What I Remember

I don’t remember how sick Mom looked at the end. Or the number of days I sat watching her cling to life in hospice. I don’t remember what her breath sounded like the day she died. Or the faces of the strangers who stood beside me grieving because my mom had changed them for the better in some way.

But I do remember her beauty. The way her smile always reached her eyes and how she laughed from her belly each and every time. I remember how I wished I had her dark, flawless skin. I remember that her cascading brown hair smelled like coconuts and Rave hairspray.

Her nails always had red or pink polish covering them. She filed the tips to a point.

I remember we didn’t go to church because she said God lives in our hearts. She said miracles are all around us, and if we pay attention we will see them. Her beliefs didn’t fit neatly into one religion. She prayed, but also carried stones in her purse for good health and mustard seed in a charm for faith when she needed it most.

I remember that her good jewelry never sat in a box. Gold rings encircled each finger. Bracelets jangled from her wrists.

I remember her love for nature and that she liked getting dirt on her hands. She didn’t like flowers in a vase because they belonged in the soil. I remember the sound of her flipflops as she padded through the backyard, watering and pruning her garden. She knew how much light and water each of her flowers needed by heart.

I remember that she couldn’t sing and didn’t care. She’d shout the lyrics to any song while driving. She loved Whitney, Madonna, Diana Ross, and the Carpenters. At home, she’d move the couch and play Motown records so we could dance.

I remember her desire to do something more. She kept a scrapbook with pictures, cards, kind words, and trinkets she received from each patient she cared for while working as a hospice nurse. She grieved for them when they passed, but did her part to keep their spirits alive through sharing her memories with anyone who’d listen.

I remember her love for coffee. All day, every day. Never creamer or sugar. Always hot.

I remember her lesson to slow down and enjoy the little things. She always stopped to smell roses, and she always put her bare toes in the sand if she had the chance.

I don’t remember everything, but I remember what matters most.


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Letting Go and Holding On

It’s the summer of 2002. I’m twenty and full of bones that won’t commit to anything except having a good time. Through a series of bad relationships and a father who doesn’t call from three states away, I decided that relationships suck and I’m better off letting go and being alone.

Earlier today, a friend invited me to his party to celebrate Justin’s breakup.

Justin, my friend’s roommate, plays bass and spikes his hair. I’ve noticed him before. His band, Stunnd, played at a pub once. I was there by chance with friends. I remember watching in awe as he played bass. He was rhythmical and intense.

I’m always going to shows and interviewing bands because I write for The Glass Eye, a music zine in Toledo. I’ve seen plenty of musicians, but none played bass quite like Justin.

Earlier I agreed to go to the party, but now I’m stewing about what to wear. The friends I called to go with me are all busy, so I consider staying home.

But I don’t. I settle on a mustard yellow shirt from the thrift store with the words Jack’s Attack Team on the front. The shirt is comfortable; it’s my favorite worn-in tee. My Paul Frank belt secures my bell-bottoms in place and shell toes complete the casual look I’m going for. I don’t want people to think I care too much.

When I arrive, I don’t mind that a red party light in the corner emits the only glow throughout the living room. Smoke swirls toward the ceiling, and house music rattles the framed Pulp Fiction poster on the wall. Twenty people crowd the couches and floor. I walk in and hug a few acquaintances.

Someone says, “There’s beer in the fridge, Danielle. Help yourself.”

I drink more beer than usual to fill the space where I should be talking. After I’ve emptied two cans, I move closer to Justin. I notice his ripped jeans and Billabong shirt. His pokey hair reminds me of Brandon from Beverly Hills 90210. I want to touch it and to ask him how he gets to stand so high, but I don’t. Instead, I lose myself in conversation with less-intimidating strangers.

Justin walks by and brushes my shoulder with his. “Sorry,” he says.

“No problem.” I raise my hand to dismiss it.

“You’re Danielle, right?” he asks.

I feel fire radiating from my cheeks because I realize he doesn’t know me. I hope the red light hides my nerves. “I am.”

He nods and smiles. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Me, too.”

“Who’s Jack?” He points to my shirt.

“Huh? Oh, I don’t know. Salvation Army find.” I wonder if he’ll look down at me for shopping at thrift stores.

Justin nods and motions to my empty hand. “Need a beer?”

“Sure,” I say.

On the way to the kitchen, Justin asks me what I do.

“I work at a used music store.”

“Cool.” He hands me a Coors and tells me about the band. I pretend I don’t already know.

I say, “I also write for The Glass Eye. I should do a review on your band.”

“You should.” He seems intrigued. He seems nice.

Justin cracks a joke and I laugh so hard my gut hurts. I joke back. He says, “You’re funny. I like that.”  

I want to kiss him, but instead I look in his eyes and we both stop talking for a while. It’s not an uncomfortable silence – more of a moment of realization. There aren’t fireworks like in the movies. This is better. Everyone else in room fades into the distance and the music muffles. The smoky space brightens around us, illuminating his angular features.

Somehow I know he’s what I’ve been missing.

He looks away, smiles and says, “You know what? We match because we both have freckles.” He is the friend I needed and partner I wanted but didn’t know existed, and I know I’ll never let go again.

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Hard Ciders, Hip Hop Legends and Some Crow’s Feet.

My thirty-fifth birthday is around the corner and it has me wondering all kinds of strange almost-middle-aged things. Such as, where do I get Botox for my crow’s feet? Or why won’t those extra pounds come off like they used too? And, why am I so freaking tired all the time? Some days I feel like I’m falling apart at the seams, but then others, like my double date from the other day, have me feeling like thirty-five might be the best year, yet.

***

We followed the growing number of people through rolling green hills toward the entrance of Wolf Trap, an open air concert venue in Vienna, Virginia. The last time I went to a concert was before I had children, in my twenties. Seriously.

I casually held hands with my husband and some of our best friends were at our sides doing the same. Our kids and their kids were all safe at home with sitters.

Smiles plastered our faces. We finally had a night out and what cooler way to celebrate than with hip-hop legends? We ordered ten dollar drinks, because we’re adults and can make stupid purchasing decisions without anyone shaking a finger at us, anymore.

But we weren’t allowed to bring drinks of any kind into our seats (lame, I know), so we found a spot to finish them next to the lawn seats, a sea of blankets and people boozing it up. We watched the scenery as the sun turned from neon to rouge while Tone Loc belted out his famous Wild Thing. Bass vibrated our feet and treble rang in our ears as the crowd danced in rhythm. Some of the dancers’ moves more closely resembled full-body dry heaves, but by the looks on their faces, those people were having the most fun.

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“Bottom’s up!” I shouted when Coolio was announced. We rushed to finish our hard ciders just as he started singing Fantastic Voyage. He rapped a few other songs I am unfamiliar with in between, but ended on a poetic note, singing Gangsta’s Paradise barefoot. The whole crowd sang along with him.

After that, we saw Color Me Badd (I Wanna Sex You Up = best make-out song EVER! Wait, can I even say make-out anymore? Sure…I think.) and we missed All-4-One for a second round of drinks and a bathroom break. This time we chose something a bit stronger for thirteen dollars, because why not?

We danced clumsily back to our seats just in time for Rob Base. Oh the JOY. He brought back memories from my youth that I’d forgotten all about. For the love of dance music candy, Get on the Dancefloor, Joy and Pain, and It Takes Two are three of his musical masterpieces.  Sorry for the earworms. Not.

Lastly, Salt-N-Pepa with Spinderella took the stage and they killed it. Completely and totally killed it. They looked amazing, twerked better than Miley, and sounded so put together.  And after thirty years of touring, they’re still best friends who love what they do. They’re a testament to what true friendship looks like. No frills or bullshit. Just two people sticking it out, no matter what. Where my girls at?

***

The next morning my ears were still ringing and I needed an extra cup of coffee, but the fun was so worth it. And you know what, if being almost-thirty-five means going to concerts where the musicians are considered legends, having great life-long friends, drinking expensive drinks that don’t break the bank, and coming home to a couple of cute kids, then almost-thirty-five ain’t so bad.

But I’m still thinking about that Botox. Early Birthday present, maybe?

Photos courtesy of Jay Parrish.


 

 

Electric Moves.

It was day three of Movement, and everything was upside down.

The crowd around her was a sweaty, bulging mess; moving in rhythm, but somehow each at his own pace.  As the music charged through her soul, the bass vibrated her chest and sent shivers down her tattooed back, racing to reach her toes.  Her short black hair was wet and matted to her forehead as beads of sweat dripped down her cheeks bringing smudgy eyeliner along for the ride.  Her eyes closed tightly, and the music intensified, nearly bringing her to her knees.

In that moment, she was electric.

Photo Courtesy of Resident Advisory

 

Detroit has a Heartbeat.

My home is Virginia, but I spent five years living in Detroit, Michigan and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it once in a while.

Detroit has a heart that pounds through your chest like an old beat-up sledgehammer.  It’s dirty and noisy, but still powerful and captivating.  During my years residing there, I was in love with the energy; it was palpable and irresistible, dragging me toward it like a moth to a flame.

Sometimes as I would drive up 95 North, back to my sunny loft on Adams Avenue, the city’s skyline would seem to unfold before like a children’s pop-up book. First I’d see old Tigers’ stadium and the Michigan Train Station, both eerie skeletons full of deterioration.  Then the skyscrapers would come into view, a mix of ornate pre-war facades and newer structures with the sharp angles made of steel and glass.

I couldn’t help feeling like I belonged there; a misfit amongst other misfits.

The reasons why Detroit scares off most people at first glance are evident as you walk down Woodward Avenue and witness abandoned buildings, littered sidewalks and too many folks left to rot without homes.  This feeling is multiplied outside of downtown, where hundreds, if not thousands, of homes have been torched or vandalized, leaving the streets looking like a war zone.  The vacant-ness feels dangerous and maybe even terrifying.

Yet if you dig deeper and find a moment to enjoy the beauty amongst the chaos, then you see what makes Detroit special.  For instance, try standing in front of The Spirit of Detroit.  You will see the amount of pride Detroiters carry for their city.  It’s tangible, as solid as the Joe Lewis Fist.  Go to DEMF and you will feel it in the air as the music vibrates your soul.  Attend a Tigers’ game and you will hear it at Comerica Park when the crowd goes wild over a home run.  Go to any one of Detroit’s amazing restaurants and you can taste it in the food.  Take one look at the casino lights and you will see it there as bright as day.

The Motor City is alive.

The people there are built from hard work, passion for the arts and a zest to persevere through any circumstance.  They have seen enough turmoil, grief and depression to make them close up shop more than anyone would care to mention, but their tough skin and big hearts have carried them through.  The people of Detroit fight hard and love even harder.

They stay true to their city for a reason.

 

Photo courtesy of Leroy on Stocksnap.io

The Doves Have Cried

When I heard the tragic news of Prince’s passing today, I literally could not believe it. My heart has been aching all day for his family but, even more than that, for the world. His death affects people from one end of the Earth to the other. Prince’s music has spanned decades, brought barriers down in the recording industry and his sound almost exclusively could have defined the eighties.

I can remember dancing around my dining room while my mom played Raspberry Beret and Little Red Corvette on our stereo cassette player long after the albums were released. We would be wearing our stone-washed jeans with white Keds and t-shirts tied in knots at our hips. I’m sure my long brown hair was in a side ponytail and I was probably missing a tooth or two.
I had a Purple Rain movie poster hanging above my bed even though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even allowed to watch the movie at the time.
And I’m sure many people have belted out Kiss with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, because I know I have on more than one occasion.
The remix of When Doves Cry was epic in Romeo and Juliet and Party Like it’s 1999 has always, always ALWAYS been the go-to song for New Year’s Eve at any party I’ve ever been to.
Ever.
This was the music that molded and shaped me in my formative years. I ate it up like candy back then and still, to this day, I have a physical and emotional connection to Prince and his music, much like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.
This kind of music transcends generations and he is the definition of what pop music is and should be.

It breaks my heart that we have lost another global pop icon and even after the dust settled this afternoon, I still have trouble grasping that Prince, like so many other influential artists from my childhood are not here any longer to continue making music.

Photo is courtesy of Buzzfeed.

 

Random Thought on Music.

Music has a way of bringing me, and probably most people, back to a specific moment, much like the sense of smell. Certain songs take me back to my wedding day or a high school dance with my best friends, and some other songs take me back to completely random moments that were tucked deep away in my memory, almost forgotten.

For the last couple of days I have been missing my mom very much. I’ve been reaching for the phone to call her, just to hear her voice, but then I stop short and realize I can’t. I’ve been wishing for one last bit of motherly advice, one last hug or even, at the very least, one last good laugh with her. Thoughts like this come and go and, even after more than two years, I have bad days.

Yesterday was a particularly crumby day. I was in a strange place, emotionally, and once my daughter was napping and I had nothing to drown out my thoughts, except the pounding rain on the window, my sadness seemed to magnify. It was so quiet in my house without the sound of my daughter’s voice filling the empty space like tiny little bells chiming happily, so I was left feeling very alone.

I turned on the radio, trying to get rid of the noise in my head, while prepping dinner. While I was standing there, browning the beef for my homemade sloppy joe sauce, the song, “I wanna Dance with Somebody,” started playing. Instantly, I was reminded of my mom when she was young, beautiful and vibrant. Whitney Houston’s pitch-perfect voice transported me back to the late 1980’s. I was standing in my little kitchen on Custer Drive in Toledo and my mom was there, at the stove. She was dancing and snapping her fingers while singing off-key into a big, black plastic spoon as she, too, was making dinner. The song was crackling out of her cassette-playing boom-box despite the antenna being stretched up and out as far as it would go.

I looked at her, in awe of her effortless, simple beauty. Her long wavy hair was pulled back into a ponytail that was swinging back and forth as she danced. She had on high-waisted stone-washed jeans and a faded Florida t-shirt. She was happy and carefree.

Back in my kitchen, I could feel a smile tugging at my resistant lips. My mood was lifting, despite the heaviness in my heart. I no longer felt alone, but instead could feel her life and her love all around me. I couldn’t help but to reach for my big wooden spoon to sing along, just like my mom did more than twenty years ago.

I am completely amazed that music can do this; can change a mood instantly, brighten even the darkest of days and conjure up old memories that were once completely forgotten. It is a truly remarkable gift that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Until Next time.

Danielle.