Yes, those are lucky charms. Yes, that was my dinner. Yes, I still like the marshmallows best. ‘Nuff said.
No birthday is ever the same. No birthday past the age of 13 is very exciting. Childhood birthdays are the best. Long sunny days spent in a bathing suit, falling asleep under the cool ceiling fan, my wet beach towel chilling my skin.
Popsicles were the air conditioning of choice, pizza was the birthday dinner of choice, gift-opening was the entertainment of choice. (My siblings would argue that my “practiced” facial expressions for each opened present was the real entertainment.)
Some of the presents I remember from my favorite birthday: a sleeping bag, (we were campers) a Swiss Army knife, (from my dad, the Eagle Scout) and a pink and teal bike (worn with spandex… which was totally and completely in style at the time).
Life was good. Tree climbing, hammock swinging, insects biting, fence hopping, bike riding, bedtime avoiding, pool swimming, roller blading, wound bandaging. Life was good.
Party hats in pink, ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen melted on my paper plate; summer birthdays are the best.
As an adult, my birthday was spent very differently. I went to work, quietly took phone calls from each sibling and parent, and promised to call them later. A quiet lunch with my husband, a walk with the dog, a peach belini, dinner at Red Lobster, and an early bedtime.
I miss the swatting flies, barefoot running, outside playing days.
I’d give anything to spend a few days in my childhood again.
Happy birthday to me.
Dedicated to J. and C.
I spent a very long time stumbling around the stage of life where my parents were not cool enough to be graced by my presence. In my earlier years I was a very stuck up, sneakily disobedient, and was much smarter than my parents, of course. By definition, I was a normal teenager.
Those behaviors have changed since I went to college, lived and worked on my own after college, met a handsome someone, got married, and moved around the US.
My parents are coming to visit my husband and me tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier than my little six-year-old self on Christmas eve, except that I used to fill myself with such anxiety that I’d take on flu-like symptoms. Puking from excitement? Yes, it’s possible. Needless to say, I’m excited to see my parents, but I’ll keep the puking to a minimum.
– – –
These days I see my parents not as nerdy folks who go to bed at 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s eve (not a bad idea) but as knowledge-filled vessels with long, sturdy spouts. They easily tip to one side or the other to fill me up with their knowledge. Here are the random, but useful things I’ve learned over the years:
-How to check the oil in my car
-How to sew on a button/mend a hole
-How to have a firm handshake and present myself confidently
-Believing in a higher power cultivates life
-It’s always a good idea to have a flashlight and a knife close by
-Hard work is worth the…work
-Liquid dish soap does NOT belong in the dishwasher
-Steady, aim, fire
-A smile is the best accessory to any outfit
-Reading enriches life
-Work hard, play hard
-Marriage is worth fighting for, not about
-Lights do not turn themselves off. Electricity bills do not pay themselves
-A fast shower is a happy water bill
-Seek positivity in everything
-Always send a thank you note
I’d like to take a moment to thank my fans, a.k.a my parents. Thanks for putting up with me, and for seeing me through. I may have turned out completely opposite from who they tried to raise, but I didn’t turn out all that bad, did I?
Ok, back to the record at hand, I’m looking forward to spending time with my parents. It’s been over a year, and they’ve not seen this part of the country in years. I have my meals planned out already, the grocery shopping done, the sheets clean, bed made, activities planned (anyone sensing a theme? They are very active and very much planners. “What do you wanna do?” “I dunno, what do you wanna do?” won’t fly in this fam).
We’ll visit the beach, walk the dog together, view the humbling tornado damage, cook together, play games, laugh, and learn a whole bunch of new things!
My parents are so cool, I can’t wait to show them off in public.
I don’t recognize the silence.
I’m home from work, and the only sound resonating through the spacious walls is the sound of my allergy-induced hacking cough.
Lonely at first, I decide to clean the house. This is a problem, because Abuela C is in town, and Abuela C is a rock star of a house cleaner.
Every night we cook together, taking turns dumping spices and ingredients in the boiling pots. She’s about half my size, and speaks Spanish faster than an auctioneer can sell a painting. Spanish and English roll off her tongue, and she glances my direction to see if I catch on.
I cook an entire recipe written in Spanish, without a single translation. She doesn’t seem to notice. I copy the recipe down – in Spanish – but she didn’t seem to notice. Maybe she expected me to understand. I’m learning new recipes, and my husband is finally happy eating traditional hispanic meals. My stomach, however, is not so happy. It craves spinach and salmon and strawberries and other vitamin enriched-foods.
After dinner, we take turns cleaning. She cleans, and I clean again. Then she cleans after me. Hooray for another clean-freak!
I’m quite particular when it comes to cleaning, and I’ve used an entire bottle of lysol, 3/4 of a bottle of lysol wipes, and 7/8 of a bottle of dish soap so far.
In fact, the only thing that’s dirty is the dog, and that’s because I’m too lazy to give her a bath, and we don’t own a hose.
Tonight I have some free time while the husband and Abuela C. are gone. I’m sipping red wine, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
I remember her clearly. Big puffy black hair, big eyes, high eyebrows, bright red 90’s lipstick, and long fake nails. Her name was *Mrs. Norman, and she was a teacher at my elementary school. Quite the eccentric one (not unlike myself), I missed out by having a different cluster of teachers.
Mrs. Norman had a wild reading voice, and an equally crazy look in her eyes. I met her one day when my class was practicing our reading skills by reading to Mrs. Norman’s class. I couldn’t concentrate on the story I was reading, or my reading partner. I wanted to hear her voice and to observe her.
I was enthralled by her long red nails. I’d already heard rumors that she wore fake nails, but I couldn’t be sure; couldn’t stop staring.
The reading practice went off without a hitch, and I became obsessed with Mrs. Norman’s nails. I’d pretend to get lost, heading into her classroom. I’d make up a story to tattle to her when she had recess duty, wearing her bright orange reflective vest.
One week her nails were painted red -to match her lipstick, one week they were orange. And one day, she wore a band-aid on her finger.
There’s nothing wrong with having a band-aid on a finger. Just the other day, I clumsily cut the knuckle of my pointer finger while shaving my legs… (don’t ask) so I see the justification. But her band-aid was out of place. It was over her nail. Her missing fake nail. Imposter!
I stomped off, feeling betrayed, and unsure of why.
– – –
I wear fake nails. In fact, one popped off while I was loading the dishwasher. My first thought was not that I needed to fix it; it was that I needed to find a band-aid.
I thought back to Mrs. Norman, and that we had a special bond.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the guilty.
Collard greens, BBQ anything, fried everything, fishing as a state “sport”, “yes ma’am, no ma’am,” and hurricanes. These are a few of my (least) favorite things.
Those Southern “drawl” -turning one -syllable words into three- big frilly hats, and trucks with tires as tall as my head (I’m tall!). These are a few of my (least) favorite things.
When the mosquitos bite, when the termites swarm, when I’m feeling utterly depressed, I’ll simply remember where I grew up, and then I will feel, SO BLESSED!
Mountains (I’ve included a link for you to see what those are), hiking, high altitude, dry heat, four seasons -with beautiful colored leaves in the Fall- bike trails, Chipotle, snow boots, cactus, tree-huggers, and fresh air. These are a few of my favorite things.
Plinko has been in the family for years. He is a pink hippo, and belongs to my sister. For the longest time, my sister called him a “her” (simply because of his pink complexion) but I had to correct her that he is, in fact, a “him”. Pink + hippo = the name Pinko, but we thought Plinko was a more appropriate name. Plus, we get an extra giggle when we think of Bob Barker, and “The Price is Right.”
Well, you can’t meet Twigs, because he was absent on picture day. Probably hung over, as he’s a bit of a lush.
Twigs is a giraffe and belongs to me. He’s also been in the family for a long time; so long that I can’t tell you exactly where he came from.
Plinko and Twigs are tokens of love. When I lived at home, Mom would hide Twigs in my sports bag, or on my pillow when I got home from school. I graduated from high school and he traveled in care packages to me at college. If I was home visiting for a weekend, I’d leave Twigs there, hidden in Mom’s box of favorite cereal. She’d find him the next morning, and call me to tell me. I loved waiting for those calls.
In 2011 Twigs is quite well-traveled. He’s been to the Atlantic Ocean, started his own business, and has even gone to church.
Plinko was with my sister when she bought her first car, and even helped her bake a blueberry pie for Dad’s 60th birthday. He arrived at my house on the East Coast in December 2011 (in a Christmas package), and is completely over-staying his welcome. Every night I have to pull out the sofa-bed, tuck him in, and read him a bedtime story. Sometimes in the middle of the night, he wakes me up with his hippo noises (which includes some squeaking and some grunting), and makes me bring him some warm milk. As if that weren’t enough, he makes me hold the straw to his mouth while he sips.
He keeps saying he’ll find work soon, but I think it’s just an excuse to stay with Auntie Caitlin.
Here is their most recent adventure:
Last Monday was “Take Plinko and Twigs along” day. They behaved
extremely well like hooligans. They stayed put and were quiet at first, but soon after arriving at Target, they jumped out of the cart and ran off. I found them by honing in on Plinko’s special hippo noises. There they were, munching away on a bag of suckers.
Twigs fell asleep quickly after his sugar-high crash-landed. Plinko on the other hand… well… Plinko wasn’t feeling so well. A hippo’s diet does not really consist of sugar and Tootsie Pops, so Plinko got sick:
Ewww! What a mess I had to clean up! Poor Plinko rested for the remaining hours, and slept like a baby hippo that night.
My sister’s half birthday is today. I think I’ll send her a half-birthday package, and hide him cleverly inside. He’s so whiny sometimes. He claims the salt in the ocean out here is what makes his skin look a little pink.
I think he’s full of it.
As you faithful readers know, this is not a poetry hub whatsoever. I’ve fallen in love with memoirs, but still think it would be worth it to share some of my older poems.
Published by Threshold Creative Arts Magazine 2010
Childhood is not from birth to a certain age.
Childhood is the kingdom-hood in which no soul dies.
Die, one who imagined fables
and danced in day dreams
with ribbons snapping in the wind,
toes wiggling deeper into the sand.
Die, one who played with kittens
and gave voices to puppets;
Who cannot be said
to have witnessed it all.
But you do not wake suddenly
in the middle of the night
blanket in your mouth.
At what point do you shove the tear-stained bear
between the bed and the wall,
and forget about it?
To be grown up is to sip bold wine with
stiff-bodied poem quoters in tall backed chairs.
I watch my daughter brave her divorce:
she cries into the silk couch pillows.
She drowns in her bottle of vodka,
due to the loss of her childhood.
Did I allow my daughter
I didn’t award myself?
Your tea is cold now.
You can barely stand up
without leaning on your cane.