Charming New Lullaby First Sung By Witch!

My Grandma M. was the perfect white-person grandma straight out of storybooks: Baby-powder skin, silver hair, blue eyes, soft voice, gentle hands. But I used to be afraid of Grandma M.’s hands.

Scary Hand Shadows Approaching Bed

“No, That’s Okay. I Don’t Need To Be Tucked In.”

Grandma M. came to live with us for a while. My mom squeezed a third twin bed along with the two my younger sister Meg and and I already had in our one-person bedroom, somehow fitting it in along with our dressers and nightstands. Grandma had to share part-drawers with each of us.

Macy Girl, our big sister, had a HUGE room on the ground floor entirely to herself–the master bedroom, actually. No need for Grandma to climb two flights of stairs, or to share a bathroom with five other people. But make Macy Girl share?

It was a bit of a culture shock on both sides, living with Grandma, because Meggy and I were not neat, soft-spoken, dress-wearing little girls. However, Grandma knew we loved her, and we knew she loved us.

Starbaby in Pink

Some People and Things Are Just Instantly Lovable

The best part about Grandma coming to live with us was that she tucked Meggy and me in at night. We dimestore daughters weren’t used to that. It was wonderful being coddled and fussed over. Grandma would pull up our bedclothes with her old, wrinkled hands and very gently tuck the blankets around us.

On Grandma’s hands, the bones and tendons stood out, and you could see every blue vein. No wonder, at first, I was scared of her hands:

Images of old women, or even just parts of them–drooping noses, lined lips, sagging breasts, veiny hands–are frequently used in stories and films to portray ugliness or evil. It is interesting, isn’t it, that images of old men aren’t typically used that way?

With hands in particular, advertisers and Disney have conditioned us from childhood to be inspired by confidence in an older man’s strong hands–even ropey ones (think of an aged sailor), but to turn away from old women’s “witch” hands.

One comedian says about old-woman hands:

Old-Woman Hands Crossed

“No WAY will they ever touch MY junk.”

I guess he intends to give up touching his own junk when his own hands look the same way. His junk will be very lonely. Peeing will be a b#tch. Ah–but he’ll be in grown-up Dydees by then. Bet he thinks THAT happens only to old women, too.

I Dont Always Wear Depends
 

I outgrew my first fears, and came to love Grandma’s gentle old hands. When I became a grown-up, I heard Gil Scott-Heron sing a lovely song called “Grandma’s Hands”, and it made me think of my own grandma’s hands ever afterward. If you listen to it at the bottom of this post, you will know exactly how I felt.

My hands began to look like my Grandma’s hands when I was quite young–perhaps because of my diseases. Thanks to “Grandma’s Hands”, I have always been proud of my strong-looking hands.

F#ck Disney.

Fuck Disney By Ariel

“They Told Me To Keep MY Big ‘Man Hands’ Hidden During Filming!”


 

After Grandma M. tucked us in at night with her strong, gentle hands, she would sing the Starbaby song to us in her crackly, trembly old-woman voice. She sounded beautiful.

When I had my own children, I sang the Starbaby song to them, too.

And that is how I’m going to end this post.

I love you, Grandma.
 


 

If you couldn’t understand my nervous voice, here are the words the way my Grandma sang them to me:

There was a star baby way up in the sky;
Grew tired and hungry and started to cry:

“Oh Mama, Dear Mama, I’m sleepy,” it said,
“Please bring me my supper, and put me to bed.”

Away went the star mother on wings of true love,
To the bonny bright Dipper that sparkles above,

She took it and hurried to the Milky Way stream,
Where brimful she filled it with rich milk and cream.

She fed the star baby with cunning and croon;
And rocked the star cradle:

The shiny new moon.
 

 
Song written by Bill Withers
 
SEXIST AGEISM ADDENDUM

Gentle hands;
Why then the fear?
What twisted culture
Have we here?

Don’t hate the gay,
Brown, fat, or fem,
But old and female?
Cool. Hate THEM.
 
UN-F#CK DISNEY ADDENDUM

Um…Guys? I love Disney. Little Mermaid is one of my favorites. I just get a little carried away when I’m up on one of my soapboxes, spitting into the online sea (that almost sound familiar, don’t it?).

There are plenty of things Disney has done that I despise–like pricing their parks beyond reach of yours truly, who used to go at least twice a year–but the eff-them sentiments expressed herein apply only to Disney’s sexist ageism.
 

12 Comments

Filed under memoir-serious, sweeter

I Like Good Skunk and I Cannot Lie

Ah, for the funk,
Of the odorous skunk,
Willowing ‘cross the land,

While you pinch your nose,
And rush windows to close,
I waft it near with my hand.

Pepe Le Pew Smells Terrific

Mes Oui! Il Est L’Odeur For Me!

If you suffer from asthma,
It’s a helpful miasma;
When a child, I had asthma, and so:

While skunk smell may be strong,
To adore it’s not wrong:

Woman Holding Nose
Do not scorn me for stinking solo.
 

I was very kindly nominated for a Liebster Award by A.D. Martin some time back. (Thank you most kindly :) .)   At last, I am answering the questions that accompanied the award:
 

1. What are your favorite smells?

You mean, beSIDES skunk?
Gasoline, fallen leaves, dirt, either dry or damp.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

Scents from flowers: Roses, lilacs, iris, and carnation.
Scents from bottles: Freesia and jasmine.

Jasmine Flower

Perfumes on other women: Rose, and Chanel No. 5.
Perfumes on me: Calvin Klein’s Obsession.

Places on men: Necks with or without very light aftershave.
Underarms, with or without deodorant (but not after a long workday or workout, please).
 

2. What is your favorite sound?

“I think you’re the most creative, funny, interesting, talented, and beautiful woman I’ve ever met or could hope to meet in this lifetime.”

Bonus if said by a man whom I find funny, interesting, intelligent, and physically appealing on some level.

But, since I’ve never heard anything like that, said by anyone like that, I choose birdsong:

 

Runner-up? Fallen leaves:

 

3. What is your favorite fruit?

Raspberries, as long as they’re atop crème brulee.

Creme Brulee With Raspberries

Naturally Gluten-Free!

Strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, apples. The latter with or without peanut butter or cheese.
 

4. Do you have a green thumb?

Definitely. As long as what I plant is:

(1) a weed;
(2) a zucchini;
(3) an air plant.

I love flowers, so when I had a yard, I always stuck to easy southern Cal. stuff like agapanthus, hyacinth, and potato vine.

Agapanthus

Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile)


 

5. What is your favorite genre to read?

I don’t have a favorite genre, but do have a favorite content and style: I am thrilled with wit—especially wordplay or rapid-paced dialogue—and when I can also learn something, or am made to think, it’s a double-wow. So the genre may be anything: science/speculative fiction (David Brin, Neal Stephenson), or travelogue (Bill Bryson), or history (Sarah Vowell), or mystery/thriller (Josh Bazell, Matt Ruff)…
 

6. Any specific rules that you follow to the letter?

Yes. My one rule for life is, apparently, this: Follow the path of most resistance.
 

7. What is your hometown?

Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy City. Can’t find my way around it without a map, though. We left when I was five. Chicago has the best-planned art museum ever. Fantastic place. All pieces well-lit and displayed.

Current hometown? Mystery, AK.
 

8. Are you drinking enough water each day?

I believe so, in that there is visual and auditory evidence of locational transference (click pic for more):

Pitcher of Water Being Poured

9. Favorite social media platform?

I am not a participant in any, other than WordPress. I was really into Vine for a while, though, marked favorites and occasionally commented, and was quite surprised to see that although I had never posted a single Vine, I’d somehow gained a handful of Followers there!

10. Why have you chosen to blog?

Initially, I did not see blogging as a way to communicate with anyone but myself–a way to document and clarify my thoughts. I liked the short format it enforced (I began on Blogger.) Now, I’m grateful for the warm hearts and stimulating minds of the people I’ve met through WordPress.

I’m frustrated at your talented prolific posts. (I read only around 150 wpm, on paper. Onscreen, I suspect it’s half that. Many fonts, backgrounds, and layouts bother me.)

Passing the Torch

I’m now supposed to nominate several bloggers with few followers. How would one know, unless a blog’s Follower count appears on its homepage? Perhaps that’s the giveaway: If it ISN’T listed, probably not many? (THIS blog doesn’t list it ;) ).

So, I’ve chosen instead to highlight:
ONE (1) the blogger who let me know I’d been nominated, and
TWO (2) the brand-newest blogger on my block.

(1) A Soul is a Resilient Thing

I learned I’d been nominated via the wonderful Rebecca over at this site. Here is a sample of how she draws you in with her thoughtful examination of a seemingly simple idea:

(From http://asoulisaresilientthing.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/time-bomb/):
Time must be allowed to move organically. We cannot rush time. We have to encourage it to run its course and allow it the chance to collect information, memories, along the way. It is like walking a dog. There are people who pull their dog the entire way. Never pausing when it does. Never allowing it to sniff around. You see them. Yanking on the chain while the poor pup is mid-pee. Too busy fiddling with some device. Head down. They have no idea what is even taking place. Those are people who do not properly understand why a dog must be walked. It isn’t merely for the physical benefit. The most important part of that walk, apart from bonding time and socialization (or perhaps the need to expel), is the sniff. It is a mental workout for the dog.

(2) Straight From the Heart

And now, (drumroll, please) in-tro-ducing: YEMIE!! She JUST wrote her first post, and, as you will see, her personality leaps off the page, embraces you warmly like you’ve been friends forever, and then pulls you up and and makes you join her party dance! Here’s an excerpt from one of Yemie’s replies to an early Follower, giving a taste of the life in this girl:

“Whoa! Guess who’s come soo early to breakfast?! If it isn’t the delightful, most adorable one! Knock me over and out with a broomstick! *rolling my eyes* LMAO!”
 

Check out Yemie’s first post, and I bet you’ll be hooked.

 

ADD-SCENT-UMS:
 

HOW TO KILL SKUNK SMELL
(NOT WITH VINEGAR OR TOMATO JUICE)

Prepare to be surprised: The reason you think vinegar or tomato juice works is because your nose’s smellers are getting overloaded from the powerful skunk stink, and they just poop out and stop working! YOU can’t smell the stink any more, but if another person drives up to your house and walks in: WHOA!! So the site below will give you some ways to make the smell REALLY go away.

http://users.humboldt.edu/wfwood/deodorize.shtml

HOW TO GET RID OF WILD SKUNKS

http://users.humboldt.edu/wfwood/livingwskunks.html

baby skunks in basket

But Who Would Want To Get Rid of US?


 

21 Comments

Filed under memoir-funny

You All Need to Thank Me


My sister says I need an exorcism. That I should wear a GoPro strapped to my head and post my life to YouTube. That I would be my own grim reality show. My friend Joey says that is just silly. That of course the GoPro would stop working the minute it got close to me.

My life tends to run a mite…unlucky.

Unicorn-asus

Guess Who’s Beneath That Lifted Tail?

Yeah, everybody has bad luck, sure. Everybody thinks their problems are worse than everyone else’s.

Everybody who knows me for more than a few months learns that my problems really ARE worse. If not worse, definitely weirder. Here is just one of them:

I have been offline for almost two months.

First, my home connectivity and my laptop both failed on the same day.

*** (“That WAS unlucky.” “But not HUGE.”)

That could happen to anyone. But how often DOES it?

The internet I was able to get restored, although it took two weeks.

Here’s how the laptop replacement went:

Purple Bar

BRAND A

Tablet 1

Worked fine right out of the box. Fine enough to introduce me to Windows 8.

After being powered down, the tablet cogitated on the foul language I’d thrown at it during my Windows 8 exposure.

In revenge, the next morning it failed to power up.

*** (“That’s two strikes in a row.” “But you know stuff is made for sh#t now.”)

I’d always hated Brand A products anyway. What was I thinking?

Purple Bar

BRAND B

Tablet 2

Amazon lost the tablet in transit. But thanks to the tracking number, Amazon knows EXACTLY where it was right before it disappeared.

*** (“Okay, tell me she’s not unlucky.” “She’s just having a bad streak.”)

Tablet 3

Troubles right out of the box.

Contacted tech support, did what the engineer and I discussed.

Then, had Windows apply all the updates that had accumulated since the tablet’s O/S had been loaded.

The poor tablet was thrown into a tizzy by this, and hung.

Nothing would break the hang: Not death by Task Manager, not the three-fingered salute, and not my resting awhile on the power button.

I lay down and fell asleep at some point. When I awakened, the tablet was dead. Tech support determined it was a faulty device. Offered a choice: Their repair place, with 14 day turnaround, or back to Amazon.

I chose Amazon, and am still awaiting my refund.

*** (“What d’you say NOW?” “It DOES seem like she’s had more than her share of trouble…”)

Purple Bar

INTERMISSION

At this point, even I, used to this sort of thing, needed to take a breather and check myself. I consulted my go-to guide to make sure I was following all the recommended steps:

Unlucky Guide

Never Make a Move Without It

Tablet 4

Arrived crushed by FedEx. Luckily, I filmed the opening of the outside carton, documenting that the inside box was also crushed.

*** (“Ready to concede?” “It DOES seem a bit much…”)

While repacking for shipping back to Amazon, I discovered that the inside tablet box, besides being crushed, had been opened and then resealed.

I don’t know if I shipped back a refurbished device sold as new, or if a light-fingered FedEx employee had seen an opportunity and taken it when the box sprang open.

I could have been shipping back a brick, for all I know.

At this point, my powerful aura of permanent bad luck overcame even a large corporation like Brand B.

They publicly announced their withdrawal from the tablet market.

I’m sorry, Brand B! I didn’t do it on purpose!

Purple Bar

BRAND C

Non-Tablet 5

I gave up on the whole tablet idea and bought a bottom-of-the-line laptop from the local big-box store.

HATED it. Worst touchpad ever, and no touchscreen.

*** (“This one doesn’t count, does it?” “No. She was just a dumb#ss here.”)

Purple Bar

BRAND D

Tablet 6

The keyboard arrived immediately. All on its lonesome.

The tablet arrived over two weeks later.

Without its power supply.

A few days after pointing this out to the Brand D folk, my specialized not-just-any-generic-AC adapter-will-do arrived.

But not its plug.

*** (“TELL me you believe her NOW!” “Okay, OKAY–I’m CONVINCED!!”)

This is Your Life Asphalt

What D’Ya’ Think of THIS For My Show’s Title”: “LIVIN’ THE ROADKILL LIFE”? Would Anyone Tune In to Watch An Unending Stream of This stuff?

 On Halloween, the first full day I got to use my new tablet and its new plug, I contacted Brand D to make a special request:

“May I please have an extension on the normal trial period for the device, seeing that you shipped the keyboard weeks ahead of the tablet, and the power supply a week after the tablet?

I’ve had only a day to test the device, and tomorrow the keyboard trial period expires.”

Here is the answer of a young man named Uttan:

“Absolutely NOT. How long does it take you to test out the device, anyway?!”

Purple Bar

BRAND E

You understand, don’t you?

You understand why, as soon as I got off the phone with Uttan, I ordered my seventh device from Brand E?

And then got back on the phone with Uttan’s company to arrange the return of their device?
Now, perhaps this is just your typical everyday luck of your typical everyday person. But I am thinking that the rest of you, whose lives don’t run in this direction, have an awful lot to thank me for.

I suck the worst of the worst in my direction, and enable your luckiest days.

You’re welcome!
Hey: Maybe if I hire someone ELSE to wear the GoPro and follow me around..?
(Dang it: Joey just said that if I did that, a bus would hit them. Sort of like “Final Destination: Outlier”.)

Final Destination Bus

Despite the Great Footage I’d Get, I Can’t Have That On My Conscience…

 I’ve missed you guys!

Tablet 7 is due Wednesday–wish me (atypical) luck! :)

 

35 Comments

Filed under memoir-funny

An Online Sea, No Fish for ME


Your online dating Profile ends with “Any other questions?” Golly! I’ve got LOTS! Don’t you?

1. Why does life gotta be so tough?

2. When are the boffins gonna come up with a cure for allergies so I can get a dog?

3. Why is it that people are snobby when it comes to foods? Like Jello: Many would never consider bringing a Jello dish to a potluck. Or spaghetti: So what that I cut instead of twirl–call the Pasta Police!

_______________________________________

I just know y’all have been a-wonderin’ how my online fishin’ has been goin’.

Womans Animated Gif of Disgust

Not Swimmingly. But You Have It Wrong: That’s THEM, Looking At ME.

Here are some of the letters I’ve been sending out. Maybe you can help me analyze what I’m doing wrong.

_______________________________________

Excellent profile, sir. But you live way east, and I’m way west…

It’s moot, anyhow. Per “Oh, Hey, Stupid!”®, you are both messier AND more logical than I–an off-putting combination. Even my supposedly-lesser logic can dope out that disorder is illogical. And I, sir, am logical to a perfectly logical degree ;) .

If you are truly even MORE logical than I, you are anal as sh#t. (See what I did there?)

Dis was fun, doe.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

(His interests: Flamenco, Belly Dancing)

So you belly dance AND do Flamenco? At the same time? That would be something to see. ;)

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

(His Ad:)

I like excellent Merlot,
And to walk in the rain;
I’m a member of MENSA,
I’ve a pretty smart brain.

Let’s make love in the mornings,
In the dunes of the cape;
I’m the love that you’ve looked for,
Write to me, and escape.

(My Response:)

I like cheap Mogen David,
And I’d rather stay dry,
Why does someone need MENSA,
To say “You’re a smart guy”?

At first light, I am achy,
I like sex in a bed, [usually ;) ]
We’re not matched well as lovers:
Choose a teen girl instead.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Not a flirt–don’t think we’re suited. Just wanted to stop to say that I am assuming those are your parents in that one photo, and really like that you included them here. You are a good boy :) .

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

We are a no-go (for one, I am deadly allergic to dogs, though I love ‘em–so stinkin’ unfair!–and what decent guy doesn’t own a dog, anyway?

D#mn, and you enjoy Scrabble, too. Can’t get ANYbody to play that any more…).

But enjoyed your Profile. Am betting you will get someone smart and fun, no prob. After all, I liked what you had to say ;).

Oh–how did I fall across you on “Tons o’ Tuna“®? Because even though my Profile says “No Pets”, the muckety-muck “Best Catches for YOU!” keeps showing me dog owners–just to rub my face in my petless pariah status.

Good luck fishing!

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

“…I can’t be with a religious person, please don’t bother contacting me if you believe in the tooth fairy, etc.”

Wow. What is it with many atheists today, going out of their way to slam those who believe in God? I just don’t get it.

I mean, it’s your Profile, and you get to say whatever you want–I’m a big believer in free speech.

I have no antipathy to atheists–used to be one myself–but I don’t understand taking an extra-big step to slam someone who believes differently than I do unless they are persecuting me–and definitely not all God-believers are persecuting all atheists–only a small minority appear to be obnoxious on the topic. Just saying.

Shall I pass this on to the Muslim community in case they want to issue a fatwah on your fanny for disrespecting Allah?

Or should I just tell the tooth fairy, so that none of your grandkids ever get any more under-the-pillow handouts? ; )

_______________________________________

Evil Tooth Fairy Drawing

You Don’t Want to Be On THAT Fairy’s Bad Side

_______________________________________

For a first date, you chose “Lunch”. WAY too much of a commitment.

What if you both decide in the first ten minutes you can’t stand the sight of each other? Sit silently through the meal? ?Yell “Doggie bags, STAT!”? Start flinging sushi rolls? Awk-ward…

I say, stick to Starbucks.

–O. Babe

P.S. You said there should be CAT parks?

Dogs are cool. It is cats that drool, figuratively speaking. Cats would not deign to stay within park boundaries if there were any children’s sandboxes nearby to cr#p in instead.

But of course you WOULD think cats cool. Isn’t that a cool-cat soul patch I see in your picture?

_______________________________________

Wow. What a wonderful writer you are, sir. And a lovely Profile you put together.

I was sailing along, thinking that, perhaps, this might be the first person on these tedious sites I’d be willing to meet, if the feeling were mutual–and then, I bumped up against your next-to-last sentence:

“You must have NEVER polluted your body with drugs.”

Wouldn’t you know it.

Haven’t touched an illegal substance since highschool until my last boyfriend offered me a toke.

Yup. I have inhaled on each on four separate occasions in the last year (although, who knows? My drug-addled brain may have clouded my tally memory).

So. I am crossed off your list.

You’ve definitely harshed my buzz(cut), Mr. Ex-Military.

_______________________________________

Not a flirt, just a comment–Yours is the first Profile I’ve seen that listed God as an interest. Nicely done, sir.

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

You don’t match all my criteria, but what the heck. At least you read… And at least one of us is perfect.
(yes…she’s kidding.)

And schizophrenic.
(yes…she really is kidding. again. just ignore the woman behind the lowercase.)

How ’bout, if you have any interest, you send me something that indicates there’s a hint of humor in you?
(but…he lives too d#mn far away.)

Shhh. When fishing in poor waters, one must cast one’s net wide. He READS.
(but.. but… what’s with the tiny picture?)

Yeah. What IS with only one tiny picture of you, and in Italy?

Are you trying to woo women by buying us with a trip to Italy? Exactly what kind of women are you fishing for, anyhow?
(psst: don’t tell him it will totally work for you)

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Not a flirt–we two aren’t suited–just stopping by to say that, so far, you have the BEST main pic of any guy on this site.

All these dudes saying how they enjoy life, or have a great sense of humor, but there you are, SHOWING us, laughing at a friend (or yourself), totally relaxed and looking like someone a good woman would want to be with. Yeah…THAT “with”.

The best of fishing luck to you!

–O. Babe

_______________________________________

Your Profile says only what your job is and that you spend at least two hours a day at the gym.

THAT’s your Profile? Dude, you didn’t even TRY.

–O. Babe

lol uhh why should I try, its pretty simple I work and I work out

(O…kay, then.)

_______________________________________

Dear Groucho,

A tie for funniest Profile I’ve ever read, and the other guy gets paid to write comedy.

I haven’t yet agreed to meet anyone, and was tempted in your case just to see if you could clip along like that, live. But that would be unfair–to tempt you with my own rapid-fire wit and stellar beauty–when you and I are doomed from ever attaining the perfect comic counterpoint.

For you, sir, have a CAT.

Blech. Blech blech.

Plus, I am damned allergic to the blech-y things.

Okay, there are one or two that aren’t QUITE so blech-y.

There was one Siamese I quite fell in love with, I’m gaining some fondness for Cornish Rexes, and, from an aesthetic viewpoint alone, I am enchanted by Russian Blues. (I can’t say how the cats feel about me. Most likely how they feel about all people: “Food? No? Next person…Food? No? Next person…”

Dogs, on the other hand, are entirely blech-less. (Other than Chihuahuas, a successful cross between rodents and insects.)

Huge fan of many dogs. Have even dated some (Ba-DUM-dum!).

Hope you find the kitty-kissin’ quick-quippin’ lovin’-lippin’ (that last one was an awful stretch, huh?) lady of your dreams.

–O-Babe

 
THAT dude wrote back! Too bad about his furry death-dealer.

 
ADDENDUM: REJECTIONS!!

Even with my more “straight” messages, ALL of my own overtures so far have been rejected. Men I was excited about writing to–those who are funny or witty, don’t own pets, and don’t live too far away–have rejected me. Even when the sites claimed those same men liked ME!

What the Heck Woman

Huh??

Their responses to my messages? Cold, dead silence–Except in two cases. Here is one of them:

Dear O. Babe,

Thanks for the kind words. No offense, but I didn’t see much humor in your blog–but to each his/her own, right?
Good luck in your search (and with your blogging, keep working on it).

 
ADDENDUM–IN ALL FAIRNESS

A few lovely men have written to ME. My simple criteria have not been met, or we were otherwise incompatible. A current possibility thinks me paranoid for not handing out my phone number until after I meet him. (Home address can be gotten with phone. There are nutters out there. Call me nuts, but I’d rather meet them before inviting them home.)
 

12 Comments

Filed under love, memoir, memoir-funny

Epitaph For Mean


Life was mean to Bernadine.

Bernadine on Lake Michigan

Bernadine’s mom did not understand children, nor, I think, like them.

 
Bernadines Mom
 

When she left for work each day, she locked little Bernadine into a room with the maid.

Happily, the maid had a skeleton key. Bernie and she would head for the shore of Lake Michigan and spend contented days there, returning before my grandmother.

At the age of nine, Bernadine was given the maid’s duties: She had to come home from school, dust every surface–including over doorframes–and then start dinner. When Grandma came home, she would run one white-gloved finger over a doorframe chosen at random.

Bernadine’s father hit my grandmother while she was pregnant with Bernie. My grandmother divorced him immediately and would never speak of him again. Bernie was frustrated ever afterward that she could learn no more about her father.

I liked Grandma’s second husband because he allowed me to pick out “boys” toys (a fun toy car and boat instead of stupid toy high heels), but Bernie said about him once “He was a real bastard.” She wouldn’t answer any questions about that comment.

I got the feeling something had happened with my grandfather that Bernie couldn’t talk about–or not talk about to her daughter. This may have been at least partly why, when Bernie turned fourteen years old, she secretly applied for, and studied hard for, a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in a different state. When she won it, she moved away from house with no regrets.

Up through college, Bernadine had good and close girlfriends. She married a man she was crazy about.

Bernadine Marriage Photo

They seemed to be very happy, wed six years before having children.

Her old friendships dropped away, somehow.

And she, an only child, wound up with four children under the age of eight and a husband who was gone sunup to sundown, or months overseas.

She moved from a single-culture neighborhood where everyone shared the same values (and raised each other’s children) to a multi-culture one where everyone got along–but HER family’s culture was seen as different.

Yet on her first day, all her new neighbors did come to welcome her:

“What kind of mother DOES that?! We’re going to call the POLICE!”

While busy unpacking, Bernie had put her toddler in the shaded front yard wearing a safety harness. It was looped to a clothesline run, like a dog’s.

That’s what moms did in her old neighborhood.

***

Bernie’s husband was an expert in the bully’s trick of chip-chip-chipping away at every sensitive issue repeatedly until it reaches the point that the victim snaps–for no reason, to anyone not in the know.

Bernie grew defensive and paranoid and full of temper at him and the world. She became an expert chipper in her own right.

Warren also interrupted Bernie constantly, and jumped to correct her in front of family and guests.

This is accepted (or not noticed) by listeners more when men do it to women than the reverse. Over the years, Bernie became frustrated by her lack of voice.

She sought an audience and temporary society among strangers, striking up conversations while out shopping. With Bernadine so reluctant to give up the floor she so rarely had, these brief exchanges evolved over time to monologues. Until her eyesight went, and Bernie gave up pleasure-trips, one could locate her in stores by looking in corners for her trapped, glazed-eyed prey.

Poor Bernadine had lupus, and an undiagnosed parathyroid problem that made her bad temper worse. I also believe that in the worst years of her yelling, menopause was a major contributor.

So, basically, the woman was working against a stacked deck.

Does that entirely excuse the abuse she inflicted? No.

***

This past week, Bernie was admitted to the E/R due to high potassium levels–an indicator of kidney failure–and died less than 12 hours later.

She was very good at Scrabble. When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with her.
She taught me the basic back-stitch in embroidery. We made a little teddy bear.
She told me once a new dress didn’t look bad on me like I thought it did. She said “I think it looks nice.”
She was an excellent cook. She made cookies for us.

You would not do that for children you only hated. Would you?

I have always been an orphan. If I cry at some point, it will be because my life and Bernadine’s life intersected in such a sad way. I do feel love for her–because the anger is gone about this: That she didn’t move past her hurt child to take adequate care of the children she was hurting. I hope she is healed at long last.

 
Now I Lay Me Embroidery SectionIf I Should Die Before I Wake
 

Epitaph For Mean

Life was mean to Bernadine,
So she began to pout;
And when she grew,
Although she knew,
She should not take it out,

By doing unto others,
What had been done to her,
She didn’t care;
It wasn’t fair;
(So few things in life were).

To her own children, Bernadine,
Herself became the child;
She falsely blamed;
She often shamed;
She yelled like someone wild.

Her own four tried to kill her;
(They thought they would be freed);
And yet at times,
Despite her crimes,
She’d give you what you’d need:

You’d be surprised by kindness,
She’d shock you with a smile,
(It shouldn’t be:
We all agree:
That these were rare was vile.)

No point; no point in poems;
For no more Bernadine;
She had we four,
To love… Adore–
Instead, she chose the mean.
 
Mommy Jekyll and Babe
 
Part 7 of a 7-part series that was posted daily. Following this, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.
 
ADDENDUM ON MENOPAUSE AND YELLING

I think my mom’s yelling was caused by the ‘pause because it happened to me. Once I got a hormone patch, my yelling ended. My own was never constant, and it lasted only a couple of years, but the harm had already been done. If you find yourself post-40 and screaming: 1. check hormones; 2. take drugs.
 

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Joyful Mommy Jekyll–Part 6

Every summer he was home, my male parent, Warren, would wake us all up at 4:00 AM and tell us we had ten minutes to get into the car. Getting in a car to go on vacation with Warren was hell.

Sometimes, though, he was away on business, and mom would drive us. Then, it was a whole different story. Every time one of us kids would go “Oooo, what’s that? I want to go there!” Mommy Jekyll would stop the car and let us.

White and Black Face Fuscia Border

We visited Jesse James town, Silver Dollar City, you name it. Every tourist trap that dotted the side of the road, our mom let us stop at. This was back in the day, before any of these places were built up and all looked alike. People would take their time and chat with children and answer all our questions.

We saw a man wrestle an alligator, a snake pop balloons with its pointy fangs, and a talking minah bird that had its tongue split because the owner thought that would help it to talk.

Alligator Wrestling

We bought little toy monkeys made out of real fur, that got real bugs in it after the monkeys sat in the hot car for days. We went inside a real mine that had an old, blind donkey for hauling, and we all got real quartz crystals.

One time, we spread our picnic blanket by the side of the highway and started eating our lunch. Then, we heard a sound I’d never heard before.

“What’s that?” we all asked mom.

Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake Ready to Strike

“Pick up your things quickly and come back over this way.” she answered, as she bundled our picnic up into the blanket. After we had backed up, she explained that it was a rattlesnake that didn’t like us being there. (Then we wanted to go back and see it, of course!)

Another time, it was raining so hard that no one could see the front hood of the car. Mom pulled over by the side of the road. The rain turned into hail bigger than Paul’s goggling eyes.

Hail and Rain While Driving

The balls made big crashing sounds on the car windshield. Our mom turned around over the front seat and smilingly asked “Isn’t this exciting?”

What a mom.

Mommy Jekyll was adventurous at home, too. Often, after church on Sunday, she would let us steer her. We’d tell her “Turn left here”, or “Go straight and then turn right up there”, and so forth, until we all wound up somewhere none of us had been before. Then, she’d slowly wend our way back along a different route, poking along to see if there was anything interesting to see.

Because we lived close to the border of northern New Jersey, farm country then, a lot of times these Sunday detours would take us next to a roadside fruit stand. Then we’d have the extra treat of eating fresh strawberries, or a perfect watermelon.

Roadside Fruit Stand

Ah, THOSE were the good old days.

Macy Girl recently pointed out that this aspect of our mom which I so enjoyed and viewed as something she did for our benefit may not have been done with us in mind at all. For when she was younger and in better shape, mom would take off on an annual solo road trip and wander at will, taking great pleasure in this.

Lone Woman Road Trip

(It is interesting and, to a degree, disconcerting to me, that I take after Mommy Jekyll in her wanderlust and lack of concern over travelling sans partner.)

It wasn’t only during travel that Mommy Jekyll appeared. For some unknown reason, mom would occasionally awaken in a jolly mood–a mood which she was willing to share with just one of us.

Good Day Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Don’t ask me how we four children sensed this, but sense it we did. We would gather in the front foyer for a hurried, hushed conference:

“It’s one of mom’s good days–whose turn is it?”
“It’s mine!”
“No it isn’t! You just had her time before last!”
“Oh yeah…I think it’s Paul’s turn.”

We were cutthroat, vicious beasts to each other much of the time, but we were scrupulously fair to each other on these occasions. The winning child would subtly ease her or his way toward mom whilst the others surreptitiously faded into various quiet corners, leaving mom with only one child upon whom to rain her rare bounty. Off the two of would go, shopping, exploring, to the the movies, or whatever they chose.

None of us were jealous, for our turns would come. The favored child of the day would return and regale us with the details of the treats and endearments they had experienced, and the vicarious pleasure would sustain us until then.
 

Every Dog Has Its Day

For Every Dog Has Its Day


 
ADDENDUM ON JOY AND PAIN AND TRUTH

Initial vacation paragraphs are a little inexact, as well as the 4:00 departure. I just wanted to give an overall impression. Those story parts alone may slightly vary from literal truth.

There were times of happiness in our household I didn’t include. We children did play together sometimes, and had fun sometimes. Mommy and Mr. Jekyll acted almost like normal parents sometimes. We even had family jokes. I’ll post about some of the good times someday.

There were evils I didn’t include. One I mentioned in a comment response: Mommy Hyde stopped buying me clothes at age 16. Another: My first term at college, Mommy Hyde packed up and gave away everything I owned. (Macy Girl’s things were kept for years.) Yet another: Shortly after she sat by my side while I was diagnosed diabetic, Mommy Hyde showed up at my college dorm bearing gifts: A grocery bag full of candies, sugar cereals, and cookies.

Enough.
 
Part 6 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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Hateful Mommy Hyde–Part 5

As I grew, I tried to please her, but it was not possible to please an unhappy woman who resented her own children. And some more than others.

Black and White Face Blue Border

This Isn’t Like My Usual Posts. Here Is the Only Picture.

I surprised her one day.

I cleaned the entire house: Tub, showers, sinks, toilets, dusted (even below eye-level!), vaccuumed, washed floors…

A three-level four-bedroom house (plus dining, den, and finished basement). A lot of work for a pre-teen to do in a day. For anyone.

When she arrived home, my mom said nothing for hours. Until, finally: “You forgot to empty the trash in the downstairs bathroom.”

Being autistic, I didn’t learn from my experience. Years later, when mom went into the hospital for a week, I took over her duties thinking how pleased and surprised she would be. To my great pride, I performed like a pro.

I had never before cooked anything but macaroni and cheese, but I’d sat and watched her plenty of times. I simply did what I’d seen her do (autism ROCKS! :) ). I was delighted that every meal turned out perfectly.

The fried chicken was crisp and delicious, the pork chops were well-cooked but tender and tasty, the spaghetti’s meatballs were firm and yummy (if we’d had Josh then, he may have deigned to eat one or two along with his pasta). The laundry got done, the kitchen got cleaned.

When I was taken by my father to visit my mom at the hospital, what a feather in my cap to hear him describe what I had been doing, and sound pleased about it.

My face was still in mid-beam when my eyes turned to my mom, expecting to see her smiling at me. Instead, I saw daggers being thrown. She was furious!

I remember being surprised not only by her fury, but also that I could tell so exactly what she was thinking, because it was a very big thought for someone my age to realize (I think I was thirteen years old at that point):

“How dare you make my husband happy in my absence!?”

My memory tells me that when mom came home from hospital, she barely spoke to me or looked at me for some time as a result of my invasion of her wifely territory. But it is possible that she treated me no differently than she ever had. I may simply have had a new awareness of the everyday treatment she gave to her dimestore daughters.

***

Mom was an expert at bait-and-switch (the illegal practice when a store advertises an appealing item they know they do not have, only to offer you a cheaper item when you arrive).

I got all excited when it was my turn to become a Girl Scout. You start by becoming a “Brownie”. Mom took me for the uniform and took me to my first meeting at the elementary school a mile away. The next week, I donned my uniform and ran downstairs. I couldn’t wait to see my friends and sing the Brownie song. But mom wouldn’t take me that day. Nor ever again.

All the other girls in school went through Scouting. They learned knot-tying, orienteering, emergency skills, and songs that they sang when I was around. I didn’t know those things. I felt…

Mom didn’t work outside the home, and had her own car. She took Macy Girl (my older sister) to Brownie and Scout meetings.

I learned from Meg recently (my younger sister) that mom twisted her through the same Brownie-no-Brownie bit.

***

Beyond actions and inactions, Mommy Hyde’s real forte was her mouth. She excelled at making belittling comments.

She had demeaning nicknames for each one of her children, using them herself, and encouraging us to use them against each other. (Is it any wonder the four of us did not grow up the closest of siblings?) She referred to me as “Skinny Belink, the Boneyard Dancer”, and a phrase that meant “slob”. Her nickname for Paul referred to feces. She accused me, and even Macy Girl (!) several times of being sluts, before I had even kissed a boy.

Macy Girl WAS totally a slut, though. (Kidding. Couldn’t resist.)

One of Mommy Hyde’s favorite expressions she used with me was “For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, you sure are dumb.”

When I was two years old, Mommy Hyde and my male parent were told they should send me to a gifted school. They declined. When I was in 3rd grade, it was recommended I be skipped a grade. They declined. I am sure they felt they could better nurture my God-given potential through their own home enrichment program–illustrated partly by these posts.

I was embarrassed once to discover in mom’s old papers a letter sent by one of my former Art teachers commending my talent and work, and recommending me for special Art instruction. I’m sure he was disappointed that I never said “Thank you” to him for his (unknown) kindness.

***

What I hated more than anything else Mommy Hyde did was the yelling. She yelled at us so much.

How much? One of my friends back then called me four or five times a day for a while. He said one day “Every single time I call, your parents are yelling.” “No way”, said I. So we kept track.

He was right. And since his calls were random, that meant they yelled all day, every day.

Sometimes when mom yelled at us, we weren’t following her rules, but often we were. Her yelling was so very terrible to me. I hated, hated, hated it.

Two decades later, I found myself doing it with my own then-spouse and children.
 
Part 5 of a 7-part series that will be posted daily. Following that, the focus will shift away from my mommy issues.

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