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Posts Tagged ‘a kamikaze faith’

 
|| December 26, 2010 || 1:02 am || Comments (20) ||

Mathias used to get in trouble for not writing ‘properly’. His first-grade teacher upbraided him consistently for drawing stovepipe hats onto his ohs, for making his tees grab hold of a clutch of balloons, for mother birds dropping worms into the gaping maws of vees. The alphabet became a vibrant host of characters under his hand over and over again, just as it had ever since he was three or thereabouts.

Finally I wrote her a terse little missive

Please stop stomping all over Mathias’ creativity, for God’s sake.

in an even more authoritative hand than her own bitchy little flowery notes to my kid. There was a conference. I won. The details of that victory are unimportant.

Last year, when we staged an Epic Superior Invasion of New York City as a long-scrimped-for Christmas surprise for the children, we were delighted to find that there was a Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. Tim Burton is Mathias’  absolute hero in the creative maelstrom department. We wandered the exhibit and at one point Mathias stood in front of a piece mounted in the hallway, studying it intently. He took half a dozen pictures of this one thing alone. When I moved in closer behind him, wondering what he was focusing so much of his energy on, my insides smiled large.

It was a desk blotter covered with a myriad of fanciful creatures, elaborate scribbles and letters made into all manner of things. Characters of the characters, if you will. Mathias’ own brand of genius was vindicated. The details of that victory are important.

drawring

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

Every year I address a slew of Christmas cards to friends and family. This is time-consuming, but I love it and therefore I put in the effort. When the children got old enough to join in, I put a pen in their hand and asked them to sign alongside mine and Maxim’s names. Mathias was just a tiny thing when he asked to be included, with an inability to yet write his name but completely capable of putting his own personality onto those cards. It took extra time, but I dug in and put my patience into overdrive (no mean feat, I assure you) so that Mathias could contribute.

The older he got, the more involved his card signing got, so that I had to abandon our loose assembly line where the five of us ringed the table, the children and Maxim with their pens ready while I oversaw the process of  cards staying paired with their respective envelopes. There was a four-person correspondence line and Mathias had his own separate time with which to carefully pen his name and a wild imagining or two. Nobody got frustrated that way, and the youngest got to indulge the creative impulse that seems to be his constant and unwavering companion.

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

Every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve found my Christmas cards in the off season. I get some really lovely cards at extremely discounted rates this way. I found this year’s sometime in March, I think. They were the finest ones I’ve ever purchased, made of beautiful heavy stock with a glossy photo of stretched across four accordion-folded panels. The picture featured four of the gorgeous Neapolitan angels that grace the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas tree each year. The inside verse read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels… Luke 15:10′ and included a description of the angels and their history.

By the time Mathias finished with the cards, they were significantly more spicy. One featured a googly-eyed Santa with a speech balloon declaring it a ‘Merry Crunkmas’. I thought my favorite one must be the one where he edited the aforementioned scripture to read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels….AND PANCAKES.’ until I saw the very last one I was sliding into an envelope. It was to my parents.

victim of joy

I hope you are a victim of joy in the coming year. I hope joy wraps itself around you, rucks up your skirt and manhandles you like it has quietly desired you for a long time and finally decided to unleash the full force of itself on you.

And I hope it feeds you pancakes in the morning.

 

Sometimes life is clumsy with us, and completely artless.

Two weekends ago, I bought a pack of cigarettes. I was in Georgia to have eight stingy hours with Samuel, to try and avoid words like ‘combat’ and ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘deployment’ while doing so. It’s weird, yeah, hearing me talk about avoidance? It’s weird to me, anyway.

turning blue
:: turning blue ::

We had the eight hours after the Turning Blue ceremony where Samuel’s father pinned an infantry cord on the newest member of our family to become active duty military. It was an especially poignant ceremony because it happened at the very place where Sam’s father had gone to basic,  jump school and part of Ranger school. Couple this with the fact that it also fell on Veteran’s Day, well….of course the patriotic Southerin belle in me was all a-swoon and falling over. Certain things about me are grossly predictable and sappy; I’m okay with that.

infantry cord
:: sam’s father pins his infantry cord ::

Sam is a smoker now, and a dipper. This is despite my protestations, despite my reminders of how hard he nudged me toward quitting (what I saw as) my paltry four-stick-a-day habit. One time, five years ago and in an attempt to entice me toward quitting, Maxim said to me, “You’re going to feel like a supreme jackass when one of the kids starts smoking.” Maxim’s always been a quiet prophet, and wise. He is scary on the rare occasions when he admonishes me, because he does it with gentle love or wry humor. What is a person with a warrior bent supposed to do with that?

I do indeed feel like a jackass. Maxim was absolutely right, as always. How can I be annoyed with his loving rightness?

Cue us riding down the road, Sam and Mathias in the back seat, headed back to our chalet for the remainder of the eight hours after a trip to IHOP. The boy spent his entire time in bootcamp fantasizing about pancakes, bacon, french fries; he had asked for IHOP in October on the weekend of his thirty-six hour pass, too. At a grocery store stop he bought a pack of cigarettes and a large can of snuff despite my warnings that the outcome might not be a great one. Besides, you’ve been without all this time, why start back now? Of course he assured me, this new man-person who is now six-three or thereabouts, it’s fine, Mother, I’ve got this. Oh for all the lost nickels that could be paid out on each time I have reassured people around me after this same fashion.

(It’s hard to navigate where to be a mother and where to be a woman who respects the fact that her son is grown and should be left to his decisions without a degree of unsolicited cautionary language (um, nagging?). My mouth and my brain, they pull at one another, while another part of me entirely stands aside to observe and thinks, ‘Myyyy, what a queer state of affairs this one is.’)

Okay, yes, riding down the road: We had begun to slow for a red light when suddenly the rear driver’s-side door swung open and Sam vomited explosively all over the pavement. Maxim quickly but easily navigated to the nearest parking lot –it belonged to a mechanic’s shop– where Sam finished hurling. I ordered Mathias out of our car and over to Nana’s, which had been following behind us. I could predict what lay in store for us if he smelled or saw or heard puking for thirty more seconds.

Sam mostly missed the car. What got on the door was on the molded vinyl portion of it and not the upholstered section that would have held stubbornly to the stench. His arm was extended out the door, fingers still laced in the door’s latch, and was covered in ick. “Don’t move!” I ordered.

“Don’t worry.” he offered back weakly. Too much nicotine too fast and Jack was a sick manboy: None of us had seen Sam put in a huge dip before leaving the grocery store parking lot. The grocery store where, as fate would have it, we’d bought paper towels and a case of water. I pulled some of both out of the trunk and went to work washing the kid and the car as best I could, with him apologizing the whole time.

All I could think about as I was matter-of-factly correcting the situation was this time when he was three and sick, so sick, that I spent a seemingly endless four days and nights cleaning him up, patting and comforting him and singing to him and wishing it off of him and onto myself. He is grown and he has spent the last sixteen weeks learning part of what he needs to be a man and I am still his mother and he still needs me and oh Universe, you with your fucked-up little sense of humor in showing us what we need to be shown when we need to be shown it…. In trying not to laugh, I looked down at the pavement and promptly grimaced. There were undigested french fries there, nearly whole, because Sam had not yet learned to eat slowly and enjoy his food again.

When I got Mathias back into the car and settled, I climbed into the front, where Maxim and I snuck sideways glances at one another and foolgrinned, laughing silently with the unspoken ‘I told you so!’ hanging quietly in the air between us. It was enough that we both acknowledged it; it didn’t beg to be said.

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

I had already spent much of that weekend in Georgia waiting,  tracing the roof of my mouth with the tip of my seized tongue and wondering where to put all these emotions inside of me, unsure of what to vent or how to catalog those that went unreleased in some fashion. Fucking was out of the question, as the walls and floors of the chalet carried every little nuance of sound, so I’d bought that pack of cigarettes.

We sneaked outside, me and Samuel and my sister, to smoke together and talk. Sam was so full of stories. They just poured out of him one on top of the other and most were hilarious but some plucked at the taut strings of worry and dread and panic I could feel humming inside of me. My face, for once, did not betray me. Then we were at an Italian restaurant that night, laughing, sharing off one another’s plates, watching the time carefully so as to have Sam back at the ordered hour to prepare for the next day’s graduation. There were an even dozen of us around the table, oblivious to our surroundings, when this really gorgeous woman stopped on her way out. She looked to be in her sixties, and was one of those effortlessly elegant creatures that you might track across the room with your eyes, wondering where she got that magic and if she might share it with you.

She inquired after any Veterans that might be at the table and then thanked the four of us that were. Then she extended her hand toward Sam, thanking him and telling him she appreciated him. He rose, taking her hand, thanking in return and ma’aming and she just kept expressing appreciation and my napkin is big but holy Christ there is so much happening in me and oh shit can I please get to the restroom before I burst into this high maddening wail in front of hell and half of Georgia?

And so I excused myself to go collect myself; I patted my face daintily with a paper towel soaked in cold water just like my mother showed me when she was endeavoring to teach me the combined arts of being a Genteel Southerin Laydeh and a Proper Military Wife and Mother.

Then we found ourselves leaving –just Maxim and Sam and me– the polite little city of Columbus to take Sam back to post for the evening. We dropped him off and he acted skittish, seeming unsure for the first time since all this leaving us began; Sam fiddled with his belongings, moving from Maxim to me and back again (twice. thrice!) for hugs and murmurs of support, surrounded by dozens of other young men doing something similar with their loved ones. We broke from one another and Samuel walked back toward the Company area, a lone figure moving hastily between other young men walking, relaxed, in pairs and teams of three or four. I thought then how, when I looked up the meaning of Sam’s name after he was born, that I was filled with chagrin at finding the words ‘wandering cub’. I got back into the car and for the first time in sixteen weeks I lost my shit good and proper, the kind of shit-losing where there are sounds coming out of you that you don’t recognize because you don’t (or haven’t really ever) employed them  in your life. I wailed the entire thirty minutes back to Uchee Creek, and upon discovering the rest of the family was still out for ice cream, I asked Maxim to go inside and gave myself the liberty of fifteen minutes more of it.

Nobody tells you about this sort of moment when you become a mother because there are no words for it and maybe, just maybe, it would be a deal-breaker.

soldier
:: soldier ::

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

On graduation day, we navigated the back roads and back gates of Fort Benning, throwing the post into a drastically different light. All we had seen to date was Sand Hill, (“Where men are made!”) which is dusty and brown and utilitarian for the most part. On main post I saw the vibrant military community I was accustomed to. I pointed out features of it to Mathias, who has no working history with the military whatsoever, having been born long after his grandfathers retired and his father and I had served.

About halfway to the National Infantry Museum, where graduation ceremonies were to be held, there was what can be best described as a lurch in my abdomen and then all hell kind of started breaking loose down there.

“You have to get me to a bathroom FAST, Maxim.” Cue mayhem and shenanigans. The road that the GPS wanted us to turn down was obstructed with a concrete barrier, which tacked an additional ten or so minutes onto our journey. Of course when we got to our destination the parking lot proved to be massive and slap full. Hell, the walk from the lot to the museum’s entrance alone was nearly the length of a football field.  There were a couple of ‘events’ between the time we entered the parking lot and the time I got to the bathroom; they were epic enough that upon my emergence twenty minutes later, Maxim stood waiting for me, grim-faced.

“Did you happen to bring a bottle of water?”

“I wasn’t really concerned with anyone’s hydration,” I hissed,  “I was focusing all my energy on not shitting myself.”

“I’m not asking for me, jackass.” With that he extended his closed fist toward me, turned it palm upward, then unfurled his fingers. There sitting in his palm was his emergency Xanax, glowing with the light of Heaven itself. In fact, I’m certain that tiny little angels were dancing all around it, singing angelic blessing over the hand that was so giving in the moment of a suffering woman’s need.

It was then that I realized that I must be scaring the piss out of my husband what with my keening snotfest and my uproarious bowels, because he does not come off with the Xanax EVER. The reason for this is twofold. One is because he has horrible panic attacks in the neighborhood of once a year and never knows when one might hit, so he keeps one lone Xanax on his person in reserve for that instance. Two is because his wife is a non-practicing junkie who would likely eat someone’s liver for its pharmaceutical content if she were strung out far enough, so why take unnecessary chances with the wagon hitting a rut and her taking a bad bounce off of it?

I scooped up that little coral-colored football quick-smart and dry swallowed it. Within thirty minutes, around the time the ceremony started, I had shaken hands with my mellow and promised it a pitcher of margaritas later if it would hang around long enough for me to get some good shots of the ceremonies.

the men of bravo company
:: the men of bravo company ::

They were, of course, stirring and beautiful.

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

I was standing in the kitchen later that night, whipping up some supper. The kids were headed to a football game later, but right then Sam was hovering around the edges of my activities, talking. Sam was looking forward to this brief time at home a great deal; he had a mess of support and love showered on him via the post while he was in basic training. He would endeavor to see as many of these people as he could for the two days he was here.

“Mom, I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt.”

I turned toward him. “Okay, shoot.”

“Well, when I was gone, I missed Scout most of all. I was SO stoked to get her letters.” I immediately thought of when they were small and how Sam, just a baby himself, was so excited to have a baby in the house. His first expectation every morning, even before he’d eaten, was to settle in on the sofa and ‘hold’ a tiny, birdlike Scout while she took a bottle. I was still breastfeeding then, but expressed milk just for this purpose, because he looked so forward to being near his sister and taking part in her care.

sibs
:: sibs ::

“That doesn’t hurt my feelings, Samuel. That’s one of the best things you could ever tell me. I won’t be around forever and I’ve always wanted the three of you to be close so that you’ll be involved in one another’s lives and look out for each other when I’m gone.”  He folded me into his arms then, kissing the top of my head the way he has ever since he shot up past six feet tall.

Sam then headed off to the other side of the house in search of Maxim and I turned back to the stove, finishing up the chicken enchiladas he’d requested as his first home-cooked meal in four months. I dropped my head and said quietly, half prayer and half admonition, “Just come home safe to us, Samuel. Go have your adventures and come home intact, inside and out.”

 
|| November 16, 2010 || 1:11 pm || Comments (7) ||

It is dark, but early yet: Only nine or thereabouts?  It is misty and it would be tomb-dark save for the half-moon and I am more or less in the middle of nowhere, winding into curves and stretches of unknown. Every forty miles or so there is a place in the road with an ancient brick store, a steepled church and (most likely) some railroad track. Some of these places have the luxury of a flashing yellow light hovering over the road like a specter. Where are the wires? Well, they go away in the night. They rest; those wires can afford to rest in the dark in a place like this.  They come back in the morning. Until then, the yellow light haunts the air twenty feet above the road, a warning.

Why the hell would anyone need to yield? No one ever travels here. I am here by happenstance, by the impetuous taking of a side road to see where I might end up if I shaved the corner off of the route that is considered safe and sure. LaGrange, Georgia is somewhere ahead and if all goes well I will be there by ten or so. If all does not go well I have blankets and a couple bottles of water in the back of the car. There may be a stray beer back there, too. I have a gigantic metal flashlight, a notebook, some trail mix in a basket next to the seat. Hell, I could stay here –hidden– for a couple of days should I need to.

(and by ‘need’ I mean fuck civilization –my version of it, anyway– I am going to pull a camp chair out of my trunk, set it in the middle of a field, crack this beer and hum a few bars about that banner what’s spangled with stars)

I am in a place where most strangers would be afraid. That is no boast, just a testament to how the South sings to my bones, calls them according to name, recognizing them and where they ultimately belong. Yeah, the South gets all in these bones of mine and of course they are compelled to sing back. We woo one another, me and these red dirt places, and I am never Not Home no matter where I might find myself (as long as I am) zipped up below the Mason-Dixon.

The deep blat of a train’s horn rockets up out of nowhere, upending my reverie. Whereisit, where! isthattrain rattles through my brain, which is suddenly at attention and mashing all the levers, working the gears. My eyes are wide and searching, my foot comes off the accelerator, I use every sense I can to suss out where the train might be and whether or not I am blindly ambling into its path. There are no warning lights here, no protective candystriped arms to save me from myself. I’m left to my own devices or stupidity, whichever manages to win out first.

Devices, it turns out, are triumphant again. That, or I’m one of those fools that God has snatched up out of her own way time and time again. Sometimes I wonder why He doesn’t tire of my foolishness and say, “Welp, if she’s THAT DETERMINED to die, I’ma just go on and let her.” Maybe it’s because I have a purpose and try to live accordingly, even if I don’t necessarily know what that purpose is.

Because I defeat the train and because my adrenaline is still a little up, I accelerate into darkness which is once again comfortable. It’s not long before I find myself in a series of curves that wind upward. At the apogee of one there is an average ranch-style house that is just like all the others save for the sign out front:

MISS CARLA

PALM READER

It has the obligatory mystical red hand anchoring its center.

I’ve never been to a palm reader, never snuck off into the woods to some old Sayer’s house to have a wart spoken off and my future spoken to. I’ve never visited the gypsy tent at the carnival, though I have once or twice been tempted by the theatrics of it. At those moments I was always sitting on a poor spell and felt the need to be flung around the Tilt-A-Whirl was greater than my need to hear what the fortunes might have in store for me.

One time, though,  this boy read my cards and also my palm in the back of a smoky bar; he was earnest and quiet and I trusted him: What could it hurt?. This was the second time we’d ever spoken in my life and turns out he was pretty dead on in the big scheme of things and he rather read my mail. I never saw him again after that, but not on purpose. Things just work out like that, you know?

For the barest of moments I think of pulling over, because I want to walk up onto Miss Carla’s porch and knock on the door so that I can say,

“My palm is not made of stone. What if anything it says to you can be altered by my shaving a corner off a safe route, by taking a right turn? What if my palm’s just faking left?

“Isn’t the thirty bucks that someone is gonna hand you to tell them where they’re going better spent on gas to get there?”

 
|| December 8, 2000 || 4:59 pm || Comments (0) ||

It appears that I am just a hokey freak. I actually like Christmas. Granted, all the frenzy that surrounds it surpassed moronic and deviant long ago, but I still relish the holiday.

Just like everyone else, I am taxed by the forced festivity and comraderie it sometimes entails. It peeves me to no end that those heretics at Wal-Mart put up the Christmas aisles just shortly after the Halloween crap got set out (I could be wrong here, but I believe last year they DID wait until the first part of November). But I still get all blissed out at the very thought of this time of year.

Maybe it’s just the way that I approach it. Or maybe it’s the way that it was handled at my house as a child. It could be any number of things.

In this age of “everything, everywhere, rightfuckingNOW” I feel like it’s important, ESPECIALLY at Christmastime, to strip things down a bit. Take a breath. Simple ‘em up. It IS supposed to be about peace and goodwill and love and light, after all. How can you foster any of those if you start out the season with those day-after-Thanksgiving readysetgoscramble sales where everyone is out for blood and will mortgage the rights on their comfort and happiness just to find the perfect decoupage pin for Aunt Trudy? I mean really, come on now….

Ther were times when I was a kid that we had one another, a tree, some family-baked goods (done together, I might add) and a stocking filled with meager geegaws and trinkets for Christmas. These were some of the best of my LIFE. Are you with me, people?

Today’s kids seem so greedy and unhappy because we make them that way collectively with our run-around-like-wild-baboons mentality and overkill in the whole gift arena. My little family is not immune. My children have no less than six sets of grandparents, not including greats, and I have been gnashing my teeth and trying to rein in the older set from minute one the first of my brood popped out. “Today’s kids have TOO MUCH”, I tell them, “I want my kids to have something to look forward to every once in a while. I want to instill in them responsibility and drive.” This has been my battle cry for 8 years now and will continue to be. It’s not perfect yet, but they have all gotten better. They look around and see all the little shiteaters that the world is producing and they get my message, especially in light of the fact that a couple of those aforementioned shiteaters belong to my siblings.

In our home, we approach the holidays with equal mixtures of science and sentiment. We always go as a family to select a tree from the Christmas tree farm. ALWAYS. My husband gets it in the stand, I string the lights, we all decorate it together. We bake. We decorate what we bake. We do it TOGETHER. It’s not easy, we all have intense schedules that require shuffling around, but we do it. It’s simply important to us.

Each year, no matter how fat or meager our own pickings are, we stuff a box for someone not as fortunate as ourselves. Food, toys, clothes. Some years the box is more extravagant than others. I want my kids to be givers. I want them to know the satisfaction of sharing what they have. It’s funny, even as young as they are, they have the innate wisdom to select things for others that they themselves would like to receive.

On Christmas Eve, we exchange ornaments. There is only one rule…the ornament has to be a reflection of the person you give it to…regarding something they like, something they are or something that reminds you of them. When my children are ready to go out and make a place of their own in the world, they will have a full set of ornaments to hang on their Christmas tree if they desire to have one. More importantly, though, they will have symbols of family unity and affection and a tangible reminder of memorable times.

Also on Christmas Eve, we like to drive around looking at the lights that various people have put up. It’s quite interesting to see the way that a person is reflected in how they choose to display. On a baser level, there are yards and yards of pretty sparkly things suspended in the night air that aren’t there any other time of the year. It’s got a magical feel, and kids simply dig magic. Our bedtime story the night before Christmas comes from the new testament. My grandfather read of the birth of Christ to us each Christmas Eve when I was small. I do the same for my children; they need to know that hope exists and faith is important. It comforts and sustains when your ass is chewed and your belly is growling and your heart is heavy and your head is panicking. How you come by or practice or profess your faith is only the minor end of the spectrum–the process is not so important as the result. What better story for Christmas could there be? There was a gift given to the WHOLE WIDE WORLD, and it wasn’t wrapped all fancy or extravagant. It was quietly and hopefully given in the face of personal adversity on the players’ parts. Mock me as simplistic and foolish if you will, but that shit bowls me the fuck over. Thus, on Christmas Eve, we bake Jesus a birthday cake. So they don’t forget. So they know that this is a party that everyone-but-EVERYONE is invited to and allowed to share in. Yeah, my kids are kids and come Christmas Day they groove on the presents, but they also know what the whole gig is about.

On Christmas Day, they get three presents apiece from us. Brainwashing through symbolism. But it works…they know. Hell, if I could afford to rent three camels and three guys dressed in kingly finery to ride up in the front yard, don’t think I wouldn’t do it.

It may be a tad early, but I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday, no matter how you choose to observe it. My wish for you is that the magic is not lost upon you and the sappiness washes you away, for this year and all to come.

Merry Christmas.

 
|| December 5, 2000 || 12:01 am || Comments (0) ||

Wellllll, hello there, my little lovelies.

I have spent the last couple of days amidst coughing and hurling people. WAIT. Lemme re-word that (although the way I worded it that time made me laugh until I cried….check the visual on ‘hurling people’). I have spent the last couple of days amongst people that were coughing and hurling. I am pretty taxed.

After everyone was bathed and settled in tonight, I practically fled to the shop. I’ve not had a chance to do anything remotely creative or artistic in the last week or so, and tonight has been very cathartic.

I’ve been working furiously in whatever medium crosses my field of consciousness at the time, listening to Our Lady Peace and Faure (in turns) VERY LOUD.

I’ve also been thinking. I am thinking that I am pretty goshdarn happy. And more than lucky. And (oh, how exciting, beautiful reader!) glad to be on the planet at this moment in time, in this place.

I believe in preordination and I know that right now and forevermore all is well with things, despite the stupidity and hideousness that lies in wait for us, to make us forget THE REAL.

QUICK! Go hug somebody and demand that they hug your dumb ass back. I’m going home to do that very thing this very minute.

 
|| November 11, 2000 || 10:05 am || Comments (0) ||

My guardian angel likes rock and roll. I’m pretty convinced that God Himself does as well.

I’ve come to this conclusion because of something that started happening around 1990.

You see, anytime I’ve had a situation of monumental doubt or unease unfold upon me, I am given a message. A sign, if you will.

Out of nowhere, I will hear the song “All Right Now” by Free (a bawdy bunch from ye olde seventies). Months and months can go by and I simply never hear it. But hey, bring out some personal ambiguity on my part and BAM!, there it is. Whether it’s in my vehicle, a passerby, on television or a store, I hear that particular song. // Ever hear the Muzak version? See what I mean? I have. \\

Thanks, Dear Heavenly Father, for giving me an angel that knows how to pick ‘em.

 
|| October 5, 2000 || 12:47 am || Comments (0) ||

There are times when a person is rudely yanked out of the present by some associative smell, by something seen that triggers a memory, by something uttered from the lips of someone (said someone having had no idea that the turn of the phrase they just gave voice to would cause a minor fold in their listener’s space-time continuum). The past moment, now that the linchpin is pulled, comes banging and clanging into the present without any foreshadowed knowledge or even the slightest peep of a warning. It can be insanely overwhelming, to say the least.

This has been happening to me a whole lot lately.
That having been said, lemme tell you a fucking story, boys and girls.

There was a time in my life when things were really, really off-center in the whole three-squares-a-day department. Three squares a week were not even the norm. Shitty school lunches were the highlight of the day, and God help us on weekends. Dad had bailed to go chase some tail and powder his nose (“Must be a little chalk dust, punkin’…”) and generally live it up in the worst/best midlife crisis fashion. Mom worked her ass off shuffling real estate (or trying her goshdarnedest to in what was at the time a male-dominated market) literally 19 hours a day to keep the heat on in the only home we had ever known.

In the little Oklahoma town that we lived in at the time, there was no such thing as Catholic Relief and my mother was staunchly against joining the welfare rolls. We came from the deep south and there was a large stigma attached. Ma’s reasoning was that her girls may not be garbed in the height of fashion any longer, but they sure weren’t gonna be wearing the almighty cloak of poor white trash. Pride has no nutritional value, you see, so it did no good to swallow it. What was the point, after all? My job was to keep the house tidy, make sure my tomboyish sister didn’t stray too far past the now-empty barn or permanently disfigure herself in her wanderings, proof the homework and guard what little food we had from her constantly-rumbly tummy. I tell you all this not to elicit sympathy, just to give you some background that is instrumental in this particular tale. I survived to become the closet genius and Mountain Dew (proudly manufactured and distributed by Pepsico) lover that I am today.

Quick, throw on the brakes and join me in the ever-present today. I was wandering through a toy store a couple of days ago taking stock of the coming holiday season’s offerings for the young ‘uns. I cruised down the doll aisle and happened to catch sight of some hideous little Campbell’s Kids (you know, like the soup) dolls. This particular pair, adorned garishly in wedding finery, scooped me up and slammed me face-first onto memory lane. It was very, very yucky.

“How can two little dollies do such a thing?” you ask. “They are made to bring companionship and pleasure and many hours of fun play into lives (sounds like a dildo advertisement, right?) all over the free world.” Get comfy, fellas, ’cause here comes the crux of it. Ready?

Pan back to the past: One afternoon, the phone rang. Mom was –as always– at work. My sister was playing (oddly enough) quietly. I picked up the phone to hear the booming, boisterous voice of a gentleman on the other end. He rattled off the call letters to the local radio station and informed me that we were randomly chosen to participate in a promotional contest and that I was live on the air. If I could sing the Campbell’s Soup jingle, I would win TWO WHOLE CASES of Campbell’s Soups.

Oh, this was SO grand! My mind was reeling, but I got hold of my thoughts and managed to drag up the image of those delightful little Campbell’s Kids dancing in grandiose cartoon fashion and sing-songing that WONDERFUL SOUP-WINNING JINGLE! Hallelujah and shave the monkeys, I knew that damned jingle and I sang it with tentative excitement and anticipation. Upon finishing, the DJ loudly and proudly announced me victorious. I had won! We had food at long last! GOOD food and God only knew how long I could stretch two whole cases of soup betwixt the lot of us! Oh, thank you merciful heavens! I have seen the promised land and it is flowing with cream of mushroom, it is strewn with chicken noodle!

I was nearly jumping out of my skin as I dialed my mother’s work number. I was fortunate enough to catch her in the office and not out on a call. I hurriedly related the recently-transpired events to her and I could hear the smile in her voice at my enthusiasm. “Mom, mom, we have some FOOD! I won food for us!” and I started to tell her my plans for rationing and stretching our good fortune. Maybe things were starting to look up…

In the background I heard a male voice begin to sing the Campbell’s jingle. “Hey mom, who is that? Did they hear me on the radio or something?” My mother fell quiet and at that moment, in the best display of bad timing ever in the history of man, my mom’s prankster co-worker picked up the extension and began sing-songing the jingle in a little-girl falsetto.

“Hey girl, I really hadja goin’, huh?” I was stunned into silence and my gut slid down the front of my knees as I slowly settled the receiver in it’s cradle. I slumped into a chair, putting my head down on our heavy oak table. The sobs were so low and big that as I heard them, I was vaguely amazed that they were brought forth from a little-girl body. The phone rang and rang and rang and I never answered it.

Those fucking dolls. Those fucked-up grody-looking dolls. I was okay not remembering that story. Give to Toys for Tots, you fucks, and include a motherfucking ham. And don’t you DARE look into your refrigerator replete with condiments ever again and say you have nothing to eat, because you DO. You and I both know you do. Be thankful, ingrates. The world owes you not a fucking thing.

Postscript to this story….the dude who phoned to prank me was a really great fellow and had no earthly idea what a mindfuck it would be. Had he known our situation afterward, it would have broken his heart to know that he had goofed on me in that regard. Don’t hold it against him. HE SIMPLY DIDN’T KNOW.