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Sunny sides. Flowery rocks. Fresh air.

Month

August 2011

Summer Soap Opera Series Finale: Barbara

Barbara

            Barbara fluttered around, this way and that; swooping down on piles to clean off of tables, and diving into boxes of china and crystal to set up. She flew around from room to room, checking off her list and trying to think of everything that needed to get done for the party tonight. She interrupted her own out-of-tune rendition of “It’s My Party” to mumble to herself: what am I forgetting? Honestly, if I didn’t think of everything, then who would? Not Jim, that’s for sure. He wouldn’t know where to begin to throw a party. Even though she was having the party catered, and a maid crew to clean before and after, she still had a lot to do if she was going to make her hair and nail appointment on time. She had planned to arrive her usual 15 minutes early.

And, the girls were coming in this afternoon. Dear Lord, she prayed, please let them all get along. Just this once! Sometimes she wondered how her three girls all came from the same household: Maggie, the oldest and only wife and mother of the three; Lori, the middle child, the career woman; and Ginny, the baby, the flower child. Lord knows I did all I could and more; I did too much, too well, she assured herself.

Barbara picked up a stack of photos she had been organizing. There was one of the girls on Halloween: Maggie as Dorothy, Lori as Glenda the Good Witch, and Ginny as Toto. Ginny had begged to be the Wicked Witch but their church did not allow scary witches at Halloween. Barbara remembered how darling she was as Toto; Ginny had been so petite during childhood. Oh, how things had changed, Barbara mused. The girls had grown up so close, with just 2 years in between each, but as adults, they had drifted apart. Their lives were so different; Barbara hoped they would find their way back to each other one day. Today, she just hoped they could get along. It was, after all, their father’s sixtieth birthday.

On top of everything she had to do, she was totally preoccupied with the letter. She had it with her in her purse and kept pulling it out and looking at it. She reminded herself that God does not give us more than we can handle, and with Him at her side, she could handle anything. She was a “steel magnolia,” just like M’Lynn, her favorite character in the movie. She wondered how M’Lynn would handle the letter: probably go down to the salon and talk to Truvy, Dolly Parton’s character. Maybe cry dramatically a little bit before pulling herself together, with hugs from Weezer and Claree. As Barbara slowed to a stop at a red light, she took out the letter to read again for the umpteenth time:

Dear Mrs. Lowell,

My name is Casey Lumpkin and I am contacting you about the time you spent in Mobile, Alabama. I was there, too. I’m a social worker in Atlanta now. I don’t want to say too much in a letter, but I would love to meet with you and talk with your further. I feel like there are so many unanswered questions, and am hoping you can help me. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you are interested.

            Sincerely, Casey Lumpkin 

What am I going to do? she asked herself. The Lord knows what His plan is, but she could not believe this letter arrived the same week as her husband’s 60th birthday party. She wondered what he looked like now. She couldn’t believe he was in Atlanta! Only an hour away.

“Hey lady, it ain’t gettin’ any greener!” the driver beside her yelled into her cracked window. She stuffed the letter into her purse and drove on to the salon. Her body may have been in present day Georgia; but her thoughts were in 1970 Mobile, where she was handed off to the nuns at 17, pregnant, and scared to death.

 

“Hey Mom! I brought some wine! Hello….?” Maggie hollered, walking into the kitchen.

“Maggie! How are you? Where is everybody else?” Lori hugged her sister.

“Lori, you made it. You look so thin and so tan! Love it. The kids are coming later with a sitter, and John is still at work. But he’ll be here. He said he’d be here,” Maggie frowned, looking at her watch.

Lori eyed her sister. “How are the kiddos?”

“They’re great. Really, couldn’t be better. The girls were the stars of their dance recital. And Tripp starts kindergarten next month and is already reading; he made the All Star baseball team and had a home run last game ,” Maggie said.

“Wow, that’s exciting. I guess you’re pretty busy; I haven’t heard much from you lately,” Lori grabbed a handful of nuts.

“Well, Lori, some of us stay very busy tending to our families and taking care of our husbands, you know. You might take some notes,” Maggie glared at Lori.

“Where’s the party?” Ginny asked as she walked in.

“Ginny, hey!” Lori gave Ginny a hug.

“Hey Mags, long time no see,” Ginny smiled at Maggie as she walked in the other direction.

“Hey Ginny, long time for sure. At least 25 lbs ago. You’re obviously enjoying your cooking these days,” Maggie scrunched her nose as she walked out of the room.

“She never changes, does she? Jesus Christ, what a bitch,” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“Well, if you were married to the biggest douchebag in town, you’d be a bitch, too,” Lori said.

Ginny smiled. “True. I also think she just needs a sandwich. Poor girl, you can almost see through her. So how are you? How’s island life?”

“It’s different. Slower pace. Flip flops instead of Power Heels. Started a garden…you’d be proud.”

“Nice! Next thing I know, you’ll be cookin’.”

“I’ve learned a few basics. How’s the restaurant biz?

“Crazy. Scary. Awesome. So, how long til you’re out of hiding?”

“I don’t know. I’m kinda starting to like it there.”

“Seriously? You? Please, you’re not even good at vacations, dude. Get back out there and kick some lawyer ass.”

“Ginny, you don’t understand what I’ve been through. It was rough. It was hell.”

“Of your own making. You made your hell, now you have to fry in it. So where’s Mom, anyway?”

Lori stared a hole through her sister. “Why don’t you go fuck yourself? Probably the only action you can get.” Lori stormed towards the liquor cabinet.

“Enjoy your Jack and Coke. The true love of your life,” Ginny said as she headed up the stairs.

 

Barbara intently put on her lipstick. She poofed her hair in the back and sprayed one more time; hurricane winds couldn’t penetrate this hairstyle. She dabbed her wrists and neck with Chanel No. 5. How had he found me? Could I possibly meet him in secret? She had always wondered what had happened to him. Now she had a chance to find out, but she couldn’t risk anyone else discovering him.

“Hey Mom, whatcha thinkin’ about? You look pretty,” Ginny air-kissed her mother.

“Darling, I’m so glad you could make it. You look, well, very nice. How is everything downstairs?”

“Seems fine. Servers are getting ready, bartender already mixing drinks.”

“What? Already? Who’s here?”

“Your daughters.”

“Oh. Lori, of course. She better keep herself together. This is her father’s night. She has had more than her share of attention, of the negative variety, and she needs to be meek and mild tonight.”

“Yeah, well, I hate to break it to you but meek and mild has never been Lori’s style,” Ginny said and shook her head.

“How I have a child so bold and brassy is beyond me.”

“Mom, what can I help you with?”

“Can you just look out for your sisters? Maggie has a bee in her bonnet tonight, too, for some reason,” Barbara said and straightened her skirt.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“Guess we better head on down. Damn it, I forgot to check the centerpieces! Forgive my language, dear Father in heaven. What if they’re not done yet? Dear Lord, please let the centerpieces be beautiful. Ginny, bow your head! Dear Lord, please also let the hors d’oeuvres be ready. And please let Lori not be drunk yet. Amen.” She flew out of the room, yelling, “Ginny, I need to give the lady her check for the cake. Grab my purse, there’s an envelope with a check in it. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…” Barbara was singing/praying as she blustered down the stairs.

Ginny looked around her mother’s bedroom. This bedroom looks like the floral section of Michael’s, she thought. How does dad stand it? She saw his glasses on his dresser, but otherwise, there was no sign of him in this room whatsoever. She looked on her mother’s dresser and her vanity; no purse to be found. The room smelled like perfume and Listerine. Out the window, her mother was talking animatedly to the valet, giving him her I’m-better-than-you smile. Over by the window, on the floor, was her mother’s purse. She opened it and found an envelope right away. She pulled out what appeared to be a letter, instead of a check. She read over the short letter, from somebody named Casey Lumpkin. When was Mom in Mobile? He wants to meet with her…sounds like a love letter! What the hell?! Who is this guy? Holy shitballs, Mom had an affair! Ginny put the letter in her pocket and walked towards the stairs. She had to go find her sisters.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I love a blog that begins with a Grease 2 reference! Just so you know, if you are a G2 hater, I don’t want to hear it, and will just post the next blog with the entire soundtrack! Oh how I wanted to be Michelle Pfeiffer and have a Cool Rider for my boyfriend.

Greetings and happy end of summer vacation! So it’s back to school, again! Where I live, school has started and what you’re hearing from the general direction of the Atlanta metro area are moms’ and dads’ exuberant cheers! It’s so damn hot here, the kids might as well be in school. The pool feels as warm as… well, I won’t go there because, let’s face it, that’s pretty much what it probably is. We’re all sick of the sweating, the too-often-3-showers-a-day routine, and having to exercise before 9 am or after 8 pm, which for me, means not exercising. We are Over. It.

So I welcome the open doors of the schoolhouse with a happy heart and smiling face. I am grateful that the angel teachers of my 2 children will educate and entertain them for the next 9 months.

Summer vacation wasn’t bad or anything. We actually had a fun summer, despite not scheduling a bunch of camps. The kids both were anti-camp; they just wanted “to play outside with their friends.” So, that’s what we did a lot of the time and it worked out much better than I thought it would. For me, that is. I guess they learned how to be bored, and so did I. And in the end, we didn’t get bored all that much.

We went on some trips to keep from going stir crazy. We visited with family and friends, we went to the beach, and we got to go to Denver for a few days. We went to Six Flags and Stone Mountain. We swam and played some tennis.

And we read. Since the kids had refused all things camp, I implemented afternoon reading sessions in hopes that our brains would not completely shrivel up. The kids picked books from the county library and the Carnegie library. I came up with my own summer reading list:

1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

2. Classic American Short Stories edited by William Roberts

3. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

4. Roots by Alex Haley

5. Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler

6. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

Yes, I like literature and celebrity tell-all’s. I will often buy a New Yorker and a People magazine at the same time. I must admit, though, when I had problems with my Nook Color (I forgot to register my new debit card), it was a bit embarrassing that the problems were with the Steven Tyler and Rob Lowe books and NOT something more literary, like the Alex Haley. The B&N rep reassured me when she told me, “oh yeah, you’ve got to get this Rob Lowe book, it’s really good!” I told her I was an English major and embarrassed; you would think I was admitting to reading porn. I guess you could argue that they are the same thing….but that’s another blog.

I would recommend them all. I’m still working on Roots. It’s gotten rough and I can’t read it at night so it’s taking me a bit longer to get through. It is an incredible book, though.

We cooked some, but not a lot, and nothing very exciting. My son is becoming a young chef; he loves to cook and as he says, “make concoctions.” He makes his own eggs now, and made a solid pan of stuffed shells. My daughter enjoys it to a degree but has a shorter attention span. She did start up a make-believe restaurant this summer, complete with apron, real dishes, straws, and food made out of paper. Together, we made lots of desserts, popsicles, smoothies, and homemade soda.

And there was the inevitable too-much-tv and video games, the whines when the friends were on vacation, and one “Maybe I should’ve done some camps.” There was the reminder that we are a one-income family, in weird economic times, and we couldn’t do everything the kids wanted to do, when they wanted to do it. I even went through my own school withdrawal, surprising after I thought it was going to do me in. But I’ve worked enough summers in the past to know that I was lucky to be off this summer with my kids, who get bigger and more independent each day.

I reconnected with friends, family, my husband, and my children. I read lots of books. I saw the Rocky Mountains. I slacked off on my blog. I know more than anyone needs to know about Steven Tyler and Rob Lowe. I wrote a grant. I watched a lot of Bravo and Food Network.

That’s what I did on my summer vacation. How about you? I would love to hear from you all.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Katie

Zoe

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