The Grown-Up Wedding

     It was about this time of year in 1998, give or take a few weeks…I was 12 at the time, and think I had just kissed a boy for the first time a matter of days before. It was the kind of kiss friends shame you into then watch with intrigue until their turn rolls around.  Strange how thinking about it still reddens my cheeks, but makes me laugh at the same time…

     It was about this time when my second cousin got married in Atlanta.  We drove the 3 1/2 hours to get there, which felt like the road trip of a lifetime to a bored pre-teen. I was excited to see my older cousin, whom I thought was so smart and beautiful, as well as my favorite great-aunt who was always the chic one.  However, I wasn’t so excited to be holed up in a hotel room with my Mom at the time.  I was feeling like such a kid, and I was itching all the time.  I didn’t know for what, but I remember this trip in particular, I wanted to be older.  I wanted it to be exciting.  I didn’t want the usual pleasantries that used to make me smile…my, how’ve you’ve grown…you’re a big girl now…look at those adorable cheeks.  Those were compliments for children, and I could stomach no more of them.

     The wedding was in a gorgeous old house in one of the fabulous districts near downtown Atlanta.  There were servers offering up hors d’oeuvres and champagne in the half enclosed room that smelled like a peach candle I’d once sniffed in the lobby of a hotel at the beach. It was dusk thirty, and the winds ushered in the southern spring air that was perfumed just enough.  Everyone wore fancy dresses, and the band played something I later heard while watching Casablanca. I was at an adult wedding, and that I liked.  I also like the dress I was wearing, which almost gave me an A-cup.

     My mother let me have a sip of her champagne and I wasn’t sure if I thought she was the best mom in the world or she was now going straight to hell for what she’d done.  But hey…I got champagne, and was starting to feel like one of the real people.  I started floating around the room, eyeing the crowd, looking for someone to charm with my sudden dose of confidence…and then found him at one of the food tables.

     The boy from Vancouver was a relative of the groom, and an usher in the wedding.  I’d noticed he was handsome during the ceremony, and had also noticed he was way too old for me.   I’m sure I lingered at the food table to get a better look at him, not dreaming he’d speak.  He turned around and peeked over his shoulder at me.

     “You, know, you look like Britney Spears,”  he flashed a white smile.

     “You know, I’ve heard that,” I tried to be cool, surprised I had even spoken back.

     We went on to talk for several minutes, and I was acutely aware it was because he was talking to me…I hadn’t just followed him around like a lost puppy.  He was an older boy talking to me…probably the first time I’d been noticed in this way. He wasn’t being creepy, and certainly kept his distance…after all, he was 16.  We both knew it.  I got the feeling though that he wished I’d been just a little older, which then, was all I needed to feel special.

     My mother and Aunts chuckled at my obvious crush I tried to hide when back at our table. They’d been watching me yacking away from afar, amused at this side they’d never seen.  They were careful to needle me about it only just enough.

     I spoke to Vancouver a couple more times…then in an instant I was back with my mother; it was time to leave, and it scared me.  I felt connected to this other human in some way, but I was a 12 year old headed back to North Carolina.  He was a 16 year old headed back to Canada.  My mother told me to go say bye, but I decided not to and followed her outside.  I heard a whistle from behind me.

     “See ya later, Britney,”  he called out.

     I smiled and threw my hand up as casually as I could make it look, and walked away like it was nothing.  Although I had a strange gut-wrenching feeling that first showed-up that night too.

      Back at the hotel my cousins and I went night swimming, and I’ll never forget how big the moon was shining down on the pool.  It was a sticky, steamy night, and I felt like the air I was living in.  Somehow the look of that moon, though…it gave me hope…maybe I’d see that boy again.  Maybe I’d find others like him.  But then, and just then, I realized I was growing up, and it had never been so exciting.  I could hear my cousin yell out, “Marco,” but for me, there’d be no “Polo.”

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     And I never saw him again.  He was a flicker of a moment at a grown-up wedding that with but a few sentences let me know it was time to come of age a little bit.  To that, at now 28 and happily married, I still smile.

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The Camelback Scar

It was hot…very hot.  Maybe if Spring had arrived on time in North Carolina instead of playing hooky until mid-April, I would have been more prepared for the Arizona heat.  However, late-March was still being pretty cruel to the southern states.  A sixty-degree day was looking pretty sexy.

The day we decided to climb Camelback Mountain, the giant pile of rocks that pops out of nowhere upon entering Scottsdale, the sun rose laughing at us.  It knew our destinies, even if we didn’t.  I assumed it would be fine…after all, I’m from the land of humidity.  I’d take the dry heat and leave it crying like a little girl when I was through.  I’d been going to the Pure Barre Studio for two months now, and was feeling pretty cocky about my lower body strength too.  I threw on some yoga pants, a hat, and a smile.  I was going to go walk the little trail, with my little smart water in hand and have a dandy day.  I was already thinking ahead to what kind of beer I’d grab afterwards.  A good day loomed.

My husband and I had ventured out west to visit a friend and her husband while he was in Spring Training.  My friend, Susan, my husband, Kimsey, and I decided to hike one day instead of go to the game.  We started trotting up the ankle of Camelback, swinging our iPhones, chatting about where we’d be eating dinner later, already salivating over the famed butter cake. 

It got a little steeper, and we panted a little bit, as expected.  The conversation started trailing, and we were feeling a little proud we were now conquering the tourist attraction, breaking our tiny sweats.  We got to the first overlook, patted ourselves on the back, and took our first rounds of pictures.  Honestly, I thought our mini journey was almost over.  Then I look over and see Susan, perusing a sign with her eyes widening underneath her aviators.

“What?”  I mosey over.

“Holy shit,” she scoffs pointing to our only warning.

I then reviewed the sign informing me that about 75 people per year get rescued off the mountain, that it only gets harder from here, and that I should be carrying with me about ten safety items I did not have.  I glanced down at my sports bra that supported my phone more than anything and looked over at my husband who held the bottle of water the three of us were sharing.  I then took inventory of the little chart that showed how steep things would get.  It looked like a line graph of Mark Cuban’s income stream.

“Umm-Can we do this?” I asked wondering if we were insane.

Somehow we decide we can, and while putting the rising temperature out of our heads, begin the real journey. The first truly scary stretch we came to went practically straight up and touted a slick metal hand rail for us to hoist ourselves with.  I didn’t know if I could or would do this.  I was no experienced hiker.  Frankly, I was afraid.  Somehow, at the same time, I was more afraid of turning around and starting back down that mountain like so many others were.  So, I just started doing it. My hands were sweaty and at one point I thought I would fall backward and boosted myself off another man’s shoe while my husband pulled me up by the arm.  After that, I got a newfound strength.  I just wasn’t going to be afraid.

I climbed several more segments of uphill formations, surveying which rocks to grab, and deciding whether to go upright or on hands and knees. I drifted from right to left, deciding which side would accept me.  I coughed sand out of my lungs and embraced the sharp stones that attempted to leave their marks on my shins.  I no longer thought of the summit, or why I’d come in the first place.  I just thought of the moment, where I was, where to put my foot, and the strange pleasure it gave me the harder it was.  I was disappointed and exhilarated at once each time the trek worsened.   I wanted it to be hard.  I wanted to get marred.  I wanted to sweat.  I wanted to raise hell right back at the sun, and I wanted it to hurt.  I was climbing of the hump of the camel’s unforgiving back now.

This attitude wasn’t like me.  I’m not the girl who camps in the wilderness, or jumps into dark water.  I don’t climb rocks or go on solo kayaking trips.  I don’t do these things.  However, now that I was, I hoped it was tough.  I wanted to wrestle it to the ground, and know it was something real, and that not everyone could do it.

After nearly two hours of the grueling voyage I’d made it to the top.  I bent over, put my hands on the knees, just panting.  When I could breathe again, I remembered I had a prize waiting, and stood up to enjoy the view that would be my reward.  It was an amazing view.  It was a view of hustle an bustle, people hugging, taking pictures.  People chugging out of their canteens. People scurrying.  People who were alive.

The scenery was to die for.  I could see for forever…rock formations, clouds, never-ending skies, but that didn’t do it for me.  I saw people reaching goals, accomplishing something. I saw people proving they could do something tough, and extraordinary. I saw people refusing to quit.  I saw Susan jumping up and down, and my husband conquering his fear of heights.  I saw success.

I’m not a great outdoorsman.  I probably won’t set my sights on Everest.  What I am though, is a go-getter.  I’m a writer who had another experience that made her remember she CAN.  I’m not staring at the summit of the writing world, but I’m not at the bottom either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, in the momentum, in the rocks of Camelback guessing which rocks are the sturdy ones, and I’m going to keep on.  It leads somewhere…I know.  I’ve been to a different form of that place…same kind of battle.  The very same, and I slayed that camel. 

I have a little wound left on my right ankle where a rock scraped me.  It’s a scar less than an inch long.  People laugh when I show them my Camelback injury.  I love it though, because it’s a part of Camelback I carry around.  It’s my souvenir…that it was hard, it hurt a little, and that it was worth it. I realized I want to be a collector of scars, more than anything.  And being a writer, that’s a good thing to be ok with…I guess that goes for really wanting anything.  I hope everyone goes and gets themselves a Camelback kind of scar.

     

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Uphill battle!

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Wow

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Me in the mountainside:)

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We made it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pura Vida

There is so much I could say about Costa Rica…you know, the typical things everyone knows:  the black sand was unbelievable, the rainforest was a presence to be reckoned with, you must try the zip-lining…blah, blah, blah dinner party talk.  I could focus on those things, which I’m in no way trying to disrespect (because they were indeed all I hoped for), but other things stood out to me more.  It wasn’t the sunset cruise or horseback ride that got me…it was our last night on the beach at the end of the adventures when the real one started.

Though Costa Rica is incredible, aside from some unique rock formations, there’s nothing particularly aesthetically special about most of the beach in Tamarindo.  Once away from the volcanic rock, the sand is brown, and the water a little murky.  The Caribbean beaches would chew it up and spit it out along with the ones I’m accustomed to up and down the Carolina coasts.  Maybe this is why the beach there made me feel home to begin with. 

It isn’t a perfect paradise by text book definition.  It is something else though…this is a beach with diapered gold-skinned babies decorating the sand with tiny footprints.  This is a beach with dogs diving into the water chasing sticks thrown by whomever might have one.  It is a place people speak to one another…a place where surfers hide from the things they left somewhere on another planet similar to where I’m from.  I didn’t quite realize how immersed I wanted to be until that last night.

My legs were still sore from riding my bike everyday, something I hadn’t done in at least 15 years.  My two girlfriends and I had gotten to the beach a little later than we’d hoped, trying for a ” hail Mary” in the tanning department.  However, it was just a little too late in the afternoon, and we knew it.  We found ourselves getting bored and a little put off at the lack of sunlight when we went to drown the humidity at the shoreline.  I don’t know which of our husbands barreled the football our directions, splashing us with the cool Pacific water, but that’s what started it.  Somehow this led to one of us getting tackled, then it was a game of three prissy girls playing against 3 guys who were suddenly 16 again.

We forgot about wanting a tan, protecting designer swimsuits, or bitching about getting a little sand on us.  Instead we sank into the laughter around us, became only our spirits, and let Tamarindo have us.  One of my girlfriends went back to her childhood with two brothers and found her grit again.  She laughed in the face of her blonde highlights, and scoffed at her frilly bathing suit top.  Another friend, the one with the long sexy legs, ventured back to a time when those legs were scraped up and a little gangly and used them like a spider-monkey would when trying to tackle our husbands.  I could see her running around in the dirt after cheerleading practice at her grandmothers farm again.  Neither of my friends were mothers right now, even though they are incredible ones; they were just knobby-kneed, sand-covered beings without any responsibility.

I’m the shortest of all of them, and probably come in a close second to spider-monkey-legs for prissiest.  However, my inner-child showed up too.  I remembered the only summer I decided to be a tomboy.  It was the year my Aunt took me to a braves game and bought me a ball cap to wear.  I wore it backwards with my long blonde hair that I didn’t know how to fix properly flowing from underneath…I was about 10.  On the beach I became her, the girl I was the summer of the braves hat when I climbed trees, got stung by a caterpillar, and held my own trying to beat up my bigger cousins.  I would just focus on looking little and non-aggressive while staying low to the ground and gritty.  Tamarindo did this to me again at nearly 28 years old.  I was hitting our husbands at shin-height and knocking there legs out from under them like a little gremlin.  That’s who I really am anyway.

Costa Rica gave me a gift that doesn’t come in abundance.  The vibe there alone woke my friends and myself up inside in our purest places.   We got the relaxation we wanted, but it didn’t come in the form of rum punch on the beach.  It came by taking us back to that child-like place which is the only one we are ever that free.  We got the adventure we wanted with proudly-worn scrapes and bruises to prove it.  Costa Rica was beautiful no doubt, but the greatest part was getting a little bit of something we didn’t even know we missed back. 

We played until the sun went down, turning the water gold then black.  When we knew it had to be over I think everyone felt a nostalgic lump trying to shack up with their tonsils.  However, we’d bonded like kids in the summertime, and we knew at least we would always have Tamarindo.    ~pura vida~

 

Susan, Lorna (me-in hat), Kasey

Susan, Lorna (me-in hat), Kasey

Summer Soundtracks

Country music is better in the summer. Nine months of the year I can take or leave most of it, but those country singers…they get southern summers.  My latest poison:  Springsteen by Eric Church.  It’s not new, but it tickles just the right spot every time.  I’ve always connected music to situations, and when he says, “it’s funny how a melody sounds like a memory,” he has me. He has me bbecause it is so true.  When certain songs come on, they’ll just rip my guts out, sometimes the good way and sometimes not so much.

I write about memories a lot…a whole lot.  It’s not that I’m stuck in the past.  I love my life right now.  I have a great husband, unbelievable friends, and have just started a new business, but I bet I’ll understand the excitement about it all even more when I’m staring at it from a long way off one day.  Maybe that’s just the writer in me that makes me go back…that and the music. 

I think its ok though, going back.  Someone is probably rolling their eyes right now thinking, “yeah she wouldn’t go back if she’d had my past.”  I don’t really know if I would or not, but I do know mine hasn’t always been full of gummy bears and rainbows.  But, I believe in the past.  I believe in remembering it, looking at it from time to time, and letting it reveal you to yourself.  I believe in the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.  The problem comes when we forget to use the bad and ugly parts for good.  Instead we torture ourselves trying to forget them, lie to others by saying they are forgotten, and spend way too many grueling hours trying to lie to ourselves.  And that’s my soapbox on that…

However, this one isn’t about the bad memories, but about the yummy summertime kind…the kind country music understands best.  This is about the kind of memory you’re embarrassed to admit you’re still in love with and laugh out loud about halfway embarrassed when your obnoxious friend brings it up at a dinner party.  Go ahead and smile about it.  Think back to that boy from out of town you skinny-dipped with three hours before you were supposed to show up for Sunday school.  Let your mind go to those shorts you wore until they fell apart the Fall of your senior year…you know, those that would still be your favorite.  Find that place where you got up the nerve to kiss a stranger for the first time.  Go home tonight and cook dinner for your family, and make out the weekly bills, and thank God for the job you have tomorrow, but please, before your head hits the pillow, let a country song take you to some Neverland that never ages past the last few days of seventeen.  Let it take you there and let yourself feel it until you squirm because it has you  hooked like a worm right through the gut.  And remember…Saturday is coming and it’s June-thirty.  Don’t let it slip by today so the writer in you will love it all over again tomorrow whenever you hear some song you didn’t even know was playing at the time.  It’s a great little surprise the song has for you, and you’re laying that soundtrack right now by pure accident.  Even if you don’t think it’s country, and you live in the heart of Manhattan, it is country still.  It’s always tears of happiness or sadness, with even the good things being a heartache if they’re real.  The country songs just admit it all for us because raw is all they know, and know it more in summer.   I love this time of year, and music it leaves behind that even the most bitter cold, furthest distance, or longest years cannot drown out…the summer soundtracks that perfume our lives with oohs, ahhs, laas, and nananas.

The Turn

I used to have a certain cockiness about me, that I knew I had, wouldn’t admit to having, yet couldn’t wait for others to notice. It’s strange, because in one sense I’ve spent a life being insecure. I was terribly preoccupied with my looks, worried constantly how my body might look as I slink away from a crowd. I was terrified of not being fussed over. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. I’ve blamed it on different things over the years: having beautiful friends, hearing my father talk about how blonde women are unattractive, always being in front of people cheering or dancing, my formative years, adolescence. The truth is, I’m 27 years old now, and it doesn’t matter where it came from anymore. This isn’t really about overcoming that either. This is about the other flaw I developed to over compensate for my fragile ego. I decided to never screw up and to use my wit to flaunt it. I didn’t know what a monster I was about to raise from little monsterhood deep inside of me.

I became good at not screwing up. I had to be the best at whatever I did, if for nothing else to remain in the limelight. It was warm in that light, and I liked it there. In that light, for a moment, inadequacy doesn’t matter. When I was a young cheerleader I demanded the spotlight, always dancing right up front, focused on none other than stealing the show. I had to make the best grades, just to hear my grandparents praise me in front of the whole family. I discovered I was witty, and had to use it to charm anyone I could. I hadn’t found anyone who could rival me either. My secret cockiness was born. The monster was here, and I thought he would slay my short-comings. I would simply refuse to have short-comings. I found solace in this cocoon I’d made.

I must admit though, I did have pure dumb luck on top of the things I’d conjured myself. I could be in a room of a thousand people and win a drawing. I’d play my husband and his buddies in poker, throwing a flush down every time. I’d flash a sultry wink at them, and sweep their chips into my corner with a devilish grin. I’d then say something innocent, and bring up the fact I’m short to temper the sting, while still stirring the charm. I’d have the button on my phone cued to start playing a Bob Seger song I swear he’d written about me in prophesy, forcing everyone to quietly absorb the lyrics, “you always won every time you placed a bet. Still damn good, no one’s gotten to you yet.” I’d giggle, watching the others contemplate whether to smack me or love me. Things like this was how I coped with the world. It felt good at times, but bad more often.

After a random bout of panic attacks knocked me rather cruelly off that horse I’d been riding so pridefully, I needed a change. I needed a goal to feel good again, and I needed a real one. I realized that a man who only does what he is good at by nature, only beats others by default. I wanted to do something hard, that would take guts, and maybe give me some real confidence for once.

I decided to go back to my dancer roots, but do something crazy with it. I would audition to be an NFL cheerleader. This level of competition and intensity would be foreign to me, and I would treat it like a doomed bull at a Texas rodeo. Part of me was scared, but part of me, that cocky part,thought somehow it wouldn’t be possible for me to screw it up. I wasn’t a screw-up.

I trained for months, getting in the best shape of my life. I spent my days dancing, running, spray-tanning, bleaching my teeth, and eating things that look like they should be growing under pontoon boats. My audition dance was perfected, and I’d spent hours working on dance technique. Having come from a cheerleading and hip/hop background, my turns (pirouettes and such) needed work. I overcame my frustration with this, and nailed them in warm-ups. Now I just had to prance out in front of the judges, in an outfit I would normally only sport at the beach, and shine, shine, shine.

I had no idea what I had gotten into. I looked around at a room packed full of incredible dancers, with bodies that would make Megan Fox question herself. Judges were famous choreographers, fresh from Hollywood. The audition platform was featured on huge screens everywhere, and they were herding us in like cattle on Speed. That insecure little girl that I thought that monster had conquered was still alive. I felt like I’d found a ghost that had been living in me for years. I was terrified.

When I got to the audition area I knew I had to bring it…but, for the first time in my life I couldn’t. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t get my registration paperwork unfolded. When I took my mark, and the music started I could feel my convulsing body limiting my motions. I knew I wasn’t executing the moves like I should have. Then it was time for the pirouette I’d been dreading. I knew I had to focus on this because it was my weak point. I went for it, and came out of my turn early, with a bit of a stumble. I’d blown it.

After getting cut, I knew what it was like to not make a team. In an instant I knew what it was like to work towards something for months, then crack under pressure. I knew what it was like to fail after giving all I had. The strange part, was I was still proud. I used to looked at people who were proud of themselves “just for trying” like they were morons. However, I was wrong. I learned so much about guts, blood, sweat, and tears, while training for that. I learned about having to fight, and not necessarily winning that fight. Sometimes we have to give all we have for disappointment. The bull threw me off his back, but I truly wouldn’t have missed that right for anything. The greatest lesson, was probably the humility. I accepted it of myself. I realized that the whole time, this process was so personal, and more about facing parts of me I’ve muted…and realizing she isn’t half bad. Blowing that turn in my routine was a gift I never thought I wanted. It ended up being my turn…for the better.

The End of a Mid-Winter Night’s Dream

The holidays are a whirlwind.  I can’t decide if I forget who I really am, or find who I really am during that period of time.  It’s a foggy place.  In one sense, I never feel more like myself from that slumber from the real world that occurs every December.  I get to just be Lorna Caye, around only my closest friends and family.  I go back to the basics, and just become the girl I was growing up.  I get to live in some sort of yester-year.

On the other hand, I feel like I lose something over the holidays.  Things around me vanish, and though I get a break from the grind, I don’t feel quite normal.  It’s almost like going into another place, like Shakespeare takes his characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where everything is dancing in a twilight zone.  Is it the past, the present?  The holidays are a little bit surreal, by making me think of people I never think about, or by going to places I never go.  It brings the dead back to life, and rehashes fires burned out long ago.  However, this fantasy world we fall into, decorated in tinsel, and smelling of cinnamon and sausage balls, might be our parallel universe where we can get some peace for a moment.  A strange, mostly happy peace.

We can’t stay there, though.  In the long run, I don’t think we’d even want to.  It’s the place that is so comfortable we don’t hunger, and here on Earth, while we still wear skin for dress, hunger is something we like.  Eleven months out of the year we like to search and scramble for the things that make us who we cannot help but be.  This month that occurs, that is the most wonderful time of the year, leaves behind a bit of flailing.  What was that world we were a part of prior to Thanksgiving?

I think I returned to Lornaland, meaning the one I dance in from January to November sometime yesterday morning.  I suddenly shook the snow out of my eyelashes, and stood up out of my makeshift bed of holly.  My mind went to my blog again, thinking of all the things I needed to share with the world.  I was grumbling again from somewhere inside.  Over the holidays, I hate to admit, the writer in me shut up.  It packed up it’s fountain pen and watched me from afar while I went to the land of colored ribbon, and candy canes.

I started feeling myself come back yesterday morning when I heard the song, “Wicked Games,” by Chris Isaaks.  That song always makes me breathe in phantom coconut oil, and transports me to a beach where people dance half-naked in the nearby crowded streets.  I start sweating immediately, and go Scarlet O’Hara dramatic.  I throw myself on my couch, searching the t.v. for something that can bring me closer to my fantasy.  I start praying to God the movie Cocktail is on somewhere.

The writer re-enters with a raised eyebrow, “there you are, you desperate thing…desperate for the perfect atmosphere, the perfect story.” .

“Don’t patronize me,”  I reply, pretending to sip a rum-runner that’s actually a bottled water with orange Mio added in.

“I have some new stuff for you about that Jenna Lee Ravenel character you thought up a month ago.  You’re gonna love it.  She’s more sultry than ever,”  the writer teases.

“Ok, let’s rock n’ roll,”  I reply, “I’m back.”

As Shakespeare says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “though she be but little, she is fierce”.  With a pen, that I am.

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“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.”

Ebb Tide

When a tide ebbs, it flows back, revealing the things that were hidden underneath the strong, dark waters.  We miss the ocean that was there, because it was our playground.  It was the place we went for solace,that would welcome us with open arms anytime we needed a swim in the surf.  It was comforting …those waters, with their tremendous strength.  However, as the cycle goes, they must recede.  The tired waves recognize the pull of the Earth, that shift in gravity, that pulls them home.  We mourn, but then we look and we see.  We see the beautiful shells we didn’t know where there; we see creatures we hadn’t seen in years.  We see the foundation of the ocean floor, and realize how much deeper the beauty lies.

I recently lost my grandfather, one I was quite close to.  I have been mourning every day for him.  I console myself with the typical sentiments…he’s in a better place…he doesn’t have to hurt anymore.  However, it doesn’t heal my selfish heart that wants him here.  Today I started to realize though, the gifts we get from the circle of life, that tempers the sting just bits, the best it can anyway.

I thought back on the last week, how I’ve done things I havent in years, and seen people from the far past.  I sat in my grandmother’s living room floor while my young cousin braided my hair.  I made a picture board of my grandfather with another.  I hugged fourth cousins, and cried with people I’d unfairly deemed stoic.  I saw in the souls of family members, and heard stories of Papaw’s character I’d never known before.  I saw some of the people who even came before him, walking in with their canes to pay their respects.  I saw his forerunners, and his successors.  I saw his foundations, and his legacy.  I saw my grandfather without his presence, and I saw myself.

I may never feel those strong arms around me again, the ones I thought could re-route a hurricane; however, I will carry his strength forever.  I am one of those shells revealed when the ocean  pulled back.  I am the legacy, and the one in charge of delivering his strength to future generations.  He is in the pieces of my flesh, strands in my DNA, and stories in my writings.  He is in a locket to never be opened around my neck, and he is a patch on the quilt I’m destin to weave.  He is a huge leg of my journey that I haven’t quite run.

All of our tides will ebb, and we will all retreat to the dust we came from.  However, we share the fact we are all part of the circle.  I will one day go somewhere he’s paved the way, which is what he was doing for me all along.  I suppose this was just his last tired step, because his waves were weary from breaking.  I will console myself knowing I am strong enough to let him ebb.  I will let him live here, on a writer’s page, in a young woman’s bones, and on the tongues of my future generations. 

For Papaw, with love.

Eulogy

This is the eulogy I wrote for my Papaw, Tom Lovingood, who passed away on 10/08/2012.  I wanted to share it with my writing world, because he is so much the reason I am who I am.  I ache for the day I can see him again ~

The dictionary definition of a strong person is, “one of great moral power, being especially able, competent, and courageous.”

These attributes were visible on Tom Lovingood as plainly as the Carolina hat, that always doted the American flag, sat on his head. His strength was so present, I could almost smell it float into the room alongside his Old Spice aftershave. He wore it everyday, and couldn’t help but to spill it onto others.

The Lovingood’s believe in strength because we were bred to do so. We believe in honesty, patriotism, and guts. We believe in grit, imperfection, and hard work. We believe in “I love you” at the end of phone calls, and remembering people’s birthdays. We believe in visiting elderly people who have no one else, picking the runt of litters, and telling the truth even when it’s as ugly as the darkest part of the night.

We do not believe in laughing at others, taking the path of least resistance, or letting people go hungry. We do not believe in humoring people, keeping quiet when we should speak, or speaking when we should remain quiet. We do not believe in strangers, or holding grudges. We do not believe in the word, “hate”.

Of all the things we believe, or do not believe, above all, we believe the things Tom, Dad, Papaw, or Friend taught us. He taught us how to love the way he did, but cautioned us to keep our tempers milder than his. He taught us he wasn’t perfect, but that he told it like it was. He taught us how to be real, and how to remember to check our own actions before someone else’s. He taught us to be people here for other people. He taught us how to live, because he knew how to love.

Blue Moons Happen

I have a thing.  Any of my close friends or family members would recognize it immediately, because when it shows up, it doesn’t do a great job being discrete.  It makes itself known by twiddling my thumbs, chewing my bottom lip, or flat-out making demands out of my mouth.  It is the thing I have that keeps me off the water slides that go straight down, and makes me inquire about the possibility of seeing a snake while white water rafting.  It is why I have certain protocol if flying on a plane, and double-check all the carabiners myself on a high ropes course.  I have a flaw, and it is with me daily.  It rarely escapes me, but has been known to on hot nights when something I smell in the air romances me.  A song can do it occasionally, as well, but it has to be a very old one that is so good it hurts a little to hear again. Those times aren’t fair though, because they emit magic.  On those days I’ve even been known to jump off rocks, or climb waterfalls…something higher than me obviously at play. All of the other normal times though, I have a little tug inside me that is terrified of losing control.  Sometimes I use strategically placed words, and an acquired charm to mask this about myself, but I hear it whispering always.

My husband’s grandmother is mischievious…she does things…the latest?  She rode a roller-coaster.  It was not a wimpy one; she rode one of the big, scary kind, with loops, drops, and a design that apes a snake coiled up in striking position.  It is the kind I’ve been shamed into riding a couple of times, but did so on the verge of panic while calculating the percentage of a malfunction occurring and praying not to have an epileptic fit.  However, she rode one at 72 years old, with bad knees and Diabetes without so much as blinking an eye.  That makes a person like me, who can get on a high horse now and then, about the wild literary risks I take, feel a little less than adventurous.  When I first heard that she did it, I thought of her high blood pressure and rolled my eyes. Then, I realized reacting this way made me a villain.  Who am I to stop her?  I quickly changed my stance to deciding it was awesome of her, and wishing I had the guts to do it.  Then my mind did it…it went that place…I began sweating at the idea that I wouldn’t be able to control how much my stomach would be taken.  What if the euphoric feeling didn’t stop shy of vomiting?  What if I actually peed my pants?  It couldn’t be risked…I hate myself at times…

A couple of months ago this same grandmother was up to no good in another instance.  While the family was distracted by having a yard sale, she sneaked away to the back yard and rode a bicycle by herself that she was cautioned not to.  When she suddenly showed up bleeding from her mouth, with scraped knees, she claimed she fell doing something uneventful in the house.  After she retired to care for her wounds, one of the great-grandchildren ratted her out, having seen the event from around the corner.  She had gotten on that old bike and wrecked it immediately.  After she had been caught, she of course caught a light, loving scold session from one her kids, warning her never to do such things again.  I laughed at her typical shenanigans, but was of the mind she was crazy to have attempted it at her age and health status, though secretly, I was envious.  I would have never hidden away to do things people told me not to, except for when I would go to the corner to cuss when I was three.  A rebellious moment for me was riding down a dirt rode once that my father said would scrape the underneath of my car.  Instead, I spend time checking safety ratings, making sure my flat-iron is unplugged, and being careful to never clean with chemicals that may mix.

I have to say, I like that in a lot of ways I’m cautious.  I’ve avoided a lot of trouble this way, but I tend to make it an art form.  I hold myself back a lot of times I shouldn’t out of fears I’ve collected over the years.  I once even convinced myself I had Aspergers, or Autism, but after the four-hour stent on Web MD, decided I indeed, did not. The truth…I have a flaw, a neurotic flaw,  that needs to be a little more in check.  I need to breathe.

This is probably one of the reasons I write, and always have.  There’s no fear in the world of writing. I can toe the line of whatever I want, and remain safe…Actually, that’s not entirely true anymore. I’m sitting on pins and needles with query letters distributed all over New York City.  That’s a huge risk for me, and one that took a lot of coercing from my husband.  Maybe that was a baby step in the right direction…writing has always given me balls of steel, for lack of a better phrase, but now my “thing”  is showing up here; now even my oasis has me on my toes…

I’d like to end by saying that now I’ll try new things, and think of my husband’s grandmother when I get nervous, but unfortunately flaws as these, don’t solve themselves so easily.  I’m a work in progress though, and until I can change, I will envy this part of Joyce Ingle from a comfortable distance.  I will continue to feel saucy by trying exotic foods, and playing with the minds of strangers at parties.  Maybe one day though, I will sneak away when someone least suspects, and do something crazy, like get on one of the kiddie rides, that I didn’t supervise the construction of, at a local carnival.  Until then, however, I will give into that never-ending madness beckoning me from a blank page, and remember that blue moons happen, and when they do, I am wild in that night.  Maybe I like it that way, being carefree only ever so often…it gives me something to long for…that blue moon my ship in the night passes by maybe once each summer…

Night Swimming

Night swimming: That thing you do on summer nights when the dampness is so far-reaching, you’re soaked before you ever get in the pool.  It is a compulsion caused by the beckoning waters under the stars on humid nights that only a chorus of crickets have not fallen victim to.  It is a thing most appropriate on a July night somewhere in Dixie, preferably in a small town full of people with dreams sweeter than the tea.

I went night swimming every time the moon showed its big round face this past weekend.  My family and I popped down to Charleston, South Carolina as we frequently do.  It’s just a four-hour trot down I-26 from the Blue Ridge Mountains I call home.  I traded my muddy water holes for the ocean and a hotel pool for a much-needed few days out-of-town.

July is quite unforgiving in the low country.  It has a nasty intention to suffocate everyone in a smothering, foggy hug.  It even uses rainstorms to produce more steam to confuse the senses of anyone in its devious throes.  Oh how I love it…

I thought it couldn’t get any better than putting on a slightly too small swimsuit that I can’t pull off in the daytime to swim in that refreshing pool water at midnight, but I was wrong.  Though I enjoyed splashing around in the cool, safe water, laughing and horse playing with my husband like when we were teenagers, another night swim comes to mind with an even better memory.

My grandfather passed away in 2007.  He was a character unlike anyone I’ve ever met.  Anything free or playful about me comes from his genes clogging wildly about, like he would at the community stompin’ grounds, somewhere in my veins.  My memories of him, with his dark, Cherokee looks, dressed in a Santa’s costume at Christmas never fail to cheer me up.  If I lay quietly enough I can hear his hearty laugh, and almost see his big pot belly bouncing up and down from under his always-stained white undershirt.  I can hear the laughter of the other grandchildren and myself while he pulled us around in the wagon attached to his riding mower…and this past weekend I was reminded of one of my favorite memories of him…night swimming.

My cousins had come down to the beach for a day and we were walking on the beach at sundown.  My cousin’s husband was hellbent on getting in the water because he’d barely been to the beach in his life.  I was telling him that the night is the worst time to get in because it’s when the jelly fish come out and the undertow strengthens.  He didn’t care.  He was at the beach, and he was getting in.  I stood on the shore with my other family members thinking he was crazy.  I stood shaking my head at him in that prudent adult way I remember my mother doing when I was a child…until I remembered.

About 20 years earlier, when I was six or seven years old, my grandfather met us at Hilton Head Island.  He didn’t arrive until the sun had already set for the evening, but much like an eager child, he could not wait to get in the surf.  His shirt came off, exposing his big belly, and before I could blink, he was diving into a breaking wave.

“I want to get in,”  I pleaded with my mother.

“No, Lorna, it’s too late.  Something might happen,” my mother replied while my grandfather motioned to me from the sea.

I took off anyway, not caring what my mother had said.  I joined Papaw in the water, giggling all the while, forgetting sharks or jellyfish exist.

When I stood on the shore at 26 years old I suddenly realized I owed it to him to let that free spirit out.  My shoes and jewelry came off in a flash.  My hands were in the air, and I was running, horse laughing, into the murky water.  I fell into the first wave giggling as I had so long ago while my family applauded from the shore, remembering what I had just remembered.  I came out of the water and took my young seven-year-old cousin’s hand.  She was two when Papaw passed, and only remembers a glimpse of him on his death-bed.  It was up to me for her to know what kind of freedom pulses through her body, that is tanned eerily in his likeness.  I reached my hand out, and she stepped back, afraid to give her chances to the dark, black, water.

“Do it for Papaw,” I said plainly, looking into her big brown eyes.

She bit her lip a little before taking my hand and shouting into the night sky with me.  We ran as fast as we could into the tide, letting in rock us to and fro.  We were now water-logged in our street clothes, and having the time of our lives.

That’s a night swim I’ll never forget.  The tears and laughter played together that night, and again each time I recall it.  I’m so blessed to have shared that part of me, and that part of him with another generation.  I was blessed by the night, the water, and the sand all over again.  I can still feel it stinging my sticky skin, a sting that is always with me, erupting with the best kind of emotions…the kind that comes from letting my hair down, remembering times gone by, and ignoring adulthood for a moment…night swimming.