Trapped in a Trailer

 

Note: I’m working on a book and it’s got me road-tripping back and forth across my childhood. One road led to this post.

 

The Forest and The Trees

 

When you’re 12 and locked in the bathroom of a trailer in the woods, a lot of crazy stuff runs through your mind. How did she lock the door from the outside? Why is the window so small? How the hell do I use this tampon?

 

My mother had told me the month before that she was done buying pads (“sanitary napkins,” for the technically inclined) and that I would have to start using tampons for my periods. She said pads were too expensive and she didn’t like them, so I shouldn’t like them either. (Can you say “textbook narcissist”?) When that month’s period rolled around on the calendar, there were no pads to be found. She pushed a box of tampons into my hands, shoved me into the bathroom, somehow secured the door from the outside and yelled, “You’re not coming out until you know how to use those Tampax!” That’s how I found myself in that trailer’s locked bathroom, sobbing.

 

I banged on the door, tears flying, for a full 10 minutes. I begged to be let out. I begged for help. (Seriously – how was I supposed to use a tampon?) I begged and begged until I realized that my mother had probably left the room and wasn’t even listening to me anymore. Sometimes even a 12-year old is led to wonder how in the world her life could have turned out this way.

 

Looking back, I can see how complex and fractured that day was. How afraid that young version of me was feeling, how belittled and disrespected she was. I can also see my mother’s ignorance and shortcomings as a parent. How unprepared she was, how her own fears outweighed the well-being of her daughter. I won’t claim to not judge, because I do – in spades. But the thing I think about most is how I wish I could have helped my young self. How I wish I could ease her through that day and help move her forward, beyond it.

 

So in my mind, I’ve decided to send her some help. And I’ve done it in the only way I know how: I’ve replaced those janky paper instructions in that box of tampons, the instructions with the anatomical renderings that benefit no one except those with medical training. In their stead, I’ve left a handwritten note. It reads:

 

Dear Little Mikki,

 

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but you’re going to be okay. I promise. I’m gonna take you through this, step-by-step, so just follow along.

 

First, make sure you’re sitting on the toilet seat, like you’re ready to use the bathroom, while reading this. Take out a single tampon and tear the paper away. Throw the paper in the toilet. Now look at the tampon. See the end with the string? Notice how that cylinder fits inside the slightly larger cylinder on the other end. Place your index finger over the string-side opening and press. See how the inner cylinder presses the tampon through the outer cylinder? Neat, right? Drop that tampon and the cardboard cylinders into the toilet.

 

Now, with your fingers, reach down between your legs and find where the pee comes out. Once you find that, slide your fingers back just a bit to where your vagina is. That’s right – the “hole.” This is where you’re going to insert the tampon. (Stay with me. You can do this.)

 

Take another tampon from its wrapper (tossing the wrapper into the toilet) and practice pressing the string-side and pushing out the tampon. Do this as many times as you need, until you feel like you’ve got it down. Throw all those practice tampons, their wrappers and their cardboard cylinders into the toilet.

 

Take one last tampon from its wrapper (yep – wrapper into toilet), and place your index finger on the string-side opening. While holding the cardboard cylinder, and keeping your index finger over the string-side opening, place the other end of the tampon into your vagina. You only need to push it in about an inch. Once the cylinder is inside your hole, press the string-side cylinder and push the tampon into your body. If it doesn’t quite work, it’s okay. Just try again.

 

Once it does work and the tampon is inside you, that means you did it! You figured it out! Oh – and that string? That’s how you’ll pull the tampon from your body, once it’s time to replace it. (You will get the hang of this. I promise.) Wash your hands, make sure you’ve thrown all the various tampon wrappers and cardboard cylinders and practice tampons into the toilet, put the lid down and have a seat.

 

Now. I know this has been hard. But there’s still some ugliness to get through. When you leave this room (when you’re allowed to leave, that is), you’re in for a bad surprise. Your mother has invited a former boyfriend over – the one you never wanted to see again. And she’s done it today. Right now. He’s out there, with her, waiting to see you. And it doesn’t matter how puffy and red your eyes are from crying, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been held hostage in the bathroom. None of that matters, because that woman is going to make you go out there, sit down across from that boy, and act like everything’s fine. Little Mikki – everything is not fine. So here’s what I think you should do. Dry your face. Go out there and sit. But you don’t have to talk to that boy any more than you want to. You may have to sit in a room with him, but you don’t have to pretend you want to see him and you don’t have to pretend you’re happy.  You just gut through this visit, and I promise you – you’ll never have to see him again. I swear to beans.

 

You did good today. And you really are gonna be okay. Hang in there. I promise you’re gonna get to grow up and live far away from this trailer and these crazy people and you’ll get to decide the kind of person you want to be. No one else will ever get to decide that for you. Okay?

 

Now, flush that toilet, go out there and sit across from that boy until he gets bored and leaves, then go right outside for a walk in the woods. You do not want to be here when your mother finds that stopped-up toilet.

 

Love,

Big Mikki

Cool Like That

 

I’ve been a fan of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for ages. For the life of me, I don’t know why. Rape, murder, assault – that’s not my bag, y’all. And yet I’ve watched the show, year after year, cast change after cast change. I even got to meet a writer from the show and I completely nerded out. I’m not proud.

 

But when this current season rolled around, I just – couldn’t. The world is so fucked up and the weight of everyday life is almost too much. Adding the ugliness of reel life to the ugliness of Real Life isn’t always the best idea for me. SVU fell by the wayside.

 

Until this past week. Mister decided to catch up on the season and I watched with him. The show is the same, good or bad, and my love/hate relationship with the characters remains.

 

I’m telling you all this because I had a bit of a personal epiphany while watching the show. During an episode, as one character showed disdain for a specific gender, I thought about my own feelings surrounding gender. And I realized I don’t trust a single sex more than another. Then I thought about that, and dug into my childhood and acknowledged how both my parents had screwed me over. And how their poor behavior, while inexcusable, had given me a gift: I see females and males as being equal. Both genders can be complete fuck-ups. Both genders can choose to be less-than-decent. Both genders can suck.

 

And while that point-of-view may seem defeating, bear in mind it also provides a flip-side. Both genders can opt for kindness. Females and males can choose wonderful humanity. Both genders can be amazing, brilliant souls. Neither of my parents showed those traits to me, so they don’t get credit for my positive view. I take full credit for that hopeful stance. Yeah – I’m pretty cool like that. And I’m grateful as fuck for that part of myself, to boot.

 

So I’ll keep watching SVU and will surely catch up soon. The show, for me, reminds me of something I’ve carried with me through all of life. The bastards can’t keep me down. You can’t see me as I type this, but I assure you, I’m smiling so much my cheeks hurt.

 

Sono Grata

So Long, Mr. Dorough

Bob Dorough – the man responsible for some of the music of my childhood – has died.

 

If you grew up watching classic School House Rock cartoons, you know the work of Mr. Dorough. Here’s a list compiled by Jen Chaney at Vulture. It’s a swell stroll down memory lane.

 

Later in life, I came to know the jazz music of Bob Dorough and each time I heard one of those songs, I smiled. Here’s a tune he did with Miles Davis. It comes up on my personal playlist most every year. “Old Devil Moon” bent to Dorough’s will and can’t be unheard, once visited. Take that any way you want, but know that I intend it with a loving smile.

 

I’m so grateful I had the benefit of knowing Bob Dorough’s work. I probably wouldn’t have memorized the preamble without him, and to this day, when I count by 3s, it’s his voice I hear. I say “3 is a magic number” all the danged time. And I have Bob Dorough to thank for that.

 

Here’s hoping Dorough, Blossom Dearie and Miles Davis are making great music together, in infinity.

Glennon Doyle

 

 

I just received a beautiful video from Glennon Doyle. I don’t know her or anything, but I do follow her and the work she does.

 

The video is about the students who are leading the way toward sanity in our gun-crazed country. It’s truth. It’s sad. It’s inspiring. It’s real.

So. Alabama. (This is a Rant and a half, y’all.)

 

The South

 

When I think about all that’s going on in the world, there’s too much ugliness for focus. Sadly, I could rattle off about a jillion topics, but the standouts at the moment – in my mind – are these: the swirl of activity around hate is seemingly endless; sexual harassers and predators, who have existed for all time, are clueless regarding just about every little thing under the sun; and the racists of the world are too stupid to recognize their rightful place – beneath rocks.

 

On the hate front, religious hate definitely pops up. It seems that a lot of hate stems from anything different from ourselves. For some reason, we are particularly unhappy when others don’t bow to our own deities. Honestly – I don’t know why we give a rat’s ass why someone aligns with religions different from our own. As long as folks are good and decent, why should their worship matter? I won’t lie – I do know a couple of judgey Christians and they’re no picnic. In a single breath, they will gladly tell you what they believe Jesus would do, then proceed to say something vile and decidedly un-Christian-like without so much as the batting of a holy eyelash. I occasionally have to deal with these folks, so deal I do. In direct contrast to them, when I’m around good decent Christians, it’s a friggin’ delight. Recently my sweet friend Gwendlyn said she was feeling overwhelmed by the way so-called Christians are perverting her faith. I suggested that if Jesus does ever decide to come back to this planet and chooses to land in the U-S-of-A, he’d best make his appearance in California, as it might be the only safe place for him. If Jesus popped up in some parts of the country, while wearing his half-dress/half-robe and sandals, I’m pretty sure some gun-totin’, Republican, self-proclaimed holier-than-thou Christian would bust a cap in Jesus’ ass. I’m also pretty sure the shooter would fire in the name of – you guessed it – Jesus. The dead guy in the street.

 

Hate isn’t limited to religious differences, though, so a plethora of others receive a ton of disdain on a regular basis, too. I find I’m at a loss on this front also. I mean, how is homosexuality a threat to my marriage? The answer is – it isn’t! Never has been, never will be. I see you, wide-stance politicians who protest the loudest in public, while getting a little too close to young same-sex colleagues in private. And please remember, most of us have eyes. We all see you.

 

When it comes to the subject of sexual harassment and assault, I am completely biased. Not only because of my own experience as a female, but also because of the experiences of every single female I know (and of course – the ugliness isn’t limited to female victims). I could write a book of #MeToo horrors, and that’s just one gal’s experiences. The ridiculousness of what we live through every single day is appalling. Truth is, I don’t know how some of my friends and acquaintances have managed to live through all of it. I really don’t. And I say that as a victim of assault. So yes – I’m outraged. But I’m also incredibly proud of all the women (and men) who are coming forward with their life stories. I admire them and I support them. And if I hear one more asshole say something about getting past all this, because he’s sick of hearing about it, I may have a conniption. Newsflash, motherfuckers – there is no getting past it. Predators are too stupid to evolve into decent people, and we seem to have a steady stream of idiots in our midst. Hell – we in America have installed a predator-in-chief! I can hardly believe it, but we did. And I will never understand how parents bring themselves to support a predator in office, or anywhere, and still have the audacity to consider themselves decent to their children. I don’t get it. (And please don’t try to defend yourself to me if you’re one of these lost souls. Just unsubscribe. Um-kay?)

 

No, I don’t worry about how long the calling-out of sexual harassers and predators will go on. I’m more concerned about it stopping too soon. It needs to continue, to keep going. Sadly, it will take more years than I have left to live, in order to see real change. That breaks my heart, and yet I still support every victim who finds her (or his) voice. One final thought on this. If you’re the type of male who believes females are the weaker sex, you may want to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Women put up with more shit in a single day than most of you could handle in a decade. Weaker sex, my ass.

 

I also have a few thoughts about racists and they’re not good thoughts. But before I share them, I want to remind some of you that my exposure to racism is vast. My Georgia childhood was a master class in how to be a dumb-fuck racist. Here’s another newsflash: I failed. Despite being raised in a house where I was regularly told my skin color made me better than others, the outside world told a different and wonderful story. I was ten years old when I fully realized, all by myself, that I wasn’t any better than people of color. I was an observant little kid – and a straight-A student – and I decided to share my newfound knowledge with my family. For I was a giver, don’t you know. That big moment found me at the table for supper, announcing, “I don’t think there’s any difference between white people and black people. My friend Leslie, who’s in my same grade, is just as smart as me and she’s nice and pretty, too.” I was immediately slapped across the face by my father. He told me I better not ever say things like that again, and that I was wrong and if I knew what was good for me, I’d shut up. Well I did have some idea what was good for me, so I did indeed shut up.

 

But I knew more. I don’t know how, but I did. I knew I had been right in thinking Leslie was my equal. Hell – she may have been smarter. She was certainly prettier. To this day, I don’t know why I knew my father was wrong. I just did. I had found truth. And if I had to keep my mouth shut about it, in order to protect myself from physical harm in my own home, then that’s what I would do. But that demanded silence didn’t change anything. For I knew – in my heart – that I was right.

 

Here’s the thing, and this is mainly for you closet racists. If you stand on a corner and announce that you don’t believe a suppressed and persecuted group of people has any damned reason to complain about the state of their lives, you simply cannot feign surprise when other people, who consistently make the same announcement, decide to support you for your speechifying. In other words - if you stand with white supremacists, you don’t get to be upset when they stand with you. In announcing your racism (whether it be overt or closeted), you basically gave yourself a debutante ball and invited your fellow racists to attend. And that’s on you, every single time. It doesn’t matter how you all got to your privileged perches. You’re there now and the view is the same. And it ain’t good.

 

And that’s the problem, y’all. I and about a jillion others know nothing but white privilege. That’s not our fault, per se, as our skin color is just our skin color. It shouldn’t mean anything, because it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just part of how we look. But, and I’m being honest here, it’s all I know. Being white is my only experience. I can do my best to empathize and I can do my best to understand, but I will never ever know what it’s like to go through this world as a person of color. I have no idea what it’s like to be judged adversely for my skin. No one had to teach me how to behave if I ever found myself face-to-face with a law officer aiming a gun at me. Do you know how many parents are mortified that their children will be lost forever just because of their skin color? I didn’t have that hanging over my head when I was a kid. Still don’t. I can’t imagine what that must be like for the kids, any more than I can imagine what it’s like for their parents. It’s terrifying. And ridiculous. And utterly stupid. But that’s what racism is, folks. Utterly stupid.

 

And for my white peers who still think Black Lives Matter is a crock, I feel sorry for you. You’re so ignorant you can’t even see how ignorant you are. Or maybe you’re too superior to admit you’re wrong. Or maybe you’re both of those things, along with a slurry of other ugly isms. That’s all pretty pitiful.

 

I was reading an article about a new book by John Hodgman. In the piece, this excerpt from the interview with the author is quoted: ”Why did it take me till my 40s to understand that the biggest privilege of white privilege is the ability to turn off race and pretend that it is not an issue?” At least Hodgman got there, even if it was in his 40s. Too many of us haven’t gotten there yet. And god help us, too many of us never will.

 

All of this brings me to now. So. Alabama. The big news of yesterday was the turnout of good, decent people in the 22nd state of this country. The majority of voters declared their kith and kin as being off-limits to known predators (and unknown, too, I pray). The good folks told their daughters (and sons) that they will believe them, should they ever need help. They told their kids that they won’t look away from their young souls, and that their kids can count on them. Those voters made it clear that a modicum of decency is required to occupy their highest offices. And that hopeful businesses are welcome to set up shop in the state. Yesterday, Alabama was dangerously close to extinguishing its light, but it didn’t. Goodness prevailed. Thank all the gods for that, y’all. And heaven help us, may goodness continue to rise up and prevail, everywhere. Amen.

Get Down on The Ground

 

 

We’re watching the 3rd season of “Narcos” on Netflix and we’re taking our time with it. The bit of history that’s thrown in with the dramatization is quite interesting. I’m sharing this so that you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I tell you that I’ve got cocaine on the brain.

 

Now – I was never a coke-head. I just wasn’t. Might have been financial limitations. Might have been something I wasn’t into. I did try it – exactly one time – and that isolated incident was enough to convince me I didn’t need to try it again. I’ve talked to people who’ve said they loved cocaine. Some folks have said they’d do it all the time if they could. I try to understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t get it. It’s beyond me.

 

Every now and then I come across someone who asks if I want a bump. I’m not kidding. And it’s just plain weird. I mean – what decade is this? And when I do see someone doing it, it’s ugly. Medicinal marijuana has been around these parts for some time, so I see that quite a bit. It doesn’t move the needle. But cocaine? That one is bizarre. I don’t know how else to describe it.

 

Back in the day (also known as my childhood), my illicit drug of choice was marijuana. I also drank, but that led to black-outs more often than not, so I stopped – for the sake of remembering. I dabbled in a few other things, too, but none of it stuck. I never lost track of what I’d experienced because of pot, and I never got into trouble that I couldn’t handle. I do remember being underage, hanging with folks who were of legal age, and being told that if the fuzz showed up I’d be expected to “carry” the weed as I would “only go to juvie,” whereas my companions would go to jail. It was ridiculous and funny and wrong, all at the same time. Fortunately, I survived. I did not go to jail (or to juvie) and I didn’t die. Those years didn’t lead to anything heavier, either. More than a few people I knew back then didn’t make it, however. And that’s a real shame. These days, I know folks who are hooked on all kinds of things. Some of them are self-aware and know their struggles. Others, well, let’s just say there are a lot of monkeys on a lot of backs. And not everyone knows they’re carrying that extra weight. That’s a shame, too.

 

Now when I watch “Narcos,” I’m fascinated by what I never knew. And by how screwed up America’s actions were. Our country’s behaviors have been less than noble, y’all. Better to acknowledge that than to pretend otherwise. I love learning about it, but it’s also terribly disappointing. A lot of our history is like that. The truth hurts sometimes.

 

No – I was never a coke-head. Never will be. I’m real good with that. If you are someone who’s excited by the mere idea of cocaine, maybe you should watch the first episode of season 1 of “Narcos.” The ugliness that goes into producing cocaine comes out pretty quickly. And if that doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, I don’t know what will.

Heroes

 

 

A while back, I wrote a piece about my TV moms (read it here). I shared quite a bit in that post and I told the truth. Maybe too much truth, but the truth, just the same.

 

In that piece, I referenced a few characters from television shows and how much they meant to me. I cannot emphasize enough what those women gave me. Screwed-up kid that I was, I benefited from those women’s strength and values. Even thinking of them now brings me comfort. And that’s lovely. I think it’s fair to say those beautiful characters were my heroes. Still are.

 

I don’t often get to meet a real-to-me hero. (I guess most of us don’t experience that privilege.) I know some folks believe we shouldn’t meet our heroes. That a face-to-face meeting with someone we’ve looked up to can only lead to disappointment. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if it presented itself. I mean – would you?

 

Anyhoo – last month I was minding my own lady-club business when I looked up and saw one of my very own heroes: Miss Michael Learned from TV’s The Waltons. Turns out we have a mutual friend. And that friend had quietly invited Miss Learned to lunch, knowing it would serve as a lovely surprise to me. It most definitely did.

 

I can’t speak to the experiences of others when it comes to meeting heroes. I can’t claim a shared disappointment or letdown, and I can’t relate to watching a hero fall. I can only tell you that when I met one of my heroes, Miss Michael Learned, my heart was full and my admiration swelled. She was even cooler than I ever imagined. Sometimes life is grand.

 

 

Happy Bricks

 

 

I had heard it before. But I had never really listened.

 

It was March 1980. Kim Cox was having a birthday party at the Holiday Inn in Griffin, GA. Her step-daddy, Lee, was the manager of the hotel (or was it a motel?) and so Kim got to have her party in one of the conference rooms. It wasn’t a large space and it wasn’t a large gathering. But for poor kids like me, it was a big deal. The Griffin Holiday Inn was the nicest hotel/motel for miles, and I had been invited to a popular girl’s party! There were several varieties of co-colas and several snacks. And there was music. Rock music of the day. Good music, too. In particular, I remember hearing Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and loving it. Kids that we were, there wasn’t much dancing going on. The girls mostly hugged one wall while the boys mostly hugged another. It was innocent. And it was fun.

 

And then it wasn’t fun. Apparently, in a nearby conference room, there was a meeting of men from a local Baptist church. A Southern Baptist church, to boot. (A church that I and most others at the party did not belong to, by the way.) Southern Baptists don’t take kindly to dancing. And the more pompous among them don’t care much for secular music. I guess some asshole from that meeting heard our music from behind a closed door, so he walked right in and went over to the hi-fi and Turned. It. Off. He then threw a brief hissy fit and lectured us kids on how we were sinners and should be ashamed of ourselves for being there in the middle of such corruption. He looked pretty full of himself and was about to head out when Kim’s mama burst into the room.

 

To say Judy was a petite woman is ambitious generosity on my part. She was always impeccably dressed and her hair and make-up were just so. She was lovely, strong and I liked her a lot. Whenever I saw her with her kids, she seemed like a real good mother. She was also a firecracker and woe be unto him who thought he could stand up to that little gal. When Judy came in to find some yahoo trying to shut down her daughter’s birthday party, I actually felt sorry for the guy. She marched over to the stereo, seething, “Turn that music back on!” She then smiled at all us kids, told us to get back to the party and have a good time, and dragged that Southern Baptist S-O-B into the hall. Even over the strains of the music, we could hear Judy yelling from the other side of the door. She told that church guy, in no uncertain terms, that he had crossed a line and that he had better cut out before she really gave him what for. That her daughter’s party was none of his business. I don’t think she swore, as Judy wasn’t like that. And I don’t remember that jerk saying a single word in response. I’m guessing he knew he was in trouble and had best get the hell out of there before Judy switched from verbal to physical attack mode. That guy had upset her daughter and Judy was pissed. After giving a much-deserved lashing in the hall, Judy came back in to make sure the party had again picked up. She was all smiles and if you hadn’t heard her tearing the stuffing out of that church jerk, you’d never have known she’d been riled at all. She was in control and she was grand.

 

But I digress. This post isn’t about the memory of that long-ago party. It’s about the song that was playing when the disruption took place: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall (Part 2)”. When I hear that song now, I am immediately transported to the Griffin, GA Holiday Inn’s conference room – the place where the song’s lyrics first penetrated my brain and took hold. After that night, I couldn’t escape the song. Didn’t want to. I wanted more. I needed to know what was going on in those lyrics and what they meant. At some point, I saved enough lunch money to get the whole record. On cassette. I started studying the compositions, each song, and trying to decipher depth and meaning. I didn’t get far, truth be told, but I also didn’t let go. There was something there, just out of reach.

 

A couple of years later, I was given some clarity when “Pink Floyd – The Wall” was released in theaters. The movie was a freak show and it was fabulous. By the time of its release, I was a pretty messed-up kid. Sucky home life and depression were bearing down. Decent adults weren’t able to help, and there were very few of them in my life anyway. The ones that did reach out (Mrs. Woods at Pike County High School, thank you), well, their good intentions were lost on me. I had been failed by my parents and didn’t trust adults. More than once, so-called grown-ups had proven themselves dangerous and harmful. So when a good person tried to give me a hand, I lumped them in with the others and backed away. I didn’t have the tools to discern decency. And I didn’t have faith in those older than me and my peers.

 

But I did trust music and art. So when the opportunity to go to Atlanta and see “Pink Floyd – The Wall” at the old Fox Theatre presented itself, I took advantage. My small group of friends – all of us searching for something – went to the big city and settled in. The movie was amazing. (Still is.) The music became even more real for me and the accompanying visuals brought new meaning to the lyrics I’d been holding on to since that Holiday Inn party. As much as I wanted to “tear down the wall,” I decided instead that, at that time, I’d be better served by building a wall. And so I began.

 

The bricks I used were ugly. There were lies and deception, greed and manipulation. And those materials were supplied only by my parents. Time brought more darkness and more bricks. By the time I was a young woman, I had mastered a false smile and a fake aura of happiness. Having been depressed since, well, all my life, I had gotten really good at hiding it. Whenever I felt let-down by anyone – even by myself – I added that brick to my wall. I really didn’t know how else to live.

 

But there was more to me than that. Deep inside, I held out hope. Hope that “happy” was real. Hope that joyful people weren’t faking it, that some people in the world really did love their lives and, at least on occasion, felt good. I never talked about it. I never told anyone how distraught I was, or how long I’d been in that lowly state. I didn’t know how to talk about it. But it was getting worse. I was getting worse. I was somewhere in my late twenties and each day weighed a bit more than the last. Something had to give.

 

It was my brain. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. I can still see the room and the light coming in the window. I remember the phone ringing. And for some reason I answered. I had to crawl to the phone, because I didn’t have the strength to get there otherwise. Thank god I did, as that phone call from a distant friend served as a helping hand. And for the first time in almost thirty years, I trusted the grown-up on the other side of that conversation. I began to tear down the wall.

 

I sought therapy. I worked hard. Some parts of me that weren’t quite right had to be broken down before they could be rebuilt. Others had to be constructed from scratch. So many basic behaviors were unknown to me. I had never been taught how to deal with confrontation or disagreement. (I had been taught, by my parents, that I wasn’t allowed to confront them or to even be angry with them. Swear to god.) There was a lot to learn. A lot to do. And every time I gained the slightest understanding, another brick was removed. Over time, I tore down my wall. I not only gained a greater view and relationship with the world, I also gained a relationship with myself. And I was pretty damned pleased to meet me. Flawed, happy me.

 

So that’s how I moved through life for the last couple of decades. There have been amazing ups and terrifying downs. Through it all, my goal has been to remain honest with myself first, so that I could be honest with those in my little world. And it’s worked. Or at least it did. Right up until this past November, when I fell into a not-unfamiliar dark hole.

 

Before my country was suckered into supporting hate, I hadn’t been depressed for decades. (There’s a difference, for me, between being down and being full-on depressed.) I thought I was just down. I thought I was stronger than my blues. I thought I could ride it out. But sometimes we don’t see ourselves clearly. Maybe we don’t want to. Maybe we’re wearing blinders and don’t know it. Whatever the reason, I didn’t see that I had become clinically depressed. Again. I didn’t see that I was in real trouble and needed outside help.

 

This time, the hand of kindness came in the form of a lovely woman, Robin. Even though we’ve only known each other a short while, she listened to me when I opened up and told her what I was going through. She looked in my eyes, and actually heard me. I told her I had worked so hard to tear down my wall and now I was too exposed, too vulnerable. That’s when Robin gazed into my soul and said that maybe I should rebuild my wall, only this time perhaps I should use Happy Bricks.

 

I don’t know how those words affect you. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. I only know that when Robin suggested I use Happy Bricks to build a self-preserving, self-caring wall, I was thunderstruck. Yes! Of course! Happy Bricks! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

 

Walls aren’t the enemy. Some are certainly downright hurtful and harmful, but that’s no reason to cast all walls in a sour light. Walls hold up my roof. Walls provide privacy and sanctuary in my backyard. Walls hold art and windows, views to life and the world. Walls keep me safe. Good walls always have.

 

And so I find myself mixing mortar, gathering Happy Bricks to build a new wall. 35 people participated in the Womens March in Zebulon, GA (my hometown) – that’s a Happy Brick. A complete stranger saw me crocheting squares for blankets to be donated to local chemo patients and she asked how she could knit to help – that’s a Happy Brick. The Netherlands stepped up to provide healthcare for women around the globe after our government chose to withdraw women’s healthcare support as punishment  for having dared to march en masse – that’s a Happy Brick. It’s true – I’ve lost a lot these past few months. People I once respected are choosing willful ignorance. Relationships have ended or have been damaged. The injury to my country, though only just begun, deepens each day. It’s sad, heartbreaking, and for some, it will no doubt prove deadly. But I can’t give all my energy to those truths. Some of my strength has to go toward pulling myself up from the muck, toward taking those beautiful hands that reach down to lift me skyward. Toward adding another Happy Brick to my wall.

 

Working through this new depression won’t be easy. Working for decency and good won’t be easy, either. But that work will still be right, and must be done. I’m up for it. I’ve pulled myself toward happiness once before. I’ve witnesseed Kim Cox’s mama, Judy, standing up to a bully nearly twice her size and I’ve never forgotten seeing that. I’m no Judy. But I’m a mighty fine version of Mikki. And self-righteous yahoos would be wise to steer clear. I’ve got mortar, a sharp trowel and a load of Happy Bricks on my back. And I damn sure know how to use them.

Thursday Memories

 

 

 

The other day I was out walking and crossed the L.A. River. Now I’ve crossed that section of drainage time and time again, and never noticed the giant pipe spanning the area. When I did see it, it immediately took me back to being a small child in Barnesville, GA. And once my mind started down that path, I began digging on the interwebs. Y’all – I learned plenty.

 

When I was in the first grade in Barnesville, my best friend lived two houses down and her name was Lisa Haire. Lisa was a year or two older than me and worldly. She was the youngest of four kids and that meant she was exposed to much more life than I. Not only that, but her mother was C-O-O-L. Miss Haire was this happening lady. She looked cool. She was laid-back cool. Even her food was cool. She introduced me to anchovies on pizza, for cry-eye. That was, for this small-town Georgia girl, revolutionary! It also caused quite a stir at my house when I spoke of the matter. I was told, “We do not eat anchovies on pizza in this house.”

 

Anyhoo – behind our houses was a beautiful, wild creek. Lisa and I used to hang out there and play. We’d swim in the deepest part (waist-high) and search for critters. The crawfish were fascinating and fun. We had to put our heads underwater to watch them beneath an overhang. The old albino catfish, the one we named “Gepetto,” was beautiful and in time he allowed us to rub his belly. The occasional snake was none-too-welcome by me, but they never seemed to bother Lisa. And when we’d sit on tree roots that extended out from the bank, high above the creek below, we’d look for fairies in the grass and weeds. Remember – I was all of six years old.

 

A ways down from both our houses, a giant pipe extended across the creek to the other side. Now – unlike the pipe I saw the other day in L.A., the old Georgia pipe did not have a flat part running across its top. It was just round, and it was about fifteen feet above the creek below. Lisa and I would cross that thing whenever we wandered down that far. We were careful, and I don’t remember either of us ever falling. I do remember some mean boys from the other side of the creek coming after us one day. Lisa and I had crossed the pipe and were wandering around the other side. That area was mostly backyards and woods, and I guess those boys claimed that territory as their own. When Lisa and I were spotted on the wrong side of the creek, the boys decided to run us off. As we huffed and puffed toward that pipe, I remember one of the boys saying something about how they had us. But they didn’t know we were brave. They didn’t know we trusted that pipe and ourselves. With Lisa leading and me a few steps behind, we got across as quickly as we could and left the mean boys on the other side of the creek. They were too afraid to cross over.

 

After remembering and thinking about all this and be-bopping on my laptop, I happened upon an obituary for Miss Haire. She passed away earlier this year. Reading through that obituary, I was reminded of having known Miss Haire and her family. I also learned a few things about Miss Haire herself, things I never knew. Like how she had been active in the US Air Force and had been stationed in occupied Japan. And how she had worked at the Warner Robins Air Force base until she retired at the age of 80. I certainly never knew she’d graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tift College, with a degree in English and Journalism. As it turns out, I really knew nothing about Miss Haire. To me, she was my friend’s mama. And she was nice. I suppose for a six-year-old child, that was enough.

 

Now that I’ve taken notice of the big pipe spanning the L.A. River, I’ll be sure to look at it every time I pass. I’m guessing I’ll also remember – each and every time – my friend Lisa, and her sweet mother, Miss Haire.

Thursday Memories

 

 

I drove past a high school the other day and saw a sign out front that read “Welcome Class of 2020.” My brain hole immediately flashed back to my own high school graduation. I was a good kid, with a good heart. But such a kid, just the same.

 

And then I thought about all those high school freshmen, who will be graduating in 2020, and wondered how many of their commencement speeches will focus on some aspect of Vision (their graduating year being 20-20 and all). I’m guessing every last one of them, is how many.

 

Hope they’ll be good kids. With good hearts. Kids, though they are, just the same.