Senior Skip Day

April 20, 2021

My sister’s impromptu and welcome visit this weekend prompted a backyard hangout around the fire pit. Defaulting to high school memories, we discussed skipping school. Rule follower here, mostly. Classic first-born people pleaser characteristics. I wore my responsibility with honor, like a Hogwarts prefect. Except that I grew up in a small town where everyone can easily find out your business.

The first time I ever skipped school was the spring semester of my senior year. I think it was the first time I was absent since my bout with chicken pox when I was in kindergarten. Starting with first grade, I was in the running for the Lifetime (Sort of) Achievement Award for perfect attendance, the most embarrassing award I received at the end of every year. After that first absence, I went to school sick. No one sent me home because I learned to deal with discomfort. Boxes of Luden’s cherry cough drops were staples in my backpack. Halls eventually took over and Chloraspetic throat spray tamed my raw sore throats during winter months.

When most cool kids planned to skip school, they took off out of town. There wasn’t anything to do, so unless there was a plan to hide out in someone’s home and run the risk of being seen driving around during the school day, most kids drove an hour to the nearest big “city.” We heard about mall adventures, proved with matching Guess t-shirts or sunglasses or earrings. First, it must have been nice to have a car to leave town. Followed by knowing how to get to the mall without an adult. And having money to shop for matching Guess shirts.

One day, when my mom asked if I wanted to go shopping, I wasn’t sure what she meant. We usually ran errands on weekends. It’s mid-week. She said we’d go shopping. I didn’t think much of it until she added the part about missing school. Being a responsible mini-adult, I asked about missing class, making up class work, and returning to school. She assured me she’d write a note to excuse the absence.

We took off on our excursion with Uncle Danny tagging along. Uncle Danny was the best shopping partner. He still is. I wasn’t with friends, but we wound up at the mall. We hit the mega-clearance aisles and I wound up with two prom dresses. A bit guilty about getting two, my mom mentioned the other one could be saved for my sister the following year. They were such a good deal, she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to save major cash on another prom dress.

We ate out at a real restaurant. Took our time. Ran a few errands and headed back home by late afternoon.

The following morning, Mom wrote a note. I opened it and re-read it several times before I made my way to the office. There it was, her note, explaining that I was absent from school because I had a cold. I was nervous turning it in because I clearly had no signs of a cold. I mean, when I did have a cold, I reeked of cherry cough drops. I gave it to the secretary. My stomach churned. They took my note and I lingered as if waiting to be reprimanded. Surely they could see my lie. Or rather, my mom’s little made up story of a cold-less cold.

“Okay, get to class.”

That was it? I went back to class. It was so, easy. And I only had a few months left to do it again. Only I didn’t do it again.

I don’t remember having my classwork pile up on me. I don’t remember anyone making a big deal out my absence. I picked up where I left off. I couldn’t even skip school, the right way, but I did it. And it was one of my favorite days. My induction into adulthood.

The (Orange) Badge of Courage

SOLSC Day 31

I signed up for this challenge after I declared I was breaking up with challenges. And here I am, at the beginning of my last post for the month. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t as hard as I imagined.

This brings to mind my “one little word” for the year. I wrote about this five years ago on this day, my first blog post. Synchronicity with a capital S! I’m not the one little word type. At least I wasn’t then. The past two years my one little word was create. I’ve been working on that in so many different ways, but my focus has been writing.

This year, I almost didn’t choose a word. But one found me anyway. I’m still not sure about how I fee about that one little word because words are anything but little. They can carry the heft of the world or they can take you to new, unimaginable places. And spaces. Like this one.

This year, the word that found me is courage. I gradually began posting more frequently last year during the shut down. Being locked in, writing was my way to venture out. People have always encouraged me to write. They see things in my words that I fail to see. S’s room takeover was my first pandemic post. Then I started playing a little and had such fun publishing a Videoconferencing Yearbook.

Chris Margocs of Horizon 51, a fellow librarian, shared this space with me and invited me along. I dipped my words in and here I am. She doesn’t know this, but the Day 2 Slice, You Know That One Friend? is all about Chris.

I typically shared my blogs on FB, but sharing it with others in this way taught me so much. There are so many talented writers out there. You all have taken me under your wing with encouragement and support. This is my first writing group other than those in my undergrad courses. That was a long time ago.

I plan to continue posting on Tuesdays. Seems easy compared to posting every day. I’ll venture out to join other writing groups. As an educator, work overlaps into my personal space and always has. That’s the nature of working with your passion. I’m ready to venture out on my own and break away a little. Carve out some writing space for me.

I’m no longer a classroom teacher, but I have always loved teaching writing. As a librarian, I have to figure out how to get a group of students to participate in the classroom challenge next year. Muster up the courage to do something out of the norm on my campus.

And that’s what words do. They give us courage and teach us about ourselves. Above all, they connect us to others through the power of a story.

Red Velvet Cake

SOLSC Day 28

Time! Stay still for a little while. Well, you did last spring, or so it seemed. I’m the one who needs to stand still. I’m the one who needs to slow down. I’m the one who needs to stretch out moments I have, to enjoy them, be present. It’s not your job to stand still. That’s on me. And I haven’t been doing it well. Ever.

For today, the plan is baking a cake with S. From scratch. Red velvet with cream cheese icing, her favorite. Laundry can wait until tomorrow, but baking a cake can’t. Social media doesn’t care if I show up. Neither does my messy bedroom.

Time, I apologize for fussing at you. For saying you aren’t enough. You don’t change. While we’re here, can you tell me why we humans think we need to slay the day? As if it’s something that needs slaughtering. Why can’t we just enjoy it? Like a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.

You are enough. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not doing enough. I rarely do enough. I’m doing too much.

We Eat Here, Too

We got a good deal for our table 
from a guy right down the street. 
He even delivered it for us. 
It's solid and if you bang your knee against 
the inside frame just under the table top
you'll swear you hate the thing. 
The top needs refinishing, but kids, 
so we'll leave it. 
And we have left it that way, 
scratched and stained,
losing  a little color each day.
They protest when we discuss a new finish
I protest at the work it will take 
only to have it scuffed and smeared with, 
life. 
I fuss at everyone who doesn't use a coaster, 
but why bother? 
The kids say it adds character. 
And it does.
There's space for 6 or 8 or 12 or more, 
we've stopped counting. 
We manage to squeeze ourselves in 
when friends and family visit. 
Taking turns sitting at the table, 
much like we did at Nana's. 
It's held up well.
Sophia's first birthday, the first big event
It's hosted countless others
Visits from Mom and Dad along with Dad's pile of newspapers, 
notes, pens, reading glasses, 
mugs of his piping hot coffee 
and a small mountain of Mom's tamales.
Halloween parties
Tortilla making lessons
A birthday candle lined with Tacky Glue, 
sprinkled with gold glitter and sequins.
My best friend's graduation party.
Homemade pizzas--
so many homemade pizzas.
Writing sticks of all shapes and colors
Spilled bowls of Cheerios
5 layer Play-Doh cakes
Mixology experiments: 
Mexican martinis, 
wine-usually red, 
blackberry margaritas, 
strawberry mojitos, 
and the good anniversary crystal 
bubbling with cheap champagne.
An almost empty wine glass, a red ornament,
and a red pear gnawed with a little kid’s bite 
protesting “Mommy I didn’t like it!”
adorns the end of a 
"fancy" Christmas dinner. 
That night we used a tablecloth.
Snow days with pancake breakfasts.
Piles of papers that needed grading.
Homework--
the kids' and mine.
Hours of graduate school assignments
Science fair and craft projects
LEGO builds and chatter
Family game nights
A thick smear of blue paint from a 
Halloween costume making session
and nail polish drips I couldn't remove.
Gingerbread house building parties 
that stopped because we outgrew the table and 
got so darned busy taking kids to 
holiday related school activities.
GNO get togethers
where we all sit around and color,
jars of colored pencils, pens, and markers 
snaking down the center of the table.
Pandemic teaching
Online Sunday night meetings 
with family across the miles.
Writing 
every morning, 
at least three pages, 
with a coffee mug by my side.
Asking for and giving grace.
They say home is where the heart is.
Ours gather around this table
where we live and breathe,
hope and dream.
And sometimes,
we eat here, too.

Big Tent Revival: Deviled Food

I don’t dance. I don’t dance because Nana said I’d go to hell. I’m afraid of going to hell. I’m afraid of how hot hell is and of the devil poking and prodding me with its pitchfork and its snake-like tail whipping around me. Why is it when I hear music, it bubbles inside me and I’m giddy? It makes me feel like there’s another person inside that wants to come out and laugh and have fun and move and sway. I like the idea of being that fun person who doesn’t care that people watch her move in response to the rhythm and makes up her own swirls and twirls and is just flat out happy. Nana’s voice always stops me.

I didn’t want to dabble with the devil and dancing. When you’re a rule-following first-born (mostly) and spent most of your formative years with your Pentecostal grandma, that’s what you do. No questions allowed because you respect your elders.

“¡Los bailes son del diablo! Dios no quiere que estemos en los bailes. Debemos estar glorificando al Señor.”

No matter how fun and harmless it seemed, dancing never worked for me. I’m stiff and have robotic dance moves. I imagined myself having a good time and maybe even having a boy pull me in close to move in sync with the music. I stared wistfully at other kids while I stood around, the poster child for a wallflower.

I didn’t understand the harm. If people have fun how can dancing be the devil’s work? Why is it so evil? Most kids didn’t even touch each other while they danced unless it was a slow song. Even then, why was that worthy of getting to hell when there were other people around?

I didn’t ask Nana why, she just said to stay away from it. I found that confusing, coming from someone who bought deviled ham on sale from Piggly Wiggly. She fed it to me on days she took care of me while my parents worked. She spread the pink mush on slices of white bread when she packed lunches for all of us as we piled into Papá’s pick-up truck early summer mornings to work the cotton fields. She bought tons of little pull-tab cans, neatly wrapped in white paper stamped with a red devil holding a pitchfork, its pointy arrow tail snaking around, mocking me. You can’t dance because it’s the devil’s work, but here, eat the devil’s meat.

I hated the stuff but ate it anyway because that’s what she packed: sandwiches with salty slimy pink sludge that tasted nothing like ham, smeared on bread. I envisioned a bunch of mashed up devils’ tails packed into those tin cans, with the red faces daring me to eat, winning my soul through hunger.

When I see anything with fiendish depictions, I think about how Nana would respond. I’d take her to Torchy’s and probably get an ear full of Bible verses for taking her to a taco joint emblazoned with cute devilish cherubs tempting you into gluttony. I might order her the Democrat and a margarita, especially since she wasn’t a drinker. She’d denounce the place because she could make better tacos at home, for less, and feed twice as many people. And she’d be right.

She might even top them with a possible nemesis, maybe the devil’s brother, Diablo Verde sauce I found at HEB. The hot one is too damn hot for me, but if you mix it with sour cream, the heat is worth it. The devil is always among us, even in our food. Every time I see a feisty little sprite or hear soul-stirring music, Nana’s voice pops into my head with advice for staying out of hell and I’m reminded about how much I miss her. Except now, I eat at Torchy’s and I might even dance a little.

Torchy’s Tacos, Round Rock, Tx