New Girl Remembers

They are all just standing there separate, but together. No one is talking or smiling, nor do they make eye contact with each other. It reminds me of people in an elevator. Only this is a bus stop. And it is almost January. And these same boys have been standing together 5 months now trying not to make eye contact each morning before school.

I walk slowly hoping to look casual. I am the new girl. It wouldn’t do for me to start laughing out loud to myself so early in the game. But the ridiculousness of the situation, the phobic shyness of the group seemed comic, so that by the time I got there a smirk was twisting the corners of my mouth.

There was about 8 of them. All boys, all kind of nerdy in that scrawny, pimply face, adolescent kind of way. They were not expecting me of course.

“So,” I ask the group as if they are one, “Why does everyone look like they are going to a funeral?” The looks on their faces tell me I have broached a code of ethics; the unspoken silent rule. But I will start laughing for sure if I think of that. So I plop myself down on the curb, breathe an exasperated sigh and continue, “Anyone have a light?” of course they don’t, but at least everyone looks awake now. I am a bug under a microscope. I shuffle through my backpack, pull out a book of matches and start working on getting my cigarette lighted.

Finally, victory is mine, I take a long drag, inhaling the situation, then stand up, turn around, straighten my jacket and face the group. “It really isn’t that hard ya know. I am Ursula and you are undoubtedly starving for some entertainment. Which I will gladly provide myself by making fun of each one of you in turn, unless you at least introduce yourselves to me and each other, starting now.” I turn toward the bravest looking one of the bunch and start there.

Three months later they are talking to each other and laughing as I drive by the bus stop, a passenger in my moms car, on my way to yet another new high school hell.  For a second I feel gladness in my heart, a sense of victory knowing that they are no longer standing there pretending not to see each other. They will be friends now, even though I’m gone. And I’ll once again be the new girl, only this time, somewhere else.

Choosing Sides

Choosing sides
Walls of honeysuckle lined the fence between our yards. I wasn’t tall enough to see over it, but Julie was. When we went out to play in the afternoons she would lean into the vines on her tip-toes to talk to the two boys next door. In our minds they were very old. We called them “the big boys”, but in actuality they couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8.
I remember one day in particular because it marked the end of our friendship with the big boys. My big sister was talking to them about something (I wasn’t old enough to follow very well) and I sat in the grass playing with flower petals as they bantered back and forth. I understood only that she was being “ugly” to them. But it didn’t matter to me. She was my sister; we were on the same side of the fence.
Out of spite though, and to make her feel bad I guess, they made me a honey suckle wreath for my head and said I was the princess and got the crown because I was prettier than her. I remember this act confused me. On one hand, they had done something nice for me and were hoping to make me feel good. They wanted me to like it. It was an act of friendship. On the other hand, they had made my sister sad. I wasn’t sure how to act or feel.
The politics of the situation took my young mind a while to grasp. It all became clear though after they left and my sister started to cry. I realized that wearing that crown meant that I had aligned myself with them. I had to choose. She was my sister and my only friend. So I did what was natural I guess. I took the crown off and gave it to her. I told her she was the princess now.
We were happy again and I was the sister who had saved her. Her victory became mine as she strutted around the yard with the crown on her head in front of those boys. I only regretted the look of betrayal on their faces for a moment and I knew our friendship was over from that point on. But it didn’t matter to me. I had chosen her…she had won.
The other night I drove a friend home in her car. She was drunk and spent the majority of the ride stringing together expletives in an effort to convince me that she had been wronged, and that I oughta take her side.  I sat quietly listening to her bantering. Once again I didn’t know what to think or feel, I only knew that she was being ugly.  As she drew a line between fences and demanded/pleaded that I stand with her, I could almost smell the honeysuckle. But this time I didn’t have a wreath of flowers to hand over to her and the stakes were much higher. Regardless, I felt that the circumstances were the same, she wanted me to give her the crown, give her the power she needed for her victory. Only this time I couldn’t and I realized we weren’t standing on the same side of the fence.
Instead, I drove us home in silence and thought of honeysuckle.

 

Honesty

In order to take our writing to the next level we must embrace our strange, unique, and often embarrassing selves and write about the things that really matter to us. We need to be willing to peel our own layers back until we reach that tender, raw, voiceless place—the place where our crunchiest stories come from. We need to get some skin in the game. It should cost us something emotionally to tell our stories. But many of us who come to writing do so because they were voiceless at some point in their lives, so doing that can be the most terrifying risk of all.- Robin Lafever

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/04/06/the-writers-life-is-full-of-second-chances-or-abandon-despair-all-ye-who-enter-here-3/

Bread Pudding Frustration

The dogs got out again today and everything I did seemed to go wrong. The last words I said to my middle child before she fell asleep were angry.

So here I am, staring at the computer screen. All the incessant noise, meaningless activity, pointless stress, and the hum of my brain on overdrive have me running at the first available opportunity to solitude and a place where I can siphon the nonsense. If I review the day, one event at a time, perhaps I can find where things went wrong a devise the secret recipe for life.  Maybe I’ll find the shiny coin in the bread pudding; that piece of meaning that somehow makes all this seem worth it.

Only now all I can think of is how many times I went through bowl after bowl of that crap and never found anything. Or if I did I held it up to the light only to find that the prize was really only some cheap estimation of something cool and really wasn’t worth all crap I had to swallow to find it.

Mary vs Russia

When she was a child my daughter Maryrose wanted to go to Russia more than anything. When asked why, she said, “Because there are castles with spires and Anastasia was born there. Also, there’s a couple perfectly preserved dead guys in glass cases. Very cool.” So Russia went from being #5 on the list of places I wanted to visit, to #1. Funny how we feel our children’s desires more acutely than our own.  At the time I didn’t know if I would ever be able to afford to take her there, so I bought a music box just like the one Anastasia had in the cartoon. It was a gift for her yes, but it was also a reminder for me of my goal to take her there someday.  But children grown up, and in a few short years,  Anastasia wasn’t the princess who lived after all. So by the time I could afford to take my children anywhere, Ireland was at the top of her list. So to Ireland we went. When I was a child and the center of my own universe, Africa was the place I dreamed of. I wanted to see giraffes, ride elephants and dance with the Swahili. Acutely aware of my mortality and fragile finances, none of that is tempting today.  Too many other places to show the kids first; Places on their lists.  Being a mom is a sort of melting process. I flowed out into my children. I melted into them, so that I can no longer tell where they end and I begin.  If they weren’t a part of my life, as hard as that is to imagine, would Africa, still be my #1, or has time, as much as children changed me also?

Cliche

She said “When I grow up I am going to set the world on fire. I will never be like all of you.”

She was beautiful and glamorous and free and too stupid to know that time would dictate a cost to all of these. Never mind a one-way ticket to New York is $295. Fate would bless her. She might marry rich, be discovered, finally be recognized for her beauty and brilliance, then become independently wealthy, never having to worry about trivialities such as paying the bills or taking out the trash. This carefree barefoot nymph with wild hair was meant for something more. God or fate, would recognize her destiny, she is special, she will never be just another defeated cubicle 8 hours day 5 days a week until retirement. That life is not meant for her.

The enormous effort required to pay the mortgage, car payment, electric bill, cell phone, water, cable, insurance, taxes, dental, food- not to mention the necessary glamorous party accoutrements and all those trips around the world, would inevitably pay for themselves, coming easily out of the brilliant girl fund, naturally provided to all those as worthy.

“When I grow up I’m going to set the world on fire. I will never be like all of you.”

Was I really so stupid? Or was I smarter, seeing life more clearly at the distance youth afforded before being thrown full force into the muck and weighed down by the tedium of everyday existence. Have I simply given way to disillusionment at the realization of reality, or has hopeless optimism bowed to wisdom and actually paying the bills…. on time!?

Inside I remember once making the same proclamation and realize that now I more resemble “all of you” rather than the girl who would set the world on fire. Where did she go?

Disappeared in the coulda, shoulda and woulda’s I suppose, trading one cliché for a million others

nothing in life is free… It takes all kinds…..youth is wasted on the young…..
hind sight is 20/20…. day late dollar short….. better late than never…it’s a zoo out there….if you lie down with dogs, you rise up with fleas….

rain on your parade

the golden age

not worth a hill of beans

year in and year out

put the cart before the horse

win some, lose some

of mice and men

Heart of stone

make ends meet

The list goes on…