Senior Sisters Reunion

In twelve days I’ll see my sister whom I haven’t seen in twenty years. It’s time. Two weeks ago she posted on Facebook, pretty much our sole form of communication, that she had a near death experience as a reaction to a new medication.

What am I waiting for, I thought, the funeral! I think not. I shot off an instant message to see if she was open for a visit. No response. Great. She’s either dead or doesn’t want to see me.

I had tried to word my message with an appropriate amount of interest in visiting with her while also indicating a desire to see New Orleans. My goal was to take any pressure off her to feel like she had to entertain me. I mean how do you say, I want to see you before one of us dies.  Viewing her body in a casket is not how I want to remember her.

JB - Tammy wedding 1996
The two of us in 1996

 

For two days I moped around convinced that a reunion with my baby sister was not going to happen. Then a response!

Why had I stressed! She’s the one who always made us late. She’s the one who put off everything, and I mean everything, until it was usually too late to do it.  Oh yeah, and everyone loved her. She’s the baby, unbelievably nice, sickeningly sweet but always late.

She wants me to come! She’s excited about my coming. She’s telling all her friends I’m coming! Whoopee! Definitely the response I was hoping for.

The last time Tammy and I saw each other we were young, at least relatively speaking. Tammy was in her early forties and I was a month away from 50. Do the math, the reunion of two senior sisters!

The countdown begins. In twelve days I’ll be on my way from the hot, dry Southern California desert to the hot and humid City of New Orleans. I’m going to see my sister. Day 12 and counting down!

 

 

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In the closet, under the bed

Daily Post: Tremble

“Get under the bed, get under the bed.” If we weren’t scared before Martha said that, we were then.

My two younger sisters, shorter and faster than I, skittered under and left no room for me..

hiding-under-bed

“Where do I go? Where can I hide?” My nine-year-old voice trembled in fear.

“In the closet. Get way in the back.” As Martha  shoved me, I was overwhelmed by the comforting smell of Mom’s Tweed cologne. I sure wish she were here. She could make this stop. I know she could.

Then we heard the loudest noise I’d ever heard-bang! “I’m going to shoot somebody!” His voice was deep and loud. His Southern accent was stronger than ours. Like “Ahm gonna shoooot sumbuddy.”

We cowered. “Are you alright?” Martha whispered to my sisters.

“Uh huh.” I could tell they were crying. I wasn’t crying—yet, but I was hugging Martha so tight, she could hardly breathe and she was trying to pry my fingers away from her waist. I just squeezed tighter. What was happening?

And then we heard it again. It seemed louder this time. We waited, not breathing. Nothing. What happened? Was he coming inside. Were we the somebodies he was going to kill. I felt sticky all over and my throat hurt from clenching my teeth.

Finally, Martha said, “wait here.” “Don’t go, don’t go.” We were crying loudly. So what if he heard us. “Don’t leave us. We’re scared.”

Martha hugged me and pried my fingers away. “I’ll be right back.” Then she kissed the top of my head.

“Come over here. Come get in the closet with me.” Shaking and trembling, my sisters tentatively snaked the short distance from the bed to the closet. We huddled tightly.

Then we heard the back door close. “It’s okay. Come on out.”

Martha took us into the living room and sat us down on the sofa. “Your mom will be here any minute. Everything’s okay.” We heard the sirens and wanted to jump up and run out and look. “Stay here!” Martha was shouting and tears ran down her face. Martha had never raised her voice at us, ever.

pic-for-trembling

Later, much later, Mom told us that our neighbor, whom we had never met, killed himself with a shot-gun. We didn’t even know what that meant. We didn’t know anything about dying or being killed. But we nodded like we did. We didn’t ask any questions. We knew we didn’t want the answers.

 

 

Just a Little Face Paint

Daily Post: Paint

Yesterday my friend, Alisha, along with “Big John,” the makeover consultant at Lancôme Cosmetics, convinced me to have a makeover. How bad could it be, I thought. After one and half hours perched on a stool holding a hand mirror and trying not to fidget, I remembered why I have a pretty minimal make-up routine.

For one thing, the enthusiasm and absolute glee that these two beauty mavens exhibited wore me out.  Big John’s mantra was “blend, blend, blend.” In a dramatic voice, flourishing one of his many brushes, he would look at Alisha and say, “blending creates that perfect gradation so skin looks supple, smooth and never streaky. Don’t you agree?” Alisha was nodding, holding out other products and asking way too many questions. Who talks like that? And if I ever took over 15 minutes for my entire morning routine, my schedule would be wrecked and my anxiety level would be out the roof.

There were entirely too many steps in this process which is another reason I’ve never really gotten into the whole makeup thing—it’s complicated. I have many other complicated things to think about. Then I look in the mirror, “hey, where did the bags under my eyes go? John, that’s amazing!” Maybe I can hang in there a little longer after all.

But about the time I thought he was done, he picked up another brush. “We’ll use,” and then he said some French word that I didn’t understand, “and start at the apples of the cheeks and blend upwards and towards your temple for a natural look.” Thank God for that, I thought. Natural, that’s good.FullSizeRender2

 “John, you’ve lost me. What did you say that was?”

Alisha steps over, “It’s just a blush.” She’s probably never worn “just a blush” in her life. Alisha is what I consider one of “those” women. Women who are gorgeous without makeup, swear they aren’t, and can spend hours in front of the mirror and emerge looking like they belong on the cover of a fashion magazine. That is not me.

But probably the biggest reason I’m conservative with makeup is that my mom didn’t wear any. She was beautiful and didn’t need it, but I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her to use cosmetics. She had a few things on the top of her dresser like Tussy Deodorant, Jergens Lotion, Tweed perfume, and Revlon lipstick in Fire Engine Red, which to this day really surprises me. But there was no eyeshadow, powder, foundation or blush.

My sister and I were pretty much on our own. We spent hours poring over copies of Teen and Seventeen Magazines trying to look like Sandra Dee. We spent our entire allowance on Tangee lipstick and Maybelline eyeshadow. The best sleepovers were at friends who had older sisters with makeup experience.

It’s been over fifty years since I graduated high school and my make-up skills are quite good now, if I do say so myself. But after seeing the results of the hours spent with Big John and Alisha, I think I’ll spend a little more time and be a bit more adventurous. 

Daddy’s Girl

Daily Prompt-Stubborn

“You are so stubborn!” I hated him right now. Couldn’t he see that transferring to Rayburn High would help me get into college. Better classes, better teachers. Daddy let me storm out of the room without saying, “stay right where you are, young lady.” If he had, I would have had to stand there and listen to whatever he wanted to say. My hackles were up.

Whenever I got upset, Daddy’s favorite comment was, “don’t get your hackles up.”  “Screw you,” I wanted to say, but I never did. In our house we didn’t talk back.

Unless a miracle happened, I wasn’t going to win this one. I was Daddy’s girl and pretty much got what I wanted, but that probably wasn’t going to happen this time. I knew that he knew the real reason I wanted to transfer high schools was that Mike went to Rayburn. That only made me madder and him more stubborn. african-amer-teen-and-father

What could I do to change his mind? At sixteen I was past the point where wheedling and sweet talking worked. The last time I tried he looked at me over the top of his glasses as if to say, “really?” I smiled, batted my eyelashes and shrugged.

Daddy liked Mike okay, but, well now I’m sixteen and Daddy’s girl. Things were changing. Little girl tactics weren’t going to work anymore.  

Then it came to me, “Mr. Sasser.” Mr. Sasser taught tenth grade English and was faculty advisor for the student paper. He loved me—not in a bad way—and thought I had real writing talent. Last year he told Dad that I was the best writer in the school and regretted that there weren’t any advanced composition classes at Washington High. This could be it. I’ll call Rayburn and see what classes they have. Good. I have a plan.

When my pale pink princess phone rang, I knew it was Mike. I couldn’t wait to tell him.              

              

              

Lonely Girl

 

When I look at my day now as a personal trainer, there are times when I can’t believe it is me. I pretty much work out all day or help others workout. I am not a natural athlete, but somewhere along the way things changed.

I never liked to go outside and play. I had an awkward walk, was uncoordinated and had no balance. Recess was painful. I was usually the last one picked for any team sport.  I don’t think Charlie Brown existed when I was growing up, but he and I have a lot in common.

Other kids watched the clock waiting to hear the recess bell. They would be bouncing off their seats as the teacher said, “Wait. Put your books in your desk. Then you can go.” It was a stampede to see who could get out the door the fastest.

If the recess game was softball, I knew my name would not get called. The rules were the team captain picked one boy then one girl, and everyone had to play. When I was the only one left, the captain would sigh and wave me over and say, “Okay, we’ll take her.” Like he had a choice, but hearing those words. Well, it made it worse.

girl on playground
“Lonely Girl”

 

Three outs happened fast, and I usually didn’t have to go to bat. When I did walk to the plate, bat in hand I knew what to expect. Taunts from the team in the field: “Easy out! Easy out!”  My teammates would groan loudly. It couldn’t get much worse than this.

When the recess game was dodge ball, I thought I might actually have a chance to stay in the game. I mean dodge ball, come on. Just don’t get hit by the frigging ball. How hard is that! But I was like a fence post cemented in the dirt. A target. The person with the ball always went for me because I was, once again, an easy out.

The other kids made it look so easy. Running. Laughing. Weaving in and out around each other’s sweating bodies. I was dizzy watching all the activity. It was like I was the maypole, the flag pole and everyone and everything else whirled around me.

My brain was busier than my body. “Run right, run left!” I would start to move, or at least I thought I was starting to move, and then the blonde girl with the perky pony tail would run in front of me. Giggling, she was always giggling. The cute boy holding the red dimpled dodge ball aimed for her, fully intending to miss. The ball hit me instead. I didn’t groan or squeal or make any of the noises the other kids made when they were “out.” I just turned and walked out of the circle.

Usually, I didn’t have to go outside for recess. When I said I needed to finish my homework or was writing a story or reading a book and wanted to stay inside, I think the teachers felt sorry for me. It was such a relief to escape the horrors of the playground.

In the sixth grade I read the poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham. The words gave me hope. I don’t know why because I certainly wasn’t going to make my fellow dodge ball players think any more highly of me. But I read and re-read the poem, imagining myself in a more inclusive future.

“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!”