I should be writing…but instead I am making zucchini bread

My 4th loaf is in the oven as I type this…and since I have gained 4 lbs in the last 2 weeks I shouldn’t be making my 4th loaf. But without an intervention I am headed into the kitchen to make my 5th batch. I still have zucchini and flour that must be used. Right?

I am using the mixer I got as a wedding gift in 1981 to make the bread. It’s a Sunbeam. I don’t think it was an especially expensive model or brand, back in the day, but they just seemed to make things to last back then.

I still have my Maytag washer from the early 90‘s. Recently I needed a service call to rebalance the tub and asked if I should simply replace it. The repair man, who may not have been as old as the washer, enthusiastically advised me to hold on to it as long as I could, saying, they don’t make them like this any more. His excitement sounded like he could have been talking about a vintage car.

Sadly however, I think my 32 year old mixer is dying. In the middle of my 2nd batch it began to sputter to a stop then accelerate to a speed that sent the zucchini batter air-born. It did this each time I turned my back to reach for something I needed; like a spatula to help it along; or the jar of cinnamon; or when my head was in the oven checking the other loaves with a toothpick. The beaters began to pick up speed, reaching full throttle, followed by the sound of thick dough hitting solid surfaces. Everything was in slow motion. You know the phenomenon when you can’t move fast enough to stop something bad from happening.

Many years ago I remember watching Jena fly down the driveway on her bike, beach towel around her neck, going to meet friends at the lake. As I sat on the deck, grateful  she was old enough to swim on her own so I could lounge a bit longer, her beach towel caught in her front tire and over her handle bars she flew. I saw it all in slow motion as I jummppedd uup aaand rraann doowwnn tthe stteeppss tooo hheerrr.

So it was with the mixer as I rreeaaacchhed tooooo tttuuurrnn iiiitttt ooofffff.

Both times there was a mess to clean up.

So why, you may ask, am I making ALL OF THIS DAMN BREAD?

I will tell you. Some of you have mentioned that I have not posted since the 15th. The Monday after the wedding.

Before the wedding I told my soon-to-be daughter-in-law that although they had been engaged for 2 years, and owned a home together, that rituals are powerful acts of intention and that the wedding ceremony would change them.

Well, I don’t know if that has been their experience, but it sure as hell has been mine. Since their wedding I have been suffering from what Tom lovingly calls Postpartum- Empty-Nest-Wedding-Depression-Syndrome.

I didn’t write because I could not yet verbalize what I was feeling and I was so absorbed in what I was feeling there was nothing else to write about.

Henceforth, no blog posts.

So this morning, after 6 loaves…yeah I made more…of homemade bread, I can talk/write. Doing something that offered instant gratification, unlike child rearing, was what I needed to soothe what ailed me.

The truth is I don’t know how to be my kids mom anymore.

My kids no longer need me in their everyday life. I am no longer their taxi service, their chief cook and dish washer, their special events planner, or the arms that hold them in the middle of the night when they are frightened. So if I am none of these, what am I?

How do I include myself in their adult lives?

I don’t have a model for this evolved relational style. My mom and I never bridged this transition, for many, many reasons. As a consequence of this, I feel lost. And a bit, okay, a lot, worried they will drift from me and I will become a clinging, you’ll miss me when I am dead, mom.

Truth be told, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I raised two really interesting people and I like them.

It was suggested to me by a wise friend, that gave me the zucchini from her garden, that I ask Landon and Jena to co-create this next stage with me. What a novel idea…I hadn’t even thought of that. My paradigm still one of…as the mom I will figure it out and present it. Clearly, if we are moving toward an adult-to-adult modus operandi, I need to include them.

Perhaps this is the beginning and I don’t need to have any more figured out…even though I really, really, like to have things figured out.

I think I will give Landon a call see if he wants to come over for dinner…Lauren is out of town.

And I have ZUCCHINI BREAD!!!
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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

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Celebrating my 100th post!!!! Life is a buffet…

I am remembering a phone call with my dear friend Kathleen. Instead of asking what was my New Year’s resolution she asked what do I want in the new year? Hmmm.

This simple word substitution opened a totally different door in my psyche.

What do I want?

Honestly? After thinking about it, I want it all.

Life is a veritable, all-you-can-eat, smorgasbord. It all looks so appetizing my mouth imageswaters. I want to taste most everything. I want to read the Better After 50 booklist. I want to learn how to knit a hat–I can knit a scarf. I want to join a cooking club where we take turns trying new recipes on each other. I want to take a writing class, a meditation class, a succulent wreath making class, a Spanish class, a typing class. I want to learn to use Facebook and Twitter like a 20-something-year-old.

I confessed my desire to my monthly women’s group telling them I want it all. I heard myself repeating it several times because it felt soooo good to admit. I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. Iwantitall. Jude suggested this was greed. Everyone in the circle gasped. Did Jude just call me greedy?

I didn’t feel offended, I felt interested. Am I greedy? Is this greed? Gimme-gimme-have-you-got, my mom’s voice chided.

I looked up the definition of greed; an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. Hmmm. I thought about this. Lord knows I don’t want to be selfish…I have heard of what happens to selfish women…

I realized I felt more hungry than greedy, more interested and excited than insatiable. I just don’t want to miss anything.

I wonder if this is what happens after 50, after the kids are grown, the nest is empty, and the diaper money that morphed into soccer camps, that morphed into prom gowns, that morphed into gas money, has finally found it’s way back into my wallet? Do I want it all because I have more time and resources? Because it’s my turn again?

Sorting through my many wants, in any given moment, takes discernment. It also requires the ability to tolerate disappointment. I don’t always get what I want. Sometimes because it is too much money. Or too much time. Or my work schedule gets in the way. Or I have conflicting wants–I want to go to that event but I also want to spend time by myself.

Letting myself want is a tricky business. Not so easy after-all.

Yet, I am enjoying going after what I want. I am even having fun telling you what I want…I want to sit home all day watching movie marathons in my p.j.’s, eating popcorn and homemade soup. I want to clean and organize the garage, paint the spare room, have lunch with my son, volunteer, go shopping with my daughter, write more, nap often…

Hmmm…Maybe the myth of selfish women is untrue. Maybe when we look out for our selves, trust what we want, we are happier. More fulfilled. Content.

What do you want?
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I should be…

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip toThailand where she volunteered, for a week, at an elephant sanctuary, caring for elephants that had been rescued from the tourist and logging industries. I listened intently as she told her stories, her excitement was contagious. I felt my desire to plan my own trip; even my willingness to tolerate the 25 hour flight that she said was worse than horrendous. I wondered if Tom would be interested in going with me. I quickly knew the answer and began considering my list of traveling friends that might want to join me.

Marcie described the beauty of the location of the sanctuary, the plight of elephants, and imagesthe amazing 4’8” woman than conceived of, created and managed the place. Apparently this tiny woman also rescued 200 dogs from the flood in Bangkok in 2011. Marcie said the dogs followed this woman around like the Pied Piper, as did the elephants.

I was enthralled. I was also busy doing mental math, robbing Peter to pay Paul to finance my trip. I had to do this. Elephants have always brought me to tears with their giant tenderness and sense of family. They have been one of my animal teachers.

Marcie detailed the responsibilities of the volunteers. She talked about the ditches they dug in the sanctuary; about the 45 minute trips, standing in the back of a pickup truck driving to the corn fields where they cut and baled the corn for the elephants to eat; how, after baling the corn, they lifted the bales onto their shoulders and carried them to the waiting pickup, heaving them into the truck bed. At the end of the 8 hour day, in 100 degree heat, the group rode on top of the bales back to the sanctuary. Marcie described the scenery, from her place high atop the bales, as magnificent. I felt worried that she could have fallen off.

My excitement had begun to wane. I pictured myself there. With the elephants, in the corn fields, doing these chores. Just thinking about it made my back hurt. I questioned myself if I would have the strength to lift corn stalks to my shoulder, carry them to a pick up bed and throw them in? I doubted my stamina to do physical labor all day in the tropical heat. I imagined how sore I would be at the end of a day. I was already sweating.

I began to feel old. Very old. And weak. Maybe I wouldn’t go after all.

I comforted my wounded self image by reminding myself that I used to I lift and haul like an Amazon woman. If a washer needed to be moved, wood hauled and stacked, a room images-1rearranged, a house built, a driveway shoveled, or a septic systems cleaned, I was your gal. I did it all. I took pride in my physical strength and my willingness to do-what-it-took to get a job done. It assured me I was not my mother’s daughter, who was a pampered princess. As a child, her mantra to me was, be careful you, you will hurt yourself.

I decided at an early age I would be strong.

Listening to Marcie I began to feel my physical vulnerability for the first time. Had I become my mom? I stewed on this for a few days. It occurred to me that I haven’t mowed a lawn in 4 years — and am really okay with this. How Tom insists on carrying the heaviest of the grocery bags into the house and I let him. How, sometimes, I even ask him to open the pickle jar because I don’t want to re-injure my hand.

OMG. Have I become a wimp?

I decided I would make myself go to Thailand. Maybe for two weeks. I would prove to myself I could still survive hard work…and misery.

Then it occurred to me, like a light bulb turning on as you open the refrigerator door — What if I didn’t want to do heavy lifting any more? What if the question was not, could I, but, did I want to

My wattage increased with the brilliance of this question. I was so busy not being mom, that I never asked myself, Did I want to be an Amazonian? Perhaps sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

Marcie assured me I would be physically able to do the work she described.

The question has now become, “Do I want to?”
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(pretty much)

I never thought to ask my mother to go away together for a weekend, and, likewise, my mom never thought to ask me. Perhaps we just didn’t want to…

So when Jena called, shaken from a dream that I had died, we decided we needed to spend some time together. We had both been suffering from the changes caused by the  empty nest created when she left home this past December. Jena faces flying solo (pretty much.) I face watching her solo voyage, saying very little (pretty much) and praying a lot.

UnknownSo with some internet searching we decided on Rocky Gap State Park, Resort and Spa in Maryland. It turned out to be much more State Park and much less Resort and Spa, but at least we were together.

We checked out the pool and hot tub. They were inviting, except for the hoards of screaming, splashing kids. I remembered the chlorine-soaked-hotel-pool-evenings of Jena and Landon’s youth. The intention was to water log them so they would go to sleep early and easily. Unfortunately it was usually their dad and I that fell asleep. As I was strolling down nostalgia lane, Jena remarked that she was not interested in swimming with all those noisy kids. I didn’t blame her. Who really does? I joked with her that she sounded old.

We ate dinner in the resort dining room that over looked a sparkling lake surrounded by hills. The meal was mediocre, ending with Jena finding a fly in her almost all eaten salad. The waitress was dutifully concerned, offering a new salad, which Jena declined due to her slight nausea. The waitress, I think in an attempt to comfort us, told the story of another customer who had ordered a caesar salad and was upset to find a fish (anchovy) in her salad. We didn’t bother to explain the difference.

The dinner bread, however, was delicious. Warm. Crusty. Hearty. We ate it all and asked for more. I wrapped the left over bread in a napkin to take back to the room. I knew stuffing bread in my purse was a sign of age. I did it anyway.

We also learned that the annual polar bear plunge to raise money for special needs kids was scheduled the next morning. Jena hopped on board, always ready for the next adventure. She tried to sell me on the idea, saying, “Let’s do it together Mom, you know a Mother-Daughter thing.”  Usually I cannot resist this kind of not-so-subtle manipulation, except when it comes to voluntarily submerging myself in a lake that was frozen-over two days ago. I negotiated my contribution to the mother-daughter bonding would be the $50 entrance fee needed to submerge her 23-year-old body.

So Saturday morning, Jena, along with over 700 other plungers, ran full speed into the icy lake, while snow fell on those of us that were staying dry. I tried, without success, to findimages Jena in the sea of shamrock green charity t-shirts. As I held my iPhone in place, making sure the video light was on so I could capture her heroics, I worried that she would get sick-and it would be my fault.  “What kind of a mom would let her daughter do such a thing?” I reprimanded myself. I had time traveled back to my parenting responsibilities of her pre-eighteen years, when what I said mattered (pretty much).

Jena ran out of the frosty water, and into my outstretched arms holding dry hotel towels, with a smile that radiated heat. I held her as though she was still my little girl, while enjoying the young woman in my arms. I was proud of her. I was proud the us we were forging.

That night we went to the quieter, late-evening pool with a bottle of champagne and paper cups to celebrate Jena’s college diploma and teaching certificate. She told me her life IMG_0937plans, as much as she knew at this point. She told me about her new love and how safe she feels with him. How smart and protective he is. About the practical jokes they play on one another. I got the sense she loved talking about him — as new love does — and that she really wanted me to know what he means to her. I mostly listened. Sometimes I threw in some motherly advise, along with some concerns I wanted her to consider. I realized that she may or may not appreciate my opinion, but our morphing relationship seemed to allowed for it in the moment. We talked easily for a long time.

I felt a new mutuality developing between us. Jena wanted to know about me; about the safe place I went to in the mediation we did earlier; about my writing class as she edited my assignment with thoughtful, insightful suggestions. I softened into her interest. It felt like a door into our future. She was becoming interested in me in a way saved for adult children. Our mother-daughter norms seemed to be maturing. I warmed to it, feeling my historical uber-mother vigilance relax.

I realize, looking over the three generations between my mom, Jena and me, Jena and I are lucky. Not everyone likes their mom or their daughter. I don’t think my mom liked me – I was too much. And she never really knew me. It was my job to know and please her. So I did. Until I didn’t.

Jena and I have something special. I love being her mom and I think she loves having me as a mom (pretty much). She told me that no matter where she is living, when she decides to have children, she is returning to live within an hour of me…because I am home.

With Love,
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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.

: )

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I am going to spare you this weeks writing assignment, it is a rewrite… so instead I have some follow up pictures I have been wanting to show you. First a picture of the nose-less swordfish charm

IMG_0919Every time I look at him I can’t help but feel badly. I guess he met the same fate as his live counterpart. Maimed.

 

Next, when I feel concerned that blog and memoir writing is simply a narcissistic indulgence I subject others to, I remind myself that …

576343_401939066498044_352495419_n…that it is!!!! Thanks for listening…

 

Finally, for some great pictures and very interesting, fun facts. take a look at this website…http://www.wisegeek.com

Be Well,
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An unanswered question

This weeks assignment was to write about something unresolved in my life. It had to have urgency and tension.

Tom suggested I post something “light” this week as my last two posts have been “heavy”. I didn’t know if I agreed with him or not, but in the end decided to share my “dark” assignment because I worked so fucking hard on it. And I’m all worn out…

So here it is…the saga continues…

I recoil at the question that invades my day. I close my eyes willing it away, but it inevitably returns, like a puppy undeterred by my avoidance to get the attention it needs.  I have wrestled all my life with my need to belong to my family. The reality is that no matter what role I play to please, I just don’t fit. So if I don’t make the trek home when mom dies, I will be cast as the deserter. But going could be emotional suicide.

The last time I made the journey east across the Delaware was for the dual purposes of following my brother Rob’s edict to sell the family home and to visit mom in the assisted living facility he unilaterally decided to move her into. My plan was to meet with the realtor, visit mom, take her to lunch, drive her around the neighborhood she grew up in, then head west-putting a safe distance between me and my only sibling. I intended to slip in and out of NJ, under my brother’s radar, like a CIA Ninja.

The realtor was referred to me by Andy, my hairdresser and recently licensed real estate agent. He said he had asked for someone that would sell for a long distant client and wasn’t afraid of family ghosts. Debbie Leigh, about my age, with a slight NJ accent and a warm smile, took the job.

Debbie liked the house and was excited she was to sell it. She seemed unfazed as I filled in some of the family dynamics. As we sat in the living room, still full with the furniture of my childhood, Rob, unsuspectedly, blew in through the front door. His puffed up chest, reddened face and clipped speech stopped us in mid sentence. The air was sucked out of my lungs-like a baby in a wind storm. I smelled danger. I wondered how he knew we were there, at that specific time, on that particular weekend. What tracking devise did he have? My paranoia rose in direct proportions to his hostility.

He announced to the room that he had rented the house beginning next month…so selling it would not be an option. I was absolutely silent and my body was still. I learned at an early age that if he doesn’t see me, he will leave me alone. Debbie spoke through the tension, like an experienced family therapist, offering a dual plan of renting while showing the house.

Later, when Rob found me alone, searching for my misplaced sunglasses and car keys, he insisted I knew he had rented the house and went on to conclude I was trying to undermine his plans. I told him I didn’t know. This only infuriated him more. The poison in his voice turned my legs to jello and the saliva left my mouth.

I headed toward my car begging my legs to carry me. As I crossed the lawn I got a whiff of freshly cut grass despite the snow covered ground, an olfactory reminder of a childhood memory. Adolescent Rob shoving grass clippings into my elementary school shirt and pants. I remembered how he would wrestle me to the ground, pin my arms with his legs and sit heavily on my rib cage. I couldn’t breathe or move, then. I was determined to save myself now.

I reached the car. As I opened the car door I felt my right shoulder spasm. My body reminded me of the many times my arm was pulled back behind my back, yanking my hand to the opposite shoulder blade, until I fell to my knees. He wanted to hear me say, Uncle. I always did. I hated him for hurting me so badly. I hated myself for surrendering to the pain.

He didn’t start out mean, at least I don’t think he did. He just didn’t want a sibling. When mom was still in the hospital, after my birth, she called Rob. He was staying with her mother, our grandmother. Rob tearfully asked mom if she had had a baby. My new mom told her almost 4 year old, No. That response sealed my fate and secured her lack of protection of me. He hated me and distrusted her, and I never felt wanted by, or safe with, either of them. I was a kid on a hot tin roof.

I have little defense against his life long bullying, despite the years of therapy I have spent on it. I inevitably end up bloodied and self recriminating for putting myself in harms way, again. So I ask myself, what if I didn’t go to mom’s funeral? What if I stayed where I am safe, finally refusing to cross the state line? Mom and Rob have not been an integral part of my life for well over 30 years. I designed it that way and they didn’t seem to notice. So in an ‘everyday way’ I will not miss mom after she passes. I will not hear myself say, “Oh I should call and tell mom this,” or “ I’ll talk to mom, she’ll understand.”

But deep inside, behind my belly button where we were once joined,  there is a little girl who will still be looking for her mom. When mom dies so does my hope of finding her.

With Love,
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, like my mother before me…

Tom and I left for Washington, DC last Friday afternoon in the snow storm. A good friend of Tom’s was retiring and we were going to his party. We rented a small SUV that Enterprise bumped up to a mega bus-free of charge. At first Tom complained about driving a F@*#ing truck, but soon settled as the road conditions worsened.

imagesSomewhere mid Pennsylvania we stopped for gas. While we got out of the car Tom shared his Uncle Paul’s remedy for dirty, icy windshields. Coca Cola. “Oh,” I said, casually thinking that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. First, because Tom and his Uncle Paul are from Georgia, what do they know about snow in the deep south and second, Yankees make wind shield wiper fluid that works amazingly well.

As I walked into the convenience store to use the bathroom, Tom yelled, “Get some Coke while you are in there.” Tom doesn’t drink Coke so I gathered he wanted me to buy the sugary drink for windshield purposes. “Are you serious?” I yelled back. Sternly, more sternly than is usual for Tom, he yelled back, “YES and get a big one.”

As I headed to the soda case I concerned myself with the definition of big. Was he planning to dump the Coke into the wiper reservoir or simply splash it on the windshield? I decided if it were the former I would put my foot down on his southern solution. Every Yankee worth her salt knows soda in the wiper washer system would  gum up the works. But, if he felt better following Uncle Paul’s example and splashing Coca Cola on the window, I would keep my mouth shut. I selected what I thought was a middle of the road size bottle, too small to empty into the fluid keeper, but large enough for Tom to believe I was taking his and Uncle Paul’s sage advice seriously.

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I paid for the Coke. Perhaps they didn’t make blue liquid in big bottles in Uncle Paul’s day. I climbed up into the passengers seat, jammed the Coke into the too small cup holder, and off we went.

About an hour later we ran out of wind shield wiper fluid.

“Where’s the Coke?” Tom asked.

Trying desperately to hide my grin, I un-wedged the bottle, “Here.”

“Open your window and throw it on the windshield.”

Silence. (I couldn’t speak.)

“Throw it on the windshield.”

Okay, he was serious. This man from Georgia; who I just bought an Icelandic temperature rated down coat because he is always freezing “up north”; who does’t know when you run out of wiper fluid you turn the wipers off so the road grime doesn’t smear into an opaque curtain across the windshield; who drove minimally in the snow before he met me with my 4 wheel drive CRV because he drove an adorable little convertible that couldn’t get out of the driveway in the rain, wanted me to stick my hand out the car window and throw Coke.

I instantly flashed to my childhood.

When my family took road trips we did not stop to pee, dad refused. Instead there was a handy dandy “pee pot”, aka mayonnaise jar, we used when nature called. On one particular trip I had to tee tee, that’s we called it. Mom climbed into the back seat, held the pee pot for me and I tinkled. After I filled the jar mom reached the bottle out of the front seat window and tossed the liquid. My pee aerodynamically found the first available opening, the back seat passenger window, where mom and I sat. We were covered in tee tee.

Dad, who was from Alabama, stopped the car.

So like my mother before me, I opened the window and threw Coke on the windshield. However I began laughing so hard it was difficult to do. I held really tight, calmed my self down and tossed. Boy Jov it worked. The 6 inch by 6 inch, upper right hand corner of the wind shied, where the coke hit at our high rate of speed, cleared. Unfortunately we still could not see the road in front of us.

I suggested we stop to get the blue stuff they sell up north for times such as these.

Tom agreed. Then took a sip of Coke.

Still grinning,

waxseal2