We are closed: Roadtripping with Mom

A cop called my mother “feisty” once. He was right on. Once Mom gets something stuck in her head, there’s no stopping that party — and you will be her guest, like it or not. Knowing that, I agreed to accompany her this week to “the best concrete statue distributor ever!” (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking either.)

“I really want a giant rooster, and I don’t care what my neighbors think…bu-u-u-ut I’d have to rent a flatbed, so I’m getting a bench instead.” She wasn’t fooling me. I knew that rooster was going to end up on her front lawn come hell or high water.

In exchange for driving about four hours roundtrip to the middle of BFE, I was promised giant, painted, concrete poultry standing at attention in rows of yard art-y wonder. I admit, I was oddly looking forward to that.

An hour and a half into the trip, we made the unavoidable side jaunt off Hwy 35 to the Czech Stop in West. As I pumped gas, Mom went inside to spend nine billion dollars on kolaches. Russell texted, “Mr. Peppermint died.” I went inside to find Mom, suddenly feeling a little less resentful about finding myself on a road trip to a lawn sculpture place in the middle of nowhere with her.

“Mr. Peppermint died? No! He can’t die,” she said. (Good point. Noted.)

We talked about Dad and the school board and the cats and my sister and Russell and Bella and Bella and Bella. The radio never came back on. We talked about gardening and plans we had for fixing up our yards. We talked about labor unions and doctors and lawyers and philanthropy. We talked about Mom’s upcoming missions.

In Lorena, Mom bought a hundred dollars worth of cheese and chocolates. It was very Wallace-and-Gromit. We ate the kind of food I only thought people sold at the State Fair of Texas. Mom described life as a preacher’s wife in Eddy, where her parsonage was forced to pass a white glove inspection by the little blue hairs there in 1963. Back in the truck, we ate a whole package of homemade truffles in five minutes. I told her, licking my fingers, “Those little old ladies would have heart attacks if they tried to bring white gloves in my house right now.”

And then, just like that, we arrived at the concrete place.

It was a Monday.

I got out of the truck and took a few photos before Mom realized we weren’t bringing home a gigantic cock-a-doodle-doer.

They were closed. Russell calls this the Indian Curse after the time Mom dragged us four hours north to Vernon for a powwow that hadn’t happened in three years. Then there was the long trip in the squashed car to the infamous Creation Museum Uncle Paul and I wanted to scope out, also closed. Then there was the time the Griswolds went to Walley World, and it was, yep, closed. I could go on.

Mom asserted from the passenger’s seat, “Look, I called to make sure the cheese cafe was open.”


I couldn’t help but laugh at the circumstance from the side of the gravel entry. “Mom, you know this is going in your eulogy if you die first.”

“I know, I know.”

Still, I’m kinda glad the concrete people weren’t there that Monday. That was how the trip needed to end, I think — standing there, laughing outside of the closest thing to Peppermint Place that Hwy 35 has to offer. Mr. Peppermint might have reminded us:

When you feel unhappy, nothing seems worthwhile. Just give yourself a peppermint grin, and you will wear a smile.”


On the way home, we cracked up as we read Russell’s return text messages about the photos we sent from Concrete Statue Nirvana. Mom, smiling and goofy, acted like a teenager in her new shirt from Forever 21, enjoying her fourth month of retirement. This was fun.

Maybe not as much fun as the Griswolds had after they broke into Walley World at gunpoint, but, hey, this isn’t our last trip either. There is plenty of time for Walley World after Peppermint Place.

Giant gorilla in dino PJs, yes. You saw that.

Behind the baby elephant with the tennis shoes, there's Mom's rooster. It's only about twelve feet tall. That's it.

Giant creepy things, fondling their nether regions?

For the Ogden Nash garden. I might have an Ogden Nash garden, hm.

I love you, Mom — you and all of your travels.


Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

When I was pregnant forever ago, I dreamed I was observing my daughter as an adolescent, living her daily life, becoming independent. I remember wondering, as I woke up, if I’d ever be able to look at her without being emotionally overwhelmed by love and fear and everything else. I knew I wanted to give her the world, but how? Parenthood seemed like such a symphony of emergencies when I was full-bellied-with-baby.

Then she went to kindergarten.

Began reading.

Discovered her own music.

And, suddenly, she was on auto-pilot — needing me to only serve as a bumper guard for her awkward, burgeoning life. (I’m not fooled, though; this is what I’ve been rehearsing for since my kid was born.)

With the potential for so much sensory overload, it’s important to steer our surly junior high replicas down good paths whether they seem to like it or not. Being a valuable parent is about making choices for our children and then allowing them to choose their own options from there. It’s not rocket science.

Or, maybe, it is partially rocket science.

Continue reading

Facebook for intermediate users: Postmortem social networking with my grandmother

Although it was slightly alarming when Granny recently sent a friend request from nearly nine years beyond the grave, I did accept.

But now she’s haunting me on Facebook’s sidebar.

Stop it, Granny! You’re freaking me out now.

Of course, I’m kidding. I love it, and it’s not freaking me out…too much…yet. I know that even if Granny was still alive, there’d be no way she’d attempt to use a computer. In all of the time we lived together, she was never able to master the fine art of call-waiting, so one could gander a possibility that solving captchas might be above her technological skill set.

Facebook Granny has been kind enough to share a few tidbits — a few I didn’t know. For instance, her ashes are placed in an urn between her parents’ graves. You would think I should have known this, right? I forgot. I’m sorry. I thought they were still in Mom’s house on the shelf in her guest bedroom. I remember Mom yelling as I moved furniture around: “Watch it! Mom is on that top shelf!”

I’m not being snarky.

Part of me wishes you really were still in Mom’s guest bedroom, Granny. I miss your unexpected stories that always seemed to blow in from nowhere.

I know you were proud of Mom and your boys. I believe that you made things as right with the world as you could have, given your physical circumstances.

I’m not meaning this to be a letter to you, though.

The year Granny died, we were having coffee one afternoon when she looked at me suddenly and said, “Duty done, KK.” She felt like someone’s chore at the end of her life, and I hate that.

She truly enjoyed visiting with Bella and always kept a tin of shortbread cookies around to offer her. Granny = Cookie. In her final years, nothing delighted G more than: a blown kiss from Bella, anything Mom cooked, or a tragic local news story she could share before Mom read about it. You know, just the finer things in life.

As Mom and I stood over Granny’s lifeless body on the day she died, the stress of all the years spent watching her disintegrate reached its apex. We fought — probably the most public screaming festival of our lives. After we calmed down enough to pack Granny’s scant belongings — which easily fit into Mom’s backseat — Mom and I stopped when one of us found a hidden note in the drawer by Granny’s bed. It was shoved safely under the shelf paper so that none of the orderlies would ruin it or mistake it for something of monetary value. As we sat on the bed to read Granny’s treasured note together, Mom and I stopped trading snipes and then collapsed in tears inside each other’s arms. I won’t ever forget that afternoon.

It was a Mother’s Day card from granny’s third child, David. The date would have made him ten or eleven if I remember correctly. Perhaps, younger. The gist of what I recall was that he wrote, “You’re the best mother in the whole world.”

I think what touched my heart the most was that I imagined Granny reaching into her drawer from time to time, reading the note, and then placing it back in its hideaway for safekeeping.

Maybe she didn’t think she was a good mother. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe sometimes she was. Maybe she was the best mother she could have been. Whatever the case, I guess that Granny kept the note because she wanted to remember a moment when she was “the best mother in the whole world.”

Anyway, Facebook Granny, I’m glad we’re friends.

Real Granny, Duty done.

The Antoine Dodson seventh grade semester exam study method revealed!

Drowning herself in the deep, deep waters of last-minute academia, The Bell spent this past week waffling between a variety of semester exam study methods:

  1. The helpful “Mom” oral quiz, which usually ended in some kind of Google search for information about emancipation;
  2. Staring at the ceiling while silently reciting whatever she’d written in the study sheet below her sightline;
  3. Spending hours creating The Coolest Acronyms Ever so that she not only had to remember the awesome acronyms, but also what they stood for.

Maybe you remember that frustrating ball of wax from your own seventh grade yesteryear?

On Day Four of Total Cranium Cram Meltdooowwwnnn 2011, The Bell decided to use a new and improved approach to remembering some of the items she was having problems learning. In typical fashion, there was nothing very typical about her fashion.

But first! You remember Antoine Dodson, right?

He’s the brother of a women from the Lincoln Park area who was an attempted rape victim. The full story — in case you have been living under a rock — is tediously chronicled on Antoine’s not-to-be-missed Wiki page. Because Antoine’s television interview was an unexpected well of ***AWESOME***, Auto-Tune the News quickly picked it up and released what is now a ginormous iTunes hit.

Alright, so getting back to Bella and The Great Cram: I was pretty psyched tonight when I overheard a brand new version of Antoine’s song…with lyrics about Texas history…as sung by The Bell…minus the auto-tuning. Aw, yeah.

Rock hands. Put them up.

“We have Comanches in the Great Plains of Texas/They’re getting kinda hostile/ They’re getting kinda sick of you/Trying to preach and colonize/Hide your cows/Hide your wife/Hide your cows/Hide your wife/And tell the Spanish ‘cos they’re gonna make life miserable for invaders, also…”

There was a part about Stephen F. Austin and Jane Long and Rosa Maria and the Chicken War, but I was too bewildered to take clear notice. I mean, hell, two things here:

  1. Out of all the songs in recorded history to use as a study guide, my kid chooses this?
  2. Tomorrow, The Bell is going to [fingers crossed] ace a huge test by singing her version of a song that was originally a melodramatic sound byte from an Alabammy news report about a foiled rape attempt.

*scratches head. (I know. I am always pointing out two very important things. Gaw.)

I guess it could be worse. Heh.

Just hide your cows. Hide your wife.

The Bell’s NASA Space Shuttle Discovery Dresser, kinda sorta

For most of the year, Bella’s been walking around with a flash drive full of writing projects stashed in her pocket so she could snag a few minutes here and there from any computer with an owner willing to loan it out. I figured her resourcefulness deserved rewarding.

My kid is awesome even incognito.

After some head-scratching, the whole family chipped in and bought her a really freaking nice computer. It’s the kind of thing a kid with parents in her socioeconomic bracket usually would never consider, but Bella is a great writer. I figure if she doesn’t write her stuff now, she’s gonna whine and moan for the rest of her life about how she missed some kind of boat (and that will only keep her from winning the Nobel Peace Prize for curing cancer and eradicating world hunger, duh). Simply put: Bella needed a badass computer for the good of mankind.

We had to throw her off the trail, though, when she saw me getting out of the car with a bag from Apple. Luckily, Russ is extraordinarily good at making fake invoices for things a thirteen year-old girl would never want, like a Space Shuttle Discovery Bedroom Dresser and matching Rocket Booster Shoe Holders from the “NASA Space Store.” Said invoices are especially effective when you accidentally leave them laying around and tell Bella to stay out of the garage.

What no teenager wants for Christmas -- ever.

This afternoon, we hid the MacBook in a box under her old netbook that kicked the bucket last year. Then we covered the entire affair in a nest of chairs and stools and boxes and pillows and lots of other crud draped in sheets. It definitely didn’t look like anything cool after we were done.

Spoiler alert: Get Kleenex.

In about three minutes, all the extra hours I worked this holiday were totally worth it. My spawn is super cool. I can’t wait to read her stuff. Such good fortune.

Great Ruth

“So what do you do in here?”

“I think about things.”

“Which things?”

“Things I never stopped to think about the first ninety years of my life. You know.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t made it any further than 37 yet.”

“Nevermind. We’ll get back to that. Right now just help me out a minute here, KK.”


“See that lady?” Nods toward a woman with lots of gray and white curls. “We have to look her down. She irks me.”

“Grandma, are you serious?”



“Shh, I’m looking her up and down. I told you! Turn around and help me out!”

I can’t believe this.

“Ok, I am looking at her. She appears to be staring you down, too.”

“So what. She’s about to leave. See? She’s leaving. What did I tell you? Hmph.”

Then Gran turned around and glared the senior lady right out of the nursing home’s dining hall.

“So you haven’t changed much since we stuck you in this place.”

Immensely satisfied: “Nope.”


Smirk. “Now, we were talking about things to think about, right, honey?”


“Well, there is something for you to think about then.” Wink.

This certainly gives new meaning to “fighting with your family at Thanksgiving dinner.”