mushroom purple – writing 101, day eleven

before i start, i feel i should apologize to myself and to my little bit of web space for epically failing at building a blogging habit. so i’m sorry, self. but i refuse to give up on you. now that that’s done, let’s get back to prompt at hand: the home i lived in when i was twelve.

in a suburb of a suburb, down a side road, off a side street is the house my mother still lives in that saw my progress from five to eighteen years of age. it was just left of center of the block of time i spent there that i turned twelve. was it that year we painted my room purple? i called the color mushroom purple but a more common way to describe the tone is probably purple-greige. it’s still one of my favorite colors and i hope to slather new walls with it one day.

my room had an alcove in it where my old dog used to lay on the back of my pink chair and catch the sun. i never used the alcove. except for one day when i watched an episode of MTV true life or real world or one of those ridiculous shows. two girls were going to an nsync concert (it was 2002, mind you) and they painted giant pictures of the band members with rubber cement and pasted them to their car. “it’s totally removable,” they said. and i totally believed them.

three hours and a handful of magazines later, i’d collaged an entire wall of the alcove with sayings, pop icons, art prints and whatever else my little heart desired.

it took two years for my mom to discover my work of art. “it’s totally removable,” i said.

it totally wasn’t.

love always, sarah.

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mom – writing 101, day ten

my mom has a drinking problem. and a drug problem. and a weight problem. and a mental health problem. and a husband problem. and a happiness problem. and a heart problem. and a breathing problem. basically, she has a lot of problems. it took me a really long time to figure out that those problems were her problems, not mine, and that the thing for me to do is to pack up my toolbox and just quit trying to fix things. she’s not a house, something that will hold still and let you apply a patch. she’s a human and you can’t fix those animals when they don’t want to be fixed. period.

putting down the toolbox was the first step in letting go. but a child can never let go of a parent, i don’t believe. if we’re honest with ourselves, when we do a little navel gazing, into the literal scare of our existence, you’ll see it. that invisible chord that ties you home. accept that. then let it go. i love my mom despite it all and no, unfortunately, she won’t be with us that long. less time than most, i’m sure. and while things are dark when i think of her, i still can still see some stars.

in the south, food is important. i truly believe a good meal can change lives, make men fall in love, and bring babies onto this planet. i’ve personally caused two of those three things a few times over with an expertly ladled dollop of sauce and a lightly patted pie crust. it’s in our blood – along with the cholesterol – the side effect of treating macaroni and cheese like a vegetable. i think hard work is also something southerners approach with gusto. and that’s how my mom was. she worked hard. she didn’t have time for handmade biscuits or freshly chopped salads. growing up poor, she cooked what she knew. canned foods and boxed casseroles which a child could make on their own – she raised her siblings herself at a young, young age. you cook what you know how to.

one of the stars was a meal unbelievable in it’s simplicity. she’d make kraft macaroni and cheese (always shells) with canned lima beans (sometimes with corn, too) and salmon patties. i think you’ll understand the technicolor tack of kraft mac n’ cheese and the pale-almost-beige slop of canned limas. but salmon patties – those i find aren’t as common. the recipe is simple – canned salmon, crushed crackers (smashed with the bottom of a juice glass if you’re my mom) and some egg. pan-fried like crab cakes and served with a slather of ketchup, you have a southern girl’s dream meal. it followed me through college whenever i was home and sometimes makes an appearance, with my own added twists, on my dinner table these days. it’s the first meal that came to mind when i thought about childhood and is something  can always smile about when i think about mom.

love always, sarah.

today’s assignment

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

madame defarge – writing 101, day 9

it’s kind of odd to put a cemetery on the edge of a public park, she thought. would the word be “ironic?” i dunno… i’m always afraid to use that word after that isn’t it ironic? song got so much flack. but i like that song. isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think? a little toooOOoOOo ironic. yeah i really do think, she sang in her head as they walked along, bopping a little. feeling a tug on her hand, remembering it being gripped tightly by her teenage brother – oh shit, that was inappropriate. i know he’s sad – he really is torn up about this. 

i can’t believe she’s taking this so lightly. is she smiling right now? what the hell! our freaking mom just died. i mean, she’s been sick for over a year but… god, she’s a bitch. fuck … oh shit, can mom read our thoughts now? can ghosts do that? is mom a ghost? oh my god, what if she’s in my head right now? shit, shit, shit. sorry mom! if she were here, in my head i guess, she’d be saying “now don’t talk about your sister like that!” what’re we going to do without her? shit! i mean… sorry mom. (but really, can you here me? if you can hear me, give me a sign. hmm, that old lady up there – have her drop that red thing she’s holding)

on a bench a few yards away, she sat, wearing the skin of an older woman and lazily tapping together two knitting needles between her knobbed fingers. well at least the kids seem to be getting through this together. we all knew it was coming. sure, i didn’t know this was coming. popping in and out of strangers… i feel like this is going to have it’s benefits. but this will bring them closer, i hope. when was the last time they held hands? must’ve been years ago. i hate that matthew is having such a hard time with this. he’s such a sweet, sweet boy. is julia smiling? i’m a little offended. i wish i knew what she was thinking… oh, sit up straight, they’re getting close. with great effort, she adjusted the body she’d set up shop in. tilting the torso back and lifting the chin took much concentration and she lost control of the hands, specifically the fingers, and the mess of needles and red yarn dropped into her lap, rolling onto the leaf-strewn sidewalk with a clatter. shit, maybe one day i’ll get the hang of this.

love always, sarah.

today’s assignment

i know why a caged bird sings – writing 101, day eight

it really isn’t fair to compare myself to angelou’s caged bird. not even a little bit. but she’s died recently and i’ve been reading a few of her works and it feels appropriate to this cube-confined day. most people are in meetings now. in an open office like the one i sit in, a worker bee becomes keenly aware of the presence of others. and when the rest of the hive is otherwise occupied, it does not go unnoticed.

here i sit with one gold flat tucked underneath my right buttock, propped akilter and most certainly undoing the work i did during forty five minutes of yoga this morning. spinal alignment is for yuppies, anyway. off to my right, tickling my porifreal vision is a dying bouquet of flowers my best friend sent me for my twenty fourth birthday last week. it was a surprise and they are lovely. i hate that they are dying [see my last post for thoughts on dying flowers] but just to left of them, or more right than they, sits a digital picture frame. i didn’t turn it on today, or yesterday for that matter. when blank, no brightly lit photos of best friends and boyfriends flashing by, it becomes something of a mirror. if i lean left i can see myself mostly but if i just turn my eyes, i can see people approaching from behind. or a ceiling fan. depends on how tall the approacher is. right now it’s just the ceiling fan. like said, everyone is in meetings now.

to my left are boring things. pens and pencils in a squat white mug that was here long before me and i found too charming to remove. there’s also two empty water glasses forgotten over there. there’s three more if i turn my head to the right though we’re talking left now. but clearly i should clean my desk this week. [pause to take a note of that on coffee-stained to do list stage right of my macbook]. i spilt coffee all over my desk last friday. soaked my keyboard [now no longer working, it’s hiding behind my giant monitor until further notice, it’s skinny edge and white chord peeking out at me], my melafonino [italian for iphone – cleverly combining mela for apple and telefonino for cellphone] and my pants. by the way, i actually switched from iphone to galaxy a few months ago but i just love that word. other italian words i love – a la sinestra – to the left. the sinister side, but again i digress. clearly my mind is not here.

my mind, poor thing, is just outside the large glass doors one cube and twenty feet in front of me. i can see through the top of them to trees and sky and birds if i crane my neck up and and cast my eyes over my monstrous monitor. truly monstrous. out there my mind is strolling down the sidewalk and thinking about the possibilities for the day, not much left as it’s approaching near four o’clock. but there is still enough time for adventure and trouble. perhaps a cocktail on the low wooden porch of the bar just down the street. it’s lovely out. or maybe a baseball game tonight. the dash is playing, after all. but really, my mind knows it will be called back to corporeal form and will accompany this body home for dinner, a short workout and enough tv to fill the hours before bedtime.

all to wake up and do it again.

love always, sarah

today’s assignment

also, is “keenly” an adverb? if so, i don’t apologize. i like that one.

world without end, amen – writing 101, day seven

wet grass soaked her summer sandals as she moved across the fresh cut lawn. she was dressed two weeks too early for warmer weather as cool spring hung heavy in the air, riding the green scent of grass clippings and the last chill of winter months gone by. the earth was hard in the winter. regardless, this was his favorite dress and she vowed to wear for his homecoming, never mind the season. it’s odd to bring men flowers so instead she’d tucked a bottle of whiskey under her arm, smiling to herself and the inappropriateness of the gesture. knowing the disapproving clucks sure to come from his grandmother but loving the thought of his warm smile and mischievous eyes. coconspirators in every way, even when it comes to goading the elderly. for shame.

at the designated spot, truly his spot, she spread an old blanket over the damp lawn and placed her self in the middle. reaching back behind her, she nestled the now warm whiskey bottle in the grass and stretched her legs out in an effort to capture the sun, inhaling the earth and air and the memory of his smell. she could feel him behind her now and knew as surely as she knew the blood in her veins that he was there.

well hello, stranger, she said. i’ve missed you. i miss you a lot.

all the time, really.

i brought you something. i seriously thought about bringing flowers this time but i know that’s not your style.

silent.

but his silence didn’t stop her. she’d grown to accept it and would continue to babble on to fill the empty space. he was never able to get a word in edgewise.

 

the man at the liquor store knows my face now. i really think he believes i have a drinking problem. i should probably tell him differently but it’s fun to keep him guessing. don’t you think?

she rolled over onto her belly, digging her toes into the wet grass, her sandals forgotten in their already-too-dampness. though spring, the ground was still cold. still hard. it’d be a few months still before it warmed enough to laze on the blanket without catching a chill, especially in this dress. but how he liked it. she could feel him smile beneath her.

looking up across the field, she saw clusters of flowers and the occasional balloon. a stuffed bear here and there. much more appropriate gifts than whiskey. flowers die, she thought. as all things die. but whiskey can only go stale, stink and boil when left in the hot sun. how many handles of whiskey had the sun turned in his hands? countless, she was sure. she should ask the man at the liquor store if he had records of her purchases the next time she saw him.

can you believe our anniversary is almost here? i can’t. it’s pretty crazy. it feels like just yesterday to me. and forever at the same time. y’know?

always silent.

well, i love you more and more every day. surely my heart will burst with it one day. but in the meantime…

she turned around and set up on her knees scooting towards him. pressing her cheek against the cool granite, she smiled. happy to have a moment to herself with him. truly the cemetery was empty this morning which was rare. as she stood up to fold the blanket, she snuck a quick kiss on the top of his tombstone and turned to leave.

almost as if he called out to her, but really more as though a thought occurred to her for the first time, she turned back around and knelt over the bottle. turning it over once, then twice in her hands, as if weighing the philosophers stone, she unscrewed the cap and took a long pull. disgusting, she thought as she tipped the bottle and let a drag pour out over the ground.

no sense in wasting good whiskey.

love always, sarah.

 

a person of interest – writing 101, day six

when she walked into the room, it was impossible not to notice her. her presence, not just physical, took up more than the space she occupied, bursting out in every direction around her like a live wire in a pool of water. she, my friend, was electric. electric and tall; tall beyond reason. to say she walked, though, would be an understatement as she more appeared or apparated into physicality with a jolt or a burst as if lightening. to be honest, i never really saw her move.

as it happened she just so happened upon me like a monsoon, all of a sudden and out of nowhere and long gone before i proverbially knew what hit me. she left me frightened. with a dry mouth, i glanced around to see if anyone noticed – did they see her? – only to realize i was alone.

i met her again one day transitioning from downward dog into extended cobra – just a snippet of her in the studio mirror. enough to cause a catch in my breath, in my heart beat, to entirely lose my ujjayi. how long had she been there? she was by far the most intriguing person i’d ever seen – both in her abruptness and her transience. i wanted to know her more. more well. better.

in the meditative state that is the evening walk from one’s car to the front door, between methodical fumbling of keys to doors of memory houses, i met her again. it was as if i’d followed her, beauty, to arundahti’s lair and caught her napping or reading or looking in the mirror. i’d found her – just above the bridge of my upturned nose and slightly to the right or left, below the errant curl tangling with my outermost eyelash, she winked back at me. my own proverbially proverbial sasha m. fierce.

love always, sarah.

from Arundahti Roy’s The Cost of Living

Today’s Assignment

loss part one – writing 101, day four

i’ve never, ever been fond of old people. memories swim back to elementary school days performing simple songs in nursing homes to shriveled bodies propped forgotten in plastic chairs and air scented thick and moist with soft food and stale urine. nothing of those forced performances was pleasant. leaving hollow spaces between my ribs where sadness and pity pooled. knowing they’ll eventually be forgotten and already overlooked.

this culture treats the old like worn wash rags or widowed socks. no longer good for it’s purpose but not dead enough to throw out, we tuck them away on a shelf or in a bin (an old coffee container, perhaps?) for later use, to be forgotten or thrown out in next spring’s purge. lack of independence. vitality. speech and motor skills. these things haunt me. because i know i’ll one day turn to dust, yes. but also because i know i’ll never be able to restore those old bones. i can’t fix them or help them or stop the plodding on of time. it’s the hopelessness and inevitability, the idea that the end is blatantly near, that each breath must be taken with fragile care lest the lungs tear to pieces. like old silk. what do you say to someone who very clearly is going to die?

it happened just last night at dinner. one of those hibachi steakhouses with sticky air and loud noises where you sit with strangers around a steaming flat grill to consume mass amounts of rice with soy sauce and seared meats. beside me sat an old man, the kind of old where skin turns to paper and each vein seems to sit atop the flesh like fat noodles and any movement could cause those spreading purple-black bruises. the kind of old that scares me. with his son, not far from old, and his son’s adult children buried deep in smartphones, he sat staring blindly at the menu. when asked his order, he mumbled until his son barked over him – you like chicken don’t you? yes. he’ll have the chicken.  no input. no say. less of a voice than child in the party across the way. what stories flowed within those paper veins? what words could he not say? soon to be forgotten. already overlooked.

love always, sarah.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-four/

 

three songs and one habit – writing 101, day three

i will remember you – skid row as performed by the ataris

i can’t actually listen to this song anymore. i don’t even listen to radio stations where there is a chance this song might come on. sure, it’s been over four years but music has a way of cutting deep. not as deep as smell. no, grilled cheese with bacon and honey burt’s bees cause a knee jerk gag reflex tied to a life altering voice mail and chapped ventilator lips. go ahead, be mad at me. the first words every girl wants to hear from the boy waking up from a coma. a coma induced by a perfectly executed suicide attempt. perfectly executed, not completed. thank goodness for voicemail. thank goodness for voicemails with song lyrics (were there song lyrics – i can’t remember? though there must’ve been. there were always song lyrics). thank goodness for voicemails as suicide notes, labored breathing, final goodbyes, final blame. final. final. twenty two calls and i turned my phone off. twenty two phone calls and two hours since the power button was pressed that the voicemail came through. two hours of silence. two hours of a heart barely beating, sluggishly pushing the last bits of oxygenated blood through veins and vessels. thank god for voicemails. four years later and the song still haunts me. sometimes i wake up to the sound of pouring rain, washed away a dream of you. and by dream, i mean nightmare. of grilled cheese with bacon and honey burt’s bees.

you are my sunshine – as performed by my father

my dad almost died when i was eleven. he had a twenty five percent chance of beating the cancer surrounding his lymph nodes and crawling up the sides of his neck. found like an egg in a nest on my mom’s patio one evening after dropping me off. i was sitting on the concrete. they were touching. divorced, they never touched. it was nice to see. twenty five percent. a fighting chance, but not much of one. i’m not really sure how he did it. there was one night deep into his sickness when they called in the family. he was too sick, too think, couldn’t make it home from chemo. or something. the majority of that year is darkness and fuzz. but i remember my mom being on the phone with the doctors and refusing to go to the hospital. she wouldn’t bring me. i think i begged. she wouldn’t let me go. i remember my dad telling me years later that not being able to say goodbye to me was the thing that kept him going. i’m tired of saving men’s lives.

traveling soldier – the dixie chicks

i told my friend katie in high school that this was my favorite song. shocking from the girl who attempted to stage a walkout in sixth grade to protest the war in iraq. from the girl who graffitied pieces of mother theresa and quotes from ghandi on street signs. from the girl who generally cared little for the government and it’s military. but it made me cry and i loved it for that. for a teenage girl, crying didn’t come easy to me and i desperately needed that release. something about the hope, the loneliness hit me. fast forward seven years to the girl dropping off a soldier and kissing him a kiss to last a year as he patrolled the deserts of a far away land. to the girl driving away as songs of traveling soldiers play over the radio. shocking from the girl who attempted to stage a walkout in sixth grade.

thank you for reading and apologies for missing days one and two. good thing my habit is starting today (:

love always, sarah.