a good friend reminded me yesterday of my promise to learn to spit. actually, it was poet jenny joseph who got the ball rolling, and once those immeasurable words of genuineness became part of my daily vision, i knew it was a matter of time before i, too, would grow old and become everything i said i would never become.
i will not be my mother. who am i? i am my mother.
there are things we must do. bills we must pay. jobs we must finish. celebrations we must attend. noses we must wipe. but soon (and my soon is coming quicker than anticipated), all the routines will change, and i will fall in love with the serendipity of it all. i'll turn the corner, and be sucked in by the inescapable fortune before my eyes.
nevertheless, i'll walk the expected road for now, but soon, when you least expect it, i'll be spitting and wearing purple. don't get in my way - for your own sake.
when i am an old woman i shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
and i shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
i shall sit down on the pavement when i'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
i shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.
you can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickle for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
but now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
we must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
but maybe i ought to practice a little now?
so people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly i am old, and start to wear purple.
thank you, dear friend . . .
"what cha' doing?" i looked up, contemplating the silver strips mama held in her hand. her head was arched upward, and with one hand she held tightly to her face, and with the other, she placed the two long silver metal things against her chin and tugged. she grunted and jerked.
"plucking my face," she uttered.
'what in the world is that,' i thought, my mouth twitched to the side as i stretched higher on my tippy toes to see if i could see plucking. i wasn't sure what i was looking for, but assuredly once i heard a grunt, i knew i was close.
she did it over and over again until finally, she placed the silver things down on the bathroom counter, grabbed a washcloth that had been soaking in the sink and touched it to her face.
"what cha' doing now," i questioned again.
"making it feel better," she responded.
i wasn't exactly sure what she was making feel better, but i watched her repeat this worrisome process every day from the moment i was ten until, well, forever.
this morning, i looked into the mirror, arched my head upward, and with one hand held my face and with the other, placed what i now know to be tweezers against my chin and tugged. i grunted. and knowing what came next, i ran the hottest water possible into the sink and watched a cloth float until it filled with the weight of the water and sank. i gathered the cloth, twisted it tightly until all the water escaped and placed it against my chin. it felt better.
i'm not sure when i looked into the mirror and saw her staring back at me, but i'm glad i have those stalwart eyes showing me the way. even though they have been closed for nearly six years, not a day goes by without my remembering. and as sure as hogs love slop (a favorite saying of hers), she's peeping down from heaven and watching my morning ritual and declaring, "don't forget the cloth. it makes it feel better." mama always knew what made the grunt feel better.
happy birthday mama. i will never pluck without thinking of you.
I was born and raised a true Southern Baptist complete with dinner on the grounds, summer revivals, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. my week was planned before it even started - days were for school, but Sunday and Wednesday nights, church. but for me, the best part of all, was seeing my friends and getting that extra 'buddy' time that school days just didn't provide. In the disguise of GAs and Acteens, i met my 'bestest' friends, spent hours of doing what teenage girls do best, jabbering. we made some memorable (and questionable) decisions - like when Carol, Pam, Susan and I stuffed into Brenda's Henry (a.k.a. a pea green late 60s mustang) and rolled our Acteen leader's house, or when we borrowed my dad's 48 Chevy and spent my 16th birthday at the drive-in (THAT is a another tale and one that has never been told). Don't tell anyone, but it was fabulous. as an only child, I lived for church because that is where I found the sisters I never knew I had.
At that time, i had no idea what a lucky girl i was. not only did I make some of the most enduring and long-lasting friendships of my life, but I also formed a relationship with God that would carry me through my unpredictable later years. Although I'm not as consistent, shall we say, as I once was, when it comes to walking through the church doors on a weekly basis, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't look UP and converse.
With that said, I am most assuredly not catholic, but my husband is. Much like me, my husband's life was resurrected around the church, its traditions and beliefs. I tell him I would have been a horrible Catholic, with all that kneeling and stuff - terrible knees you know. I have visited St. Patrick's cathedral in New York, purchased a beautiful pearl-like rosary and even lit a candle for my daddy. I'm sure i didn't do it right, but in my simple mind, I was close to God and my daddy.
Every year since the beginning of my life with Len, we have celebrated Christmas by attending midnight mass at St. Joseph's in Athens. much of the time, I was lost, but followed my husband's movements as best I could. It was a long way from my Southern Baptist, Bethlehem Baptist. If my prayers were answered, Rev. David McGinness would lead the service. I first met him at St. Mary's hospital when he comforted Len as his mother was slipping away. such peace, humility and grace he brought with him. even though I wasn't catholic, I knew where he got it.
He's a man of small statue, heavy on the Irish brogue, and shockingly, very entertaining. At masses, he always began his remarks with a comical tale and then shifted into a deeper lesson. He did so this Christmas night when he began with a scale and ended with a birth. "There was no room in the inn," he began matter-of-factly. Such a disappointment for those who missed this blessing, he continued. And why is there no room today? Such clutter. Such unnecessary stuff.
As I go through the daily chores of everyday life, I want that stuff gone. Those thoughts erased. Those people that make me sad. the events that I can't change. The lives that I can't touch. I don't want to miss out because I didn't make room for the important moments, people, events, tears, laughter . . . joy.
I will do my best to consciously make room - daily, moment by moment, breath by breath. For my husband who unselfishly gives me his heart; for my children who still hug me and want to spend time with mom; for family who never forgets the history that glues us together; for my heritage, one that has built my character and won't let me down; for my career, one that gives me such pleasure; for friends who make me a priority in their life, not an option. I don't want to wake up this time next year and realize, with disappointment, that I missed the king.
she's here, as i'm sure her parents can confirm. it might be the sleepless nights heard round the world that provides the proof that a six-pounder can cause all kinds of havoc to normal human beings. what a disruptive little cuss she is, this caitlin cutie. and just so you know, at a week-and-a-half, mama and daddy still don't get the concept of 'step away from the baby' or 'put the baby down' even though she's just too cute. mari was cute once, as i'm sure phelim was. i didn't learn until my third child that what my mama told me was the gospel. never rock, never walk, never tote a baby - no matter if it kills you not to cuddle and snuggle with that mystical lump of joy. but as mari will tell you, sleep is overrated and cute wins out every time. let's see if she feels that way in, say, a month!
you see that adorable pink blanket? that's been soaked with kisses by her grandparents, grandma judy and papa len, so technically [in my mind] we've touched. that's the only consolation at the moment for the thousands of miles separating us. it was her christmas present before we even knew of those ruby red lips or those big feet [yes, i said big feet]. i will give phelim the credit for those [or her uncle ty, not sure which one gets the most credit].
still rockin' that pink blanket, i see. that, my dear caitlin, will be the object that brings you the most comfort (even if mama and daddy tell you differently, always reach for grandma and papa's blanket - it's where dreams are born)!
she's only a few minutes old. i recognize that look on daddy's face. the one that says 'you are wrapped around my finger' and 'you can't date until you're 25' and 'sure, just one more popsicle' and 'i'll love you until the twelfth of never'. i have that same look, only it's going to take you a little longer for our peepers to connect. until then, papa and myself are leaving you in good hands. see you soon.
happy birthday caitlin - march 22, 2014 - 6 lbs. 1 oz. - sydney, australia
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.