Remember when George was graduating from highschool and moving to Maine for college. That was May and I couldn’t write about it. I couldn’t tell you that the baby boy that I had kept in my pocket for eightteen years was moving. And growing up?! When GGorgito was a baby before he could walk and we would just sit and watch him like he was better than tv, we taught him to do this little baby conversation. Addy, Tuck, BeBe and I would circle his little chubby body and say “Show us your lovey face.” and he would tilt his head and dip his chin, give puppy dog eyes and smile. he would ham it up and hold his hands in prayer position with his neck rolls smooshed. “Show me your lovey face.”
Well— now I can’t tell you that Addy is moving to Louisiana. The state. As in, not in Georgia. I would like to say that I am not crestfallen. Dismay is not my middle name. I sat in a Zoom faculty meeting with sixty or so co-workers. There was a pause. I heard our principal say “fill this awkward silence by pouring out your heart, Martee.” She actually said “Talk amongst yourselves while I get everyone in their break out group.” I took that opportunity to type into the chat box for the entire meeting. Addy is moving to Louisiana. As soon as I did it I heard an Avett Brothers song in my head- “it’s a bad time to tell the truth.”
Lots of my co-workers know me and love me. Some have never met me. Those who know me, know Addy. She came to school all the time in the times before Corona. She brought me so many essential Coke Zeros. Or black pants when I got my period. She popped in. She delivered lunch. She sat with me at tables full of teachers and added to the stories I told over tacos. She remembers details I don’t. She shares her heart and forgets the rules just like her mama. She breezes in filling windowless offices with sunshine.
Her hurts. Her disease. Her life has been intwined with mine more than those of my healthy children. I have had more time with Addy than any of the next four. She is my first and she is the pull on my heart strings. When the others went to endless soccer tournaments and sleepovers, Addy went to hospitals. We ate her school lunch in my car. She couldn’t eat alone. So I ate every meal with her. When the others went to middle school, high school and college, Addy missed years and moments. I missed them with her.
And now Addy is moving to Louisiana. This is an opportunity to good to pass up for her and her fiance. She leaves after Christmas. This Christmas. The end of this month.
Yesterday while sitting together, we decided that Sunday “Sunny” will be her pseudonym for the book I’m writing. We decided that if I get two more dogs after Linus and Frida that I will name them Tennessee and Christmas so I can stand in the dog park and yell “Tennessee Christmas” when I am ready to go home. She told me about my first piece of fan mail. On Sunday, I was walking around the big vintage store where she works. I bought a panda ornament for Mimmy. Addy had placed my first fan mail in the bag with the panda ornament. I lost it before I could read it- but Addy and I both cried tears of joy at my good fortune of working hard at my writing and being recognized and gifted some tiny scrap of praise paper. We worried together again about Mim’s adjustment to Addy moving. We chatted about everything and nothing.
Mim was with us for so many of those carrides, appointments, school lunches in the van, and hospital visits. And Addy was with Mim for her therapies and developmental milestones. The first time she kept her glasses on. The first time she sang Taylor Swift with the radio. The first time Mim “flipped” me off. The first time she walked in heels.
I have so many moments, thoughts and dreams to avoid, if I am going to successfully deny Addy’s move to Louisiana. It will take a great deal of work on my part and today I let my guard down. On a zoom call.
I knew that I would not be able to pull off sane this morning. I knew my insides would show. I appeared in my small square on my co-workers computer screens, unshowered and wearing my new bubble gum and cotton candy pink striped pajamas. I had my armor ready. My tallest coffee cup. And a craft project. I believed decoupage could disguise my cracked open heart. If I couldn’t glue myself back together I could distract myself from the realities of hybrid models, equity, returning in person during a pandemic, report cards, and mask policies for five year olds. The weekly staff meeting came during a perfect storm of mental ill health days. I had not taken my lexapro in a few days. I knew I needed it. I had made an executive decision to up my dose a tiny bit. Every couple of days, I took two lexapro before bed and the alternating days I took one, It seemed like a reasonable solution during the election and during the aftermath of the same election. I was coping the best I could. I even braved a patient portal and retrieved bygone usernames and vanishing passwords to alert my practitioner that I needed more lexapro. I was practically responsible- God dammit. I received a vague voice mail back and an unopened email. Again I unburied hidden usernames and passwords in foreign codes to find out if I could pick up more at the pharmacy. I was notified by my frequent texting friend CVS that I had a prescription ready. So on Sunday night I ran to the CVS to pick up the wonder drug, and my pharmacy was closed. On Monday, I went again. A tall cashier I didn’t recognize had the gall to whisper to me through the plexiglass that I could not have that particular prescription until the 9th. He whispered like I was a drug addict. Whatever. He offered me a different medicine available to pick up- an asthma inhaler that I had needed during my fall allergies. The cashier had a protruding forehead that emphasized his eyebrows and made his eyes hard to read. No one has ever mistaken me for a drug addict before. Maybe it was my mask. Unfortunately I could not pay for the unnecessary inhaler and the cheetos (small bag) and white chocolate Lindor candies I was gifting myself. I had loaned BeBe my debit card for groceries earlier that day. Oh- he judged me.
I could fix this. I could just make one of those easy peasy tele-health appointments with my practitioner for late Monday or Tuesday and get medicine on the 8th. Nope. She is booked until Friday.
Wednesday morning, I woke to the faculty meeting and a plan to go get my lexapro after the meeting.
When I put in the chat box that Addy is moving to Louisiana, my friends texted me or unmuted and asked how I was. My voice broke and I declared through tears I didn’t have any kids at home and I had not taken my medicine.
It is true. My kids are in Colorado with their daddy. Until the 23rd. I didn’t take my medicine. My dryer is out of commission again. I can’t think of what to have for supper. And baby Addy is moving six hours away. The song by the Avett brothers played on repeat. I don’t know the words to the rest of the song. I barely know the tune but this one melancholy line tiptoes on my brain.
A week before the lexapro lapsed, I decided it was time to find a literary agent so during 2020, I can delve into getting a publisher for this here memoir I’m writing. My guess is that I decided this on a day that I was fully lexaproed maybe even doubly so. I looked at requirements and recommendations and proposals and submissions and I got overwhelmed. No problem, I’ll listen to some podcasts and read some information about my favorite authors and see what they did. As providence would have it, I happened onto a podcast with Dani Shapiro and Jennifer Rudolph Wilson.
Oprah’s agent, THE biggest literary agent in the world, is on today’s episode of the Beautiful Writers Podcast with one of her star clients! Jennifer Rudolph Walsh is the head of the Worldwide Literary Department at WME (William Morris Endeavor). Along with repping authors like Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, and Brené Brown, she’s sold the books you’ve heard about here multiple times—HOURGLASS, DEVOTION, and STILL WRITING—by one of our favorite writers and guests, Dani Shapiro.
I recognized this cosmic connection as an epiphany. Out of all the podcasts in the world, this one was delivered straight o me by the divine, google and possibly Queen Oprah. I am supposed to have the same agent as Oprah and Brene Brown. I knew this fact just like I knew when the fire alarm went off an hour after George got home from Maine, that there was no fire. My dad who is in heaven makes the fire alarm beep when he wants our attention or when he needs to reassure me that I am ok. Or to tell George he was happy he was home.
Fast forward to the faculty meeting and I’m four lexapro and six kids short of signing with Oprah’s literary agent at the William Morris Agency. I am thinking clear as mud. While the kids are out of town, I believe I should be super productive and magically talented simultaneously. Or making the condo spic and span. Or training for a run using the app Couch Potato to 5k. I can’t just be. I am guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors- no presents are wrapped and I haven’t read any recent Bitter Southerner essays. I bought this expensive cream to remove my skin tags and I haven’t even opened the miniature tube. I really should blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I’m so crabby, I can’t muster up the energy to finesse the Christmas tree light extension cord into the outlet behind the hope chest.
But this low mixed with time to think and holidays during a pandemic have made me realize something. The truth is in the opposites. James Taylor has been telling me this for decades. Fire and Rain.
JT is telling me. This is you. This is life. This is the secret. My pretty jewelry box wrapped and tied with a bow explaining the why Walt cheated and lied is not arriving. Neither will the message in a bottle with the answers to Addy’s recovery or Mim’s struggles. None of it will be tidy. But there will be beauty. Dolly (after weeks of stress and spending too much time on a laptop anxiously performing every task) sent me a photo of the kids in the snow in Colorado. Just playing in the snow with joyful flushed faces.
So this is what I wanna do- Keep myself immersed in the beauty so I can weather the passing storms. Three years into my learning how to be my own person and I am figuring stuff out.
Finish book. Find literary agent. Book is published.
Love my children and listen to them three times more than I talk to them.
Become a Birth Photographer.
Make stuff- like Christmas ornaments and Gumbo.
And I guess this is what I am learning. To be myself. The first times my kids went out of town with their dad, I was aimless. Have mercy. I was empty. I have grown into a person on my own. Meryl Streep told me this would happen. In the movie It’s Complicated. She was riding in the car with Steve Martin and she caught him listening to a self help tape on D I V O R C E. She intended to lift his spirits and she told him that he would feel normal again in about three years. And now that is me. Some sort of normal again. My friend who divorced right before me said that after a while she stopped feeling like her underwear was showing. I am more normal but it isn’t back to normal. It is a new normal.
I have decided that the actress who reads the book when it becomes an audio book needs a British accent because I think we would all rather listen to a British accent. A British accent is just preferable. And when I go on Oprah who no longer has TV show- I will wear vintage clothes. I’m gonna be the same size I am now I’m not going to change. I can’t. Since I’ve got plenty of time so I’m gonna grow my space buns hair out again and I’m going to have like the most beautiful and a tiny bit frumpy plaid overcoat with gorgeous buttons and I’ll be me but successful Mary Tyler Moore me.
I have to imagine this best self going on Oprah and being New York city with a fabulous coat on a good hair day selling my book. And I wonder how to sell this book that is sometimes hard for me to describe without crying and saying “like, you know” a hundred times. I am learning my gifts. What is sellable about my book? There is the obvious vulnerability in my story. Who tells the story of raising six kids and not knowing their husband was having an affair for seven years? But there is also the beauty in my story. If I own my story and see all the light shining in it and screw the fear, I see that “consciousness reigns” I saw those words in Milk Magazine. It is a French magazine that had an edition focused on disability. The words “consciousness reigns” were in regard to a young mother and actress who has a child with Down Syndrome and autism.
Consciousness reigns. And IT does when you when you live with a person with a disability. The child’s consciousness is ever in the moment and –demanding that the parent stays ever present and aware. The level of consciousness that it takes to be present is constant. Infinite. Eternal. The same reduction of life to only the most important and immediate occurs when one loves someone who is gravely ill. Bucket lists become sitting with the one you love and watching the sun shine through the trees. The most simple. The most lovely. The minimally ideal becomes larger. I want to choose those moments over and over again—-but of course we will wash dishes and match socks. That is the Fire and the Rain that James Taylor talks about.
I found this key chain message and knew it was meant for me to find so I could realize my destiny and become a birth photographer, published author, teacher. And a grandmother as lovey as George’s baby face. I know this key chain fell off a key chain of one of my daughters friends. I could open closed bedroom doors and inquire as to the owner of the silver plated platitude. But I think it is more reasonable to think that the universe left it on my sidewalk for me to find.
In my fridge. I hope it goes away.
I’m too tired to turn on my Xmas lights.
P.S. When I finally got my prescription, I purchased the long awaited Cheetos and white chocolates. I had been doing a daisy test on the Cheetos for days. Cheetos love me. Cheat loves men not. Instead of the individual bag of Cheetos from our youth, I chose the family size bag of Cheetos that is the high class organic pale yellow Cheetos. (Don’t tell Mr Judgey Cashier that my family is not home to eat those Cheetos.) I also proudly placed a battery operated toothbrush on the counter for him to ring up because obviously no drug dealer would buy a high powered tooth brush.
Reading that you want to become a birth photographer almost makes me want to have a third baby.
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It’s a deal. (Wink and a grin)
Also, I really do think you make the world a better place.
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I’m so lucky to know you. People who give away good feelings like that are the best. I think I am paraphrasing Barbra Streisand.
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I see you and love you and read your words as I sit on the edge of a toilet seat and watch my son take a bath. I smile and think and feel connected to you through your thoughts poured out into page . Keep writing and sharing and connecting. I think Oprah may come out of retirement.
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My writing is right where I need
It to be if I’m filling your bathtub moment. Thanks so much.
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I worked at William Morris in the late 80’s in the motion picture casting dept. If I still had any connections there, I would do all I could to get you an agent! Your writing is incredible…at the risk of sounding like a fan girl I read your posts the moment I see them…they make me laugh, cry, question….and always wanting more! It will happen for you Martee – in its own divine time!
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You can be my first official fan girl. I am
So lucky that you read my words!
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