strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
That's all there is to it - shiny, shiny buttons.

This week's Idol topic was "When You Pray, Move Your Feet" and I wrote In the End, He Found That He Didn't Require Any Prayers for it.

If you liked it, go here and click the shiny shiny button with my name on it. It's in alphabetical order, so I'm down near the end, in Tribe 7, right by [livejournal.com profile] sunnyrai. Hey! *waves*

As always, check out the other entries - I bet you'll find a few pleasant surprises.

Although the downside to [livejournal.com profile] amenquohi taking the cake last season is that there's no entry from her. :(
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
The summer was coming to an end around him, the summer breeze still warm against his cheek, yet with a stiff undertone of the chill that autumn promised to bring. The sun began to set earlier in the day, the absence of light only multiplying the desolation he felt within the confines of his chest. He breathed deeply, feeling the faint, nearly imaginary tug of sadness as he exhaled. Light was fading, yes, but in so many other ways than what he saw in front of him now as the light on the horizon began to shift into a comfortable, deceptively warm dark orange.

The whistle of the train in the distance caught his attention. He closed his eyes as he imagined it growing nearer. He could see the headlight bearing down on the tracks, see the big wheels turning against the tracks. In his mind’s eye, he could see the entire plan as he had been formulating it for the past six months. He had not consciously come to the conclusion that today was “the day”, but had instead allowed the fates to gently guide him. He did not know what had made today special, except that when he had woken up this morning, after another night’s troubled sleep, he had simply known. It was time.

He kept his eyes closed, working to concentrate solely on the sounds of his breaths, even and deep as though he were meditating himself into a deep sleep. He tried to clear his mind. He reflected on how effortless this was turning out to be. In the past six months, he had envisioned every possible outcome – including the possibility that he might simply “chicken out”. He had long decided that if his body had cried out to flee, he would allow it only if it were a natural reaction. He had, however, not experienced any last minute jitters or self-doubt. He was, in a manner of speaking, experiencing a greater sense of inner peace than he had had in a very, very long time.

The whistle of the train grew closer now. As he concentrated on his breathing, still even and deep, his heartrate steady, he recalled the last time he had dreamed of the train. It had been the same dream as the first time, haunting him long after his eyes ripped open – an echo throbbing around the edges of his soul.

The woman stood solid, still. An evening of tears showed coarsely against the fair skin of her face, a trail of mascara streaked tracks reaching down her cheeks. In her arms, the infant slept, warm in the swaddling of blankets and the nearness of his mother’s skin. As the train whistle sounded again, more insistent and louder this time, the child only stirred briefly in his deep sleep. His mother stood still, looking blankly, but resolutely, into the light that grew ever nearer, larger with its proximity. When it was nearly upon her, she did not blink. The slight curve of a smile, like a treasure long buried, tugged at the corner of her lips. When the light arrived for her, she was ready.

Each time, he would awake bathed in sweat, his heart racing and his soul aching. After the third recurrence of the dream, he sought out the tracks. He knew them once he saw them – the long grass surrounding each side, threatening at any moment to go to seed. There were no houses nearby, only a forgotten shed a few hundred yards away, standing in stark contrast to the grassy field it was situated in. He did not know why he had dreamed of them – he had never been to this place before, despite it being in the city in which he had spent the majority of his life. It was a part of town reserved for those assigned to its maintenance only, existing only because it had to.

He had never questioned why he’d dreamed of the woman, either. He did not know her and her features were not significant enough for him to remember, even after multiple recurrences of the dream. His subconscious remembered tiny details, like the curve of the woman’s arms around the sleeping infant, the shine of the locomotive’s headlight on the woman’s forehead, the twitch at the corner of her lips as the train bore down upon her. He did not question the dream, gruesome as it was, and he accepted that it simply had become another part of his self.

The train’s whistle, the one firmly cemented in reality, grew closer. He knew from his visits here that it would be only moments before it passed the place where he stood. He stepped forward to take his place near the tracks. His eyes were still closed, but he knew the way – it was as though he had drawn a map here on his own heart. His feet carried him without needing to be told by his mind where to go.

Just like in his dream, the whistle of the train grew louder, more insistent. The ground began to rumble beneath his feet, pebbles banging against each other silently.

It was silent in his mind.

He’d thought he might find himself praying, but he found there was no need.

He took a breath.

He took a step and let the light bear down upon him.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
You know, this also means that you'll see more posts from me.

Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

And depending on what I decide to write this season.

I just finished reading the Outlander series, the new Twilight movie comes out next month and The Walking Dead just started back up, so you never know. You could get some kind of Scottish vampire zombie fiction for all I know.

If things go well, that is.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I dumped the messenger bag upside down and scattered its contents across the desk. Tiny papers fluttered everywhere - notes with phone numbers, crumpled receipts, jumbled up coupons and gum wrappers. My co-worker at the desk next to me laughed.

"What can't you find now?" she asked.

"My housekeys," I replied, not looking up from the mess on the table. I checked my watch - ten minutes until my bus arrived to take me home. I needed to find those keys quickly or I'd be either stuck at the office until my husband made it home with our daughter or I'd be waiting for them in the rain on the front steps of our apartment.

"Did you leave them at home, maybe?" she asked, fiddling with the spiral cord of the headset that led its way back to the phone.

"I know I didn't," I said. "I specifically remember picking them up and putting them in my bag." I picked out the tiny pieces of paper and dropped them into the trash can at my feet. The keys had to be in here somewhere.

They were not in the pile of junk that I'd haphazardly flung onto the desk, so I shifted my attention back the insides of the bag itself. There were pockets and crevices everywhere so it was entirely possible that I'd simply overlooked the keys. I dug my fingers around every space possible, hoping to feel them poke into my hand.

No such luck.

Giving up, I jammed the contents back into the bag and bid my co-worker farewell. I didn't want to stick around the office, so I hurried my way out of the six-story brick building and made it to the bus stop just as the lumbering beast of public transportation arrived.

Back at home, I did have to wait on the front steps of our apartment, but not for long. My husband arrived quickly after I did and let us both into the house. My hair hung at my shoulders in soggy tangles, my hoodie having provided nothing in the way of weather protection.

After dinner, I pulled out my messenger bag to seek out a document that I needed to review. I stuck my hand inside the pocket where I kept all my paperwork, then stopped. Cold and metallic against my fingertips, I knew I had found my keys. I pulled them out and lifted them inquisitively into the air.

"Found them?" my husband asked with a light smile on his face.

"Yeah," I said quietly.

"I told you that you'd just misplaced them."

I shook my head, my hair still damp against my cheek.

"No," I replied. "I dumped out this entire bag. Even these papers were on my desk. There was nothing else in these pockets but those papers."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Did you find them and put them back in here?"

My husband laughed. "Why would I do that?"

"I don't know, to fuck with me? Silly ol' Jill, can't find her housekeys?"

He laughed again. "It's a good idea, but no. I didn't even look for your keys after we got home."

My face screwed up in frustration. I knew he was right. We'd been in the same room since coming home, not even having used the bathroom yet. The only time the bag had been alone in anyone's presence, it had been mine.

So where had the keys come from?

The answer dawned on me slowly, over the course of the next few days.

* * * * *

This time I was at home. Again, the messenger bag was dumped upside down, this time onto the surface of the couch. My debit card was missing. Without it, I'd be a bit hungry come lunchtime. My watch made it clear that if I didn't leave the house NOW, I'd be late for work.

Finally, I gave up. It was nowhere to be found - not in the main part of the bag and not tucked into the card-shaped pockets where my ID and bus pass were. I rushed out of the apartment and down the street, making it to the bus stop as my bus was rounding the corner.

On the bus ride to the office, I dug around inside my bag again. With the time to spare, I went through each pocket with meticulous precision. There was no sign of the little red debit card with the bent corner and the peeling plastic. I would simply have to make do with the Top Ramen packet in my desk drawer and the free soda from the vending machine.

Once back inside that old brick building, I sat down in my chair and powered on my computer. I pulled open my bag and stuck my hand inside.

I stopped.

Plastic, a little bit of it peeling, touched my fingertips.

My eyes wide in disbelief, I watched as I pulled out the little red debit card from one of the pockets that I specifically recalled being completely empty earlier.

Blankly, I stared at it, marveling at it in my hand.

I blinked.

I knew.

* * * * *

Just the other day, my sliding glass door was opened while I was out of the room. There was no logical explanation as to how it happened since I was the only person in the house.

I didn't have to think too hard on it this time, not like I did with the keys and the debit card.

I believe in ghosts.

I always have, so it's no big deal, really.

I just happen to specifically believe in one little ghost that likes to play tricks on me. The debit card and keys phenomenon has been repeated many times over in the last few years.

Somewhere, I believe, there is a little boy giggling about the tricks that he plays on his auntie.

I always promise that when I see him again, I'll get him back.

For now, though, when my keys or my debit card or something else important goes missing for no reason, I take it in stride. I take a deep breath. I even abandon my search efforts, knowing that it will come around in due time.

You can't always control everything, especially those things that are not of this world.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
She fidgets on her feet. She was never good at waiting in line and she's not being very good at it now. She hates it even more when there are people waiting on her, as her friend is now, parked outside in the car. It probably wouldn't be so bad if her friend weren't rightfully pissed at her. This diversion on their grand adventure had certainly not been planned for and, quite frankly, the last twelve hours had culminated in one metric ton of a hot mess.

She makes it to the front of the line, finally, and discreetly tells the woman behind the counter what she needs to purchase. A single pointed finger directs her to the next line, two windows over. Inwardly, she groans. She could've gotten in that line to begin with, if she'd known, and could've likely already been done by now.

Outwardly, she smiles, cheerfully thanks the woman and tells her to have a nice day.

"I'm a good kid," she tells herself in her mind.

Best to keep up with appearances, anyway.

As she shuffles her feet across the generic black-and-white speckled flooring, she reflects on what got her here, to this overly florescent corner of the city, to this section of hell where the loudspeaker bellows for "assistance in the pet department, assistance in the pet department" every five minutes on the nose. She recalls the flashing lights, the loud laughter swirling around her, the concrete pounding underneath the soles of her shoes, the animated conversation and the darkened corners.

She could lie and say she doesn't remember anything, but she can't bring herself to do that. She remembers everything. Therefore, she is just as culpable in the crime she's committed.

The woman at the next counter makes her repeat her request, louder than before. So much for being discreet. She's then asked for identification with an apologetic shrug from the clerk. It's for age-verification, she's told, as you must be over 18 to purchase this item without a doctor's prescription.

As she hands over her identification, she jokes, "I'm much too old to be dealing with this, that's for sure."

The woman behind the counter simply shrugs again. She suspects she's heard it all before.

On her way out of the building, back towards the unforgivable, searing heat of the sun and the asphalt baking under her dirty flip-flops, she drags her sunglasses back across her face. It is the only thing she can do to close off the world. Otherwise, she feels like the whole world is staring back at her.

* * * * *

There is an elephant in the room that is neither an elephant, nor is it in the room.

In the little zippered pocket inside her purse, it lies in wait.

It likes to pop out when she's digging for a pen at a PTA event, pulling out her checkbook at Girl Scouts or rooting for her debit card at the grocery store.

A tiny, plastic pill pack, tucked into her purse as a reminder.

When it makes its way out into the open, her heart races and she moves into panic mode.

She always questions her decision to leave it there, where she tucked it after popping the hermetic seal and downing the pill with a swig of Diet Coke. As she frantically pulls the zipper closed across it, she tries to remember what the reminder was.

Is she reminding herself? Or is she reminding the world?
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I am a 30 year old lawyer, visiting the area (Olympia and Tacoma) on business. I came across your profile and wanted to see what you had planned later...you are a cutie ; ) If you don't have plans...and are interested...txt me: 907-XXX-XXXX ; ) Hope to hear from you : P

I'm sorry, but do girls actually fall for this?

First of all, I'm going to bet that ol' Todd here (at least, that's what his profile says his name is, anyway) isn't really a lawyer. He's probably getting his paralegal degree online from one of those "accredited institutions" that advertise on late-night TV. You've seen their commercials - smiling folks in business suits, standing next to delighfully sculpted shrubbery. The next commercial, of course, is for the local singles chat line.

Secondly, Todd's profile claims that he's from Seattle. Here's the deal - no one visits Olympia and Tacoma from Seattle and claims that they're "on business". It'd be the same as me saying that I go to Bellevue every day "on business" or that I visit Olympia "on holiday". Using the term "on business" indicates that you're decently far away from your base of operations - like, at the very least, maybe being up here from Portland.

Also, no one comes to Tacoma "on business". They come here to get shot and maybe buy some Almond Roca.

Next, how does one determine cuteness based on a MySpace photo? I mean, my photo IS cute, but it's just of my face. For all he knows, from the chest down, I'm as hairy as an ape or have an ass the size of Alaska. Perhaps I have no legs. Perhaps I'm really a man.

By the way, who the hell uses MySpace anymore, anyway? Oh wait, I know. 30-year-old lawyers that have no concept of using Match.com or eHarmony to find a date do. Also, illiterate Seattlites that don't know how to read a profile that says a girl is married. I checked his profile and all of the comments are from other girls, sending him e-drinks. Which means that he has no real friends. Just the ones he makes up on the internet.

Also, what's up with the non-local phone number there, Todd? Something to hide? New to town? Trying to keep your indiscretions on the down-low from the wifey?

You know what? I could just be a giant bitch. Maybe Todd's a great guy. Maybe he'd buy me a house and diamond rings and empty my chamber pot on a moment's notice, all the while spending his spare time reading to blind cancer patients. Maybe he'd cook me fancy meals and massage my feet.

Maybe.

Or maybe I'd just get roofied tonight and wake up itchy, disoriented and wondering whose pants I was wearing.

P.S. Dear Todd, thanks for being the fodder for this week's LJI entry. I was screwed until you came along.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
As I commented in the voting post over at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol:

Cheese and crackers, man. I've been down since Monday night with a flu that hit me like a bag of bricks upside my head. A trip to the grocery store today was the first time I left the house since Tuesday evening. Only yesterday did I start to come down from the cold medicine cocktail I took three days ago. I feel like I lost a month of my effing life.

Thank heavens it's early enough in the season that byes still exist. Check y'all next week! :)


*looks around*

*whistles*

Oh, real world, there you are. I was beginning to think I only existed in the confines of my apartment and in how my life relates to Super Mario 3. Which I've beaten twice since I've been home sick.

For moar giggles, my voice is raspy enough that when I quoted my favorite movie evar to the hubs last night ("They got other fish to fry, believe you me!"), it was nearly spot-on.

*dives back into the thick of things*
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I'll just cut to the chase.

Vote for me, dang it.

I'm in Tribe 2, near the middle.

(That is, if you liked my entry, Maybe I Should Just Buy a Space Heater Instead. If you didn't, then ignore this. In fact, ignore everything. Ignore me crying over here in the corner. All alone. Know that you did that to me - just go ahead and own it.)

And vote for other people, too, because they're awesome too.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
There is a crackle in the air. She can't see it, but she can feel it.

The desert air is dry, which probably lends itself well to this whole electricity thing she's feeling. Her hair, despite the metric ton of Aussie Aussome Volume gel she's applied to it, is standing on end in places. It flutters against her cheek and she brushes it away mindlessly. The hairs waft back into place against her skin and, this time, she ignores it.

There is silence, despite the sounds of the shrieks and car horns around her. She is aware of the noise, but she is oblivious to it. It is just another living and breathing part of the city. She moves on within it, paying it no mind. In her head, it is quiet, if not electric.

She enjoys the feel of the sun, baking on the pale skin of her arms. It has been too long since she felt warmth like this, which she reflects inwardly to be relatively metaphoric. There is warmth on her flesh and there is warmth in the air and there will be more warmth tonight.

She closes her eyes and imagines the rush of blood to her face, the vodka or the tequila or the Southern Comfort finding its way home. The pulse of the lights on the dancefloor, the rumble of the music coursing through her body. The smeared makeup at five o'clock in the morning and, lo, the inevitable warmth.

She doesn't suppose that anyone would understand it if she tried to explain it. It sounds so ridiculous and a little bit reckless. She doesn't mind, though. She just keeps on swimming through the sea around her, waiting on the next great something - even if she's not entirely certain what that next great thing is...or even if it is a thing. Maybe it's a time, maybe it's a place, maybe it's a someone.

Maybe it's nothing. She's contemplated that, in the dark of the night when she's alone in her bed. What if it is nothing? What then?

If it's nothing, she supposes, then there's nothing wrong with a little bit of hot sun on her stupid pale arms.

There's a song that's making its way into her head, breaking through the calm silence like a pebble hitting the smooth glass veneer of water.

this will be my last confession
i love you never felt like any blessing


She pushes the heavy thoughts from her mind - she will worry about more important things later. For now, the mission is simple: get warm, stay warm.

She pushes the wisps of hair away from her face again and looks out the car window. One hand out the window, she pushes through the hot air with her fingertips. The breeze under her palm is comforting.

She is winding up.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
That is, of course, if you're not in a place that considers today to be Election Day.

If you're here, in Washington State, there's a bunch of initiatives on the ballot. I think it makes for a more interesting mid-term election than in past years. Restate the 2/3 majority needed for tax increases? Booze in grocery stores? Insurance madness? State income tax? Some other stuff that didn't get as much air time on television?

Or, you could just come here and take the stress off a little. It's voting time over at LJ Idol and while this week doesn't really count, it's still good practice on how to find my name in a massive list of other names. Also, you get to click a button. Clicky, clicky!

So, here's what I wrote:

Introductions, Schmintroductions.

And here's where you get your clicky-clicky on:

HOT BITCHES VOTE HERE

I'm way down towards the bottom, since it's all alphabetical and shit.

And don't forget to vote!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
As if my LJ weren't magical enough, here comes the LJ Idol crazy train!

TOOT TOOT!

Hi, I'm Jill! Welcome aboard!

I live in Tacoma, WA with my husband, Ron, and our daughter Arianna. Ron and I have been together for a little over ten years, married for seven of them. Over the summer, Arianna turned six and started first grade. This boggles me. As we picked out her vampire princess Halloween costume this year, I told her about the year that she was so tiny, we dressed up her up as a little peapod. *nostalgic sniffle*

I've worked in the travel industry for nearly nine years now, which suits me just fine. I have this wicked love affair with airplanes and such a job affords me the opportunity to indulge that. I feel a little out of whack if I don't fly somewhere at least once a year - this year, it's been London, Montana and Vegas. Often, I feel more like myself when I'm in transit than when I'm standing still.

This is my third season of Idol. I don't know what that says about my sanity, but it's always been a good time. Last season, I managed to bribe impress enough readers that I made it to 11th place. This season, I'll have Girl Scout cookies to share. *looks around* What?! I'm just sayin', is all. *bats eyelashes*

I own every Tori Amos album and recently switched from Diet Coke to Diet Dr. Pepper. I've got the next Twilight DVD pre-ordered. Raisins and earwigs are buddies at the top of my List of Evil Things That Are Evil. I got a haircut recently and I think it's ridiculous that it took me until my 30's to make my hair match my personality. I'm a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I believe in the power of a good pair of panties. (POWER PANTIES!) Music is the air I breathe. I once had pink hair - and I wish I had it back. I've been TOLD that I snore, but I don't believe it. I can hold my liquor, I cuss like a sailor. I said all this the last two times, right? Who's bored again?

So....that's...um, that's about it.

TOOT TOOT!
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Oh, piss. Why not?

I officially throw my proverbial hat (because I don't wear hats, really) into [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol's proverbial ring.

Dearest friends-list, get ready. ;)
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
I didn't do an Idol goodbye post last season, so maybe that's why this feels a bit foreign to me. Then I remember that last season, my first season, I didn't ride the crazy train nearly as far. So maybe I didn't feel it was necessary. This time around, I've got to at least give a little bow on my way out the door.

I chose to come back to LJI this season for the simple challenge. I expend so much of my writing skills on crafting things that are less than glamorous - professional letters, emails and work-related training curriculum. By throwing myself to the wolves of Idol, I am forcing myself to rekindle my creative spirit. Often, by the time the Idol season starts, I am in desperate need of a creative outlet.

I started writing at a young age. As soon as I could form crude letters, I would steal the carpenter's pencils from my father's toolbox and write all over the plaster garage walls. When I ran out of books to read, I made up my own stories and put them to college-ruled paper. I wasn't lying, in my entries, about the writer's callous on my right ring-finger. It's there and it softens the longer I hold onto a pen. (Bic, blue ink, medium-point.) I still have those stories - some of them, my earliest attempts at fanfic. Writing was always a part of my soul, even when I didn't realize it.

I sometimes talk about the Muse - and how I feel like she left me a long time ago. Maybe I stopped listening for her knock on the door or maybe she got lost on her way to my house. Maybe I stopped putting the kettle on and she couldn't find my house without the scent of tea wafting from the windows. Either way, when I compete in Idol, I feel like she's there again - even if she's just a faint apparition sitting on railing of balcony. I should just stop questioning her presence.

I should just write.

In the 10th grade, one of my favorite English teachers gave us a creative writing assignment and asked us to first determine what style we would write it in. I was stumped. I sat there, chewing on the lid of my pen (Bic, blue ink, medium-point). I had the idea for the story in my mind and I could already hear the carefully selected descriptive words tugging on the corners of my heart. What style, though? I sat there, blank page in front of me, for nearly half the class period. My brow furrowed. Finally, Mrs. Wick came by my desk and asked what the trouble was. When I told her, she chuckled.

"You have your own unique writing style, Jill," she told me, with a pat on my shoulder. "You can go ahead and skip that part. Just write."

That's what Idol provides me.

An opportunity to just write.

* * * * *

So, this is so long. I can pretty much guarantee that I won't be in the Home Game - to tell you all the truth, I'm a mite exhausted. This is also relatively good timing also, since I head out of state on vacation tomorrow night. Putting out good work, even mediocre work, would've been stressful and the last thing from my mind.

I also have some other things on my plate - namely, something that kind of was borne out of Idol. The Artist of Skills and I have had this webcomic thing bubbling between the two of us for the longest time, but I've put him off for Idol again and again. Then that's not to mention my poor readers over at fanfiction.net that've been so patient with me and my hiatus from my *cough*shame*twilightfanfic*shame*cough*.

There's too many people to thank, but first and foremost I need to thank my huggable, squeezable friends list. They've been supportive, they've provided gorgeous amounts of feedback and they've been unendingly patient while putting up with my LJI endeavor. They went weeks without "real" posts from me.

And to the Artist of Skills, for the illustrations he provided for many of my posts - often, due to my own procrastination, at the very last minute. He's been a fine sounding board, both online and on the commute home. (And in the morning, too, if you count that. Often, that ride is silent. If he could sleep-drive, I'm sure he would. After all, I sometimes sleep-ride.) If you doubt his awesomeness, go check him out: http://adammbotsford.blogspot.com/.

All right, I digress. In closing, I can say that I did it the way I wanted to, I did it the best I knew how and I got closer to the top than I think I ever anticipated.

Peace.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
When I first saw the topic of "Windage", I mispronounced the word in my mind. I thought it sounded more like "winding" - like a winding road. Which got me thinking of the winding roads in North Tacoma. Which got me thinking on Tacoma in general, and why I like this city that everyone treats like the black sheep sister of Seattle. You know that girl, right? She's the one that used to be beautiful, but she got hooked on something or other and while you can still see her former beauty, it's kind of clouded and gritty.

The Artist of Skills and I have this theory - it's that you don't truly know your city until you've utilized its public transportation. On the basis of that theory, I decided to board a bus (or two or three or four) and set out into the city that I have found myself in love with after eight years of living here. Happily, my friend Carrie ([livejournal.com profile] playmoby) decided to join me in my random endeavor.

Route 55; 96th & Steele to Tacoma; 10:53-11:10am




I didn't move out here because I wanted to. I moved to Tacoma because there was nowhere else to go. Nowhere, that is, that was within my single income price range. So I found an apartment for a few hundred dollars, had my dad take a look around and then I hauled my belongings from my lifelong hometown to this new city.

Except that it wasn't very new, even then, and certainly not to me.





I had been out here a thousand times before, but I had been a child. My head tucked below the windows, I can only recall a few memories of the car trips to my grandparents' house. The big bridge by Stanley & Seaforts, the medical supply store on the corner of 38th and Pacific, the convenience store that I thought had a sign that read "Indoor Skating".

Route 52; Tacoma Mall Transit Center to TCC Transit Center; 11:15-11:40am




It was dirtier then, too. The gangs were more rampant in the 80's and people didn't come to Tacoma if they didn't have to. A lot of businesses and streets fell into disrepair, but I still recall going trick-or-treating down the streets near my grandmother's house. It was still safe, in some places.

Route 10; TCC Transit Center to Pt. Defiance Park; 11:45am-12:07pm



When I moved here, I didn't expect much. I don't know that I expected to like living here - like I said, I just needed a place to be. The nights were long and noisy - ambulances, police cars, squealing tires and the occasional fistfight in the apartment complex parking lot. I walked to the bus stop and rode the bus downtown, towards office buildings and banks - no quieter surroundings by any means.

Route 11; Point Defiance Park to Downtown Tacoma; 12:40-1:08pm



Around the time that I moved to Tacoma, in 2002, there was a huge amount of construction going on - especially on the street by my office. I could've taken the bus to a stop closer to my office, just past the building a bit, but I chose not to. Instead, I would get off at 9th and Commerce and walk from there to 21st and Pacific. It was the beginning of spring when I started this walk, passing by aged buildings in the middle of their revitalizations. The soles of my sneakers would slap contentedly against the pavement, my head swimming with thoughts of what was and what would be.

Route 1; Downtown Tacoma to Parkland Transit Center; 1:16-1:42pm



Was there any specific moment when I knew that I was in love with this city? I don't know that there was - it was kind of like good weed, it creeped up from behind and took hold of my neural sense without me knowing it. Eventually, I could see the beauty in the cracked asphalt. I could appreciate the melting pot of humanity that converged in its darkened alleys and brightly lit storefronts. I could smile as I stood against the wind at the bus stop downtown, cutting through its sea salt scent like windage. I was not a projectile - I was standing steady.

Route 55; Parkland Transit Center to 96th & Steele; 1:45pm-1:53pm



The longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave. Despite my husband's protests and despite my own intentions, the pull of the landscape kept me in its grip. I couldn't give up on this place that had allowed me to walk its streets and indulge in its hidden beauties. Where else could I go? This place had been my refuge in my time of need - when everything in my life had turned upside-down, the city itself had remained unchanging and, in a way, ethereal. At least, as ethereal as any city can be.

...an unorganized plethora of other photos from our jaunt around the city, public transportation-style... )
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
Author's Note:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry that purely full of shit - the little infamous gem that was entitled Stream of Consciousness Is Like Brain Vomit.

I hated it. HATED IT. As soon as it was posted and entered as my submission that week, I was immediately struck with what can only be described as Writer's Remorse. I wanted to delete it and start over, but I was out of time. So when one of this week's topics came up as "I'm Calling a Do-Over!" my brain immediately flashed back to the moment when I was wallowing in my lameness over the Week 29 entry.

"Motherfucker," I mumbled. "I'm all over that shit."

So, here goes. My second try on the topic of "Price to Play."

And it totally incorporates the topic of "I'm Calling a Do-Over" anyway, so it's not totally breaking the rules.

* * * * *

Here's the honest truth: I don't think I'm a good mom.

I know that a lot of women feel this way, that we are somehow failing our sons and daughters by doing something differently than others. Parental guilt isn't something new or uncommon and I should just tell myself to bury that feeling deep in my gut and move past it like a case of indigestion.

Except, just like indigestion, it keeps bubbling back up to the surface.

I wanted this. I mean, desperately wanted this. Which was odd, you know? I didn't grow up, like some girls do, with that absolute plan in mind: go to college, find a nice career, get married, make babies. I didn't spend my formative years plotting baby names or eyeballing itty-bitty clothes in department stores. I didn't plan on being a mother, I just kind of figured I would be at some point. That's why, when one of my boyfriends told me that he never wanted kids, I knew that we were never meant to work out. Sure, I didn't want them at 20, but I might want them at 25.

Funny. He's married with three kids now. I suppose now, just like I had supposed then, that he just didn't want to have kids with me. Nothing wrong with that.

By the time I was 24, my need was almost unbearable. I absolutely had to reproduce. I had to be a mother. Without knowing it, I was following down the route of the plan that I'd never made - I had tried college, had found a nice place to make a career, had gotten married. Now I was on the final step - make babies.

Throughout the nine months of pregnancy, of feeling that little life growing in my womb, I had already made my mind up that I would be a different mother than my own mother or the friends of mine that had become mothers. I would not lose myself in all of this. I would, to quote the greatest movie in the world, be this other thing too. I would not censor my taste in music. I would hold onto my friendships. I would keep working at the nice place that I'd found to start a career. I would travel. I would eat French fries when I felt like it. I would remain, as I had ever been, Jill.

It worked out all right, at first.

As the years marched on, though, I began to have this gnawing feeling of regret. That's a strange one for me. I've never regretted a single choice I've made in life - everything I am now is based on the paths that I've chosen to travel. I don't need a mulligan. To have that feeling, nibbling away at my insides...well, it made me uneasy.

What if I'm going about this all wrong?

I find myself comparing myself and the life that I have carefully crafted to that of my mother's. I look at the age I am now or the age my daughter is and remember what my mother was like then. Did she go out to parties or shows the way that I do? Did she have friends over for beers and Trivial Pursuit after her daughter had gone to bed? Did she take off for two weeks to do business in a far-away country, communicating with her family only by expensive international telephone calls? Did we eat fast food dinners on the couch while watching re-runs of The Simpsons?

Of course, the answer is no. Remember, my intention had always been to be a different mother than my own. There was nothing wrong with the way that my mother raised us - I just wanted something different for my child. So why, all of a sudden, does this feel so alien to me? I feel like my mother never had to question her motives, like her path for us was so certain through our growing years.

Again: Am I doing something wrong?

Of course, I suppose that I'll never know. I'm going to have to keep going on the way that I've been going on - being me.

If there's a price to play - some cosmic garage sale sticker for choosing my journey through motherhood - I figure that it will be metered out when my daughter says to herself:

"There's no way I'm raising my kid the same way that my mom raised me."
strryeyedgrrl: (...moody jill is moody...)
You know, we weren't supposed to keep her.

It was just supposed to be a temporary thing.

It was dark and late when my sister's roommate's meth-head mother knocked on the front door of my tiny one-bedroom apartment. I was expecting her, but I don't think that I expected her to hand me a squirming ball of white fur wrapped in a dirty towel. I mean, was a box so hard to come by?

"Sorry, there's no food for her or nothin'."

"Um, all right. Any litter or anything?"

"Oh, um, no," the woman said, chewing on her bottom lip. A friend had come with her and this other woman's eyes darted around my apartment nervously. My boyfriend's snores drifted in from the other room.

"Oh, well, okay. Thanks for bringing her all the way out here."

"Yeah, yeah, sure. Sorry we couldn't keep her."

I shrugged. This was the reason I was taking her in, albeit temporarily. These people were shitbags. "Least I could do."

My posture changed a bit as I tried to shoo them out of my living room and back towards the front door. Whether they got the hint or not, I didn't know, but they did turn around and head out.

With the door shut (and locked) behind them, I put the squirmy ball of fur on the floor. I picked the dirty towel off of her and put it in the kitchen trash. Then I sat on my ugly blue velour couch and put my elbows on my knees.

I looked at the cat and the cat looked at me.

"So. What now?"

* * * * *

Even later that night, I dug out some cash from my boyfriend's wallet and trekked across the street to the AM/PM for an overpriced bag of cat food and a small bag of litter. The streetlights made my skin look cheesy and distorted in their glow as I crossed Pearl. I'd managed to fish out a box lid from my bedroom closet that could act as an impromptu litter box until I could stop by the pet store after work.

The puffy white ball of fur had made itself at home in the living room, curling up on the ugly blue couch. White cat hair had already started to cling to most of the surfaces and I made a mental note to grab a lint roller when I was out next.

In the morning, my boyfriend already gone for work, I got dressed and left for my own job. While I was in the office, I talked up the puffy white furball to my co-workers - did anyone want a two year old cat, current on her shots and spayed? I had no takers from my immediate cube-mates, so I drafted up a "free cat" poster that I sent to my email so I could retrieve it at home. I could head back to the apartment and take a picture of the cat to add to the poster before I put it up in the breakroom.

Aw, the best laid plans, right?

When I returned home from work in the early evening hours, I found my boyfriend spread out across the length of the couch. He was watching television and the puffy white cat had curled herself up on his chest.

They both looked at me as I entered the apartment, a printed draft of the "free cat" flyer in my hand.

"We can keep her, right?"

I threw the flyer away that night.

* * * * *

Eventually, the puffy white furball became the puffy white furbaby. In our tiny apartment we tripped over her, we ransacked all 460 square feet of our space to find her in a cupboard, we lost a million tiny mouse toys underneath the ugly blue couch. We learned quickly to leave the bathroom door cracked open just a tiny bit while we were using the toilet - if we didn't, she'd rip up the carpet in an attempt to dig her way in.

We also learned that once she got in, if one was sitting on the toilet, she'd destroy our feet by hugging them with her front legs and kicking at them with the claws on her back feet.

She didn't meow, either. She squeaked.

She got us in trouble with apartment management, what with her penchant for sitting in the front window of our non-pet-fee-paying apartment.

She once got angry when we didn't clean her litter box for a couple of weeks and left a small brown present underneath the covers at the end of our bed.

She escaped between our legs and out the apartment door, leaving us to drop everything and chase after her.

Then, one day, we brought home something new.

* * * * *

I knelt down on the floor, my back still throbbing a bit at the injection site. I grimaced and my husband reached out a hand to me. I shook my head - I didn't need helping getting back up just yet. I leaned in towards the carseat and tucked the blankets around the sleeping infant.

The puffy white furbaby stood to my side, contemplative.

"Baby," I cooed. "It's okay, come on over and take a sniff."

Until then, the only thing referred to as Baby in our apartment had been the puffy white furbaby. Now the furbaby leaned forward tentatively to take a whiff of the peoplebaby. She sniffed the pink blanket and the tiny fingers that peeked out at the top.

Then she walked away in a bit of a huff.

* * * * *

"Mommy," she said to me as we sat close together on the couch, "I don't want Baby to die."

I choked back a tiny sob as I smoothed her hair. "I know, Little Bear. Neither do Mommy or Daddy." Both our gazes fixed on the puffy white furbaby, stretched on the floor of our living room. She was sleeping peacefully, it seemed, but I could see the hitch in her breath. I could see the lump that had grown to exponential proportions in a matter of just a few months.

"So don't take her to the vet, Mommy!" She clung to my side.

The tears slipped out, despite my best effort to reign them in. I wiped them off my face. "Honey, this is the way it has to be. Animals and people, they both die when they're very old, very sick or very hurt. Baby is very old and very sick. If we don't do anything, she'll be very hurt also."

Arianna buried her face in the cotton of my shirt. "I don't want her to go away! I want her to stay here forever!"

"I know," I said softly. "This is the very best thing we can do for her, though. The last, best thing we can do for her."

We sat on the couch together, her five-year-old hands in mine, staring at the one that I called Puffy Cat who snoozed quietly in the sunlight streaming in from the window.

"Come on, Little Bear," I said. "Let's open a can of tuna for her. That'll cheer us all up."

And it did, if only for a little bit.

* * * * *

I prepped tunafish for sandwiches yesterday and, just like I always do, I paused before draining the excess tuna water into the sink. It seems like such a waste, I thought in my mind. The house gets too silent around me when I'm making lunches, my daughter and husband asleep in the other rooms.

I miss the sound of a tiny squeak at my feet, demanding that I pour her some tuna soup into one of her plastic bowls.

Before we had a kid, we had a Puffy Cat. She was a living reminder of the us that existed before we became the us we are today. A fluffy piece of all the good parts of our life together, first as just Ron & Jill and then as husband & wife and then as Mom & Dad.

And she was good for clinging to when those times sometimes got to be too much to bear.

* * * * *

No one knows it, but when I make tunafish sandwiches, I leave the tuna soup outside my front door in one of her little plastic bowls.

Photobucket
Goodnight, Puffy Cat.
2000-2010


Author's note: I've never openly wept when writing an LJ Idol post before.
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
"All you ever talk about are books."

The voice came from the girl on her left, followed by a snicker from the girl on her right. They were in the back of her mother's 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix, the black vinyl of the seat sticking to her legs where her shorts cut off. She was wedged between the two of them, her closest friends in her 11-year-old world. She pushed her magenta glasses, too big for her face, back up her nose.

"Yeah, Jill," the second girl said in reply with a snicker. "Don't you have any friends that aren't story characters? You talk about them like they're real or something."

"You guys are my friends," she thought to herself, glumly.

"And you talk like you've been reading the dictionary again. You have, haven't you?"

She hung her head and didn't say anything as the girls laughed. She had just been all smiles, telling them animatedly about the last Ann M. Martin book that she'd finished reading.

Now she let her hair hang in her eyes, her vision clouded in a sea of brown.

* * * * *

Twenty years later, she found herself in her own living room, sitting on the blue and white checked couch.

"So, tell me," she said angrily. "What in the world would I possibly have to apologize to her for?"

Her husband sighed, sitting down on the tan recliner across from her. "You don't get it, do you?"

"No, I most certainly do not. Please - name for me one specific incident in which I was so terrible to her that I would need to apologize. Because so far as I can tell, there isn't a single one."

"It's not an incident," he said. "Not as much as it is your attitude towards her most of the time."

She threw her hands in the air. "What attitude?! When dealing with her, I've been reactionary at best. I've never pro-actively gone out of my way to be a bitch to her. In fact, I think it's been when I've pro-actively gone out of my way to be nice to her that she's been the nastiest."

He looked at her as she pushed her librarian-style glasses back up on her nose. "Well," he said with no hesitation in his voice, "you're a bit overwhelming."

That stopped her in her tracks. "Overwhelming?" She laughed. "Seriously? How and when did that happen?"

"You're intelligent, Jill," he continued. "You don't think that comes off strongly?"

"Um, no."

"Well, it does. You use your big words, like they were weapons, and sometimes it can be a bit much."

She chewed on a fingernail, never dropping his gaze. "So, you're saying that I should apologize for my brain?"

He sighed. "No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that the way you act is too much for some people. I swear, you're different on purpose."

She knew where his mind was. He was thinking about the Easter play that she wouldn't go to with his family, despite claiming to accept and understand her agnosticism. He hadn't let that one go yet.

"So, to clarify," she said, "I'm overwhelmingly intelligent and weirdly different on purpose."

"And you end up coming off as a condesecending snob. Some people can't handle that kind of personality."

She felt her breath whoosh out of her chest. SNOB?! Well, shit, that was a first.

"So what you're saying," she said slowly, sitting up straight in her perch on the couch. Her brown hair fluttered into her face and she pushed it away. "Is that I should apologize to her because of who I am."

He sighed. "You don't get it."

"No, I get it. I get that her perception of me is that I'm a snotty, bookish brainiac that uses words as though they were swords. Did you ever think that that's not what I meant?"

"I know it's not what you meant," he said. "Except that sometimes we just have to suck it up and apologize even if we don't think we were wrong."

She stood up and crossed her arms over her chest. "I won't apologize for this. I'm sorry that she got the wrong perception of me, because that's not what I meant, but it's not my job to change her perception of me. And I can't apologize for being the way I am."

He sighed and stood up. He walked towards the front door and slipped on his shoes. "Then I guess things keep going on the way they've been going on."

She moved her hands to her hips. "What do you want from me? What kind of apology would it be if it were empty? Part of an apology is the expectation that the offending behavior won't occur again. I can't promise that, so I can't make that promise. Therefore, I simply can't apologize because I won't and can't change who I am simply because it fucking overwhelms her."

He shrugged. "All right, then." He leaned towards her and kissed her on the forehead. "I'll be back in a few hours."

She crossed her arms back across her chest. "Yeah. Have fun."

Once the door was closed securely behind him, she took her glasses off and placed them on the coffee table, then put her head in her hands and cried.

* * * * *

Bones, just take the brain. Okay? And put it in neutral. Take the heart, and put it in overdrive.
- Booth
strryeyedgrrl: (...ari '10...)
"May I please have a cookie?"

My daughter's words ring loud and unwavering. She has chosen to speak louder than usual, remembering the last time that she asked the lady in the Fred Meyer bakery department for a cookie. She had been told that the store was very loud and that her small voice was hard to hear. The woman smiles and beckons for me to come in and get a cookie. Arianna has decided that, despite the fact that she is rapidly outgrowing it, she wants to sit in the seat of the shopping cart.

I hand her the cookie and push the cart away, but not before Ari has the chance to thank the woman, remembering again to raise her voice to be heard.

I am often floored by this, I think, as I push the shopping cart towards the racks of bread. I remember myself as I was at Ari's age - timid, small-voiced and shy, often found hiding behind my own mother. I would be hard-pressed to ask the woman in the bakery for a cookie. Often, I forced my younger sister to ask for the both of us, so that I did not have to raise my voice and be heard. Or be seen. I had preferred to be invisible.

Chewing meticulously on a pink sprinkle that she has plucked from the flower-shaped cookie, Ari holds the ballpoint pen up in her free hand. She wields as if to make a point. The notebook with brown and green and blue stripes on its cover is on her lap, leaning at an angle against the shopping cart. It is opened to a page near the middle, past the Girl Scout meeting notes and reminders to myself to call the church about food bank donations.

"What's next?"

"Bread, Little Bear. I need two loaves."

Not losing her grip on the cookie, Ari swipes a straight line through the word "bread" on my shopping list.

"What kind of bread?"

"We get the same thing every time. Honey Wheat. See?" I point to the familiar packaging of the family's favored bread. Country Oven. It's always on sale.

She nods in silent agreement, as if my explanation has pleased her.

"Now what?"

"Well, what's next on the list?"

She stumbles over the words a bit, taking the last bite of the cookie. "Ch...ch..."

"Smooth blend it," I say softly, reminding her of what her Kindergarten teacher has instilled in her. "'Ch' says 'chuh', what does 'ee' say?"

"Ch...chee...cheese!"

She is definitely pleased by this, gauging by the grin that spreads across her face as she crumples the brown paper wrapper from the cookie. She hands it to me and as I turn down the next aisle, I commit a serious sacrilige: I toss the wrapper onto the rack next to the Kettle Chips.

"MOM! That's littering!"

I am caught.

"So it is," I reply and retrieve the wrapper. I tuck it into the front pocket of my purse, next to a little purple sock and three Tinkerbell lip glosses that I'd had to confiscate last week. I am reminded of the time I dug through my purse at work and procured three pacifiers, a baggie of formula and a packet of wipes, but not the keys I was looking for.

We make our way to the cheese and as I pick up the loaf of cheddar, I catch her out of the corner of my eye. She is running her finger down the rest of the list, counting how many items are left to be found. Her lips are moving without sound; her dishwater blonde hair, now lightening in streaks as the sun returns to our corner of the world, hangs in her face because she refused to wear a headband. It was Crazy Hat Day at school and the headband got in the way of her cowboy hat with the leopard-print band.

As I marvel on this creature perched on the green seat of the Fred Meyer shopping cart, I wonder to myself if this was all a part of Plan A or Plan B. I hadn't been one of those girls that planned out her adult life. I didn't have a fairytale wedding in my head, I didn't have any pre-conceptions about where my path would take me. To be honest, to this day I have a real problem imagining myself aging. Tomorrow is out there, but I often have a hard time putting any real effort into making any realizations about it.

I pick up two packages of lunch meat, further down the case from the cheese, and Ari fumbles for this on the list. It isn't there - I had forgotten to write it down. I tell her so and she makes a face at me.

"You're just making this up, aren't you?"

Sometimes, darling, yes, I am.
strryeyedgrrl: (...dear buddha...)
An Open Letter to the Universe.

A couple of years ago, my uncle came to visit from back East. You probably know him - Ackbar? Anyway, he came by my place and Ron kept Ari company with a movie on the laptop while he and I conversed in the living room. Over Diet Coke and tarot cards, I told him how I always had this feeling like I was constantly waiting for something. What it was, I didn't know. I didn't even know if it was a what. Maybe it was a who or a time or a place. Either way, this constant feeling in the back of my mind was always there, nagging at me.

What could I do about it, I asked him. What did it mean? He looked back at me serenely, his face so much like my father's, but framed by his long silver hair. It curls a bit, just like Dad's, you know. He took my hands and spoke softly about writing a Vision Letter. A letter to God, telling him/her what I want out of life. Once it was written, I was to tuck it away somewhere and come back to it at some later date.

Well, I don't know if I believe in God. I do know, however, that I believe in the Universe. I believe that we're all connected in some way, somehow and that there are often forces at work that we likely can't understand. Yeah, I know, that sounds like God or Divine Intervention or Deity - who the fuck cares. I call it The Universe. So, here I am, writing this letter to you. I just don't know what to say or how to say it. I feel like I'm making a Christmas list to send to Santa and I know that's not what I should be doing.

Somewhere along the way, my life became a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. I loved those books, but I'd always end up falling off a cliff or dying of smoke inhalation in a forest fire. So I'd flip the pages a bit until I got back to where I'd made the poor decision to stop and buy a couple of crack rocks instead of escaping from the towering inferno of evergreens. I'd choose, instead, to get in the car with the park ranger, even though he was unabashedly staring at my chest. Safety is worth a little eyefuck, right?

Wait.

Where was I?

My point is that somewhere along the way, I bought the crack rocks because it seemed a better choice than the lecherous Forest Service employee. I'm dying of smoke inhalation when I could've just been felt up, but alive.

Wait.

Jesus shit, where is my mind today?

You see what I'm dealing with here?

All I'm trying to say is that I can't find what page I was on before I made the wrong choice. I can't re-evaluate what I did to get where I am and now I'm here, in this constant state of waiting. Like I'm on the precipice - looking for the better solution to magically appear and even everything out to where it should've been.

But.

There's always a but, right?

What if it's all right the way it is now? Nothing needs to really change, I just need to know what I'm waiting for, what I'm doing here. Right?

Oh, hi, quarter-life crisis, come on in. I have warm PBR and bacon - take a seat and we'll get down to business. I can take a little eyefuck if it means escaping the forest fire.

*sigh*

So, Universe, here you go.

Here's a check, my price to play.

Probably should've written this thing a long time ago.

Photobucket
strryeyedgrrl: (Default)
When we're small, we have favorites of everything. Favorite colors, favorite foods, favorite cartoons, favorite breakfast cereals. We even have favorite people, despite the fact that it's probably not socially couth to do so. Sure, even as adults, we have our preferences of certain people over others, but we've learned to keep that quiet and to ourselves.

Sometimes, at least in my case as an adult, we even feel bad that we don't like one person as much as the other.

Sometimes, it's not the other person's fault.

Sometimes...well, sometimes we just haven't given the other person a fair shake.

When we're kids, though, we often don't have that filter. Even if we're not saying it out loud, we're not ashamed with our thoughts or our silent preferences. That's why, when I was a kid, my favorite grandmother was Grandma Clara.

It's hard not to see how a small kid wouldn't have chosen Grandma Clara as their favorite. There were always Mother's Cookie taffy cookies in the jar in her kitchen. In her hallway closet, there were stacks of coloring books and old cigar boxes full of crayons. When any of the fifteen grandkids (although it was only thirteen, back when I was a kid) had finished a picture, they were required to write their name and the date at the top of the page. There were Barbie paper dolls from the 60's and strange animal stencils that had likely made their way through all of her seven children.

There was also "the patio". As soon as we arrived, my sister and my cousins and I, we'd leave the adults in the dust as we bounded through the house towards the back door. Down the stairs and out into the sometimes rain, there stood "the patio" which wasn't so much as a patio as it was a makeshift addition to the house. In its heatless, plastic siding depths lay a treasure trove of toys that my grandfather would pick up from flea markets. To this day, I cannot replicate them exactly without spending a fortune - do you know how much a mint condition 1970's era Little People house goes for these days?

In my grandmother's kitchen hung a string of three plush hearts - purple, light purple and pink. On them said something along the lines of "I love Grandma". I remember this because it my sister and me that gave them to her. My sister was too young at the time to choose which of the strings of hearts went to which grandmother, so my mother gave the task to me. I chose the prettiest ones, in my opinion, for Grandma Clara. The ones that were not so pretty, though, those went to Grandma Louise.

I feel bad now, as an adult, for that act. What did it matter, really? Each sentiment was the same, when it truly came down to it.

Grandma Louise did not have toys. She did not have a cookie jar in her kitchen and there were no Barbie paper dolls. Her home was not in the middle of a bustling city - it was in the middle of the country and smelled a lot like wet earth. She cussed a bit and she had a stern voice. In my child's mind, Grandma Louise was NO FUN.

As I grew older, though, and gave my grandmother a fair shake, I realized how very wrong I was.

When I came over to stay for a week in the summer, she would bring out the Scrabble board because she knew I loved words. We would sit together and pore over the dictionary to find the longest words we could spell on the board. She would let me ride my bike into town and she wouldn't mind it when I called her from a payphone at the general store to tell her I needed a ride back. She had a plastic bucket full of Legos that occupied my sister and me far longer than any coloring book ever had.

Her house was a scattered mess of everything she loved, a far cry from Grandma Clara's neat-and-tidy PineSol-smelling home. There were wild mushrooms drying on the kitchen counter. There were stacks of photo albums spilling out from shelves. There were newspaper clippings and notes written in her tiny, distinctive script to remind her to call the doctor or the Old Soldier's Home. At Christmas, we received gifts from her in a wrapping paper that very well may have been ornate wallpaper. She was frugal, after all, having grown up in a country town during the Depression.

When I was older, I learned my best cuss words from her - my mother's voice chiming in with an exasperated "Moommmm!" at each one that slipped from her lips. I eventually learned them in German, also, which delighted her to no end. We would have secret conversations in her parents' native tongue and when she was in a rehabilitation center after surgery, I sent her a card that told her, in German, to not give the doctors too hard of a time.

When I was 19, she drove me to the tattoo shop where I got my tongue pierced. As I lay in the chair, I could hear her in the lobby, engaged in a lively back-and-forth with the tattooed men that ran the shop. When I nearly passed out later, in line at the grocery store, she held my hand as I breathed deeply and tried to steady myself. She would let me smoke my Marlboro Reds in her truck and I would sneak her a bag full of leftover hash browns if she came into the McDonald's that I worked at just at the right time.

"So, how's that tongue ring working out for you?"

"Grandma, I told you, Captain and I are just friends."

Captain looked at me, his face clearly uncomfortable. We really were just friends and had been since middle school.

"Oh come on," she said, elbowing Captain playfully. "I hear they call it a French tickler."

"GRANDMA!"



Illustration by Adam Botsford, Artist of Skills.
When she met my future husband for the first time, when he and I were just friends and he was married to his first wife, she smacked him on the butt and told him that he was a fine-looking fellow. Ironically, as it would turn out, we would determine that she had gone to school with my husband's grandfather.

"Grandma, the family tree...there's no Knaack branches are there?"

My grandmother gave me her trademark wicked grin, her eyes twinkling.

"Oh no, that Henry, he was too stingy."

"GRANDMA!"


My mother has some wonderful stories of my grandmother - about the hardship she endured, her strong sense of perseverance and hard work. I could tell you a few of them and you would come to understand my strong affection for her even more. Those are my mother's stories, though; a daughter's stories of her mother, not a granddaughter's stories of her grandmother.

Towards the end of my 26th year, I stood on the edge of my nephew's fresh grave. I peered down into the hole that had been dug into the earth and looked upon his white coffin. It was littered now with roses and a single 100 Grand candy bar that I had tossed in. Beside me, my grandmother took my hand and sighed.

"It's not right, it's not right."

"I know, Grandma."

"I never thought I'd see the day where I'd see my own great-grandson put in the ground."

"I know, Grandma."

"Not right. Not right."

"I know, Grandma. I know."


There is a picture of my grandmother, her hands deep in the earth and her eyes closed. It was taken long before I was a gleam in my mother's eye, but it is the most representative of how she exists in my collective memory. You couldn't count on her to answer the house phone because she might be outside in the yard. She might be in the greenhouse. She might be anywhere the ground called for her to sow.

Even when my father and my uncles built her a new house, it still smelled like wet earth.

I came to love that smell.

I didn't come to love either grandmother better than the other, either.

I came to love them both for who they were.

I just got a little more time with Grandma Louise was all.

* * * * *

I sat on one of the wooden kitchen chairs, my elbows on the table and my hands holding up my chin.

The house was quiet, but busy. A hum of things to come. Our thoughts were all leaning towards the heavy side.

My uncle Dean sitting to the left of me, spoke quietly.

"She was so proud of you, you know. She always talked about how proud of you she was."

"I think I'll put that on a card and keep it at my desk for those crummy days: 'Don't worry, Grandma's proud of you.'"

Uncle Dean just smiled. Silence fell upon the house again.

In the other room, a light was fading.


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strryeyedgrrl

November 2015

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