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Archive for July, 2010

|| July 28, 2010 || 4:33 pm || Comments (9) ||

Scout called me from Chicago last night. She was there on a layover, headed to Detroit for her grandfather’s funeral. I was wandering around Birmingham with Mathias after having dropped her at the airport earlier in the day. Our shopping errands were long done.

“I miss Sam. Do you miss Sam?”

I asked her this question because I am afraid to ask Mathias. I don’t want him to fall apart, not yet. To further that end, I have been doing my own falling-apart quietly, quickly; yesterday this was done in bathrooms around the city. The one at Target was a little more epic than the others, but not by much. That particular come-apart was exacerbated by the fact that I was buying school supplies for Scouty and Mathias but none for Samuel. Then I hitched up my yoga pants, plastered on a smile  and said something along the lines of Holy God, mommy needs coffee…who wants to handle the Starbucks run? when I plowed out of the restroom.

Mother. He’s only been been gone nine hours and forty minutes.”

“You DO miss him, YOU DO! Not even I’m counting the hours!”

“Give me a break, Momma.”

“But do you miss him?”

“Not yet. Probably because I’m not there. It’ll be kind of hard when I get back. We shared the whole second floor, away from the rest of you guys.”

“I miss him.”

“Yeah. But you know what? The first forty-eight hours are the hardest. It’s going to be better.”

The house sat empty, because Maxim was working late and Scout was out of town. I kept Mathias in the city long past when it could have been considered practical. I wanted for there to be life at home, some sort of human racket, so the place wouldn’t feel so hollow when I got back. I wanted to be exhausted, in order to prevent any impulse  to rattle around and run into reminders of Sam at every turn, to see his shirts hanging in the laundry room, to find the stack of borrowed ceedees he’d placed on the table by the door.

A few hours ago I went up to his room to get empty hangers for the laundry and to put some of his clean things away. It was a bit of, ahem, a pit. “This is good,” I told Maxim, “I can choose to be annoyed with him rather than miss him. He kind of did me a favor, the little prick.”

One hour ago, Sam’s friend Jay came to get his car. Samuel is gifting him with it because Jay has it kind of rough and doesn’t have a car of his own. Sam is sometimes infuriatingly arrogant, but mostly he is good and generous and loving.

Ten minutes ago I got this text:

The drill instructor is taking my phone now. I love you, Mother. You’ll have my address soon.

I don’t know how to do this. How am I going to do this??

|| July 27, 2010 || 12:29 am || Comments (12) ||

(alternately, I’m struggling to find a way to show you these things without eliciting your pity.)



This is how it was when he was so little that he didn’t have all of his words: His head cocked slightly, his eyebrows raised, everything about him careful expectation. How is it that you are so small and your desire to please me is so great? How is this even a possible thing?

filching his grandmother's coffee, 18 months

:: filching his memom’s coffee ::

He wanted to hear me praise him, to be effusive about whatever token of effort he had just shown me. “Good job, Samuel! You are a very good boy.” Job. Boy. Strung between both of those words was Sam’s hope to hear them prefaced with positivity. So before he could even articulate it to me, this child wanted me to be proud of him and his accomplishments.

This has never ceased, even over the last twelve weeks, when we have repeatedly slammed headfirst into one another’s emotions, sometimes while snarling. It is a scenario we are both unaccustomed to, and one that has left us each bewildered and wounded. We clashed, we tiptoed, we tried to reach understanding, we had five minutes of peace, we clashed. We are each covering new territory here, and it is a uniquely exhausting undertaking.

(How terrible, Samuel, to lose our innocence, to cut our teeth on one another in this fashion.)

With each day that we are closer to his leaving, I sink further into myself, wrapping  tighter around this white-hot kernel of  pain that has insinuated itself into my damn-fool chest. I have totally chumped myself, because I’ve been convinced for years that I will be fine with the moment of departure. This is because for the better part of those years I had a lock on things: I imagined him scuffing out the door with his guitar in hand, ready for people to hear his voice. I never saw his need to march coming.


:: s’alrighhhht ::

I hold to a faith that tells me not to fear. I am afraid, even so.

I know where Samuel will be, what he will be doing for at least the next six months. Still, I am afraid. I can’t push the fear aside for five-and-a-half months, like I know I ought to. I am afraid NOW and it is a Really Big Deal NOW and I cannot possibly throw enough words at this thing to articulate the imposing NOWING NOWNESS of it, the urgency with which it beckons me to buckle, to panic, to scream all my crazy out at God, at you, at everyone who dares not be as afraid and unsure as I am about this one big-tiny thing.

Because it is tiny, see. I’m just one more mother whose son is donning boots and slinging a rifle over his shoulder. There’s nothing so special or unique about that. I am just one more mother who wants this to be done,  who wants to be on the other side of this. I want to fast-forward to the part where I meet him at some airport or on some parade field somewhere, waiting to wrap my arms around him and whisper one more again, “Boy. Job.”

Oh Sam, how I will grieve the loss of  the daily I Love Yous that we have always been so careful to gift one another with.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It’s never been unusual for music to break out in our home, whether at gatherings or just quiet moments between a couple of us. When the children were small and we had absolutely no money (nor did our friends), a bunch of us would get together on the porch of our old farmhouse, drinking my daddy’s plum wine, banging on guitars and wailing. We had a bucket of instruments for the children –fish-shaped maracas and blue bongos and One Shots and tambourines and a beautifully-pitched little glockenspiel– to dig into, and there we were: The hippie, his punk wife and three golden-haired monkeys, surrounded by slow-talking, deft-fingered mountain folk, swapping licks and stories and inside jokes.

You know those things that you impart to your kids without a conscious plan? The completely positive ones? Yeah, for me that is this:

Huge thanks to our friend Rod for whipping out his phone just as Samuel gathered steam on this one; it was our last friends-and-family gathering before Sam ships out. Over the years I’ve usually been busy singing with him, and have foolishly neglected the act of nailing down his magic with a camera. This was probably a  dereliction of parental duty –and I’m a titch sad about it–  but I am unrepentant.

I’ve gotten to fling a lot of notes into the world with my firstborn and every last one of them was precious.

|| July 26, 2010 || 12:31 am || Comments (0) ||

Two reasons why I don’t trust you are as follows: You have a slight underbite (not a solid, really-committed one, which is decidedly un-sneaky, unlike the merely slight underbite) and there is something wrong with your eyes. They are the color of a mostly-dead person’s, I think.

Oh whatever. Isn’t it enough that I just don’t trust you? Why do we have to do all this tedious explaining? We don’t.

Well, I don’t. I imagine you have a lot of explaining to do.

Here is where I open another window and write a poem titled ‘Save It For Saint Peter, Because I Don’t Really Want To Hear That Shit’.

|| July 25, 2010 || 12:18 am || Comments (2) ||

Confessions about this video:

! I would like, in the case of my demise,  this played on a loop somewhere in the funeral home. Yes, you read me right….fuck that typical gooey, sentimental photo montage of things like the Bad Shmullet Phase and The First Oreo To Have Obliterated Itself Against My Facemeat. Oh, and the visit to that unfortunate town where someone took those unfortunate photos in that unfortunate hotel. Whoops!

It’d be like I was Rickrolling everyone who showed up, but with the Sesame Street cast.

!! Bonus on the above if my demise (most probably untimely) was somehow alcohol-related, me being sent home to Jesus with tequila on my breath and this song on my lips. This has to be a winner as a drunksong. I mean, COME ON!

When I find I can’t remember
What comes after
“A” and before “C,”

Doesn’t that scream, ‘Welcome to my big drunk-drunkety drunkation of drunktacity. Please be seated and witness the gol-danged show, bitches!’ to you too?

!!! In the second verse, I always sing ‘big’ and ‘bad’ instead of ‘big’ and ‘bird’ because I maybe believe you have to speak your place into this world and then step into it. I gotta get back to you on this one.

!!!! I should be more careful about looking too hard at these lyrics. Some of them are somewhat creepy if you take even a moment to consider them:

Letter B, letter B, letter B, letter B.
My mother whispers “B” words,
Letter B.

Letter B, letter B, letter B, letter B.
My mother whispers “B” words,
Letter B.

In fact, upon further review, the third line to the second verse (‘Ball’ and ‘bat’ and ‘battery’)  looks like a masochist’s wet dream.

!!!!! Big Bird really gives me the heebs, sweet Muffinasses. Maybe that’s a wee part of the reason that I won’t sing ‘big’ and ‘bird’ . Well, that and just the act of singing ‘big’ and ‘bad’ (but not like that….when you sing it, you have to be all ‘big and bad’, one solid phrase) makes you feel a little more big and bad than you did before. Lord knows I’m all about empowerment.

|| July 20, 2010 || 12:06 am || Comments (13) ||

It is nineteen-eighty-something. I am sitting easy in tenth-grade English, my insides more sullen than my exterior portrays. This is rare for me; I seem to have a direct feed from my heart to my face, so that my expression nearly always announces the storm or still in my chest. At this point in my life, I am unaware what a handicap this is.

In fact, I’m acutely unaware of that aspect of myself until much later on down the line.

Ms. Reid hands out stacks of journals, four of us dispersing them into random hands and the other fourteen shuffling, trading, passing until each speckled composition book finds the owner of the contents seated between its covers. It is a ritual that we never planned on, this haphazard retrieval of words, and it happens every school day for four years. How many degrees of separation do our words find themselves subject to until they are returned to us? How many people lay hands or eyes on them before they come home?

In Ms. Reid’s class there is potential for eighteen pairs to do so, and in truth Mrs. Reid can be counted twice because she will lay both hands and eyes on them before dutifully returning them to their respective owners each day.

I am compelled to go against the grain, to not be what anybody expects on any given day. This is not to say that I am difficult as a rule, but there are indeed times when I am wildly driven to dig in my heels for no other purpose than –by the force of my will– to dent the space I am occupying.

This is a Tuesday and this is one of those times.

“Okay,” Ms. Reid says. She barely reached her old lectern so she had her husband make her a new one. Smaller ones weren’t imposing enough, she explained to me via letter later on when I was a continent away, they were too childlike and flimsy looking.  Thus she found it necessary to commission Charles for the building of a petite yet monstrous podium. Even then she had to wear three-inch pumps to make it mostly convincing.

“No freewriting today.”

(I once received swooning, gushy words for the lyrics to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Swooning, gushy words written in a perfect, windswept hand –in case you are unaware– are approximately fourteen-hundred times better than the same rendered in a messy, ink-smudged fashion.  Really, the only time that those sorts of words should be messy is when they are whispered sloppily, ardently, into a panting lover’s ear.

To this day I have not confessed my bold-faced plagiarism of righteous classic rock. How can I? Mrs. Reid was so in love with that notebook page. Besides, I’m holding both the story and the apology in reserve for when they ask me to speak at her funeral someday. HOPEFULLY AN UN-SOON SOMEDAY.)

“Today I want you to tell me a Truth.”  We all know what she means, except for the twins. Not those twins, the wry and funny girls I count as two of the best friends I will ever know….the other set. It consists of the alien and indecipherable George and Geoff.

Their brains are on a higher plane, and it is one where basic English is basic gobbledygook and everything has to be spoon-fed to them. Granted, George is worse-off than Geoff in this department: He requires three times the explaining, so that even his brother will grow exasperated with him, berating him in their heavy, clipped personal tongue. They will go on, in all their stilted oddness, to audition for MTV. They will create art that can be considered frightening when viewed in the context of the knowledge I carry about their early years. They will never fully learn the give any kind of shit about the language of this plane.

I purse my lips. I am Contrary Personified.  I look at the blank page, defying it to speak to the place where my hard consonants keep watch at the door. I AM NOT SOME CHEAP, MONKEY-DANCING, PENCILGEEK SHILL. And I don’t know where I stand on Truths, because glomming onto one of them too hard will fuck your day up at some point in your life. This is what I think I know, even at sixteen. This is what I will continue to maybe-know later on, too.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

We stand ringing the truth, our mouths expectant. Everyone has an opinion on it.

“That can’t possibly be the truth! The truth is shorter than that, and it makes grunting noises when it walks.”

“I know this is the truth, because my aunt showed it to me when I stayed with her the summer before last.”

“I’ve never seen a Truth that looked like that.”

“Let’s let it loose and see what happens.”

“I say we vote on whether or not this is the truth.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” I say, “Truth is different to everyone. We could all stand here describing it all day long, extensive interviews could be conducted by The Powers That Be and at the end of the day they’ll have eighteen differing versions lined up. We will have gotten nowhere.”

They all turn on me, varying degrees of savage showing on their faces. A couple are clenching their fists, ready to let them fly should I let that statement stand. The truth can’t be nothing.

The truth is always something. Wait, isn’t it?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Impertinently and carefully, I use exactly one line to say

There are no truths, only experiences.

and wait there quietly with my journal open on my desk for a respectable amount of time before dropping it into the basket on Ms. Reid’s desk. She passes it back to me the next day, and in red felt-tip ink she has penned her curt displeasure, ‘Then you should have written about an experience.‘ There is a fat red circle at the top of the page, because fat red circles are the scholarly hallmark of assholey teenage behavior.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Two years after the fat red circle I am called forward in front of some two-hundred(ish) students. Intermingled with them are faculty and parents. Out of those two-hundred –all of them about to graduate– I have been selected to receive the Senior prose writing award. It is printed on stiff vellum and has an eagle, our school mascot, embossed at the top. It is unexpected, this certificate, and I am pleased to have received it. However, lyrics to ‘Stairway To Heaven’ notwithstanding, I am unsurprised.

I receive two other awards related to academics, these I expect. I am about as indifferent to them as I could possibly be.

The fourth time my name is called, my brows fly up in a startle. I’ve been given the Senior government award. I am stunned.

After the ceremony, Mr. Lee finds my mother.

“I’ll tell you, Mrs. Superior, Jett wadn’t always my most driven student. Hell, she wadn’t always my most  awake one. When she was awake and involved, she lit a fire under those other kids, and she stirred some terrific discussions, kept things rolling.  There are  a few reasons why I gave your daughter this award, but the two most distinct ones are that she never was afraid to speak her piece, and she never was afraid of hearing somebody’s else’s, either. Ma’am, she was not the most accomplished of my students, but I can assure you that she is the most promising of all of them.” I think my mother treasures his words more than any other thing she’s ever heard about me in her life. I feel like she has never been more thrilled with me than she is in this moment.

Twenty-one impossible years later, on a stifling July day, I will find out I was right. I will find Mr. Lee’s words written on a piece of paper and clipped carefully to the government  award, which I gifted to my mother the night I won it. I will marvel that she thought to write them down where I would surely be able to find them one day.

It will set a blaze of fierce warmth and self-confidence in my belly.

|| July 18, 2010 || 1:49 am || Comments (13) ||

I don’t necessarily have any regrets, per se, but sometimes I think it would be nice to flip back the top of my skull and take a gentle bleaching solution to certain things that have no business being up there in my brainstuffs.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Hello there. I didn’t realize how much I would miss hearing your voice, you.

:: afternoon art: a lover’s letter ::