Entries in Back in the Day (82)


Toads with Brickbats

Many years ago, Mrs. G. became friends with the mother of one of her kids' friends. Other than the bond between their children, Mrs. G. was initially attracted to this mom, Annie, because she wore a snappy red beret. Mrs. G. has always appreciated people who wear hats, any hat really, because she doesn’t have the confidence to wear them and the few times she has, she feels like a poser—someone literally posing in a hat. She is aware she is wearing one every second it is on her freakishly large head. So she applauds you bold, nervy hat wearers and while she’s on the subject of bold and nervy, she shares similar awe and respect for women who, to hell with you face, pencil on their own beauty marks.

But a snappy red beret can only carry you so far when, deep down, you are entirely confident you are the most enlightened, exceptional, wise woman to walk God’s green earth.

"And speaking of God," Annie spouted to anyone who possessed ears, "only the brainless, simpleminded masses buy into that fabricated folk tale, that mythos."

No, Buddhism, according to Annie, was the only path to becoming a sentient being.  Buddhism was the only path to liberation and in Annie’s case, a certain path to douchedom. Karma? Whatever. What goes around, evaporates.

But Mrs. G, you might be thinking, you are being so bitter, so strident all these years later. What gives? What gave is Mrs. G’s crushing fear of Annie. Mrs. G. silently stood by as Annie mocked and demeaned one person after another. Mrs. G. listened endlessly to Annie’s one conspiracy theory after another. Annie’s conspiracy theories had conspiracy theories. At one point, she told an entire roomful of people George Bush was a robot with a microchip in his back that was controlled by the CIA. Not one person said a word because Annie was a bully, and when she decided to let you have it, she opened her mouth and toads hopped out, toads carrying brickbats and copies of the Dhammapada to beat some sense into your thick skull. Everyone was afraid of Annie and her stupid ass, ridiculous, stupid ass red beret.

The only person Mrs. G. ever heard Annie talk about positively was Noam Chomsky. Mrs. G. pretended to know who he was.

Chickenshit for sure, Mrs. G. just tried to avoid Annie until one fateful day.

Mrs. G’s phone rang one afternoon and it was Annie calling to tell Mrs. G. she really wanted her to come over and meet her friend, Joan.

“Here,” Annie said, “I’m putting her on the phone.”

Joan got on the phone and immediately launched into a tirade about living in Utah, where the Mormons were trying to kill her, sneaking-onto-her-property-and-leaving-footprints-and-shotgun-shells trying to kill her. Then she moved on to her recent abduction by aliens. Actually her sixth abduction by aliens. After at least ten minutes of listening to Joan manically go on and on and on, Mrs. G. asked her to put Annie back on the phone.

“Isn’t she something else?” Annie asked.

Mrs. G. cut to, what to her, was the obvious chase:

“Is she schizophrenic or bipolar or is it drugs?” Mrs. G. has been diagnosed as mentally iffy by paid professsionals. She may not know who Noam Chomsky is but she owns her own dog eared copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—it’s her version of a Beach Read.

Annie laughed. “Just come on over. She really needs someone to talk to.”

Mrs. G. drove over ready to stage an intervention.

When she walked in the door, the first thing Joan said to Mrs. G. was, “So Annie tells me you think I’m schizophrenic or bipolar or on drugs.”

Motherfucking toad with a brickbat.

Mrs. G. turned to Annie, who shrugged her shoulders and said, “Some of us just can’t comprehend the impossible. It takes a big mind to recognize visionaries.”

And then Joan launched, once more, into her story about being abducted by aliens and even showed Mrs. G. the key to the space ship, which looked similar to a cocktail fork wrapped in floral wire. When Joan started in on being probed, Mrs. G. grabbed her purse and stood up. Just as her mind was too small to recognize visionaries, it also contains an impenetrable deadbolt permanently thrown against any discussion of ass violation. No exceptions.

Mrs. G. walked out the door—she’s not even sure Joan noticed since she still hadn’t shut up. She called Annie later that night, and thanked her for the ambush and told her that she never wanted to speak to her again. And she hasn’t.

She still thinks of Joan and hopes she got some help of the terrestrial kind.

Mrs. G. can befriend stable, unstable, serene, angst-ridden, left, right, optimism, pessimism, straitlaced, out there but, anymore, she has no truck with mean, and she’s not scared of it anymore.



Mrs. G. was recently scanning some old family photos and came across this picture. Her mom thinks she was around three when it was taken. Mrs. G. isn’t sure if this is typical but her memories begin around kindergarten. Her parents divorced when she was nearly five and she has no memories of them together. Sometimes Mrs. G. thinks this is normal while other times she thinks it’s because the many parental divorces and abrupt transitions she experienced as a kid didn’t allow enduring memories to gel, to set properly like a decent batch of fudge. And then there are those other times, especially of late, she just thinks her brain, for whatever reason, isn’t equipped to retain small details . Mrs. G, no joke, spends a lot of time with her head in the clouds. Her mind frequently wanders and she has to literally take it by the hand and lead it back to where it should be…like the edge of a curb or the steering wheel.

And then there are those other other times she has discovered that memories are enormously subjective and her family is filled with some tricky ass liars.

Times like in this picture, the picture to which Mrs. G’s rambling mind is now returning.

When Mrs. G. pulled out this picture out of her grandparent’s old suitcase last week, she asked her mom why she was holding her Aunt Wilma’s dog, Whitlow, but was not at Aunt Wilma's house. Aunt Wilma, for those trying to keep up (don’t try too hard—it’s just millimeters from impossible) is Mrs. G’s estranged father’s estranged sister. Mrs. G. would have liked the privilege of being estranged from Aunt Wilma too, but back in her day, there was no correlation between actually liking a relative and being forced to spend one weekend a month at her house because your mom needed some disco time believed in the sanctity of family. It didn’t matter if you begged the whole car ride over not to have to go because Aunt Wilma sucked on Hall’s cough drops like they were Certs or made you go to her church on Sunday, where she introduced you to her all her friends as a “child of divorce.” Which was pretty nervy considering she smelled like a bouillon cube stuffed inside a Kleenex stuffed inside a cardigan pocket.

But let’s circle back to Mrs. G’s question about why her three-year-old self was holding Aunt Wilma’s dog but was not at Aunt Wilma's house.

 “Well, before Whitlow was Aunt Wilma’s dog, he was our dog,” Mrs. G’s mom said matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean he was our dog?”

“He was our family dog until your father and I got divorced.” Mrs. G’s mom has a way of reporting strange and unusual events as if they aren’t strange or unusual. It’s her gift. She went on to explain that the hatred between she and Mrs. G’s father was so thick during their divorce he shipped the family dog off to his sister, whom he despised, rather than keep any ragtag combo of the family intact. Aunt Wilma got custody of the dog. God help Whitlow, the poor bastard—Aunt Wilma probably introduced him to her friends as a “dog of divorce.” It was the seventies. No doubt he was a latchkey dog.

“So you are telling me that I not only had to go to Aunt Wilma’s house and be forced to take generic salt tablets if I so much as walked briskly in her backyard because she thought losing sweat was akin to losing oxygen, but I had to go there and visit my own dog?” Mrs. G. said through gritted teeth. “NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY WHITLOW AND I HAD A VERY SPECIAL BOND! HOW AM I JUST FINDING THIS OUT?”

“It was a different time,” Mrs. G’s mom sighed, “We just hoped you wouldn’t notice and your grandfather bought another dachshund to take Whitlow’s place.”

That would be Schnapps…Mrs. G’s other childhood dog, an unwitting imposter. Damned if it didn't work.

As is often the case, Mrs. G. starts out angry and upon reflection, ends up shaking her head in reluctant admiration because ho-o-ly hell.

Mrs. G. is convinced an interesting life is going to be problematic. She hasn't figured out a way around it.

Sometimes when Mrs. G. daydreams, she imagines her past playing out on some patchy acreage, like one of those off the beaten path Civil War role-playing games where disenfranchised crackers pee in buckets, gnaw on hardtack, and stage tactical battles where they shoot each other for authenticity’s sake, recreating history on a bogus battlefield.

Mrs. G. would be the one on the sidelines trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and then wandering away.


A Mrs. G. Social Inquiry

Mrs. G. and her grandfather, 1971, in Sardis, Mississippi

Today, had he lived, Mrs. G's gruff but darling grandfather would have turned 94. He would have spent most of this day, Father's Day and his birthday, in his pleather recliner, waiting for all the women in his family to drop by the house and bring him the same gift:

the only candy bar he had any use for. He stockpiled Hershey's Special Dark to carry him through to the following Father's Day and birthday. These chocolate bars were the one thing he did not share. Even the most skillful manipulator in the family (Mrs. G's mom, his favorite) didn't waste her breath trying to con him out a square or two. Futile, baby, futile.

Mrs. G's dad dad, for a number of reasons, wasn't cut out for fatherhood. It didn't come naturally to him, but Mrs. G's grandfather stepped up and filled in all the gaps. She proudly claimed him as her Papaw. Mrs. G. even told her grandmother one afternoon when she was weeding the iris bed that she planned to marry Papaw when she came of legal age. "Have at it," Mrs. G's grandmother said, barely looking up from the dirt. "You could do worse I expect," she laughed.

And oh yes she could have. Lord, yes she could have. Three words: Clifford, Clifford, Clifford.

Mrs. G's grandfather was an unassuming, hardworking grouch who was sweet to her. He always made her feel special. He was safe. His crooked left arm hooked just right around her neck.

Mrs. G. spent good chunks of her childhood living with her grandparents in Memphis. When she wasn’t siphoning the nectar out of honeysuckle stems or painting clear nail polish on or taking a hairbrush to her chigger bites, she would sit beside her grandfather on the porch swing and listen to him tell stories. He told her stories about World War II—the friends he’d made, the friends he’d lost and the woman he’d met in a dance hall with twinkling stars on the ceiling and swept right off her feet—Mrs. G’s grandmother. Besides his bride of 56 years, Mrs. G’s grandfather had three other obsessive loves in his life: Hershey's Special Dark Bars, the sacrifices Americans made during the Depression (forty years later, he never let his canned meat stash wane) and General George S. Patton. To Mrs. G’s Papaw, General George S. Patton was the man. Actually George C. Scott as General S. Patton was the man.

Mrs. G. didn’t spend much time as a kid playing Candy Land and Jacks…under the proud, watchful eyes of her grandfather, she marched up and down the yard screaming bloody murder at the corps and armies she would lead into North Africa and Sicily. Barefoot and in a sundress, she helped defeat the German offensive at the legendary Battle of the Bulge. Mrs. G’s grandfather told her stories of the allies, the axis, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill and to this day, most of what Mrs. G. knows about World War II she learned at her grandfather’s knee. And most of it, surprisingly—given his belief that he possessed more knowledge than any book on any subject—was true.

He was also an authority on jewelry and fashion.

Which leads to Mrs. G's favorite memory of him.

We need dads, right. They're good for us. We need dads, however they come. Even if it's in black socks and sandals.

> Father and Daughter Enjoying the Fourth of July Holiday While on a Picnic in a Park at Sleepy Eye, Minnesota... 

What is one of your favorite memories of the father(s), biological or otherwise, in your life?


A Mrs. G. Social Inquiry: Emotional Purchases

Mrs. G. had a boyfriend her senior year in high school who came from a wealthy family. The boyfriend's name was Matt and his family's home was large, fancy. When it got too sunny, motorized sun shades slid down the large windows of the home to protect its rooms from light and heat. They had beautiful furniture--leather and chintz-- and a lot of these little dogs all over the place.

But their pantry. Their pantry stole the show. It was filled with all of the good stuff that Mrs. G's pantry at home was not: Pepsi, Crystal Light, Fritos, Pringles, Nutter Butters, Cheetohs and these super fluffy, marshmallow bastards...


Nabisco Pinwheels.

Twice in the last month, Mrs. G. has purchased these cookies, which are ridiculously expensive at $4.99 to $5.19 a box. She like them well enough, but what she is really purchasing is the feeling these cookies inspire--wealth and abundance. Fancy cookies for fancy people. Mrs. G's psyche clearly wants what Matt and his family were having, times ten. With a cold glass of milk.

Nabisco Pinwheels are a quick hit of nostalgic hope, nostalgic abundance and nostalgic necking on a basement couch.

What cookies, chips, champagne, lip gloss, perfume, activewear or other items have you bought in life that have a deeper, more emotional cost than what shows up on the receipt? What was your visceral motivation?


Good Shit: Eighties Hair... A Whole Lot of Work


You couldn't just roll out of bed and look like this. This is Mrs. G's high school speech team and the girls would rise at six so that their hair could be at least 8 inches above their scalps in place for an 8:00 tournament. They were a poor speech team (all the real dough went to the football team) so they all shared two connecting motel rooms and the air was thick with White Rain and Aquanet


Thursday Three


When Mrs. G. was fourteen, she was a keyed up Francophile. She was president of her French club and spent a puzzling amount of time practicing what she believed to be the French pronunciation of her name, Heather.

It was Heather--pronounced Ay-Tear.

What of it?

Seriously, quoi?

As president, she was in charge of the French club bake sale necessary to help fund the club's spring trip to New Orleans. She spent the evening before the sale, preparing her first quiche. The quiche came out fluffy and golden and perfect...beautifully cradled in a prepared graham cracker crust.

Mrs. G's mother howled when she saw the quiche the next morning, never once considering Mrs. G's belief that a crust was a crust if it said crust on the plastic package might be a reflection of her daughter's culinary mentor. Tiger Mother schmeiger mother, she dropped Mrs. G. and her second-string, graham cracker loving quiche off at school and waved goodbye. The battle hymn of sink or swim. Mrs. G. swam and sold every slice of her quiche with conviction and a straightfoward reminder there was a no return policy.

The French club made it it to New Orleans. If you lived in East Memphis in the early eighties you might have heard the story of a completely sober freshman girl who followed her three roommates out of their first story hotel room and fell three feet to the cement parking lot, resulting in a trip to the ER and five stitches in her head.

Anyway, she's fine.

Question: What is your worst culinary disaster?

Blood relation or no blood relation, if you throw up, Mrs. G. throws up.

Question: Who cleans up the vomit at your house?



Mrs. G. loves her feminist blogs and she almost always agrees with her righteous sisters, but this week she questioned her feminist credentials. She read several posts condemning Robert Downey Jr.'s Golden Globe acceptance speech as sexist and pervy. Mrs. G. thought it was devilishly clever.

Question: Does this make Mrs. G. a sexist perv?

 You can be honest. She’s in an emotionally stable place.


A Mrs. G. Social Inquiry

Mrs. G. wore uniforms through most of her education, so she wasn't really faced with the back-to-school shopping that can fuel name brand, designer yearning. Sure, she petitioned for the spritz of Love's Baby Soft or the glide of a Cotton Candy Kiss Me Slick, but all in all she was spared the pressure of keeping up with the cool kids. At Blessed Sacrament, there were no cool kids. With a graduating eighth grade class of eleven, it was assumed that everyone was average, spiritually superior and morally inferior. Even steven.

Her sophomore in high school, Mrs. G. moved across the country and attended public school. Within weeks  Mrs. G. coveted her first expensive possession: Vuarnet sunglasses. Vuarnets. All the kids had them. She got a job at Funnelli's pizza parlor and started saving. Ten weeks later, she bought a bright red pair. And she will not lie: they were a satisfying purchase. When she put them on, she just felt right; Mrs. G. became a consumer.

Guess jeans weren't in the cards, too rich for her blood.

What did you save up for in high school?


Eight Things Mrs. G. is Loath to Admit



1) Mrs. G. has never trusted or liked Bill Maher. Nearly a decade ago, she told Mr. G. that she thought Maher was a misogynist, a puffed-up snake, the kind of guy who would viciously berate you on the way home from a party where he had spent the evening charming the room. She tried to give him another chance when he launched his HBO show Real Time, but the first time she watched it, he interrupted Cornel West three times in five minutes and that was that. She was officially done with his smug face. Mrs. G. can’t think of another celebrity who summons such sincere distaste.


Unless you consider Glen Beck a celebrity.


2) Mrs. G. may be the only person on the planet who did not like Avatar.


3) Mrs. G. may be the only person on the planet who did like All About Steve.


4) When Mrs. G. was nineteen she suffered a dark night of the soul. She called a suicide hotline and was disconnected midsentence. Startled and indignant, she refused to call back. It just seemed too desperate. Even in her young life’s blackest hour, she could not fail to see the humor in being disconnected from an organization called Lifeline. She drove to 7-11 and bought a Slurpee and a Glamour magazine.


The good news is that that she never toed the brink again. The bad news is she continues to associate Slurpees with perseverance.


5) Once when Mrs. G. was baking a peach pie to serve dinner guests, a small oven fire forced her to grab the fire extinguisher to douse the flames. Flustered, guests arriving in mere minutes, Mrs. G. took a dish towel and wiped the peach pie free of any extinguishing foam residual. The pie was deemed delicious and Mrs. G. ate two pieces as penance in the event any of her guests were unknowingly poisoned.


6) While many feel Glee was robbed at last night's Emmy awards, Mrs. G. believes Friday Night Lights once again got the shaft.


7) When Mrs. G. is stuck alone in traffic, she sings "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," the Manilow version. It soothes her.


8) Everyone in Mrs. G's family openly admits his or her fear of spiders except for Mr. G. When he is called on to kill one, he refuses, citing his moral reluctance to murder an innocent creature. After approximately two to four minutes of his family questioning his manhood, he will grab one of Mrs. G's books or magazines and squash it, knowing full well that the book or magazine will now be deemed contaminated and thus unreadable.


Later, he will eat a ham sandwich and someone will remind him of his moral reluctance to murder an innocent creature. Then he or she shuts up and drops it because he or she knows when he or she is pushing it.