This is Us (We Might Be Confused)

I have four older brothers. Some would say this makes me tough (which is true), but most would say this has affected my intellect (also true). The youngest is ten years older than I am, so my education growing up  was, to say the least, clouded with fibs my brothers told me that I believed the same way people believe everything they read on the internet.

We went camping as a family once (only once). I was very young, maybe four years old. Once we arrived to the camp ground, my mom explained to me that she and I would have to use the restroom outside, or we could use the porta-potties at the campsite, unlike my brothers who could  and did have pissing contests pretty much anywhere they wanted. After she walked away, my youngest brother pulled me to the side and whispered, “If you squat to pee on the ground, there are little tiny snakes that will jump up into your butthole and live in your body, and eat you from the inside out.” His dark eyes widened in a very convincing warning.  I quickly determined the porta-potty would be my best bet and spent the night in the camper dreaming about internal bodily snake infestation.

I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, so my first experience in a campsite porta-potty resulted in not peeing and lots of gagging. When I came out, my brothers were laughing. The youngest (again)  told me that snakes lived in there too and that I should be very careful because they like to bite little girls’ butts. I decided that relieving myself  was highly overrated.

My mom still tells the story about the time we went camping and I didn’t use the bathroom the entire time. To this day, I don’t enjoy camping, and I have a very healthy fear of snakes, but apparently, I would still fight one because I’m bigger.

As a child though, I looked up to my brothers. I believed them when they told me things, which is why I think carrots are green. That’s weird right? Carrots are orange. I literally almost typed green. Let me explain. I see green as green and orange as orange, but I get the color wrong every time. I say green is orange and orange is green. Why you may ask? I’ve thought about this a lot. You see, three of my four brothers are color blind, two very severely, and I’m pretty sure they taught me my colors. Shout out to mom and dad for letting this one slide.

When my dad and my oldest brother were buying his first car, my dad told him the car was red. He didn’t know it was green until they were signing the final paperwork. When I bought a car in college, my brother told me it was gray. Another said it was silver. It was a gold T-bird and a total POS.

This is us.

My parents have lived in the same house for 35 years. There was a house across the street from us. My friend Jesse lived there. He lived in the green house. The green house across the street. All my life, I called his house the green house across the street. Nope.  Jesse’s house was orange. And nobody corrected me. How did I make it through elementary school with this backassward knowledge?  Thankfully, Jesse’s house is not green or orange anymore because someone realized orange was a terrible choice for exterior paint color.

And this stuff still affects my life.

I told my son this morning to put on his green shirt. He went into his room, closed the door and put on his clothes. He came downstairs wearing a -gasp- green shirt. I said, “Why are you wearing that? That’s not what I told you to wear.” He wrinkled his freckled forehead at me and said, “Mom, this is the only green shirt I have.”

I am thirty-eight years old, and I don’t know my colors.

And it’s all their fault. Brothers.

I won’t even tell you about the time my brother told me my other brother got a tramp stamp. Because I believed him.

What did your siblings tell you that wasn’t true? Do you see orange or green or green or orange?

green

Orange

Advertisements

The Explanation of a Queef

It was a typical evening dinner at my parents’ house. My brother and I both were both in town visiting, so my mother did what she does and cooked a huge, tremendous meal. Really, it was full of love.

At my mother’s table, any topic of conversation can come into play. Having four brothers and too many nephews to keep count, the topics tend to lean in one direction. In typical Castle fashion on this particular evening, the conversation turned that corner.

It doesn’t really matter how the word queef was brought up. Actually it does, but some might take offense to it, so I’m going to leave that little detail out so as to not upset anyone.

But it happened. Someone said queef. It was my mom, and the boys in the house lost their minds. Multiple mouths spat tea across the table, plates upturned and a roar of laughter echoed across the golden plains of West Texas.

I looked down at my plate avoiding any kind of eye contact with anyone in my family. Anyone.

“What’s so funny?” My sweet mom asked.

My thirteen year old nephew whispered, “Nana said queef.”

I squelched the laughter I was keeping at bay.

Another nephew choked on his fried okra. I watched my brother beat him on the back while focusing intently on his corn on the cob.

“What is so funny?” Mom asked again, laughing along with the rest of us who had now lost any resemblance of control.

Tears poured out of my brother’s eyes onto his red cheeks.

My dad laughed his one-of-a-kind laugh. We were a mess. All of us.

“Is queef a bad word?” Mom said again

“Oh my god, Nana said queef again,” my older nephew said.

“Stop saying queef, Mom,” I managed to get out through bursts of laughter.

“Why? What’s  queef?” My mom asked.

The sound of laughter and silverware scratching plates ceased.

Everyone looked at me. The only girl.

Like it was my job to explain female bodily functions to MY MOM!

“I’m not telling her,” I said to my brother.

“You have to. I can’t,” he said, shaking his head.

“I CAN’T EITHER.”

“You have to, Mandi.”

“Tell me,” my mom said.

“No!”

“Tell her,” my dad chimed in.

“No, you tell her, Dad.” I said to him. He shook his head at me.

We were all still sporadically laughing at this point, but the mood in the room had gotten a little more…tense.

I took a big drink of my sweet tea (the strongest liquid courage you’ll find in my mom’s house) and walked over to where my mom sat at the table.

I leaned in and whispered, “a vaginal fart.”

“What?”

A little louder this time, “a vaginal fart.”

“Mandi, you’re gonna have to talk louder and quit laughin’. I can’t understand you.”

I cupped my hands around my mouth and said quietly into my mother’s 74 year old ear, “A queef is a fart that comes out of your vagina, Mom.”

Her blue eyes widened, and immediately, she filled the room with the best sound on Earth, her laugh.

I returned to my seat and started to put a bite of mashed potatoes into my mouth when my dad said, “So, what is it?”

 

head-in-hands

 

There’s Not Enough Vodka on this Plane

It’s a Friday afternoon. I board a plane with my two children. Final destination: Disney World. 

Because I forget things and didn’t check us in on time, we got stuck with a crappy boarding assignment, but alas, my child is under 6, so we file in with family boarding. 

I see a family of four: mom, dad, child, and toddler. It’s clear the toddler rules this family at first sight. Dad is struggling with a million dollar stroller that doesn’t seem to collapse as easily as the two year old who is lying on the floor screaming about having to exit said stroller. Meanwhile, mom stands  above dad wrestling thrashing toddler dictating authoritative directions to dad who can’t figure out the difference in pull and push. 

They board before us. Thank god so we don’t have to sit by them, but as we walk single file down the tiny aisle, I hear them before I see them. 

“I want the window seat.” Toddler screams and snorts. 

Mom says, “now we already talked about this. Your sister gets the window seat now, and you can have it when we come home.” 

“I WANT THE WINDOW SEAT,” toddler refuses to relent. 

Dad says to older daughter who is looking out the window ignoring her obnoxious brother, “let him sit there. Just for a minute.”

Daughter folds arms, “no. I’m not moving.”

Dad, “come on.”

Daughter, “no!” I mentally high five her and also mentally punch dad in the balls. 

Mom takes a noticeable deep breath and says through gritted teeth, “no, Todd,” and makes crazy eyes at dad, “he sits here.” Kid screams. Traffic moves. I trudge forward. 

My children and husband take a row of seats. I ask the man in the row adjacent (who isn’t seated but is standing) if I can have the aisle seat. He informs me he’s saving the aisle and the window seat. As if I’ll take the middle when there are several other seats available. Southwest Airlines at its best. 

I choose the window seat behind my son, noticing the family already seated with a daughter about the same age as mine (5) sitting directly behind me. I can handle this. 

Until I sit down. 

Kid kicks my seat no less than 42 times before I have my seatbelt buckled, but I optimistically conclude she’s just getting comfortable. 

No. 

(Kick count 8,488,911 times, and I’m one hour in flight.)

As we taxi the runway, I determine that she is playing one on one with Steph Curry on her tray table (which should be raised.) I try to internally convince myself that she calm down once the plane begins to move. 

No. 

She screams, “weeeee,” which even in my annoyed state I find cute because I’m a mom and not an asshole, but then she just screams. Over and over again while still pounding on her tray table. It will get better. Surely. 

No.

Screaming, kicking, and reconstruction of the back of my seat ensue as I pray that the flight attendants will eventually come by and though I wasn’t planning to have an adult beverage, my temperment demands a vodka, and blessed sweet baby Jesus, they bring me one. I glimpse behind me and see her mother, sleeping peacefully in the seat next to her. 

And then she turns on music. Justin Bieber. And she isn’t wearing headphones. 

Meanwhile, the a-hole who was saving the aisle/window seats opens a plastic container of what is obviously a shite sandwich and begins to eat, filling the airplane with the aroma of an over used porta potty. 

My daughter looks through the crack in her seat and pinches her nose at me. 

“I know,” I mouth. 

My drink arrives, and as I sip and read the contents of my newest book (Revenge of the Chupacabra by Kyle Abernathie), I try to block out the noise, the smell, the chair assault, and my overwhelming need to pee, and I pull out my phone to write this. 

It is not edited. I am sorry. But a girl has to vent. 

Kick count: 9,100,875,209,299,100 multiplied by pi squared. 

There is not enough vodka on this plane. 


Changing of the Guard

I hold an envelope in my hand. I know what it contains, but I hold it between my finger and my thumb, staring down at it, willing it not to exist.

I visit my parents every summer. I pack my children in the car and drive six hours due West listening to complaints of “are we there yet” and “I’m bored” so that my children will make memories in my childhood home. I lived in the same house from the time I was four until I went to college. My parents are still there. It will always be home no matter how far away I move or how long it’s been since I used the address.

This week, as I drove the straight and narrow highway, my mind drifted to my mother’s house. A house where everyone was always welcome, where the smell of fried okra lingered in the air outside the kitchen window, where coffee was always brewed and ready to be poured for anyone who stopped by. Visible from the major street, it’s always been a beacon of warmth to anyone driving by. Often times, my family (all four brothers, their wives and children, my parents, and I) would be sitting at the table piled high with my mom’s semi famous home cooking with sweet iced tea in every glass, and a random friend or family member would walk in the door without knocking having passed the house and seen several cars parked outside.

My mother never hesitated and would jump up from her chair and set an extra place or two. Her cooking style always offered enough for one or two more, and if you knew my mother, and you happened near her house at dinner time, you too would stop in and “pull up a chair.” Dinner was an event, and though her house was small, she could feed a small army from her stove.

Some of my sweetest memories were made at my mother’s house at her kitchen table, and driving home, I looked forward to sitting there with her, drinking my morning coffee and visiting with her and my dad.

As a teenager, it always annoyed me that I could see my mom in the kitchen window when I pulled up to the house, but this time, seeing her peeking through the curtains made my heart smile, and I practically leapt  from my car to run and meet her.

I walked into the house, and breathed in that consistent familiar scent. Home. I would make it into a candle if it were possible and call it “Comfort.”

My dad greeted me with a hug and as I squeezed him back, I noticed that he was even smaller than the last time I saw him. He stooped down and hugged my kids, and I caught sight of the new age spots forming on his bald head. I pulled my mother into an embrace and held her for a little while until my kids could no longer contain their excitement and wanted Nana’s attention all on them.

I unloaded my car and delivered the bags to my mother’s room where the kids would sleep. I dropped the bags in the doorway and stood aghast as I took in what was before me. A walker. My parents are in their seventies, and my mother’s health hasn’t been great in years, but this was a first, and my mind drifted back to my grandmother’s house where first there was a walker, then one of those portable hospital potties, then a wheelchair. Then a nursing home. Then a funeral home.

My mother called my name , and I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. I followed her oxygen tubing to her living room and found her comfortably sitting in her rocking chair, a pretty blonde little girl bouncing happily on her lap. They both looked up at me, two sets of identical blue eyes beaming with love. “What do you want for supper,” my mom asked.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and in my mind said “chicken fried steak “ or “pot roast” or “chicken and dumplins” (they’re not dumplings in my mother’s house). But I knew that was out of the question, and so I simply said I wasn’t hungry and sat on the couch. We ordered pizza and enjoyed it almost as much as if she had cooked. (The next day, she surprised me and made a ham, a Sunday afternoon staple in my home, and it tasted as delicious as it did in my memory.)

I slept in my childhood room and woke looking up at the purple and red checkered ceiling my brother built for me when I was 8. I rubbed my eyes and listened to my parents laughing, enjoying their sweet and playful conversation with my children. I took advantage of the kids’ distraction and opted to shower. I opened the shower door and held my breath once more at what was in front of me. Handicapped bars. I recalled a conversation with my dad where he told me he installed them to make showering easier for my mom, but the visual of those bars cemented something I’d been ignoring for some time. My parents’ aging. I traced my fingers along each one of them, feeling the cold metal in my hand, and before I realized it, I was holding onto them for support.

That day, my dad and I took the kids to an outdoor museum that required lots of walking. I couldn’t help but notice how many breaks my once spry father took during the walk. We lost him during one of those breaks and found him back inside. He hitched a ride on a golf cart, too tired to walk back on his own. The rest of the day, he was spent, completely exhausted.

Throughout the rest of the week, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle differences in my parents. Tiny little things like movements that once were easy, took more time, and it wasn’t unlikely to find one or both of them quietly napping in their chairs.. I looked around the house and wondered how much longer they would be able to keep it, and I had to squelch the thought that one day I might not be able to go home.

I don’t remember when they got old. It’s like one day they were shiny and young, and the next they were tired and gray with age spots and walkers and handicapped bars and oxygen.

And this envelope.

This envelope that holds the information I will need when they can no longer make decisions for themselves, and as I read the words, my resolve breaks and I weep, dripping giant drops of tears onto the paper.

I will hold on to this envelope and its contents, and when it comes time, I will do my part and carry out their last wishes, but in the meantime, I will hold on to my memory, to the smell of my mother’s kitchen, to the sound of my dad’s laughter, and I will treasure the time we have left.

Time – it’s our most limited resource. Don’t waste it.

mom and dad young

 

 

 

Stars in the Southern Sky

 

 

PicMonkey Collage (2)

“Amanda, light of my life …” I can hear his deep bass voice sing.  I close my eyes and drift back to childhood when he would pick up his guitar and start singing this song to me. I know the rest of the words aren’t very appropriate for a brother to sing to his sister, but it doesn’t matter where I am, I hear those five words, “Amanda, light of my life,” and I feel special. Loved. Continue reading

A Look Back at The Girl Who Peed In the Driveway

It’s been a year of my ridiculous stories, and here we are on the Eve of Thanksgiving. As I ponder my gratitude and plan to have almost thirty people in my house tomorrow, I feel it’s only fair to share my very first post on this blog, which I wrote last year on Thanksgiving Eve. Maybe more than twelve people will read it this time. Thank you to all of you who read me now. I love sharing our stories with each other. Continue reading

Planes, Pinheads, and People Watching

At 3:15 am, I hear the annoying harp song on my phone, which might as well be screaming, “Get up! Get up! Get up!” I tap the snooze button. Seven minutes later, the song chimes again. I swipe the cover to quiet the annoying ding ding ding and stumble into my bathroom.

An hour later, I’m driving South on the Dallas North Tollway listening to a fascinating discussion about paranormal activity.

I arrive at the airport, pass through the very slow moving security line, and head straight for the Starbucks line which closely resembles the line I waited in for New Kids on the Block tickets when I was twelve…but coffee and NKOTB are totally worth my time. The rich familiar scent keeps me focused on my goal, and though the line is long, I will persevere. Continue reading