memories

Breakfast at McD’s

place-setting-compToday I returned to the doctor’s office for my lab work. I need a big girl sticker for just returning after Tuesday’s misadventures in waiting. But this time the wait was reasonable, my appointment was a 8am, first on the list, so I was willing to give them the 10 minutes for set up time. Twenty minutes overall wasn’t too bad (I was early again).

Dr. M. told me that the tests being done get the best results if I fast and stay hydrated. I took that to mean that not only was blood being drawn, but also the good ol’ pee in a cup thing. So, I gulped a nice, large thermos of ice water on the way over to the office. Turns out the hydration was just for getting a good vein. I ended up hungry, but full if you get my drift.

Since the blood drawing (sounds rather Medieval doesn’t it, blood drawing…), anyway, since that didn’t take very long, I figured I could wait until I found a breakfast place to relieve my hunger and bladder. The less time spent in a place where sick people congregate, the better – especially in a place where you know they will have touched the same things you will.

I really didn’t want to stop at a fast food place. I thought I owed it to myself to have at least a decent egg and toast breakfast. But time and nature have their own ways and my nature call became rather urgent just as I was coming up on, you guessed it, MacDonald’s.

I succumbed to the lure of the golden arches and it’s usually clean bathrooms. What the heck, their iced coffee isn’t that bad. I pulled in and parked across from the door and walked in. I first hit the facilities, which thankfully, were in lovely order. Next, I moved to find something on the menu that didn’t seem to scream, “You are eating crap!”

All the cute little pictures above the counter seemed to feature some version of a biscuit sandwich. I wanted at the very least, pancakes. I questioned the woman behind the counter. “All you seem to have are biscuit sandwiches. I want pancakes.” She replied, “You can get a McGriddle with an egg and bacon.” I asked what a “McGriddle” was. She said it’s like two pancakes with the syrup inside served with an egg, cheese and bacon. I thought okay, it’s not Denny’s, but it will do. I placed the order.

What came back to me was a biscuit sandwich. Seems I should have paid attention to the ‘like’ portion of her statement. Oh, well. I asked for a fork so that I could take the sandwich apart and pretend that I was having the breakfast I ordered. (I did not eat the bacon. I rather figured it did not come from a turkey.)

My doctor’s office is located about 15 miles or so from where I live in town. The county where it is situated is developing and has quite a few businesses popping up all around. The countryside is fast becoming a quasi-urban/suburban area. Many of the residents, however, are still very rural. They are the ones who grew up on the former farms and country roads now being overtaken. The McDonald’s that chose me is also in this same rural/suburban crossroads and the clientele showed this with clusters of older folks speaking with deep, Georgia southern accents.

Not wanting to sit at one of the single barstool type places, I took a booth seat next to a group of three older gentlemen, who were deep in swapping stories. Expecting to hear tales of hunting or local politics, I was pleasantly surprised to hear what they were discussing – their families, more specifically, special family vacations! It was all so sweet.

One gentleman, who I shall call Mr. Buttonup, was treating his coffee clutch brethren with the tales of how he and his family used to take vacations in the mountains and tell ghost stories around the campfire. He laughed and laughed telling the tale of how he and his wife took turns inventing outlandish stories that took place “right on this very spot.” He added with a smile on his face that it never took long for everyone to end up in the same big bed for the night.

Another gentleman, Mr. GreenPolo, told of his inexpensive vacation at the beach. “Best time we ever had and all for under $300!” His companions were very impressed. “We walked the beaches for miles, it was just wonderful.” They all agreed that one could not get such a vacation for $300 nowadays. And at that they began to talk about moseying along.

My heart jumped a little when I realized they were about to leave for it had struck me a little into their conversations that they were all about my Dad’s age. I was eavesdropping with a wistful ear and wanted their stories to go on. It was so pleasant to hear these men teasing back and forth and regaling each other with stories, not of hunting, or business deals, but of times spent with their families. It was if I was listening to my Dad again. I wanted to thank them for that little piece of joy they had just given me.

As they started to leave, I called out to Mr. Buttonup, “Sir, if I may…” and I explained that I had lost my father this year and that their conversations about their families had truly touched me. I apologized for listening in, but I thanked them for letting me in for just a moment even if they didn’t realize they did.

Mr. Buttonup said I was most welcome and Mr. GreenPolo asked what I said. Apparently, he was a bit hard of hearing. (I guess that was one of the reasons I could hear them so clearly; they were compensating for Mr. G.) Mr. B told him the short version of what I said and they both smiled. Mr. B asked if I was from there and I told him no, I was only on this side of town for an appointment. Then he said I was welcome to come back anytime, they met almost every morning right there. That made me smile.

I may not have gotten what I wanted this morning, but I sure got what I needed. I cried a little after they left, both for what they had given me and for what I will never have again, but in the end I was left with a smile. Someone knew I needed that little slice of love even if it came wrapped in a fast food breakfast biscuit. Thanks, Dad. I love you, too.

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Let’s Go For A Ride

Dad_motorcycleIn the late 1960s, our neighbor Mr. Lynn introduced my Dad and brother Stavro to the exciting world of motorcycles and they fell in love. Soon our two car garage was filled with all manner and makes of bikes: dirt bikes, street bikes, minibikes and even a couple of mopeds (the kind that have pedals to start the motor).

Our weekends soon consisted of family day trips out to the Phoenix desert to ride until it became dark. Round and round we’d go, racing through dry river beds and over cracking dusty roads. I remember stopping only to eat lunch and gaze at the beautiful brown Arizona mountains. Even at that young age I was filled with an awe for their dangerous majesty. I love the memory of those times.

Sometimes the urge to ride couldn’t wait until the weekend and Dad would pull out a street bike and take me for a quick ride after he came home from work. At that time, there were still pockets of places we could take a mini-desert ride inside the city. Phoenix was still sitting on the edge of the mega city it was to become.

On one particular evening, Dad said, “Let’s go!” Never willing to pass up a ride, I climbed on the back of the motorcycle, safely wrapped my arms around his waist, hooked my fingers tightly into his belt loops and off we rode heading for the empty lots between two neighborhoods. We slipped past the bar recently planted to keep cars out and into the wilds of Phoenix suburbia we rode. We did our usual circuit and then Dad hit the little mounds of dirt to make me bounce and laugh. I laughed so hard, I was breathless, but with a child’s enthusiasm kept urging, “Again, Dad, again!” It was on one of those last go rounds that I happened to look behind us. Someone else was out for a ride and closing on us fast. He had lights mounted on his bike.

Hello, Officer.

I tapped Dad on the stomach to gain his attention and motioned for him to look behind. “I think he wants us to stop.” Seems the last bastion of space we could ride free in the city was now under police state and some non-motorcycle loving resident ratted us out.

We left our little haven with a blue slip of disappointment. Dad was a bit embarrassed to have to admit to Mom about the ticket we received, but of course nine-year-old little me thought it hilarious and kind of scary exciting. It didn’t occur to me that our evening rides in the last little oasis were over. In a child’s mind things last forever. But of course, they don’t.

Stavro traveled to Phoenix a couple years ago and visited our old haunts. The empty lots are filled with houses. The desert we rode upon is swallowed up by urban sprawl. The dusty roads and river beds paved over. The beautiful brown mountains in the distance are now crowded up to their bases and shaded with pollution.

And my Dad is gone.

I know that Dad would want me to keep pushing onward, to stay on the bike and keep riding, even taking the chance of seeing the lights flashing behind me again. He was proud of me for taking on some pretty bouncy and terrifying mountains throughout my life and conquering them. He never failed to tell me that.

What I failed to tell him was that in my heart I always had my arms around his waist, with my fingers hooked into his belt loops knowing that if I held on tight enough, just over the next hill was the promise of breathless joy and laughter. There would be an open space to ride free and say, “Let’s go!”

But there will never be another evening ride. No more, “agains.” Grown-ups know these things and that’s the hard part.

I’m trying Dad, but without you the motor is terribly hard to start.

A baby story – my version of the tale

J&EMy partner Bashert is writing a series of exposés on our journey to have a baby (Yoda). She is amazed by all the wonderful responses she is receiving. I’m not surprised at all. She can tell a story, that woman. She pours all her heart into what she is regaling and lays it on the line, warts and all.

I am reading right along with all of her other fans. It is funny to read about my life from the outside. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I sit and make note of things I had forgotten and sometimes I revisit very angry moments. It was a roller coaster ride for sure. If you haven’t read her exciting tales of the road to motherhood then pop over to her site: www.bashert04.com.

I was teasing with her when she told me with wide eyes how many hits she had in under an hour the other night just after she posted another segment. I joked that maybe I should write my own version of what went on. She said why not? I thought about it and decided, why not? So I present to you my side of the story – our baby story.

 

We Meet

We met in college. In 1995, at the age of 34 and seeking some source of sanity, I returned to school to finish out my Fine Arts degree I started back when the dinosaurs roamed about. I was two years into a very nasty divorce and custody battle that would eventually drag on for another eight years. I was emotionally and physically scarred and needed a place to help me feel good and right about myself.

Learning had always been a refuge for me, but starting over was hard. I was so socially removed, I barely spoke above a whisper and held everyone at arm’s length. To say that I tried to keep to myself is a radical understatement.

Bashert was ahead of me in the program despite being nine years my junior. A couple of years earlier, she fought to gain her independence from an abusive father and get into college. Fighting hard for things is a major theme in Bashert’s life – keep that point in mind as we go through this story. She knew no strangers; she had friends and acquaintances all over campus.

As a sculptor, Bashert had no love loss for two-dimensional work. Give her some clay to play with and she is a happy camper. Back then the closest thing she came to painting was applying glazes to her ceramic creations. I had the reverse situation. Three-dimensional work and I just didn’t get along – never did; I still have the pinch pot I made in third grade as testament to that fact, the poor malformed little thing. No, give me paper and pencil and I was in heaven.

I never really painted before taking that class, but oh, it was love at first stroke! The way the paint moved across the canvas, pushing and pulling in a beautiful dance of negative and positive spaces. The sharp, piney tang of turpentine and the mellow musk of the oils were heady perfumes for me. And the colours – oh, the colours! The painting studio turned out to be my home. There was only one thing out of place there – Bashert.

It would be suffice to say that painting and Bashert didn’t get on, but add in that we later found out she was pretty much colour blind, that sealed the deal. At the time, I just thought she had been sent into my life to be yet another punishment for whatever hellbent life I had lived earlier. Shy to begin with and emotionally crushed on top of that, I did not know what to do with this girl.

I would arrive at the studio to find her sitting cheerfully at my station with a big grin on her face announcing that she “borrowed” some of my cadmium yellow or a cleaning rag or any number of other supplies. She would chat away as I tried to start my painting day and tactfully extricate myself from her. But she had worked it out so that her painting station was right next to mine and the badgering never ended. Often I would find myself staring in wonderment that she couldn’t get it that I was yearning to left alone.

Get it, she did not and the barrage of questions kept coming either about myself or ultimately about how to paint her images. “How would you do this one?” What colour should I use?” “Could you just take the brush and show me how?” My reply was always, “It is your painting.” I think this made me more a challenge to her. I remember going to my therapy sessions and telling the doctor in an exasperated voice, “That girl has some serious boundary issues!”.  I was already dealing with a vindictive ex-husband to be and a hormonal seven-year-old daughter, another aggravating person was the last thing I needed in my life. On some level I think I was relieved when the class was over just to end the torture from Bashert.

But remember what I said in the beginning? Bashert knows how to fight hard for the things she wants and for some unfathomable reason, she wanted to be my friend. She didn’t give up.

We went on a university sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. and she made sure that I couldn’t bury my nose in my crossword puzzle book on the ride up. She asked me to help her with the art gallery at school where she worked putting up monthly art exhibits. She asked for rides around town to her various other jobs, despite the fact that she hated my 1968 Mercury Cougar muscle car. I loved that car…sigh. But that’s another story.

All the while we were together, she would talk. And talk. And talk. Slowly, oh so slowly, those rides became stops and the talks became conversations, long conversations that lasted into the wee hours of the night. The aggressive girl with the boundary issues taught me how to be in the world again and somewhere in the midst, miraculously became my first friend in almost 15 years.

Dibs on the MatchBox Car

In my grandmother’s home was a magic box. Every child in our family was magnetically attracted to it. It sat almost at the end of a long hallway that divided Mama’s shotgun house, directly in front of the single bathroom.

It wasn’t a grand thing. Only about as wide as a five year old’s arm and covered with brown shelf paper, it was an unassuming vault of treasures. It was Mama’s toy box.

As soon as we entered the house, my younger brother and I would beeline through the living room, dart through the doorway from the dining room and race down the hall to the awaiting trove.  Lucky was the kid who arrived first, she or he got first dibs on what was the choice item of the day.

It varied from time to time what things it held for us to discover. Slinkys, yo-yos, soldiers with their feet frozen in blobs of green plastic or some ViewMaster reels might be found. Often, Matchbox cars, HotWheels and Tonka trucks were at the ready to populate the small, two-story garage handbuilt by my Grandfather or race down the long hall.

There was never anything large or very expensive in the box. Mostly just odds and ends left over from birthdays or Christmas’ past. Things to be discarded or treated with possible childhood distain would be magically transformed into an object of desire. Mr. Potato Head might not have both ears, but his pipe and glasses were there and that was great. Only a few Spirograph gears might be available, but there was enough to create fabulous designs to captivate any willing adult art admirer.

Palpable delight was felt in digging through the bit and pieces, mining for just the perfect toy to claim for the day or the hour or until Mom told us our turn was over. Imagination would take over when we found the stray crayon or some pirate coins hidden in the back corners.

Built way before mandatory locking hinges and I’m sure repurposed from another use, the box had a lid with the tendency to fall back into closed position. You really had to make sure that it was all the way back before starting to rummage. Once, in my haste to grab a good toy, I failed to push the lid all the way back. Slap! across my nose the hasp came – blood, tears and a lesson well learned.

The inevitability of growing up and its cruel disassociation with the magical never really affected Mama’s toy box. It never moved. Even as we grew and became busily involved in the ways of adulthood, it remained steadfast in its place guarding the long hallway ready to offer any passing child a chance to play. The next generations would soon experience the joy of running through the house to claim their daily prize.

In these often harried and tense days, it is nice to bring to mind the magic box in Mama’s hall. Though the home she kept for 40 odd years or so has been gone for quite some time, claimed by urban planning, the memory of it and that box full of childhood joy will always be there ready for another day of play. Race you there.

The People You Meet

Lion of Judah – by artfulexpectations. (Bashert w/Yoda)

There are people sent into your life for a purpose, not always is this purpose clear beyond gaining a new friend (or enemy), but there is a purpose. Take my friend Betty.

Betty is an eternal optimist. Like Annie, she knows that even though the sky may be covered in bruise coloured clouds, there is a sun shining fiercely behind it just waiting to break through. Don’t get me wrong though, Betty is no Pollyanna (for those of you not born of an age, go look her up). She doesn’t spout cloyingly sweet phrases or sing to the birds – at least I don’t think she sings to the birds, I’ve never witnessed it anyway. Betty is just, well, happy.

Betty has seen her share of things that would rock anyone’s world. I’ll not relate them here as they are her private affairs and hers to hold on to. Let it suffice to say that these things could bring a lesser person to their knees. Betty rose to meet all comers and came out the victor.

She is the woman, who under any other circumstance would rub you completely wrong, with her: “Hello! Monday, what good have you got for me to start the week?” But Betty in her determined sunny-side of life, makes you inquire what wonders Monday might actually hold.

Her laugh is incredibly contagious. One of my fondest, BEST memories of my college years (the last ones, not these) is of a rainy afternoon down in the sculpture lab with Bashert, Thriver, myself and Betty. We laughed so hard that my face hurt and I couldn’t catch my breath. I will never look at another bamboo paintbrush or container of Preparation H in the same light after that day.

She co-hosted our baby shower for Yoda (her co-host was the friend we lost a year ago – see “Just Keep Singing”) – a marvelous affair with friends, family and lots of yummy food mixed with that laughter. If there is a woman who loves babies, there’s Betty (just ask her granddaughters).

She spends many of her days working with pregnant women. She’s not an obstetrician,  no Betty is an artist – a sculptor. She creates wonderful memories to, as her website puts it, “preserve and celebrate” a child’s first home. No wonder she’s a happy camper.

Betty is a free spirit, who has paid her dues to be so. She takes little for granted and beams her gratitude out with rays of joy. Even in her darkest hours, at least those I have been privileged to witness, she finds a spark, a reason to look for the light to come.

I’ve been in a funk lately. The triad of my life; home, school and work have been a little at odds. It’s kind of like the uneven three-legged stool. You keep cutting a little bit off each leg, but it never seems to quite even out.

Whether she knows it or not, Betty has been quietly encouraging me. She’s going through her own struggle right now, but even when she has a set back of some kind, she finds something good in it even it means that she must take a step back. Her fortitude lets me know that there is light to come and that sometimes you have to make your own torch to brighten the way because some tunnels are longer than others.

I may not be able to rise to her level of zen just yet, but she gives me hope that I might get there someday. What an awesome purpose. Thank you Betty.

Peas Under the Plate

I owe my mother apologies for many things done or not done over the years, but I believe high on the list should be a hearty, “I’m sorry” for the repeated utterance of the following three little words:

“What’s for supper?”

Every night the same inquisition. Every night the same stares of anticipation. Every night the same dread. What’s for supper?

My Mom faced this eternal (infernal) question each night from four children, a husband and various and sundry pets who passed through our way for thirty years or so. Bless her little heart. I wonder if she, like I now, wanted to slap a frying pan upside someone’s head when those three little words came out?

Mom made do. I admire that and wish I had more of her “do”. She made supper and we ate it (with the exception of my younger brother Ernst, who subsisted on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for 18 years, but that is another story). We had a meat, a veggie and a starch every supper. She made it work, whether we deserved it or not.

When we asked “what’s for supper?” I’m sure there were plenty of turned up noses at times, but the menu she worked out is what we got. There was no ditching the kitchen and heading off to the nearest fast food establishment. Going out was for special occasions and with dinner guests numbering from four to six most of the time, it was rather expensive, too.

We lived on my Dad’s one salary. Mom made it work. Some nights we had Spam patties as the meat source, other nights we had round steak that had been split in half lengthwise then pounded out to stretch. There were other nights of fried chicken or pork chops and mashed potatoes (not applesauce).  Looking back those must have been the times my parents were more flush, but it didn’t matter, we partook of what we had, which is not to say we ate it all – no, I remember clearly trying to hide peas under the rim of my plate and I’ve heard stories of my brother Stavro covertly placing items behind the refrigerator.

Supper was the time the family regrouped. All were called by the rallying cry, “supper’s ready”! Off went the t.v., down went the books, the telephone conversation was cut short, play was halted and we all came together.

We had marvelous conversations and learned of each other’s daily lives. We told stories, passed on new knowledge, played word games and made plans. Occasionally, we would fight, but most of the time we laughed, a lot. Supper became less about the food and more about the time spent together. It was something I think we took too much for granted. Another apology owed to Mom.

Maybe that’s the “do” I’m missing. Even in the worst of times, Mom found something to make for us so that we could sit together and eat. She may have wanted to conk each one of  us on the head for asking what’s for supper, but she didn’t and we survived to ask another day.

Perhaps I need to take the message more to heart. The t.v. needs to go off, apps turned off, Yoda called in from play and make supper the focus it should be, our family reconnection. Stretched paychecks and crossed schedules need to take a backseat to the preparation of what’s for supper. Nothing says I can’t resent the question, but everything says I can make it mean something else.

Thank you, Mom.

Day Tripping

The Bedlam family went traveling yesterday.  We hit the ATL; Hotlanta.  Well, we sort of went to Atlanta.  We actually landed in Decatur. It’s a small suburb south of the great city.  It is a city reborn, full of great little boutiques and wonderful eateries.  Our daughter Nené attended their premier women’s college, Agnes Scott for a year.  It’s the county seat of where we lived a while when I adopted Yoda as his legal second parent. It’s a beautiful little city to visit.

 

 

We had two missions, the first was an appointment Bashert made to see one of the downtown shop owners.  Bashert is an artist, too and a good bit more enterprising than I.  Since college, she has actually made money.

 

 

 

 

 

The shop, Wild Oats & Billy Goats, is a funky little place chock full of fabulous folk-art.  We were both in seventh heaven to be immersed in good art again.  A refreshing breath of air.  I believe we would have stayed much longer if we didn’t have Bashert’s second mission to accomplish.  We usually stick around and take all the photo ops we can, but time was pressing, this was a day trip and the weather reports for later were rather ominous for driving.

After a quick lunch at a local pita establishment, we were off to find Dick Blick’s Art Supply.

 

Here is where it gets a little tricky.  You see, I had a couple of very long days/nights this past week.  My archaeology professor guilted me into digging the site for several hours this week on top of having to be at work until 5:30 – 6:00am (yes – AM) and attending classes.  Exhausted doesn’t cover it.  I was asleep when Bashert printed out the routes and all the way up to Decatur.  I didn’t check  the maps.

Turned out that what Bashert thought was just Roswell road, was actually Roswell, the city, just north of Atlanta.

 

 

Unless we have an absolute, written in stone map, traveling with Bashert can be a bit dicey.  She can locate her childhood home with the barest of landmarks, but give her a map?  So when we discovered that the route involved a toll highway, we were put a little on edge.

The day was saved by my new(ish) toy, the iPhone.  We were able to pull up a decent enough map (I refuse to activate the GPS) to guide us around the toll and to the right destination.

Much to our delight, by not taking the highway, we also got to experience downtown Roswell, a place neither of us had been, despite the fact we are both from Georgia; Bashert being born in Atlanta!

Roswell is a historic city, built on the labors of slaves and mill workers.  This month the town hosts the largest Black History celebration in Georgia.  If we had known our travels were going to take us through there, we would have made arrangements for time to stop.

After the shopping excursion in Dick Blick’s (another slice of heaven for us, even though we were just there for supplies for Yoda’s school), we headed back to visit with Nené for a minute or two.  She was at work so it wasn’t a long visit, but Yoda was overjoyed to see his big sister even for a short time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The torrents of rain held off until we got home – not that I would know, I was fast asleep again once the car got moving. Bashert must have known how tired I was because normally I’m not allowed to doze in the car.  I’m navigator and wingman to keep the driver alert.  Bless her little heart.

All in all it a good day trip.