A day in the mountains…

I spent yesterday in a time warp. Jena was a bridesmaid in a best-childhood-girlfriends’ wedding, along with several other lifelong friends, and Tom and I were invited to join the celebration.

Going back to the mountains is a mixed bag for me. I feel totally at home and out of place at the same time. This is how I spent the 24 years I lived there. A neighbor and a stranger.

The small church was packed. I recognized one pew full of people on the other side of the church from where Tom and I sat in folding chairs. It was filled with the neighbors and friends I had raised my kids with, and my X husband and his new wife Patty, from Boswell, PA. Really!

The ceremony these two young kids created was touching. It brought me to tears. Their words, humor and poignancy made me realize how grown up our daughters had become. (Jena if you are reading this don’t get any ideas.)The bride (and groom) had clearly designed a wedding that was uniquely their own. Everyone recognized their personalities and quirks. The groom deliberately ended his wedding vows with a preposition (they are both English buffs), to alleviate his brides insecurity that her vows wouldn’t be as good as his. “Where are your vows at?”

Instead of communion, or lighting a common candle, or pouring colored sand into a bottle, the groom poured milk into a goblet, the bride chocolate. Together they stirred it into chocolate milk. The best man provided two straws and together they drank from the same cup. There was not a dry eye, or a face without a smile, in the church.

The bride and her dad danced to a song they sang together on road trips. Not just any song, but the operatic Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli – Time to Say Goodbye. As they spun around the dance floor they sang it to one another, hitting high notes with dramatic flourish.

In his toast, her dad told funny stories. One in particular was about a phone call he got while working the late shift. She told him she had hit a bird with her car. She had killed it. But, it was still stuck in her grill. Could he please get it out when he got home? “Of course,” he said. Turned out the bird was a goose. Stuck in the grill, and the hood, in such a way that as she drove the 4 foot wing span opened and closed.

Again, not a dry eye or an unsmiling face in the room. Conjoined polarities.

At the end of the evening Tom asked me to drive home. I took the wheel without hesitation. I knew these roads. I had driven them most of my adult life. I recently told someone that I am still learning to be a city driver because I am really a country driver. City driving, with all the cars on the road, the on/off ramps that send me careening into 70 mph traffic, the street lingo rolling off natives tongues — the parkway, the crosstown blvd, the boulevard — the surprise road closures that knock me off my course, keeps my breathing shallow and my wits on end. Being in the mountains, driving in the dark was a piece of wedding cake.

Except it wasn’t. And when had it gotten THIS DARK? I couldn’t see anything outside of my headlights. At some point I noticed the road we were on was getting terribly narrow and winding. I didn’t remember this stretch of road from Ohiopyle to Chalk Hill. Where were we and how had I gotten off course?

I could hear Twilight Zone music playing, Rod Sterlings voice saying, “You have just entered another dimension.”

Tom pretended to calmly suggest I wait to find a driveway to turn around in. He was concerned that the sides of the road would be swampy. In a very small voice I told him I didn’t suspect there was going to be any driveways along this road.

And there wasn’t.

I eventually found a wider part of the road and did a K-K-K turn, knowing that to go further could lead us into the part of the mountains where no man has gone before and returned to tell the story. Dunbar.

I wound my way back up the road, totally disoriented in a completely familiar place. And let me say again, it was so damn DARK. We came to an intersection that I sat at for more than a minute, getting my bearings. (You can do that on country roads at 8:30 at night cuz you are the only one on the road.)

My wits returned, I turned right and successfully drove us home. To Pittsburgh. That is my home now. But driving past the entrance to Deer Lake, my home of 24 years, I could have just as easily turned left to go home.

Returning to a past life. That is what I did yesterday. I fell back into conversations as though I hadn’t been gone for 5 years. As though I had seen neighbors just the other day. But when they asked me, “What’s new?” how do I begin to tell them: my whole life.

Perhaps you can never go home again. Or at least not without some disorientation.

 

Remembering Dad on Memorial Day…

My dad was from Alabama. He loved the South. He longed to return there to live. My mom would not consider leaving her hometown in NJ to move south of the mason dixon line. She didn’t like dads poor relations living in tin-roofed houses that leaked in rain storms. Dad endured his exile, sometimes less gracefully than others.

He often bribed me with the promise to buy a horse if I persuaded mom to move. Frankly I think he would have moved without her, if I would have gone with him, but that is another story.

The bribe was enticing since I couldn’t own a horse in NJ because we lived on the wrong side of the street. At least that was what mom and dad told me. My girlfriend, who lived across the street, also couldn’t have a horse. I worried if I moved south with my dad, both sides of the street would be the wrong side.

We appeased dads homesickness by naming our family dog, an Irish Setter, Rebel. It seemed to do the trick. It also gave me unintended permission to develop my internal rebel self. I knew better than to present her to the family, but I have called on my rebel blood often in my adult life.

I was raised on grits, corn bread crumbled in butter milk and my dad’s stories of the magic of the south. The beauty of the land. The kindness of the people. When dad drank his vodka and tonic’s the South rose agin (Southern for again) to fight the Recent Unpleasantness (the Civil War). In his alcohol impaired rendition, the South won and confederate money became the nation’s currency.

When I met Tom, with his southern accent tamed by Yankee living for the past 30 years, I heard my dad. One day, early in our relationship, Tom said to me, “We’re in high cotton now!” I had not heard that expression for years. It made me feel strangely at home with him. The first time he fixed me grits with bacon grease I melted, and gained 2 pounds.

Tom’s Southern heritage makes him move slower-which sometimes makes me want to light a fire under his butt, speak slower, and hold his ground regardless of the current popular view. He calls this awhner (Southern for honor). I naturally resonate to this cadence.

So as we loaded the car to head south to visit his relations (Southern for family) my Southern blood began to bubble. I began to feel base. Sturdy. Thoughtfully certain. As we drove into Savannah, the moss skimming the top of the car, I am enchanted. As we crossed the bridge to the island I smelled the mud of the South and my body felt at home.

I wish he was still alive to tell him, “I get it!”

Love to Y’all

waxseal2

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Still Unmade Bed

I know this is a long one, but seems memoir is…so here is my write something funny assignment. Class is almost over so hang in with me. And sorry about last weeks lack of a post. It is a another long story..

The stillness of the house made the morning sun feel like a my friend, who in their presence, I naturally slow down and breath deeper. This was one of the weekends I had to myself while Jena stayed with her dad. I was beginning to relish these periodic weekends alone as I became more comfortable in my own company, hearing less from my inner demon that would tell me, with great certainty, that I would never make it on my own. That I would never find anyone to share my life with.  He–yes it’s a male voice–would not stop there. He (me) would expound on why I would spend the rest of my life alone, using a tone of voice that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. The inner criticism who begin with, “you are too picky, you aren’t picky enough, you are too much, too needy, too tall, too scared, too injured, you don’t know how to love,” and end with, “you are a mess, my dear!”

So, in the absence of my nasty self, I planned this staycation retreat weekend. I considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, somewhere lovely with a Victorian four poster, canopied, quilted bed, serving gourmet breakfasts and quiet fields to roam. But my financially frugal inner accountant pursed his–are they all male voices?–lips together, folded his arms firmly across his chest and admonished, “Think again sweetie, you are staying right here, you can’t afford it.” So I stayed home.

I needed time to consider, reflect, renew, and figure a few things out; like what I am going to do with the rest of my life. I let my friends know my plans, that way when they didn’t hear from me or I didn’t answer the phone they wouldn’t think I had fallen into that deep, dark pit I frequently mentioned. I told my daughter the same, but assured her if she really needed me, she could call my cell phone. I shopped for food I love, shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, fresh asparagus and a great bottle of wine. I picked up the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, a story about a divorced woman redesigning her life.

I was well prepared for my weekend retreat to begin.

I woke leisurely, feeling grateful that I could take this luxurious time out. I was also thankful to be waking alone in the previous marital bed. I knew when I decided to marry, Unknown23-years-ago, I would miss sleeping alone. I always loved that sense of freedom and privacy of being in my own bed, wrapped in the covers, with no one else to consider. I moved slowly, allowing my body to wake as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen to make that first great cup of coffee. As I waited for it to brew, I decided to cover the microwave clock so I could ignore its bright red face insisting on the time. I wanted to hear the voice of my own internal clock this weekend.  After all, isn’t that what a retreat weekend is all about?

As I blindfolded the clock there was a knock on the kitchen door. I turned around, to see my neighbor Kyle standing on the other side of the french doors. Kyle and his family owned a weekend home up the street. I hadn’t known they would be here this weekend. I momentarily resented his intrusion to my quiet movements, but cajoled myself saying, “be nice and there is no escape, he knows you are home.” I opened the door. We did a neighborly shoulder only hug hello. I was still in my morning sweats.

I liked Kyle. I liked his wife and kids too. Our families got together often when they visited. Kyle explained he was here to do some work on their house, Laura and the kids decided to stay home. He said he was on a run and decided to stop in to see how I was fairing after the separation. How thoughtful I mused. We caught up on the kids, his and Laura’s trip to Italy, and my pathetic current circumstance. Even though I had planned to be alone and contemplative, I was comforted that someone had checked in on me.  I was also certain he wouldn’t be staying long.

We finished our coffee — I offered only one cup — and got up off the kitchen stool to rinse my mug in the sink. Kyle came up behind me, presumably to rinse his too, but instead wrapped his arms around my waist pulling me tightly into the front of his body. I tried hard not to feel anything I knew I wasn’t supposed to be feeling. I was speechless. My brain and my mouth were not engaged.

As he held me, he lamented his concerns for his son who had recently started college and was struggling socially and scholastically. Since my ears were working, I listened to what he was saying, while still trying to make sense of his physical contact. It had been a long time since I had needed to decipher another mans intentions. Obviously too long. I naively concluded Kyle must be very upset about his son and be in need of a friendly hug. Nothing else made sense. After all, he was married and our families were friends. I assured myself by he meant nothing by it. As he released me I fell tipsy to one side. I was off balance.

We continued to talk as though this was normal contact for us. I half paid attention to what he was saying, the other half of my attention was listening to my now engaged inner banshee, who was screaming, “What the fuck was that?” This time it was a female voice, a rather outraged female voice.

I’d like to report it ended here. It didn’t. Kyle made it known, in several explicit ways-that even I didn’t miss-that he was at my service. Did I look like I needed to be serviced, I wondered? Was this what I got for ending my marriage…offers from other women’s husbands? Had I misread Kyle’s friendship all these years? I began to question my judgement. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him in. Should I kick him out? I felt like I didn’t know anything any more. I felt scared that maybe I was doomed to be alone, a woman with too many cats — my demon had returned.

I didn’t get mad, I didn’t take action, I was immobilized in my confusion and self doubt.  I couldn’t find my center. Kyle continued to sit on my kitchen stool, sipping the second cup he poured for himself, patiently waiting for me to take him up on his very generous offer.

My insides were tangled between introjects of “be nice” and “men are pigs.” Messages skillfully taught to me by the women in my family. These lessons, distilled in me to their purest form, made it virtually impossible for me to find my way on this retreat morning. This was not the first time I had been caught in the trap of my family’s mixed messages.

Suddenly and without conscious thought, something in me began to straighten. It took me a minute to register just what, but I am thrilled to say it was my backbone….my hackles were up and I was pissed. I grew 2 inches sitting on that stool. I found my voice and told Kyle he was a PIG.

Surprisingly, he didn’t agree. He explained he was not offering to do it just to do some of it. He went on to explain, if we didn’t fuck, he wasn’t technically cheating on Laura. What sophisticated rationale. He did, he explained, have a line he wouldn’t cross.

I began to find this all very funny in its absurdity. I began to recite his logic back to myself, making comic sense of it. Ohhhh, I told myself, my mistake. Why didn’t he make this clear from his first grope? In his world his wife won’t mind if we retire upstairs, to my still unmade bed, and roll around for a while. I was astonished at the sincerity with which he made his offer.

I told him I would accept his very thoughtful proposition. But…only if Laura agreed with his definition of faithful. My demon and banshee stood down; they knew I had this now.

I handed him the phone.

He rinsed his cup and left.

: )

waxseal2 

 

 

Selling the family home…both of them…

I just started a writing class. I am so proud of myself, intimidated and excited. I would never have had the courage to take the class if not for this blog and your wonderful feedback. So thank you, you gave me the guts. 

So here’s the thing…each week I have at least one writing assignment due. Plus a lot of reading. The instructor takes this very seriously, we are going to learn… I wanted the easy version.

Anyway, my solution to not becoming too overwhelmed is to use my assignments as my blog posts. I hope that’s not cheating…I think that it is…but too bad. 

Our first assignment was to make a list, in 3 minutes, of 10 things we recently experienced. On my list # 4 was-went to NJ. There are so many versions of the same story, it is all determined by what we are  focused on. 

So here is another version of my trip to NJ…

 

I met her at the front door with a hand shake and mutual acknowledgement that after all our phone calls it was good to finally meet. I invited her in to see the house. As we stepped into the eat-in kitchen, familiar with mom’s meager attempt to update in the 70’s by covering the red linoleum floor with red indoor out door carpet, she admired it’s spaciousness. She agreed the plywood cabinets needed attention, but liked the amount of storage they provided. I pointed out the washing machine at the end of the counter, reminiscing my young self standing on top of it belting out Hello Dolly while impersonating Louis Armstrong. I even had a handkerchief I patted my not damp brow with. She thought it was an odd place for a washer.

She liked that there was a bath and a half, three bedrooms-my brothers room, with its telltale dark 1950‘s panelling, was used by the original owners as a den. She said she would have to check that the septic system was up to regulation to list the house as a three bedroom house. She also said, a couple of times, the house was deceivingly big on the inside. It looked smaller to her from the street. The deception that filled this house was not new to me.

I showed one other house to a realtor in 2008. It was the 1939 chestnut log cabin home I raised my children in, that my wasband and I built a1200 square foot addition to…ourselves, and that was the love of my life. I felt safe in that house. I described the IMG_2451feeling as “well held.” Selling it was harder than ending my marriage. At night when I can’t sleep I walk myself through the rooms of the cabin often starting in the kitchen meandering my way through each room. I usually fall asleep somewhere between the den and the master bedroom. I do this to comfort myself as well as to not allow myself to forget even one detail of my home.

Showing the cabin was made easier since a neighbor, who had been in the house plenty of times over the past 24 years, was my realtor. I didn’t need to show her around revisiting the painted over trains Landon and I stenciled on his bedroom wall before his sister was born, or the log in the living room with each of our initials carved into it’s surface or the basement where they learned to roller blade while Jena belted out Everybody…Everybody…Everybody…Wants to be a Cat, from the Disney movie Aristocrats.

I was spared salt in my wounds-then, but not this time. I had to show Debbie the linen closets in the bathroom and hallway. The coat closets by each door. The full size basement now empty but full with memories…particularly the now empty space where my brother built a raised, enclosed platform lined with mattresses we called the “sin bin”. He included colored lights that blinked in time with the music of Bread, Simon and Garfunkle, and Steppenwolf.  My first french kiss and full body contact with a neighborhood boy was in the sin bin. I have often since wondered what my parents were thinking when they allowed Rob to develop his carpentry skills in this way? Maybe they weren’t. They often didn’t. He did go on to make a beautiful maple end table in High School shop class. I guess he had to start somewhere.

I showed her the hardwood floors hidden beneath the matted celery green carpet  remembering that I faked falling asleep the day the carpet was installed so my parents would think I was ‘oh so cute’…desperate for their loving attention. Assuring them, as I often did, that every thing was okay. They didn’t have to fight, they didn’t have to drink, because the carpet was so soft their precious daughter could sleep on it.

I pointed out the built in bookshelves/cabinets in the combined living room dining room  that held the porcelain Irish Setter I bought my parents one Christmas. It cost $25.00 which was my allowance saved for five months. It looked just like our family dog that dad threw down the basement steps one night in a rage.

Debbie liked the house. She said it was perfect for a young family or someone down sizing from a Mc mansion. Apparently quite common these days. She loved the neighborhood, the potential of the house and the floor plan. She was excited to sell it. Seeing it through her new eyes, instead of my duplicitous nostalgia, I saw the house with a new life, new loves, and a new family. I understood, walking through the house that looked like always, yet felt so foreign, was my new normal.

Debbie hugged me as she left. I held on to her for a moment too long, she felt like an old friend at this point. The salt of my tears felt healing. I was let go of her and the house at the same time.

With Love,
waxseal2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Through Mom’s Jewelry

I am re-posting this piece because I have heard from some of you it was not sent to  you last week. So sorry, the bugs are still being worked out…

Mom was moved to an assisted living facility last year because her dementia was worsening and her ability to be pleasant to live in help was non existent. I am in the process of selling our family home. In doing so my brother and I are dividing the family treasures. I am going through her jewelry.

I remember, sitting on moms bed as a young girl, watching her get ready to go out with my dad, putting on dresses that are now back in style, admiring her sartorial chicness. I would dream of being old enough to dress up…and stay out late.

As she accessorized she would tell me, “Someday this will be yours,” pointing to her mother’s diamond ring, or holding up the string of pearls she brought back from Japan while my she and my dad were stationed there. I couldn’t wait.

Now they are mine. It is a bittersweet acquisition.

As I don the pink and white, three tiered, strand of beads, that are so retro today, I feel IMG_0886as young as my mom was when she worn them in the early 60’s. When I slip on the large gold signet ring my uncle left to her, I feel the weighty presence of the family legacy. As I admire the diamond sets from my grandmother, too small for any of my fingers, I wonder if I should have them reset into something contemporary, hesitant to disturb their antiquity but sad to leave them sitting in a drawer.

My uncle, a Col. in the Army, traveled all over the world. He returned home for visits gifting me with a doll from the foreign lands he visited. I looked forward to his visits and the dolls. When I reached adolescence, he switched it up. He started a gold charm bracelet for me, so instead of dolls he brought me charms from his travels. As a discerning 12 year old I wondered what in the world was he thinking? The bracelet was designed with heavy links of solid 14 carat gold, not suited to my young wrist or adolescent sense of style.  Besides, I had no place to wear it.

Mom decided it suited her wrist and her taste, so she began to wear it on her dressed up evenings out. Even though I wasn’t consulted, I was willing to share, my silent generosity making me feel older. After wearing the bracelet several times she complained that one particular charm, a large sword fish, a token of my uncle’s catch on a deep sea fishing trip…glad he opted for a charm instead of stuffing and mounting the poor thing, was poking her with it’s nose…sword.

Her solution? She took it to the jewelers and had the nose cut off. (Her maxim, if it pokes you, cut it off…imagine how my dad felt.) I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe she did that. In todays market that nose is worth a small fortune.

Each time I wear the bracelet, resplendent with it’s swordless fish charm, appreciative of my uncles foresight in choosing a bracelet with my 55 year old wrist in mind, instead of my 12 year old wrist, I remember the argument my mom and I had when I discovered the maimed fish. I was appalled. I felt sorry for the butchered fish and became it’s advocate, ever so slightly too late, telling my mom she had no right. Mom didn’t see it that way.

All of this comes back to me as I unpack her jewelry boxes. I feel heart wrenched and soothed, both feelings jumbled together, like a mishmash of tangled necklaces, difficult to separate but doable with enough time and patience.

For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a rich, blue leather jewelry box. It is IMG_0885spectacular with it’s drawers, ring holders and travel jewelry box tucked within. I feel like a grown up each time I open it. He said I needed a special place to store my families treasures.

My mom’s story has a new home.

IT’S A GIRL!!!

I am not sure if that was the affirmation spoken at the moment of my birth…what with  mom being sedated and dad in the waiting room…I am not even sure that was the sentiment expressed when I was carried across our army issued threshold…except that I was the first girl born in seven generations of my fathers family. (Now if that doesn’t warrant It’s a Girl what does?)

The family story of my arrival goes like this…my brother did not want a sibling. He was 4 years old and quite satisfied with his place as an only child. But despite his protests and best attempts to head butt my mom’s pregnant belly, I was born. When my mom called him from her hospital room, Rob tearfully asked her if she had had a baby? My brand new mom told my brand new brother, “No.”

No surprise hearing “IT’S A GIRL”  (and that is good news)  is a dream of mine. SO, today is the day. My 55th birthday and the launch of being Boswell.

Conceptualizing, designing and manifesting this blog has been redolent of my pregnancies with my kids. Full of stretch marks, sleepless nights and can’t wait anticipation culminating in screaming…get it out of me…now!!!

Boswell is my birth name. I gave it up when I married at age 23. I raised the question of keeping my name but my husband to be felt strongly about my taking his surname. I conceded. That was just the beginning of many concessions I would make. Little did I know.

When we divorced 27 years later, I went to the prothonotaries office, filled out a one page form, handed them a $5.00 bill-they only took cash, and changed my name back to Boswell. That is all it took. So easy. I felt like an immigrant returning to her mother land. I would have knelt down and kissed the sidewalk as I reached the bottom of the courthouse steps, but it was filthy.

Returning to Boswell, however, meant my kids and I wouldn’t share a last name. (A phenomenon that will forever piss me off. I carried them. Birthed them. Nursed them. Raised them. They should be Boswell or at least hyphenated.) I was concerned Boswell was lost to them.

Recently my daughter told me of a late night conversation she and her brother had after an evening of celebrating his finance’s birthday. They were discussing the matters of their lives, describing their recent antics to one another when Landon said, “Well, we are just being Boswell.” 

Boswell is not lost to them, it is in them. It is in me.

Today I am being Boswell…Confident except when I am insecure. Assertive  when I am not a weenie. Honest save for a few white lies. Forthright when it is worth the investment, quiet when it is not. Smart, but I would like to know so much more. Thoughtful, mostly, unless I am hurt, mad, or exhausted. Articulate unless I am unable to find the word I am thinking of…it starts with a b….god it’s on the tip of my tongue. Funny. Serious. Excitable. A hard worker. Perseverant.

I am an agreeable contradiction. Aren’t we all?

I hope you see yourself in my stories. I invite you to subscribe so you will receive my Tuesday posts in your email box.

Welcome to being Boswell, a work in progress…

WITH MUCH LOVE,

 

You Little Witch!

I heard my mother say this to my young niece when she refused to give my mom a kiss good night. In that moment I no longer felt crazy. My mom had just given me the greatest gift that she could give…validation of her demand to be loved.

 

Hearing my mom’s accusation to a child, other than me, that didn’t give her what she wanted assured me I wasn’t making “it” up. I hadn’t imagined that it was my job to please her or make her feel important. I saw second hand how she withdrew her love. If mom didn’t feel special, ain’t no one gonna feel special. I crafted a childhood career of getting what I needed by giving her what she wanted. My early training in the art of manipulation.

 

I wrote her wonderful mommy poems rhyming my way into her good graces. I decoupaged them to wooden plaques so she could hang them on the kitchen wall to remind herself of how well I played the game with her. I made her look good with my high grades, my get along attitude and involvement in all the right activities. I was who she wanted me to be…unless I wasn’t.

 

I had this other side of me that just couldn’t fly right. I argued on behalf of animal rights as my family went hunting. I refused to wear animal fur (so my mom told me the saleswoman had assured her it was fake fur encircling my hooded face. I soon caught on and had yet another reason to distrust her). I stood against the war in Vietnam to my Major in the Army dad and Commander in the Coast Guard uncle. I railed against their bigotry and knocked on the door of the only African American family living in my neighborhood to sell them Christmas cards. I developed healing rituals which I practiced in attempt to transform this family that made little sense to me. I was always fighting fights for the underdog.

 

In these moments, I was a little witch too.

 

It was no coincidence that one of my favorite books as a kid was, Little Witch, by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I still have it on my bookshelf. Little Witch was different from her family. They didn’t understand her. They didn’t like her for the same reason. So she found ways to secure herself in her self, despite her lack of belonging to her own flesh and blood.

 

This story gave me hope as a youngster. I wasn’t alone. I identified with Little Witch feeling like the outcast. I understood her many attempts to fit in with her family, as well as, her refusal to give up on herself. Little Witch bolstered my courage to fly in the face of my family.

 

I went on to read many books about young witches. I came to identify with them. Still do. I assume, except for the wicked witch of the west-who, in the book Wicked, was simply misunderstood-witches are intelligent, thoughtful, insightful women that see life a bit differently than most. In fact the word ‘witch’ means wise woman, or did many moons ago.

 

In 2nd grade I won the Halloween costume contest wearing a mother made witch’s costume. It was great, complete with a big pointy hat donning strategically placed patches of plaid fabric. As the winner, I lead my class in the elementary school Halloween parade. I belonged. A fleeting state of being for me. Little did my mom know what paradox she created sewing me into that costume. She was too busy letting everyone know she made the costume.

 

When Jena was in middle school she and her friends decided to trick or treat as the Wizard of Oz characters. One guess who Jena wanted to be…I was so proud. My Little Witch. So I proceeded to make her a Wicked Witch of the West costume. It was great, complete with a witchy hat full of black tulle trailing down her back. I stayed up very late the night before she needed it to finish it. I was on a mission. I knew exactly what I was doing. I was passing the broom to my daughter.

 

I love witches. I resonant with their misunderstood-ness.

 

But what I admire most about witches?

 

Witches don’t kiss anyone they don’t want to kiss!

 

You Little Witch!

It’s Not Polite to Stare

Yesterday as I drove down a residential city street, a man in a white pick up truck pulled out of his parking place headed in my direction. I noticed that instead of looking out of his windshield, as is suggested and preferable, he was intently peering out of his passenger side window at something on the sidewalk. As a result of his wayward stare his oversized truck was headed down the middle of the street-straight toward me.

 

“What are you looking at?” I yelled as I looked to the sidewalk. The answer. A sweet young girl walking down the sidewalk in her summer skirt and t-shirt. “Really?” I impotently yelled through closed windows, “You are old enough to be her dad-first of all, you are going run into me or another parked car-second of all, and have a little respect-third of all.” (Is there a third of all?)

 

This morning on my way to work while I waited at a stop light, another man in a pick up truck-what is it with men and pick ups-had his head stuck out of his window to ogle a girl walking past. When he couldn’t twist his neck any further he used his rear view mirror to lock on. I began yelling again, this time hoping to catch his eye letting him know I saw him being a lech.

I get the attraction. I look at men and women too. I am attracted for many reasons. I think they are beautiful. I like their outfit. I don’t like their outfit. I like their dog. There are many reasons to look at one another.  But when guys are looking only at boobs and butts, as if the woman is on the side walk is there for their pleasure, it is time to teach them some manners. I wanted to slap their faces.

 

When my daughter, Jena, turned 21 we took her out to celebrate. My son’s fiance was singing at a local club so it was a perfect celebration. As we sipped our drinks, Jena her first legal one, I perused the room. My eyes caught a 50-60 something year old man, slight build, polyester suit, talking with many different women. I noticed when the woman turned her back his eyes went straight to her rear end. When she turned back toward him it was her boobs he zeroed in on. I felt a hot flash coming on.

 

Then, to my surprise, he was next to me and walked right up to Jena. He stood way too close to her and said, “Don’t you look sparkly tonight.”

 

I couldn’t help myself. My body moved into action before my brain was even consulted. I put my body between Jena and this lounge lizard. After his gaze left my breasts to meet my eyes, I squared off with him, “I am her mother. You need to back off!”

 

“Oh mama bear. I was just telling her she is sparkly,” he said, his reptilian tongue striking the air between us. “Back off,” I growled, puffing myself up to stand a good bit taller than him.

 

He walked away.

 

The kids were amazed, both that I intimidated him to leave and that what he did bothered me. Perhaps you have to be in your 50’s and menopausal (make my day) to be intolerant of one more man’s bad manners. Maybe you have to be a mom of a young woman to feel the fury that moved my body between them. Regardless, Jena gave me a hug and thanked me. She got it..it’s impolite to stare. I had her back.

 

 

The story doesn’t end here…this creep circled back. He wound his way around the bar to where we stood. He stopped in front of my husband. “You have one uptight wife,” he pronounced.

 

Tom held his gaze, man to slime ball and like waving a fly away from your food said “Go away.”

 

He did.

Facebook and Family Death

I knew he was terminally ill. My X husband and I had a few touching emails about his dads diagnosis. How was he? Was his dad in pain? How was his mom? We gently recalled some details of my dad’s death 19 years ago. This was pretty much the first time my X and I had referenced our past with tenderness. I felt hopeful that all would be well between us at our son’s wedding next July.

 

So three weeks later, I gasped when I saw, in my email inbox, a cryptic Facebook post from my daughter about life and relationships, ending with, “RIP grandpa.”

 

For some reason whenever my daughter does anything on her Facebook page I get an email about it. In some ways I like receiving these frequent slices into her life. I feel included. Sometimes, however, it is as they say, “TMI.” Now I am not a Facebook aficionado so I don’t know how this happens or how to stop it. I do plan to learn though-for two reasons. One, because I was told it is necessary to use Facebook to draw readers to my blog. Secondly because I was told if you keep learning new computer skills it helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

 

I clicked on the link on the email to get the whole story. I read the comments from her friends. I looked at the endearing picture of her and her grandfather, arms around each other, cheeks pressed together smiling for the camera. Lower on the page there was a picture, that I remember taking, of Jena and her grandpa when she was young. They are facing each other, looking directly at one another, Ed’s hands on her sides stabilizing her. A bit of drool on Jena’s chin… It has always been one of my favorites.

 

I was in shock. Ed had died. I always liked Ed. Unfortunately, in laws are often a causality of divorce. Our divorce was no exception. Memories of Ed’s warm hugs and sage advise to me when my dad threatened not come to our wedding flooded my thoughts.

 

I didn’t know what to do. What is the protocol here? What is the social media etiquette in this case? Is there any? I read through the many comments of condolences and wondered, “Should I comment too?” Dear Jena, So sorry to hear about your grandfathers death. Love Mom. How weird would that be?

 

I felt like an eavesdropper.

 

I felt hurt.

 

I was really confused about what to do.

 

My rule is when in doubt…do nothing. I decided to follow my own advice until I could make some sense of this. I talked with my friends Debbie and Susan and they agreed. (They don’t even have Facebook pages.)

 

The next day my X husband emailed me telling me his dad had passed. His telling me directly seemed to grant me permission to know. I then knew what to do, I called my kids. Strange how that worked. Or at least used to work. Bad news was passed from the family to an inner circle of specific people which they then shared with the larger community. It seems social media is changing that. At least in this case.

This all makes me wonder about how we use Facebook. On one hand, this was Jena’s way to share her news. She was able to tell her 566 “friends,” in one easily typewritten sentence, the death of her grandfather. In return, probably instantaneously, she could receive heartfelt warmth and sympathy. Instant compassion.

 

On the other hand is Facebook the acceptable way to inform others the intimacies of one’s life? Does social media replace deliberate sharing to a chosen few? Does It afford, in some cases, a welcomed distance when sharing difficult news?

 

What are the social mores of social media? Are there any? Maybe we can come up with some. Any ideas?

 

I have one:

 

1. Call your mother concerning any death in your family before posting it on Facebook.

20 Seconds of Courage

We watched We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansson.  It is the semi true story of how a dad reconnects with himself and his children, especially his son, by buying a zoo after his wife dies. All the heart wrenching scenes of a grief stricken dad trying to do right by his children.

 

It was an okay movie. I felt a bit duped when we read in wikipedia that the real life wife died after they bought the zoo. I guess anguished dad stories sell more movie tickets.

 

Anyway, my point?

 

Mid way through the movie Matt Damon’s character tells his children the story of how he met their mom. He recalled how frightened he was to approach her in the local cafe. As he stood outside the cafe, deciding to act or leave, he heard his older brother telling him as a child, “All you need is 20 seconds of courage.” He went in and met his future wife.

 

20 seconds of courage. I loved that concept. It made sense to me. I could use that in my life.

 

Saturday night Tom and I went to our when we have something to celebrate restaurant. Our last celebration was when I sold my house. I took him out for lobster and champagne. This time we were celebrating his raise. He took me out. They didn’t have lobster, so we had really great fish and champagne.

 

Toward the end of the evening, the table in the corner of the room, surrounded by windows overlooking downtown Pittsburgh, began to fill with a group of women. Each one came in separately clearly excited to greet her already seated friends. I’d say they were in their forties, some dressed conservatively, others provocatively, all looking their best and beautiful. They hugged each other saying, “You look great!”

 

I couldn’t stop watching them. “You can’t take your eyes off them can you?” Tom noticed. I admitted I could not. He asked me if I had noticed the couple sitting there before them, 2 people lost in a 6 person table. I had not. “So what is so interesting to you about these women?” he asked. I wasn’t sure, but I was guessing they had a great story.

 

I watched a little longer hoping not to get caught eavesdropping or staring. Tom suggested I go over and introduce myself. He guessed my interest saying they might have a great story I could blog about. I looked him straight in the eye, the kind of straight in the eye that implied his idea was crazy.

I explained to my partner of 5 years, husband for 9 months, that I am basically a shy person. I couldn’t interrupt this table of friends to get my curiosity quenched. It was a ludicrous idea.

 

Then I heard it…loud and clear,

all you need is 20 seconds of courage.”

 

I made up my mind and walked over to their table. They looked up expecting to see the waiter and instead they saw me. I explained I am a local blogger and admitted I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I went on to say my husband encouraged me to come over because I imagined they had a great story of how they met, how often they gathered and what it meant to them to gather like this. They all smiled at me and to one another.

 

Their story. They met at Slippery Rock University their freshman year all teaching majors. Two remained in the education school and the others switched majors, but they remained friends throughout their college years and their lives. They explained they now live all over the country and haven’t seen each other in 25 years. This was their reunion. I teared up.

 

They asked me what I did. I explained I am a psychotherapist specializing in women’s issues. They invited me to sit down. “We need to talk to you,” they all laughed. (One of two responses occur when I tell someone I am a therapist. Either every one shuts up or no one shuts up.)

 

I took their pictures with several of their cameras and invited them to email me the long version of their story so I could share it with all of you. They took my card and said they would.

 

I feel better for meeting them. I feel sweet about life and friendship and courage.

 

All it took was 20 seconds of courage.