Saturday, July 28, 2012


Today I took Odessa and her best friend Tucker on an adventure.  Tucker's moving away tomorrow, so we had to make this one good.

I'm always amazed by what a creek can do for a couple kids.  I took them to my friend Steve's house and we had a picnic in his living room and then we shot bows and arrows and then we walked down a long gravel road to a creek.  The girls wallered around in the mud and rocks and sticks.  They found water bugs and took off their shoes even after I told them they had to keep them on.  Steve helped them make a mud palace for the fairies.  They threw chunks of bread off a culvert to fish they couldn't see. They fought and hugged and fought and hugged intermittently and by turns throughout the day. At one point, we were joined by a turtle.  At another, there was a deer eating pears off the ground beside a tree.

They got filthy.  When they were done, they looked like they had been rolling around on the railroad tracks.  But there was no point in the day when at least one of them wasn't wearing a princess costume.

Then they came home and slept.

In my opinion, every day in late July should look something like that when you're three.  But it does you really good any age, actually.

We're gonna miss you, Tucks.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stories From My Grandmother

I've been writing about my grandmothers here a lot lately, I guess because July is their birthday month.  But also, they're both so damn old, I figure I should get to it while the getting's good.

Virginia, you know about.  She's great, but kind of a handful. For instance, yesterday I busted my ass running errands for her, and when I came in the house carrying a load of groceries and she said, "Jessie, are you pregnant?"


"Oh, you're getting a little bit of a stomach. Also, you got me the wrong toothpicks--I like the ones in the paper package you got me that one time."

Okay.  Well, the take-home here is I'm DONE wearing billowy white shirts with large flower patterns on them.  I'm through.

Anyway, that's just Virginia for you.  There's no changing her.  She and my other grandmother, Granny--whose name is Migs--couldn't be more different.  Granny lives out in California, and I haven't seen her in almost a year, but I could show up tomorrow, nine and a half months pregnant and she wouldn't mention it.  I could be in active labor and probably the most she'd do is ask if I needed Tums or perhaps some tea.

In fact, therein lies the trouble with Granny: she's so private and respectful of other peoples' privacy that you don't get many stories out of her. If she's not sure where the line between anecdote and gossip lies, she'll avoid that end of the pool all together.  Whereas, Virginia will just make shit up to keep you entertained.  I suppose both have their merits.

Anyway, every so often, Granny will tell a story about her childhood.  Like once she told me her earliest memory:

The year had to have been like 1913 or something.  She described to me this little blue jacket that she had loved, but had grown out of.  She remembers putting it away in her drawer and kind of petting the jacket and saying, "It's okay, I'll wear this again next time I'm a baby."

I love that story--it makes me cry a tiny bit every time I think of it.  I guess because Granny's 102 now, and you never know: she might get the chance to be a baby again pretty soon.

Anyway, Mom was just out visiting, and Granny told her another story while she was there:

When Granny was six, her father died.  He was a successful political cartoonist at a newspaper in Chicago, so the family lived pretty large until then.  But after he died, Granny's mother had to sell their big, fancy house on Lake Michigan and move to Sharon, Connecticut where her sister lived.  But right before he died, Granny's father bought a piano--just the stand-up kind--so Granny and her sister Sally could take piano lessons.  They moved that piano to Connecticut with them, and lots of little kids learned to play on it over the years.

Eventually, after a couple of generations of children gave it a good banging, the piano wouldn't stay in tune anymore.  Great Aunt Sally moved to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron and brought it with her.  Eventually, Sally donated the piano to "The Indians," which I guess means...well, I don't really know what that means.  I picture my tiny, prim little great aunt driving a truck with the piano in the back to the end of a dirt road where some Native Americans are sitting in a circle of tipis, making handicrafts around a smoking fire.  The chief in a full feather headdress solemnly accepts the piano from Aunt Sally.  Aunt Sally and the chief shake hands and Aunt Sally drives away.

Anyway, the Indians ended up not wanting the piano either.  It just wouldn't tune.  The last anybody saw of the piano, it was standing in shallow water out in Lake Huron. A fisherman took Aunt Sally out in a motorboat to identify it.

"Yes, that's our piano," she said, before turning around and motoring back to the land.

"So, The Indians didn't want it," Granny told Mom a little mournfully.

Mom could tell that, even though she wasn't saying it, Granny didn't approve of The Indians' piano-disposal method.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Me, Today

What purpose could be served, you ask, by listening to one song all day on repeat, while writing about cavemen?

How about the pursuit of human perfection.

Listen to this:  Cate Le Bon - What Is Worse

And go ahead and read this.

There, now you're basically me today.  Congrats!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I would like to dedicate this huggy lion to Jane Rogers.  I mean, Jane Argentina. You know what I mean. 

I miss you, gurl. 

(I kind of wish a lion would do that to me?)

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I just got off the phone with Granny, my Mom's mom.  She turned 102 yesterday and lives in a retirement home in Santa Barbara. It's foggy there and it's always the same temperature.  I think of Granny living everyday in a diaphanous sort of mist.

Granny does alright for an impossibly old person, although she does forget things.  For instance, my mom was just there visiting, but she left this morning.  When I was talking to her today, Granny kept forgetting whether or not Mom was in the other room, or on the other side of the country.  "Annie's around here somewhere," she kept saying.  Then: "No, silly me.  She's gone already.  It's so hard to keep track of everybody."

It's true! It is hard to keep track of everybody!  And not just for Granny, who's a tiny bit senile. Human memories are terrible, and I bet they're terrible for a reason, because who wants to remember everything that ever happened to you?  Not me. Anyway, our memories are what we have to work with, so we work with them.

I especially like the memories I have from when I was a little kid.  They don't make good sense, but they're really vivid--it seems like they might be similar to what Granny feels when she starts packing up to go visit her fiends who lived in Vermont in 1942 and who have been dead for like 30 years.  She's pretty sure she's supposed to go there right now; it feels right and real.  It's hard not to believe the story your mind tells you.

Like I have this memory of falling off a boat into the Atlantic Ocean.  I was probably 4. My whole family was there--all my aunts and uncles and cousins, looking down at me in the water from the deck, their faces blacked out by the sky.  I remember the gray, foam-tipped waves, no land in sight, the hull of the boat as tall as a cruise liner, my cousin Jason hollering that a shark was on its way.  And then, I turned around and there was a shark fin, drifting toward me, pointy against the white horizon. And, just like that, I was snatched out of the water by the hood of my coat.  The next thing, my uncle Bob was yelling at me. And then I was sitting in the cabin of a boring boat for the rest of a boring day.

I always thought that was a weird memory to have, because why would anybody put a houseboat on the Atlantic Ocean? And why was my whole family there? And why was I wearing a coat on a boat?  And did I really see a shark fin tacking toward me?  I've never really known whether that, or something kind of similar to that, actually happened. Or if it was just a story I told myself.

The other day, my aunt Sally asked me if I remember the time I fell off Bob's houseboat into Lake Lanier.  She sent me a picture of the place where it happened:

According to Sally, it was November and my dad's side of the family was taking a little spin on Bob's new boat.  Apparently I hadn't been wearing a life jacket.  We were just milling around on the deck and I just walked off the side of it, into about 100 feet of water.  Bob grabbed me as I was sinking in my boots and pants and winter coat.  Sally didn't say anything about Jason yelling to me that the shark was coming.   Actually, she didn't mention anything about the shark.

So, I'm sure Sally has a finer grasp of the context of the situation than I do.  But I remember what it felt like to be a 4 years old in Lake Lanier in November. It felt like the Atlantic Ocean.  It's a big story in my brain.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Species Distinction

So remember how I told you about Virginia's raccoon? It's been sneaking in her back room to dine on Purina Cat Chow since time immemorial.

It couldn't possibly be the same raccoon that was doing it back when I was 9, could it? Well, maybe.  Raccoons might live a long time?

No, the internet machine just told me they're lucky to live 5 years in the wild.  Also: Missourian raccoons average about 1.8 years and in Alabama, raccoons live around 3.1 years.  I live in Georgia, so I'm betting our raccoon life expectancy is closer to the Alabama-ian raccoons. And lookee here! The longest-lived raccoon in captivity lived 17 years and 27 days.  Duly noted.

Anyway, a couple days ago, Gigi called me and was like, "Jessie.  Hey.  I was wondering if you could do somethin' for me?  I have a possum in a trap in my back room, and I need you to come pick him up and road-trip him, you know?"

I didn't know.

"Just carry him down the road in the car and let him out in the woods somewhere."

"Oh." I said. "I guess i could do that.  So, it turned out to be a possum and not a raccoon?"

"Yeah, it's a possum. I thought it was a raccoon before, but it's a possum."

Luckily, I wasn't the first person she called on this errand, and just then my uncle Bob walked in and took over the road-tripping procedure, so I just went back to work.

So, that's all been taken care of.  Only when I talked to my dad on Thursday, I told him the story, and he already knew all about it, and added another interesting detail:

"It wasn't a possum after all," he said.  "She misidentified it."

What was it?

A raccoon. It was a raccoon, just like she thought back before she saw it and misidentified it as a possum.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Rescue

So, we got Odessa back, just in time for her to experience her life flashing before her eyes real good, and for me to almost have a heart attack.  I'll get to that in a sec.

It sounds like Dessa had a fine time with her grandparents: she convinced them to take her to see Brave in the theater for the third time; that's my girl!

Meanwhile, Bryan and I went on a proper date together and also read a book aloud, which is Bryan's very favorite thing to do.  We haven't had time recently; we started a book at Christmas, and are now, in July, on page 200.  Bryan also performed an extended comedy routine for my benefit (Bryan is an introvert, but as far as I'm concerned, he's the funniest human being on the planet.  Which is pretty much the reason we're married), and indulged me in a leisurely conversation about yoga.  In conclusion, a few days without Odessa gave us each enough energy to be nice to each other.  It was kind of like what being married back in 2008 was always like.

Anyway, we got Odessa back yesterday, and of course we were happy to see her.  This morning I took her to the swimming pool, and she and her friend Tucker cavorted in the shallow end while Tucker's mom, Tabatha, and I chatted like moms in some mom chairs on the side of the pool.

Suddenly, though, I looked over and saw Odessa making the weirdest face: her eyes were really big and her mouth was under water.  She was making a gurgling sound.  She obviously thought she was drowning, which is what happens right before you start actually drowning.

Every once in a while, you get to test all your internal emergency response equipment, and today I totally used all of mine.  Tabatha was like, "I've never seen anybody move that fast before in real life.  You should go to the Rescuing-Drowning-Kids Olympics."

No, thank you.

Odessa was totally fine--I can't tell that she even inhaled any water.  She just walked a little farther out into the pool than her height allowed and couldn't figure out how to get turned back around.  She shook it off really quickly and swam for another hour after that.  For my part, I made out pretty good with a spilled drink, plus I scraped my knee on the brick.

No biggie.  

But what I did realize is that,

a) Dessa needs to learn to swim, and soon.
b) Even if it's nice to get a vacation from her for a couple of days, Odessa's the most important person in the universe, and I need her to not drown.

I also need you not to drown, because drowning freaks me out.  You guys: please don't drown.  If not for yourself, do it for me. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


You know one of the best parts about having a kid? Foisting your kid off on somebody else for a couple days.

You guys know I love my little lady, right?  This morning when I opened my eyes, she was sucking her thumb and had her other little marshmallow hand on my cheek, and was face-gazing me like crazy.  "I ludwyou, Mommy," she said.

Kids are so awesome. My kid is so awesome.

But.  Like yesterday? Bryan, Dessa and I were driving to the fun, 4th-of-July-themed activity we had planned.  It was 11:30, and we were really late and I hadn't had any coffee and Odessa was being a pain in my ever-loving ass.  The sound of her voice felt like someone was dragging one of my eyeballs across a nutmeg grater.  Also, I hadn't had any coffee.

I turned around to glare at her in her carseat and I was like, "DESSA, I TOTALLY H-A-T YOU RIGHT NOW."

This didn't phase her at all.  At all.  Mostly because it didn't make any sense, even to people who can spell.

About 20 minutes later, after we had stopped to get me some coffee, Odessa was singing along to The Little Mermaid soundtrack, and was really feelin' it.  It was so crappin' cute, I reached back and squeezed her leg and said "I love you, Dessa."

Bryan started laughing.  "I thought you H-A-T'ed her."

I did.  I H-A-T'ed the hell out of her right at the moment I said it.  But that's just part of being somebody's mom, I guess.

Being a parent can be a complete disaster sometimes.  Normal things normal human people get to do can feel strangely illicit: like peeing by yourself with the bathroom door closed, for instance.  For me, never having any privacy results in my walking around feeling constantly hunted.   Since I've become the parent of a 3-year-old, I've started grinding my teeth at night.  I have a hard time falling asleep.

Not sure what to do about that. I guess we'll grow out of it.

But today, Bryan's parents are just picking her up and taking her home with them for a couple days.  I can't even really process this information yet.  It's amazing.  I mean, sometimes people take Odessa away for a couple of days when Bryan's gone, but I don't remember the last time we were both at home and she wasn't.

This might even result in my husband and I having an uninterrupted conversation--I mean, it'll be uninterrupted if I don't faint in the middle of it.

Thanks Oma and Popeye! We'll see you on Saturday! Or, you know, Sunday if you want!  How's Monday for you?