Tag Archives: OUR MOMENTS

Keep Looking

gold eggAt least once in our lives, we all deserve to find the golden egg.  Whatever it is for you–a place of peace, a true friend, a story to tell, a community, forgiveness, love, sobriety, calm, true north, delight–I hope you find the golden egg.  If you don’t find it today, keep looking.

Back when I was the spinster aunt, I volunteered to orchestrate an egg hunt for the kids.  The first year, when it was just Jackson, it was easy–we hid the same 12 eggs for an hour.  Every time he toddled over with one, we’d sling it back in the grass as soon as he turned his back.  He’d find it again with just as much delight as the first time.

One year, I did a hunt for Grant and Jake when their family invited me to the mountains for Easter weekend.  Their mom asked me not to go crazy with the candy, so I filled their eggs with coins…they walked away with a low-fat, sugar free $50!

Once you own 200+ plastic eggs, you get to do the egg hunt every year.  I love doing it.  Nana and Papa have a magical yard (that comes from the “magic” of 25+ years of labor) filled with hidey holes, lush grass and blooming fruit trees.  Every summer, Daddy tills up a couple of especially well-hidden eggs when he’s putting in the garden!

As the boys grew older, I decided that EVERYONE deserved to find a gold egg so I bought six.  The rule is, you can only find ONE gold egg, even if you stumble on more than one.  This tradition led to one of my favorite Easter stories a few years ago.

We had already done an easy hunt in the vegetable garden for the little kids.  Then it was time for the five older kids to hunt in the backyard.  The parents fanned out to hide the eggs and I hid five gold eggs in really hard to find places.  The big kids tore through the yard, filling their baskets with loot.  Jackson struck gold first.  Then Grant.  Then Victoria.  Then Chase.  The eggs were dwindling out and everyone had found a gold one except for Jake, the youngest of the older kids.  We hunted and hunted and hunted.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the fifth hiding place.  Poor Jake seemed sad and left out and I hated that for him.  I know what it’s like to be the youngest and I wanted him to find that gold egg.

I was searching in the azaleas behind the pump house in a vain attempt to find that stupid gold egg.  Now, this next part will sound silly but some of you may understand.  When I need a little supernatural boost, I sometimes call on Richard’s spirit (or my Grandmother Eunice or my Pop or any other who might be looking over my shoulder).  So I mumbled under my breath, “Richard, I could use a little help finding this egg.  Please?”

A couple of minutes later, Jake shouts, “I found it!!!”  There he was, holding high a gold egg in a spot where I hadn’t hidden one.  He was BEAMING!  I was gobsmacked.  Where had that egg come from???

Then Jackson and Chase sidled up with big grins on their preteen faces.  Chase whispered, “We took one of our eggs and hid it so Jake could find it.”

I don’t remember if Nana and Papa ever found that fifth gold egg.   I do know that we all found what we were looking for.  Jake got his golden egg.  Jackson and Chase got the chance to do a kindness.  I got to see two sweet boys turn into generous young men.

The Engagement Fart

600px-Fart.svgOK, OK.  I’ve spent most of this week plugging away at the inspirational posts about authenticity and embracing YES and making yourself into the positive person you desire to become.  Enough!  Let’s get back to the REAL reason for this blog–fart jokes.

I’ve mentioned Fartbuster before (aka my first husband, starter husband, ex-husband, waste of my 20’s, etc).  He wasn’t known for his farting or anything; my dad dubbed him Fartbuster after the divorce to sum up his utter uselessness in regards to what he had contributed to my life–a lot of hot air and a generalized unpleasant stink that dissipated pretty quickly.  Ten years of my life–broken like the wind.  Pffffft.

We had been together for about four years when we decided to marry.  There was no official proposal.  Our decision to get married was made over chicken quesadillas on a Tuesday night.  It was more of a, “We could get married.  I guess?  Pass the salsa.  Yeah, OK” kind of magic moment.  Bwahahaha….my spellchecker just suggested “peccadilloes” instead of “quesadillas.”  If only, word processing gods, if only.

I was tasked with picking out my own ring, because, y’know…it was so much trouble.  Meh.  I found one I loved and we ordered it from a guy I knew.  I didn’t know how long it would take to make, so I wasn’t really looking for it anytime specific.  Romance just oooooozes from this story, right???  Ours was a passion built on discounted Mexican food.

A few weeks later, we went away for a quick weekend trip to Chattanooga.  Fartbuster was acting stranger than usual.  Shady.  We got to town late in the afternoon and still hadn’t had lunch, so I was antsy as hell to go find food but he kept making dumb reasons to go back to the hotel room.  He told me to go to the car to look for a book.  I told him it could wait.  He suggested I go fill up the ice bucket.  I pointed out that it would be melted by the time we got back to the room.  The problem was that he had the ring hidden in his suitcase and was trying to get it in his pocket so he could surprise me.  I was the monkey wench in that plan.  We went to the aquarium and didn’t get engaged.  We went to Rock City and didn’t get engaged at Lover’s Leap.  We went to dinner and didn’t get engaged.

When we got back to the hotel, Fartbuster turned on the TV to veg out.  I took a shower.  While I was brushing my teeth, I could feel him acting weird again.  He was lying on the bed just looking at me.  “Waaaaht?” I asked, through a mouthful of foam.  He didn’t say anything.  I wore glasses back then and didn’t have them on, so this was all a blur.  I shrugged and turned back to the sink.  I spat, put my glasses on, and came to bed.

There on my pillow sat a gray velvet box.  That’s what he had been acting all goofy about.  I squealed and took out the ring.  It was perfect–heavy gold band with an emerald center stone and diamonds all around.  I loved it and I loved him and all was right with the world.  Of  course, I did say, “Wait!!!!  We can’t do this!!  People are going to ask where you proposed and I have to say, ‘in bed!’  That is so trashy!”

We laughed together and enjoyed our sweet moment, but it had been a long day.  He went back to watching TV and I rolled over to admire the ring twinkling in the lamplight.  After a while, I fell asleep.

And then.  Well.

Have you ever farted so loud that you WOKE YOURSELF UP?  I have.  I did.  Right then.  Blame it on excitement, travel, fried chicken, nerves…what have you.  But seriously, the first thing I knew, I was jarred awake by a megaton explosion of fart.  KAPOW.  Then I realized it was ME.  Like any proper Southern lady, I played possum.  I lay perfectly still, hoping that he was asleep and hadn’t heard a thing.  For a good five seconds, I thought I had gotten away with it.

Then he shouted, “Good GOD, woman!  Give me back that ring!”

Old Fartbuster had his moments.

Do You Have Issues?

confusionHere’s another scene from the improvisational play that G and I have been working on for seven years.  It’s called “Lost In Translation.”  What?  Someone already used that?  Oh.  Well, then let’s call it “New Adventures in PorkaCheese.”  Victoria never could manage “Portuguese” so it turned into “PorkaCheese” and we decided to keep it.   Vivi calls it “Brasil Talk.”

So yesterday afternoon, I pull into the garage with a carload of kids and G comes out to help with the offloading.  Carlos is in the “HeyCoolICanTakeOffMyShoes!” phase, so he was barefoot. G unstraps Vivi and asks her how her day was.  He unbuckles Carlos and chats with him.  While this is unfolding, I’m preoccupied with getting my phone off the charger up in the front seat.  Then he asks me, “Mom, do you have issues?”

It’s a big question for right when you get home from work, but I was really touched that he wanted to take some time to get to know what was going on inside my head.  I answered, “Well, I guess so.  I had a pretty good day, but everyone has issues.”  Blank stare.  He repeats, “Do you have ISSUES?”  Of course I do.  That’s why I go to therapy.  Then it dawns on me that there’s some meta-linguistic gesticulation going on in the back seat and I check the rear view mirror.  G is pointing to Carlos’ bare feet.  Ohhhhh….”Do you have his shoes?”‘

Yes, they are in my purse.  Thanks for asking.

One Friday morning, the alarm went off and I slammed it into snooze.  We were both lying there staring up at the ceiling when he said, “White or Wheat?”  I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at but I was glad that he was volunteering to make breakfast.  I said, “I’m not sure we have the stuff for toast, but we’ve got waffles.”  I turn my head to see him looking at me like I’m having a stroke.  He had said, “WHAT A WEEK!”  Ohhhhh.

I mean, I have a Southern accent, but he has a Southern hemisphere accent.

My favorite recent one was when my mom had come over to babysit, so G said, “Why don’t we take her to that restaurant she likes….what is it….Barrel of Butter?”  You mean Cracker Barrel, honey?  Sure.

Love Is Not All

The early morning hours of March 16th were some of the hardest, loneliest I’ve ever faced.  I’m not going to share exactly what was happening–that’s too intimate–but suffice to say that I was trying to keep my beloved on the life raft in the midst of a stormy sea.

Richard was restless and not in this reality.  I talked him back to this world several times and tried to get him to sleep.  I thought he would be safest if he stayed in our bed.  The bed became like a life raft, a small safe square.  I was bone weary, but slept diagonally across the bed so that I could feel if he moved.  I slept with my hand holding his wrist and the instant my hand grasped his, I remembered two things:  Theodore Gericault’s painting, “The Raft of the Medusa”:

Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, "The Raft of the Medusa" 1818, via Wikimedia Commons

Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, “The Raft of the Medusa” 1818, via Wikimedia Commons

and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Sonnet XXX”:

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

I recalled the painting because of its despair, panic, confusion.  It was in one of the art books I had as a small child and the image has never left me.  When I got to college and took art history, I learned the story behind the scene.  One hundred and fifty desperate people, clinging to a rickety raft after their ship was lost off Mauritania.  They endured two weeks in the open ocean and faced starvation and madness.  Some resorted to cannibalism.  Only fourteen survived.  Even as a child looking at Gericault’s painting, I understood the horror of the situation.  My college professor was the first one to point out to me the tiny ship on the horizon.  Every fiber of effort on the raft is focused on reaching for the hope of the distant ship.  A life raft, filled with death and madness all around, but a single dot of hope so far out on the horizon.  This is the image that came to my mind as I clung to Richard’s wrist, in the dark, on our life raft.

Along with the image of the raft came Millay’s line “Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink/And rise and sink and rise and sink again.” Just a few weeks earlier, I had been thumbing through a poetry anthology in search of something to read at our wedding.  This poem was about love in its most steadfast form, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the line about “Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,/Nor clean the blood.”  I couldn’t say it.  We had tried everything to clean his blood and every science betrayed us.  But the poem came back to me that night with its image of the spar, the wood we drowning folks cling to in order to rise, even though we may sink again.

Loving someone is hard.  Loving someone as they die is hard.  Some people walk away–“I might be driven to sell your love for peace.”  I did not.  I would not trade the memory of that night.  I know I would not.

Be Nice to Your Wife

Jamie Calkin's "The Globe"

“The Globe” by Jamie Calkin

I’m not sure what I think about clairvoyance, but here’s a story that points towards yes.

Our coffee date went so well that we decided to go out for dinner a few days later.  The plan was that we would meet at The Globe, a downtown Athens bar for grownups, then come up with a plan from there.  I love The Globe because they have rocking chairs inside, lots of Scotch, dark leather couches and Irish music, but not too loud.  My kind of place.

I got there first.  I ordered a drink and claimed one of the rocking chairs in the front window.  I was nervous, even though we had already spent hours talking to each other.  Richard came down the sidewalk a few minutes later and I remember how he took a deep breath and blew it out just before he reached for the door handle.  It made me think that he might be a little nervous, too.

We talked for two hours in those rocking chairs.  It was getting towards 7:30 and we still didn’t have a plan for dinner.  He had been looking at his watch on and off for the last fifteen minutes.  I asked him if he was in a rush to get somewhere.  He said, “Well, I need to ask a favor.  I’m got to go call my grandmother–my parents usually call her every day, but they’re in Italy and I promised that I would check in on her.  She’s 90 and goes to bed early so it will be too late to call her after dinner. I should call her before we go eat.”

This was before we all had phones with us all the time, children.  Try to imagine!

I understood perfectly (and he got points for being a kind and conscientious grandson).  He told me that he lived in the apartment building right around the corner (I could see it from the window), so we could go one of two ways:  he would get me another drink and leave me there at the bar while he went to make the call, or I could come with him and we could go straight to the restaurant after he called his grandmother.  Then he said the words every woman loves to hear:  “I promise I’m not an ax murderer.”  Who can argue with that logic?

It’s a good thing that man was so honorable and trustworthy because I sure as hell made stupid decisions around him.  OF COURSE I agreed to go to his apartment.  Good grief.  Idiot, party of one.

I occupied myself on the couch with his cat, whose name happened to be “Richard Nixon.”  He had never given the cat a name, just called it Cat, but one of his liberal friends was cat sitting one time and insisted that the cat have a name so she could love on it and coo to it, so he dubbed her (yes, Nixon was a girl) “Richard Nixon.”

Richard (the fellow, not the cat) called Sadie from the other room.  A few minutes later, he came back looking really perplexed.  I asked if everything was OK.  He shook his head as if he were clearing a cloud and replied, “Huh.  She must have had me confused with my cousin because right before we said goodbye, she said, ‘Be nice to your wife.'”

I never got to meet Sadie, but four years later, Richard gave me her ring when he proposed.  It was the diamond Jack had given her in 1927.  She had worn it for 75 years.  It turned out she was right–he was nice to his wife, that day and so many others.

A Bucket, A Baby, A Ball Gown

very_old_computer

Me, looking for love in 2001.

March 8, 2001.  I wanted to celebrate the fact that I hadn’t been murdered by the stranger who had picked me up on the side of the road when my car broke down.  And since I was single again and he had a cute butt, I decided to celebrate with him!  I did a little research first.  Now kids, gather round because MeeMaw’s going to tell you a story about a time before Google!  No Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitterverse.  Since I couldn’t google him, I had to Altavista him.  It’s a primitive mating ritual.  I found him on the University’s faculty list…so that checked out.  I linked to a couple of his posted class syllabi…he really did teach in the business school.  I found a copy of his CV and all the education and jobs he had told me about were there and in order.  No unexplained gaps that might mask an incarceration or long term psychiatric stay.  I found a couple of fraternity pictures (hazy and scanned because our phones only made calls back then) and he appeared to be aging well.  Oh, and on the bottom of his resume, he listed “Eagle Scout,” so that explained why he stopped to help an old lady with a busted car.  

I made a note to myself that I might have a couple of teensy trust issues (or a promising future in stalking) then I emailed him to see if he’d like to have coffee some day.  He said yes.

This was a green and growing time of my life.  The day of the coffee date, I was talking to my friends Craig and Tom about things we’d like to do in our lives (we didn’t even have the phrase “Bucket List,” kids!).  It dawned on me that we were doing a whole lot of talking and no acting.  Dreams stay dreams until you put them on a To Do List.  I arrived early to Jittery Joe’s coffee shop and happened to have my notebook with me, so while I waited for Richard, I wrote down what I called my Life List–50 things I wanted to do in my life.

The first thing I wrote, without hesitation, was “be someone’s mother.”  Next was skydiving and white water rafting and sailing the Greek Islands and skinny dipping and learning how to do a card trick and owning a cashmere sweater and teaching someone to read and wearing a ball gown to a real ball and hiking the Appalachian Trail and sleeping in the desert to look at the stars and learning the constellations and eating all the shrimp I ever wanted in one sitting and reading a story out loud in public…you get the idea.  It was a solid list and I was excited about it.  In mid-scrawl, I felt someone standing near me and looked up to see my new friend.  He pulled out the chair opposite me and asked what I was writing.  Instead of hiding it or trivializing it, I told him.  His response?  “Let’s hear it.”

We spent the next hour talking about the things on my list.  There were a few that he had done (skydiving, skinny dipping, Greece) that he highly recommended and a few things he had done (sleeping in the desert) that he didn’t want to do again.  It was a great first date!  And guess what?  Over the first few months of our relationship, we knocked several things off that list!  Because he knew that they were important to me–I had claimed them.  I had declared that I would devote energy to the pursuit and he believed me.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Skydiving.  A couple of guys at work talked me into joining their skydiving adventure at Skydive Monroe.  Best $200 I ever spent (except maybe on therapy).  Richard went along to cheer me on then decided to join in.  We went back to the house and ate strawberries and champagne and I couldn’t stop giggling.  I giggled for three days.  My stomach still lurches if I recall that moment of letting go into the void.  And you won’t believe how quiet it is when the parachute deploys and you’re floating.
Robert Doisneau, Kiss at the Hotel de Ville (1950)

Robert Doisneau, Kiss at the Hotel de Ville (1950)

  • Sharing a long kiss on a crowded sidewalk.  After 10 years with someone who didn’t believe in PDA and after one too many Robert Doisneau posters in college, I put this one on the list.  We crossed it off one day after lunch, right downtown as hundreds of people walked by.
  • Cashmere sweater.  On sale for $50!  Still have it because it’s red and tight and makes me feel sexy.
  • Give a gift to my college.  While I was redoing my beneficiaries after the divorce, he suggested I make Wesleyan a beneficiary.  Done and done!
  • Own a piece of original art that I love looking at every day.  I bought a painting in a silent auction for a literacy group.  It’s still hanging in my bedroom.
  • Learn the constellations.  I bought myself a book by H.A. Rey, the same guy who wrote Curious George…also an astronomy buff!  Orion is a friend to this day.
  • Skinny dipping and sailing the Greek Islands.  That’s a longer story for another day, but let’s just mark it a two-fer!

There were things we didn’t get to.  Things I still have on my list.  Things I’ve done on my own or with someone else.  But the lesson that sticks with me was that I knew, right from the start, that this person would honor my dreams.  It meant that I had to put them down on paper and put them out into the universe, but I had a partner who thought them important.

bucket baby

Baby…in a bucket!

When I found myself divorced then widowed then still childless at 36, I believed that #1 on the list would never come true.  The Baby Store would have nothing but empty shelves.  I spent many nights looking up at Orion and crying over this “fact.”  Then one day, I went back to my Life List and read it again.  The first entry didn’t say, “Have a baby” or “give birth.”  It said, “Be someone’s mother.”  I could do that on my own.  I resolved that, if I hadn’t met anyone with whom I wanted to have children by the time I was 40, I would adopt a child.  Once that was settled, the space in my heart that had been occupied by fear eased up a little.  And guess what happened a year later?  At 38, I had a perfectly healthy baby.  Then another one at 42.  I know there are people who struggle to get pregnant later in life, but there are also people who don’t!  If you are feeling hopeless about growing older and having children, focus on being someone’s mother.  There are many paths to motherhood and they don’t all pass through your uterus and they don’t close down right on schedule.

I’ve been thinking about that list a lot today because I was reading an interview with The Bloggess and it mentioned The Traveling Red Dress Project. A few years ago, Jenny bought herself a wildly inappropriate and impractical red ball gown because she wanted to know what it felt like  just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies.”  She bought it, enjoyed it then shipped it around to her friends and online community so that they too could experience the joy of wearing a stunning red ball gown.  One woman wore it to celebrate overcoming her agoraphobia…the pictures are awesome.  I still haven’t crossed off my “wear a ball gown” item on my list (and I was beginning to second guess it after Jennifer Lawrence almost bit it at the Oscars) but it might be time.  Vivi and I can go out in the grass and twirl until we fall down.  I am someone’s mother and we are prone to twirling.

Would you do your Baddest Mother a favor today?  Write down five things you want for yourself.  Start believing in them.  Then jump!

Looking for the White Knight

So, my therapist has been talking about me to other clients.  I’m totally cool with that–it’s in a good way.  It’s like what Ellen Gilchrist said about her family’s reaction when she writes about them:  “They don’t care what I write as long as I say they’re good looking.”   The story that my therapist shares with others is the one I wrote about yesterday, when I met my second husband by the side of the highway when he stopped to rescue me.  She tells it to people who are rebuilding their lives and wondering if they’ll ever find someone to love.  The advice she gives them and that she gave me when I was rebuilding after a divorce was this–focus energy on YOUR life, not who you’ll share it with.  Plan the life you want, down to every detail and when you have it in place, you’ll be able to see the person who fits into it.  Don’t worry about looking for them first.

white knight

I had spent 10 years trying to make myself into a person who could make a life with the person I had picked out when I was 22 years old.  The problem was, Fartbuster didn’t much like the world because he was smarter than everyone else in it and didn’t see the point in bothering.  I had to get smaller and smaller and smaller to keep him comfortable.  For example, I told him I wanted to get back into writing and he said to go for it.  But when I came home at 8pm after my writing group, he was all pissy “because there was nothing for dinner.”  Ummm, you’re a grown man with a debit card, a car and an Arby’s.  Feed yourself.  I wanted to travel.  The only place he would go was England because we spoke the language.  He ended up SCREAMING at the snack bar lady at Stonehenge because there was no ice in his drink. I told him I wanted to have kids and he said that he really didn’t see how they could be worth the effort–we would have to run the dishwasher more often.  His number one concern about having kids was that I might gain weight. Yeeaaaaaah, I’m not making this up.

Still.  When it was over, I felt like I was starting from square one and I’d never catch up and get to have the life I wanted.  The Baby Store was going to be all out of babies by the time I got my act together!  The Happy Store would be closed for renovations!   I needed to FIND SOMEBODY and do it quick.  My therapist told me to pump the brakes.

My first assignment was to visualize the life I wanted.  Not in generalities like “I want to find love, ” but specifics:  do I want to come home and cook dinner or go out to eat?  Do I want to listen to music and talk or eat in front of the TV while watching CSPAN?  Do I want to go to bed early or late?  Do I want to exercise?  How?  Do I want to spend weekends with family or camping in the woods?  What color should the bathroom towels be?  Where do I want to go on vacation?  What do I want to do for holidays?  Every sentence had I as the subject…not we.

I started living my own life.  I cooked lasagna for one.  I put on a swimsuit for the first time in 10 years.  I went to the beach with my family.  I tried tequila shots for my 32nd birthday.  I went to movies on Sunday afternoon, all by myself.  I threw parties and went to parties.  I bought season tickets to Chastain concerts.  I volunteered with my college and a literacy project.  I joined a writing group.  I attended the Unitarian church.  I read all day or walked all day or shopped or slept or stared out the window.  I planted daffodil bulbs.  I walked my dachshunds.  I did a lot of work on myself.  I went on some dates and turned some others down.  I woke up one morning whistling.  I realized that I was happier on my own than I would have been if I were still married.  That was a really good day.

And what do you know?  A few days after that, my car broke down and I met Richard.  Our lives bumped up against each other’s and it worked.  Love plopped right into my lap when I had quit chasing it.  I think Nathaniel Hawthorne compared happiness to a butterfly.  If you chase after it, it will always elude you; but if you sit peacefully, it will sometimes alight upon you.

For years, I thought of Richard as the White Knight who swooped in and rescued me.  He was my reward for the miserable decade I had tolerated.  When he died, I was PISSED.  Not at him, but at the great scale of justice that had taken away my reward, my rescuer.

But here’s the thing my wise counselor pointed out.  There were two people who met on that cold and blustery day by the side of the highway.  Two stories.  One of those people was going to get sick and one of them was going to die.  One of them was in need at that immediate moment, but one of them would have a much greater need four years down the road.   Richard, brave and capable as he was, would need someone courageous and stalwart and true beside him for that great fight…and it turned out to be me.  I was his White Knight.  We rescued each other.

If you are feeling like there’s no white knight coming to the rescue, look more closely…it might be you.