Moments Matter

For Dad: We Are Not Alone

Editor’s Note: As many of you know, I have been slowly working on an autobiographical book over the last few years. When originally launching Clearly Kristal, I had the intention to include portions of my book on my blog. I have done this frequently on my blog. I first read of this concept of blogging a book from author and writing coach Nina Amir entitled “How to Blog a Book.”

meonswingIn order to stay motivated during the summer months to keep my manuscript progressing, I’ve decided to include an excerpt from my manuscript each week. These will often times be rough descriptions of growing up in a quirky, hippie, blue collar family in Central California, to the present.

I hope you enjoy stepping back in the moments that matter to me over these coming summer months.

“For Dad: We Are Not Alone” – Summer Blogging-a-Book Series.

I stood barefoot on the small wooden stool. I jumped up and down in anticipation of the impending moment: our first cable television set. My dad threw a few choice curse words while fiddling with the wires behind the massive electrical box of magnificent beauty. Of course, it was fairly common that my dad ended up with television set-up duties since he had the same job at our old house.

The country hippie commune house we had just moved from had no cable – unlike our new city rental house. On our farm, the only connection for television was the use of two metal wires that formed a V-shape, which was attached from the television to the roof of our home. For those born after 1990, this object is called an antenna.

Naturally, when the wind picked up, the television would inevitably go out too. My dad would begrudgingly make his way to the top of the roof to reattach the dangling antenna. It was also standard procedure that he polished off one to two large, green jugs of Ernest & Gallo wine before making the windy ascent. The cheap wine jugs often lined the floors of our kitchen as a secondary décor.

Our little two channel television looked similiar to this one.

Our little two channel television looked similiar to this one.

With our television viewing time witling away, my dad would reappear a little while later, his golden sandy blonde hair tousled. He would again throw a few choice words about how much he loved our antenna. You’re sensing my sarcasm, here.

The little color television my dad worked tirelessly to bring the picture back to during the high wind was probably six inches wide with a whopping two channels. It was located in my parent’s bedroom, which was actually a front entrance living room converted into their master bedroom. Guests opened the stain-glass front door were greeted by a king sized waterbed, which was positioned on a wooden frame and bricks. Hanging on the wall behind the waterbed was an oversized red oriental rug. Various ceiling ferns hung in handcrafted macramé baskets.

At the end of the waterbed in the bottom right-hand corner was my favorite spot to watch television. I would kick my legs over the side of the wooden frame. Between the ages of five and six, my favorite shows included “The Flintstones” and “Sesame Street.” I also remember watching television with my parents when the news of Elvis Presley’s death flashed on the tiny screen. I remember feeling sad as my mother said, “The king of rock and roll is dead.” After that, I became obsessed with Elvis Presley. I dreamed of making my way to the giant lyric embossed gates of the King’s home in Memphis, Tennessee. He was dreamy.

So, this new cable television – with no antenna was not only a win for my sisters and I – but my dad seemed just as pleased. Now, the big moment had arrived.

“I can’t see, daddy,” I said, as he stood in front of the television pushing buttons.

I leaned my head around to see only a gray, fuzzy screen. Flashes of a picture faded in and out. I struggled to see the screen. “Why is this taking so long?” I thought to myself. Five minutes in kid time is forever.

My dad flipped through the channels. I finally got a view of the screen in its beauty and splendor. This new 27-inch cable television had been more than I dreamed with its large screen ablaze with bright, rich colors. I was now in the Disneyland of television. My sister and I giggled when we watched the slapstick cat and mouse cartoon “Tom and Jerry” for the first time.

Except for one minor thing.

In all the excitement of the new cable television set, I fell off the stool onto the floor. By then, my dad was in the garage working on something. I ran into him holding my left elbow crying. “I broke it, daddy! It hurts.” My dad tried to make light and playfully grabbed his screwdriver. “Here, this should fix it,” he said, gently touching my arm and pretending to fix my arm with the screwdriver. I still insisted it was broken.

And, yes, it was broken.

My mom took me to the doctor a few days later to confirm a hairline fracture in my elbow. I remember taking my jacket off while I lay on the exam table. Suddenly, the doctor began to chuckle. He was laughing at my t-shirt. The shirt had large purple metallic letters that read: “WE ARE NOT ALONE.” The shirt was a promotional item from the 1978 remake of the sci-fi movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

As the doctor casted my arm, I began to think about how I wasn’t alone. My dad was there to help bring back our television screen countless times, or “fix” my broken arm. For years, he worked through the pains of life in a job he did not enjoy in order to provide for his family. And, through all his flaws and brokenness, he was still my dad. He still loved me.

Like all of us, he’ll eventually leave this world we know. I have a feeling they’ve got something better than digital cable up there in heaven.

He’ll like that.

Do you remember when you watched your first television? Describe your emotions. If you don’t remember, was there a task that required constant maintanance in your home by a parent when you were a child? Do you remember the sacrifices your parents made for you?

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Blogging-a-Book Summer Series: Dead Wrong

Editor’s Note: As many of you know, I have been slowly working on an autobiographical book over the last few years. When originally launching Clearly Kristal, I had the intention to include portions of my book on my blog. I have done this frequently on my blog. I first read of this concept of blogging a book from author and writing coach Nina Amir entitled “How to Blog a Book.”

In order to stay motivated during the summer months to keep my manuscript progressing, I’ve decided to include an excerpt from my manuscript each week. These will often times be rough descriptions of growing up in quirky, hippie, blue collar family in Central California, to the present.

I hope you enjoy stepping back in the moments that matter to me over the coming summer months.

meonswing

DEAD WRONG

I hadn’t a care in the world. My days were spent running barefoot through our three-acre farm property about five miles from the small town of San Luis Obispo. The little red house and adjacent barn were nestled beneath a busy highway. To pick up our mail we had to walk up a long cement driveway, open a large wire gate, then walk up another short hill to finally reach our mailbox that was securely attached to a hand-made-looking wooden post, which was just steps away from Highway 101.

We were often frequented by hitchhikers, who asked for water or food. I can recall a countless number of times my parents realized the horses were let out once again by wanderers. My parents would race up to the highway to capture the loose horses often dodging trucks and cars. I prayed they would not be hit and leave me.

Regardless of trespassers on our property, my parents rarely turned anyone away. I never thought twice that a stranger could cause any harm. We slept with our doors unlocked and often our windows left open at night. Even the ants made their way in during the night while I slept one night. I can still recall the bitter taste of critters in my mouth as I gagged in the night and quickly shut my bedroom window.

We grew our own vegetables and fruit, including my dad’s marijuana plants. My older stepbrother, who was about ten years old had asked my mom why my dad was always out in the garden with “those plants.” My mother explained that the plants were “very bad.” My brother decided to take matters into his own hands and rip out all the plants to save my father from any harm.

I recall my brother received a harsh punishment following the “bad” plant episode from my dad. Punishments usually involved a good spanking with the wooden paddle board purchased during a trip to Yosemite at a souvenir gift shop. Once you received your punishment, your name was carefully engraved on the back of the board – as some type of earned symbol of the pain endured.

After my parents gave me a spanking with the board one day, I remember I had mixed emotions – sad that I had been spanked, but proud I earned my name on the board. For some reason, I thought that once my name was on the board I would never receive a lashing again. I found out later that my assumption was dead wrong.

Though, I still questioned whether my brother was dead wrong in destroying my dad’s pot garden.

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A Love Letter to My Niece

My Dearest 18-year-old Niece,

I have been meaning to write you this letter. Here it goes…

I love you. Truly. Since the day you came into this world, I knew that I would love you forever. You were my first daughter – even though I was technically your aunt. I was there for so many firsts. Your first breath. Your first movie. Your first time in the pool. Your first steps. Your first words. Your first temper tantrum.

The day I moved away for one of my first jobs out of college was the hardest of all in our relationship at age 24. At only two-years-old, you sensed I was leaving. With my bags packed, I walked toward my car. I closed my eyes and clenched my teeth through your painstaking cries. I finally turned to see you pressing your chunky cheeks against the patio window. You cried and pleaded: “Don’t go! Don’t go! Noooo!” Your mom eventually pulled you away from the glass. I ran to my car.

My heart broke at that moment. I sat and cried.

Now, more than 16 years later, you are beautiful – both inside and out. You have grown from a teetering and tottering child to a mature, capable young woman. You are smart and caring. Your love for people and animals continues to inspire me. And, your strength in battling a chronic, life-threatening disease amazes me.

And you are experiencing another ‘first.’ You are in love with a young man. That sounded very aunt-ish, I know. I know how you feel because I, too, was in love at the same point in my life.

I was 19 and attending junior college and living in a small town like you. I already knew that I had met the man I wanted to marry. I had dreams of our life together. I could see him as my great partner in life.

Though I was in the euphoria of love, I knew not to put my hopes and dreams on hold for someone else. I had to remind myself to keep my own dreams alive…to not lose myself. Heck, I didn’t even know who ‘I’ was yet. I was still defining what type of person I wanted to be in this life.

I considered those girls who lived in small towns across America who were “babies having babies.” They had married young, but had little to no education and skill set. I thought of Grammy, who married in high school only to find herself divorced and alone with two kids – and no real skill set or education. I did not want to be one of those girls. I wanted to be smart and strong. I wanted to know that I could make it on my own with the support of God and family.

The day I received my letter of acceptance into a four-year-university was bittersweet. I knew it was the start of my future. I had finally made it into a state university. The girl from a blue collar, working class family who shed blood, sweat and tears into putting herself though junior college had made it to the big time. I was college bound. Unfortunately, I would leave heartbroken. I was starting a new life without the love of my life.

I packed my tiny, brown 1981 hatchback with all my belongings.  Naturally, it was a dark, gloomy day when I kissed my true, first love goodbye.

I bid farewell to the nestled mountains of my small hometown. With tears falling, I slipped in the cassette of a favorite reggae artist Gregory Isaacs. The slow melodic song “Weeping Willow” filled my car. Through my tears, I sang these lyrics…

“No more now, no more, no more now They say that once the tear has fallen, the willow cries eternally cries out for we, my willow tree don’t shed your tears eternally cause I have found the love I’ve searched for I need your tears no more (no more), no more So tell be where, my weeping willow and we’ll could never be the saying cry not for we, my willow tree don’t shed your tears eternally cause I have found a love I’ve searched for I need your tears no more (no more), no more No more, no more now…”

In between sobs, I prayed to God for eight hours in the now pouring rain. I held on tightly to those prayers over the next nine years until our wedding day.

Yes, nine years. It took more than nine years for me to marry the same man I left on that fateful day.

So, as the child who is much like my firstborn daughter, I ask you to hold true to yourself. Love yourself by allowing time to find out ‘who’ you are and experience life before taking on the huge responsibility of marriage and children.

Please know that I am excited for all your ‘firsts’ to come. Remember, God had a plan for me –  just like He has a plan for you.

Love,

Aunt Kristal

You and I cheek-to-cheek.

You and I cheek-to-cheek.

 

 

 

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