Halloween Is Here Again, DPChallenge, I Wish I Were

I wish I were a child again – experiencing the night as I did all those years ago, the anticipation and fun.

I wish I were a young mother again – getting my son ready for Halloween night, and how much fun it was to roam the neighborhood with other moms and their children, witnessing the excitement, and helping create the sense of magic about to happen.

Spooky Halloween everyone! I hope you enjoy the day, and especially the night! Have fun and be safe. Cheers!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Abstractly Distracted

On Hallowe’en, when I was around five or six (maybe even the same year I split my head open), my older siblings were allowed to leave on their own to go trick-or-treating, but I had to stay home until I finished my supper, and wait for my mom to get my little brother in his costume.

I remember thinking how completely unfair it was that I had to wait for my baby brother, and be treated ‘like a baby’, when my next oldest sister was only two years older than me, and she got to go out with my other sister and brothers.  After enough complaints, my mother warned me that she could leave me home while she brought my brother around if I kept harassing her.  I don’t think I uttered a word after that until we finally went out into the chilly night.

We had split-pea soup…

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BW (Black and Whitey) The Cat

When I was fifteen, I spent a lot of time with friends who had a couple of cats.  Shemee, and Black and Whitey, but we called her BW.  Shemee, a big black male, would often spray on the television (sometimes while we were watching TV – the brazen cad), and a couple of other areas, and BW was a slender girl who would also ‘spray’ in the same areas after Shemee had sprayed.  My friends had Shemee neutered shortly after he started spraying, but he continued to spray (although my friends seemed to think that the operation would end his spraying).  BW continued to ‘spray’, and would often try to mount Shemee, but Shemee would slap her down.

Both were indoor/outdoor cats, and my friends had hoped that BW would have a litter of kittens before they got her spayed.  BW seemed to think she was male, so I doubted she’d ever have kittens.  There was a big white Tom cat with one blue and one green eye who roamed the neighborhood.  He was usually sweet-natured to humans, but you could see from the chunk out of his ear, and other scars that he’d been in a few fights.

A few years went by and BW still did not have kittens, so my friends assumed she was barren.  One of my friends saw the big white Tom catch her later that year, and we wondered if she’d have a successful litter, and if she’d realized she was, in fact, a she.  The big day came, and BW was in labor.  She had a box in the closet lined with some soft rags, and was mewing piteously for a while, finally birthing – one kitten.  She was a good mama though, very attentive and sweet.  She stopped trying to spray the television, or mount other cats after that too.

Her kitten was an all white male, proving to have one blue, and one green eye as he grew.  My friends let BW get pregnant once more before getting her spayed, and she had a litter of six that time.

BW was a special cat to me, sleeping with me the times I stayed over my friends’ house, and always coming to me for attention.  My friends moved away a year or so later, and I never saw them, Shemee, or BW, again, but they remain fondly in my memories.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Westward Ho!

“I just can’t take it anymore,” I complained to Tammy, cradling the phone with my neck while I finished washing the dishes.  “I need a serious change and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, why don’t you come live out here with me and Dean?  That way you have a place to stay for a while until you get on your feet, and I’m happy to help out.”

I was quiet on the phone for a minute. “Wow”, I finally said through my tears.  “Really, you’d do that for me?   You do remember what it’s like to live with a three-year old, right?”

Tammy laughed and said: “Yes, and I miss having a little boy around.  Danny wants to continue living with his father in New Hampshire, and that’s been really hard for me, but he’s thirteen, and he has good friends there, and I just have to accept that I’m only going to see him for vacations.  I think it’ll be good for both of us if you come live out here.”

“Let me think about it some more, and I’ll get back to you.”

“I’m here for you, whether you stay in Maine, or come out to San Diego.”

“Thanks, Tammy.  I love you.”

“Love you too.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

That conversation in March of 1994 changed my life.  I had a new option, and while I had friends and some support where I was, I was a single mom in poverty, with no car and only a part-time job that I was about to lose.  It snowed over a hundred inches that winter in South Portland, Maine, and I was very close to giving up my son to his alcohol-addicted father, and committing suicide.  I had a plan, and I was getting the courage to implement it when chance circumstances re-connected me with a friend I hadn’t talked to in nearly ten years.

Imagining a different life helped make the life I was in a bit more tolerable, and I began preparations to make the move.  Several friends and relatives told me that it would be stupid to move so far away with someone I hadn’t seen in so long, even though we had been best friends through high school, and I had a young child to consider, and what was I thinking, dragging him across the country?

The other contingent, whom I sided with, saw it as an opportunity to better myself and give my son a chance at a better life too.  As I went, so went my son, type of thing.

I made my decision, and Tammy, who was going to fly back East in July to stay with her father for a few weeks while spending time with her son, decided to drive out with a friend, and bring me and my son back out with them on their return trip.

She had a pick-up truck with a tall shell for the truck bed, which she furnished with a mattress, and I was to sell my beds and other large belongings because they wouldn’t fit in the small trailer we’d rent for the trip back to California.  She had a guest room with a bed that my son would sleep on, and I would stay on the couch until I found work and could buy new beds.  I sold all of our big furniture, and kept my son’s books and most of his toys, as well as dishes and whatever else could fit in the trailer, because we’d be taking turns driving while one of us slept in the back of the truck.  I ended up paying for one night in a motel room so we could have a shower and get a decent night’s sleep.

My boyfriend at the time and I had a rocky relationship, but we liked each other enough to work through issues.  He asked me to stay in Maine, but conceded that he didn’t know where he saw our relationship going.  The week before I left, he told me he would have asked me to marry him if I didn’t have a child.  After he said that, I knew leaving was the right decision.  So many choices in my life translated to ‘damned if I don’t, damned if I do’ propositions.

August 4th, moving day: Tammy and her friend, Ann, were to arrive around Noon.  I spent the morning cleaning my apartment, and bringing whatever didn’t sell, and I didn’t want, outside to bring to the dump when my friend arrived.  My son was upset that most of our things were gone, and he didn’t want to go anywhere.  By the time Tammy got there, I was sweaty and irritated, and wondering if this had been such a good idea after all.

It was really good to see Tammy, and Ann and I pretty much instantly disliked one another. She made some remark about my attitude, and I was kind of stunned that this person I barely knew was openly judging me after having worked my ass off all morning, with a crabby child in tow, and no other help.  “Fuck you”, I wish I had said, but having a bit more grace than her, I fluffed it off and asked Tammy if she’d bring the junk pile to the dump, while I got some lunch for my son and played with him for a while. She, being a parent herself, was completely empathetic about my state of mind, and told me to take a break, and she’d deal with the trash and help me finish whatever cleaning was left to do later.

It took several more hours than expected to finish up, rent the trailer, and make sure we were ready to hit the road.  We left Maine around 5pm, with my son and I in the back of the truck for the overnight drive.  Luckily the truck’s motion put my son to sleep fairly soon, but I had too much anxiety, so I slept very little.

We drove through the night, choosing a route through the Poconos, which Tammy later told me creeped her out because Ann had fallen asleep, and my son and I were out of view in the way back – the window into the cab being hidden behind boxes, blankets, and pillows – and she was thinking about the Sleepy Hollow legend, imagining seeing the Headless Horseman as she drove through the darkness, with few other travelers that late.  We could have kept each other company, but I wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving my son in the back of the truck where I wouldn’t know what was going on with him, or with Ann, who wasn’t fond of children.

I drove the next morning, our route taking us through most of Ohio, and then down through Kentucky, and finally into Tennessee where we would stay on I-40 for the bulk of the trip.

We stayed in a motel in Tennessee the one night we didn’t drive through.  One bane of the trip was automatic flush toilets, which seemed to be installed at every stop we made, and which my son was afraid of, along with any loud, not-easily understood noises, so we had to find rest stops with a Port-A-Potty (or a wooded area) for most of the journey.

By the third day, we were all miserable, and my son was the only one vocalizing it freely and frequently, to which Ann questioned my child-rearing style of just letting him complain. I told her I had learned to tune out most of what he said, and did my best to keep him entertained by imitating his favorite Sesame Street characters voices, while making up stories, singing songs, and playing games, which seemed to annoy Ann, and made it even more pleasurable for me.  Poor Tammy was caught between trying to support her friend, but enjoying being with my son, grumpy or not.

I’m sure Ann was most happy when my son and I were riding in the back of the truck, or when she was back there sleeping.  I was most happy when it was just Tammy, my son, and I, riding up front.  I was driving when we neared Flagstaff, Arizona, and I saw a ‘Grand Canyon, 50 miles’ sign.  Ann was riding up front with me and my son, and I asked her if it would be ok if we took a detour as I had never seen the Grand Canyon, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity.  Ann said she’d rather not, but if Tammy was willing, then she’d go along with it.  The hitch was that I’d have to wake Tammy up to ask her, and I didn’t want to interrupt her sleep, so we continued on into California where Ann took over the driving until we reached her apartment in Ocean Beach.

I’ve always regretted not making a unilateral decision and just driving to the Grand Canyon because I still have not been there.

I was talking to Tammy on the phone the other day, both of us amazed at how much time has gone by, and she suggested I move back out once my son is through college, and I’m seriously considering it.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Too Young To Trick-or-Treat On My Own

On Hallowe’en, when I was around five or six (maybe even the same year I split my head open), my older siblings were allowed to leave on their own to go trick-or-treating, but I had to stay home until I finished my supper, and wait for my mom to get my little brother in his costume.

I remember thinking how completely unfair it was that I had to wait for my baby brother, and be treated ‘like a baby’, when my next oldest sister was only two years older than me, and she got to go out with my other sister and brothers.  After enough complaints, my mother warned me that she could leave me home while she brought my brother around if I kept harassing her.  I don’t think I uttered a word after that until we finally went out into the chilly night.

We had split-pea soup that night, which was one of my favorite dishes my mom made, but there would be no seconds that night.  I wanted to get out there and trick-or-treat until my pillowcase was filled to the brim with candy!  I never stopped to think how heavy it would be to actually fill a pillowcase full of candy.  Back then, there were no ‘fun-sized’ candy bars, only full-sized bars, but people often gave things like small boxes of raisins, or popcorn balls, or apples.  My mom would usually throw out anything that wasn’t store-bought, so I had to beg her let me keep a candied-apple one year, and she finally acquiesced after I badgered her so much that she told me it would serve me right if I found a razor-blade in the apple.  I also think I lied and told her I knew who it was who gave me the apple, so she could have them arrested if I died.

All week before Hallowe’en I walked home from school singing the Five Little Pumpkins song, and felt a chill up my spine when I sang, “Oo, ooh went the wind, and out went the light…!”  I would pull off any leaves still clinging to their branches that I could reach on my way home, as though that would hasten the arrival of the much-anticipated day.

My older sisters and brothers always ended up with more candy than I, or my younger brother ever got, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get as much candy as them.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

A Stitch In Time

When I was about five or six, my family moved into a two-story house heated by steam radiation.  I used to try spinning on the twist knobs at the bottom of the cast iron radiators, and managed a three-quarter turn.  I stopped my efforts at a full turn when I fell and got a black eye after hitting the knob. 

My older sisters and brothers used to scare me and my little brother around Hallowe’en by taunting us before bedtime with a ghostly sounding chant of: “There’s a bad guy in the window!”, starting low and soft and reaching a high crescendo after the third or fourth refrain, and we’d run screaming up to our rooms.  A night or so before Hallowe’en that year, my brothers got the bright idea of cutting out a cardboard silhouette of a man, placing it in the upstairs window near my bedroom, and illuminating it with a flashlight behind the curtain.

While the 'bad guy' in the window didn't look like this, this drawing I found is creepy enough to represent what it looked like to me.

I got so scared when I saw it, especially because one of my sisters was chanting the ‘bad guy’ theme just before my brothers moved to reveal the cut-out, or somehow made sure I saw it.  I ran screaming with my hands over my eyes and my head down, directly into one of the cast iron radiators.  I cut the top of my head open so deep that my mother had to bring me to the hospital to get stitches.

I remember that when we got to the hospital and they were cleaning the wound, the nurse told me that the doctor was going to sew me up, but if I needed him to stop, just tell her it hurt, and they’d stop.  I was lying face down in a pillow, and yelled as loud as I could for them to stop because it hurt so much, but they didn’t listen.  My only consolation was that it took three nurses to hold me still enough for the doctor to finish sewing up the wound.  I was so mad at that nurse for tricking me.

Being lied to about pain when I was a child led me to always tell my son that shots, or stitches, etc., would indeed hurt, but that I believed he could handle it, and it would be over as quickly as possible.  Thankfully, there weren’t many times I needed to prepare him for pain.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Long Ago Summer Night

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, by, Meatloaf, is playing on a humid July night. I’m reading Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Eyeball, by Paul Zindel, on the hood of a friend’s Chevy Cavalier, waiting for a few of my other friends to show up and decide what we’re going to do with the rest of the night.

It’s quiet on the Avenue, but I hear the strains of Meatloaf out of the jukebox coming from the bar next door, and I look up from my reading to watch the moths and other night bugs swirl around, looking like aberrant snowflakes in the street light above the car I’m perched on.

My shorts and top cling to me in the sticky humidity, and I hope we decide to go swimming in the Green River, or at the Leyden Glen.  We had been removed from there by police officers the week before, but they couldn’t be there all the time, so we took our chances going back on hot, humid nights.

I had worked at, Zapmia Pizza (baby), earlier that evening, and was glad to be done with my shift on such a hot day. I was anxious to meet up with my friends, and hoped they would show up soon.  Debbie was the first to arrive. I was so absorbed in my book that I didn’t notice her until she hopped up onto the car hood, causing it to buckle a little as she plunked down, but the hood popped back up as she shifted her weight toward the center next to me.

We exchanged greetings and then chatted about the book for a few minutes, and finally other friends started arriving so we made our evening plans.

I remembered this so strongly tonight that I could feel the night air around me as I did back then, and hear how the music sounded muffled until a patron went in or out of the bar and the music would blast out from the entrance for a few moments until the door was shut once again.

While I don’t miss that time of my life, and especially what was happening to me, I dearly miss my friends and the closeness we shared.  A part of my soul is back there with them – maybe it’s even trapped in some odd space/time continuum – or perhaps less trapped than enshrined.  I get to visit the museum exhibit in my mind, but it’s an empty picture of the vibrant life that was actually there.

They were the people who knew and understood me on a level that no one else will ever come close to, but they live on in my heart and soul, and I hope I live on in theirs.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

The Wild Ride

It was in the high nineties yesterday.  I helped my mom run some errands and then we had lunch and I brought her home.  The path down to her place made me feel like I was walking through a rainforest with the sounds of various bird calls, insects, and the weak sun filtering through the tree canopy on such a hazy, humid day.  I imagined that life was this way before we humans arrived, and would continue long after we leave (provided the Earth hasn’t been sucked into the sun by then – or whatever event precedes Earth’s demise).

I knew a storm was forecast for later in the day, and as I drove home, I could feel it coming on.  My gas warning light came on a few miles before I was near a gas station, but I was fairly confident I would make it as long as I didn’t have to idle anywhere.  I vaguely wondered if it would use more gas to turn off and on my engine if I did get stuck in traffic, but I wasn’t hindered by anything.

As I pulled into the gas station, however, the ominous clouds I had seen forming on the far horizon were now headed over the gas station canopy, while another cloud bank was converging into the one over me.  There was eerie greenish light in the storm clouds and a fierce wind picked up while torrential rain poured down.  I don’t know why I didn’t just stay there and wait out the storm.  I think I was worried about the gas station not being a safe place to be, so I pulled out, barely able to see through the rain pounding my windshield, even with the wipers on fast.  Traffic was stopped at a tree that had fallen across the road, so I made a U-turn to take another street.  I watched the tree limbs above me bending and swaying and while I was prepared to stop quickly, I had already decided to keep moving unless forced to stop.

I took the least tree-lined route, instead of my usual one, and at first I thought I had gone the best way; the rain had lessened in intensity, but the storm continued with lightning flashing and the wind still whipping as I turned up another side street hoping to avoid traffic or any accidents.  There was a tree in the road ahead of me, and a pick-up truck drove over to my side of the road, narrowly missing me as the driver careened around the tree and then corrected to get past my car.  I rounded the corner to see another tree down, but it had fallen at an angle with a gap large enough for my car to pass under it – which was really dumb of me, I know – but I was in amygdala/panic mode, not neo-cortex/processing mode.  I got through that to see another tree up ahead and someone ahead of me getting out of their car to check it out.  I put my window down and yelled at her not to touch anything if there was a wire down.  She ran back a moment later saying that there was a wire in the road.

My car has four-wheel drive and I told her I could avoid most of the tree top by driving up the hill around it, and she told me she was going to follow me.  I knew it would be easy to navigate that, and I waited to make sure the other driver got around it before continuing on.  I called the police to let them know that three trees and a wire were down on that road.  There were lots of tree limbs and other debris scattered about the road, but no more whole trees.  The storm was passing and I had turned on my radio after leaving the gas station in case there were any emergency broadcasts, but there was only regular programming.  I thought that was weird because it was such an intense storm, but I guess I was unlucky enough to be at the head of it.

The shape of the storm front reminded me of some kind of alien craft.  The entire edge was rounded while lower clouds were being kneaded into the larger mass, and it was very fast-moving.  I feel stupid now that my last act could have been putting gas into my car and trying to dodge being tornado fodder.  The best thing I could have done was to go inside the store and wait out the storm, or at least park beside the nearby open field.  I’m not sure getting into a ditch would have been a good idea unless I actually saw a funnel cloud because the rain was pouring so hard the ditches were flash-flooding.  Death by drowning might have been preferable to being sucked up into a tornado, but that’s a tough call.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to choose.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.