Thursday, July 26, 2012


the days before my birthday, every one, is awash in a gray film that clouds my emotions and smile.  by now, my 38th time at this, you'd think i'd be ready or at least aware of it. but like pms, it's not until after the fact that i think "oh, right" and remember that this is my pattern.  a repeating, predictable pattern.

it's something like this- i start to think about what i want to happen on my birthday and then i immediately dash all hope because these plans are in the hands of others to shower me with ridiculously delirious amounts of love and stuff.  now i have had really great birthdays, but every year i start to worry that this will be the year that everyone suddenly deems me unworthy of any type of consideration other than requests for clean laundry or popsicles.

then there's that very teeny-tiny voice of small, wise girl that whispers that maybe i should just consider letting the day unfold and see what treasures show up. 


that's my middle school bitch that lives right under the skin.  she uses a lighter to melt her eyeliner and aquanet on teased bangs.  she wears short tight skirts and black suede boots.  she rolls her eyes like bowling balls- fast and dangerous. 

perhaps my gray film is actually the result of these two gals fighting it out somewhere in my spleen or gallbladder or other obscure organ.  maybe the small girl purrs and the middle school bitch hisses and i build brick walls around the scuffle so i don't have to pick sides.  and of course, by not picking sides i am pickings sides.  as my dad likes to say, the first option is always not to do anything.  which is still doing something. 

i love the doing nothing option.

i do nothing until the morning of my birthday and the bitch is in the lead.  she is throwing darts of criticism faster than someone who throws darts really fast...sorry it's too early for a meaningful metaphor here.  the point being, that it really looks like m.s.b. is gonna win the day until slowly i start to pick sides.  what switched me from indifference to defender?  i dunno.   i spoon warm honey milk to small, wise girl and she perks right up.

off we go into the day.  i get lunch at my favorite place in Atown, and we walk to thrift stores where i find nothing especially fabulous and that's ok.  we kill time until the last thrift store opens and i get dropped off to dive into the crowd.  i barely make it out of there with red preschooler shoes and green shirt because there's just too many eager treasure hunters which means there's no easy browsing and's all about the hunt and the long wait in line.

i wait on the curb for the fam to pick me up, i sip my water.  the water is stale and smells like it's been in a metal water bottle for a few days in a warm car.  which it has.  out of the thrift store comes a woman in her fifties who is coughing.  the cough is that annoying cough of "i swallowed wrong" and nothing super dangerous, but she keeps coughing.  she has short kinky hair with bright sunglasses and cocoa skin. 

i wonder briefly what it's like for her to be in this white-washed town as i step up and offer her my stale water.  i'm secretly hoping she doesn't take it because it's not cold and sweet the water is meant to be, but it is water and i am offering it.  she politely declines and says something about how if someone is coughing they are ok, and then she chats about the dog there and this and that with me.  her smile is genuine and her hands flit about as she talks.  out the door comes an elderly woman using a walker and the woman, no longer coughing, comments to her "Girl, you're just getting out everywhere today."

this reminds me how much i miss living in a place where i hear women call each other girl with big smiles.  it reminds me how much i miss living in a place where i see and hear many different types of bodies and voices and movement.  i suppose this might be some type of racism, that i seek people out who are not like me - white.  just like i pick out books to read based on the last name of the authors, going straight to the ones i cannot pronounce.

in any case, the sun is out and i'm chatting with this....girl....and she tells me, "my name is carlotta.  what's yours?"   and i tell her my name.  i repeat it and she repeats it.  we shake hands.

then she says....she actually says, "well, nancylee aren't you just the sweetest thing?  we are lucky to have you on this earth."

i smile shyly and say thank you. i cross the street.  i am overwhelmed.  my eyes tear up and i'm curious at the power strangers - how strangers all over the world show love to each other in simple words that rock worlds.  truly,  i have heard words like this from people i love and not been as moved as hearing Carlotta say them to me.

and at first the small girl feels like this gift was for her.  because of course, everyone loves the small, wise girl. 

she is the sweetest thing, after all. 

the more i think about it, it was for the middle school bitch.  that part of me that feels not welcomed and unseen.  because she is the same part of me that has dragged my ass to this point through particular parts of hell too much for small girl to doing anything more than nap through.

folks may like small, wise girl - i know i do.  but i just gotta say to my middle school bitch, "damn girl, we are lucky to have you on this earth."

Friday, July 13, 2012


i watched the mail van creep its ways down the sidestreet, it swerving in closer to rural boxes to deliver paper and packages.  white with blue and red stripes.  dip and glide.  dip and glide.

"guess what's coming in the mail today?!"  i called back to the boys hunkered behind me in the new truck, also known as the Duchess of Wow.  i'm thinking of a documentary about a certain band my kid has recently fallen in love with.

DOM DA DOM DA DA DOM DOM, i sing out.... the first notes of Seven Nation Army - the 3 year old can sing it by now.  and he does.

"the tickets?" replies my gleeful almost 10 year old boy who will headed to this concert with me in August for our birthday concert.  i'm confused by this for a nanosecond because we already got the tickets and i showed him where i hid them...

"THE TICKETS!"  i holler.  confusion in the back seat.  "THE TICKETS WERE IN THE OLD FRIDGE!"  and yes, the old fridge died last week. it was hauled away.

never to be seen again.

see, on friday night i get home from work and when i open the fridge to put away the groceries my hand slips into tempid air.  in the freezer the popsicles are sagging, ice cubes reverting to water state, the plastic bag with the two $60 tickets calmly sitting in the door, next to the bag of sweet corn.

at some point in my life - i have yet to figure out when - i was taught/told/decided that the freezer was the safest place to store valuable papers.  i believe the reasoning was something like if the house burns down the stuff in the fridge won't burn.  because the only thing lamer than your home becoming a mountain o' ashes is not being able to go see the Red Hots, PJ and yes, Nirvana.  of course, who knows if a freezer would hold these sacred slips safe?  typically this didn't mean i put cash or birth certificates in the freezer, just tickets - concert tickets.  priorities people.

the 10 year old begins to break down in his own controlled rage/sadness way.  he grips his head with his hands, mangled hair peeking out of grubby hands, and i can feel his heart sinking into his flame converse.  i say something incredibly consoling and kind like, "don't just sit there, let's go look for them!"  this might even be a nicer version of what i said.  i am not a saint.

inside we check the usual places- the new fridge.  the freezer in the pantry.  then we get crazy and start checking my desk and the recycling bin.  the boy calls the dad and leaves heartbreaking voicemail.  i call the dad and get a slightly abrupt "no i haven't seen them" reply.  my dad, who is visiting from california, is equally ignorant of ticket's whereabouts and my habit of putting things in the freezer for safe keeping.  maybe you can never really know a person.

around this time my best friend shows up with her teenage daughter en route to birch bay.  it's her 41st birthday and i was planning a nice time of visiting with her while eating ice cream.  instead she has walked into melt down central - no cone required.  while seren shifts disgarded receipts and bills, i decide to call the appliance store where we bought the new fridge, where the old fridge went.

donnie - maybe the one from NKOTB - hides his confusion/mockery well.  he goes and looks for our old fridge and reports that it is not on the premises.  the trailer full of old appliances has been picked up.  i ask if there's any chance someone in the warehouse opened up the freezer, saw the tickets and did the happy dance.  he tell me, very seriously, that they typically do not open up old refrigerators because they "smell pretty bad."  never thought about that.

he does take my name and number.  good kid. glad he had fame and riches once upon a time.

continue frantic search.  i start doing the mom thing where i look everywhere my kid has already looked and my kid goes and hides in his room.  in the dark.  under his desk.  he wants ice cream.  but i cannot let him eat it alone in the dark.  i know that song too well.

meanwhile, my friend has offered up her two tickets and her daughter loves up the cats.  my dad returns from the tire store.  the 3 year old wants more ice cream.

seemingly random tangent, like a commercial, but with important back story:

i often wonder if the years of television watching has provided me with inappropriate role models.  like macguyver.  at moments in my life i have actually seen images of him in my head when i need to go into desparate fix-it mode.  like when i dropped the keys out of the truck into a trench and used the dog leash and paper clip to retrieve them.  

however, since i read every word i could get my eyes on, i also have a host of literary characters to personify as well.  nancy drew, for example.  if having the same name wasn't enough, she was also blonde and...nothing like me at all.  now and then, i get this secret-agent tingly feeling and i solve the case, mo fo.

with the case of the thawed-out tickets, i decide to do some more tracking.  i call back the appliance store and ask for details about who/when the old appliances were picked up.  confusion ensues, but then i'm given a number.  i call that number and repeat the same story i told Donnie earlier.  This guy, does not hide his confusion/mockery, but also shows some compassion and give me another number to call.

i call that number.  by this time the child has come out of cave of discontent, and is lurking nearby to hear if anyone knows anything.  the third appliance guy sounds like a grandpa.  i add more details because i have a slight worry that the tickets will wind up on craigslist and maybe if i get enough pity this won't happen.  i explain how this was a birthday present for my son, how devastated he is, how yes- i know it is weird to store tickets in a freezer.  and this guy totally gets it.  he unleashes the hounds on to the cemetary of dead appliances.  if those tickets are there- he is gonna find them.

my friend and her kid leave.  my kid feels better because he knows that he is going to see Jack White, no matter what.  Yes, that is who all this is for - Jack White, formerly of the White Stripes.  This is the apple of my kid's eye.  Possibly for mad guitar skills combined with screeching rocking lyrics, most definitely some style points too.  Jack White who writes songs that someday my kid will "get" and ask, incrediously "you let me listen to this?"  in my defense, i suppose all i will be able to offer up is that he wanted to listen to it.  but in truth, it's because the music transports him to a place where all things are bright and brilliant and intense.  it's the music of his emotional landscape.  last year it was the avett brothers.  this year, more distortion.  bring on sixteen saltines.

now that it's just family i know it's time to dive into the garbage.  luckily (?) we haven't made a dump run since the fridge died.  yay!  all the old rotting food-stuffs is outside in the deep bins of refuse.  the good news is that it isn't raining and we have chickens.  remember- chickens eat anything.  i begin pulling out garbage.  i realize we aren't really doing a good job of recycling.  i contemplate whether it's true that this doesn't matter because "they" sort it all out anyway.  i also realize my kids are being fed crap food while i'm at work.  i also realize i'm not sure if i could sift through a stranger's garbage.  eww.  i bet nancy drew would do it, if she had gloves.

i pull a book out of the box that had been under the house (in musky city) for month and thus had decomposed into cardboard shreds.

"hey!" i shout.  my son jumps up with excitement and yells "you found 'em?!"

"no.  but here's that library book we lost."  the one we paid $20 to replace.  the one on budgies.  the one - i later will learn - the library has not replaced yet but will not issue a refund either.  no, we will not be returning this book.  we gots budgies.

i send the boy into the house to search through more paper recycling.  and i reach the final bag of garbage.  it contains all the things in the freezer i didn't even try to save- the ground turkey my mom gave us, the pork stew that needed more work, the....i don't even remember what that is...container.  the chickens gather with glee, pecking at a speed not seen since the maggot-munch.  everything is covered in a rancid slime.

i should have worn gloves, i think.

if it was raining it would stink less, i think.

i have found the tickets, i think.

yes, amidst the plastic bags of disgust shines a white pristine envelope with two tickets to the August 14th show of Jack White at the WaMu Theater in Seattle.  Hot damn.

i call for seren and race up the stairs.  he is sitting on the floor contemplating each piece of paper before putting it back in the box when i say "i found 'em" and hold them in front of him, slime slick still.  his eyes light up and his face radiates into a smile that would stop a parade.  he runs to me and hugs me with this strength of love and release of anger and complete bliss.

even if it was probably me that tossed them out in the first place (never clean out a fridge after working all day and needing sleep) i feel like macguyver and nancy drew with a dash of Jem (truly, truly, truly outrageous) and She-Ra (princess of power).

cuz that's what it takes to be a mama.  no sainthood required.