Mom’s Skool

Well, it’s another Mother’s Day. Uncle Bardie wants to send out his Happy to all you mothers. You done good.

Being the guy I am, I want to reveal a secret to all you mothers out there. I am just telling you, not your children. So let’s keep this on the q.t.

Since way back to Eve raising Cain, there is a motherly ritual every first time mother goes through. I know. You don’t remember it. Within twenty-four hours of the birth of your first born, the hospital staff hypnotize you and take you down to the hospital basement.

Now, I can hear many of you objecting. There wasn’t a hospital in Eve’s time. I just have one question for you. Were you there? Of course, you were not. So how would you know?

Anyway they push you down to the hospital basement. They put a set of headphones on you. Then you are instructed that you were brung here to equip you for what’s ahead when Junior goes amuck or daughter sticks out her tongue at you and yells and screams.

You will need some armor. Since words are the strongest armor, you are given words that will curl any kid’s hair when coming from Mom: They’ve worked since the beginning of time and they will work till the Big Bang takes us out.

Memorize these. You will need them.

1. When the kid misbehaves, just say, “Wait till your father comes home.”

2. When the kid won’t eat his veggies, it’s okay to say, “Think of all those kids starving in Ethiopia.”

3. If the kid comes back with they’ll send their share of the food to Ethiopia, don’t whack him. Just give him one of those drop dead looks and say, “Eat your vegetables. You’re going to need them where I am sending you.”

4. When your teenage daughter is smart mouthing, just comment, “Wait till you have a daughter of your own.”

5. It may not change her behavior, but later she will realize the curse that has been placed on her head. When she comes to you to beg it be removed, you will smile and say, “That’s nice, hon.”

6. Just when the kid comes out with a “I didn’t do anything”, answer, “This is for all the stuff I missed.”

7. To keep them on their toes, say, “Always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident. You wouldn’t want to embarrass your mother with the funeral director, now would you?”

8. “You’re the oldest. You should know better.” Just because they should.

9. Another useful saying: “You won’t be happy until you break that, will you?”

10. If all else fails, say in a very quiet voice, “I brought you into this world. I can take you out.”

These are the most useful sayings. But there are more. Lots more.

They gave you a manual you had to learn in the next six or seven hours. Then they take you back upstairs. You wake up and wonder what happened.

Mom’s Skool, that’s what.

Happy Mom’s Day. You deserve it.

Eve sat by the river

“My heart is breaking,”
Eve wrote her sister
Lilith, Adam’s first wife,
residing in the land of Cush.
Eve scribbled the words
with the ink of her tears.
“My son has murdered my son,
and the murderer is a ghost
haunting the valleys
and the rivers between
the two of us, you and me.”

Eve sat by the river
mourning her baby child,
mourning her first born man.
Eve sat by the river,
the blues in her eyes shedding
one hundred forty-six tears each day
‘tween the sunrise and the moon.
“River, my heart is bleeding,”
she sang, her grief rising
like smoke up to the ears of God
while the clock kept faith with time.

Eve went down to kneel
in the church down by the river Cry.
She lit a votive candle
and prayed the rosary
one hundred and fifty times
for the souls of her sons.
For the one whose life was taken away,
and the one who took the life
she prayed.

A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad.” This time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room, and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.” He sits down next to her.

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils everything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Another Perfect Day

Pam: So when am I going to meet your father?

Carol: You don’t want to meet my father.

Pam: I don’t?

Carol: Take my word for it.

Pam: Why?

Carol: My father is old fashioned. Extremely so.

Pam: So what do you do?

Carol: I spend my life collecting perfect days. Like this one.

Pam: What would be imperfect about meeting your father?

Carol: It just would.

Pam: I’ll let you meet my dad if you’ll let me meet yours.

Carol: I don’t have a dad. I have a father.

Pam: Then I will meet your father and it will be a perfect day.

Carol: Would you do that for me?

Pam: I would do that for us.

The next morning the two of them drove the long drive south to see Carol’s father. It was a warm spring day. They did not run the air conditioner. They rolled down the windows and let the wind blow through their hair. They stopped and had lunch at one of the several Cracker Barrels along the interstate. Then they drove on, laughing and giggling. Every so often a little worry sneaked into Carol’s laugh. She tried to hide it from Pam but Pam could tell. Pam didn’t mention it. She didn’t want to spoil the perfect day.

Carol’s father, Marv, met the two women at his door. Later, after he grilled some hamburgers, the three went into the living room. Marv sat down facing the two of them.

Marv: So, Carol, you want to know what I think?

Carol (fear in her voice): “Yes, I do.

Marv: Well, Pam seems nice enough. But I am a bit disappointed.

Carol (under her breath): Here it comes,

Marv: I spent all that money, raising you, putting you through college. You go out and can’t even make a living with that major of yours. I mean, c’mon. Political science. You’re still working at that retail job you’ve had for five years and you’re only making minimum wage. Then you go and waste yourself by marrying a…“Your mother would be so disappointed. She expected better out of you.”

Carol: Go ahead. Say the word.”

Marv: What word?

Carol: You know, marrying a lesbian.

Marv: No, marrying a writer. I’m sorry but I won’t be able to support the two of you.

Divorce in America

Maggie and I had been married for three years when the word “divorce” first came up. There we sat on our screened-in back porch, gazing out at the soft summer rain, sipping glasses of iced tea, day dreaming as if we had forever.

Then Maggie turned to me. “Jack and Anise are getting a divorce. Anise says it’s for the kids.”

I looked over at her. “For the kids? Nobody gets a divorce for the kids.”

“That’s what I said. But she insisted.” She went back to studying the lawn. “You think we should plant a rose bush over there.” She pointed to the back corner.

“It’s okay with me. Remember you are the gardener. I have the black thumb.” I gave it some thought. Maybe roses would look good at the edge of the yard. “What kind of roses?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when they told the kids. ‘We’re getting the divorce because of you kids.’ Bet that was one heck of a conversation.”

Maggie reached over to the pitcher on the table between us and poured herself another glass of iced tea. “She said the kids had pretty much figured it out. They were troopers about the whole thing.”

I swirled the ice in my glass with my finger. The cold felt good. “I thought they were the perfect couple. Who’ll be next? The pastor and his wife?”

“Naw,” she said. “It would mean his job.”

“As if that would be a bad thing. His sermons are so boring that the devil wouldn’t have a hard time recruiting our congregation Sunday mornings. Anything to get out of that sanctuary.”

She giggled, then said, “You’ve got that right. Why do we keep him?”

“Nobody wants to hurt his feelings.”

“If she’d only have an affair. She’s the type you know.”

My interest perked up. “What do you mean? She’s such a tight ass.”

“The ones you least expect, you know.”

“Are you saying?” I couldn’t imagine this. Helen, the preacher’s wife? Who’d have the gall to sleep with her anyway?

“I’m just saying.” She laughed. There were times I wasn’t sure if Maggie was joking or serious. This was one of those times.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure. I have my suspicions though. Just call it woman’s intuition.” That closed that subject. She brings up woman’s intuition and I knew that was it.

“So when’s the big day?” I asked.

“The big day?”

“When is Jack moving out?”

“As soon as the kids go off to college this fall. He’ll be there when they leave. When they come home, he’ll be gone. He’ll be coming over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ll be one big happy family for the holidays.”

I shook my head. “That sounds nice and cozy. How long they been married? Twenty-three years and now they’re getting a divorce. And for the kids too. Did she say what she meant by that?’

“No,” she said, then leaned over and kissed my lips lightly. She had tears in her eyes.

I offered her my lap, then I held her, trying to fend off the fear I knew she was feeling. She said softly, “It’s Mom and Dad all over again. We kids go off to college and they get their freedom. Only it’s freedom from each other.” There was unforgiveness in her voice.

I didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say. I remembered the arguments between my parents. All the yelling, and they stayed together for us kids. At least, that’s what Mom told me at Dad’s funeral.

Maggie squeezed my arm and drew it closer around her. There we were, Maggie and I, sitting on the back porch of our new house and talking about divorce. Hoping it wouldn’t happen to us.