Sunday, January 23, 2011


I'm actually going to start posting some of my writing assignments as blogs--that's what the Fah-Fah post was all about. Kyle and I don't do anything interesting enough to blog about, but some of these assignments have to do with interesting goings-ons, so enjoy! Here is my homework that is due Tuesday. The assignment was to listen in on a conversation and explain the setting in detail. Mine happened accidentally, of course.

Everything is wooden—the walls, the floor, the shelves piled to the wooden ceiling with knick-knacks, and then of course, the tables. It even smells woody in here. But it begins to smell more like spiced candles and fried food the further I walk. It’s a Cracker Barrel somewhere between Miami and Melbourne. Clutter. Round candies in mason jars, giant pecan-nougat rolls, John Deer paraphernalia, old-fashioned bottled root beer, stuffed animals wearing human clothes, hats that will never be worn (except when my mother talks my dad into trying a few on) and giant checkers on giant checker boards. A plump brunette wearing an oxford shirt in a flattering gray-blue color under her brown apron is smiling with her fingers laced in front of her stomach as she greets us.
“Hi! How are you doing this evening?”
My mother replies as if trying to match the hostess’ chipper tone. “Fine! Thank you for asking.”
My dad is parking the car and my husband has stayed with him. Good thinking. But now I can’t find my mother. I worked at a Cracker Barrel six years ago when I was a sophomore in high school and never could find a good enough reason to come back. Yet here we are. Over the speaker they’re playing a canned rendition of a bluegrass song. It literally sounds as if someone is singing into a tin can—a song about someone named “Bo Jangles.” And my dad sings the same line about this fellow, Bo Jangles all throughout dinner. My mother covers his mouth with her hand and laughs. There’s no music playing in the restaurant portion of the Barrel. A medley of voices and forks scraping plates and ice clinking in glasses is the music instead—thank God. My dad spends the meal—when he’s not singing about Bo Jangles—talking about the number of stars on each server’s apron. While my parents are in line at the register when the meal is finally over, I make my way to the bathroom before the last leg of our trip begins. We don’t want to have to stop with only an hour or so left on the road.
The bathroom is bright. A blue glow from a flickering fluorescent bulb casts an unkind light on the already unforgiving surfaces of the white countertops around the sink which are covered in murky puddles of water. The silver soap dispensers are caked with pink suds. The sink is stained brown around the drain. The music is louder in here and that song about Bo Jangles is on again—or still, maybe. I would rather hold my bladder for an hour. The only stall available is the middle of the three. I kick the pale door in with my cowboy boot to see a toilet that looks as if it hasn’t yet been abused by a careless patron. But the germs are invisible, I know. As I latch the stall door with the very tiniest tip of my left pinky finger I noticed the shoes on the right side of me. They are shiny, gold and strappy, stretched over wrinkled toes and a taupe-colored toenail polish. I suspect the feet belong to one of the women of the Red Had Society. On my way to the restroom I saw them finishing their meal at a large table on the far wall by the hostess stand. Now the women on either side of me seem to know one another. I listen.
“I’m going to try one of these and see if I can flush it down the toilet,” the one on the left says, sounding just as old as the feet to my right look. I have no idea what she’s referring to. I am afraid to wonder.
“I tried three and dropped the first two into the toilet just trying to get them out,” says the one to my right.
I imagine the two women fumbling with the crepe-thin toilet seat covers and relax as I come to understand the conversation I’ve now been thrust in the middle of. A loud noise comes from the left stall. I cringe.
“Oh, excuse me,” says the left stall.
“Oh, it’s okay. I did the same thing earlier,” replies the stall to the right.
I’m glad to have missed that.
“Well I haven’t gone all day and now that we’ve been here I’ve gone twice,” says the left stall.
“Well, you know how it goes. Once you start you just can’t stop.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
I burst out of the stall and wash my hands as thoroughly as if I could wash away everything I’ve just heard.
My family is waiting at the front door by the country music c.d. display and my mother and I run to the car, screaming about the chill in the air now that night has fallen, leaving our husbands jogging to keep up.
“Don’t worry mom,” I say, looking over at her in our sprint to the car. “I’ll warm you up with the conversation I just heard in the bathroom.”

80's movies I love

I have been brainstorming birthday ideas and I thought, "what could bring life-long joy to me and my family?" And I got it. There are a few 80's movies I adore. Why didn't I think of this sooner? Here they are, starting with the most awesome.
1. Pretty Woman

2. The Breakfast Club

3. Dirty Dancing

4. Working Girl

5. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

6. Big

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I know exactly where it is. I could be sitting 1,000 miles from that tiny, crammed apartment. But I could still tell you exactly where to find it. We have a lot of stuff in our one-room, one-closet home. In the closet there’s a washer unit I don’t know how to use, there’s my husband’s Easter basket from last year that my mother insisted on buying “her Easter-basketless son-in-law.” I’m getting warmer. There’s a trophy my husband won at a horse-shoe throwing competition. It’s appropriately made out of horse-shoes. A tiny horse-shoe man throwing an even tinier horse-shoe. Where do you get such a tiny horse-shoe? Where the heck am I supposed to put this thing? And then there it is.

It is my childhood blanket. Its name is “Fah-Fah.” Or is it? Was Fah-Fah a name or simply a word followed by “my” from back before I knew how to say the word “blanket”? I don’t know who gave it to me how long ago. I could call my mom and ask. The name still stands. Within the last few years I remember my sister asking me, “Do you still have your Fah-Fah?” Yeah, I do.

When I’m holding it, still folded in my arms, I’m afraid to turn the halves into a whole and look at its faded entirety because I know what I’ll see. It’s thin. But it was always thin. It wasn’t designed for warmth, I don’t think. But now when I hold it up to the light I’m almost sure I could read through its faded white background. I see the bright yellow trim where there are now only faded beige outlines. Tweety Bird holding his pastel-colored balloons is only a faded injustice of what he was my entire childhood. And when I run my polished fingertips over the split in the bottom right-hand corner I am back in that summer evening. Or was it summer? It was warm and the yards were green and the wide, black street was clear enough for a bunch of us kids to be having a race on it. On overseas Air Force bases every kid knows each other. Or at least they think they know. I don’t know about Navy or Army bases. My sisters and I had the best wagon on the block, a Radio Flyer whose red metal bed was far from its rusty days to come. There were at least two neighborhood kids being pulled vigorously in the wagon, one sitting on my Fah-Fah, its lemony-yellow corners fluttering in the wind we were making for it. I was at the rear pushing with everything my six-year-old arms and back and chubby legs could give. I think my older sister was pulling. But too suddenly our race or whatever we were driving that Radio Flyer so fast for seemed childish, the way most games do when someone gets hurt. Fah-Fah was stuck in the wheel and wrapping tighter and tighter around and around before I screamed, “Stop!” The awful sound I had heard only moments after I could have stopped it was the sound of a five-inch rip being torn in the corner of my blanket. It sounded over the whoops and hollers of my playmates. It struck me right in my 6-year-old heart. I shoved the wagon on its side. Looking back, I’m hoping I didn’t tip the wagon over while my friends were still inside it. I pumped my legs as hard as they would go toward my house, Fah-Fah under my arm. I am sure there must’ve been a distinct smell of fresh-cut grass, so green in my memory. Inside the house I remember my mother sitting poised on the edge of the couch with a needle (already threaded, of course) in one hand and the other extended for quick deposit of the injured patient. But I know that’s not really where she was. She was probably on an important phone call or baking something sweet or, knowing my parents, she was making out with my dad somewhere. But eventually she was sewing. Her bony, pale hands with the translucent and soft skin revealed every vein in her hands. Watching her hand move with the needle I probably could have learned how each bone moves almost freely to get one job done. But I only cried. My barely-older sister, her round cheeks pink with excitement, stuck her blond head in the front door while my mother was still operating and asked, “Awe you coming back to owah game?” Of course I wasn’t. “No,” I had whined through tears. No I wasn’t. Inspecting the stitch now, 15 years after, I want to call my mother up and tell her what a good job she did. The top stitch closes the gaping hole without much noticeable stitching, and on the back is where she gathered the ripped material and used her sewing machine to do a tight stitch. She did this so that the front wouldn’t look torn—so that I wouldn’t notice it without careful inspection. I’m not going to call her. Because despite her best efforts it is the one spot I think of when I hold it in my arms like a broken and brittle antique. But I'm glad.