Miss Priss asked me out for a lunch date . . . I was horrified.
If you've learned anything about me, anything at all, it's that I'm not a snooty, snobby priss. I'm just not. I'll pose on a toilet. I'll jump from an airplane. I'll be nice to anyone because most people are pretty amazing when you take the time to understand who they are inside and where they're coming from.
Now, the type of people I can't handle are the snobs and too-goods! That's why when Miss Priss asked me out for lunch, I was really nervous.
What happened is that a couple ladies in my neighborhood read an advance copy of my book The Golden Sky (that's coming out in November). Well, the ladies liked it so much, they asked if they could pass it on. I thought that was great, so they passed it AND passed it, until people I don't even know read my book. That would be fine, and is except that my book is actually MY JOURNAL. Sure, I've edited it, added dialogue here and there, but the fact remains that the book is my journal from a time when my son died and my marriage failed. It's like prying open my ribcage and watching what makes my heart beat. It's a lot to share, but for Zeke, for others who have lost and grieved, it needs to be done.
A couple strangers came up to me last week and said, "Do you remember that time when your dad had cancer? I really related to your feelings."
"What? How did you know about that?"
"Oh," they smiled and nodded to each other, "we both read your journal, The Golden Sky."
So, they knew everything about me. I realized that was something I needed to get used to, I just didn't expect it to happen before the book even came out.
Anyway, what happened is that Miss Priss read my journal and wanted to have lunch with me--grace me with her presence. She is the snootiest, prissiest woman in our city. If you can picture her wearing fur--in the summer--do it. If you can picture her wearing boots--do it. If you can picture her with a fake nose AND fake boobies--do it! If you can picture her sky diving and using so much hair spray her hair wouldn't move--that might be going too far.
P. S. If you're interested in my obsession with "how boots can make or break you," click here:
She wanted to meet at "The House of Tea," but I said that wouldn't work out. "How about McDonald's?" I asked. "You have a little boy too, right?"
"Yes, I do. He's quite charming."
"Perfect, then I'll see you at McDonald's at noon."
I thought about doing my hair. I thought about retouching my makeup from the day before, but that fancy woman had already seen into my ribcage. She didn't need to see my cherry lipstick too! So, I packed up my two babies (who are one and three) and headed over to McDonald's.
When I got there early, the lady was already there. She'd found a table and sanitized the whole area for us and her boy. "He's darling," I said. "Oh, and it's so nice to meet you. I think I've seen you around, walking your poodle."
She has a giant, black poodle who has nicer jumpsuits than I do. I don't mean to sound jealous. I don't mean to sound that way even though I am--that poodle has really nice curls.
We talked about my journal after that. She had all sorts of questions for me about why I didn't have an abortion. Why I gave Zeke a chance. How long he lived. What it felt like when he died--ug. She said the ending was very heartwarming; the second half of my book made her laugh and changed her life.
That was amazing feedback, really and things went quite well, until we finished talking about the book.
"Do you prefer the Ferber method?" she asked.
"Ferber? What's that?" I suddenly felt like the family bumpkin, the one-eyed uncle everyone hates at Christmas.
"Ferber, the method of getting your child to sleep at night."
"I've never heard of it."
She gasped. "How do you cope?"
Quite easily. "I guess, I just put my kids to sleep, on their own schedules."
"Well, I've never." She put her thickly jeweled hand up to her expensive sweater-vest. "Oh, Humphrey. Humphrey?"
Her kid's name was Humphrey? Sure, that's a fine first name if you're last name is Bogart and you're as sexy as hell, but that's not the best first name in the world.
"Oh, Humphrey, come count for this . . . nice lady."
He counted then, as I thought about the way she'd said "nice." My journal had made me worthy of her presence, but my Ferber ignorance made me fall quickly.
That kid counted, boy could he count. He went all the way to one-hundred and I got to listen to the whole thing. The Zombie Elf, my three-year-old zoomed around him as he counted. "Faster. Faster," my boy said. "Go faster. Boom. Boom. Punch the bad guy in the nuts!"
Miss Priss gasped again. If I had a dime for every time she gasped--she was really good at it, no kidding. Humphrey looked at her and giggled. "Nuts! Butt nuts."
You would have thought someone got hit by a train. "Hum-phrey! Don't say n-u-t-s. And I told you, we say 'bum.' Not b-u-t-t. 'Bum.'"
She patted her child on the "bum" and told him to go play, but all three of our children wanted to stay by the table. She turned to me. "I don't mean to be rude, but I can tell you haven't implemented the Ferber system. Children who don't sleep good, aren't as intelligent as children like . . . well, Humphrey."
At that moment, at that very instant, precious Humphrey burped.
The Zombie Elf turned to him and said, "Oops, you farted! Humpy fart! Humpy Fart."
I tried holding the laughter in, I swear that I tried, but so much joy bubbled inside.
I wiped the skin near my eyes and tried to keep from laughing. But it was getting harder by the minute. Miss Priss had blanched like a bad vegetable. Her eyes bulged like a frog. Her lips pursed. (All those cliche' things.) I kept imagining what that lady would look like without any makeup and without her "Ferber" method. I giggled and took a big-old swig of my coffee.
"Is that . . . coffee?" She cringed.
"Why, yes. Yes it is."
"Well, in my religion, we've learned how bad coffee is for you. In my household, we've learned that 'butt' and 'fart' are bad words."
The Zombie Elf smiled when he heard her say the words. I looked from him, to the woman. "Well, in my religion, I don't really give a damn. Get over here," I motioned to my boy. I knew I shouldn't do it. I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn't help myself. Sure that lady read my journal and gave me an amazing compliment, but even Jesus turned over tables at a temple. I couldn't stand it anymore, not ANYMORE. I hugged The Zombie Elf. "It's not hot, baby," I said, and I gave him some of my coffee.
Miss Priss choked on her fruit punch. She'd had her pinkie out as she drank it, but when she saw my action, she nearly died coughing. I know I'm terrible and I may spend eternity with Nixon in Hell, but it was one of the best moments of my life.
"I hate to eat and run, but I really should get going. My kids are on quite a schedule after all. Their own schedules." I smiled, shook her hand, and then watched as she immediately cleansed her hands with a baby wipe. "Thanks for reading my book and for your feedback."
"No problem," she said. "It's just interesting how one can read and expect the characters to be completely different from their representation in movies and . . . even in real life."
She'd referred to me as a character. A CHARACTER? Didn't it occur to her that I'm a real person!
So, I survived a date with Miss Priss. I learned about the Ferber method. I realized that my son has the words "burp" and "fart" confused. I got called a "character" and my son drank coffee.
Sure, he didn't go to sleep until three hours past his bedtime. Sure, I wanted to punch Miss Priss and her fat poodle when I saw them walk by my house later, but all in all I think it was a pretty good day.
I learned that sharing my journal won't always be easy, but it's still worth it. Even snooty people, like Miss Priss, need to realize how real characters--people--can be. Sickness and heartache may come to anyone regardless of creed or status. Pain is impartial.
It's a terrible, horrible thing to lose someone we love, or be affected ourselves, but it can also give us the chance to shine strong and beam through adversity, grab life and live it to the fullest. All of us, no matter what, have the chance to survive hardship, and enjoy the peace that can come after the storm. That peace surpasses understanding; it is the grandeur of The Golden Sky.