Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Defying gravity.

they called the game Ballerina

and it started like most made up games do

“let’s play Ballerina” one would shout

and she would drop her towel on the grass

and even when her sister called going first

she reminded her of the rules of rank

“i’m older” she would say

and then she would go

running down the dock and leaping

as high as she could

into the July heat to show off her best and most graceful dance moves

defying gravity for just a moment

before she slammed down into the murky water

she would let herself sink

until her toes squished the mud

or her legs felt a cool spot

and then she would scramble to get back to the wooden ladder

which was slick with algae up until the third rung

because she was convinced

the moccasins loved the mud and the cool spots

over and over and over again

running and leaping and dancing and sinking and scrambling

to the soundtrack of

her own “watch this” squeals

and her sister’s “i can do it higher” declarations

and her grandfather’s “you girls slow down and watch those wet spots they’re slippery and those nails can catch your leg if you aren’t careful” worries

and she never thought about things like lunch because

her grandmother always remembered before stomach growls came

and peanut butter sandwiches

and oatmeal raisin cookies

and Diet Cokes were either inhaled or enjoyed

in the hammock on the second-story porch

with an extra door to nowhere

the raisins and the crusts were saved

and mushed into tiny spheres and squares

during the walk back down to the dock

for the fish that lived under the boat

and she was convinced that they stayed there

because the fish were of prehistoric size she thought

and if she let herself believe the fish ventured out past the dock

the girls never would’ve played Ballerina again

or at least they would’ve brought some extra cream and peanut butter

instead of the raisins and crusts

Monday, March 28, 2011

From girl to angel.

Some days, I revisit memories that feel like a sore in my cheek, which I can’t stop running my tongue over.

So painful, and I can’t leave it alone.

One of my best childhood friends got into a terrible accident in high school. He barely survived, with injuries that required open-heart surgery and an extensive hospital stay. His fourteen-year-old sister was killed. There was no one at fault, nothing to blame, except for nasty weather and black ice.

I always think of them when it snows.

Months after the accident, we were sitting on my bed one night, and he started telling me about the wreck. He said he remembered listening as his sister’s life slipped out of her.

That was the most heart-wrenching thing I ever heard,

and the most beautiful.

There is nothing I can imagine that would be worse than losing the one I treasure most, the one I've known and loved for a lifetime. But if I had no choice in the matter? No one to be angry at and no one to seek revenge on?

I'd want to be there to witness the transformation from girl to angel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A chewin'-and-spittin' kind of lady.

Once, when my dad was about eight years old, he got in trouble with his Aunt Dorothy. I don’t remember why he was in trouble, or maybe he didn’t remember when he told me... somehow, that part of the story got lost along the way, but I do know that whatever he did, it was real bad. So bad that Aunt Dorothy sent him out to cut his own switch.

Dad said, back when he was a kid, they had to pick their own switches for whippings. He didn’t want to pick one too big for obvious reasons, but he didn’t want to pick one too small either. If Aunt Dorothy thought it didn’t measure up, he told me, she’d go cut one herself, and he’d be sitting funny for days.

All this was in his head as he walked outside to look for a switch. He knew she meant business, because Aunt Dorothy was a chewin’-and-spittin’ kind of lady who didn’t take twaddle from anyone, not even kin, and he was nothing short of terrified. So scared, he said, that when his feet hit the lawn, he grabbed his bike and peddled away, as fast as his legs would go.

About a week passed, and he forgot all about this particular incident. One day, he went riding past Aunt Dorothy’s house, and she was outside gardening. She hollered at him to come in and have a Pepsi, so he followed her inside. She looked in her fridge and told him she must’ve been outta the cold cans, so she’d get him one from the porch and pour it on some ice. He waited patiently. A minute later, Aunt Dorothy came back in. And she was holding the biggest switch my dad ever saw.

She tanned his rear good, he told me.

After that, my dad mostly stuck to CocaCola.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And that's the point.

I grew up in a small town, but it’s a myth that everybody knows everybody.

Sure, everybody knows Bo, because we went to Sunday School together and he took our team to state as a starting quarterback our freshman year.

And everybody knew Jami, because she sparkled so much that she left light everywhere she went, and at the wake, so many of us lined up to give our best and cry together that it took over ten hours.

But the rest of us, we’re not as popular, so no, everybody doesn’t know everybody. The thing is, once you do know somebody, you don’t ever forget them.

This town is the kind of place where you run into Mrs. Moorehead in the local Panera, and though she has Alzheimer’s now and keeps asking the same questions over and over, she still recognized your face when you walked through the door, and that’s the point.

It’s the kind of place where, even though you haven’t been to church since the preacher pissed you off three years ago, and you may have told him to take your name off any list you might be on and shove it you-know-where, you still come home to a message on the machine at least once a week, telling you about the latest covered-dish supper or yard-sale-car-wash-baked-goods fundraiser.

Monday, March 21, 2011


My grandmaw had eight brothers and sisters.

She once told me they all had nicknames, except for her, and it made her jealous. I asked her what those nicknames were that made her want one so bad.

Mutt, she said, was Phil’s nickname. Then there was Jake, who’s real name was Claude Franklin, and Pike, who was Thomas Martin Jr. There was Shikey who was really Jimmy, and Punky who was really Gene, and Boo Boo who was really Beaufort, and Harky Parky who was really Robert, and Picky Hanna who was really Edna and who really wanted a piano but just couldn’t say it right.

They had some cousins named Banks and Bud, and one named Little Britches, and another one named Little Mutt. I asked her why they called him that, and she told me because Mutt was already taken.

And then there was Shay, who may have really been Charles Eugene, but my grandmaw couldn’t be sure, and neither could Shay probably, because once he was getting baptized and the preacher called his real name four or five times to come forward before he finally said “Shay, that’s you, son.”