Friday, April 30, 2010


Wanted -

A carefree summer day spent with my mother speaking of everything and nothing. Reminiscing about my childhood and hers. Eating seedless watermelon as we sit on her front steps, wondering if the ice cream truck will come. Watching her neighbor talk to his squirrels, picking the blackberries from his bushes. Her sweating and asking me how I can wear a sweater. Eating dinner at her table, a perfect grilled cheese. Her telling me to be careful on my way home. Her hugging me to her overabundant bosom, telling me she loves me, asking if I want to take some watermelon home with me.

Item is priceless, shipping is impossible.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Night So Mad Tea Party

Halfway through our day at Con-nichiwa, my daughters decided they wanted to go to the Ouran High School Host Club Tea Party. As we headed towards the lounge where it was being held, Jamila and Jovial tried to explain some of the details of the manga to me. (If you are really curious about it, you can go to the Shojo Beat website and find more information. The Wikipedia page is riddled with small errors, and I cannot recommend it.)

We waited in line, the three of us, to try and get into the tea party. We slowly moved towards the front as others went in to the lounge. As we were inches from the door, the organizers asked if there were any pairs. I asked my daughters if they wanted to go in alone while I waited. I was informed that I was not allowed to do that. An announcement was made. Seating was done; next seating would be in one hour. People scattered to the other events. Not wanting to risk not getting in the next time, I told my girls that I would stand in line and wait.

My girls, ever loyal, chose to stand with me. The organizers were huddled. Another announcement was made. The last few people waiting would be seated this session. The three of us paid our $7 each and made our way to an empty table in the back of the candle-lit lounge. Jamila sat across from me, Jovial sat to my right, the chair closest to the rest of the lounge sat empty. A young woman dressed in jeans and a t-shirt came to ask us what we cared to drink.

As the young woman returned with our drinks, two of our hosts came over. The smaller one carried a stuffed rabbit and hopped into the empty chair. This one, I had been informed earlier, was Hunny. The larger one that loomed silently behind him was his cousin, Mori. Hunny greeted us in a chipper, high voice.

“Hello Princesses”

Jovial squealed, flailed, and sent me a text. The text read, “I can die happy now!” She had been hoping Hunny would come to our table. Hunny bounced in his seat and jabbered on about a million little things. The girls giggled and responded. Every so often, Mori would whisper in Hunny’s ear. After one such occurrence, Hunny asked us Princesses if we would like one of the cakes or cookies. We each decided what treat we would have and Hunny sent Mori across the room to get them.

Mori came back across the room and set Jamila and Jovial’s treats down. In a soft barely audible tone, he let us know that the chocolate cake I had requested had run out. I asked in a normal voice for the lemon strudel that Jamila had gotten. As Mori hulked back across the lounge, Hunny shouted, “Lemon strudel, lemon strudel, don’t forget lemon strudel.”

Mori gave Hunny an exasperated look and waved his hand in dismissal. He came back with my lemon strudel. It was sweet, tart, and smelled like childhood. One of the non cosplaying organizers came over and whispered in Mori’s ear. Mori whispered in Hunny’s ear. Hunny got a sad look on his face. The organizer had said that Hunny needed to move on to another table. Hunny said he would in a sad voice, then giggled and added the word later.

Jamila conversed with Hunny about what else would be going on during the tea party. Hunny got excited.

“We’re going to play some games!”

“What games?”

“Marshmallow fishing, and Chubby Bunny!”

“What’s Chubby Bunny?”

“It’s a surprise”


“It’s a surprise!”

Eventually Hunny moved on to another table, hugging each of us in turn as he left.

The woman who brought us our drinks asked if we had any host requests. Jamila replied in a nanosecond. She wanted the twins. A few minutes later, a pair of redheads was standing in front of our table. It was Jamila’s turn to squeal. They went to Jamila and stroke her hair. They loved how soft and thick it was. Then they sat down. The twins shared the chair that Hunny had used. The one nearest to Jamila got her to feed him some of her lemon square. She briefly considered keeping the fork she had used.

The twins told us that we were the most fun table there. They noticed Jovial and my matching shirts with the upside down writing and turned their heads in opposite directions in unison. They complimented our shirts. We chatted with the twins for a while, until they too had to reluctantly move on to the next table.
Then the prince slithered up to our table. Unlike the others, he did not sit down. He sidled up to Jamila and took her hand. He stood behind her and leaned into her hair. He whispered something to her. She nodded and said something to him. He smiled, kissed her hand and oozed over to Jovial. He repeated his previous actions and then moved on to me. As he held my hand, he whispered to me.

“Are you enjoying the tea party, Princess?”


“Is there anything I could do to make it special for you, Princess?”

“Make sure they are in the games,” I said quietly as I motioned to my girls.

“It can be arranged.”

He slithered away after kissing my hand softly. Jamila, Jovial, and I giggled. We were glad that I had decided to stay in line. We noticed the hosts milling about the front of the lounge. The twins were conversing with the prince who smiled and pointed to our table. The twins had their mission. They sauntered over and grabbed my daughters.

They were the first to play Chubby Bunny. They had to shove their mouths full of marshmallows and try to say Chubby Bunny. Jovial, my vegetarian, participated without a fuss. She would have a stomach ache from it later; one she decided was well worth it. I laughed as Hunny, Jovial, and Jamila all tried to say Chubby Bunny with their cheeks stretched and marshmallows threatening to explode out of their mouths.

The girls came back and we all laughed as the other Princesses tried the game. Then we watched as others played marshmallow fishing. One of the hosts held a branch on which a string was attached. Tied to the string was a marshmallow. A piece of elastic was put under each contestant’s nose to hold them back as they tried to grab the marshmallow using only their mouths.

We left the tea party, still giggling and looked around the convention, trying to decide where to go next. We knew it did not matter what we chose; the tea party would not be topped.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kindness Repaid

Let them into my house
Two little lost ones
Fed them and gave them shelter
They told of a cruel stepmother
A father who abandoned them
Cold and alone in the woods
How the scrumptious smell of
Bread led them to my tiny house
So piteous their little faces
I gave freely what I had
They gobbled greedily
Asked always for more
More I did not have
Witch they snarled
Burn her they cackled
Demonic cherubs screeching
Kill the witch before
She eats us
Bake her in the oven
Aghast and frightened
I cower from them
What has kindness wrought?

4 Rides

Ride 1

The door opens to reveal a black flat surface which can unfold into a ramp. It stays flat and unfolded. I lift myself carefully into the bus. I slide my pass, with the magnetic stripe facing away from me and the cactus facing me, through the slot in machine that separates me from the driver. I wait to hear the machine confirm my validness. I do this while showing my ID card that proves I’m poor enough to warrant the discounted pass that I have just used. I take a deep breath. That was a mistake.

I am assaulted by an acrid, vinegary scent. As I walk towards the back of the bus hoping to escape the smell, I notice there are no children aboard. An adult is responsible for the odor. I find a forward facing seat in the very back where a vent caresses my hair as I try valiantly not to inhale too deeply. I cover my nose with my shirt hoping the cotton will act as a filter. I begin to wonder exactly from where the smell is coming. I scan the suspects.

There are about 20 people on board. I can only see the top halves of most of the other riders. I notice several others are covering their faces, obviously trying to escape the smell. I eliminate from my suspect pool those trying to escape the smell and those who got on the bus after me. This leaves me with 3 people as possible odor causers.

Is it the young olive skinned woman with the dreadlocks and multiple piercings on her face? Is it the young man with the pale complexion and magic marker black hair? Or is it the middle aged woman with the wind combed short brown locks and the mask of makeup on her face?

I scrutinize my suspects. The dreadlocked woman is sitting across the aisle from me. Her clothes scream hippie wannabe, a long hemp skirt paired with a tied dyed long sleeved t-shirt. The shirt hangs off of her loosely and she looks as if a swift wind could carry her away. Her probably size 8 feet protrude from a pair of size 7 ½ worn out leather sandals. Her toenails have recently been manicured and they sport a red hue that reminds me of the heart shaped boxes that overfill the stores around Valentine’s Day. I doubt her responsibility for the foul odor.

The young man with the obviously dyed hair sits in a seat that faces the aisle. An unoccupied seat separates us. He looks like he raided Johnny Cash’s closet. The only thing missing is a cowboy hat on top of his square shaped head. I notice a smudge of white by his chin. I study his face carefully. Little clumpy white smudges make themselves known. I recognize these little clumps from my “Rocky Horror” days. He is using clown white to make his complexion look lighter.

My third suspect is sitting a few rows up. She is facing the aisle although she is sitting in a forward facing seat. She has a five o’clock shadow just visible under a thick layer of foundation and a scarf tied around her neck. I wonder if she is pre-op. or post-op. She has pulled out a comb and is trying to get her brown hair back in place.

I look out the window; I am a block from my stop. I pull the cord to signal the driver. As the bus slows to a stop, I rise and head for the door. I peek at the brown haired woman and notice a slight bulge in her blue jeans. She’s pre-op. I push the yellow stripes on the back door, it opens and I am freed from the scent without knowing who was responsible.

Ride 2

The doors open to reveal three black steps with yellowish orange stripes on them. These steps can turn into a lift for those who need it. I climb the stairs and pay my fare. My old friend Richard is driving. I sit in the front seat that faces the aisle so I can talk to him. It has been ages since I have seen him last. Richard looks back at me for a moment and then points to the bus’s windshield.

“Big window.”

“Very big window.” I laugh at our old, private joke. I met Richard more than a decade ago when I was working at the telephone survey place and he drove the number 9 that I took downtown after work. Richard was one of the fun drivers. He was always cheerful even when dealing with drunks and unhappy people.

Once, when a young man wearing headphones got on the bus, Richard pretended to say full sentences but only said about half the words and mouthed the others. When the young man took off the headphones, Richard continued to say only about half the words of his sentences. Richard did this until I started laughing. Then Richard and I had our first conversation. It was the beginning of our friendship.

I stopped working at the survey place, Richard’s route got changed. I still bump into him from time to time and we catch each other up on our lives. I don’t remember the origin of the “big window” joke and neither does he, but we still laugh at it every time.

Ride 3

I am sitting toward the front of the number 10 bus and we are heading north. We are on Stone Avenue and we are turning onto Speedway Boulevard. We stop in front of Pima Community College and a few people board. One of these people, a woman in her 40’s, sits two seats away from me and tries to start a conversation with me.

I stare out the window watching the drab buildings going by and try not to pay this woman any attention. She seems upset about something and I don’t want her to take it out on me. She keeps saying how she can believe it. She says she got ripped off. Someone in the park ripped her off. I think she must have come from Stoner Park (a little park at Stone and Speedway, I know that is not its real name, but I never learned its real name and this one is very appropriate) and I am not surprised someone ripped her off if she was in that park.

“I can’t fucking believe it! He fucking took my money! He ripped me off! He took my money for a rock and never came back!”

I moved to the back of the bus.

Ride 4

My contractions are pretty close together. I am not sure how close together because I forget what time it was the last one started each time a new one starts. It was not my due date according to my doctor, but it was the date that I figured out using the exact date of conception and adding nine months. It is raining and the bus is late.

It may seem crazy to be having contractions and to be taking a bus. I was in no rush to get to the hospital. My first daughter was born after 20 hours of labor and a caesarian section. My second was born after 3 days of labor and another caesarian. My third daughter was a full 5 days of labor, no caesarian but she did require a vacuum. My girls were not in any rush to leave my womb.

The bus arrives, it’s been about 30 minutes since my contractions started, I think. I trudge up the steps and pay my fare. I joke with the driver about the rain. I say it is great weather for a duck. I try not to show the pain as my contractions increase in intensity. I stop noticing anything or anyone else on the bus. The buildings outside are a blur. I spend the twenty minute ride convincing myself that the doctors will send me home again, that today won’t be the day she is born.

“Craycroft,” the prerecorded voice announces on the bus’s sound system. I get up and exit the bus. I go slowly and the woman behind me tells me to hurry up. I cross the street and enter the labor and delivery department. Ten minutes later, I am holding my daughter.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Satanism and Goat’s Blood

My children are weird. I have four beautiful daughters and they are quirky. They know that they are odd. They revel in it. Social norms are to be ignored or exploited. The minds of other people are playthings. Being called “strange” is a compliment. This does not worry or upset me, quite the contrary. It pleases me that my children ignore society’s call to conform. It is proof positive that they sprung from my loins. This enjoyment that comes from confusing and befuddling people is a family trait. It started with my mother.

When I was a toddler, my mom would watch her friend’s daughter Sarah who was a few days older than I. Sarah was as black as I was white. Sarah had deep brown eyes while my eyes were (and still are) blue. My hair was almost white, thin, and straight. Sarah had a black afro. One rainy Tuesday afternoon, she put us in the stroller and went to pick up my siblings from school. The crossing guards were already out and guiding people across the street. One of the guards, a woman around thirty, cooed over us while we waited for the light to change.

She looked at Sarah. She looked at me. She looked at my mother. She compared Sarah’s skin color to my mother’s pinto bean colored skin. She compared my skin color to both my mother’s and Sarah’s. As the light turned and we crossed the street, the crossing guard asked my mother a serious question.

“Which one is yours?”

“Both,” my mother replied sternly leaving the guard with her brow furrowed.

My mother passed this trait to three of her four children. We enjoy leaving confused looks on the faces of strangers and making jokes that reference the obscure. Our friends either have a similar inclination or simply have grown to accept our oddness. Our sibling who does not share our proclivity for shenanigans, among other sins, warrants no further mention.

My sister Vickie and I have been known to play “Bob and Janet” in stores. It’s a game we made up as teenagers based on an ancient (from the 1980’s) Kmart commercial. When we are in a large store such as Kmart or Target, one of us will inevitably wander away. So we will call out to each other but instead of using our names, Vickie calls, “Bob,” and I respond with “Janet.” Once we are in visual range of each other we revert to our actual names.

As teenagers, my brother Shawn and I shared a lot of friends. We would often go for rides in one of their cars. To make things interesting, we would ask for directions to the street we were currently on from another car. We preferred to find cars with only a driver and no passengers. We would get the driver’s attention and trying to look as lost as possible, one of us, usually Shawn, would ask for directions.

“Do you know where Cicero Avenue is?”

“You’re on Cicero!”

“No, where is Ci – ce – ro Avenue?”

“You’re on it!”

“No, we need Cicero Av-en-ue.”

The driver would invariably give up on us and speed away, shaking his head.
While I mostly did these types of things simply to amuse my family, my friends, or myself, there were two times that I did them to help my mother. My mother loved people individually but not in clumps. She had severe claustrophobia and could not stand having people right on top of her. When forced to deal with a crowd, she would become agitated. Her view of the world would change. Simple questions were personal attacks. Concern was obviously condescension and pity. Any attempt to calm her would anger her. Hours later, when she was herself again, she’d be beside herself with guilt about her behavior.

The first time I did something odd to help her was when I was 17. I would visit my mom €€twice a week and go shopping with her. We would shop when we knew the stores would be practically empty. Then the dollar store opened. My mother loved it, but the lines at the registers were slow moving and often extended into the narrow aisles. While we were waiting one such line on a Tuesday afternoon, people were crowding around us and my mother had a look of panic beginning to form in her eyes. I did not want to embarrass her by asking people to give her some space, so I decided to make them uncomfortable around us. I looked at my mother and stated flatly, but loudly, “I’m considering converting to Satanism.”


“It’s not that much different than the snake handling we already do, Mum.”
Everyone around us suddenly needed urgently to be elsewhere. Even the people behind us in line took a giant step back. The panic drained from my mother’s eyes and we made it out of the store without her breaking down. We laughed about it on the walk back to her apartment.

The second time wasn’t a shopping trip but a ride on the CTA bus when I was 18. We were going to Aldi’s to buy the cheapest canned goods in town. The bus wasn’t that crowded when we got on at Ashland and Division. We found a two seater bench facing the front on the bus and I sat next to the window. My mom sat next to me on the seat next to the aisle. I watched the grayness of my mom’s neighborhood sail by the window as we headed north. Each stop seemed to exponentially increase the number of passengers sharing our ride. By the time we had gone a mile, the aisle was full of people standing and holding on to poles, the backs of seats, or whatever they could find to steady themselves. My mother’s hand began to twitch. There were too many people close to her, invading her space. I had to act.

“Are you going to kill the goat or am I?”

“You can kill it, Kelli”

“If I have to drink the blood, I shouldn’t have to kill the goat.”

“Fine, I’ll kill the goat.”

People tripped over themselves to get away from us. My mother was still a little twitchy and irritable when we got off the bus. I hadn’t been able to keep her claustrophobia completely at bay, but it was not as bad as a full blown episode and she calmed down by the time we had finished shopping.

I am glad that I inherited this oddness from my mother, this joy in playing with people’s minds and refusing to conform to social norms. It pleases me that my children have inherited this quirk from me. My daughter Jovial, who resembles my mother both in appearance and temperament, will face the back of an elevator and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” until she reaches her floor. All four of my girls and I will play Marco Polo in stores, create instant parodies of popular songs when we are walking places, and speak in complete gibberish to each other. When we go out to eat, we will switch places whenever our server leaves the table. We are never bored, no matter where we are or what we do. Nor was I bored growing up thanks in a large part to my mother. She has been gone for almost a decade, but that special oddness about her lives on in me and my children.