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Showing posts from January, 2010

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Have Broom Will Travel [memoir]

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Halloween 1995, Batman and me
My history is littered with Halloween fails. Before I became a mother the question of what I was going to be for Halloween terrified me.


1958:  Halloween on a blazing hot afternoon in Tripoli, Libya. Age 5 All the military brats from Wheelus Air Force base were going to a Halloween party in an airplane hangar just outside Tripoli. Lots of civilian kids—mostly Brits and Yanks—whose parents worked on the base in various capacities were invited which meant my brother and I got to go too. Our dad, who spoke Arabic fluently and had been with British Intelligence during the war, had something to do with managing the PX on the base. My brother went dressed as a hobo, his cheeks smeared grey by my mother with a piece of burnt cork, while his friend, the older boy who lived next door, dressed up as a woman—a pillow stuck down his sweater shaped into clownish balloon-sized breasts and big red sticky lips. I went as Minnie Mouse in a cheap, cellophane-thin, store-bough…

Mum, Dad and Me. What Year Is This?

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Judging by the short bleached blonde hair, the Mexican peasant blouse I'm wearing (I'm the one in the middle)and the lovely couch my parents and I are sitting on, I'm going to say 1974. I recognize the hair cut from a picture of me in Vegas on my 21st birthday and I turned 21 in 1974. Which makes my mum, the babe on the left 49! She was pretty, wasn't she? My dad was 10 years older. When they met, she was 20 and he was 30, and everyone warned her to stay away from him. But he was quite the catch - he had that whole dashing, debonnaire British officer and a gentleman thing going for him. Add in that he spoke French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic fluently and she didn't stand a chance!

But She's Not There

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I went to see my mum today. It's been awhile. There was no one in the lobby so I signed in and went down the hallway scanning the doors for her name. Lots of elderly and infirm folks wandering the hallways in wheelchairs and walkers. Plenty of nurses in their greens carrying clipboards and pushing carts filled with meds. But no mum. She wasn't in her room, just a silver-framed picture of my dad and another one of my mother and me with Russell when he was a baby indicated the room belonged to her.
I wandered down the hall and found a nurse.
"I think she's with her son walking around" she told me.
No she wasn't. I'd seen my brother's name signed out on the visitor log over an hour ago.

I found her in the family room. A few round tables on rollers crowded with liters of coke and the lunches that family members visiting their loved ones, almost always women—mothers, grandmothers, rarely men— brought in. My mother was sitting apart from them all, alone in her …