Tag Archive | family

Fine Lines

Sometimes I think to myself that if I were wealthy, like super-wealthy – I mean, otherwise, I’m just spending that cash on travel – I would have plastic surgery to correct a few things that nature, gravity, and age have done to my overall “look.” But then I think, you know what? I worked hard for these wrinkles! Besides, surgery means needles, and who the hell wants that shit?  Botox be damned, I am rocking these wrinkles with pride, folks.

 

Grandma Mooney’s Spooky and Wonderful Gift

I’ve been thinking a lot of my beloved Grandma Mooney (great-grandmother to those just tuning in).  Thank you for letting me share her stories with you all; I think you’ll agree she was a very rare and highly entertaining individual indeed.

Now, I do dabble a bit in the occult.  I love giving or receiving tarot card readings.  I also strongly believe in ghosts to the point that I would never dare make one angry, or even dream of playing the Ouija board alone.  I strongly believe there is more to this world than our limited five senses can ever know or that science can prove or disprove, at least for now – I mean we’re learning more and more every day about the world around us, right? Who knows what they may find out.  I also strongly believe that you should agree with me, or I will use my ancient Voodoo magic to hex you.  Nah, just kidding on that one, but I am a firm believer in the paranormal in general.

Grandma Mooney had a unique ability that luckily, I did NOT inherit…it can’t have been pleasant.  It wasn’t a super power like flying, freezing time, or moving things with her mind (seriously though, how cool would that be!?), but it was a spooky gift for sure.  Grandma Mooney always knew when someone was dying.  She never got upset; she was completely matter of fact about it.  She’d get the feeling in her bones (I assume it was her bones at any rate), and just nonchalantly announce, “John’s dying.  Gotta go,” and then she’d be off, to go help the family.  Without fail, whoever the unfortunate soul was that she would name would either be on their deathbed or dead before she even got there.  Of course, back then there was no Facebook, no cell phone texting, and no emails; this gift was pure intuition. She was always accurate, and it was really, very creepy.

While we’re on the subject of death and dying, did I tell you about the time I almost killed Grandma Mooney?  If it wasn’t my fault, it might have been her sheer orneriness. Let me explain…and spoiler…there was a happy ending, no Grandmothers were hurt in this story.

My grandfather, god bless him – I loved him to pieces – enjoyed three things in his life: playing the banjo, singing, and drinking beer. He drank beer like some people drink soda pop or ice tea. And for the most part, he could handle his alcohol. Later on in life, he decided he’d had enough and just stopped, cold turkey, and never looked back. But back in the day, when he was especially deep into his cups, he liked to get out the banjo and entertain all and sundry – with bluegrass and hymns being his favorite music of choice. The more beer he drank, the more boisterous his hymns and bluegrass songs would become.

This one particular day, when I was 7 or 8 years old, Grandpa Walker was really going at it with his hymns while Grandma Mooney ate a piece of cornbread.  You may know, old-school cornbread was really dry and would fall apart when you ate it.  Anyway, I got really carried away by grandfather’s music this day, and before you know it, I was howling like a dog on the front porch. Yeah, I was an ornery child. Like great-grandmother like great-granddaughter.

This tickled Grandma Mooney to the point of laughing her ass off, but as luck would have it, she started choking on her cornbread.  I was so scared that I ran away for the rest of the afternoon.  No way was I going to stick around to see what happened!  All I know is Grandma Mooney was laughing and choking, so I did what any reasonable 7 or 8-year-old kid would do; I ran for the hills.  Not my bravest moment, to be sure.

One thing was guaranteed.  If she actually did die choking on cornbread, she would definitely come back to haunt me.  And if she didn’t…

…she was definitely going to kick my ass.

Of Myth and Moonshine

When most people think of great-grandparents, there is a perception of elderly, slightly demented people with mints and Kleenex in their pockets.  They sit on the couch knitting or telling stories of the “good old days,” their pasts a delicious whirl of somewhat ordinary lives well lived.

Enter my Grandma Mooney.

I have talked before of her exploits.  Her Vinegar Valentines, her sketchy use of Halloween masks to frighten a neighborhood boy and her subsequent lying about it to the boy’s parents. I won’t even get into the whole moth fiasco. There was an even deeper layer to Grandma Mooney (great-Grandmother if I’m being completely accurate), though, every bit as fascinating as the ones we’ve already uncovered.

Job opportunities back in the day weren’t quite what they are today, especially in the country, and when you have a houseful of hungry people, you do what you need to in order to survive and feed your family.  I think, in times like this, bending the law a little is easily excused.  And, in Grandma Mooney’s case, bending it until it broke was a way of life.

Grandma Mooney was a purveyor of frowned upon refreshments.  Okay, fine, she sold and stored moonshine.

In the days of prohibition and the depression, moonshine was a profitable enterprise. In fact, it still is today.

Well, as the story goes, moonshine runners would drop off their inventory to Grandma Mooney – she’d sell some, she’d store some, she’d…well, never mind. The great thing about Grandma Mooney is she wouldn’t have needed an enforcer to help protect her shady business. Everyone around for miles was already afraid of her. So, there was some money saved on personnel.

To stock brew, this ingenious old lady had a special crawlspace in the floor of her kitchen that she used just for this purpose. No external storeroom fees or the inconvenient industrial spy to get rid of. I’m telling you, she had the whole theory of commerce locked down.

In fact, she had just one serious concern. Government officials. Cue the supervillain music…Dun-Dun-Duuuun! Oh wait. Grandma Mooney is the supervillain in this tale. Nevermind.

One thing about the government; it never changes. In search of their fair share – I mean violators, yes of course, violators – agents would wander door to door, foaming at the mouth in the hopes that they could catch someone with illegal contraband.

Normal law-abiding citizens would have no reason to be afraid of these visits, but Grandma Mooney wasn’t exactly a normal law-abiding citizen.  I’m not sure she was ever afraid of anything, it just wasn’t in her nature. But knowing she would get into serious trouble if she were caught with white lightning, she devised a fiendishly clever plan to hide the storage space. And again, with the government being what it is, her plan went perfectly. Every. Single. Time.

Whenever these agents came to the house, she’d stick her youngest daughter Wanita, aka Neda – Needie to friends and family — into the bathtub, and put the bathtub over the crawlspace door.  The bathtub, it should be noted, was basically just a large metal bucket that was used for baths, dishes, laundry, and anything else that required a large-ish supply of water.

She used this wonderfully creative plan repeatedly over the course of frequent government raids, and her secret storage space was never discovered. Ahh…government agents – the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the finest civil servants you can ever find. Yeah, right.

The government agents were never quite bright enough to realize that every time they paid a “visit,” Needie was in the tub.  Now, I’m not sure if they thought Grandma Mooney was obsessed with cleanliness, or maybe they thought that Needie was simply a kid who enjoyed playing in mud and wrestling skunks – but whatever their thinking was, it never crossed their minds that Grandma Mooney was involved in the highest form of trickery and deception.

Maybe their money would’ve been better spent had they just put Grandma Mooney on the payroll as an agent.

A Shameful Cycle of Shaming

These days, it seems like every mom with a computer becomes an immediate motherhood professional. From website to blog and back again, these moms pour out their wisdom and advice.  I find myself marveling at the wealth of information I can find in any one of these sites, and also the ridiculous amount of judgmental bull crap that I read in nearly every one.

On one site, a mother proudly proclaims she let little Junior cry himself to sleep last night; best decision she ever made and just who the hell in their right mind co-sleeps anyway?  In another article on the same site, a mom is complaining praising herself because she slept in a rocking chair all night, soothing her baby to sleep and why on earth would anyone in their right mind let their baby cry it out?  Both are shaming the other in their storytelling, while complaining that they are being shamed for their own choices.

It’s not so much the contradictory advice I constantly see (sometimes in the same damn blog) that bothers me.  It’s the sheer hypocrisy I see from some of these New Age Mothers. This “newer, softer” generation of parents are outraged at anyone who dares to judge them for their parenting techniques. They shame the “mommy shamers,” brutally. They encourage the battle cry “mothers unite!” and push hard against those who have the audacity to judge other parents.  This in and of itself is a very good thing.  Mothers SHOULD stick together.

I guess these writer-moms must be exempt from their own outrage, though, not to mention their own rules, because every other article I’ve seen is a harsh judgement against parents who think differently from whatever parenting protocol they happen to be writing about. When they run out of “their words,” they resort to memes to make their point.

When I’m navigating my way through these “Mom” groups and see memes outright mocking so-called “helicopter” parents or zingy little one-liners criticizing those with only one child (because apparently, they’re not actual “parents”), I think to myself:  For a group who berates mommy-shamers, you guys sure do a lot of shaming of your own. Why do you care how others parent their children so long as they’re loving and caring, and not abusive?  Isn’t mocking someone else’s parenting technique the very thing you get angry about, or is that just when others do it to you? Alas, I get no answers to my questions since the inquiring voice is only in my head.

Now as I’m sure you know, I’ve never been one to say I won’t judge. Hell, I do it all the time. Oh, I won’t judge you on your looks, your education, your job, your religion or anything of that nature, and I won’t judge someone doing the best they can with what they have.  BUT, I will judge you on being a hypocrite. I may judge you for white shoes after Labor Day, not stopping at the crosswalk, or for using the Express Lane with eighteen items, and I will definitely judge you for being a jerk, a bully, or an asshole.  It’s part of my charm. But some of these writer Moms are caught in an endless shaming cycle. While they decry those who judge them on their parenting choices, in the next breath they shame others for choosing a different path for their kids. You can’t have it both ways.

Bottom line, despite the competitive nature of the world, raising kids should not be a game or a contest, and if your child is growing up healthy, polite, and able to function respectfully in society, then congratulations.  You’re doing it right.  It’s a wise mother that knows there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to raising kids; it’s mostly just a hell of a lot of trial and error and making shit up as you go along.

Choose your parenting path, and travel it proudly.  You do need to take ownership, though, and realize that if you choose to judge – those you are judging will be judging you right back.

Grandma Mooney’s Spooky Charades

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandma Mooney lately. I’m not sure why. I joined a vintage photo group recently and it’s possible the old-timey photos remind me of her – I mean, many of the “mountain” or rural women from her era all look very similar; hair in a bun, house dress, a wearied expression on their face that makes it look as though they’ve seen it all (and probably have).  Winnie Mooney had a heart of gold underneath her massive bosom, however, there was a twisted edge to her sense of humor that still has me laughing to this day. I’m not sure what that says about me. But it’s probably why my mother always called me Winnie when I was growing up (just to be clear, it was meant as an insult).

If you recall, my Grandmother – great-Grandmother really – loved sending Vinegar Valentines; Valentine’s Day always brings her back to my memory too.  If you are newer to my blog, a Vinegar Valentine was a way of saying “Bless your heart,” that infamous southern loaded phrase.  She agonized over the perfect valentine to send to people she disliked, laughing as she sent it.  Although turnabout is fair play, she would get so mad when she received one.  These anti-Valentine’s Day cards were more popular for a while than regular cards.  I have a few people in mind that I could send some to, but alas, the practice has fallen out of favor…anyway, I digress.

Grandma Mooney and the rest of my Mom’s family lived in a holler.  For those who aren’t from the south, a holler is a small valley between mountains.  There was only one way in and one way out of the holler. Now you know what all those country songs are talking about. You’re welcome.

To digress one again, I got in trouble at school once for saying and writing holler when my northern-born teacher thought it ought to be “hollow.” Apparently, I wasn’t one to back down from a debate despite my young age. Seems my mother was not immune to the dreaded “parent/teacher conference” any more than I was when my kids were growing up.

Now when my mother was younger, about five or six or so, she had a young friend who lived down the dirt road from her, and he would come by her house to play with her. Or at least…he tried. For reasons unknown to anyone but herself, Grandma Mooney loved to prank this poor young boy.   No-one was ever able to figure out why; it was a secret known only to Grandma Mooney.  Knowing her, it started as a joke and was so hilarious to her that she just continued doing it.

At any rate, the whole premise behind the “joke” was, is there a demon haunting the Mooney house or isn’t there a demon haunting the Mooney house?

And it went like this: my Grandma Mooney would pull a hideous Halloween mask over her head (and we’re talking back in the day when they really knew how to make Halloween scary), and would sit lurking…lurking…waiting for the boy to come up the road to the house.  Then, it was show time.

Grandma Mooney, in this creepy as hell mask, would pop her head up at the window just in time to scare this little boy half to death as he walked up on the porch.

The terrified boy would run home crying to his parents about the insanely frightening witch or monster that dwelled in his friend’s house.  The parents would march over immediately to find out exactly what was going on, as any good parent would do.

Grandma Mooney was ever the innocent hostess. I mean butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth when she put on her “who me?” act.  I can imagine her taking the parents in for coffee, all the while claiming she had no idea what the poor little boy was talking about.  She kept her bluff face on the entire time and never once cracked or confessed.

I don’t know if the little boy ever got punished for telling “wild tales.” Given the parenting techniques of the day though, I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip or two to the woodshed had been in order. What I do picture, though, is this child growing up and ending up in therapy, never able to trick or treat or watch a scary movie, or even believe his own eyes for that matter.

Word carries quickly in the usually close-knit communities in the mountains of WV.  I’m sure word got out about the demon? monster? madwoman? who lived in my mother’s house.  Amazingly enough, my mom still had friends who would come visit her.

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

 

Parenting in the New Age vs My Age

Recently, I was reading a parenting article by a fellow mom.  I refer to her generation of parents as “New Age Mothers.” She’s a bit newer to the whole parenting thing than I am; she has toddlers and young children whereas mine have somehow survived and become productive members of society despite this mother’s misgivings about my parenting style.

This writer mom (who shall forever in my mind be called New Age Mom) describes what she terms “Helicopter Parenting.”  If this is a new phrase to you, I’ll paraphrase it to “Overparenting.”  In her series of articles, she makes the case for what she considers hands-off parenting in a variety of baffling ways.  In one entry, she mocks the mom who stays with her child at the playground and makes sure her spawn doesn’t plummet to her earthly demise from the top of a set of monkey bars. Or *gasp* the mother who chooses to actually play with her children while at the playground.

New Age Mom also judges the perplexed mother who is watching the Abandoned Children of the Playground nervously, trying to make sure they are all safe as they dangle from the roof of the nearby outhouse.  Her commentary on these mothers is both depressing and confusing. Why? Because this is the same New Age Mom who will claim it takes a village to raise a child, among other things…not to mention her harsh judgement against a fellow Mom for another…all while criticizing those who dare to judge her parenting technique. The irony of all this seems to be lost on her.

You see, New Age Mom doesn’t go to the park to play. She has no interest in helping her kids with the “they’re not quite ready for that” tasks or involving herself in games. New Age Mom considers this hovering and relentlessly judges those parents who choose to do it. Personally, I think she’s missing out on a prime opportunity to simply enjoy her kids…you know, those cute little creatures that only stay little for so long.

I was a mother who put the “play” in playground.  I took my kids to the park and not only encouraged them to play with other kids, but also —*big gasp*— played with them myself.  I taught them new tricks and games.  I taught them the valuable lessons learned from climbing the monkey bars that seemed too high, waiting in line for the best slide in the park, and sharing with other kids.  We got to blow off steam in a place with no hard and fast rules.  Most importantly, though, I shared quality time with them. This was a time when we could just enjoy each other, have fun with each other laughing and being crazy, and a time when I could set aside the pressures I faced through the years as both a stay at home mom and a working mom and just be a big kid myself.

It was also a learning time for me; I learned that my kids were caring and fun little people, and more importantly, that the aluminum slides get very, VERY hot in the summer.  I also learned that getting stuck halfway down the slide is embarrassing, but being a plate of scalding metal as it was, you figured out a way to get down pretty darned quick.  These moments were not a chore to me, they are treasured memories for my family. And yes, it was a learning experience for my kids too. They learned that unless we needed to call an ambulance or rush to the hospital, it was possible to shake off skinned knees or elbows and get on with the day.

New Age Mom also wrote that she dislikes Chuck E Cheese’s because she can’t just relax.  She worries that her child will run off, get into trouble, burn the place to the ground and cause World War III.  This is a confusing juxtaposition for me; didn’t she just say she appreciates moms who let their kids run free at the playground?  Chuck E Cheese’s is one of the few places where it is nearly impossible to truly lose your child.  I admire the place’s security checks and open design that allow kids to just have fun and moms to take a breather for a few short hours. It’s a place where kids can just have fun with very few, if any, “no’s.” For a parent who dislikes “hovering” so much, you’d think New Age Mom would be on board for that.

New Age Mom laments the quality of food at Chuck’s, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to eat the bad pizza to truly let your kid be a kid.  However, and I’m just guessing here, but I bet this same blogger mom probably runs to McDonald’s for a quick snack sometimes, and honestly, there is nothing wrong with that in moderation.  I’ve been known to do it *ahem* a time or two.  But if you’re going strictly by quality and taste, I’m not sure which is worse better: McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese.

The New Age Mom is also worried that Chuck’s has germs.  Seriously.  I wonder how she copes with the copious number of germs in the doctor’s office, breeding all over those toys her kids are currently playing with?  Does she know how many times her kids share straws with sick kids at the daycare center or grab toys from other kids’ snot filled little fingers? Or even the bacteria filled dirt they’re eating at the park where they’re running free? The fact is, you can’t keep them in a bubble.  Germs exist.  It is a proven fact that the more kids are exposed to germs, the more resistance they build against them.  We were never meant to live in a sterile environment.  I’m glad, really, because what fun is bubble life, anyway?

The New Age Mother in question also dislikes taking her kids to non-parent homes for get-togethers. Yeah, I know. She has a list. Anyway, apparently, she feels that her kids would destroy the house, starve to death as picky eaters, poison the water well for the community, stain every cloth surface in reach, and execute the homeowner’s fish.  Her own home is a safe-ground because it is appropriately child proofed and suitably stained and messy, I suppose. Actually, I don’t have to suppose or guess…she went into great detail about just how stained and messy her house was because well, she has kids.  I won’t even get into that today.

I can’t imagine parents not taking their children somewhere because it is simply too much trouble to keep track of them. In fact, some parents even teach their children to behave in social situations.  Honest fact! I swear.

Back in the day, we packed appropriately for the visit, with a bag full of our kids’ favorite toys to occupy them.  We packed snacks just in case they didn’t like the food served, and encouraged them to try the food anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who was NOT a “picky eater.”

It’s not like our childless friends had no idea what to expect from a visit with children involved.  I mean, they knew what kids were – they’d read about them in books at least. They were well aware of how kids acted, pretty much at any rate, and wanted us to visit anyway. Friends. God love ‘em. They didn’t break out the rare 18th century bone china from a remote village in Taiwan or fill every bathtub with water and “play here” signs before we came over, but neither did they expect our kids to daintily lay their napkins across their laps and eat the offerings served up by Chef Gervais, who was standing in the kitchen nervously awaiting my toddler’s approval.

I considered every social event a learning experience.  If we were at a restaurant, grocery store or friend’s house, my kids learned how to act.  We taught our kids from an early age that you behave a certain way in certain places and they “got it.” I’m not sure where we lost that. I took my kids to childless friends’ houses, to nice restaurants, and anywhere else and they behaved. They were taught that, they didn’t learn it by osmosis. They weren’t screaming, running around breaking things, and being soulless demons (at least not outwardly soulless demons). They knew better and they behaved. Even as toddlers.  If there was the start of a tantrum, I cut it off early and walked out from wherever I was to take care of it and then returned — if it couldn’t be calmed down, then we left and bedtime likely came early that evening in retaliation.

Kids are not stupid. They learn quickly. As parents, it’s our job to teach them. Keeping them from social situations or out of other people’s houses because we’re too lazy to teach them to behave better? To the New Age Mom, I have one question. When did we stop being parents? When did parenting become a hands-off occupation (and no, I don’t mean spare the rod and spoil the child – I mean simply, doing our job)?

Parenting is not easy. It’s not always fun. It’s a tough thing to do, probably the toughest thing you will ever do – IF you’re doing it right. Could it be that some of the New Age Mothering techniques are less of a style and more convenience factors?

I’ve raised two kids. Not as many as some and perhaps one more than others. But suffice it to say, I’m not a newbie and I’ve been through it all…with my sanity mostly intact, I’m glad to say. Parenting is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, but it’s not supposed to be easy. If it is, you’re doing it wrong.