• My Words

    I Wish I’d Asked

    A little course work on ancestors…

    They remind us they love us in their own peculiar ways. Janice with her flower talk, Ilene with her frosting. Giving bits of themselves in place of the stories that are too hard to tell. The stories of their beginnings, their hardships, their truths. For if they don’t share the hurt, they believe they’re only planting happiness. They do not realize the void left behind by their secrets. A void that would be happily filled with truths.

    We pause and remember the early years. The years of our youth when history didn’t matter to us. Our concerns then were of homework and test scores, and who could play night games on a Thursday night. How our line of humans came to be didn’t cross our minds then. It is only now, as we age to point of self-reflection that we think back on all of the stories we never thought to ask.

    I like to think that somewhere inside of me, the women who came before me stand tall. I like to think they would look at where I’ve taken myself and be happy for that. I like to think they would read my words and admire the way I use my voice and tell my stories. Maybe they’d even get a kick out of some of the not so perfect parts, like my grandma Buster did, giggling when my cousin Hayley and I said ‘fuck’ in family conversations. I like to think they would look at me – the latest in these lines traversing like the brass inlay on a fancy globe – and be proud of where they ended up in life. With me.

    I didn’t get to know them all well enough, and I think on that now as an adult. I know Janice changed her middle initial to M so she didn’t have to completely give up her maiden name. A name that wasn’t even correct, changed by her ancestors after coming from Sweden. I know she loved her garden. I know she loved cooking a meal and having her family share her table. I know she loved reading a good mystery, and that she loved wearing glasses. She thought they gave way to the fact that she was smart.

    I wish I knew what she wanted when she was girl. I wish I’d thought to ask more questions when she talked about starting school to be a nurse, deciding quickly it wasn’t what she wanted to do. Did she know what she wanted to do? Was it something that would have been allowed at the time? I think not. See, I think of her as being a little more feisty in her youth than she was at a grandmother in my years. She was funny and vibrant, and I think she would have embraced that more if she was part of a different generation. But I don’t know because I didn’t think to ask.

    I think about my grandma Bear, and she is another mystery in my timeline, never to be solved. I know a lot about Ilene. I spent oodles of time with her during my childhood. So many hours of just the two of us, crafting or cooking, making cakes. I know her pinky was crooked because she cut her little finger off in the stand mixer. I know because I was there. It was a favorite story to tell in elementary school after the trauma. I know about her ailments and illnesses. I know she loved to listen to a man with a guitar, as we all did, reminiscent of nights at her parents tiny house, listening to her dad sing his songs while the smoke swirled in waves along the ceiling.

    I know she loved my grandpa enough to marry him 3 times, and I know she was difficult enough for him to divorce her 4. I don’t know what she wanted for herself though. Married and a mother before she was eighteen, is that all she saw for herself? The daughter of a fix it man, mink rancher, gold miner, bar singer, and his wife Thelma. Did her own mother’s lot of just a mother and a wife influence her, or did she dream of more? Would she have opened a bakery? Would she have traveled the world? I wish I’d thought to ask what the real her had wanted for herself.

  • My Words

    In Barbie World…

    Growing up, I was a Barbie Girl. I had everything a young girl in the 80s needed for the perfect Barbie World and it occupied most of my closet floor. I had the multi-level Barbie mansion complete with working elevator. I had all the furnishings Barbie needed for her mansion, including a “flushing” toilet. I had the giant Barbie pool with wrap around deck and water slide. I had the fancy silver Barbie Corvette with Barbie Pink interior. I had a massive Barbie closet with an enviable wardrobe and more tiny shoes than I could keep track of, and way more than my dozen or so Barbies could wear. Twelve Barbies is a guess because I don’t really remember all the Barbies I had as a kid, but there were several. And while I had several favorite Barbies, I only ever had one Ken, and he was a gift.

    While my Barbies had many adventures, Ken was decapitated in a horrible, single-car accident in the convertible Corvette. Yes, I started writing death scenes early in life. In my mind, what did I need Ken for? Ken didn’t have a fancy mansion with an elevator. Ken didn’t have a pool with plenty of space for entertaining (even when the water was left in the closet a little too long and went a little funky). Ken didn’t have a killer wardrobe or a cool car to drive around in. In fact, all the things Ken “had” belonged to Barbie. I didn’t hate boys any more than any other ten-year-old girl who thought boys had cooties did, but I didn’t need them to be in my play world for it to be complete. When Mattel told me Barbie could be anything, I believed it. A Veterinarian? Of course! An Astronaut? Absolutely! In my Barbie World, girls could do everything that wasn’t encouraged in the real world, and that was why I loved her.

    Even though I loved Barbie in my day, I was pretty uninterested in the Barbie movie that’s been everywhere. It wasn’t because I have anything against it, or Greta Gerwig, or Margot Robbie. I have a weird taste in movies. For storytelling, I like books. Rom-Coms and typical “Chick Flicks” don’t usually interest me. If I sit down to watch a movie and it’s just two hours of things blowing up, I’m happy. We haven’t been to a theater in a long while, and I know my husband misses it, but I had no intention of the Barbie movie changing that. Seeing the vitriolic reaction to the movie might just get me back in a theater seat though. It’s not the GOP flipping out over a cartoon map that piqued my interest. It was a rant that went on for over 40 minutes by a guy I call Dollar Store Tucker that pushed me over the edge. The whiny little twit went on and on about the movie being anti man. He accused Barbie of misandry. Misandry being opposite of misogyny, isn’t what Barbie is all about. From what I understand, this movie tells girls they can do anything, and no, they don’t need a man to make them successful, and that message really hurt his feelings. So much so that he went out and bought some Barbies to burn them, and then got upset that people thought he was a little over the top about the whole thing.

    Barbie isn’t a Man Hater. She also wasn’t created for forty-year-old men who fear empowering girls. The people who are trantruming over this message in the movie missed the entire point of what Barbie has always been. Growing up with her as a role model of sorts, Barbie never told me men were bad. The message she’s been giving to young girls since the 1960s is that Women are pretty awesome all by themselves and it is fucking vital for young girls to know that. I loved other dolls as a kid. I still have all five of my Cabbage Patch Kids from the 80s, and I played with them constantly too, but that play was different. You were just playing Mom when you played with those dolls. You were in a pretend pastry land when you played with Strawberry Shortcake and her Friends. But with Barbie, she told you you could be anything, and that message was so important to me.

    Barbie lets you play a grownup in her world and no matter what the real world told you, in Barbie World the sky was the limit. Young girls need to be encouraged to be themselves and follow their dreams. They need to be told that they are equal to the boys in the world. They need to be empowered. Young girls do not need to have adult men politicizing their play and making it into something hateful. They do not need adult men feigning offense at the message that girls are good enough. They’re already living in a country that won’t call them equal almost 250 years after the signing of the constitution, they don’t need adult men interjecting that same insult into Barbie World. Now it looks like I’ll be going to the movies…