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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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!

A West Mountain Love Story

I’ve been told by a few romantics that it’s time for another Hot Springs love story. Telling these makes me feel like I’ve been eating whipped cream. And that’s always good.

A West Mountain Love Story

     Imagine Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1934. The country was depressed and stuck in a black and white mentality; but Hot Springs, Arkansas was rolling.  Hot Springs was awash in cash, gangsters, bath houses, liquor and gambling. But none of this lascivious fun effected my parents who were 9 and 10 years old in 1934. And they were already in love.

My dad, Irven Granger McDaniel, had a problem. He lived on Whittington Avenue and his family was struggled throughout the 30s. My mother, Ann Stell never suffering in the least. Her daddy was a surgeon and they had just finished building a lovely house on Prospect Avenue. Prospect Avenue and Whittington Avenue were seperated by West Mountain, part of Hot Springs National Park. That’s the only thing that stood between Ann Stell and Irven in 4th grade.

West Mountain is a lovely and graceful little mountain. It’s not very tall but it is pretty steep and completely overgrown with pine and hardwood. Still, two or three times a week, after school, my dad had to go see the love of his life. So he would literally run over the mountain.  He always told us he followed deer trails he found and the trip would take him about an hour if he actually ran. He figured out exactly how to land in Ann Stell’s back yard.

So, imagine a grubby little 10 year old boy emerging from the woods, then ringing the back door bell of a lovely white two story home.  That was Dad.

My grandfather, the surgeon, wasn’t really pleased by the little boy’s arrival.  He didn’t want his pretty  daughter playing with the smiling but rough cut kid all the time. So he told the maids (there were two at the time, one to cook and one to clean) not to let Irven in every day.  They had to tell him Ann wasn’t home or was busy, so he would run back into the woods and over the mountain. 

Well, telling the friendly love sick little boy this story broke their hearts. The maids felt sorry for him. He worked so hard to see Ann and he had such a big friendly gaped tooth grin.  So, on the days that he wasn’t allowed to see his love Ann, the maids made sure they left a plate of milk and cookies on the back porch, so Irven had enough strength to run back over the mountain before dark.

My dad died when he was 52. But before he left, he told us to pour his ashes on West Mountain because he’d always be there…. running to his girl.

Love or Money, Groceries or OutBack?

Alex and I have never had any money. I grew up with plenty plenty but married life with four children is a different story.    Alex, is not a sentimental of mushy man. I bitched constantly for the first two years we dated because we didn’t have “a song”.  He finally picked something wretched by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was worse than no song , so I shut up about the song.

So, Alex doesn’t have any money but he still manages to show me he loves me everyday without using any cash. I’m sure he would go shopping for me but we need groceries more than a tennis bracelet or dinner at Out Back.

The number one way I know Alex loves me (drum roll) he doesn’t roll his eyes too much when I have a crying meltdown right before bed.

It’s the middle of winter and he still doesn’t whine when I want a fan in our room. I need the white noise to sleep, so he just burrows under another quilt and lets me have my whirling fan.

He encourages me to work out, even at night, because he knows I’ll feel better.

And finally, I know he loves me because he encourages me to keep writing this blog. He even reads it most of the time, though I don”t think he remembers to click.

So, folks, if you have someone in your life who loves you, make sure you take note of the little things they do everyday to prove it. I think, when it’s eleven degrees and there’s snow on the ground taking out the garbage without bitching and whining says “I love you” just as much as new ear rings.