"Oh, no mama. That's awful. You have a million just like that in your closet."
I couldn't decide which was worse, that I had a million in my closet or that it was awful.
I peered at my avant-garde daughter, raised my eyebrows and contemplated her signature move of rolling my eyes.
She continued on her persuasive course.
"Mom, you have to think outside the box," she pressured. Her fingers tripped through the endless TJMaxx shirt selection, and stopped at a red fixation. "See, like this." I looked at the tiered, paper-thin drape sequined excuse for a shirt she held in her hands and then, as if touching it would convince me, she pressed it to my chest. "Nice," she said.
"Are you kidding?" I replied. I took a second look at the classic white v-neck long sleeve t-shirt I held in my left hand and stared into her big baby browns. "Sold." I'm a Diane Keaton-Annie Hall wannabe, and that will always trump what lives outside the box.
I miss deal-discovery at discount stores. No matter how wrong you are about my style, my heart dances each time you try to convince me that somewhere inside me lives a twenty-something. I miss large frappuccinos and tall caramel macchiatos. I think we're more like friends than mother and daughter, and I know that is what sucks the most about distance. I miss road rage in the green bean. All mothers understand that somewhere down the line, your baby will break free and find other characters that will take center stage. There will be other acts and other performances, most that will not include me in the cast.
But as far as friends go, I want those forever. I shouldn't have to say goodbye to anyone, child or otherwise, that ever called herself a friend. Time. Geography. Craziness. I've had many sidekicks that have involuntarily said good-bye simply because that's the direction life took them. It made sense on the outside, but never on the inside. Their absence was like one of those paper cuts that you never knew existed until you accidentally spritzed the spot with perfume.
It's my best friend that has ducked away now and that is who I miss the most. There's not even a phone that can satisfy the void. You had to go to the other side of the world where civilization is questionable at best and phone plans set you back the cost of a kidney. Whoever invented Skype is my hero, right along side the man who invented post-its. There's genius in simplicity and economy.
Daughters can be best friends. I had no clue that would be the scenario when I first wrapped you in grandma's crocheted blanket. You were just a tiding of great joy, one that I would learn would stretch my patience and my love to infinite boundaries.
So, go, dip into the aborigines society or whatever that Aussie world calls itself. Just don't turn into one.
Remember these updates from your best friend: you are Southern to the core - ain't no such word as mum; no matter what color you choose to put on your hair, you are and will always be blonde; Silas runs circles around Cody, and then Cody runs circles around Silas; I make a mean Brioche French Bread Pudding now; Len jets to work in the green bean and is living his second childhood; Logan misses you more than he can put into words; Ty needs a push into flying; Colquitt is as dangerous as ever; Bear lifts his head when he hears you on Skype; photography and writing rock; and there's never a sunrise on Mayne when I don't think of you.
So until it's time to come home or until the VISA runs out, whichever rolls around first, take care of yourself and follow your dreams.
The mama in me says "use your common sense"; the friend in me roars "kick ass!"
You see my mama's hand on my leg?
That touch meant more than just, "hey, I think I'll put my hand here."
"You'll see I'm right."
"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."
"Stop pulling the dog's ears."
"I told you not to go down to Ricky's house."
"Go get that hickory."
And most of the time, a guttural "aeh" accompanied the words she chose. That short, quick grumble delivered how she really felt. And then she would grab my leg, or specifically, the section just above my knee-cap, she'd squeeze in rhythm with the "aeh". I knew it was over, and I had lost the fight.
Even at 96 and her movements had dwindled, she still managed a "squeeze" and an "aeh". Her body wasn't as strong as it once was, but heavens, her hands could still grip. Whichever leg was closest, she'd grab, squeeze and grunt. She squeezed me. She squeezed her grand-daughter and her body-builder grandsons. We crumbled every time.
I miss that "aeh". There are days when life scurries on, and I hear that grunt escape from me. I can't help but snicker because I realize that there's something important about to happen. It's a signal of sorts. How can I be so much like mama? I swore I would never be.
Actually, it wasn't me. It was mama, looking down from heaven, sneaking up on me and having the last say.
October, 2012, signals my 53rd year. Humbling, to say the least. I have learned many truths during this sprint. My thankful list is long overdue.
1. I get to work at home, at my desk - surrounded by the things I love most - every single day.
2. He's the last sight at night, and my first sight each morning - the glory of second chances.
3. My children are living their dreams, not mine.
4. I can walk on two feet again.
5. My husband pushes me to follow my dreams.
6. Bear keeps me company while I sit at my desk. He never complains when I get to sip tea and he doesn't.
7. I have learned to make the perfect meatball.
8.When I'm thrust back into my past for a brief second, I'm so thankful I'm not living there.
9. I can make as many pots of coffee a day as I like, and every cup is mine.
10. God never left me.
11. Ty has figured out that the truly important things might take a wee bit longer to accomplish.
12. I had the best mama and daddy ever.
13. My mama taught me how to make homemade applesauce, sauerkraut and cat-head biscuits.
14. I finally get that doing the right thing is the only option.
15. God saw something in me worth saving.
16. My husband can repair all those things that you normally have to pay repairman a ton to fix.
17. I made several steps toward squashing fear this year - small steps, but they're a start.
18. I have put most of the events in my life in perspective and left most of them in their proper place.
19. My ipod and all the Barry Manilow and Blake Shelton I can stand.
20. I can finally say I'm half-Italian.
21. My daughter actually likes to hang out with me - that is when she's in the same zip code.
22. Logan still hugs me - always.
23. I can laugh about the really sad things.
24. I have three sisters.
25. Thoreau got it right: simplicity.
26. I get to meet amazing people and become their storyteller.
27. I have a really cool boss who lets me vent and rant and write.
28. I have a horse (JACK) with a sense of humor.
29. My children transcended what fate threw at them and knocked it out of the park.
30. Sorry Thomas, but you can go home again - and I will.
31. I have a few good friends that have stood the test of time - and really, that's all you need.
32. I started life all over again - on my terms.
33. Dreams are freakin' amazing, and I will never stop - so there.
34. Starbucks still makes me think of New York City - and I close my eyes and travel there.
35. Mama's words teach me just as daddy's image on the sofa comforts me.
36. I'm not superficial.
37. I can still hold books and magazines in my hands.
38. As hard as it was, forgiveness allowed me to get on with living.
39. At long last, I don't really care what others think of me.
40. Not only can I make a fine meatball, but I make a killer homemade pizza. See, half-Italian.
41. I enjoy TV, my husband and quiet evenings. Not always in that order.
42. I grew up in Clarkesville, Georgia, a truly authentic Southern town.
43. I get to travel the world over and still ohh and ahh.
44. I went through the adoption process, opened records and finally understood.
45. I let go.
46. Sweetwater Brewery makes tasty liquids.
47. My children still want to come home.
48. They do make cute shoes for old women - you just have to dig.
49. My daughter's unending advice: outside the box, mom. It's soooo hard.
50. I got to traipse through many cornfields with my daddy and go into the woods shopping for Christmas trees. How many kids can say that.
51. I have a front porch with rockers and that's where I go to do my best thinking.
52. I fell in love for the last time.
53. I'm right where I'm supposed to be.
It's like a cool drink on a scorching summer day. The refreshment, the rejuvenation, the joy. Squeezing the stuffing out of an old friend erases time and distance, and it is just like it was yesterday. We tooled around Habersham County in a bright red Pinto daring the world to interrupt. It never did. It knew better.
That was me and my bestest friend, Susan.
It has been 15 years since last eye contact. Almost 25 years since we were freshman roommates at Truett McConnell College- both purchasing the same sheets for our dorm room beds and not knowing until we made them up. More since the day bat-welding Bianca - aka Shittenbarger - chased me through the campus street threatening bodily harm. More since those afternoons after school on the pinnacle of the golf course with Rowena, Susan's mom. More since the days of hearing Hubert's, Susan's dad, silly giggles. More since the days of Acteens and "steps" and a 16th birthday party in my daddy's '48 Chevy and sneaking alongside the gray classic to get in the Cornelia drive-in - free. Even more since the days of Brenda's pea green Mustang called Henry and rolling yards and Brenda's wearing of cotton underwear on her head to keep her hair manageable during sleep. And the pepper in the pillowcase at Rock Eagle. Oh my, the pepper in the pillowcase. I plead the 5th!
These memories keep me alive and moving forward, simply in the hopes that, when I least expect it, I'll be able to relive them again in a small bistro in Asheville, NC. As I get older, true friends are harder to come by. The daily walk of life leads relationships in different directions and life sets the new priorities, a fact that I detest, but one I must accept. I give thanks for these moments and realize I was, and continue to be, one very lucky girl.
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.