I WANT TO HAVE A DRINK, DINNER, AND HANG OUT WITH LINDA HOLMES

 

THIS IS AN ESSAY IN RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY LINDA HOLMES IN JUNE 2011.  I AM RECYCLING IT BECAUSE IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES!

Linda Holmes writes NPR’s entertainment and pop-culture blog, Monkey See.  After reading her post about the Oxford or Serial Comma as it is also known,  I wanted to call her for lunch.  I remember when I learned in a journalism class that I shouldn’t use the Serial Comma or the Oxford comma.   You know the comma I’m talking about.  The one before a coordinating conjunction. I was in a class where I was learning AP style.  I am certain this was when I realized that I could not be a news reporter.  The kind of person who could write a concise “who, what, when, where, why, and how” article.  I wanted to write alliterative stories with ample appealing adjectives.  The kind of stories which painted pictures for my readers.  Once I decided I was not going to report news stories, I welcomed back that petite punctuation mark.  It is great to know that the folks at the University of Oxford are keeping our comma.  Yes, “our” comma.  It must be “our” comma because since reading Linda’s post, “Going, Going, And Gone?:  No, The Oxford Comma Is Safe…For Now”  I have seen countless (I could probably count them I just don’t want to) articles about the survival of this stout little character.
There is even a Facebook group dedicated to preserving him and a song by Vampire Weekend (I’ve never heard of them either)  aptly named, “Oxford Comma.”   I feel like this little guy needs to be more than just an it.  I now think of this petite purveyor of order as a small friend…almost like a pet rock.  Of course, my little friend actually does more than just sit there like a rock.  He can make a list a little clearer or as Linda explained the Serial Comma can actually create life (you will actually have to read her post to understand this one).
I’ve read the arguments for the survival of Blip (I always name my pets…yes, even the rock) and the arguments for why we don’t need him.  It seems to be a pretty even debate.  Irregardless (I’m just kidding, Linda) I will continue to honor Blip by including him in my notes, letters, and my blog.  Even if he doesn’t make things clearer, Linda seems like she would be a great friend.  She would tolerate my fragments, my occasional placement of the preposition at the end of my run on sentence, my…, and any infinitives that I might happen to split.  And, we would share our fondness for Blip!  Yes, I hope to make Linda’s acquaintance someday because I do like a writer who starts a post with a confession.

DOWN THE HIGHWAY KIDS

I WAS A “DOWN THE HIGHWAY” KID.  GROWING UP IN SANTA ROSA SHORES FIVE MILES DOWN THE HIGHWAY FROM GULF BREEZE SAID SOMETHING ABOUT WHERE I WAS IN THE HIERARCHY OF LIFE.  ONLY I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I WAS IN THIS HIERARCHY UNTIL SOMEONE TOLD ME WHEN I WAS IN THE 8TH GRADE. 

DURING CHRISTMAS BREAK OF 4TH GRADE, MY DADDY TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA, FLORIDA FROM MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA WHERE WE HAD LIVED FOR A LITTLE OVER A YEAR.  HE WAS IN BANKING; WE MOVED TO ADVANCE HIS CAREER.  MY SISTER WAS BORN IN 1970.  AT THREE MONTHS OLD SHE HAD HER FIRST BOUT WITH ASTHMA AND PNEUMONIA.  THIS WAS THE BEGINNING OF HER STAYS IN THE HOSPITAL WHICH MEANT MY MOTHER WAS GONE, AND I WAS AT HOME WITH DADDY.  I MISSED MOTHER, BUT DADDY TOOK GREAT CARE OF ME.  MOTHER STILL MANAGED OUR HOUSEHOLD FROM THE HOSPITAL AS BEST SHE COULD. 

WHEN WE MOVED TO PENSACOLA, MOTHER SCRAMBLED AND FOUND US A HOUSE TO RENT EVEN THOUGH MY SISTER, AND MY MOTHER WENT TO THE HOSPITAL.  AFTER CHRISTMAS BREAK, I STARTED A NEW SCHOOL.  MY SECOND SCHOOL IN 4TH GRADE.  AT THE BEGINNING YEAR, I ATTENDED SCHOOL IN MONTGOMERY.  THIS NEW SCHOOL IN PENSACOLA WAS MY ONLY MEMORY OF BEING MISERABLE IN MY CHILDHOOD.  THE CHILDREN WERE MEAN; THE TEACHER WAS MEANER.  I HAD A STOMACH ACHE EVERY MORNING AND BEGGED DADDY TO LET ME STAY HOME.  DADDY KNEW I WASN’T SICK.  SO, OFF TO SCHOOL, I WENT.  I DIDN’T WANT TO WORRY MOTHER AND DADDY, BUT I FINALLY CONFESSED MY MISERY.  I THINK WE ALL FELT OUT OF PLACE AT THAT LITTLE HOUSE.  MOTHER PROMPTLY FOUND US A NEW LITTLE HOUSE IN SANTA ROSA SHORES.  I STILL REMEMBER THE NIGHT WE MET MR. LD DRANE AND HIS WIFE TO PAY OUR DEPOSIT AND 1ST MONTH’S RENT ON OUR NEW HOME ON MAPLEWOOD DRIVE.  THIS HOME WAS MY REFUGE, A NEW PARADISE FOR ME.

I TRANSFERRED TO GULF BREEZE ELEMENTARY, MY THIRD AND LAST MOVE IN MY 4TH GRADE YEAR.  I CAN STILL REMEMBER THE COOL POD ARCHITECTURE AND THE NEW PEOPLE I MET.  I WOULDN’T SAY  WAS INCLUDED IN THE COOL GROUP, BUT I CERTAINLY WASN’T SHUNNED.  WHAT I DID HAVE WAS THE KIDS FROM MY NEIGHBORHOOD, SANTA ROSA SHORES.  MY FIRST FRIENDS WERE LAURA JOHNSTON AND THERESA MARKHAM.  LAURA AND THERESA WERE NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS; THEY BOTH LIVED ONE STREET BEHIND ME.  I COULD SEE LAURA’S HOUSE FROM MY BACKYARD.  WE PLAYED OUTSIDE.  WE JOINED GIRL SCOUTS.  LAURA’S MOTHER WAS OUR GIRL SCOUT LEADER.  WE WENT ON AN OVERNIGHT CAMPOUT ONE TIME, MY LAST.  I REMEMBER EARNING BADGES.  WHAT I REMEMBER MOST IS  THE FRIENDSHIP AND PLAYING AT HER HOUSE AND HER PLAYING AT MINE. THIS FRIENDSHIP WAS THE FOUNDATION FOR MY HAPPY MEMORIES IN SANTA ROSA SHORES. 

IN 6TH GRADE, MY PARENTS BOUGHT A HOUSE ON REDWOOD LANE DOWN THE STREET FROM OUR MAPLEWOOD RENTAL.  I HAD FRIENDS ALL AROUND ME.  WE RODE OUR BIKES. WE SWAM IN THE CANALS.  WE WENT TO OVER TO THE BEACHSIDE. WE PLAYED SOFTBALL IN MY BACKYARD AND OUR ADJOINING NEIGHBORS, THE DUGAN’S BACKYARD.  AMANDA CARRIGAN WAS OUR BEST HITTER.  SHE HAD ONE ARM- THE RESULT OF A CHILDHOOD ACCIDENT. 

GROWING UP I DIDN’T  HAVE MANY CLOSE FRIENDS WHO LIVED IN GULF BREEZE PROPER.  DADDY TOOK ME TO SCHOOL IN THE MORNING.  IN THE AFTERNOON, I RODE THE BUS HOME.  THE BUS STOPPED AT VILLA VENICE, WHISPER BAY, ORIOLE BEACH, SANTA ROSA SHORES, HOLLY BY THE SEA, LAGNIAPPE BEACH, AND LASTLY THE KIDS IN MIDWAY GOT OFF.  MIDWAY IS WAS HOME TO THE LANDFILL. THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A POETIC SOUNDING NAME FOR WHERE THEY LIVED.  THEY JUST LIVED IN MIDWAY.  IT WAS MORE OF USEFUL NAME DENOTING MIDWAY TO SOMEWHERE DOWN HIGHWAY 98. NO ONE EVER SAID ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THE MIDWAY KIDS, BUT I DO REMEMBER WONDERING WHAT IT MUST FEEL LIKE LIVING NEAR A PILE OF TRASH.  I DIDN’T REALIZE IT AT THE TIME, BUT WE ALL DID HAVE OUR CLIQUES. 

EACH NEIGHBORHOOD THOUGHT THEIRS WAS THE BEST.

WHEN I WAS IN 7TH GRADE, I BECAME BEST FRIENDS WITH A GIRL WHO LIVED IN THE CITY LIMITS OF GULF BREEZE.  SHE WAS PART OF A COOL GROUP; HER OLDER BROTHER PLAYED FOOTBALL AND HAD MANY POPULAR FRIENDS.  I WAS 12, AND SOON I STARTED SPENDING QUITE A BIT OF TIME IN GULF BREEZE.  I NEVER FELT LIKE I DIDN’T BELONG, NOR DID I FEEL DIFFERENT. UNTIL ONE DAY WHEN I WAS IN THE 8TH GRADE SOMEONE SAID TO ME, “OH, YOU ARE A ‘DOWN THE HIGHWAY’ KID.” 

AT THAT POINT, I FELT SEPARATE.  I WAS AN OUTSIDER IN THIS GROUP OF KIDS.  I WAS A DOWN THE HIGHWAY KID.  A SAFE SPACE FILLED WITH A MULTITUDE OF KIDS WHO RODE THEIR BIKES TOGETHER, WHO PLAYED OUTSIDE TOGETHER DAILY, WHO SWAM TOGETHER WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION.  WE ALL HELD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE. WE WERE GOOD KIDS.  WE WERE FAMILY.  I DON’T HAVE ONE NEGATIVE MEMORY LIVING IN SANTA ROSA SHORES.  I LIVED THERE FROM 4TH GRADE UNTIL WE MOVED IN MY 9TH GRADE YEAR.  IT WAS THE PROVERBIAL IDYLLIC CHILDHOOD SPENT AMONG CHILDREN FROM A VARIETY OF FAMILIES. DIVORCED PARENTS, A MOTHER WHO WAS A COCKTAIL WAITRESS, A FATHER WHO SUFFERED FROM DEPRESSION RESULTING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN NOT BEING ALLOWED IN THEIR HOUSE, HIPPIES, CHURCH GOING FAMILIES, FAMILIES WHO DID NOT GO TO CHURCH.  WE WERE ALL PART OF SOMETHING SPECIAL IN THAT PLACE DOWN THE HIGHWAY. 

Chronic Sorrow. Chronic sorrow. Hard to explain. The lump in your throat. Gulping your sob. The strain in your eyes demanding the tears not to fall. The smile hiding sorrow. Chronic. Loss. The good thoughts trying to take the place of you. Chronic. Long lasting. I want to bid you adieu. I’ve done all I know to do. I’ve tried to let you go. Sorrow. I’m moving on. Please take your cue. I plead. I beg of you. Until then, I swallow. I smile. I keep moving on. My work Til the day you leave alone.

My Five Year and Eight Month Old Self

“We will never find it, Baby; it’s gone.”  After looking through the pile of gravel for hours on a spring afternoon in Whistler, Alabama in 1968, I figured my Paw Paw was right.  It was gone.  My special birthstone ring with the green gem and gold band was lost in a pile of roofing gravel.  The ring that signified that I was born in August. My first big girl ring.  The ring I graduated to after my baby ring.  The ring that represented the characteristics of someone who does not give up. 

My cousins and I were playing outside at my Grandnana and Paw Paw’s home. I have no memory of how the ring came not to be on my hand.  All of my memories are the searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.  I remember sifting for the entire afternoon trying to find my ring.  

My Paw Paw owned a roofing company and my cousins, and I were playing on the pile of gravel.  I know it must have been spring because the gravel was not hot.  The gravel was a mixture of hues.  Browns. Tans. Yellows. My gold ring was lost in the chaotic mix of fun.  

I remember being sad.  I wasn’t afraid of getting into trouble for losing it.  I remember the determination I had to find my ring.  The ring that represented my August birthday.  The stone that had the most beautiful and confusing name.  Peridot.  I remember knowing I was not going to give up until I found it.  

Leos are known for being strong-willed and confident.  I can only concur that this is why I kept looking.  I was not going to give up.  I knew my ring was in that pile.  I just had to be patient, determined, and I would eventually find it.  My Paw Paw promised me he would not let anyone disturb the pile.  I think he knew his first-born granddaughter would find her ring. Every day I would go outside and sift through the gravel pile.  I would make up games as I searched for my ring.  My cousins would join me as we set out to conquer this kingdom of rocks hiding my treasure.  

I don’t remember how many days it took.  But, I still have the memory of my cousins and one of my Paw Paw’s employees standing around the pile with me holding up my ring.  We did it!  We didn’t give up. We found my simple, beautiful birthstone ring. My five year and eight month old self understood life better than my adult self.  Be patient.  Don’t give up.  It’s there.  You will eventually find it. 

Sir Real Walks Into A Room

Author’s Note-About 10 years ago I started creating a character in my thoughts named, Sir Real.  He was bizarre-surreal on the surface but deep down he was authentic and trying to find out who he really was.  I am sharing one of my short stories about Sir Real on my blog.

Sir Real Walks Into a Room

He was a small man who appeared 6 feet tall.  When he walked in the room, all eyes were upon him.  His presence made everyone look.  He hated this.  He wore black, and a hat was always on his head.  The hat made him feel like he was hiding from their gaze.  He didn’t realize that the cap set him apart from everyone.  Not everyone can get away with wearing a hat. 

Who was he?  Why did they all want to talk to him?

What was it about Sir Real?

He was ordinary, or so he thought.  Unremarkable.  He was born into a typical family.  Traditional. Routine. Standard. He didn’t have any talents.  He was, on the surface, a friendly person, but people wore him out.  Exhausted him. 

But, there was something about being with people and connecting with them that allured Sir Real.  The problem was when he entered their presence, the presence of people, he put on his mask.  Correction.  He didn’t put on the mask; a reflexive facade of protection covered him. 

He became the life of the party.  The teller of stories. He felt his place was to entertain and to make others laugh. Not just smile, but to laugh.  He was infused with energy. Sir Real wasn’t a teller of stories, but a teller of truth.

When he was finished he was spent.  Depleted.

  

Sir Real thought he knew who he was, but as he got older, he began to question himself.  His life.  His purpose.  As he was growing up, he thought he was supposed to entertain others and give them what they wanted or what they needed.  A good laugh or a good story to make them feel good.  As he aged, he began to realize that his strong personality was what he hated the most.  He didn’t want to be that person.  Others told him to “just be yourself, just be who you are.”  He wasn’t quite sure if he knew who he was.  One day he put on a colored shirt which complimented his tanned skin.  He quickly took it off.  “Color will bring more attention to me,” he thought. 

He didn’t want that attention.  He wanted attention on his terms. 

When he walked into a room people would smile.  They would remark, “Sir Real, where do you get all of your energy?”  Sir Real was known as an over the top bizarre character, but Sir Real was one of the most authentic people one would hope to meet.  He was loyal.  He paid attention to people.  He listened, even when they thought he wasn’t listening.  He heard everything they were saying.  Perhaps that is why Sir Real had to take a break from people.  Sometimes what they are saying is not meant for the ears of a veritable shrinking persona.