Bless her heart
I say "bless her heart" when I'm about to layer on a double coat of bitchiness. It's like offering up a sugary sweet sarcasm sundae before a heapin' helpin' of my grandmother's Tuesday night liver and onions. These three little words remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout learns what a real lady is while watching Miss Maudie navigate the tense, socially restrictive, shark infested waters of Southern decorum. "Bless her heart" is like learning to play at guerrilla warfare with women who sincerely think their children look cute in monogrammed seersucker dress sets with watermelon appliques. Bless their hearts.
Because I said so
Yeah, I say it. I say it and I mean it. I say it because I can't scream, "Goddamit, I'm the grown up and you have to do what I say!" I swore I would never utter these words when I was a parent. Not because my parents did. If the discussion had reached that point with my parents, I would be feelin' the back of somebody's hand, I promise you that. I swore I wouldn't use it because it makes adults sound like such total douche bags. You want me to clear my plate because you said so? You want me to go to bed because you said so? Seriously? I just imagine the only logical response to that is "Well, fu#k you then!" I mean, can't I summon up the control and love and articulate why? Not because my kids get to decide if what I say is a good enough reason to do my bidding, but because when you're relentlessly bossed around, it would be nice to know why. Yet still, I say it because no matter how much I dislike it, I can be a total douche bag.
Baby, fix your mama a drink
I swear, I'm not a drunk. I'm a crazy bitch. I'll give you that, but I ain't a drunk. I've been sending my oldest child to whip up cocktails since she was 12. It's disgraceful, isn't it? She can shake up a Caribbean pineapple on the rocks or a frozen margarita in a flash and she doesn't even expect a tip! Sometimes, she just keeps my glass filled with the cheap white wine she knows I like. I call that good training.
I don't mean to be ugly, but...
Bullshit. I mean to be as ugly as possible. For instance, when my fellow concessions volunteer shows up at Sharpe Stadium with her Guinness Book of World Records finger nails, her club ready up 'do, a tank top she's rigged with some elaborate pulley system to keep her 40 year old breasts where they were on her chest 20 years ago, and her size 26 bootie shoved into a size 8 pair of hot pants, I say discreetly to my husband later, "I don't mean to be ugly, but did she plan on selling nachos or her coochie pop tonight?"
I fu#king hate the word awesome. Awesome is like the kudzu of adjectives. When I was in my late teens, it started growing all over my conversations and then, BAM! I'm knockin' on 40 and everything in my life is awesome. I made a concentrated effort to eliminate the word from my vocabulary a few years back. Whenever I went to say awesome, I'd smack myself mentally and replace that over used word with spectacular and fabulous. I'm a smart chick who knows big words, goddamit. Why the hell do I use awesome like I'm a youth pastor all jacked up on Jesus and Jamba Juice? I made the effort and yet still, life is awesome.
See, I was born in New Jersey and raised by Yankees in coastal Alabama. My mama and daddy didn't say "y'all." They said "you guys" or "yous." Now, of course, I heard plenty of "y'all" elsewhere, believe me, but by the time I took notice enough to adopt it into my everyday vocabulary, I held everything in the not-so-quiet disdain of youth. I was better than the colloquialisms the good country people used and that included the word "y'all." I had it in my head that saying "y'all" sounded ignorant. Can you believe my come uppin's? All that changed when I was speaking to a ladies group in Elberton a few years back. A called them "you guys." A formidable older woman gave a reproachful little cough and said, "Dear, there are no 'guys' present. We are ladies." She didn't mean to be ugly, she was just statin' the truth. Now, I love to hear the Indigo Girls end a tune on stage with "Thanks, y'all!" but every time Brittany Spears or Paula Deen or some other crackalackin' Southerner says it in that dumbass accent, I die a little. When I say it I mean it more like my favorite lesbian singers than those hillbillies, y'all.
While you'll never hear me screaming, "Hunter, quit it!" down at the Wal-Mart, I still lose my mind every now and then and yell these terribly white trash words at my Littles. It's not just the words, it's the accent and the inflection. "Quit it!" means I've allowed my Littles' bad behavior to escalate to the point of making a public display. Not the kind of display that folks just look at with a smile and say "Kids will be kids!" I'm talkin' 'bout the kind of display that makes you wonder what the hell you were thinking, having all these damn kids, as you scramble around grasping at bits and pieces of good parenting tips you've read about in books with glossy pictures of happy children who don't get into screaming matches with their sisters over who gets to push the cart. Sweet baby Jesus, seriously? Y'all, quit it!
Screw you, bitches. This post does not constitute a list. Peace, B.
This column first appeared in the 05.29.11 edition of the Covington News.
Summer is the best time of year for our family. Mr. OFM is more available to us throughout June and July as he prepares for another marching season with the Alcovy Tiger Band. We spend a ton of time together as a family.
Summer means our backyard becomes Party Central for two straight months. Slip n' slides, movies projected on the back of the house, fairy houses, picnics, clubs and forts, gardening, and grilling - our back yard is THE place to be for the under 12 set.
This year, with gas prices so high, we'll be mostly sticking close to home. The most important investment I make each year to guarantee a happy summer is the purchase of a new tent. We set one up right after school gets out and it stays up for the duration. It'll wear down after two months of weather and clubhouse fun, but it's money well spent. The kids stay in that thing almost non-stop. The bickering is at a minimum and the imagination knows no limits. That tent will be a swanky NYC apartment, a space ship, the Best Buddy Club (or the BBC as the little-Little calls it and then, she wonders why we all start talking funny), an art studio, hair salon, secret laboratory and whatever else they can cook up together.
And that's the beauty of the tent. Our children are together, enjoying one another's company and the freedom that tent means over a long, hot summer. Their friends will join them off and on, sleeping over and adding their own bits of wonderful to the experience, but in the end, it's my Littles having the time of their lives with one another. Even the teenager will hang out every now and then. She may be too cool for a lot of things, but she's not too cool for loving her family, appreciating a space that they command and making her little sisters happy by spending time with them.
I love seeing what they take out to the tent. The first few trips always include what they absolutely cannot live without and I learn a lot about who they are. I learn which dolls are "supposed" to go outdoors and why a colander, a pack of pipe cleaners and a tutu are necessities in the wild. My middle-Little is in the midst of a great love affair with manga and space, so binoculars, her charcoal pencils, a sketch pad and a chart of the evening sky were the first to go. Then, comes the bedding, the camp tables, the video games, the stacks of books and other essentials of living 10-feet away from their own backdoor for the summer.
We almost always end our evenings with some marshmallows roasting over the fire pit. Isn't that just straight out of the Brady Bunch? I think that was before Cousin Oliver arrived and ruined everything. If my kids are lucky, I have graham crackers and chocolate bars for s'mores. We sit around the fire, licking gooey sweetness off our fingers and telling the same stories we always have - Greek myths, European folktales, and stores of growing up poor in a little old town called Satsuma, Alabama. Every now and then, my husband will bring out a drum for each of us and we'll enjoy an impromptu drum circle around the fire. We may be living in the southern United States, but on nights like those, the music takes us all to faraway places where our kitty, Bella, might be a lioness about to pounce on her prey.
I'd be lying if I didn't disclose that part of the appeal of having this tent in the backyard is that it keeps my kids out of my hair for most of the day. I do enjoy my children, but I also enjoy a vacation from them. (Who's with me, mamas?) We have power running out to that tent, so they have a fan and lights. They even have an ice chest, so they can get their own ice pops and treats. They can turn the hose on and slip n' slide or chase one another to cool down as well. It's so much freedom for really good kids and a mama tired from a full year of school days.
I get that we're a weird family. We play board games almost every night at supper and we make it a priority to be together during meal times. We bowl together and pull our kids out of school for rallies or concerts or whatever else we deem important enough. We have impromptu drum circles. I get that we're weird, but some things are just universal in their appeal. The summertime tent is one of them. I'm tellin' ya, friends, it's a wise investment for making some quality family time.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.