Something at First Sight

At the end of the major street that split the subdivision, was a lake.  Next to the lake, were ball parks, a playground with picnic areas, a golf course and a sailing club.  When school was out, ball was on.  So, being healthy 15 and 16 year-old girls, we climbed in Mikayla’s massive family wagon (In my new color block top that had the tie on the side.) and headed down to the ball park.

All the usual suspects were there.  And someone new to me.

He was taking our dollar at the gate and selling the cokes.  Red hair, exceptional medium build.  Eyes.  Eyes forever. My heart still squeezes.

We hadn’t even been seated in the bleachers for five minutes, when someone told Mikayla he wanted to talk to me.

Being so young and so unused to that kind of attention, I didn’t leap right up and run over.

The game had barely gotten underway, but Mikayla was soooooo boy-crazy, she wouldn’t even leave me alone.  So it was get up the nerve or be gnawed to death by Mik, I had my choice.  I went with getting up and walking over there.

I went to the concession stand and waited quietly; while a BUNCH of our friends bought candy, interspersed with people who weren’t nosy; they wanted a snack.

Then some people came and needed to pay their dollars to get in.

Then he had to go unlock something.

Finally, he was free to chat a bit.

I stood there in the shade of the concession stand.  Our eyes met and held.  It felt promise-y and comfortable as broken in jeans.  Not silly or self-conscious.  Seen.

We’d barely started to talk, when Mikayla had to leave.

When we got in the car, she jabbered away in her usual style.  Completely unaware.  You didn’t tell her anything remotely confidential.

His family was moving.

That week.

I guess they must have.

That was 1982.




With Miles to Go Before I….Sleep

While we waited at the light just before the post office, a ’78 Z-28 turned left in front of us and cruised up Washington Pike.  I startled, then sighed, “Mike drove one of those…”

“Mike, who?”

Another sigh.

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then why’d you bring it up? You can’t just do that.”

“Surely, I’ve told you about Mike.”

In the small hours this morning, I remembered Mike, again.

It was Valentine’s Day, but for my friend and I, just Wednesday.  We were taking a walk.  We paid no attention to the Z-28.  We couldn’t drive and the car didn’t belong to anyone we knew in the neighborhood.

The he must have been lost, because he passed us four times, before he stopped.

“Do you know where Joy Miller lives?”  We gave him directions and he took off.

Then he came back.  He hadn’t needed directions.

We managed not to faint as he introduced himself and asked for my number.  He was a junior and I was still in junior high, a freshman.

Valentine's Day 1982

Valentine’s Day 1982

He called a couple of days later.

We talked on the phone.  He made me laugh.  Somehow, I made him laugh, too.

“NO, you can’t date, you’re too young,” and it was true. I’d barely had my 15th birthday.

I had to tell him I couldn’t go anywhere with him.

Several calls and several nights later, after the house was quiet, the tap on my bedroom window was not a surprise.

I climbed on a chair, and opened the high window and there he stood.  Looking up.  Tennis shorts. Expensive haircut. Halston 1-12 thickened the warmth that radiated up to me.  Glad for the window, he’d never know I was trembling so I could barely stand.

We talked for a long time.  As I watched him walk back up the driveway, a strange feeling passed over me I’d never felt before.

Several nights later, we’d agreed again on the same signal.  This time, he was more persuasive or I was bolder, but I wasn’t trembling when I slid open the door, went to the gate, and let myself out.  Or him in.  Who really cares?

We talked for just a minute.  He stepped closer.  He had not come there to chat.  We could do that on the phone.

He took my face in his hands.

And he kissed me.

For an hour.

When my knees went weak, he put his arms around me.

And he kissed me.

I forgot I didn’t know how.

His hands never traveled.

Not so it’d matter.

For another hour.

“Go back in the house and go to bed,” he whispered.

And he kissed me.











The Art of the Wild Ride

Last week was a wild ride.  It reminded me of a wild ride of my own…

When I was in college, I set out on a quest to entice my earthly father to love me.  Admire me.  Say something.  Pursue me.

As a result, I did some things he shouldn’t have wanted me to do in a million years, but that’s the whole point. I have no idea what he wanted me to do.  Except major in something to do with money.  Not relationships.

So being as dad wore boots and jeans and raised cattle, I thought I should be a cowgirl.

So I bought some boots and went dancing.

Then I fell in with a bunch of kids who wore boots.  And hats.

Who drove filthy trucks to tumble down farms where they kept their own and other people’s horses. (I actually think we flipped a truck that day, but that’s another story).

This one little feller…

Was training a wild mustang someone he knew had bought from one of those protection organizations.

The rest of us stood around and watched him for forever.  While this crazy-eyed Appy on the other side of the barn tried to tear down his pen.  While we got hungrier and hungrier.  Thirstier and thirstier.

Finally, about 4:30, he declared her trained and moved her from the round pen to the arena.

They helped me up and handed me a bicycle inner tube.  Look, I know.  But I was just doing what I was told.  They said to take it.

We did a little figure eight and were pointed away from the house.  I gave her a little tap with the smooth heels of those ropers.

She ducked her head.

By the time I could lean back, she was in midair.

She was coiling for a spring.  The boys were beginning to yell and leap down from the fence.

I was scrambling to reclaim my seat.

She hit the ground the second time.  Front legs stiff.  Back legs spring loaded and ready to fire.

The boys were running and screaming but I didn’t know what the commotion was.  I had my hands full.

Those back legs fired, and we were flying.

One.  Two.

On three, she ducked and I did my first solo flight.  Over her shoulders, through the air.  I landed on the tip of my cute nose with my Rocky butt to the sky.

I scrambled to my feet.

I still had the inner tube in my hand.  I’d never used it and never let it go.

She was standing there with her front feet planted, sides heaving.  Like it’d been done to her.

I tightened my grip.  And started walking toward her.

A hand caught my arm.

When I looked up… three pairs of boy eyes glowed.

I’d ridden her.

I had a little dot of dirt on the end of my nose. But other than that, was completely whole.

I received the back slapping.  The trophy of spurs.

And they took me dancing.

Late in the evening, that horse trainer kid got a couple of beers in him and started crying, and asked me to marry him.

I still have the spurs.  They are on a table right inside my front door.




Do You Mind If I Pass?

The girls are in a production about the Civil Rights Movement.  I learned what ‘passing’ was.  It’s when a light-skinned African-American person used ‘white-only’ facilities.  Quietly, respectfully.  Not drawing attention.  Hoping just to sit on a train, for example, if they could.


Like me?

I heard my mother and grandmother discussing an event that happened a generation or two ago.  In the process of breaking up housekeeping of one of my great-great-grandparents, a photo was found.  It was a photo of a black woman.  On the back, it said one word…


At the time, I said nothing.  Sometime later, I referred to that event.  Mother just stared. It was anger and “I-don’t-know-what-you-mean?” at the same time.  Had she forgotten?  Was it a secret?


Whose mother? The answer is lost. Only Mother is alive to know it and, she isn’t talking.  There were the great-greats who both died, leaving the little girl who’d be my great grandmother, an orphan.  There is also the great-great who smoked cigars and only changed underwear twice a year–when she put on the winter underwear and when she took them off.  Her son would live 76 years, only to decide to end his life.

Someone kept a photo labeled, ‘Mama’.

My mother was born in the 40s.  My grandmother in the 20s. My great-grandmother died in 2005 at age 93.  If she was still alive, she’d be 101.  Given forty years for the two previous generations, that would place her grandmother’s birth in the year 1867.  Five years after the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation.  If by some chance my forebears in both those generations were older than 20 when my great-great was born, ‘Mama’ could have been born a slave.

It’s possible that the woman in the photo isn’t actually a relative at all, but a nanny.  Someone may have found a photo labeled ‘Mama’, and just never disposed of it.

Neither of those seem terribly likely, as this de-cluttering would have taken place before my grandmother was born.  Would it have been extremely likely that a white person, living in the 1920s in America, would keep a portrait of a black woman labeled ‘Mama”, if it held no personal meaning?

The photo, if kept, wasn’t kept by my branch of the family.  Of whom I am the only descendent.

May I pass?

Feel free.










Gritty By Grace

When I was little, we moved off the farm and into the city and mom made me wear dresses all the time.  Short ones.  Remember Cindy Brady?  That short.

I wanted jeans.  The cousin, who supplied all my clothes, passed down a pair of embroidered jeans.  I wore them until they disappeared.  When I was in 6th grade, my mom bought me a pair of ‘straight leg’ jeans. In seventh, Hazel took me shopping to dress me like I belonged to someone. I came home with Calvin Klein Jeans.  Shortly, I’m not exactly sure when, Levi’s Shrink-to-Fit 501s came in style.

And stayed awhile.

Through the years, my mom did a lot of things to give me a better education than she’d had.  We lived in better neighborhoods with better schools.  She kept me in church; finally finding the Episcopalians, with alcohol in church and being cool with divorce and incredible networking.  I sang in their whizbang choir and my fellow singers were from the best neighborhoods and attended the best private schools.  We attended the arts festival for the egg rolls.  We went to the ballet.  We ate at the Magic Pan and shopped (without buying) at high fashion shops.

It was bread and meat to a girl who couldn’t have extra-curriculars because working moms couldn’t pick kids up from practices and needed to spend their money on nachos and vodka (that’s her story and she’s sticking to it).

When I was about 11, this guy decided he was going to get to her by spoiling me (WRONG TREE!!! WRONG TREE!!!).  He profiled me– reader, straight As, wearing rags but knows where Balliet’s is.  And sent me subscriptions to Smithsonian and W.

When I began to dress myself I was strictly tailored.

My soul wears navy blue and pearls. It believes the rules are there to help us live like civilized human beings. Manners are to help others feel comfortable; not to manipulate them into pretending you aren’t being ungracious (Target Line Cutter Lady, I am talking to you). Education doesn’t stop at the 3 Rs, but extends to the arts and culture.

When I was in high school, I heard stories of wild parties.  I never was invited to one.

I dated a college guy at the end of my senior year.  On the outside, he was all conservative Republican, Son of a Fundamentalist Preacher.  On the inside, he was a monster.

Navy blue and pearls girl may have gotten a little damaged.

Lesson learned: The outside is for your mama, the preacher, and the person who watches rated R movies but condemns people who curse. The inside is what you are.  It’s what monsters want to destroy.

One day when I was wearing my navy blue and pearls, my jeans got a little rip.  I liked the little rip. Eventually, I’d find a best friend whose jeans had a little rip, too.

When I was in college, I wore my Rockies or my Wranglers when I was feeling like flying my freak flag. Which good girls aren’t supposed to have. But I do.

Jesus knows about the freak flag.

He made it, so I would not have to carry my own books.

I lavishly adore buttoned down; it goes so well with barefoot, ripped jeans, and hair loose.

Because grace is sometimes gritty and perfect love sometimes sees you in your lucky pants.



I am linking this post with PYHO @ Things I Can’t Say.







That Summer We Lived with Grandma

She lived 25 miles from where my mom worked, and gasoline was up to $.60.

Shut up.

It was the Bi-centennial.

Grandpa had retired from the oil field and they’d expanded the garden.  Because there were more people there to help work it.

They had these two old apricot trees.  They’d been there for twenty years. Never blossomed.  Never put on fruit.  Until this year. They made up for all the years of disappointment.

For their anniversary, grandpa had made Grandma a swing.  Like a porch swing, only it sat out in the back under the mimosa tree.

The days were long and hot. In Oklahoma, the wind blows continually, not in gusts, but relentlessly.  My hair was continually blowing everywhere.  So mom kept it short.

She would leave for work early in the morning.  And I would take all Grandma’s berry baskets (collected since the great depression) and go drop on the ground beneath the apricot trees.  I would fill the baskets and take them in.  Grandma washed the apricots and returned the baskets to me.  At the peak of the crop, I could fill them up to six times per day.  Grandma added this to her full time work with the garden.

They also grew zucchini bigger than my leg from the knee down.  And green beans.  There were, of course, tomatoes and peppers.  These grandparents didn’t grow corn(the others fought the good fight for ‘roasting ears’.).  But that’s about all they didn’t grow.  I was never thorough enough to suit anybody as a green bean harvester.  Which was just as well, as my work made it possible to add apricots to the harvest.

It was not without a good deal of noise, that I did my work.  I cried at the injustice and mistreatment. And my wishing for rain gave me the opportunity to wish for the sun to come out.  It was more pleasant to pick up the apricots from the dry ground than to kneel in the mud.

Grandma didn’t love to turn the air conditioner on.  She saw it as needless waste.  Not one living person supported her in this.  Oh, in April, we all agreed.  You shouldn’t need it in April.  But in mid-July?  There were no prizes for being the last one to close the windows and turn it on.

She had her swing.  She worked like a maniac in the blazing sun or the stifling kitchen all day.  When the dinner dishes were back in the cabinet, she’d get a cold drink and her cigarettes, and go outside and sit in the swing with the sun at her back. Under the mimosas, she’d smoke and watch the hummingbirds come to the mimosa blossoms.  Mom would sit with her, too.  She’d put in a day at the medical office, come home and change and join Grandma in harvesting and canning the green beans.

By the time the weather cooled in the fall, I couldn’t eat apricots anymore.  I wasn’t filing it in the ‘great moments of my life’ file. But now, I think about my equal role in the work.  I didn’t sit around nagging about the two activities I was willing to think of as fun.  A lot of hard work made me grateful as a Pilgrim for time to read or write or play or watch tv.

I think I’ll move that summer from the “Argh” file to the “Good stuff” file.




Let’s Salsa!

Thursday, last week, we had to be across town and our route took us past the roadside stand where I like to get peaches as often as possible.  Yay.

In addition to peaches, she had a basket of “salsa tomatoes”, meaning tomatoes that were a little too ripe for slicing or salads.

We picked up some of each and on Saturday, while Mickey was at his volleyball tournament, we waded into a totally new experience.  We canned our own homemade salsa.  I used this recipe. And used the links in the post to get the canning information.

First, I threw dinner in the slow cooker. Swiss Chicken.

This photo is a nosehole bad friend and won’t stay right side up.

Then I made some sun tea with a raspberry herbal bag thrown in.

As if I do anything all natural anymore.

To peel, dip tomato in boiling water for 15 seconds.

Then into ice water.

The skin will pull right off. This is fun.

Everyone wants to help.

We chopped onions and green & jalapeno peppers.

Mixed spices.

This child feels that, if she stirred; she is is the one who claims the glory.

Looks like a fiesta already.

And she stirs…. cook for 20 minutes after it reaches a boil.

2 quarts, 4 pints.


We’ve never canned before, but we used only jars, rings and lids we had around the house.  That’s why it was economical for Grandma.

It came out good, but spicier than I was expecting.  About half the tomatoes were orange, causing the color to be exactly the color of a tomato sauce stain on your new white Ann Taylor t-shirt.  I substituted lime juice for the vinegar in the recipe and added cilantro.

There are no pics of the canning portion because my help clocked out.  There was porch-sitting to be attended to.

Have you ever canned?  I was surprised how easy it was.  What are your favorite things to save for winter by canning, freezing or drying?

I am linking this post to Wordful Wednesday at Parenting by Dummies.

Back Then Book Review Day

It took the girls longer than I thought it would to get a solid grasp of chronological terms.  Now, however, they have a very specific list of terms that refer to their perception of time past.  When I was a child?  Back Then.

Today, I am employing the sociopathological lawlessness I’m known for and abusing the term.

Today, ‘back then’ means when they were little(10) and we did a lot more read aloud than is strictly called for for educating big kids.

We checked out a Newbery Award winning book from the church library.

A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck was a fun read-aloud for 10 year-olds.


I laughed until tears streamed down my face and I had to blow my nose.

In the middle of the Great Depression, a young girl is sent from Chicago to live with her grandmother in a rural community.

Having come from small town people and having personally benefited from the influence of grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, I was reduced to uncontrollable laughter more than once.

Peck turns an elegant country phrase.  Sees through the eyes of a man his father’s age.  Or his mother’s.

One taste and we were hooked.  We ran through all the titles except one in the church library and moved on to the Public Library.  In the research for this post, I found a number of titles the public library had never heard of.  I’m excited to research those online and at the used bookstore.

Our favorites include:

A Long Way From Chicago

The Teacher’s Funeral: a Comedy In Three Parts

Fair Weather


A Season of Gifts

We tried an audio book, but agreed that I’m funnier.

It turns out that Peck is not limited to this gentle hilarity, but writes ghost stories and novels dealing with modern life issues young people face. Which we’ll be checking out this afternoon at the library and the used book store.

I urge you to include the titles we’ve enjoyed in your family read-aloud time, or even just your personal recreational reading.  It’s a refreshing break from the heaviness and the self-consciousness of a lot of contemporary adult fiction.

In researching this post, I ran across a Goodreads account I had pretty much ignored for…awhile.  If you aren’t familiar with Good Reads it’s like a giant online baseball card collection only with books.  I have updated a couple of things and would love to connect with you there if anyone’s interested.

While I was thinking of that, I remembered this blog has a Facebook fan page and I nearly gave myself a cardiac event trying to create the widget.  I will try again when I am not administering cultural lockdown on 15 year-olds (YES, IT STILL HURTS ME MORE THAN IT HURTS THEM.)  I beg invite you to “like” the page, if you aren’t going to let facebo*ks widget keep you from liking old ladies’ lame-a** blogs if you want to.

While we’re at it….  you can dig “the accident” on Twit*er. For free, mind you.

I digress.

There are still a couple of weeks of summer left.  That calls for some lazy afternoons.  That calls for a great book.  These are that.

I you’re embarrassed to check them out, say it’s for your niece.



Don’t Come Out Until I Come to Get You

This apartment.  Such good news.  We don’t have to live with Grandma anymore and I can stay at the same school.

“Get in here.  Don’t come out.  I will come and get you.”

I climbed on top of the boxes and she closed the cheap, bi-fold closet doors.

I could imagine the apartment.

Dark as my closet.

My bed was made. My room was neat.

I knew they were sitting in the darkness.


I could imagine the glow of the cigarette in the dark…

Glass shattered.

“I know that bitch is in there.”

“I’m gonna kill her.”

Pounding on the apartment door.



Probably some kicking.


The police arrive.

I think.

The guy who moved in, turns out, he’s still married, but both of them can walk to the office from here.

They’re pretty sure she doesn’t know mom has an 11 year-old.

That’s why I’m in the closet. So I’m safe.


Today I’m linking with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.  Prompt #5.

Mama's Losin' It



There’s Always an Extra Blessing to Obedience…Darn It.

When I wrote that post on Tuesday, I already had a phone date with Cousin.  I also told her in the email I would call our Aunt.  Both conversations went really well.  Bottom line?  I come from good people.  I told Aunt what happened with my dad, which she didn’t know.  The cousin truly didn’t know anything.  We mainly just caught up.  It was wonderful.  I found out Dad’s pretty sick, but if I lived down the street I probably wouldn’t have found out any sooner.  That’s just how my people are.

So yesterday,  I can’t concentrate on getting anything done with school mostly finished.  It is not energizing to wait around watching 14 year-olds NOT do Algebra.

No matter what the tabloids say.

When they gave up, I did.  And after they had stood around in the backyard strategically out of sight, for about half an hour, I leaned out the back door and said, “Clean my house and I’ll take you to [the amusement park].  Ha Ha.  It took them, like, 20 minutes.  The place sparkled.

The down side?  Now I know they are able to do it that fast.

Okay, so it’s weird.

We get there and start walking around.  I wait by myself while the kids ride something I can’t ride.  And this feeling comes over me.  God is going to show me something at the park.

Typing this, I feel foolish.  Like people who refer to God speaking to them like Larry King talks to Alec Baldwin.

But it was what it was and I thought, “That’d be nice.”  And more or less went on with my on park job of waiting while children ride rides(no, I like it.  I people watch.).

At the entrance to the third ride, my kids freak.  They ran in all different directions.  I couldn’t get there attention to say where to meet or find out who was going where.  It was partly the area of the approach, but mostly like herding bouncy, highly energetic cats.  Or puppies.

I digress.

They kind of freaked.  And I am standing there trying to holler names and find out where everyone is trying to go and one of them says, “That lady just called your name.”

I spun around.  What lady?  An adult who knows me?  That my kids don’t recognize?

“Maggie, Is it you?”

It was me.  It was her.

We stood in the exact middle of the exit.  Holding each other and rocking back and forth.

We were friends before kids.

Both of us were new to the church, stayed home even though we had no kids, and needed a friend our age in town.  I was from Oklahoma and had worked as a nanny for two years.  She was from Brazil.  Her husband was in law school and she was alone a good bit.

I was at the hospital when her first baby was born…the girls were 13 months old.  His feet were bigger than theirs that day.

All the children gathered around for 3.5 seconds for an introduction, looking all the time like,”Is this going to keep me from going to the next ride?”

It was okay…we started talking.  Just like before.

It began to rain.

She had to go.

She told her son, “She was my only friend, then.”

I sat in awe of her as simply amazing.  Then, as in a moment, yesterday.

The rain poured down and the kids ran on ahead and I pondered.

I noticed a group whose t-shirt had a Bible verse on it.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I thought, “Yeah, I need to start doing that.”

But then I realized… What if it was seeking his Kingdom to seek peace with relatives and He added family?  What if obedience, like Algebra or housecleaning, is soooooo hard, yet it doesn’t take very long and look at the results?   The downside?  Now I know I can do it.

Work for two.

Gets one free.








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