Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tenure



Year one
I danced a mean tango
With him.
I looked into his Eyes
That would not
Could not
Look back.
I pushed.
He shoved.
I won,
Because he won.
He smiled,
Made friends,
Sang the Faerie song
One Midsummer’s Night Eve
Side by side
With the sighted
While he
Was blind.


 In September
Of year two,
I met his genius
And watched it
Slowly slide
From A
To F,
From sweet
To hard,
Clean
To disheveled.
Flippant… cold.
Dancing eyes turned dark
Empty.
I heard myself ask
for missing work
And cringed.
I knew
I was watching
Him watch
His mother
Slowly Fading,
Body failing
Slowly dying
In May.



Year three
Brought an Angel.
Tall
Graceful.
She spread her wings
And wrapped
Lost souls,
Outcasts,
Cool kids,
In the light of her smile –
A child
Saving children
From others
And themselves.
A child
With an adult illness
Ever smiling
while checking numbers.
Teaching the teacher
Patience, tolerance.
Mission complete,
She died.
An angel on loan
From heaven,
Leaving me to teach.


Tenured.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sole Survivor

The sole of my "Handmade in Italy" leather shoe had begun to peel away like the hull of an overripe, black banana. It would flap back and under my foot when I walked. I was not frustrated though, it was time. I had had them for over eight years, and though I own upwards of eighty pairs of shoes (mostly F.M.P.'s from pre-mommy years), I had begun to wear these exclusively. They were the right height and had the best support for the grueling seven hours I must be on my feet at school. 


What did frustrate me, however, was the cost to repair them. I may not have understood everything the little aproned cobbler with his thick Asian accent said, but I did understand 45 dollars. And though I thought they were worth it, I had to pass. Between the economy, the housing market, and having a kindergartner with a growth spurt every other month, money is not as fluid as it used to be.  So I kindly smiled at the Hakky Shoe Repair man, said thank you for the quote, and embarrassingly removed my flappers from the counter and placed them back into my little bag. 


And, as if to pour salt into the wound, I noticed that immediately to the right of the repairer of worthy, exquisite, beloved leather shoes, was the trafficker of all things synthetic -- Payless. So I did what any teacher desperate for black economical foot coverings would do. I looked over my shoulder, scanned the scene, and quickly... and sheepishly, slipped into the store.


Miraculously, I did find something that would suffice, and I am pleased to add that they were on clearance for $10.00. Being that they were a fake suede as opposed to that shiny plastic leather, I felt confident that no one could figure out my dirty little secret. I must admit, they have changed a lot since my early days of being a college student on a budget who had to shop there. They really did have some cute styles albeit of the foot binding and numbing, suffocating "pleather" type that causes tiny little needles to form in your back. 


Wait a minute, did I just say I had to shop there when I was in college -- talk about coming full circle, or life repeating itself! Here I have arrived so to say, having a career and my own classroom, yet the reality is that I was shopping there because I had to twenty five years later. Ouch! That hurts! 


But then again, I suppose I should comfort myself that on the same day that I spent $10.00 on my shoes, I signed my son up for $133.00 worth of basketball lessons. Which was the day before I had to register for the $120.00 soccer league. While we are at it, this was two weeks after the monthly $130.00 piano lesson deductions. And, it was three days after securing the $350.00 two hour moon bounce party for his birthday (cake, pizza, and decorations not included). 


I must add, we are not rich people by any stretch of the imagination, so it is a wonder I am not strapping cardboard to the soles of my feet with duct tape. 


All in all, after recounting that exhaustive and yet incomplete list, I have realized that I should not be crying over my inability to add another 100 dollar pair of shoes to my dusty collection, I should be grateful that I am blessed to be able to provide my son with these great opportunities that I could not even fathom as a child. I suppose sometimes we have to climb to the tiptop of the biggest tree we can find (the part that would bend under our weight) in order to see the forest. 


That being said, I am now proud to admit that I am saving so that I can build a pack of socks and some underwear into next month's budget and all I can say is, "Who needs Victoria Secret's with those mean models taunting us with those unrealistic, pre-child and childlike bodies, anyway? Walmart and Tar-jay, here I come!"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What was I saying?

I have lost my memory. Has anyone seen it? Well, I have not actually lost it completely, but I feel my short term memory definitely dangling by a thread. Thank goodness most of my posts are based on my long-term because I would have nothing to write about.


Now, let's get back to this memory issue. I can't quite put my finger on when it first began, but I can say that it started a few years ago when start feeling as though a lot of things were always right there on the tip of my tongue (i.e.: words, names, titles, etc.) Back then I was aware, and it was no big deal because we all have our moments. But those moments began to manifest themselves more frequently. 


First, I could not remember a co-worker's name -- for a minute or so, anyway. Then I began to forget to pay a bill. Well ...ur humph... maybe I wanted to forget so I could go shopping. So I guess that one does not count. Lastly, there's the old walk into a room and forget what you went for, only to walk out again and immediately remember. And I swear it really happened that when I re-entered to get whatever I was going for the first time -- I forgot again. I go in and out of the house so many times in the morning before I leave, that I now wake up 15 minutes earlier just to compensate.


Recently, I have hit an all time low. I have forgotten my students' names. And, that is a little more than annoying. But I am clever, I am a teacher after all. When it happens, I just smile and call them all "Baby." I know we are not supposed to use such terms of endearment, but when you are older, Black, and female, you can get away with it. They pull the race card on hiring, and I pull it with memory loss. Besides,  don't they expect us to talk that way? Example: "Baby (said really slow with an almost southern fake twain), would you go over there and lay that on my desk." Or maybe it's " Baby (said really slow with an almost southern fake twain), let me explain this to you another way." 


Now the most important part is making good eye contact so that they know which "baby" I am referring to. Besides, they seem to like it. I think it makes them feel special. I don't know, maybe they don't get the endearment tags at home, or maybe it's some weird innate "Mammy" thing that makes them feel comforted and special. And don't you be jealous because you can't pull it off


At any rate, those are not really the moments that worry me the most, though, because my own mother used to forget our names. She had three names that had to pick from and would call out any one them in a seemingly random order. If we corrected her, she would snap, " You know who I am talking to!"


Honestly, though, it's the bathroom thing that is scaring me most. Lately, I have noticed students missing in the middle of my class. They were there when I took attendance. I never saw them leave. Yet, in the middle of class I suddenly notice their seats empty. I have stopped freaking out, however, because every time they return, I discover that my initials... in my own handwriting, have mysteriously appeared in their agendas.


Some say I just have a lot on my mind, I say otherwise. I am not divulging my age, so I will talk about an incident I observed with my oldest sister. We were in the Bahamas, on a private van tour of the island. The entire family had gotten out of the van to go and look at the Queen's stairs, with the exception of my elderly mother. 


My sister, who was in the lead, suddenly and unexpectedly began frantically searching on the ground for her wallet. She was in tears with fear of having lost her credit cards and passport. All eight of us  joined, her scouring the grounds from the stairs to the van. We even wondered if she had been pick-pocketed. Once we reached the van, we opened the door to look on the floor. My mom, who had been quietly enjoying the air conditioning, saw the look of fear and anxiety on our faces and immediately said, "What's wrong? You are not looking for her wallet that she asked me to hold, are you?"


So there you have it. My sister asked my mother to hold her purse, and ten minutes later, she had no idea where it was. And why did this happen you ask? She was suffering from the onset of menopause. So, without giving away my age, I ask, why am I blanking out, (or short circuiting as I like to call it)? I don't have the foggiest idea... because I can't remember.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Super Woman, Paper Girl



I heard the loud rumbling of the big blue truck inching its way down the street. The brakes would scream out each time it came to a halt. Finally it stopped noisily in front of our house and was followed moments later by a heavy knocking. The driver had been going door to door in search of little boys who were interested in having a paper route. Just as my mother was about to close the door on him, I yelled out that I wanted to do it. I wanted a paper route.

My mom was hesitant; with my father being bed-ridden, she knew she would have the sole duty of helping me. So she did what any desperate mom would do, she painted as horrible a picture as possible from the grueling seven days a week crack o' dawn wake up calls, to afternoons spent trying to collect monies from delinquent customers. But nothing could deter me. 


Next, she ran it by my dad assuming he would save her by saying absolutely not; however,  she must had forgotten I was a Daddy's Girl. In short order, the paperwork was signed, and I became the proud owner of the Tacoma Ave Plain Dealer paper route.

The first thing I learned about were the contests in which the goal was to get new subscribers. The more you got, the more gifts you'd earn. Now the fact that I was a girlie-girl loving my baby dolls, while the prizes were all hard-core boy toys like basketballs, footballs, and boy scout flashlights was of no consequence to me. I was all caught up in the hype and excitement of the drive. Every yes made me want to ask even more, and it did hurt that my mother made me ring every single doorbell on the street. i guess she got caught up in it too.


Now picture this: a tiny little eight year old girl with pigtails ringing your bell, yelling out  “Paper Girl,” and asking you to subscribe in a high pitched sweet little voice. Needless to say, it did not take long for my numbers to top one hundred. After a few months of success, they even offered me the Hathaway Ave route as well. It was over three blocks away. We took it and my numbers then reached well over two hundred. 

Our day began every morning at 4:00 A.M. We threw on our work clothes and headed downstairs to retrieve the four or five bundles of newspapers that had been tossed on our porch. On Sundays we received were eight to ten stacks because the papers were two inches thick. Next we would unceremoniously drag them into the hallway for better lighting. Then we would roll them up and place rubber bands around them. This had to be done in order to be able to throw them.

After all 220 were wrapped and ready, we filled the A&P grocery store cart that stayed parked just outside the house. It’s funny, I could never remember where we got it from because we pulled our own groceries home in a personal upright folding cart. I suppose we found it in one of the empty lots nearby. Someone else had been brave enough to push it home, but then cast it away to hide their guilt. For us, finding it was like winning the lotto. It was not only big enough to hold all of the papers, but it also could hold more plastic  bags of dirty clothes than our little cart did when we had to go to the Laundromat.

I was always surprised that my mother had quite quite an arm and could really hurl those papers to just the right spot on the porches. I was getting pretty good myself, and could even make the top floor porches of the four unit apartment building. Though, I must admit, I did put a fair amount on lower roofs and in gutters. Which is why occasionally you would see people hanging out of windows or standing on banisters with broomsticks trying to get their papers, they had to -- we never threw another one to replace it.

Now, there were definitely hazards along the way. My mom carried a baseball bat for safety from stray dogs. Ironically, there was a pack of stray dogs that would be waiting outside our house in the morning. But they were not there to hurt us. They would follow us the entire route and then disappear.  It started out as one or two, but grew to about five. My mom eventually began saving scraps to throw to them in the morning. I always felt like they were angels sent to walk with us through the black of the early morning.  


She finally got a chance to use her bat one Sunday morning while I was delivering on one side of the street, and she was on the other. As I neared the apartment complex I saw him midair seconds before he landed and was on me. My delinquent customer, who had tired of my constant knockings on his door, let his German Sheppard loose when I neared his apartment.

My arm went up in a reflexive block. He grabbed it and threw me down. I lay writhing and hollering on the ground as he had moved and grabbed me by my waist. He snarled and snorted through clenched teeth that held tight while shaking me from side to side like a rag doll. 


My six year old niece stood frozen a few feet away screaming and crying out, "Grandma." over and over again. Seconds later my mother came flying over there like super woman swinging her mighty bat.  The dog took one crack upside the head, yelped, and ran. She scooped me up and threw me in the back seat of the car (we finally got one), grabbed my niece, and floored it to the hospital. Laying on the horn the entire way, she ran every red light. My only concern as I lay in a ball on the back seat was that  I wanted her to stop because I was afraid the police would arrest her.

As it turned out, I had been bitten in three places, but none were deadly. They patched me up and sent us on our way. And similar to the dedication of the mailman, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” we added, and “no dogs” as she and I returned later that evening to deliver the rest of our papers.

We did those routes two years in a row from the beginning of spring until the first snow fall each year when my dad made us stop for the winter. It was a lot of work and it was not easy, but yet she never hesitated. And though I made pretty good money (especially in tips), my mother never took a dime. (My sister on the other hand stole a fair amount.) 


And do you know that after having had her as a role model those many years ago, I actually forgot. Instead of being a super woman mom like her, I had the audacity one day to complain about driving my son to baseball practice two or three days a week. I honestly thought about not signing him up because of the amount of time I would have to put in. Meanwhile my mother put in not two or three days, but seven days a week -- at four in the morning, and another two or three days in the afternoon on top of that. Yet, she did so tirelessly and without complaint. I can only hope that from here on out I will become half the selfless mother that she was for me. And I pray that my son one day will look back and say I was truly there for him, too. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine, My Heart!


I remember the day I first saw him. My heart skipped a beat. I know it sounds cliche, but I really did take pause.  I was selling my children’s book at our Christmas bazaar and had been sitting in the corner wedged between shiny jewelry, chiffon scarves, and knock off designer bags.  Behind me were these affectionately grotesque rag dolls that were made to look like the flight attendants. In short order– I was not getting much traffic. Suddenly, he entered the room. An Adonis, his imposing six foot four frame filled the doorway, towering high above the average everybody and looking fine in his polyester blue. He hesitated a moment and glanced around the crowded little room.  "Lord, if only this man would come to my table. Please come, please come, please come!"   He began to weave through the maze of shoppers, slowly zigzagging in my direction."Oh no, he is coming this way!"  I dropped my head and pretended to read, but I could sense his presence coming ever closer…
It has been over ten years …. and he still makes my heart soar. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Irony and the Scale (aka Things We Love to Hate)

Oh the irony of it all. When we are finally old enough to afford fine dining, we can't afford to eat. How are we supposed to enjoy our midlife years with dignity and pride, when our society has put such a heavy and unnatural emphases on fighting the natural progression of a women's life to spread.....ur humph..her wings! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paper Dolls don't last forever!


Though I was four and she, eight, we were always close as small children. We spent hours playing with my baby dolls. She taught me how to do their hair in pretty ponytails. When we weren’t playing with the dolls, she was using me as one. I loved to lie across the bed watching television while she would brush and comb my hair into beautiful styles that my own mother could never do.  My mother never made the rubber bands tight enough and my hair would swell into small puffy humps with short stubby braids dangling off of the end. Her Indian and White heritage had given her “good” hair. But we had our father’s hair and she just didn’t know what to do with it. But my sister did. All of the little girls at school would compliment me on the days that she did it.
                When we weren’t doing hair, we were playing house. My sister would tear thin strips of newspaper into varying lengths and curl the ends by pulling it across a pencil tip. These were our paper dolls. She would create such drama and mayhem that I never saw newsprint; I saw sassy teen age girls with big attitude. Occasionally, my mother would relinquish her Sears catalog, and then we were in heaven. We cut out furniture from the furniture section, children from the kids section, husbands from the men’s section and Mothers from the women section. Initially we cut out tons of clothes for them, but we soon recognized that the same models appeared throughout the catalog.  So we would cut them out in everything from business suits to nightgowns and no longer had to worry about the clothing falling off. Our imaginations were limitless in all that we did. She was truly my best friend in all the world… until she turned 12.
                I was in third grade and she was in the sixth. One fall day, I came home from school, dropped my books, and ran to her room as I always did. Just as I turned the corner -- BAM!  She had heard me coming and quickly jumped up and slammed her bedroom in my face. I could her scream through the door, “Go away, I don’t play with baby dolls!” I began banging on the door as tears slowly ran down my cheeks. My parents tried to get her to open it, but she refused and continued stabbing me in heart with those words, “Go away! Leave me alone! I don’t play with little kids!”
                She eventually opened the door, but the door to our close relationship had closed forever. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

If only for a day!


Oh to be five again... just for a day!
I would become super,
 ... with just a cape
Fly through treacherous sprinkler waterfalls.
Create mud puddles for squishing toes
and drink water from a water hose
I would climb knotty trees
I would slip and slide,
I would cycle away and race back fast ,
so as not to be that rotten egg last.
I would eat cereal for dinner
and snack on mad snacks
I would wrestle and play til all playing was done
and I swear I would not stop til the daylight was gone
And then I would dress in my my Mario Cart  jammies
and I would fall fast asleep on my mothers lap and dream
away of all the fun I had for that day.
If only for one day...
There would be no bills to pay
no place to be
No meals to cook
no house to clean
there would just be me
and my imagination.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"I Don't Need you!

          A staccato and rhythmic pulse emanates from a sterile and cold metal box, and you immediately fall helplessly in love. It is life springing forth from within you.  A miracle.
          You spend the next seven months in preparation. All of your hard earned cash is used to purchase overpriced baby furniture. And you happily give up your spare room, squishing all of your designer suits and your stiletto collection into one tiny shared space with your husband. Next, you happily transform this space by painting it baby blue, sappy yellow… or puke pink. Though it clashes with the gray walls, glass, and chrome of your avant-garde d├ęcor, you love every inch of it.
            The next transformation is to your body.  First, you swear to the god of fertility that you will have ABSOLUTELY no alcohol for next eight months. (This is to make up for the unfortunate situation whereby you find out you’re pregnant after you have spent the first month and a half in a drunken stupor).  This also means you spend the next eight months praying the child does not suffer brain damage from the very early introductions to grain and grapes.
            The second transformation is to your shape. It is unbelievable how fast your body can grow and your boobs can sag. Forty years of perky gone south in just a few short months. But you don’t mind. You are too busy reading to your belly and showing off your new temporary enhancements sans implants.
            Alas, the day arrives and you are now a parent. You have lost friends (all of your single ones who cannot bear another cute baby story or milestone such as “he pooped in the potty, today”.  Even worse is that you have not bought yourself a pair of shoes in over a year, and he has eight pair by the first five months. But, life is good -– the child has said “Ma-Ma!”
            As time passes, you are surprised to find that monthly daycare matches the mortgage, and now you couldn’t afford to shop if you wanted to, not to mention the kid needs a new wardrobe every five months. You can still fit yours, so it’s no big deal especially since safety pins work wonders on falling hems. Oh and food? So what a can of Similac costs the same as a pedicure? Back in the day we all used to do our own, anyway. FYI, Wet and Wild has some really bright colors for just over a buck. Besides, your baby is reciting “I love you” on a regular basis now and that happily negates any negative thought that may have momentarily surfaced.
            By year three and four, you struggle to keep your marriage alive with a child sleeping between you (though he has his own decked out room that looks like F.A.O. Schwarz on steroids.) The only outings are family outings. The only dates are play-dates. The laundry size had tripled, and you are preparing double meals because the child is finicky. But he constantly reminds you how you are the most beautiful princess in the world. And that is so worth everything (especially since your husband isn’t saying it these days).
            Somewhere between year four and year five, you apply for a chauffer’s license or get a minivan with “soccer mom” plates. The kid’s schedule is so jam packed with piano, T-ball, swimming lessons, karate, play-dates, and birthday parties that you keep a Google calendar just for him. Your evenings begin with walking and feeding his dog, and cooking dinner for him… then your husband. And yes, there are days when you just want to scream, but you don’t because the photos of him in his little uniforms are just so darn cute.
            Finally, the day of reckoning arrives. Your child is going main stream and is entering the real world. It is the first day of kindergarten. All you can think about is whether he will cry, while knowing that that is exactly what you will be doing. You dress him in his cute new little designer outfit, while you put on your seven year old suit with the hem that has being held up with a safety pin. You grab your camera, your husband, and his grandpa and head off to school. The whole way he keeps talking about how he is a big kid now and that he can walk all by himself. You remind him that although he is bigger, you must go with him. He continues his argument. As you reach the school grounds, your baby… your son… the love of your life… suddenly pulls away and runs ahead. He then turns back and shouts, “I DON’T NEED YOU!”
            You are stunned. You have been slapped. And though you know what he really meant, it hurt you to your heart. And, as if it were not enough the first time, he ran further out and yelled it even louder, “I DON’T NEED YOU!”
          A thousand things run through your head as you watch the other children walking proudly by holding their parents’ hands.  Okay, then who is going to feed you, buy your clothes, read to you at night? Fine you don’t need me, I’m out of here. I going to Happy Hour today and let’s see how you get home from day care! Oh, and I not taking you to any more practices. I am spending my money on me – starting with my nails. You don’t need me. Walk your own damn dog!
          Then, at that very moment as you are rushing to try to catch up with him, a miraculous thing happens. The god of redemption steps in and all you can do is smile as you shout back, “YEAH, YOU DO! YOU MISSED THE DOOR!”