Posts Tagged ‘growing-up


Scrooge Was Right After All

I’ll keep Christmas in my way and let you keep it in yours.
Not for me the jostle of crowds, the tinnily amplified renditions of carols in the malls;
Mothers- patience nearly exhausted- tucking frazzled hair behind one ear
As she herds children ahead of her, children bawling and bleating for toys, for treats, for a nap, for one more ride on the mechanical horse and then they promise to be good;
Drivers, once mostly fathers but now mothers too, neck stiff and eyes straining as they pilot the car and its sleeping passengers through rain or snow and darkness and endless hours on the highways and byways, tossing a couple quarters into the jar for a cup of coffee, a chocolate chip cookie, a chance to stretch road-numbed legs;
The clatter and clink of silverware and china at brunch, starched white tablecloths quickly ruined by a mimosa, a Bloody Mary, or an elbow ill-placed in the cup of much needed Irish Coffee;
Mistletoe hanging above Abe Lincoln on Main Street- am I imagining having seen it? How appropriate the old scholar should get the affection now he so often vainly craved when alive;
Hawkish east wind swooping down reminds me of the damage time has done to my body- the twisted ankle I thought was healed, once frostbitten toes, calcification and arthritis developing between shoulder and neck- and that I’m much too old on the outside to wait to shower acclaim on Santa when he appears at the end of the parade;
Give me instead a Snuggie’s warmth and a hot mug of coffee to wrap in my chilled hands;
Her tongue poking out at one corner of her mouth, a child struggles to turn felt, Elmer’s glue and a tomato soup can into an attractive present;
Mapley, pineappley hiss and pop of the ham in the oven beside the baking potatoes and the yams;
A cyclical rainbow of primary and secondary colors transforming the old aluminim tree in the corner from a misshapen agglutination of foil to sparkling centerpiece in a child’s half-remembered Christmas dreams;
And the thrumming joy of the cat getting stoned on the catnip infused scratching post we bought to save the loveseat.


Flour Sacked

I had an identity crisis in
The baking supply aisle of our Safeway.
I picked up a five pound bag of flour
And visions of possible futures passed
Before my eyes. All I wanted to do
Was make a little white sauce to mix with
Some cheese when I made mac and cheese from scratch.
But now that I stood here holding the bag
It seemed a waste to buy it just for sauce.
I should be baking cookies or even
Make some bread by hand and fill the house with
Warmth and the homey aroma and yet
It’s been at least a generation since
Anyone in my family made bread
Without a machine and although I tried
Years ago I never quite got the knack
And chances were slim I’d be overcome
With the urge to become so domestic
Again. But if I’m unemployed and broke
Shouldn’t I play Martha Stewart to save
Some cash? Sighing I put the bag into
The shopping cart and gave it a good push,
Squared my shoulders determined to move on.


It Tastes Like Progress

I remember tomatoes-
some of them lumpy-
Redly ripe, still warm from the sun.
Dirt crunching in my teeth because I managed a lick before
My mother whisked it away, into the house to wash it.
I grabbed another one and plunged my teeth into it;
The pulpy sweetness filling my mouth,
The tiny firm seeds between my teeth with the dirt;
I was eating summer.
Drizzly April day, I get tomatoes from Safeway.
Hothouse tomatoes: they’re cool and very clean,
Smooth, unblemished like Jessica’s skin after ProActiv.
The inside is pink, almost mealy;
The seeds nearly absent.
When I bite into it, it tastes like progress.


I Am My Super Self

I’m not a Superman.
I’m not Batman either.
Because I’m not a boy;
My mom says I’m a lady.
Just because I have a cape and
I fly around the room,
Doesn’t mean I’m Superman and I don’t want you to say that.
I’m Kayla and
I’m a girl and
I have a cape and
That’s all.
If I have to be super-anything,
I’m a super-kindergartner.


Fail Wail

I planned to never be one of those parents.
The kind who rolls down the window and yells,
“Where are you going? School’s the other way”
When they see a kid walking at 9 am.
I was never going to be one of those moms
Who screams and acts as if she’s going to faint
When she sees young people engage in what
Used to be called foreplay outside the school door.
Most of all I was hoping that if I
Stayed ever hip and cool I could avoid
The wail. That vocal expression of pure horror
Bestowed by teenage girls on their mothers
If Mom does something terrible like mix up
The Beatles and the Monkees or forget
Which Jonas Brother is known as the cute one.
And yet…

I heard it in my kitchen this morning.
“I was supposed to have an idea
For my Chemistry project by today,” she said.
“It has to do with polysaccharides.”
“That’s what makes up sugar, isn’t it?”
I asked innocently as mothers have
From the Dark Ages through earlier today.
There was an audible intake of breath and then
“Polysaccharides make up fiber, Mom!
A disaccharide only forms a sugar!”
Neither of us spoke for a while. And you know
The shame is that- hidden in my head- there
Is a truth that we’re never going to share.
I know that Nick Jonas is the cute one.


Fate Pays The Rent (Ninth Installment)

Clement took a chicken tikka masala dinner out of the freezer and set it on the counter. He turned the oven to ”preheat” and the temperature to 350, opened the oven door and checked to see that the thermometer was still on the middle rack. He pulled a cherry pie from the refrigerator, measured 1/8 of it, cut the slice and placed it on a Blue Willow plate along with a fork. He pushed the button on the Mr. Coffee and when two cups had brewed through he poured it into a mug, added four sugars and a tablespoon of milk, then carried plate and mug into the dining room to wait for the oven to get up to temperature. He ate the pie and drank the coffee slowly, wiping his mouth with a napkin after each bite. When he’d finished, he filled the sink with warm soapy water and placed the plate, mug, and fork in it, put the dinner in the oven, and walked to the bedroom. He hung his jacket on its wooden hanger in the closet, nestled his shoes on the shoe-rack, and changed into his pajamas.
“What if I went into that office tonight? I told Jeff I was going in tomorrow and maybe that was a mistake. For that matter, how do I know this guy is even going to be gone for two days? Sure, Dolores told me but maybe that was a trick. Maybe she told me to come back in two days because she wanted to allow time to talk to him herself or maybe she’s trying to work out some arrangement with Mr. Gomez about the building. She obviously didn’t buy my story about being a supervisor working for Mr. Gomez. Does she really think I’m trying to take his building away?” The oven pinged and Clement carried the dinner and a clean fork back to the dining room.
When he had finished eating, he rinsed the dishes and silverware. He drained the sink, wiped it out, and filled it with hot soapy water. He washed and rinsed each item, turning it several times, before placing it in the drainer to air-dry.
He walked into the dining room and removed a calculator, a box of checks, a box of privacy envelopes, and a book of stamps from the left-most part of the buffet drawer. He positioned everything on the dining room table and walked toward the front door. He was just taking the bills from the clothespin near the door, where he stored them all week, when the phone rang. Clement listened, his hand still on the clothespin, as his answering machine took the call.
“Clement, this is Mari. Please pick up if you’re there. I really need to talk to you.”
Clement picked up the receiver and had barely time to say “Hello” before she said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I’m sure you’re really busy.”
“I was just cleaning up after dinner.” He put the bills on the dining room table and walked into the kitchen to mix another cup of coffee.”
“You’re so good about that. My mom didn’t teach me much about cleaning and I have to admit I haven’t put a lot of work into learning it on my own.”
“Your place looks good.”
“Mine looks okay but you’re so good you could probably do it for a living.” Clement heard her sip something and took a drink of his coffee. “You know, Clement, Jeff told me about a little cleaning job you’re doing for us.”
“He shouldn’t have told you that. We’re taking care of it.”
“I know you are. I bet you’ll be good at that kind of cleaning, too.” Another sip of her drink and another swallow of his coffee. “You know, since he did tell me and since you’re working so hard I thought maybe I should do something to show you how much I appreciate it.”
“Well, that’s nice of you but I haven’t even done the job yet.” A sip and quiet then Clement thought he heard female laughter in the middle distance. “Jeff said you were hanging out with some friends tonight.”
“Yep, he was right. Me and my girls are kickin’ it all right.” More laughter and farther away this time. “You and me oughta kick it some time.” She giggled.
“Where are you? Are you at your place?”
“No, I’m at Allison’s place. Why? You wanna come over?”
“No. I was just wondering how you were going to get home. You’re not driving are you?”
“Aren’t you sweet to be worrying about me? I don’t think Jeff realizes how good a friend you are. I’ll be okay though. Lora’s not drinking and she’s gonna give me a ride home. Or I could even stay here I guess.”
“That’s a good idea. If you stay there then you won’t have to drive back for your car in the morning.”
“You are so smart, Clement. It really was sweet of you thinking about me being safe and asking how I was gonna get home. You know what? Jeff didn’t even ask me.”
“He knows you better than I do. He probably already knew you’d make arrangements so he wasn’t worried.”
“I don’t think that’s it at all. I don’t think he cares as much about me as you do. You’re the one going after the pictures, right?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Well, I’m his girlfriend so don’t you think he should be doing it?”
“Jeff has a lot of other things on his plate right now. They’re really riding us at work lately and I’m afraid that poor Jeff is taking most of the heat.”
“Oh poo. He never said anything to me about that. I’ll bet he isn’t doing it because he doesn’t care. You’re the one who asked if I’d be okay. You’re the one who’s getting my pictures back. You should be my boyfriend.”
Clement heard a door open near her and footsteps unsteadily crossing the floor. “Mari? What the hell you doing in here, girl? You drunk-dialing?”
Mari giggled. “I’m not drunk. I’m just talking to my friend Clement. I hardly ever get to see him alone because we always end up with Jeff along. We should go someplace by ourselves, Clement. We really oughta kick it.”
Clement heard Mari snort then start coughing. Her friend pounded her on the back and said into the phone, “Mari’s having a little trouble standing, talking, and laughing all at the same time so we’re gonna have to hang up now.”
“Is she all right?”
“Oh she will be fine. Right now though she’s a little impaired.” A giggle and a denial from Mari followed. “She says she’s good to go but we’re gonna drag her into the other room and make her play Sleeping Beauty for a while.”
“If she isn’t okay, you’ll call me right?”
“Who is this again?”
“My name is Clement. I’m a friend of Mari and Jeff but mostly of Jeff.”
“She called you just now?”
“Yes. Can I give you my number?”
“You can give it to me but I don’t guarantee I’ll remember it. I’m about ready to find a soft place to fall my own self.”
“Can you write it down?”
“No, because there ain’t no damn pen by the phone. Can’t ever find a pen by the phone. Maybe people don’t put a pen there because of cordless phones going all over the place. You think so?”
“It’s really hard to tell. Hey, even if she called me my phone number should still be in the phone’s memory now. Right?”
“Honey, you are asking the wrong girl about that. I couldn’t tell you that if I was stone-cold sober. Which I’m not.” She chuckled.
“Okay, if anything goes wrong like somebody can’t drive Mari home or she tries to leave on her own, please call me.”
“You gonna come for her?”
“You bet. What’s your name?”
“You bet, Lisa.”

Clement turned off the lights in the living room, dining room and kitchen. He turned off the lights in the bedroom, climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his chest before tucking them under his arms. He lay there thinking about anything but Mari and the phone call. After an hour, he got out of bed and snapped the light on. He walked to the dresser and pulled open the top left drawer. At the bottom was a light blue envelope addressed in loopy girlish handwriting. He took the envelope out and plopped down on the bed.
“You’re so stupid. I can’t believe you’re still so stupid. After all you’ve been through you still haven’t learned that a girl like her doesn’t really want anything to do with you. Lisa was right. She was drunk-dialing. That’s why she called you. Why do you think she was laughing so much?” He opened the envelope and removed and unfolded the letter.
“Dear Clement,
Thanks for helping me with all my History homework. I’ve always pretty much hated history but you made it kind of fun. You made it sound like you knew everybody and we were just talking about the parties on the weekend.
Which brings me to the hard part of this. Um, I know I told you a lot that I like you and I think you’re really cool and maybe because I told you that you thought we were going to the Sadie Hawkins Dance together. Maybe I even kind of asked you to go. But the thing is… I can’t go to the dance with you. I can’t go to the dance with anybody. We’re gonna be moving to Chicago in a couple weeks and my parents want me to stop being friends with people so when we move it won’t be so hard to leave.
Some people are really jealous cuz you and I have been hanging out together and they might say something really mean like the reason I went out with you is because Shannon and Holly dared me but if you don’t believe it what difference does it make.
Stay cool forever,
“She didn’t move though, did she? You poor sap. She was there all that year and all the next year. Who did she go to the dance with? It wasn’t you. Don’t be stupid again. Mari is Jeff’s girlfriend. Even if she wasn’t Jeff’s girlfriend she would not go out with you. Maybe big girls play Truth or Dare too only they get drunk first. Maybe she wasn’t just drunk-dialing; she was also on a dare. Don’t get lured.” He smiled for a minute, turned the light off again, put the letter under his pillow, and climbed under the covers. He closed his eyes and pictured himself whirling across Kansas in the tornado that carried Dorothy.
When the call came three hours later, Clement was sitting up and breathing hard at the second ring and by the third he was in the living room with the receiver in his hand. “Hello? Hello? I’ll be right there. Just give me the address.”
“Wait a minute. Is this Mo?”
“Mo? I think you have the wrong number.”
“Mo’ money, mo’ problems, you stupid son of a-“
Clement hung up before the caller could finish and sank onto the sofa in a daze. He sat there until his heart rate had slowed then he walked into the dining room and replaced the bill-paying supplies he’d abandoned earlier. He put away the newly dry dishes in the kitchen, walked into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. He opened the bedroom closet and stood, staring into it, for several minutes before putting on a pair of jeans, a black turtleneck, a watch cap, and some green sneakers. He looked at the clock on the bedside table as he finished tying his shoes.
“12:35. Does anyone sleep at night? Will I ever sleep through the night again? Do you have to be drunk at a slumber party to do it?” He dropped his keys into the pocket of a dark gray sweatshirt. “Should I leave a note?” He was almost to the car when he remembered the letter from Elise was still under his pillow. He went back into the house and the bedroom to retrieve it. He folded it in half and stuck it into the right back pocket of his jeans. The phone started to ring as he re-locked the front door but he kept walking.


Menopause, Where Are You Now?

We counted the days till our periods would start;
My friends and I waited with glee.
We wanted to be women and none did foretell
The next forty years of misery.

Menopause, where are you now?
Are you out there with some other woman?
Menopause, I need you today.
So stop your roaming around and come on home.

People count the money they smoke in cigarettes.
They count the pennies they drink up as booze.
Nobody knows the dollars I’ve bled
So one week a month I could have the blues.