Just Another Brick

imagesWhat if I told you that every ideology that your favorite politician wants to sell you as the key to making America great again has an actual body count, a human story behind it?

American Airlines flight 605 was fully boarded this morning, as far as I knew.  Any minute, a flight attendant was going to walk up the aisle, shutting the doors to the overhead storage, and it wasn’t going to matter one bit that I didn’t get my customary, complimentary bump to first class; one row behind was just fine because my seat in row 5 was the only one that had a butt in it.  I had the whole port side of the plane to myself for my flight to Cancun, Mexico, where I still had a two hour drive ahead of me. Until.

Instead of readying the plane for takeoff, the flight attendant backed herself down the aisle and motioned to someone I could not see yet.  What does one call an airport candy-striper?  A porter?  A people transporter?  Whatever his job title, a strong man dressed in an ambiguous uniform that was part pilot and part maître de wheeled a feeble Latina woman to my aisle and stopped.  They were followed by a señorita with a wavy black mane and dressed in a Marine Corps tee shirt.  My seat mates had arrived.

And you know what?   It didn’t suck, not having a whole row to myself.  I had the window seat and it was barely even a three hour flight.  It would have been hard to find something to complain about, even if I’d really been in a mood to.  Not that I’m in the habit of quoting Kanye, but how you gon’ be mad on vacation?

I struck up a conversation because going to Mexico to hang out with authors and screen writers can really only change a girl so much.  Or so little, truth be told.

My very up close neighbor asked if I had gum.  She hit the jackpot because I had a bag of 180 pieces of Trident White in my laptop case.  Realizing this, she asked for two.  She wanted one for her grandmother, too.  I know the trick; that’s why I was prepared.  Chewing helps keep the ears clear during ascent and descent.

I wish I asked her name.  She was from Detroit, but we ended up on the same flight out of Raleigh this morning on account of her family moving south a couple of years ago.  She lives down near Fayetteville now.  The Marine Corps tee shirt, she told me, was something she picked up when she went to her cousins graduation from boot camp at Lejeune.  He, like she and her sister, were born here.  In the US, I mean.  Not here.  That was hours ago and I’m in Tulum now.  She was definitely not born here.  This was her first trip to Mexico.  She was a little cagier about her parents’ origin, but it didn’t need to be said.  While she filled out the customs declaration forms for the two of them, I noticed that Grandma was traveling on a Mexican passport.

Grandma, coughed and her granddaughter doted.  Grandma drifted off to sleep and she resumed our conversation.  She told me about oversleeping and how rushed that made everything because she lives about seventy five minutes from the airport.  It was hard, she told me.  They were already running late but they had to hurry through security and it fell to her to break up the final hug between her mother and her mother’s mother.  “I’m sorry that I had to tell them to stop, but we had to go!”  She was still justifying, but she didn’t need to.

I asked, but I don’t know why.  “Can your parents maybe go to Mexico to visit her?”
My God I’ve never seen so much sadness on such a young face – and I have daughters.

They can’t, she told me, because they wouldn’t be allowed back into the US.  They’ve lived here twenty five years, guys.  That’s longer than my own three children.

My seatmate told me she’s turning nineteen on April 15th.  Tax day.

Today, a woman who’s probably about my very age just had to hug her own mother goodbye.  She won’t be there to hold her hand or hear her last words.  She won’t be at the funeral.

There’s already a wall, and there are a million other families just like this one who have been making payments like this for a hundred years.

God, help them.

Writing on the Wall

20160329_200831The taxi driver that took us from our train station to our apartment was not drunk. More dangerously, he was Neapolitan and there are no laws against driving that way. In fact, in Napoli, I don’t believe there are many laws prohibiting much of anything. The subdivision of my heart that is Libertarian did a lot of soul searching regarding my belief in less regulation of the people during our first twenty-four hours there.

Piero, our cabbie, drove us in what we would discover was not the most direct route from point A to point B – a trait that is common among his profession world wide – but we did not mind. He was gregarious and delightfully blended a brief history of the city with making fun of my Italian. He slung his right arm over the passenger seat so that he could pivot himself to look at us in the backseat as we conversed, all while fearlessly driving us up streets that were not wide enough to be two lanes, but were still, frighteningly, multi-directional.

We were in Napoli because we wanted to visit Pompeii. That’s a half-day’s worth of activity at best, so the rest of our days there were just for adventure. If I had researched the city before hand, I most assuredly would not have gone. Organized crime controlled government has allowed the illegal dumping of pollutants for years, causing both their land and water to become toxic. The cancer rates are astronomical, as are birth defects. Plus, there’s a waking volcano next door just waiting to fuck up European air traffic and dominate the 24 hour news cycle for years!

No amount of research would have prepared me for the fact that everything one wishes to see or do in Naples is inevitably up hill; that the city planner threw a plate of cooked spaghetti on the ground and built the road maps to mimic the mess; that some roads suddenly, and without any prior warning, turn into steps; or that everyone has a dog, but no one has a lawn and they’ve never heard of poop bags.

To say it’s kind of shitty is an understatement.

And still, by the time Piero swerved his taxi into oncoming traffic so that he could park upon the opposing sidewalk to let us out, I had already decided that someday I would live in this seaside slum. The City of the Damned grabbed me hard. I think I fell in love with their utter lack of care about what the tourists might think.

When perched high upon a hill top to enjoy the bay and Vesuvius from afar, tens of thousands of antennae are a part of the vista that one’s eyes must be trained to see beyond. I’m not sure if they don’t yet have cable television, or these are left over from long ago. Given the number of Maradona posters still decorating the city, I don’t get the feeling these are a people that are ready to let go of the 1980’s just yet.

From up close at ground level there is nowhere the eye can be directed that it does not land upon graffiti. In Italy, everyone is an artist and in Napoli, I believe they issue spray paint with birth certificates.

Our host explained that there is much seisma in the region. In America, we call those earthquakes and add them to the list we might have compiled of reasons not to visit Napoli, southern Italy, or anywhere in the Mediterranean for that matter. Thank Jupiter for a sense of adventure that is sometimes confused for academic laziness, or I would have missed my dingy little paradise.

Because of the seisma, so many of the buildings are cracked or have crumbling stucco. Last spring it appeared that there was a fledgling effort to start repairing some of the exterior damage. A few buildings were recently plastered and repainted in vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges that one might associate with the region. As new as this effort to refurbish appears, graffiti is already popping up on some of the fresh paint. Nobody is trying to wash it away. And why would they? It would just get re-tagged.

But so too, why would they have bothered with the exterior remodels? Next week the land beneath them is going to vibrate off their plasters again and re-open their cracks. I’m curious to see this summer just how far the revitalization effort has moved in a year.

Maybe revitalization is the wrong word. The city is far from dead. Sick, perhaps, but still so very alive.

This morning I read a discussion between my friend, the talented film-maker, Jonathan Landau and one of his buddies concerning the meetings between house members, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. Jonathan said the writing is on the wall; impeachment is only a matter of time.

Writing on the wall. I will never again hear that turn of phrase that I don’t think of Napoli. I’ve never fostered a fondness for Washington, but it too is a city of graffiti artists. The writing may very well be on the wall, but so what? If you are offended, then you are only a tourist. The locals don’t mind.


I am looking at a dark, pear shaped planet. That’s how I describe my mammogram image to Mike this morning. A mesh of lighted corridors lead, eventually, to a colony settled in the north east.

“Plymouth Rock?” He asks.

“Jersey Shore,” I correct his idea of both the location and the intensity.

“The Situation…” He texts me.

I remind him, and me, that it’s likely nothing more than a Snooki.

There is no history of cancer-of-the-anything in my family.  When my benign ovarian tumor was removed two years ago,  I was tested for the BRCA mutations – just in case.  I’m clean.  This was routine; no reason to worry.

On three occasions in the last two years I’ve sat down for dinner with girlfriends.  They’ve waited until our drinks are ordered to tell me, as if reading from the same script, “I don’t want you to freak out, but I have breast cancer.”

Only now that each of them is safely on this side of their different treatments,  has it occurred to me to wonder why they’d worry about me freaking out.  That’s not me.  Is it?

Probably no.  On Valentines day I accompanied another friend to her biopsy.  Her routine, then follow up mammogram and ultrasound indicated it might be a good idea to get a closer look at one area.   I held her hand and rubbed her back until I was kicked out of the room for the procedure.  See, I am not the freaker-outer.

It wasn’t losing her breasts that scared her,  she tearily confided.  It was her hair.  She shored up her own courage by deciding that, if worse came to worse, she’d get bright, rainbow mermaid hair before it all fell out.

The next morning, as fate would have it, I was scheduled for my annual mammogram.  I said a little prayer to the gods of radiology for my friend and they were answered.   It was benign.  But I bet, and this is just between you and me, now that the idea of mermaid hair has grabbed her she won’t wait until tragedy.  Perspective, once found,  can be a real bitch to shake.  Once we’ve realized that there are no points for self-denial just for the sake of self-denial, there is no end to what a woman might do for herself.

A week later, it is my turn in the hot seat.   There was a spot on my right breast. I found myself sitting in a waiting room appointed in the most annoying shade of pink, skipping ahead in my mind and wondering about my hair.  I’d shave it,  I decided, and send it to a wig maker.  I could still wear my own hair, right?  Or maybe I’d just stay bald.  There’s so much beauty in loss.

In this manner, I’ve already found my perspective.   My summer in Italy is my friend’s mermaid hair.  It’s the thing I am doing when I literally have nothing left to lose; the thing I wonder why I waited so long to stop making excuses not to do.  It’s the thing,  I suddenly worry, that a breast cancer diagnosis could really muck up right now.

I am not a freaker-outer, and to continue not being a freaker-outer, I stop thinking about that and  strike up conversations with the four other women sitting with me in our front-opening hospital gowns.  One had pain and a lump she was getting checked out.  The others had been called back, like me, because of a shadow on a routine image.  The conversations between us were frank and open and if we’d been left in that room ten more minutes…well, I don’t think it’s that far fetched that we might have pulled out our boobs for comparison.  Sisterhood, I’ve found, is only ever born of perspective – and we were all there this morning to get some of that, one way or another.

Once finished with my ultrasound, the radiologist said he saw no reason for a biopsy.  I cleaned up and dressed.  On my way to check out, I looked into the unoccupied room with the mammography machine and said another little prayer to the radiology gods.  Please, don’t let these women wait too long to find their mermaid hair.

Pillow Talk

From an actual conversation in bed tonight:

“I read an interesting penis article today. ”

“Here we go.”  Two seconds ago he thought we were finished talking and I would let him fall asleep now. 

“Did you know in outer space your lower extremities don’t exist? ”

“Beg pardon?”

“There’s no up or down,  like Ender figured out in the arena at battle school.”

“Serena, there was no mention of a penis in Ender’s Game.”  His tone is something close to accusation of blasphemy. 

“Correct.   And that would be a story, not an article.”  I’m a stickler for semantics. “So if there’s no up or down, there’s no lower extremities.”

“Was this article about disappearing space penises?”

I don’t know where he comes up with this stuff.

“Not exactly.  The article was about how penises shrink in outer space because there is no gravity to help draw blood to the area.”

“Are you stalking NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly again?”

“It’s not stalking if he’s on the space station and literally photographing his location every forty-five minutes.”  I might sound too defensive.   “But no. I wasn’t thinking of Kelly’s penis.  You made this weird.”


“But it made me think – if gravity isn’t helping your blood get to the completely equal extremities, it’s all dependant on your heart.”


“Your heart has to pump extra hard to get blood all the way to your toes because they’re so far away now.  That would be a big strain on cardiac output.”


“You know what this means?”  I feel a baby sob welling in my chest.


“I probably can’t ever go to space.”

:::::: Really loud snore :::::

I didn’t actually have any ideations of space travel; at least, not since 4th grade when Chad Brewer laughed at me and told me girls couldn’t be astronauts.  And right this minute,  I’m losing sleep for the second time in my life over this. 

I hope somebody is snoring in that butt hole Chad Brewer’s face tonight,  too.

Who is a good boy?

In hind site,  nothing about today’s dogastrophe was unpredictable, except maybe the lifetime ban from the pet store.  Did not see that coming when I left the house this morning.

Last week I stopped in to buy a replacement bottle of Woody’s special, $30 medicated shampoo.  Instead of the clear, lavender gel I was expecting at the doggy boutique today, I squirted something that looked and smelled like Johnson’s Baby Lotion all down Woody’s back.  In big, purple letters, the bottle confirmed my mistake.  I bought conditioner, not shampoo.

I swear to you,  I didn’t even know they made dog conditioner.

I used the gentlest shampoo the shop offers, and followed up with a thorough rub down and rinse with this new conditioner.  At least he’ll still get the antibacterial, anti-allergy, anti-yeast, soothing medication, I figured.  I just hoped the shampoo didn’t set off a new skin allergy.  When we were finished, Woody left the beauty shop smelling fine and as soft as a freshly laundered baby bunny – which would terrify him if they ever crossed paths.  He has an exceptionally low prey drive.

Per our bath day ritual,  we walked down to the Mediterranean restaurant on the corner,  where I ordered Woody a plate of lamb.  We sat on the patio while he did tricks to earn every bite.   The patrons always enjoy the Woody show,  and he loves the attention almost as much as he does the people food.

Still feeling frisky from his bath,  I kept him with me while running errands, eventually stopping at the pet store to buy the correct shampoo on the way home.

Woody loves this store, and in his advanced age and new found calm, I bet I could walk him around off leash.

Well,  I would have.  I’d have been dead wrong, but the outcome wouldn’t have been drastically different.

The one exception to his low prey drive is birds.   I’ve watched him grab them right out of the air in our back yard.  Madi employed him, regrettably, to help get a stuck bird out of her bedroom.   Effective, but disgusting, as he vomited the poor starling onto her carpet.

Today,  hunger wasn’t a contributing factor –  his belly was full of lamb.  I think it was just a case of the after bath friskies, combined with,  obviously noticing for the first time,  the pet store’s delectable selection of Parakeets.  It was the perfect storm, really.

My mindless stroll to the grooming aisle was interrupted by a bark, a painful tug, and then sudden slackening of his leash.  I looked up to see Woody in his signature trick, reaching for the sky.  The full weight of a normally sedentary weimaraner fell against the middle case in a stack of glass bird tanks.  It, and the one above crashed to the floor.  

Woody forged into the broken glass, bird bedding, and feathers to pluck himself a chew toy from the flock; a beautiful Carolina Blue one.

The employees outnumbered the customers at that time by about 2.5 to 1, but everybody appeared at the scene of the crime in time to watch Woody take his first chomp of Tweety.  When the bird squeaked, I knew he was done for.   Woody mistook his cry for help and I said aloud, “Oh my God!  He’s going for the squeaker!”

Each little birdy plea egged him on to chomp again until the guy I’m pretty sure was the manager told me to Get. That. Dog. Out.  Now.

I tugged at Woody’s scruff – his collar lay broken at the other end of the leash I was still holding.  It was then that he seemed to come out of his adrenaline trance.  He stood, head cocked in confusion, with the front end of a feebly struggling parakeet hanging from the left side of his mouth.

I was probably in shock, too.  “Do you want him to leave the bird?”

I think he told me to take it, but I wasn’t fully processing everything yet.  I grabbed the top of Woody’s snout and told him to leave it.

He did.   Begrudgingly.

I took him to my car and rolled down the back windows in silence.  I do not know what you say to a dog who just ate an innocent parakeet in public.  With no way to clip him to his car harness, I hoped for the best and went back inside to ask if I could help clean up.

No.  I could not.

Could I at least pay for the bird?

Yes.  Most certainly.

I was still dragging the broken collar on the end of Woody’s leash, I realized.

Can I just go look for a new collar, real quick?


As I was paying for the ABC bird and Woody’s bright,  new collar, the presumed manager came to me to officially excommunicate my dog from the good graces of the pet store.

Sitting on the back deck, thinking I should really have a word with him about today’s events, but still unable to fathom what that word would be I suddenly realized – I forgot to get the shampoo.

Doris and Morgan

In 2012, our teenagers, realizing they’d forgotten to get me a birthday present, made a rather last minute dash to the store looking for something.  Anything.  They returned home with a piñata stuffed full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I emptied her body cavity of goodies and looked long and hard at her face.  “What is your name, lady?”

This magnificent creature used her telepathic powers to tell me her name was Doris.

A couple of months later, under almost exactly the same circumstances, Mike was presented with a piñata of pastel hues bearing Hershey’s Miniatures.  Mike doesn’t possess piñata telepathy, so I translated for him and everyone else that the name was Morgan.  Gender was never discussed.   It was clear Morgan and Doris loved each other very much and who are we to question?

Doris (L) and Morgan (R)

A couple of weeks later, they attended our wedding with us.  That’s where this photo was taken.  They came to a few of our anniversary parties, too, but for years they watched over our family from their perch high atop my china cabinet .  On occasion, we’d look to one of them to officiate heated dinner conversations.  Being forced to talk to a Papier-mâché donkey is a great way to diffuse sibling squabbles.  It works on religious and political debates, too.

A few years ago they were joined by a child piñata, but they were secretive about its name.  One day, who knows when, the child piñata just vanished.  Morgan and Doris never seemed particularly alarmed about it, so we chalked it up to a cultural difference and didn’t worry about it, either.

Since that time, two of our children have finished college.  Two more have gone away to college, and only two of them are left at home.  Suddenly there were smaller and fewer family dinners for Morgan and Doris to oversee.

During the dual floods of 2015 Morgan and Doris took direct hits as the water poured out of our kitchen ceiling.  With plenty of sunshine therapy, they healed good as new – if not a tad bit faded.

In November of this year I relocated Morgan and Doris to our newly (almost) refinished basement.  I thought they’d like the change of scenery, and God knows that room needed a splash of color!  I made plans to hang a shelf up high for them.  Until I could get around to it, they would live on the floor.  Dino, Madi’s new doggy was excited to see the grey piñatas (dogs are colorblind, right?) just about his size when they came home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  He playfully pounced over to greet them.  Cautiously, he sniffed Doris first.  The whole family sucked in our breaths and watched – ready to rescue a piñata if necessary.  When Doris proved too boring, Dino moved on to sniff Morgan, who was clearly more interesting!  After thoroughly sniffing every inch of Morgan, Dino parallel parked himself up along side, and cocked his leg, completely drenching the starboard side of Morgan.

The injury proved too great.  Doris was given a chance to say good bye, and Morgan’s piss-soaked body was given a proper burial service.  For a piñata.  When Morgan’s name is mentioned, we now pause for a moment of reflective silence.

I finally got around to hanging the shelf where I intended Doris to live, but I placed it too high and Doris did not fit without bending her ears.  Forced to live on an end table, she just looked lonely and miserable.  The new home was too small for her, really, and sometimes she’d get knocked to the floor by a wayward guitar.  I knew I needed to find another solution for Doris, but I assumed I’d just end up hanging another shelf for her to adorn.

Doris, this morning.

But then this morning I had the opportunity to go hang out with some refugees for a birthday party.  I didn’t really have any more details than that.  Sue said party and I said, “Yes, ma’am.”  Age and size of the refugees for whom we were throwing a party was irrelevant, she told me.  They just wanted “birthday things.”  If that doesn’t mean presents, I’m at a loss.  But then, I thought about Doris.  There was never any thought that I shouldn’t do it.

We loaded her with candy and took her in to the refugee birthday party.  What a truly…well, weird experience.

When the State Department sends however many refugees from wherever they’ve allowed them to come to the United States, these local offices must house them, feed them, and provide them with some support.  From ESL, to cultural, to job training, these people must attend classes every day until they are ready to assimilate into their new American Lives.

On this day we entered a room where between twenty and twenty-five recently arrived refugees were attending only their second day of class!  I believe all of them were from countries in east Africa.  All were adults, except for two young girls.  Sisters.  It was explained that they had no volunteers today to watch the children, so they came into the classes with their parents.

Today they were learning about birthday parties.  Sue brought the cupcakes and balloons and decorations.  Someone else made a pumpkin cake.  I had a metric crap ton of candy that didn’t fit and one very excited piñata!  I think she saw the little girls.

The adults were busy playing a creative form of musical chairs that incorporated birthday-related words like, “friends,” “presents,” and “birthday cake.”  And all of them seemed to genuinely be having a wonderful time!  One man was in an Arsenal jacket and I wondered if that was a personal item, one of the few treasures he brought with him.  Or was it a donated item that had been collected by kind-hearted people who would never meet him, but wanted to do something – anything – to make a stranger a little more comfortable.  Warm.

But let’s take a moment to think about this scenario.  These people have just come from some unimaginable hardship; violence, famine, natural disaster.  They are in this shiny, new country and, presumably, learning the important things they will need to know to start a life here.  Just how much ground did they cover on the first day that by the second they have already worked their way down the list of important cultural events to birthday parties?  I wonder if too much emphasis was placed on birthday hats today.   Imagine you’re sitting in a class, completely lost because you speak not a lick of English, and you are repeating a series of sounds that are said to you.  You don’t know what they mean – at least not in any context.  You are shown how to strap the paper horn to your head and repeat the sound, “birthday hat.”

Did these people ride the bus back to their homes tonight on the lookout for someone else wearing a paper horn?  Were they hoping to use their new word?

“Birthday hat.”

“Why yes, it is!  Thank you for noticing.”

“Birthday hat.”

“You already said that.”

<Polite smile>

It is my nature to worry that because I did not witness the beginning of the class, maybe some of our new community members might not have grasped that we were even talking about birthdays.   How do you communicate the idea of a birthday, anyway?

Soon, the impracticality of using a piñata in its intended way became obvious.  We couldn’t hang her from a drop-in ceiling, and they do require an awful strong beating.  The room was cramped as it was, and I hadn’t remembered to bring the whacking stick.

In the back of the room, the two little girls continued playing.  Sue walked Doris to them and held her upside down, high in the air, letting candy rain down in front of the squealing girls.  Back on the ground, Doris received gentle petting from the four year old while the younger sister sat on her back and tried to ride her.

I can’t show you the picture of this because we were asked not to post any photos of the refugees to the internet.  Also, I’d feel really uncomfortable telling you much about this family, not that I know very much at all.

What I can tell you is that their parents each come from a different, war torn country -one of which I’m willing to bet most of you have never even heard of.  But that’s ok.  I bet last month they’d never heard of North Carolina, either.  And now they are here with the promise of a new and better life.  And as cynical as I am about the near future of this country, I cannot help but feel hopeful that they will find more than they could have ever dreamed here.

If they get to stay.
If they aren’t forced onto a registry.
If they aren’t harassed by their new neighbors.
Too many heartbreaking possibilities are there, in the back of my mind.

But today two little girls got to take home a new friend – possibly confusing them for the rest of their lives about what you’re actually supposed to do with a piñata (and my God!  I’m suddenly terrified for the day they learn the truth!) – and Doris found a new family to love.

Day 2 

Betsy Devos supports prayer in schools.
No word exactly what that means.  Christian only prayer? Forced prayer time?  The ability that already exists in our schools to pray in a non-disruptive manner?

Despite her display of gross inadequacy for the position, she will be confirmed for secretary of education.  It is foretold.   Probably one of the seven signs, or whatever.  I will accept that and agree to work with, not against.

I begin with my multi-beneficial proposal.

Congress shall create a Department of Grizzly Abatement (GAD, on Nasdaq – because all

Grizzly Prayer

offices will now be publicly traded).  Each school will be assigned one specially trained prayer officer – except in Wyoming, they can have two – to pray away the grizzly bears.

On occasion, the Grizzly Abatement Officers may be called upon to neutralize other disruptions, like interminable pep rallys or ironically named talent shows.  They will, however, remain uninvolved in cases of teacher sexual abuse or campus violence.

Between officers and training personnel, roughly half a million jobs will be created, making America Great (and grizzly violence free) Again (still).  No oversight positions will be created.  Oversight is for vaginas, not school personnel.

When life hands you persimmons, share maybe?

20170109_171854.jpgI fumbled my mom’s old recipe box on the night before Thanksgiving. A hundred recipes fanned out on the kitchen floor and the box landed in two pieces.  I ferreted out the pineapple casserole I was looking for, and shoved everything back in the box as best it would go, telling myself that I’d sort through it in the next couple of days, but knowing that was a lie.

Facing my third ice-bound day, this morning seemed like a good time to put recipes back in order. I settled in with my hot tea (Numi – Monkey King, if you must know), and got to work sorting the age yellowed, typed index cards and hand written, notebook paper recipes back to their proper section.

And then my phone rang. It was Donna, the friendly taxidermist calling me back. We had a lively discussion about pets we have loved and agreed that her daughter, Nora is a gem. When we got around to the business of why I’d left her a message – Woody – she was very tender in asking me the questions a taxidermist needs answered concerning a possible mount. I tried to let her know these discussions don’t bother me. When he’s gone I will miss him and grieve him terribly, but I can handle matters of his body with complete detachment. I told her I’ve already made arrangements for myself and stopped short of telling her I did the same for my mother just five years ago.

Five years ago, today.

She passed that morning before I could get back in to hospice to visit. When we left the night before, I think we all knew it was the last time. She talked about how heavy her ham was and I told her to put it down.

The thought of that, on the phone with Ms. Donna, kind of took my breath away. When we hung up, I returned to my recipe sorting, thinking that maybe I’d find a nice ham recipe to make for dinner tonight in her memory.  And maybe I’d make the cherry chocolate cake my dad loved, too; in another two weeks he’ll have been gone 10 whole years.

When the jellies and breads and pickles and puddings were all tucked away in orderly fashion behind their tabbed labels, I noticed there wasn’t a single ham recipe.  In fact, except for a magazine clipping of how to saute a chicken and what to do with it once you have, the whole meat section of her box was empty.  I will attribute this to the thirty or so cook books I confiscated when my father passed away.  Meat was his favorite genre and  I’m guessing he didn’t give her much opportunity to collect any of her own recipes in that medium.

Don’t get all excited about that scotch chocolate cake recipe in the background like I did – it contains no actual scotch.

I ran across eight recipes for persimmons; bread, cake, cookies, pickled, pie, and three puddings.  She took the time to type or tape each of these recipes onto index cards, I’m guessing, in the early 70’s.  The paper has a scent I recognize from my childhood.  But here’s my question – Did persimmons go extinct?  I’ve never seen one and I can say with certainty that the stains on these recipes were not made during my lifetime.

If you know what and where a persimmon is, maybe you can send me one (a few).  In return, I’ll share this recipe with you.

Basically, Election Night

​We got all excited about the chance of floofy flakes.  Up to ten inches, they said. 

We bought the prediction-  then we bought all the bread, milk, and rock salt.  We made soup and stew and filled our Netflix queues with four days of distractions. 

We ignored the nagging little voice that tried to squelch our excitement, reminding us that we don’t get that kind of winter here.  We get days and days of crunchy rain and power outages,  not sledding and snow man building.

Then The Weather Channel, which watches over us from their climate controlled bubble atop a hillside in Columbus Georgia sent us their ambassador of weather anomalies, Jim Cantore.  And our inner skeptics gave way to the child-like excitement for snowcréme – for which we also bought the supplies.

At three o’clock, it began to rain.  By 7:30, we had sleet.  We fell asleep telling ourselves what a nice base of ice we were building on which our ten inches of pure white joy would be awaiting for us to wake up and begin sculpting.

What The Weather Channel and our local broadcasters knew, but did not tell us – due to wishful thinking, or collusion with the sled manufacturers, we’ll never know – is that a layer of lofty, warm air was pushing through our upper atmosphere.  Our snow was melting into rain above our heads and then turning to ice before it reached our rooftops.  We hadn’t a snowball’s chance in, well, Raleigh of accumulating ten inches of snow.  Any snow, for that matter.

But we wanted it so bad!  The overwhelming majority was excited.  If we’ve got to say goodbye to warmth and sunshine, bring on the snow!! Instead, the tiny, icy hands of winter grabbed us right where it hurt – in the hopes.

Those who stocked up on liquor are going to fare much better than the rest.  Gone are the French toast and snowcréme – we’re pouring White Russians down our throats now.