Monthly Archives: December 2010

The angry mom who gathered a posse.

After she gathered them they all stormed over to my apartment building.  I’ve heard tell they were non-stop buzzing my apartment to have me buzz them in.  I wasn’t home.  I worked nights.  My kids weren’t home, they must have been at Rob’s house.  My neighbor in the next building, so two balconies down, shouted out to them and asked them what the hell they wanted.  One of them told her that she was going to beat the shit out of me.  My neighbor’s name was Cheri, she was pretty tall.  Once she heard that, she walked down the stairs and outside and leaned down into the face of the woman who had spouted the beating me up part and let her know that if she wanted to take someone on, she needed to start with her.

Backing up a bit, one summer, sunny day Samantha and Bridget decided to have a freeze pop stand. Same thing as a Kool-aid stand.  Set up a little table and chairs on the side walk, make a sign and sell your wares.  When I was a kid, the summer they dug up our street for whatever reason, we used to go to Glen’s Valley Market and buy freeze pops for 7 cents.  Then we’d run back to our street really fast (so they wouldn’t melt) and sell them to the workmen for 10 cents.  The poor hot and sweaty workers appreciated something cold and we really thought we rocked making 3 cents on each freeze pop.  Samantha and Bridget put freeze packs and freeze pops in a cooler and brought it out to the sidewalk with the little table and chairs and a sign.  They weren’t out there very long and when they came in, they came in rather quickly and shut the door and announced that all the freeze pops were gone.   Judging by their looks, this was not a good thing.

I asked a few questions and com’on, two fearful little girls are hard to understand at the same time.  What I got out of what they had said was that a kid, named Jeff, had taken all of the freeze pops and they were afraid to go back out to bring in the table and chairs.  I’m one of those people who may not always stick up for myself  but you fuck with my kids and I will kill you type people. I also think they must have pointed out to me, who he was, either through the window or from the deck.  I just know that when I went out to get the table and  chairs and saw this kid and he was at least my height,  I was furious!  I let him know it.  How dare he steal from 2 little girls like that?   Blah, blah, blah, blah…I was pissed.

It was after that encounter that I was informed, by the girls,  that he didn’t really steal the  freeze pops.  He had frightened them into giving the freeze pops to him.   Yes, I understand there is a difference.  Not much though.  He’d gotten in their faces and asked why  don’t they just give the freeze pops to him (and his mini gang).   Apparently they okayed and made a bee line back to the apartment.   Sorry, I was still pissed off.  Who the hell was this big kid to intimidate these little girls?

That’s why the mom gathered a posse.  She was Jeff’s step-mom.  So anyway, Cheri informed me a few days after the event, that this had occurred.  Cheri is one of those people that ya just gotta love.  I kept a low profile in that neighborhood, Cheri knew everyone and everything.  She informed me of the event and then let me know that this woman was Jeff’s step-mom and did her damnedest to be the sugar step-mom.  She wanted to beat me up because I had yelled at the kid.  Cheri told me that the dad worked all the time and  step-mom let the kid run wild so the kid would love her.  Cheri also told me that Jeff was 14.  Jeff’s dad, per Cheri, adored his son but demanded that the kid followed rules, behave, act appropriately, etc.  This is where step-mom would score with the kid.  Step-mom never told the dad about Jeff’s bad behavior.

It wasn’t a week later that I went home from work one night and found a note on the inside of my door,  the author of the note had threatened to kill me.   At that point I called the cops.  I, in no way, wanted them to confront step-mom.  I just wanted them to know that if I end up dead, look to her 1st.  That was all I’d wanted to tell them.  I’d dialed the number that isn’t 911.  They sent a squad car to my home.  Really?  Years earlier I had called the not 911 to ask them a question and they were able to answer it, case closed.  Apparently if you want something noted, they have to send someone.   So, again, kids aren’t home and I let the policeman in and we had a conversation and I just brought him up to speed on things thus far and I didn’t want to make a complaint and I didn’t him to go over there, I just want this written down somewhere.  If I showed up dead, look there 1st.  That’s it.  Don’t  talk to this woman, why add fuel to the fire?  Just note it.   What I got back from that statement was “ma’am, are you sure you want me to go over there and talk to her?”   I repeated that I absolutely did NOT want him to go to her apartment and talk to her.   His response was to let me know “do you know what will happen if I go over there and talk to her?”.    I let him know that I did know, it would add fuel to the fire.  I wasn’t going to instigate anything,  I’d just like this to blow over.  Just make a note that should I should end up dead, look in that direction.  They always look at the ex-husband.  “Okay, ma’am, do you know what you’re dealing with here?”.  No, I guess I didn’t. Apparently, since I had moved in,  the apartments had opened up to subsidized housing.  To quote the police officer I was dealing with “relocated Minneapolis blacks”.   Good to know but not the issue.  He then informed me that if he went over this woman’s apartment and talked to her that would piss her off more.  Okay, ya think?  I think it may have been one of those hearing-what-you-expect-to-hear instances.  He  wasn’t actually listening to my actual words.  I really wish I’d have kept the note.  Not a word was spelled correctly and I believe “mother fucker”  was one word, used as a verb and completely out of context.  I know, how do you do that?   Mr. Police Officer shook his head at it, but he did take it with him.  He left promising me that he wouldn’t talk to the step-mom.  I remember expressly that this was the same weekend as Bob’s heart attack, when he was 37.  That’s another story.  Nothing happened after that.  I’ve gotta guess that step-mom was pacified w/ threatening, not actually preforming.

School started in the fall and one night Shannon came up from downstairs and let me know that she was stopped on the stairs and threatened my this same  Jeff  kid.  Shannon was 12.   There were only 3 other apartments in the building and I can guarantee that this kid wasn’t visiting any of them.   I flew out the door and found this kid (really, no where to hide) and chased him out of the building spouting that he had no right being there and how dare he scare my daughter in her own home and this and that and whatever else came to my mind at the time.  I got him outside and the door shut behind us and on my tiptoes, s0 we’d be eye to eye, and my face a quarter inch from his face, I very  loudly and sternly let him know that he had better NEVER, EVER enter this building again…or… or …or else……that’s where I got stuck…or else, or else….I ended up saying that I’d call the police which sounded incredibly stupid to me at the time and I was embarrassed about that threat as soon as the words left my mouth.  It seemed to me,  that it carried the same weight as if I’d said “or else I’ll call you a bad name”.   It wasn’t the actual threat that bothered me,  it was my presentation of  it, tone of voice, that type of thing just didn’t come across as scary.  I had been passionately ranting and  raving and then got stuck at the “or else” so when I picked it up again, it didn’t carry the same gusto. Fail.  Guessing that my huff and upward eye-roll depicting my irritation with myself  either went unnoticed by my threat victim or didn’t convey to him my awkward feeling that I’d just sounded like a complete dope.

Retrospectively, I wonder if maybe that was the exact threat to use.  If I’d threatened to harm him he would have had step-mom come after me again.  He must not have been stupid if he realized that if he got into trouble with the law that his step-mom wouldn’t be able to help him and (here’s the big one) his dad would find out.  I’d have to guess that he never told her or I’d have heard from her again.  I never heard from the kid again or the step-mom.  Don’t know if they moved out the next day, don’t know if the step-mom died that evening,  don’t know if they won the lottery…I have no idea.

I do know, however, that when it was time to renew my lease and they’d raised my rent 40 bucks and I called and asked  “Are you kidding me? I actually pay you!  It’s me, it’s my dollars that I’m giving you not the state’s and I work hard for a living! ” it did me no good.  My rent still got raised 40 bucks.   I also know that they quit with  the subsidized housing.  Didn’t improve the neighborhood, that I noticed, but I’m pretty sure it did some good because the neighborhood didn’t get worse. I also know that my children weren’t ever threatened in our building again.   I can’t even imagine being a kid and not feeling safe on your own home front.   That wasn’t how I grew up so of course I hadn’t prepared my children for the ride.   Oh wait, I did have a neighbor, when I was a kid, who punched me in the eye and gave me a black eye.   No reason, out of the blue, punched me in the eye and ran away.   My mom didn’t gather a posse though.

Spilling the beans on Santa Claus 2

Once there was a poor man who had 3 daughters, they were getting closer to “coming of  age” and the man  had no dowry for any of them.  It was thought, at the time, that if one couldn’t marry off their daughters, the daughters had no choice other than becoming prostitutes. The night before the eldest daughter’s birthday Saint Nicholas tossed a bag of gold into the man’s house.   The next morning the bag of gold was found and the man was able to marry his oldest daughter off because he had a proper dowry to send with her.  A year or so later when the middle daughter was about to have her birthday, Saint Nicholas, again, tossed a bag of gold into the man’s house and the man was able to marry his 2nd daughter off as well.  By the time we get to the 3rd daughter the story varies.  Some stories tell of the man lying in wait and catching St. Nicholas tossing the bag of gold into the man’s house, other stories go in other directions.   St. Nicholas was an actual person.  Santa Claus is a fictional and enhanced version of St. Nicholas.  Bottom line (to me),  St. Nicholas is the spirit of giving without recognition, without expecting anything in return.  Giving to make someone else happy, if not happy then at least better off.

It completely never dawned on me, growing up, that we didn’t get Christmas presents from our parents.  Didn’t notice it, didn’t miss it, apparently I was just overwhelmed with the whole Christmas thing to ever give it a thought.  My parents put all their efforts into Santa Claus.  There were never any wrapped gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.  Everything  under the tree on Christmas was already all set up and ready to go.   If things needed to be assemble, they already were.  If things needed batteries, they already had them.  For a little kid it was like walking into a toy store, it felt like magic.  The Santas in my house would group things together so there was never any doubt on what was left for who.  We’d see Claudette’s things over there, Robert’s things over there, Bernadette’s things over there and, oh my!  Did Santa really leave me that!?!   Nothing short of fabulous and magical for a kid, seeing everything at once.

When I was in 2nd grade Bernadette told me that our parents were Santa Claus, of course I didn’t believe her.  She took me to my parents closet.  What we saw in there was pretty much all the things we’d written to Santa for.  I still didn’t believe her.  After Christmas morning I checked my parent’s closet again.  Heavy sigh.  Okay, I believe you.  I never told my parents that I “knew”.  We never had that conversation.  I have no idea how long they thought I believed.  I just know that I had liked believing much better than pretending to not know.

Skip ahead to where I’m the parent , I had followed my parent’s tradition of having everything displayed, set up and ready to go.  Although, once I became a single parent I became a little selfish.  My kids each got one gift from me.  Apparently I’m just not as pious as St. Nicholas.  I worked my ass of and I did want a little thanks.  Sucks to say but I wanted a little recognition for all of my hard work.

Sometime after Christmas, when Shannon was in 3rd grade, she told me that some kids at school had said that there wasn’t a Santa.   Bad math on my part,  I thought that since I’d found out in 2nd grade, Shan would be ready to find out in 3rd grade.  I had forgotten that I hadn’t wanted to know and I didn’t yet know that sometimes kids ask things before they want to know the answer.

Shannon and I had a private conversation and I told her about St. Nicholas and that Santa may not really exist as a chubby guy in a red suit,  but he really did exist in St. Nicholas’ spirit.  The spirit of giving.  I told her that anyone, anyone could be Santa slash St. Nicholas if they gave without expecting anything in return.   I think she was disappointed and I think I could have waited another year.

The next year when Christmas came around I figured that since Shannon knew the story, that she could be my elf.  I asked her if she’d like to, she was in.  As usual we got home late on Christmas Eve and I put all the kids to bed with special instructions to Shannon to stay awake.  Once the younger two kids were asleep I got Shannon out of bed and the two of us made, I don’t know how many,  trips down and up the 32 stairs to the garage to collect the “Santa” gifts.  A lot of kid’s are huge so somethimes we could only carry one thing at a time.   We opened everything, set everything up, put batteries in anything that need any and displayed the lot in three separate areas.  One for Shan, one for Alex, one for Samantha.  Okay, the really fun part of not wrapping “Santa” presents is getting to try them out :o)  We had a great time together doing that.  I loved having an accomplice, so to speak.

The next morning Shannon was the greatest actress this world has seen yet.  Although she and I had played with absolutely everything the previous evening, she pretended, each and every, time that Samantha and Alex HAD to show her something amazing that it was the 1st time she had ever seen it.  She really was truly amazing.  She continued as my elf  for the couple years and always feigned surprise when she was asked to “watch this” by one of her siblings.

I think it was when she was in 6th grade, at Christmas time,  that my sister, Claudette, called and asked if I had any money she could borrow as she’d lost her wallet and it had everything in it, check book, credit cards, the works.  I did have a little and she was coming over to get it.  Guessing I mentioned it because Shannon ran into her room and gathered every cent she had and brought it to me and instructed me to give it to Claudette and to not let Claudette know that it came from Shannon and that she did not want it back even if Claudette had found her wallet/checkbook, whatever.   Proud moment in a mom’s life, Shannon “got it”,  the spirit of St. Nick.

When Alex was in 4th grade and we were sitting at the kitchen table and were reading a cloth book of Santa he mentioned “mom, I can tell that Mrs. Claus made this because it’s sewn”.   I was already wondering about him.  That statement let me know that he still believed hook, line and sinker.  He was 10.  I didn’t want anyone making fun of him or picking on him if he spouted that Santa was real.  I don’t know where my daughters where but they were  no where nearby, so I told him.  I explained the same as I did to Shan, that it may not be a chubby guy in a red suit but it was still very real as long as one can give without expecting recognition or anything in return.  Too cute.  I still remember the perplexed look on his face and then he turned away and pondered things.  I could see the wheels turning in his head.  It took 20 minutes or so before his eyes got really big and he turned towards me and said “Oh no!  Mom!  What about the Easter Bunny!?!”.   That year Alex got to be the elf.  Got home late on Christmas Eve, as usual, put the kids to bed with special instructions to Alex to stay awake.  Once  I was sure that Samantha was sleeping I went into his room and he was sleeping as well.  I didn’t want to make the decision for him so I roused him enough to ask if he still wanted to be my elf.  He said yes so we made the flight 32 steps down and back once and he ooohed and ahhhed at this and that and then was back in bed, asleep, before the 2nd trip downstairs.

Shannon and Alex did a great job on keeping their little sister out of the loop.   When Samantha was 10 she and I went to see Santa and we each, separately, had our photos taken with him.  That was at the mall.  When we left the mall and got into the Target parking lot and had parked the car, I told her about St. Nick and Santa and the true spirit of Christmas.  Never before, and never after has Samantha ever done this…she hit me.   Apparently she was very disappointed, ya think?  No, she didn’t cold-cock me, she punched my arm.  She was not a happy camper.  Once inside Target, I lent her money to buy some sort of talking something or other to try to bring her out of her blues.  Samantha still went to bed sad that night.  The next morning. it was a weekend,  she woke up and asked me about poor kids.   I told her about Toys For Tots, why we participated in Stuff  The Bus every year, mitten trees at church,  the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, everything I could think of.   The next day was a Monday and Samantha went to school and started collecting money for poor kids.  Okay then, she got it.

I was hoping that by writing down these memories it might jump start me into getting into the Christmas spirit, that I so lack, this year.  It didn’t.  Guess I’ll have to think of something else.

Roger Carlson and I’m not a nice person 1

Okay, first of all, I adored Roger.  Not only was he a very friendly, generous and amusing person when he was alive, he taught me a very important lesson after he had died.  Although I don’t think that was ever his intent. Okay, to be fair, I don’t think he intended on leaving this world at 56 years old either.

Roger was Leon’s friend.  It was those two who came in for dinner every Saturday.  Leon was the shy one and Roger was the gregarious personality that would bring your attention to the  two of them.  He was a man-about-town.  He had his hand in this and that and he was the one that started the annual Fire Muster in Burnsville.  Almost every town has it’s annual celebration for something or other.  Burnsville didn’t have one until Roger started the Fire Muster. It was a few years after he died before I was informed of that. I used to curse it on Saturday mornings when I’d worked late the night before and all the firetrucks would drive down my street blaring their sirens.  Roger collected firetrucks.  I know, right?  Anyway he did and do the math and it’ll tell you that’s why he created the Fire Muster.  He did a great job.  Back in the day, as much as I would curse the firetrucks in the morning I’d take the kids to watch the fireworks in the evening.  Rob usually took them to the other events because I worked every Saturday night.  Anyway, back to my point.

The last time I saw Roger alive was, of course, a Saturday night when he came into the Timberlodge  w/Leon.  I waited on them and at a table adjacent to them (which was also my table) was a couple that Roger knew.  Roger told me to encourage that couple to have dessert and gave me a fifty dollar bill to pay for their dinner,  I know, dollar wise it was that long ago.  He instructed me to tip myself and give him his change the next time I saw him.  The next time I saw him he was in a coffin.

There was nine dollars and some odd change due to him.  The night  he gave me the fifty I had put his change in an envelope and sealed it to give it back to him the following Saturday.  Right, the following Saturday was the night Leon came in to inform us that Roger had died.

I took the envelope to his funeral with the intent on giving it to one of his sons.  Although Leon introduced me to each of them, it just didn’t appear to be the right moment to bring up nine dollars when they had just lost their dad.  The envelope came back home with me.  My next thought was to buy Leon’s dinner with it.  Roger always paid, it would be a one-last-time sort of thing.  I did buy Leon’s dinner once or twice but I did it w/gift certificates that I earned for this or that as an employee.

Skip ahead to me having a bad night, one night, a few months later at work and making very little dollars and stopping at the grocery store on the way home.  I’m not always a good person.  My total at grocery store was more than I had made that night and I ripped open the envelope to covered the difference.   Another low point in my life.

The Christmas season was starting and I was still having a tough time dealing w/my conscious about what I’d done with Roger’s change.  Some things just never go away and they get heavier the longer you wear them.  Walking into Target one day with the kids I was struck by a bolt of lightening.  There was a Salvation Army guy ringing the bell outside the door.  Roger was a very, very giving person.  This was it.  I couldn’t afford the entire 9 dollars and change at the time so I just put a dollar in the bucket.  On the way out I put another dollar in the bucket.   That became a tradition.   Since then, I’ve never passed up a bell ringer without putting a dollar in the bucket on the way in and on the way out.  Once in a while the kids would ask me why I did that since I always told them that we didn’t have money for this or that.  I don’t know where I ever heard “give the most when you have the least”  but that’s what I’d tell them.  That’s what I learned from Roger.  Back to the feel  good thing.  Rent might be late but I’d walk around with and extra bounce in my step and a smile on my face because I’d done something good and I had Roger to thank for it.

Blew through Roger’s change that 1st year.  It’s been over a decade since then and also since then I’ve kept it up in his memory.    Samantha and I were skyping a few weeks ago and she couldn’t wait to tell me that she’d given money to a man with no legs.  She said “ya know how you always give money to the Salvation Army?”  She sounded completely elated.   That makes me smile.

So there it is.  I’m not always a good person and we do, sometimes, learn from our mistakes and God bless Roger for the huge lesson he taught me after he was gone.  Apparently that has spread to the next generation.  It’s been about 15 years since he died.  I think about him a lot this time of year.