Rear up a Child Correctly and She May Still Embarrass You in Front of Your Bridge Club

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Last Sunday our sermon was about child rearing.  Since I am almost done with this, I used this time to doodle, play with the charms on my bracelet and admire my shoes.  One thing he said, though, slipped through.  How important a good mother is in making a great child.  Gosh, I started out to be a swell mom.  We sang Bible songs, we did crafts, I swore by using phrases like “gee whiz” and “heck”.  All went well until I purchased an Offspring CD when my daughter was in 4th grade.  She swears this is when we went to hell in a handbag.

Well, I felt the guilt slipping in so I changed thoughts and considered my own mother.  She was a True Southern Lady.  By this I mean she was perfect.  I never heard my mother swear, never saw her perspire, never heard her raise her voice to my dad, who believed she was an angel personified.  There was never a moment when there wasn’t a warm pound cake on our counter.  She made hospital visits, casseroles and never had a disagreement with anyone that I can think of.  As an only child, I benefited so greatly from her undivided attention that my best friend used to nudge me in church and say “look, your mother is watching you breathe from the choir loft”.  I also frequently got “the look” from the choir loft that told me to stop wiggling, drawing and making designs on the velvet pew cushion with my fingernails.

That’s not to say she wasn’t without her quirks.  Growing up in the Bible belt, my mother was so pure that the weirdest things bothered her.  Who knows where she got these ideas? For instance, I was not allowed to play the game Operation as a child because the man was nude. I don’t believe she even said the word “nude”.  I’m sure it just involved another “look”. There was no word for breasts at our house, it was just chest.  There were no words for boy parts or ladytown,  just  “the bottom” whether front of back.  One did not refer to things that went on in the bathroom unless one needed to see a doctor and the bedroom was not even considered.  Perrier water was out as well because the bottle was suggestive of beer.  The one that, I believe, catapulted me into the middle aged lush that I am, however, was that I was not allowed to sing “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” because, of course, he drank his wine.

I did pick up lots of good knowledge from the True Southern Lady, though.  My mother fully believed that if one kept moving while eating, the calories would never find you.  Our housekeeper, Sassy, claimed that she had once seen Mother eat three entire bags of Hersey’s Kisses while circling the dining room table and talking on the phone.

Although I was a terrible teen, my mom kept up with a smile.  When I informed her that I was going to a concert at the dark and enjoyable Agora Ballroom, my mom and her best friend went down, during the day, to check it out for safety and propriety.  My mother fell and sprained her ankle never knowing that I had already changed my weekend plans.  I just keep imaging the guys in those dark depths picking up my mom as she smoothed down her skirt and straightened her pearls, oh gosh and oh geeing all the time.

Probably the only thing I can think of that she ever did wrong was wear a fur coat.  There is nothing more evil in the world than fur and I couldn’t bear (no pun) to look at her in it, but like so many others of her generation, she adored it and popped it on anytime the temperature dipped below 65.  When she died, I was left with the dilemma of what to do with it. I couldn’t sell it because I don’t want anyone to wear fur.  I couldn’t throw it away because so many little mink lives would be wasted.  So, I keep it in the back of my closet and sometimes when I miss her, I bury my face it it and it still smells of the Oscar that she wore.  Besides, it made a great addition to Cricket’s boyfriend’s pimp outfit last Halloween.

I know that my style of mothering has been entirely deficient when compared to my mom.  Life is so much faster now and I have certainly not lived up to her standards.  I know my kids will never hear the theme music to Days of our Lives and conjure up images of sitting at the table with sweet tea and little sandwiches while Sassy irons to the clean smell of Niagara spray starch and discusses “their story” with my mom.  I haven’t worn many respectable length skirts and they’ve never seen me in a one piece swim suit. They probably won’t use me as a role model in which to judge what’s right and what’s wrong.  They’ve seen too much and really, it’s hard to fully respect a mother wearing a tiara and prom dress on horseback.

If you have a mom handy, call her up and lie about how good you’ve been and tell her how much you love her because without these True Southern Ladies, the world is a darker and less sparkly place.

The Noms

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A word about food.  It plagues us women.  I used to be a girl who forgot to eat.  I was so slim I would whip off my clothes at any opportunity.  My pantry contained paint cans, twist ties and car keys.  All that changes with kids.  First, they cause you to get fat and then they cause you to carry food with you everywhere.  Sitting at a playground can cause any woman to nip into the Goldfish while wishing for vodka.  I hate Goldfish and have eaten at least a semi-truck load out of desperation. 

My daughter, Cricket, was a fabulous eater in the beginning.  I raised two vegetarian kids, no milk, no meat, but she ate everything else with gusto.  People would stop and pat her golden curls in restaurants to see her bearing down on her plate like a lumberjack.  All that changed, though.  Now, she is unable to have her food touch other bits of food.  Food must be white or light in color, no sauce or “green things” (parsley) decorating it.  Many would say, “ah, toddlers are notoriously picky eaters”.  Cricket is a sophomore in college. 

My friend and running partner, Peaches, is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I have never seen such a small person put away such copious amounts of food. She dreams of food, fantasizes about it.  Her eyes widen and shine at the thought of it. She recently volunteered at a food pantry and shoved food they deemed too disgusting for hobos  into her pockets for later.  Several incidences with Peaches have concerned me lately.  A while back we were on our street coming home from a long run when she spots something shiny on the road and makes a beeline towards it like a chicken on a slug.  It turned out to be a Snickers.  A Snickers that has been crushed by a car.  “No, Peaches”, I begin but she is already listing reasons why it’s okay.  It’s in our neighborhood, the wrapper is still on, etc.  Peaches consumed that Snickers in front of me.  Two weeks ago we saw a plastic Easter egg on the side of the road.  Now, this was NOT in our ‘hood and, indeed, was near a house where there are cars jacked up on blocks protected by pitt bulls. I don’t care about your argument for pitt bulls, you pair them with a transmission hanging from a tree and the result is not good.  Opening the egg, she discovered candy.  Can I mention that Easter was almost six months ago?  Where has this egg been?  Who packed it to begin with?  I have long wanted to do a coffee table book about things I see on the side of the road when running.  I never thought Peaches would EAT one of them. 

It all goes to the grip food has on us beleaguered women. I can be going along fine, fitting into my jeans with room for a friend and, BAM, a chip will whisper to me as I pass through the kitchen.  It will beg for me to release it’s friend cheese dip from the cold prison of the fridge and reunite them with their mother, margarita.  It’s a vicious cycle, food.  As we get older we have to budget our calories, nutrition and fiber and give up chewing altogether. I am thinking that my rise to fame is going to occur with the invention of the metastolifruiti, a combination of metamusil, vodka and grapefruit juice, for antioxidants to keep our skin fresh.  It’s a well-balanced diet all around.    

 

The Empress and the Snake Bite (or “turn it to Watercolors”)

The other day my friend, The Empress, came to stay at my lake place with me.  She should really be called the Queen, but that conjures up visions of cross-dressing men and The Empress is definitely not that.  The Empress is 130 lbs of pretty woman with a figure like Jessica Rabbit and a giant head full of brunette hair that just never ends.  The Empress has had four husbands up to bat and she’s struck them all out of the ball park, the losers.  She has a great job, a fantastic house and knows how to do anything.  I mean anything.  If I called her with a bullet wound, she would know exactly how to handle it so I didn’t scar or at least fix it so I’d get to get free liposuction out of the ordeal.  She can get anything to grow, rescues little fluffy dogs and manages the church sales.  The Empress has a beautiful house, a garage full of vintage cars, can assess a commercial property with a shrewd eye and still mix a perfect drink in kitten heels.  I adore the Empress and aspire to her level of tough. She’s my hero.

Well, I thought she was a tough girl until the other night.  We had been sitting around, tippling just a little, when we decided we were starving.  The Empress was still in condition to drive, which I was not, which only goes to her tough nature.  Halfway into town I spot a giant snake crossing the road.  I yell out “stop the car!”, which illustrates my mother was right and women become vulgar when alcohol is involved and get loud.  I really get loud but that might be another story.  The Empress slams on the brakes and I jump out, wobbling down the road in a pair of “sittin’ shoes”.  You know the kind.  I was also wearing a dress that was probably better suited to the younger generation but it is sometimes hard for me to understand that I’m not 25 anymore and the Golden Goose does a good job of hiding it from me.  Now, in my mind, I was thinking that when the Goose and my son arrived late that night they’d be proud of me for catching a snake.  Don’t know why I thought this, but that was my motivation and also why I was not driving.  I’ve dealt with lots of snakes and I really do know what I’m doing on a normal day.

This evening, I was not at the top of my game.  I did catch up with the snake, just as a truck pulled up in the other lane.  The Empress yells out “girl, you’re exposing your entire ladytown every time you bend over” and proceeds to roll up her windows and look as if she is not there.  Because she pointed this out in front of the truck full of men, I was offered two unmentionable acts accompanied by a six pack and received one insincere proposal of marriage.  Of course, the snake bites down hard, which causes great glee to the audience and by the time the truck pulls away, I’m just a silly woman in a great, if wrong, outfit, standing with a bloody finger in the middle of the road.  A snakebite has a sobering affect on a girl and so I gently laid down the evil serpent and slunk back to the car.  The Empress had locked the doors and the entire vehicle was vibrating with something that sounded suspiciously like Yanni.  I’m hollering at her to let me in and what the heck does she think she’s doing and she’s yelling back that when she’s scared, she turns the radio to “watercolors” and locks the doors.  This apparently works for her and it might be a good strategy for all of us to keep in mind, but as I was outdoors at the time, I wasn’t enjoying it.  I finally convinced her to let me and take me right away to a big wine and an even bigger dinner, which I charged to the Goose, by the way, as I consider the entire incident his fault since I was only trying to be a good wife in the first place.

I’m thinking more clearly at this point and I like to make the best of any situation.  The good thing I’m taking away from this Springer episode gone wrong is that I may have worn something inappropriate, I may misjudged my wine consumption, I may have even exposed a little too much to some men from the sewer department, but, darn it, I was tougher that day than the Empress.  In my book, that’s a win.

Not Tonight, Deer

Everything has a season.  As a native Atlantan I come by this knowledge naturally.  I was lucky enough to have a mother who knew the right way to do everything and did it better than anyone else, bless their ignorant northern hearts.  Not just the rules about white shoes and not only how to work a seating chart and correct place settings.  I’m talking the subtle things like what to wear at the funeral of a second wife that may or may not have been hanging in the wings shortly before the demise of the first.  When frosted lipstick is okay (never), when to take someone a casserole (at the first sign of a sneeze) and when a glass of wine is okay (never, it’ll send you straight to Hell).  Obviously, though I was reared properly, some of this just didn’t take.  Still, I love the idea that certain things belong at certain times of the year.  June, for me, means straw purses, Lilly Pulitzer skirts and fawns.  I get calls from well meaning people who find “orphaned” fawns.  “It was all alone, it’s mother left it!” they bleat over the phone.  They call after the poor little thing is weak and sick and after they’ve crammed milk down it’s throat for days and wonder why it’s sick.  Mother deer leave their babies alone all day.  The babies have no scent and can’t run fast yet so they snuggle up under a plant and just blend in.  They are so camouflaged that sometimes when I’m standing right next to one even I miss it.  So, I received these sick little kidnapped babies while I envision their mothers pining for them and wondering what happened.  Still, I enjoy the little sweeties and get a kick out of raising a healthy wild buck or doe to be released in the fall.  I’ve raised lots of babies and all have gone well except one.  Every mother knows her weak link.  This is the brilliant kid who will climb up into your skirt when a sweet little old lady talks to her at the grocery store.  The kid who follows you constantly, breathing heavily by the bathroom door until you’re done.  The one who wants you to come eat lunch with her at school – in 10th grade.  I had a deer like that named Zippy.  She just couldn’t separate.  While the others romped and played reindeer games, she walked from door to door around the outside of my house, just trying to catch a glimpse of me.  When the others left to go live their lives, she would sneak back in through the gate, climb up the stairs and flop down in deep depression by the door until I emerged and she could gaze, rapt, at me.

The final straw came when my husband, The Golden Goose, came home from work in suit and fabulous tie and flopped down on the bed for a moment.  Everyone knows that if a man remains horizontal for any amount of time, without a woman present, he will immediately go to sleep.  Zippy, ever on constant vigil, saw an opportunity through the french doors, maneuvered them open with her nose and crept into the bedroom and onto the bed to spoon with him.  The Golden Goose puts up with a lot, I’ll admit.  Life is, well, unusual at our house.  He tries so hard to stay unaffected and above it all, but this occasion proved to be too much.  Although he remained stoic while I heaved and pushed the full grown doe off our custom bedding and across the pristine carpet, he did have the wherewithal to mummer “not tonight, dear” before he closed his eyes again.

Zippy was soon trailered off my property and happily released elsewhere.  Although she doesn’t write home often, I know she’s thinking of me.

The Beagle Incident

A word about my husband, the Golden Goose.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned that he is referred to this because this is how he refers to himself.  The Golden Goose leaves the animal stuff up to me.  That’s not to say he doesn’t have a kind heart, he’s just unable to immerse himself in chaos. Lord knows he grew up in chaos, but that’s just an unfair poke at my mother-in-law’s housekeeping.  We once had a fight of such epic proportions that one of us could have easily ended up snuffed and buried in a shallow grave over something a dog I brought home did.

Let me digress, I brought home a stray dog one time we named Orlando.  This dog was so dumb he wouldn’t even acknowledge anyone when they were speaking.  I would have though he was deaf, but he jumped at noises.  I talked and cooed endlessly to him the first few days trying to build a bridge but he wasn’t having it.  Only months later, when having the house painted, did we figure it all out.  Our painter, who was of hispanic origin, yelled to his co-worker in spanish and the dog bolted awake and ran over with great interest.  He proceeded to follow their conversations for days, shadowing them and gazing with longing at them when they were on their ladders.  Apparently, he was a spanish speaking dog.  Orlando was accidently left in the Golden Goose’s office where he then chewed up an item that I still don’t feel comfortable naming.  The item itself, purchased by the Goose, was of a decorative and, I believe, cruel nature and had been the subject of angry and demonstrative discussion between us.  Thus, it resided in his office and was pointedly ignored by me.  This item, however, was quite pricy and apparently delicious as Orlando devoured a good portion of it.  Thus began what is know in my marriage as “the time of the _______ (insert horrible item’s name here) incident”.  The Golden Goose was so angry that even the sight of Orlando caused his veins to pop out in his neck and he developed a whistle when he breathed deeply.  Luckily, I was able to relocate him to a bilingual home.

This was all to preface that he should have known better.  The Golden Goose, who does have a heart, called me from the golf course, the only known safe place for a sport, and declared that he was bringing home a dog.  I really didn’t want another dog but since I have over 100 animals myself, who was I to argue?  The dog in question was a beagle.  The Goose had a beagle as a child and I suppose this is what prompted his largess.  All was well until bedtime.  The dog whined and cajoled until he was allowed, newly washed and cleaned, into our bed with our two Jack Russells.  The problem was that he wouldn’t stay on the foot of the bed.  I must emit an animal pheromone because he kept wriggling up to my head.  Even I can only go so far on the first date.  So, the Goose put him in a crate where he began to howl a blood curdling howl that only a hound can emit.  I mean it was LOUD.  I think this is where it breaks down.  Sleep deprived, the Goose stumbled back to bed where he informed me that he had placed the crate in the BACK SEAT OF HIS CAR.  It was a cool night and he would be comfortable there.  I informed him that there was about a 4” hole in the corner of the crate then.  The Goose shot back a snappy retort and I just let sleeping dogs lie. In the morning, I went to free the dog.  You know when, in cartoons, a character sees something so impressive that their eyes telescope in and out of their sockets making an ahooooga sound?  Uh huh.  I did that.  The dog had shoved his nose through the hole and eaten the back seat of the Goose’s upscale truck for men who want to say they drive a truck but really want a luxury car inside.  The seat.  He had eaten it.  He seemed none the worse for wear for this.  Upon informing the Goose of this, the dog was secured in the Goose’s office while the Goose had a tantrum that wove such a tapestry of obscenities throughout the universe that I’m sure Satan and his minions laughed with glee. I don’t know why I didn’t speak up about the wisdom of putting him in the office, that very same office,  but I’m sure the memory of “the incident” was still lurking in my mind.  In 10 minutes the dog had eaten the seagrass carpet off the stairs, jumped onto the desk and destroyed paperwork and made not one but two no-nos.  A call was made to Beagle rescue where he was placed that night.  During the night at his new home, he was left for an hour while his new owners went out to dinner.  They left him lounging on the sofa. I guess he was still hungry.