Posted on | September 10, 2015 | No Comments
Tyler was getting tired. She could tell that he was bored and ready to go by the slight whine in his voice and the restlessness of his feet. He was only five and really, her mom was right… five was too young for a funeral. But she couldn’t very well leave him home, not when she so vividly remembered that moment when she realized she didn’t get to say goodbye to her own grandfather. She’d been about Tyler’s age then, maybe a bit older because she thought Max had been there, too, and she’d watched her mother pin her hair back in that no-nonsense bun. Her dad, where was he then? In the hospital, she supposed, but her mother was neat and pressed in… God, was it the same suit she had on now? Probably. Some things were always and yet never in style. And Kate had thought she would go, too. She’d put on that Easter dress, the one with the white ruffles on the bottom that she’d hated so much. She thought putting it on would change her mother’s mind, as though dressing like the daughter Samantha wanted would convince her mother that Kate was that daughter. She hoped it would convince Samantha that she was worthy of going alongside her to see their family and to say goodbye.
But it hadn’t been enough… it was never enough for Samantha. She couldn’t remember the words that were said, but she remembered ripping the dress off and banging her fists against the glass of the wide dormer window as she watched her mother pull slowly out of the driveway. She remembered the arms of her babysitter wrapping around her and picking her up from where she finally collapsed in the window seat, exhausted from crying. It had stuck with her, that feeling of not being good enough, and she didn’t want Tyler to feel that way, not at her hands, not ever. Her mother had been gone for what seemed like forever, coming home late that evening. She remembered Samantha sitting down on the side of her bed, reaching out one of those impeccably manicured hands and trying to touch her face. She’d turned away from her mother then, hiding her cheeks between the pillow and comforter, denying her mother the way she’d been denied. She’d heard Samantha sigh and then heard the clip of her heels against the floor.
And then she was gone.
It was the last time Kate remembered her mother ever trying to touch her.
Not that Kate had made it easy. She did everything she could to ignore her mother. If Kate had wanted to be a dancer, she would have refused simply because it would have made her mother happy to put those “my daughter is in the Nutcracker!” stickers all over her car. Samantha made it clear that what she wanted was a daughter exactly like her: obedient, put-together, appropriate in every instance. And it wasn’t like Kate hadn’t tried to be that for a while. She’d wanted so desperately to be like her mother… it just wasn’t her. She just couldn’t do it. And the more she tried to show her mother who she was, the more her mother drew away. Kate wasn’t Junior League and church picnic chair. She wasn’t “dinner is on the table at five pm sharp.” Kate wasn’t her mother.
But lately she’d come to realize that it was okay that she wasn’t her mother. No. She’d realize it was good that she wasn’t like Samantha. Kate had slowly started to embrace her own little quirks and nuances in a way she never had before. Before, it had always seemed like she was just being the opposite. Her mother hated tattoos, so Kate had one. Her mother hated dyed hair, so Kate dyed her hair. If it was the opposite of her mother, Kate embraced it as her own.
Only since Tyler, had she realized there was a lot of her mother in her, too, and that was okay, too. It didn’t make her Samantha. She could enjoy making a cake for her son without feeling like she was turning into her mother. She could even throw a party for her friends and not feel as though she were letting some part of herself down. In fact, the only reason her hair was purple now was because of the funeral. It had almost hurt her a little to put the temporary dye into her newly natural hair because she’d worked so hard to get it back to that warm, rich brown color it had been when she was a child. But she couldn’t give her mother that satisfaction. It was really purple, she thought as she pulled a strand in front of her eyes, and she almost laughed.
Across the room, she could see Samantha standing, aimless in a way she couldn’t remember ever seeing her mother. She almost looked… lost. Kate shook the unfamiliar emotion from her head; she would not feel sorry for that woman. She watched as the weird woman from their church hugged against Max and smiled at her brother’s reaction to the odd closeness of such an unfamiliar person. She wondered if Max would ever tell her mother the truth but she doubted he would. Max loved being the apple of her eye, even though that meant always being so damn perfect that Kate would kill him except that she knew it was an act. She knew how hard it was for Max to be here in that suit, here watching this funeral alone. He caught her eyes over the heads in the crowd and she grinned a little as he rolled his eyes. They were in this together; they always had been.
Sometime after Max was born, things changed around their house. Kate was never really sure what caused the change, but she knew that everything shifted somehow and her world became less about her mother and more about her father. He’d always been there, but after Max it was like Daddy became larger than life. She could have lived without Samantha, could have spent her life not caring one bit if Samantha was there or not there… but her father? She wasn’t sure how to live without him.
When she’d had bad days at school, it was always her father she ran to, always his arms that held her and stroked her hair against her head. He was the one who got her smiling and laughing again when the boy in seventh grade started everyone calling her a slut, even though she hadn’t even kissed a boy at that point. He’d passed a note around school, telling everyone that she had written it and left it in his locker… a note that promised to do something to him after school if he’d meet her in the girl’s bathroom. It had been the worst year of Kate’s life, those hours at school with everyone whispering about her, with all the older boys cornering her in the hallway and asking her to meet them later. She’d lost almost every friend she’d ever had. But at the end of each day, it was her father who kept her chin up and who told her not to let them get the best of her. It was her father who talked her mother into changing her schools, sending her to the private school clear across town where no one really cared what those public school punks said. Somehow, he’d made it all just go away and the unknown circumstances behind her transfer created a backstory that spread like wildfire. She was mysterious. She cut all her hair off, dyed the strands around her face bright pink, and started eighth grade with a reputation of being someone you didn’t mess with, someone you didn’t want to piss off. She, with the help of her father, totally reinvented herself at that moment and it was then that she realized she could be anyone in the world she wanted to be… she wasn’t stuck just being Kathryn Benson.
Kate looked back again at Max as he strode across the room with long, lanky strides. There was something unfamiliar in his eyes, something both pleased and scared. She watched him walk by with no indication of even knowing her and it was then that she saw him. He’d come. She couldn’t help it… she grinned. Somewhere deep down, she’d totally known he would show up. By the time Max had almost reached his side, Tyler had spotted him, and in his loud five-year old voice, he squealed out:
Posted on | September 10, 2015 | No Comments
It was the same church, the same aisles, and even many of the same people. Yes, they were all older,
but if she squinted just so, she could almost transform her neat black suit into the flowing lace and silk of her wedding gown. If she closed her eyes and breathed in, the flowers even smelled the same. This room smelled of love, not death. It shouldn’t represent death… not this room where they first looked vowed “til death do us part.” No one really thought about that, did they, the “death” part. It was all lace and frills and laughter then. She breathed in again.
These flowers didn’t smell the same. These flowers were too sweet, too overpowering. Suddenly the room wasn’t the same at all… it was full of a thick and cloying perfume designed to mask that underlying smell, that faintest of whispers that death was here. She tasted it again in the back of her throat, that metallic wince of pain
that took her right back to that moment, right back to the moment she hoped to leave behind. What was it about
smells these days that seemed to always deliver her back to that moment, that bitter, metallic stench of a
moment. She cleared her head and moved forward, stepping out into the side room the minister had set up for
The waiting room.
God knows she’d spent a lifetime in waiting rooms over the past few years, each one different. The
one she’d spent the most time in was seared into her memory. It had always tasted stale on her lips, an old
smell of cigarettes, patchouli, and loneliness. There were no hushed sounds, no whispers or murmurs that you find in the average doctor’s office because everyone knew why everyone else was there. It was a room filled to the edges with pain of every flavor; some were curved in bent in ways nature never intended and some, like Jackson, seemed out of place, impossibly well for such a room.
He worked the room with smiles and boisterous yet gentle pats on the back. These were his people. These
were the ones who knew his secret, knew what he struggled with every day. Here, he was even more, even bigger, ever the Jackson that everyone thought they knew… the Jackson he desperately wished he still was. He laughed and joked, giving no sight of his torment other than the clenched white knuckles against her fingers. It embarrassed him, this need for her. She could feel it in the way he looked at her now. There was no longer the bluster of bravado and the puffed out chest; gone were the days of “I’ll take care of that” and even Honey Do lists were her responsibility now. He hadn’t wanted anyone else to help, not the kids, not the neighbors, and certainly not the church family they’d worked so hard to embrace. She felt isolated and alone, wedged into this tightly squeezed space beside him while he pretended to be the man he once was.
“Can I get you a chair or something, hon?”
The voice felt broadcast on a loudspeaker and shook her from her daydream. She looked up, her blank stare meeting the eyes of, oh what was her name. The loudmouth do-gooder who had been calling non-stop since all of this happened. Nancy? Ann? Annie? She couldn’t remember though she knew they’d been in Sunday School together back when she’d actually attended. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and pasted on an absent
“No thank you, Annie?” She raised her voice in a question and the woman smiled patting her shoulder. Yes. Annie… that was right after all. Samantha watched as the woman wound her way through the room, stopping to lay a hand against Kathryn’s cheek in a strangely intimate gesture for one so unfamiliar. Watching her daughter
stiffen against the touch almost made her laugh. Kathryn didn’t think Samantha knew her… but she did. She had
known her from the moment she first felt the flutter of motion in her abdomen.
She had been painting in the nursery, something they now said you absolutely couldn’t do as a pregnant woman, and her hair had tiny specks of soft green dotted against the darkness of her curls. Jackson was in the kitchen doing something, who knows what, and she’d called out with a shriek that brought him running to her side.
“What is it? Is it the baby?” He was out of breath and holding her at arms length, checking her for blood or
signs of distress. “What is it, Sammy?”
No one but Jackson had ever called her Sammy, no one. It wasn’t even something that anyone else ever heard… just his private name for her. It was one of the many things that disappeared and she often tried to remember the last time she’d heard him say her name that way, the soft caress of his voice, the adoration that she was his wife. But pregnant with Kathryn, she’d been his beloved. She giggled at his worry, dotting his nose with paint from her
finger and bringing his free hand to her belly.
“It’s moving,” she grinned, watching his eyes light up as the tiniest of kicks bounced against the press of his flesh. He kept his hand there, gazing at her with so much wonder and love that she’d thrown the paint brush down and tried to push him to the bedroom. But Jackson never would love her that way when she was pregnant. Still… those moments when their marriage was new, when she was flushed with his adoration and love and the expectation of Kathryn… those were the best of all their times together. It was only later that everything changed, that everything became so black and white and rigid. Before , when it was just the two of them, it felt like the world was opening up its arms to welcome them into the fold… as though any and everything were possible.
It was in the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday when Samantha felt the first roll of labor sweep through her and they were at the hospital before she could hardly think. Jackson would have reached in and pulled the child out himself if he could have, he was that excited to meet his daughter. Back then, they didn’t have the fathers in the room the way they did now, so in her mind she always pictured Jackson pacing up and down the hospital hallways in a fedora, smoking a cigar like in an old black and white movie while she welcomed her wailing daughter into the world.
The moment they laid Kathryn against her skin the baby quieted, turning her deep set eyes up and blinking in the light. She stared at Samantha as though she knew everything about her… her thoughts, her feelings, her emotions… as though she had been privy to all her innermost thoughts by virtue of being in her innermost places. Samantha couldn’t bear to look in those eyes and she turned her head, avoiding looking at the daughter she had grown and birthed. She felt the room grow still as though she’d committed a dark and evil sin, despite the fact that everyone around her continued to move around her in circles and squares. She was honestly relieved when they whisked her away for a bath.
But like a tiny boomerang, that wail and those eyes returned and the next time they met, Samantha was smitten. Yet somehow, she always felt that Kathryn remembered those first early moments when her mother turned away. Somehow she carried in those dark eyes the memory of that hurt and betrayal, regardless of how Samantha tried to make it up to her.
Absently, she stroked her barely wrinkled hand against her stomach, feeling the familiarly unfamiliar raise
and fold that marked her as no longer a young woman. But she had been young once, she smiled a little at the
memories then remembered anyone could be watching. She supposed she owed Jackson one more day of her full
attention. It was the least she could do, though honestly… what did it matter now?
In the harsh neon lighting of the room, she could almost count the tear tracks on her children’s faces. There were streaks of black beneath her daughter’s eyes, smudged with tissue, and the tell tale off color splotching against her son’s face. He didn’t cry often, but she could always tell when Max was upset. Even as a little boy, as his emotions grew inside him, a red flush would rise up and over his chest and neck, creeping up to the corners of
his ears and onto his cheeks. Jackson called it the curse of the Irish, which always seemed silly but it gave Max
something to blame it on. He needed a haircut, that tall boy who was no longer her baby; he desperately needed a
Of course, Max really wasn’t her responsibility any more. Jackson had been on her for years to give him his space, to let him “bloom into the plant he’s supposed to be,” as Jackson would boom out in his loud voice. “They don’t grow like your garden, Mom, they’re not just what YOU plant.” He’d tousle her hair when he said it, as if it
made the words less harsh and unforgiving. Maybe it was after Max that he stopped calling her Sammy? She
couldn’t remember now.
There had been babies between, she sighed, watching her children. There had been what felt like a lifetime of babies between. Kathryn was barely one the first time she lost a child, and she still didn’t know which of them took it the worst. Jackson would spend hours sitting in the rocking chair of the nursery and she’d hear the
creak of the wooden floor boards as he rocked back and forth, watching Kathryn sleep. It was as though with each little life lost, he clung tighter to the one before him… watching her for signs that she would disappear, taking her giggle and toddle along with her.
There had been four babies altogether, four sweet little babies who never made it into her arms. She thought about them sometimes, wondered if among the four was the ballerina she’d always wanted, or the ball player for Jackson. She’d been so sure she couldn’t have any other children that she’d cried for days when she found out she was pregnant with Max, wishing the loss of him to come sudden and soon before she had time to acclimate herself to the thought of another mouth at her breast, another sweet smelling head nestled against hers. Even at nine months, when Jackson crowed about the house like an Olympic champion, so proud of his manhood… his virility… even then she hovered on the edge of knowing he would leave, knowing this was just a temporary moment for the two of them. It wasn’t until she heard the breaking cry of his birth and saw the squirm and
wiggle of his arms and legs that she let herself weep. She cried for what felt like days at the miracle of this child…
this reminder that she was still a woman, still able to be a mother again.
After Max there was no real need to pretend they would ever have more children. “One of each,” everyone smiled, as though that was the ultimate goal: two kids, one of each gender. As if the other four babies, whoever they would have been, hadn’t mattered at all because why would they need anything other than the two? Kathryn was six years older than Max and so it always felt more like raising two only children than siblings. From the moment they brought him home, Kathryn had taken on the role of “little mother” as Jackson called her, solemnly hanging diapers and rocking her brother to sleep. It was the only time Samantha ever saw her daughter act “feminine;” those moments when she cuddled her baby brother to her chest and murmured words to him that only the two of them knew. It was the same way she was with Tyler… a natural mother, nurturing and loving in all the ways Samantha never had been. At least not after.
Becaise she couldn’t really nurture her children, could she? Not with Jackson around. Everything was about him: his needs, his wants, his troubles and aches and pains. Everything she did, from the moment it all happened, EVERYTHING she did was for him. She wished she could say that she wanted to care for him that way, that she wanted to devote her time and energy to her husband in an act of self-sacrifice and love; but that wouldn’t be honest. She loathed him for it. She loathed the way he looked at her with those wide eyes, the way he would beg her to do something, anything for him. But she always did it. She always stopped and did whatever it was he needed because he was her husband, because she was tethered to him in sickness and in health, for as long as they both should live. Even if they shouldn’t live.
She sighed again, hoping the room would mistake her exhaustion for sadness. She tried to muster sadness for her husband but for so long she’d felt nothing but pity. She pitied him. She pitied every step, every breath, every word he spoke. And if she were being honest, this moment where he lie still and unmoving, gone from the world she inhabited? This moment was the best and most alive she’d felt in years. She wished she could go back and show her children who she could have been, the mother she could have been if they’d only known her before… if they could only remember her in the moments before, the days and years and lifetimes before everything changed and she stared blankly at the reflection in her mirror, not knowing who or what it reflected back to her.
Posted on | September 9, 2015 | No Comments
This whole damn thing was bullshit. He didn’t know half of the people who had thrown themselves into
his personal space between last night and now, claiming to have loved his dad or to have known Max since he was “just this high.”
It was all such bullshit.
And the damnedest thing of all was how this had all happened. How had this all happened, anyway, he wondered? One minute life was plodding along as normal and the next everything was one giant cluster of madness and well, bullshit. He almost smiled as the word flashed in again. He should have worn that t-shirt that Desmond had given him last year that just said “Life is Bullshit, then you Die.” His mother would have croaked but damn, it was the truth. Life was bullshit and this was more bullshitty than even that.
He wished his sister would pick up the pace a little. He just wanted to get past this moment of walking by
the casket and paying his respects. He just wanted to walk past and then to turn his back to his father and keep
walking out the far back door of the church and never look back. But of course he wouldn’t, he couldn’t. He was the golden boy, his mother’s pride and joy. He’d bow and curtsy and do all the things he was supposed to do to
appease that hidden space in her eyes that only came out when no one else was watching. He knew Kate thought
their mother was a robot, barely capable of human emotion, but she was wrong.
Their mother was a force of nature; all hurricane winds and sharp, violent lightening. Only she kept it all tamped down with her crazy ass belief that propriety was more important. Just once, he wished that Kate could see their mother the way he had that day. He shook the memory out of his head. It hurt to think about. He looked down at his feet then up again to meet the eyes of his nephew who blinked both eyes in his version of a wink. Max winked back and tousled his hair a little, tugging at the curls the way his dad used to do to Max.
His dad. They’d moved forward now and Max found himself staring down at the serene face before him.
He barely looked like the same man, all smoothed out and ironed in a way that only death could perfect. This wasn’t the man he’d known, not really. Although, hell, he’d never really known his dad to begin with. Who out there actually knew their parents anyway.
This was all such bullshit.
Posted on | September 9, 2015 | No Comments
Kate could barely believe it. Her mother was actually showing emotion. It was as though someone flipped the
“acknowledge sorrow” switch in the back of her robot brain and this was the result… the stilted walk and slightly
askew bun at the nape of her neck. Kate could count on, well, no fingers the number of times a piece of hair had dared escape the bun at the back of her mother’s neck and she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from it… that lone strand of dyed brown hair, silently protesting the death of the man Kate had loved more than life itself.
The man Kate had loved probably even more than her mother ever did.
She couldn’t remember one time that she’d seen her mother show him any affection; couldn’t remember ever seeing them even hold hands. Her father had always been so vibrant and alive and all over the place… the opposite of her neatly pressed and properly attired mother. Still, as a little girl, all Kate ever wanted was to be like her mother. She watched the way Samantha glided across the floor, all grace and sophistication. Kate used to pull her hair up and loop it into any rubber band she could find, just trying to mimic the cool calmness of her mother’s bun. Of course, Samantha would come by and tug it loose, pulling and fraying Kate’s hair and reminding her that “little girls don’t put real rubber bands in their hair.”
There were so many rules when she was growing up; so many things she could and couldn’t do as a proper little lady. Only Kate had never been the Kathryn her mother so desperately wanted her to be. She’d always just been Kate. Just plain old Kate. Just one of the guys, one of many faces in the crowd. Kate was never destined to stand out the way her mother did. Though, of course, she stood out in her own way. As if drawn by a magnet, her hand smoothed down the side of her shirt, thinking about the hidden tattoo that crisscrossed her body; her mother would die. She grinned a little, in spite of where she was and glanced over at her mother. Great. She was looking back.
Kate tried to meet her mother’s eyes for a moment, but Samantha was quick to look away. As if a curtain was
raised around her heart, Kate stood straighter, thrusting her shoulders back and gripping tighter to the hand tucked into hers. She was just fine without her mother anyway, she always had been.
“Too tight,” Tyler stage-whispered, yanking his hand from hers with flourish. She smiled apologetically down at him and let him slide his trusting hand back into hers. She knew her mother disapproved of him being there but hell, she’d disapproved of almost everything that had to do with Tyler from day one. When Kate had gotten pregnant she thought the news would kill her mother, but Samantha had seemed to rally. Then when Kate finally married Tyler’s father only to have that asshole run off on them, she was certain the divorce would kill her, if only for the social implications of having a divorced daughter. But Samantha was just “oh-so strong” and she powered through the way she did everything else… prim and proper and quite by the book. Before she knew what was happening, Kate had opened her apartment door to find both parents camped on the door step, Samantha with that fierceness of vision and her father with a sheepish grin.
They’d stayed for almost a month while she tidied up her life in the aftermath of divorce. They’d stayed well beyond their welcome, or Samantha had, and when they left though Kate was thrilled to see them go, a bond had
forged between her son and her mother that she’d never foreseen. For whatever reason, Tyler loved Samantha and she loved him back.
Kate rubbed her thumb across the smooth skin of her son and let herself relax for just a moment before
remembering the truth. Her daddy was gone and her “mother” was still here.
“Samantha,” she spat the name out in her mind. It made no sense.
Her Daddy was gone.
Posted on | September 9, 2015 | 3 Comments
There weren’t many ways to approach the task laid out before her, so she supposed she’d just get started.
Samantha stretched one long, manicured finger out across the space between where she stood and where he lie, and let it hover there just above his temple, just above that slight speck of gray that she used to playfully tug. She could leave it there, suspended in the air above him, or she could move forward.
Samantha was always someone who moved forward. She let her hand drop to her side, brushing against the rough seam in her skirt. It was second nature to smooth her hands down the front, second nature to stretch her shoulder blades back and raise her chin ever so slightly.
“Always keep your chin high,” her father had told her, “it’s slimming to the neck and makes folks think you know better than them.”
She angled her body away from Jackson, then, away from the unnatural stillness of his face and focused her attention on the people around her. There was Kathryn to her right, stoic and tall, with that curiously confused look she often wore. She was clutching the hand of Tyler, who shouldn’t even be there at his age, and the sheen of her bright, unnaturally colored hair seemed to bounce around the room. When had that new color happened, Samantha wondered to herself. Had it happened while she was watching or in the moments when she looked away, like her childhood had slipped away through the cracks and slits of blinking eyes. She tried not to wrinkle her nose at the sight of the un-ironed pants and half tucked shirt; tried as she always did to find something she identified with in this strange woman who tucked Samantha’s own blood in her veins. But she couldn’t. The only thing truly familiar about Kathryn was her son.
Tyler looked up and grinned his gap-toothed grin, acknowledging her eyes on him with a squint and scrunch
of his nose. She almost smiled back, then felt the searing pain of remembrance and she looked past him to the gaunt man beside him.
She wished he were beside her, giving her strength even through his pale, thin frame. He’d always been so gangling, even as a boy. Jackson always said he was more grasshopper than boy… long and lean and bounding
places with relentless energy. Now he was subdued, angular and stiff in his Sunday suit, and every so often she noticed the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed hard against the pain. Poor Max. If he just had a girl, if she could just magically create the right woman for him… maybe he could sweep away that sad, glazed over look he always seemed to wear.
Samantha almost moved backwards, for a moment, to be beside him. She almost moved past her daughter, ignoring the sadness in her eyes and the stain of tears on her cheek. She’d always just moved past her daughter, hadn’t she.
Jackson was the “good” parent to them. Especially to Kathryn. He was the one they wanted to attend the ball games and who they wanted to read the bedtime stories. Jackson was the one they called with their news and stories; he was who they shared their joy and pain with. Jackson was always the one they called. Her mind choked on the thought that now… now there was no one for them to call.
Without warning a sob broke past the façade and startled the whole room.
Posted on | August 27, 2015 | 3 Comments
I have always considered myself, well… liberal. I think all men and women are created equal … no matter what they look like, who they pray to, and who they love. It’s a big part of who I am and it’s a big part of how I identify myself. I get upset when people think or act differently than that because I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand hatred.
I get fired up about hatred.
I get fired up about racism.
I get fired up about the assassination of character that sometimes happens when someone speaks up about what they believe or how they feel. So much of the time, I don’t speak up about how I feel. I keep quiet because I’m so scared that what I feel will be somehow wrong. I get scared that what I feel will be twisted and turned into something ugly when it isn’t intended to be.
I believe that all of us are put here for the purpose of helping each other, learning from each other, teaching each other how to breathe in life and breathe out love. I always want to breathe out love. I want my words and actions and very being to radiate a love for everyone. Everyone.
And that’s why I feel so awful these days.
I feel awful and sad and uncomfortable because lately, I’ve been feeling very conflicted. I feel that, as a person who loves, I should be first in line to support and applaud the actions of Black Lives Matter. I feel that I’m supposed to support and applaud their interruption of Bernie Sanders and slam the negative response that followed. I feel that I’m supposed to believe that this was the right way to go about spreading a message. Because it’s a good message and the message is something I wholeheartedly support. And because I support the message, I feel like I’m supposed to support any and every way it is spread.
But I don’t.
Me, the “bleeding heart,” the “silly liberal woman.” Me. How can I not support that? How can I not agree with the articles that say it was needed and necessary. How can I not put myself in a position where I understand that it’s necessary and needed?
I can’t wrap my head around it.
I’ve read article after article supporting what happened at the Bernie Sanders Rally. I’ve read article after article about how great it was that these women took their cause to the stage, took their voices to the microphone, and let their message be heard. And I have to say, I agree that it’s good to take this cause to the stage. I agree that it’s good to take those voices to a microphone and to let the message be heard.
But I disagree with how it was done.
Because what happened that day took something special… something that was and is important… a movement that means Black Lives Matter… a movement that had my full and complete support… and made it into a Kanye West moment at the Grammy’s.
It made someone like me, someone who has always believed in equality of all people, question whether other people feel the same. Because yes, Black Lives Matter. Hell the effing yes they matter. And I will beat the tar out of anyone who says otherwise.
But you know what else matters?
Lots of things.
Things like respect and honor and dignity. Things like love and kindness and vulnerability. I was raised to believe that respect breeds respect, kindness begets kindness, and that even a whisper can be as loud as a roar if it is spoken into the right ear.
Black Lives Matter. They do.
And I want to shout from the rooftops that I support that… that I support every single mother loving inch of that. But recent events leave me unable to.
And the fact that I can’t open arm my support for a cause I believe in, makes me feel so much sadder than I’ve felt about anything in a very long time.
Posted on | August 21, 2015 | No Comments
Tomorrow, my son will be six years old.
Six is when I got a baby brother, when I began kindergarten… when I started to formulate memories that stay with me even now. And as I watch my own child roll into himself, roll into six years old, I can’t help but wonder if we have reached some sort of changing. Some form of a switch where I begin my soft lit fade into “used to be” and he begins his brightly focused march of “will be one day.”
I don’t feel old.
I don’t feel like I’m much different from the me that I was back when I drove a beat up Ford Tempo around the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina, blaring hip hop music intertwined with Dave Matthews Band and the Indigo Girls. I don’t feel so far removed from line dancing Shania Twain at spring break, or folding notes in little shapes and slipping them into lockers. I don’t, I’m not, I refuse to be… old.
And yet I am.
When I watch my son slip his backpack on and shrug out of my hugs and kisses, I am older.
When I push the sign up sheet for school fundraisers across the table of my office, I feel the lines of time softening my face.
When I look around at the collection of memories that are mine and his and all those who have gone before me, I know that somehow, in some inexplicable way, I have become older. I have become the one who came before, the one who used to be the girl sneaking cigarettes at the football game… the one who now sneaks only a second soda or glass of wine as her biggest vice. I have become so far removed from the girl who drove with the windows down, with one arm out weaving the wind through and around her fingers. Those moments, those far away moments, where I held the wind in my hand… felt like they would last forever. I thought I’d be that girl forever, taming and turning and becoming the wind around me.
I can look down at my hands now and see the markings of time; they are not as brightly polished as they once were. There are scars and creases and whispers… reminders of days when the wind was not so kind. Reminders of days when the wind didn’t bend to my will, but struggled back, bending and bruising and marking me with time and experience. The wind is not always something to hold… sometimes, most times, the wind is not something to hold.
It is to breathe in, to dance in, to stand in with your arms spread wide, drinking in the tickle of time as it blows and changes the shape, the substance of who you are.
I used to think I held the wind in my hands, that I was the master of my own time and my own destiny.
But no. The wind is not to hold.
The wind is to set free. To watch. To witness.
And now it is my son’s turn to cup his hands and dream. To feel the rush around his fingers and to believe, wholeheartedly, that one day… maybe…
He will hold the wind.
Posted on | August 10, 2015 | 2 Comments
Last week, my nerves were shot and I was stressed and uncomfortable with the decision I’d made to put J in public school. Last week, I was so worried that he wouldn’t be loved and supported and nurtured along with educated because the school was so big and there were so many students and how, oh how, would they possibly take the time to know MY kid…to love MY kid… for the person he is. Last week, I was scared and overwhelmed and wondering what in the hell was going on because why did I feel so disconnected and under-informed? Why was everything just happening around me and why couldn’t I get my mind wrapped around anything?
This morning, we drove across town for school drop off. I packed a book for J to read so he wouldn’t have to just sit and not talk for the fifteen or twenty minutes that he had to wait in the cafeteria. It was our compromise, our way of dealing with the drama of drop off in the mornings, and I was hopeful it would be a lasting solution. We got to school and I walked in with him because I had a question to ask and I’m so very glad I did.
His principal walked over, all smiles, and gave my son a hug. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was so clear that he liked her and liked being acknowledged by her. She took the time to tell me, without having to use words, that my son was loved and nurtured at that school. She told me by bending down and looking him in the eye, calling him by name, remembering what class he’s in and who his friends are. She told me by being there, front and center, to answer nervous parent questions and to be the face of the school she so obviously loves.
I walked out of school this morning with an entirely different mind set. This IS the place for my son. This is where he will learn and thrive and yes, be loved and appreciated. This is where he will realize that life has lots of different sorts of people and he gets to choose the sort of person he will be. This is where he will become the person he will be for the rest of his life.
And I am so very very glad that Macon has a public school like this… one that doesn’t just teach the children but that LOVES the children. This week, I’m happy to call myself a Panda Parent… happy to tell people just how wonderful an environment my child and I have stumbled into. I think the first week is always hard… always a struggle to figure out where your child fits in the mix. The first week is just learning the rules… learning the ropes and when to pull and when to climb. Last week was a lot of pulling on my part, trying to fit the rope to my child. This week? This week will be about stepping back and watching my son climb.
What a difference a week can make.
Posted on | August 6, 2015 | 7 Comments
The past two mornings have ended in tears.
I should be more ashamed that the tears were mine, not J’s, but alas… I am not. Because I’m just full on overwhelmed by public school.
It’s not just the no talking or the newness. It’s not the uniforms and the drop off. It’s not even the pick up line. It’s just this feeling that I have no idea what is happening or why it is happening at any given point of the day. I’m not sure why someone decided teachers needed to cram so much into the school day that lunches were reduced to 20 minutes and recess became nearly obsolete. I’m not sure who decided our schools needed to be responsible not just for educating but also for moralizing, feeding, parenting and everything else. I’m just not sure who came up with this new structure that has stripped away any remnants of the public school system I was in waaaay back in the 80s and 90s and replaced it with this detailed prison-system day that gives our teachers little to no room for creativity or excitement… or fun.
School was always fun for me.
Thus far, J has come home every day a little sad.
Thus far, I have left him there a little sad.
On top of all the newness, I’m now consistently late to work because J is terrified of the cafeteria in the morning and begs to not have to go there. Which means I have to figure out a way to drop him off at 8:30 and arrive at work at 8:30. I’ve placed several calls to Emma Watson for advice, but she’s totally ignoring me.
I don’t know how to do this, guys. It’s so stressful and so overwhelming. And the sloppy edges of all this school-stressed-ness are oozing out in pools and leaving me emotionally bankrupt for all the rest that life has to offer. Is this our life now? This constant push/pull/struggle of putting on uniforms and tucking in shirts and prodding him out the door and into the world of school that is nothing like what I remember… that is nothing like what I hoped and wished for my child.
Don’t get me wrong… this isn’t a school issue. My son is blessed to be in what I consider the best school in our district. This is an actual system wide problem and I’m suddenly all too aware that there is absolutely no way we can adequately educate our children in this type of environment. The fact that children succeed coming out of public schools anywhere in this nation is a testament to the teachers they have and the probable overtime that the children, teachers, and parents do to make it work.
Because something is decidedly broken in the system when both the parent and the child begin and end their days in tears.
Posted on | August 5, 2015 | 5 Comments
Kindergarten may kill me. I’m not quite sure why they don’t do like a “Parent Survival Day” a week before… a trial run to get us all where we know what’s coming, even if it means that some parents realize they’re lions and the rest of us realize we’re just the lame gazelle the herd tossed back to distract.
We started on Monday and drop off was a breeze. In and out in under fifteen minutes and my kid seemed happy and adjusted. I was at work on time, everything was sunshine and roses and I texted a friend and was all “This is so easy. I am so awesome at all the things.” She warned me about pick up and I mocked her. She said she gets there at 2, over an hour early, just to wait around for her kids.
“Lame,” I thought to myself. “How bad can it really be.”
So I left my office at 2:45 and drove 15 minutes down the highway to the school exit, lauding my ability to rock out at all of this parenting stuff. I pulled up to the stop light three blocks down from the school and realized… I was apparently already in the line for pick up. Three blocks back and it was already winding a maze of sadness down through a neighborhood. Parents were glassy eyed and twitchy, watching carefully for the side swiping vulture cars who think that the line is just a suggestion, or perhaps a convenient opportunity to show that they are above the rules. It took me about three minutes to go from totally relaxed and ready to see my child, to stressed out, gripping the wheel and following so close to the truck in front of me that I was basically cleaning their grill for the first football tailgate. NO ONE WOULD GET IN MY WAY TO SEE MY CHILD! NO ONE!
I left work at 2:45 for 3:15 school dismissal. My child didn’t get into my car until 3:50. The majority of that time, I could actually see him but was not sure if it was okay to get out of my car and get him or if I had to wait my turn. Other parents got out and got their kids. I never could quite figure out if that was frowned upon. When we finally got home, I wasn’t sure who was more traumatized so we basically just drank for dinner. Both of us. (Okay no, not really).
But because it’s what we do, we got up and did it all again the next day. Only this time, I dropped him off for breakfast, thinking it would give me extra time at the office. Little did I know what that entailed. On day three, when he refused to get out of the car because he hated breakfast time, I walked in with him.
I’m fairly certain prisoners have a better time during meals.
Someone, somewhere, decided that allowing children to talk during meals leads to choking hazards or maybe not eating or maybe it just annoys people. So there are no-talking nazis everywhere telling children at 7:45 in the morning that there is to be absolutely no talking at any time. They herd them into a room where they are seated “criss cross applesauce” in a single file line… silently… until the
warden guard teacher announces their line can go get breakfast. Once they get their tray, they are ushered to a table where they sit next to anyone from K-5 in straight up silence to eat food. Well.. not exactly silence because while they eat, they are subjected to yelling like ‘YOUNG MAN ON THE CORNER? SIT DOWN. YOUNG LADY IN BLUE? NO TALKING.” I’m not actually sure what happened after that because I was suddenly too concerned I might drop something in the hallway and have to bend over to get it.
Ultimately, we ended up in the library, in the peaceful quiet of some good books and the tension in my kid’s shoulders dropped away. I was able to walk him down to his classroom and leave him in the hands of his awesome teacher without any further issues. It seems like there should be a better way for kids to start their day… some option like reading books in the library, or playing on the playground… something they can sign up to do other than be yelled at by Nurse Ratchet as they shovel poptarts and sugary cereal into their mouths. But what do I know… I’m just trying to not get eaten by one of the more ferocious foes around me and just make it through week one peacefully.
Until, you know, survival of the fittest at 3:15.« go back — keep looking »