Grip

Grip

I hold a tight grip around what I think should happen. The kind of grip that has to be ripped off, where you have to hammer each finger repeatedly and pry and attempt to uncurl them. 

I don’t want this. 

I don’t want my oldest three daughters living their summer days a block away from my house with their stepmom while their dad works. 

Should I seat myself gingerly on a settee, spread my skirt folds around me properly and smile silently? Sit up straight with grace and poise and fan myself every so gently as I wave to my daughters  through my window?

But…I’m their mom. Should I pull out photos of myself with a weird mushroom haircut and toasted almond lipstick, pregnant at 21? A tent t-shirt, a layer of net maternity panties, a layer of cotton panel maternity jeans…with stylish boot cut openings barely skimming the top of my shoes because I never did find long length…is that what we all need to see to remember I’m the mom?

Should I highlight the “right of first refusal” clause and text it to Norman? I might have done that. And he says–that doesn’t apply anymore; they’re old enough that they don’t need a babysitter. 

Should I cry about it to my own mom? I might have. Should I create an analogy where Norman is at his house, I’m working 40 hours, and the girls are sitting at my house with their stepdad? I might have done that too. 

Should I think about our summer days of years past…dying their hair with punky colors, watching them play softball, giving each other manicures, taking them to swim, signing them up for the summer reading program, taking them to my gym where I ran the kids’ summer fitness program, teaching them how to crochet, helping them set up an eBay business to sell their outgrown clothes, tie-dying tank tops and tshirts, watching them learn to swim like champions with Tideriders, driving them to church camp…

Should I throw my phone at the bed and leave the room? Should I call my lawyer? Should I argue and debate and push my side of things down his throat? Should I say that she doesn’t have a right to play house with my daughters?

Maybe I did do all that.

Should I pray?

Should I feel my grip relax in a calm, peaceful way that no hammer could produce? Should I see his side? Should I let go?

I’m not saying I’m some shy, agreeable fairy by nature. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not full of gracious wisdom on my own. 

People don’t tell you this part of a divorce. And you don’t know it until you live it. And if you haven’t lived it, God love you, but you cannot relate. You literally cannot empathize. You can imagine as a friend or you can scoff as a non-friend, but that’s it. 

Sitting on the back deck with your two youngest daughters, close enough to hear your oldest three squealing and laughing in a yard just over the hump in the road. 

Maybe I should’ve just been a perfect person then? And not gotten two divorces…

Oh yeah, let me just get right on that. 

I wanted to be right. You know? I wanted things to go my way. I wanted to keep my grip locked tight, tight, tight. But I thought, and I prayed. And I texted back that we can do what he wants. I’m not saying I didn’t fight first, but…

It’s not always about being right. 

It’s about doing right.









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Janis on the fritz

Janis on the fritz

Are you feeling self-destructive, phone?! Why did you try to drown yourself?! Is it because your screen is busted? You know I’m not superficial. You know I still love you…look how much of my attention you get.

My phone jumped into my ice bath with me yesterday. Why?! I don’t know. She won’t say.

Maybe she was tired of my friendship, just got a little too overwhelmed. I wouldn’t consider myself a needy friend, but then…I did use her for an alarm clock, a calendar, a camera, a connection to my other human friends, a counselor when I needed to type out my feelings in a blog. She read my Bible to me daily for 12-15 minutes. If I had questions, who did I turn to? My phone. That’s so generic. She needs a name. She is weathered, but super cool anyway. How about–Janis?

Do you like that, phone? Do you want to be named Janis? Is that why you jumped in the water? Because I never named you? I’m so sorry, Janis. I really am.

I’m not really sure what you wanted, but come back. Come back, Janis…and we can work this out. Maybe you just need some space and a break from me.

Okay. I can respect that. I often need space too.

I nestled you into a bed of loose organic brown rice in a double-zipper Great Value brand Ziploc for a rest. I snuggled it all around you. I don’t know if you heard me, but I whispered to you–everything is going to be okay. I checked on you often to find that you sometimes shot psychedelic blasts of color all over your screen, and sometimes you were unresponsive. Okay, okay…not yet. Okay.

One time you showed me a picture of a dead battery and a charger cord. Huh? Are you hungry, Janis? Do you want…this cord in your mouth? Oh NO! It’s not fitting…maybe jam it a little harder.  No! There must be a grain of rice caught in your throat!

Stand by, Janis…let me think!

My vacuum? No. It’s too wedged. Okay…phone heimlich would look like–

WHAM! WHAM! Well, hell…that dented my desk. Is your head okay, Janis?

Gasp! Unresponsive!

Okay…uh…this earring that my friend gave me from Kenya. I know I’m not supposed to do blind finger sweeps…but earrings aren’t fingers. I would look up the details of the Good Samaritan law…but there’s no time; plus, you’re not working anyway…how would I look that up?!

Bdoink!! The Kenyan earring catapulted the grain of organic brown rice out of Janis’ throat! Oh thank God!

Janis just…you lay here. I don’t know about the rice again. Just…

Do not go gentle into that good night, Janis…rage…

Rage against the dying of the light!

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Velcro, Snaps, Ash

Velcro, Snaps, Ash

We were friends.

Was that true?

I think we were friends. 

I remember.

Weren’t we friends?

I was your friend.

Weren’t you m…

I remember spotting you doing pull-ups… 

“Gross. I need gloves. Do you ever shave?” I rub the gross off my hands. 

“Stubble grips my pants in place like Velcro.” Kareequa falls off the bar, shrugs unapologetically. 

“Oh is that it? I thought you were trying to get out of doing your pull-ups by grossing me out…thinking there’s no way she can touch these legs for a full 10. Sucky for you–I can’t be grossed out!” Was there ever a time we weren’t laughing?

“I want to get down to your size.” Kareequa faces the gym mirror and pulls her shirt up, pinching and jabbing at her smooth tan stomach. 

“You look good. I like your shape. Shit, you’re smaller than me now! You don’t want all THIS.” She had probably lost 60-70lbs, lots of hard work training with me and on her own. I pull up my own shirt and start tugging on my love handles. 

“Yeah but look at you from the side. Your stomach is so flat. Mine is huge, and I got this fupa.” She sticks her gut out exaggeratedly and rubs it like a pregnant belly. 

“Fupa? What the hell’s a fupa? I had a tummy tuck after Audrey. That makes it flat in front. So then when I gain, it all goes to the love handles. Cruel.” I flop my love handles out and teeter around like a little teapot. 

“Fat Upper Pubic Area…don’t Google images.” Some guy we don’t know pokes his head in the room we are standing in at the gym; he pivots out quickly. 

And we’re standing there with our flabs hanging out like…what? Come on in. 

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“Make me pretty.” I flop into Kareequa’s salon chair. Always a mess, I’ve never sat in her chair looking even halfway decent. 

“Let me guess…you didn’t wash or brush your hair.” She popped the cape and draped it over me. 

“Can you not choke the living hell out of me with this thing? I look like a Barbie with her head smashed down onto her neck. I’m going to need more breathing room and some of my neck needs to be visible!” I thrash around under my cape. 

“You smashed your Barbie heads down?” I see a look of annoyed admiration in her eyes as Kareequa readjusts the choke snaps.

“Only when that little head-knob thing had broken off. Okay…and maybe I’d smash them down if I felt like Barbie was being a bitch that day. Oh? Who’s pretty now, Ms. No-Neck?!” She laughed, and as she freed my hair from its twisted and bound bun, her smile pursed into irritated determination. Natural curl…tangled like mad. 

We traded out services–I trained her; she did my hair. Neither of us tried to be the easiest client to deal with. But we had fun. And if she ever says I wasn’t one of her favorites, she’s lying. 

“Where’d I put my thinning shears? I need to make this brush out easier…” She didn’t really mind. She is very chill. In fact, I don’t think she ever got mad at me, only ever fake mad. 

I got mad once and stomped out. It was a misunderstanding about our appointment time. And I was having a bad day. I apologized, she shrugged it off, forgave me, and I made a few awkward, apologetic jokes about my temper…then it was forgotten. 

“Ewww!! Have the decency to turn me away from the mirror until I’m pretty again! I look terrible in this lighting without makeup on, and you’re about to frizz my hair into the blond Diana Ross. I want my sunglasses.”

“Dork. Okay. What’re we doing today?”

Who knows what I did that day? Bangs, lowlights, shoulder length, bleached out, ombré, balayage…over the 6-7 years we were friends, she did whatever I wanted and I always loved it. 

I love my hair. I’d rather find a new surgeon than a new hairdresser. And I loved you, loved you. You know I did.


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So how does that work? I come to your house crying. I ask you questions because the details look bad to me. I want to know–is it you? 

And then you fire me as a client. That didn’t make it obvious. 

Ohhhh because I’m crazy. Oh okay. That makes sense then. 

I was crazy. I’ve always been crazy fun. I got crazy sad. And then 6 weeks later when he tells me it IS you, who was crazy that night? Not me. 

I bet you wish I hated you. Sometimes I wish I could. Well, I don’t hate you. I got really hurt. That’s what happened. THAT is what happened. 

If you want to look for reasons to hate me, you can find some. It won’t be hard. I’m no angel. But I didn’t give you any reasons. I really didn’t. 

I know enough about cheating to know…it wasn’t about me at all. Not about anything I did wrong. Not about how I would feel. 

It’s a cancer that takes over, and it’s not even fun. It wasn’t special, and you didn’t win any prize. 

Pour gas over it all, flick a match over your shoulder. Don’t look back. 

It’s okay. And I’m okay. 

Turns out…ash is some of the best fertilizer.


Grin, Glasses, Gravel

Grin, Glasses, Gravel

“Who’s this? Who are you?” Christina’s dad Charlie was all grin and glasses. I stood there with my spend-the-night backpack. 

“I’m Emily.” I am 12 going on 65.  I am not shy. They would find out soon enough. But for some reason his comfortable, forward attitude brought out a somewhat shy side of me the first few times we met. 

“What? What’s that? I can’t hear you. Your name is Beverly? Tina…tell your friend to speak up.” He was standing in front of his TV and huge speakers.

“Dad!? This is my friend EMILY!!” Christina’s voice raised to at least 3 times its usual volume at home. For the first few times I came over, I thought everyone was PISSED because they all yelled instead of speaking to each other.

“Oh Emily. Oh okay. Well why won’t she look at me? That makes me feel like she’s lying. Hey, hey…look me right in the eyes. Right here, Emily.” He was maybe 18 inches from my face, bug-eyed, tapping his finger on his glasses and snapping his fingers with the other hand. 

Soon I would be dancing around their living room in my swimsuit with a bedsheet towel-twisted and wrapped up on my head like Carmen Miranda. Not today, not yet…but soon.

“I am looking you in the eye.” My eyes flitted into 1/2 second eye contact; I couldn’t help laughing. 

“We have to scream because his hearing is damaged from being overseas.” The first time I met her, I might’ve thought Christina’s mom Katy was much more reserved than the rest of them, but soon, maybe even in this first visit, she was yelling right along with the rest of them.

“Beverly…Emily…come here…listen to this!!” The volume up arrow was probably dented in more than all other remote buttons. I forgot to check. 

Charlie’s grin grew even larger as the TV volume grew louder. He nodded along in approval. The windows rattled. We were all covering our ears in pain. 

“Whaddya think of that? Pretty awesome?”

“Oh yeah it’s great.” It was LOUD, but I didn’t mind it then, and especially looking back…yeah, it was great. Charlie was great. 

“What’d you say? What’d she say?”

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“Dad…let us drive your truck to the store.” We were born to be independent, Christina and I. The way we did math, 14 was close enough to 16. 

Besides, what cop would see us in a bright yellow, full-sized truck? Might as well have been camouflage. 

“My keys are on the table, but I didn’t say you could…but let’s just say I won’t be looking out the window to make sure my truck is there for the next hour.” He handed Christina ten dollars.

“Let’s go.” Christina pushed her sunglasses on confidently. I heard the truck keys slide across the table, jangle off the edge, and quiet into her grip.

“Are we really going to take his truck? We can walk to the store. He didn’t really say yes, did he?” I stepped into my tied shoes, pressing my heels down and flattening the shoe backs. I put my sunglasses on clumsily. 

“Close enough to yes. Let’s go.” Oh, I’m coming. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity, but I just had some nervous questions.

We slid into the hot truck, slammed the heavy doors closed, peeled and repositioned thighs a few times. Christina started it up, much too quickly for my nerves. I felt that a moment of silence for prayer and reflection wouldn’t have been uncalled for. 

I burned my fingerprints off fumbling with the  metal seatbelt. Christina cranked the radio. The few times I had ever driven in my 14 years, I wanted the radio and a/c off, so I could concentrate. 

She banged the transmission into reverse. I looked over my shoulder for her. Her driveway had lengthened itself by miles.

“Wait a second…do you know how to drive backwards?” Cautious spectator, I was full of Nintendo-nerves. Can we handle this level? Are there ditches on the route?

“Yep.” Not even the slightest hesitation.  Gravel crunching. 

_______________________

“Does your dad still fix dryers?” No machine intimidated Charlie. I had three daughters by this time; a non-working dryer was not an option. 

“Yeah, he does. But he’s heading to the hospital right now. His stomach is bothering him again.” Christina’s heart pumped Daddy’s girl blood, always has. Still does. 

“What?! Are you serious?! Oh gosh, I’m sorry. I’ll figure this out.” Christina and I had now been friends for 19 years, since we were only 12, belting out “We are Family” as 7th graders in 9 weeks of sampler choir at Darby Junior High.

“Who is that? Emily? Tell her we will call her back in a few minutes.” Charlie sounded more irritated than anything. If he could’ve willed his body back to how he wanted it to behave, he would’ve rathered that. 

“Oh gosh, girl. Do not call me back.” I think about my own dad. Did they get old? Are we old? When did…

He called back. Of course he called back.  I imagine he shook IVs as he raised the phone to his ear, maybe rolled his eyes…but then smiled. He definitely smiled instead. You could always hear his smile through the phone. 

“Here’s what you do…” He told me where to go to order a heating element for my dryer, told me his friend’s name and number if I needed to get it finished in the next few days. 

Or if I could wait a few days, as soon as the hospital people were done annoying him, then he would be glad to come fix it for me. 

That’s what was supposed to happen.  That’s what should’ve happened.

I shouldn’t have gotten the next phone call I got from Christina. It should’ve been a different conversation. Charlie should’ve gone home.  He should’ve shown up at my house a few days later, should’ve fixed my dryer.

God, I hate it. 

How did we all hold it together watching Katy walk Christina down the aisle? How did they hold it together? Charlie should’ve been there. Grinning all the way down the aisle, shaking Justin’s hand, lighting fireworks and cracking jokes at the reception.

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Cold marble rocks…every one of them is a million stories. I’m honored to pass on the few stories I know personally…