Sunday, December 16, 2007

...grandma's swing...

Almost all of my relatives and immediate family were born in San Antonio, Texas. I am no exception. There is one difference though. While all of my relatives lived in San Antonio, my family moved to Arlington, and that's where I grew up. Every year, or even twice a year, my family would drive to San Antonio as our vacation. My mom would stay at her parent's house, and me and my sisters would stay with my Dad at my Grandpa and Grandma's house. We would visit my mom's family, but because we stayed with my dad's parents, most of my memories are there.

My Grandma's house was very old. My great grandfather built it himself. It was a unique house because of it's age. There was a bathtub that stood on feet, tall ceilings, and even a bathroom that had an old toilet with a chain up high that you had to pull to flush it. My grandparents were German. Sometimes my Grandma would speak to my Grandpa in German, especially if she didn't want us listening. She also gave prayers in German. Grandma raised Dachsunds. Her favorite one's name was Schatze, which is German for sweet heart.

My Grandma had lots of costume jewelry in lots of old, fancy jewelry boxes. My sisters and I would sneak them open and look at her jewelry. If she caught us, she'd say, "Uhhh, Uhhh!" in a deep growly voice, and we would close it up quickly. Oh we wanted to try it all on so bad, but we knew we better not. It was special to Grandma.

We had to be creative or it could get boring at Grandma's house. My grandparents had a detached garage and a big open, square drive way behind their house. Grandpa would go out to his shop and get down an old, red wagon and we would take turns pulling each other around the driveway. Our favorite thing about Grandma's was the swing that hung from the ceiling of her front porch. My sisters and I would sit on that swing and just go back and forth, back and forth for hours. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the warm, humid air and hear the way that the chain creaked every time we swung back and forth. My grand parents had that swing there the whole time they lived there. After Grandpa died, Grandma moved to a townhouse to be closer to my aunt and to be in a safer neighborhood. The swing stayed behind.

A few years later, my grandma moved here, closer to my parents, because her health had started to decline and she needed help on a daily basis. She was not ready to give up her independence so my parents got her an apartment within five minutes of their house. They helped her pay bills, took her to doctor's appointments, and took her dinner every night. They basically did anything she needed because she could no longer drive. One of the highlights of Grandma's week was Sunday dinner at my parents' house. She loved to see my three children. They also loved her dearly. Over the years, Grandma's health got worse, and a few years ago she passed away in a hospice home...right before Christmas. I made some precious memories in the last years of my grandmother's life. As I helped care for her and enjoyed her, I grew to love her in a different way. When Grandma died, my sisters and I got to split up her costume jewelry and jewelry boxes to keep as a special memory of her. It was the first time we got to really see all of her precious things that she had protected all those years. I keep it on my bedside table and it reminds me of her.

As I think about all the things I remember, her dogs, the old wagon, my grandma's jewelry, my mind always returns to that creaky, old swing. I cried on that swing, and I laughed on that swing. I talked to my sisters on that swing, and I sat alone and rocked back and forth...back and forth. Over the years, I grew up. I outgrew the old red wagon, but no matter how I changed during the years we visited my grandparents, young or old, I never outgrew grandma's swing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

...LiaR, LiaR paNts oN FiRe!...

It's always kinda funny to me that when you ask a woman what qualities she is looking for in a man, she'll usually always have honesty in the top three. Honesty is important and I do believe that it is a worthy attribute to look for in a relationship for obvious reasons. It's interesting though...I always wonder how many "honest" guys never get a chance because they are not attractive...or rich...or funny...or addition to their honesty. People are ashamed to say, "I want a good looking guy." or "I want a great kisser." We think it seems shallow, but is it not true? There HAS to be some sort of attraction to get things started. We want honesty, but we are afraid to be completely honest. In a sense, we are all liars.

When I was in college, my best friend Kiem used to say "96% of all jokes are true". Me and Kiem had a...funny relationship...almost like the boy and girl that like each other...only the boy pulls the girl's hair and the girl pretends to be disgusted. We were never anything other than friends...inseparable friends. We had a funny quick witted relationship filled with lots of playful banter, so of course I had to argue and disagree with this philosophy the first time I heard it. A joke is a joke. Jokes aren't true...or are they?

How many times do you say something that gets a reaction that is unexpected, only to say "Oh, I was JUST kidding!"? As I think about this, I realize that this happens ALL the time. Sometimes we are afraid to be honest, so we jokingly say what we mean. Then, if there is any sign of upset or confrontation, we can always say we were "just kidding". I went through a whole day....conciously paying attention to what I said...when I was "just joking". Many times...I wasn't joking.

No one wants to be considered a liar. I know I don't. Maybe my friend WAS right...maybe we should "joke" less and just say what we mean.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

...sHaTTereD gLAss aNd sUpeRglUe…

The memory is so vivid…so clear…I remember what the classroom looked like…the other kids’ faces…especially his. Mostly, I remember the way I felt…the painful lump in my throat…the flush of my cheeks…the surprise…the way I held back the tears and masked the pain with a confident shrug. I remember hearing those 2 words, over and over and over again that entire day. I’ve heard those words in my mind at various times in my life for the last 25 years. I was 13 years old and in 7th grade. I was insecure and I never felt pretty, so when those words confronted me…in front of the entire class…they shattered what little self-esteem I had. 2 words…that’s all it took…”YOU’RE UGLY!”

His name was Scott Coppinger. He wasn’t good looking. He lived in a small run down house on a street near mine. He was skinny. He wasn’t popular or looked up to, but it didn’t matter. In fact, those facts made the situation worse, because if a skinny, ugly, nerdy guy thought that, I could only wonder what other people…people that “mattered” thought. I remember walking in the classroom and hearing someone teasing him. I laughed as I walked in, and then everything went in to slow motion as he turned and shouted those two words at me…loudly…in front of everyone. I remember the way I felt. I remember taking my chair, but I can’t remember the rest of that day. I do remember that I did not go home and tell my parents. I was too ashamed.

Childhood and adolescence is brutal. It’s almost like wild animals or a primitive culture…eat or be eaten…kill or be killed. Most everyone has had an embarrassing moment in school or been put down. It’s what people do with those words that help define them. Some people use the torments or unkind words to excel…to succeed or to become better than they were. Some people choose not to believe…to ignore. Some people cling to the hurt and feed it and nurture it until it has become a part of who they are. I haven’t been called “ugly” in a long time, but I still feel that way sometimes. Some people would be surprised to hear that…think I’m lying even.

It’s like going to a thrift store and seeing a beautiful crystal vase from a distance. You are drawn to it…can’t believe it’s not taken…that it’s in a thrift store. You turn it over to find that it’s Waterford crystal and it’s being sold for pocket change. How can that be? Don’t they know what this is worth? And then…you see it. You see that this vase has been broken and glued back together. It is no longer perfect. What was once an expensive, fine piece of crystal, has no real worth any more. Sometimes I feel like a shattered vase that has been carefully super glued back together. If you don’t pay attention or look closely enough, you won’t notice the cracks…the hurt…the disappointment…the pieces of my heart that have been shattered over time.

It seems like a depressing thing to say, but it’s true. Until I sat to write this, I always felt worthless, because I am broken…damaged…from all the times I was dropped…shattered. As I remembered that terrible day…the one that had a real impact on my life and the way I see myself…I realized that if I treated myself, the way I treat others, my life would be so much better. I would never in a million years think of my children as worthless just because they make mistakes and they are not “perfect”. I would never turn my back on a friend, because of bad choices they made in the past. If someone told my daughter, what I was told, I would tell her not to listen to hurtful lies. I would tell her about all the wonderful qualities she possesses. I wonder why I can’t…won’t do that for myself.

Today, I am saying goodbye to Scott Coppinger, once and for all. I have chosen to carry his mean words and the hurtful memories of that day around with me for 25 years. I don’t want to lug them around anymore. Yeah, I’m a mess…broken…no where near perfect, but I’m not alone. I haven’t cornered the market on pain. There’s no such thing as a perfect person…one that has never been hurt…or damaged in some way. We are ALL full of cracks hidden by superglue and we are all probably stronger because of it.