THE BOX

Every year when I go home I acquire stuff. People give me stuff and it won’t fit in my suitcase so I mail it. Yes, I use snail mail because with a Priority Flat Rate box I will receive it in 2 to 3 days. Usually, I do. But not this time. This box contained Emma’s birthday present and one of my at-home-private-lesson quilting projects of which I was most proud.

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I waited 2 days before checking the tracking number 17 times. My mom had sent the box on Monday because I left too early to do it myself. I made her promise to send it that day. She did. I made her pinky swear. She did. I made her promise to call me with the tracking number. She did. She called that afternoon to report she had completed her mission.

Day 3 the package had not arrived. I checked the tracking number 36 times that day. Layce kept eyeballing me. “It’s going to come,” she said.

“How do you know that? Is there another online site I should try?” I said, checking the tracking number for the 37th time.

“No, there isn’t. I’m just saying your box might be on the slow train but it’ll eventually arrive. They call it snail mail for a reason.”

“So what are you saying? I shouldn’t be concerned that my box is lost. It’s full of important things, irreplaceable things, things that I hold dear. It’s out there somewhere in the ether and not on our front porch where it should be. This is serious.”

“I realize that but it’s only been 3 days.”

“I don’t think you do. I mean where is it? The tracking number says it arrived at site and then it never moved again.”

I called my mother. “I sent it. I swear. I pinky swear,” she said.

“It’s not you. It says right here on the tracking number that you mailed it Monday morning at 9:48. It says it was picked up from the post office at 4: 45 and arrived at the plant at 5:10. And then the trail stopped.”

I don’t think my mother knew why I called to tell her this. I called because I needed my mother’s empathy and security to get me through this crisis of the lost box. If I lived in the same town, she’d hug me and I’d cry. Sometimes, a girl just needs her mother.

On day 4, I checked the porch every hour. No box. I hadn’t yet got to the point of harassing the mail carrier. I was once a mail lady so I knew how it felt to be hounded about a missing package. She would say, just like I did, “I’ll keep my eye out for it.” Which is impossible. This line might work on an unsuspecting innocent but not on a retired letter carrier. The mailing plants are enormous. My box could be anywhere. Anywhere except my porch.

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On day five, I took to the phone. I called every number I could find—submitting myself to endless phone trees. When it comes to the government these phone trees are like the Black Forest in Germany. Finally, I reached Pakistan. I got the answer I most dreaded. It was lost but now it was found—sort of.

“It got misrouted and now it’s back in Spokane,” the nice phone lady said. “You’ll get it next week, I’m sure.”

This relieved me—sort of. “If it got misrouted where did it go? Was there something wrong with the address that made it get misrouted? Can you check and see what the address is?”

She put me on hold seven times and then I’m pretty sure she misrepresented the facts. She told me they had a camera and took a picture of the box label but they couldn’t read it. It might have had something to do with all the clear strapping tape I’d covered the box in so I bought her story. I rechecked the tracking number for two more hours.

On Saturday the tracking number said it had arrived at the Tahlequah post office. I did a happy dance. Layce, who I think was ready to murder me, sighed with relief. Or I’m pretty sure it was relief. She had told me more than once that she was sick of hearing about THE BOX. So it probably was relief.

At 11:26 on Saturday we were on our way to Tulsa. I spotted the postal vehicle driving through our neighborhood. I fingered the car door handle. Layce wasn’t going over twenty-five MPH. If I leapt out right now how bad would I get hurt?

mail truck

Layce glanced over at me. “Do you want to stop and check with the mail lady?”

“Yes!”

The mail lady had the box! I got in the car and clutched it to my breast. “I am so relieved. You can’t imagine,” I told Layce.

“Oh, I think I can,” she said.

NOTE FROM LAYCE: Saxon Dearest, If I hear one more thing from you about this box, I’m going to lose it. I have lived with ‘The Box’ for over a month now and it’s time to let it go–capish.

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OPPOSABLE THUMBS

What if dogs and cats had opposable thumbs? I spent one whole day researching opposable thumbs. No one in my family found this odd. God bless them.

I will begin with the cynical side of having of dogs and cats having opposable thumbs. Would we turn them into serfs and house slaves? With thumbs dogs could vacuum, dust, and mop. Would this be their permanent lot in life? Would their only allowable career be as a Merry Maid?

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And what about cats? Would they permanently be cleaning bathrooms now that with thumbs they could hold a sponge? Getting down and scrubbing the tub because their height would be perfect for removing the ring of god-knows-what that every bath tub has. Bathroom mirrors and vanities would prove no problem. Pulling the Windex trigger would pose no trouble with a thumb.

How about laundry? Nobody likes doing the laundry. Just because cats have thumbs and they can fold underpants and t-shirts doesn’t mean they should have to. Or how about the cruelest thing of all— cleaning out the microwave? Would we give them protective eyewear? Would OSHA care? I can see an industrial accident in the making. Would they be protected by a union?

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Now in a Panglossian world, the lives of dogs and cats with opposable thumbs would be radically improved—beginning with civil rights. This might take a while, as history has shown, but it is possible. What if the human race recognized the beautiful souls of dogs and cats? What if they had souls capable of writing great literature now that they could hold a pen or use the space bar on a computer?

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Or creating lithographs of cans of cat food or paintings of gardens filled with squirrels waiting to be chased. Perhaps Martha Stewart line of 1000 thread count dog beds or a Patagonian line of outerwear.

cat art

Dogs would come up with time saving inventions now that they could use power tools that would free humans from banal chores and provide more time for long walks on the beach. Would the Patent Office recognize their applications for these inventions?

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What if they could hold political office now that they could shake hands? I’m certain they would eradicate homelessness—human and animals. No dog, cat or human would live a lonely life. They would be social workers and care givers and even therapists as they have long been good listeners with a built in sense of empathy.

They could be financial wizards who believed in profit sharing and fiscal ethics now that they could use an Excel program. Or how about Nascar drivers now that their thumbs allowed them to grip a steering wheel? Have we ever considered why dogs sit in the driver’s seats when forced to sit in the car, except on hot days, because the world does not allow cats or dogs in businesses and restaurants. How would we feel?

They would change discriminatory semantics like “It’s just a dog or cat.” Really, would they ever say “It’s just a human?” Would they ever be that inhumane? Or how about being called a “beast?” clumped in with “beastly” behavior? I know they would put a stop to beast-aphobia. What about the sexism of females dogs being called “bitches?” What about that injustice? Have humans ever thought about how powerful derogatory language can be?

And lastly, bad behavior? Really a dog can’t jump or lick your face? It’s called dog love. After all, don’t we show them that we do that? Do as I say not as I do? I mean those slobbery kisses from relatives and teenagers just learning to kiss, isn’t that the same thing? How messed up is that? Separation anxiety? Peeing inside, don’t we do that?

So here’s to the dogs and cats in our lives. Maybe someday they will have thumbs and shouldn’t we embrace that? Let’s find our better nature.


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Saxon’s Spontaneous Day

I am not prone to spontaneity. I am a planner. I am a researcher of planning. I need prior notice of at least 2 days in order to engage in any activity.

Yesterday was a tentative new leaf for me. It started with Emma and me talking about a story I wanted to spontaneously write where three cocky teenagers wake up in the morning to discover they’re 55 and possess an AARP card.

“When they wake up and look in the mirror they scream. One of them is well endowed and discovers what all women discover—gravity,” I said.

“One of them has gone deaf from listening to his iPod so loud. He hears things wrong all the time,” Emma said.

“And one of them goes bald. His buddy tells him when they go back to normal to enjoy his hair while he still has it.”

I spontaneously decided I needed a new wheelbarrow. We went to Tahlequah Lumber to purchase it. Emma and I accompanied the sales clerk out front to get my wheelbarrow. It was red. I recalled a poem about a red wheelbarrow. I told Emma, “A red wheelbarrow reminds me of that poem by William Carlos Williams. Did you know he was also a physician? Just imagine if he’d been a gynecologist. He might have written a poem about…”

red wheel barrow

Emma clamped her hand over my mouth. “What?” I asked, my voice muffled.

We decided to check out Tahlequatics , the new water park in town. It was here that I reached the zenith of my  truly spontaneous day. “Let’s go get our suits and come back for a swim. My family seemed to ponder this like it was some kind of trick. “I mean it. We’ll just go for a nice dunk. I’m being spontaneous, remember?”

“I don’t know. Do we even know where the beach towels are?” Layce said.

“Of course,” Emma said. “Saxon packed them all up and put them in the beach bag along with the 75  SPF sunscreen at the end of last summer. She put it in the attic next to the Survival Bag.”

“Survival bag?” Layce asked.

“Yeah, the one that contains extra shoes, a first aid kit, bottled water, a map of the United States, a hundred dollars in small bills, thirty dollars in quarters, energy bars, canned goods, a flashlight, a condensed family album that covers the years 2000-2015, our passports and birth certificates, oh, and a whistle,” Emma said.

Good kid, she had perfect recall. I beamed at her proudly.

Layce threw caution to the wind and asked, “Why do we need a Survival Bag?”

“In case of a terrorist attack, a tornado or a dystopian government. We might have to make a run for Canada before they take Emma away and put all us gay people in internment camps,” I said.

“How much does this bag weigh?” Layce asked. She was evidently wondering how we’re going to run with such a heavy bag. Now, I knew she was on board with my running for the border plan.

“It’s heavy, but Saxon said that’s why people have children so they can carry the heavy things when their parents get old,” Emma replied.

We changed into our bathing suits and returned to Tahleaquatics. Layce made the pertinent inquiries—cost, hours of operations and the rules and regulations. The cashier told her someone puked in the pool. It would take approximately an hour to thoroughly clean it. Meanwhile I’d been standing there trying to figure out how come no one was in the pool. Was it some sort of 1960’s sit-in?

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“We have to wait an hour until they get the pool cleaned up,” Layce informed us.

“Ask them how long ago the puking thing happened,” I said.

“No, I’ve already asked a bunch of questions,” she replied.

I walked up to the window. “So how long ago did the vomit incident occur?”

“Huh?” the kid at the desk said.

“How long ago did the puke-thing happen?” I rephrased.

The kid looked at the clock. “Thirty minutes ago.”

My spontaneous moment crumbled a bit. If I had planned for this we would have been less spontaneous and took our time changing instead of running around gathering supplies and flying out of the house. We would have arrived never knowing that the vomit incident had occurred. Instead, we’d rushed into it. I sighed. I didn’t have a contingency plan for public vomiting.

“We’ll wait,” Layce said.

We sat and waited. The air fairly crackled with anticipation. We all stared at the pool—waiting for the okay signal. My spontaneous mood was seriously falling apart at this point. If I had planned our outing this never would have happened.

Emma laid down on her towel so she was facing away from the pool. Smart, I thought. No sense staring at what one cannot currently have—it was a spontaneously good plan.

A boy walked by and stopped. “Are those your shoes?” he said, pointed to Emma’s Crocs.

Emma sat up and turned to him. “Yes,” she replied.

“Nice shoes for a pretty girl.”

Emma blushed. It was so cute. What a spontaneously romantic moment, I thought. “That boy is going to get a lot of tail. He already knows about women. He compliments her shoes and then tells her how pretty she is,” I said.

Emma stuck her fingers in her ears. “Stop.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“Ugh,” she replied.

There was a loud whistle. The pool was declared safe. Everyone leapt in the water. My heart swelled, I was so filled with what can only be called spontaneous joy.

Maybe this spontaneous thing wasn’t so bad after all.

By the way this blog was spontaneously written.

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THE LADY BUG

Layce and I were going on a walk as part of our exercise program. We stepped out on the porch. She saw the stuffed animal—a lady bug—sitting on our porch swing. She looked at me and said, “Why is there a stuffed animal on our porch?”

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“I’m jealous of the Eeyore lady.”  There is a house we walk by that has a stuffed Eeyore in the front yard. Eeyore moves around the yard every few days. One day he’s under a tree, two days later he’s on the porch and the next day he’s on a fence post. The moving Eeyore has become a highlight of our walks. I continue my explanation, “I think the Eeyore lady is really falling down on the job. Eeyore doesn’t move around as much as he used to. He’s been sitting on the bench for three days now. I’d call that slacking. I feel it’s my civic duty to take up the slack.”

“And you want to do this because?” Layce asked.

“Because I want to spread a little joy in the world.”

“How is having a large stuffed lady bug sitting on our porch swing going to accomplish that?”

“When we walk by the Eeyore house don’t we always look to see if she’s moved Eeyore? And aren’t we a little disappointed when she hasn’t?”

“Okay.”

“So I want to give the people who drive by our house a little chuckle before they go to work. Not everyone likes their job. We get to follow our joy by having a job we love—writing. See, when they drive by each day they’ll look for “Lady,” that’s her name, and see where we’ve moved her. It might be the highlight of their day.”

At that moment, Emma came out the front door and did a double-take at the lady bug. “Why is there a stuffed lady bug sitting on our porch swing?”

Layce looked at me and then at her. “Just roll with it.”

Emma said, “That doesn’t answer my question.”

I answered, “I’m spreading joy. Do you think we could put her on the porch roof as one of her daily locations?”

Layce sighed heavily and walked away.

“I think we can get her on the roof. We can tie a fish line around her neck and throw her up there then we can still retrieve her later without having to use a ladder, which you view as a safety hazard,” Emma said.

“That’s my girl,” I said proudly.


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MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER

I never really understood the lyrics to that Rolling Stone song. I knew it wasn’t about a newfangled mop head or a Eureka pull-behind vacuum or the invention of Pledge. It’s about Valium.

This is my experience with Mother’s Little Helper:

I had been scheduled for an epidural. Now for those of you who have healthy backs and not in the know, an epidural is a big, long needle that is stuck through your back and into the nerves of your spine. The inflamed nerves that are causing leg pain and numbness are pumped with steroids to help with the symptoms that pinched nerves create.

syringe

Being needle phobic, even though I’m not exactly going to see the very long needle, I was understandably nervous. The doctor gave me a Valium prescription for two 10 mg tablets. He said take one when you leave the house and another when you’re half an hour outside of Tulsa.

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By the time I got to the office I was three sheets to the wind. First off, we had a little trouble getting me on the table. I tried to put my feet on the stool so I could get up on the table. The stool seemed to have little stool legs that kept moving around. I had some trouble getting my feet on this moving stool.

The doctor’s assistant was a large guy and he picked me up and plopped me on the table. Then both of them, the doctor and his assistant, pushed me to the neck rest.

The doctor showed me the x-rays as he inserted the needle. It all looked like tinker toys with a pick-up stick going through them. He kept saying “Saxon, are you all right? Saxon, earth calling Saxon, this is Captain Kirk, can you hear me?” I was muttering and drooling by this time. I’d never been this high before.

Then it was over. The doctor and his big buddy managed to get me off the table and hand me over to Layce. They seemed to be smiling a lot—like they had some inside joke. I was released to Layce’s custody.

Layce stopped at Quick Trip to get us coffee and a snack for the ride home. All I remember was standing by the donut case…for a very long time. The sign on the case said they had kiwi-filled donuts. I kept looking, but they were hiding. Then a chocolate creamed-filled donut called my name. Then the kiwi one said, “Psst, I’m over here.” I decided to get them both. They seemed to need a good home.

In the meantime, Layce had gone to the restroom, got coffees and found me where she had left me—standing in front of the donut case. I was trying to get the little plastic bag open for a very, very long time. Layce took charge, opened the bag, deposited both donuts.

Next thing I knew I was in the car, my face covered in donut cream, and listening to songs that began with the letter “H” on my MP-3 player. Layce said I really got head-banging over Pat Benatar’s “Hell is for Children.”

“Did we pay for these donuts?” It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t remember the cashier or any money passing hands.

“I got it covered.”

“Oh, good.”

I don’t remember much about getting home. I don’t remember reading half a book. I did take a nap in my recliner and about dinner time I was reasonably cognizant.

“Did I do anything stupid while I was a drugged up?”

“I’m not telling.”

I’ve been trying to reconstruct the scenario but it seems just out of reach. Call it a Mother’s Little Helper fog. Oh, I’d advise taking only one Valium at a time.

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Gigolo Girl

Originally posted on layce gardner:

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When Mildred’s girlfriend runs off with all the egg money, Mildred decides she has had enough of small town living. She leaves her chicken ranch behind and heads for the big city of Bon Chance, Texas. Once there, she gets a job as a gigolo girl—and pleasing sex-starved lesbians is the name of the game. She meets another gigolo girl, Desiree Hart, and falls madly in love. But it’s against company policy to date a fellow employee. Can Mildred and Desiree…

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MY MOTHER IS A SAINT

I was not the child I thought I was. In my mind, I was well-behaved from the moment of birth. I was malleable to suggestions for improvements, and I was good listener. This was before I learned about the tank, the escape artist, the fashionista, the tyrant and the naughty teenager.

I discovered these things over the years as my mother gently mentioned them from time to time or as they came up as Little Saxon stories to my girlfriends.

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In order of appearance: It was Christmas. My mother had purchased me a cute little dolly. That’s what mothers did for their little girls because little girls were supposed to like dolls. My older brother got a tank. The first words out of my mouth were “My tank.” I pointed at the tank. I dropped the dolly and snatched the tank. Needless to say, there was a tussle.

The Escape Artist: My mother’s best friend lived across the street. She had a cute little boy that I had a baby crush on. Daily, I would waddle my diapered ass across the street to see my crush. Horrified, my mother would drag me back and counsel me on the dangers of crossing the street unsupervised. I nodded, but did it again and again. My father built a small fence to keep me imprisoned in my own front yard. I dug a hole and slipped underneath.

The Fashionista: I insisted on dressing myself. And we all know how that works out—mismatched outfits, hideous color coordination, and in my case, a penchant for wearing my clothes inside out. My father and my grandmother couldn’t figure out how come my mother wouldn’t make me mind. I can tell them now—because she was exhausted with my antics. Just combing my hair was a battle in itself, never mind getting me dressed.

The Tyrant: I went to kindergarten and while walking home I told my mother, with all the righteous conviction my five year-old self could muster, that I would not be going back. I’d tried it and I didn’t like it. In my mind, the deal was settled. Surely, she would understand. That began my career of coming home from school each day and delivering a speech of all the injustices heaped upon me by an unjust and evil world. Couldn’t she see that I should not have to put up with this banal crap? That went on until she went back to school and became a nurse. I had lost my audience.

The Naughty Teenager: I’m pleading the Fifth Amendment on these stories because when she reads this I just don’t think she could handle it.

So Happy Mother’s Day! I love you for still loving me. I know it must be hard but look how well it all turned out—I’m not driving a tank, escaping from prison, wearing my clothes inside out and I didn’t go into politics. It’s all good.