Comfort food

Tomorrow is a BIG race day for my kiddos. County meet. Swimmimg for cred, swimming for a place in the all-star team and swimming for pride-it’s all there.

As swim mom it’s my job to physc them up and to try and calm their angst. Pre-race meal seemed a good place to start. I asked Middle child girl what she wanted.  She’s a bit anxious about what she was picked to swim-2 A relay teams, backstroke and breaststroke-her least favorite.  The boy would want pasta. That’s all the boy-child ever wants. What fun is that? Hard to be supportive-swim-mom making noodles. Our dish of choice at least 2 nights a week. So I didn’t waste time in him. Luckily I picked the more seasoned eater. Middle child delivered. She did want a pre-race meal that was different from the norm. She had a request,”Chicken Olivia-please, please make chicken Olivia!”

That request made me happy. 

Chicken Olivia is my grandmother’s recipe. To me It’s her legacy-that and gooshey rolls. Unfortunately I never learned to make her gooshey rolls. Fortunately her recipe for chicken Olivia was written down. I’ve been making it for a long time. It’s never as good as hers but making it makes me happy. 

Even thinking about it brings me comfort. As casseroles goes it’s nothing special. Rice, chicken, celery…the usual ingredients. It’s comfort food. It’s filling and delicious and homey and simple-sort of like my grandmother. While it cooks it the house fills with tempting smells of butter and goodness. The smell envelopes the room and embraces you like a grandmothers hug.  

My grandmother never met my spirited, sassy, secretly sweet daughter. But yet my girl, seeking comfort, wants the very thing that makes me remember my grandmother the most. She has  found     comfort  in what I find comfort in. And that too makes me happy. 

  
Even the making of the dish brought my girl and I together. Softball kept me out until 9:30 last night. Swim practice had me up and back out at 6:45am. I didn’t prep like I thought I would. As I rushed around getting ready for work and thought about my day I knew getting home in time to make the casserole in Time for dinner would be unlikely. I almost decided to put off making her request but, thankfully, I pulled myself together and made a plan. 3 minutes to set up the rice cooker. 2 minutes to prep the crock-pot. A minute to leave her instructions on what to turn and when to turn it and viola! a plan was made. 

She did her part. I came home to a messy house and a sleeping daughter but the chicken was cooked and the rice was made. So I did my job. I promptly dumped and diced and mixed and melted. Mid-stir I fed  my chunka-munka an apple to sate her gregarious appetite and kept moving. 30 minutes after walking the door the warm scents of bubbling goodness filled our little home. 

My grandmother has been gone a long time. Alzheimer’s took her long before she was actually left us. It’s been ages since I’ve had the gooey-goodness of my grandmothers chicken Olivia. But today, symbolically on a Friday-the day I usually need comforting-my girl asked me to make the very thing that brings me the most comfort. And even more comforting is that something that comforts me  brings comfort to my girl too. 

   

“Look mom! I did my mate-up (non-speech therapist speak) myself!”

Uhhhh…no kidding. 

Too bad that wasn’t make-up…it was much more permanent than simple make-up. Also too bad she did so while in the middle of shopping at the mall of Georgia. 

So the rest of the day I trudged little-Tammy-Fay all theu the mall while her big sister tried on bathing suits for the most anticipated party of her life. Her brother shuffled along too. We all rolled out eyes each time some well meaning adult recoiled in suprise when seeing smurfette and then promptly recovering with a well intentioned lie of ‘well aren’t you pretty.’

Had this been my first child I would have pulled out the baby wipe and…wait a second…had this been my first child I wouldn’t have had a powder blue semi permanent anything in my purse. And I would have been way more attentive. With this one I willingly handed her by 44pound purse just to have a few moments of sanity to devote to my insane middle daughter in the 34 minutes it took her to pick out the perfect life jacket for the party she was going to. 

By the second child I would have left the mall. Less because of the make-up and probably more because she had pitched some major fit. 

The third…She had already pitched a fit and I kept going. The make-up…I licked my fingers to rub it off. It didn’t. I shrugged and kept moving. The other 2 standing in out wake saying,”nuh-uh…moommmmmm…we can’t walk around with her like this!!!!”

“Sure we can,” I assured them. 

“I boo-tee-ful,” declared Bozo. She reached up, grabbed my hand her hers and popped her thumb in her mouth as if to end any conversation. 

She felt beautiful and I didn’t try and tell her otherwise. Some days I would have but not on this day. Some days we all need to feel beautiful. 

Signing it all away

Sign here

The man was very nice. I think he was  patiently explaining what I was signing. But I couldn’t hear him. I was looking at the names…2 matching names on the happy side. 2 names on the other one name-different from the other above it. These other names sat in the other side of the page, the un-happy side. I sat and stared at my name and remembered a time when my name was on the happy side.  Back when my name matched someone’s.  Back when I wanted my name to match because I believed we believed in the same things. The fact that I was here  to do this reminded me of how wrong I was. 

Sign here

Another form slid across the table. Again. I am sure it was explained to me but I couldn’t hear it. All I could hear was my voice in my head screaming, “This isn’t me! This isn’t who I am. This isn’t how I was raised, it’s not what I believe in…” as I saw numbers in the columns-one much lower than the first. But I didn’t say anything other then, “I am so sorry” in a broken voice.  I signed. I could feel my face flush in utter mortification. I was embarrassed-Not because of the catch in my voice- but because of what I was having to sign. 

Sign here.

He told me what I was signing but I couldn’t hear. I sat, embarrassed, and wanted to tell them that once upon a time this was a home–not the crappy, ill maintained, run down and sad place that it was now. I didn’t say that. I did say I am sorry again as a tear finally spilled from my full eyes. They thought I was apologizing for crying but I wasn’t. I was apologizing for this-apologizing that they, perfect strangers, had to sweep in to save the day. I was apologizing to be here. Sorry that someone had put me here-in this place-in this situation. 

Sign here. 

So I did. As I signed I thought of the names on the happy side of the page and of how they were already planning what they would be doing as soon as they signed all these forms.  I thought of how the wall paper would probably be the first thing they took down. They wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care, that I I personally put up that wallpaper-my first attempt-for the first thanksgiving I was going to host.  I thought of all those nights I sat up holding my baby girl as she slept on my chest-just me and the quiet of my home and the soft snores of my sleeping baby. I thought how excited my son was when his man cave and the Pintrest inspired swinging bed. I thought of my 2 big babies helping paint the pale pink walls in preparation for their new sister. 

Sign here. 

This time I did hear his explanation-I was signing saying there was nothing affecting the property. I panicked. “I didn’t even know about what you found last week!” I would never be able to sign my name to a statement that I knew all there was to know. In my heart I would never know all there was to know. My name stood for something. I wouldn’t tarnish this name too. “There was a lot she didn’t know,” one man explained to the man asking me to sign. They explained I was signing that to the best of my knowledge I had disclosed all I knew. With that explanation I signed. 

Sign here-we like duplicates.

There were 4 forms in front of me. I didn’t hear what they were. I signed. One after the other. Each signature was harder and harder. Sign here for failing. Sign here for being an idiot. Sign here to acknowledge you are no judge of character. Sign here to totally eradicate what was. No one said it but that’s all I heard. 

Almost done here-just a few more. Sign here.

He didn’t know that the shorter the stack got-the heavier my heart got. Though I wanted this over and done a part of me knew that the last signature in that last page signed it all away—all the plans and the memories. It didn’t really matter-they memories were tarnished and ugly now but still….

Sign here.

So I did. 

And finally-last one-sign here. 

This one was a form that showed my old name next to my new name. There in black and white was the past right next to the present. And with one last stroke of the pen I signed it all away. 

Got the will so found a way!

The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. How would you caption this?

  
It’s not much of a swan song but it’s pretty appropriate for the ending to what I once called my own personal fairy tale. Tragic? Embarrassing? Fitting? In the end I just settled for y’all ain’t gonna believe this $&@&!

A year after I moved out someone bought the dwelling I formerly called home. The 2 men formerly in my life who had been living there had to clear out-clean up and get it ready for the new owners. Having been Uhh-rudely reminded that I had signed a decree that everything left there no longer belonged to me-I didn’t have much of a role in the final move (other than to nag to be sure it was getting done). Turns out an ex-wife nagging is less effective than a wife’s nagging.) In the end I was granted a few last items. They were moved to the landfill called a garage. 

Issue: the items were large-my daughters bed, a bookcase, a washer and 4 chairs. They had to be out of the house by Thursday.  I have a compact car. 

Where there is a will there is a way. Aren’t I full of pithy little phrases today. I worried and fretted on how to get those things from there to here all weekend. In the end,  I kept coming to the same conclusion: it had to be out of there and I have a compact car. 

But I’ve got one hell of a will…so I found a way. 

 

I recruited my son-my skeptic and doubtful son who stared to complain  but took one look at my face and promptly changed his mind. Wise man. He wordlessly got in my compact car and away we went. 

He managed to remain silent even as we hit our first obstacle-the power was out so we couldn’t even get the garage door open. He was smart enough to not point out our little set back. 

Eventually we got in and surveyed the mess. My bequeathed gifts sat in the middle of the filth. 

The washer proved to be challenging. A few tears, a lot of sweat and more than one swear word were involved. I almost quit. My son wanted to quit. But I don’t tend to have that gear and it had to be done. Had to. So we shoved and heaved and pushed and pulled until the washing machine was in the dolly-sort of-and off I went. My son calling, “..this so has to go in your blog…” as I maneuvered down the road with my load. 

Next-a bookcase and the box springs. Those were easier to get on the dolly but handled like my dads 66 mustang with non-power steering the first time I drive it with whimpy-noodle arms. This time homeslice yelled…”can you imagine how this looks. How we look….” As I headed out. By now I am laughing because it is going on my blog and I can imagine how we look. cra-cra
 

The mattress was almost more than I could take. Too heavy to carry, too big for the car, too unyielding for the trolley. Had to call on that will again…and some rags we found in the garage floor. Compact car owners tend to NOT have bungee cords. We rigged and pulled and got it up on the roof.. Pulled the cord to tie it on and ….of course…the cord wasn’t long enough. A few more curses and I declared,”just drive”. He started to object-saw my face and quickly got into the car. We each grabbed an end, pulled and hard as we could and slammed the door. Redneck-check. Desperate-yep. Stupid-probably. But guess what…it worked! 

“That’s what this family does Mom-we get it done.” It’s not always pretty-it’s not always the right or the best way—but we’ve got will and we found a way. My 2 car garage now only holds the car that doesn’t run and 2 washers, a leather couch with a hole in it, a bed and enough garage sale junk to hopefully fund 2 days at the beach after we visit the lovely metropolis of Tifton, Ga as we chase gold in a few weeks. But the door closes. I’ve done my part and I’ve taught–no I’ve shown my boy-where there is a will there is always a way. Even more importantly-i showed him that even fat ladies can be strong. :)

Day 2 and already behind

First day of ‘summer’ schedule and I am already behind.

Day 1 was Memorial Day. I had intentions of playing a bit but getting enough done so that the week went smoothly. It’s the first week of BUBBA CAMP so I had some anxieties and wanted to leave things n top-top shape to make things easier on everyone. Intentions…probably should have said delusions. We went to the pool. That was ALL we did. I have the sun burn and the ramsacked house to prove it. Not off to a stellar start here.

Day 2 requires man child to be at the pool at 5:30. AM. That’s the morning…although it’s obscene to call this time of day morning. It’s the really more like the middle of the night. It’s dark and egad…it’s 5:30. But he had friends who drove him the last few weeks of school. Its my turn. So I literally hike up my big girl panties and wake up at 4:40. AM. Still AM–people . Of course I don’t GET up until 5. And then I leap up panicked that I am behind schedule. Turns out I am not the only one.

Man child? Nope. Not a sign of him. House is dark. He is not up. Despite being warned about being responsible and not waking his sisters. I look at the dark stairs and sigh. After I murmur a few choice words. Up those stairs I’ve got a rambunctious dog, a whiny wee-one and a hormonal pre-teen . Its like the stairway to HELL. I DO NOT WANT to climb the stairs…almost as much as I don’t want to be up at 5a, But since I am and HE’S NOT I trudge up, dodge the dog, stub my toe and feel my way, in the pitch black to the bi-fold doors where I hiss the heathens name. He answers like it’s 4PM and he’s been up all day. All chipper and perky like he’s beein waiting on me all along. Liar.

While he grabs his swim bag I ‘make breakfast. At 5:02 I count opening oatmeal as “making’. I have to open 2 packs after all. 45 seconds and VIOLA…breakfast is served. We collide in the dark at the bottom of the stairs. I hand him his oatmeal and grunt for him to hurry before stumbling to the car. I Did I mention its DARK at 5am? Well it is.

Me, the boy and the oatmeal take off. Its DARN dark at this ungodly hour. I start in on my ’if I am going to do this you have to do your part’ speech but it lacks its usual zip. I am not nearly so fierce at 5am. I have only gotten a few lines in when I am interrupted. By a car horn. What?/??? “It’s my alarm” man child explains to which I retort, “lot of good it does us now”. He’s saved from making a response was we pull up to his friends house. It’s dark. Man child shovels in a few bites of oatmeal. I look at him like he’s grown 2 heads. He stares back in the blue light of the car dash.

“Early,” he mumbles waving to the clock with his laden spoon.. Seems in my hampered state of mind I didn’t account for the extra 9 minutes on my watch, the microwave clock or the car clock. Hey…a non-morning person’s gotta do what a non-morning person gotta do. It would help everyone if said non-moring person remembered this though. Sitting in a dark car after waking up your sons best friend by being 13 minutes early at 5 ish is NOT pleasant. Another alarm sounds. “This is when I get up mom.” My alarm is set for 5:10 and 5:13. They get me at 5:20 and we are always right on time.” He wakes up his friend and off we go. Still early.

Really? I pick one thing to be early for and it’s 5:30 AM swim practice.

I come home full of BIG plans…really making breakfast for the girls, washing and drying my hair, packing my lunch and maybe getting to work early. Early bird gets the worm….right. Oh yes, big plans. Instead
I fall face first on the bed and fall into a coma. A coma so deep I miss the alarm the first time and the second.

So despite getting up early I start my morning late. How does this happen? Seriously. I am a walking disaster.

I don’t make breakfast-I leave a note reminding pre-teen to do so. Super Mom.

Out of necessity I do manage to wash my hair but have no time to dry it. I remedy that on the way to work though…stay tuned…I reach a new low.

I don’t use any forethought-I yank a garment out of the closet with my only consideration being large amounts of elastic so that it actually fits. Off I go.

My hair is literally dripping wet. I may or may not have all the components of my make up on but I am on the road and, lord willing and red lights cooperating, will be to work at a non-embarrassing start time. Of course I could go faster were it not for bangs hanging wetly in my eyes, obscuring my vision. I have plenty of time to ponder this as I sit through one green arrow without turning (UGH). Since it appears I have time on my hands solve a problem. There on the Oconee Connector and Highway 316 I crank up my air and proceed to blow dry my bangs via the air vent. I am finger fluffing like a pro–oblivious to the cars packed in around me. While fluffing and sylin’ I spy a discarded hair ‘pretty’ on the floor. It’s blue ruffles but it’s a band none-the-less. Minutes later I’ve got rockin’ bangs, a bun and a green light.

Did I mention it’s only day 2 of the summer schedule and that Tuesday’s are

empty chair

  
Cue music to Les Mes “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables”. Hey…if you are going to be melodramatic go all the way, right.

Pre-K graduation. Precious little event. Parents—most much younger than me—flocked to the daycare playground to get a front row seat. I ended up 3 seats in front the row, 2nd row behind the concrete slab that was to serve as the stage. I sank oh-so-eloquently into the chair that was 3 centimeters off the ground and pretended to look comfortable as my knees hit my chin. The chairs, designed for wee ones, were not conducive to non-wee ones so it took a bit of adjusting to get all of my derriere on the seat and not hanging off the seat. I cursed my decision to wear a short skirt and prayed that some precious little twerp in the front row didn’t point and scream, “I see her panties” when the festivities started. My black sweater which looked oh-so-audrey-hepburn at home now seemed like a really, really bad idea. The chairs were hot and center in the rays of the morning sun. Having been warned that seats and parking were limited I had a good 30 minutes to bake…err…wait in the glorious conditions.

2 by 2 they flocked in– The parents that is. It was like Noah’s freakin’ ark; everyone was paired and partnered. They sat all around me. These young, perky, paired parents had obviously attended a few more school functions then I had because they were chatting and smiling and conversing like old friends. I knew nary a soul. Around me I heard, “….public or private….WE’VE spend a lot of time talking about that….” Or “…WE are headed to Florida for a quick get-away….” Or “…WE have our house up for sale…better school district….WE….”. Everything was WE…I sat there as ME and listened. Beside me sat an empty chair.  

My sunglasses are oversized—thank goodness. I slipped them on and pretended to NOT wipe the bead off sweat off my neck. I read the program….four times…I fidgeted in my seat in an attempt to dislodge the flesh that was melting into the hot plastic chair. I fiddled in my purse pretending to look for something. I tried to hum a song in my head to drown out the WE conversations all around me but all I could think of was “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” which did NOTHING to improve my condition. Especially since the chair beside me remained empty.

In desperation I brought out my phone. I am almost over my data for the month so I am trying to be careful about whipping out the iphone…you know…the adult pacifier. Desperate times call for desperate measures though so I gave in and used my phone to call a lifeline. My tribe. Within seconds I had responses. I felt better and hoped I looked less alone now that was so importantly typing away on my phone.

The program started and though parents were standing 3 deep all along the ‘stage’ no one came to sit in the empty chair beside me. And although it was sad and embarrassing it was also slightly nice because at this stage of the game I STUNK. The outdoorsy smell had definitely kicked in.

My cutie-patootie came on ‘stage’ so I tried to ignore the empty chair and focus on her cute little face as she proudly recited poems and sang her little songs. Midway thru the song she quit gazing in my direction and looked to the right. Her face lit up. In the middle of her little graduation poem she made the “ROCK-N-ROLL” sign with her little hand while gazing off into the crowd—away from where I sat with my empty chair. She spent the rest of the program looking off to my right flashing symbols like she was at an ACDC concert.

After the event she went running out of site. I didn’t get the first hug. I sat, my arse hanging off the too little chair, my knees almost to my chin and tried not to look pitiful. Eventually she came to me. I hugged her with all my might. She was so adorable and so proud! I wanted a picture of us to savor the moment. I didn’t know anyone to ask. I didn’t have anyone there to grab a shot. We took a selfie-my precious little bug and I. I got another quick hug and then she was off.
  

I left.

The hardest part of being a single mom, for me, isn’t the responsibility of being the only one to make dinner or to give baths or to shuttle from one place to another. The hardest part of being a single mom, for me, is that damn empty chair. It’s the empty chair you have to talk to when you are trying to make decisions on your child’s behalf. It’s that empty chair at the softball games, the graduations and the honors nights. It’s the selfies, not the pictures that you have to take because there is no one else there to grab that snapshot when your little one launches herself into your arms at the end of the program. The stupid, empty chair and all the conversations that only include the word ME not WE; that’s the hardest part of parenting alone. That stupid empty chair that makes a little one have to scan the crowd to find 2 faces and then having to choose which one to look at.

All in a days work (when you are the boy in this gaggle of girl)

15 minutes ago my fella was responding to my screAms! Like a superhero he swooped outside and delivered me from evil—-the SNAKE inhabiting my stadium seat.

He calmed down the crying little one and the BIG ONE (me) that wanted to cry.

Segue: in my defense that thing was couled under the blanket that was part of the seat. I reached down to pick up the seat and it MOVED!)

Back to the story—Like his grandpa taught him he checked to be sure it was black and than he forbade me to kill it. “We need it mama. It kills rats,” at which point my freak out ramped up a notch.

After assuring me there were no rats he eased the darned thing into the bushes and gave me his ‘it’s-gonna-be-okay-mama’ crooked smile.


Minutes later the girl and I are on the front porch-as far away from the snake as we could get. We are painting our nails. The conquering hero swoops in and saves the day again. This time by painting his little sisters toenails. Pure sweetness. Be still my heart.

“Your toes are so little,” he remarked at one point. “Oops-I am not too good at this,” he said while reaching down to clean up some errant color.

“Oh yes you are bubba.” Admonishes little miss. “You are da best Bubba ev-ah. You are da bestest. Bubba,” she’s gentle but firm and is speaking to him as a teacher would to an upset child. “You are do-od. You are da best bubba. You pulled my tooth,” and that was that. Her allowing him to pull her tooth was the height of trust and she didn’t need to say anything else to prove it. “You missed as spot.”


They finished the pedicure while I watched-delighted in the little moment.

The little toes weren’t even dry before she enticed him to play hide-n-seek. He willingly went along. Even going so far as to walk right by her when her “hiding” place was sitting in the middle of the  sidewalk  covering HER eyes despite the fact that he was it.

Soon he’d stalled as long as he could and he found her. While she counted he ran around the house. She got to 10-popped up and looked in the bushes, on the sidewalk and behind the column. “Mama!” She cries. “I’ve lost my bubba. I taint (translation: can’t) fine (d’s give her trouble) him anywhere. Help me. We need our bubba! We need him!”

Yes baby we do. We need our bubba. Our little man. Our hero. Our snake slayer-our toe-nail painter. So we found him.

I look up from writing this to find my darlings having dance lessons in the porch. If you asked me what I wanted for mothers day I wouldn’t have known to have asked for this moment—but it’s all I could ever want. My big boy and my little gal waltzing around the front porch. He dips her and her giggles fill the night. In turn, his giggles are infectious when she tries to return the favor and dip him.

Happy mama. That’s what I am.

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