Midwestern Mama Cooking up Life in the HeartlandNavigation
I’m a newly single mom of two young kids and toddler twins. I have all of the ingredients in life to make an awesome soup — come along as I tear up the recipe card, throw humor, honesty, and heartfelt hope into the pot, and give it a stir. I simmer with love as I write the unexpected story of my family.
There’s an article circulating Facebook these days. It’s all about red-heads. “Well,” I thought.
“I’m a redhead.” Because I am. So, I clicked through to read it. Most of it was stuff I already knew – red-heads are more prone to sunburn. Duh. And most red-heads have brown eyes, like I do. Nothing new there.
But there was one factoid which was new to me: red-heads apparently need almost 20% more anesthesia than people who don’t have red hair to get all numbed up for medical and dental procedures.
Well, that explains why I remember every scrape of my D & C I had to have during the miscarriage before conceiving Milo. That explains why the numbness usually dissipates in my mouth while I’m having a filling done. And why last year during my neck biopsy the doc had to give me lidocaine during the middle of the procedure – it had worn off after only 3 of 6 samples. It also wore off for the sixth and final jab, but (thankfully) it really was the last one.
This led me to think about my relationship to pain.
I love a good, tired muscle ache. I love that feeling because I know that it means that I’ve used my body to its capability that day. I love the way that pain shifts with movement and guides my awareness to parts of myself I don’t always consider, like rib muscles that work over-time when I’ve got a cold and cough myself silly.
Violet was born without pain medication. I felt every bit of that labor and delivery and couldn’t be happier with myself for doing it. The nurse who photographed the birth, a friend’s daughter, told me that she was amazed – the only complaint I had was, “OH! The pain!” uttered through gritted teeth as Violet was crowning. I let my body do that work for me.
As a kid, I actually liked that tender feeling I had in my mouth when my braces had been tightened. I would clench and unclench my teeth to feel the pain abate and then swoon back, over and over like a heartbeat. I knew that my teeth were moving, sliding closer together and closing gaps in my mouth, that my braces were straightening them.
Pain is a byproduct of work and movement and growth. And feeling it isn’t a bad thing. It’s not pleasant, but it is an indication that something is happening, good or bad. Something. I’m not stagnating, not stalling, not falling into a swamp of apathy.
The last year has hurt in so many ways, far too many to enumerate. But I know that I am better for it. I may not have won a marathon, but my heart – that all important muscle – had quite a work-out. And then it was sore for a long time as it tried to get back into shape. But, like any muscle, when you break it down and build it back up, it is stronger and more efficient and more capable. Just like me.
I’m glad that there’s scientific proof that it takes a little bit more to knock me down. In my red-head’s way, I had always assumed it was so. But now there’s proof.
Check out yeah write. You’ll thank me and my red hair that you did.
For as long as she could remember, when the whistle blew, Clara woke to the whirring sounds of the mill above. Her room was always dusted with a fine coat of flour. She rolled out of bed, put her feet into the too-small boots she was given, and shook her bedclothes to sift the flour to the floor.
Then she pushed the ratty rag-on-a-stick she called a broom over the wood, noting that there was a path worn from the bed to the door and not really anywhere else. In dozens of rooms just like hers, the lost children were all tidying their small rooms – cabinets, really – before Mistress came along to inspect.
Although Clara had been told tales of pinched, hard Mistresses, the current Mistress was warm and kind. She was the only Mistress whom Clara knew, so she did not have a way to measure, but she loved Mistress as much as any lost child could love anyone.
When Clara could hear Mistress humming down the hall, she stashed her broom in the corner and flung her narrow door open, standing to the side of the door so that plump Mistress could squeeze in and look around.
This morning, Mistress came to Clara’s door and stuck only her head in.
“Clara? Today you stay. I will come back. Sit.”
Obediently, Clara sat on the edge of her cot, pensively waiting. She heard Mistress ushering out the other girls, sending them to the galley for a gray mush breakfast. As she waited, she nervously ran her fingers through her shorn hair, causing it to stand on end like mousy-brown dandelion fluff.
Finally, Mistress appeared in the door. Clara jumped to her feet.
“Now, now… settle in a bit, lassie.” Mistress always called the girls “lassie” when she was tending to them, especially the littlest ones who still cried for their mothers.
But Clara was not one of the littlest, in fact, she was the oldest, and it was about this that the Mistress had come to her.
“Clara, dove, today is your twelfth birthday.”
Clara blinked. She did not understand what this meant.
Mistress sighed, her broad face tinged with sadness. She gently took Clara’s hands and began to explain, “When a girl comes a dozen, she is no longer able to work here. This is a home for wee girls, not great big lassies comin’ on a dozen. It’s the rules, you see.”
Clara sat. Questions percolated, but she didn’t know which was important to ask, what she would need to know, where she would go without the mill and Mistress and her little cabinet room.
“Mistress? Where do I? What do I? I don’t…” Clara’s eyes spilled tears as her chin quivered.
“Oh, lassie…” Mistress was beginning to weep, too. “Oh, lassie, you were the first babe I bottled here and seeing you go is a shame. Such a shame. They don’ t teach you nothing about anything and then they send you out when you’re barely grown like you’re going to know what to do.”
“Out? Where?” Clara asked, puzzled.
“Outside the walls of the mill. In the city.”
“The city? What’s that?”
Mistress clucked, distressed, but before she could answer the question, another person stood in the door. Clara gawked, not sure what she was seeing. This person was bristly-faced, tall and lean, not round and fluffy like mistress. Clara tucked herself behind Mistress, trying to hide.
“What is she doing? Isn’t she come a dozen today?” the person said in a booming deep voice like nothing Clara had ever heard. It shook her bones.
“Aye, sirrah. She’s come a dozen. But she’s never seen a man – or even a boy – before.”
The tall, thin person laughed, cruelly, eyes glinting and lips licking.
“Ain’t never seen a man, eh? The she’s in for quite a real treat!”
The man grabbed Clara by her spindly arm and shoved her down the hallway in a direction she’d never walked before. He guided her roughly up many, many stairs and out a door, which closed behind her.
It was so bright she could barely open her eyes. Nothing was familiar. There other people, women like Mistress and men like Bristle-Face and no one was like her. None of them were silky with flour and blinking in the sunlight like a newly hatched chick.
Clara stood motionless for hours until she was terribly hungry and thirsty. She waited for someone to tell her what to do next.Read More
We hadn’t expected her to fall, but there she was, a pile of odd angles at the bottom of the ravine.
Callie and I stood motionless at the edge of the gaping hole in the bridge, looking down. I’m not sure I was breathing.
She started sniffling, “The wood was rotten. Rotten! How could we know?”
I pulled the werewolf mask off, the latex clammy with my sweat. It stunk.
Callie clutched at my hand as she inched closer to the jagged, splintered wood. “Lauren? Lauren, are you OK?”
Silence. Lauren was not OK.
“What do we do? Bryce, what do we do?” She was barely holding back a wail.
“I don’t know.” I mumbled, my tongue was thick and sticky in my mouth. I shook and the ears on the stupid mask bobbed. I heaved it far into the underbrush.
“We’ve got to help her! What – how – we need to get down there to her. Now!”
Callie looked at me, expectantly. I was her older brother, Lauren’s older brother. I should know what to do. But I didn’t. I didn’t know anything. Standing there on the footbridge in the dark woods, I felt smaller than I’d ever felt in my life.
What kind of dumb-shit chases his little sister through the woods in a scary mask? Who does that? The guilt grabbed ahold of my gut and started twisting it, tighter and tighter. It was supposed to be funny. We were all supposed to be laughing our way back to the cabin, plotting how to make mom and dad take us for Dairy Queen. That is what should be happening now.
Callie’s whimpering turned into all-out crying. I don’t blame her, but I just couldn’t hear it right now.
“Shut up! That’s not helping anything!” I growled at her, instantly sorry.
“I’m sorry, Callie. I’m so sorry,” I whispered as I hugged her, smelled her strawberry shampoo. Lauren would smell like that, too.
I stood there, holding her for a moment. What was I going to tell mom and dad? I had no way of explaining any of it. It was stupid and mean, and now poor Lauren…
From the rocks below, I hear a small moan. “Bry…”
I shoved Callie backwards to the rail, “Hold on – stay right there!”
She nodded, wide-eyed and hopeful. I flopped onto my belly and scooted toward the hole. “Lauren? Can you hear me?”
Her voice was weak as she answered, “Yeah.”
“Oh, my God! Lauren! I’m going to come down to get you, OK?”
“Bryce, it hurts.”
“I know. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry!” I scrambled to the entrance of the bridge, Callie close behind.
I took her by both shoulders and said, “Go get mom and dad. We need help.”
She sprinted off toward the cabin as I started picking my way down the ravine, my every step sending a small shower of pebbles down the steep side.
“I’m coming, Lauren. Hang on!”
She made a sound, but it wasn’t a word. I looked over my shoulder and she was touching her face, her hand came away bloody.
“I know. Just hang on, OK? Just rest!”
“Me, too, Lauren. But it’s going to be OK, you’re going to be OK, right?”
She didn’t answer. I couldn’t tell if she was still moving, so I tried to jump the last four or five feet. I landed crooked on a slanty rock and crashed down onto my hip. A shard of pain shot down my leg and I swooned for a moment. Lauren stirred again, I could see how fast she was breathing as I crawled over to her.
“Hey! Hey! I’m here!” I gently touched her cheek. I didn’t know what hurt her and I was afraid to touch anything. She grabbed me with the hand she had used to touch her face. Her other arm lay still.
She smiled and closed her eyes. I sat there, watching her breathe. Dying a little every time she got out of rhythm. But she kept breathing.
Soon I heard Callie calling out, “Here! They’re over here!”
My mom and dad and Callie crashed through the bushes. They seemed like they were a thousand miles away, it was just me and Lauren’s breathing down on the rocks.
“Gloria, head out to the road to the ambulance,” my dad ordered, his voice stretched tight. My mom didn’t say anything, but charged off. I heard the siren in the distance.
“Don’t come down, dad,” I called. “It’s slippery and I think you might fall on her.”
“Bryce, is she breathing? Is she alive?”
“Yeah, dad. I’m so sorry…” I started to cry as I looked at her little round face, so pale and dirty and bloody. “I didn’t mean…”
My dad waved me off, “There’s no time for this. We’ve just got to get her to the hospital and make sure she’s OK.”
I nodded and tried to swallow my tears and fear, but they sat like a basketball in my throat, choking me. I don’t know how long we were there, Dad and Callie shining flashlights down on us, me and Lauren down on the damp rocks.
Finally we heard mom begging the paramedics to follow her to the footbridge. They had one of those baskets they use for mountain rescues with them. The next part was a blur, I started shaking and got really sleepy and I tried to lay down next to Lauren, but all of a sudden one of the rescue guys was there, pulling me gently back.
“Hey, kid. You did good getting’ down here to her. I need to work on her. Can you step aside?”
I tried to stand and couldn’t. The guy brought his radio close to his mouth and asked for another cot thing.
“I think your leg’s broke, kid,” he said over his shoulder as he started listening to Lauren’s chest. “Gonna have to get you outta here, too.”
“Just take care of her, ok? Please?”
He nodded. I slumped against the side of the ravine, my eyes closing despite my efforts to keep them open.
I don’t remember what happened next. Not at all. But I was standing next to Lauren’s bed in the hospital. She was bandaged and had a cast on one arm and one leg and a bunch of stitches on her face.
“Are you OK, Lauren? I’m so sorry… Please forgive me…” I pleaded, over and over. But she just looked right through me.
My mom sat next to the bed, holding Lauren’s had, patting it gently. Callie leaned on my dad, who was crying.
Lauren finally said, “I shouldn’t have run onto the bridge mom. It’s all my fault…”
“No, honey,” mom said, shaking as she tried to not cry. “It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault – “
“It’s my fault!” I shouted. “Mine! I planned the stupid joke! I got the dumb mask – I – I chased her!”
But no one heard me. No one.
“You were just playing,” my mom said, her voice tired. “He just lost too much blood, that’s all. It’s not your fault.”
Silence. It turns out, I was not OK.
This my first entry over at Tipsy Lit. I’m part of a goodwill exchange. Go there!Read More