My Blue Gardenia


Deenie’s Diary Entry Father’s Day
June 5, 2012, 7:18 pm
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I was late to meet him, and sick to my stomach. I had avoided this for years, but now, a married woman, a mother, I felt like it was time to meet my father, even though it felt ridiculous. I was too old for a father. I just thought that I should meet him. He would be getting older, and I hated the idea that he was somewhere in the world thinking that I hated him.

I didn’t.

I just wanted him to know that there weren’t any hard feelings…that I understood now, as an adult and a flawed one at that, that life is much more complicated than I used to think. When I was younger, it seemed so cut and dry. I was his daughter, how could he go from day to day not knowing that I was okay…not knowing who I turned out to be? But how could I, as a mother, (to me, even more sacrosanct) judge him, with some of the thoughts that I have had? I went without expectations. I owed him nothing, and that was kind of beautiful. It was liberating.

He sat at the end of the bar looking down into his beer. When I arrived, he fumbled for money for a beer for me, obviously nervous. We moved to a table to a talk. He was warm and genuine, and at first, I lapped up the familiarity. It gave me a new sense of belonging, something that was often missing in the patchwork family that I had grown up with.  He told me stories about his parents, who died when I was still quite young. They were the people whose love created every stitch of security that holds me together still today, and he connected me to them. He was surprisingly smart and lucid about life, and we had a lot in common. If I met him, a stranger at that bar, we would’ve shared a great evening of conversation. In fact, if he wasn’t so loaded a character for me, I’m sure I would really enjoy his company.  But over time something in his presuming smile unnerved me.  He looked at me like he knew me, despite a lifetime having passed. I wanted him to be more humble.

We continued to meet, piecing together some kind of new relationship. Once the initial catching up was completed, he relied on our shared connections from the past. But his stories only illustrated the sad path that I had always known he’d lived. He shed an ugly light on people who were nearly mythic figures from my childhood.  The aunts and uncles that I had grown up idolizing had ugly secrets, just like all of us, but I didn’t appreciate the education. And it felt like he was compelled to do it, to lift himself up from the gutter he once dug for himself, by climbing over them, despite both of us knowing that he no longer lived in that place. He had something to prove to me.

Now when I see him, there is disappointment in his eyes, and I feel the weight of it. He wants something more, something deeper, and I want even less than before. Something that I’ve always been very aware of, is that who he is to me has little to do with his actions. He’s more of a character than a real person to me, made up of childhood memories… stories told to me, clouded by the hurt and resentment he left behind. He has been used as a weapon against me, for people scrambling to hurt me back, he’s every answer to every exclusion I’ve felt, he’s every disappointment, he is more bad memories than good.

And he can’t overcome it.

The first time he broke a promise to me, as an adult, I was ten years old all over again, and he knew it. And maybe I am more bad memories than good, but I’m his last chance. He’s made something of his life, and he has much to be proud of…but I am heavy with significance. I am the great metaphor for every mistake he’s ever made, and now I stand before him, an opportunity to change history and become whole. And I’m sad for him, because I’ll never be able to give him what he’s looking for, and he’ll never be able to fill that empty space in me,  and I think that we both know it. All that’s left is to accept ourselves for who we are.



Things are percolating…
March 16, 2011, 2:52 pm
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It’s been hard to write…a struggle between wanting to dig further, and wanting to just let my grandmother rest in peace. I think of my mother,  and I know that she wants to just move forward and stop looking back, but as soon as I begin to think that she’s right, I read something else in the diaries and I know that Deenie’s story needs to be told. And I think that, maybe, we all owe it to her somehow, to let her live on in this way, and to learn, from the story, what she wasn’t able to teach us in life.

Yesterday, I met Aunt Sadie for coffee. We used to spend so much time together when I was little…but now I am busy with my family, and she with her adventures. I really needed someone to talk with about Deenie’s diaries. Sadie’s read them all, trying to find the mother who was only ever a ghost to her. She was a little girl when Deenie died, but of all three of Deenie’s daughters, she is the most like her. It was born in her, and travels in her blood. We know this because no one spoke much of her mother for years after she died. But having grown up the center of a loving family, she isn’t lost the way Deenie was lost. She seems to have all the good of her, and none of the bad. She’s brave, spirited, and not afraid of her wildness. She knows her own mind. She grew up with a ghost for a Mama, a father who adored her, but was often too sad to be what she needed, and two older sisters, who protected her at all costs.

My mother, Sarah, the oldest, held Sadie like a china doll. She was convinced that if she didn’t drop her, someone would bump into her, or something might even fall out of the sky and knock her from her arms. She organized their lives into an order that she could control, because her life was so out of control for so long, or maybe because no one else, not even her parents, ever really stepped into this role. This particular aspect of Sarah’s care always made Sadie crazy. (And boy, can I relate!) When someone arranges your life for you, and forbids you to step outside of the neat and tidy box that they created for you, the implicit message is that you can’t do anything on your own, and sometimes, you even begin to believe that is the truth, until you realize the difference between fear and truth.

Auntie Anna, the middle sister, always understood Sadie, but tried to protect her as well. She was stuck somewhere in between the two sisters, in between Deenie as her mama and a ghost. Anna told me that she thought that my mother was once a lot like Deenie as well, but it terrified her, so that whenever she felt it rise inside her, she pushed it down with the weight of her will and went on as if it didn’t exist. Now that my mother is older, either her will has weakened, or she is less afraid, because I see Deenie in her more often.

I don’t think that her will has weakened.

No one really knew what Sadie could and would do once she got out of the neat and tidy box. Even before Deenie died, she was a wild little girl. But there is a particular trauma that comes with losing your mother so early, and the fear and coddling of her older sisters stunted her wild nature, but only temporarily. Today she travels with what the day brings, its a coping method really, and probably why she escaped this whole thing more intact than any of the others.



Deenie’s Mama
September 27, 2010, 8:48 pm
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Like a baby navigating the world, every time Deenie reached for something, her mother  jumped up to intervene. Her mother was afraid of everything, and had reason to be. In her experience, there were many things that could hurt you, and many ways to make everything fall apart. So she protected her child, and she protected herself, because the way that her dreamy daughter talked, from a very young age, shook her mother’s world in a way that made her uncomfortable.

She never let Deenie dream too much, or reach too high. When Deenie talked about college, she told her to be practical and think instead of a husband. When Deenie and her husband talked about traveling, her mother talked about disease. When Deenie had children and talked about a quiet life in the country, she talked about needing doctors and hospitals, and family nearby.

And when Deenie asked about her father, she told her that she was better off without him …that he would trick her into thinking that she was loved, and then hurt her. She told Deenie that it was best to close that door and forget about him.

Neither of them ever spoke about him again, but neither of them would ever forget about him.

And to Deenie, behind every word was “You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You haven’t thought this through.”

You’re not smart enough. You’re not strong enough. You can’t handle this.

With her best intentions, she squashed and suffocated every dream her daughter ever had, until her daughter forgot how to dream.



Deenie’s Diary Entry #5
May 12, 2010, 7:39 pm
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I abhor dishonesty…in every way it comes up. I hate being nice to someone who is not nice, pretending to like those that I don’t…pretending to be happy when I’m not. Being a woman in 1959 is all about dishonesty…the way I look, the way I act, the life I lead…dishonesty.

It shakes me to the core, to look at the miracles that happen all around me. I can’t understand how people go through a day without being astonished at the wonder of their own bodies, let alone the perfect interconnection of the trees and the bees and all of it.

I feel like the only person in the world who sees things as they really are. While all the other women around me are flying through their lives buying lipstick and appliances, I can’t stop wondering at the stars.

And they think I’m crazy.



Deenie’s Diary Entry #4-Wolf Moon
January 31, 2010, 9:39 pm
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She called it a wolf moon, the full moon last night that made me stop and hold my breath. The moon that put me in my place.

Like the night we drove through Kansas, a bowl of stars over the land, and I knew that I was floating in space, and insignificant. The wolf moon is timeless, she said, the earth is timeless, and we are only visitors.

I can’t explain the peace that brings me.

The weight of the guilt, the expectations…it all melts away when I realize that no matter what I do with this life of mine, the moon will continue on it’s journey, the earth will turn, and maybe it’s okay if today I just enjoy the way the light plays on the dormant raspberry bushes and read a poem, or ten.



I read once that winter is the time for ghosts.
January 13, 2010, 9:50 pm
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I know that all of the people that I’ve loved who’ve passed on, have done so from the warm peace of a room that looked out at blizzards, windswept glittery snowglobe snow, and biting cold.

I am humbled by my own connection to the other world. Perhaps every family suspects that they are special this way, have some kind of psychic connection that others don’t, but all of the women in my family feel the pull of spirits. Maybe it’s just my mystical Catholic upbringing, or maybe it’s a legacy of strong women, oftentimes forced to stand on their own without support from anyone but God…women guided to trust the one thing that they could, their intuition.

I believe that it’s a practice, senses that sharpen with regular use. Once you’re more in tune with the inner workings of your own mystery, you begin to pick up on the mysteries around you.



hip Mama the parenting zine
November 23, 2009, 5:55 am
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Presents…a reading by local writers Deesha Philyaw, Christina Springer, Melissa Sokulski, Kelli Stevens Kane, and Robin Monroe, along with Amanda Gilby, Hip Mama short fiction contest winner, reading “Blue Gardenia” featured in Issue 44:The Creativity Issue

This latest issue honors and celebrates musicians, writers, and artists who can nurture their kids and their art.
Let’s get together hip Mamas! We want to hear from you!

Friday December 4th 7pm

Rebellious Nature Radical T-Shirt & Fair-Trade Gift Shop & Art Gallery

Located At the Corner of Penn Ave and N.Graham St.
-Side Entrance at 104 N.Graham Street-

for more information check out:
http://www.rebelliousnature.com/
http://friendship-pgh.org/paai/unblurred/