn’t hate them. At least there’s passion in hate. No, he just doesn’t care about birthdays. He proclaims, year after year, that “a birthday is just another day.”  He doesn’t want to be fussed over. He doesn’t want to be baked for.

Oh, the blasphemy! Oh, the shame!!!

A birthday is NOT just another day. A birthday is YOUR day (unless you’re a twin. The twins share their special day – which is kind of a crime, if you think about it. But then, so were those sixteen sleepless months they gave me, so I guess that’s the cross they must bear…)

But your birthday is YOUR special day. You get the birthday song sung to you. (Yes, I know it’s tedious and tired and half the people who sing it can’t quite hit those high notes – me included –  but still, we squawk it out just for you. So just relish in the disjangled cacophony of it all.)

And you get birthday cards and birthday presents. (Well, I may have forgotten to pick up a card this year – your 40th and one of the Big Ones — which probably means I’ve now got myself reserved seating on one of the deep-throated sectionals in the ninth circle of Hell reserved for the traitors of kin, but I DID get you a really, really nice, long-awaited birthday gift.)

But most of all, you get cake. BIRTHDAY cake. And I’m here to tell you I happily spent the majority of the morning hours toasting pecans and grating carrots and creaming butter and folding egg whites and spooning vanilla to create a veritable symphony of love and affection in the form of a three-layered confection made special just for you.

Because you see, you ARE a really big deal. And yes, I know you are a staggering six feet of pure, mountainous muscle and mixed genetics — a specimen of breathtaking beauty ( Don’t argue with me. You are.), but you are also a big deal for far more than your giant stature and gorgeous genetics. You have changed the course of my life for the better. You sent me spinning head-over-heels into a world full of football and do-it-all-over-again-motherhood, and a pure and perfect and birthday-cake-special kind of love.

So every January 7th, I bake up your favorite — carrot cake with toasted pecans and creamed cheese icing – in honor of all the hugs and kisses and laughter and toddler antics and frenzied football games and political discussions and passion and pure joy you give to me on a daily basis. A simple symbol of thanks for a complex, multi-layered love. Happy Birthday, handsome.

mikebirthday

Simple Resolutions for a Stronger, Saner Me

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write for this week’s blog. Since it IS New Year’s Day, I feel like it should hold some sort of tremendous import or be full of proclamations and profound resolutions.

Problem is, I just don’t know what those might be. I’m totally fresh out of profound proclamations. To tell the truth, I’ve never really owned any.

I am a simple person with simple needs. And my resolutions are equally simple. Family comes first and foremost. Always.

Therefore, I vow to give more love and hugs and phone calls and prayers. Every day. Every single one. I’ve tried to do that this year. But sometimes I’ve failed.

Sometimes the days spin wildly out of control – much like twin toddler tantrums – doubling and flipping and following so closely one upon the other that I suddenly find myself on the other side of nightfall and realize I’ve failed. Failed to call my girls, to check on my grandson, to pray for my babies (all four) and the lives they are owning and embellishing. Failed to say “I love you” to my husband. Failed to lavish an ample number of hugs on my rapidly-growing little boys – and they need lots and lots of hugs. As many as I can give. Because hugs grow good humans. I’m convinced of it.

I need to do better.

And to do that, I need to take better care of myself – primarily my mental health, which takes a beating from full-time teaching and all-the-time mothering.

So, to maintain my sanity, I resolve to take more naps and wear more blue jeans. I believe fully and absolutely in the restorative power of both. Blue jeans and naps do a world of good! And in a world full of bad, I believe they could lead to a gentler, kinder (more comfortable and well-rested) universe.

I know how cranky I get in buttoned-down, up-tight clothing. My fuse is short when my fabric is inflexible. And when I’m sleep-deprived, heaven help! I become a ticking time-mom. 😜

Unfortunately, my work place believes in neither (naps or jeans) so I’ll just have to get as much of both in as I possibly can on my days off. But why does the school administration object so unreasonably to such reasonable stress relievers?

I think a nap class in the place of study hall could shoot our test scores through the moon. After all, it is scientifically proven that naps boost productivity and mental alertness. They also lower stress levels and improve overall mood. I’m here to say that high schoolers – and their teachers – could greatly benefit from post-lunch siestas. Although I guess I understand the objection to naps. Sort of.

But blue jeans?  Why, pray tell, are blue jeans so frowned upon in our establishment?  Do the powers-that-be really believe that students respond more favorably and focus more intently when the instructor is dressed professionally? How, pray tell, do tailored trousers and silk blouses translate into higher SATs and college admissions? I’d like to see a study on that hogwash.

Still… I don’t have an issue with Monday-through-Thursday compliance. But I do believe that casual Friday should be reinstated. (We used to have dress-down days at the end of each week, but then this year, that simple workplace perk went the way of the dinosaurs. Why, you ask?  I have no idea, I reply. I do, however, have lots and lots of anger and resentment…)

Oops… I seem to be digressing – and stressing –over a set of New Year’s resolutions that are meant to help alleviate my stress levels: more naps and blue jeans (at least on the weekends). Simple. Cheap. Effective.

So there you have them. My far-from-profound, hardly earth-shattering resolutions. Love more. Hug often. Call daily. Pray constantly. And nap and wear blue jeans every weekend and calendar break of 2018.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a nap to take…

A Little Allegory of a Parent’s Soul

To introduce the concept of allegory to high school students, I use Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” It is the first book I ever remember receiving as a gift. I still have that original copy. It’s inscribed with a birthday wish and a life blessing. Its edges are tattered and curl softly from use, and its insides are  tatted up from Crayola abuse.

I loved “The Giving Tree” from the beginning, although I didn’t understand its complexity back then. Instead, I loved it for its simplicity and purity — the modest black and white sketches, and the story of the tree who loved a boy – loved a boy from every depth and breadth and height her soul could reach.

A boy and his tree. I loved it. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t.

And then I became a mom.

And KA-POW! – deeper understanding hit me like a felled oak straight to the noggin. This wasn’t merely the story of a boy and his tree. I mean it was, but darn, it was so much more, too! It was a little allegory of a parent’s soul. And for the first time ever reading that story, I cried. And ever since, every single time I read that story… I cry. I can’t even read the last line, I get so choked up.

The truth and power of its message gets to me: the unhesitating willingness of a mama to hew off whole parts of herself to raise up her young with the necessities and tools to survive in this world.

Like I said, I introduce the concept of allegory to my high school juniors – and they can see it, the multiple meanings hidden in its seemingly simplistic lines. They see the sacrifices the tree makes to keep her boy happy. They see her wide-open love through the gifts of her leaves and her apples; they see the unflinching sacrifice of her limbs and her trunk; and they think they understand the final grand gesture in the giving of her shriveled, old stump. Yes, they can definitely see it. And they think they get it. They interpret the allegory in one of two ways…

Some of my students connect it to parental love – those blessed enough to have parents who have shown them true, unconditional love.

But sadly, some don’t get it at all because some of my students haven’t felt that sort of love from their moms and dads. The stories I hear — the stories I see – students whose parents have left them surfing couches in friends’ houses, students whose parents are locked away in jail or whose love is locked away in addiction, students who are parenting siblings — students mere saplings themselves — playing the role of the Giving Tree.

It’s an impossible task for them. They lack the depth and breadth and height of maturity: their leaves are too tender, their fruit is too green, their roots are too shallow to support and sustain another soul, much less themselves. Their stories are enough to crack open a planet-full of hearts and send them weeping.

And speaking of planets… some of my students see another allegorical interpretation: humanity’s blatant misuse of Mother Earth and her resources. In this version, the boy takes and takes and takes with no regard for the Giving Tree’s sacrifice – the more he needs, the more he takes until there’s nothing left but a shriveled-up stump – and even that gets used.

And yes, the depletion of our planet’s resources is a valid and compelling argument — easily seen and scientifically supported, regardless of those who might say otherwise. And in this political climate – when the Environmental Protection Agency is being run by a fossil fuel magnate and the current POTUS is playing a nuclear-annihilation game of chicken with his Asian doppelganger, it is an interpretation with grave importance.

But I prefer the little allegory of a parent’s soul. And I really do believe it was Silverstein’s intent. Because after each sacrifice, after each leaf and apple and branch and trunk that is taken, his prose simply reads: And the Tree was happy.

And the earth cannot be happy being plundered and pillaged. That just cannot prove true.

But as a parent, that happiness statement rings true every single time. When my girls need me. When my boys need me. When my small and humble breasts sustained them all as infants. When my wide and ample hips carried them all as toddlers. When my long and lanky arms surround them as both youngsters and adults. When my eager, willing heart beats for all four of them always and forever with joyful abandon… I am happy.

For them, I would give all. Willingly. And happily.

That’s how I know “The Giving Tree” is a little allegory of a parent’s soul.

This past week, I introduced my boys to Silverstein’s masterpiece – my original, 45-year-old birthday book, its edges all tattered and curled from use, its insides all tatted with Crayola abuse. My boys were mesmerized. They loved it: the simplicity and purity of its prose, the modest black and white of its sketches.

This story of a tree who loved a boy is timeless. This story of a tree that readily hands out huge chunks of herself never gets old. The tree herself may get old. She may lose apples and branches, and her tattoos — if she had any — may wrinkle like that ME + T heart scratched into the core of her being, but no matter what, if her kid finds happiness, that tree finds happiness.  No matter the hardship, the struggle, the pain…

Yes, my boys loved the book.

And this tree was happy.

giving tree

 

My Aunts in Shining Armor

As I’ve been combing my recipes searching for something extra special to fix this weekend — just because — I’ve run across certain dishes that remind me of three extraordinary women in my life… women whose love and sacrifice have made me who I am today.

These women creatively acquired me through the bonds of blood and grit and good, old-fashioned love. These women took me in and made me their own. They taught me to know my potential and to believe in it. They taught me that women are strong. That women are powerful. That women are capable. They taught me that women have a voice and that we should use it. These women are my aunts — my three graces, my three fates, my three wise women. And the recipes that remind me of them are as deeply rich and provocative and inspirational as my aunts themselves…

First, there’s my Aunt Jan and her “Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie.” It’s the perfect blend of glistening, syrup-soaked berries steeped in puddles of juice under clouds of whipped cream.

I have no idea who Mrs. Norris is, but I’m here to tell you that this pie is my Aunt Jan in a pastry shell.  It perfectly parallels her zany, vibrant nature. She’s sweet and tart and sparkling with pizzazz. She’s never met a stranger and she’s never been ignored.

She taught me to make this pie during what I call “The Summer of Grandma” – a two-month stint during which my cousins and Jan and I built pie after pie in a humid, east Tennessee kitchen trying anything and everything to get my grandmother to eat. She was slipping away from us, but she still had a hankering for sweetness.

And so we built pies. Pecan pie. And Chocolate pie. And Lemon Meringue — so high and coiffed that women in Texas could likely haul pictures to their hairdressers as inspiration. And finally, Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie – the Mother Superior of pies – just like Jan, our family matriarch after my grandmother passed away.

The baton was passed, and Jan became our pulse and our promise. She’s a talker and she’s a doer. If you want it coordinated and you want it done, call Jan. And she’s a lover. When she hugs you, you find yourself wrapped in clouds of pillow-y bosoms, which she inherited from my grandma (and which, I might add, skipped me in the gene pool). And you find yourself believing in rainbows and unicorns and holy grails.

Because Jan makes the impossible possible. She is quick-witted and confident, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She pushed me and pulled me and pep-talked me into going back to school. Through her, I learned to trust in myself and the God-given gifts that she assured me I had and that I needed to hone.

Without Jan, I never would have trusted my mind or my voice. She taught me that what I think and feel matters. She pushed me to tell it like I see it and to hold strong to my principles. She made the impossible possible in me.

jan

Now, Jan’s twin sister Ann isn’t much of a baker. Instead, she sticks to main dishes, and she’s most famous for her tenderloins stuffed with apples and pecans and fragrant herbs – a savory, nourishing dish indicative of her steady, nurturing soul.

Ann and I have some sort of kindred connection. I felt it from the first time we ever sat down and REALLY talked – on my grandmother’s front steps after I was deposited there by a distant father in a diesel Isuzu and a feverish faith. Ann and I played with kittens and plotted the trajectory of my life on those semicircle steps beneath the crab-apple stone siding and cedar shingles of my grandmother’s house.

Ann embodies most closely who I truly am: intuitive and observant, reserved and resilient, capable and calm. Her eyes are still water on stone, are snow clouds at dusk – and when they meet mine, they see things. Things hidden in shame or for protection.

But with Ann, every trembling, buried burden or bruise is safe. It is better than safe – it is healed. Because she has a ministering nature that soothes and mends. It was her job. Literally. She is a retired ER doc, and I promise you, she did more than heal bodies in her years of service. She calmed hearts and settled souls – mine included. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without her.

annandpat2

And finally, there’s Pat, Ann’s wife, and my aunt by marriage. Pat is our family’s Tupelo honey. Her voice is southern nectar and so is her love. She never has a negative word to say to or about anyone. She sweetens the lives of all of us by spreading her joy and her sweet, sanguine good sense. Any recipe with honey, honey bun to  hotty toddy, reminds me of my beloved Pat. Lover of animals and humanitarian causes alike, she is generosity and goodness with a smile carved from moonstone and a heart made of gold.

My fondest memory of Pat is when several of us piled into a car to take a little trek over the mountains and through the woods– in a snow storm– to visit the Biltmore House. The roads grew slushy and slippery, and Pat’s mother, who was ailing at the time, grew car sick.

When we pulled to the side (more like slid to the side) of the interstate, her sweet, ailing mama proceeded to lose her dinner, right along with her upper teeth.  Pat sweetly swiveled her back into the backseat and then paddled through drifts of snowy vomit in search of the delinquent dentures.

That is Pat: unflappable, ever capable, and always willing to go the extra mile for family. She is as warm and soothing as  Tupelo honey. Her love glows deep and rich, and she moths us all to hearth and home with her warmth. She has always encouraged me to dream big and to reach high, but to never lose touch with my roots – because family feeds the soul.

And thanks to my family — and particularly my three incomparable and beautiful aunts — my heart is full to bursting and my cup runneth over.

The Most Interesting Man in the World Turns 75

dad

Today is my father’s 75th birthday. He’s a mountain man from Virginia, reared in Tennessee, and currently roosting in Georgia with a rambling tomcat, a chocolate lab, and a mare mule named Kate. A born-again bachelor for the last quarter century, he’s actively searching for the perfect woman – one ready to submerge herself in the throes of passion, pontification, and penicillin-prone farmhouse sinks. My dad is not your average septuagenarian, to put it mildly. He’s a semi-retired Physics professor and ordained minister, and his topics of conversation swing as far-and-wide as the pendulums in his lab or his interpretations of scripture: from the seismic activity in Sri Lanka to the virtues of flip phones; from the state of the secular world to the value of a round bale of hay, he’s the most interesting man in the world. And by interesting, I mean… “interesting” is his favorite word.

He maintains a cache of “interesting” topics and tales, which he then serves up at mealtimes. His lead-ins of choice, “Let me tell you something interesting…” or “Did I ever tell you the interesting thing that happened…” or that old familiar stand by, “Interestingly enough, I once…” Regardless the build-up, rest assured that whatever he’s about to wax poetic over, it is guaranteed to “interest” only fellow astrophysicists, Pentecostal scripture enthusiasts, or mule farmers. He lives vicariously through himself. He’s the most interesting man in the world.

He’s quite the proud promoter of theoretically appropriate cuss words, as well. Bitch is his all-time favorite – and always used when referencing his dog. He gets his subversive jollies off using proper canine terms. He doesn’t always talk dirty, but when he does, he uses bitch and dam. He’s the most interesting man in the world.

And speaking of proud promoter – he’ll never shy away from discussing his storied career and numerous patents – from university to industry, from geophysics to astrophysics, from patents pending to patents expired, patents current and yet to be conceived – you name it, he’s done it. And been published. Google him, if you don’t believe him. He’s won the lifetime achievement award – twice. He’s the most interesting man in the world.

dadlab

Now, he’s a good-looking man, my big-talking, bitch-dropping dad. His hair, once full and dark as coal, is now pale at the temples and sparse at the crown. His joints are arthritic, and his hands are spotted, but his mineral blue eyes are still piercing and his long, lanky frame is still imposing. And so is his didactic style. He’ll preach till the mules come home on science, politics, and God. For him, the world is black and white, just like the scripture on the page or the hair on his head. He sits tall in the saddle of his moral high horse and his seventeen-hand roan mule. His ten-gallon hat holds twenty gallons of opinions… He’s the most interesting man in the world.

 

I’m sure it baffles him beyond all belief that he’s raised such a liberal-minded daughter. Well, to give him credit, he’s raised three. Three outspoken, independent women. I was the firstborn. Long and lanky and leaning decidedly to the left. And then my two sisters came tumbling after. Three stair-stepped, progressive daughters sired from the seed of a staunch patriarchal papa. I don’t know how he stayed in his right mind.

Growing up, we girls would hear him commiserate with fellow fellows that he was the only male – besides a neutered tom cat, so he didn’t count — in a house full of females: four women, two bitch dogs and a mare horse. His universe was plagued with Premenstrual syndrome, prone toilet seats, rogue lip gloss and tubs clogged with long, chestnut locks. We caused him endless hours of angst. And then his most fervent prayer was answered: my brother was born. The son of his right hand and heir to the throne.

As I’ve hinted, I’m nothing like my father. He’s a far-right conservative; I’m a far-left liberal. He’s a man of science; I’m a woman of the humanities. He loves quantum physics; I love Quantum Leap. He quotes scripture; I quote Shakespeare. Given a chance, he’d shoot doves in the field for dinner, while I’d shower them in symbolism. Me, I’m reserved; my dad, he’ll share his life story with the cashier at Walmart. He has inside jokes with perfect strangers. He’s the most interesting man in the world.

And while, we’re polar-opposites, we’re also exactly alike. I’m stubborn and proud and opinionated and outspoken. I’m faithful and frugal and full of forgiveness. I cry easily, can consume ginormous amounts of popcorn, and am insanely proud of my family. I also got his height, his love of jalapeno peppers, and his passion for the stars.

One of my strongest, best memories involves me trailing after him as a youngster, the dusty clutter to his meteoric majesty, up into one or the other of the two Ole Miss observatories. It was pure perfection to stay up past my bedtime and view the moon and the planets with his astronomy class. I was in awe: of him, of his students, of his galaxy. (Had he hung the moon? Hell, I was fairly certain he’d strung the whole Milky Way.) By the first grade, I’d memorized the planets and their order. When he came to my elementary school to give a demonstration to my peers, I preened like Orion in October – all bright and blustery and bigger than the belt in my britches.

But by the sixth grade, my brother was born, Ole Miss was left behind, and a crazy cult eclipsed our cosmos connection. I don’t remember a lot of interaction with my father in those dark matter days, except for him lecturing and me not listening. Things grew twisty and tortured, and then tanked altogether. Only through the miraculous intervention of a Wise County wise woman, my fairy godmother and paternal grandmother, did we emerge on the other side of the darkness and find our way to a daughter-daddy do-over.

We haven’t always had the best relationship, my dad and I. Our philosophies are polar opposites, and our belief systems are equally rigid. But the older we grow, the closer we grow. We meet in the middle over family and food, mutual respect and love.

He’s fond of acceleration spectral density, discount stores, and long walks on the beach with a metal detector. He is left-handed and right-handed. His conversations have lost more people than the Bermuda triangle. He is indeed the most interesting man in the world. Happy Birthday, Dad.

dadandboys

 

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