Flash Back Friday

Today I find my mind thinking about past slices while perusing other blogs in search of inspiration for today. Because as of right now, it looks like a complete blank for something to slice about other than it’s Friday, yay!

This is a lovely that idea I saw on another blogger’s site and it’s one that I want to incorporate into mine: Flash Back Friday. With eleven years of blogging under my belt, I still find that incredible and I’m the dang blogger (!), there are a lot of earlier posts that may not have been seen by newer followers. Or perhaps I’ll find something to remind some of my long term followers of posts since forgotten. So, each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on that exact date in a previous year or the post closest to it if I missed that date.

What about you? Reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this day or on a Friday in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected to reminisce upon. If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 5th) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.

As it turns out my very first post on this date (March 5th) was in 2012. It also has the distinction of being the very first Slice of Life Challenge I posted which made it a Tuesday. It’s a poignant one in the 20/20 of hindsight.



Him: You will never be as bad as you’d like people to think you are.
Me: True, but I will never be as good as you’d like to think I can be.

Had to “Friend Zone” someone who truly did not want to be there. Worse, by putting him in that friend zone, I may I have lost him as exactly that.

I know far too well how it feels to be on his side of unrequited. Knowing that I’m doing the right thing, instead of the easy one, does not make being on this side of it any easier.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012


Unfortunately, as it eventually turned out, I was right; the friendship faded to the wayside never to rekindle now that he’s gone. It’s one of the few times I am not at all happy about being right.

Perspective

A friend, and colleague, told me how he had the pleasure of being awakened by the US Marshal’s this morning. It was the full POUNDING on the door, though there is a perfectly fine working doorbell, production. There were two at the door, presumably with the warrant, accompanied by several armed officers. To use his words “It was made perfectly clear my fat ass wasn’t going nowhere.” Not exactly what anyone wants to wake up to bright and surly in the morning, Especially when that man being awakened is a Black man in his mid-30s during these times as is my friend.

Clearly, this encountered ended well enough. We spoke via instant message about it and I’m blogging the story. A simple case of mistaken identity. My friend is fine. He said he cracked a joke with one of the officers in the relief of. All’s good, right? I just had one question for him: how did his mother take it when he told her? I know he’s close to her, so I know the first he called was her. He tells me she’s okay, but she is more mad and upset about the incident than he was. And that is where the title of this post comes in.

I asked about her because as a mother of two Black sons, I knew. “I’m just damned glad the first time I meet your mother is not at your funeral.” as I explained to him. She’s his mother, and pre-COVID when we were all in the office, I was, and to some degree still am, Work Mom. She and I know of each other, but we have never met. We are around the same age and have similar mindsets. He’s semi-jokingly terrified at how we’ll gang up on him if we ever got together and he’s likely correct, but I digress.

As he relayed the story to me, I interjected my comments and jokes, but I also felt a bit of panic. My sons are only a few years older than him. I visualized my sons at the door, being thusly awakened at the crack of dawn. I know the deep breaths she took as her child relayed the story. I know how she tried to tell herself it’s okay, he’s okay, it’s alright, and I know how for a long while it did not help. And I know how her son, with the invincibility of youth and the adrenaline of relief of being able to now somewhat laugh about it, cannot understand her quiet panic as she listened.

For him, it’s just a story he gets to tell about how he survived it. And that’s the way it is.

I know for his mother it’s a story on how she could have lost her son. And that’s the way it is.

For me it’s a scratch at that itch we mothers in general, but I feel mothers of black sons in particular, don’t want to acknowledge that no matter how much of an adult they are, they don’t stop being our children and the fear of that call stays with us. Today is my eldest son’s birthday, like my friend, he’s older and has matured where I feel he’ll think first and avoid being a name to remember. But then I remember Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd… so I still worry.

And that’s the way it is.

Not My Baby Anymore

Last night I participated in a wonderful group where we got to share stories based on the subject “The Wild Unknown.” When I was invited to speak I had recently spoken with my youngest son. At some point in the conversation between the now very adult and I, I was reminded of when I realized he was not my baby anymore and what an oddly emotional blow it was.

I remember I was sitting on the front porch as my youngest son, then in his mid-teens, was walking up the block from school. I noticed his walk had changed. It used to be something of a bop, this bouncy gait as he used to just short of walk on his toes. This young person coming towards me now had what could only be called a swagger. This was not the walk of the carefree. This was a strong, measured stride with purpose. This was a man’s stride.

“Man! He walks hard!” My eldest son who was on the porch with me apparently noticed this change in his little brother brother as well. Though they are only eighteen months apart physically, there was a subtle, unspoken my baby brother is growing up touch of pride to his assessment. Yet, all I could think was…

What broke my baby?

Both of my sons are very much like me. It had been their chagrin most of their young lives that I was sometimes one-up on them, able to predict some of what could get them in trouble and put a stop to it. It was generally my chagrin when they did something I missed and though I knew exactly why it happened, because it was something I did or would have done as a kid, I had to disciple them regardless. Sometimes I let them make mistakes, because it really is the only way to learn some hard lessons. But this did not fall into one of those categories.

My eldest took it hard when my mother died. Very hard. I knew the loss of the woman that tried her best to spoil him rotten, had broke him and changed him. I saw it happen and did my best to guide him through it and he was much better by this point, but I was cognizant of that change. I felt I had dropped the ball with my youngest as I watched him approach.

How did I fail to protect him? Where the fuck was I, who saw him every single day, while whatever this was was going on that it hurt him, broke him, and changed him without my noticing? What the hell had happened in his young life that ripped his spirit, his innocence to the point it had changed his very walk? What else have I missed? Could I find out? Should I find out?

I found myself once again into the wild unknowns of parenthood. Yes, there are guides and plenty of people who can give advice, whether you asked for it or not. There are some givens we all go through as children and as adults raising them. In the end, each child is unique and wild unknown and how one raises that child will be unique to that child.

I realized, they both were of the ages where the shift in dynamics of how we relate to each other changes. They will always be my children, and though they were not yet men, they were not in fact children. It felt like just last year I was teaching them to tie their shoes and only last month we had the condom talk, not a few years ago. I was losing them into the men they were going to be, another wild unknown…

When he saw his brother and I sitting on the front porch, he broke into this beatific smile (both of my sons really do have great smiles), and greeted us. More perceptive to my moods, than I had been to his, he looks at me at questioningly for a moment.

“What?”
“You okay, Mommie?”
“I’m fine baby boy, you okay?”
“I’m GREAT! I’m having a great day!”

He then proceeds to regale us on just how great his day was. Naturally, with two teenage boys, the conversation eventually segues to video games and smack talk reigns.

I listen to and watch the both of them, but mostly my youngest for a long moment. Tall, though still a couple of years from his eventual 6’3″ height, his once high-pitched voice now very much a tenor. My silly little boy was very much still in there, but this man-child, now bounding up the stairs with his big brother, was anything and potentially everything, but he was not my baby anymore.

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It’s Day 28 of the 2020 Slice of Life Writing Challenge – come see how others are slicing it up this Saturday.

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Temple of My Familiar

One of the gazillion things I love bout my hometown is its museums. There are many, but there is one in particular I can only let but so much time go by without visiting, and that is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. And even then, regardless of what else new may be there, I must always visit one exhibit. The Temple of Dendur, a real Egyptian temple, is completely open to the public. I remember the first time stepped into the wing and laid eyes upon it I was enthralled. I remember wishing the entire wing were a part of my back yard. Even now, in the nearly two decades since, I still love to visit the temple, walk through its limestone doors and hallways, imaging the temple as it was used way, way, way back when.

The Temple of Dendur dates to 15 BC, in the Roman period. Over the temple gate and over the entrance to the temple itself, the winged sun disk of the sky god Horus is depicted. The temple is partly decorated with reliefs: the temple base is decorated with carvings of papyrus and lotus plants growing out of the water of the Nile. The middle room, used for offerings, and the sanctuary of Isis at the rear of the temple are surprisingly undecorated except for the reliefs on the door frame and rear wall of the sanctuary which show Pihor and Pedesi, as young gods worshiping Isis and Osiris respectively.

Each time I walk through it I am amazed at how something so massive was dismantled, shipped overseas from Alexandria, Egypt and rebuilt in the magnificent wide open Sacker Wing at The Met. That it only took a decade to do so is a feat within itself. The temple was dismantled and removed from its original location in 1963 in order to save the site from being submerged by Lake Nasser, following construction of a dam. It was a gift to America for the nations assistance in saving Dendur and a few other sites that were also in danger with the dam’s construction.

What a lot of people don’t know, or forget, is that the Temple of Dendur is not a tomb. No pharaoh or queen is honored here. It is a temple that honors the various gods and myth of the ancient Egypt. The temple was built to honor Isis, but Horus, Osiris, Thoth, Hapy, and Sekhment are also represented in its walls. And because kings, respect kinds, there is even a rendering of Augustus Cesar, dressed in the Egyptian robes of a pharaoh for kings respect kings, making offerings to Egyptian gods.

Another tidbit unbeknownst to most: Most of the walls of the ancient temples were originally painted in vibrant colors. It’s the erosion of time in the desert sun and the occasion flooding of the Nile, that leaves us with the beauty of the bas relief in sandstone. There are is very little documentation on this, but few examples found and from looking at other temples in the area, indicate there was color on the temple walls. Last year the Met had the Color the Temple project. A light installation using digital technology which projected the colors of the painted detail to the temple without altering the surface itself. The artists chose the scene of August Ceasar giving offerings as it was the most intact scene and in an ideal location in which to project. Alas, that was early last year and is now gone, but I am sure you can find pictures and articles of it somewhere in Googleland.

And with all things beautiful, to quote a certain Country and Pop star people throw rocks at things that shine. You can actually find graffiti carved into the walls of the temple. One dates as far back to the BC times, a few scant years after the temple was built through to another carved in the late 1800s. Leonardo 1820 is the one easily remembered, but my favorite – to my delight and yes, I presume it’s a male, his shame is one carved by a “L. BRAD—” the rest of the name is unreadable, “1821 OF NY US”. Here, nearly 200 years later, in New York City sits the tag of a fellow resident of my state, hey, for all I know, he may even be a fellow resident of the City itself. Now wouldn’t that be ironic and delicious?

The Sacker Wing which houses the temple was designed in a way to mimic the temple’s location in Egypt. The reflecting pool in front of the temple represents the Nile river and the wall behind it represents the cliffs of the original location. The frosted glass ceiling of the wing and the massive glass wall facing Central Park is stippled to diffuse the light coming in and resemble the lighting in Egypt. The view in spring and summer, when the trees are in bloom are beautiful. I myself am most enamored with the view in autumn, where the colors of fall complement the warm limestone walls of the temple. Even now in the midst of the stark contrast of gray winter days is its own beauty. So yes, the views of the temple and its outside environs are stunning regardless of season. I have whiled away many, many hours sitting, reading, contemplating life and simply enjoying the natural light that pours through the windows. Even in inclement weather it is beautiful to pass the time watching a rain storm through those windows.

The Temple of Dendur is also considered one of the most romantic places in NYC. Many proposals have happened in these hallowed halls as well as wedding receptions as the Temple of Dendur can be rented for events by museum members, with the monies for such of course. I must admit when the room is closed for a private event and I cannot have my time there, I am perturbed for days. It is a gorgeous atmosphere that is historically fascinating surrounded by natural beauty outside and over a couple of millennium of art in the inside. Is there really any wonder I continually return?

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 5
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And A House Is Not A Home…

“But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home…”
– Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Also with a respectful nod to both Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross of course, I have to say – yes.

Until the age of twenty-three when I moved-out for good, I lived with my parents, more or less – that’s a very long story that can be summed up in a poem I wrote here.  It was my parents’ home yes, but not mine. I lived there as a child as all children do because, I had no choice.  Until I could afford to be on my own, I had no choice.  Most parents, at some point, will explain the finer points of home ownership. It almost always comes first in some form of My house. My Rules.  I had my bedroom, yes, but I never felt at home in my parents’ house. A stanza from the  above referenced poem…

Where do I go
This was my shelter
It was all I’ve ever known
I’m taught never to be where I’m not wanted
But what do I do when I’m a child
And where I’m not wanted is home

It was an intangible difference, but one I innately, if not completely, understood even as a young child.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

When I moved out of my parent’s house, I moved into Bill’s parent’s house. They were both retired and aging, still for the first couple of years very much with us. Yes, it was technically the parents’ house and there was definite clashing of heads twixt all four of us adults from time-to-time, but there was a mutual respect companionship and love throughout those walls.  As his step-father’s health rapidly declining and his mother was showing the very first hints of Alzheimer’s I found myself in the role of partial caretaker of the elderly parents. Living with them taught me that home and family is are relative terms less defined by blood, more defined by relationships. Bill has cousins, the family of his mother’s best friend. People he was not related to by blood, but were very much his family. That was the first place I felt at home.

“When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing…”
Home – The Wiz Soundtrack

Whether in an apartment, but especially when we actually owned our own house I learned home was more than my four walls and the roof over my head. Home is an environment. It was my dog I could hear happily barking and doing what we dubbed the happy-happy-joy-joy dance as soon she sensed my approach to the door. It was the feeling that greeted me when I walked through the door. It was my sons and husband who waited for me to get home. It extended out of the walls and windows of my actual abode to those we welcomed within. My sons’ friends who knew they better “greet an adult first when coming through my door” before going to play video games in their bedroom. Our friends and family coming over for barbecue and the annual Superbowl party.   At long last I had found home.

And then I lost it.

“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

Through a series of events I’m not going into here, when my husband died I was no longer able to keep living in our home and long story-short I wound up moving in with the one person who always had my back, and opened her home to me when I needed one, my best friend. Coming from a life of being an only child, living with Bill who was estranged from his living sibling and myself having the two boys, I had lived in relatively quiet homes. The realities of living with a large family was foreign to me. It was one thing to know, or rather know of, a string of siblings and nieces and nephews of her family, but I had very little interaction with them over the years. I understood them in the Hallmark card concept of everyone was around for Thanksgiving dinner in which we showed up for an hour or so and then left to visit elsewhere. Still very much walking the Path of Grieving at the time, plus a series of other mayhem that befell, I was grateful, to have a roof over my head. I was grateful it was with my best friend, whom I love dearly. After a twenty years of finally having a true feeling of home in my life, being in a home not my own again was especially stinging. The day-to-day of always having people who were not my family, always around, and as I felt in my business, was something to which I had much trouble adjusting. I quickly understood that none of them would ever really understand how I could be in my room, reading a book not wanting any interaction just as I would never understand the sound and fury and a constant stream of people coming and going that was their norm. Over time I was definitely more at home there. A couple of her siblings have claimed me as I have claimed her as my sister on all legal forms. Still, for all of that, I could never really make the apartment we shared feel like my home. Because I knew from the onset, no matter how long I stayed there, it was always a temporary thing and she would likely be the only person to miss my presence when I finally left.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.” – Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

Twice times I rode the train and went back to my old block, to “casually” pass by my old home. The first time was maybe a year or so after the boys and I left. The house was empty of tenants, the fence needed repair, the yard was overrun with weeds.  The second time was perhaps around the third year mark when I saw it in passing from a train.  The yard was cut, a car was in the driveway, the house was occupied by a family not my own. Both times I was still in grief, so all I saw in my heart were how the Christmas decorations would hang from the awning. The football shaped balloons we attached to the fence for Superbowl, where the grill stood in the yard. I saw it while passing by in a car a couple of summers ago. The building was almost out of my sight before I even realized where we were. I understood I would have been immediately in tune with it before, it did not register because it was no longer home to me anymore.

If there is one thing we humans all have in common, it is that we all want a place to call home.

After several years of living with my best friend I am under my own roof again. I am on totally on my own, no children, no romantic partners, just me, but I feel it. I still have some furniture I need to purchase, some décor I need to work out, deal with a host of other changes, big and small, in my life because of it, but I feel it. The views are very different than before, how I move around is very different than before, it is a very different feeling than before, but I feel it nonetheless.  And oh when I climb the stair and turn the key in the front door at the end of the day, yeah I feel it…

“Home is where the heart is.”
Gaius Plinius Secundus

HOME.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 3
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

 

You Must Remember This

I find myself the owner of treasures of value to no one, but history and as the unofficial family historian – me.

My late-husband was a semi-hoarder, a trait well earned from his mother as I came to learn over the years. In a series of happenings in the two years after his passing that I will not go into here, things were put into storage for what I hoped would be for a few short years. Eight years later I in turn have inherited all of these things and have finally begun the arduous process of sorting through them.

Some things were easy to decide what to do with, such as the receipt from Sears & Roebuck. Think about it, I said Sears & Roebuck. The receipt is so faded, I could barely make out the date (06/01/68) and the cost ($27.00), but not the purchase item itself. I’m reasonably sure -were she alive now- Laura, my late mother-in-law, would not be too put out that I tossed it. Reasonably sure – I think. $27 was a hefty amount for a S&R purchase back then. A part of me sincerely feels that she could likely recall what the purchase was for – with the steel trap that was her mind before Alzheimer’s took its toll.

The birth certificate of a brother-in-law, deceased long before I met my husband, is another story. From the 1940s, I can still feel the raised seal of its stamp, letting me know it is official if not the true original. Marriage certificates, note the plural on that. My erstwhile mother-in-law was quite the dish, let me tell you! Old dog tags, family photos, more documents, family letters etc. were also unearthed. Two letters showing some serious animosity between sisters-in-law, shed a light on tensions I had sensed, but could never put name to back then. Letters from my late-husband to his mother while he was in the army nearly made me cry.  I am the only living person who can be the bearer of these captures in time for these specific people.  At least for the moment.

Bill was estranged from nearly every single person he was related to by blood. I know he has, (or knew he had?) a brother in San Diego. A falling out over twenty-five years ago has sealed the deal on my wanting to find him now. Some physical wounds heal, but the emotional scars can still fester. Somewhere out there is a niece with whom I did get along. Regrettably, as life has a way of doing, in with Bill’s passing I am ashamed to say we are no longer in contact. Her father’s birth certificate, among other items are things are rightfully hers and I would love to give them to her. Thus, I simply cannot let them go for I have hopes of finding her and being able to do such someday. But what do I do with this treasure trove now? Had I a private home with the ever useful basement or attic, there would be no question as where to put these in the meantime. However, the reality of living in an apartment where storage space is at a premium I find myself at a personal cross road.  For I also have my own treasures to add to the mix.

In a bin from storage I found the tops Bill and I wore for at our wedding. My best friend presented Bill and I with an heirloom clock. It has the traditional marriage vows printed on it, with our names and wedding date on a plaque attached to it. It is too obvious what it is, and after ten years of being a widow, now living in an apartment he is not a part of, I could not hang it on the wall. So it, the tops and a few other things I’ve deemed a part of “that time” yet feel should not be thrown away, has been stored up on a shelf in a closet. Out of sight, if not entirely out of mind.

As I am still sorting through the cache, currently all are boxed, taking up space on in front of a bookshelf in my living room. I fight the cleaning urge to just toss them and be done with it. It is treasures like these, mementos held onto and passed down are how people trace family. Not just the who someone was on the family tree, but who someone was as a person. The family tree can tell me Dorothy and Laura were sisters-in-law. Only finding those letters tells me that they were not fond of each other and how long that animosity ran between them. The letters tell me how much Bill loved his dogs. The family tree will tell you that Bill and I were married and when. Only the photos will give testament to the not exactly traditional aspects of the wedding itself.

In the interim, my not-so-immediate goal after the sort, is to scan and document everything I can. And perhaps laminate some of the older, more delicate paper items that are in danger of being lost forever. That is fine in and of itself, but while I can scan a photo of my three-year-old child wearing it, I cannot scan the “child-abuse” shirt itself.  Or scan the wedding clock, or the dog tags, or… or…

Most people can easily trace to their grandparents and perhaps back to at least one set of great-grandparents, but not much further.  One of the reasons sites like Ancestry.com and the television series “Who Do You Think You Are?” exist is because there are many who understand the importance of documenting these things, at least the paper things, while you can. In this throwaway society of new or nothing, it becomes harder and harder as people cannot or just don’t hold on to these pieces of the everyday anymore.

The thought that many years from now another family member will come across these previous timelines and enjoy these revelations as I have, fills me with joy. For while the photos and letters can be documented electronically, it is not the same feeling that raised seal or the texture of an old shirt under your fingertips. It is my wish that long after I’m gone, hopefully future great-grandchildren, will come across the old photos, the clock, the “child abuse t-shirt” and other treasures saved and smile just as fondly on them then as I am smiling now thinking of their stories.

That alone tells me I will be holding on to these treasures for a little while longer – throwaway society be damned.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 Challenge – Week 2

52essays2017

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing it up this week:

sol

Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

May Auld Acquaintance Please Be Forgot

Though born in raised in New York City, my family background is from the South. Or as I sometimes joke, I am from South Cackalaky (a colloquialism for South Carolina) via the South Bronx. My Yankee/Dixie mix is apparent in my daily life, but more so around the holidays where part of my Christmas Day meal this year consisted of Italian (baked ziti), Spanish (yellow rice) and Southern (pork shoulder) cuisines.

As we rapidly approach the very end of 2016 I am now reminded of a different tradition — how one must start off the very first day of each year. With variances for local and/or home preferences the checklist is as follows:

New Year’s Day Prep Southern Style:

  1. New mop and broom.
    — One does not bring last year’s dirt into a new year.
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house.
    (2a. That man must have money in his pocket.)
    — Usually, this was the man of the house, who would walk out the back door, if available, then enter through the front door.
  3. Everything must be clean. Your clothes, your linen, your home, you.
    — A continuation of not bringing in last year’s dirt into a new year – starting after Christmas, the home gets a scrub down.  For some homes, the parts of the house that would be seen by any company that may happen to come calling was enough. For others, the home is cleaned stem to stern within an inch of its inanimate life. Then once everything was cleaned, it was time for everyone to get clean. Hair washed, toe nails clipped, root-to-toot clean.
  4. Prepare the good luck meal of Pork, Black Eyed Peas, and Collard Greens.
    — Though generally a ham, it can be any kind of pork, but it must be pork. Black-eyed peas, on its own or mixed with rice. Collard/Kale/Mustard Greens, or any combination thereof, rounds out the holy trinity of culinary tradition.

All of the above, if followed properly, was presumed to be an assurance of a healthy and prosperous year ahead for you and your family.

So after all that – speaking solely from personal experience – considering the fucked-up, not even close to putting the fun in dysfunction people I was blessed to have to shape my young life, all I can say of all that is BULLLLLLL SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

After all, these traditions were ones passed down from families who lived in or were a part of private homes. As poor tenement dwellers, this premise was a glass cliff from the start.

  1. A new mop and broom: Unless it somehow was no longer usable during that week, my mother held on to mops or brooms until the last strands or straws fell off. Who could afford to waste money replacing perfectly good items?
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house (and have money in his pocket). The only way this could occur is if my father went out for New Year’s Eve and drunkenly stumbled in the door first by happenstance. If there was something needed from the store we could not wait for him to get up first, for if he was home at midnight that meant he did not have any money to go anywhere the night before. So much for money in his pocket. Not to mention, we lived in a tenement, duh! There was no back door to go out of in order to come in a front one. And he damned sure was not getting out of bed and getting dressed to walk out of a door -only to walk back in again- just to satisfy some tradition/superstition. More often than not, I was usually the first person to cross the threshold on the first day of the year.
  3. Everything must be clean.  As an only child and a female, with a father who lifted nothing other than a fork or a liquor bottle, the totality of this cleanliness ritual fell to my mother and I. As I got older the brunt of it was on me.  The days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were bloody torture for me. I do not exaggerate when I say bloody as my knuckles often became cracked and raw from the constant scrubbing with bleach, ammonia, Lestoil, Pine Sol and hot water as I cleaned. And don’t you dare ask whether I used gloves. Despite years of seeing others, yes white women, doing so on television and in movies, I was well into my teens before it even became a thought in my head as something I could do for myself. The one time I actually brought it up, my mother looked at me with much disdain. “What? You think you too precious to touch water?” The use of gloves was never brought up again.
  4. The good luck meal. Since ham was made for Christmas, in my mother’s kitchen the pork part of the tradition was almost always in the form of chitterlings and hog maw (the smaller intestines and stomach lining of a pig, respectively, cooked for food). If you have no idea whatsoever of what I speak, my God I how I envy you and wish I shared the wonderful bliss of your ignorance! Years after I left home, the smell of bleach and ammonia combined -something everyone knew you should not mix, yet everyone did exactly that back then- would immediately take me back to New Year’s Day when my mother’s kitchen was an olfactory assault of cleaning products and offal stench as my mother spent a good hour or so at the sink cleaning the -ahem- meat before cooking it. Once I was whipped and not allowed to eat anything if I did not eat everything was cooked for the house for New Year’s Day. I took the beating and went hungry for two days because I refused to let that nastiness cross my lips. The only reason I did not starve for three days was because winter break was over and school had started again where I ate breakfast and lunch. I still was not allowed to eat dinner at night. This stalemate lasted until all of the chitterlings was gone and something else was cooked that I was willing to eat.  This whipping and starving routine were repeated several times over a couple of years before I was taken seriously and allowed to eat only what I wanted. I just realized, I was only ten when I first defied my mother like that. That was truly the precursor to what was coming down the pike – but I digress.

Each January 1st this plague of tradition fell on our apartment with the hopes of a better new year. I presume as we did not follow the rules to the letter, three hundred and sixty-five/six days later, the January 1st of the new year found us just as miserable and poor as it found us January 1st of the previous one.  So what was the point? Suffice it to say, when I became the matriarch of my own household, things went a lot differently for New Year’s Day. At least I thought so.

As I look back on it now, it really was not all that different. I have enough south in me that each time I have moved I purchased new mops and brooms to not bring old dirt into a new place. Yet, like my mother, I do not purchase new cleaning implements each year. With two sons to run to the store if necessary, plus my late-husband –having a man being first to come through the front door, with money in his pocket, was almost a given. If someone non-male somehow cross the threshold first – whatever. Granted, while whatever place we called home was not always white-glove spotless, it was clean – except perhaps for my younger son’s room, depending on his mood, that is. And as I was the one in the kitchen, I cooked any damned meal I felt like cooking that day. As I am now a single woman whose adult sons are out on their own, even that much of the tradition is just a memory. Yet, I am living better and happier than I ever have in spite of it.

The closest I come to preparing for the new year is in my spirit. I fully believe how I find my heart at the stroke of midnight is what guides the rest of my year. The years I started off depressed, pretty much remained so. The years I started off on a good foot, stepped on accordingly.  As for this year, I admit my bank account needs some serious replenishing, but I can keep a roof over my head, pay my bills, not starve and still have something of a life on my own. It’s going to be a long while before I can globe hop again the way I did last year, but I will be able to travel a little this year.  Yet all of those things are material. Most important is that I am content. I am happy with myself. I am happy within myself. I am prepared for some new craziness/challenges with this new year, but I am also looking forward to seeing what new joy/beauty/happiness 2017 will bring.

What better way to start?

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge.
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

 

And let’s see how others are slicing this first week of 2017:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

Smiling Face

I face the sun trying not to see

The shadows I know follow me

They hunger for possession

That plays with my depression

For my mirror darkly

Shows the pains starkly

Always on the cusp of despair

Past the façade of jokes I share

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Today at dVerse De, aka WhimsyGizmo, invites us to take a look at our shadow in form of a Quadrille this week.
dverse

dVerse ~Poets Pub : Quadrille #17

City Gal Country Road

Won’t deny it, I am mostly a city gal, born and raised and I love my gritty streets.  But in my youth I had me a good taste of some country days and ways. Many summers spent down in semi rural south in Grandma’s house, I learned me some things most city folks know nothing about.

Don’t know why, but there’s something about this time of year, this early spring that takes me back. . The trees are mostly gray, the very first hints of spring raising  from aground, yet that nip of winter making an appearance in the late nights. Yet I know summer’s not too long from coming.

And I’m reminded of being in the middle of a bench seat of pickup truck as a child. Or riding shotgun on a back road as a young teen. Riding hard somewhere that has never known the feel of asphalt with the spray of mud and gravel flying from beneath the tires. Oh and dappled sunlight filtered through a canopy of leaves, my hand out the window surfing the wind.

Yeah, sometimes this city girl craves a country road.

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Let’s see how others are slicing through what’s left of the weekend…

sol

Slice of Life Story Challenge – Day 6 | Two Writing Teachers

I Remember

I remember
that first night
the feel of his hair
intertwined with my fingers
the touch of his skin
as I grazed against it with my chin
the yearning in my bones
when he held me in his arms
the pressure of his lips
as his tongue grasps with mine
the taste of his kiss
and the scent of his hair
the way his body feels
pressed tightly with mine
the heat between our bodies
invigorating, and passionate
the ripples of my flesh
as his hand glides over my breast
as my next pulse quickens
I’m numb to all
but the sense of pleasure
beneath his softened lips
as the growth of passion exceeds us
need turning my voice hoarse
as I realize the noise I hear
is naught but my moan of his name
the steam rising from our backs
the sense of power
flowing through his limbs
eagerness withstanding
the warmth of his breath
around my nipple, gently sucking
the trace of his tongue
as it glides down the slope of my stomach
the softness and the passion
as he brings me to heightened ecstasy
setting each nerve on fire
the firm grip of my hands
as I bring my hips to meet his
clashing gently in the night
to bring our souls home
again and again and again
feeling the nod of his head
and the arch of his back
under the strokes of my nails
feeling the beat of his heart
as it beats in rhythm with mine
we have had many
such nights since then
but that first night
yes, oh yes
I remember

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dverse
dVerse ~Poets Pub | Open Link Night #160