Marry Me (2/2)

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the ending:

BrotherHerisme and I saw our pool buddy in the hotel dining room one evening and pointed him out to ParentsHerisme.  Both ParentsHerisme approached the man and introduced themselves.  He invited us to join him for dinner, and we did.  I recall FatherHerisme getting upset when the man not only encouraged us children to order dessert (absolutely unheard of in my family), he paid for our meals.  As our pool pattern continued, MotherHerisme showed up at the pool one time with a very reluctant SisterHerisme, to watch our play.  The man engaged MotherHerisme in happy conversation, and MotherHerisme became comfortable with him.  The man asked if BrotherHerisme and I could come to his room to pick up a gift he wanted to give to ParentsHerisme from his country.  MotherHerisme agreed.  This incident is when I recall becoming uncomfortable with the man.

 

The two of us went to the man’s room and I remember insisting on standing at the door.  I kept the door pried open with my body, while he brought the gifts to us, rather than BrotherHerisme and I going into his room.  The man kept trying to entice us with candy, the promise of gifts.  BrotherHerisme was upset with me as I adamantly refused on behalf of both of us.  When FatherHerisme arrived to the hotel that evening from work and received the gifts we picked up from the man, there was a note attached inviting ParentsHerisme, no children, to dinner with him.

 

The next day, FatherHerisme insisted on accompanying us to the pool.  We all went down as a family, everyone (except for MotherHerisme who has an allergy to pool chemicals) in swimming suits.  This was highly unusual because FatherHerisme never played with us – ever.  I knew that something was up and somebody was most likely in trouble.  There wasn’t any obvious reason why one of us would be in trouble, but I fervently prayed that it wasn’t me anyway.  FatherHerisme had a terrible temper back in the day.  We all jumped into the pool. BrotherHerisme and I commenced with our usual shenanigans.  FatherHerisme and SisterHerisme started swimming their very grown-upy exercisey coordinated laps (BORing).  At some point FatherHerisme paused his perfect pattern to watch our hooliganisms.  When I came out of the pool, FatherHerisme yelled across the pool, “Jesus Christ! Get over here!”  Well, now I knew.  It was me that was in trouble.

Now was my moment of reckoning for whatever transgression(s) I had committed.  I wasn’t quick enough for FatherHerisme.  He grabbed my towel and yelled, “Get over here!  Move it, young lady!”  My smartass mouth wanted to respond, “but, there’s no running at the pool.”  However, an ancient piece of my self-preservative brain kicked in and I walked as quickly as I could to FatherHerisme.  It’s a catch-22.  I am about to get into big huge trouble,  that in my day usually involved some form of corporal punishment, which begged me to walk very slowly.  On the other hand, if I didn’t move quickly enough to appease FatherHerisme, I would get into big huge trouble, which also, by the tone of his voice, involved corporal punishment.  Dang it, this was big.

When I got close enough to FatherHerisme, he grabbed me with full force, wrapping the towel so tightly around me that I couldn’t move.  As his fingers dug into my arms through the towel and he held me there, his angry voice demanded where my swimsuit had come from.  I told him it was borrowed from a friend.  FatherHerisme gruffly yelled for BrotherandSisterHerisme to get out of the pool, we were going upstairs to our hotel rooms and nobody was allowed to come swimming anymore at this pool.

 

My borrowed beautiful fancy glorious spectacular one-piece perfectly pink swimsuit was completely see-through when wet.  It was as if I was naked.  A precociously developed 12-year-old naïve girl, often mistaken for a 17/18-year-old due to my developed appearance, had been swimming in a hotel pool with a strange adult man while wearing a tissue thin Caucasian colored bathing costume.  FatherHerisme was enraged with me, with MotherHerisme, with BrotherandSisterHerisme, with the kind family who loaned us the swimsuit.  ENRAGED.  I was heartbroken.  After a 3-month stay at the hotel, we checked out two days later and moved into our unfinished home.  Our family dynamic was that none of us asked any questions of FatherHerisme or MotherHerisme. We were quiet and we obeyed.

 

A few years later, MotherHerisme revisited the incident when she was cleaning off the bookcases, replacing an oversized book that had been gifted to her by the man from the hotel pool.  She spoke as if I already knew the surrounding circumstances that occurred.  I had no idea until that moment.  The man from the hotel pool had been grooming me, had been wooing ParentsHerisme as his intention was to marry me.  He promised ParentsHerisme that he would send me to the best schools, the best university, all of my wants and needs would be met and more.  He promised ParentsHerisme that even though we would be married immediately, he would wait until I graduated from High School before the marriage was consummated.  He was in love with my beauty and how clever I was.  He wanted to marry me.  Cultural differences, creepo pedophile, you decide.

 

I can only imagine FatherHerisme’s response in a 5 star hotel dining room with a strict dinner dress code.  The man was immediately removed from the dining room and banned from the hotel.  FatherHerisme made arrangements for us to leave the hotel and move into our unfinished home, no matter what state it was in, as soon as he arrived to work the next morning.  MotherHerisme occasionally still speaks of this incident today, “you know you could have been married and extremely wealthy, but you were only 12 and your dad got very angry.”  Family dynamics *sigh *

 

Thank the sweet G-ds of every land and universe that this is NOT the experience that either NieceHerisme are having!  I have never punched someone out of anger, but if either of my nieces were subject to this, I would absolutely punch.  Back off, man.  BACK the F OFF.  Let them grow into themselves and peer relationship stabilize before you attempt to knock on their door.  Go ahead and ask their permission to take them out for a tasty cuppa when they are 25 or so.  Eyes up here man, eyes up here.

Love, Ms Herisme xoxo

note:  the kind family who loaned us the swimsuit had no idea about the transparency, as it had not been worn yet by anyone before me.  They deposed of it.

also note:  thank you for reading this to the end

Marry Me

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Niece1Herisme and Niece2Herisme are turning into beautiful sweet puffin muffin teenagers.  Even an objective observer would note their individual beauty and powerful brilliance.  I am totes not just saying that because I am their AuntHerisme.  I am SO serious, y’all.  Seriously. Watch out, world!

 

There was a realization for me about a year ago to compare NiecesHerisme to when I was making the big transition from being just double digits to a true teenagers – you know that BIG 12-13 year.  The year I had a pivotal experience of being pursued as a bride.  Not in a sweet puppy love from another 6th grader way, but by an actual full-on adult man.

 

When I was in 6th grade, my family was relocated to Germany for my father’s work.  We moved to just outside of the capital of Bonn at the time.  Yes, this was before reunification.  Yes, I am old.  Yes, I love Beethoven too.  To give you an idea of where I was developmentally: While I had “blossomed” so to speak (precocious menstruation commenced at 10 ½), my brain was still operating in the Santa-IS-SO-REAL-because-I-have-seen-his-sleigh-fly-over-my-house-with-my-own-amazing-eyeballs zone.  It has been reported that I engaged in a full out tear inducing screaming match on the playground over this.  Allegedly.

 

I still have the bag I decorated for that Christmas to use as my stocking, as ours were packed away on a ship headed for Europe.  My glitter adorned handwriting resembles what you might see a cherubic first or second grader produce today – both in content and style.  When we had to pack our own suitcases for the journey, I dutifully placed everything into my suitcase according to MotherHerisme’s list of instructions.  There was a ton of room remaining in my suitcase, so I unpacked the dolls and stuffies from the moving boxes.  I chose the ones I felt would be most vulnerable to overwhelming heartbreak and worry being stuffed into a box on a ship, and put them all into my suitcase.

We were scheduled to stop at GrandparentsHerisme’s home in Athens, Georgia for a few weeks while packers finished up at our house. MotherHerisme came to inspect our suitcases and she was not impressed with my clever fix to helping alleviate the mental stress of my stuffies and dolls.  Turns out, the extra space was meant for the Christmas presents we would be receiving at GrandparentsHerisme’s.  MotherHerisme is far from heartless and did permit me to keep one doll and one stuffy in my suitcase.  It was a tough emotional experience – but everything worked out well.  I survived.  The shipped dolls and stuffies survived.  Christmas was celebrated and we boarded an airplane for Germany.

 

So very developmentally different than a 6th grade girl today –

very very much different.

 

Our housing had not yet been secured when we arrived to Germany.  FatherHerisme’s company had us stay in a hotel in the city while we waited.  Not just any hotel – a super duper 5 star beauty.  We had three rooms because BrotherHerisme was not legally permitted to share a room with either ParentsHerisme, SisterHerisme or myself.  Parents in one room, girls in one room, sweet baby boy in the 3rd room.  We kept our room connection door open between the kids’ rooms, running back and forth, making our own fun, like hooligan kids do.

 

Living in a big fancy hotel in a big fancy city was an entirely new experience for all of us.  The only travel we had done up to this point in my life consisted of camping or staying with relatives.  FatherHerisme dictated a very frugal conservative lifestyle.

 

Fancy 5 star hotels and their guests are not living frugal lifestyles.  We had breakfast delivered to the room in the morning before school.  We had a driver who picked us up in the morning, drove us to school, picked us up in the afternoon and deposited us back at the hotel.  We dressed for dinner in the hotel dining room or we wandered the streets of the city to find a restaurant that would permit children in the dining room.  At that time in Germany, dogs were regular restaurant guests, but children were not welcome.

A Balkan restaurant around the corner from the hotel, took pity on my mother one evening when she was trying, solo parenting with 3 children, to find a place which allowed children.  They sat us in a booth by the kitchen door to be less conspicuous.  We ended up eating there a lot over our 4 year stay in Germany, and almost every night while we were in the hotel.  When I was older, my mother shared with me that the restaurant owners gave her free before and after dinner sweet liquors to keep up her good health and stamina with 3 children.  Occasionally she would permit us to have a tiny sip.  I’m fairly certain this factored in to our frequent dining choice of the Balkan Restaurant.  My memory order is champignon schnitzel mit pommes frits und eine kleine lemonade, bitte (I beg your pardon of my awful memory of German).

 

The thing I loved the most about living in the hotel, other than the extra chocolates the cleaning staff would leave for us, depending on how tidy we left our room, was the pool.  They had a pool in the basement!  Prior to this, I had never seen an indoor pool except at the YMCA.  I loved swimming.  I still love swimming.  The best thing about the pool in the hotel was that as long as BrotherHerisme or SisterHerisme went with me, I could go as often as I wanted to!  SisterHerisme could not be bothered by the silliness and fun that exuded from every pore of mine and BrotherHerisme’s body (she was totally, like, a High School teen and stuff).  BrotherHerisme and I would put on swimming suits, sneakers, grab a towel, race to the elevator and swim, swim, swim!

When we first arrived at the hotel, though, neither one of us had a swimming suit with us.  It never crossed my mother’s mind that a pool would be available to us.  MotherHerisme tried shopping for swimming suits (pre-internet, we had to scour retail spaces called department stores for things.  Google this ancient ritual for more information), but other than ridiculously expensive resort wear, no swimming suits were available, due to it being in the middle of winter (again, Google ancient shopping seasons in the 80’s).  Luck found us when MotherHerisme was befriended by another American Lady who also had 3 children, the same ages as we were.  We borrowed their extra swimming suits and were off on our fancy hotel pool adventures.

I was super excited because the swimming suit I borrowed was pink.  All pink.  I was a super pink girl and this completely fit in my super pink world.  BrotherHerisme and I were unstoppable in our swimming goals!  We held our breath the length of the pool.  We jumped in and sat on the bottom for tea parties.  We raced back and forth.  We splashed and squealed.  Happy hooligans at the poolagains.

 

One fun pool afternoon with BrotherHerisme, there was another person there.  Usually we had the place to ourselves.  I suppose fancy hotel guests are not into pools, I don’t know.  It was a man who greeted us in perfect English and played with us.  Having come from insulated MidWestern Suburbia, it never occurred to BrotherHerisme or myself that we shouldn’t trust a polite adult.  There was no “stranger danger” curriculum back in the day.  We readily included him in our play.  After this, he became a regular at the pool when we were there.  He even started bringing us treats to the pool: candy, French fries, milkshakes, cookies etc.  We were having a grand old time at the pool.  ParentsHerisme were completely unaware of our shenanigans, other than knowing we were safely together, safely in the hotel, safely in the pool area.

…(to be continued)…

Love, Ms. Herisme xoxo

The photo of the artwork, Aztec Josephine Baker by Alexander Calder, was taken by me at the NGA-DC in the East Building, Tower 2 Calder room, just before exiting to see the giant blue rooster.

This is not a secret code to challenge your brain.

Fortress of Solitude

latestIf you know the source of this image, please let me know so that I may credit them

There has always been an urge in me to find my fortress of solitude wherever I have landed.

 

As a child, it was on top of a rock down a gully towards the creek in our backyard.  The trees surrounding the rock permitted just enough space for a stream of sunlight to break through and spotlight directly on the rock.  I believed that when I sat on the rock I was invisible to everything except for G-d.  It was my direct contact with G-d and protection from the world.  I would sit there for hours, daydreaming, reading, drawing, playing barbies etc.  Occasionally I fell asleep there until the sunlight stretched itself out of range and I could hear my mother calling me back to the house.

 

When we moved to Germany, my bedroom balcony became my fortress.  It was a shared balcony with my sister’s room.  She never came outside to use the balcony, so I claimed it as my own and remained unchallenged for the duration.  The balcony looked out onto our small sloped garden and a wild hill.  At the top of the hill was a nursing home with balconies for residents.  Sometimes one of these older people would wave if I looked their way.  It always seemed to me that they were angels looking down to see what was happening in the world. They appeared other-worldly and therefore did not feel like an interruption to my solitude, but rather an integral part of it like the sky or a ceiling of protection.

 

Returning to the USA, we moved back into the house we left.  I had a room to myself by then because my sister left for college.  The rock I left behind was now covered with overgrown woodland plants.  The trees were much larger and unable to allow space for the sunlight to pass through onto the same spot as before.  My fortress relocated to the now massively overgrown willow tree at the top of the gully’s entrance.  I kissed a boyfriend there once and felt sad that I had breached my fortress’s solitude.  Of course, I enjoyed the activity.  What I did not enjoy was having opened the space to someone who clearly did not have the same reverence.

 

Moving on to college, I lost my ability to establish a space for myself.  Everything was geared towards this forced temporary instantly intimate community at all times in all places and all spaces.  It was too much for me and I believe was a pivotal point in my health, due in part to the lack of solitude.

 

I developed my own portable fortresses.  Headphones, disc player, books, weight, etc  to now phone, earbuds, laptop, books, foldable sport chair with cover!  Anything to help me disappear.

 

Events in my childhood, and adulthood propelled me to have this drive.  I’m sure that a few of you can guess those kinds of events: sensory sensitivities, molestation, rape, emotional abuse, blah blah blah, hotel stalker tried to purchase me as a bride when I was 12 (the stories of so many of us).

 

Exploring how to carve out healthy spaces for myself is another area that matches with my boundary works.

 

My foldable chair with lid is blue – like the frozen tundra of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.  I like it and register your surprise at that, if you know me and know that I detest blue furniture for myself.  But this isn’t real furniture.  Plus, FORTRESS of SOLITUDE.  Well, it’s more of a safety blanket, really.  So, I should call it “Linus’s Friend” instead. Nope, that does not have the same impact, even though I love Linus.  Superman for the win!

 

When you see me with my chair at the pool, park, games, concerts, etc it does not mean that I do not want to engage with you.  I like you (except Green Lantern)! It gives me a defined space to be, that’s all.  I am a work in progress using the tools I have available to me and I like having something in common with a superhero, even if he is the enemy of Mr. Batman.

 

 

Love, Ms. Herisme xoxo

 

Virtutem Forma Decorat aka Audrey Hepburn: Rise of the No

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Hey y’all

Howsit goin’?

Whatcha doin’?

 

Our sweet summertime is in full swing.  We are on the other side of the slope, plowing towards school resuming in September.  Summer is busy around here: tennis, swimming, karate, math tutoring, outdoor adventure play, day camps (fishing, hiking, singing, more swimming etc), local day-trip fun times, video games, museums, trampolining, cooking, cleaning, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (nod to Mr. King-of-Siam).

 

We also had FatherHerisme and Niece2Herisme join us for about 6 weeks. Niece1Herisme lives locally, so is in and out as often as her family + teenagerness allows.

 

Anywho, it’s been a bit chaotic and busy around these parts.  Which feels like a lovely blessing and overwhelming at the same time.  Of course, I continue to care for MotherHerisme.  She will remain with SonHerisme and myself, along with her two sweet fluffy mini-doggies, for the time being in order to maintain her treatment plan through the coven at Georgetown Hospital.  Pyoderma – do NOT Google this.  You have been warned, and on your own if you ignore this warning.  To sum up:  it is extremely painful, extremely visually dramatic, and requires a ton of painkillers plus steroids plus exact bandage change protocol (enter me).  These past two years have been a lot for MotherHerisme to deal with.  Please send healing wishes, good juju and prayers, as you are able. Thank you.

 

Niece2Herisme decided to throw a surprise birthday party for me this summer.  It was a milestone birthday (sort of) and she loves me so much that she wanted to mark it in a special way.  She is a very sweet young lady and has a big generous heart!  I am so lucky to know her!  Alas, she was missing adult guidance, so much of it did not work out as she imagined (ex: The cake pictured above was ordered by me once I learned that my allergies prevented me from eating all of the food being ordered, including the cake). My heart broke for her.  It was a learning experience, and I hope that I conveyed how much I appreciate and love her through all of this hard growing up and learning stuff.

 

All of the everything, plus having time passed since we had our lives ripped apart, plus hitting a hard birthday, plus my life in general equals the Rise of the No.

 

No to breaking my appropriate boundaries

No to sugar coating or plain lying about what is happening in my life

No to denying the gravity of what has occurred in our lives

No to treating SonHerisme or me as if we are an inconvenience

No to being disrespectful to our space without acknowledgement

No to passively accepting bad or inappropriate behavior

 

No

 

I love Audrey Hepburn.  I am a huge fan of her work, both as a celebrity actor and as a humanitarian.  I love her so very much, that a very special and dear life-long friend of mine, whom I also love, love, love, once sent me a beautiful print of an Audrey Hepburn quote:

 “I believe in pink.  I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.

I believe in kissing. Kissing a lot.

I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.

I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.

I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

I had this print framed and hanging on my bedroom wall for years.  I loved seeing it.  I loved reading it.  I loved it when my son could read it for the first time on his own.  This past week, I took it down and I doubt that I will ever re-hang it.

 

As I looked at the print when I went to bed, it began to depress me.

Pink is still a-okay by me, as is laughing.

Kissing is seriously depressingly lacking and unlikely to return to my life.

Being strong is an illusion.  Those of us battling whatever battles, battle them to survive or to give our children survival skills – it’s not strength, it’s instinctual self-preservation that drives us.

Happy girls are whatevs.  Great if you are one, also a-okay if you’re not.  Being human and giving your soul space to spread love and goodness is much more important and vital than being happy.

Also, tomorrow IS another day (duh).

Miracles happen everywhere every day.  The very essence of life is a miracle.  I’m not sure how profound miracles are by their existence.  It is in the recognition of the miracle that the profoundness is released.

Obvs I am now old.

Grieving dreams, hopes and aspirations that can no longer be.

One of SonHerisme and my favorite things to do is to hop down to the city and visit some of our favorite artwork.  The only displayed Da Vinci in the USA is in our city: Ginevra de’Benci.  On the reverse of her portrait is another painting by Da Vinci with a secret message “Virtutem Forma Decorat,” “Virtue Adorns Beauty.”  Beauty is found in the things we do, rather than in our face or how our bodies look/behave.  Beauty is as beauty does, so to speak (if you’re from Georgia, South Carolina or Alabama, I’m sure that this is a familiar mantra).  I am not a pillar of virtue, but I do try to be a good role model for SonHerisme and his cousins as well as our broader community.  Not typically in bold overt ways, but in my own quiet patterns and whispers.  I’m an okay-ish-with-my-own-virtue kind of person.  And as for my outside beauty – the virtue does not adorn it. I’ll acknowledge that I am not hideous, mostly (Cartman!).  However I am not a person for whom people feel the need to take more than a glance, much less a second look.  Being an introvert, this is sort of a relief.  At my age I have most definitely stepped into the invisible phase. I don’t have the energy to explore being more virtuous – unless honoring instinctive self-preservation is a virtue (?).  Ack!  Too much pressure and fack beauty anyway.  If you’re not genetically blessed, recognized by someone as such, or overt about your beauty, you end up invisible no matter how virtuous you proclaim or demonstrate yourself to be. I chalk this Da Vinci verso addition up to platituding for profit.

From the time I was very young, being invisible was imperative and worked towards my own self-preservation.  Examples to follow in future post.  My point is that, for now, I am focused on using my emotional boundaries as self-preservation rather than physical boundaries.  This is a difficult shift for me.  It is near impossible for me to even recognize my emotions, much less respond to my emotions by setting appropriate boundaries.

Rethinking how I physically present myself into the world is a piece of this as well.  Don’t look for me to suddenly adorn myself with glitter, eyeshadow or gregarious clothes…  Think more about how I carry myself, wearing sneakers and COSTCO skirts everyday (I know, I KNOW), the language I use, voicing what needs voiced, making eye contact (ugh), etc.

Please do not refer to this as, “baby steps.” This is superdy NOT helpful to someone like me. Condescending and patronizing. When babies learn to take steps, they have someone, and oftentimes multiple someones, enthusiastically cheering them on.  Clapping and, “ohh, ahh” ing over every movement.  When they stumble tumble, large comforting gentle loving hands are there to pick them up, warmly cuddle them, kiss their boo-boos away and reassure them that they are going to be okay.  As a single parent working from home, the adult equivalent of this level of security and support is just not available to me.  I do have lovely friends, who step in and out when able (THANK YOU) – ps they have their own struggles and lives.  The bulk of the comfort I am able to receive has to be self-generated.  Honestly, most days I am unable to muster it for myself.  Then, you know, instinctual self-preservation kicks in: SonHerisme needs support, MotherHerisme needs support, tiny doggies need support, and so goes my day.  I am taking steps – that’s all.  Sometimes tiny, sometimes (hopefully in a healthy manner) bigger, or medium-ish, or just slightly over tiny.  No “baby steps.”

To sum up:

I am saying, “no, thank you,” much more often.

Audrey Hepburn was still an amazing humanitarian and expressed her immersion into a healthy loving supportive environment through her words and works (I am in a different place).

Da Vinci remains an intriguing talented enigma.

No baby steps.

I love that you read all of this, even if you believe that I am wacky.

 

Love, Ms Herisme xoxo