On writing & my first writing teacher

I have always loved writing. I started keeping a diary when I was about 11 years old. I stopped in college. When I was a junior in college, I caught a dear friend snooping in my room and reading my journal; another time my mother confessed to reading some of it immediately following the nervous breakdown I had in college. Her reasons were totally valid and I don't blame her for it. Yet somehow it changes things when your private thoughts are no longer your own and you're scared.

I have never really resumed that kind of writing, but it's always gnawed at me. Especially lately-- I've been obsessed with writing. I want to do it all the time. But there's not enough time. If I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. If I'm not thinking about writing, I'm dreaming about writing. And this blog was also born out of this desire, but only lately have I been trying to evolve a bit. I don't know where The Mother Load was going before, but now...it's going into my head, my memories, my life. It's a little piece of me, straight from my heart out into cyberspace.

High school was the first time I began to really feel like I was onto something with this writing gig. That was primarily because of a teacher I had. It started on my first day of my Junior year. We were seated alphabetically, and since my last name began with a "B," I was the last person in the first row, which was conveniently along a wall. So I got to hide in the corner. And hide I did, until Mr. B called me out after catching me giggling about something. He focused on me, grabbed his roll call sheet and figured out who I was.

"Erin B., stand up!" He boomed.

I blushed furiously and pretended like I hadn't heard.

"Stand up!" he yelled again.

I slowly rose out of my seat and I felt the sudden dampness under my arms. I looked at the floor and tried in vain to disappear.

"Well aren't you tall and willowy," he said, this time in a slightly softer voice. The class tittered.

I quickly sat back down and busied myself with some doodling.

I didn't even know what willowy meant, so I had to go home and look it up later. It meant, "tall, slender, moving gracefully."

Mr. B gave us lots of writing assignments. Creative writing. We had a certain amount of freedom when choosing topics. For example, I vividly recall writing a paper about my first kiss, which you can also read about here in case you missed it. He begged me to read it aloud to the class. I refused. He begged me to let him read it aloud to the class. I declined again, insistent that he not embarrass me. There were one or two other papers later on that I did allow him to read to the class but only because he said it would be anonymous. He told me my writing was wonderful and he wanted to share it with the class to demonstrate what good writing was. I figured either I must be dreaming or he must be having hot dates with heavy narcotics after school hours.

I didn't have a lot of friends back then, and there was a clear division between the popular kids and the not-so-popular kids. Being bookish and shy with lots of family drama, I fell into the latter group. I dreaded lunch hour because it meant having to find someone to sit with. I loathed all the cliques. I was ridiculously self conscious. Consequently, I often ended up hanging out in one of two places during lunch: the library or Mr. B's homeroom.

He became my friend. I'm not sure who is to blame for this, and to this day I don't think it was totally inappropriate. I was going through a rough time with my parents' divorce, my dad's homosexuality, and the general angst most teenagers experience. He was there for me. He listened. He read. He was someone I could trust with my most intimate thoughts and feelings.

I confided in Mr. B about stuff at home, fights with friends, break-ups with boyfriends, etc. He filled a void for me. There weren't a lot of mature, intelligent people in 11th grade who wanted to be my friend, or who were capable of understanding the complexity that was me. Besides, he encouraged me. He thought my writing was special. I'd never felt special before, or that I was capable of doing anything extraordinary. I began to gain confidence in myself for the very first time.

But it wasn't meant to last.

Other things started happening. One day during class as we were writing our final drafts of a paper, he walked by my desk casually and tossed a folded piece of paper onto it. I don't know if he thought he was being discreet, but several people saw. I stuffed it into my backpack and didn't open it right away, as I felt everyone's eyes all over me, like bugs.

Later I unfolded it slowly in the privacy of the locker room. It read, "Beauty pauses, then whimpers at the sight of you...from jealousy."

Another one a few weeks later included this:

"I had something pretty heavy go down recently, and the warmth of your glow lately, has---that big, bright-eyed smile----has melted that heaviness into a cottony bliss each lunch time you tumble into my room."

While I felt special getting these notes, I was pretty convinced it was inappropriate. I didn't know how to interpret it. It could have been wholly innocent, or simply his flaunting his own writing skills to someone he knew would appreciate them. Maybe he was preying on my naivete. I don't know.

Not long after this, we were sitting in math class one day, waiting on our teacher to come in. I don't remember how it happened or started, but a girl I thought was my friend essentially accused me (in front of everyone) of sleeping with Mr. B to get my A's in writing. Instead of defending myself, I began to cry and I flew out of the room. I went to the front desk and told the secretary I wasn't feeling well. She called my mom, who came to pick me up.

I was shaken to the core. Here I had this teacher who was encouraging me, complimenting me, telling me I was a great writer. And I'd also found a close friend in him. But at the same time, another so-called friend couldn't stand the fact that finally I was good at something. Finally I was the one being praised on a pedestal. For once in my life, I shined. But she made me question whether or not I truly deserved those grades. She implied that he was interested in me and therefore giving me good grades.

One day Mr. B didn't come to class. We had a substitute for a few days. The sub even graded the last batch of papers we'd handed in to Mr. B. I got a 99. He said my writing was phenomenal. A second opinion. I felt relieved and confirmed.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. B was replaced and we learned he wouldn't be coming back to school. Rumors were flying. I'd had no idea, but apparently he'd been flirting with another female student in my grade. He'd even gone so far as to send flowers to her home. The dumbass got caught. I was devastated and angry.

A few years later, I reconnected with Mr. B. I had to know the truth. While he refused to delve into the reasons he was fired, he assured me I honestly earned every A I'd received in his class. He promised me that he thought my writing was exceptional.

To this day, I'm still not sure what I believe. I would like to think I'm a writer (a good one, at that), but I think all of this plays into it for me. I think I was sort of sabotaged. These things will always color my perception of myself as a writer.

It's a damn shame.


Gettin' all sentimental and lost in thought

I've spent a few hours today alone in the house. It's quiet. The girls are at school and the dog is at the vet getting his beauty treatment (poodles are high maintenance, you know!). What is a girl to do?

Why, go through boxes of old letters, photos, and journals of course!

I just stumbled upon a poem I wrote in high school. I'm cringing a bit, but I'm still gonna share. I have a lot of things floating around in my head today, but nothing coherent enough for a real post. So this is whatcha get:


We stared blankly in a dumbfounded silence
Not daring to even steal glances at one another
The five of us sat, tense, unmoving
As rivers of emotion threatened to escape
From behind our downcast eyes.

My mom, my two brothers and I listened
As my father told us a story about how it felt to hide,
Crouched behind a wall of fear for forty years
He said it was time to face the truth,
Time to reveal the secret that had been silent
Within him for so long.
But it had always been lurking there,
Stirring underneath his skin.
It had crept up on him quietly, slowly,
Like a fever.
Until finally, on this day, the fever broke
And relief swam over my father as he confessed
In a shaky voice, "I'm leaving you all because I am gay."

It's too bad his relief wasn't contagious---
He seemed to think it should have been
I just fell apart
We all fell apart
A jigsaw puzzle dismantled
The pieces scattered everywhere
So we're trying to fit them together again
But it's hard to make a new puzzle
When we liked the old one so much better.

How could he create a family knowing all that he did?
His family was his garden--he watered it, tended it, nurtured it.
But he wondered why, if the flowers thrived so,
Did he still feel an unbearable emptiness inside?
After all, he did have a loving family,
Even if it wasn't the kind of family he desperately wanted.
He thought we, his fictitious family, could hide him,
Even from himself.

He was wrong.


My first cigarette--Wordful Wednesday

My BFF Michelle* and I are hanging out at my house one weekend, trying to find something fun to do. Because we're sophomores in high school, we're trying to be a little bit bad-ass, but at the same time still play the Mostly Goody Two Shoes roles we're so accustomed to. It gets a little boring making good grades, cramming into the photo booth at the movie theater by my house, and taping ourselves with my parents' video camera while we sing along with INXS songs ("Don't ask me/What you know is true/Don't have to tell you/I love your precious heart/"). We want to do something really, really bad. Something way cool. Something we ordinarily wouldn't do because we're too good..

On this particular afternoon, we peer into my fridge. There's the box of pink Franzia wine my mother has grown to love lately. It and milk are the two constants in our Frigidaire. This beloved box made its first appearance after my dad came out of the closet; because really, how else are you going to cope with your husband's sudden revelation that he's gay after 20 years of marriage? But the wine isn't very appealing (I happen to love pink, but just not in a wine). Besides, we can drive through the Daiquiri Stop any old time (remember: this is New Orleans, people). We're 15 year-olds, not wine connoisseurs.

On the kitchen table I spy a pack of my mom's Benson & Hedges cigarettes. There are a few already missing from the pack and we decide Mom won't miss another two. We each take one and scuttle up the stairs, two at a time, stealthy as mice.

We go to my room and lock the door behind us. We're whispering and giggling. We've never smoked a cigarette before and we're so excited about it. Frankly it's a little hypocritical of me because I've been leaving my mom nasty little notes bitching about all of her smoking and non-mom-like behavior, like sleeping over at her boyfriend's house. But the rebel in me still yearns to know what all the fuss is about.

We prep my room, thinking the whole time how brilliant we are. We open my window, which has a screen on it. We turn on my ceiling fan. We crouch together near the window and light up. We're trying to breathe and puff and not cough too much. It doesn't taste very good. It stinks. Our eyes are watering and we're turning red from choking on the smoke. It's getting really cloudy in my room. WTF? The damn screen is in the way, preventing us from really hanging our lit cigarettes out the window. The ceiling fan seems to be making things worse; it's sucking the smoke back up into my room rather than expelling it. After several coughing fits and picking out bits of tobacco from our teeth, we stub out our cigarettes. And we realize with a sudden panic that my room reeks.

We're looking at each other wildly, trying to decide what to do. We don't have a clue. So we decide to call our mutual friend Joe*, who is in our class at school. Joe likes to smoke cigars and pretend to be cool. Clearly he must know how to remove the odor from his room. He can help us!

Michelle dials 834-9350. We know it by heart.
He answers on the third ring.
"Joe," Michelle whispers into the phone.
"What do you want?" he asks with a sigh.
I huddle next to Michelle and our ears share the phone as she explains to him what we've been up to.
"You have to help us," she pleads.
"Okay," Joe says dryly. "Here's what you do. Wet a big towel and swing it around the room a bunch. Then put some vinegar in each corner of the room. That should do it."
"Thank you SO MUCH," we shriek together into the phone before hanging up quickly to prepare.

I tiptoe downstairs to get the vinegar. Meanwhile, Michelle wets my bath towels in my shower and wrings them out. Then the two of us swing them around wildly, like we're magician's assistants for some sort of freak show. Each corner of my room has a Dixie cup of vinegar in it. As a result my room smells worse than before, if that's even possible.

Fortunately my mom noticed neither the smell in my room nor her missing cigarettes; and if she did, she didn't say anything about it. My guess is since she was a smoker herself, she couldn't really detect the scent elsewhere.

As for Joe, he confessed many years later that he didn't have a clue how to help us that day, but he knew how desperate and gullible we were.

*all names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty, as the case may be).


Post-It Note Tuesday

If you'd like to play along, check out Adventures of a Wanna-Be Supah Mommy.


Memoir Monday (I Like to Fish Style)

Today I'm participating in Memoir Monday, hosted by Travis over at I Like to Fish. Check out his blog for more info! Basically it just has to be something true hiding deep in the recesses of your memory. So here goes!


I grew up in New Orleans, and my parents have some really good friends, John & Chelsea, who live in Houston. John and Chelsea have two kids, Brian and Teres, who are close in age to my brothers and me, so trips & visits always worked out well. They would often come to New Orleans to visit us and we'd go to Houston to visit them.

Back then, all of our parents smoked heavily. John and Chelsea would walk into our kitchen after the six-hour drive from Houston and suddenly my parents would light up and the heavy haze of smoke began to descend like a blanket. There was always a lot of loud, obnoxious laughter and it was only recently that I learned marijuana was sometimes involved, that it wasn't just Benson & Hedges the grownups were smoking! My parents pretended to be Ward & June Cleaver, but it was apparently a convenient disguise.

Sometimes the four adults went out to dinner and left Brian in charge. He was the eldest of all us kids, but he still knew how to have fun. As soon as the door shut behind them, we'd go up to my room and haul out the twin mattress from my trundle bed. We would take turns dragging the mattress to the top of the stairwell and riding on top of it all the way down. It was great fun. My parents often wondered why the bench and potted Schefflera at the base of the stairwell were always in different positions once they returned, but we never 'fessed up until we were older.

Anyway, we were in Houston once when I was probably seven years old. We were staying at the Adams Mark Hotel and had two rooms: one for my parents, and an adjoining room for Mark, Kevin, and me.

The trauma began early that Saturday morning when I wandered into my parents' room still wiping crust from my eyes. I discerned something very suspicious going on under the covers. Though I didn't really see anything, it was what I didn't see that was so disturbing. There was a lot of motion, rolling around, (thankfully no noise, as I'm sure they were trying not to wake us up) elbows jutting out here and there, and sheets being stretched this way and that. While I didn't exactly know what was going on, I had a pretty good idea since my parents had recently bought me a copy of this book, Where Did I Come From?. Its laughable cartoony images of naked parents will haunt me forever (I once brought this book to school to share with my friends at recess--but that is another Memoir Monday)!

I quietly backed out of their room and tried to erase what I'd just seen from my brain. I also told my brothers not to go in there and lied that mom and daddy were still sleeping and suggested we stay in our room quietly. I think I turned on some cartoons. And I began to stew about what I'd seen.

My parents got up, we all got dressed and went to grab an elevator so we could head over to John & Chelsea's house. An elevator opened up and my brother, Mark, hopped right in. The elevator quickly gobbled him up, its wide mouth closing before any of us realized what was happening. Hysteria instantly set in, as we were in a very large hotel with many floors and several elevators. We hoped that Mark had the common sense to at least stay in the same elevator and not get out somewhere. My dad went to alert the front desk to see if they could stop the elevators, etc., while my mom and I stayed right where we were. I think we were all hysterical, there was a lot of running around, panicking, and trying to get other people to help us look out for Mark on other floors.

Within about five very long minutes, the same elevator that had swallowed Mark whole returned to the lobby. It opened its mouth up wide and in one breathless moment my mom swooped in and grabbed him. Mark was grinning ear to ear and had apparently had a great time (or at least this is how I remember it, but he may have a comment or a different memory??) while the rest of us were running around like crazy people.

Once we finally left the hotel and headed over to John and Chelsea's house, my mom's radar went off and she could tell something was wrong with me. While the elevator debacle had temporarily distracted me from the debauchery I'd witnessed in the wee hours of the morning, I hadn't forgotten. I'd only grown more distressed about it. Mom finally asked me what was wrong and in a mess of tears I confessed what I'd seen. I think she was a little embarrassed herself, but she laughed and admitted that they'd been having sex. My worst fears were confirmed---MY PARENTS HAVE SEX. LOTS AND LOTS OF SEX. And not just procreational sex, which in my childlike mind was at least somewhat acceptable. This was recreational sex, sex for no good reason! Parents are not supposed to do that! Ewwwwwww!

I shudder to think of what will happen when our kids walk in on us. Perhaps that is an incentive to lock doors?!?!


Sunday Stealing --The Strange Question Meme, Part 1

If you'd like to play along, check out Sunday Stealing!

1. What is the color of your toothbrush? white with some blue and green

2. Name one person who made you smile today. My daughter Izzy

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Chowing down on my breakfast and praying that Abby poops today

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?dreaming about Halloween candy

5. What is your favorite candy bar? Heath! Not that I allow myself to have them very much.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?once when we lived in NOLA many years ago

7. What is the last thing you said aloud? "Abby, I don't want to hear it anymore!"

8. What is your favorite ice cream? Baskin Robbins peanut butter & chocolate. Or strawberry. It's a toss up.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink? water

10. Do you like your wallet? yes

11. What was the last thing you ate? chili

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? yes

13. The last sporting event you watched? Snippets of a Chiefs game

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?cheese

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to? my dad, but have no idea if he got it or if he even knows how to text

16. Ever go camping? no

17. Do you take vitamins daily? most days I do.

18. Do you go to church every Sunday? I'm a Jew. So I don't go to church. I go to synagogue 1-2 times a month, depending....

19. Do you have a tan? definitely not

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza? yes. I love me some crab rangoon, General Tso's chicken, and fortune cookies!

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw? I quit soda a few months back and I'm so glad I did! But before that I did not drink with a straw.

22. What did your last text message say? "on the ground in memphis" (from my mom who sadly just left today to fly back home to NOLA)

23. What are you doing tomorrow? errands, Jazzercise, and hopefully having a play date with a new bloggy friend and her daughter....

24. Favorite color? PINK

25. Look to your left; what do you see? the fridge

Halloween at Abby & Izzy's House

Mommy Ladybug with Izzy/Tinkerbell and Abby/Snow White. Getting ready to leave for the Halloween Party.

Daddy hopped into this photo, but he did not dress up. He did, however, don some festively colored duds.

Arriving at the party with my mom (in the back in glasses) and Hubby's mom.

Decorating baby pumpkins....

This year Abby (oops, I mean Snow White) was brave enough to get her face painted!

Decorating cookies with frosting and sprinkles (let the sugar begin!).

Abby was being a little hag. She was kinda cranky until the very end of the party.

Izzy (I mean Tinkerbell), however, had a BLAST, did lots of booty shaking, and was all smiles all night.

Mommy and her goofy girls eating dinner. Preceded and followed by candy. And more candy.

Mommy and Izzy, who is salivating over the cookie she decorated.

Izzy with Abby just behind her and Daddy...doing the Limbo! It was a hit!

Izzy dragging Daddy under the Limbo stick again.

Izzy & Daddy on their final Limbo run. Mommy wasn't limber enough to participate after the first two circles.

We had a great Halloween & hope you did, too! Thanks for checking out our pictures!

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