Chapter 34

This past Saturday, without much fanfare and while shivering in the chilly November breeze, I welcomed my thirty-fourth year of life by watching my son take part in the local Veteran’s Day parade.

I stood alone on the sidewalk of my small town’s Main Street as vintage cars, Girls Scouts, and a few of the bravest men and women of the Armed Forces passed by.  

The group my son is in, a youth leadership group called iLead, was near the end of the parade. He ended up sitting on the side facing away from me, but I could he see hands waving spiritedly to the people facing him from where I stood.  

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But let’s rewind a bit. Before the parade, before loading up, before trying to get ready, let’s start with that morning.

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I woke up with the day sitting heavy over me like a cloud. I reached for my phone, but unlike every other morning, this time there was a hesitation. I knew what the date was. I knew what day I was waking up to. I had the hope that when I looked at the screen my discomfort would be meet with missed messages and texts from overnight from friends and family wishing me a happy birthday or a simple “I love you”. Instead, I got nothing but the weather.

I’ve filled you guys in on my hesitation with Fall. In some sick twist of fate, the anniversary of son’s death and the anniversary of my birth fall within seven days of each other. So my chances of being able to have a joyous birthday celebration are pretty much forever stamped out. And that’s something I’ve been troubled by recently. I’ve always had an uneasy balance with my birthday.

Because of the nature of my upbringing, birthday celebrations were a double edge sword. They were often the basic celebrations of a typical poverty level child, hotdogs, chips, ice cream, and cake. But because of the issues of my upbringing, they came with strings attached. Most of those little parties left me feeling guilty and ashamed that I would put my mother through so much trouble, or that my friends would be so rude and loud, or that their mothers would look so sourly at her. Because at the end of the day, any shortcomings were my fault of course.  

Once I left that mess behind me and moved on into adult life, I thought for sure it would be easier to celebrate the anniversary of me. I was surrounded by the idea that women could proclaim the entire week of their birthday was theirs to do of their choosing and that everyone had to pay homage to them. I was taken in by that glamour and selfishness. And then November rolled around and…

I was still nowhere near the ascending to the birthday throne. I was just a worker bee. The Queen Bees made sure I was aware of that.

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So life moves on and with it my understanding of things. One, the elders I have been surrounded by for much of my life were idiots. Maybe idiot is the wrong word. The women elders I have been surrounded by are deeply wounded women who have never taken the time to try to heal themselves. Their wounds have become their identity and in turn, their legacy.

THEIR LEGACY.

Not mine.

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So let’s fast forward to now.

I spent my birthday watching my son pay respect to the Veterans of our country. (Of which his father is one) We then came home, warmed up (me with some coffee and him with Xbox) and I attended to the snotty nosed crew that stayed home from the parade. After I did some laundry, and dishes, and sweeping,

and more laundry,

and more dishes,

and more sweeping because someone emptied an entire box of Nerds candy on the floor,

we had dinner and Red Velvet cake.  Afterward, when all the kids were put to bed, I indulged myself with the fancypants new lotion my wonderful husband gifted me and started plans for what is going in the beautiful leather bound soon to be grimoire my #bestwitchforlife sent me.  

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I was proud of my children, proud of my husband, and, dagnabit, proud of my country. If you watch the news, it’s a tough time to be an American. If you see America from the sidewalk of a small Southern town on a Saturday in November while marching bands play and old men and women proudly drive their antique cars and march down the street while saluting one another, then it’s a little easier. 

And shit, even after a few tears, I was a little proud of myself too.

So the beginning of this chapter, this anniversary of my birth, was okay. It was a lesson.  I know that at this point in my life, I need to allow these days to be what they are. Something between just another day and a celebration of the arrival of the wonderful mess that is me.  I also need to let go of the hurt that the ones of the past have caused me.  

I just need to let go. Just let go of so much. 

To anyone who didn’t hear it and who wish they had, I hope your day, be it a birthday, anniversary or just another Tuesday, was a great day. You deserve it. If no one else tells you this today, I believe in you. 

P.S. For good measure, here’s the mural from our Main Street. I used to make fun of it when I was a shitty teenager who wrongfully hated the city (it was a misplaced hate. I hated my home life, not my hometown). But really, it’s pretty neat. Murals are cool. I appreciate it a lot more now that I’m older and have a bit more understanding and lot less piss and vinegar, lol. 

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Shoes, love, and footwashing.

At the end of last school year, a flyer was sent home with JoBean for a local Back to School Bash. The Bash was being sponsored by several local churches and small businesses. All those who registered and attended would be given a free pair of shoes, free school supplies, and treated to a hot dog dinner. I spent a day or two trying to decide whether to sign up. While sometimes we have financial struggles, we still do okay. I was worried that us signing up might take a spot away from someone who needed it more. I brought the issue up to my sister-in-law, and we discussed how missing out on opportunities because someone might need it more is detrimental. So I went online and sign JoBean up.

It’s been a while since I posted about the kids. As a refresher ,my lovely cast of characters includes:

  • JoBean– 9 year old boywonder. He’s hilarious but often short sighted. He loves video games, especially Minecraft.
  • D-Man- 4 year old gentle giant. He’s quiet and caring, but hates crowds and sharing. He loves everything JoBean loves
  • MarMar- soon to be 3 year old Queen Bee. She is sassy and playful and loves talking to people. She also loves shoes and animals.

School ended and summer began. We did summer things and soon the day of the Bash was upon us. On the drive over to the event, JoBean and I revisited a conversation we had many times before. We discussed how different people believe in different things. We talked about how most people in this area, and America for the most part, are Christians. He, like pretty much the whole of our family, doesn’t identify as such. He talked to me about what he believes in. I talked to him about what I believed in. He talked about how the other kids at school treated him and how sometimes, it wasn’t very nice. We both agreed that being a part of a religion doesn’t make you a good person or make you an asshole. It’s who you are at your core. I also really worked on him to understand how important it is to allow people to believe the way they want . We don’t have to agree on what we believe, but we should allow other people to believe it.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the start of the event. I snagged us a good parking spot and we took our place in line. A light rain began to fall while we waited. It was a nice reprieve from the temperatures we had endured during the summer. When the doors opened, they started allowing groups of fifteen to enter at a time. We were in the third group taken.

We went in and signed the entrance forms and were quickly directed to the shoe room. It was there that things took a turn. This was not just a find your size and style shoe event. It was a huge conference room filled with shoe boxes, sock boxes, and a row of people kneeling in front of wooden chairs washing children’s feet. Apparently something I had skipped in the initial sign up was that a major sponsor of this event was Samaritan’s Feet. Samaritan’s Feet is a Charlotte, NC based charitable organization that, in their words “serves & inspires hope in children by providing shoes as the foundation to a spiritual & healthy life…”. Part of their mission includes washing children’s feet, praying with them, and providing them with well fitting, brand new shoes.

And that’s what they were doing. It was a like a well oiled machine in that room. Some people were running back and forth finding correct sizes. Some people were wrist deep in soapy water, chatting up giggling kids. Others were power walking discarding and refilling bowl after bowl of water as children and their parents shuffled through the line. We collectively were a little taken aback. When it was JoBean’s turn, we, with both Littles in tow, were shown to a chair and met a very excited lady. She politely asked JoBean if he’d like his feet washed to which he politely declined. So instead of that, they spent a minute chatting about what he was looking forward to in the upcoming school year. While he was being fitted for shoes, another lady came over and offered to let the two little ones get shoes as well. I explained that they weren’t registered and wouldn’t be attending school for a while. She patted Miss MarMar on the head and said it didn’t matter and helped me show them to their chairs. While I buzzed around the three of them, I noticed the the lady with JoBean asked if she could pray for him and he said okay. Together they held hands and closed their eyes. I have to admit, even as a Pagan, this made my heart swell. She didn’t pray that he find God or any of the other backhanded prayers you could imagine. She prayed that he have a good year and had help when he needed it. Those prayers were not much different than the ones I had whispered to my own gods for him. After an honest hug which left me a little misty eyed, we collected the Littles and our brand new shoes and moved on to the next station.

There JoBean received a new backpack and a slew of supplies to fill it up. We ended our walk around the school supply rodeo with more hugs and giggles and some major excitement over brand new shoes. According to JoBean, his new shoes were both “boss” and “baller”. The light rain of the morning had turned into a full on summer rain storm, so we skipped the hot dog line and ran to our car. In stark contrast to the clouds in the sky, the spirits of everyone in the car were light and shining. Even after all the overstimulation, everyone was in an upbeat mood. I drove us home were we rushed in out of the rain for lunch.

This event was so important. All the kids had a chance to be exposed to a belief structure that was much different from their own. And it was in a positive way. They were able to see that just because we are different, doesn’t mean we have to be separated. Love is a connective fiber that runs through all of us. When we tap into it, and extend our share to others, the feelings we create are magical. No matter the name, love is magic. And love for our fellow man is the best magic of all.

Power Outages

Some people say that when you are open to it, the Universe guides you. That it gives you gifts, like a mama cat leaving a half dead mouse on your pillow. It knows you need the nourishment, but even more so, that you need the experience.  The limitations of my experiences kept me for totally agreeing that was gospel. I think too much, second guess myself too often. And that’s clogged up my ability to see and review these gifts from the Universe. That is until this happened. This chain linked series of events opened my eyes and showed me that, if you pay attention sometimes you get just what you need to be laid right out in front of you.

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning, some unlucky bastard ran his car off the road and into a tree. The driver was fine, but the tree was not. It had found itself a brand new home by crashing into a substation that supplied power to a large section of this small town. That power outage split the lumbering county in half. The northern half had power, while those to the south were without.

It was on that Tuesday morning I had an appointment out in the southeastern part of town. I don’t follow local news so I had no idea there was a widespread power outage. My only concern was getting two kids into a car and being able to make an 8:45 am appointment. Ever try to get two kids under the age of 5 ready and out the door in a quick and timely manner? Yeah, it’s about as easy as tying snakes in knots. Somehow, we all ended up where we needed to be with ten minutes to spare. It was then that we caught up with local events.

“M’am, we ain’t got any power. You’re gonna have to call and reschedule.” A very exasperated lady standing in a darkened door hollered at me across the parking lot.

Seat belts were buckled and kid tears were shed. Apparently, not being able to go into the darkened unairconditioned building was heartbreaking. I pulled out of the parking lot only slightly more annoyed than I should have been and started home.

I passed the DMV, giving them a mental middle finger for making me wait the last time I was in there half a year before. I passed the consignment shop that had a mouse problem last time I had visited. I passed the yellow house with the little yellow well house out front that I’ve loved since I was a kid. I slowed down after that house because the new police station was just up ahead, right past the fabrication shop that was owned by one of my distant cousins. More specifically, my dad’s uncle’s son.

And there, sitting on the tailgate of a blue S-10 was my father.

Here is the part where I tell you that I’m not on best terms with my biological family. I’ll explain it all later, but remember Cinderella? Well, instead of an evil Stepmother and stepsisters, I had an evil Mother and a father who was on his third marriage and was getting close to his fifties when I was born. When I married my husband, the ties were severed. After a few tries, I realized that my mother just wasn’t good for my mental health. The drawback was that cutting her out, cut him out too. I’ve never fully recovered from that.

So to see him, after all these years, just sitting there talking smack with the fellas caught my breath in my throat. The decision was easy. I was there. I had a block of time suddenly empty. Without turning on my blinker, I gave in to the message the Universe was sending me. I turned into the gravel parking lot and got out of the car.

Two minutes later, I was wrapped in my father’s arms.

I want to tie this back to my original point. Because of a series of unfortunate events, I got to see my father. It was exactly what I needed. The Universe gift wrapped an experience just for me. And by not second guessing it, I received two things. One was a salve on a decade old wound. And the other was the first step of a relationship with something greater than myself.

I’m listening Universe. You don’t have to knock out the power to get my attention again. 

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