Brown Paper Packages

taco picSo, Sean and I started our Saturday morning by walking down to Jo’s Coffee shop on South Congress as we often do.  We ordered our coffees and as I was feeling pretty hungry I ordered two Pappas, Egg and Cheese tacos to match Sean’s order.  We said hello to our new friend Nichole who was once again sporting her red silk kimono and joined her at the large community table to eat our breakfast.  After finishing my first taco, I decided I’d been overzealous in my ordering and wrapped up the remaining taco in a brown paper bag and shoved it down in my backpack to bring home to Al.

I read a little and did some writing warm-ups while Sean sketched various people from around the shop.  Jo’s has a different vibe on Saturdays.  The regulars are there, but there are more families and small children and impolite dogs who bark, bark, bark.  At first the energy is inspirational but eventually we feel the itch to move on and today we have errands to run anyway. So, we packed up our stuff and continued up the hill.

I wanted to make Mexican Wedding Cakes and forgot the vanilla last time I was at the grocery store so we headed to the Farm to Market store which is too expensive to go to on a regular basis but I was willing to splurge to save the time of dragging Al’s big truck out of the garage to go to the HEB.  I spent ten dollars on a bottle of organic vanilla and even the cashier double checked the outrageous price but I was being lazy and I paid for it.  The cashier asked if I wanted a bag. I considered just throwing the bottle in my purse but worried it might leak so I said yes and she wrapped the bottle in small brown paper sack.  I shoved the sack down in my purse not realizing that brown paper sacks would cause problems in my near future.

Sean needed to go to the bank so we walked further up the hill than usual.  Beyond the bank there is a middle school and some barber shops but the shops become more spread out and less appealing so the bank was to be our last stop before heading back to the apartment down the hill.  On our way to the bank, we approached an elderly man with a bushy gray beard in a wheelchair.  He had a cardboard sign in his lap and the words written in Sharpie marker said something about needing any kind of help anyone could offer.  I remembered my leftover taco and said hello to the man and his friend standing next to him.  I told him I didn’t have any cash, which I didn’t, but that I had a taco in my purse and would he like to have it.  He said he would, so I opened my purse and took out the brown paper sack and handed it to him.  We exchanged God Bless You with Have a Nice Day and Sean and I crossed the street to the bank.

As we left the bank, I noticed the man and his friend were gone.  I mentioned to Sean that this was the first time I had ever uttered the phrase, “I have a taco in my purse,” to anyone.  We laughed.

At home, I tidied up the kitchen and started chopping pecans for my cookie dough.  I followed the recipe until I got to the line that read, “Whip butter and sugar together and add vanilla.”  I went to my purse to retrieve the vanilla and dug around past the sunglasses and Kleenex and various pens and pencils. There was no brown bag.  A realization started to dawn and so I checked my backpack and there it was, wrapped in brown paper… the taco I thought I had given to the wheelchair bound man.  “Oh no!” I shouted to Sean with wide eyes while slapping both palms to my cheeks.  “I gave the vanilla to the homeless man!”  “What is he going to do with ten dollars’ worth of pure organic vanilla?” Then, I mimed tipping back a bottle and taking a drink and planted my face in my palm while Sean laughed.

Call of Duty, NOT

Imagine the phone rings and it’s the phone call of all phone calls.  It’s the call that makes your day, your week, your year.  Who would be on the other end of that line?

My phone rang last night after dinner and the caller ID said it was my older son calling from college.  My first thought was, “what does he need me to bring him, now?”  My second thought was, “oh, no, something’s wrong.”

So with trepidation, I answered the phone.

“Hello…”

“Mom?”

“Yes…”

“Guess what?  I am having the greatest day!”

So there you have it, my phone call of all phone calls.  My 18-year-old son was having a great day and he called home to talk about it.  I really can’t imagine anything better than that.

All those time-outs, and sleepless nights, and demands that he at least taste the food before he refuse to eat it had paid off.  Despite the nights spent at the kitchen table over homework with me yelling, Sit up in your chair!  Now pay attention!” and that year he told me he hated me and I was the worst mother in the world, my son wanted to share good news with me.

With passion in his voice, he told me of professors he had met that day and brainstorming that had occurred.  He had a plan for the next
four years and he was inspired.  We talked until he was all the way across campus and in front of his dorm.  We said our good-byes and I sat for a moment stunned.

I don’t think I would have been any more excited if the President himself had been on the line.  My son is 18 years old.  He has dreams and goals.  He is inspired.  And when he wants to share good news, he calls his mom.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Road Block Ahead

Photo by Jacob Yager

Have you ever been cruising along on a pleasant little road trip with the top down, wind in your hair, enjoying the music on the radio when you crest a hill to find traffic at an abrupt stop?  You hit the brakes, put it in neutral and sit.  Eventually, the open top is an encumbrance, unfiltered access to the baking sun.  The former breeze is now still, tainted with heat radiating up from the pavement and laced with the scent of burning oil and diesel.  The radio plays nothing but white noise due to the gigantic cell tower off to the right and you’re pretty sure those three buzzards are doing a regular fly by over your car.  You’ve hit a roadblock and your pleasant day has turned sour.  That road trip is where I’ve been.

            In reality, my girlfriend and I just got back from a 1,500 mile round trip adventure to Iowa City for a graduation party.  The traffic was light, the weather was nice and except for stops at three separate fast-food joints, all at different exits, to placate the 5 kids in the back, it was a good trip.  The road block I experienced was in my mind.

            It’s happened before.  I skip a day of writing and then two days turn into three, four, and five.  Doubt sets in and I find a million convenient excuses for not picking up a pen.  Then, the bad voice starts talking.  The one who says,

“You’re kidding yourself.  You are not a writer.  You are just wasting time.  Give it up.  Your house would be cleaner and you could get the filing done.  Can you believe you were considering submitting that?  You have nothing interesting to say.  No one cares about your stupid stories.  There are people out there who are real artists.  You don’t belong with them.  Seriously, just give it up.”

And, I start to listen to that voice a little… a lot actually.  Doubt and Sadness take up residence in the back seat and they are needy.  They need a bathroom break and a snack and Sadness is thirsty but we are stuck on the road together with nowhere to go.  But then, out of the blue, the radio starts working and I hear a good song, one with a clever line of lyrics that gets my mind going.  Then, I find a new magazine while waiting in line at Tractor Supply to buy chicken feed and it might make a good market for that barn story I have on the back burner. 

Before you know it, the traffic starts to crawl.  Brake lights flicker and a breeze starts to stir.  We pass the roadblock for now.  There will be another one, up the road, but right now, it feels good to put my foot back on the gas.