Family Traditions

Family Traditions

“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet

memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”

—Unknown

I said that I wasn’t going to write a separate post about Christmas but gentle pressure from my parents seems to have prevailed.  Truthfully, I was already thinking about writing something about my family’s traditions that continue today.  These are very important to me.  Not only does it show the sacrifice of family members that I never knew.  It also created and still creates an ongoing story that was passed from my grandparents, to my parents, to me and my sister and on to both of our spouses and children.

I can’t speak for anyone else in my family and their personal thoughts and feelings about traditions that may or may not be carried out.  However, Mel knows one thing about me…..Traditions will be carried out every single year no matter what.  This year they will be carried out in both Mississippi and Texas.  For me, it’s how I’m able to keep in touch with those warm and very happy times that I remember about my grandmother Alma Buxton that would be known simply as Nannie.

I have hours upon hours of funny stories about my Nannie and our trips to Wal-Mart and her horrendous driving when she utilized the motorized scooters.  Her personal view of road signs and regulations as mere suggestions for how one should drive safely.  But there was a time when my Nannie would sit with me for hours telling me stories about our family.  She and I would both get tickled about almost anything.  The filter that should’ve been installed was missing completely so random thoughts would fly out of her mouth at a moment’s notice.

Nannie

Most people that know me understand that very little can offend me. And that I will laugh at something’s that funny regardless of the appropriateness of the situation.  My Nannie and I laughed  A LOT while I was growing up.  And we laughed even more as she and I both got older.  But every year Thanksgiving and Christmas activities could be written with accuracy without being there because it was Family Traditions being carried out.  And it was the same way every single year until she died.

Our holiday would begin on Christmas Eve when our entire family (mom, dad, sister, aunt and Nannie) would go out shopping.  When I was younger the story was told that my grandfather, Samuel E. Buxton, who drove a big truck would come home on Christmas Eve and that’s when he would do all of his shopping.  His job made it where this was his only time to do his shopping for the family.  Then all would go that night to drive and look at all the Christmas lights and decorations.  Sadly, he would pass away 4 months before I was born and I would never grow to know him personally.  But my Nannie and parents always told both me and my sister how spoiled we would’ve been had he lived to know us.  I must admit that our family never had any problems spoiling both of us just fine.

Mel and I have both told Marshall and Copeland how spoiled that would’ve also been had they been lucky enough to meet some of their ancestors on both sides.  Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold is named after Mel’s grandfather and Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold is named after my grandfather.  We take this time each year to explain Black Friday and how we would shop as a family starting very early in the morning.  And then tell them about what we both did as kids with our families on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve began once my Nannie and Aunt arrived at our house to have the sleepover into Christmas Morning. Almost every year my place to sleep was with my Nannie.  We would have whatever meal was created by mom and dad. And small town news was discuss for the first couple of hours.  We would then all pile into whatever car was available and head over to Chain Electric in Hattiesburg who’s windows would be decorated with some form of moving decorations complete with Santa and the reindeer with Rudolph leading the way.  There were also usually a family of bears with lights that were smiling and moving their paws.  The rest I can’t remember because they eventually moved so much that they fell apart and the business was closed.  But this little girl stuck in an adult body remembers the time that our family saw this as an important time and event complete with driving through neighborhoods known for their light decorations.

When my sister and I were younger sometimes we would have fallen asleep while looking at lights.  My daddy would gently pick us up and put us in our respective beds.  The years when we didn’t fall asleep we would come home from looking at lights and put on our pajamas.  We would then put out the milk and cookies with a note written to Santa thanking him for bringing our long anticipated toys.  We also left out Purina Cat Chow for Rudolph because everyone knows that reindeer feed on cat food as a snack.

A few hours later we would awaken before God and the angels to look at what Santa had brought us.  We also anxiously looked in our stockings where surprisingly Santa had some kind of inside information about us wanting grapefruits and walnuts in our stockings…every….single….year.  Our family cat always got a can of tuna that end up in the cabinets where it originated only hours before.

As we got older, Nannie wasn’t quite as slick as she had been for many years when she would wake up grunting and groaning with every step she took toward our stockings.  You could very loudly hear her stuffing the stockings with something in crinkle paper and having a hard time accomplishing her task in the dark.  Sometimes you could hear her saying, “Awwww…..shit…..just get in the damn stocking!”  I couldn’t help but giggle.  My aunt always had a stocking so big that you could’ve fit a clan of gypsies and a midget in it.

Then for several years before her death Nannie would say religiously, “This is my last Christmas.  I’ll be dead by next year. You better enjoy me while you can.” “Why, Nannie?” we would ask.  “Because I’m old.  And when you get old you die.” We would all chuckle but we knew every year that the reality of that statement could be true.

My mom and aunt also have a box that’s used for giving a gift between them every year.  I must admit that there was nothing quite as comforting as sleeping with my Nannie when I snuggled up to the warm hump in her back while her snoring sounded like a growling bear. There would also be Christmas music playing by groups such as the Carpenters, Charlie Pride, the Oak Ridge Boys or maybe even Alabama playing on a cassette or 8 track tapes.  Tears glisten in my eyes now just to think about how safe I felt with my family before I knew that the world could be so cruel.

Christmas Morning after gifts were opened and likewise recorded by my daddy either on cassette tapes or video tapes.  I honestly don’t know if those tapes even made it to 2018.  Some had the voices of my mamaw Susie Kendrick, my dad’s mom, who I dearly miss.  She was the direct opposite of my Nannie. She had a filter and luckily it never got damaged. If you’ve met my daddy then my grandmother was incredibly similar. The time was now about eating myself silly on my daddy’s Christmas morning breakfast complete with homemade biscuits, grits, eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast burritos, some type of jelly and of course sorghum syrup that he would mix a pat of butter with just prior to putting it on a biscuit and then being inhaled.

For the next couple of hours we would try on new clothes and I would take my new basketball outside and shoot some hoops before we went to our neighbors house to make sure that Santa had made it there as well.  Nannie and momma would’ve prepared the ham and the dressing the night before.  The topic of the size of the ham was apparently important.  Nannie never ceased to tell us how much both the ham and turkey weighed.  I grew up thinking that we must talk about the weight of these two types of meat until I realized when I got older that no one really cared about the weight as long as it could fit on the fork or between two slices of bread for at least the next two weeks.

The food I waited for every year was the sweet potato puffs that had a melted marshmallow covered by a sweet potato then rolled in cornflakes and baked.  And then………my Nannies’ sweet and sour onions that just seemed to hit the spot twice a year.  Ironically, I still cook these onions every year and for a moment I can smell my Nannie and hear her laughter when we would open her spices together, make faces and laugh like life was just simple.

Each year that our boys have been born we told them even as infants about the importance of carrying out our family’s traditions and what it means.  It’s not just about seeing decorations, eating good food, and getting presents.  For me it has always been the legacy of the importance of family that my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles not only spoke of but showed us through their actions the sacrifices that would be made all centered around one thing……the love of our family.

“I love those random memories that make me smile

no matter what’s going on in my life right now.”

–Unknown

#thispuzzledlife

Life Is Better When You’re Laughing

Life Is Better When You’re Laughing

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

—Woody Allen

The above title is the writing on the outside of my private journal.  Understand comedy however you wish but for me it has gotten me through a lot of situations both good and bad.  I have always prided myself on the fact that regardless of what events have taken place in my life, my ability to laugh and find humor in most situations was never damaged.  Often times humor was used against me as a form of humiliation and embarrassment.

As a child, I’m not sure if I was humorous or not.  However, with my dad’s quick wit and grandmother’s lack of a filter, in any capacity, there was always a reason to laugh.  In my teen years, clowning around became second nature and a form of survival.  I became a class clown that followed me into adulthood.  In most treatment centers and psychiatric units you can most assuredly find me as the guilty party wherever roars of laughter might be exhibited. This is not because I like attention.  I do, however, love laughing with like minded individuals.  Things I Have Learned on Psychiatric Units is another blog where some of this very humor was captured.

I am usually telling stories related to my late grandmother’s antics especially when birds, squirrels, her individualized driving abilities or lack thereof and Wal-Mart scooters are the topics. She never could quite understand the fact that birds and squirrels have co-existed for thousands of years together.  She also never realized that both birds and squirrels can survive on food even if you don’t personally feed them every day.  There were many days when you would catch her screaming at the squirrels in a murderous rage about staying out of the bird feeder because they had their own food (corn cobs) placed securely onto a tree.  After throwing random objects from her house such as knives, spoons, cooking pots, a tea pot and house slippers at said bird feeder and using language that would make even the most liberal of southern Baptist blush she would then proceed threatening them with verbalized thoughts of a mass squirrel genocide.  Even after her death some of those same house slippers were found buried beneath leaves of the once violent anti-squirrel tyrant.  The blog post Birds and Squirrels also reiterates some of these same scenarios played out by one of my greatest friends….my Nannie.

comfort zone

Her driving consisted of her ignoring street signs, mainly speed limit signs, because they were viewed as a suggestion rather than law.  My family and I started driving her around soon after we all realized that safety behind the wheel was not her goal or a priority.  When I would take her to Wal-Mart my 80 year-old grandmother used the same lack of driving skills on the scooters.  There were times when I would look up with her driving solo to the women’s clothing section right up into a clothes rack.  She then proceeded to tell me the scooter was broken  and that’s why the incident has occurred.  Never once did she acknowledge operator error.  She would somehow cuss her way into leaving the area on the “broken” scooter only to leave a trail of blouses that had been ripped off the rack.  She would also drive down to another section of the store with additional clothing and hangers swirling around and grinding in the tires.  I’m sure Wal-Mart wrote these damaged items off because they most assuredly could not be sold after my Nannie had done her damage.

The ability to laugh at our own shortcomings allows us to not take life so seriously.  Laughter helps to reduce pain, strengthens immune function and decreases stress.  Whenever I feel some type of major depressive episode coming on I’ll usually find a movie or a standup performance by one of my favorite comedians/actors to help chase it away.  Granted this doesn’t always work but laughter has been some of the best medicine for me.  Some of my favorite comedians are:  Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, Dane Cook, Tyler Perry, Rickey Smiley, Jim Gaffigan, Aries Spears, Gabriel Iglesias, Will Ferrell, Jim Carey, Dana Carvey, Margaret Cho, Amy Schumer, Ellen Degeneres, Tig Notaro, Melissa McCarthy, Mo’nique, Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Cedric the Entertainer, Jeff Dunham, Mike Epps, Russell Peters, Darren Knight (Southern Momma) and the late Robin Williams, Chris Farley, Bernie Mac, John Candy and Ralphie May.

While my ex-husband could be comical, he used his humor in a very demeaning way against me.  And in public or around family is when he would let these skills reverberate with only me having the knowledge that this was not done in fun. I picked up on those comedic verbal sniper attacks very well. Also, since tears and real emotions were not considered “safe”, humor whether appropriate or inappropriate was always acceptable.  To this day, I’ll deflect most emotions other than anger or humor because it just doesn’t feel safe even with safe people.  Luckily, my “coach” already knows this and gets my attention when deflection seems to be my goal instead of feeling uncomfortable feelings.

Learning how deal with feelings through laughter is ok.  However, using humor as a way to avoid feelings can be detrimental and deadly if taken to extremes.  Re-learning how to deal with feelings appropriately is not an easy task.   But I will still take time out with telemarketers to let them know that I have to end the call because I have a cow on fire in the front yard.  Again, another part of life where I must learn and accept the importance of moderation and balance.

#thispuzzledlife

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

5.10.15

“It takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to

raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself.”

—Ritu Ghatourney

 

This post is one that is going to have a lot of emotion attached to it.  The topic of mothers and mother figures has been what has helped to shape me into the being that I am.  There’s a lot of happiness, laughter and tears associated with each name.  So, instead of just talking about being a mother, I thought I would share a little bit about some very special “mothers” that have influenced my life.  I would like to say that every woman that has been a ‘mother like’ figure to me in my life cannot possibly be written about in one blog post.

Let’s start from the very beginning and get the topic of my birth mom out of the way.  Her name is not worth mentioning so, I won’t even bother.  As much as I would like to say that I despise every part of her being, which in a lot of ways, I do, and I also must give her credit for giving me life.  She was the vehicle by which I entered the world.  Once I met her and was able to comprehend the fact that she wasn’t just a teenage girl that got pregnant and couldn’t take care of a baby.  Rather a very self centered woman without the capability to love a child in the way that a child deserves to be loved….I was able to move forward.  Sorry, Lifetime, the stories are sometimes just fairy tales.

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Susie Antonia Barbour Kendrick, was a woman who was truly one of a kind.  She had 10 children.  Her mother had 10 children.  And her grandmother had 13 children.  So, it’s very easy to be a part of this family and not know all of my relatives.  I never heard a cross word or any type of negativity come out of her mouth.  She was the child of a preacher and has many possibly a hundred or more decedents that are directly from her.  This side of the family is the much more conservative side but I love them all. Even in the depths of fighting cancer and the anguish both physically and mentally that go with that process, she always had a faith that was unwavering.  Her faith was so strong that even in the latter days of her battle while she lived with us, while I was still in high school, she prayed for a washcloth for 8 hours straight.  She also told my dad at some point that when he was a child that he ran down the aisle of the church and threw mud at the preacher.  People that know my daddy might say that that was very possible scenario.  While I know that this behavior was the result of the progression of brain cancer.  I chuckle at some of the things she said and did that were so out of character for such a sweet and very mild mannered woman, but she was my mamaw.

mother

My maternal grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton couldn’t have been more directly opposite.  My Nannie was one of a kind as I have mentioned in an earlier post.  When she moved to mom and dad’s house, she and mom would sometimes argue like teenagers.  Honestly, there were times when I would have some good ole belly laughs from watching them both interact and the childishness of some of their arguments most often instigated by, you got it, Nannie.  However, she would always say it was because of momma’s smart mouth.  True as that may be, momma had to learn from someone.   Momma had become very frustrated one of the many times with Nannie and I simply told her, “Momma, one day, you’ll give anything to have one more argument with Nannie.”  I can’t speak for my momma today, but I bet since the day Nannie died January 2, 2006, the day of wishing she was arguing one more time has come by to visit her many times over.

I have mentioned and will continue to talk about and refer to Sarah Garner Pardue as a mom.  I think it’s pretty clear from earlier posts what type of woman she was and how she influenced and continues to influence my life today.  I seem to shed tears on a daily basis for this beautiful angel that now gently brushes me with her wings to let me know she’s still near me.  Wow, even now I tear up.  She was one of the few that actually saw all sides of me and loved me unconditionally anyway.  I can’t say enough times that there are just not many people still out there that I’ve encountered that can still manage to do that without ulterior motives.  Through all of our hours of conversations and trials that relationships can bring, the one thing she always wanted for me was happiness, serenity and contentment.  Some people may not ever understand the relationship I had with she and Doug and that’s OK.  Even now, I don’t know how to fully explain what the relationship was, it was just special.  And I will always feel blessed to have been in the room at her feet when she took her last breaths.

The above people have left treasured marks on my heart that I will take with me to my grave.  The next person is in a category of their own.  My MOTHER, Margaret Pearl Buxton Kendrick. To me she is special not superficial means but in character.  Even with the very special relationship that I had with Sarah, momma never once seemed to feel threatened or jealous because she has always known that she’s my momma.  Everyone has one true momma whether she is good or bad.  My momma stayed up with me rubbing my legs from horrible leg cramps as a child.  Cleaned up shit, pee and vomit in the middle of the night.  Waited for me to come home often high or drunk.  Watched from the sidelines with tears in her eyes as I battled the depths of drug addiction, domestic violence and demons that she knew existed but didn’t know their names or faces.  She has sat with a broken heart, at times, trying to fully comprehend the word ‘powerlessness.’  She has watched her children suffer heartaches and cried with them.  She has watched countless hours of Little House on the Prairie and cried about the woes of the Ingalls’s family’s crops being destroyed after a hail storm. She cried when Mary Ingalls lost her eyesight.  She would sing the songs, in the living room, with the congregation in the one room church on Little House on the Prairie like she was a member. She has rejoiced with her daughter in the excitement and trials of being an athlete. She has watched her oldest daughter’s soul be cracked and broken from abuse that she sometimes knew nothing about.  She has watched as her daughter’s once beautiful and childlike forearms metamorphosis into graffiti like battle ground full of 20+ years of self inflicted scarring.  She has seen firsthand how powerful a man’s words and actions can destroy the beauty that was once encapsulated the essence of her daughter.  She has watched her daughter slowly melt away from an eating disorder at a young age.  She has watched and heard her daughter’s reputation be destroyed by lies while knowing the truth.  She’s watched as her daughter has shed tears and learned some very difficult lessons in friendship which she knew would lead to internal growth.  She has also watched a daughter find the love of her life and become a parent in a non-traditional way with all of the naysayers at her back.  And today, she watches as her daughter, once again, is knocked down by a mental illness that she fights every single day to emerge as a Phoenix rising from the ashes of despair.  That my friends, is a very selfless mother who puts her children’s needs before her own.  She took this baby that was unwanted and raised her as her own with the help of her faith and a God fearing man that I also call my daddy.  And that is something that is priceless and that can only be repaid through example for my own children.

One day, such is the circle of life; I’ll be in the same position as my mother.  I will one day sit and wish I could have just one more argument with her.  My wonderful wife will be here to comfort me when I’m in need.  But as long as I have the sweet memories of my momma, I’ll always have something beautiful to write about.

On this Mother’s Day, I can finally say, “Mom, I get your sacrifice and the level of love that I was told I wouldn’t understand until I had my own child.”  You didn’t carry me under your heart, but in it.  Because of the example that you have set for me regarding family, sacrifice and love, our sons will also be blessed.

#Thispuzzledlife

Birds And Squirrels

Birds and Squirrels

3.27.15

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.
— Author Unknown

Since Sarah’s recent death, the reality of the amount of grieving that must be done on this very long and arduous journey through DID and trauma recovery has become painfully apparent.  I thought that I had at least some understanding of the level of grief that I’m now forced to deal with.  The truth is that the level that I have envisioned is nowhere close to what seems to be becoming ever more evident.  Grief also isn’t always about someone’s demise. Grieving can encapsulate things related to career, education, personal life, etc.  Sarah’s death seems to have ripped scabs off old feelings that seemed to be buried.  I look over so many of the conversations that Sarah and I had together about life and there was always one particular topic that I never wanted to discuss because it’s so incredibly painful to me.  This topic about, my grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton’s death.

Recently, I’ve had many memories of my childhood and life that just do nothing more than circulate throughout my brain continuously.  Many if not most of these memories somehow include my grandmother.  Why?  Plain and Simple…she spoiled me as an adult like she did when I was a kid.  She was also one of my closest and dearest friends.  To me, she was MY Nannie. My grandfather Samuel E Buxton died September 1975.  Ironically, only 4 months prior to me being born.  These grandparents were my mom’s side of the family that has much less decedents than my daddy’s side of the family.  I’ve always grown up hearing stories from my parents and Nannie about my grandfather.  My Nannie was it when it came to grandparents from my mom’s family.  I’m going to do my best to paint you an accurate and yet sometimes comical picture of who my grandmother was.

Some of my earliest memories include spending the night with my Nannie, at her house, in the very small town of New Augusta, MS.  When I was younger, there wasn’t much there except some kin folk.  And well….not much has changed.  There was a place called the Tip Top, which was a hamburger stand on the side of the road that had the best box of grease that I had ever eaten.  Remember, that it took my parents several years for them to be able to adopt both me and my sister.  So, yea we got extra spoiled.  However, my grandmother was from a totally different generation and the differences would become even more evident the older I got.  But, she was still MY Nannie.

One of the fondest memories I have about my grandmother are of us smelling all the spices in her spice rack.  She would make some of the funniest faces which would have me laughing like a hyena.  We played card games that I swear to this day, I think she made up.  We would go to cousins’ houses and play Pokeno or dice.  And at night, I would snuggle up to her warm hump in her back that somehow always spelled S-A-F-E-T-Y to me.

My Nannie would sit and tell me stories about her childhood for as many hours as I could hold my eyes open.  She would tell me such vivid and heartwarming stories about my grandfather that I always felt close to him without ever meeting him.  I listened to Conway Twitty and Alabama on the radio with her.  I laugh now at some of the lyrics to the songs Conway Twitty sang and wonder, “Why was I ever allowed to listen to this at such a young age?” I always have a good chuckle about that.

Nannie would tell me stories about being at the last public hanging and the KKK.  Understand that my grandmother was born December 28, 1919, so she was right slap dab in the middle of a lot of history that was made.  When we were younger, The Cosby Show was not allowed to be watched in her house.  And when she passed away in January 2, 2006, Wheel of Fortune wasn’t watched if someone black was participating because, “Blacks take all the money.”

She and I obviously didn’t agree on the whole race issue or politics, but she was my Nannie.  I think about it and if I recall correctly, she had a Chihuahua every day I was around her.  She had a couple of dogs that I liked but they were all mostly from the devil.  Apparently, only the last dog that she owned ever conveyed to her that he enjoyed the theme song to the game show Jeopardy.  In her life, the magazine The Enquirer, might as well have been equal to the Bible.

She loved nature to the extreme.  Both my parents and I get some good laughs when we talk about my grandmother and her ideas about birds and squirrels.  My grandmother, in her later years, once she moved from New Augusta, MS where she was raised and subsequently raised my mom and aunt finally moved to Petal, MS and lived in an efficiency apartment behind my parents house. Her hobby became feeding the squirrels and birds.  She loved them both but seemed to forget that they were animals not toddlers with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Anyway, she would share her frustrations with me in whatever language she saw fit and I could tell this was becoming a big source of stress.  The main problem was that the squirrels were not only eating the corn cobs nailed to the tree but also climbing the bird feeder and eating the seed.  She didn’t understand that cussing at a squirrel gets you absolutely nowhere.  Nannie was becoming ever more frustrated by these invited rodents.  The wooden chairs outside on her patio were slowly starting to lose the legs because the squirrels were chewing them off.  I could hardly hold the laughter in but knew she was one small smartass remark from going on a squirrel killing spree that would even leave PETA speechless.

Not long after that, I guess she just couldn’t take it anymore. In the general direction of the birdfeeder were house shoes, knives, forks and whatever else that could be used as a weapon to be strategically thrown at random squirrels that would sit and have a stare down like that out of the old west.  Her contradictions were some of the funniest non-filtered comments I had ever heard.  She would be all about, “Death to all squirrels by any means!” And then flip on the television and say, “Can you believe how people treat animals?” And yes that “rainy day” comment time has finally arrived.

She had no filter. Speed limits signs were suggestions only. The motorized chairs at Wal-Mart were considered fully operational weapons that were to be used at all times.  If you got in the way, you should’ve moved because that’s what caused the pain.  She never understood the point in going to salvage stores because in her eyes, “Who wants to pay for dirty crap?” This is pretty much how she viewed everyday life.  But, you know what?  She was still MY Nannie.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets about things that should’ve been said or done with my relationship with my grandmother.  At the time of her death, I was interning at  Pine Grove’s Women’s Center as an undergraduate.  I was still living and somehow surviving an abusive marriage and working two jobs with very minimal sleep.  I didn’t nor did I make or take the time to grieve.  I went through the motions and tried to forget it.

It has been 9 years since my grandmother died and the hurt is still like the night she died. My heart continues to feel the pain of the part of my soul that died that day.  This is one traumatic event that I dread dealing with more than life itself.  It’s also one of the events that keep me from resting and having some sort of peace.  My world, my balance, my friend, my comedian, my really bad politician, my Nannie is who she was and still is to me.

#Thispuzzledlife