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How on God's green earth can 16- to 18-year-olds be world-weary enough to be truly cynical? I recently heard a high school graduation speech in which the speaker (and the top of her class) assumed the audience would be relieved to hear a laundry list of all the things her speech would not include (and therefore waste our time?), such as Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." I think she wanted us to know that she wouldn't bore us with a speech about making choices, reaching crossroads, moving forward, etc. I suppose that to many teenagers today, those seem like useless activities. Not "random" enough? And to drag Mr. Frost and his magnificently misunderstood poem into the mix? … Read more »
I used to tell people that I only had two fears regarding aging: (1) hair growing out of my ear canal, and (2) having toenails that look like Fritos ScoopsÂ®. Well, I have hair growing everywhere and have for some time now. Gym class at Tyner Junior High School was an embarassment for me, largely because the secondary sex characteristics involving body hair awakened in me before pretty much everyone else at my school. Though the 70s were dawning, my classmates were ready for neither a hairy chest nor a moustache [cue classic 70s porno soundtrack featuring a sinuous boom-chicka-baio-baioooo electric guitar]. In fact, my mother had this preternatural fear of my shaving for the first time, claiming that once … Read more »
Church was very important to me during my formative years. My parents insisted that we darken the doors of Morris Hill Baptist Church Sunday mornings and evenings as well as Wednesday evenings. Inexplicably, my teenage sister Frankie was all but excused from this regimen. She was forced to show up some Sunday mornings, but never on Sunday or Wednesday evenings.
Not that I minded that much. There was something comforting about my Saturday night routine which involved putting coins into my tithing envelope, studying my Sunday school lesson, and polishing my shoes. Sunday school itself was like public school for me: I got to see my friends, I enjoyed reading aloud, and I generally excelled at the whole interprise. … Read more »
I've always been a bit pre-emptive when it comes to what others may perceive as flaws in me. Nothing wrong with a little healthy self-deprecation. I crack wise about my size before anyone has the chance and, while my often out-of-control beard elicits comments, I'm quick to point out that it covers a weak chinned visage that bears a striking resemblance to Mad magazine's Alfred E. Newman. People think I'm kidding when I mention that, at birth, I had the ears of a full-grown man. They were HUGE. This is not only documented in photos, but my childhood nickname of "Big Ears" wasn't a misnomer. They remain a salient feature to this day.
Before you think I'm being too hard on myself, let me … Read more »
It's amazing, really, that I never took up smoking. Practically everyone in my family was caught in the web of tobacco: Daddy, Momma, sisters Audrey, Carolyn and Frankie, and a host of tertiary aunts, uncles and cousins. The habit was neither frowned upon nor encouraged by my kinfolk, the tacit warning being, "If you're old enough to smoke, you're old enough to buy your own. Lung cancer is your choice, but don't be bumming any cigarettes from me!" Smoking didn't interest me whatsoever. It wasn't rebellious and was uncool as my father's boring four-door Plymouth Satellite.
When Rhonda, my same-aged niece/best friend who lived in the trailer next door to ours finally married and moved to the small burg of Ooltewah -- … Read more »
When I was in elementary school my neck of the woods had yet to be annexed by the city of Chattanooga. Subdivisions were a new thing and small farms still dotted the area. At the time I could be called a "country boy" and the moniker would ring true. In all of the six years I spent at Westview Elementary School, I can only recall two "imports" -- Patrick M. from Iowa and Rex S. from California. It was a pretty insular community.
My uncle used to tell a joke about California being like cereal, something about being full of "fruits, nuts and flakes," but I always imagined the long slender state to be a place where all of the inhabitants were a short … Read more »
I was in New York City when my Dachshund, Lotte, died. I was chaperoning a group of 11th and 12th students, and I didn't want to put a damper on their trip with my personal woes, so I grieved alone. I told one of the other teachers, but, other than frequent calls home, I kept it all to myself. I cared for Lotte a great deal. When she grew old, I knew that she wouldn't be with me forever, so I lived constantly in the shadow of my impending loss; I was fairly successful in enjoying the moment, and I constantly reminded myself that Lotte couldn't have had a better home than with me.
Back at school, one of my students stayed after one … Read more »
I was living at home again when my father died; my two year stay in Nashville left me homesick and in debt, so the folks let me move back into the trailer and start over. I found a job in a metals fabrication factory and started paying them weekly rent. I couldn't really articulate yet what I would be doing with the rest of my life, and I enjoyed this pleasant parental purgatory. It was February, and Daddy had helped me fill out my income tax forms. I mailed them the morning he died, called home at lunch and jokingly asked him if I'd received my refund yet, and got home after work to find my mother kneeling beside where he … Read more »
I wake up when the alarm sounds - 5.50am. I snooze until it strikes 6 and fling the doona off and push my feet into my hot purple and pink Grosby's. [Sesame Steet "monster style" slippers] Walking calmly to the shower, I place my pjs in a pile and step into the recess. I love this part of the day. The hot water stinging my back and cascading downward. I'm already clean but the "wake up" shower is a necessity to the beginning. I squeeze the liquid wash into my palms and begin to lather. I find my thoughts wondering to the things I need to do but try to stay focussed on just being me.
Just being in the moment. This is … Read more »
I come from a long line of campers. It was only when I became an adult that I realized my parents couldn’t afford road trips to Florida and the like. I found our yearly jaunts to City Lake in Crossville, Tennessee to be everything a vacation should be: relaxing, carefree, and, in my eyes, somewhat extravagant. Living in a tent, cooking over a Coleman stove, and being gloriously left to my own devices while my parents fished all day was a great way to spend two weeks. My father only had a week of vacation, so one of the weeks, he actually got up every morning and drove 90 minutes one way to his job with the Southern Railway in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then back … Read more »
Growing up in a trailer made me envy my friends who lived in conventional houses, and growing up with no grandparents really made me jealous. When I watched my friends interact with their grandparents, it seemed to me that they had the perfect foils to their parents. My friends' grandparents were always giving them money when their parents did not. Their grandparents "understood" when stress levels between parent and child escalated. They could "run away" to their grandparents' where they often had their own room there, too.
My father's mother, Grandma Ball, died when I was five, and his father had been dead for many years. The only things I remember about Grandma Ball were her severe … Read more »
I am old enough to remember Warhol's famous quip about fame and fifteen minutes. I suppose the seed was planted then. I think the actual harvest came with the introduction of those ubiquitous "Baby On Board" suction cup window warnings that appeared in the early 80s. I almost always drive alone, so the message was clearly aimed at me: I had better be careful, because if I were involved with such a signed car, I might actually be party to something that could hurt a Baby (a clear metaphor for my/our Future). So . . . I'm in a wreck--whether or not it's my fault--and a Baby is inconvenienced; that is tantamount to my own personal safety . . . … Read more »
It's true that I grew up in a trailer. Not a "modular home"--these structures actually resemble houses--but an old-school trailer. We didn't live in a trailer park, however. My mother inherited two acres of land from her Uncle Mark, so, in 1963, my parents, my sister Frankie, and I moved into the very first non-rental property my parents had known in their 30+ year marriage. My mother was an inveterate cleaner, so it was one immaculate mobile home!
Joe, his mother, and his stepfather lived "up the hill" in a two-story brick home that was, to me, the epitome of suburban living. Joe's mother bore a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor c. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?, right down … Read more »
It's inside me, trying to get out. This great well of sadness, of despair; poisoning the well. It needs to come out.
I've tried laying on the floor and can feel it there, a heavy dead weight inside me. I've tried staring out of the window and it remains. Maybe I should watch a sad movie? The end of Amelie always does it... that level of despair she feels when she's in her kitchen imagining the man she loves has just swooshed the curtain over the door... and then it happens; but it's not him, it's the cat.
Everything seems to get in the way. Responsibilities distract, music distracts, the need to eat and bright lights distract. They take me away from the … Read more »
My cousin Megan and I were not ideal playmates. We both loved Barbie dolls but for different reasons. She liked creating the houses. She rearranged furniture for hours, which didnâ€™t hold any appeal to me. I took the time to create names and back stories for my characters.
I had modeled my Barbie family after my motherâ€™s soap operas, which always included a wealthy family and their less affluent neighbors. I called them the Evergreen family. The father was the governor of the town. (Knowledge of the political structure was not my strong point.) His wife, previously known as Dr. Barbie, was a strong supporter. They had two daughters, a wild redhead named Kayla and her dim-witted blonde sister … Read more »
I once thought that life was a novel uncompleted until the end. That life kept flowing without bumps or ruts in the path. I was wrong and learned my lesson the hard way. My lesson doesn't begin with the beginning of me, but at the chapter of darknest and pain.
I was fourteen and thought I had the world. I had great parents. I have siblings, seven of them. You might have notice that I said I had parents. That's the truth.
My parents passed on September 1, 2006. A tree, a single oak tree, destroyed my world. By falling on the double wide trailer I called home it turned my world upside down. It … Read more »
It all started when they made me drive the Kia.
Iâ€™d been in Connecticut about three weeks when the rental car company called and told me I couldnâ€™t keep the Toyota Corolla any longer. â€œItâ€™s almost been a month,â€ the serious desk clerk said. â€œWe have to check it out.â€ I had been in a pleasant state of denial, feeling the warmth of September in New England, feeling cocky about this move across country. California? Connecticut? Piece of cake. The rented Corolla was brand new and very cute. It got great gas mileage. It made me happy. It made me happy to deny I needed to buy my own car and accept I was really, truly living here.
I pulled the Corolla into the rental … Read more »
I am on my way home after work, trying to get to the Forbidden Planet bookstore on the other side of Broadway when the Bicycle Samurai crosses my path. Itâ€™s lucky Iâ€™m paying attention, because he is serenely oblivious to his surroundings, going by so close that he forces me back onto the pavement. I feel the breeze of his passing, but my mind hasnâ€™t caught up with my eyes. His lordship isnâ€™t moving very fast, but heâ€™s pedaling like crazy, clearly a bike with a low gear and nothing else, and the sheer spectacle of him, a floating rainbow of a figure moving in his own virtual self-contained bubble, chokes my instinctive New Yorker response.
The man is physically imposing, dwarfing the bicycle … Read more »
Tonight I was lying on the floor of my boysâ€™ bedroom floor with my arms thrown behind my head and my legs strewn carelessly on some piece of furniture where they donâ€™t belong, listening to my husband being a parent. Iâ€™ve done this on countless occasions over the past six-plus years, but this time, my jaws clenched in rage and my eyes welled up with tears.
He was perched on a beanbag next to their bunk bed, leaning on our four-year-oldâ€™s lower bunk. I couldnâ€™t see our first grader from my station on the floor, so it was hard to tell if he was listening to the long-form storytelling from his upper bunk. But when Mike finished the chapter and quizzed Hudson on some … Read more »
This is a profile of who I was, and who I've become. I was the girl with a best friend from all the books, the perfect, popular, funny, smart, and too-good-to-be true personality. She saw through my shyness, my geekiness, my wall I had been building slowly with words and pages. My ignorance was bliss, because I had Caity on my side.
But this isn't about those days of pure simplicity, of swapping secrets and revealing secret crushes until 9:00 at night. It's not about summertime romances, however exciting, and fun to be a part of. It's about.
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