Category Archives: Memories

Death at the Clip & Curl

Death at the Clip & Curl

 

We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.                                –Maggie O’Farrell, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

We were alone, just the incredibly odd man and me. I thought it was the end for me, but what could I do about it? Scream, absolutely. Talk my way out of it, doubtful. Fight, sure, but given my lack of physical prowess, not a viable solution.

It was a day of heavy, jet-lag-meets-the-flu fatigue, arms too heavy to do my hair, much less my job. I pulled into what I shall call the “Clip & Curl” to have someone shampoo and blow-dry my tired hair. A lone stylist was there, a man. I did not think much of it until it was too late.

I do not frequent walk-in salons, but I had a chaotic day ahead and needed help, so I went into the no-frills vanilla salon. The only staff member there was a medium-sized man of about forty. I cannot say he greeted me, just soberly showed me back to the shampoo area and prepared me for what I hoped would be a relaxing head massage and speedy hair styling. Straightaway the man was odd.

His movements were exaggeratedly staccato, as was his infrequent speech.  He said absolutely nothing as he yanked a towel around my neck and fastened the shampoo smock so tightly I could scarcely breathe. I reached up and loosened it. He placed another towel under my neck in a heap as I leaned back onto the cold shampoo chair and stared up at the faded fluorescent lights. He is tad rough, I thought. I tried to settle in, wondering if my hair would actually look worse when I left the Clip & Curl.

He brushed my hair roughly and positioned it back into the shampoo bowl with a thud! I was reminded of Mom giving me a ponytail as a kid, pulling my hair back so tightly I looked like a different child. The woman was impervious to certain kinds of pain and thought her children should be too. Impervious to pain and clean, very clean.

The water was uncomfortably hot, then freezing, hot, then ice cold. I felt a mighty blob of shampoo dumped on top of my head; it felt like enough do three people. He slapped the product on and around the periphery of my head in quick staccato movements, then grasped the sides of my head with both hands and squeezed my head firmly as he rotated it, like a melon!  He scrubbed each section exceedingly hard, then twisted my head and squeezed some more. I do not remember ever having my head squeezed at a salon. My hair is thin as it is, I wondered how much of it I would have left when he finished.

That was when I realized no one else had come in for service. We were alone. Positioned behind a partition about shoulder height, no one could see me, even if they did come in.

He put a hand on each side of my neck and began squeezing, rubbing, and twisting, all the while I could feel the lump of shampoo on my head. This was so far from the head massage I had hoped for, more like a prelude to strangling!

I remained calm; if the stylist was determined to choke the life out of me, I needed to have a defense plan. I decided to make polite conversation in an attempt to dispel any demons he may have been exorcising at the time. How long had he worked there, I asked shakily. Five years, he said. This gave me some comfort; surely, he could not have done anyone in and still be there! I was encouraged.

My fears were no more abated than he began pushing my head down in the stream of hot water, and the head squeezing torture began again. My body was actually coming out of the chair as my head dipped further and further into the shampoo bowl! So, he was going to drown me, not choke me. Was that a better way to go?

I looked from side to side for anything I could pick up to slug him with–nothing for at least three feet. I thought of my upbringing, treating everyone with respect even though you do not approve of their methodology. I tried conversation again. Do you have many clients drop in on a typical Wednesday morning? I inquired. He replied, very few. My heart sank as my head did.

I flashed back again to the days Mom washed my hair. I hated these episodes so badly that they purchased a professional salon device that fit over the sink so my waist-long hair could flow back and my neck would not hurt. This made no difference whatsoever; my mother was rough as a Sumo wrestler and every bit as strong, it still felt like she was trying to kill me. At this point, the odd man glared down at me coldly.

His eyes were tiny narrow slits of hollow disregard, his hair close-cropped and severe, he had long Ichabod Crane fingers that wrapped around my head, and thin, very pursed lips. Was he grinding his teeth?? This was decidedly a bad sign; he had taken a dislike to me from the get-go! I was going to die at the Clip & Curl.

I invoked a silent prayer, God, its Karen, you know that matter we discussed this morning? Please cancel that and instead focus on this scary head squeezer.

Not even fifty yards away people were driving right by us, oblivious that just a few doors down a fairly nice, albeit persnickety, sixty-six-year-old was being killed at the Clip & Curl!

Then, as abruptly as the torment began, it ended, and I was allowed to sit up. The man blew my hair dry in a manner I shall never forget, stopping after each swipe of the dryer to put both the dryer and brush down. This took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but he never uttered a word.

I did not die of drowning or choking but emerged looking a bit like Ethyl Merman. Wonder if she went to the Clip & Curl too? She did pass on. . .

Let’s all observe a moment of silence for those days your hair was perfect and you ran into absolutely no one. All day long, no one .— Pinterest, unknown author

 

One More Midnight Confession

One More Midnight Confession

Sometimes I miss the younger woman I was. I do not look back and wish I had done this or that; I did most of it. What I do look back at with longing is the untamed spirit I had. The years have refined me, smoothed out my uncultivated surfaces, and tamed me.

Something as simple as driving, I saw as an adventure. I have collected more miles than average on my vehicles and it has not always been smooth cruising, or parking for that matter.

After overspending at the mall, I returned to my Jeep to find a policeman waiting for me. “Mam, your vehicle has been involved in a hit-and-run” he announced.

I told him I did not have a self-driving vehicle, so that was just not possible. He ushered me to the side of my car which revealed the entire side smashed as if I’d been in a significant accident.

A very-sturdy looking soldier approached, telling us he had “seen the whole thing.” We inquired how my car got smashed with no driver. He replied, “See that big green truck parked five spaces down?” We did see it. “He missed the space beside you and hit your car, got out, surveyed the damage, then moved his truck down a few spaces.” When the young driver returned to his green truck, he had quite the greeting party.  Read the rest of this entry

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

“The warnings grew worse, depending on the danger at hand. Sex education, for example, consisted of the following advice: ‘Don’t ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can’t stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill youself.” ― Amy TanThe Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

 

The rare advice my Mom gave did come from left field, but thank God it was not as daunting as the warnings issued by Amy Tan’s Mom. Moms will dish out advice, generally unsolicited. My Mom was a different bird; she had a unique way of seeing the world and responding to it.

Mom shared her opinions frequently but seldom words of advice. She was terribly in love with her kids and guided us the best she knew how. I found her funny and intimidating in equal measure. Some of her words of wisdom still make me howl with laughter.

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Dreams, Memes, and Circus Clowns

Dreams, Memes, and Circus Clowns

“The circus is a jealous wench. Indeed that is an understatement. She is a ravening hag who sucks your vitality as a vampire drinks blood – who kills the brightest stars in her crown and will allow no private life for those who serve her; wrecking their homes, ruining their bodies, and destroying the happiness of their loved ones by her insatiable demands. She is all of these things, and yet, I love her as I love nothing else on earth.”

-Henry Ringling North, The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story

 

At about seven years of age, I first went to the circus in South Dakota. I was overwhelmed with the largest crowd I had ever seen, the organ music, the enormous animals, and sheer excitement of it. They were selling tiny green chameleons that magically turned the color of your blouse or anything else you placed it on. I never gave a thought as a child to the fate of the little creature, the performing animals who were constricted to circus life, or the folks who lived the circus life.

I haven’t been to the circus for forty years. Even before we knew of the alleged mistreatment of animals and the perils of circus life for performers, I hated to see wild animals in captivity. I remember the last time I attended watching a regal white tiger run circles ad nauseam within a huge sphere; it was heartbreaking to me. I’m sure it was to the animal too. That was my last circus.

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Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys, in-di-gestion!

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Oliver! -Lionel Bart

I love to eat. Constantly. If I am not eating I am thinking of food. You too? I figured. Eating makes us happy in a way nothing else can. Dining not only fuels our bodies and senses but is a superglue binding our memories and emotions. Those endorphins are furrowed right into our little taste buds.

When that combination of hot peach cobbler and sweet ice cream hits my tongue, I am right back in 1966, huddled around Grandma Sander’s kitchen table with my sister Jan and Roger and Howard Sanders. We are playing a game; I don’t remember it, just the flavor of her cobbler and ice cream like I have a bowl of it right here. I can feel the affection of those old friends and hear the music we sang. “Make the world go away, get it off my shoulder.” Cochran, Hank 1960

Unknown Coffee

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A Valentine to My Younger Self

A Valentine to My Younger Self

“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.”  Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing

 My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.

I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.

30 B-Day Cake (3)

My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.

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Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Wakonda high school, hats off to thee.

And our colors, true to thee we’ll ever be.

Firm and strong united are we!

Hoorah rah rah, Hoorah for Wakonda high school!

 

When I was a kid we lived in the Tundra for eight years. The incessant cold all but atrophied my grey matter; the above is what is left in the memory bank of our school song, a cloudy memory from the second grade. This Christmas season brings back memories of that time, and my parents, whom I miss more than I can say. This was a divine time in our lives, a time of innocence and possibility.

Our first years as a family were fairly idyllic in small town South Dakota, Wakonda, population 405. Wakonda is an Osage Indian word meaning “Great Creator”, an abstract, omnipresent spirit. Curious that my awareness and seeking of God began when we lived in Wakonda.

SD House Sized (2)

My folk’s first home was actually their dream home; they paid less for it than you would a used car now.  It was on a corner two acre lot with cherry trees, apple trees and crab-apple trees. This place was an absolute marvel for a kid!

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What We Kept

What We Kept

“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.” ― Crystal Woods, Write Like No One Is Reading

 

I moved recently, and learned some things about myself. One of them is that I am exceedingly and rather pathetically sentimental. I found items preserved for years that reasonable adults do not to cling to.

I have two jewelry boxes, not because I have marvelous jewelry, but because they are both filled with small treasures.  The content, bits and pieces of my life.

I found name badges from jobs gone by; there were many. What do I think I can do with these?

Actually, one did come in handy on a date with a memory challenged bucket head who kept calling me Linda. I went to my car and retrieved one of them, put it on, went back into the restaurant, pointed to my name, Karen, and asked him if he thought he could just read it. Again, boy can I pick em!

There were three large copper colored sequins at the bottom of one box. These were tossed onto me by Bernadette Peters at her concert with the OKC philharmonic. To date, they have imparted no more musical talent than I had before.

Enormous peach colored, dangling, ball earrings were way back in the corner of the larger box. Dad chose these for my birthday all by himself when I was about fourteen. I also found a blue western blouse in the closet he helped me buy for a rodeo when I was in the eighth grade. The man would rather take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than shop for or with a woman. But, do I really need to cart these around for 40 more years?

In that same closet I found a long, glittered, wildly patterned, purple dress I wore in 1972 when Kelly and I were chosen as a duo for the Varsity Revue at Oklahoma State University. I thought I’d wear it to my church’s annual Mardi Gras fund raiser.

I could get it on it on but I could not breathe-much.  I could not bend-at all. I wore stretch pants and a top.

Two little lapel pins that say “Never too Old to Rock and Roll” were in the bottom drawer along with an old ticket stub from a Kenny Loggins concert, circa 1985, marked $8.50. Under the lapel pins was a check made out on my account for one million bucks and signed by Kenny, right after he kissed me. Backstage passes-those were the days!

An extra large, very brittle, medication capsule Dad used for horses when he was in practice rolled out from the back. Really? There was a champagne stained Golden West Broadcasting bookmark signed by Gene Autry dated November 5th 1980, and a worn out “Winnie the Pooh” watch.

So many things I should have let go of years ago, like the three tiny pink buttons from my Aunt Alma’s nightgown that I wore for years. They are what is left of it.

And, evidently I am a Christmas card hoarder. Who knew? You could wallpaper the louvre with the cards I found! To my credit, I kept lovely ones. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all of them one day. . .

Three cat eye marbles rolled out of a tiny marble bag. Dad sewed Mark and I these bags himself to hold our marbles when we were kids. I can’t just toss those can I?

Examination of a crumpled, very old cocktail napkin with a really nice ink sketch on it revealed a little note on the backside that said “Someday, when I get a job, will you marry me?”  I did not.  I suspect this was kept for the ink sketch.

There was also a Christmas list sent to me by my niece Katy when she was about nine. On it, her hearts desires. At the bottom she closed with “I love you more than life itself”.

There were a couple treasured cassettes from my singing days, recorded with Howard, the singing partner of my youth. “Make the World Go Away. . .” I wonder if I even have a device to play them on now.

The pièce de résistance though was a glob of candle wax. Yes, I saved a glob of candle wax.  It is a particularly artful, lovely glob. I saved it not because it held a particularly warm memory from a night of extended passion, but because it was striking. I offer exhibit A, to the left.

Why do in the Lord’s world do we keep these things? Because, they give witness to our lives. It really happened. I still miss her. We were all there. It was a beautiful trip. I wish I could do that again!  I was in love then. My Mom was proud so of that!  That was so much fun. . .

Think back. What are you silly sentimental about? What did you keep?

“Sentimental blackmailing is the melodrama done by heart over our brain.” -Upasana Banerjee

An Ordinary November Day

An Ordinary November Day

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” ― Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

One plain ordinary day in November can change you forever.  You can have dinner; sit down to once again dull that rational part of your brain with mindless television, and it can happen.  Your life can change forever.

I am the same me that I was in the October, the same me I was when I was forty eight, the same me I was last week.  Aren’t I?  No, I don’t feel the same now, not at all.

I remember October, back when I was me.  I was out in the garden late in the afternoon when a colossal gust of wind whipped around me and almost tossed me into the pool. The evening was sooo perfect, the late sun shimmering on the water and that burgundy coleus smiling up at me.  I looked out toward the buoyant elephant ears waving back and forth.  Seeing the wind’s effect on the pool, I attempted to catch the scene with my new camera, the only one I’ve had that requires thinking. (A little late in life to start that habit.)

As I focused on the picture I wondered if that particular gust of wind had ever washed over me before. Where does it go? How far does that same gust of wind travel?  Does it circle around to the other side of the world and then come back?  Did that delightful Massaman curry scent from dinner a couple weeks ago just float through London on its way back to Bryant Street in Edmond?

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Is it possible the same wind could touch you twice?  Could that wind that swept through your hair as you played in the leaves with your nieces so many years ago, the wet breeze that chased you through the parking lot at Rose State the day you won third place in the writing contest,  and that cold current you felt when your life stopped right after dinner be the same wind? Could the wind go all the way back to yesterday when you were still you?

I go back to the words, read my own, and once again see that sad square box that holds me, confines me, and gives me a wretched deceptive sense of security.  No, I won’t be that prim little middle class Pollyanna.  Not anymore.

I didn’t ask for the rose colored glasses and I hate the square box; I am done.  This practice of writing has caused decisive hairline fractures in the box and some of the cloistered me is trickling out.

At the checkout stand in the grocery store I swiped my credit card for payment and the lit words appeared on the screen, asking me if I wanted debit or credit.  I saw a word that surprised me.  Flashing on the screen was “procrastinating–procrastinating”.  What it actually said was processing– processing.  Yes, I was doing both.

So, I slowly allow my tired eyes to see what they never wanted to; my unsteady heart both dreading and wanting the painful truth.  I wish I could unknow this truth, but realize I cannot escape the pain. It does not come all at once; by degrees I let it come.  I have to bear the catastrophe.  I cannot go back and be the fair-haired Pollyanna; I never liked the stupidamnshitty girl anyway.

When I was young I thought I was invincible and invisible and did anything I thought I was big enough to do. I constantly surprised myself.  What happened to that girl with freedom of spirit?  I need her now.  Where is she?  This me-is drained of spirit and light. This me-is in the dark and angry.

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Just get ready for work I tell myself; do what you do each day. Without the ability to focus I am scattered, can’t steady my legs under me which shake uncontrollably.  Just brush your teeth-you can do that, I tell myself.  I look down in the sink and see a fly lying there on her back struggling frantically to right her posture. She and I are the same.  She just wants to survive the day, just function, just feel normal.  Not drown in a stream of sad reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  I will not be consumed by this dark hurt; I don’t want scar tissue to build up on my heart.  I will not give over to despair-often. On this ordinary day I will do what I do each day; I will turn inward to God.

“The whole problem with people is…they know what matters, but they don’t choose it…The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” ― The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”  ― Sylvia Plath

 

Aunt Helen’s muscadine jelly is all gone, even the emergency jar I kept in case I needed consolation. This generates a pang of deep loss in my gut. But, there are two tiny containers of Mom’s muscadine jelly left! This morning I lathered it on my biscuits. I refuse to share this jelly, ever. Maybe with my sister Jan, if she was here. Maybe.

This is my holding on to Mom and Aunt Helen, who have both passed. I reserve this jelly for hard days when I need their help, days when I can find no inspiration. When there are no more shoulders to stand on, no more jelly, what will I do? These two women, resilient each in her own way, helped light the path for me.

But, the disparities between my mother’s life and mine were significant. She had a way of nesting comfortably at home, right from the get go. She married at eighteen and started a family before you could say “Nuthin says lovin like sumthin from the oven!”windowIMG_0139

Mom and Aunt Helen both knew the art of domestic flourishing. Me, not so much. I can sell thousands of dollars’ worth of darn near anything, but could not make an edible Italian Crème Cake if you threatened a flogging in the town square.

The way Mom nested so deeply at home was always a mystery to me. I could not grasp, not only her satisfaction with her life of domesticity but her enthusiasm for it.

Did I on some level back then believe my world of career advancements and adventure held more value than Mom’s world of domesticity? That her world of being at home was not as significant as my world of exploring?

Mom had dreams of having her own career; she was very bright and capable. She possessed uncanny knowledge, with the most remarkable intuition regarding physiology and disease states. She used to muse that she would like to have been a surgeon. But, times were different back then. And beyond that, she knew that achievement out in the world was not her focus.

Mom consistently encouraged me to go for it; she lived vicariously through my recounted adventures. I imagine she yearned for the level of freedom I enjoyed. Back then women had so many limits on their lives, some self-imposed out of a sense of duty, but also imposed by society, spouses and children.

Mom was brilliant in the kitchen, whipping up something that made your toes curl in delight, a natural at it. When she brought sick neighbors a peach cobbler, they were almost glad they got sick!

She was an authority on tending home; she could do it all. Like a new dress? She’d create one on her Singer. Want advice on minding your garden? The woman had a super green thumb.  Need art for your living room?  Dale could paint one for you in oils, watercolor, or charcoal you would be proud of.

Compelled by a strong desire to be “out there”, I was birthing success in my sales career, exploring yet unrecognized talents, expressing myself creatively, traveling, riding bikes, volunteering, writing, walking for hours on end, and seeking ways to deepen my spiritual journey. In addition, I was single for many years and making a living had to be a priority.

As the wrinkles collect though, the more I nest. I long to see all my little critters at the end of the day. I have been able to rest in myself through prayer meditation for many years now. Domesticity though, is pretty much a messy struggle. Still.

I can see this is how my Mom’s spirituality showed up. It was a lovely gift wasn’t it? It was given often without thanks or ceremony. Mom was very guarded with her true feelings; (but certainly not her opinions) she was not one to verbally express her faith in God. It was always implied, always there, just under the surface-lovingly expressed in gifts of home for her family.

“When did the choices get so hard

with so much more at stake.

Life gets mighty precious

when there’s less of it to waste”

Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time