Is There Really Life After Childbirth?

Posts Tagged ‘memoirs

Dear Family,

I realize that I haven’t sent a Christmas letter out since the multiple choice fiasco 20 years ago, but I just want to prepare you for this week’s events.

First of all, it is important to remember what the holidays are about.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are meant to be times of retrospection and acknowledgement of the importance of family and tradition.  It is not a time to be expecting good food and fun gifts.  Although that happens occasionally, this is not one of those years.

While I am looking forward to having everyone over for food and festivities, I don’t want you to be too disappointed.  Things haven’t gone too well this year.  The couch will be covered with piles of dirty clothes scattered amidst stacks of clean clothes.  It is up to you to pick where you want to sit.  The reason the 30 year old TV from upstairs (you know, the one we thought was so big back then) is sitting on a couple of chairs in the living room is that a bulb blew out on the big screen TV we usually watch the football games on.  We have ordered a new bulb and it should be here eventually.  They guaranteed delivery in time for the holidays (we finally read the fine print…they mean Groundhog’s Day).

I didn’t have time to take the dogs in for their holiday makeover.  I managed to shave the back end of one of them, but the other one still looks like a dust mop with static electricity overload.  Try not to step on her.

I tried a new recipe this year for your fudge.  Orange dreamsicle fudge does not taste like the original dreamsicle bars.  I don’t care what they tell you.  Fudge should be chocolate.  Maybe next year.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts.  I don’t think I’ll have time to wrap your gifts either.  That’s not such a big deal, really, it’s kind of a waste to wrap up IOU’s anyway.  In fact, I don’t really have time to write the IOU, so I’ll just tell you now.  IOU a Christmas present.  Maybe next year.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts.   We did manage to get the tree decorated…sort of.  Most of the lights are on, we haven’t put any ornaments on it yet.  The beautiful star with 12 lights that sits on top blew a fuse a couple of nights ago.  It’s still up there, taunting me.  I’m getting better at ignoring it.

All in all, it should be a fun night anyway.  We might sing some Christmas carols.  I’m hoping this cough will have cleared up by then.  Maybe we’ll just watch the dog walk around attracting dustballs.  Or we could always give each other pretend presents.  After all it is the thought that counts.  Excuse me, I have to go now, I have A LOT of thinking to do.

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There’s nothing that wakes you up before your first morning cup of coffee quite like walking past a news stand on your way to work and seeing your son’s picture on the front page under the banner ‘STAYING IN TULSA JAIL’.  Luckily, he was wearing his uniform and sitting at his desk as the booking Sargent at the jail so I wasn’t too concerned.  I did get several emails from friends commenting on how nicely he had ‘turned out’.  Needless to say, it was one of those days that made motherhood worth its weight in Valium.

Which, of course, led me to reminising about my rules for raising children.  I’ve received many requests for those rules and thought it only fair to share them with the world.  So, without further ado, my top five rules for raising good kids.  P.S.  I can’t guarantee that these will work on girls, since I was blessed with boys  (see memoirs Chapter 1).

1. Tell them it is against the law for children under 16 to order filet mignon in a restaurant.  This may not actually assist in their “goodness”, but it will help with the financing of bribes for good behaviour, etc.

2. Tell them it is against the law to marry until they have graduated from college.   This allows them time to mature a bit before choosing their mate and actually helps them to find someone with a degree and a good chance of being able to support them after they graduate.  This leads to a sub-rule.

2.a.  If they pick a great girl, tell them that they have to stay married, because you will be keeping her if they ever split up.

3.  Make them pay for their own car insurance.  That ensures that they will have to pay when their rates go up because of tickets, accidents, etc.  

4. Tell them you don’t do bail money.  This, however, can backfire should you ever require bail assistance from them in the future.

5. Pray daily that God will help you do whatever it takes to raise them right and get through the day without having to kill any of them.  OK.  Looking back, this is probably the only rule that actually works.

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Well, I was in the middle of my spring cleaning one August and suddenly I had this WONDERFUL idea.  I so often get wonderful ideas while I am spring cleaning which is why I am usually doing it in August.  Actually that was pretty early that year considering I haven’t done my spring cleaning for 2006 yet.  But I digress. 

I was dusting my plate collection in August of 1998 and reading the back of each plate to see when and where I got it.  The thought occurred to me that when I die, my children and grandchildren might not get the significance of this collection.  (Now that I am updating this in 2008, I am certain they won’t get it, since the entire collection is still packed in boxes in the attic from the 2003 move to the lake.  My New Year’s Resolutions always include unpacking and hanging my plate collection.  Maybe 2009 is the year!  But I seem to be digressing again.  That happens so often anymore.)

So I decided (back in 1998 ) that I needed to write down things that I would like for my children and grandchildren to remember about me.  I actually did write this down, but it is woefully out of date.  Since everyone and his dog is writing a book today (2008, and yes, there are dog memoir books out there!  What am I talking about?  My animals have their own blog now.), I thought I might attempt to bring it up to speed and put it on my blog.  Now who would have thought in 1998 that I would be blogging this in 2008?  Back then, I was impressed that it was even in the computer.  Lucky for me that I printed a copy off, because the original file is still sitting on a hard drive somewhere and I can only hope that it is not a hard drive that is being investigated by the FBI and tied to some serial killer in Whatchamahatchee, USA.  Now, however, instead of being on a hard drive in a dump somewhere, it will be posted to the World Wide Web and everyone and his dog (who apparently can read and write) will see it.  Now, where was I?

Oh yes, I was writing things I want my family to remember about me.  Oh yes, plates.  When I was about 11 or 12 and growing up in the Center of the Universe (heretofore referred to as Olustee), our preacher and his wife, John and Ruth McLaren had a collection of all 50 state plates.  I really loved John and Ruth (and had a crush on a couple of their grandsons at one time or another) and I thought that plate collection was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I dreamed of traveling the world gathering plates from exotic locales and proudly displaying them on my own wall someday, so that my children and grandchildren could see what a cosmopolitan, sophisticated well-traveled woman their grandmother was.  OK.  At that time, I just thought it was cool and I wanted one of my own.  Well, Ruth had several duplicates so she gave her extras to me (they are marked 1965 with her name on the back of the plates) and the official Marilyn Brown State Plate Collection was born.

I think I zoomed up to 10 plates at one time.  There just wasn’t much opportunity to run up to Connecticut in the 60s and pick up a plate.  Time marched on, as time always does, I got busy doing really important things (I’m sure some of them will turn up on this blog at some point…you’ll just have to keep checking back).  I never got around to completing my collection.  But I never forgot it.  John and Ruth moved on and some years later she died.  We went to Stratford (OK, not Connecticut, no wait, that’s Stanford) to see John and he very kindly gave me what was left of Ruth’s collection.  He had put it in storage and a bunch of kids had broken some of them, but he gave me the rest.

I proceeded to drag that box around with me for several moves (does this sound familiar?  Check out the bedroom furniture and rocking chair stories).  When I moved back to Oklahoma with three squalling baby boys (but weren’t they adorable?), I decided I wanted to finish my plate collection.  It became kind of symbolic.  I had just realized that many of my goals were not going to be reached (you know, the Donna Reed/Father Knows Best/Happily Ever After thing), but by George, I could finish a stinking plate collection!

I dug out the box, glued the plates together that could be salvaged and made a list of the ones that I needed to replace.  If memory serves me right (ha ha, like that would happen), there were about 20 missing plates.  I bought one here and there, but still had about 12 of them missing by 1984.  My sister-in-law, Karen, on a trip to Kentucky, found a store in Missouri that had all 50 plates.  She gave me a call and was able to round up the missing ones and tote them home for me. 

Since then, I’ve added a couple of extra plates (Mona’s 1976 plate, one from Las Vegas, and one from Canada), but the real treasures are the ones that the kids brought me on their international travels.  They seem to get around more than I do, so they have added Ukraine, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even Soo Bak Do to my collection (Joel got that one for me when he took first place in the Nationals, WTG Joel!).

So, there you have it.  The story of Marilyn’s Great State/International Plate Collection.  Once I get them out of the moving boxes and actually hanging on the wall, they will once again represent the fulfillment of a childhood goal.  I’d like to think that reaching that goal helped me to reach some others…like finishing college, raising 3 sons to be successful “people” (even though one of them spends every night in jail!), and updating my memoirs.  Wow!  Now maybe I should go do some spring cleaning just to see what that might lead to!

 

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Like the heavily coated bedroom furniture, the rocking chair has been a chair of many colors.
My first recollection involves “rocking” on MaMa and PaPa’s front porch watching traffic and swatting skeeters. At that time there were a couple of chairs and they held no special significance to me except for the opportunity they provided for the grownups to watch us kids climbing antenna wires, hanging from tree limbs, and catching fireflies.
Catching fireflies is a wonderful outdoor sport spoiled only by the combined activity of “chigger” collecting. The later collection could only be accomplished by bare skin, preferably tender young ankles, being directly exposed to grass. I take that back. You could actually have chiggers tasting your skin simply by looking at grass. Even if you wear a full set of body armor, somehow they know that dinner was out there somewhere and by employing transportation methods that are the envy of any Star Trek or Wars fan could be teleported from the “lawn” to your legs. NASA should investigate this phenomenon.
The chair was originally obtained to rock baby Cracker, a fact I did not uncover until I was using it to rock baby Justin. I knew that I had been rocked in it as a baby, because there is a picture of me and MaMa rocking away.
I painted the chair a couple of times to match whatever room it occupied and eventually restrung the seat. It has had chair pads, colorful throws, and several contented, lazy cats for decorations throughout the years, but it doesn’t seem to mind sitting alone on its new front porch waiting for the next grandbaby to get it rocking again.
P.S. I wrote this several years ago, prior to baby Ethan and baby Ryleigh. It’s time to get busy and dust that chair!
P.S.S. Why are my ankles suddenly itching?????

When I was in the sixth grade, I moved from sharing a bedroom the size of a walk-in closet with two younger brothers to my own spacious penthouse apartment. OK. It wasn’t exactly a penthouse apartment, but it might as well have been as far as I was concerned.
After years of sharing a pathway that connected my parent’s bedroom and the single solitary bathroom (containing one of the two closets in the entire house), I thought I had hit the proverbial big time. The only storage space I had during my formative years existed under my bed. We had a single dresser that I had to share with my brothers and I tried all sorts of plans and schemes to make them keep their “stuff” off of my portion of the floor. As do most well-laid plans, these were all destined to backfire one by one.
There was the “plant the evidence” plan where I stuffed a cake batter-covered dish towel under their bed. It wasn’t found for about 3 years and was stiff enough by then to be used to patch the roof. The fact that neither one of them ever actually stirred cake batter (thereby providing an opportunity to drop a dish towel into it) was not lost on my mom.
Perhaps the worst backfire was the “tie the pajamas in knots if they’re ever left on the floor”. Yep, you guessed it. I was the first offender. So I guess, in reality, that plan could have been a success if I hadn’t gotten mad and canceled it.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was able to have my very own full-sized room complete with its own closet (and only one entrance so I never had to be the victim of any drive-by incidents that had plagued my past).
My great-grandfather was in the process of downsizing (he didn’t realize it at that time…back then it was just called “moving to a smaller house”) and my grandmother gave me her mother’s prized three piece bedroom set from The Room No One Was Allowed to Enter (MaMa actually said it like that, like it was all capital letters). The black oak four poster bed, vanity and chest of drawers probably weren’t considered antiques at that time (after all this was a loooonnng time ago), but I’m sure purists would have fainted at my plan to make this a replica of the white bedroom set I’d seen in a catalog somewhere. So I proceeded to put about 30 coats of white paint on it (twenty or so more were added throughout the years) and replace the handles with delicate white and gold pulls. I was enthralled. I was finally a princess.
I redecorated MY bedroom every few years, always being careful to pick a shade of paint that would highlight that bedroom suit. Pale green was probably the most successful. It’s actually back in style again now. The worst was the peach that ended up so orange and bright that it caused many a parent to stop and try to turn the light off when they passed my door. I also vowed never to store anything under the bed again. This promise provided my dad with a place to hide from my mom when she was in her “I think you need a B-12 shot” mood. That vow has also gone by the wayside, since it is now considered trendy to store stuff under your bed. They even make special boxes for it. If only I had realized how far ahead of my time I was, I could probably be the CEO of The Container Store instead of one of their best customers.
My bedroom suit and I traveled the country…from Olustee to Sapulpa to Las Vegas and back to Sapulpa. On its last journey (to my dream home on the lake), I decided it wanted to be free of its many coats of history. Fifteen cans of paint stripper later, all of the white paint has been removed and it sits proudly in all its grandeur in my guest room today just waiting for its new little princess.
After
OK, boys. No fighting over who gets to inherit the ratty old bedroom suit from mom now that you know its provenance (HA…I bet you never thought I would be able to use that word in a sentence!)

My future was shaped by two grandmothers as different in style as they were in appearance.
My father’s mother, Grannie, was tiny, weighing 100 pounds only if she were holding a ten-pound turkey. For most of her life, she had waist length black hair with only a few silver strands that she could comb, braid, and wrap in a bun without looking in the mirror. She raised four sons and ruled the roost with a peach tree switch (the worst kind, so I’m told!) Years later, the “boys” towered over her but still cowered in fear of incurring her wrath. Yet she managed to instill in each of them a love of family and childhood they carried with them throughout life. It was many years before I realized not every ones dad played hide-and-seek, commandeered the basketball court (surrounded by bouncing, screaming children wanting their turn), and hogging the Christmas toys Santa left every year.
Grannie’s primary diet consisted of Pecan Sandies and RC Cola. She is the one who actually coined the mantra, “All I am or ever will be, I owe it all to RC.” We were never able to convince the company to use her as their spokes model.
I remember sitting on her couch eating a box of chocolate covered cherries (she always kept a new box for me) pouring over the Sears and Roebuck catalog. I would carefully decorate and furnish my future home and then choose a lavish wardrobe for my family. It was during one of those visits that she remarked, “I think you’ll have a bunch of kids and they’ll all be boys.” I didn’t realize then, but “bunch” was the key word, as in “several items grouped together.” At the time I picked up on the word “boys.” I thought this over and decided she was probably right. I began crossing off the frilly satin and lace dresses. I probably would have crossed them off at some point anyway. After all, it is difficult to play basketball wearing four petticoats and a pair of patent leather shoes. It can be done, by the way, but no one will give you overs if you slip in the gravel.
My maternal grandmother, MaMa, was big and funny and always on the go. She never missed a “trip into town” or a chance to stop somewhere for a hot fudge sundae. (Is it any wonder I can’t get enough chocolate in my life!) Visits to her house were loud and fun and filled with great food and cousins.
She had the most infectious laugh and we were always trying to be the one that brought it out. No joke was too old or told too often for her. To this day, I don’t know how she could still laugh after the 114th rendition of catching a squirrel by climbing a tree and acting like a nut.
She was the one who told me I would have twins. At least she had the good sense to wait until I was pregnant to make that announcement. Otherwise, who knows what different course history might have taken.