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Archive for the tag “family”

Fat Like Your Mama

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Mama loved to cook almost as much as she loved to eat. Her chicken-fried steak with gravy, smothered potatoes fried with onions, chicken and dumplings, Mississippi Mud Cake, Banana Pudding and every calorie-laden, heart-attack inducing dish you can imagine were the staples of my childhood. I always woke to the smell of breakfast cooking, even on those early pre-dawn mornings before school. She managed to make homemade biscuits and gravy for us on most mornings, her apron tied around her round midsection, before leaving for work as a cook in either a nursing home or school cafeteria. For Mama, feeding us was her way of showing her love for us.

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Watch Me, Mama

“Watch me Mama,” she calls

and I watch

as she performs great, acrobatic feats

her sunlit brown hair dances

around sparkling hazel eyes

in a face whose beauty

has only begun to bloom

I am watching

only I see the cherub she once was

with an angelic, toothless smile

chubby legs attempt those first steps

as she reaches for me–

“Are you watching, Mama?”

She leaps again and

with a bittersweet smile

I see the young woman

she will be–

Sweet-spirited, with a tender heart

and a fine mind to aid her

so much love to give

those blessed ones

she will share her life with

I am watching

every performance

Engraving these images

so that I will not

miss a thing.

Karen Muston, 2001

His Dance (The Baylorian, 2001)

“HIS DANCE”

With uninhibited energy he leaps and gyrates

to a popular, classic rock beat

His pre-adolescent body

Like unfinished architecture

covered only by briefs

His face aglow, eyes dancing,

his impish grin, that mischievous expression

so well known to me.

Laughingly, I watch

beset by memories and passing time

A time before muscular limbs

replaced chubby, dimpled legs

when that mischievous expression

could be found in

a rounder, more innocent face

sprinkled with angel kisses

And quick, firm hugs

replaced soft, delayed embraces

When we danced to nursery songs

and I was his world.

I watch him

and then, still laughing,

I join him there

and together

we dance.

~Karen Muston

2001 The Baylorian

Journey’s End

My father’s ashes felt warm in my hands. This is what death feels like, I thought. I rolled the plastic over in my hand and wondered at how a man with such power in my life could be condensed to little more than a gallon-sized storage bag. I put the plastic bag back into the cardboard box and placed it on the floor in the back seat.

Flat, frozen land flashed past us on the way to the cemetery. It was a cold day in January and all the foliage had withered to brittle shades of brown. The shrill sound of a train whistle pierced the silence. “We should put his ashes in that train car over there,” my husband said with a smile. His large, calloused hand patted my leg, and his blue eyes twinkled in an attempt to make me smile. “After all, it would be fitting. He never did want to be in one place for very long.” I nodded and smiled ruefully. He was right, my father would travel no more.

I glanced back at the box that contained what was left of my father. I wanted to feel something besides the hollow tightening in the pit of my stomach.  I wished for home. My mind flashed involuntarily to my father’s sunken face, his gasping for air with lungs that betrayed him, gnarled hands clutching, and my betrayal in the end. I could smell death. I momentarily fought nausea. Cigarette ashes, that’s what he looked like now. How ironic, I thought. I can’t ever remember seeing him without a cigarette in his hand.


 

Crooked Legs

        I tried to catch myself, but only managed to catapult down those steps like an awkward bouncy ball that rolled and bounced in a haphazard, unpredictable path for what seemed like an eternity. With every roll down those steps, I could hear the crowd gasp in a collective “ohhhhh” and could feel my dress ride higher up on my hips.

I was born with crooked legs. I am told I first learned to walk while wearing metal braces, very similar to those the main character wore in the beginning of the movie Forest Gump.  Mama used to tell me I was “knock-kneed, pigeon-toed and bow-legged, with one leg longer than the other”, though I see no signs of any of those conditions today. Mama was known for her inventive exaggerations, so I am inclined to believe my sisters’ accounts of my childhood maladies, which are less interesting but a bit more believable. Read more…

Sister vs. Sister

Soon, a police officer showed up to the scene, as did Mama. She had to leave work to come check on us, and still wore her white plastic apron and hairnet. Below the hairnet the pencil-drawn eyebrows were furrowed, she was very angry.

normann

Pictured, in earlier years: My sister Annette, my brother Troy, my sister Norma Jean and me.

When I was six, we had the misfortune of living in an old farmhouse located across the street from the local high school. I was the youngest of four children, with two sisters who were nine and twelve years older than I, and a brother who was only eighteen-months my senior. It was as if my mother had given birth to two sets of warring opposites. Read more…

The Road Home, Part 2

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Pictured: Me with a relative (Sherry) who stopped by while we were stranded in our truck in the parking lot. They were unable to help us.

Hope enveloped me, and excitement coursed through my body as I realized that, though I had traveled a great distance, the trip was far from over. In fact, it had only just begun.

I sat with my back against the cab of the truck, as far away from the traffic as possible. I drew my knees into my chest and rested my head on my arms. “God, I need you,” I began. My prayer was interrupted, or perhaps answered, when lights unexpectedly shone on our truck. I could hear the faint sound of my father talking with someone, and then he called to us.

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The Road Home, Part 1

20131112_112625I hate them, I thought. I hate them and I hate my life.

 

I fell back onto the array of cardboard boxes that had been tossed haphazardly into the back of our old Ford pickup, and tried very hard not to cry. The edges of the boxes that held my family’s possessions jabbed into my back mockingly, a constant reminder of how temporary my life had always been. I laid back and watched the sun set dimly through homemade, wooden side rails on the truck, and marveled at how even a sunset could lose its luster when seen through slats of hopelessness. Read more…

Accidental Target, Part 2

“A young girl next door was walking along that road right there,” the officer said …“She was shot in the neck … It looks like you were the only one shooting.”

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A Love That Lasts

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I learned from my own observations of my parents’ relationship and others that love does not have to be perfect, but it should be right.

This month I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with the only man I have ever loved. I suppose it has become rare for marriages to survive for that many years, and even rarer for those relationships to be truly happy ones. I like to think that ours is a unique union, given that I first met my husband on a blind date when I was only sixteen. We married just two years later, the summer following my high school graduation. I was an “old” eighteen year-old, with some insight about what love should look like. Looking back, I knew a lot less than I truly believed I knew. But, I was right about one thing-ours is a love meant to be.

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