Be Good if You Can

My grandmother, Corrine Cotten, is shockingly aware and vocal about her human finitude. When I visit, she writes my name on little sticky notes and attaches the yellow squares to items of hers I may want one day. If you open a closet at her house, chances are you’ll see a pile of old quilts, pillows, hand-made vases from her sister Norma, or jewelry from her “wild days” labeled with the names of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the same little yellow squares. You can even see the various family names etched in sharpie marker on the back of larger items that are still in daily use throughout the house. Like packing up for a big move, her house is always on the cusp of that final transition. It is a weird mix of death and life, past and present, memory and moment, and I am uncomfortably aware that nothing she passes on will ever feel the same without her around. The kitchen table, for instance, is only special if we are playing SkipBo together with a cup of coffee in hand, and the jewelry from her “wild days” is only fun when she wraps it around her body and shows me the best way to move my belly so that each metal string shakes and chimes. Heirlooms won’t have that same Corrine spirit when she’s gone, but I love her gifts that give insight into her past – even if they are tinged with acceptance and muddled with final farewells.

At age 16, she sent me off with a rad, 1970’s gold belt and the most beautiful blue and crystal screw back earrings because, as she said, “you never know what will happen”. Last year at Thanksgiving, Corrine was wearing an old shirt from a church revival that said “Riot ’88”. 1988 is my birth year and I’m obviously a riot, so I LOST IT. I raved about how cool it was for a solid ten minutes until Corrine snuck off into the back room, changed into a pretty blue sweater with blue heart appliqués, and handed me the “Riot ’88” shirt that was just on her back two minutes earlier. This is who Corrine is. She is selfless, but strong with a firm voice and a soft heart. She is the cliché perfect grandmother that every child reads about in YA novels.

Riot 88

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They Outran the Rain

The 6 train is my worst enemy.

The only thing that makes the disgusting cat calls, awkward eye contact diversion, and dance routines doable for my 2.5 hour commute each day is a set of earphones and a good read.  Every once in a while, I look around the train and think…

I should probably acknowledge this person’s existence.

But just as that thought makes it’s way to my frontal lobe, someone tells me there’s a seat available on their lap, and my duty as a caring human seems to vanish.

Khaleesi, y’all

I’m not trying to insinuate that I’m irresistible in New York, I’m just letting you know the men here are bold and they all appear to be fresh out of the pen.

At least the ones in Spanish Harlem.

Side Note:  The maintenance man in my building calls me “mama” on a regular basis, and I’ve totally come to love him and his gross affection towards Mosie, which probably discounts my frustration with the aforementioned topic.  

Continue reading “They Outran the Rain”

A sappy love story

To my mother.

Writing about home is something I find myself doing quite frequently.  I often fear that I am boring readers because after all… home is really only special to the person who calls it that.  I told myself this Southern Wild blog would not be personal.  I told myself I would stay on the surface with all matters that directly affect the people I love, but that’s hard to do.  Because the people I love make me who I am, and I can’t very well write about any one else.

Every time I visit home I realize I’m not the Cap that left.  There is an ache in my heart for all of the wonderful things I’m missing in the daily routine at home, but there is a love for the obliviousness in being away.  There is something so painful about going home.  I won’t go into detail, because I’m saving the juicy stuff for my big New York Times bestseller (kidding), but there is a heartache so deep that only seems to surface when I cross over Louisiana territory.

Youth seems to grant each individual the convenience of moving forward – something I’ve always found charming.  But adult life, especially at the root of the pain, is a constant tug-a-war with progression.  You see, I believe we are all allowed to make our own futures, but sometimes the things we hoped our futures would cover up make up too much of our foundation and the battle between growth and personal substance is too much to overcome.

Getting to my point..

I was a caring kid, but between my mother guarding me from the harsh reality of our life and my father lying about every aspect of daily interactions – it was hard to get a real grip on the interpersonal relationships within my family unit.  For a large part of my life, I thought my mother was too saddened by her past to focus on the future.  I grew up thinking my father, when sober, was the glue that held my family together.

How wrong I was.

Over the holidays, I watched as my mother set out every single item from my niece’s Christmas list under her tree. I watched her stress about the barbies and the books she purchased.  I helped her mark off each item, and I even signed Santa’s name on Addie’s list.  For the first time, I understood the magic in Christmas.  It was like a spotlight suddenly beamed on my little heart, and I was no longer a Grinch.  I’d venture to say my heart even grew a few sizes that day.

Yet, after the warm, fuzzy feeling came over me and covered my body in goose bumps, I wondered why my mom was in charge of playing Santa.  So I asked her, because that’s what adulthood has taught me.  I asked why she did the shopping, and why she arranged the gifts, and why she sprinkled glitter streamers all over the house.

“Well, who else was going to?”, was her response.

My body nearly doubled over from the realization.  My mother had been covering up everyone else’s screw ups her entire adulthood, and she’d done it quite successfully.

Here I am, nearing Senior Citizen discounts, and I’ve only just been able to grasp the amount of roles she plays on a daily basis.  I left shortly after Santa’s workshop exploded in her living room in a desperate attempt to hide the waterworks that were about to flow from my tear ducts. I think loads of people attempt to put into words the love and respect they have for their mothers, but I’ve never felt as though I understood that depth prior to her uttering, “who else was?”.

She’s been my everything even when I didn’t see it. She’s the foundation that makes looking back not quite so hard. She’s the reason I still call Louisiana home.

That’s the kind of woman I hope to be.