Mom Kisses

I had this terrific idea for a Mother’s Day blog post.  In it, I was going to tell you a story about my Mom and how I followed her around everywhere she went.  You see, I started stalking her as soon as I could walk and didn’t stop until she passed away in 2006.  At times it would drive her a tad insane and she’d get these crazy ideas that maybe doors would stop me.  “Do you have to follow me?” “I’m glad you asked.  Yes, I do. This is what happens when you decide to only have one kid.” While those doors may have prevented me from going into the actual room, I knew she’d eventually have to come out and I was patient.  Plus, I knew that those doors that kept me from her weren’t sound proof; where my legs couldn’t take me, my voice could.  When the doors were open, I would listen to Mom and watch her closely as she fixed her hair or applied her make-up and then I’d try to copy her whenever she wasn’t around.  Anyone who has met me knows I wasn’t quite so successful with imitating her in those departments, and that I had to come to terms with the more “wash and go” approach I’ve mastered now.  “Eh, things are brushed, I’m ready to greet the world.”  I have to be threatened with an event before I’ll even take a stab at styling my hair and trying to find the foundation.

One of Mom’s daily make-up rituals was blotting her lipstick.  She would make these perfect little squares of tissue with a single lip imprint.  You’d find them sitting neatly on the counter before they were discarded into the trash.  I came to think of them as Mom kisses.  A perfect set of red lips in the dead center of tissue.

When My Blog Idea Tanked

When Mom passed away I inherited her purse.  To this day I’ve been hesitant about digging through it.  I limited myself to the information I needed to pull out related to her death.  As a kid, I quickly learned that the purse was off limits. I was never allowed to go through her purse without her permission, and even with permission I had to limit my rummaging to what I needed – Kleenex, gum or keys.  On my first pass through her purse, I guiltily retrieved her driver’s license and insurance information, but I did notice a single square of tissue; a perfect little Mom kiss.  I remember I held my breath and my eyelids fluttered to hold back  tears.  There it was, the last Mom kiss probably on the way to the hospital; she wouldn’t leave the house without getting “fixed-up” – even if it was the emergency room.

As I thought about her this week, I thought “I will brave her purse, remove her kiss, take a photo and then write the story on this blog as a tribute.”  In my mind, it was a very touching tribute.  This morning rolled around and I fought down the feelings of guilt as I opened her purse.  I’m really not supposed to be doing this. I looked in and didn’t see the kiss. It must have made it to the bottom of the purse some how.  I cautiously removed each item, pulling out her brush, her wallet and her address book.  That’s when I saw the hints of tissue.  The Mom kiss.  I was the Indiana Jones of purse excavation. I tried to quickly decide whether to use an actual camera or one of the apps on my iPhone to take the photo.  I kicked myself a bit, because I really have been thinking of ways to create intense bright light by using things available in the house.  I worried about how it would photograph and then decided it would all turn out fine; the story would be about sentimentality and picture wasn’t the important piece.  I pulled out the tissue.  It was wadded up with lipstick smears.  There was another – also, a big wad with lipstick smears and then there was yet one more.  Gross.  No need to discuss that one. I marched everything over to the trash.  It turns out my perfect preserved Mom kiss was only a trick of my imagination – an oasis in the sadness surrounding her unexpected death.  Or, more likely, a  way for Mom to say from beyond, “now will you stop digging around in my purse?”  I think I’ll go put that back in the closet now.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I deeply miss your real Mom kisses.  I miss following you around.  And I promise, I’ll stay out of your purse.

There’s No Business Like Show Business

“Let’s start from the very beginning
A very good place to start…”

I grew up on musical comedies.  Songs from “Cabaret” to “A Chorus Line” to “All That Jazz” resonated throughout our house. The voices of Marni Nixon, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Paul Robeson poured from the speakers along with those awesome overtures that teased you with hints of the music to come.  And Mom and I would belt out each song as it played. If a long car trip loomed ahead, Mom and I would play a singing alphabet game where you’d start with a song whose first letter began with “A” and then you’d work your way down to Z.  For the record, “A” was always “Abba Dabba Honeymoon” from “Meet Me in St. Louis”.  It became a tradition, if we were together, there was a good chance we’d burst into song.  If you added my aunt and my cousin Kim to the mix, they’d usually join in and we might throw together an impromptu poorly choreographed dance routine (Viva Las Vegas springs to mind).

When I’d go to my summer daycare center around 2nd grade, the teachers would encourage us to bring records from home and I’d always show up with albums like “Oklahoma” or “Paint Your Wagon” while the other kids brought in the likes of Bobby Darrin’s “Splish Splash” or The Coaster’s “Charlie Brown” – music I didn’t know.  The teachers would almost audibly groan when I’d get pushy about playing my album; I could be rather unrelenting when it came to show tunes.  Dad tried his best to expose me to Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, The Weavers and Arlo Guthrie, but they weren’t the songs that my Mom sang and personally I loved it best when Dad sang “Old Man River” in his best baritone (it’s beautiful) – although, I will say that Dad (who can yodel) also does an amazing Wemoweh.  

Now  before you get some crazy idea that I was completely isolated from pop music,  I did have teenage aunts (babysitters) who adored the Beatles – and because of them, I loved them, too and still love them today (for the record, my favorite has always been George Harrison – because he was the best, take that McCartney fans).  I may  have gone through a Shaun Cassidy and Barry Manilow phase that I prefer not to talk about. And surely, “Grease” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” can count towards pop in some way, right?

By 9th grade I had decided that I needed to fit in more with my classmates (I was kind of a weird kid – totally surprising, I know), so I went out of my way to listen to pop music.  I’d come home from school, do my homework and then flip on our local pop music station, K-98.  It hurt my brain, but after a few weeks (and high song rotations) I learned to like The Police, Duran Duran, The Go-Go’s, The Fixx, Tears for Fears and Modern English.  (Jay, if you burst into “every cake you bake and every snake you shake” or any other variation, I’ll beat you.  That’s not how it goes!!!!  You’ve been warned.)  And over the years various friends and roommates further helped shape my tastes

Two days before Mom passed away, we were sitting in an emergency room trying to get her properly triaged and eventually admitted.  At that time, we didn’t know she’d recently suffered a major heart attack.  Several hours of sitting there and we were both kind of bored and punchy so I started singing the most annoying song I know to lift her spirits (you know, the way those annoying things always seem to cheer people up).  I sang “Seasons of Love” from “Rent”, which was an awesome rendition, especially considering that I only know the one line, but in singing that one line, I discovered you can actually sing it over and over again to the entire tune until your mother threatens to kill you (then it’s probably best to move on to the next song or ask about Fred Astaire).  When the funeral director asked which hymns I’d prefer to have played, I asked to play show tunes and handed him a CD.  Mom’s music life revolved around musicals and it was only fitting that she should go out with those familiar strains filling the funeral home.

Recently, I was talking to April about all of this and after asking what my favorite musical was when I was a kid (“The King and I” – I even saw Yul Brenner perform the iconic role at the State Fair of Texas Music Hall, which was amazing), she suggested that we take Singing Improv 101.

… and that’s how I ended up unexpectedly taking an extra improv class.

I do it because I miss singing with Mom.  I do it because I wish Mom had pursued her love of theater and musicals.  I do it because I know she would say, “I think that’s neat”, which was how she expressed being deeply impressed with something, and I do it because she would never ever say, “I’m so surprised you’re doing this.”  I miss her and for a couple of hours each week, I feel closer to her.

“Yesterday they told you would not go far
That night you open and there you are…”

Writing Group

Well, today is Writing Group day and after much foot dragging, I have my story. I got a little tripped up on the writing prompts, where were:

1. Your most memorable experience involving something inherently Mexican (a vacation, a meal, a game, a souvenier, a friend). (honoring Cinco de Mayo)

2. If you had the opportunity to have a last conversation with someone who died, who would that person* be, and what would you say? (in honor of Memorial Day)

* feel free to substitute an animal or house plant or tree (Dutch Elm, American Chestnut, Christmas tree)

I toyed with the idea of writing about performing in a mariachi – about being tugged on a flatbed trailer through East Austin while trying to remain upright while playing Los Caballeros or singing Solamente Una Vez without tumbling into the road and smahing my viola. I could have spoken to my imperfect grito, which would make your ears bleed or how I love El Cascabel as sung by the beautiful Terri Hernandez or even how I secretly dig mariachi music, but then all the bolitos would scurry for their Top 40 stations and I’d find myself an outcast among my friends.

I finally decided on doing the Memorial Day tribute, but I’ve overdone the “Mom” theme, so I tried to think of a way to make it about the missing Roanoke colonists – my idea was “what is something that is not known, but could be known if you knew the right person to ask”. I didn’t get very far with that. I kept going back to the fact that I’m actually pissed off at Mom for not haunting me. (Look, you have your very special issues and I have mine.) Fine, I really don’t believe in ghosts, but that’s not a good reason for her not to take a moment out of her eternity to make a small appearance. When you grow up hearing “your great-grandmother visited your grandmother” or “your aunt heard from your grandmother” you end up with a lot of expectations from your dead. And I’m sure on a deeper level, it lightly touches on some of my Mom issues.

Anyway, here’s my submission – maybe it’s a little too rushed – too forced – too something, but my brain actually locked up when it came to the prompts. My only hope is I don’t embarrass myself today.


I don’t believe in ghosts. But with that said, the last time I saw a ghost, I was five and likely high on tales from daycare or hallucinating after being tricked into eating my Mother’s signature dish, Dr. Pepper marinated Spam.

Now there are plenty of ghost stories on my mother’s side of the family. There was the time my grandmother, Grandbuddi, was sitting at her kitchen table and turned to see her own mother staring back at her from the hallway. After Grandbuddi passed away, my aunt was going through a particularly rough time in her life, weeping on her bed and felt Grandbuddi kneel beside and pat her back comforting her with the words, “it’ll be ok, darling”. That same aunt woke abruptly one morning startled after having a dream where her younger sister, my Aunt Jen, passed away. A few minutes later the phone rang and my uncle delivered the unexpected and terrible news.

My mother never personally ran into any ghostly form of Grandbuddi, or anyone else to my knowledge; however, she did lose complete control of one side of her body while driving home from work. At that exact same moment, Grandbuddi had a stroke.

My mother would often say we had a connection and would use the ghost stories to reinforce this belief – that everyone in our family was connected – that there was some inexplicable bond tying us all together. To further prove this, Mom would point to the times we’d buy each other the same present. The best example was the year I bought Mom a ceramic clown that played “Send in the Clowns” a gift she had also purchased for me that same Christmas. At times I would call her house and she’d cheerfully declare, “I knew it was you! I was trying to send you a mental message to call me.” Or we’d play the game of “think of something and let me see if I can guess,” which usually had mixed results.

When Mom passed away she didn’t come to me in a vision, the muscles in my chest didn’t tighten up and I didn’t have any prophetic dreams. We were actually right in the middle of a conversation and for half a second before I ran down a hall desperately calling for the nurses, I thought she was teasing me. Since they weren’t expecting this, I wasn’t expecting it and I stood in the hallway waiting for them to bring me back in the room so she and I could laugh about how scary everything had been. Again, as I stood in the hallway waiting, I didn’t feel a breeze or see a shadow flit by; I was alone.

I’ve since had many dreams where my mother and I talk– usually about movies or musicals or why there’s a singing animal randomly strolling around. I talk to her picture. I talk to her at her grave and I’m keenly aware of how alone I am in those moments. She doesn’t send me butterflies or twittering birds. I don’t see her out of the corner of my eye shimmering above her grave. It’s just me and my thoughts.

When I even entertain the thought of one last conversation, it goes something like this:
How are things? Good good. Un-life treating you well? There’s a new show out now called “Glee”, lots of musical numbers. I think you might like it. Oh, and one more thing… you couldn’t be bothered with a little haunting? So busy these days you can’t get around to appearing in the hall? No little pats on the back for your only daughter? No no, I totally understand, you and Aunt Jen have some shopping to do, because really material items are so important where you are. No really, I get it. You only have all of eternity to work on your relationship with Grandbuddi. I’m just saying Grandbuddi managed to find the time. No, this isn’t a competition. I was just thinking you could pop by for a second or two, say hello and then be back on your way to hunting down Bob Fosse. Seriously though, could it hurt you to say hello to your daughter once in awhile? I wouldn’t think so.

After all this time, I figure you owe me more than a whiff of your perfume or blowing a balloon around on your birthday. That’s simply not going to cut it after being absent all these years without so much as a, “fine, how do you boo?” That’s right, I’m not going to be placated by a little visit in a dream anymore. I want solid information. I need you to do a little investigating before you pop back down. I want to know what became of the original Roanoke colony. I’m really curious about that and I’ve also got some friends who want to know the real story behind Stonehenge. I don’t know, Mom just find some druid from that time period. Maybe they could point you in the right direction. Mother, if I knew who to ask, don’t you think I’d tell you. It’s not like there was a prehistoric gravestone labeled “Bob the Druid: Architect of That Pile of Stones Over There”. Don’t forget, you’re my mom and you’re the one that put this notion in my head to begin with, so it’s not my fault I’m now fussy about the whole “not visiting” thing. I think as a bonus you should also find out about Jack the Ripper. Who was that guy? My money is on Queen Victoria’s nephew. Oh, you know something different? And don’t tell me that this is like your secret handshake when you belonged to the Rainbow Girls – no “Club Members Only” info. You’ve missed three of my birthdays and who knows how many potential haunting days and we never did get to see Flags of Our Father, so this is the very least you can do. No, I don’t care about Amelia Earhart.

Well, I love you, too and send my love to Buddi and Aunt Jen. No, you don’t have to talk to Dad’s family. Mom, I thought you were supposed to be a little nicer once you were there. Don’t forget, Old Hollywood will still be there – you can break away once in awhile – Judy can wait.

But remember that day, Mom? You can still faintly hear the song if you close your eyes.

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air

You said we were connected. Where are you?


I’ve been following the Phoebe Prince story – the story of the 15-year-old girl who recently committed suicide after being bullied at school. Over the past week, I’ve found myself reading excerpts from various articles and books like Barbara Coloroso’s “The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander” trying to wrap my head around the nature of bullying and trying to discern the path these authors/lecturers took to become advocates for the bullied. I guess some part of me feels like I could help by speaking to my experience, but that kernel of doubt creeps in and I find I’m both 12-years-old and helpless again. You see, I was bullied and despite that experience, I’m not sure that I emerged at the other end as a better or even stronger person – I’m not sure I’m the best choice to evangelize about the experience. What I can say is that I’m alive and other people seem to get a small modicum of enjoyment out of that, which I suppose is something, but there are moments in my life that I have never stopped living (and reliving) – like my 7th grade year or talking to my mother seconds before she died – those moments define me.

When my world began tumbling down hill:
We moved back to Dallas after my Mom spent a year out of work attending graduate school. When we left, she was about to lose the house, she couldn’t find a job and our only option was living with her mother. We arrived in the middle of a lovely Texas summer where the only real relief from the heat came from the noisy attic fan endlessly clunking along. Most of the windows in the house were painted shut, but there was a sole window unit in my grandmother’s bedroom. We’d occasionally escape into her room for little hits of cool. Life at “home” was far from perfect, but really who has that life? Both my mother and grandmother chain smoked in this closed-up house, I began coughing up small bits of esophageal tissue and didn’t stop for years. My grandmother was also an alcoholic and not one of those occasional polite drinkers – this was an every night affair that always ended with her spewing out the nastiest bile that had been stored up in her brain – things she clearly thought, but waited for the alcohol to settle in so she could feel more comfortable slurring them out. Some people wonder what a particular family member thought of them. I know exactly what my grandmother thought of me. She wasn’t shy about sharing when she had a drink in hand. Still, this isn’t about her – this is to give you some idea of my shaky support network.

The first day of school, I went to the bus stop with all the unfamiliar kids and set my viola case down. As I waited, watching for the bus to roll up, a group of boys began punching me repeatedly in the back. They’d come running up and then WHAM another punch landed. I just stood there taking the blows, because I was taught not to fight back. When I did go home to tell my mother about the incident, I was told “you must have done something to irritate them – people don’t just randomly hit other people.” I learned from that exchange that it was my fault for the abuse and I understood from that moment forward that what I did to irritate people was be born “ugly” and have “four eyes.” I not only deserved the abuse, but invited it for reasons outside of my control. I became deeply ashamed and embarrassed for my perceived flaws.

The abuse escalated to where I’d walk down the hall and people would start barking at me – strangers – kids I didn’t know at all. You see, I was a “dog”. My nickname at that time was “Frenchy”. The abuse then spread to the elementary school which was across from my bus stop and kids from 1st to 5th grade joined-in. So in addition to being hit and insulted at the bus stop, I got to enjoy little kids skipping off to their elementary school classes barking at me as they passed by – again, calling me “Frenchy”. If I complained, my Mother reminded me that it was my fault. In Mom’s defense, she was a popular girl in school and the daughter of a socialite who had been president of her sorority – I might as well have been a little three-headed alien with antennae in their midst, because this whole idea of bullying was completely foreign to them. My Mother apologized to me 20 years later after watching an episode of Oprah that dealt with bullying. She felt horrible, because it was only then that she realized that bullies don’t always need provocation.

On one particularly bad day, I was informed that if I rode the bus again I’d be killed. The very next day I walked several miles to school trying to figure out how being so very ugly would make someone want to kill me over it. (To this day I still deal with being “ugly” and I still deal with the anger of what happened and how it still reaches through time to hurt me.) I became fixated with dying and wrote about it frequently in a diary. I suppose I was fortunate – my grandmother was always at home, her garage was so cluttered no cars sat in there, I was highly pain adverse and I had just made a new friend who had nothing better to do than beat up other kids, especially kids that bothered me. I also figured out that for some people “quiet” equated “scary,” and I learned to leverage it along with a newly found colorful and highly offensive vocabulary (I still cling to today as my vulgar security blanket).

I wish I could say that the bullying ended when we returned to Austin at the end of 7th grade, it didn’t. I spent the next two years being knocked down, chased, threatened, stalked and repeatedly hit on the head with stacks of books. All my fault. The day it stopped, it was 9th grade and I had just been slammed in the head again while walking down the math hallway. I turned around, confronted the girl and in the lowest audible voice I could manage, I growled, “if you touch me again, I will kill you”. I was convincing enough that she never touched me again.

In my case, telling wasn’t really an option. When I told, I learned I was to blame. If I was to blame, then there wasn’t much point in escalating the same issue to teachers or other officials since clearly they would say I was antagonizing the kids with my existence. Also, any bullied kid knows that you’re never alone in being bullied and you would see that when other harassed kids finally told, they’d pay for it dearly – either the bully would ramp up the abuse or, on the off-chance you could get them suspended, their friends would willingly pick up the slack. A friend’s sister was once pushed down a flight of stairs, the school officials were notified and they did nothing and the abuse continued. Why would I tell?

However, there were two major things that helped me get through these years. The first was orchestra where I was accepted completely and I was one of the top players in both Dallas and Austin. I wasn’t odd or weird or strange, I was gifted – someone to look up to – I was cool. The second thing – my friends. If you look at my very closest friends, the one thing they have in common is they are “protectors”. They’re the kinds of people who don’t abide injustice. The kind who if you’re talking to me, then you’re talking to them and you probably don’t want to be talking to them no matter how badly you want to take a swing at me. I’ve never been sure what I offer in return, but I’m glad it’s something – there’s nothing worse than just dangling out there alone like bully bait. It also didn’t hurt that I moved back to Austin and back to a group of kids where many of them had been friends since 2nd grade and it didn’t hurt that I chose to live with a parent who didn’t believe I was to blame. When I got hit in the face with a volleyball on our High School’s volleyball court, my Dad, my champion was all over the school and all over the gym teacher who passively watched it happen.

I’m not really sure what can be done about bullies who rely on fear and the inaction of peers and adults to thrive. I personally think it starts with the kids – kids like a friend of mine who in Jr. High stood between a group of kids throwing basketballs at another and their victim. Once he made his stand and because he was well liked, the other kids backed down. I don’t believe he’s the only kid capable of knowing right from wrong or the only one capable of doing the right thing in the right moment. Kids should be encouraged and given positive incentives to stand up and do the right thing instead of passively watching. I think there needs to be support for these victimized kids in the school since not all kids get the right kind of support at home – a place outside of counseling where they can feel safe. I fortunately had orchestra.

Bullies aren’t always children; it’s important to remember that. They don’t always use threats of violence as their weapons of choice – they can do tremendous damage with words and the tacit approval of bystanders alone and they do thrive on your fear and self-loathing. Because of that, I’m fairly particular about who I choose to have in my life. One of the great epiphanies I’ve had as an adult is that I don’t have to put up with a lot of extraneous bullshit from people whose opinions I don’t care about. That’s a huge step for me, realizing I don’t need approval from assholes. I also don’t always owe it to everyone to be polite, especially if they’re abusive, and I definitely don’t have to suck it up anymore. I felt a great deal of relief the day I pitched my diary – the one that chronicled all of the negative things I experienced and all the horrible things I felt were true about myself – those awful words that glared back at me through my tormentor’s loathing eyes – they sit in a landfill exactly where they should be. I am mostly free, yet I still very much live in those moments. I’ve just added another defensive protector to my rolls – me.

Thank you to all my champions who keep me here.

… and that’s enough of the serious – enough “real” – I just happen to be inspired by a counselor who encouraged people who were bullied to talk about their experiences.

For Mom (1941 – 2006)

With each passing year Veteran’s day, the day I unexpectedly lost my mom, becomes easier. There were a couple of unexpected and jarring bumps that managed to put a bit of an edge back on the day. Two friends lost parents within the last week (Esther Arbuckle and Orville Jennings). I’m at a complete loss of words except to express my deepest heart-felt sympathy to both of those families. I can only offer that time does heal wounds, despite how trite that statement must seem in this moment. I find that I spend less time standing in her hospital room watching as I lose her repeatedly, clinging onto those last threads of conversation and I can sit quietly in a room without fear that I might dissolve. I can almost watch shows now that have dramatic hospital death bed scenes… almost… baby steps.

So today, I wanted to share a little about my mother through music. People will tell you a lot of things about Mom, boiling her down to a few odd traits, which while interesting and mostly true, show they only knew the surface of who she was and I think to begin to get a foundation, you have to start with the music she enjoyed. And I want to say she was so much more than Oz or early presents or popsicles and that I’m sorry few of you really got to know her.

A little Gershwin… (performed by Leonard Bernstein, of course)

… and that’s just a little bit of who my Mom was.

Rant: Don’t Talk About My Momma

I thought I’d take a moment to remind everyone (all ten of you) of the definition of a “rant”. I know, I know… you already know, but it is one of the tags I use when I decide I just can’t take it anymore and I can’t think of one “near witty”, “perilously close to being humorous”, or “I kind of wiggled the edges of my mouth and thought “tee hee”” thing to say.

So, for those of you who saw the tag “rant” and sent me a note saying “you sounded angry to me” – here’s the definition:

Violent or extravagant speech or writing.
A speech or piece of writing that incites anger or violence: “The vast majority [of teenagers logged onto the Internet] did not encounter recipes for pipe bombs or deranged rants about white supremacy” (Daniel Okrent).

rant. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved July 08, 2008, from website:

Whew, we got that cleared up. Now, if you don’t mind I have a rant brewing.

My mother wasn’t a saint or maybe she was, but to my knowledge she was never officially canonized nor beatified, but she was my Mom and on days when we weren’t doing that thing that sometimes mothers and daughters do best, I kind of liked her and vice versa. I hold my Mom in high regard, because she deserves no less and I’m probably even more sensitive about that today since she isn’t around to speak for nor defend herself.

So… let’s get to it – the ranting – it’s why you’re still reading.

I’m at lunch yesterday and the subject of my Mom comes up – about how she always made a former co-worker of hers laugh. About how my Mom would tell a juicy story and get to the “good” part, the part told in low voices while checking to see if anyone is listening whom she didn’t want to overhear and she’d whisper, “…and then we held hands… each others!” like she had divuldged something particularly risqué.

Johnny Penis, who was there for the conversation and who thinks he’s God’s potential gift to the gene pool had been talking about all the women who had wanted to “date” him from this old office – Mom’s old office – where he’d started working at while my Mom was slowly dying at home. He never met her. He’s also sleazy. And he was getting antsy that the conversation had turned from his penis, which happens to be his favorite topic when he’s not busily denigrating women. He’s adorable. Really, you should take him home to meet the parents.

“I’d wrap my tamale around your Mom.” I blinked. “I’d do your Mom.” … and he made suggestive hand gestures just in case I misunderstood.

WTF?! Now I could do the back and forth dialog between me and Mr. Penis, but you can probably imagine how the conversation devolved – and once again, I could kick myself for holding back – I felt I couldn’t just let someone completely have it in public (being reserved SUCKS) – my brain got tangled up in the self talk of, “oh no, there are people around and some are his friends, I shouldn’t make a scene” which made me very angry at myself for not defending my Mom full force.

But seriously, who says that? We’re talking about MY MOM. Even if she were alive, you don’t say that about anyone’s mom EVER unless you’re (feel free to insert a slew of appropriate adjectives that would turn this post from PG-17 straight to X for vulgarity (no nudity here folks) – and if you can imagine those words and them coming out of my mouth while I bunched up my face and spit, then that’s exactly how I finished that sentence). And in my head, while he made several disgustingly lewd and salacious remarks, I was playing out what Mom would have thought, which would have mostly been of the PG variety and involve words like “classless” (she was far and away classier than her daughter).

So, just to wrap it all up:
I’m ranting. I am, in fact, kind of angry about the whole thing – thus the tag below – and I am completely, totally, utterly (and every other applicable -ly) appalled . AND I’m mad because I have to still confront this person and tell an adult what is and is not appropriate behavior, something HIS mother should have done.

Birthday: The Models

Shadow Box
Originally uploaded by Beth Doughty

Those at my birthday may have noticed the picture below didn’t have the shadow box. This deserves special mention especially since one of us might have had a mini-meltdown at the birthday party over it.

You see, I have a rare phobia involving model robots in small spaces….
No wait… I’ll start at the beginning. A small story for my friends/family who were at my birthday since I couldn’t choke it out.

When my mother was growing up in the 40’s they lived in a big house with their grandmother, aunt, uncle and her cousin Philip. Mom & Philip did everything together so it was only natural that when Philip and his dad got together for model building that Mom would join them. Well, Uncle Phil explained to a young Mom that girls didn’t build models, which was a lot like saying “as soon as you’re on your own kid, you’re going to build as many models as you can get your hands on” and after being deeply offended that’s what she set about doing.

Mom has built all sorts of ships, shuttle craft and when the Star Wars phenomenon hit the 70’s she grabbed up these models – putting in more work than was called for on C3PO and possibly R2, but that’s actually not the original R2 that she put together – he disappeared – and somewhere in the 90’s we went on a mission to find a duplicate kit. These were the models I took with me for show-and-tell; the envy of all my classmates at the time. In fact, for that one day I was popular – everyone wanted to play with them. (Not that I was old enough in the 70’s to take them anywhere, mind you.) These are the models that always stood on her shelves even when she started to loose everything and had to drastically reduce what she owned to what she could fit into a single bedroom. I would say that of all the models my Mom built, and there were many impressive ones, these meant the most to her.

My cousin Kim used them in part of the display at the funeral to remind people of who Mom was and I remember Kim saying she wanted to do something special with them and I completely forgot about them.

Then my TWENTIETH birthday party came along and I’m pulling out gifts, working my way to opening my “Box o’ Beth” and get to this. Kim had placed Mom’s models in a shadow box, lit up the back with stars and there R2 and 3PO stood before me on the sands of Tattooine.

Kim, I will never be able to express how much this gift meant to me – how incredibly thoughtful – how deeply it touched me. Thank you!

Some Kind of Woman

The Big Blue Mess is going on hiatus for a bit, which could mean a few days or it could mean a few weeks, but I’ll leave you with a poorly worded and poorly constructed “eulogy” or more precisely my random ramblings about my Mother and her “passing”.

I wish I believed as some of my friends do that death is a glorious moment. That being there in that moment, with that person was something to envy. The image I have on replay in my memory is not glorious or comforting; it’s one of confusion and running down a hall yelling at people – relying more on frantic hand gestures than words that the nurses then passed down the line stirring up an entire group of people to run into my Mom’s room. I looked in once to see that she was still convulsing and then I stayed outside the room completely alone. I felt small and upset – angry that the world didn’t just stop just for a few seconds to quietly mourn.

My Mother lived somewhere between the Emerald City and Pompeii at the moment Mt. Vesuvius erupted. If I were to ask her how she would want to be defined, she’d say “not by The Wizard of Oz” which she’ll forever be associated with. She would want people to remember her love of history, Jane Goodall’s work with primates, the Challenger shuttle, robots, model building, tennis, football and movies particularly musicals. In fact, the kind of service she’d love to have would be choreographed by Busby Berkeley, although Bob Fosse would be more than welcome to throw in a number or two. She was the kind of person whose knowledge of movies was so great that she frequently corrected magazines, newspapers and people she saw on air. When I went to visit her on Saturday she was enjoying a “Touch of Evil” on TCM and whispered, “just a second, I want to hear this line…” When Janet Leigh uttered “he was some kind of man” she smiled and said, “ok” indicating that we could start talking.

My Mom also loved to read and write and relate stories and whenever you were about to say goodbye, she’d end with “…just one more thing” so you’d listen a little longer.

My aunt asked me to write her obituary. She said, “you write well, you should do it” but what can you really express in the small space a newspaper allows that encompasses a long and full life?” So let me add a couple more things I really couldn’t for the paper. She grew up in Highland Park and was very proud of that. She got her degree from UT at Arlington in Sociology and took graduate classes at UT in Austin. Her education and where she came from were very important to her; they truly defined my mother more than ruby red slippers ever could. (Although, she once wrote a paper in graduate school about the symbolism of color in The Wizard of Oz – it’s no small wonder that my Mom and that movie were always paired together.)

On Wednesday we’ll release balloons at her graveside while playing Over the Rainbow and all my “… just one more thing before you go’s” will drift away.

But just one more thing…. I’m so sorry Mom. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. I love you and I really like you; you were “some kind of [woman]” and a good friend.