My mother's house. It is truly beautiful out here. When I was in high school this house belonged to my friend's family. Her mom and dad were married underneath an oak tree out in the yard, over by where my mother's garden is now. The oak tree is gone, and my friend's parents are divorced, but they produced three beautiful children and this was where it started. In high school my friend brought us out here. At that time were a tight group of mostly girls, one boy. One time we all got on a canopied bed that was in what is now the library and traded off massages. One of us would lie in the middle and the rest would settle at her head, her hands, each of her feet. It was heaven. Another time we ate acid and walked down to the railroad tracks and stood five feet from the train (which was as close as we could bear to get) and we screamed into it's oncoming horror and it roared back and we could not hear ourselves scream. Now it is my mother's house, and no one could mistake it for anything else. My mother is a homemaker. By that I mean that she is able to make a home, which I think is more rare than people realize. My mother has light and color in her soul and she is able to bring all that up and out, through her hands, through her eyes. She understands that being around beauty makes you a better person and so she fills her surroundings with beautiful as if her house is an extension of herself, and it is. To walk into my mother's house is to walk into her. Everywhere there is something to look at, something good to rest your eyes on. I see a chime. I see a doll. I see a feathered mermaid. I see a virgin. I see a chair with curve, a flowered cloth, a chicken lamp. There are pitchers of flowers here always, she brings the outside in. Oh, and the outside.... When Mama is here and we come visit she takes us out on walkabout. She points out her new babies and her old babies, telling us their stories- where she found them, which ones she rooted, which ones are lovely mysteries. We wander through the garden and she pulls cucumbers from vines and from furry stems tomatoes that are so sweet they taste sugared, and she puts these in our open hands and goes for more. There are flowers here in purples and pinks and reds, and succulents that are jade on top and magenta on the bottom. There are plants that shine like gold and plants that are the color of fresh bruise. While my Mama is not here, we (her children) watch over the house and the chickens. I would put up pictures of their funny surprised faces but I have no camera so I will have to tell you. They miss her, these chickens. She calls them all by name and they eat out of her hands. I tell them they are fine chickens, such pretty chickens! And they are greedy little buggers too. They bumrush the collards and the watermelon, they snatch a flung cockroach from each other like drunk-mad bridesmaids to a bouquet. They sidle and cluck, one eye on me, then the other, sidle sidle step-hop feet and cluck. These chicken ladies have bosoms that make me feel inadequate, and they are lucky they are so pretty and I don't eat meat. I have not seen the front step toad. I think he is waiting for Mama to return. The whole house is waiting for Mama to return. It has taken a great inhalation and rests patiently. I think a house can hold it's breath for a long long time. She will not want to come back. She never does when they go to Mexico. But she will, and once here she will be glad. There are chickens. There is a baby on the way. She will breathe in her house and her house will breathe with her, relieved to hear her footfall and her laugh, relieved to see Mr. Moon duck his head when he comes through the door. Did you know there are love notes from him to her tacked on cabinets, tucked behind photographs, all over the house? A woman in love always returns to the place her love notes are kept. Until then we will wait, the house and I, for her to return and make this place her home once again. This is a beautiful house and I love to be here, but my Mama is my home.
Ten AM today and I was leaping down the stairs fueled by goat yogurt, four cups of coffee, and an extremely satisfying journal write. The sky looked like a pool with the pale horizon shallow end and the view above where children dare not stray for fear they will sink into the universe, there was a breeze and I was wearing my flappy green shorts. I was ready to hit it, and hit it hard.
On the way out while crossing a street I noticed that an iron pipe cover had come loose, and feeling warm toward my fellow man I kicked it back into place, barely breaking stride. I thought Yay Me! as I speed walked past all the men and women in ill fitting business suits carrying plastic Publix bag lunches and looking pissed, as we all do when we are going to work and the day is hot.
The walk was fine and so was I. There was no more walking, it was all flying, the people, the birds, the buildings and the cars all a blur and I sang songs under my breath and felt assured that I looked no more crazy than I really am.
Halfway through my walk and I've already passed the Witch Family House, the Fairy Family House, a former apartment of a friend where I always holler HEY JOE!, the House of Strange Trash (today it is still the matrice set complete with sheets, the other day it was a box of Easter paraphernalia), and the Tree That Grows Out Of the Sidewalk (that knobby bitch always tries to trip me up but I can dodge and feint with the best of them). Now is the Big Hill. It's not a very high hill but it is a very long hill, it is the hill that I was never able to run the entire humping length of it at one go before my screaming bones told me to stop fucking running. I don't even try to run it, I'm in it for endurance not Popeye calves, and so I walk like the hounds of hell are nipping at my heels (but only the walking hounds of hell) and I pretend that I am in a race and I am winning.... until.... Until a crazed mother mockingbird dive-bombs my head and again and Yes Ma'am I am Running! I am running up this motherfucking hill with the now running hounds of hell and the dive bombing mockingbird from hell and I am doing those crazy arm whipping motions around my ducked head thinking Not the eyes! Please God don't go for my eyes! and now I am at the top of the hill! I am fucking Iron Man!
Now the coffee has worn off but the adrenalin is full free flowing, I round the bend, I pass the German Lady House, I pass the Italian Man House, I pass the What-the-fuck-someone-painted-two-fucking-knights-of-the-round-table-on-the-wall House, I can't be stopped, I won't slow down, it feels too good. I get to the Korean War Memorial and do my soft shoe flim-flam shuffle that firms my abs and plumps my butt up the curvy path and down the curvy path, faster than I've ever done it before, an old man watches- his mouth open in pure amazement. I am Youth! I am Vigor! And then as I am crossing the street that leads to my street and almost home I bust my toe on that same damn iron pipe cover that I kicked back into place not an hour before. Foreshadowing people, powerful stuff. I almost go ass over tea kettle but I'm crossing a damn street and if there is one thing I will not do it is fall down in the middle of the road.
Shake it off, Slugger I tell myself, channeling Shoeless Joe Jackson I pull out of my stumble and go for home. It's not wrong to finish strong I tell myself The toe's not broke if you can still kick ass.
Post protein shake and shower, the busted toe and murderous mockingbirds aside, it seems like a good idea to walk to the library. This is a chillin' walk, a saunter in my summer skirt with the lace at the hem that kicks out over my tanned (ahem) calves and flip-flop clad feet. It's hot but it feels good, which is pointed out to me by another old man, this one on a ladder painting a house. We agree we live in Florida, we agree we like the heat, we grin thinking about all those suckers who live in northern climes, we bid good day.
The library is there in all it's bookly glory. The librarians are ornery, the homeless men are grunting craziness, the children load their mothers up and dash away to get more books already forgetting the ones in arms. I got two talkies and three fat eye-reading novels full of potential. I am as satisfied and excited as a dog with an unwatched cake.
On the way home two girls in a white Camero honk an air horn at me, laugh hysterically, and then honk at a guy on a bike who swerves into the next lane and narrowly misses getting creamed by oncoming traffic. The girls laugh again and speed up. But guess what ladies! There is a red light up ahead and I AM PISSED. Gone is my sunny day and disposition. Gone is my warm regard for fellow man. In two seconds I am standing by their car.
Roll down your window. I shout at the glass.
No! Screams the girl, looking at her companion.
Roll down your fucking window! I say, my words and eyes steel.
They do. They comply. The girls are at the most 17 and pretty. They squint their doe eyes at me, looking up through matching curtains of over highlighted hair. I pull out my cell phone.
I am calling the cops. I have your licence plate number and I am calling the cops right now. It is illegal to blow an air horn out of your car in traffic. You could've killed that dude.
Bitch. Says the girl in the passenger seat.
You're a bitch. That guy could've died.
The window goes back up at the same time the light turns green. They speed away. I put the cell phone back in my pocket and walk on down the road. As the light works its way back into my eyes and the blood drains from my face I see a stair car driving down the street and I stop to watch thinking about that show Arrested Development and I realize I am smiling. It's a good day to be alive my friends, a very good day indeed.
I have a sister and her name is Lily Rose, and she is pregnant.
When Mama was pregnant with this sister I was seven. I had an older brother but until then I had been the baby. I don't remember if I was reluctant to relinquish that position, I only remember being excited. I told my friends at school that I was going to be a big sister soon, and that she would be born at home, and that I would get to see.
I'd seen pregnant ladies before, but none so close up and personal as this. I watched my Mama's belly grow to outrageous proportions and I accepted it as the norm. My Mama was my first baby maker teacher and she was a very good one. It did not seem easy to carry this baby. Mama sweated through the hot Florida summer with that belly poking out. She washed herself in cold Wakulla waters, she ate chili dogs, she wrapped herself in magnificent zebra print maternity, and sometimes a scarf flecked with rose and gold tight around her middle, and no it did not seem easy but she made it glamorous.
When my sister came we were allowed to stay home from school. As my Mama labored, walking around the house and deck wearing only amethyst beads and my stepfather's tie-dyed t-shirt, her friends came outside and told us not to be afraid.
My brother and I were not afraid! We had been told all about this! We had been told by our very own Mama! We were busy playing! All day we made everyone wreaths of morning glory to wear in their hair to welcome the baby, and we played our secret made-up games where my brother was the king and I was everyone else.
That is how Lily came into the world, with friends and family all around. I remember there were so many flowers and so many of them were lilies and roses.
Lily was my first baby teacher. I learned how to squish her rubbery little arms into tiny cotton shirts, I learned how to change a cloth diaper and wipe a wee butt. I learned how to walk and walk with her baby bean body until my skinny arms were cheese and I had to pass her off to someone else.
Sometimes I was not the best big sister. She was a force from the moment she was born, a howling tempest with feet that stamped the air and fists raised high in grand protest. I lost my temper. I lost my patience. My mother lost her sleep and her mind. I got off easy.
Here's the deal- we always talk about how difficult she was but what we forget to say is that she did not frighten us off. When Mama got pregnant again three years later I never once thought Oh God here we go again.... I was just as excited for another. As feisty as she was, I loved her furiously. I used to make nests for her on the floor out of blankets and toys all around so that wherever she looked there was something fun. She had a stuffed caterpillar that she called a callipiller and so I called her Lilipiller, and I still do.
Now she is all grown up and the girl who was my first baby teacher is now my second baby maker teacher.
I haven't written about her pregnancy because my Mama has done such a good job at that over at Bless Our Hearts, but I was looking at her today and she looked tired and a little worn and oh so beautiful. I have never seen such a beautiful woman in my life.
She glows, she really does. I watch her belly grow and it is not so much a swelling as it is a blossoming. She was lovely before but now she is opening, like, yes, a rose. When I'm around her I want to touch her, I want to press my face to her skin, rub her under my chin like a buttercup. I want to smell her. She smells like baby.
I never would have guessed that this girl, this baby, would have a baby before me but I am lucky for it. If and when I am so blessed I only hope that I will have one half the grace she does now.
My luv is like a red red rose. She walks in beauty like the night. I have no words, no words to speak of her or of how I love her. I have a sister. Her name is Lily Rose and she is pregnant.
I'd like to talk about pain. Not the pain of heartbreak, although a friend of mine asked me about that the other day because he'd never experienced that before. I told him that it was the worst to get your heart really broken, the most physical and emotion tearing you can imagine and the worst part of it is no one cares.... but no. Heartbreak, blah. If you're lucky you'll know it. It's bad but it's boring. Unless you're going through it and the I'm sorry for you. Go ahead and call me at 4:AM and I will drowse while you cry.
Ah but pain. Pain the body breaking down. Pain an injury. Pain a break. Pain a smash. Pain a growth that knocks your insides around. Pain with jagged edges, with teeth that bite and claws that catch. It's so personal and so relative and we really don't know how to deal with it.
My sweet girl, my baby sister Honey Luna just posted on her blog, Finding Those Dulcet Tones talking about her knee pain, and discovering that after all these years of us telling her that it's nothing, it's something. I feel bad about this.
Not too bad. I'm not rending my clothes or anything, and actually I'm glad that it's something, that she can get it fixed. She just.... well, it's a matter of timing.
This girl grew up so fast. I mean that literally. At one point she was small, and then over a few short years she grew about three feet. It was a foot a year, like a teak tree, and sometimes I thought that I could see her growing before my eyes, and her legs hurt. Now when I see her I say, "Nice Stems Baby-Cakes!" but of course her legs hurt her! She is not a tree, she is a Girl. Bones and tissue and muscle, sinew and tendon, racing and unfurling inside her stretching skin, she hurt. When her knees started hurting she was still growing and we were used to saying "Oh Baby, you hurt because you are tall". In retrospect it doesn't make a lot of sense, but none of us can deal with the pain of those we love. We didn't want to get down in the guts of her pain and ask, "Is this a new pain? Describe your pain."
Describe your pain. Well. It's an aching. Sometimes. And a sharp where it should be smooth. It feels like a crunch, and I may have gear sheers in there, but sometimes it is a jump pain like a shot that makes you jump. I have a buzzing, there is a tender buzzing that is pink but when it is red there is a stinging and then the bits are all angry. Sometimes it is not a pain at all but a weight, the area is filled with lead I have to drag it and it doesn't move when I tell it to move and sometimes I fall. Sometimes the pain is a coming out pain, like the bones are swelling and will burst through my skin and sometimes the pain is a smashing crushing, an ever so slow and tightening vise that turns and turns. Something like that.
That's my pain, from my magically healed bum leg, that gives me my sexy gimp walk (Gimps up, ho's down) but what good does it do to say it?
I remember when I was in recovery from my accident and nurses would ask me to rate my pain, 1-10. I really stressed out about that, probably because I was all wooped up on percoset and morphine, but what I wanted to know is, what are their reference points? If I said 3, what does that mean to them? All they wanted to know was could I stand it and did I need more medication but it seemed so existential to me. How do you rate pain? Every day you live your pain meter changes, every one's is different. Have you had a child? Do you suffer migraines? Have you been punched in the nose and boy that hurt? Is your pain as bad or worse than when you swallow a potato chip you haven't chewed properly? Is your pain as bad or worse than if someone were to stand on your calves and wiggle around? Have you been hit by a car? Have you any tears and cysts in your knee?
It reminds me of when old men joke about stomping on your foot to take your mind off the pain of your ear. THAT would actually be helpful. YES! YES IT HURTS WORSE THAN THAT!
Then there's my girl, and how she's been walking around so tough. We do want to be so tough, don't we? We don't want to complain, because we don't want to be complainers or martyrs or, god forbid, pussies. But who has the wimp-o-meter? Where are the pain police?
I don't feel too bad about not addressing my sister's pain, because she has been so quiet about it, but what I do feel bad about is maybe I like that I'm in pain? That I gain some sort of sick personal power from my constant ache? I don't hurt myself on purpose, but somewhere down the road of dealing with my chronic pain I've made it into one of the things that makes me special. And I want to be special. And I think that this has made me less sympathetic when someone else is in pain. Instead of feeling tender toward them I feel a cold comradeship. I don't like this side of myself. I don't know how I could have gotten to the place where I thought misery made me anything but miserable. I'm only really able to see this now because I do feel tender toward my sister, if there is any one on this earth I feel that soft protectiveness for it is my baby sisters. How can I call myself kind when I am so unkind and so uncharitable toward the people around me, and to myself?
It's such a delicate balance between being strong and stone. I am not glad that my loved ones feel pain, but I am grateful that there are people I love that help me see the softness in my heart, and the selfishness too. I'm so glad that her knees can be fixed, and that some pain is not necessary.
Ah me, this has ended up so far from where I thought I was going. Start out so sassy and end up so introspective. I have to learn to be more gentle. And not so serious all the damn time.
Okay Honey Luna! Get your knees fixed girl! You are far too tall to not be able to squat.
Rugs hold onto dirt and catch your high heels. I have no time for rugs, let's roll them on up. Let's throw some sawdust on the floor. Let's put some music on. Let's wake the children, rouse the neighbors, and see who has the rhythm in 'em. It's time to dance.