Dairy Queen, 15 yrs. old

I ride a red-hot mountain bike to my shifts at Dairy Queen. Parents, if you want to safeguard your children against delinquency, ensure that they have to ride a wild hog like that around town. Transportation by two-wheeler does not a mischievous adolescent make. I leave my house a half an hour early for my shift at the DQ, having completed the story problem in my head: If Kendra wants to reach her destination three miles away and have both hands off the handlebar and she pedals at a pace of….

Coolness: there was no app for that.
yes

After I get my driver’s license, I am occasionally allowed to borrow the mini-van to drive to work. One night, while mopping the floor at DQ, I accidentally hit my head on the corner of a stainless steel prep table. I continue mopping until I see red droplets falling on the floor, coming from my head. I want to go tell my manager that I think I am bleeding but as I approach her, the information and the blood cross circuits and I stand there smiling creepily at her, pointing to my head.

“Why did you squirt Mr. Misty syrup on your head?” my manager asks, slightly annoyed.

My mouth is moving. The words are not.

“Oh my goodness! Oh Oh, sit down. Oh, that’s blood. Okay, hang on, let me call your parents.”

Both of my parents arrive in my dad’s car, wearing their pajamas. One to drive me home, one to drive the minivan home since I am too disoriented to get behind the wheel.

I totally hope my bloody slush story is part of the folklore of the Bay Village Dairy Queen.

***

The official uniform of high school evenings and weekends includes navy shorts two sizes too big and a beige polo with the DQ insignia. Weekdays I wear the navy pleated polyester dress code of my all-girls Catholic high school factory. Either a nun or a corporate queen dictates my high school wardrobe. You should see the fascism I overcome with a pair of socks.

kendra mags
(
above: In spite of the fact that I look 9, this is actually my 16th birthday). 

I know teens today are busy texting their bosses GUNNA B L8 as they drive barefoot to Hollister, listening to Howard Stern full blast on XM. But one thing that has not changed is the misguided usage of “teen” as a noun or adjective. Open a Teen Cafe or launch a Teen Scene website and you are a teeny bit going to guarantee no one below the age of 43 will think it is the hippest. And remember I consider myself an authority on these matters, since I am the epitome of high school hip.

This entry was posted in Retro.

Author, ready for close-up

Last spring, precisely during the height of the season when I was writing exams and collecting exams and grading exams and generally sitting on my booty for hours on end and practicing peanut M&M therapy on my exam stress, I asked one of my students to take some author photos for me.

Net net, it didn’t happen. Too stressy of a season. Also, I would have all summer to get back to my fighting weight, to achieve that sun-kissed glow on the apples of my cheeks, to rest and recharge and to generally appear like I fell out of a Hanna Andersson catalogue, wearing brightly colored Dutch clogs to boot.

Net net, it didn’t happen during the summer either.

So here I was, back in exam-dispensing land and not at my goal weight and generally feeling haggard about my appearance and searching in vain for that elusive twinkle that fell out of my eye sometime when I wasn’t paying attention, when I was probably pinning Dutch clogs onto a Pinterest board named “Footwear Fantasy.”

Then my friend Foxy wrote something on the social media about stepping onto a scale and realizing she was 20 lbs. lighter than her heaviest ever and it was not due to a crash diet or a wicked case of mono. She had just practiced eating healthier over a period of time. She had, in so many words, learned to love the body she’d been given and was seeking to live a life more abundant through this body mind soul gift.

I decided right then and there to book my portrait session with my wonderful student Jordan of JCorr Photography. That mystical moment where all the smoke would clear to reveal my size 4 self was never going to arrive. The best I could do was spare a little love for this lady and take a moment to capture the blessings of this season, because there are so many.

I’m pleased with the results, not because of my own vanity, but because these represent one woman whose time is rarely spent by herself, whose goals are often riding on the shirttails of others’, who woke up one misty morning and felt fully alive and blessed and a little bit sassy with her lucky ladybug helmet.

P.S. Book a session with Jordan. He’s amazing.

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6.75 years

Dear Baby Girl,

Last week you were bucked off a horse, and seven days since does not allow me any further eloquence…

I can tell you this, though: there is/was a space between the time I realized what was happening and the time I was picking you up from the ground as you were gasping for air when I was changed.

In between the time I was trying to figure out if the horse was going to trample you and the time I was trying to figure out if you would be paralyzed–I leaped over a few lifetimes.

My love deepened in a way that is different from the eyelash winking increments that it grows for you each day. It plummeted to the depths of someone being thrown from a building. Of a six year-old being thrown off the horse.

In that space, in those seconds that felt like the worst nightmare looping in slow motion, my heart reaffirmed something. I’m not sure if the heart spoke any words but if it did, they would have sounded something like, “Mine. Beloved. Will fight.”

Within moments of my picking you up, you proclaimed, “That is the last time I ride a wild horse! I am only riding Western from now on!” That was sort of snobby of you, but we all decided to forgive you, since you had been thrown off a large animal and all which probably addled your brain a bit.

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In the days since, I have been trying to memorize your face, your sweet face just as it is. I now know more acutely how quickly you could be snatched from the safety of this moment, a false safety if ever there were one.
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And the truth is that you are being snatched each and every moment from me. The moments are taken, seized without warrant. I should be used to it by now. In parenting we are forever straddling our own little heaven and hell at the same time; the heaven of the moments we want to preserve, the hell of having to will these moments away to cruel time; the hell of wanting the hard times to pass more quickly, the heaven of looking back on things when they felt so much simpler than the complicated present.

I will return to the horse and to you on the ground and I will pick you up thousands of times in my mind and my heart will reaffirm millions of beats more resoundingly that you are, indeed, my beloved and I will never stop fighting–time, distance, darkness, pain–to make sure you know that wild horses couldn’t keep me away.

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Love,

Mama

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