There’s so much content running through my brain as well as content already contained. I’d like to invite you, dear reader, into my world of Busted Flip Flops. We’ll explore observations of life, musings about becoming Mom, Cherry Pearl the snorting pug, weird dreams, recipes, movies, ’80’s nostalgia, picking up strays (the furry and the non), and unfeigned poetry. Watch for weekly upcoming posts as these beach reads begin to build and form like, well, a castle in the sand...
The kid is on a hamburger kick recently. My teenager wants to try all the decent restaurant and fast food hamburgers to see which one is the tastiest. Already Glory Days, a nearby sports-themed bar and grille, is winning with its bacon and egg layers among the juicy char-grilled patty of meat. He has never been a big fast food kid, so I have to coach him on some burgers he might like to try, some I liked as a kid before I turned all pollo-pescetarian.
I told him of Burger King last week, and how they actually put their burgers on a real flame searing grill. “Notice the smoke wafting from the roof? That’s a real flame-grilled burger!” He tries one and is craving another the next day.
Now we never go into these fast food restaurants, only through the drive-thru. Today on a day trip with his grandparents, we stop inside one, by his incessant request for a Burger King burger. There happened to be one on the outskirts of the town we were visiting. And by outskirts I mean there were people in the parking lot who I think had just escaped jail.
We walk inside and immediately I begin to think of a prison cafeteria, or a high school cafeteria, as they basically look the same. The lighting is bright and glaring and the furniture is nailed to the floor. There’s a couple sitting side by side munching joylessly in unison, staring straight ahead into nowhere. Of course there’s a long line to order and there is nothing fast going on at all here. I notice a strange looking man with blonde, curly hair that could have been a wig on a mannequin in the early 80’s. He’s fumbling with his paper cup and receipt and mumbling to himself.
After we order (finally!) we grab our paper cups to fill them at the soda trough. I’m scanning the dining area to see where we could sit without brushing shoulders with someone who might stab us with a plastic knife. I notice 80’s hair, sitting by himself. In fact he is the only person on the whole left side of the dining room. I avert his stare and we glide over to the more bustling side with the lesser of the people who could possibly drag me into their white van.
As soon as we sit down I notice that my teenager looks as if he’s about to have a panic attack and I tell him Hey you wanted a BK burger! He doesn’t like going anywhere remotely sketchy, not even to the grocery store with me. My dad gets up to go get our tray of food-like items and immediately 80’s mannequin hair walks over to our table.
“I was cleared of those charges,” he says defensively.
He repeats himself.
Again, repeats. “I’m telling you I was cleared of those charges!”
My son and I stare at each other in non-disbelief. My mom stammers through, “Uh we don’t know what you’re talking about?”
80’s mannequin hair continues. “I don’t know why everyone keeps talking about it!”
He walks off in a huff.
I look at the man sitting a couple booths over, who I’m certain is a serial killer, mouthing the word Oh-K and rolling his eyes after witnessing this altercation/creepy conversation.
My dad comes back with the tray of our food-like items and misses the whole thing. I grab the pepper shaker and immediately recoil as it’s coated in a stickiness I don’t even want to ponder. The four of us eat our meals in our little bubble, snickering about how weird it all is. They love their burgers and I’m kind of enjoying my salad, if only I had a plastic knife to cut the choke-able-sized chunks of chicken or defend myself in an all-out BK clientele skirmish.
Welcome night jasmine
to winter’s party
of cool breaths below
and indigo skies above
Welcome to shivery winds
and another blood moon
Your scent reaches February’s corners
ticklng the eyes of the passerby
Within that aromatic
a place nestled
among fronds to hide
Welcome night jasmine
will you linger
past the season’s
And dance to spring’s
I feel it
To the butterfly garden I ran
its beckoning pulsed against the imminent sadness
of mourning and fading dreams
Its lush green vines and scattered wildflowers
a magnet to the journey of my feet
And just as I longed for and expected
when I entered there was no one there
Only the Longwing and Cloudless Sulphur
to flit on flower and autumn wind
to taste the nectar and dance again
And take with it the heaviness and suffering
release it to the sky
so the sorrow would not weigh upon
and my spirit may too
And we passed the place
where we weren’t supposed to go
A hidden corner
on a rare chilly morn
Crunching of foot upon acorn husks
and withered needles of pine
She kicked sawdust
on me unknowingly
And he could neither
be still nor quiet
A spiderweb clinging
to the last branch outstretched
The hawk gliding high above
keeping a close eye
This is where we found
the dying babes of the forest
The wind tumbling them
to their last breaths
But this is where we sang an old song
I did not know you knew
And held hands distended
in our wooden circle
in the land of the fallen trees.
Would the waves take me away
from the sorrow of life’s pain
along the crest we could fly
like the flitting migration of butterflies
Beyond the milky way
beside the gulf coast shore
its freckled sparkling light
as if never seen before
Time has ceased upon this
corner of earth
and we are sentenced to it
yet never pardon us from this moment
The only passing of minutes
by the slow descent of the sun
and the dance of insect wings
never coming undone.
It had been several weeks since we walked the beach, crossing side streets and passing intimately-lit cafes and restaurants along the way. The distant downtown lights dotted the southern horizon. Street performers echoed among the hum of engines and the quiet lap of gulf crest. This is our beach– or at least feels that way as we’ve been coming here for sunsets since 2001. Only everything about it is etched in change.
Our now teenage son, who obligingly strolled beside us, was once a tiny mewing thing carried in a pack at my breast. Then onto toddler years when he danced with abandon to steel drums and folk guitarists on the pavilion stage where now only a speaker pumping out rock favorites exists. There was the running-through-the-sand-dunes phase, the must-have-ice-cream phase, the I’m-terrified-of-the-water phase.
I’m trying hard to embrace these new teenage years. But everyone knows I’m mourning the past. My co-parent seems to be handling this new phase better than me. Perhaps it’s a motherhood thing, that we become emotionally consumed and overwhelmed by all the constant transitioning. The buzz of daily life shadows some of this agony but when nighttime unveils sometimes it is downright unbearable.
He was in a quiet but kind mood as we made a stop for drinks at the tiki hut which used to be nothing but the hut and a few picnic tables. Now a sprawl of neatly placed umbrella-covered tables and Adirondack chairs, some outdoor beach games, and a small stage where a talented solo guitarist happily strummed. The two of us sat and chatted as his dad went to get our drinks and the cool January wind whipped at our hair.
“Do you and Dad think there’s something off about me?” he asked.
“Off?” I replied. “Why do you ask that?”
“Because it seems you and Dad are always worried about me, or think I’m acting like something is wrong.” He looked at me with serious eyes, his phone retired to his lap.
“Well I think you’re just a normal teenage boy. And of course we worry. Do you think you’re ‘off’?”
“Good.” Pause. “You aren’t depressed, are you?”
“No,” he answered assuredly.
“Well if you ever do become depressed I hope you know you can talk to me. And your dad. Please just don’t shut us out, ok? We need to be open with each other, ok? You know I’ve had my bouts with depression so I know how it feels so don’t ever be afraid to talk to me, ok?” I wasn’t so much trying to lecture him but just make sure, for the thousandth time, that he could always come to me.
“Yes, Mom.” He gave a nod and a reassuring closed-lip smile.
His dad came back with our drinks and we chatted about happy things, funny school incidents, music, talents we wish we had, until hunger started to invade and it was time to make our way to get dinner.
As we passed the old trampolines (which actually had been replaced by newer, smaller ones) a pang of sorrow shuddered through me. That had been another phase, a long one. We’d stand there with our heads bobbing up and down as we watched his little buoyant body jump higher and higher until his grin was as big as the ocean behind him.
I focused back to what was right in front of me. I have to live in the moment even more so now than ever. Here is my altering but beautiful son beside me. On the other side his dad. And although we are divorced (such an ugly word) we are still a united front when it comes to the most amazing thing we ever did or will ever do.
We commented on the new, wider sidewalks by the pavilion and the now sparseness of the vendors on the pier. Then up ahead we saw him. The odd fella with the rolling podium and the microphone, sending signals to perhaps outer-space, who has been strolling the pier since the days before our son was even a growing light in the depth of the womb.
“So many changes but some things never do,” I commented as we passed the alien.
We arrived at the restaurant, requested an outside table, and waited. I noticed a table of older women, all Golden-Girls style and laughing as they exchanged stories and clinked cocktails. I wondered how these ladies endured the sadness that surely came over them when their children had left their houses and the quiet inside the walls was too much to endure. I hope I’m as happy as they seem now, when I get to that point, I said to myself.
The early winter sky gave a dark but peaceful cast on the streets and dunes and gulf beyond.
“Your table is ready,” the hostess announced. The three of us walked in unison. More of a carefree evening just before us, casting off the fret of time, for a moment.
Gathering from the various articles I’ve read lately expanding on the subject as well as erupting conversations, I believe there’s a collective consciousness occurring. Electronic devices, highlighting the smartphone, are becoming addictive. Really they already are, just science and psychology are in the midst of theories, predictions, data, discoveries.
I think the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was a recent stint with some friends who were so enthralled in their devices I might as well have been talking to a wall. These were adults and children alike and it made me so upset I hurled my own phone across the room in protest. Thankfully it did not break (gasp!)
I’ve since spoken to these friends and they agree their phones are a problem in their daily lives, especially regarding intimate relationships. It’s as if there’s another person there, sucking the life out of the, well, life that is right in front of them.
When I see babies in strollers zombie-fied in front of a screen I feel a pang for all humanity. The addiction is already starting before they can even feed themselves. What the hell are we doing?? When my son was a baby I only had a flip phone and he played with plastic toy keys. It wasn’t that long ago! Now I see him, gaming, watching YouTube, staring at his his phone screen which is twice the size of mine. I don’t mind him playing online with friends (who I’ve met in real life so far) as the laughter is infectious and I know in those moments he’s having a great time. I don’t mind him texting his friends (as long as it’s during appropriate hours) or watching YouTube videos about innovative homemade musical instruments or people making fools of themselves at Costco. But when the weekend is half over and he hasn’t moved from the couch I have a problem.
Yesterday I implored him to walk with me to our beautiful neighborhood park to play Frisbee. The kid complains incessantly about our stifling Florida heat and it’s finally cold outside so here’s your chance to get some of that! He obliged, as he had no choice, and of course ended up having a great time. “Wow, it feels really good outside,” he said as he spun the sturdy red disc towards me. I realize it is me who will have to be the one to set limits, put the brakes on all this device use. Too much is too much. And I don’t discount myself in this, either.
There have been moments when I felt I was spending too much time burying my face in the screen. This is why I don’t partake in Twitter or Instagram and am phasing out Facebook, too. Minutes can turn to hours scrolling looking at other people’s lives. It’s not that you don’t care about them, but we have our own lives to live, right here, right now. My dad is off Facebook completely. My phone addicted friend has also logged out of her account. If you can scroll occasionally and it doesn’t inflict undue depression then go for it. But many people cannot limit the stuff themselves so they are better off walking away entirely.
I’m not saying all devices and apps are evil. But when I’m walking through a restaurant and 80% of the people at the tables are on their phones instead of talking to the person in front of them THERE IS A PROBLEM. My family has implemented a “No Phones at the Table” rule and it has been quite refreshing. I will gently (or angrily, depending on mood) suggest this to friends as well. This can also go beyond the dinner table. Moms, watch your kids on the swing. Sons, put down your phone when your mom is visiting. Girlfriends, take a break from social media when your partner is sitting right beside you. We could all stand to take a moment to look around once in awhile. Even engage in awkward silence. Those nonverbal cues and instances of being present mean more than we possibly realize.
So what do you say? Want to start a revolution? It doesn’t have to be prodigious. Starting small, one step, one day at a time can pave the way to why all this device madness came about in the first place– to connect with each other.
For the love of humanity, please let’s not make this our future.
Photo courtesy of The Sunday Express