All posts by kirizar

About kirizar

I am all things to all people. As long as people are looking for a mom with diverse interests and a homebound tendency to look through the window of life and wish (or imagine) something just a little bit different. I am like the Tardis on Doctor Who. I am much bigger on the inside.

All Who Wander…

Visiting Nowhere May Just Be The Best Thing Ever

 

Buddys Beach
Jordan Lake Beach in Lake Odessa, Michigan

 

Does anybody remember the classic American small town? Anybody?  I grew up in such a place–so small, the population numbered under a thousand and there was only one traffic light (and it was the flashing, blinky-red kind) as you drove through.

This weekend, my son picked Exit 59 off Highway 96 heading eastbound, toward Lansing, Michigan, as his road trip du jour. We’d taken this route a few times before, but never got past a quick, farm-glutted glance at Clarksville and a Where-The-Hell-Are-We-Now? tour of Saranac, Michigan.*

This time would be different!

“Okay honey. We’re at Exit 59. Which way now?” I call from the front seat.

My child, who has been grinning the entire way, begins barking commands:

“Right.”

“Straight.”

“Left”

Eventually we ended up at a most-delightful destination: Lake Jordan in Odessa, Michigan.

Odessa MICH

We dined at the under-construction, but-still-popular Buddy’s on the Beach. Even with half the building covered with rough-edged plywood, the place was hopping. I only saw two servers working the floor and they never stopped moving.

Buddys 1
Buddy’s on the Beach – Getting a Facelift!

 

Tequila–I’m not making this up–was our waitress and, even though the meal took a while to arrive, due to the popularity of the joint, she stopped frequently to check to make sure we were okay. She recognized Little Man’s quirky behavior right away and gently made sure he was doing okay, even though she had to be off-her-feet, worn-out catering to so many.

The food definitely falls into the standard diner fare–burger, fries, pizza–category. Hearty and hot and big enough for leftovers to go home. I would say, the pizza definitely looks like the star of the establishment. They were flinging pies and burgers left and right. I had ordered a wet burrito and it was huge. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently ordered the ‘Grande’ size which claimed to be a pound and a half.

“Nope, ” says Tequila, “If no one asks, we always serve the smaller size. The Grande is huge.”

She holds her hands out like she’s carrying a football…or a ten-pound baby.

Baby Burrito - Not Actual Baby Size
Baby Burrito – Not Actual Size of a Baby.

 

Little Man, of course, went with his favorite: Bacon and Pepperoni Pizza.

Pizza - Bacon and Pepperoni
I had to get a picture quick before it was all eaten!

 

The food was good, solid fare. I suspect ordering a burrito at a place that specializes in hamburgers and pizza was probably an oversight on my part. But it was good-n-plenty enough. The French fries that floated past me looked to die for.

The place is family friendly, even with a smallish bar on site.

Bar
Just turn left at the side entrance, you can’t miss it.

 

I suspect the beer-on-tap is intended for the thirsty ten-pin aficionados in the adjoining bowling alley.

 

Bowling
Well not THESE aficionados…unless it’s rootbeer on tap.

 

If you travel with a special needs child, this might be a chancy place. It was a little dark, and crammed with families and the neighboring bowling alley added a certain level of excitement. That said, the wait staff was superlative. The management even schlepped orders when necessary.

The outside park with a clean, if unsupervised, swimming area, was inviting and the small-town atmosphere couldn’t be matched by any five-star establishment, no matter how nice the décor.

You could tell Buddy’s has higher aspirations by the in-laid flooring and outer-space, motion-sensor sink and hand dryer in the women’s restroom:

Flooring not pictured because guests were using the facilities, but trust me, Buddy’s is going places. Although…for the men…the trip requires a detour:

Port-a-John Option

We dined and dashed, but I was able to see that a special event was taking place in the bowling area. Tables had been set up and crafts like crocheted blankets and other miscellany were on display. A quick inquiry turned up that it was a local fundraiser for the “Richards Family.” I was assured it was referenced on Facebook, but a later search turned up unsuccessful.

I kick myself now for not being more diligent. This is the kind of effort that deserves recognition. It is representative of the kindness of small towns that doesn’t tend to hit the big-time news.

Calling Buddy’s the next day didn’t clear things up. The manager I spoke with hadn’t been there Saturday. He thought it might be a softball fundraiser for the local Lakewood Girls’ Fastpitch Softball team and recommended I check out the school’s website. I uncovered zilch! Another no-go for my investigative reporting.

I can recommend the Annual Lakewood Area Lion’s Club Chicken Bar-B-Q, however. It smelled fantastic as they were setting up. And if my kid would have hung around for its start time four hours later, I’d be reporting the quality as well. A picture will have to suffice:

Lake Odessa BBQ
They take their rotisserie chicken Bar-B-Q seriously in these parts!

 

Sadly, the event happens only once a year. So, set your calendars for a nice weekend in May 2018 and check back. I certainly plan to.

From the winding, lonesome roads of Michigan. Peace out!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Not to diss Saranac but even the people who are born there probably wonder how the hell that happened! According to Wikipedia, the claim to fame of the 1.15 square mile village is the ‘world-renowned’ geologist J. Harlen Bretz.

Farce

angrysocialmediamob
“Borrowed” from digidickinson.net – It suited the sentiment too well not to appropriate the image.

Rarely am I inspired by a one-word prompt. Then again, rarely does one word so aptly describe how life feels lately.

FARCE

What I have to say matters.

(Lie)

Politicians feign concern during election years and then they strip health care exposing the bones of their conscience.

Diseased carcasses wearing red, white, and blue lies.

If I could, I would curse them:

May syphilitic crabs feast on your crotch rot!

May you feel karma’s sweet kiss leaving you unprotected from your policies.

May you be forced to live the life of your poorest constituent.

May the bullet of public opinion find its target and kill your self-serving aspirations.

May curses come true.

FARCE*

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Handy-dandy link to New York Times article which includes a list of the congressmen and women who voted for the recent ‘health care act’ to repeal and roll-back Medicaid expansion.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Farce

Where the Body’s Buried…

 

Alas poor, Rodent. I knew him not!

Bodies Buried

I will say this much about gardening. It gives you an appreciation for how hard it would be to dig a grave. I believe that, were I so inclined, my preference would be to carve the corpse into easy-to-dispose-of pieces and strew the parts in various dump sites. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, of course…

I suspect I am too faint of heart to make a convincing serial killer anyway. In fact, after making this tiny, gruesome discovery, I spent the remainder of the dig wondering when I’d recover the rest of the little fella.*

Squeamishness, aside, I will happily conjecture about fictional ways of making a body vanish. The top three picks from various cinematic heart-wrenchers (not literal) I’ve ‘enjoyed’ would have to be:

  1. Take a trick from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes, and go the cannibalism route.  Not me eating the remains, of course, but feeding the evidence to an unsuspecting crowd of people…sure!** That, and it would make an interesting ‘Iron Chef’ episode, if it weren’t, you know, illegal.
  2. Then there’s the oh-so-historically-fascinating mummification process.  A true horror buff wouldn’t wait for the body to be dead yet.  They’d use that curved hook to scoop out the living brain first and then pull the organs for canopic pickling. The most fascinating thing is, to the Egyptians, the brains weren’t considered an important enough organ to preserve. I’m not sure what was done with them–perhaps used to tan the skin of the recently deceased?  Will have to Google that one later along with whichever film I dredged this memory from. Some things your brain can never unsee.
  3. And then there is the tried and true dissolve-the-body-in-lye fallback. A popular shtick of every cop/crime/mystery show I’ve ever watched. Each one had their own take on Jeffery Dahmer’s preferred mode of hocus pocus body disposus.  I can’t say I’d enjoy the smell very much, but it certainly would make the neighbors hesitate to borrow a cup of sugar if de-comp mixed with caustic chemicals was wafting from the windows.

Anyway, this is what I’m thinking while I am whacking weeds and planting flowers in the back garden. Next time you see an old lady with a twisted grin and cackling her head off as she digs into the dirt behind her house…I hope you think of me.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*The Mystery of the Headless Squirrel continues.

**Let’s see who’s willing to come over to my house for dinner ever again!

***Happy Mother’s Day to every body…buried, or otherwise.

A Day In The Life…A Special Needs Breakdown

I remind myself that this too shall pass.

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Missing Easter eggs–taken from fridge–still not found?

This too shall pass.

Two teardrop shaped containers of food coloring found in son’s bedroom. Two still unaccounted for. Mattress now looks like Jackson Pollock vomited there.

This too shall pass.

No clean clothes today…most of child’s pants cut up by scissors or missing. Must remember to check the heat ducts later…

This too shall pass.

Looks in fridge. *Stares blankly* Where’d the chicken go?

This too shall pass.

If you are a happy parent, please stop reading here. If you find fulfillment of life in nurturing and raising your beautiful, perfect little yous. Go away. This is not the blog you are looking for and I won’t be nice about it.

If, however, you have had dark thoughts on miserable, cold days. If you haven’t showered in forever and aren’t entirely sure whether it’s Tuesday or the apocalypse. Join me, comrade. And welcome.

*

While studying to get a degree in Russian Studies*, we were assigned the work One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Its simplistic, yet brutal reflection of the miseries of life for prisoners in a Russian gulag are played out in a single day for the title character Ivan Denisovich. What I did not know then, while reading about the struggles of someone trapped in a cold, cheerless existence, is that it could just as well be a metaphor for what it is like to parent a special needs child.

This too shall pass.

This has become my mantra. This reassurance every time my son finds a new and inventive way to make me regret the wonders of fertility treatments: the bad moments pass. It is a lifeline when you feel you are drowning and desperate options rear their suggestive, ugly heads.

This too shall pass.

Sometimes you find yourself sitting by the side of the road weighing bad to worse choices. Because bad are the only choices you can see.

This too shall pass.

I took my son to a birthday party Friday for the son of a longtime friend in the Autism Community. Little Man refused to enter the building. When finally forced to enter, threw a massive tantrum, beating himself and biting his arms, until he realized he wasn’t getting his way and we were going to stay. He sat rigid, refusing to join in—in a place where other children played jumping on trampolines and swinging from giant swaths of spandex dangling from the airplane-hangar-sized ceiling beams. He tolerated it until I would let him go home again.

This too shall pass.

We traveled to the delightfully grey and 40-degree weather in Traverse City, Michigan. I drove for three hours. Got fifteen minutes in the hot tub of the hotel before my son screeched his regrets and left the pool; I took him for his requested walk to the nearby lake where he promptly wanted to leave; returned to the Comfort Inn to sleep to dream of wifi only to be woken at 6:00 a.m. because someone next door took a shower. This was a good day. No major meltdowns.

This too shall pass.

Then yesterday happened.

I took my son to an event sponsored by the school celebrating a program that is intended to engage children like mine with the neurotypical kids. The ones who can play the games and take part in ordinary life. The children not like my son.**

I run into his teachers and classroom aides.

“Little Man had a really good day today.” One person tells me.

“Really, he was very happy.” Another stops to greet my son.

This too shall pass.

They don’t hear it. They don’t hear the bell ringing, the tolling, sonorous carillon signaling the shift from happy child to frantic, exhausted, terrorized hulk.

Neither do I.

This too shall pass.

We win the most patriot looking red-white-and-blue cupcakes at the cake walk—on only our sixth or seventh time around. *Thank goodness.*

I coax my son into a bizarre game where marshmallows—a food my son loves—are tossed back and forth to be caught in cups. None of the marshmallows are supposed to be eaten, however, because they keep hitting the floor. My son sneaks one anyway, confused that he couldn’t eat them in the first place. Has no one heard of cotton balls?

Cupcakes
Guess who snuck these into his room while mommy wasn’t watching?

 

This too shall pass.

I drag my reluctant child to a photo room where mustaches on sticks and leis are strewn to give families props to stage silly portraits. I manage a few with my unsmiling teen and he drags me out after thirty seconds.

This too shall pass.

He attempts to leave the building by several exits. We have only been there a half hour, but he wants out.

I ‘encourage’ my son to participate in a game in the library and he balks.

“One game. Candy Land…or Yahtzee. Then we can go.” I plead.

It is too much for him.

He is desperate and begins hitting himself violently.

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

It is the sound of someone testing a melon for ripeness. It is the distant sound of an axe biting into wood. It is my son’s fists cracking against his skull.

He is crying from angst or anger or frustration or stress or some combination of all of these emotions. Or none. Perhaps he is drained and all that is left is the hollow drum upon which he beats an empty tattoo.

This too shall pass.

I push him into a cozy nook for readers to sit by a pretend fire where a painted tree grows to spread its branches overhead. Or so my vague memory suggests. I was too busy dosing my child with a sedative so I could get him out of the building without scaring or hurting anyone.

This too shall pass.

As I am driving him home, I am blinded. Blinded by regrets that my son cannot take part in fun activities. That I don’t get to be the parent encouraging him to stretch his limits, but instead failing to recognize them in time to prevent catastrophe.

It is as if his emotions have spilled over from where he sits in the back seat tearing strips of paper to calm himself.*** He winds the paper around his fingers and I think, “At least he’s finally using all those summer workbooks I purchased.”

I am crying now for the pain he feels but cannot express. For the fact he can never, ever make any real friends because he has such devastating limitations.

That he is so broken and so am I.

This too shall pass.

I pull off the road because, really, I can’t see now. I can’t see the point in continuing.

I park in an empty florist’s lot. The strip of grass that divides my car from the busy traffic is a green wedge of nature slipped between asphalt boundaries and a Panera coffee shop.

I am tired. I am listening to the recording of my parenting failures skipping and repeating in my head. And before anyone thinks to tell me what I great mom I am. Stop. Just stop.

Because you don’t know the thoughts I had.

This too shall pass.

You don’t hear the insidious little fucking voices in your head telling you that there has got to be an easier way than this. That life shouldn’t be this hard. That life shouldn’t be this…

This too shall pass.

You all think there are programs to help families in need. You all think we are getting help to make it through the every-fucking-day struggle of making yourself get up when black thoughts drag you down.

Maybe there are. But you know what? I don’t qualify for them; barely anyone does. You apply through miles of red tape, applications, certifications, interviews, and, if you are lucky, you are put on a wait list to try and get one of the 450 some slots the entire fucking state has to help people with severely handicapped children who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

You heard me. 450 slots. For a state with a population approaching 10 million.

You all think that there must be someone out there helping families like mine make good choices and to step in when things get bleak or despairing. You would be dead wrong.

This too shall pass.

This is the problem with real life. Ugly thoughts are like rancid cheerleaders rooting for destruction. There are no angels to balance you out. Sometimes the monsters win.

But not today.

This too shall pass.

I watch the robins bobbing on the slender manicured lawn that is trapped on all sides by concrete barriers and the threat of chemical castration or decapitation by lawn mower for any daring weeds. The little red-breasted birds are rejoicing in the abundance of rain-forced worms.

This too shall pass.

I turn on the book on tape I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto rolls out the welcome mat to sanity and invites me to listen. It takes some kind of talent to write a comedy set around a funeral.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m safe to go on.

If anyone knows Mitch Albom. Tell him, thanks.

This too shall pass.

In writing this, I was reminded that in college, I found One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to be uplifting. Despite all of the misery, Ivan Denisovich finds moments of grace—not religious—but humanizing that help him to eek joy from the life he does have.

Ivan Denisovich got fish eyes in his soup.

I got robins bobbing for worms and the lyrical beginnings of a musician who might be a magician. Or vice versa. I’m not sure yet. The story has only begun.

I’ll have to listen for another day.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Because I’m all about collecting useless degrees. Ask me about my aborted career as a teacher. Go ahead, *cocks imaginary pistol* ASK.

**The normals (aka The Little Fuckers.)

***The real reason why I donated my son’s books to the school—because watching him destroy something I love and had hoped would connect us is too painful.

 

 

———————————final thoughts——————————————-

I am fine. It was just a bad moment. We all have them. Do not contact the authorities or  the Department of Human Services. I shared this to let the world know we have a problem with our resources and mental health care assistance to families in need and maybe to let other parents of special needs children know they are not alone. We just need support.

If you want to act, check out our local Autism Support of Kent County (A.S.K) agency http://www.autismsupportofkentcounty.org. They have helped my family as well as others in various outreach programs and financial aid for summer camps and therapies. Their Annual Walk for Autism is Sunday, May 7, 12:00 noon– at John Ball Zoo, 1300 Fulton W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. If he’ll go, I’ll be the one leading my son around with a bag of marshmallows.

This Tree Is Not a Metaphor

I wish editing were as easy as gardening.

Wait…

*Does some actual yard work*

…scratch that.

I wish editing were like hiring someone to pluck unruly overgrowth from your plot.

WARNING: Mangling of Metaphors, Shameful Similes, and Tree Torture Ahead—Proceed with Caution!

*

I have, on occasion, taken a side-long look at my collected literary efforts and sighed–gusts monsoons would envy.  In those glances, I have seen the colossal effort it would take to shape them into something even vaguely resembling sense. Instead, each year I write a new, rambling incoherent piece like a prolific procrastinator of pandemic proportions. *

Do you remember my promise that I would provide the critique of my work following winning a review at last year’s writer’s conference?

*crickets chirping*

Well, you are all still waiting. Because the biggest take-away from that evaluation is that my story is starting in the wrong place. Book one of a three-books-at-least series, is mis-planted. It isn’t a weed, exactly, but it is a sprawling volunteer in my literary garden. It is like the tree in my backyard–it is a moss-encrusted mess!

Tree - 2 Weeps
Ask not for whom the tree weeps–it weeps for demolition!

It isn’t a bad tree. Yeah, sure, it has oozing cracks running down two sides, but it is lush and otherwise verdant. It’s just planted in the wrong place and threatens to split in several directions. And like my over-grown novel, it has got to go.

Tree - 3
Crude attempt at foreshadowing!

 

Faced with massive edits and rewrites, I say: “Bring on the shredder and let’s make some confetti!”

It would be so much easier to chuck my writing aspirations and plot a life without creative expectation. To slash and burn every word I’ve placed in a holding pattern, using up the data of an entire computer until I have to buy a new one to store version 15.2 of the same damn novel.  At least, that’s how it feels. It’s either that, or actually sit down and try and straighten out the mess I’ve created.**

Tree - 6
Taking a little off the top! Good thing they aren’t barbers.

 

Trees are unlike writing, as it turns out. They are actually pretty easy to dismantle. At least the guys from 1, 2, Tree made it look easy.

I watched them turn probably fifty-year’s worth of growth into so much mulch in less than three hours. I admired their editing talents greatly. ***

I did learn something from watching them. They didn’t start at the base of the trunk, trying to tackle it all in one go, but a piece at a time.

 

First a little here. Then a little there. And, before long, Cal, the stump man, was there grounding down what little remained.

There’s part of me that wants to do this. Instead of taking pruning shears to the 150,000-plus word opus, I’d chainsaw that forest of typographical nightmares and run-on story tangents and turn them into wordy wood chips!

Hacking Good Time
A metaphorical depiction of me grinding my words to digital dust.

 

But that isn’t what I want for my novel. I don’t really want to render its multi-syllabic magnificence into so much mulch. But, trim its excess maybe? To make sure it won’t crush my house in the next strong breeze to come through our neighborhood? Sure.

Reason to Worry
Because no matter how well you fill up the cracks, a story isn’t done until it’s one seamless effort!

Now all I need is a studly team of guys on standby who will cart away the bits that fall away as I work.

Dont Call Him Lambert
Don’t call him Lamont!

 

A big shout-out to Jacob, Jeremy, and Mick at 1, 2, Tree for very considerately not dropping anything on my head while I took pictures! I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I will also assault you with assonance.

**Looking at un-edited work without protection is like staring into the sun…while masturbating—you’ll go blind and you won’t have any fun while doing it.

***I so was NOT ogling them. I’m old enough to be their…well…aunt, at the very least. And an aunt does not ogle young men no matter how bulgy-their muscles are.

 

———————————–You Read This Far Poet-Tree Bonus—————————————-

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

*

I think that I shall never write fiction

That isn’t pruned of coherent diction.

—From “This Tree is Not a Metaphor” by Me

 

 

 

Easy Baked Escapes

 

 

Prison - Chronophobia Image
Why do the schools do this to us?  Why? Photo courtesy of dogbrindlebarks.blogspot.com

 

Day 104 of Spring Break.

I think the guard is becoming suspicious…

*-*-*-*-*

Plans are in place. Only one more day before I am free.*

I’ve tried to hide my growing excitement. I still swear like a drunken sailor whenever I step on crayons in the yard.

I only hope I didn’t give it away earlier. Boss Baby was playing in the rec room. There’s this scene where the kid is grounded—his bedroom is his prison. When the kid’s talking, wizard alarm clock tries to grab a shank to make a break for it, I about died laughing!**

Man, if that isn’t a sign I need to get out of here, I don’t know what is.

It wasn’t always this way; I used to have a life.***

Okay, so maybe casing the Gem and Mineral show isn’t the act of a repentant criminal, but can you blame a gal for seeking any kind of distraction when serving a life sentence?

Rhinestones
Rhinestones $2.00? And they call me a thief!

 

 

All I want is a little clarity…cut, color, and carats! And what do they give me? False hope diamonds!

Strawberry and Yellow Obsidian - Manmade
How come the pink obsidian gets a cool name but the yellow is just plain yellow? Sounds like a little rocky discrimination going on.

 

Breaking rocks in the hot sun would be so much more pleasant if we were hunting out sparkly specimens that look like dragon droppings!

Rainbow Pyrite
Titanium Rainbow Quartz – If a stone is ‘enhanced’ by technology in a lab–it’s okay. If I enhance my product and sell it as real–it’s called larceny by fraud.

 

When I get out…I might even try my hand at a little fancy re-marketing. No longer will I be the chauffeur who slavishly drives the ‘Boss Baby’ wherever his heart desires.  No! I will be the wild, carefree road warrior women envy and men want. (Hey, if we’re going to fantasize…)

I will hit the interstate for places unknown. I will decide my fate. Or, at least, I won’t default to Highway 196 and exit 41 as the corrections officer insists we take every time we do roadside clean up.

My parole hearing is coming up, so I baked the warden a mini devil’s food cake. I know…shameless pandering.

EasyBake Dreams
Go ahead and say it. You thought getting ‘Easy Baked’ in prison was a euphemism for something terrible that happens with a kitchen implement.

 

I even invited the corrections officer to supervise so he wouldn’t suspect anything.

Easy-Does-It
It only took us two tries to figure which was the correct end to put the pans. What genius!

 

I have to say, they didn’t turn out so bad–for prison food.

Two Cakes
They let us use the ‘good’ penitentiary china.

 

After slaving away for, like, forty minutes, we have a decent product, if I do say so myself.

The warden scarfs the thing down and I ask him, “So, wasn’t that fun?”

You wanna know what he said?

“No!”

There’s no respect in this joint. No loyalty. None.

That’s why I’m oughtta here tomorrow. I’m gonna Easy-Bake my way into my own ‘early release.’

This time, I won’t forget to put the file into the cake.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*…to have a nervous breakdown.

**True. This happens. In a movie about a baby there is a reference to a shank. And I did laugh loud enough to be rolling on a floor except movie theater floors prohibit that kind of enthusiasm.

***Okay, that’s a stretch. Only Webster’s would call what I do on a daily basis, ‘having a life.’

__________You’ve read this far bonus:_____________

In case you wondered how it is I–an adult with a boy-child–have an Easy Bake Oven, here’s the story behind the best Christmas present I ever got.

This is a blog post I wrote before I ever became a blogger. Posted on The Green Study–who is to blame for giving me my first taste of fame and is responsible for my continued life of blogging crime:

It’s A Wonderful Easy-Baked Christmas

Kiri Cake
Justice never tasted so sweet!

 

 

The Return of the Puzzle Prince and Possibly the Magic Box

 

Part II of a fairytale nightmare follows the harrowing saga of promise and betrayal in the health insurance industry. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to catch up here. For everyone else, join us now as our intrepid heroine embarks on a battle royal…searching for a deserving backside to stick something sharp and pointy into.

*

A widowed mother and her son enjoy a Wish Come True in the form of a very expensive magic box that talks. They scamper to the Free Bed of Mary for training.

The speech therapy Wizard warns them:

“This device is written in a new kind of language—it is not just pictographic but also location based. Terms are organized so that the mind will find them by remembering the pathways of communication.”

“Huhn?” Says the widowed mother.

“You have to learn how the box talks before you can use it. Start with simple words and repeat finding their location. Core words will never move.” The wizard points out the many wonderful features.

“What does this button do?” The widowed mother points to a square on the programming page.

The wizard looks for a long second at the screen.

“That one erases the system.” The wizard says at last.

“Why would anyone put a button like that on the board? Why?” The widowed mother cries, shaking her head.

“Let’s just lock the prince out of that part, shall we?” Says the wizard.

The widowed mother and her puzzle prince go home dragging the heavy magic box with them.

*

Slowly the words come. Many requests are heard:

“I want balloons…” The magic box demands.

“What’s the magic word?” The widowed mother prompts.

The puzzle prince deftly plunks on the keys and the magic box answers…

“Please.”

And so life continues, until the fateful, blustery day in March a drone from the Print-Me Promise magic box factory phones. Unfortunately, the widowed mother was steering the royal blue coach on a busy highway when the call came in.

The widowed mother fumbles for her phone:

“Hi, uh, I’m driving. Can I call you back in about ten?” She says.

“It’s the Print-Me Promise hive calling,” says a drone on the other end. “The WoodNorth Elves are denying your claim.”

SCREeeeeEECH!

*blue coach narrowly avoids merging traffic to take an exit*

The widowed mother uses some inappropriate language before saying,

“Hang on. I’m pulling off the road.”

The widowed mother scrambles to take notes on the back of an envelope while the drone, named *Jin,* rattles off information as if in a race to get to the end of a sentence.

“According to the WoodNorth elves, your son’s policy was retro-terminated November 30, 2016 back to February 29, 2016 and a new policy was made effective March 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.”

Jin stops to take a breath and the widowed mother seizes her opportunity:

“I’m sorry, Retro-whatted?”

“Retro-terminated.” Replies the busily buzzing drone.

“What does that even mean?” The widowed mother scribbles indecipherable notes.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen that language before myself!” Admits Jin-the-long-suffering-drone.

“Sounds like an attempt to weasel out of paying for the speech device.” The widowed mother says.

Meanwhile, the puzzle prince, aggravated by the loss of his promised car ride, gets cranky.

“Kerride! Kerride! 3232!” Shouts the puzzle prince.*

Jin the Drone is undeterred.

“According to our records, we have a ‘single-case agreement’ and a ‘binding contract’ approving the speech device.” Jin asserts—no doubt with a decided chin nod. “I think they are stating that, at the time the requests for the device were made, a new group number was in place and the benefits had changed.”

“Kerride! Ball Ons! 3232.” The puzzle prince is getting louder by the second.

“Let me call you back.” Says the widowed mother. “I have to stop and buy a kingdom’s worth of bribes.”

*

20 balloons later…the widowed mother calls the hive back and learns that her son’s magic box may not be so string-free as believed.

Jin scrolls back in time to review notes—hunting for the elusive insurance snipe to explain what went wrong where and when. After several minutes she concludes:

“…We resubmitted the request for payment on March 21, 2016. The insurance company indicates that the plan your son is currently under requires that you meet the maximum out-of-pocket before pay-out. You owe $843.00.”

“Hang on.” The widowed mother interrupts. “We had met our deductible last year. The magic box should be covered 100%!”

Before the widowed mother can totally lose it, Jin the drone hurries on. “Let me see if I can talk to the head elf over at WoodNorth and call you back!” Jin rings off.

*crickets chirping interlude music*

As the story is flagging, a plot twist must be introduced. This seems a good time for the Puzzle Prince to fall ill with plague…so he does. The puzzle prince hits the floor with a thud and stops moving. Surprisingly, the widowed mother notices.

“Come on honey. Let’s get you to a med center.” Croons the widowed mother, nudging the mound of blankets with her toe.

The Fairy God-Doctor’s office does not have any openings, but they recommend another fairy practice in a neighboring village.

“The Wye Moaning office has openings at their branch!” Chirps the Fairy God-Doctor’s staff. “Will that be okay?”

“Yeah. That’ll do.” The widowed mother grabs her key and drags cajoles her collapsed child to the coach.

It is at the counter of the clinic that the widowed mother discovers that she has five difference insurance cards in her wallet. Apparently the insurance company had sent updated cards at some point!

“Well, well, well…” The widowed mother finally hears the retro-proactive shoe that dropped, somewhere in February, or May, or possibly November of 2016. “I guess they did change the plan…and never told me.”

“Ack. Hack. Cough.” The puzzle prince curls in a ball and mimes dying.

A Fairy God-Doctor in a long white robe is summoned. Samples are taken. A $30-dollar co-pay later and the results of the spit test are in.

“He has a virus.” Says the white-coated one.

“A mutant super-virus that has turned him into a sputum-spitting scourge?” Asks the widowed mother with a fearful glance at her green-faced child.

The Fairy God-Doctor restrains an eye roll.

“Give him Benadryl if he gets wheezy.”

The Fairy God-Doctor backs out hastily as the coughing prince attempts to leave a phlegmy gratuity on the doc’s shoes.

*

Several mucous-filled days pass. The puzzle prince recovers just enough to demand constant attention. Life is getting back to as close to normal as it ever does when the widowed mother decides she’d better attack the growing problem of the magic box head on! If she had known how vigorously she was going to be charging the beast, though, she surely would have peed first.**

Donning her battle armor and carrying only her cell phone and clipboard to defend her, the widowed mother tackles the WoodNorth elves first.

Confronting the Elf2

Dialing with digital precision, the widowed mother marches symbolically up to the red tape factory and pounds on the iron-studded door.

An elf appears carrying a particularly fat scroll. She doesn’t even look up from scratching notes to say ‘Hi.’ Instead, she busily scrawls a note and barks,

“Yeah? Whatcha need?”

So accustomed to angry callers, the elf doesn’t even flinch with the spittle starts to fly.

“My son’s magic box claim was denied even though we had authorization! The Printme Promise hive, who makes the speech device, says that, because his insurance policy was retro-terminated, I owe hard-earned gold for re-application in 2017 when the magic device was already authorized in 2016 when the out-of-pocket had been met.” Seethes the widowed mother.

The elf holds up a hand when the widowed mother pauses to take a breath. Spinning the scroll of paper and humming under her breath, the elf asks for the policy number.

“Ah ha. Yes. I see. Mmm Hmm.” The elf mutters.

The spinning of the scroll is hypnotic; its magic is intended to lull the unsuspecting attacker into a catatonic state. The widowed mother recognizes the magical tactic and cracks the seal on a diet cherry Coke to keep her wits about her. She’s mid-swallow when the elf stops the wheel of paper.

The elf pokes a spot on the page and a Gordian knot of red tape springs from the roll. Flapping segments slither out and form a corona of hissing serpents which coil around the elf’s perky green hat. The elf now looks like a red-headed Medusa on a particularly bad hair day.

“I can see the denial and the two account numbers you mentioned. The WoodNorth Elves Union 484 thank you for your patience as we untie the red tape binding your documents! But everything you’ve said does appear to be what happened.”

“Dishonor! Calumny! Malfeasance! And…and…uh…poppycock!” The widowed mother tries to hiss fire, but all she can manage is heavy breathing into her phone.

The widowed mother sums her outrage up in three words: “I demand justice!”

“Okay.” The elf is all agreeableness. Glancing up from the never-ending scroll, she asks, “Whatcha want me to do?”

“Um.” The widowed mother is nonplussed; she hadn’t expected cooperation. “Could you send me copies of the paperwork?”

“What’s your fax number?”

Tucking an errant snake of red tape behind her ear, the elf taps a few places along the scroll before looking up and saying. “Done!”

Reams of paper whiz out from behind the elf. Unspooling cataracts of incomprehensible insurance bibble babble disgorge in a surging mound in front of the bewildered, widowed mother.

The elf quickly backs away, dragging her scroll and the red-tape snakes toward the factory door.

“Uh, thanks for your…help?” The widowed mother shouts to the retreating figure now mostly hidden by the mountain of paperwork.

The elf offers a sly grin that seems to say “Be careful what you wish for!” before ducking into the factory and slamming the door.

Hanging up. The widowed mother is daunted but not discouraged by the task before her. With a sigh, she raises her pen and clipboard and wades in to tackle the massive amounts of data.

She slashes at facts that try to take a bite out of her ankles. Stomping down the irrelevant notes from the speech language wizard’s epic spellwork, she climbs until her arms are tired and she is cross-eyed from reading acronyms and codes in microscopic print.

“It would take an army to wade through this mess!” Sighs the widowed mother.

Hey.  There’s an idea! She thinks

“Not an army…but a hive!” The widowed mother crows triumphantly.

She dials the drones at Printme Promise. Cutting to the chase, the widowed mother makes the same request of the undersecretary to the Queen Bee.

“Paperwork?” The buzz from the other end of the line hums in interest. “Heck yeah. We’ve got paperwork.”

Shortly thereafter, a buzzing squadron of bees descend from a cloud dropping sheets of wasp-wing-thin, honey-gold paper. Before long, gossamer layers wrap the very top of the mound until a point forms. Alternately stabbing with her pen and carving away with her clipboard, the widowed mother makes it to the top of the pile.

Attack the Hive 1

The uppermost crust of the now-hive-shaped structure peels off in her hands. Neatly scratched into the sheaf is a line-by-line detail of what happened and when in easy-to-read annotation.

The widowed mother shouts up to the buzzing horde who constructed the data for her.

“Oh, thank you sooo much! This makes so much more sense! I could just kiss you!”

The bee closest to her stutters mid-wing and nearly drops out of the flight pattern.

“Uh, no thanks are necessary. Especially not that! We’re allergic to humans!”

With a dip of their wings, the drones return to the hive post-haste.

Fortified by data, the widowed mother is much rejuvenated. Now she will be able to confront the Blue Insurance Fairy!

But first…a royal privy break!

After a refreshing pit stop, the widowed mother tightens her armor and dials the enchanted castle. BIF picks up on the third ring.

“Hello, welcome to the Blue Insurance Fairy call center. How can we make your dreams…?”

“I want to speak to the fairy in charge of appeals and grievances.”

The widowed mother cuts off BIF mid-enchantment. Hah! The widowed mother thinks. That’s showing ‘em who’s boss!

“In order to fulfill your dreams we will have to review your dream policy and check your dream out-of-pocket and that requires a boring recitation of every dream call you’ve made in the history of your dream policy! Hold please while I bring up your account!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” The widowed mother cries, but she is too late.

She bangs her head on the nearest hard surface to the beat of the Muzak now belting in her ears.

♫“… When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio

He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information

Supposed to fire my imagination

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey

That’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction

‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try

I can’t get no, I can’t get no”♬

After weeks of trying to understand what happened, calling and badgering to little avail, the widowed mother snaps.

“That does it!”

The widowed mother storms the Blue Insurance Fairy’s castle, shaking her cell phone at the gates, shouting,

“I am not getting off this phone until I get some satisfaction!”***

Suddenly, BIF appears along the crenellated battlement. She is now wearing the battle helm of a grievance fairy—it’s extra pointy. BIF faces the widowed mother who brandishes a clipboard shield in one hand and her pen poised to stab in the other.

BIF wings fiercely along the ramparts as she explains the mysteries of insurance. After a long conversation which repeats much of what the widowed mother already knew, BIF concludes by pointing at the base of the turret—there a green beast snores, its snout whistling, curls of smoke waft with every exhale.

“Blame the Market Place Dragon. They changed your policy.” BIF hisses in a stage whisper—as if she too is afraid of waking the sleeping giant.

“So the dragon changed my son’s policy and didn’t tell me. The application that went in under the wrong policy number somehow got approved…and the error isn’t discovered until March of this year?” It’s enough to make a widowed mother cry. “Is there anything I can do?”

“You could wake the dragon.” BIF says with a doubtful look at the enormous reptile. “Or you could wait until the second claim goes through and we can file an appeal after it is denied or approved and payment is requested.”

The widowed mother doesn’t think twice. She waves her cell phone at the fairy—a pink flag of surrender.

“Talk to you again in a few months.”

And so our adventure ends on an anti-climax. For now. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is certain. The magic box may be theirs free and clear–or like many fairytale promises–it may come with a hidden price to pay. All we know for sure is, there will be many more car rides before our heroes see an end to this tale. And balloons. Lots and lots of balloons

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*The puzzle prince is not allowed the magic box while in the coach. It weighs over three pounds and is framed by reinforced steel—the box, not the coach. It may be indestructible, but the widowed mother’s head isn’t.

**I’m about to boil down approximately nine hours of phone conversation into a semi-coherent and as-entertaining-as-possible-without-pharmaceutical-aids metaphorical journey. You might want to take a potty break too.

***She might have been singing that last bit.

The Puzzle Prince and the Magic Box

A Cautiously Optimistic Tale of Victory Over Health Insurance Bureaucracy…Maybe

*

Once upon a time, there was a widowed mother who lived with her boy in a small hovel near a grand village. Her son—a prince under a puzzling curse—could not speak.*

One day, his widowed mother decides to ask the Blue-Insurance Faerie if, maybe, just maybe, the puzzle prince qualifies for a magic box that will talk for him.

The Blue Insurance Faerie—we’ll call this entity ‘BIF’ for short—is all for it.

“Just have your Fairy God-Doctor write a referral.” Says BIF. (August 2016)

After contacting her son’s Fairy God-Doctor, a referral is written for a speech evaluation. (Sept 6, 2016)

You see, even though everyone in the kingdom agrees that her son cannot speak, someone with a magic decree in speech therapy has to write a scroll in the arcane tongue of long-dead medical professionals so BIF will be able to open a magical case.

The Fairy God-Doctor assures the widowed mother and her son, the puzzle prince, that all is in hand. But she warns them,

“This paper is only good for sixty days. Be sure to get the pumpkin back to the castle before the deadline at midnight!”

The widowed mother, who is trying to keep the puzzle prince from climbing the walls, absentmindedly nods her thanks.

A wizard is summoned from The Free Bed of Mary. (Mary is accommodating that way.)

The wizard examines the prince.

“Tell me the way to your home, my child!” The kindly wizard asks.

“Kerride! Baaaall On! Piper!” Says the puzzle prince.

“Where is the place of your living, my child?” Asks the Wizard, this time poking at a magic box to show some options for answers.

The prince types his reply into the box:

“Car Ride. Balloons. Paper.” Says the magic box.

“Well, at least he knows what he wants.” Says the wizard.

The referral is granted. The kingdom rejoices.

“But wait!” Says the Speech Wizard. “Now you must pass through the dangerous authorization process. There be dragons in them thar hills!”

Or, to be precise, there are elves and worker drones to negotiate with.

“These elves don’t make cookies! They make red tape!” The Speech Wizard warns. “And sometimes, they make trouble!”

“We’ll cross that troll bridge when we come to it.” Says the widowed mother.

Red Tape Elves (2)
I couldn’t stop laughing. Red tape has never been so funny! Artwork by Rob O’Neil

 

Once the Speech Wizard makes the recommendation, BIF leaps into action. And by this, I mean, the blue insurance fairy writes a spell to summon the third-party insurance providers who evaluate claims for durable medical equipment. These industrious elves live in a crooked tree which is hidden in the Wood in the far North.**

BIF asks the WoodNorth elves to authorize a magic box for the puzzle prince.

The WoodNorth elf is happy to help.

“I will send a fax spell to the magic box makers and beseech their aid!” The WoodNorth elf says.

The WoodNorth elf holds a scroll of ancient words up to a branch of the tree, waves a wand, and shouts:

*FACSILIMUS TOTALIS!* (September–something–2016)

Sadly, the makers of the talking box—we’ll call them “Print-Me Promise”—have a shield around their hive and the spell is repelled.

Weeks pass.

The WoodNorth elves are happily certain that the magic fax was received. So they leave the puzzle prince’s case to molder.

The Print-Me-Promise hive, which incorporates many worker drones to make equipment intended to survive being thrown by giants having a tantrum, has no clue a spell is expiring outside its fortress.

The prince is left to rot by the widowed mother who is trying to keep him from breaking into the neighboring castles or melting down their hovel by setting the microwave on fire.

Time passes. Nothing happens. The WoodNorth elves get curious…they use a magic nut to contact the Print-Me-Promise drones.

“So…what is the status on the fax we sent?” Asks the WoodNorth elf-in-charge.

“What fax?” The drones reply. “We didn’t get any fax. The fax queue shows nothing in our log.”

“Sigh,” says the WoodNorth Elf. “Let down your barriers and we’ll try again.”

“Buzz, buzz.” Says the drone…which the elf translates as, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Meanwhile. The magic paper that the Fairy God-Doctor wrote at the beginning of the tale dies a quiet death and no one notices.

“Ack. Argh. Gurgle.” Says the magic paper.

With me so far? Excellent, it’s about to get worse

Before long, the Print-Me-Promise drones read the magic paper, realize that the deadline has expired, and notify the widowed mother that they will request a resubmission from the Blue Fairy God-Doctor…or maybe the elves…the widowed isn’t sure. She is busy prying a screw driver away from the prince who has disassembled his desktop computer monitor—a sacrifice to the gods of curiosity.

Hive
“Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.” Not translated, but I’m sure you get the gist.  Artwork by Rob O’Neil

“Someone is to blame but it isn’t the Print-Me-Promise drones, that’s for sure.” Said the hive representative. “We’ll ask for another magic paper. Don’t you worry.” (October 5, 2016)

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother.

“Kerride.” Mumble-shouts the prince.

“Zapp, Pow…Kersquitch!” Says the microwave, before dying dramatic death.

A second magic request is sent by the Blue Insurance Fairy to the drones at Print-Me Promise. (Apparently the elves are bypassed entirely this time.) (11-9-2016)

The snows begin to fall. Much revels overtake the kingdom. A turkey avoids the slaughter because everyone in the house prefers chicken for the Giving of Thanks.

The elves and the hive are quiet.

The widowed mother becomes nervous as the time of lights approaches. If the magic box isn’t approved before the year’s end…she may have to pay a price to the Blue Insurance Fairy—and the out-of-pocket deductible is $1,500 gold coins.

In alternate messages with the Elves and the Drones, the widowed mother is told:

“It’s the fault of the elves…they didn’t get the request to us before the first paper expired.”

“It’s the fault of the drones. We sent them a second referral.” Say the elves.

“Just fix it.” Yells the impatient, widowed mother.

“Bacon, Bacon, Bacon!” Yells the puzzle prince, who grows an inch-a-day when he eats the deliciously meaty ambrosia.

(Strangely, ‘bacon’ is one of the few words the puzzle prince enunciates perfectly. Go figure.)

As the tree-of-green is placed in their hovel and blue lights are strewn upon it, the industrious elves and the equally frantic worker drones are swishing magic pieces of paper back and forth trying to appease the deadline ogre in the Blue-Insurance Fairy’s dungeon.

Finally, the ogre living in BIF’s basement roars:

“Enough! Just give the blasted prince a box and leave me in peace!”

Just before the bells of the new year ring, a magic box is promised.

“Your wish has been granted.” Says the WoodNorth elf.

“We have a binding contract!” Say the drones. “A magic box is on its way.” (December 28, 2016.)

“We’ll call when the magic box comes in.” Says the wizard from the Free Bed of Mary.

Puzzle Prince and Blue Fairy
In reality, the prince looms over the widowed mother, but we had to keep him in frame, so he’s kneeling in this picture. Artwork by Rob O’Neil

As the snows melt to reveal a strangely dirt-encrusted January, in the grand village, the happy puzzle prince pushes a few buttons:

“Car ride. Car ride. Car ride.” Says the magic box.

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother, who grabs her coat and keys.

Their blue coach backs out of the driveway and travels to many magical places each time the magic box asks nicely.

The prince and his widowed mother and the magic box live happily ever after….

Or do they?***

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*And, apparently, his mother can’t type. I spelled it ‘speek’ the first time.

**Names of agencies have been cleverly changed to protect against lawsuit.

***To Be Frustratingly Continued…

Passé, Blasé, Just Plain Manqué!

Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.

<>

Cake on Fire CLip art kid
Flaming Cake courtesy of Photobucket.com (wherein the word ‘courtesy’ means ‘stolen.’)

Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*

In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?

“…Blogs are so passé…”**

*Ouch*

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.

Critique Not-so Enchanté

My writing is passé,

Or so you say!

Perhaps you are no devoteé?

Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?

I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!

(Parquet?)

Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***

My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!

But always, I churn the brain frappé

To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.

A luscious, literary canapé!

No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!

But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!

Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?

But as for me, I am très désolé.

So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)

Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?

Actual Birthday Cake
Nothing snarky here, just showing you my actual birthday cake baked by my mom.

 

Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”

Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo  Stéphane Mallarme :

Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.

(Translation)

I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)

                                                                                                      Stéphane Mallarmé

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)

**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”

***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!

Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:

having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.

 

___________________________🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂___________________________

You’ve read this far bonus:

For those of you who missed it before, here’s the CARROT CAKE RECIPE for the cake my mom makes.

The Dungeon, The Escapee, and Occidental Fudge

Just after posting my celebratory hurrah about our South Haven Adventures last week, I get home and decide to compound my success by being a ‘good parent.’*

“C’mon son. Let’s go for a walk.” I say.

I’m thinking of a brisk stroll, fresh air, and then getting back to the house to tackle some work. It is a good game plan.**

As I have mentioned before, my son is a runner. He would explore a lion’s den given half a chance. Like Austin Powers, his middle name is “Danger”. Unfortunately, this evening is no exception. As we walk, he keeps pointing out buildings he would like to ‘visit’ and even writes house numbers down on his papers when I don’t seem to pick up on his subtle signals when he tries to drag me to the front door.

The night is turning colder when I spot the Grand Villa in the distance. This is a local restaurant which goes by the nickname “The Dungeon” because of its subterranean locale. If I had seen their website beforehand, I might have taken heed of the warning they post in their tagline:

“THE DUNGEON IS WAITING FOR YOU”

Teeth chattering, I haul my child away from the housing complex he is lunging toward—a nondescript giant block of apartments in what once was a large family home. Seeing as my son is now 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs as much as an overindulged Great Dane, this takes some effort.

I lure him in with the promise of chocolate milk.

Twenty minutes later, warm again and well quaffed, we gather our things to go. Then I consider the nearly mile-long walk back to the house…in the cold…and decide the bathroom should be our first stop. I send my son into the men’s room and wait for a few seconds…before deciding I’d better make sure myself and pop into the ladies.

I swear I peed in less than a minute and was back out to wait for my son. A MINUTE.  That’s all it took.  My clever, devious, Machiavellian boy was gone.

You can pretty much predict the rest. After a frantic and futile search of the area, I’m on the phone with 911. While talking with them, I see a police car pull up alongside the road. I hail them while I’m on the phone with the operator.***

Now I’m babbling at two different sets of people—neither of whom can understand me—when someone calls out:

“We’ve found him!”

Another police officer escorts my happy, oblivious-to-the-chaos-he-causes boy to my weeping embrace.

My son is returned safe and sound and, though he had broken into a home, no one is hurt. A few papers are stolen and have to be retrieved. He’d even had time to scribble calendars on the back as a memento to the family he invaded. I hope they frame them.

In those interminable minutes he is out of my grasp, I imagine enough scenarios to make my heart stop a thousand times. I am honestly surprised it doesn’t kill me.

Once home, my child goes to bed with no complaints. I think on some level he recognizes mommy has had it. I turn off my phone and tune out the world and spend the evening overwrought and shaking.

The next day, I find the energy to call my mom.

“Hey, mom…Little Man is okay, but I have to tell you something that happened last night. Understand, I can’t take any comments about what might have happened. I still feel so emotionally raw I can barely breathe.”

My mom knows about loss. I had a sister—Robin. She died of crib death before I was even born. As a result, mom has had a super-charged paranoia about any dangers we faced as kids and I think this has multiplied exponentially for her grandchildren.

I re-live the night before as factually as I can without breaking down. She lets me vent. It is what I need—a shoulder to cry on without judgment. It is phone call catharsis at its best. Mom says she’ll check in on me later, but she has something to do first. I ring off feeling a shade lighter than before.

My mom stops by that afternoon, carrying a cooler. I unpack it while she tells me a story of her own. When I get to the table with a warm bundle wrapped in a towel, she is drawing me a map as she talks:

“When I was a little girl, my father took me to the ice cream shop at the Occidental Hotel in Muskegon. It’s torn down now, but it was located between Clay and Webster Street downtown—it’s in the same area the Frauenthal Theater and the culinary school are now.”

I pull up my computer to help in the search for yesteryear landmarks. We have a doozy of a time since mom—who has a much better sense of direction than me—apparently can’t reorient her mind to the north-on-top directionality Google maps insists on presenting.

Map to Occidental

“Anyway, they had a famous hot fudge sauce that I absolutely loved. We didn’t go out very often so it was a big treat to go there. So I made this for you!”

As mom is saying this, she’s unwrapping the towel to reveal a small Corningware casserole dish wrapped in plastic wrap with a band of duct tape for extra insurance. (She’s not messing around with spills!)

“After you told me about your adventure, I thought you could use a treat.” Mom says.

She makes me sit down with a big bowl of ice cream and a dollop of the chocolaty, silken sauce melting over the white caps of vanilla-y goodness.

She then tells me more about our connections to the famed hotel with the equally famous sauce.

“Do you remember the lamp your father brought back when they sold off the property and its belongings?” She asks.

I would have been eight in 1975, and home furnishings weren’t a high priority in my experience, so I shake my head and take a bite. I swallow her memories with each taste.

“It was a heavy iron lamp and we put it in your room with the flowered Crosscill bedspread and curtains—you remember those?”

I had loved that frilly bedroom set up until I left for the Army. It was gone when I got back home four years later and I truly mourned its loss. I nod and lick the spoon. No words are necessary when you have hot fudge. Mom continues to wax nostalgic about the past:

“I was nineteen in 1959. I remember going to a Valentine’s dance there once–sponsored by the Elks, I think. A boyfriend, Jack Boles, took me to a ball at the hotel when we were dating. Do you remember the beautiful dress you borrowed for school that was stolen?”

This I distinctly remember. It was my first experience with theft. I borrowed it for a theater skit for a character in the show. It was gorgeous red dress of some kind of stiff but silky material. I have never quite forgiven myself for losing that dress.

“It was a play, Mom. We were performing at the elementary school. The dress disappeared from the prop and costume boxes before we finished the shows.” I interject. I’m apologetic—it’s a script we’ve enacted whenever we rehash the event.

“It had a square bodice and the style was so grown up. The sheer overlay matched the underskirt perfectly. Do you remember the fabric?” Mom holds her hands out as if measuring the width of a belled skirt.

“It had a swirly pattern—nothing distinct, like paisley, but more like the swirls you see when oil floats on water.” I say.

[A hunt online produced similar styles but nothing exactly like what she had:]

Now it’s her turn to nod.

Yes! I wore it when I was in the beauty contest at the ball—you’ve seen that picture, right?”

It is a small, black-n-white snapshot of three women in ball gowns. Mom was the first runner-up. In the photo, she stands to the left of two other women—all dressed up and carrying bouquets of now, long-dead flowers. It was a night of beautiful memories.

Mary Moeller - Beauty Contest3
Left to right: Mary (Mom) Benson, Joan Wachovia, and Sharon (last name unknown)

 

The fudge sauce is slowly disappearing as we reminisce. We look online trying to find a photo of the ice cream parlor that existed before The Occidental Hotel was imploded in 1975 to make way for a parking lot. But all we can find are details of the implosion. The article is an epitaph for a leveled landmark torn down in pursuit of a mall that would later close of its own fiscal demise.

The ice cream is gone and I scoop up the remains of the cooling, lava-like gooeyness to store in the fridge.

“Be sure to hide it from the boy or he’ll eat it all!” Mom warns before giving me a hug goodbye.

It’s after she’s gone and I’m cleaning up that I realize what she’s done. It is what all mothers do—try to make it better. When you skin your knee, she offers a kiss. It is a little sugar to take away the bitterness that life sometimes hands you. I may be an adult, but I am not immune to the sway of childhood remedies or memories—be they mine or my mother’s. The sweetness cannot stop the pain, but it can make it better. And when those remembrances come with chocolate sauce—it surely does.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Being a Good Parent—a laudable goal that, when I try to do it on purpose, results in immediate failure.

**Life is out to get me most of the time and rarely needs a good reason. Still, I thought, in light of my good intentions, the universe was being a real shit not to reward me.

***No matter how many times I have called 911, I do not improve with experience. I am just as hysterical and useless each and every time. I owe sincere apologies to the people who man those phones…and probably a fruit basket.

 

———–You read this far bonus—————–

I just had to include this photo. It is the entire line up of contestants from that long ago Valentine’s beauty pageant.

Mary Moeller - Beauty Contest