Rosie on life and love…

Rosie & meIn honor of my grandmother, who turned 80 this week, I’ve decided to do what I said I would start doing years ago – write the stories of the women I hail from. She let me do this interview many years back and trusted me to do something productive with it. I could call her a guest blogger now, except that she may not know exactly what a blog is and I didn’t tell her I’d be posting her words here.

I couldn’t wait one more year, one more month, one more day to give her story a home. It’s only right to use this as an opportunity to acknowledge that something great happened when she was born. When history books would have you believe that women of her time weren’t working, that sharecroppers were a cut above slaves, that Black people didn’t have much or know better, my grandmother (and, frankly, many of the women in my family) simply wasn’t living her life to fit those statistics. She defied every stereotype I’d ever been told to expect for a Black woman born in Alabama in 1934. And she didn’t do it by fighting. She did it by living fully and unapologetically.  I love her dearly, am thankful for her eighty years on this earth, and hope that this is just one of many more birthdays to come. Most of all, I hope she isn’t pissed at me for posting this. 

 

My name is Rosie. I was born May 1, 1934 in Pike County, Alabama. My mother’s name is Carrie Williams-Macon. My father’s name was Sam Simmons. My mother’s mother was Rosie Carter Starks. Her father’s name was George Carter. My father’s mother was…I can’t remember her name cause I never knew her really, but her last name was Simmons, Grandma Simmons.

I’m the second oldest of my mother’s children, which was ten. Five boys and five girls. It’s six of us alive now: four girls, two boys. I’m the baby of my father’s children, which far as I know was two boys and three girls…far as I know. And the three girls is alive. All I know is my mother and my aunts and uncles [on my father’s side] was all friends. I don’t know how [my parents] met or what brought on – if it was a love affair or whatever. I don’t know about how that happened.

We lived on a farm and I was born at my grandparent’s house. My Grandma and Grandpop. I used to walk to school at an early age. I guess 5 or 6 years old. We used to walk like three miles to school and I remember we had big farms and a lot of chickens. My one aunt, my grandmother’s baby daughter, we was raised together, so we were more like sisters than niece and aunt. And my grandmother used to raise chicken and turkeys. My grandfather raised hogs and cows. Farm – all kinds of stuff on the farm – cotton, peanuts, corn, stuff like that. They was sharecropping. No, they didn’t own it. We used to help out on the farm. Me and my aunt used to plow the plow. We was about nine years, yea.

With my grandfather, just one year, we helped him plant the crop. And we had a goat named Wild Bill. We had a lot of goats. We had a crazy goat too. He was wild! He was black. And we had a dog named Blackie, which was one of the children. He would play with us like a child. He would play house, and we had this big front porch and it had about 7 steps come up on the front porch and we would tell him we was gon’ play house, and say, “When we get on the porch, now we in the house. And you can’t come in the house with us.” We’d run up there and he’d come to the house, girl, and stop. He was a great protector. One of my cousins from Pittsburgh came and he wouldn’t let her in the yard. We had a fence ‘round the yard and she was standing on the outside of the fence hollering and fighting with her pocketbook and he was just standing there by the fence. And he just dropped the handle and sat there and waited. She was out there screaming and hollering and he wouldn’t let her in. We had to go get her.

My grandma used to come up here when my uncle and aunt was alive. My grandfather was working in the field and, well, I was still living in the house when my great grandmother died. Yea, we was still living there and my grandma was up there when she had a stroke and died.

My great grandmother, her name was Annie Warren and that was my grandmother, Rosie Starks’ mother and she was born in Alabama too. She had a stroke one Saturday. My grandmother had came up here to stay with my aunt, cause she was having a baby. She had little kids so she would come up and stay with the kids while my aunt would go to the hospital. My grandfather was in the field, as usual, and my great grandmother had washed and ironed the clothes. And I loved to read. I used to read all the time. I guess that’s why ya’ll got that. You could catch me reading at the house any minute. Everybody else would be outside; I would be in the house reading. She came out on the porch and she said to me, “Gal, you better put them clothes up.” And I said, “Ok Nana, ok, ok, ok.” And she was sitting there, and she was eating a piece of neck bone and she wouldn’t let go. She just started peeing. My grandfather had came home for dinner and he didn’t go back to the field right away. He said, “Im gon’ wait till after the mailman come.” And I started calling him, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy something’s wrong with Nana! She peeing on herself! She peeing!” But she wouldn’t let go. She was eating that meat. They say when you having a stroke or heart attack, whatever you doing, you just keep doing that.

So my brother came by and he went to town to get the doctor, cause my great grandmother had raised those children. Those white kids. That was her doctor. She raised him from a baby and his father told him to always take care of her. So, my brother went and got him. We had got her in the bed and he came and he marked an X under the bottom of her feet. He said, if she survived to the next day, she would be alright. But she didn’t.

My grandmother and my uncle came. They got somebody to stay with the kids while my aunt was in the hospital. I could hear my grandmother crying. It was in the morning, I guess two or three o’ clock in the morning, when they got there. I could hear her talking ‘bout, “I don’t have no mother now. My mother is gone.” She was coming in the door and me being sleep and young, she just sounded so far away.

Well, we moved to the city limit and that’s when my grandfather couldn’t farm anymore, because he found out he had high blood pressure. And he was sick cause he had to get rid of his mules. Then he started doing his garden and he grew a garden – all kinds of vegetables. He took them into town and sold them to the white folks. After that we moved up into the city into this house. We had a house and it was sitting right in back of a juke joint and it was a nice house. I went to school there. And that’s where when I left, yea, when I left from town, that’s where we had been living in the city. I came up here [to New Jersey] in 1952. I came up here, and up here is where I met your grandfather. And we had 4 childrens: one boy, three girls. I think it’s 9 grandchildren. My brother went back to Alabama and got my grandma and my grandfather. He lived a couple years, he lived till September 1954 and my grandma died, I think, it was 18 years ago.

Yea, 1991 she died. And that was my Mama. She raised the four of us: my oldest brother, James, myself, my brother Arnold, my sister Johnnie. We really was raised by her along with her daughter Gloria and we were like sisters and brothers instead of aunts and nieces and nephews. We was like sisters and brothers. I haven’t been home since 1952. I really don’t have no close relatives down there, because right after I came up here, my brother went back and got my Grandma and Grandpop. And all my sisters and brothers were up here.

What year we moved here? I don’t even know what year we moved here [to this house], if you want to know the truth. 1982? 81, 82? Something like that. I know it was in May, cause that was my birthday present [from your grandfather], when I moved, the first of May.

Oh God, well, I wish I would have let [your grandfather] stay with the girl he was with. (laughs) Well, we was living on East Kenny St. and he was living on Scott St. , which was the next street over. This girl she used to [date], she was living directly in front of him. Her name was Mary Anne, I’ll never forget that. We went to school together. She would be talking about him and all this stuff. I sure do wish I would have left him with her. Everybody thought that he liked my Aunt Gloria, but it wasn’t him – it was his friend Sam that liked Aunt Gloria. So, it just went from that to the prom. He took me to the prom. We had to go get his cousin’s car, to get Uncle Sam’s car, but we went.

I left high school in ’54, but I got my GED. I went back and got my GED.

Danny was born November 24, 1954, the night before Thanksgiving. I was living on Hillside Avenue and I was walking around there. I said, “Oh, I need to wash my hair.” Now let me tell you how stupid – how my mind worked back in that time. I thought, “But if I wash my hair, I might start having pains and I’m not going to feel like straightening it.” Now wasn’t that kind of smart? So I said “ok, I’m not gonna wash it.” I heard your grandfather coming up the stairs. He had got off from work early. I got down on the side of the bed and I just started having pains. And he said to this guy, his name was Al Richardson, “Al, can I borrow your car to take her to the hospital? I think she in labor.” Al said, “I was here! She ain’t tell me nothing! I coulda took her to the hospital!” I got to the hospital about 6 o’clock in the afternoon and that boy was born 9:45 at night. We was in this big ward at the city hospital, and they was up there talking bout the soap operas.

As The World Turns, Search For Tomorrow, Guiding Light, Valiant Lady, And what’s that one come on in the afternoon? One Life to Live, General Hospital, All my Children. All of them was on back then, back in that time. They been around for fifty something years. One lady from Guiding Light died a couple weeks ago, she was about 90 years old, one of the actors. And, he was born. We had Thanksgiving dinner there. We had turkey and dressing and cranberry juice.

And a lot of [women] stayed home and the husbands worked. If they wasn’t on the farms and stuff, they stayed home. You know, it’s not a long time, but it has been a long time where the women really go out into the world now and work and everything. But back in that time, if they wasn’t farming and having children, the ladies stayed home and cooked and cleaned and washed and ironed and scrubbed floors, stuff like that. Yea, kept the house clean.

Well, I had a million new jobs. Not a million. I used to work where they developed pictures on Broad Street. Really, it used to be a lot of happenings down on Broad Street, chile. And a couple times, I went and cleaned a lady’s house for my grandmother. I think the next job I got was in the dry cleaners. I stayed there for years. I was getting paid 65 cents an hour, but bus fare was like 5 cents and we lived on East Kenney. I used to go to Target on Clinton Avenue in front of the Horizon building over there. That’s where I used to work.

Then in 1960, I was working on South Orange. On South Orange Avenue, right there on the corner of Church Street, when you go up the hill. That was the cleaners where that flower shop is. That was the dry cleaners. I worked for Western Electric in Kearney for thirteen years. Then I did twelve years AT&T in Clark. I retired with 25 years’ service from AT&T and 3 years’ service from Tyco, so really it was 28 years that I worked. I started to work at Western Electric and I went out there on a dare. I went out there saying, “I know I’m not going to get this job.” But the ad had been in the paper for a long time. I had never worked in a factory before. And out of about 8 people, 2 of us passed the test. Every time they got slow, we got laid off. Every time. I think I lost about 5 or 6 years out of that 13 of layoffs. Then, finally, they closed in 1984. I left on my birthday. Your mom sent me flowers on my birthday and I left that day and – the Union paid for us – I went to school up in North Newark at the secretary school. I got a job key punching. I could key punch, girl! I go to work key punching! That’s when they started the computers. We used to go down to Essex County and work the computers. I could type pretty good. I used to do 45-50 words, no errors. And I’m ready to go back to work now, cause I’m tired of staying home. I been retired for 8 years.

The love of my life, besides my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, is church. I enjoy going to church. I get my relief, all my pressure, my everything, when I go to church. When I first came up here, I started going to the Holiness Church. My mother used to live on South 11th. Then I left from there and I stayed out of church for a long time. But I always made sure your Mama and them went to Sunday school. I would get up and take them to church for Sunday school, go back, and pick them up. Then after that, I joined Genesis. From Genesis to First Zion Hill. So, I really wasn’t in a lot of churches.

I get such a relief from the Word of God and I’m learning more of the Bible, understanding more. It’s a lot in there to understand and when you read scriptures you can go back and if you read it five times, you get five different meanings out of that one scripture. So, I’m learning that and how to have my quiet moments. It just gives me peace of mind. I have joy. And I really love the youth choir we got over there now. I enjoy them. I only invite people to my church on 3rd Sunday, when the youth is singing. I told Reverend “First Zion Hill wasn’t short of water.” And he said “What?” People in the pulpit crying, all the kids crying! I turned around and looked and everybody in the sanctuary crying. He fell out laughing. He say, “You know we didn’t rehearse that song that way, don’t you? God, just came on in.” So, I enjoy that. I enjoy the children.

I was in the Holiness Church, but I was baptized in a Baptist Church in Alabama at the age of 9 in the river. They didn’t have pools in the church. We went down to the big river and was baptized in the river. Yep, I think the name of the river was White Water, I’m not sure. I told Reverend, “I’m going to be baptized again.” Nine years old, I ain’t know what I was doing. Yea, I want to be dipped.

You know, I’m like this – Everybody have their own belief. It’s not but one God, I don’t care what kind of religion or what name you come up with or whatever. It’s only one God and we can call him Jehovah, Allah, whatever we want to. And, as long as they are reading the Bible or the Quran or whatever it is and they try to live to the best of their abilities, that’s it. I don’t damn nobody’s religion, but I don’t want them to say they’re one thing and not believe in it and do something else. If you Muslim, do what you supposed to do. Baptists? We all sin. We all have to ask God to forgive us, cause we was born in sin. So, we not sin-free. We have to come and ask God, Allah, or whoever to forgive us for our sins, each and every day. Not when we in trouble. Then, we try and get a prayer through. We think He supposed to be a microwave God and He gon’ pop it out right like that. You gotta go through trials and tribulations. That’s when you use your faith.

 

This American Life…

Home_Alone_1

When life hands me lemons – I’m known for making damn good mojitos! So, I’m confident that my re-Americanization process will get progressively easier with time. Unfortunately, though, if you’ve been around me for the past few weeks, you know that I’m still muddling through and highly likely to make a fool of myself along the way. But, such is this girl’s American life. What can you do but admit that being Carmen Sandiego is not as easy or as glamourous as it seems? Below is a list of the top 5 issues I’m coping with since being back in America:

Homeless#5 – I’m homeless: Some people don’t realize that my moving a lot really means that I have no home. I am like a college student on summer vacation. All my mail goes to my mama’s house, so everybody thinks I still “live” there. But, let me debunk that myth. I sleep in my old room. Too bad for me, my mother isn’t one of those nurturer-for-life types. “My room” is actually a library/ guest bedroom now. She converted it when I moved to D.C. I think she spoke some vile rumor into existence when she said, “you’re an adult now” and charged full speed ahead with her conversion plans. To make matters worse, I have no car. My dog and my brother’s dog are not aware that they are, in fact, cousins. Sigh. I’m thankful to have a roof over my head, because I have friends who are forced to stay in hotels for months. But, sheesh, I sure do want a home!

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#4 – It’s cold outside! I haven’t experienced a real winter in two whole American years. I came back and had to grab an old tattered coat that hasn’t been cleaned since the first Obama presidency. Not only am I homeless, but I look it too.

#3 – Food is ‘authentic.’ Yes, authentic tasting food is a real thing. I forgot that. In India, ‘good food’ is usually well intentioned fusion, pan-Asian food or homemade Indian. The two Delhi exceptions are Culinaire for Thai and Diva at the Italian Cultural Centre. Everything outside of that tends to be just shoulder shrug quality or deathly expensive. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Haitian fried red snapper, my Chinese pan-fried dumplings, and Senegalese Thiéboudienne. My tastebuds sing America!

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#2 – Things make sense. I often tell people about the pedestrian crosswalks (a.k.a zebra crossings) near my job would actually end either in a ditch 3 feet deep or a median 3 feet high. These public works efforts were really just death traps. You’ll now understand why I’m typically very suspicious of anything that’s intended to be helpful. I know it’s backward. Since I’ve been back in the U.S., however, I have let my guard down. The little white walking man comes up when it’s safe to walk. The red hand pops up when it’s not. I appreciate putting my brain on autopilot and letting my legs do all the work.

Black is Beautiful Tee#1 – I see BLACK PEOPLENow this is complicated. Complicated, yet refreshing. Let me explain. I went to India expecting to blend in. Somewhere in those 50 shades of brown, I thought I would be safely absorbed. Instead, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was reminded, early and often, that I am Black! Not brown, not African, not Indian – Black. So, I got used to being one of a handful. There were just a few of us “Black people” in town and we were thick as thieves. Can you imagine being a minority within a minority? Ohhh chile’! Sometimes I just wanted to curl up on the couch with a tall glass of purple drank and watch “Cornbread, Earl & Me,” followed by a matinee of “Juice.” Now, those days are long gone. I’m walking down the mean streets of urban America and I’m surrounded by a sea of young, gifted Blacks – many of whom are sipping from tall bottles of Fiji water! I sure am proud to be just another face in this crowd.

Ohhhhh America…thanks for the warm welcome!

thirty days

Photo on 3-29-13 at 10.51 PM #2Until four weeks and two days ago I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t up for the challenge and I wasn’t interested in commitment. Thirty days ago, I was resigned to the fact that the greatest love of my life, which was also the greatest disappointment of my life, might in fact have been ‘it.’ I had decided that I had missed the relationship boat, and I was okay with the life raft that just kept me dry. I was satisfied with not being soaked in anyone’s expectations or insecurities, even if it meant that I was left unprotected from all the other dangers of exposure.

Until 30 days ago, I had decided to tell the world that if I fucked up in the past, then I was willing to live with it. I made a Kissinger decision, bitch, and I could regret it the rest of my life or I could accept that it was the best decision I could have made at the time. I don’t have any regrets. Feeling stifled in someone else’s dimming shadow is not much of a choice anyway. Until thirty days ago, I was satisfied in my world, because I’d finally had it appraised and I wasn’t coming up short. I didn’t seek forgiveness and I didn’t need anyone’s remorse. I had decided that all I would commit to is putting one foot in front of the other and letting the day run its course.

I had decided. I had figured it out. And then, he asked me on a date.

A date? A whole one? Yes, a proper date. I got picked up at my house and there were forks and knives on the table.

I told him that I didn’t need a title and I didn’t need a relationship. There was a time in my younger, more naïve life, when the person in this body would have wanted something – anything. A road dog, a homie lover friend, a cuff buddy, a boo, a side-piece, a boyfriend, a husband, a business partner, a hope, a dream, or a goddamn clue. But, on that day – 30 days ago – I wanted free dinner. But who can say that out loud when someone asks, “so what do you want from this?”

I said I wanted someone who wanted nothing from me. I wanted someone who had met himself, knew his own flaws and didn’t wait for me to mother him into fixing them. I wanted an adult who could handle that I had lived adult things, had fought adult traumas and didn’t need a hanky anymore. I wanted someone who I enjoyed spending time with, not someone to call mine. I never wanted to possess or be possessed again. I wanted someone who chose me, with every hiccup and hang up, and who never asked me to be a ‘better me.’  A better me doesn’t exist!

I said things like this. And I meant things like this – when they came out of my mouth, then stuffed with fish & chips & diet coke and rum. And I really fucking meant it. And I said it like a sailor too, I fucking swear!

And now this dude is my boyfriend. I don’t know how it happened. I’m pretty sure he snuck up behind me and clobbered me over the head like a cave man. And I can’t remember the part when I fell for him, but I know for sure that I did. He keeps saying, “It’s natural.” And I keep thinking, “oh shit! Is this real? Really? OMGOMGOGMOGOMGOMGOMG Is this real? Really? oh shit!”

He asked to get to know me. I thought he was being facetious. Apparently, he wasn’t, because he’s still around. And I think he knows me pretty well, for as much as someone can actually know another person. Around day two, I wondered if he would be a flash in the pan like the douchebag in New Orleans. Around day ten, I wondered if he would hide me like my first love in Philadelphia. Around day thirteen, I feared he wouldn’t really be able to communicate with me like the philanderer in Paris. Around day twenty, I figured he must be a man whore like that ass clown in the Bronx. Around day twenty-two I told him not to hurt me and, on day twenty-two + 2 seconds, he laughed in my face. “Me? Hurt you?! I’m so in love with you, only you could mess this up.” He said it with a chuckle that only half masked that he really meant it.

He doesn’t walk in the faith that we’ll last forever. It works because I don’t know that I believe in forever anymore. Neither one of us grew up believing in marriage or seeing nuclear families function. We don’t have high hopes for a day far away from today when we’ll say ‘it’s us against the world,’ and mean it. We think people who say shit like that are stupid. We know that we’re good today and that we’re committed to trying to be good to each other every day thereafter.

He? Well, he’s just grateful that he knows what this feeling feels like and I’m glad to share his company. Me? Well, I’m not sure that I can handle the pressure of being someone who is now so adored, so revered, so supported – when I spit in the face of the possibility just 30 days ago. Thirty days ago, I was, in fact, determined against this very reality that I’m soaking in with such delight. What happened on day thirty that made me feel ready to be all the things that I had written off ever being, ever expecting, just 24 hours before? What about me today is so deserving, when 30 days ago I was such a skeptic?

I ask, because I don’t have an answer and I don’t want to mess this up.

What if this is ‘it’?

48 Books and a Baby

Some time around August of last year, I really got into www.goodreads.com. I’d seen that a co-worker of mine had set a goal of 52 books to read in 2012. To set the stage, Nikki is smart and pretty and – at the time – also very, very pregnant. This got me to thinking, if Nikki can handle a full-time job, morning sickness and 52 books this year, I gotta be able to read like at least a friggin’ hundred books!

In reality, it was August. I had read 10 books by then. And my ego only gets the nerve to compete with people who don’t actually know that I’m competing with them. Nikki kicked my ass.

I scaled down my goal from 100 to 52 some time around October when I finished book number 25. By the year’s end I cruised in with a cool 48 books for effort. Silent competitors never prosper… Sigh…Nikki, on the other hand, had a beautiful baby girl, who she and her husband curled into a ball and dressed up like an Anne Geddes baby all through the holiday season. (Competition aside, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every rendition.) And she read all 52 of her books.

This quest to read a crap ton of books in an absurdly short amount of time says a lot about my commitment to really stupid, stupid benchmarks. It also shows that this is something I would never do for any physical competition, because… well… I’m so nerdy, I pretend to be above all that. The positive result, however, was that I ended up reading a bunch of books I never would have picked up but for the love of competition with a pretty pregnant Hawaiian lady who turned out to also be a darned fast reader.

Here are the top 5 books of my quest to 52. Read them at your leisure:

images-1Brave New World – (Classic Fiction) How did I miss this one in high school? Or college, for that matter? I went to a women’s college. We were taught to care about fiction novels, and Natives, and the objectification of women, and sexual liberty, and code words for Marx, and “family planning”! I mean I just don’t understand how this one slipped past me.  This frightening view of our present day vices manifested at their extremes kinda sounds about as realistic as melting polar ice caps. Psshhaww, we all know that’ll never happen!

Tiger_Mom_15Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – (Non-Fiction/Autobiography Memoir) My mother is about as close to being like Amy Chua, as Tupac is to being alive. But, I thoroughly remember my classmates who had ‘Chinese moms’ (Read the book to define the term. Don’t assume I’m being racist) and how strangely anti-social those kids seemed at the time. Like, they knew they could be perfectly normal kids, but their weirdo parents wouldn’t let them. Now, I look at their facebook pages and they look happy and well-integrated into society – so maybe their mothers were on to something. More than once I wanted to call my mother to tell her that she acts more like a Jewish dad than a Chinese mom. But, I knew she hadn’t read the book and would think that I was just being racist.

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-book-coverWe Need to Talk about Kevin – (Contemporary Fiction) This is probably one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. While I was reading it, I was visibly depressed and often called my friends saying things like ‘I really need to finish this book. I’m pretty sure I’m showing signs of PTSD.’ It is a timely read with the most recent mentally disturbed American socially awkward boy with a gun episode known as Adam Lanza. This book seems to support the notion that these screwy kiddie killers have families that are tormented by their inability to contain these deranged seedlings. While they can see disaster coming nobody ever lends credence to the lady that says ‘my kid is really fucked up. No, really. I’m not kidding.’ Anybody who says that has got to be a bad parent, right? Or it is possible that she was handed a bad kid at birth?

What Young India WantsWhat Young India Wants – (Non-Fiction essays) You don’t need me to tell you that India’s got problems. Aside from the ones I constantly bring up over red wine, there are others that Chetan Bhagat points out in this book: a corrupt and elderly bureaucracy, high youth suicide rates, a broken education system, identity issues up the wazoo. So, just this once you don’t get to act like I’m being a jerk for saying these things, because this time I didn’t say it. Chetan did… finally!

BookEnds-by-Jane-GreenBookends – (Contemporary Fiction) I wasn’t trying to like this book, but it just kinda happened. There is a book store, love after 30, a lesbian liaison, awesome real estate and… did I mention there is book store?! Set in contemporary England, this book feels like what would happen if Ross, Rachel, Chandler and Monica moved to London and decided to open a public lending library. It’s not meant to be thought-provoking, but it’s a feel good story with a few moral nuggets of wisdom. Certainly, it’s a good read for a commute or a beach vacation… did I mention there is a book store?!

Other recommended reads:

In Our Time (Hemingway), 2 States (Bhagat), Women & Money (Orman)

Dud reads:

Bossypants (Fey) – This should be funny. It’s not.

Madras on Rainy Days (Ali) – This should be hard-hitting, but it drones on and comes across as trite. The premise is great, but the writing is poorly executed.

Three Continents (Jhabvala) – Yet another 300+ page rich-kid melodrama about how India does not hold the answers to the world’s problems (a duh!). #anotherPTSDinducingbook

I been gone too long. True or False? Right or Wrong?

I must admit a very serious truth that may in fact dismantle the superheroinism that shrouds me in the blogosphere (and not so much in reality). As the frequent traveler with miles out the wazoo, and travel tips hasta las narices, I have a tendency to appear unfazed by the temporal changes and competing commitments of global travel. And the vast majority of the time, things are precisely as they appear, save one very understated exception. When traveling to and from home, I get deathly ill. Not kinda sick, not borderline unwell, I mean “wow, I think I’m going to die on the floor of my bathroom, never have kids, leave my mother to pay my debts, the dog will die of sadness and never bark for help (cuz’ he’s a mystery that way), oh is that ‘tuberculosis or the black plague’ I feel welling upside my lungs, a disaster on the borderline of deceased” debilitated and impaired.

This has happened to me for as long as I can recall. And I genuinely believe that about 5 years ago, I subconsciously began to orchestrate the type of illness I hoped to suffer.  There were the times when I just needed my immune system to collapse so that I wouldn’t have to endure some overblown event a friend had planned for the day I returned. There were the headaches, whose throbbing I could feel in my throat, which meant that I would surely have to sleep in the next day – prohibiting any form of work for an additional 24 hours, at least. But each time, my conscious self was always shocked and surprised by the fact that I was (again) sick and so devastatingly so. I’m not sure if these illnesses were just excuses for avoidance or delay on the other end, or if it’s been to up the ante since just boarding a plane is now as mundane as stepping onto a public bus, but I think it has come to mean a crossing of a threshold. It has meant my exerting effort; I don’t just hop on a plane, I must traverse that unforeseen space between life and death, called insert acute concocted illness name here, to decide that YES, I really want to leave/go home.

Going to/ From home is not just another trip. It’s not simply hailing a taxi in New York to catch a show that I’ll miss if I take the subway. It’s a choice. There’s a wide world out there, after all, and maybe I should reconsider going back to some place I’ve already been. And, hey, if I miss that flight who could blame me – dude, I’m coughing up a lung through my earlobes. If I do make it home, well, shouldn’t somebody take good care of me and give me attention? After all, I’m as sick an abused dog in a country of drought. And, of course, why leave the comforts of home for some wretched land of mysteries and unforeseen problems? Shouldn’t I really take another day, maybe that’ll allow the antibiotics to soak in, see if I can get my flight changed for a later time or not at all, since I don’t really feel well?

See, I’m crazy! There! I freak out, subconsciously, even when boarding planes regulated by airlines that always mess up my vegetarian meal and seat me in the middle and oblige me to carry only one checked bag.  But, I’m only human in the face of home… for the rest of the world, I’m pretty dagnabbit robotic.

Imagine the world of wonder that opened to me when I got my version of whooping cough before embarking on this trip to Spain. What a wonderful surprise! After all, I haven’t considered Spain home in about a decade and the last time I was here I was certainly here for vacation, but this trip… thanks to my near death experience… reminded me that I was in fact reuniting with a place I’d called home. And why not? After all I had spent a very formative year here. Well not, here here, like Madrid, but here like Spain. And it was spent with my mama, not my mom, but my mama Espanola. So, surely, coming back to Spain to stay in the house of my Spanish host mom – even though it’s not the same house – was so much like coming home that the requisite bodily rejection was subconsciously elicited, like a charm. How friggin’ cool?!

So cool that I certainly missed an entire day of site seeing while hocking up loogies in my sleep, which lasted from siesta time ’til 7 in the morning the following day. And while I’m walking now by the grace of God and the act of good judgment that permits double fisting advil and paracetemol, asi es la vida!

I remember la Plaza del Sol, and the Caixas with their art exhibitions (I never understood how a bank would double as an art space or as an exhibitor (are they investing people’s money in fine arts dealing?), but…hey, it works). And the Prado and the Reina Sofia, I remember you too. It’s been so long, but you’ve changed so little. So much that could be forgotten in a decade, and yet what’s important remains like the coating on a non-stick pan. The night is young, my ears have stopped popping, and I think my eye will stop twitching after I take a short nap. After a home cooked meal, I feel better already. Even my mother (the real one) would appreciate that at this very moment someone is whistling “These are a few of my favorite things” in the open courtyard below my room.

Let’s just say, being at home is a lot like riding a bike – you never forget – or else you’ll bust your arse and surely the self-inflicted, highly avoidable pain will serve as a reminder not to forget the next go round.