Friday, September 28, 2007


I slept cast-footed and fully dressed. Piled on top of the covers, Georgia breathing, panting, protectively resting beside me. In the dark, I closed my eyes hard. Trying to block the noise out. Counting. Forwards. Backwards.

He's haunted. Night haunted. And when the spooky things come, he hunts me. His Mother. He comes to me to rant, to rave, to pull me into his suffering, to pay me back, to taunt me into saving him. To hand me the keys to his make believe grenade and dare me to breathe, to accidently set it off.

I've prayed. Spent every dime I've had. And borrowed more. I've loved unconditionally and tough loved. I've enabled him and disabled him in doing so. I've tried.

In the morning light, I watch for hope. For the slightest sign the storm has passed, again.

It's hurricane season.....
And I'm boarding up the house....

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I churned the gears down the river road, churning them out until they made a metallic moan, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, I'd never hit 4th before the red light. One baby booster-seated and one baby "I'm so big!" seated into the back seat, sleepy faced and oblivious to the ritual morning ride and Janis Joplin seeping from the console. And I was a little panicked.

The digitial dashboard clock was timing us, if I made the green, I had time to smoke a cigarette with Kimbies before dropping the children off, if it caught me on red.....forget it.

The Red light came quick and our seatbelts hiccupped. Snatching all three of us a little closer to the back of the ride. Three days until Christmas. And there in my rear view mirror were my sock-footed morning children, content, lazy, at peace.

"Dear Santa,
Don't worrie abot us. We ar good. We onle wont one thing. A camputeer. For Mommy and us. We love you a bunch and have oreos. And Moonpie wawnt bak at you, we told her not to, so you can come in our hawse.
Haley and Jonah"

Oh dear God, I thought, they picked only one thing. No hot wheels, Barbie dolls, puzzle ships, bicycles with frillies. One thing. For Mommy and them. The tree was decorated and dying already, we had lugged it home the night before, needles falling everywhere, on mighty clearance. I didn't have the nerve to put lights on it, and didn't have the heart not to. So I plugged it in anyway, and willed it not to burn the house down. They were thrilled.

The light turned green and I zoomed. No time now for a cigarette. Kimbies met me in the driveway to fetch them, in their pajamas, little square boxes of cereal in their backpacks. Another day at hippie daycare. I kissed them and slammed in reverse, free to smoke now, windows wide open. 1st gear, 2nd, 3rd.....

And then I saw them. The fireman's boots. Standing proudly next to the three matching garbage cans. It was trash day in our world. And I stopped. Reversed again. And stared at them.....

"I believe"......

So I snatched them.... the black rubber boots, Santa Clause's gear, and hurled them into the back seat. At lunchtime, Joe called me at the office, I panicked. He never called me here. My neighbor, my friend. Surely I forgot to unplug the tree and the damn house was on fire. I pictured him standing next to his pick-up truck calmly watching the flames, choosing his words carefully, as he watched my home come tumbling down.

"You said the kids only wanted a computer, right?" "Uh, yeah, but Joe, you know that ain't happenin', is the damn house on fire?" "'s okay, but I just picked Patty up from work and the hospital was throwing out all their old units, they're empty, you know" "What the hell are you talkin' about, Joe?" "Well, they're empty, they deleted everything from them, but Patty climbed in the dumpster and we grabbed one, and I'm pretty sure by tomorrow I can load it up with something" .....

Christmas Day....

My little ones awoke to the green glow of an institutional monitor in the hallway, the screen saver scrolling these words.....
"Love, Santa"......
it was fully loaded with battleship and checkers, and nothing more......

and the black rubber boots were under the tree....
with a note that read.....
"Now that we made it as far as Florida, we decided to barefoot it from here on......"

KJ....thank you for stirring this memory up, I'll explain the bottlecaps later.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Feather.....

We called him The Indian. Never heard him coming. In the rowdy Friday night turbulance of our litttle corner bar, he snaked his way through the crowd, quiet and slow. I caught his eyes once or twice in the early days, small and dark, penetrating if captured, just under the brim of the cowboy hat. I always smiled. At The Indian. And he would nod. I watched him going as often as coming, the long dark braid down his back. We traded expressions for words. And it became a ritual.

When Kimbies was well enough and spirited enough to join us for Friday night beers, she slid through the crowd like Cinderella. Smiling, waving, "hey, how are you?ing" to everyone. She had heard their stories through the sister~grapevine, and recognized their faces from the hand me down tales. When Ronnie whisper footed past her, she embraced him....."The Indian". And they leaned in closer to each other, and whispered folklore stories and numbers. Kimbie's hubby smiled. "She does that you know", "gives out our number"........ And that would be how we came to know The Indian as our friend.

He's doing the pink stuff now. The bad stuff. The chemo cocktail that poisens your system and maybe the cancer, that knocks you off your feet and makes you pray you fall off the earth and it ends. Kimbies knows. She's been there, viciously drugged by the "let me slowly kill you before I offer you hope" medicinal toddy. She waits. We all wait.

This morning I wandered, brick footed, into the backyard, tripping over mountains of construction debris and empty bottles. At the door to the shed/studio/condo/cottage/castle in the backyard, I found the feather. Held it up to the sunlight. And then placed it indian-quiet inside the doorway. For Ronnie's cowboy hat. When he hangs it here, in his new home.... "Gimme Peace".....

We're down to the finals. All the pretties are in, and done. Just waiting on the pro's. Some windchimes. And The Indian.....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Raining heartstrings

Twice in the last week, I heard the boom-box rap ,rap, rapping around the corner, into the drive-way, and the humming of the engine idling for the last puff on a cigarette, the end of an angry song.....

And I went flying. Zooming down the hallway, concrete boot clomping, echoing off the tile walls, diving into bed, clothes and all. This is how much I want peace. That I would hide from my late-night wayward love child, just to not face his "Oh, I just had a beer, or two....." pinkened eyes, or hear the latest road rage story, or who ripped off who or who did who~to~who dunnit tale. And I layed in bed, concentrating on listening, and not breathing out loud....trying to decipher his mood from the sound of his size thirteens plodding about, by the slamming of the fridge, by the pssssshhhhhhht of another bottle being opened. Soda or beer I wonder. Thanking God he made it home safe. I've begged, I've pleaded, threatened, loved, tough loved and gone broke raising my youngest miracle. I've prayed and prayed again, fought, and laid my body in the road to protect him......

Last night my reactions were slow. I didn't hear the sounds until the slamming of the door. The rain had lured me, hypnotized me in to early peace, and indian-like he snuck through the kitchen door. "Love" I said. He kissed me on the cheek. I watched with one eye as he inventoried the kitchen cabinets, clunk, clunk,clunk, cabinet doors closing. He found the perfect muchies in late night Ramon noodles microwaved....and settled in. Giant shoes and dirty socks kicked off on the living room floor, bowl of steaming 39 cent dinner balancing on the armrest.

"You know, what, Ma?" he grunted in between huge bite fulls. "hmmmmmm"?

Thirty minutes later, I was on the leopard skin rug, sitting across from him, and we were telling stories, and true confessions, and "I betcha didn't knows"...... and I had to do the math for him, for him to understand....."yes, son, I've been there, too".....

And he wanted to know, to hear again, how I knew when I had to grow up. So I told him the story he's heard before, and he nodded and told me how his friend's baby boy is seven months old now and so damned cute and "healthy"...... And then he said "thank- you, Mom"........

I was 17. Partied all the time. Everyone partied. The pages of my year book were slathered with as many dedications to the dead as pages celebrating homecomings and football games. In the 10th grade, I buried my boyfriend. He ventured, wasted, across a six lane highway. The driver never saw him coming. I hope he never saw the driver. He lay in a coma for all of the fall and after whittling away to 78 pounds finally took his last breath in February. We caravanned to the funeral. The first of many. In the eleventh grade, his best friend jumped off a roof. It wasn't the broken bones that sent him to live forever in the care of the kind nurses, the 24-7 tiled walls. It was the broken heart. The broken soul. The orange sunshine. We were killing ourselves. When I was 17, I saw what else we were doing.

I volunteered at Sunnyland. An institution (yes, we had them) for physically and mentally handicapped children. Not a group home. An institution. An old industrial looking, smelling, hospital converted to a nursery for babies who would never grow up, never go home again.

Day #1. They led us past the baby beds. Little ones tied to their cribs. So they wouldn't rub their noses off. Bang their heads into concussions....again. I almost vomitted. Three volunteers did. And they were escorted back down the mold colored elevators and thanked. I held my breath. And somehow, my knees held me up.

Day#2. Into the day nursery. Where children that could play were allowed to. Toddlers with tubes up their noses, tethered to miniature walkers, babbling nonsensical words, paced in circles. They were drugged, I was sure. I looked around. There were seven of us left. All standing. I touched a little tow head. He didn't even notice. Squatted. Looked him in the eyes. He kept going. And then a hand on my back. And a slurry, drooly little voice. I turned. Davidson. I had to blink several times, not to keep from crying, but to stop the watering my eyes were doing in defense. He smiled. On the side of his face. Actually no. His face was on the side of his head. Everything distorted. Not in the right places. His gummy smile with the halloween teeth was huge, jack-o-lanternish. His eyelids were heavy tents over the second set of eyelids, thick rheumy transluscent cataract-like awnings that permanently covered his blue eyes. He had no ear lobes. His nose was nothing but nostrils. His little fingers were stubs....the muffin man. And he had a huge mop of brown unruly hair. "Do you wanta play?" he asked with double lidded eyes wide open. "Course", I smiled, lowering myself even closer to the asbestos flooring. "K"......"Simon says....."

Davidson was an "acid baby". His little mind, a miracle. He walked. He talked. Laughed. Told intricate stories. He was bright, and he smiled. And lived. And he was here, stork dropped amongst his siblings by fate.... The nurses told me that soon he would be as mentally handicapped as many of the others....from lack of stimuli, love, change.....I went every week-end. And we ABC'd and crawled on our knees, and loved. Until they closed the doors.

"Seven years" they said. For acid, LSD, other tell-tell trails, to leave your system. "Seven years". I did the math. And prayed I wouldn't fall in love before I was 24. And that I would grow up before I died.

Postcript: Davidson's Mother came clean. He was adopted by a stepfather who loved him dearly and many, many plastic surgeries later, the "boy without a face" grew up. He graduated from university and I'm sure, is still stealing hearts. I grew up a lot the year I met him, came to know him.....and last night, grew a little more. May the circle be unbroken.....
Love grows....

Monday, September 17, 2007

There's magic in that old umbrella....

She wouldn’t let me do it. Post it to her blog. Copy the words and share them on the pages of Hand-me-down Levi’s where she is the biggest contributor, and has only ever typed thank-you's and love you's in the comment boxes. Where the walls are painted with love. She only let me listen. And in the quiet Sunday morning after, I sighed and tried to take it all in, one big whoosh of love….tried to save it in my mind, freeze dry the words in a forever state of limbo….

Love letter to my oldest child from Kimbies…..
Shared moments before she sealed the envelope and sent it sailing, a paper kite…..

It won’t be the same here, because I’m not the author and the words were fairytale perfect, captured just as they happened, as they were felt, as they became magic in the making, but the story is so beautiful and if the world, for just a tiny second, could capture life in their hands, the way Kimbies does in her heart, we would all know……peace and love…..

Dear Sweetest Child,

How could I have ever known that day, in the sandy gritty parking lot, when you lugged that old umbrella, stuffed into it’s sack, and plopped it into the back of my mini van, the gifts it would bear? But you knew, didn’t you? Keys in your hand, checking out, counting heads, pulling away from the beach…..your babies faces smashed up against the windows blowing kisses as you drove away, you knew……

And there it lay, on the carpeted floor of my van, waiting….

Thank you , sweet child…..

For shelter from the sun I love so much, for the little tent we’ve camped under over and over again. Alana and I. Sandy peanut butter sandwiches squished between her fingers, sippy cups melting in the heat. Our toes buried under treasure sand. For the rooftop over our heads, Grand-C in her long sleeves, shadowed from the very light we love, protected. We drag the umbrella closer to the water’s edge. A squiggly trail of where we’ve been left in the wet sand. And dig to China. The ocean sees us there. And comes to greet us. Three generations of girls. She knows I can’t come to her and so she plays birthday party at our feet. Dropping trinkets, a thousand years old or older, just within Alana’s reach….And Alana names them all….. “Umbwella chells, buttafwy chells, fingahnail chells” and drops them in her tiny plastic bucket. “Twehsures”…… she chases the frothy bubbles of the mermaid’s breath at the oceans edge, catching them with her butterfly net…..and we splash, and laugh, and precious, precious memories are made…..

When it’s time to go, when the tide reminds us by climbing a little higher, talking a little louder, pushing us a little harder, we follow the squiggly trail of the umbrella’s footsteps, back to the car…..and turn around, amazed at the vastness, the bigness behind us.
Alana raises her little fingers to her lips and blows….softly, butterfly kisses to the sea…..

“Tank you, ocean, Tank you……”

I thank you sweet child, for the gift you’ve always been….

In April of 2006 Kimbies was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage IV, and the last year and a half has changed all of our lives forever, the sun became taboo and the race to live began. We are celebrating remission now, in all it’s hugeness, but the treatments continue, the mountain climbing an always present task. Kimbies is going to the beach again. Hand in hand with her tiny grand~daughter and in the sand, right behind her, our Mom. Love grows.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturdays and Starfish

"It's our birthday,
Saturdays and Starfish,
We're five and six"......

I look around. They're building mad castles in the sand with teetering towers and deep,deep tunnels. In their own world. People passing barefooted on the beach smile at the day and night babies in the sand. Jonah is lighter complected than the sun's reflection, platiunum hair drooling down his neck in a rat's tail, eyes the color of see-through. Haley is Sophia Lauren as a child, long limbs stretching, brown eyes a sepia full moon. She is in charge; The Castle Contractor.He follows her lead for a moment and then spins on hands and knees chasing a sandcrab. "A buwfday giff, a buwfday giff"! he chants in circles. She rolls her eyes and continues to dribble wet sand on their steeples.....

I bite my bottom lip and draw. Pray I can capture this moment. When the tide is still and thoughtful, and my babies are at peace...growing in the sun.


My little ones. Bigger than me. He just pulled out of the drive way in his canary yellow "please don't pull me over tonight" Chevy Blazer. A party is growing one text message at a time. She's going for dinner with her long time "Isn't he so cute?" Boy-O... candelight and clinks!

I can't draw fast enough to catch this moment.

Be safe little ones. Happy Birthday, my loves.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ready to Fly.....

The fat little wren wobbled, teetered, fell over rolly-poly on it's side....little chicken feet scrambling straight up into the air. I tiptoed closer. No Mama in sight. A barely-grey plethora of feathers fluffed and puffed, accordian~like, gaining strength, and plop! He was upright again, waddling, swooshing the bent and broken wing to no avail. I gave him a little space, backed up two steps, and he charged!

Up, up, up and

I sat on the bench and fished my cigarettes out, blew mindless smoke rings into the suburban sky. And watched him. Struggling. Imagined him cussing in toddler babble. He was so damned determined. I wanted to scoop him up in an old worn towel, fetch him on to the porch, and tell him......things I know.

And without knowing it, I daydreamed myself right out of the front yard and he waddled out of my "I'm gonna let you give it all you've got and then bring you in for the night" protective gaze.

This morning I saw dozens of them. Scurrying, hopping, flitting and flirting on the dirty front lawn. I tried to pick him out from the crowd. Squinted my eyes and searched for the tell-tell limp, the tiniest fold of the fluffy new wings....but, I couldn't name him in the line up.

He's strong now. Probably stronger than the rest. If the name wasn't already taken, and he wasn't really a little grey wren, he would probably call himself Jonathan Livinston Seagull and people the world over would talk about him over coffee and under the stars.

I tucked my crutches next to the broom I never use. Put my key in the door and said hello to the morning.

Me and ole Jonathan should be dancin' by Friday.....

Monday, September 10, 2007

I wish you peace.....

Plopped on the couch for days like a skinny little jelly fished washed a shore, I've had a lot of quiet time to myself. The incessant hum of the TV lugged into the living room for the occassion, lullabyes me back to sleep, again and again. I don't watch TV, but the parade of Angels tip-toeing in and out of my kitchen door, find comfort, I think, in flipping it on, tilting the screen toward the couch. I have no idea how to work the remote, so it's warm humming, a swarm of purring bees, rocks me back to sleep.
And I keep waking up with revelations.

Perhaps because Orhan reminded me how blessed I am by guardian spirits, I awoke today drenched with gratitude, and the overwhelming desire to write thank-you notes to the random angels in my life. The one's that don't get to see me smile, the ones I've never hugged or will never get to hug again, the one's I've been blessed with by chance..... The folks who have stepped both in and out of my life so quickly, and changed the butterfly effect forever.... I clink! you all, and thank you......

I start with these.....

Sweet Mothers of my daughters.....There are no words big enough to thank you for your trust, for gifting into my arms, your first born children. I see you everyday in their faces, their toes, the way one throws her head back when she laughs....the way they both think in black and white, siblings by chance, sisters by fate. I pray you know we love you, that we hope you believe in me, in us, in them, and know by trust, or faith, or visions from above that they are beautiful, headstrong, independent, and as in love with you as any Mother's child. I thank you often, but not often enough. And I just pray you know it. I can't send postcards to heaven, and I can't send them by first-name-only through general mail delivery. You were brave. You were strong. You loved your children so very, very much that you gave them emerald wings and they became my dreams come first born children, my precious daughters. There are no words big enough to wrap you in, to thank you with.....

Father of my children, Dad, Daddy.....We'll never sit next across from each other having heart-to-hearts, we don't speak the same language. And so I can't tell you this. And you would never understand. But I thank you for being there, the butterfly effect, so our family could be gathered. And I thank you just as much, for straying, for wandering, for our differences.... for pushing me to the bridge when it needed to be crossed. I thank you for leaving when I asked you to and trusting me to do raise them, to love them and teach them to love you. I thank you for our freedom. For our wings......The girls are flying and free and Jonah keeps trying them on for size. One day, he'll find his fit and soar.....

Our lives have been rocky. And roller-coasterish. And wonderful. We've been broke and sometimes even poor. We've been afraid and sometimes terrified. We've been weak and sometimes broken. And we've been soldiers. Surrounded by an army of Angels. And that has made us rich, and sometimes generous. Brave and sometimes daring. Stronger than we ever imagined.

I wish you all peace and love,
and thank you....


Friday, September 07, 2007

Something always gives me away.....

They were two beautiful people. Right off the glossy pages of magazines I never read. His hair just just so, matching the square jaw and tiny little cleft chin God had given him. His nails the color of the very, very heart of a conch shell....lacquared by nature. He was tall and I imagined, quite in shape. I could see him only from the waist up, and her from the Magic Bra line up.

Her teeth were mighty whites. Almost shocking. I couldn't help but, well, kind of stare. Her little tongue toyed out from behind her painted lips and traced her upper deck. I imagined she was testing to see if she could feel the flaw of lipstick there. Accidently smeared across her platinum pearls.
She fidgeted.

He smiled this huge "I'm not really a Doctor, but I play one in print ads" smile, leaned over the counter, fanning the Patient Sign In list off his imromptu podium and started his speel......

"We're just stopping by this morning to offer you ladies a complimentary day in paradise. Our salon offers solutions to all beauty concerns, an escape from the ordinary, and all in a blissful, all female environment. Our staff is fully licensed and trained and offer the latest in innovative techniques to improve your body and soul. The Perfect Passion offers mud baths, waxings, hair design and coloring, laser and non surgical face and body lifts, passive muscle toning, all in a feminine and friendly environment......"

I smile. Slouch a little more perfectly in my chair. Plop the grafittied cast up on my side of the counter. Chey leans in. Listening. She's always wanted to have her ear fixed, the one with the tear down the center of the lobe, a little reminder that when she was 16 she got in a tiff wearing really, really big hoops.

The "Hi! I just turned 21!" pretty girl to his left fidgets again.... leans in just a little.... and then when he takes the slightest of breaths, she blurts out in a barely-more-than-a-whisper "I just saw Santa Claus" woosh.....

"Are you a hippie?"

I smile a little broader.

Handsome one gathers up his glossy print tickets to Paradise, clears his throat, and mutters "You ladies have a nice day" .....

How do you think they knew?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tent City

It's quiet now. Finally. Five o'clock in the morning and I'm on my third cup of coffee. Tiptoeing, as quietly as one can dragging a concrete block on the other foot, through the house. I'm letting "them" sleep. The manchild and his friend.

In my little corner of the world, piled up under heavy quilts and wrapped in cat tails, puppy breaths, and interupted dreams, I listened as they lived. Cell phones humming, purring, rapping. Channels flicking. A cough every now and then. Heavy feet down the hall. Engines louder then softer again somewhere outside.

My son is home again.

And this house, these walls, this gate that swings open and never shuts behind you, is The Motel Six for wayward boys once again.

In the wee, wee hours, he wakes me up. Quietly, whispering love letters into my ear. "Ma, it o.k. if A.J. camps out here? He got thrown out of his house again....."

"mmmmmmmmm" "yes, son" I whisper to nothing.

He's already turned and taken 6 foot tall steps back down the hall.

He knows.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sweet Friend of Mine....

It was a ten speed. Spray painted by thieves, and then, unclaimed, sold at the Sheriff’s Auction for ten bucks. We scooped it up and I had wheels.

They brought me here kicking, screaming, pouting, listening to “A Horse with No Name” on the staticky AM radio. I wasn’t impressed. The cobblestone roads, before I fell in love with them, were just bumpity and made the little Toyota we had inherited by chance, sound rattley and cheap. Piled in the front seat, with Skinny sandwiched between my legs, I watched the fancy yancy houses go by, the “isn’t it just beautiful?s” and cringed. I hated it here.

The evening of the Sheriff’s sale, I took off, spiked pedals piercing my flip-flops, blonde hair flying, cigarettes stuffed in the back pocket of the too-tight peanuckle cut-offs. I didn’t have smoker’s cough then, and I flew. Around Brewer Hill, and down, and down, and down to the water.

They were standing, shirtless, at the end of the drive-way,leaning up against a cheap little car, smoking. Just down below. Two guys with long hair billowing, lounging , blowing smoke rings, and laughing at the sky. Stoned probably. I fidgeted my fanny on the seat. The electrical tape wrapping the seat, transforming it from orange to black, stuck to my upper thigh. With my right hand I yanked the bent and crumpled pack of Kools from the thread bear pocket, poked one in my mouth, and dug deeper for the lighter.


Faces coming into focus.

In the wind, flying, I tried to light the cigarette. At sixteen I was cool enough to do this, and maybe, even, flirt, on the fly by.

And so of course, I crashed. A mangled heap of stolen goods and a skinless chin at their bare feet. They barely even moved. “I’m Christian” he said. “Nice to meet you”…..

We spent years playing driftwood in the ocean, floating until we washed up, sun burnt and stoned. I giggled with him through his affair with the next door neighbor, Mrs. Robinson . I painted his bathtub in psychedelic colors and we planted fish there. We danced on tables and hung from balconies together. He taught me to drive a car, we traded poems back and forth and stuffed them in a manila binder…. “Our book”…….

He proposed to my best friend , beer-giddy on bended knees. We toasted. I stood by him when he called off the engagement and told the truth that sent her heartbroken, into the fast arms of a passing Navy Base Boy. I was there when his Father poured a scotch on the rocks, and his Mama, the one he gained by chance, stirred the drink she had been nursing since noon, and held her husband’s hand. I was there for the announcement, the Hush that blanketed the house, their hearts, their dreams. I was there, when in acceptance, they celebrated all he had become, the circle he had created…..

I don’t know how many years it’s been, I don’t know the date, the anniversary of his leaving me. But I know I miss him. And in the quiet of the walls tonight, I felt him here. Today, Orhan reminded me I had guardian spirits visiting ….And he’s not kidding…..

Rest in peace, sweet friend….
I hear you knockin’…..
And I'm listenin'....