I love my parents. 

I try to analyze this paternal relationship.  When I do I lose myself.  I cannot dissect myself completely from it.  Even if I want to.

When I was young I tried everything in my power to please them. 

On one hand they are structured, kind, good, conservative and moral.  On the other hand they are racist, judgmental, non tolerant, and hard on their children. 

They are pull yourself up by your own boot straps kind of people. 

Hoe your own row kind of people. 

There are unwritten rules and codes.  Facial expressions and hand gestures.  Their words and certain tones have their own hidden meanings. 

As with anything, I am liked when I am agreeable or when I comport.  


The first time my husband hit me— it was in the face.  He knocked me to the floor. 

I learned people do see stars. 

In his defense he used an open hand.  (If it had been closed I am not so sure I would ever have gotten back up)

This was after he tried to throw me down the stairs.  This was after he dragged me through the living room.  This was after he tore off my sweater. 

The babies were both barely sleeping.  It was about 2 a.m.

We had gotten home from a long day visiting his family.  Baby Sarah was stressed from all the activity.  She threw up in her car seat.  It was too late for us to be out with them.

I was told to shut up about it.

I was told to go downstairs and to wash the car seat clean.

I told him, “No.”  It’s 2:00 a.m. it can wait until morning.”


This is when I think about the “what ifs”.  What if I just respected my husband and did what I was told?  If I had just resigned myself to keep the peace.

But on this night I was tired of keeping peace.  I was tired of doing as told.

This wasn’t the first time he had been horribly mean to me. 

I snapped back: “You can’t make me.”

That night I called the police. He fled the home.  I called my parents.  I wanted to come home with my babies.

Their answer: “No.”
A few days after the incident they took us both out to dinner to discuss the situation.  He is your husband.  This is your bed.  You made it.  Our home is no longer your home.  You have no place here.  You two work it out.  You have your children.

I know them and I know their thoughts:  What would the family think?  What would our friends and neighbors think?  Jodi doesn’t have a decent job.  The children are both in diapers.  It will inconvenient.  It will be crowded.  This is an ugly situation, she created it, she needs to figure it out.

All this is and was complicated.  There is more to this story.  I don’t feel like looking at it.  I don’t want to write about it now.

I  understand things I don’t want my girls to understand.

Today I break down and I ask them for a small favor.  Our firm needs to get rid of 200 old client boxes.  I want to burn them out on their land.  It is private and safe.  It will save us a lot of money.  It’s a project I want to get done.

I ask again and again—“Are you sure it is going to be O.K.” 

Their response:  “Of course, come out it is fine.  It is more than O.K.”

But now they are saying that they didn’t think it through.  The job appears bigger than described. 

I see them.  They are worried about presentation.  The images.  No thoughts beyond their retirement world.  No thoughts beyond them.  No thoughts of me, my worries or my work load.  My father so angry and upset.  This pile of ash is making a huge mess.  He is going to have to clean it up.  This is unacceptable.   This is a big inconvenience.  This wind is going to blow the papers.  It is going to rain and it will be a cardboard and paper-mache mess.  I am not burning the boxes the right way.  I should have started this project hours ago.  I am doing it all wrong.  I am dumping this project onto him.  My mother seems to agree.
I am thinking:  Forget we were supposed to visit, drink beer and eat some brats.  I am here.  Love and spend time with me.  Who cares about this ugly mess.  These trivial worries.  I never asked you to do this.  This is mine.  I just needed your privacy and open space.  These are just boxes and we are just burning them.

An easy simple project turns into my father shaking with anger.  My mother defending my father.  It is an ugly family scene.

The harsh words were spoken and exchanged.  I am looking at trees and a lonely fire pit.  There is no one really around on this 17 acre site.  I cry hot tears of frustration.  I slap them from my cheek.  These tears are not just about a bunch of boxes.  They spring from a well deeper than any disappointment or hurt.

I tell my father, “Go into the house and leave me alone.  Be quite and don’t speak further to me.” 

I stay until 2:00 a.m. burning and cleaning up a mess that only racoons and birds will really see. 

I drink the beer by myself.  My arms and back ache from raking and turning the piles of ash.  Campfire smoke coats my sweater, my jeans, my hair.  I smell of crushed oak, paper and pine.  I am dirty and filthy.  My nose is caked with soot.  I feel it lined in my ears.  The cold wind whips up some flaming papers.  The wood pops and cracks. The burning carbon floats out and is filled with tiny red holes.   The blackened paper floats higher looking like hot red bugs or a new species of night butterflies.   The trees are so black against this dark hue of blue.  The moon and clouds are a chalky dull white.  The stars look like dots of shiny ice.

Coyotes howl. 

This is so quiet, beautiful and peaceful.

(I can only use my words to show it to you)

I think: Leave these old people to their simple worries of presentation.   

I would rather feel and be as deep and dark as this sky.  I want those hot red bugs to fly as far as they may into this night.   This cool air, as fresh and cold as any distant moon, is kissing those hot licking flames.

The night and I know things. 

Yes, I drink a toast to their silly and insignificant worries.