Do You Suppose She’s a Wildflower?

img_1520I grew up amongst wild flowers that rose up to my waist. My small fingers ran down their stems and picked the very best ones to bring to my Mother. I touched their leaves and
hummed as the wind blew my brown hair across my freckled cheeks.

I danced in the rain, sometimes with an umbrella but usually without one. I would let the rain pour over me and soak my hair as I jumped barefoot into puddles. I would sing while I danced, in the rain amongst the wildflowers. Today I still stand at the very edge of my porch when it rains, so that I can feel the splashes of the drops against my arms.

Smells always take us back to specific moments, specific memories. Things we hadn’t thought of in years, suddenly so present. I walked into a  bookstore in Nashville and suddenly I was in my Grandmother’s living room in California. The smell of fresh wood makes me think of my Dad – the first carpenter I ever knew – and the smell of dirt takes me home. To my backyard. To dirt under my small fingernails and my Mother’s whistles from the door, letting me know it was time to come in.

I made fairy homes out of branches and bark and leaves and cloth from old shirts while the  sweet smell of gardenias encircled me. We planted sunflowers that grew past my head and I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I ran through them pretending I was Pocahontas and sang “Just Around The Riverbend” with the kind of abandon only little kids have.

I live in a city now, but I grew up with room to run. I grew up with trees and gardens and quiet. Quiet that was filled with my singing as I ran and planted and made bouquets. I plant my hyacinth bulbs and succulents and sweet potato vines because the dirt reminds me of home. It reminds me of when I didn’t feel bogged down by mean politics or when life didn’t feel really heavy on my small shoulders. It makes me feel connected to my parents who have always worked with their hands.

I pull on the stained and worn green gardening gloves that my husband bought me long before he was my husband and think about the children I hope I have one day. I’ll tell them they are wildflowers: free and beautiful and a little magic.

Advertisements

Blankets Made by Your Grandmother Warm You Twice

Today I was helping at our church and I needed to grab something from the kitchen. The building our church is in was built back in the 60’s and the kitchen has some of the original cabinets and countertops. The moment I stepped foot in the room, I was in my Grandmother’s home in West Covina, California. That room smelled exactly like the small cozy home I would visit once a year as a child. Suddenly my brain flooded with memories. I love that smells can do that. Smells and songs and outfits and movies and tastes. I love the consequences of sentiment. The memory lanes we walk down. The involuntary smile that comes across your face as you remember.

_________________________________

Hand Knitted Colorful Blankets copy

The air was always crisper and the grass was a lot squishier there at my Grandmother’s house in West Covina, California. California had real grass, not the pokey crab grass we have here in Florida. It was a small house with big pink rose bushes in the front yard and it was just down the street from a small neighborhood playground I called “Barney Park”. My reasoning is not clear, as Barney the dinosaur was not the theme of the playground. Every year when we arrived she would come down the three front steps as quickly as her age allowed and hugged me up. She was my mam-maw (sometimes cute little kid names for things like “grandma” are difficult to spell).

Everything in her home was old – the white kitchen cabinets, the dark brown carpet, the curtains; her home was the epitome of a grandparent’s home. Shelves were filled with trinkets and old mugs (whenever we visited my mother would always use a white mug that said EGBOK in red letters. It stood for “everything’s gonna be o.k” and my grandmother won it from a radio contest. Now it sits in the china cabinet in my parent’s home). I thought her home was a museum full of wonders. In her kitchen she kept a chart of my height; little lines all up the side marking my growth and the passing of sweet time. Every morning she would cook up giant plates of crispy bacon because she thought I loved it. In reality I like bacon right in the middle – a little crisp and a little bendy. But I loved that she found such joy in doing something kind for me, so I never said anything. The sweetness won me over.

The room that my father had spent his childhood in was then filled with shelves and shelves of yarn and bingo stampers and porcelain dolls. From all that yarn she made me the most beautiful multicolored blanket, which I shall keep forever. Blankets made by your grandmother warm you twice.

IMG_6687

In the living room she would set up a TV tray and a 1970’s vanity stool that I thought was glamorous (which you can see in the background of this photo) and we’d eat chocolate ice cream cups together. But never on the coffee table. I wasn’t allowed to scratch her lovely coffee table. Her voice was raspy from far too many years of smoking and she called me “doll”. My grandmother was a sassy Italian and I am certain that if she were still alive we would be the best of friends and our sarcasm would be borderline offensive to others. She was so patient with me. While I am sure my parents would give her breaks from me on our visits, I just remember spending time with her. Sitting together and talking. Sometimes even talking a little too much. She did not realize that my parents had told me the story of my birth – that my mother could not have a baby so I was “outsourced”, but the day that I started talking about it, she figured it out. And she was horrified.

“Mam-maw, let’s talk.”

“Okay doll, you first.”

“Okay. Once upon a time, there were two people who wanted to have a baby. And they asked God to put a baby in the mommy’s tummy but he didn’t. So they got a baby from noonie’s tummy. And do you know who that baby was, mam-maw? ME!”

“…”

One of my favorite activities with her was playing Bingo. Not real Bingo, we would just sit at the dining room table for hours playing with her colorful bingo stampers. I would stamp pictures of trees and cars and Barney Park and all the while I believed that was how you played Bingo: you just painted things with the stampers. I can remember telling my friends at home about playing bingo with my mam-maw in California and I felt very adult about it.

She kept a bike for me in her garage: my own special bike with pink and purple shimmery ribbons. It was a grand event to pull it out on the first day of our visits. Every year the ribbons were more lovely than I had remembered. I would breath in the crisp air and ride my beautiful bike down the sidewalk to Barney Park and to this day I am certain those were the most peaceful and joyous moments I have ever had. Just being outside in the magical land of California with a pretty bike and a pretty grandmother.

Back home, I had a yellow California state magnet on our fridge and every time I saw it I thought of my mam-maw and my young heart would flutter thinking of the next time we would get to fly on the airplane to see my buddy. Because I would only see her once a year, she was like Christmas to me. Something special that I only got to savor for a short time. I loved my grandmother so very much. I still love my grandmother so very much. I love the son that she raised, I love the photographs of her I have, I love the last name that I share with her, I love every single memory I have of that woman. I shall never allow another person to call me “doll” – that term of endearment is forever hers and hers alone.

Throwback Thursday & How I Understood Nothing at the Age of Nine.

You know how radio stations play awesome throwbacks every so often? Real classic 1990’s jams? I love when this happens and I always turn it up, sing really badly really loudly (the only way I know how), and for two minutes remember all the times I sang said song with my bff’s on the way to Girl Scout meetings.

I’m sure you’ve also experienced listening to these throwbacks and suddenly realizing, “hmm… this song is incredibly dirty.” It’s just that now that we’re (sorta, somewhat) adults, a lot of these songs take on entirely new meanings — i.e., the meaning they were always intended to have but we didn’t get because we were 12. Frankly I’m really surprised at how much vulgarity I was hearing without noticing. Seriously like, so much. I know now that so many times when the radio was on my mother must have been praying, “please don’t let her notice what they’re saying. Or worse, ask me about it”.

These surprises aren’t even always vulgar and sexual — I loved Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin Jumpin without even knowing what an Armani suit was. Or why “ballas” with their “pockets full grown” were a desirable acquaintance to, um, acquire. Yet I sang the words and be-bopped along like I wasn’t a 12 year old white girl from the suburbs who wouldn’t have her first kiss for 5 more years and wouldn’t go out dancing for another 10.  I also didn’t get the song was more or less about cheating on your significant other. But I digress.

Tlc-noscubs2

A few nights ago as I was driving home from work I heard one of the most favorite throwbacks of all time — TLC’s No Scrubs. And I laughed. And laughed and laughed thinking of that little white girl singing along with this song. With this one, I didn’t just miss the meaning of it – I had NO IDEA what they were talking about. I would sing it with my friends because they were singing it but the whole time I was thinking, “I have no idea what I am saying. These are just strings of words that make zero sense to me based off of the environment and experiences I have thus far in my life encountered.” Plus I was 9 years old when that song came out and literally still played with Barbies.

Here is No Scrubs according to 9 year old me:

A scrub is a guy who thinks he’s fly 

[at that time in my life I could only assume  “fly” meant picked first for stuff in PE class. Epitome of popularity, yeah?]

And is also known as a buster

[a what?]

Always talkin’ about what he wants 
And just sits on his broke ass 

[on the radio this was edited, but I can remember the day a girl in the cafeteria told me “the a word” was in there and I was horrified]

So no, I don’t want your number (no) 
I don’t want to give you mine and (no) 

[my number was still my parents house number, so..]

I don’t want to meet you nowhere (no) 

[my mom would have to drive so that’d be weird. Also in my mind the only place you met people was the mall so that was always my mental image]

I don’t want none of your time and (no)
I don’t want no scrub 

[still not sure what “scrub” is]

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride

 [whoa. old enough to have a friend who drives? I can’t even]

Trying to holler at me 

[literally I assumed this meant he was picking on her to pretend he didn’t like her. Because that’s what was up in elementary school]

I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me

But a scrub is checkin’ me 
But his game is kinda weak 

[is he bad at sports? we have that in common]

And I know that he cannot approach me 

Cuz I’m lookin’ like class and he’s lookin’ like trash

[Hey hey, nice to know my outfit from Walmart looks classy]

Can’t get wit’ no deadbeat ass 

[two scandals in one song? I can’t bear the thought]

Frankly, I like my interpretation a little better. It’s about a boy who thought he was popular but wasn’t really. He hangs out with people who are much older than he is, since they’re driving and all, and tries to pick on girls to get them to like him. Usually by shouting and hollering, even though that’s incredibly impolite. But homegirls are lookin’ good in their Walmart sneakers and that gives them the courage to say, “no way am I going to ask my mom to take me to the mall to hang out with you!”

My Biggest Disappointment.

Children don’t understand disappointment. That’s why the “terrible twos” exist — toddlers finally become aware of the fact that sometimes the answer is no. And they hear this irritating “no” word for many reasons. Sometimes they’re simply not allowed to do something (the sweet little that I currently nanny tries every night to drink the bath water in which he pees and sometimes poops so that just doesn’t fly because gross). Sometimes they’re told no because they don’t know how to do something and attempting said activity would result in pain and or suffering (he also for some reason thinks he can climb a 10ft high rock wall at the playground despite the fact that he can’t walk up steps without clinging to my fingers). And honestly sometimes they’re told no because what ever thing they want to do is just annoying (technically there’s no reason my little can’t play drums on pots and pans, except that I hate it). And so, because their little brains are figuring out that “no” is an answer that happens sometimes, they freak out. Freak out.

Disappointment.

Teenagers face a lot of disappointment, too. Crushes don’t like you back because you’re weird, prom isn’t actually all that fun, the kids that you go to high school with are mean and will steal your chair (honestly I will never get over this: I always arrived first to my video class because who was I going to socialize with in the hall? My mom wasn’t at school with me so…? So I get there first and I put my bag on one of the few coveted chairs in the class with wheels. I go to to the bathroom. I come back. My things are on the dirty, dusty floor and some lunkhead is sitting in my chair) (high schoolers are the meanest people on the planet) (recently on facebook I saw the guy who stole it tagged in a picture with one of my facebook friends and I still glared at him like this:

Image

I think it’s also a little bit disappointing, but maybe also a teeny bit relieving, to learn that high school is nothing like any high school depicted in any movie or tv show in the history of the world. Freddie Prinze Jr. is not there getting dared by Paul Walker to take you on a date. Honestly I could have been one the gawky girls considered for that dare, so that would have worked out really well for me. Disappointment.

And then adulthood is just like WHOA OKAY HOLD ON A SECOND WITH THE DISAPPOINTMENTS. Because paying for college is hard and hunting for car insurance stinks. When you’re 13 everything about being in your mid 20’s seems amazing. I can specifically remember being driven to the mall with my BFF and imaging how cool being able to drive ourselves to the mall would be. We’d shop and buy cool grown up clothes at Wet Seal (punch me) and probably totally have boyfriends. Because that’s what I thought being older meant. You got to drive yourself to the mall and have a boyfriend. But actually it means you have to buy your own groceries. And do things like google houses for rent for hours and hours because you’re poor and everything is out of your price range. Tomorrow is my birthday and it occurred to me today that if I want a birthday cake, I have to make it myself. Because I don’t live with my parents anymore. When you’re an adult you have to be in charge of your own birthday cake – how tragic is that? Then there’s realizing your dream job isn’t a real thing, or doesn’t actually pay anything. Or realizing that you have no idea what your dream job is. You get to watch everyone on your facebook feed reach all these milestones like getting married and having babies and graduating grad school and buying a new car because they know how to do things like that. And you’re just like, I CAN’T EVEN GET CONTROL OF MY HAIR. HOW ARE YOU ALL HANDLING LIFE. Disappointment.

Like you, I have had my fair share of disappointment. I wasn’t magically awesome at cooking like I figured for some reason I should have been. I had friends move away when I was younger. I liked boys who didn’t know my name. I didn’t get parts in plays or picked first for teams. Plus there was that bull crap with the stolen chair.

But my biggest disappointment came in the second grade.

It was the day I went ice skating for the first time.

You see, I loved watching ice skating. My dad would record competitions for me and I would watch them over and over and over again, dancing around the living room in sparkly leotards imaging I was them and it was me the judges were commending. In my mind I WAS ice skating – my mom says that you could tell I was feeling the wind blow on my face as I “glided” around our living room. When we got white tile throughout the house I was elated – my ice rink was complete. I had pink leotards, white ones, purple ones. My favorite one was given to me on a birthday — it was deep pink with hearts outlined in sparkles around the top. It had a skirt that twirled every time I moved and I loved wearing that leotard more than I liked breathing. I’m not sure when my obsession with ice skating began, but it was a very long love affair.

All those years were spent off the ice, however. I grew up in Florida so ice rinks weren’t really a thing. There was one 30 minutes away, but it wasn’t really what all the barefoot, sun kissed Florida kids did every weekend. But I remember the day my mom said we were going to drive to the rink and get an ice skating lesson. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach, I had eagles. And on their backs they carried other eagles who were SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED they couldn’t fly on their own. I’m sure I tried wearing my leotard but my mom convinced me to dress more practically.

We get to the rink, I get fitted in my ice skates and am convinced that these are the shoes I will be wearing the rest of my life. The instructor is nice and there are a few other kids my age all anxious to learn how to skate. I’m stoked. The instructor tells us several times that it is absolutely 100% no problem if we fall — we’re low to the ground, it won’t hurt badly, everyone falls when they learn, just get back up and keep trying! But there’s a problem. I had, and still have, an incredible fear of falling. Not like of heights or anything like that, just falling and getting hurt.

We get out on the ice and there, RIGHT THERE, is where I find my world’s largest disappointment: ice is slippery. And ice skating is hard. 

I understood why the instructor mentioned falling so many times BECAUSE THIS CRAP IS SLIPPERY AND HOW IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO NOT FALL ON IT. I didn’t cling to the wall or anything, I moved around okay but everytime we did an exercise that required, you know, speeding up, or turning, or anything that wasn’t moving at a snails pace, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

I left the rink a defeated second grader. I told my mom I didn’t want to be an ice skater anymore. She explained that of course it was hard since it was my first time, everything is hard your first time. But “No,” I said “ice skating is hard.”

I guess that’s also the day I learned how incredibly passive I am. You know those people who are all like, OVER COME OBSTACLES! WORK HARD! IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT! I am not that person. Maybe I don’t have the right to complain about disappointments if I’m not willing to work past them. But I’m going to anyway. So sue me.