Tag Archives: hijab

Mountain Climbing in Dollar Store Flip-Flops

9 Feb

 Mamahood can feel like climbing an icy mountain wearing dollar store flip-flops. On a recent weekday during a trip to a big box store, with two of my young’uns, I felt like I was wearing those flip-flops. I planned to buy just one simple rug. Before leaving the house, I went through the rigmarole: lunches, check, clean change of clothes, check, bathroom break (even for the one who claims he doesn’t need to go), check, money and cell phone, check, hairbow, check, matching socks, never mind!

Next comes the difficult part – the eternity it takes to get both of my kids strapped down into carseats. My daughter insists that I take off down the road with her door open, and let her shut it when we get to full-speed because, “Mama, I know what I’m doing,” and “Why don’t you ever trust me!” Meanwhile, I’m cold. It’s February. I just want to slip behind the wheel, and thaw out behind the heater vents, on my way to buy this rug. Why so complicated?!

We arrive at the store and I can’t find the rugs anywhere, which I’m sure is a scheme. I have to pass by every Euro-trashy trinket in primary colors, made in China. This store feels like a destination for the self-righteous consumer who balks at a Wal-Mart shopping experience- which is by the way, much closer to where I live. My kids are loving it. Suddenly, they need everything in the store and the prefix to my name becomes: oooooooohhhhhh, as in: “Oooooooohhhhhh Mama, can I have this?!”

Soon, they are bored with sitting in the cart. It is more fun to drive it into objects…and people! My youngest son gets a sharp jab after backing into one of the corner displays and begins to scream loudly. I have to somehow translate my inner-freak out into a sympathetic hug and medicinal kiss. Where are the rugs!? Thank God for my health-nut makeover; otherwise my low blood sugar would have driven me to the cafe for a sugary, refined, Euro- inspired pastry and coffee to go.  

I turn a corner and instead of arriving at a polyester blend, Persian knock-off, I run into something else. There is a box spring on a red-tag sale, it’s down from $100 to $50.00. I actually need two box springs for my kids. Heck ya! However, one problem- I don’t have a large enough vehicle to make the trip back home. I drove our four door sedan with room for five only. No problem, the store clerk assures me. That’s what “the man” is for downstairs. She explains that it is his job to load the merchandise (which can be placed on the top of my car) and rope it down for easy passage. Sweet! I was starting to like this store. They even have Rent-A-Daddies! She congratulates me on getting a good deal, because, “At these prices, they won’t last long.”

Not long before the inventory warehouse and exit, I spot the rugs and pick up not just one simple rug for my daughter, but two more….on sale, of course! Then, giddy, I make our way to the aisle where my box springs wait. An intercom recording informs shoppers that in order to keep the prices low, the company has the customer do their own work. Huh, I thought to myself, I thought it was because it outsourced all of its manufacturing labor overseas to countries without labor attorneys and lax safety standerds. On a flat bed cart I manage to load the beds and then steer both carts and kids to the check out line. Behind me are two strapping, store employees, talking up a storm; neither man offers to help with my loot. Never mind, I just have to make it past the check-out line, and there will be my Rent-A-Daddy, ready for the rescue. Maybe he’d even take the young’uns out for ice cream and give me a chance to catch my breath.

All check-out lanes are self-service, so after man-handling the scanner-gun from my kids I contort my body around the merchandise to find the bar codes. I am dutifully playing my part in this big-box scheme like a good customer. I had to call my kids back from every direction. They are like frantic bees in the late fall, knowing that soon they will be strapped back into car seats. Keeping an eye on them, as they peak to spend the last ounce of energy, makes it difficult for me to multi-task both scanning and entering my payment information. Finally, I yank my receipt from the feeder and head off to Rent-A-Daddy. In the distance I can see him, clad in a neon, sleeveless smock. Now, I’m picking up my pace, trailing the kids behind me. As I come closer I can see his form better. Huh? Is that him?! A scrawny, teenager (early twenties at best), and pale to boot. This isn’t Rent-A-Daddy! This is Baby’s Daddy. He comes, however, with an endearing Collard Green accent and explains that it is the store’s policy to only assist in loading merchandise, not to rope it down, “for liability reasons.”

“But, the lady upstairs told me ya’ll would rope the beds down,” I explain.

“What lady?,” he asks.

“I don’t remember,” I say, flustered, “One of the sale’s clerks.”

“I know,” he shrugs, “It happens all the time.”

In that case, I say, I’d like to put the merchandise on hold until my husband can arrange for it to be picked up. He lets me in on another one of the store’s policies which is that it does not hold paid-for merchandise, which makes me, in effect, stranded unless I want to pay the hefty transportation fee. Heck no! There’s a reason I just bought all these items on clearance in the first place. The fee for the transportation costs more than the total sales amount of my purchase.

Sensing my alarm and frustration, baby’s daddy drops his voice down low, while scanning the horizon, “I’ll tell you how to rope it, then I’ll come back and pull a rope from the hood of the car to the trunk of the car to keep it steady,” he assures me. “This never happened,” he warns. Turns out Baby’s Daddy is even better than Rent-A-Daddy, who would have been too frightened over the prospect of losing job benefits to plot an escape. I was a bit intimidated by doing the first part of the roping myself, but got my Big Girl courage up and set to work. It turns out to be very difficult because every time I make another loop my daughter opens that door just to say: “Hi mama!,” thereby loosening the loops I’m making. There’s a real able-boddied daddy parked next to my car. He never offers to help. I’m thinking that I need to move out of the North and head back to Collard Green country, where a real man would feel awkward just to idle there without offering assistance.

It was awhile before Baby’s Daddy comes back. Again, he scans the surroundings carefully then quickly sets down to work, sliding rope, like a master weaver, in and out of my front grill. He’s amused all the while: “My sister had a car just like this,” he recalls and smiles. I like this kid and think he’d do well in the real world where a cool head under pressure and a sure-footed gait, takes the cake. He obviously enjoyed the thrill of rule-breaking; meanwhile, I stood on the look-out – as scared as a schizophrenic squirrel.

Suddenly, a voice calls out from inside the car. “Mama, he’s voooooomiting! You better hurry up!” It’s my daughter’s voice. I rush to the rear passenger seat, and sure enough, my youngest is vomiting up his afternoon snack, in heaping chunks.

“Oh sweetie,” I start, “It’s o.k., calm down, you’re alright. Take a deep breath. Mama’s here. Drink some water.” You know the routine. I reach in to hold his head, clean him up, and ease off his top-layer sweater. Within ten minutes he’s fast asleep and reeking of stomach acids. In my quest to buy just one simple rug, I’d left his spare clothes at home.

Baby’s daddy was still fast at work- he doesn’t let the panic and putrid smells from the car deter him from this 007 task. Before long he’s done and standing near the hood to examine his handy work.

“Do you think this will hold?” I ask him.

“Yeah,” he says as he tests it by jerking the beds every which way to see if they will give, “It ain’t goin’ no where.”

I look around, and not seeing any other store employees in sight, reach into my purse and grab the wad of cash on hand, and hold it out. He hesitates, but I stay steady. After another quick scan of the premises, he says: “Well, I can take that.” Baby’s Daddy winks and swipes it without another word, then takes off like Spiderman. I imagine him springing to assist another stranded, jilted mom from the bedding section.

I set down in my car, relieved, tap down on the hazard lights and set off. Just before turning onto the highway a State Trooper pulls up behind me. My grip strains over the steering wheel. Then, apparently, slowed down by my speed, the officer jerks around and takes off. Whew!

On the highway I stay in the far right lane and try to keep my speed slow enough to be safe, but fast enough to beat the angry onslaught of rush hour traffic. My GPS takes me through a long underwater tunnel. At some point in the middle of the dark tunnel, the top box spring starts to slump forward over my front window. I start to panic for lack of a smarty-pants solution. This is not the way I’d come at all. My GPS was going off script, as if it had a personality to enjoy a good laugh at my expense. Finally out of the tunnel, I drive off on the margin of the highway, and look back at the kids. They are still asleep – at least I’ve got that going for me. I slip out of my car, pull myself onto the hood (no easy trick in a long skirt) and proceed to shove and shift the top box spring back in place. Here I am in a hijab and long skirt wrestling with box springs on the top of my car. That must have been a sight. I made du’a (prayer) and coaxed my inner soldier-girl the whole time.

After that, I decide to slow down which indeed brings me into rush hour traffic and under the wrath of all those drivers, who I sympathize with more than myself. I feel like that guy in Morocco, trolling on his mo-ped with a sheep carcass saddled over the ride- holding up all the smokier engines behind him. People are peering in and likely thinking, what is THAT?! 

Just as I turn the corner to my street, I tally the days humiliating events. I glance my sons’ sleeping face in the rear-view mirror. Hopefully, I’ll be able to inch into my driveway without getting heckled by any of the neighborhood kids. I say this because during the last mile the top bed had started to lung forward, again, making my loot look pathetically flotsam as if I’d just robbed the Bed Barn.

As I turn the corner, my elderly neighbors inch from the opposite direction. Just as my bed lunges, they lunge forward to see my car’s freakish top-hat. I want to slide down under my steering wheel, but instead I manage a hearty wave as if I was steering the premiere float in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Once parked, I abandon the box springs on my car to wake my son up and ease him into a warm bath. All was well in the world. If anyone looked out from their window, they now question my sanity, and maybe wonder if I really did rob a Bed Barn. I certainly climbed to the icy peak in my flip-flops that day, and I either earned another resiliency badge or killed a few brain cells. Whichever, my box springs are not just any box springs. They tell a story and they make me laugh, whenever I want to- for no particular reason.

Advertisements

Be a Big Girl

3 Jan

2012. It’s got a ring to it. It sounds a heck of a lot better than 2011. 2012 is downright musical to the ear. I trust the optimism of a melodious sounding year. In fact, I felt so darn rallied by it, that I took to the task of redesigning Collard Green Muslim. You like?

Last week I visited my cousins in the Shenandoah Valley, along with my parents and 90-year-old Georgia-grandma. What is her secret for a long life, you wonder? Corn flakes and fried chicken. She eats plenty of both. She told me stories that I already heard, but asked her to tell me again, and some stories I heard for the first time.

I never knew that her daddy died just two weeks after her wedding or that she delivered her first-born at home. I never knew that as newlyweds my grandfather mortgaged their car to be able to grow fields of watermelons in Georgia and transport all their crops to market in Florida. They grew so many watermelons that year, they saved up enough money to buy a house in Winter Garden, Florida. I had no idea that my grandmother refused to be a farmer’s wife; that she insisted on living in-town. Or that her mother, my great-grandmother, was drop dead gorgeous with jet-black hair and spent most of her life with a sack around her neck, picking cotton. Or that my grandfather had a mentally handicapped brother who he looked after, as an adult, and I didn’t know that my grandfather and all his brothers were raised by a single father.

My cousin, Andy, shared some photos with me that I will treasure always. Here is my great-grandfather Jack Goodwyne on his Georgia farm. He fathered eight children, all girls. My grandmother was the youngest.

Great Grandfather Jack Goodwyne and (unnamed) Cousin

And, here is my grandfather, John “Shorty” Mask in front of a packing house where he worked as the foreman in Winter Garden, FL.

He was sixteen years her senior. Even though they grew up just five miles from each other, on different Georgia farms, they never knew eachother. It took a citrus packing house in Florida to seal their fate.

I feel grateful to be starting the year off with a little more knowledge of the past.

As for my New Year’s Resolution, I’ve resolved to be a big girl. I’ve settled into my thirties. It’s a good time. I’m over many of the insecurities and diaper changes of my past. By now, I’ve tapped the bitter-sweet serum of my ego enough times to at least know the various subtleties on my palette. I’ve wrestled with some of my demons and lost more battles than I can count. I’ve been whipped, and wrung out, and out of breath. I’ve been too big for my britches and other times not big enough. I’ve been around the block enough times to know a friend when I see one and sniff out an enemy, both within myself and outside myself.

I often don’t know which road to choose when I’m faced with a myriad of choices; I won’t say I’m sure-footed, but I know the lay of the land better and I’m ready to be a big girl. I’m ready to sober to realities, and stop fiddling with ideas.

Death is not a perception; it’s a promise. I’m going to face it just like all of my ancestors did before me. I’m ready to be a big girl. I don’t have enough time to spill over nurturing the image of myself -making it lovely and just so. I have to nurture the true soul within me. The one that keeps on surging, paying no mind to the shackles of this bridge called life; the true me that yearns to walk through fire to return to the Creator of me. I’m ready to be a big girl. I’m ready to love myself, not merely the idea of myself. I’m ready to love other souls, not just the idea of them. I’m ready to cast off the tidy packages I used to put people in to present them to my ego so that I could play mightly with them. I’m ready to leave off making assumptions about myself, and other people, so that I can love with a salve more distilled.

Now, with my big girl self, I’ve been very busy lately. We stayed up almost to 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve. Whoo-hoo! We didn’t even have the energy to clean up before laying down to 2012.

The next day I felt like making something uppity, so I chopped up a batch of collard greens, mixed them with a handful of shallots, a lot more garlic and some accents of kale, then threw it all into my wok:

Not tired yet- I threw my collards into this bed of bow-tie pasta with a marinade of salsa verde which I whipped up:

It was deeee-licious and made me get over all the traitorous feelings from cooking my collards that way.

The collards did me good. The next day I woke up with enough energy to tackle some organizational challenges. Thanks to a facebook friend, I borrowed this idea to keep my hijabs in one tidy space:

Just looking at them in a wide array- their cacophony and brilliant colors – puts me in a cheerful mood.

That’s all for now. I look forward to writing more about my big girl life.

Much love,

Danette