Ten songs

Maren Morris’ “Song for Everything” got me thinking. For years I’ve tried to put together a soundtrack of my current stage in life, but I’ve never managed to pull it off. Probably because a soundtrack is more of an overarching score. It’s not defined by a moment, a month, a week, a year.

These ten songs provided the score to key points in my life. Not that they were the only significant songs to me; there were many, many others. But these helped shape who I was, who I have come to be.

Stay the Night: Chicago. The first song I obsessively listened to the radio to hear. The first 45 I bought myself. Before I bought the 45, I sat in front of the radio with a blank tape in the deck and two fingers on Record and Play so I could tape it — a position I would proceed to spend the next several years in. (Gen Xers know what I mean.) It hasn’t aged well, this song. But I couldn’t make a list of songs that were important to me and not include it. In many ways, this song was my introduction to music.

November Rain: It seemed like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ releases were perfectly timed to coincide with fights with my high school boyfriend…which in retrospect tells me all I need to know about that doomed little relationship. (It was a good year for GnR. Not so much for us.) This one was the end-all: the breakup. It still gives me a twinge.

Silent Legacy: Melissa Etheridge. I’ve talked about my suicide attempt, but what I’ve never really talked about is how worthless I felt after the fact. Selfish, weak, whiny, and completely unlovable. I know that’s not what this song is about, but it still made me feel seen. Gave me hope that someday, things could get a little bit better. (I would really like to go back and give teenaged me a hug. Poor kid.)

Beautiful Day: U2. This song was the first thing to make me smile after my first adult-relationship breakup. I listened to it on repeat until I believed it. The first few chords bring on a tidal wave of sensory memory from the furnitureless living room of my first apartment.

Normal Life: July for Kings. I first heard this song shortly before I got married (the first time around), and it embodied everything I hoped my life was about to become. Things didn’t work out that way, obviously. This song holds the distinction of becoming equally important at another point in my timeline: Shortly after the birth of my daughter. When I moved into the house next door to my parents and realized, suddenly and completely, the driving forces behind the life trajectories of most of the people I’ve known.

And Around: Tabitha’s Secret. My first husband was a Rob Gordon type, and he hooked me up with some pre-Matchbox Twenty Rob Thomas. This song was pretty much the soundtrack of our divorce from my perspective. (Plus a boatload of Sarah Maclachlan, which I listened to while washing dishes and crying and feeling like such a movie cliché.)

Wake Up: Joe Hedges. Every so often, the song you most need to hear comes along at precisely the right moment; this is one of those. This song kicked me out of the funk I found myself in when my post-divorce relationship blew up; it made me realize it was high time to start focusing on me. I found 43 Things, set some goals, took some classes, and set upon my current path of self-improvement. (At which point I met R. Of course.)

In the Blood: Better Than Ezra. This is the song that pulsed through my veins during my early pregnancy with Anya. The thrumming drum beat felt like the little pulse tapping away inside me; the song embodied my nervous excitement at finally getting and staying pregnant. The pace suits my energetic daughter, so I still say she chose it.

Ride: Cary Brothers. As “In the Blood” was Anya’s song, this is Kai’s. And much as the former suited her, this one suits my dreamy, stormy boy. I was so cold the whole time I was pregnant with him; my blood coursing through my veins felt like a cool stream. This song is the auditory equivalent of what it felt like.

The Book of Love: Peter Gabriel. This song will forever remind me of my husband, my partner-in-everything, the man who made me a mom and a wife long after I gave up on either of those things happening. Love didn’t end up working like I thought it would, but that’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

I’m beginning to see the world with new eyes. Older ones. Sympathetic ones, mostly. I’m not a “Youth is wasted on the wrong people” person. I’m more a “being young is hard and it’s a wonder any of us make it out alive” person. I don’t know when I stopped being a young person myself, exactly, but clearly I have; some of the people I consider young can vote. I’m cool with being older, though. Means I came out the other side.

I can’t wait to see which songs make my next ten songs list.

Advertisements

Ode to Super Target

Our local Super Target is closing, and my daughter is deep in mourning.

I get it. I do. There are several Targets we shop regularly, but Super Target has always been my favorite. Not for the same reasons my daughter favors it — she’s in it for the toys, and for the (admittedly superior) Dollar Spot. Coming so close on the heels of Toys R Us going under, this closing has her panicked. Where will the toys come from?

I prefer Super Target because it offers the best one-stop shop — for someone with small kids, that’s the Holy Grail of shopping. Some parts of the store are not as well stocked as regular Targets, true. But for our general needs, Super Target covered my bases well.

Super Target was a weekly outing. An event unto itself. Need clothes, groceries, toiletries, toys? Super Target. Need to get out of the house? Need steps? Need to take the kids somewhere indoors? Just need a treat? Super Target’s got you. It was my kids’ first Target. One of their first words. And the first logo either of them recognized. We loved the store, the employees, all of it.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been to Super Target. The weather’s been icky and we’ve been sick and we just haven’t gotten out. But Mom and I shopped there last week. A lot of departments are all but empty. I stood there misting over in what had been the baby clothes section — so many of my kids’ outfits came from there! Yes, I felt ridiculous. But this store has been a constant in my life for the better part of two decades. It’s going to feel strange to shop without going there.

Part of me wants to keep Anya from seeing the store like this. But maybe it would provide her some measure of closure. Just as I needed to see it, one last time. The kids still have Christmas money they’ve not spent; perhaps I will take them to buy one last toy there.

It’s not goodbye forever. There are other Targets. And this is an important lesson for her, for Kai, for me: Nothing lasts forever, but just because something good ends doesn’t mean something good won’t take its place.

We’ll miss it, though. The store and everyone who worked there. It’s in many ways the end of an era.

We’re still talking about it because it still needs to be said

My ex-husband doxxed me, several years after our divorce.

Maybe doxxing isn’t the correct term. He didn’t have to search for my contact information; he knew it. Because he’d been my husband. It was his former address and phone number he gave out on his MySpace page, exhorting his readers to “do with it what you will.” For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it doxxing.

I wouldn’t have ever known he’d done it, but as time passed after our divorce my anger toward him had softened. I had loved him once, after all. It was only natural that I wonder how he was doing. He’d moved away after our divorce, and we had no friends in common, so I had no idea what became of him.

A few seconds on Google led me to his MySpace. (This was before Facebook was a thing grown-ups used.) And his diatribes against me. Plus my full name, home address and phone number, and a challenge that, thankfully, his readers/friends did not take him up on.

I’d have felt better if someone had called him out on that post. But perhaps they did that privately. He had some pretty classy friends. I was sorry to lose them in the divorce.

I was sorry to lose him, too. At first. The failure of our marriage baffled and broke me. I went over and over everything in my mind. How had it all gone so very wrong?

The sour notes were few and far between in the early days of our relationship. He was sweet and loving and thoughtful, a little shy. Only occasionally an ass, so I brushed off those moments. A year later he proposed, and the mask began to crack. He spent so much of the six months between our engagement and marriage bashing me that I was flabbergasted to hear him say nice things about me during the premarital counseling sessions. I suspected he feared the minister would refuse to marry us if he told the truth.

Why did I still marry him? Well, I was young. Had less self-esteem than a potted plant. Wanted more than anything to be a wife and a mother. And I was really, really great at making excuses for him. Growing up, I had been told that no relationship was perfect. To expect little, forgive much. So I told myself he was stressed out about his new job, the wedding, the move. Things would get better. I could be better.

I tried to be better. But it was never enough.

The summer after we were married, I missed a period. He fumed and fretted until I took a pregnancy test. Then three more. Then had me call my doctor when I failed to start, so sure was he that I was pregnant. He wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of a baby.

I wasn’t pregnant, as it turned out. But my eyes had been opened to a side of him I could not unsee.

Ten months into the marriage, I reconnected with an old friend. While we were catching up on each other’s lives, he asked me how married life was. I told him it was an adjustment. Which is apparently what I’d said the last time he’d asked that question, shortly after the wedding. He asked me if I was happy. I finally admitted that I was not.

One final fight, at New Year’s. I ended up at my parents’. And I told them what was going on, after hiding it for the better part of two years. They were horrified. I’d hid well, it seems.

I went home the next day and told him I couldn’t go on like we had been. He said he would attend counseling, but he wasn’t going to help find the counselor, would not pay for counseling, and would not attend counseling sessions led by a member of any religious organization. He also told me he would not change, because “you knew what you were getting into when you married me.”

So I divorced him.

It’s only now, as I look back from outside it all, that I see how wrong the whole relationship was. How he gave me just enough affection to keep me from leaving and told me I was lucky to get it. How great he was at lying to everyone. Including, I imagine, himself.

I think back on the stories he told me of his ex. How he’d harped on how irritating she was, how fat, how stupid. How shocked he was when she left him.

Some time later, I watched a video of a guy gaslighting his girlfriend and saw in him my ex. Still, I’d never have thought he’d go so far as to dox me. I underestimated him.

Until you’ve been doxxed, you don’t realize how frightening it is. I was a young woman living alone, with no family or friends close by. He opened me up to all manner of violations, out of spite and pettiness, years after our split. In his MySpace posts, he talked about how he’d found love again and was so much happier than he’d been with me. Yet he tried to inflict harm on me, simply because he could.

It’s only now that I’ve moved and have a different phone number and name that I even feel brave enough to admit on a public forum what he did to me. Part of me is still nervous, to be honest. When someone who was so close to you violates your trust like that, it’s a little difficult to feel completely safe ever again.

I’ll likely never understand why my ex treated me the way he did. What it says about him as a person. But I would be willing to bet that he hates that Gillette commercial. Or that he gives it lip service but resents it privately. Because he’s the kind of guy who believes everything’s stacked against him. He thinks his failures are the result of external, rather than internal, factors. He sees himself as a victim, not a perpetrator.

Sound familiar?

My son is sitting on my lap as I type this. My sweet, loving boy, who still look at me like the sun rises and sets on my face. I consider it an important function of my job as his mother to make sure he doesn’t grow up to be the kind of guy who would be offended by the Gillette ad. I want him to be the kind of person who stands up against misogynists and bullies, even if those people are his friends. But I sincerely hope his friends don’t pull that crap, either. It’d be great if that sort of behavior were an embarrassing moment in history by the time my son is grown.

Let’s see what we can do about that, hm?

A door closes

It began in January.

We’d gone out of town shopping for the day, and were on our way home. I don’t remember feeling pain, though I often had stomach upset when we ate in restaurants, so I can’t say for certain that I had no pain. I do remember my underwear feeling sticky, but that wasn’t an unusual occurrence; weird things had been going on in my underpants for a couple of years. But what I found in that gas station bathroom was a shock.

“Mom?” I remember saying. “Come look. There’s something in my underpants.”

I’d started my period. Only it didn’t look like any blood I’d ever seen. It looked more like I’d crapped my pants. Nobody had prepared me for that.

I knew about periods, sure. My mom was open and honest from early childhood about such things. And I’d had that sex ed class the year before, where they separate the boys and girls and show each group a movie about what’s going to happen to their bodies during puberty, and some kids had to sit out because their parents didn’t sign the permission slip. (We filled them in on all the gory details afterwards. C’mon, parents — did you think you could send your kids to public school and still keep them in a bubble?) The movie didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, though.

I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, however. Case in point: When I got home that January night, I marked a P on the 17th of every month in my planner (yeah, I had a planner at 12; I was that sort of kid) because I knew periods came once a month and I’d seen my mom track them on her calendar with a P. How cool it was, I thought, to know what day your period would start on for the rest of your life? The joke was on me, though; not only did I not fulfill the February P, I didn’t have another P for a full calendar year.

That one looked like blood. Lasted for more than just one day, too.

The subsequent 30 years brought with them a series of Ps. Some light (not many), some gory (lots and lots). Most painful. Some excruciatingly so. For most of those 30 years, I planned my life around my Ps. Waiting for them to come. Waiting for them to pass. Trying this medication, that diet. Yoga and Tai Chi and Pilates, meditation and massage and supplements. Anything to alleviate the pain. Wishing for pregnancy, for menopause, for some relief from the relentless monthly suffering that is endometriosis.

It’s January again. Not the 17th, but close enough. And that door just closed for good. According to my period tracking app (I haven’t carried a paper planner in a couple decades), it’s been a full calendar year since my last cycle, and the doctor says that means I am done menstruating. I’ve gone through young womanhood, and just plain womanhood, and come out the other side.

I’m in uncharted territory now.

I call myself a mothercrone. Not that I feel particularly old; I don’t. But neither am I in the same place as I was a few short years ago, when pregnancy and childbirth were still on my radar. However, I’m still mothering littles — nursing one of them — so I can’t go full-on crone quite yet. Also, I’m only 44. The crones eye me warily yet. I’m on some odd bridge between the two states. Residing in a constant state of change.

As for that change. Not much has changed, I suppose. The hot flashes and sleeplessness may be a bit more intense now than they were last January, but not so distressing that I feel the need for medication. I cry easily. I’ve become a crier since giving birth for the first time, but now a passing thought is all it takes to turn on the waterworks. I have love handles that I’m not sure will ever go away. Without monthly hormone fluctuations, my fibrocystic breasts are less lumpy and painful. (Also smaller — I guess I really was mostly cysts.) I no longer develop sausage feet for no discernible reason. Otherwise…I’m just me. Only me doesn’t bleed anymore.

I look back on adolescent me, young woman me, with a lot more sympathy now. I felt like such a screw-up, when really I was just a lost kid. I wish I could tell that girl that it’s okay to be lost. That everyone is lost. That if you only admit that you are lost, someone might come along and help you get found.

In a similar fashion, I look back on adult me, and while her failures and shortcomings sting more, mostly I wish I could just assure her that things will be okay. The things she worried most about never came to pass. I wish I could tell her to pause, breathe, and be.

I wonder what old me will wish she could tell current me. I also wonder when I will feel that I have earned my crone wings. Not today, not tomorrow, and likely not next week, month, year. But I’m on my way. A little lost. A little nervous. But doing my best to pause, breathe, and be.

The way it used to be

That last post, combined with some heavy-duty nostalgia by way of Matt Nathanson’s Instagram hashtag #wayitusedtobe (and the song it’s based on), have set me on a voyage down memory lane. It’s funny, because when I look back on my youth (at least the years between 13 and 33), I tend to remember the bad. But remembering that coffee place at Hickory Ridge reminded me of a whole bunch of good. Here’s some things I miss, in no particular order.

  • Going to discount movies at Appletree Cinema. I think they were $2.50. I can’t get a bottle of water for that at the movies these days. Back then, we could get dinner and a movie for less than $10.
  • Hanging out with my dad while waiting to pick Mom up at the airport, back when you could wait at the gate.
  • Mallratting. Chasing boys and eating food court food. Shopping 10 stores and grabbing dinner without having to step outside.
  • Arcades.
  • Applebee’s, back when their menu included things like lasagna and pot pie. T.J. Mulligan’s veggie burger and beer battered fries. New York Deli’s pimento cheese.
  • Brach’s Pick-a-Mix. And candy counters. What happened to candy counters?
  • Scavenger hunt shopping. Looking for some obscure something in bookstores, record (yeah, as in vinyl) stores, etc, was an endlessly entertaining hobby. Now you can find pretty much anything you want in five clicks. Amazon will drop it on my doorstep in two days, tops. Yes, it’s convenient and saves me a ton of time, but where’s the challenge?
  • Those months when my mom’s cycle and mine would sync up and we’d go to the store and fill the cart with junk food, boxed chocolate, and flowers.
  • Video stores. Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer Netflix. But there was a sense of triumph when I went to the local video store (which was more Clerk’s Quick Stop, less Blockbuster) and they actually had what I wanted to watch — in stock.
  • Mom’s baking. I love to bake, but there’s something about food that is baked for you by someone who loves you that you can never replicate yourself.
  • Reading until dawn.
  • Riding my bike on a windy day. Without a helmet, of course, because it was the 80s.
  • Going to the movies with my dad.
  • Jess perfume. It was the only perfume I wore for years, and the only one that ever suited me perfectly.
  • My grandparents’ house. I didn’t have loads of good memories there, but it was the a constant in my life. I still can’t believe it’s gone.
  • Shopping trips with my mom that started in the morning and lasted until the stores closed. After which we’d grab a coffee because what even is caffeine?
  • Coffee.
  • Beer. More to the point, liking beer. I can still drink it, but now it tastes like camel piss. And makes me wake up wishing for death the next day.
  • The kind of tired you get when you’ve been swimming all afternoon and are riding home with the windows down and a towel around your waist.
  • Hearing a song that captures how I feel perfectly.
  • Sleeping until I am fully rested. Then sleeping some more.
  • Those instant friendships of childhood. Hi, my name is ______. Want to be my friend?
  • The feeling of anticipation that permeated the Friday and Saturday nights of my adolescence. Nothing exciting ever really happened, but each weekend it felt like I might just encounter my destiny.
  • Sitting on the front porch on spring evenings.
  • Parting with someone, a friend or boyfriend, and missing them so much you call them as soon as you get home so you can talk more.
  • Walking to the custard stand after an afternoon of playing at the park.
  • My old apartment. God, I loved that place, from the first moment I set foot in it.
  • Hanging out with friends at someone’s house. No prearranged activities — just a group of people, some snacks, some music, some conversation and games.
  • Going to the bookstore and leaving with a stack of books. Yes, I can still do this. But there’s no point because my to-read pile already fills a five-shelf bookcase, and I failed to read even 12 books in all of 2018.
  • Brilliantly colored fall leaves. (I know they still exist, but I haven’t seen them in years.) The smell of burning leaves in my wind-chilled hair. Smelling burning leaves without my lungs spasming.
  • Boredom. Having time to daydream, and think, and sort through things. I was a much better writer when I had time to be bored.

 

The Christmas cookies that weren’t

I had hoped to have a cookie recipe to post today, but they’re not quite right yet.

If wheat flour doesn’t give you trouble, go try these cookies. They’re quick and easy, and the flavor is amazing. If you were in the Memphis area in the late 80s and early 90s, you may remember a coffee place in the Hickory Ridge Mall. I’ve long since forgotten the name, and the internet is of no help, but their cappuccinos were heavenly: delicately sweet coffee topped with whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a cookie. These cookies taste just like those cappuccinos.

Unfortunately, I can’t handle wheat flour. So I’ve been trying to adapt the cappuccino cookie recipe to my current gluten-free requirements. The first batch was…sandy. The second, in which I used a more traditional shortbread recipe, was gritty. The frosting helped somewhat, but crisp shortbread and creamy frosting don’t really mesh. So I’m left watching my kids eat the gingerbread and asking them to tell me how good it is.

Sigh.

Today I’m going to make up mini pot pies for me and the kids (GF for me, regular for them), so tomorrow after presents we can just pop them in the oven. (R and my parents are going to have ham. Which they will just pop in the oven. Nobody wants to cook tomorrow.) I’m also going to try a GF, egg-free version of The Pie Folks’ Slap Yo Mama pie. Wish me luck! If it works, I will post what I did. If not, I’ll just have some more of my sandy coffee cookies for dessert.

I’m still planning an update post, but today I have to clean the whole house, make a fridgeful of little pies, and play games with my kids. So the updates will have to wait. Happy merry, everyone.

Memories

“That old lady, we went to her party, what was her name?”

“Isabel.”

“Right. Isabel. You grandma. I love her. I miss her so much.” My daughter, who has been happily rambling the ears off my head for the past 45 minutes nonstop, is suddenly in tears. Over someone she met twice.

“She was my great aunt, not my grandma. Mimi’s aunt. She was a sweet lady. You met Pop and Gran at the family reunion. And you saw Gran at Pop’s funeral. Remember? Or maybe you don’t. You were so little. Baby Kai was in my tummy at Pop’s funeral, and he was a little baby at Gran’s. We spent the whole service upstairs both times. Remember the upstairs?”

“I remember. Who Pop again?”

“Poppy’s dad — well, stepdad. Gran was Poppy’s mom.”

“Right. I don’t remember them.” She pauses. “But still I love them.”

Just like that, the storm is gone. She’s off on other topics. But the emotional lash still reverberates. She loved these people. And to them she barely registered, so ashamed they were by how I chose to bring her into the world.

Family yea verily sucks sometimes.

But they’re also a good barometer for what’s important. Because she remembers their memory, and Kai remembers nothing of them at all, and after that their memory will be dust. They will be names in the family tree, yellowed photos in albums — nothing more. Their house is gone. Everything they worked for, gone. All that’s left is who they touched while they were alive and soon we, too, will be gone.

Focus on today. Love people today. Be happy today. Tomorrow we’ll be dust.