Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A gathering of family



My mother lost one of her cousins recently.

She didn't have that many to begin with. My grandmother was an only child. My grandfather had siblings, but they only had a few children among them. So while I had 13 first cousins, my mom had five.

Janet was one of my mom's favorites. A few years older than my mom, she was tall and regal and elegant. Very proper.  She lived in "The City" of New Orleans, while my mom lived down the bayou. She also taught my mom how to shave her legs and, I believe, to smoke.

Editor's Note: A few minutes after this was posted, my mom messaged me to let me know that she was, actually, five years YOUNGER than Janet. That she shaved Janet's legs AND gave her her first cigarette. Duly noted, Mom. 

I mostly remember her for her "fancy" house in the Uptown area of New Orleans. It was brick. It was two-story. It had a pool. To this country gal who lived in a trailer made of tin and had a bayou and no pool, it was a mansion.

There were occasional visits to "Aunt Janet's" house to swim, and occasional school breaks where I would spend a few days there with my cousin Jule or she would spend a few days with us. I much preferred to go to their house -- what with the pool and all. I was the country cousin come to town.


Jule had an older brother named Hugh. He was roughly my older brother's age. But he didn't talk very much. Not that he had much to say to a couple of giggling little girls acting stupid in his pool.

Aunt Janet lived a wonderful, rich life. She loved, she married, she divorced. She worked. She sang. She danced. She raised her children. She volunteered. She cared for her elderly mother in her old age. She moved to Florida where she knew barely a soul, then to Texas when she could no longer live alone.

She died on March 7 in Texas.

On March 24, she was brought home. Cousin Hugh brought her ashes back to New Orleans, where they were interred in a lovely spot in one of the city's biggest cemeteries. I didn't get to go, but I heard there was an egret there as well.

Afterwards, our little family gathered back at my cousin Jule's house for sandwiches and such. Hugh and his wife, Jule and her husband, my mom, my daughter, me and an old gentleman friend of Aunt Janet's. We're all grown up now.

Jule's young son joined us too. But, being a teenager, he spent most of his time in his room. And Lora Leigh quickly retreated to the room with the TV with her iPod.

But for a while, we all sat at the small table in Jule's small kitchen, eating and telling stories, sharing memories and catching up. We hadn't seen each other in quite some time. They all wanted to know what I was doing now, what I was going to do next, and why the powers that be didn't just let Tom Benson buy the damn paper.  I didn't know Jule's husband had retired from the NOPD. I had never met Hugh's wife. The last time they had seen Lora Leigh she was a tiny tot.  And little Robbie was so grown-up and handsome I couldn't believe it!

It was a lovely afternoon, in spite of the circumstances.  We had been brought together by a death.

And also by birth.

My cousins Jule and Hugh both had been adopted at birth.

So had my daughter Lora Leigh.

So had Jule's son, Robbie.

It was Hugh who acknowledged it, for one brief moment. Pointed it out. Acknowledged it. We marveled at it -- the youngsters especially. Then we let it go.

It didn't matter. It didn't make one bit of difference.

We were all still a family, mourning the loss of one of our own.

No matter how we got there.






Wordless Wednesday -- Workspace


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lessons


In my 12 years as a mom I have had to teach my daughter many life lessons.

Of course I taught her how to walk and how to talk. How to eat properly at the table. How to say "please" and "thank you."  How to comb her beautiful curls without flattening them out. And, since she hates them now,  how to straighten her hair with a flat iron.

I've tried to teach her how to make a bed and fold her clothes. We're still working on those.

But last night, I taught her perhaps one of the most important lessons of her life. How not to get herself raped by her friends.

Sad isn't it?

But the news these days has been filled with the case of the young high school girl in Steubenville, Ohio, who went to a party with her friends, got drunk and was raped by two school mates. Photos and videos were taken of the girl and some of the events, and spread around the school. Her friends and classmates texted each other, laughed about it, made jokes about it.  But, it seems, not one person tried to stop it or did anything to get her out of there safely.

And on Sunday, when the two young men were found guilty in juvenile court, many seemed to lament the fact that the two boys' future --once bright and full of football promise -- had been ruined forever.No one seemed to worry about the girl's future.

But I worry about my girl's future.

So driving home from a trip to buy her some new size 10 sneakers last night, I turned off the radio.

"We need to talk about something," I told her.

And I told her the story.

She listened. She chewed her fingernail, which she does when she is nervous or uncomfortable. But she listened as I told her the basic facts of the case.

But what I wanted her to hear is that, when you give up control of yourself, you give up control of what happens to you. And anything can happen to you. Any time. Any where. Even at a party with your best friends around you.
 
And I told her that I wasn't telling her these things because I was never this stupid. But rather, because I was. And I never could handle my liquor.

I was one of the infamous freshman co-eds at Loyola in the 1980s who drank too much Jungle Juice at a fraternity party and passed out. On the front lawn.  I still have very little recollection of the night, but my friend Leslie had come in for the weekend and, apparently, she watched over me. Eventually a bunch of the frat boys decided I needed to go to the hospital, though. So the drunk girl was loaded into a car with a bunch of drunk boys and driven to the emergency room. I was admitted.

The next day the doctor told my mother that I was OK, but he thought I was safer there than with the yahoos who drove me in.

I was lucky.

The night of my own sorority initiation, my new sisters indulged me in my love for Kamikaze shots. A little too much. The next day, no one could find me. Phones were ringing all across campus and Uptown as my friends tried to piece together the night and find out where I was. Some folks were pretty scared for me.

Turned out, the nice Tulane undergrad I kind of liked kind of liked me too. He walked me to his apartment nearby, held my head while I threw up all over his bathroom, made sure I was all right. And once I was able to stand up straight again the next day, he walked me back to my dorm.  He didn't let anything bad happen to me. He didn't hurt me, didn't assault me. And he didn't have a cell phone.

I was lucky. (And we dated for a few months after that.)

I don't know if David's father or mother ever sat him down one day and said, "Now, son. If you're ever in a situation where a girl stupidly gets stupid drunk while you're with her, it does not give you permission to take advantage of her. Just because she can't say 'no,' doesn't mean she is saying 'yes.' Got it? OK."

I'm guessing the idea of such a conversation never even occurred to them back in the 20th Century.

But parents need to think about it now. Because this is the 21st Century. And people just don't know how to act. People have always gotten stupid drunk. People have always done stupid things.

But now, when they do, their friends whip out their cell phones to take pictures and videos and post them on the Internet. And, for some reason, friends let friends get stupid. But they don't step in to stop it.

And that's the scary part.


Us moms know that there there are monsters out there that we need to warn our children about.  There are freaky people who snatch children, who hurt them and kill them. There are creepy family members. There are neighbors, acquaintances, priests, scout leaders, teachers.

And there are boys who think it's OK to assault unconscious girls.

 We can't protect our children them from them all, but we can give them lessons to use.

So this mother taught her 21st Century daughter some new lessons last night:

Don't ever let yourself get out of your own control.

If you put your drink down to go dance or to go to the bathroom or leave it for any reason, get a new one.

I will always come get you. No matter where. No matter when. No questions asked.

Watch out for your friends. But don't count on them to watch out for you.













 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

50 + 1



"If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Right?

Women?

As some of you may know, I turned the ripe old age of 50 last year. A lot of you people do know this because I wrote this cute little poem to myself, which has gotten, like, A TON of hits.  OK, most of them are from women who were really trying to Google "50 Shades of Grey" and found me instead.  I wonder how disappointed they were.

Anyway.

As some of you also may know, I did not have a big 50th birthday celebration last year. I went to lunch with my dear friend Danielle. I bought myself an hour-long massage. And, after a good nap, I took myself to dinner with family and friends at my favorite Mexican restaurant in my hometown. Of course, I had to drive my 11-year-old home and it was a school night, so I couldn't even drink... More than one.

 It's not that I didn't want to have a big, fancy, blowout party to celebrate this milestone birthday you only see once in your lifetime.  It's that I trusted my husband, The Baseball Coach, to put it together.

"Stupid is as stupid does."

He didn't. He had a baseball game. He claims he tried. That he and the gang were working on a nice little surprise party for me, but that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development decided to close the big bridge which connects our community that weekend. So he canceled. And there was no other weekend in February or March that they could have had it. Or April. Or even May. Go figure.

So I was left disappointed. Again.

I told this story to a complete stranger the other day. First she tried to take up for my hapless hubby. "Well, he at least gave you a really good gift right? Like some jewelry or something?"

After I laughed hysterically I gave her some shade and said, "No."

She gave me some right back and said. "And you're still married to him?"


Yes. Yes indeed I am. You see, this isn't the first time he's let me down. There was the whole 40th birthday fiasco, in which he remembered it was my birthday but not which one. And he just doesn't get the whole birthday thing like I do. Never has. I do love my birthday. I love looking forward to it, I love celebrating it, I love the 256 "Happy Birthday" messages I will get on my Facebook wall. AND I love birthday cake!

I know. I should be used to my husband's lack of skills by now. But it still stung. OK, a lot. And the pain got worse as so many of my friends from high school hit the milestone and shared their fabulous celebrations on Facebook. Leslie got a surprise party. Donelle got 50 roses. Margot got a spa vacation. Me? I got tacos.

But this year, I'm not waiting around for my husband to make it happen. I'm giving myself my own damn party. I'm calling it "The First Anniversary of my 50th Birthday, Which My Husband Screwed Up Royally."  I invited my own damn friends.  Bought my own damn napkins and plates.  Ordered my own damn cake with my own damn name on it. Bought my own candles -- a 50 and a 1.

It's going to be epic.

And The Coach won't even be here. He has a game to play that day.

Maybe I should have hired my own damn stripper.