August 24, 2012

Across the Way

My youngest son started Kindergarten this year. Kindergarten is the start of many new things, but one significant thing in particular is that Mom doesn't walk her "baby" to class any more.

I ease up the hill in the car and back down the other side to wait in line with a gazillion other parents who wait sometimes patiently, sometimes not. The boys like to go early so they can eat breakfast at school, mostly because of the chocolate milk they don't always get at home.

We sit in line, facing the sun and I watch the dispatching of various sized children in various styles of clothing. I like watching how the parents and grandparents send the kids off. Some drop off and drive away. Some open the doors and help the kids out. Sometimes there is hugging and kissing and sometimes not.

For the last two years I've dropped my oldest son off here and he doesn't want the hugging and kissing. He slides out of the car and trudges off, never looking back even though I wave vigorously out the window like I'm a tourist heading off on an exciting cruise vacation. My other son would yell from the back seat, "Bye Brubby!" And then we'd drive to his school building where he'd hang on to the back of my shirt until two teachers wrestle him down so I can make my escape.

But on this particular day, this first day of dropping him off it will be different.  I don't know how it will be, but I know it will be different.  I glance over my shoulder to see if he seems concerned or excited. He seems neither, merely interested.

"I'm just dropping you off today. You'll go up to the cafeteria with your brother. You okay with that?"

A flicker of worry crosses his face and he nods. He puts his head down and looks up at me from under his beautiful black lashes.

"You'll be fine," I remind him. "This is an exciting day!"  I wonder for a second who I'm trying harder to convince, me or him.

Under my breath I say, "You'll take him up, right? You'll walk him in to the cafeteria and show him what to do? You'll stay with him until someone takes charge of him. You will, right?"

My oldest boy nods, not looking at me. "I will."

We sit in silence while the car rolls ahead a few feet as another car pulls away.

At the front finally, I ask, "Do you want to just get out or do you want a goodbye hug?"

"Will you hug me?"

"Of course, Sugar Face. How could I not hug you?"

I got out on the driver's side and he got out on the passenger's side. I thought about the long line of cars behind me and how they were waiting for me to move along so it would be their turn. I quickly dashed around the front of the car, but my youngest had already moved around the back to the other side. I turned and ran the other way thinking how ridiculous it now seemed to be chasing this child around the car for a hug. I imagined foot-tapping and sighing.

When we finally met up on the other side of the car I wrapped my arms around him, half of his mass a too-big backpack that crinkled noisily as I squeezed him to me. I straightened and smoothed his hair, my hands moving down to cup his cheeks. "I love you and I want you to have a GREAT day, okay?"

"Kissy me."

I thought of the cars waiting. Waiting.  I smiled and decided I didn't care how long they waited. I bent down to kiss his cheek and he kissed mine, pressing hard into my face.  He smiled and turned to walk with his big brother up the stairs and I turned to smile at the car behind me by way of polite apology.

Across the way a man sat in his truck with his son. He had a certain look on his face, the look I imagine I have when I watch something beautiful or moving, a sweet parent and child. His face was serene and he had a soft smile. Our eyes met and he nodded. I smiled and nodded back. His look said, "Take all the time you need because what you're doing is the most important thing you'll do all day."

And, as it turns out, it was.

August 21, 2012

What Women Want, Spilling the Secrets of the Sisterhood

It's election time and inevitably women's rights are always served up on the political table. It has started me thinking about what it is women want.

It seems like men are always trying to figure it out, as if women are complicated.  Maybe it's because I'm a woman -- but it doesn't seem complicated to me.  I will admit women are more demonstrative so we sometimes express ourselves openly, maybe more openly than men who have been socialized not to express themselves in certain ways. (Which I think is unfortunate and repressive.)  I don't think we feel our feelings bigger or stronger, we've just not been conditioned to restrain ourselves in any gender-specified way.

What We Want

Love. We want to be loved. Cherished. Valued. We want to feel, now and again, like the sun rises and sets on us. Even if it's just for a moment. Like right after we do the dishes. Or while we brush our teeth while you're using up all the hot water. Or in that moment before we take our last conscious breath before we drift off to sleep.

Beauty. We want to feel beautiful, desired. We aren't always. And beauty is relative. But in some way, to some one we are beautiful. If you are that person, we'd love to know you think that.  Perhaps in our daily lives, in the grind of minutia we can't identify those moments easily. But if you see that glimpse it's okay to say something about it. It doesn't obligate you beyond that moment. It's not foreplay. It's not an apology for being a jerk yesterday. It's not an admission or giving ground. It's you seeing us and we dig that. (See also: any love sonnet by Pablo Neruda)

Security. We want to feel safe. We want to have room to spread our wings and be confident.  We love solid ground. We want to trust and be open.  We want to tell you secrets and dreams and know you won't laugh.  We can kill our own spiders because we are grown-up girls, but it's sort of really cool if you kill them for us.  Sometimes that even seems sexy and brave.

Sex. We want sex. Various kinds. Definitely we differ in this regard. Apparently a lot of us are intrigued by Fifty Shades of Grey. When my own book came out my mother chastised me for the little bit of sexy stuff that was in there (which was minimal) and said I shouldn't be so base, that women want "princess sex."  I have no idea what "princess sex" is and I can tell you right now if I ever wanted that in my life I definitely do not want it now. Ever. Simply because that phrase came out of my mother's mouth. Learn about our bodies, ask questions, try things, get suggestions. Don't be afraid. And certainly don't apologize for wanting it too. (See also: Jaiya)

Men. (Lesbians, this is the only paragraph that probably won't work for you. You can skip it or white it out and write in your own stuff here.) We want men that act like men even when we tell you we want you to be sensitive and nice and caring and all that other stuff.  You can still do those things and be men. Don't let us convince you otherwise. If we wanted women we'd be with women.  And, well, some of us are. And that's no reflection on you. (See also: The Art of Manliness)

Respect. We are not vessels to be filled, nor are we baby-making machines. We are not less than you. We are not better than you. We are sometimes different, but in a lot of ways we are the same. We want your insides to relate to our insides on a deep soul level. And sometimes we just want you to help us unload the dishwasher and talk about what movie we'll watch tonight. Please don't belittle us, ridicule us or derride us because we are just as important to the running of the world as you are.

The Caveat

There are women in the world who are not nice. They are greedy. They are bitches. They don't care about you. They are in it for themselves. They will not take care of you when you are puking in the toilet. They will berate you into keeping a job you hate because it gives you a bigger paycheck. I could go on, but you know those women. Those women are not us and those women are not for you.  Those women are for the dickhead men who deserve them, the men that are not you.  Run. Run from them like your life depends on it. Because it does. Those raging zombie brain-eating women will suck out your life force and leave you lying in the dirt like a dessicated husk of former man-meat that is good for little but being bitter for the really nice woman who follows in her attractive perfume-scented wake.

What Men Want

The joke around the water cooler is that men want sex and beer and TV and that it's silly to make it any more complicated than that. I could be wrong, but I think our lists aren't that much different.

What Else Do You Want?

Add to my list.  Leave me a comment (men and women) and add anything I've missed!

August 14, 2012

I Wrote a Book

Over the last year, I have been mostly-stealthily writing a book. A real live book with pages and a cover and a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end.  A novel.

I wrote a book.

I sort of feel like I have to keep repeating that sentence over and over because sometimes it doesn't seem real, even when I have an actual copy in my hands.

I wrote a book. But not without help.

Even though not very many people knew I was working on it, I was fortunate to have some good people in my corner of the ring.

In particular, my friend and crit-partner Stephen Parrish has my undying gratitude because he pushed and nudged and encouraged and cajoled and rolled his eyes when I was being ridiculous. And he told me stuff stunk when it stunk. And he didn't listen to me when I complained that I was tired or that things were hard. He always knew that morning would bring a fresh attitude.

I wrote a book that people read tirelessly. (And sometimes, I'm sure, tiredly.)

Fellow writers, friends, family members read the book in various drafts. And other friends offered expertise in other aspects. It's a better book because of their honesty and openness. Blowing kisses to Bee, Erica, Ginny, Jennifer, Lunaea, Sarah, Shannon, and Steph.

I wrote a book that looks and sounds like this:

Kate Pearson heads west from Arkansas in an old jalopy with two parakeets, a job offer and a half-baked plan: Dreamboat celebrity chef Warren Hoffman has offered Kate a job – and himself – if she will relocate to Oxnard, California. The catch? Kate soon discovers Warren has a Big Secret. And that he’s possibly crazy.

During her journey, Kate stumbles into the lair of paranoid militants calling themselves the League for the Suppression of Celery. When they learn her destination is Oxnard -- celery capital of the world -- they stop at nothing to indoctrinate her into their nefarious cult.

Her escape from the League sends her racing toward her happily-ever-after while being pursued by members of the League who want her back, and by the compelling new friend who inexplicably quits his job to travel across the country to find her.

I wrote a book.

And I plan on doing it again. And again. And again.


August 10, 2012

The Box from the Dead

It arrived on the ample hip of a woman I call my sister, only she isn't my sister.

The box had the flaps closed at the top and a small hole cut to let the neck of an old timey, glass gallon jug poke through.

"Here you go," she said plunking the large box on my desk sending a stack of files teetering into an avalanche which I stopped by flinging myself on top of it.

"Not there, maybe. Maybe there." I pointed. My face felt tight and frowny as I indicated a desk across the room.

"That's it then?" I felt like I needed to add something to fill the space around us.


Not much of a space filler, it turns out.

My not-sister swooped out as suddenly as she swooped in and left me here alone. The box sits on the desk across the room like it's waiting for me to do something.

I have no idea what to do with it.

Inside is a jug of mead my father made. My father who died 12 years ago. My father who has attached to him a laundry list of disappointments that flap behind him like a ragged kite's tale. In my past he reeks of ideaphoria as he sits in his recliner with his Mother Earth News -- draped in dreams of muscadine orchards and fancy chickens that lay colored eggs and, maybe, the sour taint of memories of late-night poker games in Vietnam.

Except suddenly he has become this box that's sitting across the room waiting for me to do something. And I find myself discomfitted by its proximity which is closer to me than he was in the last 26 estranged years, the last 12 of which he has spent being dead.

I focus on the mechanics of mead, how it's made, how long it lasts. I imagine him brewing it, tasting it. The honey it was made from originated in hives he lovingly tended, bees more present in his life than the trail of three children left behind like bread crumbs leading to a place he'd never return.

Gently he lifts the lid of the hive. I hear them singing. He smokes the hive. "It makes them calm," he explains. They drift, dozy, carrying on. A bee lands on my hand and I freeze. "Don't worry, they won't hurt you if you're careful with them." The bee walks along my hand, the delicate whisper of its tracks on my arm make me fall in love with it, with the miracle of what such a small thing can do.

I cross the room to the box and open it. It smells musty and I wonder where it's been this whole time. Across the top is the name of my aunt in my father's handwriting. Red ballpoint pen.

Inside the box, large pieces of yellow foam fill the open space and I crook my finger through the loop handle of the jug and pull it up. It's covered with dust and cobwebs, an unearthed relic from a reluctantly-revealed past.

I tip the bottle and amber liquid flows, the color heavy. I wonder if it's drinkable. I remember reading about meads discovered in old cellars and ruins.

I want it. I don't want it.

I leave the jug and return to my seat across the room.  Sunlight passes through the blinds, stretches across the desk and wraps around the glass, light filtering through, casting gold reflections, revealing nothing.