Hoard

Hoard

My garage. It was the grossest space in this old house, and that was a hard trophy to win. 

All cabinets were seafoam green, with work surfaces of grimy retro linoleum peeling up in every countertop corner. 

There was dust crusted onto everything, not dry and loose–crusted, 40 years thick. Not “flutter the feather duster over it  in my maid costume” dust, but “powerwash it, scrub with bristley brushes, ruin your jeans, ruin your hair; find out what you’re made of” dust. That kind. 

My dryer vented into the garage, regularly keeping the air steamy, and I imagine…remoistening new dust layers day after day after month after year after decade. Dust, moistened dust, dried dust, new layer dust, moisten, crust over…

I don’t know the exact nuances of making a 40-year thick crusting of dust. I only know the state of my garage when  I moved in. I only know how much scrubbing and scraping it took. 

The rickety garage door, also seafoam green, was not well insulated, was not properly sealed at the bottom. It was freezing in there unless the dryer was steaming it up, or the tiny hazardous gas heater was on. Flames shot out of it several inches high, more than once I saw dry leaves meet their demise to that fiery little beast. 

This is probably dangerous, I would think as I rubbed my cold, bony fingers together in front of flames. When did my knuckles get so wrinkly? I can pinch the skin of a cold knuckle and it will stay pinched…then slooowly, lazily melt back into place. 

The weather-stripping on the bottom of the garage door was flapping off and severely gapping in many spots. They say to build your house on a hill, to sit there majestic and wise. People can lean back and look up to admire it. A shining example on display, make it glass even. What’s there to hide?

My house was built at the bottom of a hill. My driveway serves as a slide for rainwater, nothing to slow its flow toward the busted weather-stripping. 

Muddy rainwater never flooded the garage the 4 years I’ve owned the house, but it would seep in and settle…dry slowly, leaving behind only the dirt residue. Charm…adds a bit of charm, an optimist might say. Dirt is character? Yes. Sometimes. 

I walk into the garage. I feel the weight of this project grip me, pull me under water. 

I need this crusty garage to be usable space. Dear God…where do I start…I look around for a welcoming place. I don’t find one. 

November is too cold. I was born in Wisconsin, lived there til I was 4. No, Arkansas November isn’t as bad as Wisconsin. Think positive, brain, and stop singing “November Rain” by Guns N Roses. 

So I pull everything out of it and onto the driveway. Every cabinet, every rusty paint can, every gritty ziploc bag filled with every jingle of unorganized nail and bolt and crazy unknown bits of metal. Keep these? I should keep all these, right…? I will need these old nails one day…

I try not to think of the old man who lived here before me. He and his wife were the only owners, from 1972 when the house was built until 2012 when I bought it. 

I know he was 86 when he passed. I found his obituary. His daughter gave me the keys to the house at the closing; the keychain has some small, clear plastic prism hanging from a short, beaded metal chain with a cylinder clasp. I don’t know what you call it. You place the last bead of the chain into the opening on the cylinder and press. I should keep this keychain in his honor. 

I shiver. November chill? Or thoughts of which room did he die in? Was it in here? A hospital? What’s with all the plant hooks on the ceilings? Why did one have a thin leather dog collar hanging on it? What is this blackish-brown smear on the textured paint of the wall right next to the basement toilet…? 

I enlist help to clean the garage–to power wash, to scrub, to paint. My nephew and my three oldest daughters spend hours on it with me. I buy wafer board and have it cut to size for new countertops. My dad screws them onto the old wobbly cabinets for me. 

And I don’t care how the paint job looks, anything will be an improvement. I do not care, just get it covered. We use the leftover paint that I already have.  

I have my girls slop espresso-bean colored paint on every cabinet and countertop. The cabinets are sitting on visqueen in my driveway. The paint glues the plastic to the bottom of the cabinets. I have to hold the visqueen down with my old cheerleading Asics and lift to peel the cabinets free. Obviously, I never got rid of these Asics from twenty years ago because obviously I am going to be working on my toe-touches and herkies some day soon. Any day now. 

My nephew and I paint all walls gray–two dark gray and one light gray. Maybe it looks artistically chosen. Ah, my accent wall…yes. And here we have one set of 2×4 shelves nailed together shoddily, we chose to paint these a bright Caribbean blue. It’s beautiful…it was meticulously planned and designed. It was…what we had. 

Nick (nephew) brought his music, and I bumped that shit. I made up my own lyrics and would not be dissuaded. I forget the band name; it was a bunch of letters, like SKBRTKB…you should get their album. I especially enjoyed their song that goes–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud! My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!” 

Now, Nick who could barely breathe during his explanation, he wanted me to believe they said–“My girl’s got a city to run!” But shhh, shh…shush, Nick. Don’t ruin my moment. I dropped it low and sang along. Me in my old Asics, dropping my ass into piles of dust around the garage–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!”

I still got it. Maybe I can do a toe-touch in these jeggings? Hang on. Kick this leg up, then kick that leg up. Okay, they wouldn’t bust. Hop a little…eh…it’s too slanted out here. Otherwise, I’d kill it. 

I leave all the cabinets and crap on my driveway overnight. You don’t really have to be in a hurry to move stuff until you get a notice from the city. Shockingly, no one stole any of it over the two nights it sat out there. 

It was November 2014, and I didn’t sleep a lot most nights since the end of September, when Demetrius left. Might as well get up super early and buy garage floor paint. I got a midnight blue, and some paint flecks to sprinkle on top like Christmas cookies–a variety of grays. 

Nothing like good honest work to occupy a mind in the middle of a divorce, to tire an already tired body and soul. The high-gloss topcoat is moodier than I am. It only wants certain temperatures. But…I don’t have time to wait til Spring. And I suppose this is why it dried cloudy. Good enough. Better than it was. The clouds add some depth, an unexplored galaxy of paint specks. What new adventures are in store for the garage’s next 40 years…

I order a $2700 new garage door. It is so ridiculously out of place on this house. I don’t give a crap. To my credit, I have great credit. If I say I will pay you, you will be paid. I don’t care if my choices make no sense to someone.

A jewel in a pig’s snout: my lovely new well-insulated garage door, I will pay it off before the accrued interest ever hits. There are worse choices to be made in life. I’ve made plenty of them before, and now I’ll leave those worse ones for someone else. 

I put everything back into the garage very neatly. I had a lot of extra furniture, a big tv, all our bikes, bookshelves and books and books and books, sports equipment, lawn mower and crap, paint and hardware. 

Demetrius messages me some days later that he’s going to bring over the last of my boxes. What’s even left of mine there? A truckload. What’s in the boxes, I can’t even imagine or care. He piles them into my newly cleaned, freshly painted, just organized garage. 

Holiday decorations, photo albums, candles, picture frames, the weird platters and dishes, electrical chargers and cords that go to…who knows what… 

Piles and piles of crap. And my irrational attachment to them. NO! I’m going to use that one day! Won’t I? Does this have a good sentimental value to me? 

I can’t do this yet. I can’t look through it.  I just leave it all in there. I know I will hang on to things I need to get rid of. Unopened boxes of memory in my garage, in my heart. I thought I cleaned this place…

______________________

“Emily?? What’s wrong? What is it?” Keith approaches me in my garage. It is March 2015. We just met February 16. 

“This shit is breaking me. I don’t know what to keep, what to burn, what to sell, what to do with any of it.” It is too early in our relationship for a breakdown, but I am who I am, and I feel what I feel. 

He wraps his arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides with an upward, lifting force. I sink onto him. 

“I had to do this, too. It’s hard to go through everything, but you will be glad when it’s all done.” He rubs my back. We don’t hide from each other. 

“I don’t want you to see me like this, but I can’t go through all this stuff and not cry. I know I won’t be able to.” Phony is not my forte, maybe at times in my past, it was. But not now. 

“Well…do you want to be alone while you go through it all? I can go somewhere.” He releases his hold and backs away some to see my face. 

“No. I don’t want do this alone. I need help deciding what I should keep. But I will need you to be understanding, too. I will explain exactly what’s going on in my head or heart, and I will need you to understand and not be upset.” I look at him. My eyes say–I don’t want to go through it alone. And also…I don’t want to go through it alone. 

“Okay. I can do that.” Keith takes me back into his hug. 

He is going to keep me off the show Hoarders when my kids move out. He is better at explaining what needs to go. I trust him. I don’t always listen, but he is right. 

I watch episodes of that show Hoarders, and yeah, these people are extreme cases, but their words don’t always sound crazy to me. Most people who watch are probably like–whoa, they’re insane!

But I have to admit that…their logic often makes sense to me. And when people go through so much emotional trauma in their lives, I can understand that they might revolt in these sad, severe ways. 

We watched an episode recently of this old guy living in his yard instead of his house. He had piles of clothes; he slept on a pile of blankets with a tarp covering him. He was a tough veteran, and I could see myself getting along fine with him over a cup of coffee…in some place other than his home. 

Prideful, stubborn, unconventional, thrifty, resourceful, unconcerned with pleasing society, lovers of personal freedom. I do relate to some personality traits of some of these people on SOME levels. I’m not saying these feelings are all GOOD; I’m just saying I can empathize. 

Bugs, rodents, unworking plumbing, no livable spaces, room upon room of no walking room …now I can’t get on board with any of THAT

My dad always said to us–the order of your bedroom is a reflection of the order of your mind. I think about that a lot, especially when I am holding something, looking at it, deciding if I should get rid of it. 

Keith rallies for me to let go of things. He’s right. Will I ever watch these VHS movies? I mean seriously. 

Keith arrived in my life during a transition period. I guess I could’ve pretended that I had been healed for months, but that’s not how I am. 

A wound doesn’t heal completely when you keep ripping it open together. And that’s exactly what Demetrius and I did September through January, kept it all ripped open. 

Ripped open through his cheating, through my obsessing, through the separation, through the sleepless nights, through the move, through him pushing me away, through me pushing him away, through him clinging o me…trying to keep hold of some part of me, through me clinging to him…trying to keep hold of some part of him. 

Hard to heal with that much overlap of big life events; it takes a lot of honesty. 

February wasn’t long after all of this. I had been slowly facing the truth, but that doesn’t mean Keith entered my life when I was healed. 

I wasn’t entirely healed, but I wasn’t a broken half-person, desperately looking for someone to fill a void either. I was a complete person in my relationship with God, but still a very hurt person. 

I needed a strong man, who has a kind and understanding heart. Someone I could be completely honest with. 

Someone who could help me understand what to hold onto in my life, and what to let go. 

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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.









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!

IMG_4399

 

 

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. 

______________________

“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.


______________________

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?”

__________________________

“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.

.

.



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

Sevens

Sevens

Every seven years, “we become essentially new people, because in that time, every cell in your body has been replaced by a new cell.”

That spacing makes perfect sense to me when I think about my own life; every seven years (almost exactly), I feel like a completely different person. So much so that when I tell a story from a particular time frame…each Emily feels uniquely separate from the other Emilys. And except for the Emily I am today, they all feel like…not really ME. And each story from my past becomes a story about someone who is no longer any part of me. 

Does that make any sense to anyone else out there?

0-7 years–I don’t have many memories from this age range. I lived in Wisconsin til I was almost 5, and for some reason, most of my vivid memories from those years are MTV music videos that I watched with my dad’s three youngest siblings. “You Might Think” by The Cars was my favorite song and video. “Jump” by Def Leppard, “How Will I Know?” by Whitney Houston…

7-14 years–Aw, my coming of age tween years. Bad haircuts and being a tomboy. Skipping baths as often as I could get away with it. I had one older brother–Josh, one older sister–Heather, and I was the baby for 9 years and 17 days…until my younger sister–Candace was born. I was an animal on home videos…nothing embarrassed me–not what I wore, how my hair looked, how I behaved…NADA. Then a switch flips at 11.5 years when I started my period, the change in me is almost overnight if you watch the home videos. I am quieter on videos, all showered and brushed, painfully self-conscious of the camera…nowhere nearly as funny or entertaining. 

14-21 years–Geez, I don’t even want to say these words; I don’t want them to be true…I lost my virginity on my 14th birthday. Can that be right? The date is correct, but no…it’s not right. Wait, teens. Please wait.  That event threw me into my next segment for sure.  I was desperately in love (obsessed) with Name from age 12-16 years old…until I met Norman. Norman and I dated 2.5 years, and got married when I was 18 (almost 19). Yes, we were young. I wouldn’t change that if I could. Lots of good years and memories, lots of growing up together and figuring out life…figuring out who we wanted to be, in so many good ways. And years later, figuring out who I never want to be again. 

21-28 years–My first round of mothering years…I was pregnant with my first daughter, Margaret, on my 21st birthday. I had Hazel (2nd daughter) when I was 23; Audrey (3rd daughter) when I was 24. I took everything about being a young mother very seriously. That was my identity. I started driving a minivan at age 23 (still drive one). I had the girls’ photos taken and printed regularly. I sent over 100 Christmas cards with family newsletters every year. I wanted to do everything right. I shelved any hopes or dreams I might’ve once held for my own existence. Well…I did get my bachelor’s degree at 22, and between ages 23-26, I did write and produce 3 plays at the little theatre downtown. Those were a few satisfying self-goals, but they were definitely in the background to dance recitals and diapering days. 

28-35 years–The years of my hardest life lessons…Norman and I were actually separated for 7 months when I was 27 (so I guess this life segment wasn’t EXACTLY at the seven year mark like some of the other segments). After the 7-month separation, Norman and I reconciled for 4 more years…then I cheated with Demetrius and left when I was 31…after 15 years together. I married Demetrius, had Clara (my 4th daughter) with him when I was 33, and tried to force us both onto a path of righteousness again. I was the fool; I thought things were good…thought we were mostly happy. Guess it was just me. We were together only 2.5 years. When I was 34, Demetrius cheated on me with Kareequa (someone I would have said was a pretty good friend) and left us. 

35-42 years–I was single for 5 months after Demetrius left, for the first time in my life really.  I met (well…started texting with) Keith on February 16, 2015. Things between us progressed beautifully and quickly. We were married on my 35th birthday last year, July 27, 2015. And we had Rebekah (my 5th daughter) on February 15, 2016 (one day shy of a year since our first conversation). Not everyone’s fairy tale goes like this…but ours does.

God, help me stay humble. Help me keep getting it right. Who will I be next? Who knows…

  

Fruit of my Loins

Fruit of my Loins

“Just send it to yourself as a text.” Margaret’s hands were full. 

“I don’t see ‘Mom’ in your contacts.” Scrolling, scrolling, “I’m not under ‘Emily’ either? Don’t you have me in your phone?”

“Um…yes. Your name is ‘birth giver’ in my contacts.” Shit-eating grin. 

“Oh? Is it?” Good thing I love jokes, my firstborn smartass. 

Annnnd…edit Margaret’s contact in my phone…to read…

Margaret “Fruit of my Loins”