That night when Scout was finally asleep, and I was tossing and turning in my bed, Glenn told Mom is was her fault that Scout got hurt.
“Why weren’t you watching the baby?” he demanded.
“Dear God, Glenn, I can’t watch them every single minute of the day. I feel awful as it is. Accidents happen. Don’t you blame this on me.”
“Who else am I supposed to blame?” he yelled.
“Who gets them up in the morning? Mom started yelling. “Do you? No. Who makes their meals? Do you? Who takes care of them all day, every day? Do you? Are you ever here? Do you ever help? Where the hell were YOU?”
And then Glenn muttered something I couldn’t hear and walked to their bedroom. I sat in bed motionless, waiting. Ten minutes later I heard Glenn’s Ford truck crunching over the gravel, and I knew he wasn’t coming back. Ever.
I guess we were too much for him.
Mom told me the next day that Glenn had left and probably wouldn’t be back.
“It’ll be alright,” she said, looking at me with puffy eyes. “I’m gonna take care of everything. Who loves you, Sara?”
I looked down at my French toast, too shy and hurt to look at her. “You do,” I whispered.
Scout started sleeping with me a week or so after Glenn left. It’s like she knew even though she was just two. I’d cuddle her up next to me and stroke her hair. Sometimes she’d wake me up and say, “Sawa, I scare.”
“Go back to sleep.”
“No,” she’d say louder. “Monstas in here.”
“There are not.”
“Yes, go see Mommy.”
We’d walk tiptoe into Mom’s room and shake her shoulder slightly. It got to be a bit of a ritual during those early months after Glenn left. She’d groan and roll over to look at us. “Monster alert?” she’d ask. We nodded.
She sat up, grabbed a Kool from her bedside table, lit up and walked us to the back door with her hands on top of our heads. “Wait here,” she said and walked to the closet to get Glenn’s shotgun.
Scout and I stood shivering on the cold linoleum floor from anticipation as Mom loaded two shots into the gun. “Are they in the back field again, Scout?”
“Yes,” Scout whispered bravely.
Mom kicked open the back door with her bare foot and started hollering out into our back field, an acre or so of land that seemed harmless enough during the day.
“O.K., monsters,” Mom would yell into the blackness. “Get outta here or else!”
Scout and I covered our ears as Mom pumped two shots into the dark. It’s a good thing our closest neighbors were a half mile away and knew about “monster alerts.” The shots echoed from the woods, and Scout and I stood there blinking as Mom walked calmly back to the closet, emptied the gun, and locked it back up.
“I feel better,” she said to us. “How about y’all?”
We nodded, still wide eyed.
“Good, then let’s hit the hay,” she said and stamped out her Kool.
If you’re just starting this reading adventure, start with part one. Here’s part two:
My father, Glenn, left us when I was seven and Scout was just two. I don’t remember seeing him much, because he worked nights fixing cars over in Montgomery. I remember sometimes he used to come and sit at the edge of my bed when he came home from work. I always woke up because even in my sleep I could smell the mix of gasoline and metal on his jacket. I’d open my eyes, and he’d be sitting there in the dark patting my back or playing with my hair. For years when I was little I thought Glenn was just a dream, not even real.
“Hey,” I’d say.
“Hey yourself,” he’d whisper.
“Lemme see your hands,” I always demanded.
He’d give me one of his enormous hands, and I’d sit up and look at it. It was always rough and scratchy and even in the dark I could make out the oil and dirt under his short nails. I’d run my hands over the lines of his palm and try to memorize them while he pulled a Camel from his shirt and lit up with the other hand.
“That dirt won’t ever come off all the way, will it?” I asked every night.
“Nope,” he said easily. “It’s here to stay. Now, roll over, rugrat, and get you some more sleep.”
I’d let go of his hand, and he’d pat my back until I fell back asleep.
The only time I remember seeing him in the daytime was when Scout tripped and her head on the corner of the coffee table and cracked her head open. I remember Mom being so calm as she scooped Scout up off the floor screaming and gushing blood from her forehead. I thought Scout was dying, and I started bawling.
“Sara,” Mom said firmly. “She’s gonna be fine. Now run and call Glenn and tell him to meet us at the emergency room.”
When Glenn got to the emergency room, I was sitting in a beige plastic chair swinging my feet and biting my fingernails. Mom was behind a yellow curtain with Scout and the doctor. They were giving Scout 10 stitches, and she howled and sobbed like they were killing her. Glenn walked up to where I was sitting and I looked up, surprised to see him suddenly there. His curly brown hair was wild and windblown, and the skin above his green eyes was pinched and tense. He looked scared and pale.
“Where’s the baby?”
“Behind the curtain with Mom. They’re giving her stitches. That’s her crying,” I said, my voice breaking.
He sat down next to me and pulled me onto his lap. I leaned against him, exhausted, and started tracing the red cursive letters on his jacket. G, L, E, N, N, over and over.
“You girls…” he said softly into my hair. “Sometimes I can’t hardly take it.”
I recently came upon a short story I wrote during my senior year of college. I can’t share this story without thanking my professor, Dr. Bob Ready. His early encouragement, suggestions, and thoughtful questions helped me craft a story that I think still works. Maybe you can let me know if it does. I’m going to share it in bits, so, here’s part one:
Mom always says that men are pretty dumb and that neither me or Scout, my little sister, should ever expect anything from them other than “heartache and headaches.” It’s funny she always that to us and then goes off every Friday night with some greasy loser from town with a limp handshake and a plastic grin.
The last guy she brought home, Earl, was just pitiful. Black hair slicked back, and the dumbest gold ring on his pinky he kept pointing at us whenever he said anything. He thought he was so cool when he lit up his Marlboro until I pointed out to him that he had lit the wrong end. Mom had shot me a look and laughed her fake laugh to Earl, and me and Scout almost threw up right there. I hate it when she laughs like that; it sounds like a sick hyena or that dumb Marjorie James from class who’s always sucking up to the boys. I managed to give Earl the finger while Mom was putting on her lipstick which Scout thought was the funniest thing ever. Stupid old Earl just grinned and nodded. After he figured out which way to light his cigarette, Mom all but pushed him out the door. She knew we hated him; we hated all of them. Mom stuck her head back in the kitchen and shook it at us.
“Honestly, girls, he’s an O.K. guy. Give me a little credit, huh?”
Scout stuck out her tongue and began to pout.
“He’s too greasy,” I said. “And that ring is the silliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“It’s a crucifix ring,” Mom said. “He’s Catholic,” she whispered, like it was some secret. “I’m leaving,” she said suddenly. “Bed at 9:30. No fighting. No horror movies. Who loves you?”
I rolled my eyes. Scout stopped pouting long enough to shout, “You do!”
The screen door slammed as she disappeared into the dark. We could hear Hank Williams, Jr. hollering out of Earl’s Duster as they backed down the gravel driveway. Mom says Patsy Cline is the only country music worth listening to. Hank Williams. Barf.
I write about my childhood quite a bit. Perhaps because my memories are so vivid, I feel compelled to write them down. Perhaps if I understand who I was a child, I’ll better understand who I am now.
The other day, I got an email from a dear childhood friend. She was one of the original stomp girls about whom I’ve written. We who sang Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll at the top of our lungs at recess.
See, I had forgotten what started us in the first place. Until my friend Laura faxed me the gem below:
Women have rights. But how come their not equal? Some say that women are weak or to fragile to do a man’s job. For instance men think that women will never play football or baseball because we might break a fingernail. They don’t know about women inside. So I’ve started a club called W-L (Women’s Lib.) It will be at recess. You may ask questions and we’ll think about what to do to make a woman’s life better. We will work as a team. Why do some men act this way? Well they want to be A#1 of course they have to be better and stronger than women. Can we fight this for equal rights? I have know idea. Alot of women feel the same way we do. For more information, call Laura or Jenny.
P.S. Keep this club private.
When I stopped laughing at how totally awesome and hilarious this little manifesto is, I felt that old feeling. I remember when the boys stopped letting us play football with them. I remember how some friendships vanished because we had reached the age when differences started creating distance. And, I remember how mad we were about it. Because all of a sudden, we weren’t just uninvited, we were no longer equal. Holy junior feminists, Batman! I get it. Now I remember the source of the stomping. If we were no longer invited, we would make our own party. We would sing loud. We would raise our fists. We would stomp. We would raise our fists. And one day, we would be equal.
Aaron Draplin is an incredibly talented and prolific graphic designer, and I’m a huge fan. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak a few years back. Even got to shake his hand (solid, warm grip), get a signed South Cackalackee Draplin poster, and grab a photo with him. He was as great in person as I had imagined him to be. Who lives up to that? Awesome.
I follow Aaron’s blog and work, and like all of his friends and fans, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of his Dad’s sudden passing last October.
If you’ve been on this site before, you know I did a lot of writing about my Dad after he died in 2009. I did a lot of reading, too. All, I suppose, in an attempt to make sense of his death, his life, my feelings, and who in the world I was supposed to be without him. And, I suppose, to keep him “alive” even after he was gone.
Aaron wrote about his Dad, too. His 30 Day Sad For Dad series is full of heartbreaking, funny, warm, and honest moments of grief and memory. And I couldn’t be more grateful that he wrote his way through them. Some men speak kindly about their Fathers. Some men revere them.
Meet Aaron’s Dad:
And meet my Dad, if you haven’t already.
It’s strange. When Dad died, I learned that the fathers of two friends from high school had died around the same time. In those early days when my grief was at its most raw, I thought of my friends and imagined what they were going through. Sometimes they commented on posts I wrote about Dad, and I think somehow it all helped us feel a little less alone.
Reading Aaron’s posts about his Dad made me remember those feelings, even now, 4 1/2 years later, and again, I feel less alone.
Thanks to Aaron for writing down the things we’re often afraid to even say. And, for sharing his Dad with us. I wish I could’ve met him. And I wish he’d met mine.
Well, 2014, you sure did start off with a bang.
On the fourth day of the new year, I bid a teary farewell to my Mom who wrapped up an epic family holiday extravaganza that began on December 21. For those of you keeping track, that’s 14 consecutive days of relatives. I don’t care how often you meditate or how lovely your family is, that’s a f@cking LOT of togetherness. Merry new year!
On day three of the new year, perhaps in anticipation of the familial departure, my body went into full tilt meltdown: body aches, headache, and a throat so sore that I had to summon the courage to swallow. I was, in a word, pitiful. Assuming I had strep, or you know, a little touch of the plague, I took myself to the doc-in-a-box near my house. This particular doc-in-a-box has a little infusion of Jesus in it. Normally, I’d go for secular medicine, but let’s remember, I was in a pinch and also, pitiful. Not to suddenly get all non secular on you, but I’m of the notion that God is in us and all around us anyway, but on this day, some of his most loyal fans serenaded me as I waited to have my throat, ears and vitals checked. Let me get specific: Christian Rock piped into the exam rooms.
As I waited for the physician and pondered the current state of Christian Rock, I received a visit from a chipper male medical assistant who swabbed my throat to check for strep (Yes, I gagged. I always gag.) and used some new instrument that checks for fluid behind your ears (Yes, fluid. Ew.) Then I waited for 20 minutes.
The physician was a kind-faced, soft spoken woman who offered the proper amount of sympathy and concern. I did not, to her surprise, have strep throat, just some nebulous, nameless infection. To speed my recovery she told me she was going to give me two shots: one antibiotic, one steroid. Oh, shots. Then she wrote me prescriptions for the antibiotic, steroid and Hydrocodone cough syrup. Finally, a break!
The chipper assistant came back in with the two shots and politely requested that I drop just enough trou for my hips to accept inoculation. Done and done.
After a thrilling, 45-minute visit to my local pharmacy during which I purchased juice, Lipton Noodle Soup and more tissues, I came home, and Mom made me soup. I took a couple of healthy slurps of cough syrup and went to bed.
On day six of the new year, I walked out of my house to find my car battery dead.
Really, 2014? It’s gonna be like that?
Truly, everything is fine. I’m feeling good. I have a new car battery, and no family visits are planned for the next four to six months. (Love you guys!)
As we all get to know this little hellcat called 2014, I thought it might be worth mentioning that attempting to find the humor in these little adventures life hands us is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.
Though we’re only 14 days into 2014, (Guys, see the parallel! I didn’t even plan it!) there is already a lot of inspiring stuff out there.
Here are a few I’m digging thus far:
The Representation Project put together this incredible piece: The Mask You Live In. It’s all about what we as a culture do to boys to make them men. And it’s time for a change.
Meryl Streep presents Emma Thompson with the Best Actress honor at the National Board of Review Awards and talks feminism. These are a few of my favorite things!
NANA is a British comfort food and craft cafe hosted by lovely older ladies from their respective local areas. In a nutshell, NANA brings together ladies over 65 with little to do with the communities that need yummy homemade food. Genius Brits.
That’s it. Tame the hellcat!
As luck would have it, I love both beer and boots! The cherry on top is that I recently had the good fortune of helping two great brands tell their story.
Palmetto Brewery is a Charleston-based brewery hell bent on making good South Carolina beer for South Carolina. These guys are what you might call the teeniest bit obsessed with making beer, and I mean that in the best possible way. And before you ask, yes, they all have facial hair. As Founder/Owner/Brewer/Engineer Ed Falkenstein told me, “A beard is the badge of self employment.”
The first brewery in the state of South Carolina, Palmetto is also the only South Carolina brewery that also bottles its beer. It’s a bit like the brewery footage in the opening of Laverne & Shirley but with much more facial hair.
One of the best things about Palmetto is how dedicated they are to making good beer that people want to drink. And they never stop trying to do it better. As Ed so eloquently said, “Satisfaction suppresses improvement. You learn something new every day.”
My pals at Blue Ion built Palmetto Brewery a fantastic, responsive website that works in harmony with the incredible new identity Gil Shuler Graphic Design crafted. Special shout outs to Josh (interactive design), Mark (identity), and Brennan (photography).
I had a blast crafting copy that spoke both to the fun that is beer and to the no nonsense way Ed lives his life and makes beer. Below may just be one of my favorite lines of all time.
La Mundial is a family-owned, fully custom equestrian boot company based in Quito, Ecuador. The time, care, and commitment that go into making these boots is awe-inspiring from start to finish. From the more than 40 distinct measurements that happen before a single piece of leather is touched to the 10-step process that ensures every boot is a work of high performance art.
My pals at Blue Ion did a fantastic job of helping La Mundial position itself for equestrian enthusiasts and fashionistas alike. Special shout outs to Sydney, Laura, and Ben on this one.
Here’s the manifesto I wrote:
Our roots date back to 1906 when boot maker Don Francisco Rivas opened a small shop in Quito, Ecuador and began handcrafting custom boots for horse riding enthusiasts. His son, Roberto, learned at his father’s side and joined the business, and later, his granddaughter, Sonia, became one of the first women in the shoe-manufacturing industry. Don Francisco’s grandson, also named Roberto, brought La Mundial to the United States in 2002, and to Canada in 2007. La Mundial now enjoys a strong following in both the US and Canada, as well as in our home country of Ecuador, and various countries around the world.
Today, our fourth generation family business remains true to Don Francisco Rivas’ commitment to crafting fully-custom equestrian boots of unparalleled performance, design and value. Ours is a tradition of hard work and pride in our craft. We believe that even the smallest details ensure exceptional boots that move and feel like a natural, beautiful extension of your body.
We believe the true measure of things crafted with care and passion isn’t just found in the beauty of the finished product, but in the grace, time and tradition inherent in their making — and the journey that awaits those who wear them.
This is La Mundial. The true measure of performance.
So relax, you don’t need to ride a horse to wear these boots. You just have to appreciate incredible craftsmanship and a family tradition of doing exactly what you love.