The linoleum floor was warm on my bare feet after I padded across the sunlit parkay hallway, running the fingers of my left hand over the contents of the floating bookshelf along the side of the hall, up the three smoothly worn wooden steps, and into the kitchen.
Sunlight streamed in everywhere; through the curtains on the side door, the wooden shuttered windows over the metal sink and around the line of windows framing one side of the kitchen's dining area at the end of the room.
The warm, medium brown veneer of the cabinets was glowing in that sunlight -- they always seemed to me to be the exact praline color of pecan shells. The light bounced off the glass and metal surfaces and gave everything a sparkling white halo.
The full, rich smell of Folger's coffee was wafting up from the coffeemaker, sputtering and purring as it brewed; I could see wisps of steam escaping its vent - swirling again, in the golden flood that was pouring in through the windows.
"Good morning, sleepy head," Grandma B said as she stood by the stove, grinning at me.
She held a small frying pan in her hands, and set it gently on the electric coils of the stove. I could smell the slightly burnt aroma of the hot metal filaments heating up as she turned on the burner, hear the ping of the molecules as they began to move rapidly in the heating element.
Her pink house-slippers shuffled across the floor as she reached for the breakfast things, humming "Blue Skies," in a clear soprano as she went; slicing a pat of butter from the dish on the counter, tapping it gently into the pan, where it began to melt, slowly -- mixing with the coffee and enriching the smell.
"Grab the eggs from the icebox please Honey," she said, keeping her eyes on the light yellow pool of butter, slowly spreading in the pan.
I pulled on the thin handle of the fridge, and it popped open, air seeming to whoosh in as I broke the seal of the liner, the cool, stale breeze caressing my cheeks. I lifted the carton of eggs from the top shelf, and brought them over to her.
She put an arm around me, and I could smell her gently floral, powdery-sweet scent as she gave me a squeeze. Her blue eyes were sparkling-- the same as my dad's, as I looked up into her face. Her skin was so soft, so light honey tan, and almost papery with its wrinkles. Her blonde white hair still looped, coiled and sprayed in place from her beauty-shop appointment yesterday afternoon; the Aquanet mixing with her perfume.
She spun around, still humming and stepped across to the L-shaped frame of the opposite kitchen counter, pulling down a small white bowl from the victorian beveled glass and wood cabinet doors, as well as two small juice glasses. Cracking three eggs into the bowl, she poured them into the pan with a gentle hiss - then stepping across to the sink, she ran her hand under the faucet, spun around, and sprinkling water droplets on top of the eggs from her crimson tipped nails, she placed a glass lid on top of them to cook.
She flipped up the lid on the bread container that sat on the counter, and put two pieces of wheat bread in the toaster. The yeasty aroma rising up to mingle with the others filling the space.
I went back to the icebox and took out the orange juice in its glass pitcher. Carrying it, heavy, with both hands to the oval kitchen table, I set it down, and retrieved the juice glasses, filling them, doing my best not to spill, and having to grab a paper towel to wipe up the overflow anyway.
Grandma B brought two plates over to the table, one egg for me, and two for her, salted and peppered -- each with a piece of toast slathered in butter and a generous amount of orange marmalade. She grabbed her coffee cup, and we sat down together.
We smiled at each other as we munched our breakfast, and I remember the blue and white wallpaper, the tiles, the silky smooth top of the hard table pad under my hands, the way the wooden top of the chair curved around my back, my legs too short to reach the floor as I sat and swung them.
Soon grandpa C would wander in, humming "The Bread Song," as Grandma called it, singing "Do-de-do-do," to the tune of "Shepherd Show Me How to Go," and want his breakfast. He and Grandma B would immediately bicker about the garden, or something he needed to find and fix in the garage, or the yard.
I could see the roses and honeysuckle growing just outside the line of windows across from where we sat, and I knew that Grandma would ask me if I wanted Ovaltine before we finished getting dressed for the day.
We had to run to the grocery store to get cookies; N, J and L would be arriving today, along with A.J. and we had to have everyone's favourite stocked in the big, deep cookie drawer: iced oatmeal cookies for N, would, I knew, be at the top of the list. We were also down to our last red delicious apple in the fridge, and Grandpa would need more.
The birds were singing loudly, and Grandma B. smiled to herself as she sipped her coffee, her eyelids low, listening; she loved songbirds so much.
Me: C got a dog.
Me: I didn't ask you anything...
J: It's a RULE. One of the cats has to die first.
J: It's MY RULE.
Me: Why though? It seems arbitrary.
J: There will be a snuggle attention deficit. The cats barely get enough attention now.
Me: Starting this summer both boys will be in school, and I've been making an effort to snuggle S more. He misses O. P doesn't cuddle.
J: Two animals ONLY.
Me: You said we could get two older companion dogs.
J: I've revised my opinion.
Me: I contest the revision.
J: We'll discuss this upon the death of a cat, or when B turns five. Whichever happens first.
Some nights I'm scared to go to SLEEP.
I haven't had night terrors in years it seems, and yet I'm occasionally AFRAID they'll return.
I don't SEEM to see what others see, when I look at myself.
My inner voice clouds my vision, highlighting FLAWS and self-doubt spots, that I wish I didn't immediately FOCUS on.
I remember feeling OUT of place.
Wanting to belong, and completely HELPLESS to join in; knowing that I was different. The other kids KNEW that too.
Being OSTRACIZED and segregated by the other children.
Then being rescued by a gorgeous red-headed BLACK woman who immediately sang to the same song as my SOUL.
I belonged with HER.
I was a part of her and she was a part of me; we're still BONDED, no matter how far apart the years, the distance... none of it remains relevant, except that she's mine, my FAMILY too.
A second MAMA to me.
Then I made a FRIEND, and had a second person to hold my hand.
It's quite human of me to FALL short of my expectations.
I'm well AWARE that I can be my own worst enemy at times.
HARSH words from the inner voice in my head.
An utter FAILURE; potential unmet.
I'm not good enough, and what I do doesn't MATTER.
I DON'T share this with many people.
I KEEP a smile on my face.
I make self-deprecating JOKES and distract with humour.
I entertain and make OTHERS feel at ease, because I'm not, but why should they suffer me?
Perfect imperfection SHOULD be entirely obtainable; adorable even.
Nobody's perfect, and therein lies the beauty-- the DIFFERENCES, the flaws are what make things interesting and MORE glorious than anyone could've imagined.
Why can't I then, accept myself ALL the time?
Why must the sword feel DOUBLE-EDGED?
I have damn GOOD days.
I have SECRETLY awful ones.
TODAY, I shared my self-loathing slope.
I owned my INNER bitch.
I admitted out LOUD to others that I was struggling.
It helped, but I am even now PLAGUED by the thought that I bothered the people I spoke with.
I WORRY that I irritated them with my annoying lack of confidence.
How PATHETIC I was, and still am.
I used to have a reoccurring dream that I would dive in front of a madman, a SHOOTER, to save a mix of my friends, family and INNOCENT bystanders.
A MENTOR of mine once asked me, upon hearing this,
"WHY is your life worth less than the others?"
I didn't know how to ANSWER him.
The truth is, I've been told my whole life that I'm TOO much.
I feel things too DEEPLY.
I CARE too much.
I'm too SENSITIVE.
So WHAT if I am too much for some folks?
I am JUST ENOUGH for others.
I can TURN my inner negative bitch voice to MY side, because she's ME, after all.
I am STRUGGLING today, but know this:
I'm a lover AND a fighter, and I don't want sympathy.
I ask for COMPASSION.
I didn't write this as a pity PARTY.
In fact, I HATE that phrase, because it's demoralizing and invalidates the individual's feelings.
Examining oneself and being HONEST about it, isn't wallowing.
It's PROCESSING goddamn it.
Don't ever judge others and put them DOWN for admitting they have EMOTIONS or sad feelings-- you don't have an iota or inkling of what they've been, or are going through.
Never ASSUME or presume.
SEE the person.
Let them be HEARD.
Someday, you may need REASSURANCE that you're not awful at life too.
Deep down I have a spark, and even on my DARK days;
Even when it's TINY and barely glowing,
It cannot be EXTINGUISHED.
It's part of the UNIVERSE, and it's inside my soul.
I know I'm TOUGH; I was born 2.5 months early and I'm still alive and kicking.
I know how to keep my chin UP and keep going, to grit my teeth and push on.
Sometimes a HUG is what a person needs to get their strength and resolve back.
Not every PEP-TALK should start with 'suck it up.'
I WILL get through this, and I know that.
Please REMEMBER that asking for help and support is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength.
OWNING your shit is hard and it's okay to talk about it out loud.
Everyone has HARD times, no matter what they look like.
I send you LOVE.
I hear you, I see you, and I hold you in my HEART if you need me to.