Tag Archives: Family

Lingering There

Dwelling in the past, for any length of time, is a deep, dark hole. Merely happily reminiscing or learning from past mistakes isn’t a bad idea. But lingering there, well no good really comes of it. In fact, it’s sure to drive you mad. Lead you to the pits of despair.

Children grow up quickly, grandparents pass away, even certain friendships die. Marriages dissolve. Relationships blunder. Businesses bankrupt. Sea levels rise. Fat grows in places it never did before.

But sometimes for the need to have a purging bawl fest we linger there. We beat ourselves up. It was my fault that this or that happened. I’m never good enough, etc. etc. Bubble snot happens. Eyes are puffy in the morning. There’s a balled-up tissue next to the bed, soaked in tears.

With the new day feel a bit better.

Birds outside are singing.

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Catching Scents, Memories on the Highway

Written from the screened porch at the old Earle cabin near Ichetucknee Springs, Florida
June 13, 2018

I don’t even know where to begin, it’s been so long since I’ve written anything (besides a short thank-you note). I’m going all old-school long hand as I’ve no working computer at the moment. How did I manage to journal all those years on paper? It was all I really knew. And I preferred it. Now my mind is faster than my hand. And my posture is terrible.

Yesterday I caught a scent which reminded me of grandpa Pa. It must have been a combination of raw tobacco and the rain right before it falls. I was driving my son and I along one of the many country roads, lined with farmland– corn, cows, horses, watermelon. Power lines neatly parallel to the ever-stretching two-lane highway. Pa used his handkerchief (which he kept in his back pocket) to blow his nose. His vice was chewing tobacco. His very own garden full of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten to this day.

As a teen I couldn’t imagine his existence anything short of mundane, perhaps dull. But now I see the allure. The very peacefulness of it all. Days spent tinkering in the garage, tending to the vegetables, gathering fallen tree limbs, wiping the sweat of the brow with a worn handkerchief.

I go to these trips to the springs, to the ranch, to get away from it all. To be away from noise and chatter and chores and errands and work. Here the birds sing day and night. The rooster crows. The donkey bellows. There’s no WiFi. I woke up this morning and walked in dewy grass to pet a pygmy horse.

I miss my Pa. And my Granny. It’s hard sometimes to grasp the brevity of it all– that I shall never again spend time in their presence. Their memories float along with the momentum of the highway, the rows of melon, and the fields of corn.

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Scenes from a Burger King

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.

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For a Moment

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’?”

“No.”

“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.


 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Start a Revolution: Smartphone Moderation

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.

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For the love of humanity, please let’s not make this our future.
Photo courtesy of The Sunday Express

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Growing Older, Alone

Is there a secret, a recipe, a manual for getting older? Or do we inherently know how, like a mother instinctually knows to pick up and nurture her child and the child to nourish from his mother? 

I don’t know why I ask this question as I don’t particularly feel old but my left knee has been in a bit of pain lately. This reminds me I’m not 25 anymore. Not that I have any desire to go back. Except to just spend an hour with my then-self and tell her to chill out with the worry and the self-consciousness and inhale life. Oh yeah and stop eating all the simple carbs and put down the damn cigarettes.

But we cannot go back in time. Or at least not right now. And when we do drift on thoughts of the past many of those memories are sad or regretful, so what is the point in the torture? Unless it is to remind ourselves why we shouldn’t make the same mistakes. And to be grateful for all the roads that lead us to the positives in our life.

I find it unbearable to think back to when my son was a baby. Or when he was 4. Or even 10. Those days are forever a wind off the crest of a wave, a photograph tucked neatly in an album. I love the boy he is and the man to become. But this child rearing thing is so fleeting it’s preposterous. Everyone warns you. Then your kid is a teenager and you’re divorced and you’re all trying to do the best you can peacefully with the choices and circumstances from within or thrust upon.

I can handle a Saturday night alone. I can marginally handle an entire week alone. But I cannot and will not handle growing older, alone. My grandparents slept in separate rooms but at least they had each other. But then they also drove each other nuts. I understand the women I know who are older and single. However they also have hobbies and friends and family so I suppose they are not really alone.

But the loneliness that engulfs when the moon is high or the lovers are kissing on the beach or the old couple is holding hands or the child is dancing and calling for Mommy does not absolve. No one is exempt.

I look to my stuffed animal Snuggles for cuddles and warmth when the proverbial cold night is present. Yes I still sleep with a lovey.

Point is I don’t want to grow old alone. I don’t think anybody really does. I believe we are here to connect with each other. And from that connection, love within and throughout.

Tonight I look to the almost full moon, its bright vanilla glow rising stately and calmly above the pines and palms. And in this moment I think of hope. Because that is all we can really do. For the goodness of our lonely souls.

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A Thanksgiving Feast, Intimate

We stood next to the dining room table, a 1920’s Art Deco antique passed down from my great-grandmother Nanny. Decades-old scratches laced its corners but a fresh coat of furniture polish and a sprinkling of orange and brown Thanksgiving-themed decor, carefully placed earlier before they arrived, brought it into modern festivity.

“How many meals have been eaten at this table over the generations?” my dad observed with a hint of nostalgia as he scanned the room, his grey-white hair neatly combed and a crisp flannel button-up clothing his smallish frame.

I eyed the antique buffet cupboard next to the table. “I thought about taking all that stuff off and putting the desserts on top,” I replied. It was strategically covered with recipe books and photographs and trinkets and candles. It was always covered with coconut pies and chocolate cakes during holidays at Nanny’s house.

This Thanksgiving it was just the four of us- my mom, dad, and teenage son. It still feels weird to say that, ‘teenage’. In so many ways he is still just a boy. His dark-blond hair tousled and his imagination still intact. Although his appetite is one of a teenager. His meat-eating is making up for all the mammals he did not consume the first several years of his life.

I’d also set the table before my parents arrived, arranging the crystal glasses and beautiful black and silver bone china plates on the brown and gold place-mats. The plates were as flawless as they’d been when they arrived in packages at the doorstep as wedding gifts for me and my soon-to-be husband. He did not ask for any of the china when we separated or officially divorced. I would have shared it with him, of course. It took a year or so afterwards for me to even look at the china. Now I wash and dry them carefully after holiday meals, tracing the raised etchings with my fingers.

My mom and I shared a bottle of wine, perfectly chilled and light and brisk, just as I imagine the vines in Washington, from where it came. Back in the small and warmly-lit kitchen our appetizer spread was a gorgeous mingling of banana bread, fine cheeses, fresh fruit, honey, and my mom’s amazing deviled eggs, sprinkled with paprika. We ate and drank and chatted while the teenager napped peacefully on the couch. The main course just an hour from ready to devour.

When the yeast rolls were browned and the salad tossed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, it was time. We filled our stately plates with an assortment of both mine and my parent’s favorite holiday dishes. The light and crunchy salad paired well with the warm green bean casserole and fluffy potatoes. Tart and sweet cranberry sauce made the perfect coupling with the savory, chicken casserole (we do that instead of the traditional turkey, it is a hundred times better). Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter is good any time of year.

We enjoyed the dinner back at the dining room table, my dad at the head and my son on the other end, my mom across from me. We filled our bellies and mused and laughed. The pumpkin-scented candles flickered on the dark wood. The open window left a cool breeze to gently cascade in as the squirrels played around the big oak tree. Frank Sinatra and the like serenaded through the stereo speakers. No phones buzzing or ringing.

The table was cleared and an engaging game of “Heads Up” began. Then we slipped into a family traditional card game of “Oh Heck” which brings out the competitive nature in even me and my mom. I finally won! After all these years!

Dessert followed, still on bone china, although these plates smaller and more delicate. Home-made creamy, spiced pumpkin pie from my mom, and Coke-cola chocolate cake made by me and my son. A perfectly sweet ending.

There were times when we had sort of a house full on Thanksgiving. Various friends and family over the years and in several different dining rooms or lanais. Although this one not a house full, it felt full in the way it does when company has encased you with good energy and love and you are left smiling and dancing as you clean the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast, intimate.

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