All Y’All Are Welcomed…Except You

I was raised with Southern sensibilities. When someone came to the door, they were welcomed to sit a spell around the kitchen table or out on the front porch, all the while sipping sweet tea and sharing pleasant conversation. Hospitality and politeness were always offered to visitors, even on days when we were not feeling very sociable.

It is this standard of behavior that I have come to expect from myself and others, which is why I find it so mind-boggling how unwelcoming I feel toward a certain “celebrity” whom I have not had the misfortune, I mean, the pleasure of meeting. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you about a dream I had last week.

In my dream, I was sitting out on the deck, sipping iced tea and soaking up the sun. Down the lane with his long-legged stride came Lyndon Baines Johnson. Despite the fact that good ole Lyndon had gone on to the great ranch in the sky 48 years ago, there he was, wearing a big grin and an even bigger cowboy hat. After a few moments, LBJ arrived at my doorstep. Being a Texan, born and bred, I figured he would fancy some sweet tea. He accepted and sat down on the settee across from me. (I don’t even own an outdoor settee, but for this dream, I did.) We talked about the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and JFK’s assassination.

At some point in the conversation, I looked down the road, and who should be coming but Richard Milhous Nixon with his hands held up in victory. Even though he had been dead for 26 years, I asked him if he too would like to come and sit a spell. With his gruff voice, he said that he would and sat himself down on the settee beside his predecessor. We then talked about his Quaker upbringing, Henry Kissinger, and Watergate. Even though that pesky wire-tapping scandal ended his presidency, rocked the country, and tainted his legacy, I found him to be quiet, unobtrusive, and slightly awkward—in other words, the type of person with whom the nerd in me could relate.

Next came Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., stumbling over a branch along the way. He too joined us for some sweet tea and some deep thoughts.  Although it had been 14 years since his passing, he was full of life. We spoke of football glories, assassination attempts, the end of the Vietnam War, and unpopular pardons.

Following in Ford’s footsteps was a peanut farmer from Georgia, James Earl Carter, Jr., otherwise known as Jimmy. The first living president to star in my dream, I was surprised to see him. But since he was there, I told him of how much I admired his humanitarian work in the decades following his presidency. A good person and a devout Christian, I appreciate how he serves God by serving others. Humble and soft-spoken, Jimmy awe-shucked my praise before reminding me of gas shortages and hostage crises.

No sooner had he finished speaking, then along came a retired actor, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who jumped up on an oak stump and delivered an impassioned speech on trickle-down economics, the Berlin Wall, the war on drugs, assassination attempts, the AIDS epidemic, the scourge of apartheid, and Iran-Contra… all before the ice had melted in my glass. Even though 16 years had passed since he had passed on, Ronnie could still deliver one helluva speech.

When Reagan came down from the stump, up walked George Herbert Walker Bush, whose death two years ago was mourned by many, myself included. He had a humorous outlook and a ridiculously impressive resume. Bush Sr. accepted a glass of sweet tea and a nearby rocker before talking about combat flights, the U.N. and the CIA, China, dimwitted VPs, the end of the Cold War, the start of the Gulf War, and a thousand points of light.

His political rival and unlikely friend, William Jefferson Clinton, then showed up with doughnuts and jokes to share. A natural-born people person, he could charm the spots off a leopard. The ensuing conversation centered on the economy, don’t ask/don’t tell,  NAFTA, assault weapons ban, health care coverage, impeachment, war and peace and war again, sexual scandals, and balanced budgets. As Bill was entertaining the other ex-presidents, I rose and walked to the garage to grab some tools.

I had just come out of the garage, hammer in hand, when up the road strode George Walker Bush with his bubba drawl and Yale degree. He reckoned that he too could do with an ice-cold sweet tea before he sat down beside his father. The conversation shifted to oilfields, no child left behind, hanging chads, hurricanes, terrorism, war and more war, and immigration. As he spoke, I headed to the shed to retrieve two-by-fours which I carried, one by one, to the end of my lane.

I had just brought up the final board when up walked Barack Hussein Obama II. I welcomed him to the impromptu get-together and told him that the sweet tea and his predecessors were waiting for him on the deck. Soon, sounds of laughter drifted down the road, beckoning me back, but I had work to do. Hammer in hand, I began building a fence. As I hammered, I heard snippets of conversation about Guantanamo, equal pay, renewable energy, gay rights, health care reform, school shootings, Osama bin Laden, and travel to Cuba. 

The conversation began growing louder, soon rising above my banging. Behind me stood the ex-prez squad, wielding hammers and saws of their own. They had come to lend a hand. Jimmy, a born builder, rallied the troops, showing them how to build things right and tight. When we were all done, my property was walled off behind an immense fence. (Seriously, where in heavens’ name did all that lumber come from?)

In the distance came an uninvited visitor swaggering toward us. There was just had one thing left to do. Grabbing a No Trespassing sign off the nearest tree, I nailed it to the gate before walking inside and locking the door. Whew… that was close!

I then turned to my guests and asked, “Did y’all drink up all the sweet tea, or is there a little left for me?” They laughed as we went back enjoy each other’s company on a sultry summer evening.

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Matriarchal Me

I am one of 28 first cousins on my paternal side. (Yes, I said 28.) Of these two dozen-plus people, I am the oldest.

My father is one of ten siblings. He had five children—I am the first-born.

On my mother’s side, from four siblings, there are six surviving first cousins. And you know what? I am the eldest.

Also on my maternal line, I am the senior second cousin.  (So you see what I am getting at here?)

My siblings (bless their little hearts) revel in reminding me of my age. (Yep, I got it: I am the old one. Nuff said…)

Lately, this insatiable need to acknowledge my ancientness seems to be afflicting my extended family, as well. At a recent family event, one of my much younger cousins informed me that I am the matriarch of our generation. Matriarch? (Where are my orthopedic shoes and support hose?)

At first, I was taken aback to be dubbed a matriarch. (Really, I’m not THAT old, am I?) But then, I really started to think about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I will admit that my younger cousin might, just might, be onto something.

It is true: I am the eldest of our generation. It is also correct that I am the current keeper of the family’s history.

Considering that a matriarch is defined as: “A mother, an older woman who is respected or venerated within a family, the female leader in the family”, being a matriarch doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, it sounds sort of like a compliment. (Although, I still don’t like the “older” part…not at all.)

So, for now, I think I’ll just be a matriarch-in-training. How does that sound? Many, many moons from now, I promise that I will embrace my matriarchal persona. (Bring on the gray hair and laugh lines…. well, maybe NOT!) Until then, I will just keep calm, and matriarch on.

Originally published on 13 February 2016, Matriarchal Me

Stop, Drop, and Roll

I am one of those carpool moms. It wasn’t something I aspired to be, but there you have it.

Each school day, I drop off my kiddos en route to work instead of shoving them on the bus. This allows them a few more minutes of sleep and me a few more moments of sanity before the day begins.

On Friday, when I dropped off my younger child at the school, the line of cars seemed never-ending. “Did everyone miss the bus this morning?” I wondered.

Oh well, so it will take a bit more time than usual. “At least I left early,” I thought.

So we waited… and waited… and waited. After a while, I felt like a character in a Beckett play: “What the heck is going on up there? Are we waiting for Godot?”

Well, it seems that some of those parents/grandparents must have been sending their babies off to battle with the amount of coddling and cooing that was happening at the front of the queue. “Seriously, people, you do know that the school returns them at the end of the day, don’t you?!” I muttered.

Finally, the kiss ’em, cuddle ’em clan departed and the rest of us could advance forward. Hallelujah! I was now near the point where I could “legally” drop off my rugger, when I noticed that I was no longer running early; in fact, I was close to running late. Oh crap!

As we crept forward at a snail’s pace, I informed my child, as I do every day, “Work hard, be good, learn lots, and have fun. I love you very much.” No reason to waste time later when it could be said during the lull, am I right?

Meanwhile, my child, who had been chomping at the bit to bolt, was poised, hand on handle and pack on back. No sooner had I halted the car, then out the door popped my kiddo, at a run, yelling, “Love you, Mom. Have a nice day!”

Like the stop, drop, and roll fire safety technique taught to kids all over the world, my family’s drop-off lasted less than a couple of seconds. A thing of beauty and efficiency, it was enough to make other carpool parents envious. “Where did they learn to do that? How can I “get that” too?” I just grinned as I rolled on down the road.

Middle-Aged Morning

I woke up old this morning. OLD! But I swear, when I went to sleep last night, I was still slightly youthful.

However, at the break of dawn, as I stretched myself from slumber, my body creaked and cracked like tree limbs in winter.

Rising from my bed, every joint and muscle ached—the pain hunching me over like a hag.

As I slowly shuffled to the bathroom, my reflection in the mirror was backlit by the rising sun. Spotlighted in all my early morning glory were fine lines on my face that resembled furrows in a field and snow-white hairs poking out of my head. After that horror show, I averted my eyes. (I wonder if this is the real reason older Abnegation faction members limit mirror time…Hmmm…)

Trudging back to my room, I attempted to get dressed: first up, undergarments. However, when I leaned over, my back froze mid-bend. After much effort and a couple of colorful words, I eventually stood upright again.

The next piece of clothing to don was a shirt. I reached up to slide the t-shirt over my torso. Suddenly, I heard a loud pop like a gunshot. Isn’t hunting season over? I went to the window to see who was trespassing in my woods. Turns out, that sound was no gunshot; it was just my shoulder.

Then came the jeans. Pulling on my pants, I felt a bit like the Tinman after he rusted in the rain. Anybody got some oil for these stiff joints?

Next up was hair and makeup, but recalling what a hot mess I was, I opted for breakfast first.

I needed caffeine, loads of caffeine! Make me a double espresso, STAT! As my coffee was brewing, my stomach growled. “Feed me, NOW!” it roared. I grabbed an apple and took a big bite. I figured that at the rate I am aging, I’d better munch on as many apples as I can before my teeth fall out!

With breakfast complete, it was time to face the music in the mirror. Ugh! Reluctantly, I went back to the bathroom to survey the damage. First, I applied moisturizer…lots and lots and lots of moisturizer. Oy! Oil of Olay is sure making a fortune off of me!

Now that my skin was thoroughly hydrated, I reviewed my options. After careful consideration, I determined that there was no way I was using a sponge and foundation. Perhaps a trough and spackling paste instead? And powder? Well, that too was a no-go. Why would I call attention to those not-so-funny laugh lines?

In the end, I settled on some neutral eyeshadow, a line of brown eyeliner, and a smidge of lip gloss. Staring back at me was a younger me…no beauty queen, mind you, but at least I no longer looked like one of Macbeth’s crones.

Now what to do with this hair? Oh, where oh where is Miss Clairol or L’Oreal when you need them? Since I was not going to wash that gray right outta my hair, I decided to hide the worse of it, pulling my hair up on the sides. And because the sun was not shining as brightly as it had been, I could almost fool myself into believing that those white hairs were merely highlights in my dark blonde locks.

Hey, maybe that’s the answer to combatting middle age: Deceive yourself. Deliberate delusion…yeah, that’s the ticket. Or, perhaps I should just ditch the glasses. In this case, blurry eyesight would be a good thing. Of course, with my luck, I would probably miss a step or trip over something and break my hip… So, the specs stay.

Yeah, yeah, I know…there is nothing I can do about it: I have to accept that I am getting older. No amount of denial will change the fact that time is marching on…all over my body and face. Fine…from now on, I will embrace my soon-to-be elder self. But I don’t have to like it.

Originally published on 24 December 2018, Middle-Aged Morning

Genealogical Guffaw

Some of my family members and friends just don’t comprehend my fascination with genealogy. I am pretty sure a few are convinced that I am just plain boring, while others call me cuckoo. Others label my passion as an out-and-out obsession. (Okay, that might be closer to the truth…)

When I start telling some people a family story or revealing a “new” discovery, their eyes just glaze over. Seriously, I have to prod them to see if they are still breathing. I get it. Some people would rather have a tooth extracted than listen to family history.

I remember one time when I was relaying a funny family finding with one of my relatives. I giggled as I told the humorous parts, whereas she acted as if her funny bone had been extracted. No smile, no smirk…zip, zero, zilch… So, I asked: “Do you believe that our ancestors never did or said or thought anything the least bit interesting? Do you think they existed without living?”

For those of you who contend that there is nothing remotely amusing about genealogy, I would beg to differ. (Of course, I have a blog dedicated to dead kin, so I might be an itsy-bitsy biased.) Anyways, here goes:

One day, a little girl asked her mother, “How did the human race appear?” Her mother answered, “God made Adam and Eve. They had children. From them, all of humanity was made.” Two days later, the girl asked her father the same question, to which her father replied, “Many years ago, the human race evolved from apes.” Confused, the little girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom, why did you tell me that people were created by God, and Dad said they descended from apes?” Her mother smiled before responding, “Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family, and your father told you about his.”

“I don’t care who ya are: That’s funny right there!” Oh man, I was just unfriended by an in-law! Okay, before I lose any more family or friends, here is my disclaimer: “In no way is the author contending that her spouse’s family is non-human. So please, no hate mail or divorce decries.”

Although, I have to admit, at times my children do swing from the rafters like orangutans, so…. Oh crap, another relative just unfriended me. Guess I better wrap this up before I am blackballed from family reunions…

Originally published 23 April 2014, Genealogical Guffaw