It’s raining this morning. The tin roof over our back patio makes that delightful ping and patter sound as the rain falls. One could almost discern a pattern in it and then the rhythm changes. The morning light has a slightly green/yellow cast that I associate with those big storms of my youth.
I’ve lived a lot of places, but I grew up in the Hill Country of Texas. No matter where I’ve gone Texas has been home. The Hill Country is at the extreme southern end of tornado alley; I grew up with severe storms. I vividly remember sitting at the supper table with my family one evening when lightning struck close to the house. I jumped up from my seat and I might have even screamed. My father said, “It’s just thunder.” I looked from my parents to my brother, who all were calm and composed. That helped me put the scary sound into a context. I picked up my chair and went back to eating.
“It’s just thunder”. That phrase comforted me many nights when I woke up to a boom that shook the house. It’s just thunder. It’s just a thunderstorm. And I would fall back asleep.
And then we moved away from Texas. Thunderstorms were just a memory. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I grew to miss those storms. There is something awe-inducing in seeing lightning crackle across the sky. I hope to one day have a house with a covered porch where I can sit and rock and watch the storms roll in from a distance.
It started simply enough. Joy asked me a question about genetics. I’ve got a reasonable understanding of punnet squares, dominant, and recessive genes. But explaining those things to a (then) preteen was tripping me up. In our homeschooling years, I’d found Youtube could be a useful resource. So, I went searching online for a kid-friendly video that would explain the basics.
I found a lively blonde gal who was explaining these principles in reference to her pet snakes. Her screen presence was cheerful and her explanations were easy to follow. Even better, the snakes she was breeding were more interesting than peas. Huzzah! Little did I know that those couple of videos on genetics in snakes would lead to a minor obsession for my kids. Her channel, “Snake Discovery”*, is regular viewing for the children now and has been for a couple of years. Joy wants a hognose snake or crested gecko. Constance liked a baby leopard gecko that she got to hold last year, mostly because it was a baby and “cute”. Nerdling likes the videos, too, but not nearly as much as the girls.
The channel is educational, but my favorite part is the primary presenter, Emily. She’s smart and geeky and totally owns her passion for reptiles. It’s good to see someone who is so unapologetically enthusiastic. I frequently hide my inner nerd. I’m strangely fascinated by disaster: tornados, earthquakes, volcanoes, engineering fails, etc. But, that’s weird, right? So, I don’t usually own up to that outside of my own family. I love that Joy, Constance, and Nerdling can see someone like Emily proudly display her delight.
Landry and I have decided it’s a good time for me to start working again. A few months ago I applied for a part time job and got it. It’s nice to be financially contributing to the family. And the schedule is flexible enough that I can plan around family stuff or say “no” on occasion. My boss is generally understanding and grateful for what I’m doing.
But, Landry has asked me twice this week, “Was that in your job description?”. Well, not really. This week I worked on a roof top and climbed a fairly tall vertical ladder to get to a working area. In full disclosure, I was asked in my interview if I was afraid of heights. I was able to say, fairly honestly, that I wasn’t. I think I have a reasonable respect for high places, but it’s not overpowering.
With that said, my hands were shaking after climbing that ladder. I had to stop and give myself a little pep talk about halfway up. Along with the heights was a communication snafu with my schedule. Those are signs. So, I turned in an app for another job in the same organization. That job would have me safely behind a desk and earning more. At this point in my life, I really don’t need to be risking serious injury.
What’s the weirdest question you’ve had in an interview?
It’s a question that’s plagued me for a long time. I like to write, sometimes. Other times, it’s a task I push away. And, I think, what really rocked my confidence was my inability to focus on and finish the larger stories that live in my head. There were generations of characters in my head. I used to be able to recite the lineage from memory!
But recently, I challenged myself to write a short story. Or rather, someone else challenged me. I had accidentally fallen into a writing/author’s group. You wouldn’t think this is the kind of thing that could happen accidentally. Over years, I had developed a relationship with some bloggers. Reading and lurking led to commenting. And from regular commenting, I became an email correspondent which led to real names and social media “friending”.
The prompt in the challenge was fairly open other than that the story take place in a particular geographic location. I thought and researched and thought some more. I’ve never been to this place. Being a minor geology nut, I was able to set the story in a place I could see and feel. The story grew from that familiarity; the characters took shape. I put part of myself (a younger version) into one of the protagonists.
There was something therapeutic in that process. I found I could create again. The story was lighter than some of my more recent work. Even when I thought I wasn’t a writer, I was still writing. Isn’t it funny how we can doubt ourselves?
Did this short story I wrote for an anthology change the world? Hell, no. Did it change my world? A little. And that little story will get published, soon.
Does getting a story published make me a writer? No. I am a writer because I write. Even if it’s for no one but me, I am a writer. I will probably work more at writing for anthologies. I have a few other shorts in my stack of work. And maybe someday, I will get my larger projects off the ground, too.
Does moving have a smell? It’s a serious question. I went to a friend’s house tonight to say a tearful farewell. Upon entering, it struck me. I used to think it was the scent of cardboard I associated with moving. But the boxes aren’t there yet; The movers come later this month.
So, what is it? Is it the dust from things being shifted around? Am I smelling the stress? Because, they say some with a finely tuned nose can smell the pheromones associated with feelings. Not that I’ve ever had a great nose. So, maybe not. Maybe it’s not even a smell, but the openness that comes from starting to pack things away before the movers come. But, it’s as much a smell as anything.
That smell fills me with such dread. Confession: I hate moving. The life Landry and I lead means a lot of moving. I do love seeing new places. But I hate the purging that has to happen, all the decisions, the inevitable bitter farewells, the logistics of getting from A to B. All I know is when I smell that ‘thing’, I’m filled with anxiety.
It’s not me moving this time, but my friend down the street. We’ve been there for each other a lot in the last couple of years. Moving does have a smell. It’s the smell of saying goodbye.
Yarn is a good friend of mine even if it does knot and snarl occasionally. I crochet mostly. I can knit… sort of. I remember sitting and watching my great aunt crochet a blanket. She was making multiple small squares (that’s ‘blocks’ in the trade) in what’s called an afghan stitch that would later make into a blanket. I’d never seen anyone crochet before. I was hooked. My mom dug into the cedar chest and hauled out some yarn she’d never used and an instruction book on fiber craft (she used to knit, it turned out). And I think we went to Michaels so I could get some hooks. I spent long ours making destroying and remaking squares of various stitches.
The repetition is soothing. I can sit for hours watching TV, movies, or youtube and let the yarn flow over and through my fingers. I made twin-sized blankets for both my girls. Joy’s is in uber bright colors in a subtle basket weave stitch. Constance’s is repeating squares of beige with vivid color blossoming from their centers. Those took months and after they were done, I took a long break from crocheting. But Nerdling needs his blanket, too. I bought yarn months ago, maybe more than a year. And I did a couple of sample hexagons. His will be a very geometric design. I’m trying to make his blanket with an eye to aging. Trucks and planes would be cute now, but embarrassing someday. He likes it a lot and he’s curious about the process.
I want to write more, but crochet and other fiber craft seem to be what I need now.
We always had a cat in the house when I was growing up. Sometimes, more than one. It’s a nice thing for me to have one in the house. So, I adopted a cat while I was finishing college. When he died, all three of the children were young and I had quite a lot on my plate. After a year and a half, we did a trial run to see if we were ready for a new feline companion. I took in a Persian for a friend while she traveled for six weeks.
The beautiful stupid cat was a lot of fun. But, I had to constantly referee encounters with the Nerdling and Padishah Cat. Persians have possibly had all common sense bred out of them. Common sense must reside in the sinuses. No matter how many times Nerdling grabbed a handful of fur, Padishah never learned to run from him. But then, I don’t think the Padishah was geared that way. He had a very elegant walk, sashaying along with his flowing tail trailing behind him. Padishah would occasionally trot like a dressage horse: it was no faster than a walk, but with a bit more action in the gait. I’m used to cats pelting through the house at full speed for no apparent reason. Such indignities were beneath Padishah Cat. Apparently, self-preservation by fleeing my errant son was also an indignity to be avoided.
Padishah Cat was very curious. He liked to explore the house, dishwasher, closets, and suchlike. My favorite was the day he was investigating a suitcase. We never seem to get the luggage put away before it’s time to travel again. I had one rolling bag, standing on end, against the wall of my room. Padishah jumped up on top, because it seemed like fun. Even more fun, the zipper wasn’t fully closed. Padishah realized he could just slip down through the open portion. Thought led to action and Cat was caught in the suitcase. I was glad I saw his amazing disappearing act. Heaven only knows how long Padishah would have been stuck in there before it entered his inbred mind to request release from solitary.
After the trial run with Padishah Cat, I decided we (meaning Nerdling) were not ready for a cat just yet.
I let Constance choose a movie to watch as part of her birthday celebration. She wanted to watch ‘Parent Trap’. It’s the 1998 version with Lindsey Lohan. I remembered it being cute and amusing, so I said yes.
There’s a scene in which Hallie, pretending to be her identical twin sister Annie, is reunited with her mom. She has no memory of her mom. From Hallie’s perspective, it’s been forever since they’ve been together. She’s crying for all of the feelings welling up within her. For her mom, thinking that this child is Annie, the separation has been relatively short. She’s a bit perplexed that her daughter is overwrought.
Then, it hit me. This is what Heaven is like. It will, in all likelihood, be many years (decades) before I see my Mom again. I’ll rush up to her, so happy to see her again. How good it will feel to be held in her arms and let her wipe away those happy tears. For her, it won’t have been long at all. It will be right and natural that we are reunited. Of course this was the way it was meant to be. I’ll be home.
I miss her touch. Have you ever had a friend whose hugs felt amazing? It’s as though there is a tangible flow of love that seeps in through your skin. She could do that. Mom used to rub my back when we were sitting next to each other. It didn’t really matter what she did: scratch or massage. Her touch was like sunshine for my soul. I felt more complete and whole as a person. Mom’s absence now is a hole that no one else can fill.
She’d had a fairly unremarkable elective surgery earlier in the week. I talked to her the next day. She sounded great, optimistic even. And the next thing I knew, she was gone. I’ll never hear her voice again or feel her touch. My son might not remember her.
They visited for a few weeks in the fall. I’m really grateful I pushed for them to stay longer than originally planned. I’m grateful she got to meet all of her grandbabies. I have faith that she went to Heaven. I know she’s walking easily, chatting with her own mother. Oh, how I remember her grief when her own mother died. And now it’s my turn.
I can be happy for her and sad for me and my family. That divide which stands between life and death is stark. I was looking at the clouds as the sun rose. It was that moment when the clouds seem to shine with their own light: brilliant and dazzling. I felt like she was there in the midst of that glorious shining and I was under the deepest of dark clouds without her.
I told Landry I could almost pretend it hadn’t happened. My day to day life hasn’t changed. But there is this sick feeling in my gut and a feeling of nakedness – the vulnerability of grief.
Do you categorize your friends? These are the friends I drink with. These are my nerdy friends who like Dr. Who. These are my friends that would drive the get-a-way car. Well, now I have a list of friends who have lost someone close. They’ll get what I’m going through.
How are you?
It’s such an innocent question. I find I don’t know how to answer it anymore. Mostly I feel abysmal. I haven’t slept well since it happened and my appetite is low. I’m jet-lagged. I went home for a week to lay her to rest with my family. And now I’m back. Grief and fatigue and the stress of travel have done a number on me. I broke down and sobbed in the airport.
I wish I could be with her now, but I have work to do here. I have to raise my own babies. Some day, I will cross over myself. She’ll be there waiting for me with a smile and a big hug.