Archive for the ‘high school’ Category

After moving in with my mom in a fairly large city in comparison to my small town existence, I quickly got involved in their theatre department. I had dreamed of becoming an actress since elementary school and finally I was attending a school that actually had a theatre department that put on plays three times a year! I was thrilled. After auditioning for my first play, I landed a role as a Jewish child locked up in a Natzi camp. The play was called, I Never Saw Another Butterfly. In this play I had to wear full on stage makeup, spray paint my hair brown (there weren’t any red headed Jews) and wear drabby torn clothes with a yellow star pinned to it. I even had to master a Jewish accent.

The set was black with a slanted elevated stage in the shape of a star, the gels casted dark blues and purples on the stage, while each character performed a monologue about what it was like to be a child in a camp. The monologues were based from real life accounts told by children who created a book while they were in the camp. This play was so dark and dreary that it took me a while to get out of character.

I remember my mom picking me up from play practice after our first dress rehearsal stunned by my makeup and facial expression. All the way home, I couldn’t even crack a smile. When we arrived home, my mom took a picture of me in full make up and I couldn’t even smile for the camera.

In the shower I envisioned myself washing away the Jewish child locked in the camps as I watched the brown hair spray and makeup go down the drain. It wasn’t until after my shower that I felt like Jessie, the girl living in a basement apartment; free.

I believe this is the play that got me into a lot of trouble. At this time I had reconnected with an old step-mom of mine and had invited her to the play. She was a wonderful free-spirited woman who wanted to go when my mom went. They picked our Saturday performance. My dad and family were coming but didn’t want to tell me what night for fear of making me nervous. Our Thursday and Friday performances came and went with no families there to greet me at the end. My heart sank and my stomach churned. How would my father react to seeing both of his ex-wives at the same play with his new girlfriend in tow? I tried not to worry about it as I gave my performance. At the end my Dad, his new girlfriend, my sister, my grandma, my mom, and his ex-wife all greeted me at the same time. I went outside to say goodbye to my step-mom and then went back in to see a red hot dad standing next to his girlfriend and my mom. I knew I was in a world of trouble, but was it really my fault?

That following weekend was my weekend with my dad and before he even picked me up Saturday morning, he sat me down in my mom’s living room and gave me a lecture I will never forget. Apparently I should have thought it through better when inviting old lovers of his that I happened to have bonded with. Oh well.


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I feel guilty for eating peanut m&m’s that I have literally craved for several days. Not just crave, I mean I think about them before I fall asleep crave. Why am I dreaming about peanut m&m’s all of a sudden? I don’t get it. My dear husband brought home a ginormous bag of dark chocolate peanut m&m’s. I am painfully indulging; or am I binging? Can I really take the blame for these calories? Or blame it on the ridiculously delicious peanut m&m’s for throwing themselves at me before I fall asleep.

This is not the first time I have been attacked by a craving. During our “recession,” my mom and I craved nacho cheese chips and jalapeño cheddar cheese sauce. We could actually put down the whole bag and can of cheese sauce in no time at all. (Okay, I still do.)

Where did I learn this behavior? My mom. Of course. Even before I was born, my older sisters in their elementary and middle school years, bragged about how my mom could put a whole nacho cheese chip, with dip, in her mouth. Amazing. I eat, just like my mom. I don’t succumb to this behavior very often, because it would be deadly. I do not buy chips and dip, unless it is requested at a party, and if there is some left, I will bring it home and polish it off. I literally cannot help myself. I know it’s bad and physically unhealthy, but I am proud that my family now brags about how I can put a whole chip in my mouth.

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When I went to high school, thrift stores were cool. T-shirts that made no sense became funny and no poor teenager could beat the price of only a few dollars or less. I was a thrift store junkie.

My mom and I were dirt poor. Eviction notices taped to our door, no electricity, and scarcely any food, we were poor; dirt poor. Never fear! For some pocket change, I could update my wardrobe periodically. During our “recession,” I managed to get a waitressing job at a family owned Italian restaurant. It was authentic, and yes the family was Italian as could ever be. I loved working there and the money was just right for my modest lifestyle.

That’s when I discovered thrift store t-shirts. My main focus was the little boy section. Yes, little boy section. Our scarce pantry allowed me to stay trim; very trim. For 25 cents I could get a little boy’s t-shirt that displayed some action figure or a travel destination.

I made sure to stretch my money as far as it could go. I once spent over an hour trying to spend five dollars. I managed to get three items, of which I still own today, one I still wear. Pretty good buy if you ask me.

My mom and I would spend hours combing the aisles at our local thrift store. We would spend majority of that time trying on clothes; hundreds of clothes. One very stressful occasion, I had a baby in tow. It was my weekend with the lifelike baby doll from child development class. She was a screaming dark skinned newborn with a vengeance. As I walked around embarrassed by the screaming child, my mom and I tried effortlessly to calm her down. This doll required a key to be placed in the dolls back and then turned when she cried. I put the key in, turned it and nothing. The baby kept crying. I held the key forever rocking the baby, patting the baby, even singing to the baby; like it could hear me. The baby kept crying. Finally the baby cooed and went to sleep. On a side note, the baby turned out to be a baby exposed to crack while in the womb. That explained everything.

Being as poor as we were, it was short lived. Our electricity was off for two full weeks, the eviction notices didn’t stop and we ended up renting a house for free in a nearby city, but the pantry always stayed scarce. We just never had any money. Mom worked as an aid for a family with an elderly man who could no longer take care of himself but didn’t want to go to a nursing home. She worked full-time for them and fell in love with the family paying no mind to the modest paycheck; she was happy with that job. I worked at the Italian restaurant for two years which allowed me to purchase some food, keep gas in my car, and purchase little boy t-shirts from thrift stores.

Thrift stores also have come in handy for many more needs in my life. Random dishes, gently used of course, stocked my cabinets when I first went out on my own. My roommate when I was 18 did a great job stocking our kitchen, but when she moved out, it was my turn to stock the kitchen; so I went digging for thrift store treasures. Hand crafted coffee cups are my still favorite thing to hunt for. My collection ranges from hand painted mugs to hand crafted works of art. Shot glasses, glass wear, and skillets also make up my collection. Majority of the cooking wear in my kitchen came from thrift stores 7-10 years ago. What a treasure! I love things that last long.

My mom always loved buying clothes from thrift stores. Some of the things she would find looked like something already in her closet that she’d worn for years. Faded oversized t-shirts, jeans with holes and worn bottoms, tank tops, and jean shorts were her favorite clothes to buy. She also enjoyed the book selection. Tall crates full of books waist high would be scattered in the back half of the store. Mom would dig in looking for self-help books. Her collection included books on how to apply make-up and look like a model, how to lose weight, what you should eat to avoid cancer, how to keep your plants looking fabulous, how to crochet, everything you need to know about dogs, money, how to look younger, how to work out.

Although majority of her books are outdated and dusty, it really paints a picture of who she was as a person. For instance, my mom loved to sit on the floor in front of a tall, leaning wall mirror and apply her make-up for hours. She would do it in such a slow charismatic way as if she were having a long conversation with the woman in the mirror. She would roll thick heavy sections of her coarse brown hair around large hot pink and red curlers. Smoke a cigarette. Pluck her eyebrows. Curl her bangs. Smoke a cigarette. Curl her eye lashes. Pluck any stray hairs on her face. Smoke a cigarette. Apply eye shadow. Smear on mascara, lots of mascara. Smooth on foundation. Dab blush. Glide powder over her face. Spread pale pink gloss over her lips, blot once, smooth lips together and smile. She would then take her hands up to her hair and flip her bangs on either side, to make them stick out by her eyes. Smoke a cigarette.

Mom always worried about her weight. She was never fat and always at a healthy weight for her age and height. We both seemed to be linked when it came to our weight, even after we went our separate ways. When she lost weight, I lost weight. When I gained weight, she gained weight. She was obsessed with trying new fad diets and investing money on pills, shakes, videos, and equipment that would only keep her interest for a few months until it was tossed aside.

Mom was also a health nut, well I guess not the kind that actually is healthy, but the kind that is unhealthy but always researching how to be healthy. She liked researching different foods and how it helped make you healthy. She especially loved plants, such as fruits and vegetables. She became especially intrigued by pineapple and started growing one four years ago. I have it now. She told me it takes seven years for a pineapple to grow. I guess I will see if she’s right in three years.

Mom loved her plants like children. She talked to them and cared for them every day. Plucking leaves, repotting mature starts, watering with grower; these weren’t the only ways my mom cared for her plants. She understood them. She understood their light temperaments, their behavior pattern for growing, and their water intake. I have 17 of her plants and more to come my way as my grandma replants starts from some of my mom’s plants. I must be honest, I don’t talk to them, I barely remember to water them, and I have no idea how much light or water each one is supposed to have or when to repot them. I don’t even know their biological names. I wish I had had more of an interest in horticulture because maybe I would know how to continue caring for her other children.

All the books my mom had in her collection relate to her life in some way. She loved to crochet and made me a large white blanket with pink doily trim, and little green baskets holding pink flowers all over the blanket. She did it all by crocheting. She also made me a matching blanket and pillow for my doll. I still have the blanket and my step-daughter has the doll blanket and pillow. I will cherish them always. My mom had a lot of dog books because she was a dog groomer and liked to learn about different breeds, different styles, and tools to use. Mom also read a lot about money, probably because she never had any.

I never knew mom as well as I think I know her now. Her life was one of dreams and wonders that she loved to read about and plan. Majority of them never were started, but some of her plans worked out. She was very thrifty and taught me to live life no matter what the circumstances. Even when we were dirt poor, we still had fun and laughed a lot. She taught me to always preserver even when I feel like giving up.

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It seems that I have been more emotional lately, being a woman and all. I cry during ASPCA commercials asking me to donate money to save sad neglected animals. Cry for several minutes after opening my BS in Elementary Education diploma. Cry while paying for a corn dog, tots, and Dr. Pepper.

My mom was a dog groomer at a local animal hospital in a tidy, petite pet resort. This pet resort was fairly new with modern technological equipment that made the job easier for my mom. She had been a groomer for over 10 years and was accustomed to working in unsafe, filthy environments. This was a job she only dreamed about. The staff was very young, some my mom’s age, some in high school; all women who loved animals. That summer I had just moved in with my mom and instead of leaving me home alone, even though I was 15. We chose to get to know each other, rising at 7 am, no lunch break, slowly dragging our exhausted bodies out at 6 pm. This wasn’t a sitting down job; this was a muscle aching, sweating, flat hair, running mascara, hard labor.

At first, I stayed close to mom helping her brush dogs, bathe dogs, blow dry dogs. Some of these dogs took me hours to get them ready for my mom to give them a hair cut fit for a prestigious dog show. She was amazing. I never once complained, not even while I hand blow dried poodle after poodle, brushing and fluffing their curly hair smoothing it out, getting the hairs all standing up and ready for a trim. Not even while I soaked poor shaking dogs in cold flea shampoo making them sit there for five to ten minutes while I plucked and pulled fat blue ticks, some bursting brick red blood all over my latex gloves. The work was laborious and grueling, but I never complained because secretly I loved it.

As I got to know the girls who took care of the boarding animals, I quickly wanted to get involved. The cat room was my favorite. I started by cleaning their litter boxes, putting the cats in the play window where they got to climb, scratch their nails, roll and bathe in the sun. I fed them, paying close attention to their dietary needs. Every cat was different, with different portions of food, different types of food, some needed medicine hidden in their food, or some I had to give to them. I sprayed and wiped down each cage. There usually were one or two cats I wasn’t allowed to care for because they were mean hideous things, but I still talked to them, telling them I was only there to feed and water them. I got in such a rhythm, talking to them, loving on them. It was like heaven.

I also began helping with the dogs. The little dogs were a hoot to watch scramble out of their cages all running for the door. Once outside they ran, jumped, and barked while pulling and tugging on toys. They got to stay outside for long periods of time and someone had to always be out there with them, breaking up arguments between other dogs and separating them from the others. It was always hot and smelly, but it was under a large tin roof on cool concrete. A chain link fence surrounded runs for the naughty dogs, and large running space for the good ones. We got to spray water in the air to keep them cool, the dogs looked vicious as they bit and barked at the water.

The girls who worked with the dogs were very kind and talked to me like I was one of them, even though I was several years younger. One girl in particular always knew every dog’s name just by looking at them. I always had a hard time remembering their names, unless I looked right at their cage. This girl knew them all, even the new ones. She even paid attention to all of their personalities and remembered that about each one. She talked to them like they were children, and put some in time out when they behaved badly. It was like daycare for dogs and she was their pre-school teacher teaching them social skills. It was a sight and I was mesmerized.

The big dogs were always a little intimidating so I rarely went out on that side without someone with me. But that was also the smokers nook so I was usually only out there on my mom’s smoke breaks. This side was mainly gravel and the dogs had large pools to splash in to stay cool. There were also large balls that the staff and I liked to throw to them and watch them chase after. The girls liked this side better and enjoyed romping and playing with the gentle giants. I got over my fear of large dogs pretty quickly and now personally own a 100 lb large Rhodesian ridgeback who is nothing but a giant gentle baby.

Every day after a long, hot, sweaty 10 hour shift, mom would use her tip money for a corn dog for me with tots and a soda, and jalapeño pepper cheesy bites with a soda for her. Five days a week, that’s what we had together. So, not realizing what I had done, this memory floods me as I pay for my corn dog, tots, and soda. I quietly sobbed as I took my food from the window, drove off, came home, sat down, and choked my food down with several crocodile tears.

Every morning for the past several days, I have been awaking in tears. I just roll over and sob into my pillow. Right as I wake, a memory or an image of my mom floods my brain. I can see her hair, the way it flowed over her shoulders and down her back, her wiry gray hairs sticking up on her bangs, her twinkly wrinkles by her eyes, her peach fuzz, soft as cotton on her cheek bones and her large smile showing off pink gums and one crooked front tooth. What I wouldn’t give to see that one more time.

Why didn’t I cherish this while she was alive?

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