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

Flicker

Last year, I bought a lantern for our cabin and filled the batteries for storm season. My child played with it in the “woods” of her darkened bedroom.

Last week, power flickered. I flipped the lantern switch. The batteries may have died, but we never lost the light.

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

Betrayal

It’s the summer after seventh grade, and my best friend is Haley, a tall blonde full of moles. There are ten of them shaped like a soda bottle on her back. I wish my freckles could be as cool.

“Don’t be jealous,” she says. “You have so many. I bet we could find something there if we tried.”

Haley lives at the end of my street in a yellow Tudor. It’s massive compared to my parents’ bungalow. I walk to her house every day, and she teaches me to fit in.

“These jeans don’t fit me anymore. Want them?” She tosses a pair of Levis on the bed.

“Wow. Thanks!” I have never in my life owned a pair of brand name jeans.

We swim in her pool during the day and play Ouija board in her parents’ pop-up camper at night. Some nights, we summon so many spirits I make my step-dad pick me up in the rusted minivan instead of walking home. The single-wide trailer park on my street gives me the heebie-jeebies at night. Half the trailers have boarded-up windows, but others have foldable lawn chairs and little pots of annuals out front. It’s a strange addition to our otherwise bland street.

One day while waiting for Haley to get home from her boyfriend’s house, I meet a new girl in the neighborhood. She stops her bike in front of my house, anchors it between her legs and says, “Hey.”

I stop the porch swing. “Hey.”

“Wanna be my friend?” she asks, chucking a pop-it onto the ground. She tosses another, and it snaps as it connects with the pavement.

“Sure. Can I have a pop-it?” I hop off the swing and jog down my steps to her.

“Sure.” She hikes her leg over her bike and parks it on the sidewalk. Then in one graceful swoop, she flips her crimped blonde hair over her shoulder and dumps sawdust and pop-its into my hand. “I’m Kristin.” She flashes a big smile.

“I’m Danielle.” I smile back.

“Cool.”

“You just move here?” I ask, throwing another onto the sidewalk. It doesn’t pop, so I stomp on it.

“My dad did. He lives in a trailer down there.” Kristin nods sideways toward the trailers. “I’m here for the summer.”

“Are those dangerous?”

“The pop-its or the trailers?” She jokes.

I laugh. “The trailers.”

“Nah.” She shrugs. “Mostly old folks.”

“Cool. Where you from?”

“Florida. With my mom.”

“I’ve never been there,” I say in awe. Kristin has a special magic, a glue that draws me toward her.

I find out she’s the same age as me, we both like to ride bikes, and we’re both poor. Or at least her dad is.

When Haley gets home, I invite her to come with us on our bike ride to the park.

“It’s too hot,” she says. “Go play with your new friend. We’ll catch up later.”

Haley invites us to come swimming that afternoon, and Kristin won’t go.

“I only swim in the ocean,” she says.

I have just a month with my new friend, so I don’t go either. I figure Haley has her boyfriend, and now I have Kristin. It’s even.

Two weeks fly while I spend every waking minute with Kristin. I don’t see Haley at all, and I miss her.

So, when she calls and says, “I need to talk to you … Alone,” I go.

My fingers graze the diamonds of the chain-link fence along the front of the last trailer in the trailer park making a soft clinking sound. I’m thinking about how my skin will smell dirty and metallic when Haley startles me by screaming “You’re a terrible friend!” She’s suddenly in front of me and so close to my face. I’m worried she may punch me for no reason.

“What?” I ask, freaked by the level of her voice. “What did I do?” I don’t know. I really don’t.

Her face is flushed and eyes are wet. She’s been crying. I wonder why she’s so sad. Haley pulls photos of us from her pocket and rips them.

“You picked that girl over me,” she says. She turns and stomps away, leaving me with shreds of our friendship at my feet. “One day you’ll get it.”

At the end of the summer, when Kristin goes home, I do.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels

My Brown Barbie

I stood in the Barbie aisle beside my mother in Kmart with a crumpled green ten-dollar bill secured in my grasp. Choosing a doll from the hundred pieces of plastic perfection posed between cellophane and cardboard with my own hard-earned money at ten wasn’t easy. I imagined buying all of them and how I’d play with each. There was blonde Peaches and Cream Barbie – a doll with a cream-colored gown who smelled like dessert, an Island Fun Ken doll with a Hawaiian swimsuit and a pink and orange lay, and Rollerblade Kira. She had long, dark hair like mine and yellow roller blades that sparked when they moved across the ground. I had seen commercials for each.

“Which one do you want?” Mom asked.

“That one,” I said, deciding. I pointed to Kira. “She’s pretty.” I liked her turquoise top and biker shorts, and her neon yellow knee pads. Her skin resembled Mom’s in the summer after she tanned, golden-brown. When I grabbed her from the shelf, the plastic crinkled beneath my pale fingers. I imagined what it would be like to push her along on the kitchen floor and watch her roller blades ignite.

“That’s a great choice.” She smiled. I interlocked my fingers with hers, and we walked to the cashier with the doll pinned between my side and my arm. She was my new favorite, different from any doll I had at home. Special.

In line, an elderly white lady smirked at me from behind her bifocals. I could smell the mothballs on her stuffy pink polyester pants. “Hmf,” she said as she curled the left side of her lip and crossed her arms over her flowered smock.

I clung to Mom’s legs and hid behind them. I didn’t like strangers, especially smelly old ladies with nasty looks on their faces.

Mom tightened her grip on my hand and encouraged me to ignore her. When it was our turn, I placed my doll in the middle of the conveyor belt with my wad of money on top and looked away from the lady behind us.

“Shouldn’t she buy a white doll?” the lady demanded.

“That’s a silly question, isn’t it?” Mom said, her voice sweet like syrup. She batted her eyelashes and gave the old lady a phony smile with too many teeth showing.

The lady huffed and rolled her eyes.

The cashier handed me my new doll in a grocery bag and put the change in my palm.

Mom nudged me towards the exit. Outside she said, “Remember –  don’t let people like that influence you, Danielle. Be smarter.”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Pretty Little Bow

I had three weeks’ notice to plan for the trip to see my sister become a wife, but it only took two days for the mailman to deliver my lace dress. I rummaged through my daughters’ and husband’s closets for something to match.

The ten-hour drive resulted in my children fighting over which movies to watch and who got to eat the last gummy shark. They also shared laughter from the bottom of their bellies.

In Toledo, the groom found the rings he lost, and I ran across a sheet of ice to collect the bouquets I forgot in the car. The bride smiled.

After two families tied a bow to become one, we celebrated with pasta and Peroni.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Join me at this week’s YeahWrite challenge!

Perseverance

Blades of kelly-green grass scratch at your ankles while you stand hand-in-hand in front of the little brick ranch: Doug’s house. You meet there because it’s in the middle.

There are seven of you, five on one side and two on the other. The sun is dipping below the trees and lightning bugs are in flight, flitting, blinking. Crickets are chirping, but it doesn’t stop you. There’s a game to play.

Your side is up. One more break and you win, stranding the loser on the other side. Your heart is pounding. Your hands are clammy. You haven’t been called yet, but you know it’s coming. You look across at the team of two. You’re the smallest on either side, but size doesn’t matter.

“Red Rover. Red Rover…” Your name is called.

“Shit,” you say only because your parents are inside watching Wheel of Fortune.

There is no time left to wuss up or back down. You run, slicing through the air, pummeling your bare toes into the dewy grass. Determined to break the chain, you push forward faster. You convince yourself that you are a powerful bolt of energy. Nothing can stop you. With fists clenched and teeth grinding together, you close your eyes and imagine what it will feel like to win the game for your team. Just two more steps. You lunge forward at their hands like a bull, but something stops you.

Instead of breaking their grasp in two, you bounce off. Their arms are iron poles fused together. The wind is gone from your lungs. You sail through the air, arms stretched back to brace for fall. In an unfocused instant, you see shoulders then snickering faces and a crimson sky before landing on your butt in the yard.

“Damn!” you say.

The boys high-five. Their loss is diverted – no delayed –  because of you.

“Three to four,” says Josh. “We got this now.”

You stand, brushing the grass from your backside, sulking to your new team with hot cheeks. You won’t live this down for at least a week.

You grab Doug’s hand, cringing at the sticky-ness between your palms. It almost makes you vomit. Boys – eww.

Before you can call the next person, his mom swings the storm door open and shouts, “Time to come in!”

A collective groan comes from the group because you know the rest of the parents won’t be far behind. Street lamps are on. 

“Rematch tomorrow?” Jess asks.

A chance for redemption!

“Rematch tomorrow.” You all agree.

 

Photo courtesy of Julia Raasch/Unsplash


Two Birds in a Bath

When the temperature rises above comfortably cool, they find happiness in the shallow end of the water.

Bright colors cover their flesh, drenched in summer sweat and the smell of coconuts.

They sing their sweet song and flap their fleshy wings spraying water droplets against the lens of my favorite glasses. I find my smile under an umbrella.

It’s summer, and they are my two tropical birds in paradise.

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels

In response to Donna-Louise’s Prompt Pot – Birds

Sock Surprise

She’s already ten minutes late; the bus is gone.

“Let me grab socks,” I say, unfolding a pair. I look at one purple sock and one green. “Did you do this?”

A small hand stifles her giggle. “Surprise!” She shouts.

“Not again,” I sigh. “Guess you need a new chore.”

If Confidence Were a Balloon

Slumped beneath the weight of her backpack, my daughter slinked from the school bus steps. Her ocean-blue eyes had faded to stormy skies and her skin was muted.

“How was your day?” I asked. I was concerned. Most days she raced off the steps with a grin so wide her eyes were shut. This day, she didn’t even wave.

“Fine,” she said. The word pushed out of her lips unwillingly, like the last puff of air leaving a balloon. She was deflated.

“Are you sure?” I pressed.

“Yep.” I watched her kick an invisible rock across the driveway.

“You know what?” I said as I cupped my hand around her small shoulder. “I think we should get some ice cream.”

“Really?” she stopped and looked up to me, squinting her eyes against the sun. I realized, in that moment, how fragile she still was. “Before dinner?”

“Yep,” I winked. “Let me get my keys.”

Ten minutes later, we were sitting at the table with bowls of pink frozen yogurt in front of us and I asked again, “Is everything alright, Hun? Did you have a bad day?”

My daughter stuffed her spoon deep into her cardboard bowl and swallowed a mouthful of creamy treat. “Sorta,” she shrugged.

I lowered my eyes to meet hers, pushed my bowl aside, and whispered, “wanna tell me about it?”

She looked away and tears started to gush from her eyes. “Mama, they chased me,” she sobbed. “I wanted to collect rocks and they chased me.” Her chest heaved, catching breath in spurts, and every bit of my heart crumbled.

“Who chased you, Hun?” I scooted my chair closer and wrapped my arms around her. I prayed that somewhere in my embrace she’d find strength, and a that my arms would take her sadness so I could store it under my own skin.

“My friends at recess,” she pressed against my heart like she did as a baby and continued to bawl. “I just needed some alone time.”

“Aww Sweetie, I think you were so brave for standing up for yourself. It can be hard to not give into the pressure of our friends,” I encouraged my daughter and inflated her balloon.

“I don’t know,” she said, then looked down at her sparkle-covered sneakers.

“Trust me. Sometimes our friends don’t understand when we need personal space,” I explained. “We have to tell them when we need to be left alone.”

“I did that Mama, but they kept chasing me!” she stuffed a spoonful of frozen yogurt into her mouth and wiped her face with her shirtsleeve. The parent in me wanted to scold her for staining her shirt, but the mother in me couldn’t. Instead, I handed her a sticky napkin to wipe the tears beneath her eyes.

Conversation comes easy for my little girl when she’s with family, but sometimes large groups of people drain her batteries. An only child for the first five years of her life, my daughter recognized at an early age that alone time helps her recharge. It’s especially necessary during the flurry of a long school day, when staying focused is so important.

“I know it can be frustrating. I need my personal space, too.” I took her soft cheek into my hand. “I get grumpy if I don’t have time to just be quiet and write each day.”

“Really?” she asked.

It is my job, as a mother, to ensure my daughter has enough air in her balloon, enough confidence, to succeed.

“Really,” I said. “Just keep reminding them. And if they don’t get it, it will be okay. At least you know what’s best for you.” I half-hugged her shoulder, then took a bit of my melted yogurt. “Mmm! Is this tomato flavor?”

My daughter laughed and straightened the slump in her shoulders. “Mama, you’re so silly. It’s strawberry!”

Photo courtesy of Seabass Creatives/Unsplash

How to Survive the Holidays with Toddlers

Holidays can make you want to pull your hair out. So can toddlers. Combine them and by the middle of December, your insides will burn like they’re at war with eachother. You’ll be running around with leftover fruitcake crumbs stuck to your chin, babbling nonsense about never celebrating another holiday for the rest of your life. Trust me. I’ve barely survived this time of year through two children and that’s no coincidence.

I’ve made mistakes, taken notes, studied, and practiced what I’ve learned. And, lucky for you, I’ve compiled a short-list of surviving the holidays with pint-size children so that maybe you’ll be able to make it to the new year with a smile of joy, rather than insanity, spread across your face. 

If you decorate a tree:

Don’t get a real one. You’ll find your toddler and your animals drinking out of the tree’s water bowl, side by side. Then you have a fire hazard. And a kid covered in sap.

And don’t put any ornaments made of real food on the tree. Someone will eat them, and I’m sure you can imagine what kind of bacteria is living on that three-year-old preschooler-made ice cream cone ornament. YUCK. Also, don’t even bother putting ornaments on the bottom two feet of the tree. They will just end up in other places like on the dog’s ears or under your feet. Same goes for garland and pearls. 

Actually… It might be a good idea to skip the tree altogether.

If you should wrap presents:

Two words: gift bag.

Kids don’t care about your fancy foil wrapping paper and handmade bow. And neither will you when you have to open half of her presents. Bag it. Add some tissue paper. Slap a dollar store bow on. Done.

If you go to visit family:

Don’t expect your toddler to behave like a tiny civilized human being. She will not. Instead, she will scream at decibels you didn’t know were possible. She will cry when Aunt Betty gives her a loud, wet kiss. And she will bite Uncle Richard when he tries to tickle her.

Get toys. Get apps. Get back-up.

Nothing helps moms more during the holidays than a good, reliable grandma. Borrow one, if your mom and mother-in-law are unavailable. Pay large amounts of money and hire one. Is this a thing? If not, HELLO new business venture!

If you can’t find a grandma to heist for all holiday-related activities, stay home. Full stop.

If you consider going out to eat at a nice restaurant:

Reconsider.

Places are more crowded during this time of year and employees have less patience for your food-throwing, booger-picking kid.

This is your only warning.

If you bake cookies:

Drink a lot of wine. It’s the only way you will survive all the sprinkles and artificially-dyed frosting colors.

Don’t eat them. Especially the ugly ones. Elderly neighbors love that homemade shit. Wrap them in some bright green saran wrap and have your kid march them next door, frosting still on her face.

If you go sledding:

Dress really, really, REALLY warm. Your toddler will be fine, because she’ll be having so much fun sailing down the snow-covered driveway on her plastic disk in the cold ass post-blizzard tundra, but you may never see the inside of your house again. Hypothermia will set in if you aren’t prepared.

Before your eyes get frozen in the open position, bribe her with hot cocoa and cookies to go inside, but not the ones you baked, because remember: neighbors.

Cross your fingers (if you don’t have frostbite) that she accepts your bribery.

If you get invited to a kid-free party:

Go.

Find a babysitter: a nephew, the girl around the corner, the Starbucks barista, ANYBODY. This will be the only opportunity you have to get your jingle on, so do it. Wear your ugly sweater and your mom jeans, feather your hair, and spend the entire night annoying all your ‘friends’ who only have fur-babies by talking about your kids’ latest group finger-painting project and how you’re sure you have the next Michelangelo and Picasso on your hands.

It will be awesome.

If you host a family get-together:

Get drunk. It will lessen the blow when your great granny tells you that your faucets are out of date, your kids need a good spanking, and that you ruined the apple pies with Fuji apples.

Heavy drinking sounds like a bad idea, but it might be your only chance for survival.

If you are thinking of putting your kid on Santa’s lap:           

Remember, you are potentially scarring her for the rest of her life. And Santa-at-the-mall is not Santa. He’s some pervy, middle-aged man with vomit on his beard who likes little kids and smells like whiskey, so…

Okay, let’s recap:

This holiday season, if you have small children: stay home, stay away from Santa, forget the tree, bake shit, and drink your weight in booze.

Cheers!

Photo courtesy of Pexels/Pixabay