Naked Reflections Poetry: Shameless and Unapologetic

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Lessons I Learned in July: Prompt 9 “No Summers in the South”

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My friends’ family reunion brought me to Gulfport, Mississippi. Heat and humidity, clouds in the sky heavy with rain in the middle of July.

Day One. Meet and greet strangers with warm hugs at a local breakfast and lunch buffet. Everything fried or boiled or stuck like clogged arteries. Beige, brown, and white meat, withered salad greens and unlabeled specialties I feared would kill me.

Late evening events began. Get to know one another, but how? Sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Brothers, mothers, and significant others. Unfamiliar groups sat like isolated islands. A pushy cousin forced teens to dance. They didn’t want to dance and neither did we.

Day Two. The schedule looked dreadful. Family Feud and more fried food. We sat in stiff chairs under cool air, then crowded outside in stifling heat to eat rationed crawfish and watch children play. A stinging welt appeared on my arm. I prayed it wasn’t West Nile or Ebola. I didn’t spray my forearms like I sprayed my legs. By nightfall, the bump grew to the size of a baby bird’s egg.

Part two of Day Two. Biloxi Beach. Soft mushy sand. Dark brown water almost too warm to swim in. Women in panties and camisoles instead of swimsuits. Fish carcasses washed up on shore. One man was fishing for fun because he said they were too muddy to eat.

Early dinner at a popular restaurant with a beautiful ocean view. The kids were the only ones happy with their food. I guess you can’t go wrong with chicken tenders and french fries.

Day Three. Sunday worship at the little church down the road. The same families, same hugs, same heat on a different day. Music, scriptures, praise, and gratitude for the air-conditioned room, but nothing soothed my tired and hungry attitude. I had not eaten anything satisfying in 3 days. I wondered if we would survive until the end of this trip. All I knew was I wouldn’t die out on the Mississippi roads. I must die in the church.

After service, everyone gathered for barbeque at one family’s home. Light rain, thunder, tall grass and bushes and trees amidst two table tents shading outdoor seating. Inside the tiny house, the family members packed in like jammed feet in plastic shoes. We sat outside and finally ate a delicious meal. I craved a tall Mai Tai or even a Margarita. But they served water, kiddie fruit drinks, and beer. I had to remember where I was. I needed to hydrate. Period.

I listened to the eldest aunt tell stories of her childhood, almost 90 years ago. Her struggles of living in the south with little money and an unfinished education. She raised more children than most and she was healthier than many of her daughters. She entertained us with memories of being hit by her husband and how she bit him so hard he never hit her again. I wondered if maybe that’s why her teeth were missing. Well worth the loss.

Day Four. Our one-day trip to New Orleans finally arrived. My friends and their children were as excited as I was to be out of Mississippi. When you’ve never been somewhere before and all you know is how it looks in your mind, you can be easily deceived. Our first stop was Cafe du Monde for beignets. Each powdery bite completely satisfied my appetite and erased my worry that I would hate beignets. Not too sweet, not too thick. Just perfect with a cup of coffee that actually gave me a morning jolt.

Next. Time to shop and explore the French Quarters. I don’t have much to critique about the merchandise or the stores or the service because I was so hot and sweaty that I believe I lost ability to sort my thoughts. I bought souvenirs, walked until my ankles and toes hurt, and sweat poured from my skin. It ran down my legs and made me think my bladder was failing. Who would say this kind of humidity was bearable. It was dreadful and I needed to sit down.

Last stop in New Orleans. Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant. Yummy, delicious, and relaxing but the walk to and from almost killed us. All I could think about was getting in the car. My wet clothes, souvenirs, tired aching body, and sticky everything said good-bye to The Big Easy. That was fun. I think.

Lessons Learned. I am not a summer southern girl. Humidity is harmful to my health. Some family reunions are more like strange gatherings. When I alter my eating habits for a week, I suffer the consequences for twice as long. Layovers should never be longer than 90 minutes. Someone should have told me to keep baby powder in my purse. My thighs suffered more than my appetite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacationing Amongst Selfie-Centered Offspring of Option-Offering Parents

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selfie

When I first traveled to Maui over 17 years ago with my young son and daughter, we did not have iPhones, iPads, iPods, or even EarPods. I struggle to recall if I even had a pager with me. We had each other’s attention, paperback books, Kodak disposable cameras, and plans to enjoy and explore Maui. I planned the trip with a few options in mind:

  1. How many changes of clothes to pack for the kids
  2. Where we would eat that offered chicken nuggets, pizza, and child-friendly breakfasts
  3. Which tourist excursion would be most memorable, least time consuming, and cost efficient

I vaguely remember any issues inside the airport or the car rental office. The only vivid memory related to transportation was our lost luggage. American Airlines lost our luggage and we spent the entire first day in Maui fully dressed on the beautiful Kaanapali Beach. I allowed the kids to get in the water up to their knees. They understood they had no dry clothes into which to change, nonetheless they completely enjoyed themselves. Although our luggage did not arrive until near midnight, I did not have to make special arrangements for my children to be happy or satisfied. They were in Maui on vacation for 7 days.

Fast forward to 2016 and I finally get to vacation in Maui again, but now I am an adult without children. This time I am traveling with new perspectives and plans on how to have a good vacation.

  1. How many changes of clothes should I pack for myself
  2. Which tourist excursion, if any, will I consider
  3. Will I run out of money

I had no idea so many selfie-centered offspring and option-offering parents would invade my observations. In the airport, young girls with outstretched-arms puckered and posed unashamedly at themselves before clicking, saving, cropping, filtering, and posting. Young boys with necks bent like upside-down “U’s” gripped iPads, iPhones, and training tablets as their thumbs manipulated the QWERTY keyboards faster than ten fingers ever would.

Conversations lacked eye contact. An occasional face-to-face interaction occurred when parents attempted to bribe their children to behave.

Option-Offerer #1: Honey, look at me. Do you want to see what daddy is doing in the line or do you want to sit by me and play quietly on your iPad?

Selfie-Centered Offspring #1: (age 4.5) I don’t wanna sit by you. You make me angry and so does my sister!!! Why is it taking Dad so long to get the car? I’m ready to go.

Option-Offerer #1: Oh my, you are spending more time angry than happy and we have not even begun our fun in Maui.

(Two aisles over)

Dreaded Teen: (wearing short shorts and a mismatched shirt ferociously scrolls her Facebook and whines) Oh my God, I’m sooooo mad right now. All of my friends are in San Francisco and I’m not!

Dreaded Teen’s younger sister looks befuddled and inquires how she could possibly be mad that she’s not in San Francisco if she’s spending her vacation in Maui.

Dreaded Teen: EVERYONE is at Pride and I’m not!!!! Ugggghhhhhh!

(On rental-car shuttle)

Option-Offerer #2: (looks at daughter) Sweetie, please sit down on the shuttle or you’ll fall.

Selfie-Centered Offspring #2: (gazes out the window) I won’t fall.

Meanwhile Option-Offerer #2 continues to tell her daughter she needs to sit down while the shuttle is moving. Deep inside her eyes, I see her hoping that her daughter falls down but doesn’t injure herself enough to ruin the trip, but enough to teach her a lesson.

Option-Offerer #2: (smiling at her daughter’s challenge) You’re going to fall, hold on to the pole, he’s about to turn.

Selfie-Centered Offspring #2: (remaining hands-free) I wish she would be quiet because she sees I’m not falling. I know what I’m doing. I have stood on buses before.

As the shuttle parks and we attempt to exit safely, Option-Offerer #2 tells Male Selfie-Centered Offspring not to push Selfie-Centered Offspring #2.

Male Selfie-Centered Offspring: (angry from having to stop playing his game and pushing his younger sister) I’m not pushing her!!

Option-Offerer #2: (pleading in her eyes) Please stop pushing her.

He pushes past them both to join his father after exiting the shuttle. Both offspring wanted to be by their father. My guess is that he sets the limits. He gets their respect.

Are these Option-Offering Parents feeding limitless egos of their Selfie-Centered Offspring? Every time a parent gives a child an option without setting boundaries and expectations, their children suffer. They don’t know which option is best, they only know that satisfying SELF is first. Would the 4.5-year old girl ever learn patience? Would the teen have been grateful in San Francisco instead of being on vacation in Maui? Would the rule-breaking girl eventually fall on a bus while standing and think back on what her mother said? Would her big brother push the wrong kid one day and get beat up? Do any of these options lead to lessons?

I said a few prayers before getting on the airplane coming home. I prayed that none of the Selfie-Centered Offspring or their parents would be awake, near me, or speaking loud enough to be heard. God answered my prayers.

 

 

Flight 11:11

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We met on a Thursday

3:15

Flight 11:11

Destination, The Grand Cayman Island

Everything we needed was in one bag

It wouldn’t require much

As long as we had each other

Our case was full.

Upon take-off, stress descended in puffs

Taking flight on the exhaust of our minds

Safe, secure, secluded

Reality’s bondage packed and abandoned

When we reached the highest altitude

I felt your hand in mine

Closed my eyes

And erased time.

Hours of sealed breathing

Contained within the cabin in the sky

Began to stir new fantasies

You and I on sandy beaches

In hot sun and cool waves

Candlelit dinners in our cottage

Before melodic love-making

I smiled at the possibilities

Painted in oils on the canvas of my mind.

We arrived on warm, virgin land

Sensing the urgency of the crowd

But grasped the thrill of just us

Knowing it would be barely minutes

Until the hunger and thirst

Would be satiated, replenished, and birthed again.

Windows watched us

While we eagerly approached

the cabana nestled in the palms

What we brought inside

Had timeless life within.

Before you could close the door behind me

the intensity of our embrace

obscured the world around us.

The kitchen imbibed our hunger

We devoured each other’s passions

Absorbing and breathing internal heat

With each starved kiss.

You found the caramel for the coffee

But it became the topping

On my cocoa-tipped scoops

I discovered the honey for the tea

But it enveloped the strength

Of your pre-sweetened vessel.

We fell asleep on the floor

Meant only for standing

But to our burning flesh

The stones gave a welcomed chill.