Jamie introduced our boys to the empire that is the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when Colin was about two years old. Jamie isn’t really a devotee, but when he realized the children didn’t know who Andre the Giant was, he recognized the opportunity for education.
One Easter we took the boys to “big church” in Albany. I was a little nervous. This wasn’t our little country church. It was a fancy church with real liturgical colors and banners and a big choir and microphones. The Easter prelude that morning began with the pipe organ’s deep, full-throated bellow of a long, triumphant chord. Colin, who was three, with wide, excited eyes loudly whispered, “MAMA! It’s the Undertaker! He’s here!!”
Once when I was working a temp job in LaGrange, a co-worker remarked that my childhood sounded like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. He was right. It really was. Mama and Daddy did everything they could to make it so.
In the field adjacent to Nanny and Pops’ yard was a fire-tower manned by Mrs. Irma Collins. Miss Irma climbed the seemingly innumerable flights of stairs up to the tiptop of the tower, where she watched, mostly in the late spring and early summer, for forest fires. She carried a small cooler with her lunch inside and not much else. It was rare that she came down from the fire-tower until time to go home.
Trucks run awfully fast on the highway that separates our house from Nanny and Pops’. So, most of the time, Mama would walk me to the road where Pops would be waiting on the other side. If Miss Irma was working in the fire-tower though, I was allowed to cross the highway by myself, only after calling to her as a lookout.
Standing on the edge of our yard, I’d call up to the little office at the top of the tower, “MISS IRMA? MISS IRRRMMMAAAA??” She’d stick her head out the window, look up and down the highway for me and shout back, “Go ahead Little Un.” I’d run across the road to Pops waiting on the swing in the front yard.
Admittedly, it was a charmed life.
The back-to-school honeymoon we enjoyed in those fresh-faced few weeks of summer is clearly over. We are swimming in the deep-end now. We are in full-on homework agony. The scheduling squeezes of after-school clubs are putting a vice-grip squeeze on us now. The once sparkly-new, back-to-school tennis shoes have turned into worn-down stinkers that fill the mudroom with an aroma worthy of a Febreeze commercial.
Once the bridges were reopened in the early morning of September 12th, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove back to our little apartment in Alexandria. Lying in Jamie’s arms in our little bed, in our little apartment so far away from home, I whispered, “I just want to go home. Can’t we go home?” He answered back in the dark, “We aren’t going to let this change us, Elizabeth. This is our home. No matter what, we aren’t going to let it be taken from us. We cannot be afraid.”
I knew he was right, but I was afraid.
Just like nearly every other woman I know, tonight after I got home from my full-time job, I started my second full-time job. On this particular evening, in addition to the typical routine: supper prep, supper clean-up, laundry, and homework assistance, I also peeled 8 pounds of russet baking potatoes.
Loaded baked potato casserole is one of the essential side items requested for Colin’s birthday dinner. The menu also includes fish sticks with honey mustard on the side, steamed broccoli with homemade cheese sauce and something he calls ranch salad. The recipe for ranch salad for those who are curious: chopped iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing, and croutons. For dessert, he’s asked for a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I’ve got this.
The hamster was not my idea. The hamster was Ginny’s idea and somehow, she roped Jamie’s sister Keisha into it, too.
Colin had been asking for a kitten, but we already have a dog. Paisley, our miniature schnauzer, was bought for Jack after he turned three. Buddies for the last 11 years, Paisley follows Jack from room to room, sleeps at the foot of Jack’s bed and gets antsy when Jack isn’t home.
Colin wanted a kitten, but he is allergic. Enter hamster.
When Ginny and I were around thirteen, Mama and Daddy started giving us someday house presents: a set of pewter candlesticks, iced tea glasses, a piece of silver. I romanticized the gifts, of course, and thought of them as a kind of modern dowry.
When Jamie and I moved into our first apartment, I unpacked those someday house treasures from my steamer trunk, where they’d been stored since I was a teenager. As a new bride, there were lots of happy dreams in each candlestick, hand-carved wooden bowl and tablecloth I put on our very first mantle, bookcase and kitchen table.
I get too emotional about things. Always have. In fact, one of my best friends gave me a little pink sign for my cubicle wall that has “Just Slightly Dramatic” painted in white curly letters on the front. It is a facetious understatement.
In fifth grade, I overheard my parents and their friends discussing local politics. I didn’t like what I was hearing and decided to write a letter to the politician expressing my disappointment and frustration. I’d thought he was a good guy. I gave the sealed, addressed and stamped letter to my father to mail feeling very proud of myself, believing with my whole heart that this well-written letter would most certainly make an impact. Daddy explained years later that just before he dropped my letter in the mailbox, a little voice told him he should probably open it. All these years later, he still has that letter in his desk drawer at home. I specifically remember one line written in blue ink and very careful cursive writing, “It has come to my attention that you have some unsanitary supporters.” Unsanitary supporters. Nice.
Most of the time, Mama and Daddy answered endless questions from Ginny and me with thoughtful, thorough answers. There was nothing we couldn’t ask that they wouldn’t try to explain.
However, when I complained about the fact that something was unfair, Daddy’s favorite answer was, “When you meet fair in the road, come get me.” I squinted my eyes, wrinkled my nose, and let my mouth gape, not daring to respond with the bordering on disrespectful, “Huh?” His answer made as much sense to me as, “If you don’t quit crying, I will give you something to cry about.”
I don’t like leaving my office during the day.
First of all, it’s South Georgia in July. So, I may as well be living on the surface of a very humid sun. For example, I straightened my hair this morning before work. Then, I walked the dog which took all of about seven minutes. I put Paisley back inside, grabbed my keys and purse and just happened to catch a quick glance of myself in the reflection of the oven door. Roseanne Roseannadanna has nothing on me. Ponytail it is!