People often ask married couples how they got together. Every married couple has a story. From high school football games to late night trysts in a bar, we all started somewhere didn’t we?
For some reason, our story has come up quite a bit recently. It must be the time of year. As I type, it’s his birthday. We didn’t meet on his birthday, but, well, okay. I thought you’d never ask. I’ll tell you.
Friends of mine kept telling me we should meet. “You’ll really like him,” they’d say. “I can’t believe y’all haven’t met yet!” I remember hearing that his granddaddy died. This unknown grandfather, belonging to the nearly mythical guy who lived in the apartment behind ours. Who was he?
One night, it happened. I heard someone say, “Hey Jenny! This is Brice!” I promise y’all, there was a halo of bright light surrounding him, as he slowly came outside from their kitchen. It was probably the brightness of the fluorescent lights coupled with the dark night. His speed was probably muddled with bourbon, but let me have my moment. I’ll remember it my way.
I had a boyfriend at the time, and we were very much in love, so friends we would remain. We studied together often. Both English majors who loved to read, there was always plenty to discuss. We talked about names for our future children, though we clearly wouldn’t be having them together. I spent the night at his house, and him at mine, but we were nothing more than two close friends.
We took this biology class together, and although I studied my tail off, he didn’t. He’d do the crossword in the student newspaper, close his eyes, and go to sleep. I paid attention, took notes, purchased the notes, and read the chapters. He swore upside down and sideways he’d get a B in the class. What? No way. Not possible.
I was so sure of this impossibility, I placed a bet. If he made a B in the class and could afford a plane ticket, I’d pay for an entire weekend in NYC. We shook hands. I left for the summer. Days later, I got the call: “Did you get your grades? I got a B!” Because we were waiting for a paper copy to be mailed, like with a stamp, I hadn’t seen mine yet. He bought a ticket.
Living with my dad in the city, we only had two bedrooms. I assured him that this relationship was benign, and we’d both sleep in my room. There was a sleeper sofa and a chair that folded into a twin bed. We’d each take one. And we did. We spent the whole weekend walking around the city, celebrating the fireworks on the 4th of July, talking about life and everything else. He met my friends, who marveled at his deep southern drawl.
I realized something that weekend, though I didn’t figure it out until weeks later. I didn’t want to marry my boyfriend. I wanted to marry my best friend. I came back to the south, turning down a fancy job in New York. If I was to marry this southern guy, I had to come back to the south.
I broke up with my boyfriend, but I didn’t exactly have the guts to make the first move with this best friend. Apparently he didn’t have the guts either. All it took was a 21st birthday (his) to give him the courage (beer) he needed.
That night, we were out with friends, and it was late. Someone said “who can take him home? His house is so out of the way.” As we’d done so many times before, we both went back to my place. I tucked him in on the couch and started to head to bed. Suddenly, he was making that first move. He told me to trust him. Um, no sir. You don’t trust a man on his 21st birthday. I told him to go to sleep.
As it turns out, he is a man of his word. We talked about it the next day, and the kiss was intentional and would be repeated many times and without bourbon. We feared ruining our friendship but risked it anyway. Most everyone, including his parents, said, “It’s about time,” when we told them about our status change.
Now in our 17th year, he’s still my best friend. I never saw that report card, proving his B in biology, but if he made anything lower, I don’t wanna know. I’ll just trust him. It’s worked for me before. Cheers to that birthday all those years ago, when everything became forever.
Originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 9/18/14
Some weeks, believe it or not, I find myself at a loss for words. For those of you who dislike my words, you’re probably wishing it would happen more often. Often, I even wish it would happen more often. Am I the only one who tires of her own voice?
This week is one of those. I haven’t had the time to be aware enough of the “funny things.” The things people say “only happen” to me. As I’ve said dozens of times, they don’t just happen to me. I just happen to notice.
Since you’re here, and now that I think about it, a funny thing did happen to me this week. I don’t plan on regularly sharing my conversations with my son regarding his teenage years, but I asked his permission on this one. Trust me. I won’t be documenting his bodily changes and our sex talks for all to see. Not only is it not all that interesting, but it’s none of your dadgum business. I mean that in the nicest of ways.
The Boy asked me why our puppy, who is now about six months old, twerks when he is trying to show dominance. Huh? What are you talking about, dude?
I investigated. “Boy, what do you mean, he twerks?” I’m not only confused by the fact that The Boy, an ultra conservative dancer, even knows the dance move, but when in the actual hell has my little puppy twerked?
“Well, you say that it isn’t great when Teddy makes that back-forth-back-forth motion after he wraps his arms around your leg. I don’t see it as dominance, but it’s weird.” Indeed. He’s seen the America’s Funniest Videos about such things, but until now, it went right over his head.
He’s never been an asker of whys. It’s partly due to the fact that he already knows the answer, and he knows I don’t. Years ago, when he was around four, he asked the biology questions related to reproduction. Actually, he told me what he read in his children’s encyclopedia, and I confirmed. It was all science then.
My naivety had me believing it still was.
The questions are different now, though. To preserve his privacy, I’ll spare you the specifics. “Ok, buddy. That twerking you’re seeing isn’t really twerking. Teddy is almost a teenager, so he is, um, well, making motions similar to the ones he’d make if he was making puppies with a female dog.” We talked a little more, relating it to humans and other mammals.
“You mean it’s like doin’ it?” Blink. Blink.
“That’s not the clinical term, kiddo, but yes. I’m glad you asked. Do you have any questions?”
I’m not afraid to talk to my kids about life and all that, but I was admittedly relieved when it looked like things were wrapping up. I was sweating. It’s not awful, and I want them to be informed, but while he found it entertaining, I panicked a little. Are we really here? Apparently, we are.
On the bright side, The Boy now knows that it might be a good idea to push Teddy off, should he get friendly with (read: hump) a guest’s leg. It’s not a behavior we’d like to encourage. Unfortunately, for all y’all with kids, he has a self imposed mental image of you “doing it.” Twerk it, people.
The Kids and I went on an unexpected road trip to Florida last weekend. I don’t mean to be vague. We went to my grandmother’s funeral. She lived a good 89 years, so it wasn’t an especially sad affair, but of course she will be missed.
Back to that road trip. We spent a good bit of time on the Florida Turnpike. Have you been there? It’s a toll road. It’d been a long time since I’d traveled that stretch of very well manicured pavement. There are toll booths every few minutes. Seriously. I kept hearing AGAIN? from the backseat every time we stopped to pay another dollar or more.
It’s annoying, but the road is nice. We weren’t in much of a hurry, so besides spending The Boy’s college fund on tolls, we didn’t mind stopping to pay.
The traffic flows surprisingly well through the booths, especially if you have the fast pass thingy. Not being residents of Florida, we did not. Thank goodness I happened to have cash.
As an aside, what the heck happens if you don’t have cash? Most of the time, I’ll have a few quarters at the most, and definitely not enough to get us through 5 toll booths. They didn’t accept cards. I asked.
We were approaching our third or fourth booth, and the traffic was unusually congested. There were what appeared to be 4 lanes of traffic, including a few tallish trucks, which prevented me from seeing the booths themselves. I got in the far left lane and waited my turn.
Crap. As we got closer, I realized I was a victim of following the leader. I was a sheep. My lane was simply trying to merge with the one next to it, because the booth ahead was empty. Crap.
I hate a traffic cheater, so I’d never intentionally be one. I’ve prevented such cheaters from merging after they cheat. I knew it was risky, but I started to merge anyway. The girl a couple of cars up and one lane over wasn’t having it. She did what a lot of people will do. She pulled up to the car in front of her, her bumper nearly touching his, and kept the van in front of me from getting over. The van was bigger, so he won.
She leaned out of her window, big smile on her face, and shook her pointer finger at me like an old schoolmarm. Huh. She was mocking me. To be fair, I get it. I’d think I was cheating, too. Her gestures became a little less, well, kid-friendly as I was contemplating my next move. Clearly, she wasn’t letting me in. I waved and smiled.
I desperately glanced at the car next to me. The gentleman driving with what I would assume to be his spouse or significant other (sister? Friend? I try to be inclusive) saw me, nodded, and waved me in. I was admittedly surprised. I waved back enthusiastically as I was merging, and I waved again after I was settled in my new lane. We love the Guy Who Let Us In (GWLUI).
It wasn’t a hassle for him to let me in. He might have to wait 30 seconds longer because I was in front of him. If crazy schoolmarm girl wanted to go first, so be it. We’re both gonna get from point A to B. I’m not fighting her on it. We can’t both fit, so she can go first.
It taught me something. Most cheaters are cheaters, but every once in awhile they might have a good reason for cutting in line. Who am I to try to figure that out? Assume positive intentions. In the case of the GWLUI, it’ll get your $1.25 toll paid by the grateful Mama you let into your lane.
I’m coming to you in advance, asking for forgiveness. I’ve got back to school brain. I haven’t been officially diagnosed, and it’s a manageable case, but I’m suffering nonetheless. Everyone else is, too. My brain seems to be locked in a semi constant state of chaos. My brain is only operating in brief, list-like thoughts.
I miss summer. It’s only been a week, but let’s go back. Although the final weeks were busier than I’d have liked, I miss when we weren’t rushing to school early for Hall Monitor duty. Dance started the first week. Piano starts soon. We keep a minimally overscheduled schedule, but it gets nuts from time to time.
I’m glad my kids are back in school. Parenting is confusing like that. Y’all know I love my kids, but Lordy pete. I don’t miss the fighting. To be fair, The Boy doesn’t necessarily start fights. He does terrible things to his sister, which makes her terribly upset. He touches her and looks at her. He doesn’t just look at her. He looks at her like that. He’s smiling the whole time. At least he’s having a good time.
This summer required a revised set of house rules. The Kids are getting older. It seemed we were well overdue:
First, absolutely no touching, unless it is clearly and unquestionably a hug or an accident. You’d think I was being clear, but accidents are often hard to determine. You know the drill. You whip the wet towel close enough to your sister’s leg, missing every time but one. “It was an accident,” doesn’t work when she’s crying over the softball sized welt on her calf. Some things just aren’t accidents. Hugging only counts when you’re actually, well, hugging. No pushing allowed.
If your sister screams, you’re probably gonna get in trouble. As a former kid, I fully realize that she just removed your arm with a dull, rusty knife, but I can’t take the screaming.
Your brother is older, and therefore his rules are different. It’s that simple, and I’m not going to debate his later bed time each and every school night. When he turns 16 he will drive. You will be 14 and will not. It’s time for you to learn it: life is not fair.
For the most part, I don’t care why it’s happening. Please don’t tell me every little thing that he just did which is now requiring you to tattle. I just want you to stop.
You’ve finally figured out that “we’ll see” can mean whatever I want it to mean. Sometimes, I’m just buying time, because I don’t feel like telling you “no” yet. It’s my privilege and pleasure.
“No” really does mean “no.” For the life of me, I can’t figure out who taught you otherwise. Don’t ask again and again, expecting different results. If you’ve asked, and I’ve answered, we’re done here. In the words of a dear friend, “Can’t grant.”
While we’re on it, this all might go more smoothly if you don’t ask for ridiculous things. “No, you can’t have ice cream. Dinner is on the table.” See how silly that sounds?
Don’t ever ask if a friend can spend the night, if that friend is standing with you. I’ll always say no.
I know you are growing very, very tired of hearing me repeat myself. Rest assured; I don’t do it for kicks. Saying “please empty your laundry basket” eleventy billion times per day isn’t my idea of a picnic. If there’s some other language I can learn to expedite this process, please clue me in. Rosetta stone is expensive, but I hear it’s worth it.
When I pester you about this being “your only sister” or “the only brother you’ll ever have,” I’m not trying to depress you. Y’all will need each other someday, when I’m gone. You’ll be surprised when you’re suddenly real friends. Right now, while you’re telling each other to BE QUIET YOU ARE SO ANNOYING, it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.
Addendum: Just as y’all started to get good at this, we went back to school. The all too soon arrival of August. I heard y’all talked on the playground, and I hope you were kind. Always look out for each other. NO. That doesn’t mean watch his every move, hoping he screws up so you have a chance to tattle. Just love one another. If you absolutely cannot, at least try to whisper. We wouldn’t want to draw attention to any questionable behavior. Of course, my perfect angel children would never, ever have to worry about that.
19 years ago, I was packing for college.
19 years ago, I knew so much more than I know now. With each passing year, I’m happier to admit that I am, in fact, clueless. Academic advisors in Athens were plentiful, but no one ever told me this stuff. Maybe I just didn’t hear them.
Ramen noodles are a complete meal. So are instant mashed potatoes. Kraft mac and cheese can definitely be made without milk. If you have milk, you can live for weeks on cereal alone.
The $6 cab fare is always worth it. If the school bus system has a Family Housing (for example) bus that goes downtown, you can take that, too. It’s free. Be aware of the schedules. They don’t run all night.
The free t-shirt they give you for signing up for a credit card isn’t really free. It comes with a hefty 17% monthly interest rate. It doesn’t matter that the cute card has your college mascot on it. It will still get you in trouble. Stick with cash.
Living on a budget is possible. Low checking account balances enhance creative thinking skills. It’s also possible to work, go to class, and still have a life.
Check the couch cushions. Once, we found almost $10 in change in there.
Even if you’re going home for the holidays, get a Christmas tree. A potted plant can be decorated on limited funds.
Moving every year isn’t that uncommon. It doesn’t ever get easier. You can get packing boxes for free at the liquor store. Getting the security deposit back is totally worth the effort.
If you’re lucky, you’ll make forever friends. High school friends will always matter, but late-night porch talks after $1 beer night are the ties that bind. Are there still places that sell beer for $1? Remember when we had nickel night?
Even the best of friends don’t make perfect roommates. I’m incredibly messy. I tried to at least do the dishes. I kept my bedroom door closed most of the time.
Sharing clothes with your roommates is expected. Taking clothes without asking and wearing them to a smoky bar isn’t. You will get caught, and the rest of the apartment will talk about you.
Fights between roommates can be settled with a box of wine.
Just because she goes out with you doesn’t mean she wants to spend the night.
The first guy you date probably won’t become your husband.
I knew three people who got dogs in college and actually took care of them. As a general rule, wait until graduation. Your parents only recently got rid of you. They probably don’t want your dog.
Joining a sorority or fraternity isn’t mandatory or necessary, even in The South.
Promising to cook fried chicken for your boyfriend is a lofty goal. It isn’t as easy as it looks on TV, and unless the oil is the perfect temperature, the chicken will still be bloody when you go to serve it. Practice first, or stick to the basics. After eating ramen for the past three nights, he’ll be impressed by a Stouffer’s lasagna and bagged salad.
Sign up for 8:00 am classes as a last resort only. If you can avoid Fridays altogether, I highly recommend it. Trust me. Attendance policies are no joke.
Skipping class on the first sunny day in the spring is not only acceptable, it’s required.
Every year, take at least two classes not required by your major. You might be surprised.
Don’t feel pressured to declare a major on the first day of classes. And yes, you can change your mind.
Your parents don’t have to know about the cash refund for returning your textbooks. Consider it a bonus. Buy milk.
Have fun, but don’t get sent home. Remember the dog? They don’t want you back, either. Mom and Dad have been looking forward to this for years.
They’ll cry when you leave. They’re sad and proud. They’ll celebrate your absence. During holiday breaks, they’ll tell everyone you’re coming home. They might seem crazy. The day your first child is born, it will all make sense.
I don’t have regrets. Ok, I kind of wish my friend hadn’t prank called my high school boyfriend – did you know you can go to jail for that? Otherwise, I’d do it all again. My only complaint is that I can’t. Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The rest of your life is an 8am class. Attendance mandatory.
Because I love a list. Especially a random list.
1. I did jinx myself last week. Everything was still great in Augusta, but when we left Chicago, there were cancellations, oversold flights, and a 24 hour delay. At the time, it seemed stressful, but if that’s the worst thing that happens all summer, I’ll consider us pretty fortunate.
2. Hey, US Airways? If you don’t give meal vouchers, why did the girl next to me in line receive three, with instructions on how to combine them to get a nicer meal? Your employees in Augusta are top-notch. There seem to be some consistency issues at O’Hare.
3. We got to stay in a hotel. As you’d guess, The Kids didn’t mind. Apparently, they’d never used a key card before? I let them hold the key and open the door. It was better than pushing the elevator buttons. I aim to please.
4. Hey, Other Travelers? Let’s remember that, although Miguel didn’t give me any meal vouchers, he wasn’t responsible for the flight delay. Unless your specialty is aviation computers, sit tight and wait. I don’t know about you, but I’m totally fine with grounding a broken plan. I’d rather be delayed than be part of a corpse count in a debris field.
5. Every summer seems to pass more quickly than the last. We are days away from routine and chaos. As much as I like a routine, I like lazy better.
6. If you don’t like the word lazy, try “relaxed,” or “laid back.”
7. “The whole family slept until 10 am and didn’t get dressed until right before dinner. They’re so laid back.” See? Totally different.
8. As much as I think Augusta is a great place to raise a family, The Kids had better energy in Chicago. There’s a never ending list of things to do and see. We have a good, long list here, but the Chicago scale is much, much larger. If you’ve never been, you should go. After living there, I thought part of my heart belonged to NYC. Chicago, with its kind people, clean flower lined streets, and a beachfront with city views, wins by a narrow margin.
9. Unfortunately Chicago comes with months and months of brutal winters. I’ll take our heat over being stuck in a snowstorm for half the year.
10. Truth be told, it hasn’t been all that hot this summer. Surely I’m ruining August for y’all, but we haven’t had a day over 100 yet.
11. Our screened porch construction project is finally complete. It may have taken much (much, much) longer than anticipated (read: promised), but it was well worth the wait. Just as the heat has finally shown up, so have the mosquitoes.
12. Cocktails taste better on a screened porch. Try it.
13. I’m looking for inspiration. What’s been your go-to drink this summer? If you see me out and about, give me the recipe. I don’t do diet Coke (or any of its cousins). I only do really fruity things if I’m on a boat or a beach. I’m not interested in sweet wines. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic, but, well, you know.
14. Sometimes, when life seems too chaotic and crazy, it’s okay to cancel plans. Downtime is good for the soul. I had to take my own advice last weekend. Saying NO isn’t always easy, but my sanity is priceless. Just ask my husband.
15. Here’s to the last bit of summer. May your drinks be cold, your porches screened, and your schedule relaxed. Or lazy. Either way. Cheers!
In the South, we’re known for many things. Ask for tea, it comes on ice, and with sugar. It’s hot in the summer. We say “y’all,” which means “all you people.” “All y’all’s” is possessive, and it refers to something (or things) belonging to all y’all. “I picked up all y’all’s towels at the pool.” It doesn’t get very cold here, and when it does, we freak out if school isn’t cancelled. If it snows, everything shuts down. Seriously. You can eat at Waffle House, because it never closes, but don’t expect the trash service to run. We’re nice. Well, we try to be, anyway. Or maybe we try to seem nice.
Once on a group email, the messages went back and forth regarding change in the group. Half wanted new things, and the other half wanted to leave it as it was. We were having a seemingly fine conversation, with suggestions for change and reminders of why it should remain. After a few backs and forths, someone piped in and reminded everyone to be nice. What? I thought it was a pleasant discussion. Discussion does not equal argument. Opinion doesn’t mean anger. Sorry if it hurts your feelings when we don’t all agree with you, darlin’.
Talking to a friend today, she told me she hates upsetting people. No one loves it, dearheart. There’s a difference between squashing someone’s hopes and dreams and telling them it’s irritating when they repeatedly cancel appointments. We do that, though. I find that, with age, I’m much less likely to try and ruffle feathers. Is it that we can let it go more easily? Do we care less? Life’s too short to fight about it all, but I’d rather not be a doormat, either. It’s tricky.
We wouldn’t dare complain about someone in public. All complaining and gossiping is done in The Trust Tree. Never been in a Trust Tree? Sure you have. You just might not’ve known its name. “This is between you and me,” is an invitation to the Trust Tree. The Trust Tree is where nice people go, with friends and hushed tones, to be themselves. Ok. I take that back a little. The Trust Tree can also be a place for sharing family secrets that include anything besides white picket fences and sweet tea. They serve bourbon in The Trust Tree. The Trust Tree is a very busy place.
All rules go out the window, if you sass our Mama or pick on our kids. You may never hear us cuss (well, you’ll hear me cuss), and Bless Your Heart means you probably don’t really want to know. There’s always a nice way of saying it, sweetie, even if you don’t feel all that nice about it.
If this makes us sound catty, I’m sorry. We do love you. We’ll pray for you on any occasion. We very rarely show up without an iced cooler full of beer. We may say, “hey y’all! How are ya?” as more of a reflex than a question, but we’ll come running with a casserole every day if needed. If the obituaries tell us your great aunt Glad died, you’ll at least get a pound cake.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. With many exceptions. When in doubt, climb the Trust Tree, and pour wine. Sweet tea will occasionally suffice. Cheers, y’all!
*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA 6/12/14