17045 N.W. 11th Avenue, 305-620-0367. It must have been the very first address I memorized because I still remember it. We moved in that house when I was in second grade, and though I remember Tyrone Ellis, the cute little blonde-headed boy from first grade, I really don’t remember much before then. Flashbacks come from pictures. But 10745 N.W. 11th Avenue. I remember that house.
I remember watching TV one day while my dad was in the shower and my mom was still at work. I was seven. Some strange man came in the front door and said, “Hey, Kel Belle. Where’s your dad?” “Um…in the shower….who are you?” “Oh, okay, well just tell him Bill came by.” And he took the Sears catalog from my mother’s house and left. I told my dad when he got out of the shower. He will forever be known to me as “The Robber.” My dad’s best friend.
I remember that turtle. Timmy and I found him in the vacant lot at the end of the street. Big old box turtle. We carried him home, and I immediately brought him in the house. Mom said I couldn’t possibly keep him in the house. But I did. She let me. For a little while anyway. I guess she knew I’d grow tired of hearing him scratch around in his box all night long. And I did. Timmy and I took him back to the vacant lot and left him right where we found him. Outside my mother’s house. That started the bringing-home-stray-animals habit I still have today.
I remember falling off that bus. Mortifying. Roger, my fourth grade sweetheart, was still on the bus. I was wearing my Brownie uniform and was carrying a big box of Girl Scout cookies. I stumbled right down the school bus stairs and landed in my driveway in front of my mother’s house, face first. Cookies scattered everywhere. My face flushed with embarrassment. I wonder where Roger is now.
I remember leaving my mother’s house at 17045 N.W. 11th Avenue. I was in fifth grade and we moved to St. Petersburg. Funny how that address doesn’t stick with me. The memories are there, but they’re clouded. Shadowed. Playing in the clay caves and stream at the end of the street with Vicky, stopping with Dad to get Icees at the corner 7-Eleven on the way home. Though they change here. And I don’t remember my mother’s house.
But I remember the fighting. It wasn’t often but it was loud. I remember Dad moving out, then a few months later moving back in. I burned my hand on the light bulb trying to take it out and put butter on it to soothe it. More fighting. Then I remember Mom picking me up from school in the middle of the school day. I was 12. There were suitcases in the car. My baby sister Kim was strapped in the back seat. We left. I never got to say goodbye to my friends.
1909 Wells Road, Apt. 212. I remember that address. That’s where we moved after we stayed at Nana’s house for a little while. My mother’s house. Without my father. It was small and cramped but the complex had a very big playground with lots of other kids. John Riccardi lived next door. We were in the same grade and would graduate high school and even go to college together. But he wasn’t my boyfriend. Just my first kiss. Mom met another John R. and married him.
347 Dillon Drive. My mother’s house. The house that Mom and John bought together. Ninth grade. Happier times. I remember Mom standing in my bedroom doorway listening to me sing along with Michael Jackson blaring in my headphones. I was dancing. I didn’t see her until she started laughing. We both laughed. I remember her laughter. Beautiful laughter.
My house, away from my mother’s house. I’m away at college when John calls me. Mom’s left him. They need me to come home. I’m angry at her. Nana’s angry at her. John’s crying. Who’s this other man? Granddaddy dies. Mom marries that other man. Very bad timing. I miss John.
Scattered memories. Coming faster now. Reliving.
My mother’s house is no longer mine now. She’s creating a new life with this new man. I’m still in her life, but I no longer live there. We have holidays there. I come to visit but I rarely stay the night. They’re married for seven years.
My house now. Mom calls me. He’s left her for someone else. I go to my mother’s house to sit with her and try to dry her tears. And listen. And try not to say I told you so. But Nana does. Nana says what comes around goes around. And I pray it doesn’t. I pray it doesn’t.
My house. A nurse calls me. Mom’s in the hospital. She’s tried to kill herself. I go. She’s in the psych ward. She’s lethargic, but I think she realizes she did a very stupid thing. My husband comes. Like he always does, he tries to make her laugh, asking her why she did such a stupid thing. She knows she did a stupid thing. She’ll get better now, right?
My mother’s house. 11 months later in a rental. It’s Christmas. She’s decorated to the nines. She’s getting better. She’s moving on with her life. She’s making plans to build a new life. She tells us about the house she’s thinking about building as we talk over Christmas dinner. She’s going to have a special room just for the babies I’m carrying in my womb.
A month later. I’m in my mother’s house. Mom’s not there. It’s very quiet. My husband’s with me but he’s fallen asleep. I’m thumbing through paperwork, my old elementary school report cards, with boxes piled around me. “Kelly’s very bright, but she’s a very social girl. She needs to learn to pay attention better.” Old baby teeth in my mother’s jewelry box. Cards and letters I sent her from college. Kim’s high school Raiderette pictures. All scattered on the floor. The babies are no longer in my womb. I lost them four days after Christmas.
Back now. Two days after Christmas. My house. I’m in the bathroom when I hear a knock on the door and hushed voices. I come out to see my husband standing stone faced with a police officer and a chaplain. My mother has done it. She’s taken her own life. It’s December 27, 1999.
My mother’s daughter’s house, my house, December 27, 2002. The nurse calls me. I’m nervous. I’m scared. Kelly. Things look good. You’re pregnant again. Looks like twins again. On your day, Mom. Thank you. Thank you for giving me a good memory in your daughter’s house, in my house, on that day. A gift. I hope you finally have peace now in God’s house, watching my daughters, your granddaughters, grow up in their mother’s house.
Ten years ago today, my mother committed suicide. It’s very hard to explain what that does to a child, especially a daughter losing a mother, no matter the age. I was 34; my sister was 24. I was angry with my mother for a while; I felt very abandoned and suffered a major loss of self worth. The fact that Mom thought she had nothing to live for when, in fact, she had two daughters, one with grandchildren on the way, hit hard, and I went through a couple years of serious soul searching. But after a while, I realized there was nothing I didn’t do, nothing I could have done, that could have helped her. My sister reached that point as well, and we are much closer now than we’ve ever been, coming out of that darkness together.
Over these past ten years, I’ve learned so many valuable lessons that have stemmed from that loss. I now know that I will never make everyone happy, so I don’t try. I know that I am the one and only person responsible for my own happiness. I know that in order for me to be a happy, healthy person who can take care of her family, I must take care of me first, and then take care of my family. And I know that involves being a tad selfish at times. I know that there are angels. And I know that like my grandmother had a vision of my girls just days before she died, I know my girls have seen their own grandmother. I’ve seen it in their little faces, especially when they were babies and they’d smile and giggle at something over my shoulder, yet every time I’d turned to look, there’d be nothing there. I see it in them now as they find their faith and ask me questions about her. I’ve felt her presence around me when I’ve needed it most. I’ve felt her encouragement when I’ve been afraid to take a step. I’ve heard her laughter when I’ve needed joy. And I’ve learned that she remains, in me, in my children, in the angel on top of my Christmas tree, in this life that I have created with this family. She’s here.
My friend Debbie gave me a Christmas gift that touched me deeply. It was just a picture frame really, nothing special, except for the message it contained. Before I opened it, Deb said, “I saw this and immediately thought of you.” Engraved on the frame was the phrase “Blessed are the Happiness Makers.” Deb and I met just weeks after Mom died; Benny and I were at Ted’s one night when Debbie and her husband walked in, saw that there were no open tables, looked at me, pulled up a chair and said, “You’re cute, and I want to meet you. Can we sit with you?” A much needed new friend sent by an angel above. Blessed are the Happiness Makers. Through all this, from this loss, I have made happiness…better than a banana eating a bowl of cereal on top of a school bus happiness. Thank you, Mom, for that most important of lessons.
Update, January 30, 2013: I wrote a follow-up to this post, telling my girls the full truth about my mother's death, here.
Growing up, my family always spent Christmas Eve at my Nana’s. It was always a fairly big gathering, with cousins and friends, and best of all, Nana’s oyster stew. Supposedly the recipe was incredibly easy, just oysters, milk, butter and Velvetta cheese, but no matter how many times Mom or my DH tried, neither could ever get the taste just like Nana’s. Nana died of complications from Alzheimer’s just three weeks after the girls were born. When my Aunt Livy went to visit her shortly after they were born, she said, “I know! I saw them! They have the most beautiful red head!” Somehow, God gave her a glimpse from her hospital bed. That was a blessing.
So the gifts are wrapped, and the menu for tomorrow is planned: a Southern waterfront Christmas dinner with DH’s version of Nana’s oyster stew—his own oyster chowder—grilled shrimp, fried flounder caught off the dock, and a big side of grits. All that’s left to do today is bake some cookies for Santa, visit our friends, put out the reindeer food, and read the girls The Polar Express before tucking them in to bed. Then it’s time for Santa to get to work! We’ve got a Barbie Glamour Camper to assemble! Enjoy the holiday with your families.
My sister’s snowed in. I told her that’s what she gets for leaving Florida and settling in the Washington DC area. :-) I know, I know….there are those of you that love the snow. I’m just not one of them. In the brief periods I’ve been in it for a couple ski trips, I didn’t care for it one bit. That, of course, may be because I’ve lived my entire life in Florida, grew up on water skis, and even with my natural athletic ability (she says as she trips down the stairs), I simply couldn’t make the switch from water to snow. Each time I’ve gone, I’ve spent more time on the ground than actually gracefully swooshing down the slopes, so I guess it’s just not for me. And YES, I took lessons! No good. Oh well, I’ll stick to the beach.
So here’s my contribution to the snowy days of late some of you have been experiencing. I took this shot on our weekend walk through the 100 Acre Wood this morning. My Florida flurries. I love the way the script I layered behind the photo gives it a little ethereal quality. Should I list it in my Etsy shop? It has the same feel to it as the one I shared with you here. Whatever your weather, I hope you are enjoying the season.
Sarah: “Mama, did you know that when you die, God has a fishing pole and he casts it down to hook your shirt and reel you up to Heaven?”
Mama: “Wow, a fishing pole, huh? I didn't know that.”
This is our sky, just waiting for a fishing pole to pop out. We may have a view of a power plant to the west, but we get some awesome sunsets. That’s God’s magic right there. Here’s another of my girls’ “things they say about God.” In all the hustle and bustle of the season, I wish you the joy of remembering why the season’s here at all. Take a look at this video.
So, see that booth? Yeah, that one up there, and down there? (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) Holy cow, I must have been out of practice and out of sorts and out of something because it took me nearly FIVE HOURS to set up my Market Days booth…by myself! Now I will say, Market Days is a difficult set up to begin with because you have to dolly from your vehicle outside the building to your booth spot inside the building, and I had the good luck to be right smack dab in the middle of Building 4. Then once you get your booth set, you have to figure out how to rig your lights. But once I was set up, Building 4 and Building 2 were the two best spots to be because those two buildings are insulated! It was cold last weekend (for North Florida anyway!) and the buildings have no heat! But once you added lots of bodies to the insulated interiors of Buildings 2 and 4, the temperature was just right.
Overall it was a good show. My sales weren’t quite as high as they were last year, but given the economy, that was to be expected. Market Days does a phenomenal advertising job and has a great early bird program Saturday morning (gates opened for those with early bird tickets at 8am), so things were really hopping on Saturday all the way up to about 3pm…when everyone went home to watch the Florida/Alabama game. This is the South, after all. You could have heard a pin drop in there by that 4pm kickoff. Sunday was a bit slower, but still fairly steady.
The guys behind me, Mickey and Jeff, were a lot of fun…two good old Southern boys from Thomasville, Georgia, selling pecan and peanut brittle made from Mickey’s grandmother’s recipe. Good Lord, that stuff was good! Mickey’s family just recently sold the company to a production company in Minnesota, so there you had two good old Southern boys selling brittle made from Grandmother’s recipe but produced in Minnesota! A little convoluted, but they just about sold out, and they had boxes upon boxes upon boxes of the stuff. I told them my father-in-law made chocolate covered peanut and pecan brittle that was absolutely to D-I-E for (DH and I call it crack because it’s so addicting), and their eyes lit up like they just might have to have that production company add a little chocolate to a few batches. We’ll see what they show up with next year!
Market Days wraps up my shows for the year. Next stop will actually be back in Tallahassee in late March for Springtime Tallahassee. In the meantime, I’ll get caught up on my website and spend some good time just playing around and enjoying the creative process. After all, I still need to get ready for Artful Journey in February! And then for the first Purple Cottage retreat with Carmen in May! Yay!
Bad blogger, I’ve been lately! Things have just been a tad busy here in North Florida. Here’s a gorgeous treasury I was featured in late last week. My thanks to jrzygirlphotography for featuring this group of POE photographers. My Big Joe is bottom row right. I’ll have a Market Days report for you tomorrow! I hope you all are doing well!
For December, here’s my “Bliss” photo as a glass tile pendant. Why did I title this “Bliss,” you ask? These were my sister’s wedding flowers. :-) You can find this photo in my Etsy shop here. The pendant comes complete with a silver-tone ball chain cut to your desired length. To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment in the comment box (be sure you leave me a way to reach you and where you are from!) or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, December 31. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, January 1, 2010. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the right column as well for Fan specials!
At 15, I was in the 10th grade at Orange Park High School. A few of my closest friends then are still a few of my closest friends now, and I owe Facebook a thanks for reconnecting with a couple of them. At 15, I was fairly quiet and shy. My circle of friends consisted primarily of fellow band geeks (yes, I was a marching band geek; I was on the flag and rifle twirl team). My parents were both on their second marriages, but even given that, overall I remember being a pretty content kid. In the middle of 10th grade, I became very sick with an infection called Quinsy (upon a later visit to Mount Vernon, I learned that was what George Washington died from!), complicated with tonsillitis. I needed to have my tonsils removed but couldn’t until the infection was cleared up, so I ended up spending about two weeks in the hospital and lost more than 20 pounds. I remember that my room in the old Riverside Hospital faced Memorial Park, and I would sit there at the window for hours drawing the park. I wonder what happened to all those old drawings. Once everything cleared up, my grandfather sent me, 5’10” and 125 pounds following my illness, to modeling classes, and thus began my 10-year modeling stint. My confidence increased and my shyness started to fade away, but I don’t think I totally blossomed and really came into my own until I went away to college, discovering a whole new world of adventure and opportunity. Still, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (I started out as an Interior Design major and graduated as a Communications major and now work in Higher Education, go figure).
Today, at 44, I still feel like I’m 24 at times. The old body has more aches and pains than I used to have but I still “feel” very young. And I think maybe now I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. Take my blogging friend e.beck.artist as an example. THAT is what I want to be when I grow up. Elizabeth revels in her children and revels in her art and revels in the fact that she gets to make a life out of the two. No 9-to-5 commitment for her. She left that behind shortly after her own twins were born (see, there’s another reason I love her so much…that and the fact that she says “Rah!” a lot :-). I’ve always loved playing with art, but this little blog of mine has opened me up to a whole new world of creativity and creative friends who inspire me daily.
I took this picture above in New York City this summer. I’ve been to New York nearly a dozen times, but I never noticed this “gate” to Central Park until this year. And it’s not in the least bit hidden! It’s right there on 59th Street at the south end of the park near the Plaza Hotel. I think it must have caught my eye this year for the first time because maybe I finally am, at 44, coming into my own. I may never be a world famous artist, but the more I play with art, the happier I become. For the most part, I have a pretty happy, mellow spirit to begin with, but it seems to be enhanced when I have paint, glue, paper, a camera, gorgeous beads and silver wire, or whatever random art supply I pick up, all around me. So as I enter this next year, I’m going to continue walking through that gate. And play. And dream. And enjoy every precious moment with my family, playing and dreaming with me. Who knows what we’ll find down that path?
Last year's birthday post is still one of my favorites...