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Filtering by Tag: memories

SALAD DAYS

Cindy Maddera

Last weekend, Michael and I stumbled upon the Lee’s Summit Farmer’s market by total accident. I yelled “STOP THE CAR!” and Michael found us a parking space. The first booth we went up to was selling mushrooms. They had a variety of ‘shrooms called Lion’s Mane that Michael and I had never seen before. We bought them for our camp dinner that night along with some asparagus and some heirloom tomatoes. We sautéed the mushrooms with the asparagus and sliced the tomatoes before sprinkling them with salt and pepper. The mushrooms were good, but it was after taking a bite of tomato where I thought “THIS! This is what I want to eat for the rest of the summer.” For years, I have watched my parents eat tomatoes this way and I never really got it. As a child, I found it down right disgusting. Then, it just became tolerable. Now, I want it every day.

There was a summer where I felt the same way about sliced jicama tossed with lime juice and cayenne pepper. The summer after Chris died, I lived on a shredded beet and carrot salad. Yes…everything was red. For weeks.

It just got warm around here. Or at least it has been for the last two or three weeks. It’s been the kind of warm muggy weather that makes you believe that it is Summer time. Today, not so much. A cold front moved through yesterday and the air has that feeling that it gets just when Summer starts thinking about Fall. But for a few days there, we had real summer days where I planned salads for almost every day of our meal plan. I pulled a salad recipe from our most recent Bon Appetit to go with our tuna steaks last night. Thinly sliced snap peas, cubed cantaloup, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, ancho chilly powder and sliced ricotta salata cheese. I threw in some arugula to stretch out the salad so I could have some for lunch the next day. We also could not find ricotta salata cheese, but the cheese person at Whole Foods pointed us to a good substitute that was not too pricey. I don’t even really like cantaloup, but toss it with greens, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and ancho and a good cheese and holy goats! That stuff’s delicious. We’ve also grown attached to an arugula, cherry tomato, avocado and red onion salad. The dressing is a simple homemade vinaigrette. Toss all that together and eat it straight out of the salad bowl.

As good as these salads have been, I still only want the salt and pepper tomatoes. But they have to be good tomatoes. Not those mealy flavorless things sold out of season in grocery stores. I want those bright red almost lumpy looking tomatoes that came from grandpa’s backyard. I am surprised by this new flavor attachment. My parents brought their southern Mississippi palates and tastes with them when they moved to Oklahoma and thats what I grew up eating. We didn’t fry our okra. We boiled it with tomatoes or pickled it. Nobody I know likes boiled okra except for me. Grits could either be sweet or savory, but usually sweet and creamy for breakfast. Michael and I were in a local diner for breakfast a long time ago. He ordered the cheesy grits. The waitress brought him a bowl of white instant grits topped with a slice of American cheese. I had to restrain myself from picking up the whole bowl and throwing it across the room. I ordered cheesy grits at a local hipster BBQ place once and they were crunchy because they didn’t cook them long enough. Michael politely told our waitress the grits were crunchy and we wanted to send them back. She replied “that’s just how we make them.” And I swear I felt all of my southern grandmas summersault in their graves.

Cornbread. Cornbread is not sweet like a cake. It’s made in a cast-iron skillet and should be eaten with every thing, but most definitely it should be crumbled into a glass of milk and then eaten with a spoon.

That first bite of that salt and pepper tomato triggered memories and smells of memories. Every hot Oklahoma Summer swirled into my head. All the summer days of bare feet and bicycles. Swimming in the galvanized stock tank my dad rolled into out back yard and filled up with the water hose. Sinking up to our knees in the mud as we played hide and seek in the corn. County fairs. Then there were the years where I’d only eat raw tomatoes if they were in salsa. The first time we took Chris to Colorado for a camping trip, we bought a giant tomato at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. When Mom sliced that tomato up to go with our dinner that night and then sprinkled it with salt and pepper, I was unenthusiastic, but I ate it. It hurts my heart a little to think about how much I under-appreciated that tomato.

Now I’m thinking about all the other things I may have under-appreciated.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

Cindy Maddera

The best Christmas I can remember as a child was the year I got Odie. Odie was the most perfect beagle. In 2015, a beagle named Miss P won the Westminster Dog Show. Odie was almost identical in color to Miss P. His head might have been a little bit smaller and he did not have Miss P’s expression of bored indifference, but he could have run circles around her in the judges ring. For months leading up to that Christmas, the only thing I asked for was a beagle puppy. “What do you want for Christmas, Cindy?” someone would ask. My answer every time was “A beagle puppy.” I don’t remember what year this was or how old I was. It was sometime between broken arms and my sister was still young enough to get excited about the surprises we would find under the tree. The two of us, like most children, tiptoed carefully down the stairs at two o’clock in the morning to take a peek at what may have been left for us under the tree.

The two of us were about half way down the staircase when I heard a whimper. I forgot all about being stealthy and quiet, instead I ran down the stairs with the heavy un-lady like footsteps of a troll. An open box sat under the tree with the tiniest saddest little puppy, begging for company and love. I scooped him into my arms and took him back to my room. When we cleaned out the family house and started sorting through the multiple containers of pictures, we found hundreds of pictures of Odie as a puppy sleeping on someone’s lap, curled up on a boot, tucked into a cushion at someone’s feet. He was impossible to potty train and ended up leaving a big stain on my mom’s hardwood floors. But his worse offense was chewing up the rungs of Mom’s dining room table. That banished him to the outside for good. He was still the best dog, to me anyway and he lived a really long and happy life. Odie set the bar for any future dog that would come into my life.

That was the best Christmas not just because of Odie, but because I think that’s the last Christmas I can remember where I still felt that spark and excitement of Christmas. Maybe I knew that Santa was not real, but I believed in him any way. In fact, I still believed in all things magical and mystical, but it was an age where I still got excited over the whole gift thing. Not just the surprise of what I was going to get, but seeing the faces of joy as others opened their surprises. It is the last Christmas I can remember that didn’t include a layer of sadness or an awareness of the sadness of others. That is not to say that Christmases since then have been bad. It’s just that Christmases have an underlying layer of sadness in general. It is a time when memories, good and bad, swirl around our heads and we can’t help but miss the ones no longer with us to share in those memories.

Do you know how many times my Mom told us all the story about the time my sister woke up before everyone on Christmas morning and then opened ALL of the presents? It is a story of legend. My Dad would laugh every time. One year we all decided to change the Christmas tradition of ham or turkey for our Christmas meal and instead have what we all loved to eat, fried oysters. We would all end up in the kitchen at some point. Dad was always our unofficially designated food taster. J would make the cocktail sauce, stirring in horseradish to a bowl of ketchup like a science experiment. Remember that year Randy caught a shark? Katrina brought a fondue set and we all stood around it dunking bits of shark and then everything into hot oil. Fondue became known as fundue. There was the Christmas when Chris surprised me with a pair of earrings that I had been coveting. It wasn’t the earrings that made the surprise so special. It was how he had to sneak over to Eureka Springs with out me knowing it to get the earrings. Which he managed to do in glorious Chris fashion.

Whenever those memories get too overwhelming, I grab Josephine and cradle her like a baby while scratch her belly. I put my face to her face and tell her what a sweet puppy she is and how much I love her. She’ll lick my cheek and then every thing’s alright. Because just like at that Christmas when I got Odie, puppies make everything better.









THINGS I'VE TAKEN CARE OF

Cindy Maddera

Some times, as I make that long drive from Oklahoma City to KCMO, I start sobbing. I say some times because really I only do this when I've made the trip alone. It's just too many hours of endless road time trapped with my own thoughts. I know that I could listen to books or podcasts, but my brain still wanders off. I start crying. I cry about how much has changed. I cry about how much has not changed. I cry about how I never feel like I spend enough time or see all of the people. I cry because I feel guilty for not making enough of an effort to see all of the people. I cry because I'm tired and probably slightly hungover. I cry because I've stretched myself too thin. I cry because Chris isn't with me. 

Old life. New life.

I spent a weekend visiting friends in OK recently. I drove all the way down to Chickasha first, helping Misti with the finishing touches for the Listen Local event at our college and meeting Amy for dinner. The trees on the oval are now towering beauties. Buildings that were once closed are now open. I don't recognize any of the professors in the biology department. I ran into my old chemistry professor by chance and he told me he had retired. He new me instantly, told me I still look the same. Maybe that's what happens when you step back onto the campus. You morph back into the person you were then. I certainly saw everything as it was then. Same sidewalk Chris and I walked  a billion and one steps on as we traveled back and forth between dorm rooms. I spent most of that weekend with friends I would not have had if it hadn't been for Chris. Friends that Chris made into our family. He's the glue. I've noticed places where that glue has started to weaken and I feel responsible, like I need to reenforce those weak spots. I could be better at that some how. 

I am a filer. I talk about getting things organized, but I already have things organized. I just feel they could be organized better. My photos fall into the need better organization group, but if you ask me for the instruction manual to the fridge I can pull that right out of the filing cabinet for you. I like to compartmentalize shit. I don't just do this with the tangible. My life before Chris, my life with Chris, my life after Chris...these all have their own shoebox stacked inside my brain. Things happen, like earthquakes or bicycle wrecks, and boxes get jumbled and messed up. That shit spills out. [Off topic but speaking of earthquakes. I either had an encounter with a poltergeist or an earthquake while I was sleeping over at the Jens.] Some times the things I put into boxes do not stay in their boxes. Compartmentalization is hard. Thus the sobbing.

I came across an envelope containing Chris's driver's license and a death certificate as I was cleaning out the mail catcher on my desk. They were gathered in one place with the intention of fixing his Facebook account. A year went by. Then another. Time passing. I picked up that envelope and thought maybe I should finally do something about that. So I did. Chris's Facebook page is now a memorial page. This is me, trying to reenforce some weak places. 

AUGUST FIRST

Cindy Maddera

It's one of those days where I spend my time holding my breath in anticipation of horrible news. I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up on some August first later on in the future and feel normal. I'm not going to have flashbacks of being in pigeon pose on my yellow yoga mat and Chris walking in holding the phone and saying "Your mom is on the line and something's wrong." I won't remember the sound of my mom's hysterics or how she was incoherent. I won't remember calling Katrina's number and talking to our friend Cindy, listening to her explain to me what had happened with J. I feel like it is a trick of my brain that I can remember all the details of that moment. I can even tell you that I was on my left side in pigeon pose. 

My yoga mat is now a gray/blue color. I will probably never again buy a yellow one. 

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I noticed several 'friends' posting memories for loved ones lost today. Sentiments of "I can't believe it's been three years" or "we miss you." lined the page. Time doesn't matter. Three years or thirteen years. Any amount is unbelievable. You will always miss them. Often the traumatic memories are the first to surface. In this case I image what it was like when J died. I've seen too many movies and too much TV, so you know that those imaginings are brutally graphic and horrific. It's one of the many ugly side effects of grief, seeing the one you lost in the worst way. Sometimes I see, in my head, Chris's face the day before he died. His face is slack and his eyes are unfocused. He can't form words. That part is the oddest part to me. Chris was a word smith and in the end he couldn't form a coherent thread of words. These are the memories and images from the blunt force trauma of death. I have to close my eyes and shake my head to rid myself of the thoughts. 

As I was cleaning out the herb garden this spring, I decided to plant a few sunflower seeds. I'd come across a packet of them in the garage while gathering my gardening tools. Only one of those seeds sprouted. Each day it has grown taller and taller. It is about waist high now, still no flower. One day a few weeks ago, I went out to feed the chickens and noticed that the top half of the sunflower had been snapped almost completely off. It was still attached, hanging there like a broken bone. I frowned at it and thought about pulling the plant completely out of the garden. But I left it. When we got back from Portland, the top portion that had been dangling was now lifted up. A branch from a lower portion had grown up to support the broken portion. The plant had grown new tissue around the broken part. You can still see that the sunflower was broken. The plant dips obviously to one side before stretching up. There's a scar left from the break, but other than that, the plant looks healthy. It's thriving. You can watch it follow the sun every day. 

Broken yet thriving. 

We are all a little bit broken yet thriving. 

 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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My sister and I are not close. I mean, we love each other and all, but we don't have that big sis little sis relationship where we do things together and rely on each other. You know, like the kinds of sister relationships you see on TV and in the movies. Our age difference was just wide enough to put us into different orbits and I was just little enough to be too little to tag along. We never really seemed to fix the gap even when age was no longer an issue. Our personalities are just too different. She has always been more of a free spirit while I was the more serious and practical one. We often tried to kill each other when we were younger. Then Janell became a teenager and started doing all of the teenage kid stuff. We stopped trying to kill each other because we'd moved passed our murderous stage in life. 

I was left with just hoping to be included in whatever cool thing she was doing at the time. I was thrilled anytime she said "Hey! Let's go for a bike ride!" and we would end up riding for miles and miles. I remember feeling like the most important person in the world when she and her friends came to the elementary school for lunch once and sat with me in the cafeteria. Some times she would just show up as school was letting out either in her car or some boyfriend's car and take me to Sonic. There was one summer when she was a carhop at Sonic and she had to work the late shift on the Fourth of July. She told me to wait up for her and we'd set off fireworks when she got home. She said "I promise." I fell asleep on the couch waiting for her. Finally around one AM, I felt her tap my shoulder. I remember cracking open my eyes just enough to see her face right in front me. I heard her whisper "Get up! Let's go shoot off fireworks." 

We stepped out into the July night with every star shining in the sky. The wind had picked up but we ignored this. My sister set up the first of our big fireworks in the street and lit the fuse. She ran back to stand with me in the drive and we watched as sparks shot up into the air. Then the wind shifted so that the hot ash that fell down from the firework, started to rain down on our bare arms and legs. We screamed and laughed as we ran for cover. Then we saw the light go on in our parent's bedroom and we called it a night. I woke up the next morning with the taste of sulphur on my tongue and scrapes on my knees where I had banged them on the drive in our scramble from the hot ash. My sister was always the instigator for recklessness. I think about that now that we only seem to communicate through Facebook emojis. I think about how I tended to do the most dangerous stunts through my sisters goading. Once, she convinced me to walk out into the center of an abandoned rail bridge so we could jump into the lake together. We got in so much trouble, mostly because we left J alone on the swimming dock. But it was terrifying and thrilling and... everything. 

My sister's birthday was yesterday. She shares her birthday with our Dad. This has got to be a bitter sweet feeling for her. I remember how they fought when she lived in the house, our reckless years. The house was always filled with yelling either between Mom and Dad, my sister and Dad, my sister and Mom, or all three of them at once. My sister moved out right after her high school graduation leaving me alone with only Mom and Dad yelling at each other. That was a rough summer. I spent most of it at my brother and sister-in-law's house. J and I would walk down to the community pool every day and then come home to watch hours of MTV and eat 'grilled' cheese sandwiches. My parents stopped yelling at each other for a while and I went back home to start my freshman year of high school. I talked to my sister on the phone the night before school and I told her that  I was scared. I had heard all kinds of terrible stories of things done to freshmen on the first day of school. At the end of that first school day, I looked up to see my sister walking towards me in the hallway. She had come to check in on me, to make sure my day had gone okay. 

I've probably just told you every moment we had where we played our TV roles as Big Sister and Little Sister. Things are so different between us now. Distance and differences have placed a chasm between us, but I am thankful for those reckless years. They are the years I learned to be brave and take risks. My brother drilled the importance of going to college into my brain. He fed my scientific brain, but my sister taught me to be a little bit reckless every once in a while. So...I'm thankful for that. 

And I am thankful for you.

747

Cindy Maddera

CBS Sunday Morning had a segment about the 747 airplane being retired from commercial use last week. It's not the first story I've seen or read on the subject. The New York Times ran a nice article about the Early Days on the 747 back in October. The segment on CBS Sunday Morning also talked about the early days of this plane and how no one believed it would be able to get off the ground. It talked about different airlines competing to have the most interesting lounge in the upper deck with bars and even a piano on an American Airlines 747. The 747 was the cruise ship of the skies. 

Way back when I was little and we took that first trip to Hawaii, we flew on a 747 across the Pacific. The memories of that trip are hazy, particularly the actual travel parts, but I do remember being really excited about flying in a 747. I was wearing my nicest church dress. It was one Mom had made for my sister as a Christmas dress and had a layered ruffled skirt. As would be the case with most of my clothes, the dress became mine after my sister out grew it. Mom replaced my sister's dress with a matching dress of the same style, just a different color. Dress clothes were required attire for flying on the stand-by list because you never knew if that open seat was going to be somewhere in coach or up in first class. This was the late 70s, early 80s. People still dressed nice in first class and people still smoked on airplanes. Airlines started phasing out the lounge part of the 747 in the late 70s in order to make room for more seating, but this particular plane still had it's lounge. 

I have fuzzy memories of my sister holding my hand as I followed her down the long isle to the spiral staircase that led up to lounge. The stewardess standing at the bottom of the stairs looked at the wings pinned to our pretty dresses. We always got new wings whenever we flew, even though pins were only meant for first time flights. There was always someone working on the plane who knew Dad, either a pilot, co-pilot or stewardess. Dad knew everyone. There were benefits to that, like wing pins and extra peanut snacks. One time while traveling in first class, my Mom admired the salt and pepper shakers and the stewardess wrapped them up in a napkin and gave them to my Mom. The stewardess on this trip bent down to eye level to talk to us and then pointed up the stairs. She was letting us take a peak. I trailed behind my sister up the spiral stairs and we peaked through the rails. I only remember seeing feet. Shiny loafers. Black dress heels. Fancy cowboy boots. The lounge was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. I remember hearing music and the clink of glass. All of these images where absorbed in seconds before we hurried back down the staircase, giggling, running back to our seats. 

Really, I don't remember a single thing about our flight back home from that trip. I only remember the flight over and I don't think I ever again flew on a 747. The plane Mom and I flew on from Chicago to Heathrow was a big plane, but it was not a 747. It's a shame to see it go. It's a shame they got rid of the lounge. I don't miss the cigarette smoke though, but the whole idea of a lounge on an airplane seemed to make travel a decadent treat. Not the hassle it has become with long lines and very little leg room and the feeling of being squashed into a tin can. The 747 is one of those planes that made the traveling to the destination part of the adventure. I wish I could have ridden on one just one more time. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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The weather has turned crisp with temperatures low enough that we had to turn on the furnace. My morning loops outside have left me with apple cheeks and a runny nose. It is the kind of weather I first experienced on a trip that I took to Seattle with Chris ages ago. I am reminded of that trip ever time Fall rolls around here. I remember that first morning in Seattle when Chris and I walked to the REI mother(ship) store. We hadn't packed coats, only light jackets and sweaters. My hands were so cold. By the the time we reached REI, the tips of my fingers were numb. It was too early for the store to be open, so we ducked inside a coffee shop just across the street. It was our first time in a coffee shop where each cup of coffee was made individually.  We'd never seen anything like it. Now these coffee shops are our norm, dotting every neighborhood and branching into the even fancier drip coffee. I bought thin cotton gloves at REI.

We experienced similar weather on our trip to Portland, more so on the day we drove to Newport Beach. This is when Chris noticed something. He discovered it only later, while he was reviewing pictures he'd taken during both trips. It was something about my face whenever I was near the ocean. The images he captured of me both in Seattle and in Newport all capture a face full of genuine pure joy. There's no hamming it up for the camera or silly faces, just me being truly happy. The day we were on the beach in Newport, it was windy and cold. My nose was runny and by all accounts I should have been miserable because I hate the cold. But in the picture Chris took, my head is thrown back in laughter, my hands are overflowing with shells and bits of wood. I could have spent forever there and there was a time when I dreamed that I would do just that. Even though I am quite happily content with my current place of residence in the middle of the country, I am thankful for that dream. I am thankful for those moments where I was the happiest I could be and how those moments of joy were independent of who I was with at the time. 

I'm not saying that dream of living on a coast is gone for good. Who knows what the future holds or where retirement will take me or us. Dreams change and shift. What I do know is that joy can be found easily in something as simple as a walk on a beach. 

PICTURE PAGES

Cindy Maddera

I started a project early this year that involved organizing my pictures into some kind of an album with notecards and descriptions. I did four pages and the set all of it in the roller cabinet under the TV. It's been sitting there ever since. Meanwhile, the pile of pictures that need to be organized just keeps growing. Sunday morning, I got up and went through my usual Sunday morning routine: breakfast, CBS Sunday Morning, laundry. Whenever I would settle into the couch with a mug a of coffee, I'd end up with animals laying on me. Not such a bad thing, but they made it difficult to want to move. It was raining and dreary outside and it was just easier to turn the couch into a raft and play a movie. So that's what I did, but I also pulled out the photo project and worked on it some while I watched the movie. 

I started with a stack of pictures I had found while cleaning out the attic of my childhood home. They had been in the bottom of a box lid that was inverted and holding old bits of notes and mostly trash. I started to just toss the whole lid into my garbage bag when I paused and decided to flip through the debris. I was surprised to find these particular pictures in with a pile of trash. There was an old picture of my Grandmother, Nellie with her sister and one of Pepaw in his Navy uniform. There were several old square black and white prints of my brother when he was a child and three photos from his wedding with Katrina. There was one of all of us sitting around the dining room table. My Dad's parents, Mom, Janell, Randy and Katrina. This was before J and it looked like Thanksgiving. I recognized the Pyrex dish of sweet potato pie and the tan Tupperware pitcher that I am sure was filled with sweet tea. The table was blanketed with the red calico tablecloth that always adorned that table. It is present in the picture of me blowing out candles on my third birthday cake, another picture from the stack of salvaged pictures.

Then I came across a picture of no people. There's nothing written on the back to hint at where or when the photo was taken. I took a photo of it for Instagram and my mother later commented on it saying that it looked like the lake Pontchairtrain Bridge. When she said it, I knew that she was right. I figured that someone had taken it the year we traveled to New Orleans for Randy's senior trip. I have no memories of that first trip to New Orleans. I was way too small to form lasting impressions. Not like Disney Land. I was small then too, but I still have hazy images in my head of the Dumbo ride and our odd encounter with Donald Duck. I only have memories of stories told to me of that family vacation. My mother tells a story of how she made me a harness with a leash so she could keep track of me. She said that some old man yelled at her and gave her grief about putting her baby on a leash. He followed her the length of the French Quarter Market before she turned around and yelled back at him to leave her alone. 

That's the only story I know from that trip. I remember coming across a picture of the my brother, sister and I posing next to a cannon. My brother is sitting in the photo, his long legs made longer by the bell bottom jeans he's wearing, and he has his arm wrapped around my middle. It is obvious he has been put in charge of holding the toddler still for the picture. I know this picture was taken in New Orleans only because at the time of finding the picture, my mother looked over my shoulder at it and said so. Yet the picture tells more of a story than that. I suppose that is why I am drawn to photographs. Each one tells more of a story than just "we were in New Orleans" or "that was the time we visited your great Aunt in California."

I suppose that is why I feel such a need to get my photographs and stories in order. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I know that I have not talked much at all about our garden this year. I created the kind of garden that could get neglected and I have seriously neglected it all summer. We went through the lettuce and arugula early in the season. I've been eating on the kale that's starting to peter out. We've just now started to get tomatoes from our tomato plants and most of those are still green. The other boxes were devoted to purple hulled peas. We've already had one harvest of peas, enough to have a whole meal with stewed tomatoes. For weeks I've looked at the vegetable garden and noticed that there was another harvest of peas coming but I've been to lazy to fight with the mosquitoes and ants for the peas. 

Tuesday evening, I came home to an evening on my own. After eating a doctored Trader Joe's frozen pizza and sharing my crust with the dog, I pulled on my garden gloves and got out the weed eater. I managed to cut down one and half weeds when the line ran out. I swore and then got out the extra weed eater line and some scissors. The line was replaced in a short few minutes and I was back at it, fighting the weeds around the outside of the house and then inside the garden. I pulled up the over grown arugula, found three red Roma tomatoes (from plants that sprouted up from last year) and two bell peppers. I harvested the last of the kale and then started collecting purple hulled peas. By the time I was done, my arms itched with bug bites and my nose was running from allergies. After a quick shower, I spent the next half hour or so shelling purple hulled peas. 

I can remember sitting on the tailgate of my Dad's blue pickup and shelling purple hulled peas until the tips of my fingers were purple and tender to the touch. In fact, for some reason or another, that tailgate was the spot for all of the garden harvesting chores from snapping green beans to shucking the corn. My Dad's blue pickup takes up a lot of space in my folder of childhood memories. I can still feel the bare skin of my sister's leg pressed against mine as the four of us (Dad, Mom, me and Janelle) sat in the cab traveling to our next camping adventure. I remember the time that truck broke down while we were visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico. Janell and I ran around the ruins at the top of the bluff while Dad tried to figure out a way to fix the truck. The truck looked so tiny from our vantage point of standing on the ruins. As the day wore on, I remember sitting inside the home of the guide/caretaker while we waited on Dad to get back with a part to repair the truck. The guide was a Native American and his home was filled with traditional Native American pieces. He had a row of carved animals sitting on a table. His hair was long and he wore a park ranger uniform. I remember being little in that truck. 

It's funny how some things trigger a memory and the more you think about it, the more vivid the details. When I finished shelling this latest harvest of peas, my fingers were purple and tender just as they were those many many summers ago. I am thankful for that tender feeling in the tips of my fingers and I am thankful for that purple stain of my skin. I am thankful for the memories that those things triggered. I am thankful for the harvest from our little neglected garden. We have probably two more rounds of purple hulled peas coming. The tomatoes that are now so green will eventually ripen even if we have to line the windowsills with them to get them to do so. These are good things to be thankful for this week. 

I am fortunate.

My tithe this week has gone to the Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Houston and the American Red Cross.  Please give if you feel so inclined. You can also buy something from the Hurricane Relief Amazon Wish list. When you start the checkout process, you'll see a listing for Merritt Law Firm LLC Gift Registry address. That's the address you'll select for shipping. I just sent a large package of baby soap. 

 

THE GREAT SPARKLER

Cindy Maddera

I am not sure that I will ever really get used to the firework situation that happens here every July. I did shoot off fireworks when I was a kid, but we lived outside of any city limits. It was not illegal, just highly frowned upon (mostly by Dad). You certainly did not set them off within city limits. I know of some cul-de-sacs who would pool their money every year to pay the fine for shooting off illegal fireworks, but I never witnessed the firework displays like I have seen here in my current neighborhood. For one thing, most of the fireworks from last night are not even sold in the state of Oklahoma. Every year since I have been here, a public service announcement goes out reminding people that fireworks are illegal. Every year the PSA is ignored and my neighborhood ends up sounding like a war zone and a smokey haze fills the sky. I don't mind. It is probably the only time of year where I am winning our game of Gun Shots or Fireworks (I pick fireworks every time).

Michael bought the Cabbage a whole bunch of fireworks yesterday. We walked around inside a big tent full of all kinds of fireworks picking out satellites and tanks and ground blooms. Of course our bag filled up with sparklers and snaps too, as well as some fountains and missiles.  Michael noticed a large display of the bigger fireworks, the kind you drop into a provided canon. They were on sale. So we ended up with three of those. At one point I had to leave because I could hear my Dad talking so loudly in my head about the money we were literally burning. He would also go on and on about the mess they make and how we had to be sure and pick up every scrap. Yet he never prevented us from buying them. We did have to roll the pennies we saved over the year, but he always threw in a few extra dollars. 

While I stood just outside the tent, I started thinking about the time Stephanie and I worked in a firework stand on the east end of Collinsville. That was the summer my nephew, Kolin, was born. He was early and sick and would only end up being with us for a few short weeks. I would get up in the mornings and drive to the hospital in Tulsa where I would put on scrubs and disinfect my hands up to my elbows just to go into a room to look at him. Then I would take J somewhere. We'd go to the mall or a movie. Someplace other than the hospital. Then I'd drop him off and head back to town for my shift at the firework stand. Stephanie and I spent most of our time at the stand trying to stay cool. We would sit in our lawn chairs, with our feet up on the counter and I would tell her about that morning's hospital visit. Then she would tell me about the crazy dessert stuff our boss had left for us to eat. 

One night, just before closing, a group of drunk guys pulled up in their pick-up truck and stumbled out. The swayed up to the counter and then started pointing at different fireworks with their lit cigarettes. "Whud about that one? Whuts that one do?" Steph and I took turns explaining the fireworks while reminding them to put their cigarettes out. They bought a small bag's worth of firecrackers and moved on. We both sighed with relief. Mostly though, it was a boring job, but a good distraction for that summer. We would be really busy for ten minutes with a flurry of people and then we wouldn't see a soul for hours. On the last night we were open, we had to do inventory. The owner could send back all of the unopened packages of fireworks and get his money back for them. We had to go through everything and tally up what was left, packaged or not packaged. Anything not packaged was ours for the keeping. Steph and I had an amazing 5th of July fireworks display. 

Our backyard fireworks display was pretty impressive. We even had an intermission because of rain. Still, I don't think it tops that 5th of July Stephanie and I had. 

 

 

MY RIGHT EYE JUST FELL OFF ON MY KNEE

Cindy Maddera

It has happened more than twice in a period of one week. I find myself scrolling through my pictures, looking for something in particular, and instead end up lost. You know when I say that I should be more organized? What I am really saying is that I should have my photographs better organized. I don't tag anything or name anything or put anything into albums. The best I can do is try to remember what year I uploaded the picture. Good luck with that. So, there I am, rolling through page after page of pictures. My life moves backwards in a blur. Memories flashing by like a flip book. Sometimes I linger over one, but often I zip on by.

There's a small box on the bookshelf that contains some keepsakes. Old pictures. Christmas cards. For some reason I can't seem to toss the Christmas card that have family pictures on them. I was still looking for a certain picture when I opened that box. The picture I was looking for was not there, but instead I found pictures from our college days. There was one of Jen when we'd dolled her up for homecoming because she'd been in the running for homecoming queen. There was Amy and Chris and maybe Jen sitting at a table in the snack bar with their arms stretched out overhead as they all did their best impression of a snail. It was during one of those late night study sessions. I noticed a few snapshots from the UFO trip. Then there was a stack of wedding photos. God...we were so young and ridiculous. 

The next thing I know, I find myself scrolling through Chris's flickr feed. I don't even know why. I wouldn't find the picture I was looking for there. There is no reason for me to be looking at this space. I scroll through anyway. There are so many pictures of Chris because of all the 365 day projects. I watch him lose weight, gain weight, lose more weight. Occasionally there is a picture of him and Traci and it makes me wince. I still feel responsible, guilty, like I ruined it all for the two of them. I am sorry Traci. For what, I am not even sure I have words for. I am sorry even though deep down I know know know that I have nothing to be sorry for. Eventually I make it all the way back in his flickr feed when he is still wearing glasses. I remember how long it took me to get used to him without them after his eye surgery. Now it seems so odd to see him wear them. 

I am picking at scabs. That is what this is. It is a canker sore on the inside of my lip that I constantly poke with the tip of my tongue. It is because I have started writing a little bit here and there on an old story. A story no one will really want to read, but one I am afraid to forget. Also I am filling up with words. Their sharp edges are starting to poke me from the inside. I burp letters. Finding the time to do this seems impossible. I imagined the other day getting on the train and riding it to St. Louis or Chicago. I'd just get on the train with my laptop and sit and write while the country passes by. No distractions. No cleaning up after others. No demands or grabs for my attention. Nothing except for the occasional glance out the window. I'd get to the end of the line and just turn around and come back. I mentioned this idea to a friend at work. I said I'd get on the train with just my laptop and she said "and write!" before I could finish my own sentence. 

Maybe she could see the jagged edges of all the words poking out of me. Maybe it just seems obvious that I have stories weighing me down. 

MIMOSA MEMORY

Cindy Maddera

There's a mimosa tree a few houses up the street. We pass it on our evening walks with Josephine. Most times I don't even notice it, but right now the tree is covered in pink pompom like blooms that look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Those blooms fill the air with a sweet green smell. That smell along with the cicada soundtrack of summer that was playing in the background, triggered summer time memories from a time so long ago that I'm not even sure those memories are real. They have that shimmery heat wave look to them, like those cartoon images of a mirage. I'm Droopy with a handkerchief on my head.

A mimosa tree grew on the southeast corner of my parent's property. I remember when the tree was small, but only vaguely. Mostly, I remember that tree as being big and tall enough to be my climbing tree and how I would spend hours sitting on one limb or another. If I wasn't in the tree, I was laying under the tree. If wasn't sitting on one limb or another, I was jumping off one limb or another. I remember one summer evening, sitting in that tree while watching a lunar eclipse. The land facing east was still undeveloped and the pasture there stretched on and on. The moon was at it's largest that night taking up more than half the eastern horizon. We were in the middle of preparing for Janell's first wedding and Mom was mad because we were all outside watching the moon instead of beating the carpets with a tennis racket. 

There was a brief amount of time after I fell from that tree and broke my arm, where I struggled with climbing it. The fall came from a moment of indecision. I could climb down the way I'd climbed up or I could jump down from the branch I was on. I turned slightly to go ahead and climb down, when my shorts snagged on part of a branch. The momentum of my forward movement halted suddenly by the snag yanked me backwards and I flipped over, landing hard on the ground below with my arm broken in two. After my arm was healed and the cast was gone, I would step up onto my first foot hold, a foot hold that was practically worn into place because I'd used it over and over, and I would pause. I would hesitate to go up any further. My confidence was shaken even though I know the reason I fell from the tree had nothing to do with my climb up into it. Yet, fear would still grip my heart even as I continued to climb on up into the tree and settle into my usual spot. 

But I still climbed up into that tree. 

That pasture that seemed to stretch for miles is now dotted with houses. The mimosa tree on the corner is now gone. Dad wanted to cut the thing down when I broke my arm, but I begged and pleaded for him not to do it. He got his way when I moved out of the house. I came home one weekend and my tree was just a stump. Dad mumbled something about diseased, but I knew better. Those things are changed or gone now, but the lesson never left me. If I'm standing on that ledge looking down into a crystal clear pool, no matter how tightly fear has wrapped itself around my heart, I'm going to jump.

Because I'm more stubborn than brave. 

 

I BOUGHT A COAT

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I were sitting in a restaurant a few weeks ago and Michael was all glued into his phone (this is ironically funny because he used to tease me about being on my phone all the time and now it's him that's on his phone all the time). He said "It's going to be twenty degrees colder next week than it was this week." This statement caused me to slump in my seat and frown. I looked at him and said "winters get harder and harder every year." He told me it's because as I get older my bones get closer to my skin. I just responded to this with a raised eyebrow. I doubt seriously that my bones are any closer to my skin this winter than they were last winter or the winter before that.

It's just that something happens during the winter solstice and a switch gets flipped in my brain. A melancholy sort of settles in like a storm system and I feel like I'm struggling to be positive and joyful. Maybe this is the year I start taking drugs. I say that to myself every year. At the very least, maybe this is the year I buy one of those therapeutic sun lamps or maybe this is the year I just become resigned to the fact that winter is hard for me. Winter represents the taking away of good things. Warm sunshine. Scooter rides. Bicycle rides. Comfortably being outside. Chris. It dawned on me today while I was in savasana that for the life of me I could not remember the sound of his voice. Could not. Can not. I can't remember what Chris's voice sounded like. The realization of this was an Icee in the face. I even gasped for air like you would do when surfacing from a frozen swimming pool. Moments earlier, I'd come up into Warrior I with a giant smile on my face. Now I was racking my brain trying to remember the last thing I heard him say (coherently) and struggling to breath.  Bipolar grief. 

Then I get angry and I start remembering the few things about Chris that pissed me off. Like how he would say that any time I asked him to do something, I was nagging him. So much of the stuff in the basement is garbage that Chris couldn't get rid of when we moved up here. Now they're things I don't know how to get rid of. I never told you about the dreams I had where Chris was really mean to me. He said hateful, awful things to me and I know it's irrational to be mad at someone for what they did in a dream, but I sure am mad at afterlife Chris for saying those mean things to me. I want to make the excuse that it's the cold that makes me disgruntled. It's the angle and distance of the sun from the earth that makes me cranky. Disgruntled and cranky are just alternative emotions for dealing with the memories that these are the months where everything turned to shit for a little while. For a long while. 

The other day, I found myself getting really irritated because someone in front of me wasn't doing something the way I'd do it. There is a stubborn I-am-right-about-everything streak that bubbles up inside me at times and I have to remind myself that I am not right. My way is not better. Their way is not wrong. It's all just different. In that moment I decided to stop being angry over choices other people make because those choices are their's, not mine. It's like being angry over spilled milk that you didn't even spill. What if I did that now? Applied that theory to winter and grief? I didn't chose any of the events that led to everything turning to shit. Neither did Chris. Those things just happened. Just because. It's the answer that you give every four-year-old after they've asked "why?" fifty bagillion times. Yes. It is an incredibly unsatisfying answer. We inherently want things to be more, mean more than "just because". Sometimes there is more than "just because", like finding my scooter key when I found it. Mostly there is not more than "just because". 

Friday, I let Michael talk me into buying a new winter coat. The coat I had been wearing was bought for Oklahoma winters. I had to wear an extra layer under it here and then the zipper went wonky during Christmas break. So, I grumbly agreed that it was time for an upgrade. I now have a coat that is more suited to Kansas City winters. It keeps me warm without adding an extra sweater.  And because it keeps me warm, I was able to take back something that winter likes to take away. I was able to comfortably take my walk outside. When the sun finally broke through the cloud cover, it may not have been close enough to physically warm my face, but it emotionally warmed my heart. 

THINGS I'D RATHER NOT

Cindy Maddera

While Michael was out Saturday doing his Christmas shopping, I stayed home to put up the Christmas tree and make stockings for the pets and Christmasfy the house. First off, let me tell you about making stockings. This required me to use a sewing machine and we all know that my relationship with my sewing machine is not good. We don't care for each other at all. When I dragged it out of storage, dusted it off and plugged it in, I anticipated a large amount of swearing. For some reason, loading a bobbin correctly is the hardest thing to do, but after the second try and a little sewing on a test piece of fabric, everything seemed to be working normally. The next thing I knew, I was sewing along like I knew what I was doing, pulling pins as I went and storing them between my lips like my momma taught me. There was a brief moment when things were going so well that I looked around to see if any one was watching and I thought "who the fuck is this person using a sewing machine?!?!"

It took me longer to get the sewing machine out and then put away than it did to do the actually sewing. This was also kind of true for decorating the tree. It took longer to bring up the boxes than it did to put the ornaments on the tree. Michael and I had discussed before I even started that maybe I shouldn't put anything important out and on the tree this year. It's the first Christmas with a puppy and a cat. Josephine has already removed and destroyed one cardboard elephant from the tree, as well as tiny bearded gnome. I have sprayed the cat many times with a can of compressed air. It was agreed that by "important" we both were talking about my Babar ornament. I was totally amazed that Chris was able to find a replacement that one time. I could not tempt fate and expect to find Babar a third time. Most of my ornaments are plastic or paper or cloth, so I went ahead and just put everything except Babar on the tree. 

Every Christmas, since we've been together, Michael and I have picked out an ornament for the tree that is an "us" ornament. The first year, we picked out a Santa riding a trout. It made zero sense, but it was ridiculous and seemed to be fitting because we hadn't really been in our relationship long enough to have an idea of what represented "us". The second year we picked out a record player because I had gotten Michael's record player fixed and I had purchased a bunch of Dorris Day and Barbara Streisand records. Cleaning days were a mix of his records and mine, with me singing along to all of them. This year we had plans to get a VW bus ornament because that's all we seem to be able to talk about these days, but when we went to the store, they were sold out. We settled on an R2D2 and Darth Vader set because the new Star Wars movie comes out Friday and we have tickets to see it Saturday. (Buying Star Wars ornaments with Michael is a little I don't have a word for it, but he likes Star Wars a whole lot, just not on the level that Chris liked Star Wars and this is a completely other topic of conversation.)

As we were placing the new ornaments on the tree, Michael asked me about the ornaments already on the tree. He wanted to know how many I'd left off the tree this year because the tree was not loaded down with ornaments. I admitted that I'd really only excluded Babar from the tree and then I looked at him and asked "I have told you what happened to all our ornaments right?" He said he vaguely remembered, but asked for a refresher. I gave him a brief run down version of how the Grinch disguised as a mean dog with inconsiderate owners destroyed our Christmas ornaments. And they were not just a box of generic ornaments either. These were ornaments that we had collected over the years of our marriage, ornaments that had been from our childhoods, one of a kind irreplaceable ornaments. As I got to the part about how Babar had been turned into colored dust, I felt my throat close up and tears prick my eyes. I was surprised by my reaction to telling this story again, surprised that it still stung after all this time. Michael was appropriately outraged and I shrugged and said "I'm still building back my collection from that time."

We are building back that ornament collection. The Christmas tree is a blending of memories that grows every year. Chris and I managed to gather a small number of ornaments together after the destruction of the old ones. There's an Ecto-1 and a Wall-E on the tree to replace the Enterprise and Yoda. I've added in some new elephants and Chris did find me a new Babar. After a moment of hesitation, I took Babar out of the box and set him on a shelf along with my Abominable Snowman. It just didn't seem right, after all of that, to leave him tucked away in a box. Now Michael and I are adding our own ornaments to the collection. Sure, it's not much now, but give us a few more years and I bet it will be a spectacular collection. 

 

COWBOY MEMORIES

Cindy Maddera

I don't know what made me think of this memory, but it's been floating around in my head for a few days now. Maybe it's because I felt like August would never end, the month full of sad anniversary dates. I flew to Portland on August 1st, ten years after J died and one year after Dad passed.  I didn't really say much about it at the time, but when I mentioned that Portland was hard, that was an understatement. There were moments when I could not bring myself to leave the condo. I couldn't imagine seeing anything I hadn't seen already and I wouldn't run the risk of running into old memories. So I sat in my room and watched TV on my computer. Then I got home and I was happy and things were good with the exception of a little work anxiety, but the month just dragged on and on. I know I am not the only one to feel this way and it's quite possible that sound you heard this morning was a collective sigh of relief. 

Any way...the memory that's been floating around in my head. It came to me while I was in the cafeteria one morning. There was a man trying to maneuver around the cafeteria with a tray in one hand and a baby propped up with the other arm. I thought for a moment of offering to hold that baby while the man finished getting his things. Then I realized that we were strangers to each other and people usually do not let strangers hold their babies. That's when I remembered this story Dad liked to tell. We were on one of our typical Colorado trips. I was still a baby and really fussy. The cottonwood trees had me all stopped up and snotty. The family had gone to one of those chuck wagon dinner shows and I stood on Mom's lap crying, with her arm wrapped around me while she tried to eat her dinner with the other hand. One of the young cowboys performing in that night's show came by and took me from Mom. He carried me all around the dinner hall, picking up empty plates with his other hand and filling glasses of tea all with me tucked in his other arm. He handed me back over to Mom when she was done eating. 

Of course, I have no memory of this. I just thought of Dad's story when I saw this man and his baby. I thought about how no one would do that now, but in the late 70s no one cared. People were still trying to set their babies on bears in Yellowstone for photo ops. That might have even been the same trip where Dad pulled a sizable trout from the river while we were on a hike. He didn't have his fishing license on him so rolled the fish up in a (clean) diaper and stuck it under me in the backpack I was riding in. I never wore a helmet or a seat belt. I have the scares to prove that I never wore knee pans. I can't imagine ever walking up to a stranger now and offering to hold their baby for them. My friends who have kids, I know for sure would never agree to hand their baby over to complete stranger no matter how frazzled they were in that moment. Yet, there I was thinking about making that offer and remembering the time I was whisked away by a singing cowboy. 

IN NEED OF SUPERGLUE

Cindy Maddera

The other morning, Josephine woke me up at 4 AM banging and scratching around in her crate. I figured she just needed to go out, so I got up and let her out. By let her out, I mean I opened my bedroom door and then made sure all the dog doors where open. Then I went back to bed. I was almost back into dreamland when a loud crash jolted me out of bed. Josephine had knocked over Pepaw's ashtray while trying to lick the inside of a bowl Michael had used for peanuts.  I did the thing you are not supposed to do in dog training. I swatted Josephine's butt and then picked her up as if she were an unruly toddler and put her back in her crate. The damage was already done though. Pepaw's ashtray was now broken on the floor. 

When Pepaw died, we all descended on his house to clean it out. He hadn't really been living in the house for some time. He preferred the comforts of his camp trailer. He still used the kitchen to store his MoonPies and spare aluminum coffee percolators. There was evidence that he still lounged from time to time in his recliner to watch TV, but mostly he slept in the trailer and spent time on the porch. Yet the house was full of home like things, furniture, old photos. Things that accumulate in a family home. All of this stuff had to be dealt with and the bickering had already started over who gets what. I've never been the type to care about such things. Actually, I hate the whole process. It's gross. I took Pepaw's camp stove because it was in good working order and we needed a camp stove at the time. I also took one of Pepaw's ashtrays. 

Pepaw was the smoker in the family. A number of ashtrays were scattered around all over his house. Most of them full. I wanted the ugliest, goddiest ashtray we could find. I knew that this was something no one else would want and thus I would not hear anyone complain about how that was promised to them or blah blah yuck blah. I also wanted that ashtray because I knew that without a doubt every time I looked at it, I would be reminded of Pepaw and the way he smelled like Old Spice and stale cigarettes.  Which I know doesn't really sound appealing, but I can't think of one bad memory when I think of those smells. Katrina was the one that actually found my ashtray. Her task was to wash all things dish like that day. She lifted the large orange ashtray out of the sink and said "Cindy, what about this one?" 

It was perfect. It was this large rhomboid shaped boat of an ashtray, burnt orange with flecks of black and gold. It begged to be set on a mod coffee table in a wood paneled basement with green shag carpet. It was the kind of ashtray that you could just imagine some hipster upcycling  into a bird feeder by gluing hooks and attaching chains to each corner.  It was so ugly it was beautiful and it was mine. Since then, that ashtray has always had a spot in my home. It has also always been known as Pepaw's ashtray. It tends to be a catch-all for things like nail clippers and keys. Remote controls and junk mail. 

I was pretty upset when I saw it laying on the floor in pieces. Then I realized that only two pieces had broken off and they were clean breaks. I can totally fix this. And I will. Because it's Pepaw's astray.  

THOUGHTS AND FASHION

Cindy Maddera

I am slowly getting back to normal after my trip to New York. At least things are unpacked and clean and the suitcase is put away. For now. I leave Saturday morning for a microscopy conference in Portland. So I really don't know why I put that suitcase away other than I think I want to take my slightly bigger suitcase (?). I'm tired. Nothing really makes sense right now. Our weekend was full of hot sweaty yard work and coop cleaning. We chased chickens and clipped wings again. Matilda is a biter. In case you were curious. Also, there are no eggs yet. When I get back from Oregon and we have a Cabbage free weekend, we're going to make some modifications to the coop like put in some actual nesting boxes and a door on the side. I think this will help with the whole egg thing. 

After cleaning the coop and moving it over to some fresh grass, Michael and I sat under the shade and drank a soda before playing a second round of chicken roundup. We took a break and just sat and watched the chickens happily pecking around the yard. The heat here has finally reached oppressive temperatures and this is punctuated with the roaring buzz of the cicadas. That sound always pulls my brain back to my childhood. That sound means that it is the hottest part of the summer and the grass is dry and crunchy under your bare feet. If a breeze exists it is the hot hair of a hairdryer blowing in your face. Of course it is different here. Oklahoma was dry and hot. Missouri is humid and hot. It's like sitting in a sauna. I don't mind really unless I have to move around. I mean when you sit in a sauna, you sit in the sauna. You don't get on a treadmill and run it out. I'm quite comfortable in this weather lounging in a hammock. 

My mother had a house dress she always wore during those hot summer days. It was like a big mumu, but less Island and more pioneer. The dress always seemed bigger than mom in more ways than one. I have memories of going in for a hug and being surrounded by the blue cotton fabric. It was like playing in the sheets when they're hanging on a line to dry. When I fell and broke my arm that day, I sort of crawled a little ways down the yard before just laying there. I remember that this was the dress my mom was wearing and I can still see it billowing around her as she ran out into the yard. No shoes. Pale face. Panicked voice and that big blue dress. Really that's most of all I remember of that day. I remember one time Mom wrapped a scarf around her head and tied a belt around the dress. She put large hoop earrings in her ears and every bracelet from her jewelry box on her wrists, transforming herself into a gypsy for Halloween. She even had a crystal ball. 

That dress was so bohemian and hippy which my mother was neither of those two things. When I tell people that we only ate food from our garden, usually those people reply with "so..you had hippy parents." No. I did not have hippy parents. None of us were named after celestial beings. My parents where Southern Baptist Conservative Democrats. Almost the exact opposite of hippy. Maybe that's why I loved that dress so much. Contradictory. It softened Mom's hard edges and proper young lady tendencies. I don't know why I've been thinking of that dress lately. I have a black and white maxi dress that I tend to wear on Sundays after I've finally decided to take a shower and brush my teeth. Every time I lift it up over my head and let it fall down my body, I am disappointed that it is not my Mom's old blue dress. Sometimes I look for this dress on the racks in thrift stores or even in the mature women section of department stores. The dresses are never the right shape and the fabric is usually too scratchy, but I keep my eyes peeled any way. 

My billowy blue house dress is out there somewhere. I just know it. 

IMPRINTS

Cindy Maddera

I remember a visit with family in Mississippi once when I was little. I don't remember how old I was. I just remember being little. My cousin Tammy was maybe still in college. I'm not really sure. I know it was before she was married, before she had kids of her own. Which was rare. Most of my cousins were all grown up with brand new babies of their own. I was in this odd place too old to hang out with the adult cousins and too young to hang out with new baby ones. Tammy reminded me of someone's cool older sister or baby sitter. I remember on that trip that she gave me a toothbrush. She had painted my name on the handle with paint pens (remember paint pens?) and added two little daisies. One just before the C and one just after the y. She was the one in the group most likely to sit and color with me or make beaded bracelets. 

On this trip where she gave me the toothbrush, she also painted my nails. I remember that she told me that I had to be really careful. "Never do your nails too close to bedtime. You want to be sure that they have plenty of time to dry before you go to bed because if you don't, you'll wake up the next morning with your sheets imprinted on your nails." I was split on what I thought of this wise bit information. The idea of waking up to Strawberry Shortcake imprinted on my nails sounded cool to me. It took me a moment to realize that she meant the texture of the sheets would leave an impression. I envisioned swirly flowery patterns from sheets on the bed I was sleeping in that night pressed into my thumb nail. I didn't think that this was such a bad thing. But Tammy was so cool and she'd taken the time to paint my tiny nails and share her knowledge with me that I didn't want to mess them up. I spent the rest of the evening moving with care and ease. I went to bed that night plucking gently at the sheets and blankets with my finger tips and sleeping with my hands outside the covers. 

Tammy's tidbit about not going to bed with wet nails would be filed away with the scores of other beauty tips I would receive throughout this life. Mom taught me the importance of always washing your face before bed. From Katrina, I would learn that earrings are essential to any outfit and Janell would teach me to be creative in finding my own sense of style. I am reminded of a picture Misti posted once of a toddler Misti sitting on a kitchen counter as her mother liberally sprayed her tiny locks of hair into curls. The things that women teach girls. Even that old lady in that boutique Mom and I went into to try on prom dresses when she placed her cold hands on my bare breasts to lift them up to put them in my strapless bra. Traumatizing yes, but I always wear a strapless bra properly now. When I wear one. 

These are the things I thought of this morning when I woke up and noticed that my sheets had left wrinkled lines in my freshly painted nails. 

 

MOTH

Cindy Maddera

I remember there was a time when Chris wanted to do a This American Life Story. I was always on board for this idea. The problem was that neither one of us could ever come up with a story that seemed to fit. We were always brainstorming things to research to build a story. Maybe that's why the Moth Radio Hour has become my new thing. It's just people telling stories. Sort of like TAL but less investigative and more personal. It's more Listen To Your Mother without the mother. That's not really true either. I'm sure there's some stories that include a mother or mention of being a mother. More inclusive may be a better way to describe it. I was listening to the show and thinking that I should do that some day. I should tell a story on the Moth. 

But then I wonder what story it would be that I would tell. I think of all my collections of memories. We came across so much stuff while cleaning out the old house. Mom had a hard time parting with a lot of things. They held memories and value to her. I've never really felt that way about things. The memory and value of the memory is here, in my head. My dad died from complications of Alzheimer's. Near the end he forgot to eat. He forgot how to chew. He forgot how to swallow food. He forgot how to live. This disease is possibly hereditary. I may very well be walking around with the gene carrying a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and disintegrate things remembered. I've always been aware of the temporariness of things. Those tangible objects that we collect and hold so dear can be broken and smashed. Pictures can be torn and burned. Some objects lose memories and meaning completely. There have been times I've looked at one of the many elephants in my collection and could honestly say that I had no idea where that elephant came from. Others, I can remember whole stories behind the gift of receiving them like the elephant Pez Chris gave me that Christmas he surprised me with the pearl earrings. 

I think about my yoga teacher Karen. They used to live in an apartment in NY near the towers. On 9/11 they had to flee that apartment with a diaper bag, a baby under one arm and a cat under the other. They had already packed up their because they were making a life change, moving to a new city for a new job. Their apartment was full of their packed up things. They were told that they would never see those things again and that their building was a total loss. When Karen tells this story she talks about how they mourned their things. She says "we let them go, but we mourned our things." I always thought this was such a good description of emotions over lost stuff. I remember when Chris and I were robbed and how at the end of the day we were just glad it was our things they'd taken. No one was hurt. Later on one of us would reach for something that was no longer there and let out and "aw man! they took the..." We mourned our lost things once we realized it was missing. 

Karen follows up the story by saying that they did actually get all of the their things back. Everything had been boxed up for movers and was so well packed that everything survived. They mourned their lost things, bought new things to replace the old things, and then got their old things back. They shoved all of the boxes up into the attic to be sorted through at their leisure. She said when they finally got around to opening the boxes, every thing inside had a smell, like it had been in a fire, but worse. They ended up getting rid of it all any way. But we tend to hold on to things because they contain the stories. They are a tangible memory of that time you visited the Grand Canyon or ate a 72 oz steak. Except those tangible things get old, break down, take on funky smells, turn into garbage. The thing is not important, but pulling the memory free from the thing is. 

The paradox comes in where to store that memory. All things are fleeting. Maybe it's enough to hold onto the memory long enough to tell the story of it. Tell it just once. Remember that time we... Write it down someplace. Some people scoff at bloggers and their navel gazing. We all navel gaze. Bloggers make their's public. So what. I think of it as cleaning out. Memories are like things. They accumulate. Clutter tends to make me feel like I do in large crowds. I have no qualms in tossing it all out. Sometimes, my brain feels the same way. It gets so cluttered with these memories and they just swirl and swirl around in my head. It gets so overwhelming with them all swishing around there that the only relief is to pull them free and put them someplace.

The Moth Radio Hour is a someplace. Something to think about. 

THE GENETICS OF HANDWRITING

Cindy Maddera

As I filled a garbage bag of leftover bits and pieces in the attic, I came across a bin of papers. From the top it looked like trash. Mice had eaten away at things and most of the papers were so old they crumbled when touched. But I stopped and took a moment to go through the box. I pulled out a crumbling photo album, Janell's very first baby picture and few other things. I realized then that it was time to take a break and go through this container with a little more care. I carried it downstairs so we could all go through it at the dinning room table. 

Mixed in with the garbage and the pictures, I pulled out a few letters. One of the letters was the very last letter that Memaw sent to Mom. It arrived after Memaw had passed away. My mother has never read the letter. She said it was just something she couldn't ever bring herself to do, so I took it. It was opened and had been read by someone at some time. The first thing I noticed about the letter was the handwriting. It's the same handwriting as Mom's. If I didn't know better, if all I had was the letter and not the envelope it came in with Effie McCool in the top left corner, I would think this was a letter from Mom. Except it's not. 

It's a letter from a woman I never knew telling a simple tale of daily life and the current happenings of Louisville MS in November of 1977. They'd all had colds, but were better now. A new Wal-Mart store and a new Piggly Wiggly had just opened. Memaw and Pepaw had spent a day cleaning up the Tucker family grave sites at Mars Hill Church. So and so had a new baby boy and some couple had separated. Memaw wanted to know if we were planning on visiting at Thanksgiving, but then wrote something about having already mostly finished this letter after talking on the phone with Mom about that very thing. At the end she tells my Mom "be good and hugs to all. We love you, Mother". I love that she's still telling my thirty something year old mom to "be good". 

I never knew Memaw. I was one (going on two) when this letter was written and she passed away. I've heard all of the stories from cousins and my brother and even Mom about how wonderful she was. They speak of her as if she were Mother Teresa. She was the grandma that you baked cookies with. She probably was the type that could have brushed my hair without me throwing a fit. I'm sure I would have sat for hours in her lap. Instead I got her wedding rings, her china and now her letter. I inherited her ability to make the perfect pie crust. And, if I take my time and don't rush the words, I notice that I have also inherited her handwriting.