Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preceding Independence

Good morning, on this fine day just before we celebrate our independence!

I've been mulling over the events of the last few weeks, thinking I had to sum up or bring the grandmother topic to a close.

I decided not to. I have more good tales to tell, and she has more posts to star in, and there you have it.

But I will bring a tad of closure, by wishing her well off in the ether, well-situated on that lily pad in the sky, and well-accompanied by her loved ones gone before. Lily pad in the sky you say? You will see. She had a penchant for froggies - and it turned into a mass collection of hilarious proportions. Frog statuary, frog mug, frog lamp, stuffed frogs, singing frogs, dancing stripper frogs - oh my holy frog, that's a lot of frogs!

So when I stepped into the church for the funeral service, and saw the door hanger proclaiming "Welcome to my pad..." dangling from the casket... out came a giggly burst. A short-lived breath of lightness on a heavy day.

Cole & I stayed in Washington just 24 hours, and I have scenes of gathering from the day. (Will post later - technical difficulties have ensued.) My brothers and I slept under the same roof for the first time in many years, at the old house. (There's a story lurking there, and I'm your girl.)

Enjoy this sweet song, courtesy of Rick. He heard it in the car, while driving through Tennessee, and it reminded him of my memories of Gig...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guest Blog: what I've been doing, part 2,358

Whenever my Mommy is distracted I find a minute to fill you all in. On my life. She has many tales to tell - and I have one.
I have pulled off a couple winners today, and have done my best to go down in the record books.
See, it all came to me when I found Mommy showering. So I got in there with her, in all my clothes. Then, when she got out, I didn't. Wouldn't. I listened to my voice echo, and I splashed around, and then I tried to poop. Only, I ratted myself out by saying: "Mommmm! 'Ont poopoo in da show'r!" That really got her moving.
Then when she put my diaper on, I ran over to the kid's bathroom, since Mommmm was busy dressing.
You won't believe what I tried to flush. Even Mommm doesn't know - all she sees is that there is no water in dat potty, and I am not telling. The other thing she caught sight of in there was my masterpiece. If you dip a bathing suit in da potty, and then swing it around, water goes everywhere! Yahoo! I left it in there to float, 'cause it was Jadey's suit and she laughs at me.
The kids ratted me out that one, and then I got to spend some time alone in my crib.
Hangin' in my crib.
Just another day in my crib.
I got a good plan for when I get out. It involves juice and spit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

To say farewell

Joan Delores Harrell Nicholls
December 23, 1933 - June 16, 2010
She has come to peace now. The labor of breathing and lungs that failed her in the end have stopped their struggle. It doesn't matter that it was expected. There is still a hole in the family that is a mile wide. Our gathering place, our rallying point, our matriarch is gone. We are anchorless. Who will carry the memories and tell us where we have all come from? Who will unswaddle the new babies and tell us who they resemble? Small, weighty details worry my sleep and wear at my calm. I am at once relieved for her and longing for her.
I woke in the night from dreaming of the Holy Land. She once told me she had always wanted to go there. It was a singular moment of surprise for me - I could imagine no more peculiar utterance from her lips. She held her beliefs close - so close you would not realize they existed but for small remarks like this. I can appreciate that.
I will go to say farewell, though we said our goodbyes on the phone days ago. We will celebrate her and all that she has brought to us. I will call to her and wait quietly to feel her near. I will stand at her dresser and look at all of the baubles and jewels one last time.
And I will wear her ring all the way home.
(I'll be passing through Charlotte Friday night, riding to Wash. with Isaiah. A quick 3 day trip alone.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Adventures with Harry Librarian

I have not been a fan of our local library. We've lived in this suburb of Atlanta for almost 7 years, and for each of those years I have moaned about our shabby library. It is old and small and not well-appointed. The staff for these last years have been the usual library fare - older women with little humor. Some are grumpy, some are kindly, most are humorless. Add to that the signs hanging everywhere that tell children to be quiet - or they will be eaten... well. No fun that place.

But this year something spectacular happened. Someone hit a curve into the staffing department and hired a young male librarian. Harry Librarian, I call him. He is tall and bespectacled and like a grown-up Harry Potter. Hum along with me now - One of these things is not like the other... - and you will have Harry Librarian.

He is charming and bookish and helps me with all of my extensive library needs. His enthusiasm and kindness and c-u-t-e-n-e-s-s don't hurt a bit. Harry won my heart when he tossed an unexpected book recommendation my way, and it was a good read. (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - check it.)

So I have had this enjoyable library experience for several months now, and it has even progressed to the point where I stopped going there *after*the gym. Yeah. All because of Harry Librarian. A reader's gotta have a fresh shirt and some lip gloss on to go liberrying these days. I look forward to my library stops with a certain skip in my step these days.

Which catches you up to the current state of affairs. Cole reads nightly, and has been hassling me to get him some more books. Since he goes to bed willingly when he has fresh reading material, this became a pressing request - for both of us. Only, things have been rushed and busy and a library visit hadn't happened. Until now. But I could only fit it in after my dental visit.... in which I had my left jaw shot to h3ll with novocaine that took half a day to wear off.

I could not avoid a stop at the library, and believe me, I tried. Oh, the horror! Oh the absolute dangling of my numb jaw! I checked my face for signs of palsy, and then I quickly snuck in and chose a bagful of books for Cole. From behind the stacks, I scoped out the checkout situation. Harry Librarian was busy, and Old Lady Usual was free. I was in! Cue the Mission Impossible tune. I strode over to the desk just as Old Lady Usual suddenly walked to the back room, and Harry scooted over to my line. Oh. No. No-no-no. Not today. Not like this, Harry.

He greeted me with his usual grin, all set to discuss book referrals and anything current. I was only set to drool uncontrollably and smile with one half of my face. I held my jug-size jaw still and maintained a pleasant face for as long as I could. Which was until one of his remarks needed an answer. My hands flew up to cover the inevitable escape of drool and I stammered "I've just been to the dentist and I can't talk! See ya!" I gave him my best eye-twinkle from behind both hands.

Harry Librarian grinned in a surprised manner and said "No problem!" as I bolted for the door.

All my library fantasies were over. Harry Librarian had seen me on novocaine, and things would never be the same.

I may as well stroll in there with the whole brood and a sweaty tank top now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And the world, it keeps on turning

Greetings from the infinitely calmer side of B.
Calmer, in that I am channeling my zen, and knowing that all things happen in their season. And no matter what is going on that I *want* to focus on, that world of four chilluns just keeps on turning, and I keep on needing to be a part of it.
On the grandmother front, my grandmother's caregiver did a very sweet thing last Thursday. I had called when Gig was incoherent and not at all lucid. This is a new thing, a side effect of the pain medication, and her worsening condition. I think it must be very difficult for the family and friends that stop in to visit - only to find she does not recognize them. So, we did not speak, and I was... well, you know how I was last week. Then, twenty minutes later - the caregiver called me back unexpectedly to say that Gig was awake and aware. Her voice is rusty and unused, and she is not herself. But it was something. This time, when I told her Phoenix was being a Tasmanian devil, she found that interesting. I mull over these topics that spark her interest, as though they hold some key. Most likely they are only reflections of motherhood, and her interest in her grandbabies, but I hold them tightly. Tiny sparks of connection.
I told her stories of the day, and that when it was time to hang up she needed to say goodbye. I told her I could not just hang up without a goodbye, that it was tearing me up. Like an obedient child, she croaked "bye" when prompted. I am figuring out how to handle these phone calls, slowly but surely.

And on we turned, spinning through a weekend and a few days, and on into today which seems to be The Day the Wild Rumpus Began. And here comes the head Wild Thing right now. If I told you he is chasing the kids with a (soft) baseball bat, would you be surprised? Phoenix is Two with a vengeance. He is all wild and sweet and monstrous and soft. All the ironies of a two year old boy. He is honesty and denial rolled into heartbreaking cuteness. Summer is being good to him. His playmates are home, to be tortured and entertained in equal measure. His mama is there to save them from his wild love. Wild bat-wielding love.

I have been meaning to catch you up on a few stories, and I am committing to that today. I owe you a few, because I have recently decided to include non-family adventure stories. I use the word adventure loosely, as many may not consider a trip to the library an "adventure." Oh, it can be. Oh, yes. And so can the YMCA. As you will see, if you care to stick around this week. First up will be Harry Librarian. Coming soon...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pouring and waiting: A grandmother III

Hello friends.
I pour out this continuing saga to you, so that the weight of it will not pull me right down to the ground. I don't want to abuse your listening ears and yet... you are a help and a relief.
It hasn't escaped me that the early grieving for my grandmother is becoming tangled up in my little heart with losing my Dad.
I clearly see that before that time, I didn't know grieving and how it worked.
I clearly see now that I wish none of us ever had to learn.
As a dear friend told me back then, you wade through it - and the wading has begun. Wading and waiting.

I spoke with my grandmother last week. Spoke to her, would be more accurate. Her hands are now curled with disuse, and the phone was propped beside her ear. I talked, she listened. I think. I cried, she listened. A spark came from her over two things I said: I told her about Cole's almost-dirty joke last week, and she uttered a gravelly chuckle and said "Oh yeah..." like normal. She always loved a colorful joke. Then, towards the end of that painful (for me) phone call, I spoke to her about the memories I have been posting here. She was interested briefly, and then slipped away again. My brother visited her over the weekend, and said she looks peaceful. That is a comfort.
And in the spirit of food being all things comforting, I think of her again.

I am 12, and we are riding through the middle of nowhere, eastern Carolina style. Rural NC does "nowhere" unbelievably well. I have been given the exciting treat of a day spent alone with my grandparents, and we are driving out to Engelhard, NC for the Engelhard Seafood Festival. Anything that can be pulled out of the Sound, marshes or ocean will be on display for tasting. I am timid of strange foods, and laugh at my grandmother's mantra that she will eat anything that doesn't get her first. True. She samples her way down the country fest, from fried frog legs to the tasty popcorn shrimp. Fried. Most all of it, fried. Until we come to the shark samples. Definitely not fried. The chunks of meat with the silver-gray skin flipped around the steel bowl, as the vendor showed his wares. Gig reached for a chunk. I curled my lip. She teased and taunted me, and I relented to take a tiny bit. Just so I could say I did. But I drew the line at gator.
We meander our way down the street, watching the people and listening to the sounds. Hyde County people have a peculiar accent. (Said the girl from 40 miles away... :)) Truly, it is like a Cockney-Brit come to the South. With a little brine water thrown in for character. I listen to the strange voices as my grandparents visit with cousins and family friends. I browse through some tee shirt racks, and my grandmother joins me. She chooses a festival shirt in palest pink for me. I smile and do not tell her that I do not often wear pink. We enjoy the day and then relax in the van as the evening rolls in. We head home. I, in my freshly-donned pink shirt, stretch out on the floor behind the captain's chairs in the front. I sing softly as I listen to them chat. They grow quiet and I sing louder. I am suddenly singing for them, a church song that is my favorite. I do not sing for people, I do not wear pink, and I do not eat shark. This day is otherworldly in my shy eyes.
I finish my sudden opus and it grows quiet in the dark van. We hear night sounds through the open windows.
"That was real nice, Beth-honey," she says quietly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is cuter...

...than a boy falling asleep after lunch?

The verdict is in, and it should come as no surprise to you, friends. We have called him Mr. Big, Trouble, Todzilla - and many other things for two years. We should have called a spade a spade.
Mama's Boy, is his name.
He is my shadow, he is my lover boy, he is always looking for mama. "Where Mama doe?"
"Oh, hi Mama," he says, after we have been parted for 2 minutes. He runs to me like a little wild thing, takes my hand in his left, and pops his little thumb in his mouth. He only sucks his thumb when he is holding a hand. Preferably, my hand. But after a small amount of convincing, Daddy's hand will do fine too. He runs to me throughout the day, stands close and takes a quick suck of his thumb, and a squeeze of mine. Like refilling his tank.
"Are you mama's boy?" I ask. He gazes up at me and just blinks, as if there is no need to answer. He is right.
Now he has the words for his possession. "That's MY Mama! Doe 'way!" And the bigger ones giggle: "Heehee, he thinks you are HIS." He giggles back, thinking they agree.
"Come hold my hand," I say, "this one is yours."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let your plague flag fly

Does this seem like deja vu? Summertime sickness?
It is here, but only (only!) two have been stricken. I am certain of one thing - Todzilla has no plans for nursing as a career. He has tortured the two sickies by jumping on them (Stop! Their tummies are sick! Nooooooooo!), hitting them with toys, playing loud musical books right by their ears, and - worst of all - standing right by their sensitive noses with a load in his pants. The horror!
We are surviving, and C & J show signs of improvement today.

Thank you for your sweet comments and emails about my grandmother. I hope to share more favorite memories, as we pass through this time. As she would say, this getting old stuff is for the birds.

In the meantime, we find temporary relief in notable quotables from my crew. Today's quote comes from Cole, and it went something like this:

Cole, trotting downstairs with a friend this week: There once was a genie with a 6 foot weenie, and he took it to the girl next door...
Me: Cole! That's inappropriate!
Cole: Whaaat?!!
Me: Stop kidding. You know why, and I don't want the little kids repeating that.
Cole: What?! Whaddya mean??
Me, leveling a look at him: You know what I mean.
Cole: Mom, it doesn't mean what you might be thinking, if you are thinking private parts. It's about a hot dog kind of weenie. And if it makes it any better, he can take it to the boy next door. It doesn't have to be a girl.
Me, giggling uncontrollably now: No, no, never mind, the girl part is fine. So... tell me, how does the rhyme end? (I HAD to ask!)
Cole: Oh, it goes like this - There once was a genie with a 6 foot weenie, and he took it to the girl next door. She thought it was a snake, so she hit it with a rake, and now it's one foot four...

You're welcome. You and your inner child. There's a place in France...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A grandmother - II

I am thinking of her again, upon hearing that she is slipping away. "End-of-life" care, it is called. She will be kept comfortable. But she will barely realize that. We will continue to cry, and marvel at how quickly life's balance can tip from hanging in there, to sliding downhill.

I am sixteen, giddy about the prom. She is making my dress and pinning it to fit, adding detailed trim to the silver-sequin cocktail dress. I am awkward and unsure at this age, while she talks comfortably and then lapses into silence. Even in silence I am happy to sit with her. When I tire of the sewing sounds, I wander into her room. I peruse her jewelry and try on her rings, a long-time habit. She comes in and suggests a few pairs of earrings that might look nice. I tease that I am going to want this particular ring one day. She laughs and says I can pry them off of her when she's gone.

I am twenty, about to be a bride. She is sewing for me again, this time for my wedding. Tedious work, this is. Seed pearls, dozens of them. She sews them onto the bodice of my simple white gown, and I marvel at the shimmery expanse of them. For my wedding-day ensemble, "something old" comes from her jewelry box, and it is a pearl necklace. The one she wore for her own wedding. I touch it softly and savor the link between us. I gaze at the sepia photo of my grandparents on their wedding day, as it hangs above her dresser. They are so young and beautiful. So full of all the life that is about to stretch out before them.

I am twenty-two, and her hands are still nimble. She has been working on a quilt for me, as time and inspiration permit. Many colors of moire fabric, it has texture and sheen. When it is finally complete, I hang it over the footboard of our bed. She has put many hours of care and skill into this simple gesture. The quilt will move nine times with us, each time residing somewhere near to where I lay my head at night.

There are many ways to say I love you, but works of the hands speak silent volumes.

For A grandmother - 1, go here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

Step right on up!
See The Greatest Show on Earth! Get your ringside seats right here, right here little ones.
It's The Greatest Show on Earth!
Is it the circus?
Is it the carnival?

Mommy in the shower! Mommy getting dressed!
But running a close second for The Greatest Show on Earth is...
Mommy on the phone with an important call!

Step right up and get your seats now. But you'll have to wait in line behind my four. They are regulars. They have a second sense for when The Greatest Show will begin, and they are never late. Are yours?

Summer Indecision

Many many things happened last week that would have been entertaining to someone, somewhere. Surely. I would show you photo proof of Interesting Things, but I am having a month (or three) of indecision.

Remember way back when I said R. gave me a new camera for my birthday? Well. I have filled one sd card... and I am on my way to filling another - because rather than make a photo storage decision, doesn't everyone just keep buying memory cards?! My computer has Vista, which I dearly detest, and which causes it to have problems. Aided by a virus, that somehow got through the layers of protection I have carefully paid for.


So I have avoided making a decision on what to do, and meanwhile, kept my beautiful new pictures locked up in the camera. This causes R. no end of frustration. Indecision, indecision!

The indecision started when I learned the cost to repair the computer. Then, I wore a cute new dress upon returning to the tech desk, and the guy started telling me all sorts of ways I could repar this on my own. You know I love a techie challenge... and I also love my new "get stuff free" dress. (Seriously - I was about to pay $200 to have this thing repaired, before I wore the dress there, and he started spilling his techie guts about how I could easily handle the repair at home! No Lie!)

And yet I am frozen! Unable to effect a system restore!


Let's move on to the results of my girl's night out at the painting place last week. This was really fun, and we will be repeating this treat. The owner has paintings all over the walls, and you choose which one you would like to emulate - isn't that nicer than copy?- and she puts the paint colors on your palette, gives you 10 seconds of instructions, and you're off! She then passes by every 15 minutes or so, offering encouragement and tips. There is as much help, or as little, as you may need - and that is fun! I chose only a little help, 'cause I'm risky that way. I chose trees 'cause I'm predictable that way. (Remind me to show you another tree necklace that R. gave me last week. If I counted the tree-themed jewelry and home decor, you would be a little surprised - and looking around at the tree prints in view from where I am sitting right now, so would I.)

Without further ado, I give you... oh did I mention this place is BYOB? It is. Bear in mind.
And I'll return later in the week. Probably with more trees.