Archive for September, 2008

Panic ain’t pretty.



Ever wonder what life will look like if the powers that be don’t come up with some solutions to the gas/energy/global warming/dependence on foreign oil conundrum? Well, last weekend here in Nashville we got a little preview and guess what– NOT GOOD!

Apparently, (and this part is still a little fuzzy), word started spreading around town that because of the recent hurricane activity in the Gulf, the Colonial Pipeline which supplies gas from Texas to Atlanta to Nashville was out of commission. That was partially true, or at least there had been enough damage that the supply was temporarily slowed. If everyone had just carried on as usual, we would have been fine. Unfortunately as soon as RUMORS of a possible shortage got out, everybody in town just lost their shiz and started filling up every vehicle they owned all over town, as well as lugging 5 gallon gas cans into every Mapco, BP and Shell station from here to Jackson. The result? Self-fulfilling prophecy, the whole dang town ran smack out of gas! Honey, we even made CNN– we were the only place in the whole country that was having this kind of reaction and there was a lot of news footage of all of us looking like big ol’  panicked, grouchy Nashvillian fools, lined up for blocks and blocks trying to get GAAAAAAS. And we weren’t nice to each other, either– that whole Southern hospitality thing went right out of the window. Local police had to make sure things didn’t get out of hand at some gas stations because there were fights breaking out all over the place as tempers ran high. Line-jumpers were the cause of most of the fury, although one loyal local guy being interviewed on the news looked earnestly into the camera and said that he thought most of the culprits were “not from here” (read, ‘YANKEES’!)

I started the weekend out at about a quarter of a tank, and though everything in me wanted to join the stampede, the news of people spending hours waiting in line was enough to keep me home. Plus I was trying to be a good citizen and everything. We had houseguests this weekend, and my friend Bobby got home at 1:00 a.m. the day before they were supposed to head back to Texas because he had been sitting in a line all the way down the shoulder of the interstate with his red gas light on for almost 3 hours before he could fill up his tank at a little two-pumper station. He said tempers flared and things got a little dicey when one of the pumps ran out and there were still two lines full of people waiting. Of course, good ol’ Bobby was raised in Bald Knob, Arkansas so frankly my money would have been on him if if things got ugly.

After spending a boring quiet weekend around the house, by Monday I was ready to find some gas and rejoin the world, but alas, it was not that easy. I drove past station after station that had removed the price numbers from their big signs out front, as well as plastic-bagged their pump handles and, for good measure, wrapped the entire gas island in yellow caution tape. It was very eery to pass big empty sign after big empty sign– like that old Twilight Zone episode when Burgess Meredith comes out of the building and finds out he’s the last man left on earth. Remember that one? No? Oh well, I think that one ends up with him stepping on his glasses so he can’t read all of the books in the last library left on earth or something, which is where this analogy breaks down anyway. Libraries and glasses we got, it’s gas we’re out of.

ANYWAY, I waited in line yesterday for about 20 minutes on Franklin Road, a little smug that I had finally happened upon a station with gas and a relatively short line, and then when I was about three cars away from the pump the harried looking station employee that had been standing in the middle of the street directing traffic with a bandanna tied to the end of a yardstick suddenly started waving the two cars in front of me around her. She was making a finger-across-the-throat gesture and shrugging broadly to indicate, I guess, that she was out of gas, didn’t know why, and please don’t kill her. It took another 24 hours before I found another station, and they only had regular grade gas and would only allow me to purchase ten gallons worth.

So… does anyone know if regular gas is going to kill my car (that is supposed to only use premium)? Not that I ever do because, hello! Expensive! But I do usually use the medium grade– what’s that called, ‘Plus’ or something?– and my car has never blown up or anything, so I’m hoping that I’ll be OK. Maybe if I can find a station with Premium I’ll top the tank off with that. My days of being a good citizen are apparently over– GIMMEE SOME GAS, DANG IT! I swear, if this is any indication of what this city is going to be like in case of nuclear holocaust of anything, I think we may be screwed because it’s every man for themselves around here. Yikes. Not a tea party. More like the Donner Party.

So how is it where you guys are, anyway?

“Got gas?!”

(Fill in your own joke here.)

“Tender Hearts”

Ok kids, I am digging deep into the archives today because I have time-management issues and am still putting the final touches on an article for Homecoming Magazine that I should have turned in yesterday and therefore have got nothing/nada/zilch/bupkes to post today I thought you might enjoy a blast from the past.

I wrote this when Madi Rose was seven.

This morning I dropped her off at her school so she could get on a bus with her classmates for an all-day spiritual retreat about two hours away. As we pulled out of the driveway, she was putting the finishing touches on her make-up (*cough*too much eyeliner*cough*) in the rear-view mirror while simultaneously eating a carton of yogurt and complaining about having to get up so dang early on a Saturday and the fact that she had cramps, and suddenly…. I had a vision of the 7 year old Madi and got all nostalgic and lump-in-my-throat-y. Don’t get me wrong, I love this current incarnation of my first-born. She is as funny and quirky and fascinating and dear as the 7 year old version was, only with more eye makeup and attitude. KIDDING! (Sorta.) At any rate, I came home and dug out this essay and thought I would post it here. Later today if I ever finish that article I might go up and dig through our family photos and see if I can come up with a picture to show you her little long-ago self– if so, I’ll post it at the end of the piece. So anyway, Happy, um, Archives Day!


  “Tender Hearts”

 My daughter Madi Rose can communicate with animals.  That’s what she tells me, and who am I to argue?  She has explained, with all the front-tooth-missing earnestness of a seven year old, that if she squats down in front of them, and looks in their eyes and gets very still she can hear their thoughts. She has demonstrated this on several occasions, the most recent one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a Smokey Mountain tourist trap cloaked in the guise of a faux-folksy European village. The two of us were wandering the winding, Bermuda-shorts-clogged streets alone, having relegated her little sister to a much needed nap in the hotel room with her dad. Madi Rose spotted a small shallow stream running parallel with a side street, complete with several larger than usual mallard ducks paddling around in it. When we got closer, we could see a female duck up on the bank, brown and drab compared with the flashier males, hunkered down in the tall weeds. There was some small movement at her side, and we could barely distinguish the shapes of ducklings surrounding her, maybe five or six of them.

Madi Rose insisted that we get closer, and despite my warnings that she was going to spook them, she ended up on all fours in the grass, motionless, barely five feet away from the ducks. After casting a wary eye and making a little throaty noise to warn her babies to stick close, the mother appeared to decide that my daughter was harmless, and again settled in. They stayed that way for a long time, and I could see Madi’s lips moving and the duck stirring around, keeping a watch on her ducklings and apparently, I swear to God, listening. After an inordinately long time, and several  increasingly stern admonitions to “Come ON, sweetie, we have to go,” Madi Rose finally got up, said one last thing to the duck family and reluctantly joined me. “So, how cool was that?”I started to say, but she raised one finger to silence me and then reported, “Ok. Her name is Annie, she’s not sick, just taking a little rest, she’s lived here for three years and says that she pretty much enjoys her children but they can really wear her out, and sometimes they get on her last nerve.”  

 Later that night, curled up in our hotel room bed, she mused aloud about this favorite ‘special talent’, as she refers to it; (her other ‘special talent’ being an uncanny ability to make really loud flatulent noises with her armpit, AND the space behind her knee.) “I think,” she said, “that they let me hear their thoughts because they know that I have a, well,… you know.” And I did know. This is not the first time we have had a conversation about Madi Rose’s “tender heart.” That phrase has been offered as an explanation for all manner of things–why she cries when her Daddy sings, why she can’t stand to watch TV shows about children or animals being hurt, why she can’t join a soccer league. Her well-documented tender heart is part of our family lore. Now on more than one occasion I have tried to carefully explain to her the difference between having a heart that is easily moved and compassionate, which is a good thing, and having the kind of heart that is touchy and constantly getting it’s feelings hurt. “That is not a good thing,” I say. “That basically just drives people crazy and makes them not want to be around you.” “I KNOW the difference,” she insists, eyes rolling with impatience.  “I don’t have that yucky kind.” 

And the older she gets, and the more I observe her way of relating to the world, the more I suspect that not only is she right, but what we are calling “tender heart” may be better described as a “woman’s heart.” There is a depth and range to her heart that belies her years, and it seems to have room in it for all manner of people and things. Yet she is also a bit discriminating, and she doesn’t appear to allow just any old stuff in. When she loves, it is with an intensity that is sometimes disturbing to me, as I remember my teenaged angst-ridden years and project that into her future. But even as I fear for her, even as my protectiveness rises, I sense a resilience in my Madi Rose’s heart that I have just come to recognize in my own rather beat-up, 40-something year old model. In my case it’s a resilience born of experience, of surviving shattering disappointments and betrayals and slowly, painstakingly learning to rebuild, and heal, and love again. So wheredoes hers come from? 

  It could almost make me believe in reincarnation, I almost think she is an ‘old soul’ with a recycled heart, one that learned it’s lessons in past lives.  But of course, I’m too steeped in Bible Belt Christianity for that.As attractive a prospect as it would be to have more than one time around to try to get it right, I’m afraid that kind of Eastern thinking and my kind of Southern sensibilities could never really comfortably coexist.  I’m more inclined to indulge in another kind of magical thinking, and maybe if I wrap this theory in Christian terms like “grace”, it will go down easier with me. 

 What I wonder is this– could it be that somehow, as I gave birth to Madi Rose, and her sister Charlotte, that they gave birth to me too? That maybe a renewal started to happen in my heart, a softening around the experience-hardened edges, a slow fading away of lines and scars; kind of a cinematic time-dissolve into a younger, fresher, more childlike version? (I like to imagine it happening like those 70’s magazine ads where the rather tired-looking model applies the moisturizing cream in one picture, and then we are stunned by her youthful smiling face in the next picture!)  What if, simultaneously, a little of my hard-won wisdom and perspective could  somehow seep into my girlbaby’s consciousness as she rode around inside me, so close to my own heart?  What if she could be sort of prenatally inoculated, so that she would not necessarily be compelled to repeat every mistake and pitfall a trusting heart can fall prey to– boy, there’s a thought. 

 I think that’s the explanation I choose to believe.  That as this battered heart of mine learns to allow itself to remain tender and willing to be open in spite of the risks, somehow, divinely, at the same time, Madi Rose’s gentle soul grows strong and wise, and tough enough to survive. That she develops a bullshit detector and I figure out how to talk to animals.

The heart of a woman, the heart of a child.  The trick of it, the minor miracle, is to manage to have a little of both.


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