Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Letter to My Hair

Dear Hair:

I give up. You win.

I can no longer fight against what is and what has always been, particularly in the face of all this humidity.

You are curly. I could sort of pretend you weren't when I lived in drier climes, but here in the Gulf Coast? Not so much.

Every day since I moved here you have screamed at me, "Give it up, girl! Put down the flat iron and round brush and just walk away."

So today, you win.  Instead of trying to slick back the curly escapees and pin down the naughty waves, you can have at it.

Much love,


Friday, August 26, 2011

That Day

On a crystalline blue, blistering hot Saturday summer evening 22 years ago, my older sister was killed in an alcohol related car accident on I-15. She was on her way to Lagoon with some friends when the very young and very inexperienced driver came up on some traffic that had slowed down because of construction.

Go figure. Construction on I-15 in the summer time? Some things never change.

The young driver was only going about 55 MPH, but like the others in the car, she had been sipping rum and Coke. She slammed on her brakes, started to skid and spin, then over-corrected. 

At some point, Carolyn was ejected through the windshield of the car, even though she had been sitting in the back seat, without a seat belt of course. Seat belts would not have helped much in this case. In fact, if the girls had been wearing seat belts, all four of them most likely would have died. As it is, two of them died - my sister and the driver - and two others who were ejected before the car hit the semi survived - barely.

Thinking back on this, a wry smile steals across my face. No, not about the death and dying part, but the part about where she was sitting when the accident happened.

If Carolyn was ever in the back seat, she always wiggled her way into the middle and leaned forward onto the front seats so she could talk to whomever was up front. Not safe nor smart, but that's just how she was, always wanting to talk, to be engaged in life and whatever was happening up front.

The back seat and back of the line was never good enough for her.

She was determined to not miss a single moment of life. I can only imagine she was smiling and laughing with that infectious laugh of hers when she was launched into eternity, eagerly leaning forward between the front seats.

Even though she was killed at about 5:00 p.m. that evening, we didn't find out about the accident until later that evening. She had been carrying fake ID (had she been the one who bought the rum?) and so the police had a hard time identifying her and locating her next of kin. It didn't help that her body...well, let's just say there was no visual ID made. They only asked for identifying marks below the shoulders to ID her.

I found out she had died when I returned home from spending time with my friends.

I pulled up at around 11:30 pm, my 17-year old avocado green 1972 Buick Electra rolling in like a tank. Nearly every house on the street had lights on. Every light in my house was on. My parent's car was gone. I could see someone vacuuming the living room through the plate glass window.  Neighbors were standing on their porches.

Something was dreadfully wrong. 

As I got out of my car and heaved the massive door shut, one of the twin brothers who were two years younger than me came running out of the house like an prison escapee. It took me several minutes to register what he was yelling at me.

Carolyn was dead. 

Within a few days, we would be having a closed-casket funeral for her. My best friend would be gone and my whole world would start to unravel at the seams, wildly spinning out of control for years to come.

But at 11:00 a.m. that Saturday morning - that morning -  all was well when I stopped by College Terrace where my sister lived to visit a friend.

I saw Carolyn getting into her brown station wagon. I leaned over the balcony as far as I could to get her attention yelling, "Carolyn, Carolyn, CAROLYN!!! I love you!!!"

She looked up, flashed a huge grin, threw both arms over her head like an Olympic gymnast and yelled as loudly as possible, "I love you too, Munna!"

Munna. That was her pet nickname for me because she was in too big of a hurry to say all the syllables and consonants in my name. It was the last thing she would ever say to me.

Looking back, I can remember how she winced in the bright sunlight and was a bit unsteady on her feet. I now know it was because of the alcohol she had been consuming.  There were so many things I didn't know about her, but I knew the important things.

She was a devoted sister. She would have moved heaven and earth for me. She was fiercely loyal to me.

She loved me.

That's all I needed to know.

The Day Before That Day

When I needed a summer job between my junior and senior year of high school in 1989, my big sister helped me land one at the photography studio and film lab where she had been working for the past year.  Our summer hours were blessedly normal, especially for a high school girl like myself, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday with an hour off for lunch.

The Friday before the accident, the day before that day, we had gone to Arby’s for lunch, the two of us in her car with no air conditioning. We pulled up to the drive-thru to order while Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldiers” blared on the radio and the heat of late August radiated through the floorboards. 

I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, but I remember we both got turnovers. She got apple and I got cherry. Every since that day,  I can’t eat one of those without thinking of her, belting out Bob at the top of her lungs as we cruised along University Avenue. 
“If you know your history, then you would know where you are coming from, Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, Who the ‘eck do I think I am.”
As we ate in the break room back at the studio, we chatted.  It was just sister-talk; you know, easy banter about boys and college and had I seen "Weekend at Bernies" at the dollar theater yet?  

Then, as she finished her apple turnover, she grew serious and still. 

This was terribly unlike her – she was always moving. She was a sliver of light that weaved and bobbed through shimmering aspen trees, not a contemplative alpine glow that stretched across the valley. 

“Munna (her pet name for me), do you think it is weird that Mom has twelve kids and not one of us has ever had a major injury or illness? I mean, no one has even broken a bone!” She leaned into the word twelve, her voice lingering over the vowels. 

Her voice dipped and her blue eyes clouded when she asked, “Who do you think will be the first of us to die?" 

There was a long pause. At 16-years old, death was a stranger to me. That happened to old people or really sick people, not one of us.

She let out a sigh, gathered up the left over bits and pieces of lunch, and then said resolutely, "I am pretty sure it will be me and when I die, I want Stairway to Heaven played at my funeral. Promise me you will make that happen." 

She flashed me a huge mischievious grin that said, "Mom will never let that happen, but wouldn't that be awesome?" Whatever storm had settled in her thoughts for those few moments was gone.  Then, in her voice that was always off-key, she sang out: 
"There's a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving...Oh it makes me wonder. "
We laughed at her inability to carry a tune. I promised her I would make sure they played Led Zeppelin and nothing else at her imaginary, in the future funeral, and then we went back to work.  

At about 4:30 p.m., she came up from the film processing lab to tell me she was headed out a bit early to go camping with some friends and she would see me on Monday.

She left, trailing more Bob behind her as she exited the front door, letting it slam behind her, 

Looking up from the paperwork in front of me, I watched her walk in front of the long plate glass windows at the front of the reception area, her bobbed blond hair swinging and flashing in the summer sun as she sang to the passing cars.
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.” 
She turned the corner and then she was gone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Opening Today

I can't believe I am actually doing this.

Really.  Am I am crazy, or what?

Wait...don't answer that question. I am not sure I want to know the answer!!!

Today, the Professor and I set off on a new adventure - home school.

First, let me be honest and say how much I hate the term "home school." It conjures up images of strange, backward children who can't put three sentences together in an intelligent manner to anyone NOT in their immediate family, girls who wear dresses made of calico print fabric their mom picked up for $1 a yard at Goodwill, and whole wheat everything.

Any of you know me at all realize I am so not that type of mother.

Sure, I wear skirts almost every day of my life, not because I think God told me to but because I find them ridiculously comfortable (and definitely NOT made of calico). Sure, I make whole wheat stuff quite frequently, but I also make a lot of stuff with good old fashioned unbleached Gold Medal flour as well. But me, a home schooler?

Not in a million years.

I much prefer the term "home educator" and that we are "home educating" the Professor.

Maybe it is because I have know to much about the school systems here in the U.S. that I really don't want to "school" my wee ones because it smacks too much of...well, the school system.  Our schools are currently set up to teach people how to follow orders, respond to the bell, and then move along little darling, move along. This is fantastic if you are hoping to produce workers who follow orders, respond to the bell, and then move along on their merry way.

However, if you want something more for your child, you are outta luck. The vast majority of our current schools are not set up to teach children how to love learning, how to think like an entrepreneur, and how to be responsible for their own lifelong education.  

For parents who want more of love of learning and less order following, what choice to we have but to step outside the system and provide this for our children on our own? (That is, unless we are fortunate enough to live somewhere with a thriving charter school that subscribes to our educational philosophy).

Which brings me to my second "let me be honest" moment: Did I mention I just spent the last five years of my life earning a PhD with an emphasis in ADULT education and my dissertation is about GRADUATE education? Did I mention I have ZERO experience teaching at an elementary-aged level?

Did I mention I am scared silly to home educate my son?

I mean, what if I break something? What if I don't do it right?  Which leads me to my third and final "let me be honest" moment which is my biggest fear of all: What if this grand experiment simply proves I will never be a good enough mother and my children will be irreparably harmed simply because I am their mother? 

I know, I know, I know.  I should let it go after all these years and most of the time, I do a pretty darn good job of putting that crappy thinking in it's place. But still...there are moments, like now, where those old doubts and fears creep out of the closet.

So if you are reading this, say a little prayer for me (and the Professor!).   I could certainly use all the extra help I can get at this point.  This home education adventure feels like a huge test of my ability to parent just as much as it is a test of my ability to teach. The teaching part I have down, no worries. It's the other stuff I am worried about.

Much love,