Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I Knew They Would Break My Heart

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
 

Truth is, I knew the Bulldogs were going to break my heart.

I knew because it was the logical end to the worst year of my life, the one where i met disappointment and fear and pain at every turn. The one where i just slogged through 365 days in a row, hoping it would soon be over and sometimes not caring how.

It’s behind me now, the hell that i went through in the last year. I did the right thing, and the hard thing, and I walked out of my house one morning and knew my life and the lives of those I loved would be changed irrevocably forever. And I knew that I had to do it to save myself physically and mentally, and to have a chance at saving us all. It didn’t work, not the way I thought it would, but i don’t regret trying. I did it and it didn’t work out and the world did not completely fall apart, even though there have been moments where it felt like it would.

I made it through the weirdness of living in a basement for 9 months, the shared silent house split right down the middle in alternating nights at home and nights making myself scarce, through the cold division of everything two people put together over 18 years, the day we told the kids, the signing of the papers, the waiting, and the terrifying unknowns of where i would be living.  I lived through the constant deflection of my family’s worry, my fear for my children’s well-being.

I lived through the surreal and daunting prospect of buying a house before I was really ready, the packing, the moving, the friend who just didn’t show up for me when I needed them most, the realization that they never would, and the friends who did show up whom I can never repay and to whom I am forever indebted. I lived through the vomiting, the sleeplessness, the ulcers, the near-debilitating sadness and depression, the million ways i numbed myself with drinks or food or tv or sleep.

I lived through the mortifying shame and guilt and self-hatred, and through other people’s pity and “I’m so sorry”s, their tears and their questions. I lived through those last weeks, packing the bare minimum and dumping it into a new and empty house, all while my job went completely to shit, i worked weekends and nights, and I found out I would have to drive to my office in every day, adding ten to 15 hours to my work week, and that i had only a few months to work out my childcare arrangements.

I made it through an August that felt like one never-ending horrible nightmare, one I could not wake up from, one that to get through felt like barely keeping my head above water in an ocean of cement, my eyes constantly on the horizon. If I could just get there, I might be able to breathe again, and maybe sleep, and stop trying to not feel anything.

I dumped all the boxes in the new house, received my final divorce decree two days later, woke up the next morning and flew to NYC, where I spent the first 12 days of my divorce almost completely alone in a city where you are never alone. I came home, and I started putting things together, getting used to my new normal, our new schedules, the homework and the dawning realization that this is real and it is forever and something I loved very much is dead.

I lived through the first week without kids, a very weird Halloween, a child’s birthday party as a single mom, the carpools juggled, and the feeling of having to do every possible excruciating red tape insurance/governmental/financial/legal/household task I have ever done, in my whole life, all in a month. 

I lived through the first holidays –  Thanksgiving without kids, Christmas eve playing Santa all by myself, Christmas night with no kids for the first time since my son was born, and the New Year’s Eve sadness of being alone, of going home alone.

I have never felt so relieved, for a year to be over and a new one to begin. And I have been positive and healthy, a little bit more every day. I have been getting back on my feet. In 2018, I have already achieved something i did not achieve in all of 2017 (and most of 2016, for that matter); I have had whole days where I did not break down in tears.

I woke up new, on New Year’s Day. And I know now something that I doubted for a very long time. The truth is, when it comes to pushing through the pain and the stagnation and the fear, I am strong. When it comes to realizing and seeking and speaking the truth, I am one badass motherfucker. 

I knew there would be more hurdles and I knew i would clear them.

So, I watched with growing amusement that my bulldogs were gaining ground, that they might make the big game. I realized that it would be hilarious for them to make the big game. We had sent my ex to the big game in California a few years before (different team for those non-readers); we had agreed if my team ever went, we would make sure i got to go too. But that wouldn’t happen now.

So, of course, after 37 years, the Bulldogs made it to a national championship. I could see it coming from a mile away. i enjoyed it, it helped me get through the first holidays on my own, and it was one happy thing in a sea of (mostly) pain. I started laughingly telling people that I wasn’t bothering hoping they would make it to the big game, but if they did make it, it would end in heartbreak. I knew not to bother daring to believe, because I knew it would not end well. I knew that the real poetic cap to my year was one last kick in the teeth.

And that’s just exactly what happened. There was no other ending that would have fit as well. Because every time that I have been down this past year, i thought, “This must be it. Rock bottom. This must be what rock bottom feels like.” And then something else would happen and i would just laugh hysterically that I thought it could actually be over, get better, that I might, just might, catch a break.

So, people will have to cut me some slack when I say that I am not quite happy and accepting of that loss yet. It wasn’t just a football game – it was wrapped up in a whole lot more for me. It sure would have been nice to have that game go my way, to have just one goddamn thing go my way.

The truth is, though, it would have been too perfect, too pat a hand, to finish it all off with a win. And now that loss is already in the yesterdays, with all the other losses I’ve experienced. Now I’m in the present, the today. i get to leave behind hope and expectation, and just take this new life one day at a time. I can leave the mistakes behind, stop looking forward with some endgame in mind, and concentrate on making each day good and seeing what happens.  I have a white, bright 2018 ahead of me, full of possibility and new adventure and challenges, and most of all of just being with myself, the me that I almost lost in the last couple of years, without all the noise of the crowd.

(But i probably could have done all that with a W, too. Just sayin,’ Universe.)

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I went to bed in a cloud of melancholy. I woke up the same. I cried my way to work. (40 minutes is sometimes just the right amount of time to think. Sometimes it is way too much time.) I usually am really good at compartmentalizing, but today I did a terrible job. I ended up crying in the grassy area behind my building, choking sobs back, rubbing at my eyes with my sleeve, pacing, giving myself the pull-it-together talk. I am really good at pulling it together; I was not able to do so this morning.

I somehow made it through the day. I sat in an hour and a half of traffic. I called two friends and two cousins. I left messages for them. I thought of people I desperately wished I could talk to about everything. I didn’t call them. Part of me thought I should. I called my Mama instead. She picked up, just like always.

I came home and I ran 2+ miles. It was my fastest pace in a long time. I must be running from something. It is like a soothing drug. Squats and crunches and planks are not soothing, but I did those too, because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

It was my turn to do kid duty. I took T. and her friend, M., to eat. It was about 8 pm. They were excited to tell me about their day. They gushed about Cars 3, which evidently has a female protagonist. I guess I will have to see it now, despite the fact that I wanted to shoot myself over all the Lightning McQueen stuff R. loved as a little boy. I miss that age now. I miss Mater, that old goofball.

The girls talked about how to pick a college. (My take was go in state, try to get some scholarships, and avoid loans, if possible, but mostly to just learn everything they can now, and make the best grades they can, and seek out the things that interest them. That would give them options, and the rest would fall into place, and that not everyone decides to college and that is okay too, but it is important to give yourself the option.)

Then we talked about financial security, and about how money isn’t about new shoes or how big your house is. It’s about freedom. Money sometimes = freedom. I also had this talk with my first love’s mother, right after we broke up, in maybe 1993. She liked me, I guess. She invited me to lunch. She gave me Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution From Within.” I may have frightened the girls when I told them that being financially stable was important for women, so that they never had to stay with an *abusive man. That they could always take care of themselves. Sorry, Megan and Andy – #notaprofessionalguidancecounselor

I talked to the waiter about his breakup with his boyfriend. He is maybe 21? I told him he’d live, but it might hurt like hell and feel like death.

We paid the check and walked out into the near-dark. It was cool for June, and we sat and listened to the quiet on main street for a minute. Tiller ran around and up and down the ramp and stairs with her arms out like an airplane. She laughed as she ran. She snorts when she laughs.

The train track signal lights started flashing and the crossing bars went down. The girls yelled, “Train!” and we walked to our car, next to the tracks. I gave both a leg up onto the hood of the car, and they sat on top under the quarter moon and we waited for the engine. It parked and we sat. (I stood. I am too old to jump onto a hood and not fall immediately back off and the whole patio of the restaurant was watching; I only made one attempt. I am going to practice that, though.)

And then it started. Just a single engine, alone, pulling no cars behind it. The girls waved. The driver waved back, not 15 feet away. He blew the whistle. Twice. We all clapped and cheered. The crossing opened back up and the bells went off. We got back in the car, now in the dark. We rolled the windows down.

Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio” was on. I’m not a big Rush fan, but I talked to them about Neal Peart and we rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof and they both put their faces out the windows as I turned onto the main road, as we drove past each streetlight, in and out of alternating darkness and light.

And somehow, at that moment, I realized the day had turned out alright. We would be alright.

* Hypothetical. My husband is not, nor has he ever been, abusive. He is the person I respect most in the world.

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Pride, Humility, Change, Gratitude, Acceptance, Truth

Sunday, May 28th, 2017
This kid. Like most people, I post about the good stuff that happens with my kids. Like when he went to the county for the spelling bee. (That’s him with his certificate in the photo.) Or the funny stuff, like when out of nowhere, he asked me about very explicit sex stuff in front of the waiter at a restaurant a couple months ago. Stuff like that. The stuff that entertains and brings joy and laughter and that, for some kids, comes easy. Spelling comes pretty easy to my kid. So does his unabashed open and honest curiosity, and a willingness to talk about stuff people like to pretend don’t exist or at least those subjects that people are uncomfortable talking about. And I want him to be able to talk to me about stuff.
 
But this year is a little different. This year wasn’t all good. This year, he took on a pretty hard math class, and he struggled a little bit for the first time. He said things like, “I’m not good at math.” He also struggled with disorganization. He struggled with motivation. He didn’t turn all his homework in. He didn’t like ELA (that’s English to us old folks) any more. He still read constantly for pleasure, but he wasn’t enjoying school. At one point during progress reports, he had a failing grade in more than one class. (He may have gotten that from his mother, too, admittedly. Genetics are a bitch.) He had been scared to tell us he was struggling and things spiraled and we had no idea.
 
So, we told him he could always tell us anything. And then we buckled down. He lost some privileges and we set guidelines for what we expected out of him. We also, concerned about his motivation about school, suggested to him that he might want to consider applying to a theme school for the arts. We took him to the school to learn more about it. He learned about the academic requirements for getting in and staying in the school.
 
We saw a change in him. He was inspired by the students who talked about school and how much they liked it. He decided to apply. He worked on the application himself. He prepared for the music audition and put together writing samples, and sought out recommendations from teachers and counselors. He auditioned and got a spot, knowing that he could not go to the school if he didn’t get his grades back up.
 
And he did. He got his grades back up. Not all the way to all As and Bs all year, as he’s gotten in the past, but enough to keep him eligible. He worked hard at it.
 
So, it was odd to see him walk across the honors stage and just get the one award for the spelling bee. The one he didn’t have to work that hard to get, because it comes naturally to him. (Not that we weren’t immensely happy with that award too – we were.) But just the one – No Principal’s award, or Cougar of the Year (no laughing), or Scholar’s awards.  And it was actually the proudest I’ve ever been of him, knowing how much he worked this year, knowing that he finally struggled and faced some adversity and he rose to the occasion, even if they don’t give awards for that. Knowing that he wanted something and he worked for it.* (Side note: How many other kids faced adversity and came out the better for it and never got a certificate or accolades for it? Guess that’s a post for another time.)
 
I was proud of me, too. It’s been a rough year for me. The roughest one I have had yet in my life, by a mile. I suspect that I will have harder ones. I’m proud of the fact that even when preoccupied with all of the other work/life/health issues my family dealt with, that we as parents didn’t drop the ball on supporting the kids.
 

I’m proud of what I’ve learned about life and about myself. I’m learning to be okay with getting by, with being thankful for my two healthy children. They don’t need to be child prodigies, Einsteins, stars, best in class, fastest, brightest, anythingest. They just need to know that I will love and support them, no matter what. Heck. I’m an adult and I needed to hear that lately from people I love.

Difficulty can make one stronger, but I was already pretty strong. Difficulty actually brought me to my knees and humbled me and taught me about getting to the other side, and about acceptance. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, less judgmental, to see more than one side of things, to not make assumptions. I’ve learned that even really good, smart, decent, loving, respectful people make mistakes or become bogged down in things they cannot for the life of them figure out how they got into in the first place, and that they are often right there in the muck of it all with other good people, all of them and everyone around them unable to face, much less say, their truth. Instead they can’t figure out how to communicate, so they shut down and numb themselves with the thought that what they’re feeling is normal. I know now that you can bury a feeling with all you’ve got, but it will find a course out into the light.

I’ve realized that the most I can do is try to rectify wrongs and the things I’ve left unsaid, and if I can’t fix them, at least I can acknowledge them. I realize that some things just happen and there isn’t a discernible reason. That coincidence or fate or happenstance are all just words for change and change is inevitable. That some things cannot be prevented; That some things cannot be fixed. That sometimes all you can do is be honest with yourself and those around you, and then hope for the best. That sometimes what you get is not what you might have wanted, but that you might be amazed at and admire how people handle things and what they give back to you. That you end up respecting them more for hearing your truth, and telling you theirs.

I’ve learned that being honest is more valuable than acting out of fear. I’ve learned that fear is often just being scared of hurting those we love, or of losing their love or admiration. That sometimes you find yourself in a mess because you were trying not to hurt or lose others. But when you put honesty out, you will likely get it back tenfold, even if it is painful and scary to hear. And you will know how to proceed. You find a place where you realize that everything will be okay, except when it’s not, and you’ll get through that too, hopefully with some semblance of grace and peace. (And hopefully with more yoga and less wine.)

I’ve learned that all the facades and paths and channels and expectations we are given are just guidelines and that I have to make my own way, because there is no one right way to live, and that my way is truth. When I follow the truth in my head, heart, and gut, the gnawing, sick, churning and burning in my very bones will go quiet and I will know which direction to take.

Truth is, deep down I knew it all along: I just never had it tested in such a complete and totally tectonic plate-shifting way until now.

And so I sat in that gym today, watching my boy walk across the stage and afterwards, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and took his photo out in a sunny courtyard, and I felt a peace and gratitude that I have not felt in a long while. Sure, he’s the best speller. But more importantly, he’s good enough at all the other stuff. And I’m good enough too, even if I am not the most perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, employee. I’m good enough if I actively seek my truth, and support those who seek their own truths, even if they are different than mine.

If you are reading this, and you need to hear it, know this: You are good enough, too.  Just follow your truth.
*Bold, because if he reads this, I want him to see that I was immensely proud of him today, and that he inspired this post, and that I want him to always follow his truth.

Wholesome and Old School Quality Family Time (NSFW)

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

So, tonight’s dinner discussion with my teenager and tween was so horrific, it gets it’s own NSFW blog post. (Mom, that means, “Not Safe for Work.” As in, don’t click on or read it on your work computer. So you’re fine.) For anyone with delicate sensibilities, or who thinks maybe their children are perfect and/or living in a bubble, you should stop here.

First of all, in my head, when I was driving to eat at our local restaurant/bar, I realized I was wearing the shirt I was lounging around in today. My Chunklet Trump Sucks shirt.

Maybe not the best shirt to wear in a very purple neighborhood. So, in my head, we might get looks because I had the word “dick” on my shirt. Some drunk redneck might want to discuss it. I have had this happen one time before and have a prepared rebuttal sure to make angry white men more angry.

But we got to dinner and the UNC/KY game was on (sorry Jason, congrats Dana), so it was unusually crowded and we got seated pretty quickly, but our food took awhile, so you know, that means Quality Family Time.

We discussed upcoming spring break plans, going to the beach, packing lists, games to take, R. going to Disney for his band trip, etc. It was super all-american and white bread. And then. Then, R. started pushing buttons.

Things like, “you don’t get to tell me whether I can take my phone to Disney or not, because Dad paid for it.”

[Needle scratches across record.]

Todd and I both work. Todd did indeed write the check and deliver it to the band teacher. But my head seriously exploded.

I said, “Buddy, you realize that your father and I both work long hours and what we make is both of ours. Daddy did not pay for your trip. Your father and I both paid for your trip.”

So, then I turn to Tiller, in a classic example of attempting to ignore bad behavior, while educating, and say,

“Tiller, did you now that in America, when a man and a woman do the same EXACT job, on average, the woman makes 75% of what the man makes?”

Tiller: “What?”

Me: “For every dollar a man makes, a woman, doing the same exact job, possibly as well, and likely, better, will make 75 cents for her work, while a man will make a dollar.”

And bless his heart, the boy child, he doubled down.

“Mom, why do you have to take everything so seriously? You’re so uptight. I was just joking, and you had to turn it into some kind of Feminist rant, like you always do.”

This was the point where I said, in the exorcist mom voice,

“Rollie, you need to leave the table now and go to the bathroom, because if you stay here, I will make a scene. When you come back, you better have dropped it, because you are treading on seriously thin ice.”

He goes to the bathroom, and Tiller and I discuss wage equality a bit more, and he comes back to the table. He seems to realize he has stepped over the line and is actually able to be quiet for about five minutes.

Then, i think he realizes by my stone cold stare and cold shoulder that I am actually very angry with him. So, he starts trying to make me laugh.

He begins by saying,

“I’m gonna go play something on the jukebox.”

Me: “Okay, no dubstep.”

Him: “Okay, I will play one of your favorites.”

Yeah, I’m not dumb, my guard is up.

He proceeds to play a song that he knows I loathe: Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Waiter comes by and smirks at me.

And I don’t let R. completely get to me. I point out that the song was not a terrible choice in light of the ending of the basketball game, but everyone probably thinks he’s a Tarheel now.

So, he again pushes the envelope, coming up with terrible-sounding music choices, that i didn’t recognize. And for every one, I said,

“Oh, that one is so good. I love that one.”

And he seemed to become frustrated, but at the same time, saw right through me.

And Tiller says,

“Can I play one?”

And I say,

“Honestly, if there is any song one might play in here that would baffle, astound, or annoy the clientele, it is most certainly from the Hamilton soundtrack. What song is most popular and recognizable from Hamilton, Tills?”

And she ponders it for a split second, then says,

“‘Alexander Hamilton,’ of course.”

And so that is how it came to be that my son ended up playing a track from Hamilton to a bar full of oblivious basketball fans in Tucker, Georgia. It must be noted that Tiller sang along, proudly, word for word.

And then, we were all laughing at the absurdity and seemingly getting along. But my teenager? He could not stop there. And so he drops the bomb.

Mom, what’s a ‘rim job?’

I am pretty sure I both turned red and spluttered. I don’t know that I have ever spluttered at any other time in my entire life. The waiter came by, took one look at my face, and asked if I’d like another glass of wine? (They are good people there, at Local 7 in Tucker.)

I compose myself and say,

“Where on earth did you hear that?”

R: “Why? What is it?”

Me: We’ll talk about it when we get home, okay?”
R: “Why? I want to know now.”

Me: “It’s like the blowjob discussion; You do not want to discuss this with your sister here, and I don’t think it’s polite dinner table discussion.”
R: [smirking] “That’s okay. It was in a movie Dad and I watched, and he already explained it to me.”
Me: [violent, bloody murder in my head, knowing I had been played, because he just knew it would get a reaction out of me.]

And then I did the only thing i could do. I laughed so hard I almost cried, because he absolutely had me on the ropes.

The waiter comes by to stand at the table:

“Check please,” I say.

R: “Also, what is a dildo?”

Waiter: “That last glass is on me.”

We finally get to the car and they are both jabbering and I say,

“Please, can we leave this conversation be until tomorrow? I really need a break and then I will be glad to answer any and all questions, just as I always do.”

And my sweet firstborn says,

R: “Okay. but I have one more question: What are anal beads?”

Me: “Where in the hell did you hear that!? I’m looking at your history on the computer tonight when we get home.”

And he actually seemed shocked that I might think he had googled it.

“Mom, I heard most of that in the locker room.”

Oh, well, that seems. . . wholesome and old school, I guess.
On another note, what songs would be the absolute worst to play in a bar full of people? Also, I am setting up a GoFundMe to cover my wine costs for the next five years.

Moonlight Mile: Complete Magic (and Terror)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

There are moments, when you have children, that you want to capture in time like a fossil. You want to be able to pull it out at a moment’s notice, hard and solid, and still exactly like that moment you experienced, suspended in time.

I had one of these moments tonight. I drank wine and played ZZ Tops’ “Tres Hombres” while the kids showered. Rollie went to bed to read the new Harry Potter. Tiller came down to hang out with me. I put on “Sticky Fingers.” We looked at her yearbook from last year. (She’s excited and nervous about fifth grade.) I turned the record over to Side 2. We came to the end of the yearbook, and I lay down on the couch. She lay down on my chest and the dog lay on my feet.

It is hard to explain the stillness of this, of the rise and fall of her breath and how it sounded so very beautiful and calming to me. The way I petted her silken child’s hair, as if it would stay that way forever.

And we listened to all of side two. And as we listened to “Moonlight Mile,” we were silent and tears rolled down my cheeks. The moment was perfect and completely unrepeatable. She will never, ever, be ten again, laying on my chest listening to the Stones, and who knows where I will be a year from now.

It was complete magic. And the most terrifying thing I’ve felt in a long while.

Mary Etta’s Purse

Monday, May 16th, 2016

When my grandfather died, we cleaned out his house, and there was just. so. much. stuff. Stuff that felt important and that I knew I should save, and I couldn’t make a decision about at the time. I put it away in boxes, and they ended up in the basement.

The basement flooded.

Much to Todd’s chagrin, none of my boxes of genealogies, family papers, history books, and old photos were damaged. However, the whole basement had to be emptied to do the renovations required to put in new floors and paint, so all of the accumulated stuff is kind of being moved into safekeeping until the renovations are complete. (By “safekeeping” I mean mountains of boxes in our bedroom, foyer, and dining room.)

While we were moving them, Tiller immediately caught sight of one item on top of an open box of photos that belonged to my Grandma.

My great-grandmother’s purse.

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I kept it because it’s a classic, beautiful vintage purse. Score. But I had forgotten until we opened it up that I had also kept it because it was a mini-time capsule of my great grandmother’s last years. I think that when she died, her daughters probably just took her purse home, and they couldn’t bare to throw any of it out. (Must be genetic.)

Here are my Grandma Palmer (Evelyn) and her sister, Lessie, at the funeral home. I know it’s morbid and sad, but I don’t care; I like this photo.

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She was born Mary Etta Richardson (her mother was Matilda Denmark, which is partially the origin of Till’s name, but mostly we just liked the name), in Liberty County, GA in 1888. She died December 7, 1959. (Pearl Harbor day, and my sister’s birthday, too.) She married my great-grandfather, Horace Ray Butler (Rollie dodged a bullet there) and they had five children. Two of them died as babies, and the stories of their deaths are heartbreaking to hear as a mother.They were older than the three who lived and died before the others were born. The three who lived were: Lessie, my grandmother Evelyn Jean, and Clayton. (I believe he was actually William Clayton.)

 

Both of the babies are both buried at Thomas Hill Cemetery on Fort Stewart. Here is a photo of Marie’s grave and one of R.C.’s. This gets mighty confusing, because my grandmother would tell me about her mother telling her about losing the babies, and the names above are misleading. According to my grandma, Marie was not pronounced with the common pronunciation. It was “MA-ree,” rather than “Ma-REE.” And there is no french accent to it, just “Little Ma.Ree.” And when my grandmother told me about the babies dying, the boy was “Little R.C.” Not “R.O.” which is what the gravestone looks like, but I am sure that it was R.C. and i think maybe the stone was not well-engraved, because I am sure she knew what her own mother called her dead baby brother. And we never heard a word about “Meldrum.” That makes Little R.C. quite a mystery, as he seems to be named “Meldrum R. C. Butler.” Genealogy nerd me would really like to know what the R. and C. stand for – I think R. might be for “Richardson.” Who knows.

Anyways, a ton of my other Butler, Richardson, Denmark, Shuman, and other families are also buried in cemeteries at Fort Stewart. (I hope to get down there for a cemetery visit, but you have to make an appointment, i think due to the Army not wanting you to get blown up driving around the base. Heck, I could do a whole post just about the people buried on Fort Stewart.)

Whoa. That was one of my more offensive genealogy tangents. Sorry about that. So, here’s the juicy part . . .

I guess the statute of limitations is probably up now on these folks, so I can say that we have not figured out the actual truth, but it is rumored that Horace also had a relationship with another woman (possibly a Sarah or Maude, who was perhaps a Shuman) and fathered a son, but I have never been able to figure out much more about it. People just alluded to it, but never actually gave us any real dirt. (If you happen to stumble across this post and know anything about this other relationship, marriage, or illegitimate child or his descendants, we would very much like to hear from you. I know that’s a long shot.)

Horace and Mary Etta lived in Bryan County, GA, on (as I understand it) the original land grant that the Butlers received in Georgia. My grandmother was born there, near Clyde. When Fort Stewart was created, everyone in their area lost their farms. They moved to Savannah, where both died and are buried.

So, back to the purse. The satin lining is sooo silky.

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Tills and I started laying the things in the purse out on the table. Here are the things we found in my great grandmother’s purse:

This really cracked and cool looking mirror. If Mary Etta was anything like my Grandma Palmer, she would not go out of the house without lipstick.

 

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One box of tithing envelopes. I think at the end, she maybe lived with my Aunt Lessie in Garden City, outside of Savannah, because I know she didn’t always attend church out there.

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Here is one of the cards inside. I love that they are numbered and have the date on them, so that you don’t miss one single Sunday of tithing.

 

 

 

Here is her wallet:

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It contained a lot of medical receipts and newspaper clippings of bible verses and obituaries.
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I thought this one was very interesting; A tuberculosis report, from 13 years prior to her death. Negative. I’m curious if there is some reason she would have kept this in her wallet all those years. At the time of the test, she still lived on Stevenson Ave. Daddy would have been about five at that time, and also lived there.

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Another bible verse. I can’t figure out why it’s printed so oddly. Are they like bible verse flash cards? Because even upside down, I can still figure out it’s from Proverbs. . . and I missed a lot of Sunday School.

 

She had the card for the Superintendent of Sunday School. Love the old phone numbers. No (912) back then.

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One Walgreen’s prescription. I didn’t realize Walgreen’s had been around that long.

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Okay, nerd that I am, I looked up history of Walgreen’s. No wonder they were around so long; They started in Chicago and were allowed to sell “medicinal” whiskey during Prohibition. 

Also of interest: Mary Etta’s doctor was a female. Thinking that wasn’t super common back then, but made me smile.

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Quick Google search on Anne Hopkins came up with nothing, but I bet she might have been pretty interesting. And anyone know what that cream is for?

 

Here’s an obituary for some British dude, William Wright. A boyfriend, perhaps? None of the names look familiar.

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The next one is sweet: A memorial clipping, of some sort, for Mary’s husband, Horace. He died when Dad was around five. IMG_8733 IMG_8735

 

One flashy red change purse.

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A whole bunch of hair doodads.

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I particularly like the packaging for the bobby pins, which did not photograph well, but reads, ‘Gayla 10 cents.’

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Here’s a brooch, of jewels in a crown. A few of the jewels are missing.

I really like this old letter opener. Does anyone actually still use these?

And here is my absolute favorite item in the purse. One, unopened, perfectly preserved stick of Beech-Nut gum. 
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One pair of vintage bifocals.

I really love that they just folded up her glasses and stuck them in the purse. There is something so sweet and personal about holding someone’s glasses for them. It almost feels like an honor. Someone really trusts you if they hand you their glasses for safekeeping. And there is something heartbreaking about folding up someone’s glasses for the last time and putting them away.

Here I am wearing them. Rollie and Tills both had to try them on and we all did our best schoolmarm impersonations. (Ignore my hair frizz. I just ran.) See any resemblance to the photo of Mary Etta below?

Mary Etta Richardson Butler. October 1888-December 1959. Buried at Hillcrest Cemetery, Savannah, GA. (I guess this photo was probably taken at the Stevenson Ave. house. The house is long gone, I think.)

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I guess maybe I will start digging through these boxes as I put them back in the basement after the renovation. I am guessing there might be some related posts in the next few months. History nerds unite. Everyone else just stop reading for a while.

This Week in Beloved Pet Deaths: The Dog Who Knew All My Secrets

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

I wrote about putting my cat, Scully, down on Monday. And then today, I realized that my beloved dog, Quint, the one that I mentioned not even being able to write about yet, had died five years ago today. Seems like it’s time to start processing that loss. So, here’s a little bit of what he was like, my buddy, my very best friend ever.

He was a lover of the lake and babies.

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A kid kisser.

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Kids get a lot food on them, though. (Yes, I think that’s Tiller’s hair when she gave herself the Bowie haircut.)

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He loved riding on the boat.

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And curling up next to someone on the couch.

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Or on the floor when they were sick and watching cartoons.

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He let the kids dress him up and play with him, with no complaints.

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And boy did he love going with us to the beach.

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It seemed like he always wanted to be where the pack was, following me or the kids around.

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He knew where the kids were is where I was.

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And he loved, loved, loved going for rides with me in the car. He was totally my co-pilot.

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And my foot warmer.

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And my best friend.

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The one to whom I whispered all my secrets, even the ones I was scared to say out loud, and who loved me anyway, and never told a soul.

Dead, Towel-Wrapped Cat, With a Daisy on Top

Monday, May 9th, 2016
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We had to say goodbye to Scully today. I’m not a cat person, but she was all my sister and I could have in our little apartment back in 1998. I had her before I had Todd, or a house, or kids. She outlived a second cat and a dog. She was a sweet girl, and her gray and white markings made Lisa and I think it looked like she was wearing a beret cocked over one eye. When she was younger, she could be bad. When Todd and I were dating, I brought him a snow globe from Alaska. He set it on an end table, and Scully walked over and swept it off the table and it shattered. Numerous houseguests and my very own mother were on the receiving end of a middle-of-the-night glass of water dumped on their head, courtesy of the Sculls. In her old age, she would walk around aimlessly, and meow at us until we would shake up the food in her bowl. I guess in her senile state, she thought it was empty. These are small complaints. She was a good cat.
Last photo of me and my girl. I'm going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

Last photo of me and my girl. I’m going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

 
In the end, she started going downhill pretty quickly, but she was never in pain, and I think we timed things right. It wasn’t the horrific emergency I experienced with Quint. (Total PTSD after that experience, and you will notice I have still not ever written in detail about it – it breaks my heart to think about him or look at photos of him.) I got to make the decision on my own time, and I held her while she quietly went to sleep in my arms with her head on my chest. We should all be so lucky. They wrapped her body up in a towel and laid a daisy on top and handed her to me, along with a sweet clay imprint of her paw. I was surprised I cried. I thought I was ready to say goodbye. I saw my neighbor, Paula, in the waiting room on the way out, and I could barely even speak. I was just a crying crazy woman, carrying around a dead cat in a towel with a daisy on top. 
Afterwards was a little weird. I got home and carried in a dead cat wrapped in a towel, and then realized I couldn’t bury her until the kids got home. So, then I couldn’t figure out where to put her down, because our house is so packed full of the stuff that used to be in our basement until the toilet backed up and we had to tear everything out. I decided against the bedroom because ew, dead cat in my bed. Decided against the kitchen counter or the kitchen table because ew, dead cat where I prepare and eat food. Didn’t want to leave her on the floor because Brody was WAY interested in dead cat smell. It would be my luck he would eat her.
Aside: This whole part reminded me of my grandma Palmer’s chihuahua, Princess, dying while they were in Savannah. Grandma just put her on ice in an Igloo cooler until they could get back home to bury her. What kind of crazy person drives around all weekend in a pickup truck with a dead chihuahua in a cooler?) In the end, I set her on bench by the kitchen table, with the daisy on top, until the kids came home. When Todd came in, I yelled, “Watch out, dead cat!” (He knew she was gone already; I’m not heartless.)

 

When Tiller got home, I went out to meet her and bring her inside and break the news gently, but old Eagle Eye Johnson saw the cat carrier in the carport in two seconds flat.
“What’s that?” said Tiller.
“Cat carrier.”
“What’s it for?”
“I had to take Scully to the vet to put her to sleep. She got really sick this morning.”
“Aww.”
“You wanna go inside? I brought her home and we will bury her when R. gets home.”
“Okay.”
“What’s that?” she said, pointing to the towel-wrapped cat on the bench in our kitchen.
“That’s Scully wrapped in a towel. You can see her before we bury her if you want, but you know her soul went to Heaven. You don’t have to look at it. It’s just a body.”
“Okay.”
“You want a snack?”
“Okay.”
A few seconds later, she said quietly, “This isn’t as sad as Quint.”
“No, baby, I don’t think it is. She was old. She lived a good life. She died peacefully.”
So, Tiller ate a snack, but not in the kitchen with the dead cat, and then we realized that if we were not going to wake up with a dead cat in the kitchen tomorrow, we needed to dig a hole and throw a cat funeral before 5 pm, because after that, we have karate and swim practice. I started digging a hole, and when R. came home, Todd told him and he came out and he was much quieter about it than Tiller was. I texted my commune sister wife, and invited her girls up to attend, because they loved Scully too.
Todd came out to help me dig the hole deep enough. (I am now interested in how people buried their dead in all this red clay. It wore me out digging a hole for a 6 pound cat.) We went inside to get the kids, and R. wanted to carry her body out. Out of all of it, watching my boy delicately carrying our sweet dead cat across the yard, her body wrapped in a towel with a daisy on top, got to me the most. Todd held her while the kids and the twins all went around the yard and picked flowers (yellow iris, red roses, and orange/yellow tickseed – I picked my favorite, hydrangeas). Then we asked if they wanted to see her one last time, so we unwrapped the towel and everyone looked at her, and talked about how it looked kind of like she was sleeping, but different, and she was still soft, but not warm.
Again, I said, “It’s just a body. Her soul is in heaven.” We wrapped her back up; Todd laid her in the hole. I picked up a handful of dirt and threw it in. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I said. “You can put some in, too,” I told the kids. Tiller said, “Do we have to say that?” “No, sweetie, you don’t have to say anything at all if you don’t want to. Or you can say whatever you want about her.” Each of them took a handful of dirt in turn, and tossed it in. No one said anything. “Rest in peace, Scully,” I said. “I loved you. You were a good cat.”

 

Todd shoveled the dirt over her and tamped it down, but just a little.  Then we each took turns laying our flowers on top of Scully’s grave, and then I held Rollie, then Tiller. And then sweet Leah said, “Can we have hugs, too?” I teared up, and I hugged Leah and Syd both. And then we all went inside or back home.

 

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Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully 1998 (?) – May 9, 2016. That’s Eddie Rabbit, watching over Scully from behind the azalea.

 

In the end, Scully lived 18 (I think) healthy, comfortable, well-loved years. She spent much of them sitting inside boxes and in sunlight streaming through windows. She left this world in the arms of a loved one as the breath peacefully left her body.

 

Rest in peace, Sweet Girl.

Hope Springs Eternal: A Prayer

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

I’m having one of those evenings where I feel very lucky, but yet I can’t stop the tears rolling down my face. I can feel lucky and sad at the same time, apparently. My family is happy and healthy. I have my parents and my sister, and my husband and children, and they are all fine.

Still, I find myself looking up at the stars and saying a prayer for an old friend, and for a family member of a friend, and for a few other people I know who are hurting. I pray for our country, because all this hate and yelling and violence is wounding my soul, and I know I am not alone. I pray for all of those people who can’t quite wrap their heads around how seemingly good people can support something so toxic. I pray for the ones that love someone who has changed into someone they don’t know anymore.

Yes, Annelle, I pray. 

No, I don’t go to church. I don’t consider myself a Christian, much to my parents’ disappointment. I do, however, believe in The Universe, and that there are forces of good and evil, and that my prayers go somewhere, and are heard somewhere, even if the impact they make is infinitesimal. I believe that there is something so very Holy in Spring, and the hydrangea, daffodils, azaleas, roses, and daylilies that pop up in my garden today. They are my old friends.

The come back every year, even when the man who taught me to love them is gone. They come back, even though the people I love don’t always come back.

Hope springs eternal.

Or something like that.