Grandmother 

I remember swirling dishwater around your stainless steel sink, standing on a stepstool and holding a tiny wooden mop. 

    

Andes mints in the stiff and prim living room, dancing to “You Can Fly” and “Bare Necessities” while you clapped and watched. I think of you every time I watch Peter Pan or Jungle Book. 

Digging mud rivers with your flatware, rivulets of water and slopped mud into pie tins with clover and grass for garnish on top. I would bury piles of pennies wrapped in Kleenex – and then when I went digging to retrieve my treasure I would never be able to find them. Once you let me be a tree surgeon to get sweetgum sap and even though I’m pretty sure I killed that tree, you were never anything but proud. 

You always cleaned me up and gave me something else to do. You bought me clothes and you were a person who actually used the powder in those big frilly tins people keep on their bathroom shelves. 

  

You taught me to crochet and I made chains upon chains, garland for my room and decor for your mantelpiece. We pressed flowers and went for walks. You would always tell me about the things that would be mine when you were “gone,” even though I never really understood what that meant. 

You turned 92 this week. 

You don’t know us anymore. 

We gathered around your hospital bed last night, singing happy birthday. You sang along and watched us all, happy we were there but without a clue as to why. You wore a tiara and smiled at us. Someone had painted your fingernails pink. I’ve never seen you with painted nails. 

I don’t visit you like I should. I know that. It’s selfish of me. But I like to think you understand. If there’s any part of you left inside, I hope you can see why I would rather hang on to you as all sass and instructions. 

  

I’m probably wrong. You’d probably tell me to get my bottom to that nursing home more, show you pictures and tell you about my kids. And then when I didn’t you’d throw your hands up and shake your head, like you used to do when I made a mess and giggled about it. 

I love you. I’m sorry I don’t tell you more, but I think somehow you know. Happy birthday. 

On not taking what was never mine.

I'm having to learn to subdue the things I share.

It's a hard lesson for me, really. I have – for years now – been fairly unabashed about being totally frank about almost all aspects of my relatively insignificant life. I've talked about sex, boobs, money, illness, fears, embarrassment. Mistakes. Disappointment. I've lain myself bare over and over. It's been therapeutic, and I've never regretted anything I've said.

This year, though, my big kids entered the social stratosphere. Phones and accounts and the whole nine. Text message mothering is in full swing at the Steen/Marsh household, guys, and it's a beautiful thing.

But now that school is in session and I've realized how anything that I say can no doubt circle back full force on the kids, I feel a little…lost.

This blog is so special to me and I will never fully leave it behind, but the stories aren't just my stories anymore.

My kids deserve a face and a day to day that isn't sifted through for things to talk about, analyze, or recount. I want them to know that I, above all people, respect their rights to be who and what they are on their own two feet. They have always deserved this, and if I have violated this trust in the past then let this be my apology.

 

I will not go away.

I will still be a proud mom and I will probably still embarrass them with birthday posts or letters or general weirdness.

But I am saying this: Max, Ava – I will not steal your rights, whatever they are. Whether it's an experience, a breakthrough, a learning moment, or even a joy…

I will let you tell your own stories.

I hope that you do.

 

Because of my heart

Years later, I still wonder about us.

How we’ve made it work, even when it hasn’t.

How I can possibly despise and adore you, sometimes within minutes – seconds – of each other.

Every year I remember how lucky I am to have had you for another calendar spin. With every tick of your old man clock, I am reminded of what we share every day.

People are in our lives. Everyone has people. People you see daily, people you talk to and interact with and share whatever.

But I get to share your life. Night times, deadlines, events, accomplishments. Anticipation, elation, worry and disappointment. Dirty socks and broken shoes. Car trouble and bill paying, raises and check cashing. Frustration and forgetfulness, small victories. Large victories.

Curly blond fireball tear fits, video game lessons and front seat companionships.

First tries, second tries. Last tries.

You are the first person I want to tell about anything, everything.

You are the opinion I trust and the approval I seek most.

In everything I do I see you.

We have experiences ahead. Things that will be difficult and things that we never thought we could do.

But when we do them, it will be together. And I’m so lucky to have that.

 

You’re my best friend, you’re the love I never thought existed, and it’s your birthday.

I love you.

Happy birthday.

 

 

In twelve more years, or the last of the offspring birthdays for the year

(Max was twelve on June 14th. Happy birthday.)

maxtommy

In twelve more years, things will not be as they are now.

In twelve more years, you will no longer be my twelve year old son.

You will be twice as old as you are now.

You will no doubt be taller, broader, more of the you you’re growing into.

You will be my oldest, still.

My son.

The first to make me a mother.

maxflyIn twelve more years I wonder if I will look back to now. I wonder if I will remember your shoulder shrug chuckle and your constant interjection of usually random input. I wonder if you will still need to be told to take a shower and if you will remember your passion for Minecraft and Mario.

I hope I do.

But for now, while you are still my twelve year old son, I want you to know that I am proud of you. That I may never accomplish anything greater than I did when I gave birth to you and your sisters. That you are one of my greatest moments.

In twelve more years I will be just as proud. Prouder. Thank you for allowing me to be your mom. I will spend twelve more years watching you become a better person every day.

maxgraffiti

On fathers.

I have not ever been known for my speediness. Once upon a time I was exceedingly punctual (a trait that I inherited from my father, funnily enough. My Dad who is forever half an hour early for everything. I will never forget the morning that I took my senior trip to Europe, we arrived at Memphis International Airport at least 2 hours early. No flight was forgetting me, by damn. Not if Larry Wilkes had anything to say about it), but those days are past, I fear.

It was Father’s Day this past weekend.

Father’s Day has never been something I was good at. When I was younger I never had money to buy my dad a gift, and besides, what do you buy a man who could MacGyver himself a ham sandwich or a Mustang convertible with equal ease?

Now, while I may from time to time have a couple of dollars behind a plastic bank card, it feels…strange to buy my husband a gift with money we both control. I know, it sounds weird. Not to mention there’s this whole other dynamic of the big kids and how they have a kickass dad even though we didn’t stay married very long. He’s a father, he gets the day too. I end up at a loss.

I do what I can. Things I think they will like. When I can.

dadusBut what I had for this Father’s Day, what I have for future ones too (unless one of these men comes out and says, “Hey, do you know what? I would really like to have XYZ for Father’s Day.” Seriously how fantastic would that be for all involved?) is an entire being of gratitude. A heart that would gladly slice itself in half for these men in my life that are my lifeblood.

It’s never enough. Even now, I am torn. I want to talk about my dad and I want to talk about my kids and the fathers they made of Dan and Josh. I never have enough words. Or the right ones.

usoaklandBut it’s Father’s Day. My Dad deserves some talk. Dan knows he’s a great dad. Josh knows he is my whole heart.

With you, Dad, I built a house of sticks. I learned to fish. I shot a gun. I picked out materials for a glider. I made rock families in pockets of grass and made you and the lawn mower furious. I tried to play basketball and you never told me how terrible I was. I rode behind you on a bike through thready Shiloh roads. You taught me, through good and through bad, that honesty and goodness and just doing the right thing is how the world should be.

I try to find good things in my life every day. It’s an exercise that keeps me from focusing medadon small problems and being overwhelmed. Good things like a cup of coffee at just the right temperature, or a memory. A flash of something past.

So many of my good things are because you are my dad. Thank you.

For my mother, whom I love.

Every year I struggle with exactly what to say.

579813_10151075895131439_1330949638_nSometimes I’m sure I’ve disappointed you. My beliefs (or lack of), my foul mouth, my affinity for beer and wine and hard core horror.

But then other times I realize how much I love my kids, and how I would – how I will – no matter.

I think in terms of opposites, like if any of my kids grew up to be churchgoing Evangelical Biblical scholars. I wouldn’t love them any less. I would be happy as long as they were happy and purposeful. I mean, I’m happy with Minecraft and shaggy haircuts even though 207223_4549921913200_2056190641_nthey don’t make sense.

So I know you love me. That you just want me to be happy.

And I am. I am happy with my life. With my accomplishments and my pastimes and my beliefs. I am happy because you taught me to find happiness, to create it, to be grateful and to love for love’s sake.

This Mother’s Day I just want you to know that I’m grateful. I love you, and I love my life because you showed me what it is to be a good person.

Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Embarking

I could give you reasons I've been gone so long.

 

Except that would be stupid.

 

Cheesy as it sounds, one of my resolutions in the New Year is to reestablish myself on this blog. To do that, however, I have to convince myself I have things to say.

I do, of course I do. I think. I also have to learn to ignore “Hey Mom. Hey Mom. Mom. Hey Mom.”

Anyway, a new year. 2014.

I can't even believe that's real. I'm looking forward to the things the new year can bring, all the promise and fresh starts. I'm sure I'll be over it soon, but for now it's fun to be so full of promise.

 

Who thought up New Year's Resolutions? What sick sadist (is it sadist? Masochist? Whichever of the whips and chains likes to dole out the pain) thought it up? And why do we do it?

I accomplished some stuff in 2013. I started a new job. I gained some weight which is not so much an accomplishment as just a fact. I started watching Doctor Who and Sherlock. I finished another semester of school and now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I love you. I promise not to suck so much this year.

 

 

Random things I contemplated putting in this post but didn't:

The Simpsons is the best show in the history of animation.

Wine is unbelievable.

I've started getting zits. Like hardcore acne. What the fuck?

I got the Depo Provera shot in August (I think) and please for the love of all that is holy please never do that to yourself.

Josh now has a whole building for the podcast. He's well on his way to being very hotshot and official.

See you soon.

 

Blank screens are depressing

Important things have passed.

My oldest turned eleven on Friday. Sunday was Father’s Day.

I choose to write first about the day of fathers today, because we all know I don’t like to think about my kids getting older and hey Max, if you’re reading this in ten years….you’re 21, let’s go get margaritas.

 

So, Father’s Day.

My father has always been a force in my life.

Sometimes a force of fear – I mean, I still don’t know what would have happened if he ever found out about senior skip day. Or all the European alcohol. Or the (totally platonic) bed full of 5 terrified people after my first viewing of The Exorcist.

Now you know, Pop. I’VE CONFESSED.

Sometimes a force of ingenuity. I’ll never forget coming home and finding my very first car in the driveway – one that he traded a gun for – and thinking that no one in the world could ever get as much shit done as my dad. Did you ever read about that one guy who traded all the stuff on Craigslist and went from something crazy like a piece of gum to a Corvette? THAT DUDE LEARNED IT ALL FROM LARRY WILKES.

Sometimes my dad has been a force of inspiration – I know that any “some assembly required” project is no problem because I am a product of my dad. My dad could assemble and rework anything ever and make it not only functional BUT KICKASS. He had a scuba store in Corinth Mississippi, people. He can do anything.

 

My life has not been perfect. But I’ve never doubted that my dad would move mountains for me.

In that, I know that I am lucky.

I’m also lucky in that my children have fathers who – while neither of them are quite on the trading-firearms-for-transportation level – love them and would do anything for them. And do. They love kids that aren’t theirs in any way except me. They love where they don’t have to. Where most don’t.

Seriously. Some people don’t have that. I see it every day and it makes me ache with gratefulness.

So even though it’s passed and even though my dad might not read this, I’m thankful for the fathers in my life. I’m lucky and I never forget that.

From the dad who gave me life to the dad I share a bed with, I know every day that I am where I am because of you.

 

Thank you.

 

Seventy times seven – for my husband

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Tomorrow is our anniversary.

Seven years ago, we cut out of Ava’s second birthday, we drove the silver Expedition to Selmer, and we got married.

I was nervous and I wasn’t. Looking back, I wish I’d worn something at least a little bit pretty as opposed to jeans and a potato sack of a blouse.

We arrived, we did our paperwork, and then a woman used her husband’s book (prayer book? Book of civil ceremonies? What exactly was it?) and we said our vows in an empty courtroom. I remember she got all choked up and I couldn’t help but wonder why. Was she overwhelmed by how sweet we were? How I didn’t have an engagement ring because we were broker than broke – but we had sweet engraved silver bands? I wonder where those are now. I wonder if, seven years later, that lady still works at the Selmer courthouse. I wonder if she teared up at every eloping couple she saw – and I know she saw a bunch.

Not much changed after that. We lived in the same apartment as before. We didn’t go on some big honeymoon getaway. But I was a wife. You were a husband. And somehow that changed everything.

It’s so easy to lose sight of what we had such a grip on that day.

So easy to say that we weren’t thinking of much besides how we wanted to join a church and they wouldn’t let us while we were living in sin.

Looking back from where we both stand now, the fact that church was a very real issue in our union is….kind of absurd.

But what was real then is no less real now. I love you. I love you even when I don’t like you. I love you enough to say that I’ve spent seven years being yours – and while I may have done a lot of things differently, while I may have taken different steps along the way, my best friend is eternally bound to me in one way or another.

I will never be sorry that you became my future. I will always be yours.

I love that we have grown over the years. Together, apart, together again. So many things have happened. Seizures and surgeries, jobs and houses. Failures and successes.

We’ve had so many roads to travel. You’re the best company I could have asked for.

We make mistakes and we take each other for granted. We do everything wrong.

But we’ll make it. We’ll be okay. We’ll be better than okay because that’s what we do.

Thank you for the past seven years. For our little girl. For being mine. For being what I always know is there.

I love you.

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Three years

I have three kids, you know.

The youngest is this strange being who is perpetually tiny and soft, sweet, and totally liftable and cuddly.

Except- she's not.

Today my baby is three.

Three as in too many scoops of ice cream, too many sugars in your tea. Numbers in your credit score.

I never thought I'd have three kids – and then I did. And now the one I never expected is getting to be an actual person. Thoughts and feelings and personality out the wazoo.

Lucy, you have done so much for me. For your daddy. For our lives. You took everything I expected and turned it on its head in ways we never thought of.

For all the ways I fall short – I don't know what to do with curly hair, I don't really put much stock in matching socks, I let you marinate your stinky feet in rubber galoshes and I probably introduced you to Family Guy way too early – I'm sorry. I try to be what you need, because you were and are everything our family needed to be complete.

I will spend the rest of forever helping you become whoever it is you are meant to be – because you have made us all everything we are.

Happy birthday, Lucy Grace.

 

We love you so. I can't wait to watch who you will become.