Save me, Kitty! Save me!

My grandparents’ yard was about an acre of a 40 acre property. There was a fence around the other 39 and a neighbor kept cows there. (He paid my grandparents for the use of the property with half a beef every year.) There was a pasture to the right of the house and a wet weather creek back in the woods. We played all over about 10 acres of that property. We had to be careful in the pasture because there were thistles and cacti all over the place. And if we got too close to the cows, the bull got tetchy.

I am 5 years older than my first sister, 7 years older than the youngest. After one visit from all of us without my parents, my grandparents refused to try to keep up with all 3 of us at one time again. But, we did go singly or in a pair. They were very loving and the only punishment any of us ever got from them (with one exception and I don’t blame them, I was unintentionally very bad) was their disapproval. That was usually sufficient to keep us in line. There were occasional threats of corporal punishment. But, they were never acted on. The idea of being so bad that they would actually spank us was was too horrible to contemplate.

One summer when Amanda was 3 or 4 and I was 8 or 9, we visited them together leaving Ingrid with our parents. Our grandparents had a habit of having a cocktail while they listened to a baseball game on the radio, enjoying the evening in lounge chairs in the back yard. They only ever had one. I think his was bourbon and water. Hers was bourbon and Coke. On this particular evening, I took a walk across across the pasture while Mandy played around my grandparents in their chairs under the mimosa trees.

When I was halfway to the other side of the field full of thistles, cows and cacti, I heard my little sister screaming “Save me, Kitty! Save me!” I turned around to see my grandfather holding her by the arm and she was trying to pull away from him. He was holding a stick half the thickness of my arm like he was going to brain her with it. I started running back toward them, thinking “What do I think I can do to stop him? And please don’t let me step on a cactus!”

And noticing that my grandmother was sitting in her chair, just holding her drink. And laughing. When I got to the fence, I could see that both my grandparents were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.

I don’t remember which one of them asked me what I thought I was going to do when I got there. I do remember saying “I had no idea. I just ran because she was hollering.”

When I asked what was going on, Mama told me me Mandy had sassed my grandfather and he had threatened to take a switch to her. So, she sassed him again. Probably saying something along the line of “You will not either.”

He never would have. That was not his way. And part of what was absurd was the tree branch he had picked up. If he’d hit her with that, he would have broken bones. The idea of it was ludicrous.

(The only spanking any of us ever got was 3 swats on a clothed bottom on the side of a very busy road where I had been taking a parade of cousins for a walk. It hadn’t occurred to me that walking beside the highway that ran in front of their house was different than walking on the sidewalk in my quiet neighborhood at home. We scared the life out of all the grown ups that day.)

“Save me, Kitty. Save me.” was one of my grandmother’s favorite stories to tell on us. She was still laughing about it 30 years later when we were grown and he had been dead for more than 20 years.

story grandparents' yard acre 4 - klparmley | ello

This was taken at my parents’ wedding. She was 5 years younger than I am now. He was a year older than her. I was born a year and a half later.

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Remembering my grandparents

I remember my grandmother holding me up to see a cat with new kittens in a dead tree stump that must have been 4.5 feet tall. Because of the shape of the house, I had to have been <4 years old. A renovation took out the porch every one else was sitting on.

I remember sitting in the light of the fire and the Xmas tree lights, eating pound cake and drinking orange juice because she forgot to buy more milk. I think I was 9 or 10.

I remember rides in the cart pulled by my grandfather’s tractor to go pick out, chop down and haul in the Xmas tree. It was a very bumpy ride and it never occurred to us that he already knew which tree he intended for us to choose.

I remember my grandfather letting me hold a baby chick and when I tried to pick one up for myself being chased by the rooster. I was 5.

I remember him taking his pistol outside at dawn because the chickens were making a ruckus. He held up a 6′ rat snake with a rake when we went to the door after we heard the gunshot. I think I was 4 or 5.

I remember going out to the garden in my underpants with a salt shaker in my hand and picking a tomato to eat it like it was an apple. I was 2 or 3.

Shifting the Sun by Diana Der-Hovanessian

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

“Shifting the Sun” by Diana Der-Hovanessian, from Selected Poems. © Sheep Meadow Press, 1994.

I have been looking for this for 2 months. Finally found it today. A friend sent it to me via FB messenger right after my dad died. I thought I had stashed it somewhere easy to find. That as pretty silly of me.

It will probably make you cry a little. It made me tear up, again. But, it helps my heart, too.

Tomorrow is my parents 56th wedding anniversary.

_____________________

Ded said “Garrison Keillor read that on The Writer’s Almanac the day before my dad died. I was alone in the office in the very early morning, which was a good thing, because I knew my dad was dying, and I ended up sobbing. I also knew it was a gift, and I worked to find a copy of it (this was 1996, before you could find anything on the interwebs) to be read at his funeral. On the first anniversary of my dad’s death, Garrison Keillor read it on The Writer’s Almanac again. Since then I have always shared it with friends when their dad’s pass, and it was read at the funeral of my children’s father. It means a great deal to me; I’m glad it means a great deal to you too.”

dna

Names

My friend has a son who is 10. I have been in a room with him. But, we haven’t actually been introduced other than “This is my friend, Kitty.” directed to his grandmother, who was in the room at the same time. I have no clue what he is expected to call me. It will be interesting to see if he ever actually calls me by name.

When I was growing up, I had an Aunt Nel and Uncle Carl who weren’t actually related. But, they have known me since I was a year old and are still good friends of my mother. I, also, had Mr. Jim, Mr. George and Miss Esther, who were friends of my grandparents. Also, no actual genetic connection. But, close enough not to require the formality of last names.

An African-American friend once told me that her parents taught her never to Miss This or Mr. That to anyone because it was a slave time holdover. And I can see that. But, that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the names we used for the older family friends. I told Diane about Miss Esther and Aunt Nel and she said “Hm. That’s interesting. I’ll keep it in mind when I hear those used in the future.”

My sister works in a daycare. The children there call all the teachers Miss Firstname. So, my sister is Miss Amanda to her 3 and 4 year olds. I’m not sure why the school chooses to do that. It is surely no more difficult to say than Miz Whoever.

Because I am called “Kitty” (birth certificate says “Katherine”), I get the extra silliness of Miss Kitty. If you are of a certain age in America, you watched Gunsmoke on TV. Miss Kitty was the madam working at the saloon in Dodge City. Even the director of my department at work adds that superlative to my name. And that feels odd. “Miss Kitty” from someone under the age of 20 would fit my family’s traditions. But, from people my own age or older, it is just peculiar.

Lalochezia

Lalochezia lal·o·che·zi·a (lāl’ō-kē’zē-ə) n. Emotional relief gained by using indecent or vulgar language.

One day, I was at my parents house and needed to store some kind of food. (I’ve forgotten what.) I had a container and was sitting on the floor going through all the lids that had accumulated in the cabinet trying to find the one that fit. And, as is my habit when I’m doing something that’s frustrating me, I was swearing to myself. A kind of sotto voce “shit, damn, hell, fuck, hell, shit, damn, damn, damn, shit fuck, hell…”

My father came in the kitchen, heard me and started laughing. I said, “What? It’s funny that I’m sitting on the floor look for a lid for this damn bowl?”

He said “No. I came in your room one time when you were about 4 years old and you were looking something in your toy box. And you were talking to yourself saying ‘shoot, durn, shoot, durn, heck, shoot, heck.’ It’s funny how somethings don’t change even though the language is more mature.”


I work in a medical lab and our work space is called a bench (even though it is a long table). And the benches in my department are about 3 or 4 feet apart. It is possible to be facing someone else while you are minding your own business doing your own work in your own space. Also, there are days that are a little stressful and my lalochezia kicks in to help me deal with it.

One day, my manager called me in to tell me that another employee had complained about my language. I asserted that I had not been swearing at my coworker. I had simply been doing my work and talking to myself as I did. “Also,” I said, “if she has never heard those words, how does she know what they mean? And if she does know what they mean, clearly she has heard them before and I haven’t been giving her an accidental education.” I thought about it a minute and said “And another thing. If we were that close to each other that she could hear me, why did she need to come complain to you? Why didn’t she just day ‘Kitty! Shut up! You’re bugging me.’? I probably would have.”

Sometimes, I add an extra “fuck” to my conversations at work when she’s around, now.

Artichokes

When I was 14 or 15, a frequent habit in my family was to go to church on Sunday and then have our big meal, usually in the dining room instead or the breakfast nook off the kitchen. It wasn’t always a huge feast that my mother had spent hours over, just the biggest meal that was getting fixed that day. It could very well be chicken salad and pimento cheese with choices of bread or crackers and some chips.

But, one Sunday when we came home, she got stirring around in the kitchen and shooed me out when I came to help. I didn’t argue. I didn’t get let off that hook very often.

After a while she called us into the dining room, where there was nothing on the table except napkins, some silverware and glasses of tea. She was clearly pleased without herself as she told us to sit down and whisked into the kitchen.

She came back with salad plates holding steamed artichokes. And she brought little dishes of melted lemon butter.

We were baffled. She sat down and showed us how to gently pull the leaves off and scrape the tasty bits off with our teeth. My sisters and I had a blast dipping in the butter. My parents seemed to think it was fun to enjoy their artichokes and to watch us having a big time. Eventually, we got down to the choke. She showed us how to scrape off the fuzzy part and cut the heart into bite sized pieces to eat the best of the artichoke.

When we had all finished, she whisked the plates and artichoke debris off the table and banged around in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. Then she brought in bowls of Campbell’s soup and a plate of peanut butter and honey or jelly sandwiches (which was a fairly usual lunch for us).

I looked at my soup and said,”I’m not complaining about the meal. Soup and sandwiches is great. But, it’s kind of anticlimactic after the artichokes.”

She almost looked sheepish and said, “I rarely see fresh artichokes at the grocery and when I do they usually only have 2 or 3. The other day they had 5! One for each of us. So, I got ’em. And if you ever find yourselves faced with one, you’ll know what to do with it.”

So, that’s my mother.

Cake!

This photo was taken to mark my second birthday. My father had turned 24 the previous April and there was chocolate cake.

little kitty

I have always loved chocolate cake. And I decided that I wanted a piece of that birthday cake. So, I pushed a chair over to the kitchen counter and cut myself a slice.

I don’t remember where I got the knife. What I remember is standing on that chair eating the slice of cake that I was holding in my left hand and holding the knife with my right hand. My mother walked passed the kitchen door and didn’t register me standing there for a second. I suspect that the horrified expression on her face when she backed up to look in the kitchen is what welded it to my mind. As I recall, she swooped in to pick me up and relieve me of the knife while I diligently chomped away.

About 50 years later, she asserted that children have no memories of any time before they are 3. I asked her how old I was when that happened. She said, “You couldn’t possibly remember that. You were only about a year and a half old!” I said, “You never told me that story in my life. I even remember the dress I was wearing. It was a baby blue dress you had smocked.”

Her jaw dropped. She said,”I guess you do remember.”

Looking for ice

When my Nanny died, we all had to travel to the funeral. NONE of her children or grandchildren lived nearby. So, we were all piled up in a hotel and taking care of the business of getting her buried and as much of the household stuff taken care of as we could.

People brought food to the house, omigod the food! We did NOT have to worry about what to eat. Or drink. Bottles of soda and jugs of tea came in, too. But, her freezer couldn’t handle the load. There were 12 immediate family members, plus friends and extended family coming by to offer condolences.

So, my husband, brother-in-law and cousin’s husband made an ice run. When they came back, they were all hurting themselves laughing.

The first Kwik Stop place they went to didn’t have an ice chest out front, so they went in to ask if they even carried ice. The girl behind the counter drawled, “Naw, we don’t have ice, but we got come nice night crawlers.”

Because those 2 things are interchangeable. :joy_cat:

My dad died

I believe in the Big Bang and I believe it is the breath of God and it is God. Exhale creation, inhale entropy. And it is all Now. That part of the Now that forms into Ingram is part of Us before we are born and part of Us when we separate out of the moment we inhabit as individual particles and return to the greatness of All. And the part of Creation that was his life is still happening.

I am still laughing with my grandmother. I am still gossiping with my dad. I am still holding my infant son and I am still fucking up all they ways that I did that, too. And my future is unknown to me, but it is already happening, too. Not as it is supposed to happen, simply as it does happen.

So, that part of the liturgy that talks about “as it was and is and evermore shall be” really works for me. My dad is with me forever, I just can’t hold his hand any more.  The particle of Now that is “me” misses that and cries sometime.

I do not believe that the Breath and God are separate.  I believe Singularity.

House work

A friend on Ello posted about getting ready for a familial visit and, as happens, it put me in mind of a couple of shifts in my brain about household maintenance.

Once upon a time, when I was a young lass with no washing machine, a friend offered to let me do my laundry at his house. I was delighted. As I was trying to fold the fitted sheet and bitching, he said, “Is that what you want to be able to look back on at the end of your life? That you could fold a fitted sheet?”

I folded it into something that resembled a square and put it in the laundry basket. I have never worried about it since. As long as it will go in the place I need to store it, I just don’t care.

Another time, when I was grown, I was visiting my parents. Both my sisters and their families were there, too. I don’t remember how we got on the topic. At the time, I had a house keeper come every couple of weeks to help keep the big stuff done. And if my parents were coming to see me, I made sure that it was the weekend after the cleaner had been in. (I’m not stupid.) And she called me out on that. I laughed because I didn’t care. But, then she made the comment that none of her daughters were very good house keepers. And my younger sister’s jaw dropped. She thought she had managed to live up to our mother’s expectations.

My parents live in a retirement community and have white furniture, white carpet and no appliances on the counter top in the kitchen because they don’t cook. They have a cleaner come in every Wednesday. To an apartment that never, ever is dirty.

I don’t even want to live up to her expectations. Having had a spotless house is not what I want to look back on.

I think there are still bits of espresso on my kitchen ceiling from an explosion when a friend was visiting. I have had parties that took up my whole back yard. I have slept in my hammock under the stars. We had a scotch and waffle party, one time. My son helped me build a labyrinth in my back yard and that labyrinth lured Chuck into my life. I have tried beekeeping, but they don’t can’t thrive in our neighborhood. This yard blooms almost all year ’round. This house has been full of laughter and tears and spilled wine and hugs and shouts and good food and love.

And I don’t care if it isn’t clean enough to suit someone who doesn’t live in it.