Merry Birthday to Me! (Mixed Bag)
First thing in the morning (and I do mean "first thing": about 520 am), I was lettin the beasts out, as usual, and I noticed my brother's birthday present to me on the kitchen table. Wrapped. Bigger than a bread basket. Next to it was an empty bag with a signed IOU stapled to it. (Said IOU was my brother's idea. Knowing that neither Juice nor Goobs has a job, he had asked the girls to contribute what they could. And then he refused to take a Sacajawea dollar* from Goobs.
Makin adolescents feel like poop's as difficult as shootin fish in a koi pond. He made them sign the IOU. Ups to my big brother.)
I tore up the IOU, read my bible and went back to bed without opening the gift.
Got up a coupla hours later because I had choir rehearsal that morning. Showered. Opened my brother's gift to me. It was a miniature rod and reel.
My sister and I fished with Daddy when we were in our tweens and teens --because he loved fishing, and we loved hangin out with him. Daddy used to watch me fling that rod and reel, and he'd yell, "LOOK at her! Girl casts like a MAN!" To this day, I'm proud of that.
But I haven't fished in years. Daddy died ten years ago May.
The girls got up. "Happy Birthday, Mommy! What'd [Uncle] give you for your birthday? Did you see the IOU?" I hugged and thanked them. Showed them my rod and reel.
And then, "We asked him to take us around to find something together. We told him you'd asked for a bookmark. He showed us a torn piece of paper and said, 'Like this?' He doesn't get it. Wanna see what we made for you?"
Juice pulled out a former shoebox. It now has aluminum foil covering, various aluminum foil balls, a LOT of sugar, and a cardboard rake.
"It's a Zen garden," said Juice.
"I love it," I said, laughing. I really did. I raked the sugar for a while. Goobs gave me a handmade envelope, thick with handmade coupons, like "1Free Spanking (for Juice only)." I really loved that, too. (Yesterday, I used the coupon with the device, "1 day of being angels (no fighting)." Might need a refund on that gift.)
Went off to choir rehearsal. On the way, we listened to Tye Tribbett's Victory project, loudly, as prescribed, and sang, loudly, as prescribed. By the time we got to the church, about 11 am, I was thinking that I'd need to take my mild hoarseness seriously very soon. Went into choir rehearsal.
I don't know if I've told y'all about my church. Originally, the edifice was a Jim Crow movie theatre (as in either No Blacks Allowed, Period, or Blacks Allowed in the Balcony Only): the Regal, it was called. About the time my pastor decided we'd buy it, it had become a crack house, headquarters for dealers, home for homeless, Bordello-in-a-Pinch, stray cemetary, etc. He really didn't believe we'd get money for renovation. And this is a man of faith, you know. But the financing came to pass, and now we have a church made gorgeous (oh, follow the links. ain nobody gonna bite ya) through sweat and the breaking of willing backs. What is now the pulpit and choir stand was the place the movie theatre's screen came down.
Except for a small space in the very center of what is now the sanctuary, the acoustics leave a lot to be desired. So we (singers, musicians, sound technicians) work really hard at choir rehearsal. Add the quasi-choreography, not to mention the stress of working with more than forty headstrong, holy, grown folk, and choir rehearsal (at least ninety minutes a pop) should have the Weight Watchers' value of "intense aerobics".
We rehearsed several songs, then three or four more, and, since I had to lead a pretty loud song, loudly, my voice was about shot. (Clearly, I need to consult with H about Vocal Common Sense.)
After choir rehearsal, the girls and I'd planned to eat out somewhere fun (as opposed to "expensive"). V, one of my most adored choir directors, remembered that it was my birthday and offered to pay for my lunch. I accepted. She stayed behind to work with the band some more and met us later at Cracker Barrel, a favorite restaurant.
Didn't take long for us to get a table, or it didn't feel that long. After all, while waiting, I sat on Cracker Barrel's rocking-chair-filled front porch and listened to Juice and Goobs tell me about their dealings with infants, toddlers and kindergartners during choir rehearsal. The girls've learned that I'm inordinately entertained by babies and baby stories, so they regale me at every opportunity.
(Upon reflection, I don't understand this. Maybe my girls've inherited my addiction to other people's laughter. Or maybe, like a lot of the people who know me, they just like makin me laugh. Anyhow, at any given time, I have loads and loads of baby stories on tap. Here's one:)
Pre-schoolers love Juice. The feeling's apparently mutual, because, when she got old enough, she decided, on her own, to become a volunteer at our Children's Church. Since then, every pre-schooler in the joint makes a beeline for Juice whenever she walks into a room (thereby creating stories for her mother to enjoy). Yesterday, while Juice was minding her own business (for a change) R's five-year-old son climbed onto Juice's lap. Shortly after that, Pastor's five-year-old daughter climbed aboard, too.
"Get off!" daughter said. "You're in the way!" (I was laughing already. "R's Son was sittin there first, wa'n't he?" "Yeah," said Juice, laughing too.) Fortunately, Son's mama came to take him home, so there was no bloodshed (as we've come to expect with Pastor's Daughter). Another pre-schooler, C's daughter, pointed out, to anyone who'd missed it (by my estimation, an extremely small number of folk), Juice's boobies.
Meanwhile, Goobs was playing Put the Sock Back on My Foot Forever with another tenor's infant daughter. You know how babies do: they remove all footwear; patiently watch an adult reattach it; baby snatches it all off again and expectantly hands it to the same adult. If the adult ever decides that she doesn't want to reattach the footwear anymore, the baby screams.
This game is like unto Pick Up My Spoon Forever, which has rules similar to Pick Me Up and Hold Me Till I Wanna Get Down, Put Me Down, and Then Pick Me Up Again.
The Cracker Barrel hostess called my name, and we went in. (V hadn't showed up yet, but she had called to tell me what she wanted to eat.) Cracker Barrel's one of those no-frills, home-cookin joints: wood, quaint daguerrotypes, and ancient ads as far as the eye can see. As we followed the waitress** to our table, a voice yelled, "NO! You cannot eat here!" It was G, one of my pastor's brothers, finishing up his lunch. He was sitting with three other Pastor-related gentlemen: reading from left to right, closest to farthest away, Dr. B, the sage but jovial professor of our indepth bible class, M, Pastor's oldest son (a BABE by any estimation, but too young for me), and G, the gigantic head of church security.
(It's almost cultish, the time we spend runnin into church members. It's like FG owns the Eastern Seaboard. Keeps a Christian on her toes, at the very least.)
I patted G on his considerable bicep and greeted everybody before sitting at our own table.
"Hey, Cuz," said G (which is how he usually greets me because his sister used to be married to my ex's maternal uncle).
It wasn't long after the girls and I had ordered (eggs and bacon, catfish platter, and chicken and rice, respectively --oh, and V wanted grilled chicken and collards) that V showed up. V loves men, and the feeling is mutual, so she spent quite some time greeting our brethren before she sat down. She embraced M, still standing while he sat, so this meant considerable bosom-to-face contact. All the while (I could tell by V's poked-out lips) she was crooning to him like a baby, rocking back and forth. I watched and giggled, giggled and watched, until Juice and Goobs, whose backs were to the Brethren's Table, had to watch and giggle, too. I tried to chasten V when she finally took her seat, but was still giggling too much to convey earnestness. Soon we were both cackling like dirty old ladies.
During most of the meal, we were laughing --at choir rehearsal, choir members, musicians, the rigors of preparing for the annual Church Conference, and life in general as single Christian wimmins. And as I just love baby stories, my girls just love any stories my church friends tell. They're invariably irreverent.
Yes. Our church stories are irreverent. Sue me.
Nearly all of my friends cuss, y'all. Don't get me wrong. They (most of 'em) love Jesus and His peoples. They're compassionate and intelligent and ruminative. But when they get mad, they use words like damn and hell. (The compassionate, intelligent, ruminative friends who do not love --or know or care about-- Jesus use even stronger language when they get mad. Or even when just makin non-mad conversation.) I used to believe that people who said they loved Jesus and cussed were just lyin. I used to believe that people who cussed did so because they had little imagination.
Since then, God has sent a lot of cussin people 'cross my path, the only way, I reckon, to prove me wrong.
So whenever I hang out with my daughters and my friends, my daughters get very quiet, big-eyed and -eared. (I mean, you can actually see the growth of their eyes and ears.) They're very carefully, otherwise inobtrusively, taking mental notes. They're consigning conversation to long-term memory, for future savoring and dissemination. ("My mama's friends are crazy! Listen to this. . . .")
After lunch, the four of us ran off to Ross's, and then, after V left us, the three of us went off to Mama's. Mama gave me a handwritten birthday card and a gift card, and we talked about whether my brother was really gonna move out. We talked about her upcoming surgery (on her leg --circulation problems). But she was very vague about the date. "Ain no need for everybody to know when I'm goin in the hospital." I feel very strongly about bein there to breathe on family if and when they're in the hospital, though, so I wheedled nearly a total commitment from Mama about notifying me.
The girls told Mama what Uncle'd given me for my birthday. Mama, always aware of big eyes and ears, said nothing. The girls told Mama what they'd given me for my birthday. About then, the girls remembered that their father was probably on his way to our house to take his daughters off for a visit. We ran away home.
My brother was up. (He works nights, most weeks, so he sleeps much of the day.) After the girls went off with their father, my sister brought my nephews over with cards and hugs. My older nepphie, N, stayed near the front door, away from the dogs, and my younger nepphie, M, went after the gigantic puppy and played with him the entire brief time his mama, standing close to where I sat on the big couch, visited. Every once in a while, she'd tell one dog or the other to get its cold, wet nose away from her exposed knees. My sister talks to the dogs in the same way she talks to our kids. (Mama infuses more syrup: "And you, young lady, stop chewing on the carpet" to Nimue, for example.) In addition to the cards, my sister gave me (and the girls) tickets to WordPlay. The girls came back from their Daddyvisit, bearing McDonald's. Their cousins' attention, beaten down by boring adult conversation (about N's recent basketball game), picked up, and M washed his hands so he could mooch French fries with his brother.
"Daddy said 'Happy Birthday,'" said Goobs.
"Thaaaanks!" I said, to my ex-husband's back. My sister smirked and told me the last birthday-gift details: "Your tickets'll be at Will Call. Y'all should prolly leave an hour early," and, having directed her boys to hug Auntie again, took them on home. My brother passed through the living room.
I thanked him for the rod and reel.
"Will you use it?" he asked.
"When was the last time you saw me fish?" I asked. He remembered, aloud, those fishing trips with Daddy, disagreeing with me about how old our sister and I were at the time. (Though he had fished with Daddy, too, he'd never fished with us and Daddy, so I don't know where his certainty about our ages comes from.) The conversation ended.
*Honey, I don't know.
**I'd like to apologize for using this un-PC term, but I'm not gonna.