Monthly Archives: February 2011

Growing Up Green

The fibers of the carpet were uniform and compact. Solid. No bounce when you walked barefoot through the house. Unlike the previous incarnation of floor covering that was squishy and floppy, ‘shag’ I believe I heard my mother say.

I thought the floppy carpet was much prettier than this new unyielding offender. I couldn’t sink into it’s softness, as it was scratchy and rough against my 5 year old cheek.

And it was green.

Not the soft silvery green that the shaggy tangles were, oh no, this new carpet was a dark tactical green. It will hide the dirt better. My mother had said. I was never sure what dirt she was talking about. My brothers, at 10 and 16, either weren’t home or barely left the confines of their shared sleeping quarters. I, at 5, was the youngest and I wasn’t allowed to play upstairs. Ever. So I certainly wasn’t going to make it dirty.

This coarse intruder arrived shortly after my father had finished painting every available surface in the house a light minty green. Frothy mint walls, tactical green carpet, I was awash in a sea of green. Somehow the same minty green paint ended up on the eaves and the back porch and the garage. Add in the avocado green kitchen appliances and I’m sure we had the dullest house in the neighborhood.

If only I could have known how much a color can infiltrate your senses and micro-manage your life.

At 5, the actual color was meaningless.  It was the same as any other color my mother could have picked, it would eventually become my prison and I would learn to hate it.

My mother was a cruel woman, while not all that physically abusive, her words could cut you and make you believe you were the worthless soul she insisted you were. I am sure my childhood indiscretions were minuscule, especially when  compared to her punishments, which more than compensated for my alleged crimes.

At 6 and 7, I vividly remember being made to sit in my playpen and face the minty green walls for whole afternoons if she deemed it necessary. I was not allowed to talk or read or color. It was just me and the green walls as seen through the playpen’s cloth mesh sides.

Once I was declared too old to sit in the pen, as it was referred to, I was made to sit in the corner by the stairs. Frothy green walls and tactical green floors, made all the worse by the whisper of a television, I was no longer allowed to watch.

And what does a young child do to deserve such harsh penalties? I would chatter incessantly and she would get annoyed. I would rather spend my time reading books than watching soap operas and game shows with her and she would feel slighted. I wanted coloring books and paper, crayons and pencils to make fantastical pictures, while she expected me to play with dolls as any young girl should. My imagined crimes never fit the words or punishments I endured.

As I moved into my teen years, our battles raged longer and harder. I would spend many a night and day hid away in my room. My straight-A academics and high school social life brought a renewed vigor to my mother’s never-ending verbal tirades. My frothy mint walls with the now fading green carpet were both my prison and my refuge. I so began to loathe the monotony of green, wanting a room with pink or blue or yellow, anything but frothy mint walls and tactical green carpet.

My mother kicked me out of her stifling green house when I was 17. Her perceptions of my behaviors never matched the actualities of my conduct. Regardless of her inequity of judgment, I was glad to be free of her.

And my frothy mint walls.

Every 4 or 5 years, my father makes a trip to the hardware store and comes home with new gallons of the same old minty green paint. He takes everything off the walls, tapes off the windows and covers the fading green carpet with plastic. For 40 years my father has followed this manifesto of color.

Long after my brothers and I left home, driven away by the cruelty of our mother, he paints the walls the same minty green. She no longer lives in this house I once called home. No, she left my father 6 years ago and moved to Las Vegas, away from chattering grandchildren and unworthy offspring.

When I visit my father, I want to bring fresh cans of color with me. I want to erase the stains of my memories with something other than frothy mint green. But he doesn’t let me. He is a creature of habit. The coarse tactical green carpet, while faded to a soft olive green, is still sturdy with its compact fibers. He has no desire to buy new.

His memories are different than mine. While I am nauseated by the monotony of color and flashes of cruelness, he is comforted by the sameness of a house once filled with people he loved. I celebrated my release and he mourned his losses. The only thing in his life that has remained constant are his frothy mint walls and tactical green carpet.

The frothy mint walls have become both his prison and his refuge.

This post was written in response to Women’s Memoirs monthly writing contest. The theme for March is Reflections on Green.

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Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s it a Name? ~ Rewind

I wrote this post early in my blog, so many of you may not have read it yet. I’ve been feeling under the weather here, so I’m I’m going to leave you with a re-post today – I’ll be back tomorrow. Happy Sunday.

I hate my name. I hate my name. I hate my name.

“I liked the meaning.” My mother used to tell me after I had complained for the 1,298th time that I hated my name. Meaning? Like I cared what my name meant when I was 8 and there were 4 other girls in my class named Amy.

Of course, she would threaten me with her alternative choice. “I was thinking about Viola, too”. Apparently there’s a great grandma somewhere named “Viola”.  Which is exactly where it needed to stay, with great-grandma.

Speaking of grandma’s, I can credit my mother’s mother with my middle name. “Ruth”. Ugh. My grandmother’s name was Ruth Gladys and while she is my most favorite grandma in the whole wide world, I hate, hate, hate the name. My mother’s name was Ruth Ann. My name is Amy Ruth. I thought only boys got stuck with family names.

Since becoming a parent myself, I have come to realize naming a child isn’t easy. I’ve named 7 of them.  Family names, favorite names, what a name means. All are factors in naming a child. It doesn’t get easier.

Veronica Leigh was the easiest for me to name. I grew up with Archie comic books. Do you see where this is going? Yes, I named my daughter after the comic book character “Veronica Cooper”.

Gone with the Wind is my all time favorite movie, so Leigh is a nod to Vivian Leigh. I love how the name flows together and I knew she would be unique. She loves her name and I am happy that she does.

Thomas Richard was a bit more difficult ~ my ex-husband went to an all boy’s Catholic high school and every boy name I suggested, he associated with some boy he knew in school. “No, Sam stuffed me in a locker.”, ” No, George gave me wedgies.”,  “No, Jesse stole my homework.”

Thomas was the only name he couldn’t make a connection to. Richard is my brother’s name (also his godfather) so Thomas Richard it was.

I remarried in 2000. Hub and I did one of those freaky husband/wife things that amaze and astonish people. Nathaniel James was picked out of a baby name book. I looked and looked and looked and decided that I really liked the name Nathaniel. I liked that it was unique, I liked that it had a literary reference and I liked that there were so many nicknames to choose from. I really liked that it meant “A gift”.

I never said a word – I just handed the book to Hub. 10 minutes later he announced “Nathan” I like the name Nathan. *shivers* I know. I think I broke into tears, because how perfect was that? Is it even possible to come that close to the same name without tossing ideas around? Only once in a lifetime.

Jacob Harley has nothing to do with the motorcycle company. Hub is a big time corvette aficionado. I had already suggested Jacob. (If I  had know it was paramount to “Amy” in popularity, I may have been swayed otherwise. Hindsight is 20/20.)

So Hub came up with 5 possible middle names. William (my dad’s name) Richard (his dad’s name) Marion (his grandpa’s name) and then there was Harley &  Earl.  Harley Earl is a real person. He is *The Man* who designed the first corvette.

Since Tom’s middle name is Richard, that would’ve been weird. It’s difficult to name children after one relative and not another. So, William & Marion were out. (Wel, Marion was out simply because in my world, it’s not much of a boy’s name.) That left the Harley Earl option. I liked Harley, so it really wasn’t that hard. Oh and Jacob is English for James. Perfect.

But then along came Jonathan. I had always liked the name and when we discovered that it was actually a form of Nathan. We loved it even more. Hub presented me with the same 5, well now down to 4, middle names. I am not fond of Earl. But for the same reasons as before I couldn’t pick any of the other names. So Jonathan Earl it is.

I thought I had Zachary William Dale named when I came up with William (my dad) and Dale (my father-in-law’s middle name). William Dale. I wanted to call him Willie.

But no, Hub had to have his 2 cents worth. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the engine designer of the corvette. So Hub’s contribution was Zora. Really? I don’t think so. Maybe for a girl, but in my world Zora is not a boy’s name, either. So I did some digging. Come to find out the man’s real name was Zachary. Bam! The only way to make it work was to saddle the boy with 3 names.

And then came David Henry Cole. The entire pregnancy the name David kept popping up.  David was a very popular name. But we had no David’s in the family (at least none I knew), I knew no David’s as a child, and Hub seemed to like it.

It was a good strong name.  I also love, love , love the name Henry. I don’t know why, but I  always have. It was just one of those names that was never very well received on previous suggestions. So I knew David Henry was my boy.

But no, Hub had to have his 2 cents worth, again. “But what about a corvette name?” Really? Again? So what do you have this time? Edward Cole was the man he picked, another designer on Team Corvette.

Honestly, I don’t like it one bit. I try to ignore it when filling out paperwork for my David Henry. And when he asks I can tell him “David” means “Beloved”.

Because what a name means is important. Even if we don’t like it, we can learn to appreciate it and the painstaking process behind choosing it.

Do your children’s  names have special meanings? Was it an easy decision or was there much discussion? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Unexpected

It’s the unexpected that tears your heart apart.

You try to bury that piece of yourself that is both sentimental and emotional, hide it under the refuse of menial tasks and daily tedium. It’s the unexpected things that lay you bare and exposed as the barely-functioning shell of a woman you’re trying so desperately to hide.

The little boy with the mop of black hair and bright blue eyes, barely more than a year old, that looks up at you while you wait in the Preschool pickup line. The mom that chatters incessantly to you about the boy. Waiting for your agreement that his baby words and diapered waddle are the stuff ambrosia is made of.

The ghost of a babe that never learned to sit, let alone stand and toddle.

The whisper of a toothy grin that never uttered the word mama.

The tears poured down my face before I could reign in the deluge. I turned away from the chatty mom and her cherub boy. I’m sure she thinks me anti-social, as I couldn’t find the grace of words to explain.

*sigh*

And as if the little boy wasn’t enough to test my mental fortitude, the mail held the grand-daddy of all unexpected surprises.

David’s death certificate.

Innocuous in an envelope from the funeral home, my Hub thought it was a bill. When he realized what it was, he tossed it at me, like a game of hot potato that no one can win. The folded paper taken from the envelope but not uncreased for viewing.

I laid it back inside the envelope, unable to read the words.

Several hours past, I waited until my heart was still and I reached inside the envelope, gingerly holding the folded page. While I heard the boys’ muffled voices coming from the living room, I felt like I was in a vacuum, this piece of paper sucking all the oxygen from my lungs.

The details become unimportant as my eyes sweep over the page, although I am grateful that I recognized the doctor’s signature as one with whom we had a rapport.

I break when I read the words refractory septic shock. Those words fill the room and squeeze out the light. They are palpable against my skin as I try to return the page to it’s white paper crypt.

It’s the unexpected that destroys you, completely.

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Whine for Sale – Cheap

For a short time, I’m offering up several cases of whine. I’ve been  bottling my own for years and I have way more than I can use. I’ve tried giving it away to friends and family, but I always acquire more at these large family functions than I can possibly swallow.

My cellar is filling up at an alarming rate. I seem to be bottling fresh whine on a daily basis. Time to clear out the old and make way for the new. No reasonable offer will be refused. All of these vintages would make great gifts for your single friends.

Included in this lot are:

The 8 year old whine. This vintage is sweet at first sip, but the bouquet is a little surly around the edges. You might find that this one leaves a bitter taste in your mouth if you partake in too much. While it goes well with chicken nuggets and french fries, keep it away from anything made with soy sauce. Makes a nice going away gift.

I also have an abundant supply of 6 year old whine. This vintage is full-bodied and has a definite salty undertone to it. Since this vintage is not quite as mellow as the 8 year old, and it can pack quite a wallop even if consumed in small quantities. You may need the aspirin before you imbibe. It’s a vintage that goes well with pizza and ramen noodles, but is absolutely ghastly when paired with vegetables of any kind. A nice vintage to share with folks you don’t know very well.

And last but not least is the not so innocent 3 year old whine. In fact, this vintage isn’t even bottled, I put it straight into the boxes. And while this whine looks all light and sparkly, trust me, it’s pure moonshine. This vintage goes well with just about anything, but I would advise using plastic cups as this whine has been known to shatter glass. These boxes of whine are perfect for college dorm parties.

It’s best not to mix and match these vintages, stick with one and you’re sure to have a pleasant evening. Mix them together and you’ll need a designated driver.

On the plus side,  with a little bit of elbow grease and a scrub brush you could use these whines to remove rust. Hell, I’ll even include the kids for an extra $50.

The post is based on a prompt from The Red Dress Club via  Absolute Write.

We want you to imagine you’ve just had a fight with a friend, a co-worker, husband, significant other, child – you get the picture. You’re mad. It’s time for revenge.

What would you sell?

Write a humorous listing for eBay or Craig’s List. Talk about the history of the items, why they must go.

Word limit is 600.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Mischievous Little Minion

Once upon a time there was a mischievous little minion. His specialty was making messes. He could get into things only a genie was capable of. Somehow he managed to partake in such extraordinary feats of mess-making, I was sure I had a phenom on my hands.  A genius of the highest caliber. No ordinary savant, no my Rain-Man was one of a kind.

His name? Why, Zachary, of course. And this is one of his tales of disaster.

Toddlers explore, they are inquisitive, they thrive on cause and effect. If I throw all the clothes out of the drawer, Mommy gets mad and uses words not meant for minions’ ears. Or I wonder what happens when I flush an entire roll of this long white whispery stuff down the big water dish the kitty always drinks out of. Or, my personal favorite, If I could just get that heavy door to the big food carnival open, I could make me a sam-ich.

Yes, life with Zachary was always unpredictable. You just never knew what mischief his 2 year old self was going to concoct. Dump the dvd’s? Empty all the dresser drawers? Climb up on the sewing machine table and unspool all of Mama’s thread? Yes, yes and yes. Often times, these grand adventures were accomplished shortly after waking for the day. Thankfully in his ripe old age of 3 1/2, he no longer feels compelled to seek and destroy with military precision.

Today’s story of plundered condiments takes place precisely 2 weeks prior to the birth of Capt Snuggles. So imagine if you will a large whale (that would be me) trying to keep up with the hurricane savant that is Zachary. I assure you, it was not an easy task.

I suppose it was my own fault for not shackling him to a chair or some such thing, but I was only out of the room for a minute.

You know how pregnant whales have to pee.

The thing is, I just didn’t see it at first. No, I walked past the largest phenom-created disaster ever witnessed by mere mortals and didn’t bat an eyelash. I think maybe it just didn’t register in my hormone addled brain that the sea of brown on the carpeting was something edible.

Can you guess what it is?

I walked past this, I did, but something beckoned me back into the room. Maybe, just maybe, out of the corner of my eye, I saw these wee hand and foot prints and wondered “Where did those come from?”.

I turned a blind eye to the sea of brown, but these tiny hand and foot prints caught my eye.

It wasn’t until I looked, I mean really focused on my bed, of all places, that I began to understand the magnitude of this catastrophe.

What the hell is on my bed? I'm pretty sure I know who the responsible minion is.

So I went searching for the minion. All 8 1/2 months of pregnant me. I went looking for the phenom who, I was pretty sure was just as ooey, gooey, choco-louie as my bed and carpet were.

Sure enough, I found the minion. Covered. Head to toe, in….have you guessed it yet? Chocolate syrup. A. Brand. Spanking. New. Bottle.

Ooey, Gooey, Choco-louie. What a way to wear Hershey's syrup.

So needless to say, I had to steam-clean the carpet, change the sheets and scrub the mattress. Wash his clothes and give him a bath. 8 1/2 months pregnant. That’s what I get for letting the Rain-Man out of my sight for a couple of minutes.

I’m in awe that he opened the refrigerator, found the BRAND NEW bottle of Hershey’s syrup and decided to randomly pour it all over himself, the floor, my bed.

Of course he did try to wash away the evidence.

He tried to wash away the evidence.

And when Jacob asked me why I was taking these pictures. I looked him squarely in the eyes and said, Someday, I’ll think it was funny.

And so it is.

Chocolate!

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writing Prompts. One of her 5 weekly choices was:

What did they get into now? Describe a time your toddler got into something they shouldn’t have.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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