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.

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.

Ago

 

 

The other day I got an email from someone I’ve not seen in ages. And it couldn’t have stirred sweeter memories.

 

Back in 2001, Mister’s Mama and I went to cooking school in Italy. The horrors of September 11th were only one week behind us, so the whole trip felt shaky. The whole world felt that way really. We didn’t know that until we arrived in Italy and wonderful strangers started telling us how sorry they were for what had happened to America. But I digress… At cooking school, our hostess turned out to be a California gal who had moved her family to Tuscany for her business. She, her husband and their young daughter had upended their world to try something new. Maybe something crazy. They committed fully and went for it.

 

A few years after that, Mister and I were in Italy and we visited the same cooking school for a couple of days. I caught up with the California gal and we had a great time. At one point, the young daughter wanted to hear me sing. I obliged her and then she graced us with a song she’d made up. It was creative, hilarious and smiley. And Mister and I have never forgotten that moment.

 

Cut to a few days ago and that aforementioned email. It was from the California gal, the proprietor of the cooking school in Tuscany. She wrote to tell me her daughter – practically grown now – was writing her own songs, recording and studying the arts. She gave me a link to some of the young lady’s works and I was blown away. She really is a talent to be reckoned with.

 

The other night I was at dinner with a group of talented, strong, brilliant women. At one point we were discussing having an impact on the world. I said that when we set out to do good in life, there’s no telling how we’ll affect others. That sometimes the very thing we think will cause the most ripples turns out to not even be a drop in the pond. And how something small, something trivial, may end up causing the most wonderful waves.

 

Let me be clear here. I in no way take credit for the above-mentioned young Tuscan girl’s dreams and aspirations. (And I certainly have nothing to do with her talent.) But it does make me very happy to know that I got to spend a little time with her, ages ago, sharing music. The fact that her mother reached out to me to mention that musical memory, well, it warms my heart.

 

And to think – that small, trivial moment from all those years ago may have helped to form a ripple or two. Time will tell if waves will follow…

Wary of Heat

 

 

When I was a kid, living with my great-grandparents, conditioned air was nowhere to be found. There wasn’t so much as a window unit in the bedroom where 6 of us slept (no lie). In the heat of summer, Papa would place a fan in the front window of that room, but that was it. If we went to bed on a hot summer night, where the temperature was 98 degrees in the shade, you better believe it was 98 or more in that room.

 

And yet we survived. Never once did I like those particular nights, but they didn’t kill me. And before anyone in the peanut gallery pipes up, let me tell you – they did not make me stronger. Those nights served only to make me more wary of heat. And wary I am. Living where I live now, in Los Angeles, I roll with it. Because honestly – what else is a gal gonna do?

 

I like L.A. I like California. But it’s no secret that I’d prefer to live some place cooler. I’ve just never been a fan of heat. The desert is beautiful, but I don’t want to live there. And forget hot, humid places. I can hardly breathe in those climates. No – if it were up to me, we’d live above the 40th parallel north. Maybe way above it. But I digress…

 

Usually, my well-known frugality is ignored when it comes to paying the DWP for conditioned air. If I need to cut back on other things just to pay that A/C bill, I will. And I don’t even blink when writing that check. But sometimes, like now, I don’t get to write that check. For this is one of those times when the conditioned air machine is on the fritz, friends. Hopefully it will be repaired later tonight. But that’s tonight. Today we’re forecast to hit 95 degrees, which we also hit yesterday. Got sweat?

 

It isn’t the worst thing, the heat. But it sure ain’t good. Factor in the suck-the-life-out-of-me effect it has and, well…

 

I do have the pool. And I can always leave and go some place where the conditioned air is working. So there are options. Keeping those thoughts in my back pocket may very well serve to save my sanity.

 

In the meantime, I plan to shift my intentions around and tackle some very sedentary tasks. Things I can do while sitting on the cool, tile floor. Things like art projects or filing papers. I also plan to work on my attitude about the whole danged scene. It’s far too tempting to melt into depression over stuff like this. And I don’t want my mental state to be determined by the temperature of the air around me. I want to face the situation like a danged grown-up and get on with it.

 

All that being said, there is a very real chance I’ll curl up on the cool, tile floor and feel sorry for myself. I’m just being honest here. Fingers crossed, I’ll do better.

Girls

 

 

Yesterday, as I was treading water for exercise, I was also listening to some classic rock. You know – to pass the time. At some point, a familiar song wobbled through the Los Angeles heat, across the pool’s water and into my memory stores. I started smiling.

 

Years and years ago, when we used to buy vinyl (that’s right), I would regularly save my money until I had enough to go to the record store. And I remember going to the Jamestown Mall in North County St. Louis, in full quest mode. I had heard an amazing song on a local college radio station, by a band out of Athens, GA. And I wanted that record for myself. I walked through the store, flipping through a few stacks of vinyl and seeing what was new. After a while, I was ready to make my purchase and go home. So I moseyed to the “R” section and quickly found what I was looking for: Murmur by REM. The funny thing was, there were about 3 dudes close behind me. Apparently, they had the same idea as I and wanted to buy that very album for themselves. But there was only one copy. And I got there first. Being teenage boys, and feeling safety in numbers, they weren’t shy about speaking loud enough to be heard. They said things like, “That girl got the only one!” And, “She won’t buy it. She’s just looking. Girls don’t know anything about music.” They were just over my shoulder, and I could sense them waiting for me to put the record back in its allotted slot. I thought about how those St. Louis dudes probably didn’t even know where Athens, GA was. Hell – they probably didn’t know where the state of Georgia was. I turned to face them, smiling, and walked to the register. They actually followed me to the front of the store, as if I might change my mind. I didn’t. I paid my money, took my record home, listened to it about a jillion times and fell in love with the songs that would never be heard on the radio, college or otherwise.

 

It occurred to me, in that long ago moment, that I could have said something snarky to those boys. I remember thinking I could have made some snide remark about their mothers waiting outside to drive them home, while twirling my car keys on my middle finger. But I didn’t. I didn’t need to. I had gotten what I’d come for. And in that moment, those boys couldn’t believe a girl had bested them, though she truly had. All the way around.

Memorializing

 

 

 

It’s Memorial Day. And in-between good food and drink, being outside and welcoming summer, I hope I take a few moments and remember loved ones. Sure, today is designed around military personnel, but I intend to be a bit broader in my memories. Lest anyone be offended by this, don’t be. One of the people on my list is Little Papa, a veteran of the Korean War.

 

As for the other loved ones I miss, well, they were good people. That seems like reason enough to think of them today. Pretty good reason to smile, too.

 

Happy holiday to you and yours.

Styrofoam Memories

 

 

It’s funny how something as simple as a styrofoam cup can make your day. Yesterday I got myself an iced tea and the diner folks gave it to me in a styrofoam cup. I didn’t think much of it, at first, but as the day chugged along I found myself having all kinds of thoughts about it.

 

The first thing I noticed was how nice and cool my iced tea was, even though I kept leaving the cup in my hot car. After a couple of hours, that tea still had a chill on it and I was impressed. (Even my insulated cup can’t do that.) Suddenly an image of old-school styrofoam coolers popped into my head. And I remembered how prevalent they were when I was a kid. For a lot of folks, the mere mention of the word cooler meant the styrofoam variety. And if someone was going fishing (and someone was always going fishing), well of course they were gonna take the styrofoam cooler with them, as that was the fishing cooler, for cry-eye. Now – some fancy folks got themselves a new fishing cooler every time they went out. But not my people. They were the kind of folks who would use an old fishing cooler until it crumbled away, leaving little white or blue beads to hang around in rivers, ponds, forests and car trunks for all time. It didn’t matter that you could go get yourself a new fishing cooler at the Piggly-Wiggly for about a dollar. If the old one was still working, it would do.

 

The next image that came to mind took me to Granny Vera’s and Big Papa’s old, ramshackle house. In the dark hallway, just outside the front sitting room, there was a grand, old bureau that Big Papa had built himself. I don’t remember a single thing about what filled its overstuffed drawers, nor do I remember any of the ka-jillion tchotchkes that cluttered its flat top. But I do remember the water bucket. On the right-hand side of the bureau sat an old plastic try. It held one thing: a styrofoam ice bucket with a lid. No matter what time of year, that bucket held cool water. Hanging on a nail in the wall beside the bureau was a metal ladle. Every one of us who entered or lived in Granny’s and Papa’s house drank from that ladle. We didn’t fill cups or take more than a healthy sip. And we never worried about germs. Clearly, none of us had cold sores, as no one got The Herp or anything. It was simple. If you were thirsty, you helped yourself to a drink of water. Problem solved. And while I do remember that bucket always providing liquid sustenance, I don’t remember ever seeing who filled it. I’m assuming it was Granny Vera, as that just doesn’t seem like something Papa would have done. But I could be wrong about that. And it doesn’t matter anyway.

 

And then I came back to the iced tea in the styrofoam cup, standing between my old car’s bucket seats. I don’t see a lot of styrofoam anymore. Not good for the environment. Ah, well. We do what we’ve gotta do. This one says it’s recyclable in Los Angeles. Okay. I’ll take care of that. In the meantime, I sure did enjoy all the memories triggered by that cup. Just like I enjoyed the cool, quenching tea held within.

Thursday Memories

 

 

My desire to pare down possessions continues. (It’s been actively going on for several months, mentally going on for decades.) And as the fine people at a local charity are picking up quite a haul today, I’ve had occasion to go through some things to add to the donation. One item that ended up in the give-away box was a gardening book about Eudora Welty. Tucked in its pages, I found the pieces of paper shown above. That means I had that book with me when Mister and I traveled to Japan in the 1990s. The map is from Kyoto. The beer label, well, I don’t remember. I’m guessing I got that in Tokyo, but I’m not sure. The only things I remember for certain are taking a bullet train to Kyoto, hanging with dear friends, “The Caboose” in Tokyo (which may or may not be gone now), Mister’s odd ability to spot and understand Kanji at twenty paces and Typhoon Tom. Yep. Mister and I were stuck in the airport during a typhoon. But I digress…

 

I have a thing about books. I want to hold on to them, to keep them. I want them on shelves and stacked on tables. Art books, coffee table books, fiction, non-fiction – I take all comers and I love them. I’ve read most of the books in our house. (I do have several in my to-be-read pile, and that’s cool.) And some books I’ve read are adored more than others. And then there are the books that don’t really hold any significant meaning for me. For the most part, I got something out of them, but do I need to see them on a shelf? Do I continue to derive pleasure from their presence? No. Not really. Those are the books I’m letting go. Those are the books I hope will find their way into the hands of some eager reader, at a discounted price. And maybe those books will be loved by another. Maybe even prized enough to warrant a place of honor on a shelf.

 

In the meantime, I go through each give-away book, just in case I’ve left something important tucked in the pages. I haven’t found any money yet, but I have found memories. That counts.

My TV Moms

 

 

 

I was first left alone to babysit my two young sisters when I was 6 years old. As I had no idea what I was doing and in fact needed my very own babysitter, I turned to the only source of comfort in our house: the television. Early on, my TV-sitter of choice was Gilligan’s Island. Those re-runs kept me company and helped me laugh. I confess I was little-kid-crushing on “Gilligan,” but the female characters were my favorites. In particular, I felt attached to “Lovey Howell.” I don’t know why I had such affection for Natalie Schafer’s character. Maybe it was her age or her doting nature. I also couldn’t have described my TV friends as such back then, but I now know I was experiencing grace in a box.

 

My home life was less than idyllic. Through ugly repetition, I learned early how to survive. I was a smart kid and a good student, so of course I learned. But that didn’t mean I always practiced what I learned.

 

Like the time I broke my two front permanent teeth. I was playing with my sister and the dog in the driveway on Spencer Street. The dog was enjoying the playing as much as us, so when she jumped up on my back, she didn’t mean any harm. That dog did not intend to send my head flying toward the parked car’s bumper. The dog didn’t mean for me to break my front teeth.

 

I knew right then that I was in trouble. I scoured the rough gravel driveway, desperate to find the pieces of teeth that my tongue told me were missing. I hoped that if I could find the broken teeth, I could somehow repair the damage and lessen the punishment. Though I searched frantically, I failed, and never did find my tooth bits.

 

I pulled my small, 8-year old frame up as tall as I could muster and slowly made my way into the house. I walked up to my mother and told her there had been an accident and I’d broken my teeth. She looked at my mouth, tears filled her eyes, and she yelled, “Well, I hope you’re happy! You’ve ruined your teeth! I have a headache!” And with that, she stormed off to her room and we kids were told to tend to her until she felt better. She never asked if I was okay.

 

One of my teeth had broken close enough to the gum to leave the pulp exposed. This is the small sac that holds nerves and blood, and mine resembled an individual piece of red grapefruit pulp. I tried to resist, but I kept running my tongue over it, gently, as it was such a new sensation. My mouth was no longer familiar. Still, I did try to ignore it while also favoring it so as to prevent further injury. That favoring has endured, by the way: to this day, I press my tongue to the back of my front teeth when drinking cold beverages, in an attempt to lessen the shock of the frigid temperature hitting my tooth’s exposed nerve. But I digress… After a day or two, I was taken to the dentist (for the first time ever) and the doctor immediately took care of me and my broken teeth. He was very concerned about the exposed nerve sac, and worried about the pain I was enduring. The appointment didn’t take long. The dentist formed concrete molds to my existing broken teeth and that was that. I soon returned to my already-in-progress school day with two new false teeth in the front of my mouth.

 

While I had been injured, my mother had become the injured party. And while I didn’t receive mothering from her, I did know where to turn: “Olivia Walton.” On The Waltons I watched “Liv” tend to skinned knees and all manner of injuries again and again. Each time, her concern was wholly for her children. She never made it about her, and the genuine love and affection bestowed upon her kids seemed – to me – to serve as a sort of healing balm in my own life. The kids on the show were definitely a draw (I had a new crush on “John-Boy”), but for me, watching The Waltons was all about the parents. I counted on them to show me what parenting was supposed to look like. And they did.

 

Years later, I was crying in my bedroom, broken-hearted over a boy. I was 13 and it was the most painful heartache I’d known. When my mother came into my room, I knew better than to tell her what was going on. I tried, Lord knows I tried. She simply wouldn’t accept my repeated protests that nothing was wrong. When I finally gave in and told her why I was sobbing, she threw her head back and laughed. She said, “You don’t know what love is! You don’t know what it means to feel heart-broken!” She left my room, still laughing and smiling. I sat on my bed alone, feeling insult atop injury. I stayed there until it was time for Little House on the Prairie. I knew “Caroline Ingalls” wouldn’t judge her girls if they were feeling heartbreak. I knew she’d show them compassion and kindness. As I watched her being a good, hard-working mother, I blocked out my reality and focused instead on the goings on inside that “Little House.” And it helped.

 

When high school was ending for me, I applied to 2 colleges: Mizzou and the University of Georgia. My parents had written the application checks and had overseen my essays and application processes. I was accepted at both schools and was excited and ready to enter young adulthood. When my stepfather asked me to sit with him and talk about college, I was eager and energetic. We sat at the kitchen table. I thought my grin would crack my face. He said he and my mother had decided they wouldn’t help me go to college. They wouldn’t pay for any of it, and they wouldn’t sign any financial aid or loan documents. He told me the only way they’d help was if I stayed at home and went to community college. He then stood up and left the room.

 

I was stunned and couldn’t speak. The kitchen started to squeeze me and my brain felt tight. I went over what had just happened – again and again – thinking I’d missed something. But I hadn’t. It would take years for me to understand how my mother had manipulated that time in my life; how she had made sure I remained under her control for a little while longer. But at that moment, I didn’t understand anything. I felt small and invalidated.

 

A few years later, I watched “Clair Huxtable” send daughter “Denise” off to college on an episode of The Cosby Show. “Clair” told “Denise” how much she’d miss her, how much she loved her. And she told her TV daughter how much she liked her, just for being herself. After watching that night’s show, I got myself ready for the next day’s classes. Community college wasn’t my dream. Nor was living at home. I fell asleep thinking about “Clair Huxtable” and what a great mom she was. And though her loving words had been directed at another character, I took them to heart: my TV mom liked me, just for being myself. The world wasn’t spinning the way I’d hoped. But it was spinning. And a change was surely gonna come.

 

Don’t get me wrong – my TV moms weren’t a cure-all or a real solution to the problems in my life. And they were only available during the short time their shows aired. I couldn’t interact with them, nor could I count on them on a daily basis. But I did learn from them. And I was shown examples of what mothers could be. It didn’t matter that they were fake mothers. I mean, my mother was real but she wasn’t a real mom. In my mind, TV moms counted. A lot. And they still do.

 

It may very well hold that I live the rest of my life searching for mother-figures. I just don’t know. I am getting better about mothering myself, however, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also grateful to the women who bring their life-experience and wisdom to my world. And to my TV moms, for keeping me company for so many years. One episode at a time.

Listen To Your Heart

 

 

Yesterday, while I was still trying to sort out my feelings about the loss of the genius that was Prince, I found myself cycling through some not-great memories. I don’t know why. I can only guess it was because I was in a not-great emotional place. And believe me – I want to move on. It would be good for my life if I moved on. But sometimes grief grabs hold. And I think this will pass when it’s ready.

 

Anyhoo – one odd memory popped up and really caused me to think. It was many years ago, and I was waiting in a lobby for a job interview. The interviewer – who would be my boss – was late returning from lunch. I didn’t hold that against her or anything, I just sat quietly, biding my time. The interviewer wasn’t a complete stranger, by the way. I had met her a few times, and though we weren’t friends or anything, she was familiar. After quite a while of waiting, she entered the lobby, looked over at me and said, “Oh! You’re here!” She then walked over to where I sat and – I swear to God – she dragged one of her shoes across the top of one of my very white shoes, leaving a large, noticeable scuff mark. “There. That’s better. Your shoes were entirely too clean,” she said in a sober tone. She then turned and walked toward her office, saying, “Follow me.” I was in shock, but I did as I was told.

 

In that moment, before following the interviewer into her office, my gut was screaming for my attention, trying to get me to run away as fast as I could. Everything in me suggested this was not going to be a good fit. That I simply could not mesh with someone who would behave as she just had. But I needed the job. So I followed through and went to work for her. And though I wouldn’t call her a bad person, I can’t say she was very organized or that she provided necessary training. While I worked for her, I struggled to figure out most of the basic functions of her office – on my own. And every single day I spent there was awkward. By the time I left, I was so relieved.

 

After stumbling down that portion of Memory Lane, I thought about a few other instances when I didn’t listen to my gut, nor to my heart. And how each time I failed to honor my greater truth, I eventually faced ugliness of some sort. I don’t know why, when I’ve been given the gift of intuition, I’ve chosen to ignore that guidance. But I have. And I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to stop that behavior. Maybe it’s time to trust myself, at least a little bit. I mean really – how much time is left?

 

I’m hoping to ease out of the darkness soon. To switch my focus from life’s absurd brevity to life’s ridiculous joy. It’s all there, you know. Two sides of a coin. Time for a toss, I think. I call heads…