OG Ambitions

I look like I got ANYTHING for these hoes?

*Sophia Petrillo voice* Picture it: Olney, Maryland. The year is 2010.  I’m in a hospital bed recovering from a rather nasty encounter with a pulmonary embolism, and I’m listening to my suite mate being discharged.  She uses “disposable adult undergarments” and discussed the whether or not she should attempt to go to the bathroom. After a slight bit of hemming and hawing, she’s silent for a moment and says, COMPLETELY nonplussed, “Well look…I just went in this one. What do we do now?”

In that experience, I saw my future.  I embarrass very easily.  I ultimately recover, it could be months, even YEARS later, and I’ll occasionally get totally red faced about it.  I won’t pretend to know what she was thinking, but the way she spoke said, “Look, this is what it is, let’s fix it and move on.”

One day, I’m going to be a really old broad, and I kind of want to be like that.  I’ll still be me, but I want to be like “Look, yeah I peed my pants, but I changed my alternator and put two kids through college. Holla at ya girl.”  Dammit I MIGHT throw up the Roc when I’m 70.

I’ve also decided that when I outlive my second husband, I won’t marry again. I’ll just have a boyfriend that everyone will call Mr. Charles. That may not even be his name.  But he’ll know how to hook up your carburetor, and Charles sounds like the most trustworthy name for that type of thing.  We’ll have family picnics and he’ll be all, “Go’on on and let that boy have a beer! Had my first beer at 15 years old!” He’ll say it with a square dangling from his lip and I’ll allow it.

I plan on being a pretty kick ass Gram.  But I don’t focus on that TOO much, because I don’t want to be the person who forces my kids to have kids.  That’s the type of thing that I would love, but it’s gotta be their choice.  My kids are awesome people though, so I’ll look forward to having a bird’s eye view of their parenting.

Toting a pistol will definitely be part of my old broad life.  I want a hand cannon.  I also want to shoot at least one person, just to show the other reprobates that I mean business.  Not the regular mischievous kids.  I’m talking about the real incorrigible ones.  I don’t plan on killing anyone, but I need to put one on JUST the right side of death so that they know I could if they try to test.

Don’t confuse that with me wanting to be an old douche.  I have no plans to hate kids.  Actually, I want the hooligans to be my friends. SOMEBODY has to watch my Lincoln Town Car when I go to pick up my post-menopausal medicinal reefer.  Part of being older, to me, means sharing with the folks that come behind you.  I came up amongst OGs, and they never “schooled” me by beating me over the head with messages.  The gave weight to who I was as a young woman, and shared what they’d learned with me.  That’s part of the joy of being old, I think.  Not to look back and hate that you’re not the young person that you were, but to build and give people the benefit of your experience in all things, including just how to love folks.  I really plan on enjoying every part of my journey here.

Closer to Fine

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sail my ship of safety til I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores.

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

– “Closer to Fine” The Indigo Girls

There are less than 33 hours left 2011.  A year that frankly, has been full of surprises.  I’m published.  That’s really a BFD to me.  I also decided to walk out of my house and make the DMV my home.  What makes this amazing is that I’ve managed to make new friends from here to Cali (despite the foibles I mentioned in my previous post).  Life has been so kind to me this year, and I can’t begin to express my gratitude.  I feel compelled to work harder for it.  Earn some of the goodness that has come my way.

This summer, I wrote this.  It was a reflection on the fearless girl I used to be.  I mourned embracing the spirit that makes me hesitate; the spirit that stops me from jumping into shallow water and forces my eyes open when I roll down hill.  Prudence isn’t an awful trait, but we can overdo it.  I’ve got kids, so I can’t always go balls to the wall, but I made a conscious effort to let go the tiniest bit.

If reading my own past words wasn’t enough (it’s not – one of my largest goals this year is to really analyze other people’s thoughts) one of my favorite people shared this awesome piece on Twitter.  Number 7 stuck with me the most:

7 :: If my parents / my grandma / God / whoever holds my sense of personal propriety in check was GONE (poof!) and there was no one to offend, upset, or disappoint… who would I become?

What unspeakably dark (or exquisitely light) truth would I tell? What would I (finally!) allow myself to write, publish, announce or create? What kind of closet would I come out of? What would I completely, at last, and fully… forgive?

One of the largest things I’ve tried to overcome is the accepting the woman I am, and not the one I’m expected to be.  In no way are the people who shaped me wrong.  I just can’t continue to beat myself up over finding my own way.  I pray that I still employ the wisdom they’ve given me.

Life is so funny.  Sometimes it punches you in the gut so that you can take stock of everything; other times, it gently wraps its arms around your waist, whispering sweet nothings, while making your heart feel light. Recently, life affably plopped down next to me on a bench, threw its arm across my shoulder and said, “Yo, let’s look at this sunrise and give today everything you’ve got.”  I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating:  Sometimes we can be so fearful of our own success and happiness, that we cripple ourselves with the lie that we’re waiting to be unafraid.  We will ALWAYS be afraid. There’s a fear in the unknown.*

I don’t know that every decision I will make will be the perfect one.  In fact, I can guarantee you that I will fuck up.  I’m flawed.  So are you. I plan on respecting the consequences of my flawed nature and being wise.  But I don’t plan on being afraid.  Not of failure, success, joy or pain.  The truth is, there’s no one way to get to ANY of those things.  We’re taught to believe that if you do this, and ONLY this, that will happen.  This holds true for certain things in life, but not all.

And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

*  Much of the reason I quote myself is to hold myself accountable in my affirmations.  I don’t want to say the things that motivate me, then forget them.  Remembering that I have far to go is imperative.

Spring

Dear Spring,

Hey boo! When are you coming around?  I know winter just got here, but I was hoping you would accept a personal request from a long time fan.  What?  Of course I love autumn, too.  Let’s not speak in absolutes.  We’re better than the filthy sith.  The point is, I could go for the watery eyes, sneezing and all the other sinus distress you bring with your emerald glory.  I just want some lush, dewy grass blades between my toes.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?  Christmas has come and gone, the New Year will soon be here, and football season is almost over.  I’ve had my egg nog latte, Southern Comfort spiked warm drink, and the obligatory cold.  Winter’s usefulness taps out pretty early.

But not you, Spring.  You come in with pretty blossoms and brightly colored winged and buzzing creatures. You emancipate the body parts that have been oppressed all winter.  Kids get to play a little longer and boys seem a little cuter when you’re around.  Nobody complains when your temperate beauty hangs into summer just a little bit longer.  Bring your gentle rains, your bees and your hay fever. Your berries, al fresco lunches and outdoor concerts make those things well worth it.  I’m anxious to bare shoulders and throw on flip flops.  Get here soon.

Your biggest fan,

B Jack

“Lil ole boy…I just love that lil ole boy”

I don’t remember not having a mom’s life.  There’s never been a significant part of my life, where I didn’t have a baby on my  hip, or I wasn’t preparing snacks.  When my friends were at the mall, I was usually fixing dinner.  Such is the life of an oldest daughter in a large, Southern family.

When I found out that I was pregnant with you, I didn’t have the panic that a lot of expectant mothers have.  Was I ready?  It was be a struggle, but I was nothing, if not prepared to take care of a child.  My lack of worry spoke to my lack of clear understanding of what was actually involved in being a parent, but I think I’ve caught on.

Thirteen years ago, right about this minute, 7:09 a.m. I was getting my Pitocin drip to induce labor.  I won’t go through your birth story (17.5 hours, LOTS of pain and ultimately, a C-Section).  How you got here, while important, isn’t the point of this post.  The point is, on December 17, 1998, I gave birth to you, a son.

People always say they count fingers and toes first, and I don’t recall doing that.  I’m sure I did at some point, but I really wanted to just see your face.  Even if it was the face of a four-fingered kid, you would have been the most awesome four-fingered kid ever.  My December boy, born with size 2 feet, was this mixture of brown and hot pink frustration.  Your APGAR score was a 9, and I’m pretty sure that he aced the crying portion of the test.  “I’m naked, it’s cold, you’re strangers and not one of you gawking bastards are gonna get me a blanket?  I see you.”   The funny thing is, though your speaking voice is loud now, you hardly ever yell.

It’s important that we look at our children through the eyes of the world every now and then.  As parents, and especially mothers, you guys can frustrate us to no end.  I often see the kid who leaves toys on the floor, leaves the refrigerator door open too long, and never places a new roll of TP on the holder.  I take the time to realize that you’re so much more.  The world sees this boy with warm, brown eyes, who holds doors open for everyone, and always says “please” and “thank you.”  They see this gangly kid, trying desperately to fit, who doesn’t quite understand that you are way more awesome than the caricature you’re trying to be.  They see that once you hammer out the chinks that come with growing up, you are going to be a great man.

People would like to say that I’m partially responsible for who you are, but I’m not so sure.  I always knew you were going to be a good kid.  I tell people all the time, I’m lucky to know you.  If you weren’t my kid, I’d still want to hang out with you, my pensive boy who so deeply wants to be cool, you whispered that you wanted a telescope over any other “normal” teenage stuff.  The glint that you got in your eyes when you said it, like an echo of your father’s expression, will always make me chuckle.  You are so special, and a blessing to us all.

Happy Birthday, my star gazer.  Thank you for being.

 

Felt Like Forever Pt. 2

Even relaxed, I had fab hair

If you would have told the girl in that picture, “Next year, this life will be a memory,” she wouldn’t have believed you.  If you would have told her, “There are people here now you’ve hugged as a neighbor for the last time,” she’d have been equally dubious.  But that’s what happened.  I went away.  But this isn’t a story of “before.”

This is a story of everything-ever-after.  My first day of work in DC, when I crossed F Street, I wish I had a hat to throw in the air, just to see if it would freeze.  I would sing the theme from Alice in the shower. “THERE’S A NEW GIRL IN TOWWWWWWWN, AND SHE’S FEELIN GOOD!”  (I did it very Broadway, except I’m not a singer, so it sounded…yeah.)  When you leave behind everything, and you have everything ahead of you, you’re emboldened.  That carried me for about six months.  I had an awesome crib, I was dating an awesome dude, I cut my hair, beginning the path to the awesome fro.  It was amazing.   My mother described homesickness as “feeling so out of sorts, you just want to sit in a corner with your knees over your shoulders and rock.”  It crept up overnight.  I was so at odds with everything.

I powered out of that shit.  It was hard, and I had to become used to being a woman with two kids AND a need for a social life, but I managed.  I fell in love. HARD.  I fell halfway out, back in, then out again.  There have been days where I felt like I was on top of everything, and days I thought I’d never stop falling.  But I’m still here.

And that’s due in part to picking amazing friends; old and new.   There is so much love in my life, at times, I can hardly process it.  I can’t even begin to tell you how it feels to be overwhelmed by love; some of it from people I didn’t know six months ago.  Not everything goes the way I would like, but my life, is charmed as hell.  I am blessed, lucky and light.

I’m not saying this because anything earth shattering is going on.  I just need the people I’ve embraced into my circle to know that I don’t take them lightly.  They are infinitely appreciated.  Some of you, my day doesn’t go right if I don’t speak to you.  That’s love man.  I’m glad I love you.  This unfortunately means you’re stuck with me.

Don’t worry though. I pay in gum.

Arms Open, Eyes Shut

I saw two images this weekend which reminded me of my childhood.

First, while in traffic, I was stopped next to this rather steep hill.  I firmly remember standing triumphantly at the top of whatever hill Joe Brown Park had to offer.  I’d fling my arms open and above my head, close my eyes, then roll to the bottom, shrieking and laughing all the way down.  Then I’d run back up, spitting dirt out of my mouth, and do it over and over, until I was exhausted.  I would climb trees to frightening heights, close my eyes until the split second after I jumped and shriek with joy.  I  My mother would laugh at all the brambles and leaves I’d have in my hair after days at the park, and joke about throwing me into the washing machine.

Even in that sweet memory, I laughed at the vision of me doing the same thing at 34: gently stretching out on the earth, stretching my hands over my face protectively, and immediately popping up shake out my hair.  Would I do it only once, for nostalgia’s sake?  Maybe twice to prove a point?  It’s amazing how there are times when ignorance, or at least the accompanying innocence, is in fact blissful. As free spirited as I am, what happened to my utter sense of abandon?

Second, I passed by the swim club near my house, and could see the children diving in.  My very first pool experienced involved being on vacation.  I was so excited to be in my new swimsuit with the alligator on it (Lacoste bitches), and I saw all the kids having a ball, I took off like a shot.  I’d seen it a million times on the commercials.  I made it to the edge, pinched my nose, closed my eyes and CANNONBALL – sinking all the way to the bottom, of course.  For some odd reason, I didn’t panic.  I sat at the bottom and waited.  Within seconds, I saw and grabbed my aunt’s hand.

I can but wonder where that girl went?  When did I begin to stand with my arms folded?  When did my eyes sharpen from oblivious to watchful?  How do I find the whooping girl that jumps in, with the confidence that everything will happen as it should?  Last night, I said I choose me, and I still mean that in so many ways.  But the hill conquering, tree jumping, cannonballing whooping goddess is the me I’m choosing.

I’m not yo mama, I’m yo grandma!

I’m becoming my parents.  More and more every day.  As a woman, I knew turning into my mother was inevitable, but my father?! The Fanny Packer?! Hell to the no!  (Heh heh…I said Fanny…Packer. Get it? In retrospect, saying this about my father is beyond gross on several levels so…)

Both of my parents were wise.  Both were giving.  Both were given to temper.  I think some of this comes from two people coexisting for 18 years.  Even though I wouldn’t count them as one of the great love affairs of our time, they did have a certain level of respect for one another as partners, so the grew from each other in many ways.  But then there are nuances that are specific to each of them that I have managed to absorb.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the evidence:

Exhibit A:  The Squint (Daddy)

Ladybug: *to me as I look at the computer* Ooooh, I see why everyone says you look like Paw Paw.

Me: *horrified to the Universe* NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

My pops has this very distinctive squint.  The only other person I’ve witnessed even come close to replicating it, is my aunt; and apparently, me.  It’s a combination of raising his head, looking down, squinting so that his two front teeth are exposed and wrinkling his nose.  Sort of like a middle-aged near-sighted bunny rabbit…with forehead wrinkles…and thick black hair…and enlarged pores-LOOK! The point is, someone snapped a picture of me doing this, and I wanted to die.  At 34, the last thing you want to hear is that you look like a middle aged man.

Exhibit B:  Literal translations of everything (Mama)

My mother enjoyed arts and music, but once things passed the realm of what she decided was “decent,” you could cancel Christmas.  One of our most hilarious memories of our mother is when she was trying to be cool.  Her idea of being cool was  letting us listen to rap music.  I was 11, and “Supersonic” came on.  See, I loved to beat box, so Baby Dee was my hero, therefore, her verse was my favorite.

Me: *mimicking the radio, word for word* You see my beat box is fresh, it’ll blow ya mind/and if you don’t like my beat I’ll go DIG ON YO BEHIND! *proudly doing the snake*

Mama: *horrified* DIG IN YO BEHIND?! *click*

My ass was Supersonic no no more.

Fast forward to 2010.  The radio is on, and Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” came on.

Finge: *mimicking the radio, word for word* Oooh, oh oh OHHHH! IT’S MISTA STEAL YO GIRL!

Me: *totally unamused* That’s how people get stabbed. *click*

Exhibit C:  Calling the kid into the toilet (Mama)

I staved it off for YEARS, but I managed to have received that gene where I have to forget something each and every time I go to take a shower.  Of course, once I’m in, I can’t leave until it’s mission accomplished.  I may never get back in here.  My son escapes this bit of indignity, but my poor daughter does not.  To add insult to injury, I found myself yelling at her “DON’T LOOK!”  One day she gave me the “BITCH? WHY? WOULD? I? EVER?” stare.  I managed to stop saying that to her.

Exhibit D:  Deep Sigh Followed By “Alright” then the explosion (Daddy)

You can literally tell my father anything.   Anything.  He’ll give a disappointed sigh, then seem non-plussed.

Me: Daddy, I just shaved my head, joined a cult and married the reincarnated spirit of Saddam Hussein.

Daddy: *Deep sigh* Alright Mel.

But once you get that alright, you better know when to hold ’em and know when to fold em.  ANY subsequent information you provide is liable to set off Mt. St. Pops.  It’s typically the most innocuous thing in your laundry list of shenanigans.

Me: Yeah dad.  We robbed a bank, sacrificed two virgins in  pagan ritual and I shot a senior citizen for making fun of my blue socks.

Dad: BLUE SOCKS?! BLUE SOCKS?! Look, I didn’t work at the phone company for 30 years and sometimes take on two jobs for your ass to run around this city wearing blue socks.  I really don’t know what to say about you.  My GOODNESS!  Blue socks *off the phone to the step0mom “yeah…BLUE! I know!”* So, you’re just a blue sock wearer huh?  Hmph.  I’m gonna have to call you back.  I’ll call back you AND your blue socks.

I have become a delayed reaction person myself.  My kids can tell me any bad thing they’ve done, but they’d better cut their losses.

Me: WHAT THE HELL YOU MEAN YOU RAN OUT OF PAPER?!  So I go to work for you to not bring paper to class.  You just want to be a paperless student?  Just…borrowing paper from everybody you see, huh?

Son: But…the principal is in the trunk though.  This doesn’t bother  you?  Because I’m pretty sure it really should…

Me: Well, does she have your paper?!

It makes no sense.  I’m working on it.

I always knew about the curse, “I hope you get one just like you.”  Apparently the unsaid portion of that is, “And you’ll be just like me.”  I thought it would really bother me.  I thought it would make me feel old, and tired, and maybe just a little defeated with the knowledge that I in fact do have to deal with myself as a child.  Then I remember that they handed me the blueprint.

Truth be told, I’m not so sure I mind this metamorphosis at all.