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Butterflies and Bubblegum Lipgloss

My nextdoor neighbor slash best-boy-friend and I were playing in his backyard after school one day in fifth grade. Trees shaded us from the April sun. I sat on the swing and pumped my legs toward the branches of the tree above. He stood in the treehouse, teasing me for saying Fila like filet. Honest mistake for someone who has never owned a pair of name-brand shoes. But kids with money don’t get it.  

“Wanna kiss me?” he asked as he climbed down. He hopped onto the ground beside me with a thud.

“Huh?” I asked. He knocked the wind from my lungs with his question. 

“We should kiss. Ya know, just to see what it’s like.” He shrugged.

He was kind of cute with his curly brown hair and emerald green eyes. But did I like him, like him? Maybe? Maybe not. I hadn’t really thought about him that way until smack in the middle of that moment.

I kicked a rock beneath my feet and thought about running away from him. Last year, in fourth grade, that’s what I would have done — ran from the boy. Any boy. All boys. But so much changed in fifth grade. Girl friends in my class were curious. We stopped running and started batting our eyelashes. First and second kisses were all the rage at recess. The butterflies. The fireworks. The goosebumps. I wanted to share in those conversations with a story of my own.

I stood, and my knees slipped like spaghetti. “Sure,” I said. Afterall, our parents were rooms away, inside their kitchens making dinner. No one would ever know.

He leaned in to the left. So did I, so he adjusted and leaned to my right. He pressed his lips to mine and, before I could decide whether I liked it or not, his braces scraped my bubble-gum-glossed lips. Eww. And Ouch. But mostly Eww.

I nudged him away. No fireworks. No feeling at all.

“You’re blushing,” he laughed.

“Whatever,” I said as I wiped his drool from my chin. “We should stay friends.”

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

How to Eat a Spam Sandwich

The year is 1953. Your husband is out at the bar. Again. The house is clean. You’re hungry, but the pantry is empty.

Clip on your best earrings because you love a good piece of jewelry, even of the costume variety. Apply some red lipstick. Spritz some floral perfume. Slip into your trench coat and pearl-dotted gloves. 

It may only be Toledo, and it may only be the grocery store, but you never know. Elvis could make an appearance in produce. 

Plus, even when money is scarce, it’s important to always look your best.

Begin your one-mile walk downtown.

At Tiedtke’s Department and Grocery Store, add Spam, Kraft American Cheese, and Wonder Bread to your cart. Pay with change from your pocketbook. 

Head home, sandwich ingredients in hand. 

Once there, open your bag of bread and can of meat. Add slices of each straight to a warmed skillet with a bit of butter. Let your ingredients sizzle and brown before flipping. While the Spam is cooking, place a piece of cheese on top of one piece of bread. After both sides of bread and meat are cooked, smoosh the slices of toast together around the Spam. Open a can of peaches for dessert. 

Leave your dishes … On purpose.

Apply some rouge and settle down to watch the latest wrestling match. You know it’s scripted, but you love watching those muscly men like Buddy Rogers duke it out in the ring. Take your first bite, savoring independence before your husband returns, blitzed and ready to argue about a woman’s place. 

*Photo taken in 1953. It’s Danielle’s grandmother and great aunt, likely just before they headed out to Tiedke’s.

Thunderclap Night

Ethereal love races

Through electric fingertips

Satin sound

Whispers

To the deepest soulparts

Iridescent lightning

Brightens darkened hearts

All in a single second.

Photo by Jonathan Bowers on Unsplash

Why Hypoglycemics Should Always Have Snacks

“The bee attacked me.”

But before he did, I rolled down my windows in a frantic attempt to shoo him outside. It was September. Why on earth were bees still attacking in September? They were supposed to be dying for God’s Sake, not invading my car full of healthy lunch snacks of carrots and goldfish crackers, mom juice of every color and dinners to cook by necessity rather than a pure love to stand in front of the stove chopping stuff—hello you beautiful bag of frozen nuggets!

But before I shooed him, I devoured half an egg salad sandwich. It was one of those sandwiches that come wrapped in plastic and have the little sticker on them that says, Made fresh in store daily! Doubt it. Those sandwiches probably came on the truck with everything else, right next to the big ass tubs of Amish macaroni salad. 

The sandwich was tasty though. Only because I have hypoglycemia and that pretty much means if I forget to eat I turn into a beast willing to gnaw at my own arm if I don’t eat food like immediately

But before devouring my sandwich, I buckled in my daughter. The little one of course, because my oldest can buckle herself. Plus I left the big one at home because when she comes shopping, she literally asks for ALL THE THINGS. 

And even before that, I forgot to bring a snack with me. This is key. Because while shopping, right around the junk food aisle, my legs started trembling. Beads of sweat formed along my hairline. Nausea swirled in my gut. I envisioned tearing open a bag of Doritos and ravaging them like a rabid dog.

I shook my head to erase the fantasy, then grabbed my little egg sammie on the way to the register.

So after I loaded the car with groceries and one small child, I climbed into the car, turned the car on, put the car in drive and put my foot on the break because that’s what hypoglycemics do when their blood sugar drops too low–stupid shit–then I unwrapped my Made fresh in store daily! egg salad sandwich and shoveled it into my mouth.

Just as I wiped the last bit of mashed egg from my chin, I noticed a bee swarming around the passenger side. I rolled my windows down and flapped my arms to shoo him out, but the little jerk refused. Maybe he was mad that I didn’t share my sandwich. He got closer and closer to me, zipping back and forth, up and down, until he stopped to hover in front of my left eyeball.

At that point, I opened my car door screaming, “BEEEEEEE!”

I left my daughter buckled, because my flight response kicked in. I was all like every woman for herself! 

And after I jumped from the car, I noticed the strangest thing. My car was rolling very slowly toward a row of parked cars in front of me. A Beamer, a Mercedes, and a Landrover. There was also an old Honda Civic, but that was the least of my concerns. 

At first, I thought something must’ve happened to my car. Why else would it be rolling away from me with my child, my nuggets, my wine, and a jerk of a bee still in it? That’s precisely when I remembered putting the car in drive.

So, like Matt Damon in Jason Bourne or maybe Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I dove back in and shoved the car’s shifter into park. 

“Are you okay, Ma’am?” I turned to look over my shoulder, ass and legs still dangling from the car, to find a man in overalls with a pipe hanging from his lips. His eyebrows were sewn up in concern.

I stood and straightened my shoulders, glancing back into my car. All traces of the stinging asshole had disappeared. For the shortest moment, I wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing, if maybe my spiraling blood sugar had reached new lows causing me to hallucinate the little bastard. No matter. It was still the best excuse I had. 

I adjusted my messy bun. “The bee attacked me.”

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

Make sure your house has plenty of ugly cabinets — ones with years of grease stuck to them. This is crucial for steps later on. The more cabinets, the better. Your first apartment in Brooklyn with four cabinets won’t do. 

Once you’ve got the cabinets, pick your color at the paint store. This will be a hard decision. If you have kids, give them lollipops to keep them busy for five minutes because you think that will honestly be enough time to choose. But there are at least twenty shades of light gray. Some with red undertones, some with blue. Spend a half-hour looking at all of them while your kids run amok in the supply aisle. Roll your eyes when your oldest asks you to buy her the purple paint roller, because you half knew she’d ask for something. She always asks,whether it’s a toy at Target, gum at the grocery store, or a purple paint roller at the paint store.

Finally, choose a grey based on the name, because they all look the same and your hypothetical kids are testing your last sliver of patience.

With your paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloths in tow, head home.

Don’t plan your attack on your cabinets. Only reasonable people do that. Instead, dive right in. 

Remove all the knobs and drawer pulls and set them aside to donate. Brass might make a comeback, but this shade of fake gold will not be in your house. Still, tossing it would be wasteful. Someone else will love it.

Remove all twenty-two of your cabinet doors and all eleven drawers. Lay them in various places throughout the basement and the garage. Don’t buy tripod-stand-things to paint on, because that would make it easier on you. This needs to be the most difficult labor of love you’ve ever attempted.

Sand both sides of all the doors, all drawers and the fronts of the cabinets, then clean them all with wood soap. The cabinets and doors from around the stove will need an extra washing or two. They will be completely caked in grease. If you paint without cleaning, the grease will seep through and turn the paint brown. Then you will have to complete the sand/wash/paint steps all over. This process should be hard, not impossible.

Soak all the hinges in a vinegar and water solution, then scrub them with S.O.S. Pads and let them dry. The hinges are exposed, also made of brass, and purchasing new nickel ones would be the easy and expensive way out. You need to paint those too. Spray paint all sides of all forty-four hinges in batches. Ten at a time. Vinegar will linger on your skin, which somehow reminds you of your favorite drink. 

So, drink wine. Lots of it, because it calms your anxiety about the unfinished project.

Over the next two months, apply six coats of paint to each drawer front, cabinet front, and both sides of each door. Before breakfast, after putting your kids on the bus, after dinner, and before bed. Steal every moment you can to paint. 

Put off hanging with friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and pretty much anything else that brings you joy. Despise the paint, the color you chose, and anything that gets in the way of your mission to finish.

Develop pain in your right hand. Tell yourself it must be arthritis, because you’re approaching thirty-six. Don’t admit that it’s because you are painting all the freaking day.

Eventually you will finish. When you do, stand back and marvel at what you’ve done. All the days, all the paint, aches and bad days have ended. The kitchen looks bigger, cleaner even. It nearly killed you, but damn it’s beautiful.

Be proud. You did it on your own.

Lesson in Murder

They exchange secrets. Women dripping in diamonds and designer labels smirk at Jane. Formality meant they had to invite everyone, even her, to these events. She didn’t fit.

Jane gulps her glass of merlot.

Soon, this cavernous house will spill with wine-stained bodies.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

A Letter to the Tooth Fairy

Dear Tooth Fairy,

This letter is two years and eight teeth overdue. Let’s be honest. I don’t like you very much. You sneak into my child’s room in the middle of the night, climb into her bed and take her teeth. What is wrong with you? I mean, at least Santa leaves gifts wrapped in shiny paper, and the Easter Bunny gives sweet-smelling chocolate. But you and all your tooth-hoarding? Creep-y.

I know, I know. I drank too much wine last night and forgot to contact you regarding the swap. Instead, I brushed my teeth, put in my mouth guard and fell asleep watching The History Channel. Honest mistake and not the last time it’ll happen. But then before six this morning, Reagan stomped into my room to tell me the Tooth Fairy had forgotten her…again. I messed up, and how did I cover up the Tooth Fairy mess-up? With a big ol’ lie. I fed her some rubbish excuse that she didn’t get to bed in time, and The Tooth Fairy ain’t got time for that.

And I hate all your crazy-ass rules. According to you, we must hide the tiny tooth in a microscopic box and put it under our child’s sleeping head. Then you come in there in the middle of the night when you’ve most likely had a bourbon or two. I worry about you tripping on something or poking my daughter in the eye whilst making the switch. Too many things can go wrong. Lightning could crash at the exact moment you take her tooth, illuminating your hunched figure and tattered wings near her bed. Her alarm clock could become possessed and beep manically, waking her in time to catch you sliding a wad of cash beneath her head.

Your rules set us up for failure. Ridiculous. Why can’t we just have our kid toss her tooth in a zip-top bag and tape it to the front of her bedroom door? Then there’s no chance of waking her up when you swap out the tooth for some cash. Bada boom, bada bing. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

And while we’re on the subject of money, who is supposed to determine the cost of a tooth? I’ve heard anywhere from $1.00 – $10.00 is the going rate. You know kids talk, right? When I was little, we all got fifty cents. Inflation may be a mother, but you tooth fairies need to get your collective stuff together. Kids are going to start wondering why they got more than their neighbor in school. We should go low. It’s a tooth, for God’s sake. If they want money, make them do manual labor. Losing a tooth is zero work.

My kid likes to hang on to hers until it literally flies out while she’s whistling. She won’t let anyone yank it or tie a string around it. Why is that deserving of a crisp bill?

In closing, I’m tired. So tired, so I’m throwing in the tooth treasure box on this relationship. I mean it. We’re tossing the teeth in the trash and forgetting you ever existed.

Not so sincerely,

Angry (and Slightly Hungover) Mom of Two