In larger firms, most secretaries support more than one attorney. If you’re lucky, you’re in a solitary practice group, with a team that focuses on the same cases simultaneously. However, many of us, due to attorney departures and new arrivals, support multiple practice groups, making the juggling act more difficult. Read more
For the past 19 years, I’ve paid for my “red bean dreams” with my day job as a legal secretary – my mild-mannered alter ego, if you will. Read more
“Well I’ve been goin’ through the motions
Wonder if anyone can see
That I been lookin’ for somethin’
Have you been lookin’ for me”
– Alabama Shakes
I gather no moss. Whether the sun is shining out of my ass or the world is falling around my ears, I won’t miss a beat. My habit is to stay low and keep firing. Arms fell off? Keep firing. Read more
BB the Great and The Champ are the next best thing since sliced bread, and I’d battle to the death anyone who asserts otherwise. They’re the boom to my bap. They’re sicker than yo’ average. I love those guys. And sometimes that terrifies me.Not in the “I’d die if something happens to them” way. That’s a factor, just not the one I am discussing here. I’m terrified in the, “This is super embarrassing, but if I leave now, maybe they won’t know these are my kids” way. This requires an explanation.
Picture it, Washington DC, 2009. My desk phone rings, and I immediately know it’s going some foolishness is on the horizon, because it’s my kids’ school. Either someone’s arm is broken, or there was a fight…or both. *swirly flashback imagery*
“Hey, Melanie.” At this point in time, between Champs fists and BB’s mouth (and occasional fists) I was on a first name basis with the principal.
“Hi, Ms. [Lady]. Is everyone safe? Did anyone break anything?”
There’s a brief pause, “Y-yes. And also no, nothing’s broken.”
“Okay, which one?”
The principal laughs, a bit nervously for my liking. “That’s the thing. I have a sort of unusual situation. Both kids were involved in a lunchroom incident.”
At this point, my mind is racing. Did they start a food fight? Did someone swipe a brownie? Lord please tell me my kids didn’t ban together and jump on a student.
“It seems, there was a disagreement in your home last night, and one of your kids thought it was over, but the other seems to disagree. They…revisited the issue at lunch.”
“I’m sorry. It sounds like you’re telling me that my two children were fighting one another in front of a bunch of strangers.”
“Well fight would require…apparently Tyson was flipping around and Jade was kicked by accident. He apologized, but she apparently wasn’t over it. He said something to her, and as soon as she heard him, she ran from her table and just…charged him. She’s very small, but there was apparently a lot of anger there because we had a hard time ending it. We had them in the office and he is still apologizing, but she doesn’t want to hear it. He’s actually crying. Maybe you can talk to her.”
*zoom in on me* It’s at times like this when I stop and ask myself, “Am I shrooming? Am I actually having a conversation with a school official, and she’s telling me that there was a fight at the school and the only people involved were the two people I brought into this world? Did my 64 pound daughter really throw her tray down to shiv her brother like some tween remake of Oz? Or am I in some sort of fugue state? How would I know if I’m submerged in some sort of weird space jelly with a probe in my brain? WHERE IS JA?” *zoom out*
A heavy sigh indicates that my daughter is near the phone, and I say, “Honey? Are you near the phone?”
She mumbled, “Yes.”
“Is mommy on speaker?”
“Good. YOU HAVE LOST YOUR RABID ASS MIND IF YOU THINK I MOVED TO THE MOST EXPENSIVE COUNTY IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND TO HAVE ANYONE I’VE GIVEN BIRTH TO BEHAVE LIKE THEY’RE ON THE PRISON YARD. YOU APOLOGIZE TO YOUR PRINCIPAL, YOUR LUNCH LADIES, YOUR TEACHER, YOUR BROTHER AND TO ME! AND TYSON I TOLD YOU ABOUT JUMPIN ON THE BED LIKE A DOGGONE FOOL, AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU TOLD HER, BUT I KNOW IT WAS MESSY AND I’D BE LAUGHING IF IT WASN’T SO EMBARRASSING! I BETTER NOT EVER HEAR ABOUT A SITUATION LIKE THIS AGAIN IN MY LIFE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” (My coworkers loved sitting in close proximity to me during this phase of my kids’ lives.)
In pathetic unison, they said, “Yes, ma’am.”
I apologized to their principal and asked if I needed to come in for a conference, and she said “Oh, now. We’ve seen you enough this year to know that we’re on the same page with these types of things. Talk to you soon.” I detected a bit of shade in her saying this, but I honestly try to look at the sunny side of life, so I responded, “Okay now! Take care!”
As a mother, nothing hurts my heart more than my children fighting. Everyone knows that kids fight, but every child who’s parents thumped the Bible knows the story of Cain and Abel, and Lord knows I had no intention of having a Cain in my midst. My mama didn’t tolerate it, and neither did I. Lessons were learned that day.
But what does that have to do with my feelings today? Why am I day drinking?
BB just got a new job at the same restaurant Champ works. And this is their first time being on the schedule at the same time. He teased her yesterday and bumped into her this morning without saying “excuse me,” and now they’re going to be in public together. In a place with knives. I’m not saying that there will be an incident. What I am saying is that now they’re old enough to take care of themselves, and just in case there’s an incident, I’ve packed a small bag.
I grew up in New Orleans before living there was a pop cultural exotic, magical act. The place so many now go to eat, pray, and love was home. Its energy was normal – expected even. Read more
On an average day, I don’t punch people. I left fighting behind in my youth (for the most part). Yet the art of face-punching has continued without me. Nazi talking head Richard Spencer was its most visible target last Friday, shortly after the presidential inauguration. Read more
On June 11, 2001, I woke up with a headache from where my ex-husband punched me. Read more
“I don’t look no different. I don’t feel no different. I still feel three.”
– Four year-old Mel
In the very recent past (perhaps not even two hours ago, according to Eastern Standard Time), I said goodbye to my 30s. The left peacefully. One moment, I was a 30-something; the next, I have to find the right date to have my titty smashed between a glass plate. So what did I learn in the past decade?
I learned that life is life. I learned that love is like a diamond, in that it is hard and beautiful. I learned that I can be slowed, but it’s going to be a long time before I can be stopped. I learned that I made fantastic children. I learned that I have a lot to learn about myself.
The rumor is that life begins at 40, but I’ve had one hell of a head start. I took a long look at the things I didn’t accomplish in my 30s, and paid attention to the common denominator: me. I pull myself back from the precipice of greatness all the time, whether it’s through self-doubt or procrastination. I’m leaving that habit with 39. My life needs more “I dids” than “I’ll dos.” The beautiful thing is (I received a kind reminder last night), I’ve already started down my path and I need only stick to it.
I’ve thought much about ordered steps and how that never fails you. I can see where my steps are leading and I’m already in love with that place. This next year holds the promise of being exciting, not only for me, but for some of you who have been with me as a writer for well over a decade. So, follow me. I’ll take you places.
It’s Saturday, November 19. I’m 17 years old and trying to shield my face and thighs from the sun blazing through my aunt’s Camry. Despite the date, I’m wearing shorts, because November scorchers are standard in New Orleans. I cashed my first paycheck and was on the way to visit my mother in the hospital. I bought her a card and a box of Russell Stover’s. We sat in traffic for hours. We sat in traffic so long, by the time we arrived at the hospital, they led us directly to a small room and my dad said, “She’s gone.”
“Gone” has always seemed like such a trivial word for death; as if they’ll be back with milk and toilet paper at any moment. In all fairness, I’ve waited for her to come back. I saw them close the casket and it still feels like a 22-year-old prank. If I saw her sitting on my Pittsburgh porch, I might just knowingly nod, unlock the door and make her some lemonade. I’ve accepted so many deaths in my life, but hers always seemed unreal.
I spent the majority of October in the hospital. After my first procedure, I had a really hard day and night. I can’t remember when I was awake and when I was dreaming. I do remember hearing, “What happened, Melanie?” My mama was in my dream, wearing her signature brightly colored something, smiling as though I burned the chicken and she was here to save dinner. I couldn’t even talk. I just stared and let her talk to me – about everything. She rubbed my scalp and braided my hair. She chastised me for not bringing lotion to the hospital, and rubbed my elbows and ankles with vaseline from her bag. She did all the things I took for granted when I was a wild little black girl who just wanted to be barefoot in a tree. And I let her. For three days, every time i fell asleep, my mama came to me and took care of me; always bright, always smiling.
When she asked about my babies, I asked her to stay around and meet them. She just clicked her tongue and smirked a little – her go to response when I wasn’t being realistic. “You’re going to take care of them. I’m going to take care of you.” She asked if anyone else takes care of me and before I could answer, she said, “If they do, let them and love them. Stop being a jackass.”
The afterlife has never been a clear concept to me. I don’t believe what I was taught, but I also don’t have a belief of my own. Much of the last month, I’ve pondered what those days and dreams meant. Can dreams influence your well-being? They were so vivid, I was able to make it through those initial difficult days. Also, considering my mama came to me exactly when I needed her, perhaps “gone” is the correct term.
My health wasn’t the only thing struggling in this past year. My heart and spirit floundered as well. Losing my mama is a cruelty I may never understand. But the kindness in which she “returned” to me, while not smoothing over the mama-sized hole in my heart, brought me back to myself. I still miss her, but 22 years later, she can still reach into my heart and move me.
Birdie, I miss you, I love you, and I’m forever grateful. Thank you.