Monday, March 21, 2016

Blue Hair Rules

It was 4:13 in the morning when the deed went down.  I was sure it was a shady guy and it probably happened in a damp, dark basement.  I’m sure the perp was impaired. I would bet he was eating chips.  

I don’t know that it really happened this way, of course, but this is how I imagined the $1,842 were charged to my credit card.

He bought some sort of welding machine online, in the early morning, from an industrial supply company located somewhere in the middle of the United States. He used my credit card number.  I’m sure his mother was sleeping upstairs and never suspected a thing.  Our well loved credit card company never notified us of this questionable charge.

Perhaps the credit card company speculated, as I initially did, that this was a typical charge.  It was, admittedly, indicative of the husband's typical car guy, credit card behavior. The credit card company threw the husband under the bus.  As a result, we were never notified of this unusual charge.

When I found the charge, days later, I asked the husband what he had done.  The husband was offended, as he should have been, and denied it all. The credit card company believed my claim that the husband was innocent, refunded my money and declared my impeccable credit a preserved manuscript.

When the dust settled, we determined that it was the perp who was guilty.  I felt violated and was perplexed, “How does this happen?”

It was  11:49 in the morning, a few weeks later, when the deed went down.  I knew it was me and I knew it happened at Sally Beauty Supply in a strip mall that was in the same parking lot as an Applebee's and across the street from a Kohl’s.   I bought, in person,  a $5 bottle of semi-permanent aqua blue hair dye.  I was sure it would stop me from looking like I was 65 years old every time I looked in the mirror at my gray curly hair.  The sun was out and I hadn't eaten any chips. But only because I there weren’t any within arm’s length.

The credit card company’s first reaction when they saw the blue dye charge was to  flag it as suspicious.  I had always been a low maintenance kind of gal, and gosh dang it, they knew it.  They texted the husband immediately.   Criminal activity was goin’ down. No one from this joint credit card account had EVER been to the beauty supply store.

The husband called me 3 minutes later.  They want to know if you’ve been places.   

“Yeah, I’ve been places. “ I barked back with a little bit of attitude.

“Did you try to become high maintenance?” the husband asked me, not using those exact words.

“Oh yeah, I did.” I declared with confidence.  “I’m goin’ blue.  And then I won’t feel so bad about myself.”

“You go girl!”, the husband said in a different, smart, husband who’s been married for 27 years kind of way.  

The credit card company took some convincing but they eventually believed in the power of the blue hair dye. The credit card company eventually thought my $5 blue hair dye was a more believable charge than the $1,842 charge from from a chip eating industrial basement guy.

Basement, chip eating guys fail.  
Blue hair rules.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mount Vernon

File:Mount Vernon (WA) High School - Old Main 01.jpg
Photo by Joe Mabel

I always looked for you. 

Every time I returned, I would look for you.
I would look for your 18 year old faces.

I would drive up I-5, pass the Starbird road exit and start looking to the left for the refinery smoke and the islands.  I’d look to the right to see how many people had moved to Conway and hope for a brief glimpse of Mt. Baker.  I would drive past the trumpeter swans and snow geese and wonder when the first tulip bloom would arrive in the fields.  I’d pass Hillcrest Park and remember when the animals lived in those tiny cages. I would wander down the viaduct, past the revetment and the Tri Dee store and think of sandbags and floods.  I’d pass the Mexico Café, rediscover old cravings, and continue on to explore the flat of the west side.

I’d drive pass the high school and wonder….what would I do differently?  How many of you did I miss out on?  Because, you know, I wasn’t so smart back then. I was scared back then. 

I would come down the hill near the high school, pass the store that didn’t care if you were underage and then cruise Riverside on my way to the “new” mall.  I would cross the bridge that eventually fell down, look down at the river below and mention that it looked a little high.   I would roam the stores of that new mall and scan the crowd.  I was sure the stores would be full of people I had gone to school with. 

I was sure I would see you. 

When I didn’t find you I told the husband that you must have all moved away.  I was 22 or 35 or 41 when I looked for you.   I remembered you all frozen in time.  I was searching for your 18 year old faces.

I would leave the mall and say, “Can you believe this traffic?  It wasn’t like this when I lived here.” 

And then came Facebook.  Facebook says we are friends again because we grew up there.  We know people who know people.  And the low self esteem part of me couldn’t be happier about that.

I’ve stalked your photos and none of us look like we are still 18 years old.  I’ve stopped looking for the younger version of you when I visit the mall.   Some of you though, let’s be honest, you had no idea who I was in high school.   I probably knew who you were though.  I was like that.  I knew your name, I knew who you hung out with and I can tell you who you tried to be back then.  I can tell you if you were more likely to hang out down by the tree, smoking whatever you had in your pocket or to debate Mr. Cornelius over philosophy and current events during lunch.   I knew how many votes you got in the “Bulldog” high school newspaper superlative contest.  I knew if you even cared about that kind of thing at all.  

And then 28 years went by and I got a little bit of cancer.  

There you were again. Suddenly. In droves.  In person and through email and snail mail and on Facebook. Was I a hometown spectacle?  Was I the gossip of the year?   I didn’t care. I wasn’t the first.  Lots of people from our class and our high school and town have been sick.  Some have even died.  Many people still need help and support.

Every time, you have showed up.  You have made a difference. I never expected you to be here for me.  I never expected you to care.  But, I am grateful.

I thank you.

I went back to the Mexico Café recently with my dad.  I knew, without a doubt, I was going to order a hamburger taco.  The Mexico Café now advertises it on their menu as “our famous patty taco”.  My daughter just returned from a semester in Mexico and would probably declare it,  “not a real taco”.  

It is however, a great taco.  And I loved it.

It reminds me of your 18 year old faces and the things we share in common--our youth and our hometown.  It reminds me now of your continued kindness.   It reminds me of the journey we’ve all had.  It reminds me of all that is good about growing up where we did.

It reminds me of home.  

Check This Out!

If you ever find yourself wandering north on I-5 in Washington State, passing through Skagit County, and are in need of a nice meal to sustain you until you get to Canada, feel free to stop by the Mexico Cafe.  They have a fantastic taco that will fill you right up.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

She Wore Red

She wore red.  She didn’t hide.

I wore black.  She found me anyway.

I gingerly knelt down on one knee to look at the bottom shelf.  My hip hurt, just enough to be more than a little bit.   I thumbed through the library CD’s, hoping to find something the husband might like to listen to on his commute to work.

She charged toward me before I could fully process her impending approach.  I saw grey.  It was her hair flying, swinging back and forth.  I saw red.  It was the flash of her pants, her legs marching right and left.  She flew past me, barely pausing, preferring to deliver her confident declaration in fluid motion.  “Oh, honey” she said while shaking her head.  “Why don’t you pull a chair on over and sit on it while you look through those CD’s!  You’ll be so much more comfortable.”

I muttered, weakly, politely, “Oh, I’m ok.  I’m only going to be a minute.” 

“Wait, do I know you?” my head silently muttered, trying to understand.   Why did she think I needed a chair? Did she see the weak parts?  Did she see the fragile?

I went to check out my rock star biography book and the CD’s I had picked out for the husband.  She was next to me, checking her books out.  I said hello.   Her head turned to face me.  Her grey, shoulder length hair swung from side to side again.  My own post chemo, short, grey curls sat silent and motionless under my plain black hat.  

The cranky in me couldn’t let it go.  “Why did you think I needed a chair?”

 She opened her mouth and poetic wisdom flew out.  There were no bonus points for bravery, she said.   There was no prize at the end of the day for stubbornness.  No one was keeping track.  These things, she said to me, while scanning her books into the system. 

“Besides, I saw you wince when you knelt down.” she finally offered.

 “Do I know you?” the inside of my head pondered, trying to envision if and where I had seen her before.

Her red pants forced me to stare at her.  Her red shoes stood out parked next to my black boots.  Her red leather backpack told me I wanted one just like it.

She spoke like she was anointed by confidence.  She spoke like one destined to speak for the rest of us.  She’d been around a long time. She saw the obvious, she said.   It takes a long time to heal your body.  But the brain is harder, she said, shaking a finger at me. 

She said, trust me.
I know. 
I’ve been there.

“Well, whatever is wrong, I hope you heal quickly.  And next time, get a chair!” she said to me, as she swept her way out the door.

My head wanted to scream after she left. “Do I know you?”   My mouth managed a weak and perplexed thank you.

She was gone.

I followed her out the door.  She was fast and quickly made it to her car.

I followed her in my black clothes, full of my bad attitude and self pity.  I followed her with my gimpy hip and stodgy, dull, post chemo, boring, terrible, old lady, demoralizing hair.   I followed her to her red car, parked 3 spots down from mine. 

She zipped away in her little car. All I saw was a flash of red.

I was 46.  She was 74-ish.  But she was so much younger than me.  She was so much smarter than me.  And maybe, probably, she was more resilient than me.

And as I drove away in my black sedan, I was sure of three things.   One-I was determined to never, ever need to pull up a chair to look at the library CD’s.  Two-I couldn’t wait until my grey hair grew long enough to swing like hers did.  And three-I was for sure gonna get me a pair of nice red pants.