Recently, my daughter achieved a life long goal (even though her life has only spanned 17 short years). She is playing the part of Elizabeth Bennett in a local youth theater. Shortly before her audition, I asked her which of the P & P characters she thought I was. Her answer? She said that I was Charlotte. I was insulted. She said that I shouldn’t be, saying how she admires my good common sense and practicability and the fact that I’m able to make decisions without being swayed by emotion. I was still insulted. After all, I wanted to be Elizabeth! It was then that I realized that every girl wants to be Elizabeth Bennett. So for this Friday Favorites, I’ve asked my daughter to write an essay on the matter. Continue reading
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John and I arrived in Wisconsin on the unseasonably warm Friday evening before Memorial Day. My father was just finishing the mowing on the acre of property. Their home, being an “earth home” had the unusual feature of having grass on top, and the riding mower was grazing the roof at the time. Mama was outside finishing Wisconsin brats on the grill, and I pulled into the long black driveway, shaking away the remnants of memories from the accident. Sue was gone now. After almost a year, Steve had been interested in me, but I told him to go away, and now he was dating someone else. I was surprised at how much that stung. John was unbuckling his seat belt, climbing out of the car, and running toward Papa so that he could ride on the mower with him.
I sat in the car for a moment watching the light turn the trees into black shadows against the almost green sky. Mama’s face showed up in the window. It startled me.
“Are you gonna get out?” she said giggling.
Darkness deepened as the evening wore on, and Daddy, Mama, John and I went to the back of the yard to make a campfire to roast marshmallows and s’mores. It felt as though summer was official, with the first real cookout and campfire. The trees flickered orange and the flames warmed our front sides in the chilly late spring air…and I wondered. What would it be like coming up to Wisconsin, to New Glarus, or living life for that matter, with Steve and the kids? Would it have been so terrible?
Mama was running back from the garage with John. They were going to look for flashlights. Daddy leaned back on a log, “You seem awfully quiet this visit. Is everything okay?”
“I’m just glad to be here for a few days. It’s good to clear my mind,” I answered.
“Mommy! Grandma and I are going to go for a walk in the dark, do you want to come?”
“Okay,” glad to escape my father’s probing, I responded with fake enthusiasm. The first fireflies flickered in a circle around five-year-old John’s head, crowning him prince of the land, for that was what he was.
“Grandma! Lightening bugs! Can we get some jars and catch some?” Mama and John skipped back into the house to look for some mason jars to poke holes in, leaving me to amble across the nearly black lawn alone. Daddy was putting out the campfire, and my hands were sticky from marshmallows, so I decided to go in and wash them.
As I opened the connecting garage door, I heard this, “Spencer and Esther have never caught fireflies. They don’t have a mommy anymore.”
“Yes, honey, I know,” Mama responded.
“I think they might get a new mommy soon though. Spencer said that Kevin might be his brother soon.”
“Really? That would be so nice for all of them!”
“I wanted to be Spencer’s brother.”
The wind caught the door behind me slamming it shut.
I jumped as though I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“Hello, you two!” I quickly recovered. “My hands are all sticky, but I’ll help you catch fireflies when I’m done washing them.”
My heart pounded as I went to the bathroom. I heard Mama and John chatting, and I looked in the mirror above the sink. Eyes rimmed pink, and face splotchy from tears, it was then that I realized, I had made a terrible mistake.
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It was J.’s 5th birthday, so I invited a few of his friends and their parents over for a party. I included Dave and Jerri‘s two girls, J.’s best friend, Steve and his two children, and another single mom, Karen, and her son, as well as the neighborhood children to whom J. had given the Batman toys to.
Everything was about Batman and Mario that year, so I convinced J. to let his party have a Mario theme so that the girls on his list would enjoy themselves as well as the boys. Armed with cupcakes, and a Pin the Hat on Luigi Game, we braced ourselves for a trailer full of noisy children.
It had been a few months since I’d had a “real” conversation with Steve, but I wasn’t concerned about the party feeling awkward. I mean, it was Steve, he was like my brother, I’m sure we were big enough to set aside the awkwardness of the past few months, for the sake of the children. I was sure that he’d stay and help and even be the life of the party, because that’s the wonderful kind of guy Steve was.
J. looked out the front window in the kitchen, waiting for the first car to pull up.
“How long until the party starts, Mom?”
Always looking for a teaching opportunity, I begin to explain to J. that when the long hand on the rooster kitchen clock points at the twelve, it will be time for his friends to come. J. pulled a chair to the window to wait, his warm breath creating a foggy cloud. I went to the bathroom to freshen up.
“Mom, Aunt Jerri is here!”
“Okay, honey, can you let her in? I’ll be there in a minute.”
Even though there was no blood relation, J. always called my friends Dave and Jerri, “Aunt” and “Uncle” and considered their girls his cousins.
I entered the room as Jerri was taking the coats from the girls.
“I can’t believe you’re here first!” I teased, as Jerri was notorious for always being late.
“Well, I have a few errands to run, and I wondered if you’d mind if I left for a little bit.”
“No, that’s fine. Your girls are never any trouble at all.”
“Thanks, there’s a few sales I want to catch, and it will be so much easier without the two of them. What time will you be finishing up? I’ll help you clean up if you’d like.”
“We’ll be done around 3, but take your time, we aren’t doing anything this evening.”
The girls were standing shyly in my living room watching J. play Mario Kart. J. offered to let them play too. They nodded no, silently. My little man was too young to notice a girl-boy difference, but the girls were older and feeling a little timid.
Jerri was about to go out the door, when Steve and the kids walked up the sidewalk.
“Well, hello!” Jerri gave Steve a knowing look and a quick hug.
S. ran in to play video games with J. while E. wrapped herself around my leg. I picked her up. She had on pink flowered leggings, a red sweatshirt that obviously belonged to her much larger brother, and her bright orange hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in days. Her glasses clanked against mine. Jerri and Steve chatted while I got a much needed hug from this mismatched girl.
The neighborhood children came, and the other single mom, Karen, arrived as well. Her son went running in to play with S., and the party was complete, except that every parent had excused themselves, with errands to run, leaving me with 10 children all between the ages of 3-7, all by my lonesome. It was the longest two hours of my life. One girl got gum in her hair, they hated the Pin the Hat on Luigi game, and there was cupcake frosting ground into my already hideous carpet.
To add to my irritation, it seemed as though Steve had left with Karen, but surely I was imagining things. I became even more suspicious, however, when they were the first to come back as well. The two of them came in smiling ear to ear, Steve talked non-stop to her in my kitchen. He was obviously flirting.
A rush of hot lava came up from my toes to my ears. The nerve of him! Flirting with a woman in my kitchen! The same kitchen in which he rescued me from my gas bill. I calmed myself, reminding myself that I had told him to go away four months ago. They left together, with hardly a word for me, and eyes only for each other.
I had started to clean up when Jerri returned. She came in, threw her coat on the couch, and asked where I kept my rubber gloves so that she help with the dishes. I pointed quietly under the sink.
“You’re awfully quiet. Did the kids wear you out?”
“I got all of my shopping done. Thanks for taking the girls.”
J. and the two girls were giggling in the corner with some of J.’s new presents.
“Kim, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I lied, trying to sound perky. I swallowed, “Hey, I did notice something kind of strange today, though.” Dishes clanked in the sink, and I grabbed a dishtowel to dry. “It seemed like Steve and Karen were ‘together’. I’m sure I was just imagining things, I mean I know how friendly he is and everything.”
“No, you were right. They’ve been dating for about a month now. You didn’t know?”
“No,” Anger welled up inside me again.
I changed the subject, because I didn’t want Jerri to know that I was upset. I didn’t even want to let me know that I was upset. I’d have to think about this later. So we talked about the children, shopping, church and the party. Soon, she gathered up the girls and her headlights faded down the road, and without any warning I cried. I cried because it had been a long day with too many children and not enough adults. I cried because I felt so alone in trying to raise my boy and provide for him. And for some reason, I cried because Steve had gone on to another woman, and the feeling was a little too familiar. And with this emotion, I surprised myself, because I didn’t think I would care, but I did. I really did.
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It was an early snowstorm. The kind that disappoints trick or treators everywhere. Costumes are dragged through the slushy stuff of snow; more than a foot of heavy snow that year. It started late on Saturday, and continued all night long. I awakened in my trailer to the blue-white light of a winter wonderland.
I had to get to work. I did computer work at church between the morning and evening services, and I knew that digging myself out would be up to me especially since I had uninvited Steve from my life. Plus, he and his kids were staying overnight at the nearest Holidome, which was about 45 minutes away.
After a hot shower, (thanks to Steve), I started laying out J.’s clothes for church and figuring out what I’d wear while shoveling. I stumbled into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee so that it would be ready when I came back in.
I squinted in the early morning light. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Was that my car, already scraped and ready to go? What was that brown and red thing on the hood? Forgetting the layers I’d assembled for my task, I threw on my jacket and boots. My eyes smarted from the dazzling sunshine on the snow. Someone had indeed dug me out! And the item on my hood? A stuffed animal holding a note.
I hope you aren’t angry, but I couldn’t sleep this morning knowing that you’d have to shovel all of this heavy snow yourself.
A swirl of emotions twirled their way around my insides. My heart melted a fraction at his kindness. Steve had driven an hour and a half round trip to make sure I could make it to work.
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