Love, Mom, and the Cabbage Patch Kid

Today is my mom’s birthday. How old would she have been? Well, let’s see, she turned four years old on the day that the Japanese launched a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor launching our country into World War 2. That year was 1941, so Mom was born in 1937. She’d have been 77 today. Sadly, Mom passed away in her mid-50’s, a victim of cancer.

I miss her every single day. I’ll never forget when it hit me that Mom was gone. Many days after her funeral, Studly, the kids, and I were back in Kansas, and one of my students said something funny to me in class. When I got home that afternoon I picked up the phone to call Mom. I even started dialing her number before I realized that I’d never be able to do that again. That’s when I cried until I thought my head would implode.

Now Mom and I were often at odds. As much as we look alike we had very different approaches to life. Mom was a perfectionist, and she never quite understood my haphazard ways. She had the subtlety of a sledge hammer, so even when she thought she was correcting me in gentle ways her message came through like a bullhorn in a closet. But, and every mother and daughter will understand this: Mom was my best friend.

My fondest memories of my mother:

Anytime I was sick my Mom was the very best nurse–she should have been one, but circumstances prevented that from happening. Instead, she worked for doctors for most of her life. There was nothing quite as comforting as having Mom lovingly placing cool cloths on my forehead when I had a fever or cradling me when I had a bad cold. Honestly, sometimes I played sick just to get the attention.

One Christmas, I think I was 7, my California cousins came for a visit. My cousin Gail was a year older, and we were great friends. On Christmas Eve we were excitedly discussing our presents while snuggled into the twin beds in my room. I said I couldn’t wait to see what Santa would bring. Gail told me, in no uncertain terms that there was no Santa, and that parents who told their kids there was a Santa were liars.

My sobs brought Mom in from the living room where the grownups were enjoying an adult beverage or two. I told her what Gail had said, and Mom told me the truth–that parents did provide the gifts from Santa, but that Santa, would always be in our hearts as long as people did good things for one another. I could live with that, and I still believe it was the best Santa explanation ever given.

One of the very best times I had with Mom was the December we camped out all night at a local retailer in order to secure a Cabbage Patch doll for my daughter. I’d gotten a tip from a co-worker that a store in Amarillo was getting in a shipment of 100 of those much coveted dolls. Casually I mentioned to Mom that I was thinking about getting up extra early to try and get a doll. She immediately went into action and said she’d go with me. She packed a bag like we were going into battle: Thermos full of coffee? Check! Two warm blankets? Check! Cushioned seats? Check! Reading material? Check! Extra heavy gloves? Check! Snacks? Check!

We arrived at the store at midnight thinking that we’d be able to sit in the car for a couple of hours, but there were already 20 or so people in line. As we watched, a few more joined the queue, so we quickly grabbed our supplies and staked out our spot. I can’t remember everything we discussed that night, but we talked non-stop. I’m pretty sure most of the world’s problems were solved. Thanks to my mom, we never got cold or hungry, and we each ended up with a doll–one for my Ashley and one for a friend’s daughter.

I’d love to have that impromptu camp out one more time. I’d make sure Mom knew just how much she meant to me, and how much I loved her.

Peace, People. Please let your family members know how much they mean to you. Right now.

Below: Mom and Dad circa 1957.
My daughter Ashley, Cricket the doll, closed-eyes me, and Mom.

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Mom with her family, from left, her brother Jackie, my Grandaddy Carl, Mom, and my Nanny Grace holding my Aunt Nedra.

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Pardon Our Dust

Studly Doright, (my first and current husband), our two children, and I have moved many times in our 38.5 years of marriage, so we’ve never become overly attached to any one residence. Home has always been wherever our little family is at any given time.

A friend wrote something on Facebook the other day, though, that made me wonder what it would have felt like to have stayed in one home for all of our married lives, raising a family and watching them grow, and helping them leave the nest. I wondered what it would be like when eventually one of us had to face the task of selling the home. Ok, I got a little teary eyed.

The poem below is what came of my reverie. Parts of it are gleaned from true events from my own childhood–I drew the mountains, my brothers and I played for hours and hours under a big old pine tree in a long ago front yard.

Please pardon our dust
The old house has been closed up for a long, long time.
But if you close your eyes
You can almost feel the love that once lived here.
Over there our children played
At make-believe
Before they made their own lives
And their own dust in their own homes.

Please pardon my tears
I really thought this would be easier,
But remembering is both sweet and hard.
You see these marks on the wall?
Our oldest drew ‘mountains’ there
When she was barely three.
I kept meaning to paint over them
But thirty years later you can still
Pretend to take a trip to the summit
And ski down the slopes to drink
Hot chocolate at the lodge.

Please pardon my lapse
I just can’t go through the rest
Look around on your own
Take your time.
Be sure to visit the backyard and
Swing on that old tire,
Maybe dig in the sand,
And carve roads under the pine.
It’s a fine place for kids
It was a fine place for us.

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Something I Love

I’m sitting at Whole Foods enjoying a non-fat chai latte, medium, almost too hot to drink, and checking my email on my phone. There’s a funny message from Studly Doright. It was sent to three recipients: our son, our daughter, and me. It struck me how much I love that–that our family group is united in that email. Even though we’re hundreds of miles apart, Studly knew we’d all find the message amusing. At some point today each person will read, giggle, and perhaps shake his/her head at what our well-loved patriarch has wrought.

Yes. This is something I love.

Looking Ahead

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s a little depressing to know that I’ll be cooking a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner for just Studly and me. I know, we could open our doors to others, but Studly isn’t into that sort of thing. He just wants family around on holidays. So, I’ll cook a small turkey and make my mom’s recipe for cornbread dressing. We’ll have cranberry sauce, green bean casserole (ugh!), and some kind of fruit salad. It’s nothing fancy, but tradition (Studly) demands it, and he doesn’t demand much.

My brain is already looking ahead to Christmas. For the first time in many years our family will be together for Christmas. I can’t even tell you how much this means to me and how very excited I am! I could use multiple exclamation marks and they still wouldn’t convey my excitement. Our son and his family live in Texas, our daughter and her family are in Illinois. Studly and I live in Florida. My heart longs for us to be together, and on December 24, 2014, that will happen.

We are renting a home in Nashville, Tennessee, a location fairly equidistant to all of us, give or take a couple of hours. We’ve booked a trip to the Grand Ole Opry on the 26th and a trip to a place where we’ll be locked together in a room and have to solve a mystery as a team in order to escape on the 27th (http://nashvilleescapegame.com).

But I just want to see my grand babies playing silly games together. I want to see their eyes light up when Santa visits. I want to help them leave treats for Santa’s reindeer on the lawn in front of our house. This photo was taken the last time we were all together in one spot.

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Harper, the baby, is two now, so it’s about time we got together as a family again.

These are the kids I can’t sit to hug:

The Illinois bunch

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And the Texas two.

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Peace (and LOVE), People!

No Bucket

There will be no bucket kicking for me when the time comes. Instead, I’ll be flinging a champagne flute and relishing the sound of breaking glass as I bid adieu to this life. All the same, I do have a list of things I’d like to do before my final day on earth. Thus…

My Champagne Flute List

1. Walk the runway in a fashion show. I’m not picky, either. Walmart, Kmart, I’m ready to strut in style.

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2. Score backstage passes for any of the following acts:
A) Huey Lewis and the News (yes, they’re old, but I still have a tremendous crush on Huey)
B) Katy Perry (she fascinates me)
C) The Rolling Stones (of course)
D) Sir Paul (duh)

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3. Sing in a rock and roll band. Preferably my own, but I’m open to suggestions.

4. Learn to play drums. Studly refuses to cooperate on this one. I can’t imagine why.

5. Tour Europe with a group of friends. None of those 10 countries in 11 days tours, either. I want a leisurely, relaxed tour with lots of wine and beer.

6. Take each of my grandchildren on individual, no holds barred expeditions to a destination of their choosing.

7. Spend a week at a spa with my daughter–one of those exclusive, all-inclusive places where we can relax and recover and talk.

8. Enjoy a drive through wine country with my son while listening to podcasts.

9. Corral my brothers and their families, my cousins and their families, and my children and grandchildren for a much needed family reunion.

10. Attend a Super Bowl with Studly, preferably with the Cowboys representing the NFC. Okay, any team. It doesn’t look like Jerry Jones plans on selling the team or hiring a real GM any time soon, and I’m not getting any younger.

11. Publish a novel and go on a major book tour.

I really need to start working on these. Cough. Cough. Another glass of wine, please.

Peace, People!

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Praying for Eyebrowz: The Band

If you read my initial blog post, “Begin the Beguine” you know that the name of my blog stems from an encounter with an esthetician. She was a 60-something earth mother type with long frizzy red hair and clothes straight out of Woodstock. I don’t remember her name, so let’s call her Ditzy.

Ditzy accompanied me back to her treatment room and had me lie down on the table. She immediately got as close to my face as humanly possible without actually kissing me. My mind was thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I didn’t sign up for this!” Then just as abruptly she tsk tsk’d and pulled away.

Tsk, tsk? No one had ever tsk tsk’d at my face. Maybe I should have let her kiss me.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I hate to tell you this,” she began, “Your skin looks really great, but your eyebrows.” Again, she tsk’d. “You see, your eyebrows are just too sparse.”

“Oh. Um, sorry. Is there anything I can do about that?”

“Let me ask you something of a serious nature,” Ditzy said.

“Sure, Ditzy,” I nodded cautiously, certain now that my esthetician might not be operating on all six cylinders. “Ask away.”

“Do you believe in a higher power?”

“Why yes, yes I do,” I said, wondering where this was headed.

“Well, then just pray. Pray for eyebrows.”

Alrighty then.

Now, I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. I pray nightly for peace, for an end to world hunger, for the health and well-being of my family and friends, but I’d never really thought about praying for thicker eyebrows.

So as Ditzy stopped tsk-ing and began giving me a lovely, relaxing facial, I contemplated asking God to bestow this favor on me. The thought made me giggle.

“Please relax those facial muscles,” said Ditzy.

“Mmhm” I mumbled, drifting away.

I knew I couldn’t ask our Heavenly Father for something like eyebrows. I liked the thought, though. Praying for Eyebrows. Change the spelling to make it edgy. Praying for Eyebrowz. Ooh, I liked that. That sounded like the name of an alt rock indie band. “Praying for Eyebrowz” featuring Nana Noyz on lead vocals. Our first single: “Ditzy Tsk.” It’ll be a hit for sure.

Peace, People.

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Just For Gaffes (edited)

I owe my life to “I Love Lucy.” Not in any literal sense, but certainly in some sort of metaphysical way. Lucy’s propensity for doing the wrong thing at the right time set a disturbingly cool precedent for me back in the days when the television was actually a pretty decent babysitter. Lucy’s grape stomping, ledge climbing, chocolate wrapping legacy, if nothing else, gave me permission to be my goofy self with no, ok, a few apologies.

But Lucy wasn’t my only influence. My mom, Freida, and her younger sister, Nedra, lent their wackiness to my formative years, as well. Once while waiting to pick up a relative at the small airport in Amarillo, the pair scurried off to answer the call of nature inside the ladies’ room of the nearly empty terminal. It was late at night and they might have been a bit tipsy. Mom was in one stall. Nedra in another. Gas was passed. Loud and long and clear. Nedra, always quick with a witticism sternly admonished, “Freida!” A deep silence ensued. The kind of silence that indicates something is very wrong. A toilet flushed, a stall opened and closed, followed by the sound of footsteps leaving the room. Only then did Mom explode in laughter as Nedra realized she’d scolded a complete stranger for farting. The pair hid in the bathroom for awhile hoping the gas passer wouldn’t associate them with their bathroom behavior.

Once my Aunt Nedra and her husband Uncle Richard, along with my mom and dad were spending the night at my grandparents’ home. As was their habit at such gatherings, the men went to bed ahead of the women who liked to tell stories and laugh well into the night. After much silliness my Aunt said goodnight to Mom and my grandmother and went to bed. Soon after, my mom followed, but found her spot next to my dad, occupied. She started laughing and soon her mother joined her in fits of uncontrollable giggles. Groggily, Nedra asked, “Richard, why are they laughing?” My dad, who until then was sound asleep responded, “Maybe because I’m not Richard and you’re in bed with your sister’s husband.” Everyone but my grandfather thought the story was hilarious. It just pissed him off.

I’ve turned doing embarrassing things into an art form. Too many to list here, but one of my favorites(?) was the time I was having some sort of sonogram done. As I lay on the exam table the tech was instructing me to take deeper breaths, hold, release, etc. The doctor to whom I’d been referred had an odd name, something like Bozdagerian or Bodgazerian or Bogzaderian.

I asked the tech, “Just how do you say this doctor’s name anyway ? Boz-da-ger-ian?”

“Deeper” said the tech.

So I lowered my voice an octave and tried again. “Boz-da-ger-ian?” I intoned.

The tech started laughing. “That was impressive,” he said. “Now please take a deeper breath.”

I’m most apt to commit verbal faux pas, like the time I told a crowd of people that upon Turning 50 I had “embraced my AARP-ness.” Read that aloud and you will know why I was the butt of more than a few jokes that afternoon.

Then there was the time a drunken me asked a lady on the dance floor where the deejay was located. Coincidentally, she asked me the very same question. At the very same time. She even kind of looked like me, only drunker. I noticed dancers giving me odd looks. That’s when I realized I’d been carrying on a conversation with my reflection in a mirror. I told myself thanks and returned to my table. I never did find the deejay.

My mom always said I was just like my Aunt Nedra, but at least I’ve never slept with my sister’s husband.

Peace, People.