HampoLand

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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Door Knobs

Our house, Hampoland, is a comfortable mess. A strange, unorthodox home that’s served as a sanctuary not only for our four children, but for many of their friends, kids, stray dogs and young adults, who have sometimes needed a safe and happy refuge from the world.

Structurally, it’s miraculous the house still stands. Walls are cracked, so we spackle and paint. The floors rise and fall with the seasons. The answer…more throw rugs. Hampoland, is a five acre redneck homestead, our youngest daughter, Lex, who is 22, compares to a Dr. Seuss “Who House”.

This morning, I realized what I’ve known for years.  Most of the doors in our house can’t be fully closed and most of the door knobs are splattered with paint and are  a rattling, jacked up mess.  Our knobs are unable to fully close and lock any interior door in the house, much less keep it secured. They are loose and jangle in their holes, incapable of keeping anything inside or outside a room. Our doors can be pulled closed, then just as easily pushed open.

Years ago, we could have replaced all these useless door knobs, I suppose. But it never seemed important. New furniture has been moved in and out, cars have been bought and sold, kids have headed off to college, graduated and started their lives. But replacing the ten dollar door knobs was never a priority.

In this house, doors can’t really be closed. Push just a little and you’ll always be able to get in.  And maybe that’s a good thing. So, when Alex and I die and this house is demolished, I hope each of our children will take a trashed and useless Hampoland doorknob. Because, when there is love, doors can always be opened.

Love Changed My Daughter

My oldest daughter, Mary, was a spectacular kid. But when she was young she was…..well….really really greedy. She laughs about it now, we all do, but when she was six, eight, ten, I was a little concerned.

Mary always wanted more. She idolized, adored her older brother Jack. She literally worshiped him.  Jack was her everything, he even tried to fail first grade so he could be held back a year. He thought he should to stay in Mary’s grad and then he could take care and protect her. Still, Mary would steal Jack’s stuff all day long, even if she didn’t really want it.

Every Easter, for at least seven years, Mary woke up early, studied the baskets the Easter Bunny left, then she put all the good stuff, including chocolate, in her basket. And she filled Jack’s with the cheap candy, do-dads and toys she didn’t want.

She did the same thing with the Christmas stocking. Then she’d shrug and say something like, “I don’t know why Santa likes me better.”

Mary was a beautiful, wonderful, selfish, greedy little kid.

But a few years ago, something changed in Mary’s heart. She met Andy and fell in love…. as she’d never fallen before.

The week after Thanksgiving the texts, emails and facebook messages began. She sent me links to things Andy would love for Christmas. There was a pair of brown Aldo loafers she desperately wanted him to have, but couldn’t afford. A week later she called her dad, to tell him about a saw that would make him so happy.

The “suggestions” went on and on. The girl who stole all the chocolate Easter bunnies’ literally didn’t care what she got for Christmas. She only wanted Andy, the man she loves, to be happy.

Mary told me over and over, “don’t worry about me this year, Andy deserves everything.”

Was this my Mary on the phone? Had some kind of a ”body snatchers” thing happened while she was in the basement?

“Big Love”, the kind of love that makes you forget about yourself, is rare. Lots of folks get married and live together for years and years and years but they never stop thinking about themselves.

Mary has crossed that line and grown into a more beautiful person. She loves Andy so much she places his needs above mine, above the families’, above everything. And she fiercely protective.  Now she chooses Andy, her husband and her love. And that’s the way true love and a marriage are supposed to be. I believe God has given both Mary and Andy a higher job order.  Now, they are supposed to take care of each other. That’s the first requirement and these guys have it right.

I love and admire this new woman she has become. And Andy Stanley is a lucky man.

When He Couldn’t Say “I Love You”

We met twenty five years before this picture was taken.

Long before this picture was taken, when Alex and I met, I was thirty and he was a couple years older. At first, I didn’t want to go out with him cause he was such a player in Hot Springs. It seemed been with half the hot waitresses in town.

But once we got over the weirdness and were actually “dating” it was obvious we were so different. He was and still is, a very stoic man. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say and back then he definitely didn’t say “I love you.”

On the other side of the universe there was Diana. I come from a verbose, storytelling, over-hugging, “I love you so much man,” family.

I was young and misread Alex’s lack of words or outward emotion. He rarely complimented me or said “I love you” so I was on the verge or writing him off as a cold, emotionless, hot guy.

But there was still something…..We’d been dating for a few weeks. He was working on a construction project at his house, out in the country.  I decided I’d surprise him with lunch. Because he was a chef ,I thought I better go fancy if I wanted to impress him. I took him two cups of Gazpacho, a cold Spanish tomato and cucumber soup along with fresh tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad and topped with paprika.

When I delivered the lunch I was super proud of my thoughtful self.  We sat on the floor in his living room and he ate every bite.  Nodding as he ate, which I took to be a good sign. And he said “thank you.”

A month later, I watched him , with surgeon like precision, remove every sliver of tomato from three tacos at a Mexican restaurant called Acapulco’s.

“Don’t like tomatoes, huh?” I asked cautiously.

“I hate them, they’re gross. If they’re cooked I can tolerate a little, but I can’t do raw tomatoes.”

I just smiled. Maybe this man had other ways of communicating.

Not long after ‘the tomato incident,” Mary, Jack and I went to visit this quiet man. We were all watching Aladdin when Mary, who was three, went to the bathroom. Then I heard her panicked voice , “Momma Momma Momma.” When she was excited it was always three Mommas.

I bounded across the house and found her crying as the toilet overflowed. Waterfalls filled the bathroom and she was standing on a red towel….her only Island.

Alex came in, silently turned off the water behind the toilet, then extracted a stuffed Princess Jasmine from the toilet.

I was horrified and so embarrassed, we’d only been dating three months and look what my child had done. “I’m so, so, so sorry, oh my gosh, I’m  sorry. I don’t know why she….”

But he interrupted me with a shrug, as though it was nothing. He left then reappeared with a mop. “It’s just a little Mary pee.”

That was one of the hundreds of moments that told me how he felt.

“It’s just a little Mary pee.”

There were other times he told me he loved me, long before he could say he loved me. He literally stole my car while I was working lunches at Rocky’s Corner so he could have new brakes installed.

Sometimes, my effusive words don’t seem to mean much compared to his silence.  Talking is easy. Listening when people don’t talk, that’s where the magic is.

He Doesn’t Know He’s Sexy

alex 21cLast night  I was wrestling with hamburgers on the grill. They were big fat burgers,  we always call “Love Burgers” (thanks Uncle Daley). I kept trying to flip them too soon so they wanted to fall apart.

Then, just as things started to take shape with my grilling efforts, I got distracted.

Alex was playing catch with thirteen year old Sandor in the yard and it was just about the cutest most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen.  Alex is still pretty slow moving because of his surgery in October. But he was trying.  Wearing a bulky catchers mitt, he gamely threw the ball at his son.  Unfortunately, every fourth or fifth throw the dog got involved and snatched the ball our of the air, or chased it down before Sandor could get to it.  Then there was a ridiculous chase scene that ended up as slobbery wrestling match.

Alex didn’t get annoyed or impatient. And when they were finished, Sandor walked past me and said, “that was awesome.”

I flipped the burgers again, looked up at the Lord and thanked him. Then I gave Alex a hug that he didn’t really understand. Standing there in his grubby jeans and old tee shirt he had no idea how much I loved him because he played baseball for a few minutes.

Men don’t seem to understand that the sexiest thing they can do is be a good dad. When they love their children and make them happy, women naturally find that not only desirable but smoking hot. It tells us we picked the right guy, our instincts were correct.  And you know how much women like to be right.

It was a sweet moment until Sandor walked back out of the house. We were still hugging and Alex had his hand on my butt.

Sandor interrupted, “Hey there Mister, keep that hand north of the equator.”

“But I like the equator, it’s warm,” Alex replied.

“Noooo,” Sandor replied and disappeared back into the house as the Love Burgers burned up on the grill.

 

 

A Boy In Love

classMy parents fell in love in third grade, during the Great Depression.

On bright fall afternoon, my father, Granger McDaniel, squatted next to Whittington Creek. Patiently, he jiggled a piece of string. There was a tiny piece of bacon attached. He knew most of the crawdads were gone this time of year but he had a feeling. Finally, Granger watched as a crawdad approached the bacon and snapped his claw onto the meat.

“Gotcha!” he said as he raised the string up and removed the crawdad.  He looked closely at the crawdads face and bulging eyeballs. “I’m keeping you for the baby! He’ll think you’re really funny, I bet.”

He shoved the string, bacon and crawdad into his deep front pocket then without hesitation or thought, started running, into the woods and up West Mountain.

There wasn’t a visible trail but Granger knew exactly where he was going. He expected every rock and log. He knew each fork and tree. He’d run this game trail up and over West Mountain so many times he didn’t really have to think as he ran.

West Mountain was steep, but not terribly tall. Granger reached the summit in less than fifteen minutes.  Grinning,  stopped to take in the view for a moment and get his bearings. Then as quickly as he stopped he bolted down the mountain, sliding and skidding, sometimes sling shotting around thin trees to slow himself down.

Exploding out of the tree line, Granger stopped completely to catch his breath. He whipped off his hat, licked his dirty hand and smoothed his dark shaggy hair.

He was standing on the edge of a manicured lawn. A beautiful white colonial house with dark green shutters and trim loomed in front of him. After dusting off his pants with his hat, he suddenly sprinted to the back door and knocked twice.

He saw Louella, in her white uniform peek out the window at him before she opened the door.

“Hi Miss Louella, can Ann play today?”

“No, Dr. Stell said she needs to practice her piano.” She handed him a small plate with two cookies and a glass of milk. “Eat up and leave the plate on the table.”

“Can I take one of the cookies to my baby brother?”

“It’s your cookie, do what you want.” She watched him for a moment then said. “Tie your shoe before you leave so you don’t trip running down the mountain.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he shoved an entire cookie in his mouth then slugged down the little glass of milk.

Louella closed the door as Granger dropped the extra cookie into his deep front pocket with the crawdad. He squatted down and tied the lace on his ragged shoe, pulled his cap down tight on his head and started running.

Before my dad died, when he was fifty one, he told us to pour his ashes on West Mountain, because he’d always be running to his girl.

It’s always been said, my mom and dad fell in love in third grade. It wasn’t always easy.

Controlling, Meddling, Pushy Moms….Yeah, That’s Me

pushy mary momWhile unloading the dishwasher just moments ago I had a breakthrough realization. I suddenly understood something I’ve known all along about moms.

The truth is whether our child is 14 or 24,we are desperate for them to be happy. In fact, our own happiness depends on our children being happy. Most mothers find it almost impossible to be joyful if their children aren’t happy.

We also know part of being happy comes from choosing the right boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or partner. If you, my beautiful daughter fall for a selfish mean spirited toad , things will not go well  for either of us. If you, my remarkable, handsome son decide to devote yourself to  a stupid and immature girl, we’ll both be unhappy.

Children, we want to help you pick a good one, a winner. We see your finest qualities and want someone who is just as smart,adorable and witty. We want you to have someone in your life who recognizes how amazing you are. And we can spot a good match for you, really we can.

But here’s the problem. You don’t want our help. For fifteen or twenty five years we’ve been picking out your clothes, your first car, your sports and your food. This time, you want to do it on your own cause your old enough to do that.

You think we’ve been controlling your life. We think we’ve been raising you and taking care of you. You think we are manipulative and meddling. We think we are being loving. We’re both right.

Moms, I’m speaking from experience with four kids.  If your daughter is talking to and leaning towards a wonderful A+ guy,  that’s 100 percent perfect for your girl you have to shut up or you will wreck it. If you suddenly start  campaigning for this great guy, if you try to push her into falling for Mr. Magnificent ,who’s obviously crazy for her……YOU WILL SINK YOUR OWN BOAT.

Your kid will suddenly slam on the brakes and pull back….. because he feels like you are trying to control his world again. He wants to make this decision on his own.  Your motivation doesn’t matter. If you push, you’re child will pull back.

SO STOP IT!  You can express your opinion one time, but that’s it, unless your son or daughter asks.

We love our children so much we accidently ruin their shot at happiness. I’ve done it to Jack, Mary and Lexie. Sandor is only 12 so I’ve still got time, but I’m sure I’ll screw something up. Seriously, I fight the urge every week with one of my kids. I always want to tell them, 1. “You can do better”(not recently, I promise) or 2. “Oh my Lord, this person is perfect for you.”

Moms of the world, if love is meant to be, love will grow on it’s own, naturally, without our constant weeding, pruning, fertilizing and watering. And the sooner you back off the faster love will grow.

Sometimes Moms, we have to sit down, shut up and have a little faith if we really want to help our kids. It’s so dumb and painful….but it’s true. Maybe we just need to figure out a way to be sneakier?

 

 

Love Over Friendship….Everytime

sam and sandorBreaking news in our house! My son Sandor has had the same best friend for a very long time, Sam. And now he has a girl friend!   Sam rarely speaks to anyone he doesn’t know very well so this was a surprise.  Sandor and Sam are twelve.  But Sam has beautiful blonde hair and a gorgeous smile so we should have seen it coming.  According to Sandor they even walk around the halls with their arms around each other and Sam walks right up to his red headed girl and tickles her.

The quiet one has moves! And now Sandor really wants a girlfriend.

Last night after the boys showered and were in bed with the puppy, I stood at the end of their bed and made  what I thought to be a pretty informative mom speech.

I told them they would both have lots of girl friends and every time a new love came along they would want to dedicate their lives to her.  She would become the most important thing in the world to them, even if nobody else liked her too much. “You’ll blow off all your friends to hang with her on the weekends.  You’ll ignore all the texts and phone calls. You’ll try to skip football practice.  You won’t even have time to go fishing with your buddy because humans are programed to choose love. It’s the way God made us.  Every time you fall in love you’ll think this is it , this is the love that will change the world and you will choose love over your friends and family. It’s not because you guys don’t love us anymore, so none of us can take it personally,  it’s just the way we’re made. So neither one of you guys can get your feelings hurt too bad or get mad at each other. It happens to everybody.”

“And then two months down the road when you find out the hot girl was a mean little sneak and break up…you’ll be there to distract you from the heartbreak.  any questions?”

“No ma’am.”

then Sam said, “I’m going to her house this Saturday.”

“Dude, we have the taekwondo tournament.” Sandor whined.

“And I already paid Sam so I’m overriding your plans this time but that’s pretty much how it’s gonna roll from here on. Now go to sleep. I love you.”

A few minutes latter I overheard them plotting in the dark,  trying to figure out how to get Sandor a girl friend too. I felt better, armed with some mom knowledge, I knew their friendship would survive. And they wouldn’t be completely blindsided by the shrapnel of love.

 

The Best Funeral….Ever

handsYesterday, my husband Alex, asked me to go to a funeral with him. Alex is the Executive Chef at a monstrously large thoroughbred race track.  The funeral was  for his Sous Chef, who died pretty suddenly.

I didn’t  know what to expect because the service was going to be held in the track chapel. ( Yes, racetracks have chapels for the jockeys, trainers, hot walkers etc.)

I’d only met David once or twice and he seemed like a very nice man, warm and fun. He’d  been at Oaklawn for less than a year so I was surprised the chapel was completely full. All the chairs were taken and folks were standing against the walls, waiting for the service.

After ten or fifteen minutes the Chaplin asked if anyone would like to say a few words.  This can be a really awkward moment at a funeral because you just never know. It’s so sad when nobody has anything to say and everyone sits in uncomfortable silence.

But that’s not what happened at David’s funeral. Immediately several guys lined up, dish washers and prep cooks from the main kitchen, then big white ladies who sell beer and hot dogs, valets, security guys and more dish washers.  Black, white and Hispanic. Young and old, well-dressed and trashy, guys with penny sized gages and tattoos on their necks and tear drop tats on their face, guys with no teeth and gold teeth, clean cut cowgirls and corporate folks in polo shirts and kakis.  So many folks walked nervously to the microphone to talk about Chef David.

He had done something for everyone of them. He changed their days and their lives and they were so very sorry to have lost him.  Over and over this beautiful array of humanity said Chef David was a great man and had done so very much for them. But David didn’t give them money or jobs.  All he did, for all them, every single day, was shake their hand, hug them, smile, he remembered their names, asked how they were doing and how their kids were. He told the lazy ones they needed to work harder. He told the angry ones they had to stop fighting with everyone. Then he smiled, hugged them and shook their hand.

He listened and loved. They knew he cared about them and that meant everything.  And that’s how Chef David changed the world.

I’ve never cried so much at a funeral and I’ve been to a lot of them. I’ve buried every member of my immediate family but I’ve never been so moved by the power of a hand shake, a hug and a smile.

I left dehydrated but inspired and uplifted., determined to be a little bit more like Chef David Lausten.

 

Love The World Like Granger

This morning Sandor, who is ten, found a dead mouse behind the couch. He was so happy. I was disgusted.  but I let him scoop it up in a plastic thing and put it out side. He wanted to save it and show his friend Joe Joe. Yuck…little boys.

As I drove to work I wanted to call my brother Granger because he would love this story. But Granger died a year and a half ago.  As I drove in to town I watched a sleazy looking daddy standing at a school bus stop with his little boy, who was running in circles around his dad’s legs. I see this pair almost every morning and they always look pretty happy even though the dad kind of freaks me out.  He’s got tattoos on his neck and smokes constantly. Still, he looks like a pretty loving and patient dad.

Granger would love that almost as much as he would love Sandor and the dead mouse.

I realized for the 637th time that my brother, Granger, was magical because he loved this world so much. He loved hobos and lizards and BBQ pork sandwiches, BB King riffs, ponies in pastures and tarpon. He loved and hated smells and would comment on the air constantly.  He loved this world with a passion and a vocabulary so colorful it seemed he’d swallowed a box of crayons. Because he was so excited and passionate about everything from old black ladies on bus benches to stray dogs other people fell in love with this world too. His magic and love were contagious.

One day he stood in my office and told me could talk to Alligators. He was serious. And I think there’s a chance he could.

A couple of years ago Granger stood, half drunk, watching my daughter Lexie spar a great big boy  in Taekwondo. He said with pride, “She’s like a dragonfly on steroids.” That one stuck.

When Granger spent a year and a half in prison he made such good friends he insisted I become their pen pals after he was released…so they wouldn’t be lonely.

When he died everybody figured there was some kind of fortune and treasure hidden because Granger was a pirate.  But he loved this world so much and so hard he spent every penny on the people and things he loved. And he loved the world like a man who knew he would not be here for long.

Today, go out there and love the world with all you’ve got. I’m going to try.

Dad Vs The Boyfriend…round one

Last night at a high school graduation I watched a gooey sweet  couple hold hands and hang all over each other. It was kind of gross but they were in heaven.

For almost a year the parents of both  kids trying to break them apart. They have been pitching a fit, drawing lines in the sand, demanding they not see each other.  But the more ultimatums and rules the parents made, the closer the kids became.   Because the parents created a Romeo and Juliet situation the couple fell even more deeply in love. Their relationship became an “us against the world” romantic Walgreen’s novel.

The truth is, if you pit yourself against love…you will lose almost all the time. 

This isn’t just true for parents.  If you have a friend who thinks they are in love and you try to make them see the truth, that  their honey is a super creep-o or a painfully weak and clingy creature they will dump your friendship in 8.3 seconds. 

Humans are hard-wired to choose love over everything else.  We all think our love is different and everyone else is wrong.  So parents, do not make your child choose between you and a new boyfriend.  Be creative, but don’t holster up for a Mexican show down. It’s almost impossible to stop the love train.  You simply can’t watch your child 24/7 . If your daughter thinks she’s in love with obnoxious skinny boy who lives on the wrong side of the tracks  she will find a way to be with him.

If you have a buddy who is in love, do not think your 26 years of friendship is more important than his two month love affair. It  just doesn’t work that way.

Remember when your daughter picks the boyfriend over the parents or your best friend picks the aging truck driver over you, IT”S NOT REALLY ABOUT YOU. They are not making bad decisions to drive your crazy. They are making bad decisions because love makes us all STUPID. They think it’s love, true love and they think you can’t possibly understand.

Humans are romantic fools….it’s just the way God made us.  So pat your 62 year old friend on the back and wish him good luck as he climbs into the $73,000 dollar Ferrari with the new 23 yer old bartender/girlfriend.

Maybe it will work out.

*Leave a comment or email me at hampoland@gmail.com. Tell me a story!