Pie – A Flaky Crusted Dessert….

“What are you, a fu*%ing retard!?” ~ My Mother

Nearly every homework assignment I brought home….until I wizened up and quit bringing my homework home….ended with my mother morphing into a crazed lunatic.

Mommie-Dearest

Eyes wild and foaming at the mouth, she would rip the pencil from my hand and violently scribble away any incorrect answers, often ripping holes in the paper in the process.

Then, in a fit of hysteria, she would tear the entire document into smithereens and hurl the pieces about the kitchen while ranting and raving like a mad woman.

Pets would cower, various boyfriends and step-dad’s would go into hiding, neighbor’s wouldn’t call the authorities and my dreams of getting to live with my dad, or becoming a ward of the state, wouldn’t come true.

Eventually, I started to hide my schoolwork from her.  I would claim I didn’t have any homework, or that we had been given time to do it at the end of our class period and she rarely questioned it.

In reality, I would often hurriedly do it in my room when I was supposed to be in bed, or while on the bus on the way to, or from, school.

It wasn’t a bad tactic, except with regards to the subjects I struggled in.  I was never particularly good at anything related to science or math, two topics my mother excelled in and it was infuriating for her that I couldn’t immediately grasp the concepts of long division, algebra, geometry, biology and chemistry.

Without anyone who wasn’t on the verge of going bat-shit crazy to look over my homework assignments, I often ended up with poor markings, which led to failed quizzes and tests.

But, by the time I was in fifth grade, I had mastered my mother’s signature, which was handy for signing off on all my failures.  This way, it wasn’t until report card time that I had to take the beatings for failing grades.  I reasoned this was a much smarter approach.

One bad night of screaming, hair pulling, rampaging, “go get me the belt you God-damn dumb ass,” was statistically much better than enduring the same thing on a per bad grade basis.

Plus, since my brother was typically in the same boat, we split her wrath about fifty-fifty.

Tell me I’m not good at math.

When I was in the sixth grade, my last year of elementary school before heading off to middle school, my math teacher was tasked with presenting her students with the extracurricular activities we could choose from in middle school, like sports, band and choir.

In order to be allowed to participate in our first year however, incoming students had to have at least a C average across all subjects.  I did not.

So when it came time to sign up for the programs we wished to join or try-out for, I selected none and made no mention of it to my mother.

Thanks to an invasive school system however, the same information was mailed to our homes.

Mommy Dearest:  “You signed up to tryout for cheerleading, right?  Why didn’t you mention it?”

Me:  “Mrs. C said I couldn’t sign up.”

Mommy Dearest:  “Why?  

Me:  “I don’t know?”

Mommy Dearest:  “Were other girls allowed to sign up?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Cowardly, I know.  But report cards were right around the corner, and if I could just hold her off for another few weeks or so….we could go right on ahead and kill a few birds with one back-hand….I mean, stone.

It would be important for me to note here, that my mother prized cheerleading as much Wanda Holloway….the woman who plotted to have her daughters cheerleading nemesis offed….it’s probably about the only thing my mother would have killed on my behalf for.

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When she was a teenager, she had been the captain of the cheerleading and gymnastics teams at her high school.  She had been the Homecoming Queen and Prom Queen.  She had been popular and adorable and bubbly and everyone had loved her.

Then, at some point in her adulthood, she’d become a raving lunatic, an abusive alcoholic and then an abusive recovering alcoholic.  But she never forgot those glory days.

So, it should have come as no surprise when my mother gave Mrs. C a little ring on the phone the next day.  I knew about it, because Mrs. C  was hysterically crying to Mrs. K during our lunch recess.

During the meltdown, Mrs. K called me over from where I was attempting to remain oblivious and, while consoling a sobbing Mrs. C asked, “Why did you tell your mother you were specifically excluded from next years extracurricular activities?”

Me:  “I didn’t.”

Cowardly, I know, but I had to be a pathological liar in order to survive my childhood….sue me.

I rode the bus home full of dread.  I knew by the time I walked through the door, she would have flushed out all my carefully constructed lies and it would not be good.

I pondered the durability of my teeth, the thickness of my hair and whether or not I had enough to cover any bald spots that might be created….and then, I took it like a champ.

Now, I have a child of my own.  He’s a first grader and every Monday, he get’s a bit of homework he has to complete and return each Friday.  We practice his spelling words, we read and we I, struggle to understand his math.  WTF common core?

I don’t mean to mom brag or anything, but my boy is wicked smaht.   Academics come easily to him, which I have to assume he’s inherited from his father, though he get’s his good looks and snarky attitude from me.

Seriously though, I’m incredibly proud of him.  And also, I’m proud of myself.  I’m raising a kid who is confidant and capable and brave.  Which isn’t the way anyone would have described me at his age.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a mother.  Or rather, if I could be a mother.   It seemed impossible that I would know what to do.  I was afraid that I would just fall into the same cycles of abuse I’d known as a kid.  That whatever was wrong with my mother, might be wrong with me too.

A few years before our son was born, my husband and I took a road-trip out west that included several days of hiking in Yellowstone National Park.  At the time, park officials were managing a wildfire that had been started by a lightning strike.  One afternoon, my husband and I hiked up Mount Washburn, which hosts one of the three remaining fire lookout stations in Yellowstone.

At the top, we struck up a conversation about the fires with a park ranger.  I asked if park officials were concerned about the fires destruction and he said, “No.  So long as there is no risk to human life, wildfires are a good thing.”

He explained that wildfires make way for new growth.   They regenerate our forests, renew the soil, and help reset the clock for the ecosystem.

I think the same can be said about life in general.  Life is hard.  Sometimes, it burns in ways that feel as though there can’t possibly be anything left when it’s done.

But in truth, the burning isn’t the end.  It’s just life’s way of giving us a chance to reset.  To reevaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going.  It’s a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth chance, or more.

There is beauty and strength and grace and opportunity to be found in the ashes….if only we are brave enough to put one foot in front of the other and to try.

boss

 

Valentine’s Day Isn’t For Everyone….

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Shulz  

So, my son is now a first grade and I’ve learned that a lot has changed since I made my way through the public school system.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t care all that much about your feelings, so this whole, everybody get’s a Valentine thing is new to me.

When I was in elementary school, I loved Valentine’s Day.  I spent days preparing my tacky Valentine’s box with construction paper hearts, feathers, stickers and paper doilies.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on our desks and walked around our classroom depositing Valentines and treats into the boxes of our friends and our enemies?  Well, they could go right on ahead and choke on a box of those chalky conversation hearts for all we cared.

Personally,  I never gave a Valentine to a kid named Olin who had a harelip.  Not because of the harelip, but because he cut a chunk out of my hair in Kindergarten and I never let go of a grudge.

I also refused to deposit a Valentine into the box of a kid named Bobby, who used to pick his nose and wipe it on all the girls.  To this day, anyone with the name Bobby makes me want to vomit.

I spent years campaigning to blacklist a girl named Roberta, who beat me up, EVERY DAY, on the playground in second grade.  That is, until I told my gramma, who arrived at the school one afternoon during dismissal and confronted Roberta using a variety of clever obscenities none of us really understood, but delighted in repeating whenever possible.

Example:  “If you ever lay a finger on my granddaughter again you hussy, I will kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

Not only could we exclude our classmates, but because nobody actually looked at the Valentine’s we were passing out, we were free to send hate mail too.

I got a few and I gave a few.

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In middle school, we gave up the Valentine boxes and instead we got to purchase candy heart lollipops for fifty-cents in the cafeteria, to be delivered, with a note, to anyone we chose.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, our classes would be disrupted by a knock at the door and the candy courier would walk in and announce who the lucky recipient was. Which of course made the rest of us feel like ugly, unlovable ducklings.

My friends and I sent candy hearts to one another, but mostly I sent them to myself and claimed they were from a secret admirer. I wanted the candy and I wanted to make the other girls jealous.

I also sent one to my seventh grade science teacher, because he was smokin’ hot for a middle-aged science teacher and I hoped to woo him away from his wife and kids, apparently.

In high school, candy hearts were replaced with single stem roses. The concept played out the same way. The roses were purchased for a dollar and delivered throughout the school day. Tables were set up before school, in the hallways between classes and during lunch, allowing ample opportunity for rose purchases.

Girls with boyfriends ended the school day with a dozen roses by final bell. Girls without boyfriends told everyone it was because those girls put out….because it was really the only way to save face when walking through the dismissal crowd without a single rose.

Honestly, all of it sucked. There were years in elementary school when my friends and I got into huge fights over Barbies and who got to be the teacher when we played school. We teamed up against one another and if Valentine’s Day happened to fall during a rumble, things could get ugly.

“Nobody give a Valentine to Laura….she’s bossy and she’s got a knock off Cabbage Patch.”

In middle school and high school, the number of candy heart lollipops and roses you received were symbols of how popular and well liked you were compared to others. Clearly, there was something wrong with you if NOBODY thought you worthy of fifty-cents or a dollar.

So, I think it’s better that kids these days are expected to spread kindness equally on Valentine’s Day.

They’ll have plenty of time as adults to be biter and cynical when the day ends without a bouquet and takeout for one.

And by then, they can acquire alcohol.

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