Tag Archives: love

Lessons on Love

My youngest, Miss Drama, does not have a phone or tablet of her own. She uses my phone to sometimes text her friends. It didn’t occur to her that since it’s MY phone, I’m totally going to read what was said.

For all you men out there reflecting back on your adolescence and wondering what girls said about you, well, it was pretty much this, and some of my friends’ spelling was equally bad and they couldn’t blame it on auto-correct.

 

According to the texts, her friend has a crush on a little boy, but clearly beauty is in the eye of the beholder because Miss Drama just isn’t seeing it.

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But back to her admirer….

So class, what have we learned? The way to a 10 year old’s heart is to be funny and not have a triangle head, and maybe not to go overboard with saying “you’re hot” all the time and trying to “protect” your crush when she doesn’t ask you to. That gets you named a “do do bird”.

Safe Haven

It’s summer and once again, more often than not, there’s an extra child in the house. For at least three years this has been a thing. At first it was Mr. Smarty-pant’s friend, K. He lived down the street, but spent nearly every day here and frequently spent the night. I fed him. I took him to the park, the zoo, to movies. He lived his whole life in Memphis and had only been to the zoo once in pre-k on a class trip, and had never been to the river or to Shelby Farms.

He had a good relationship, from what I heard, with his dad, but his dad lived in MS and he didn’t get to see him that often. In all the years he lived on our street, his mother never more than waved at me. His ex-con, gang-member step-dad was more courteous. The relationship between K’s mom and his step-dad was apparently tumultuous, which is why K spent as much time as possible at our house. That, and I serve some really awesome food, even if soup is on the menu more often than a teenage boy would prefer.

At the end of last summer K moved to a townhouse a mile or two away. He still visits frequently, but it’s just far enough that he can’t slip out of the house and just wander over whenever he likes.

So, this summer Mr. Smarty-pants has another friend who is a regular fixture in his room, J. J is a smart kid, polite, and treated like the red-headed stepchild at home. His sister is spoiled and her behavior was such that both Miss Drama and Miss Diva quit trying to be friends with her. To be honest, she’s just plain mean. Meanwhile, J’s mom has had a stint of unemployment and hospitalization due to illness. Even on nights where he went home, I’ve fed him, because Mr. Smarty-Pants quietly informed me that J didn’t have any food at home. This morning I quietly asked if J’s mom knew where he was. Mr. Smarty-pants replied, “That’s part of the problem. She doesn’t really care.”

Mr. Smarty-pants may complain and whine about how mean I am. He’ll sulk when I don’t let him wander the neighborhood at 9pm at night. It might chafe his, “I’m totally almost grown” mentality, until his inner little boy pops up and reminds him that I make him waffles, and let him have some of my coffee, and care enough to demand he get his butt home when I say so. He thanked me for the waffles and bacon this morning. He has his moments.

Going on six years ago, Mr. Smarty-pant’s dad and I split up and he moved to his own place. Before that, neighborhood kids never came in the house unless he was out. They avoided him like the plague. Animals didn’t like him either. I know, I should have taken note. Anyways, it didn’t take long for the children to congregate once he left. I certainly didn’t pull out my pied pipe. At the time I projected a bit of a “Mean Mom” aura so that none were tempted to misbehave, but then JD fell down and got a gash on his head and I fixed him up.  My cover was blown.

There were occasional Popsicles offered and fresh-baked homemade cookies. I would talk to them when they asked about my garden. I’d teach them little things and they’d listen. I, in turn listened when they talked, something I suspect few adults they knew did. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that all of Mr. Smarty-pants’ friends realized that when they needed a safe place to cry, to get some food, or just to have a place to laugh and be happy, his house was the place to go.

I accuse Mr. Smarty-pants of being conniving because his friends will help him with chores. After all, he has a chronic case of lazy. Some of it is his charm, but I think some of it is quiet gratitude from his friends. One of them, JQ maybe, JD, heck it may even have been D…I forget which, once scolded Mr. Smarty-pants in front of their whole little gang of friends, because he gave me attitude when I read him the riot act for doing such a crappy job with the yard that I had to essentially redo it.

I didn’t plan on being the safe haven, exactly. It sort of just happened. I suspect it had to do with my own mom sending me outside to “play” AKA “keep an eye on” the little pre-k kids that lived on our street when I was about Mr. Smarty-pants’ age. For the record, “playing” with half a dozen kids between the ages of three and six was exhausting, even for a fourteen year-old. I’d tag my brother to take a turn and catch a breather, and he’d have the kids laughing and giggling, and the little ones used him as a jungle gym. Even at fourteen, I knew a three year old had no business outside without an older sibling or a parent watching. When my mom felt it was time for us to come in we’d walk the little kids home, making sure each one was delivered to their parents.

In two or three decades, I imagine Mr. Smarty-Pants will be sitting in his recliner as a small mob of kids parade through his house. Much like me, part of him will pine for that thing parents rarely get….silence, but not for long. Laughter is far more satisfying and infectious than silence. Besides, they do eventually sleep.

Moment in Time

Earlier today Soup King was hunting for some particular books, but most of the books had been packed in optimistic hope I’d land a job out of town. Instead, I’m working here, but unsure if I should unpack or leave the stack of boxes in the living room for the next year. In any case, in the process I rescued a pile of old snapshots, negatives, and a small photo album. I opened the photo album and inside were pictures from when I was in high school. I’ve seen them a hundred times, but this time it wasn’t a quick glance, smile, and close of the album.

My eyes lingered on a picture of my brother and myself. It’s possibly one of the absolute worst pictures of me ever, but my smile is genuine as is Justin’s. The moment, frozen in time on film captured our bond.  He’d helped me on a school project, adding his artistic touches when in truth there was no reason for him to do so. I think maybe my dad blustered him into helping and I begged. If I attempted to paint the shark on that cardboard boat it would have looked like ridiculous googly eyes.

Justin (14) Me (16)

Justin (14) Me (16)

There might be other pictures of us taken over the next three years, but I can’t really recall any. My senior year was filled with activity and the three grade levels between us meant we lived in totally different social realms. After I graduated, I moved off to college and my short visits didn’t really have much in the way of picture taking. Not to mention, he was at that age where he often avoided the camera because, dude, he was too cool for that.

As I looked at that photo I realized my son is just about the same age now. There’s a faint resemblance, although not a lot. Mr. Smarty Pants may look a great deal different and of course he is very much his own person, but he shares a remarkable similarity in interests, aptitude, and personality.

Both my son and my brother out-class me in sheer IQ power, but both preferred gaming to doing boring homework. Justin devoured history books for the sheer love of the subject. My son’s favorite reading topic? History. Mr. Smarty Pants inherited the same talent for art which turned that blank cardboard boat into a shark.  He has a deep, beautiful singing voice he’d rather no one heard, the same as his uncle. As the years go by, I find it hard to recall my brother’s voice, but I suspect Mr. Smarty Pants shares more than a passing similarity. Even the ups and downs of their report cards mirror each other.

Growing up with Justin gave me insight and patience that has aided me in maintaining a strong bond with my son. While mother-son is far different than sister-brother, I was the big sister and “little mother” growing up. So, while some days I just shake my head and roll my eyes at Mr. Smarty Pants’ teenage angst, I do so with the knowledge that these next few years pass by so very quickly. He’ll be a young man in just over four years and the maturity will come, sometimes at a frustrating snail’s pace and at other times frighteningly fast.

The teen years strained my relationship with my brother, and to a lesser degree with my sister. We had different lives and my life in college was vastly different than that of my kid brother’s in high school. The last conversation I had with my brother took place early January of 1999. We rambled about all kinds of things: plans, dreams, troubles. At that point though, all the prior tension of being in different worlds melted away. He was growing up and once again we were not only friends once more, but held mutual respect for each other. No matter that we were very different people, we liked each other and knew without a doubt we could rely on each other.

I used to wish I could have said more, been more present in the last few months of my brother’s life, but I let go of my regrets. People say that time heals loss and that you cease to grieve with time. It doesn’t work exactly that way. Grief is not so much an action as a part of you which you come to accept. With time it gets buried under all the other little pieces that make up who you are, but you are the collection of all those little pieces. It doesn’t take much to move aside the pieces and shine a light on that painful piece– painful because only love can leave so lasting an impression. It can blind you with its intensity, as wrenching and painful as the moment you first felt it.

Sixteen years ago I shared the last of many, many conversations and hugged my brother for the last time, but the love and laughter we shared remain.

Power of Three

So, yesterday was sibling day. It’s a relatively new thing, and as far as I know, Hallmark has not turned it into a cash grab. Still, I suppose there’s a use for Hallmark in the world. The advertising reminds me of when the holidays are. Oh wait…. my phone does that. Sorry Hallmark. You’ve been outsourced to my phone and my handy dandy skill with words.

Well, at least the works for Nationally recognized holidays. Outsourcing is never a smooth process.

A long time ago, in galaxy far, far….

Wait… wrong story.

No, this story started in good ol’ Memphis, Tennessee in June of 1979. I ruined my parents’ plans for a Saturday picnic, and any shot at eating a warm dinner for about the next year. Soon enough, seeing as how my opinionated ways started early, I informed my parents I wanted a baby brother or sister. Sure, I was ever so slightly annoyed when I found out they didn’t pop out ready to play, but life has lots of surprises like that.

In 1981 my brother arrived and in ’83 my sister rounded things out to form our intrepid trio. Being a sibling is an odd sort of thing. Half the time you like them and the other half you want to kill them. As you grow that balance swings back and forth. If you are lucky, your siblings end up as people you like. If you are very lucky, they are your best friends.

In construction, the triangle is the strongest shape. 3 points. 3 children.  3 unbreakable bonds. Sometimes it was an equilateral triangle and sometimes isosceles, but it never, ever broke.  For those who believe in magic, three is a number of power. The three of us together were far stronger than any of us alone.

As a kid and even into adulthood, I didn’t realize that not all siblings shared the bond that grew between my brother, my sister and myself.  It’s sadly true, that far too often you do not really know what you have until you lose it.

In 1998 that triangle lost a point. As my sister so eloquently stated, “There’s an empty space in my life where my brother once was…..it was so much better when we were a trio.”

Partners in crime

Partners in crime

I’m the third dork on the left.

We don’t need sibling day to remind us how blessed we were to have each other, but it doesn’t hurt to use it to tell the world how wonderful mine were and always will be.