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Life Topics

Me and My Big Mouth

My senior year in high school was, shall we say, adventurous. I was not a popular, cheerleader type but I wasn’t totally unredeemable either. Me and my clique of six swam in the middle. I liked that; it was safe. We did horrible things like sneak out bedroom windows, lie to our parents about said sneaking, and bribe older college guys to buy us six packs of beer. But we were decent students and other than the above mentioned, followed the rules.

My high school was predominately black. Me and my friends were not. That was ok though, we were in the middle and were extremely diplomatic. We would party with anyone who was, or appeared to be, cool. None of us really had one guy; that violated our pack rules. Oh, we had dates, but nothing heartbreaking. Girls, as Cyndi Lauper would say: Just wanna have fun. And we did. Until we didn’t.

A new guy came to Davis High School one day and stopped time as we knew it. He was super cute, dressed totally cool, and in the words of my mother; was a mulatto. His name was Leslie Thompson, and everyone loved him. And for God knows what reason, he liked me. I was hands down the least attractive of our gang. No, not boohoo, just a fact. Not a dog – but I’m not stopping traffic. However, I did have a certain swagger and I was funny. So, Leslie and I started hanging out. You know, he’d walk me to a class, maybe holding hands in the quad. The standard fare for most high school kids. It was nothing. Ok, it was something; I was gaining a whole new level of coolness, but I would die before I would admit to any such enjoyment. My mother even liked him. My mother didn’t like me.

Leslie and I had been seeing each other for maybe a month, when the buzz around the girl’s bathroom was that Lolli Williams liked him. Which also meant that Lolli Williams did not like me. This was not good news. Lolli was a very loud, proud, come up the hard way black girl. We’d been friendly in a couple of classes, but I could tell that she in no way would be seen with me or any white girl, outside of an inescapable classroom. Further rumor had it that she was wanting to “talk” to me. Nope. That my friend is never happening. Avoid all bathrooms. Check.

Leslie had dropped me off after school one day (in his red Camero by the way), and as I hit the living room, the phone rang. My mother immediately yelled from the kitchen that if that was Gwen I was not going anywhere tonight. She always said that. It wasn’t Gwen.

Let me quickly explain that back in those days, we had phone books; and in those books was the name, number and address of every living breathing soul in that community. “Hello”, I said happily. The voice I heard on the end of that line stopped my heart. It was the infamous, you guessed it, Lolli Williams. “This Evy?” Lolli barked. I stood in the living room with the phone in my hand and my mouth open. Willing myself not faint. “It is,” I said. Real casual like. I won’t go into the exact language but suffice it to say, Lolli’s opinion of my relationship with Leslie was not supportive. She was also not a fan of my hair, friends, or and this was a red line, my mother. She then proceeded to explain to me in graphic detail how she was going to kick my ass. Lolli had an admirable command of the English language.

I had had enough. I come from a long line of Irishman. When the going got tough, the Irish got pissed. My mother, one of those Irish types, moved into the doorway and was looking at me. Probably since I hadn’t said a word in several minutes and this was not like me. I had to respond. Where I got

this line, I don’t know: “Ya know what Lolli? Your ass is grass and I’m the lawn mower.” I saw the words leave my mouth. Before my very eyes, I had committed suicide. I freaked out completely and hung up the phone. Oh. Dear. God. My mom looked at me with eyes the size of saucers, shook her head and went back in the kitchen. I sat on the sofa and called Gwen explaining the current crisis. Gwen called everyone else. They all called me back. This went on for what seemed like hours with the general consensus that I would not be going back to school. Ever. It was only two weeks ‘til graduation. The last week traditionally being deemed Senior Skip Week. I could do this.

No, I couldn’t. As I set sipping coffee in the dinning room the next morning, “Don’t you think it’s time for you to get ready for school?” My mother stood with a hand on her hip and a dish towel over her shoulder. I was ready: “I think I’m coming down with mono,” I croaked. “over-night mono?” she glared back at me. I was relentless, “It can happen. Who knows where Leslie Thompson has been.” I was tossing him under the bus and could not care less. My mother was not buying it and with flare pointed me to my room. “Get dressed.” That was it; the death sentence.

The last words I heard from my mom’s mouth as I slowly trudged to Gwen’s waiting Bonneville was, “I told you your mouth would get you into trouble.” Yeah, well…you’ll be sorry when I’m dead I thought.

Plan B was not complicated – simply duck, dodge and stay with my pack. I had to avoid Lolli and her people for two weeks. Thankfully we didn’t have any classes with Lolli this last semester, so it was going pretty well. And Davis was a big school, plenty of flesh to hide behind. Until first period lunch.

Gwen and I burst out of the double doors leading to the parking lot and joined up with Jeanne, Mary, and the two Kims. Making a bee line to the Bonneville. Get off school property and disappear, skip our last two classes, whatever. What we saw next stopped all of us in our tracks. It was Lolli. Lolli sitting on the hood of Gwen’s car; with her crew and talking smack. And they saw us.

What happened next is filmed in my head in slow motion. First, my five friends hit the bricks leaving me standing alone. No surprise really, I wasn’t the only coward. Then, as if by osmosis, the entire student body was out on The Common, a large deck area with a supreme view of the parking lot. Chanting like the blood-thirsty ghouls they were fight, fight, fight. Even the stoners from the park across the street were moving in for a closer vantage point. And they’re a tough group to motivate. I wouldn’t describe what happened next as a fight. Lolli simple strolled over as I stood there praying not to pee my pants and shoved me. Hard. I vaguely remember getting one good punch to her nose and then she unceremoniously mopped the parking lot with me. At some point I must have fainted, passed out, or was knocked out. I opened my eyes to Gwen and vice principal Crago staring down at me. “Am I dead?” I asked to no one in particular. Gwen heaved me upright and simply stated, “not yet.” At least the throngs of on-lookers were gone, and so was Lolli.

Mr. Crago, along with a school nurse, and Gwen looked me over in the office. There wasn’t much area that she didn’t get a piece of. I had two black eyes, a split upper lip, and multiple cuts and abrasions. In short, she really did kick my ass. “Am I kicked out?” I asked Crago. For some reason Mr. Crago liked me. He knew my mom which petty much told him that our household was not built on Leave it to Beaver. “No. he replied, I think you’ve suffered enough.” “But I’ve got to call your mother.”

By nothing short of a miracle, my mother was out. Mr. Crago left a hurried message and sent me home via Gwen. She sat with me in my room until the Commandant herself returned. To my utter shock, she was sympathetic. Gwen was released from her babysitting and sent home. Mom doctored me the best she could and put me in bed. I realized it was Friday. I had two days to recover.

Graduation night finally came, and I did look better. Yellow and blue, but better. Bye, bye high school. So long Lolli, who by the way, never gave me another thought. Oh, and Leslie Thompson? Apparently, Davis was a bit rough around the edges for the boy and he transferred to the Richie Rich high school across town. He turned out to be a coward too.

Two years went by, and I was living what can only be described at that time, as my best life. Gwen and I got a fabulous apartment together, we both had great jobs, and all was right with the world. So much so that I decided to treat myself to a plane ride to Vancouver Canada. I had a friend there who had an astonishingly good-looking brother.

I settled into my seat of the small puddle jumper and thumbed through the flight magazine. There were only twelve seats on the thing and the plane appeared to be full. The exception being the empty aisle seat next to me. I crossed my fingers that no one would sit there. We all have that fantasy.

I decide to lean over and check for intruders and there she was. Lolli freakin’ Williams. Lolli the terminator, bouncing up the aisle, ticket in her left hand and a…a baby on her right hip? Holy shit, I thought, Lolli has kidnapped a baby! And this criminal was going to sit next to me. Thinking quick I put on my sunglasses, snapped the window shield closed, and pretended to be asleep. I would not open my eyes until touch-down, a mere fifty-minute flight. No problem.

She settles in with the kid strapped to her lap and I feel us ascend, level off, and begin our short jaunt to Vancouver. I’ve not moved a muscle. And that would have been true for the duration had this baby, a toddler really, kicked me in my side. Dammit! My reflexes gave me away and I turned to look my assailant in the eye. He was adorable. He looked back at me and my sunglasses with a drooling smile that I could not help but return. Lolli was mortified, apologized profusely and then recognition sparked in her eyes. I did have one unforgettable smile. “Evy?” she was nearly gushing. “Oh my god girl!” The jig was up so I removed my sunglasses and with a straight face said, “Lolli? How great to see you, you look great! Who is this handsome man?” The little scar over my lip was tingling.

We spent the rest of the flight talking about a) the fight, she was very remorseful about the ass-kicking and b) the baby. Terrence. As it turns out, Lolli had been raped after a dorm party a few weeks before graduation. Which meant that she was pregnant when we had our little dust up. I couldn’t believe it on several levels but here was little Terrence. I asked a million questions and she answered some. She never pressed charges because she really didn’t know who the guy was. That’s just how things were. She went on after graduation, with the help of her mom, to get her degree in counseling. And ironies of ironies counsels’ kids at none other than Davis High School.

We exchanged numbers at the airport and vowed to keep in touch. And we have. Oh, I’ve not seen Lolli now for more years than I’m willing to confess but we do keep in touch. The wonders of Facebook. I consider her a friend. I still have no feeling in that small area on my upper lip, but still….I wonder sometimes if I would have ever gotten to know Lolli or Terrence, had it not been for my big mouth.

Life Topics

The Wedding

She had packed, re-packed and packed again.  The day was finally here.  At the last minute she grabbed a rayon dress and rolled it and slid it in the side of her one piece of luggage.  Just in case.

The big day.  The wedding that she and her best friend had secretly been scheming, planning and praying for – forever.  Her heart literally soared.

Her flight left at 11:22 am; what to do for the next three hours was anyone’s guess.  She was so excited to get to New England.  So much time to wait.  She cleaned the house, the fridge including the science experiment living in the veggie bin, and watered plants and flowers.  God help her, would the time go by!

Finally, Uber sent a ding to her cell alerting her it/they were on the way.    She bounced into the Nissan Altima and was greeted by driver Margie, a retired postal worker who had crackers and water and plenty of chit chat to get her to the airport. And plenty of time.  Until there wasn’t.

They hit a snare on Airport Blvd, with a train.  The longest fragging train in the history of trains.  Margie waited while other drivers backed up, flipped around and basically said screw it, and the train just kept coming.  She kept checking her phone; the time was ticking, and the flight was leaving on time with or without her.  Dammit.

By the grace of God the train finally passed and the little old lady floored it.  She deposited her at curbside, and all was back to plan.  Kinda. She raced through the small airport with the speed of a much younger woman; through security and into the Southwest Airlines boarding area looking like a wild ban chi.  She was NOT missing this flight.  And she didn’t.  Clumsily guiding her roll-around onto the plane and stopping at her seat, 11C, a window, she hefted her big ass bag into the overhead and squeezed into her seat.  She buckled up, the plane was packed.  She said a prayer for safety and one for forgiveness.  She had probably cussed a few people out there on the road.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes as the plane made its ascent.  Running checklists through her mind, as any Maid of Honor would do. Everything was done and this would be the wedding of weddings.  Perfect.

Arriving at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, she looked for a driver.  The guy with a sign calling just for her.  Nothing.  Well, shit.  She was a little late but nothing serious.  Her best friend didn’t set it up.  Had to be it.  Ok, plan B.  She raced once more out the doors and into the cabstand area.  Flagged one down and she was off.

The wedding was at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.  She was surprised to see just how many cars were in the lot.  Small affair?  How would she change into her dress?  Surely it would be left for her in the vestibule. The details had been ironed out months ago.  She slid into the church literally.  Her shoes and soaks were soaking wet.  No time to think, she opened the doors to the rectory; the service was already under way, without her.  She grabbed the first isle seat she came to.  Bride and groom were in place at the alter; the bridesmaid to the left, alone, the place she should occupy beside her vacant.  That’s for me she thought.  She fought the urge to just hop up there.  She was stopped short by the words of the presiding priest:  “May we bow our heads in prayer for the victims of flight 222……

Flight 222?  That was her flight.  What is wrong with this guy?  Let’s get on with the service.  A High Mass is long enough already.  She felt heavy.  She realized she was sweating; no, not sweating.  Wet.  Her hair, her awful hair.  She called out to the bride as the service continued, people in tears.   She yelled and the bride turned; saw her, stretched out an arm to her with eyes wide and tearful, a false eyelash drooping awkwardly.  She wanted to fix it but couldn’t.  She was above it now and understood.

“…For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever……”

Flight 222 traveled over the Atlantic off the coast of Cape Hatteras into a storm that sent a lightning bolt to the left side wing.  It spun left and continued a downward spiral into the abyss.  There were no survivors.

Life Topics

Small Talk

Parties can cause me slight anxiety as I circulate about and “work the room.”  Mingling is essential to having a good time, an art if you do it right. Having a few drinks helps me to be more confident and relaxed: interested and interesting.  But how do you spark a great conversation? You start out with the unavoidable, discerning small talk.  What do you do for a living is a typical opening question, personal but not too personal.  It’s this kind of generic interaction that can lead to the next banal talking point.  Unless they say something like, “I’m a brain surgeon.”  Then I got nothing and am forced to reach deep into my mind to come up with something smart or witty.  When I get that same question, I always tell people, “I fetch rocks and put out fires,” which is true albeit non-specific.  I hate saying what I “do” because it’s not very impressive and tough to explain.

I do have one advantage in the small talk realm though, I am a naturally curious person.  This trait doesn’t guarantee a meaningful conversation, but it can be more compelling.  Why ask something mundane when you can really connect.  However, never mix up small talk for genuine interest.  There is nothing small about being inquisitive because I often pose more of a soft invitation to explain or describe.  Sort of like a casual interview.  It’s a great way to become familiar with someone on a real level.  My inquiries usually start with “Tell me about …”

Maybe my amiable interrogation stems from my love of stories.  I enjoy hearing about other lives.  I guess deep down I’m a voyeur seeking a fix.  So, after I determine the conversation is going well, I’ll inevitably look for more information to absorb.  I may ask, “Tell me about your first job.”  This question usually causes people to happily reminisce as they recount what it was like to have their first grownup job.  One guy told me that he buried dead cats.  What?  Another man said he managed a pizza shop at 16 years old.  Impressive.  You can imagine all the follow-up questions to those answers.  No matter what the job was, the discussion usually led to a lot of laughter.

When I become comfortable with someone, I like to ask my favorite “Tell me about…” inquiry.  The question always produces such a wide and varied range of answers.  Sometimes there is no response because they have no knowledge of it, or they are taken back by the personal nature of it.  Either way, I ask it because it involves the most profound of all stories:  Love.  “Tell me your parent’s love story” I say.  Some people stare at me with a blank look and confess that they have no idea.  I feel bad for them, because if they don’t know how their parents met, do they really know the very beginning of their own family story?  However, most of the time, people will gladly elaborate on their unique history.

A man from New Jersey told me that his parents met in Central Park NYC.  His mother was on an out-of-control runaway horse and his father jumped on another horse to save her.  He was delighted telling all the details and I was rapt.  Another guy said his parents had met a few times at the office, became pen pals when he was in the service during WWII and got engaged through letters.  They never had a date before they were married. He enjoyed telling their story, as he smiled and shook his head, “married until the day he died.”

Small talk serves an important purpose in many situations, especially parties.  I understand that, but I’ve never been very good at it.  I prefer to dig a little deeper when the time is right.  Believe me, my unusual questions are never the first thing I ask.  I have the obligatory chit chat that eventually evolves to a place of authenticity where stories emerge.  Life is built on stories.  So go to the party, have a drink, eat some cheese and crackers, mingle and introduce yourself.  Some big conversations start with small talk.

 

Author’s Note:

**** PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT YOUR STORY.  LET’S SHARE.***

I’ll start:  My parents met on a playground when they were kids!

Life Topics

His Hands

The skin on his hands were pale and paper thin
showing a tangle of blue veins.  Fingers longer and
thinner than I remember.  I stopped and stared at
the age spots and bruised skin of purple and blue.

Those hands changed my diapers, helped me cross
the street, tied my shoes, turned pages of a book
and spanked me.  I’m sure I deserved it.  My little
hand fit so well inside your warm fingers.

Now with weak hands, you reach for help and comfort.
We will hold them to support you, hold them to
assure you, to raise you up.  Our touch is compas-
sionate and real.  You’re never alone.

Daddy, when did you get old?  You didn’t warn me.
Signs of decay and weakness overlooked.
A gradual slowing down to a stop, to a chair and
to the bed.  Resting your hands or pressing them
together for prayer.

My life started with you and will end without you.
Nature sometimes sings a sad song you can’t conceive.
Those hands have always been a gift.  You lovingly used
them for giving, never for taking.

Life Topics

Abduction

I laid on my belly and made my 9-year-old body as flat as possible.  Trying not to breath, I would only inhale and exhale very slowly causing as little movement as possible.  My heart was pounding out of my chest as it pressed against the cold flattened grass.  Turning my head silently toward the street, I only dared open my eyes to see if I gave away where I was.  Through the tall grass I could make out a figure but didn’t know how close he actually was.  I prayed my cold puffs of breath would not give him any clues. The corner lot was thick and overgrown with sharp branches, brambles and tall grass and I laid in the middle trying not to give away my spot.  I was hiding.  Hiding for my life.

It was a cold November day, as I was doing my paper route.  This important job had been passed down from my brothers, as they moved onto better things.  Everything got passed onto me, clothes, toys, bikes and eventually jobs.  I liked this job.  It was easy and fun, paying me enough for a visit to the candy store on collection day and saving a few dollars.   In my family, the kids had to earn money if they wanted anything. Looking back, I think that was a gift as it taught us responsibility.  Delivering papers in the neighborhood was one way teach that and I was good at it.

For 2 weeks leading up to my moments of survival, I noticed something was seriously wrong.  Me and my best friend would walk or bike around the neighborhood as we would do on a daily basis.   Except this one day we were walking down the steep hill toward the corner candy store and saw an unfamiliar beat-up van.  It was rusty with faded blue paint with a kind of whitewash that covered a sign or maybe a slogan on the side.  The van had passed us several times, slowing down so the driver could stare.  He glared at us in an intimidating way and would then continue on.  We both ignored it and said not a word to each other.

We would see the van in the following days and it escalated.  When he slowed down to stare, he also removed his penis from his pants and waved it around at us.  I was frightened and too young to understand what that meant.  I did know what he was doing was atrocious, but I had no idea why.  9-year-olds back then were not as savvy as the 9-year-olds today.  I didn’t know anything about sex or sexual predators.  We both looked at each other and finally acknowledged it.  “Did you see what I saw?” I asked.  She nodded her head slowly and stopped talking.   She was 2 years younger than me and if I had trouble understanding it, I’m sure she was clueless.

After a couple of weeks of this stalking, I was mentally overwhelmed and petrified of this guy.  He continued to follow me and take out his genitals.  I didn’t even have the insight to imagine something horrible could happen, but I knew he was dreadful.  I’m sure he knew where I lived and was aware of my paper route.  I didn’t have the guts to tell my parents, feeling sick over the situation.  Would they believe me?  Did I do something wrong?  My young brain was not mature or equipped to handle this.  I just wanted the whole thing to go away.

One afternoon, after school, I began my paper route.  I was walking alone and coming down a customer’s walkway when I spotted the van at the top of the hill slowly coming toward me.  I felt extreme panic set in.  My pulse quickened and I was disoriented.  The fear was now palpable.  I lived only a few doors down, so I ran to my house. Upon entering, I locked the door, crouched down, as to not be seen through the windows, and confessed to my mother that I was a target of this deranged person.  I gave no details, but she had to have seen how afraid I was.  Trying to catch my breath, I just started to cry.  Mom just sat beside me at her sewing machine and calmly said, “Say the Lord’s Prayer and you’ll be fine.” She said that there was nothing to worry about, and I should finish my paper route.  I wanted her to protect me, take care of me and that was all she said.  That was all she did.

I don’t know why I continued the paper route, or why I even left my house.  It was stupid in retrospect.  Afterall, how was a single prayer going to protect me?  I should have stayed put and said the hell with the paper route.  I knew that this monster was playing for keeps.  I was in danger.  So, being a good little Catholic trooper, I started reciting the prayer as I approached the next customer’s door, “Our Father who Art in Heaven…..”  I was shaking as I prayed, not paying attention to the words, but still hoping it would save me.  The coast seemed clear until I took a side street connecting two major roads.  Then looking ahead, I could see the van turning onto the street straight in front of me and I realized it was over.  He was going to hurt me.

Without any premeditated thought, I instinctively ran into an overgrown grassy corner lot.  It was my only chance to elude him.  I didn’t know if he saw me run in, but I could hear the van slow to a stop on the edge of the lot.  The next thing I heard was the thump of the van door closing and him walking along the street in my direction searching for any sign to find me.  This was a quiet short-cut street with little to no traffic this time of day.  I feared no one would save me.  However, before he entered the lot, another car pulled onto the sleepy tree lined street and slowly passed his van.   I peeked through the tall grass and saw him dart back to his van and peel away not wanting to be recognized by anyone.

I started to quietly sob laying on my stomach.  The relief was pouring out through my tears.  I didn’t want to move until I was sure he was gone.  His figure was burned into my head.  He was ominous and scary.  Twenty long minutes later, I slowly rose to my knees, gathered my papers, and walked out of the lot to finish my paper route.  I should have run home, screamed, cried, yelled for help but I didn’t.  I continued on because it was my responsibility and delivered to a couple of more houses without the van in sight.  However, as I delivered to the back door of the next neighbor, I saw the van returned as he stopped it at the end of my customer’s driveway.  There was no escape.

Mr. Warren was in his back yard and saw that I was shaken up as I placed his paper at the back door.  I started blurting out everything to him, except for the penis part.  He tried to calm me, but I broke down and was crying uncontrollably.   I implored him to help me.  Halfway through my plea I looked back to the street.  I stopped to catch my breath and saw that the man in the van was smiling at me.  I was so afraid he would get out of the van and try to hurt me.  It was then that Mr. Warren, who hadn’t been visible to the street, stepped into the driveway to see what I was looking at.  I pointed to the van and yelled, “that’s the man who has been following me.”  The van’s engine revved up, slammed into gear and sped away.  My father was called to pick me up.

Detectives came to my house a couple of nights later to question me about the incident.  I told them the whole truth.  My father sat with us and was enraged that the man had gotten away.  The police assured him that the guy would be caught.  I felt safe in my house with my father protecting me.  The detectives had arrived that night when Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer was on TV.  It was my favorite holiday show that aired only once a year.  Missing the special would be tragic, as I’d have to wait forever to see it again.  I so wanted to be laying on the floor in my pajamas in the dimly lit living room with my brothers and sister.  Because their comforting protection has always meant the world to me.  Instead, I was busy answering grownup questions, important questions.

I learned a few weeks later that the man was caught.  I overheard my mother on the phone saying that I would not testify and relive the entire events again.  Oh my God!  I couldn’t believe it.  When I look back, I realize this was a huge mistake on her part.  A sexual predator would be set free because I didn’t have a chance to help get him off the streets.  I’m sure she had her reasons, however in my opinion, she was fatally wrong.  It was adding insult to injury.  First, she didn’t protect me when I told her I was being followed, then she wouldn’t help protect others who might be stalked, threatened or killed.

I have finally come to terms with what happened and have forgiveness in my heart.  I trusted my mother, and she trusted God.  It was her way of dealing with the situation.  It was 1973, and these things didn’t happen in suburbia, or so we thought.  I’ll never know what saved me that day. Could it have been prayer or quick instincts? I’ll never really know for sure.  I do, however, know that I am strong and resilient, a survivor.  If this happened to my kids, I would protect them with my whole being, coming down on a pedophile with such rath that they would suffer like you cannot even imagine.
I promise.

 

Life Topics

Lancaster

I once read that the average person lives in 8 homes in their lifetime.  As I started counting my many dwellings on my fingers, memories of each seeped into my thoughts.  This was the place I lived when my son was born.  That was the place I lived where my roommate’s ex-husband blew up her car.  This was the place I lived when I worked at Digital, and so on.  Nearing the end of my list I slowed down to reminisce about my favorite place, number seven.  A 100-year-old farmhouse in the center of town, a charming New England farmhouse, white of course with black shutters.  It had a small, but comfortable, front porch and a large, attached barn that was almost as big as the house.  Sitting on a quarter acre, it featured a small inviting front yard and a low stone wall lining the driveway with large Hosta adjacent. The front garden and landscape details were impressive, as was the interior that had much more to consider.

After touring the place with a realtor, I knew this was my house.  The crown molding and gourmet kitchen added exquisite detail that was intimate and understated.  The formal dining room had big windows and great light, not to mention the deep rich hardwood floors.  The backyard deck introduced you to a far-reaching fenced in lawn surrounded my mature maple trees. It was very private.  I could see myself having morning coffee on the deck and preparing fantastic meals for my family, fit for a kitchen like this.  I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment as I walked through each room.  The house had great vibes.

I moved in months after the offer was accepted, due to septic issues and red tape.  It was such a long wait that I was starting to feel sorry for myself, a bit disappointed.  However, moving day finally came and I couldn’t wait to start this anticipated chapter.  I was now living on Lancaster in the Historic District at the foot of the hill that led to “Mecca.”  Everything was within walking distance, schools, stores, town hall and common, library and my work.  This would be awesome for my son.  It was the center of the universe I thought.  My journey had started.

Like any new house you try to put your mark on it.  Change things up a bit.  I removed some wallpaper, painted rooms and upgraded cabinet hardware.  My 8-year-old got settled into his digs and had all his things about him.  The barn was getting crowded with boxes and junk, as barns usually do.  I didn’t have enough utensils or gadgets to fill all the cabinets in the vast kitchen or enough furniture to fill the rooms.  I did, however, have the intense desire to make it my own.  There was plenty of time to fill it up.

We were slowly unpacking and settling in when a couple of odd things happened.  First, I could hear knocking and running around in the upstairs rooms.  It appeared that squirrels had set up a homebase in my thin walls and attic.  I was disgusted.  An exterminator said they could put out traps, which over time didn’t help.  And my son told me one morning at breakfast that he saw an old man standing at the end of his bed last night, just looking at him.  I asked, “What did he look like?”  He replied, “You know, old like Papa.”  I said, “What did you do when you saw him?”  “I rolled over and just went back to sleep” he answered.  He wasn’t shaken at all.  I, however, was a little creeped out.  So now I had two somewhat irritating issues, horrific vermin and an old man ghost.

Then came the rain. The bones of this old homestead could not withstand more than a drizzle.  The stone foundation was like a sieve allowing water to fill the entire dirt floor creating a muddy wading pool.  We eventually got a sump pump to alleviate the problem, although it always remained damp. Upstairs, the rain caused a foggy condensation on a skylight in my bathroom.  Just something else to replace.  Once, we had to seek shelter during a tornado warning and ended up going down to the basement, only to stand in knee high water with a weak flashlight.  I would have preferred the tornado.

Holidays were warm and cozy mainly because my heater had to be replaced less than a year after I moved in, and the office addition and downstairs bathroom used absorbingly expensive electric heat.  I had no idea how much that heat cost until I choked on the first bill.  I ended up closing the office and bathroom for the winter, but then had to worry about pipes bursting.  And of course, the pipes did burst. Those annoying things aside, it was a place made for entertaining.  We could fit 50-60 people for gatherings and had ample room for overnight guests.  It was fun to buy décor and antiques keeping with the engaging character.  Mostly though, I loved having a glass of wine as I sat on a warm summer evening listening to the Band Concert at the gazebo on the town common.  It was magical.

Overall, it was all the great memories that made this place so special.  I was truly blessed to have God or fate bring me there.  It was like a vessel that contained my happiest times.  I raised my son, got divorced, had breakups, reconciliations, graduations, holidays, and birthdays.  The ghost occurrences continued to happen, the squirrels were never evicted, the rain brought stress and there were always perpetual repairs to do. However, I don’t regret buying it for one second.

I’m now living in a small comfortable lake house in the same town.  It is where I will lead my next chapter with my partner.  We will grow old here.  The backyard is a watery paradise that brings me serenity and wonder.  It is spectacular.  I often drive by house number seven, Lancaster, and think about how much I loved it.  The place has had suttle transformations that catch the eye.  The landscaping has been meticulously upgraded and the front door is painted a different color.  It looks like the new owners are making it their own.  I am extremely content where I rest my head now.  There won’t be any other homes for me in the future.   I am officially the “average person” living my life out in house number eight.

 

Life Topics

Just Words

My whole life I wanted to be a writer, not a ballerina, teacher or nurse, not even a Mommy, just a writer.  To be capable at an art form that can releases myself from myself.  However, it can be difficult task.  Putting the right words and thoughts together sometimes feels like climbing a mountain.  You start with focused intention and gather sentences that will make sense, scaling up to the audience to reach the peak.  It’s labor intensive and mentally coarse, as you reach deep inside yourself.  Writing, editing and re-writing is an exhaustive effort that you hope will results in something readers can enjoy and relate to.  Writers should raise us up, stories should connect us.

Sharing my life through words brings me happiness.  Although I’m not a professional writer, I do throw myself wholeheartedly into my passion.  The exercise helps me understand myself better while opening windows into other lives.  And, like any artist, I want to express myself to get a genuine message out.  It’s like standing naked in the town square when you finish a piece of work, exposing your inner thoughts and desires for all to judge.  You should be comfortable in your own skin.  Through my creation of authentic stories, I hope to be an instrument to start discussions or to just share basic emotions.

When I was little, I’d create little, short stories and draw pictures.  I didn’t do it a lot, but when I did, I was totally enthralled.  I think I liked doing the pictures best.  Reading wasn’t a big thing in my house, so I didn’t grow up with any literary influences. It wasn’t until my 20s when I became a conscientious reader, and then my world opened up.   I started out devouring novels but would end up falling in love with the authors, the amazing craftsmen.  I’d ask myself, “how did they put this awesome book together?”  The descriptive prose flowed from the pages directly into me.  The combination of kind, bold or even gentle words was totally fascinating.  I knew that I wanted to do that.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a level of excellence, but I remain quietly confident.  I like to hear myself think.  To aptly capture a true moment or situation is all I can do to fulfill my simple dream.  A book might be a worthy goal in the future.  I don’t really know.  I’ll keep practicing in order to comfort myself, and to grow as a competent storyteller.  I am always humbled when readers like my words, giving me their valuable time and attention.  It means so much to me.  And so, through my streaming insight and solid commitment, I will keep writing until I run out of words. And if you know me, you know that will never happen.

Life Topics

An Unlikely Friendship

 

I could not stomach it any longer.  This marriage was making me physically and mentally sick.  I never knew what I was up against from day to day.  Between the acrid verbal abuse, “why would you wear makeup, you’re so ugly anyway” and finally the threat of physical abuse there was no way to continue.  My life was a roller coaster controlled by his moods and behaviors. No one really knew what I was going through.  Although, I am pretty sure the kids knew.  They always know.  It was like I had a secret to tell, I wanted to blurt it out, but I didn’t have the guts to let on how miserable I was.  Deep down I wanted to appear like we had a happy marriage, just pretend it was OK; until I couldn’t.  The last straw came when he called me a cunt in front of my children.  Through shock, disbelief, embarrassment, and rage, I balled up my right hand, reached back and swung.  I hit him square in the jaw and his 6’ 4” frame dropped to the floor.  I’m not proud of losing control but I was battered and defeated.  I then told the kids to get their jackets on, and “we are out of here.”  So, we left during a February snowstorm and never looked back.  It was the best decision of my life.

I eventually got on my feet after staying with my parents for 6 months.  They were incredibly supportive.  The divorce was a nightmare, of course, but not as bad as the marriage.  Slowly I gained mental strength and self-esteem.  He had me turned so inside out that I it was hard for me to make simple decisions at first and have the necessary confidence I needed to fully heal.  Thankfully that all changed. I took small yet bold steps to regain my life and get to a place of total independence.  I was no longer that woman who put up with his twisted views or gross negativity.  No one would ever step on me again.  No one.

As miracles would have it, he eventually remarried a few years later.  I wondered what kind of woman would fall for him.  And then I remembered how he could transform into a charming predator at will.  I naïvely and regrettably fell for that once.  Maybe she was lured in unknowingly, or maybe she was as unbalanced as he was.  Either way, I was determined not to like her, and I didn’t.  Afterall, any friend of his was an enemy of mine. You are judged by the company you keep they say.  However, my life was in an upturn as I had met and fallen in love with my life partner.  The only thing I worried about was the time and influence she would have on my son.  Her character was a mystery to me, and I had deep concerns.

Eventually they had a child of their own, a baby girl.  I had to pretend that I cared about my son having a new sister so he would feel content and at ease.  He already had to put up with his father’s erratic behavior when he picked him up on weekends, shouting nonsense at me for no reason.  I didn’t want to add to my son’s stress by saying anything negative about his new sister, nor did I want to.  It turned out that he really liked his stepmother, without elaborating on it.  I think he didn’t want me to feel bad.  He also loved having a sister, he was no longer the baby in the family.  I had very little contact with her, except for a few emotionally charged phone conversations.  She accused me of being “selfish” when discussing child support.  This woman was crazy.

Not surprisingly their marriage dissolved a few years later.  I wasn’t broken up about it.  Nobody could live with him.  Only now, not only a family was split up, but my son would also lose a sister that he loved.  Life continued with weekend visits from his father.  I didn’t give his situation a second thought, as it was none of my business.  However, I received a phone call a few years after the split up that changed my life.

His estranged stepmother called me one winter day and asked if she could drop her daughter off to spend time with my son. I believe it was Thanksgiving.   At first, I was taken aback.  Afterall, here was this “crazy” woman asking me to entertain her daughter.  She was not family. What was I supposed to do?  I agreed and talked to my partner.  My partner said, “why do not you ask her to come along and join us too.  It’s such a long drive, why doesn’t she just stay.”  That was out of the question in my mind.  Why would I do that!  But the more I thought about it, I decided that that would be OK.  I would only have to put up with her for an afternoon if it made my son happy.  Not only did it make my son happy, but it was such a simple, yet brave, act of kindness on her part that I could not help but admire.  She decided to stay.

We eventually started seeing each other with and without the kids.  I would tell my friends that I was hanging out with my Ex’s second ex-wife, at first.  Then as time went on, I did not need to describe our situation.  There was no need.  We were becoming good friends on our own.  Her stories were my stories. Her life was my life.  We are kindred souls who have the same war stories, the same dreams and desires.  It was not all about the marriages.  Sure, we kibitzed about being married to him for a while, but then it turned into more; much much more.  If she never met my Ex then we would have never met.  We discovered that we had so much in common and especially, thanks to her, each wanted our children to have a loving and solid relationship, to grow up and grow old together.

I count her as one of my dearest friends.  We know what each other have been through and keenly understand it.  It’s mostly unspoken today.  Besides being a loving, patient, wonderful friend, she is my son’s mother as well.  Not a stepmother, a true and dedicated mother.  If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if the kids would be in each other’s lives today.  If it wasn’t for her, I would have missed out on a “once in a lifetime” friendship.  I love her and will have her for the rest of my life, until death do us part.

 

Life Topics

A Great Escape

Leaving the Cape successfully takes an act of God combined with a little fortune telling, and some traffic savvy.  Let’s take a look at a typical scenario.  You’ve had a great weekend with a lot of beach time resulting in sand in your swimsuit bottoms, burnt face and shins, and a little dehydration.  Still you’re having a good time.  You enjoyed a few fancy dinners in a well-lit tourist café with a French name, probably in Hyannis.  You succumbed to the lure of the $6 Cape Cod T-shirts (2 for $10).  You reluctantly played miniature golf at one of the hundreds of courses avoiding the windmill traps, followed by an over-priced ice cream cone at the Four Seas.  Unfortunately, there was no time to catch a Cape League baseball game.  Maybe next time.   Then you’re forced to start thinking about leaving because playtime is almost over.  0-dark-30 is fast approaching where you should have a plan and some fortitude to get off Cape in a relatively quick fashion.

What was my last Cape visit like?  It was somewhat uneventful and unlike the tourist experience. I was visiting my parents and my sister who live in the heart of the Cape.  We don’t usually do tourist stuff, except maybe the beach.  The residents put up with the swollen summer population and the choked streets.  Anyway, I ventured down there late on a Wednesday night and stayed through the weekend.  I worked remotely from Hyannis and overpacked, bringing an overnight bag, beach bag, computer bag, and my dog McDermott, although he wasn’t packed. I decided to go to the beach every morning allowing me some “me-time” to relax and regroup before starting work.

With my toes in the sand and my eyes fixed on the horizon I felt at peace.  I set off by 7:30am each morning, when there were very few worshipers.  I basically had the whole stretch to myself.  Slowly people arrived, an elderly woman in a sand chair with a book, a Latino family of five frolicking in the waves, and a couple of baby-boomers under an umbrella.  It was kind of fun to be a voyeur between salty dips in the water and roasting in the sun.  I can be nosey that way.

However, Saturday night I had to start thinking about what time to leave the next day.  So, I play this imaginary game with myself.  My theory is people will prolong their weekend if they can have another nice beach day; maybe they leave early evening.  Therefore, I can escape on a sunny Sunday morning without too much traffic.   On a dismal day, people will start their trek home early.  No sun, no beach. So, I would stay put and leave later in the day.  So far, I’ve proven this assumption about 80% of the time.  The odds are with me, right?  Wrong.

After having breakfast out with my sister on a gloriously hot Sunday morning I felt like it was time to leave.  The warm sandy beaches would be packed I thought.  Plus I was anxious to get home to end
the weekend with my partner.  So, I no sooner paid the check, and I was packing my car.  The plan was to say my goodbyes, get McDermott in the car, stop at Dunkin’s for a large ice coffee black and sail home. I hoped that the Route 6 runway to the bridge would be clear and uncongested.  I entered the on-ramp with blind faith, a full tank of gas, air-conditioner blasting and a full playlist.  I was ready for anything.

Everything started out fine.  But a couple of miles into the journey the traffic went from a bit sluggish to a full stop; an endless parking lot as far as the eye could see.  Cars jostled between lanes to get inches closer.  I couldn’t help noticing a sign on the side of the road that said, “Evacuation Route”.  It struck me as ironic because there was no way Route 6 could evacuate all the residents at the same time.  Expelling the weekend’s first shift of visitors was clogging the road, never mind adding a whole population.  My brilliant theory was losing ground, and I thought I was being extremely clever.  Sitting there, I felt like I was aging in dog years.  My patience was draining as I sucked on my green spearmint vape and exhaled a cloud of contempt.

I sang along with the music, checked McDermott in the rear-view mirror, thought about the weekend and gazed ahead at the chain of multicolored car roofs that rose up the hill in front of me.  Is going to the Cape worth the hassle?  I think so.  Getting there and crossing the bridge transforms you.  The salt in the air relaxes you causing a comforting lull in your mind.  All worry and concern dissipate the closer you get to the shore.  And when there, you can soak in the many sights, sounds, and smells of the beach, the delicious fresh seafood and the friendly and colorful merchants.  It’s an exquisite place to lose yourself.  In the grand scheme, miscalculating traffic upon your departure is not fatal, only a minor annoyance.   Afterall, think about all the precious memories arranged in your bags to be slowly unpacked when you finally get home.

Life Topics

Big Love

I have finally reached a place of love and peace in my life.  I lack nothing, nor do I need to search for something I don’t have.  I have everything I need or want.  There is no drama to divert me from reaching my happy place.  I feel insanely content and at ease in my once fragile heart.  I laugh, I learn, I thrive, I converse, I support, and I love.  Being with my partner has brought me to a place of strength and commitment that helps define who I am.  But it’s not the whole story.

The story starts when I met “Mr. Big”.  Not Kerry’s “Mr. Big”, MY “Mr. Big.”  I was 22 years old and was just looking to have a good time. I had had a string of bad relationships and wasn’t looking for a new disappointment. He was charming and quietly interested in my free spirit versus his buttoned-up demeanor.  Yet, there we were in a bar curiously attracted to each other.  I was there with my work friends after hours wiping the slate clean with cocktails and contempt, a bit disoriented.  I finally approached him and said, “I didn’t vote for you” which was one way of breaking the ice.  I don’t remember how he responded, but it started an inevitable conversation.

He became my teacher, and I was a voraciously student.  As we learned about each other, I realized that the façade that accompanies dating didn’t exist with us.  I could be myself, my honest, expressive and messy self.  To him I was funny and interesting on a level that no one had ever cared to recognize or acknowledge. It was astonishing to me at the time, that two very different people land in the same place.  I was starting to believe in myself and in fate.  Sure, I had dated good men with kind hearts in the past, but the timing was always wrong.  I wasn’t ready to let them in.  Being with “Mr. Big” prepared me for every relationship I would ever have moving forward.  He taught me how to love. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Decades later I sit quietly scrolling through Facebook late one night, and someone mentions “Mr. Big.”.  Memories flood back; some good, some bad.  I remember how outrageous I was with the breakup, my lowest point ever.  It wasn’t really me.  I was so messed up between having severe depressed for years and losing a person who I truly loved.  I remember him telling me at the end that he’d always be there for me.  Maybe just a formality.   It was such a waste for him to say that, to lead me to believe that.  The reality was that we both needed to move on to remain sane. No cliches necessary.  A clean unadulterated break would have been best, but we were so attached even while splitting up.  Things were complicated, and we lingered for much too long.

So, without thinking it through, I looked him up on LinkedIn and sent a quick, light whimsical note.  I said that I hoped he was well and that life was good to him.  Provided a short anecdotal overview of my whereabouts and finished with an invitation to get in touch with me.  Why did I do that?!?  Do I really want him to contact me?  Absolutely not!  I am in a good space, in a solid long-term relationship.  I felt like this could be construed as a sad and pathetic communication.  Dear Lord! It was a just a simple gesture of friendship and appreciation, checking in after all these years.  I wonder what he must be thinking!

I realize that I’ve glued together pieces of my past with sticky messy fingers in an effort to append, support or confirm who I am today.  My 22 year old self learned valuable lessons in loving others and loving myself.  Did “Mr. Big” really do all that?  Well, he may never know, but he got the ball rolling.  In my heart, I hope my partner was someone else’s “Mr. Big.”  Because since I’ve known him, he lovingly and naturally brings out the best in people, all people. If she’s out there, thinking about their special memories, she should check in.  He would be grateful and humbled to know in some way he was important in making her life better.

Thank you “Mr. Big” for helping me to find “Mr. Right.”