Friday, July 25, 2008


When the Matron was a Wee Miss, say 10 years old, she and her family lived in the tiniest shack imaginable, a two story tool shed, really, masquerading as government-subsidized low income housing.

Once, the Matron went back as an adult and could not believe human beings lived there. Still.

But the tiny shack was home, even if they were so poor that a bath towel was the cover for their only table-- table that served as desk and dining room/kitchen fare.

Young Miss lived with her mother, and younger sister and brother. Now, weather has always been an exciting theme in the Matron's life, and winter in the frigid north is no exception. She remembers one night in particular, when the television warned of dangerous, sub-zero temperatures ahead. Wind chill! Danger! Possible school closings!

Oh boy! Thought Young Miss. Bring that deep freeze on!

While she slept, the temperature did indeed drop, drop, drop. Her corner of the earth crackled with cold and black. But that deep night opened up into something more dangerous than she had ever imagined -- because at 2:30 a.m., the doorbell rang.

And rang and rang. Someone was pounding and screaming for Mary, which would be Young Miss's mother's name (and her own of course).

Young Miss, logically, got up to answer the door. Her mother stopped her, wrapping a robe around herself.

Mother: "I'll get this. You stay here."

The Matron's heart races when she remembers, still.

Because when the door opened, the pounding and yelling ended only to introduce a terrible thud and crash. A loud voice, angry. Furniture flew across the room as her mother went flying, screaming: "Mary! Mary! Run, run, run! Get help!" Young Miss heard her mother suddenly choking and screaming, being batted about and a man's dark terrible yell: I am going to kill you. I am going to kill you.

Above all the fighting, Young Miss heard her mother, begging her daughter for help.

Both brother and sister were now awake and weeping at the top of the stairs. Young Miss forced them into the bathroom, shaking. They did NOT want to go.

Young Miss: "Lock the door! Don't let anyone in!"

Sister: "I hate you. I hate you! Don't leave me, don't leave me!"

The last thing Young Miss remembers of them was their outstretched arms, begging their big sister not to leave them in that house with the man hell bent on killing their mother. And maybe them.

But she did. This is all happening within minutes--seconds--from the doorbell ringing to the crashing thunderous sounds of pain and broken glass and her terrified siblings--and Young Miss ran downstairs and into the room.

Her mother was on the floor, on her side, flailing, as a man had her pinned down, his arm raised higher to hit her again and again and again -- with more force, to do more damage, more blood and bruises.

Poised at the edge of the room, ablaze with a rocketship adrenaline, Young Miss understood one thing: she was destined to kill this man. The desire to kill, the need, shot through her veins and altered her chemistry, forever. She looked around for the right tool, fast.

Her mother caught a glimpse of her daughter's face: "NO! NO! Run! Get help! RUN!"

And the man turned to see Young Miss. He held down her mother and took one calculated look at the child and grinned. Evil shifted his grip on the earth. He moved toward her.

"RUN!" Her mother grabbed his leg and bit, hard.

He screamed and turned his rage back again and Young Miss RAN.

In a pink sleeveless nightgown and bare feet, she raced into the brittle night and threw herself against door after door of those low-income housing units, ringing bells and screaming for help. This was a dubious neighborhood. Marginal. People who wore their own trouble on their beaten faces. They didn't want somebody's else's.

Her mother kept screaming and screaming and screaming, yelling for help as Young Miss made a decision and ran across rocks, pavement, snow and sticks to a family's house a block away. Running, running, running on the tilt and axis, the new universe, of her mother's voice . . . until the voice ended.

Young Miss stopped running for one split second and listened. Nothing. It's possible to think that you are as scared and panicked as you possibly can be, and find more of the chaos within you.

She threw herself onto the final door, ringing the bell and screaming. Within seconds, Kenny Jay was pulling on his pants, his wife Cora was dialing the police while wrapping Young Miss in blankets and grabbing her hands with an "oh my god", while their children filed out of bedrooms and wiped their eyes.

Kenny Jay walked out the door with his rifle.

Cora cried: "Don't!"

But he did.

Now, Young Miss has no idea what happened next because she fainted.

When she woke up, she was on their flowered couch. Cora had warm towels wrapped around frostbitten toes and fingers. She was rubbing the Young Miss's head. Young Miss realized that this other mother was holding her in her arms, and rocking a little bit. She wasn't going to die that night, after all.

But her mother?

Her mother!

Young Miss shot straight up, as a terrible fear, red and razor-sharp and all encompassing, descended upon her body and set up camp. Such fear might start in your belly or chest, but its tendrils instantly take hold so you vibrate and quake.

There is nothing other than than fear, waiting for nearly an hour, back in the land before cell phones. The sweet steady drone of sirens and voices. One block away, the night sounded alive, like a movie set.

Young Miss knew her mother was dead. She just knew it. She remembered the look in that man's eyes when he stepped toward her, and the thought of her brother and sister rendered her unable to speak. She sat with Cora for nearly an hour without saying a word.

So when the door opened and her mother, brother and sister walked through it!! Well, the Matron wishes everyone could experience the purity of such joy (under different circumstances). That avalanche of joy and relief threw the Young Miss into their arms where they all four huddled and wept for a while, survivors. If the Matron lives a very very long time (and she plans to), she imagines she will never again experience such an all encompassing and complex myriad of emotion.

Her mother was battered and bruised, beaten badly.

The man?

The Matron knows she never got the real story. Mistaken identity, is what her mother told her. Turns out that he was very drunk, which allowed Young Miss's mother to wrangle out from under him and grab a kitchen knife. That's when he ran, right before Kenny Jay arrived with the gun. Of course, Kenny Jay being Kenny Jay, he tried running after the rat but it took a couple of days for the police to catch him.

Young Miss accepted the mistaken identity story. But. There are other possibilities and that's a different, more delicate blog post. After all, he was indeed looking for a Mary.

They all survived that night. But she locks her doors and windows now, religiously. And, she vividly, viscerally, remembers the feeling -- that she could kill someone to save a life! She has a healthy respect for that piece of self-knowledge. May she never have to use it.

Blame it on Men

Premature blog post. The real thing is coming - -sorry!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Throwing in the Towel or Bumping Up the Goods?

Thou shalt not worship false gods, yes, yes, she knows. But the Matron is tired of her prepubescent stature and the acorn-size nipples that have replaced her once very fine rack.

Should she or shouldn't she?

And please, read below and recommend the nearest Rehab Center.

Somebody Needs a Twelve Step Program

The first step is acknowledging you are powerless. Nobody said this was going to be easy. But the Matron sees all the signs!

She gasped, reading the symptoms of Substance Abuse:

  • Seclusive behavior--long periods spent in self-imposed isolation
  • Long, unexplained absences
  • Lying and stealing
  • Involvement on the wrong side of the law
  • Deteriorating family relationships.
  • Obvious intoxication, delirious, incoherent or unconscious
  • Changes in behavior and attitude
  • Decreased school or work performance

Seclusion and unexplained absences: Tuesday night, during play rehearsal, Satan's Familiar went missing! Nobody could find that damn dog. Half the children searched and screamed. When they finally located him a good hour later, he was holed up behind a tool shed with a leather backpack. Which he was eating.

Obvious intoxication: Later, S.F. hopped right up on the picnic table and helped himself to half a pound of organic Angel Corn Puffs. Ignoring the bowl of baby carrots, he washed down his treat with the dip for said, carrots, a big bowl of Annie's Cowgirl Ranch dressing. He spent the rest of the evening in visible pain.

Lying and Stealing: Just this morning, Satan's Familiar practiced his Olympian high jump skills and vaulted himself onto a kitchen chair, so that he could eat Stryker's bacon and cereal in comfort. The Matron understood how codependent and complicit her family had become. Merrick ate alongside the dog and just patted him on the head. As for lying? Satan's Familiar can feign sweet innocence like nobody's business.

Decreased performance: For the second time this week, the Matron had to return home halfway through her run to deposit Satan's Familiar in the backyard because diarrhea rendered him too weak to continue (and the Matron ready to toss the dog over the cliff, cleaning up that goo). This time, she was even forced to carry the sorry creature home because his droopy old stuffed junk food eating disordered self was incapable of walking as fast as the Matron, let alone, run. And that also annoyed her.

Deteriorating family relationship: See above.

On the Wrong Side of the Law:

Of course, the Matronly photograph skills render this impossible to read but that USPS? Stands for United States Postal Service. Yes, Satan's Familiar received a SECOND notice from the U.S. government, chronicling his missteps. This one says something like this: "Dog pulled outgoing letters from slot. Only got 1 of 3."

God, grant her the courage to change the things she can.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Keep that Smile On Her Face

Okay, she hopes millions of people are chuckling, here at Mamarazzi, every day. One of her readers, Jen, led her down this delicious little path. The Matron had never ever heard of Brooke Hogan before and now she understands why.

Then, there's Stryker. Here she is, driving in the van with her children.

Stryker: "I'm actually happy. I'm having a really good day. Yes. I'm happy. It feels good, Mom"

Matron: "Well, that's wonderful!"

Stryker: "Yes. It's already noon and I haven't had a single suicidal thought yet. That might be a first!"

Long long pause in which the Matron must construct the one and only perfect, appropriate reply that will: A) be appropriately light, if this is a joke, and therefore not create too much ADO and get him to actually starting thinking about suicide; or B) casual, even-handed and detached query into the nature and consistency of said suicidal thoughts, should he really be having them.

She can't quite construct such a sentence.

Stryker: "MOM! I am so totally kidding. I'm way too important to die!"

Strangle him herself now or wallow in the relief? Yes, indeed, he is her black humor boy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Matron's Man

When the Matron met her husband, it was pretty much Love at First Sight. Shortly thereafter, she learned that he had once been in a band--although not her sort of band. John spent his 20s in spandex on stage, screaming Heavy Metal into a mic. Believe it or not, that was a great way to meet babes. Or so he said.

The metamorphoses that occurred on both sides --Heavy Metal Man moved on musically and socially, finding different sorts of fun evening activity and understood women to be more than the day's catch, and meanwhile, Feminist (who is now the Matron) cooled and let the head on her hair grow back and started removing those under her arms and softened her brow a tiny bit --until they met somewhere in the middle, where they are now.

When the Matron met John, he had already moved into the more mellow singer-sing writer mode, where he continues to reside. Now, although the Matron cannot carry a tune to save her life, she knows the pulse and tenor of prose like nobody's business!

So when Minnesota Public Radio asked for original music here, Songs from Scratch, the Matron and John teamed up! She penned the words and then he changed some of them and did absolutely everything else!

Before you listen to him, here, know that the song had to refer to The Wizard of Oz and to incorporate these lines, written by Adam Levy of The Honeydogs:

"From the ends of the earth to your own back yard,

Mouth and mind drink all but won't fill an empty heart.

It's all within -- energy and matter namaste and ohm,

Myriad formulas, nostrums and prayer -- all roads lead home."

After you listen, don't be shy! Leave a comment! And not that the Matron wants her man to win or anything -- you know, be all ablush in 9s and 10s and top ratings -- but she wouldn't complain if you gave him a rating. The site makes you jump through a couple of register-hoops, but she thinks he's worth it!

If you don't think he's the cat's meow, just listen to some of the other entries and compare!

Plus, the Matron can't believe she actually participated in Song. A first. Isn't that tune well-written? And hot dang, she's sizzling! Because 0nly the Matron can work the name Salman Rushdie into a song lyric.

Monday, July 21, 2008

She Needs to Get Out More

Yesterday, the Matron asked this question: Who will crack first? Scarlett or her mother? The answer would be Scarlett, at approximately 9:02 p.m. Not that the Matron is tracking this.

Earlier today, she went and spent (oh, a small portion of retirement and college) a tidy sum, on craft, costume and food for the backyard theater her family is producing.

All innocence and purpose, she blithely walked through the supermarket in search of this:

Clearly, she had not been in a store for a very very long time. Because she could not locate "America's Favorite Cookie." No sirreeee. . .. Instead, she stumbled, slack-jawed and increasingly confused, through this:

White fudge covered Oreo!? The Matron tottered on her fashionable heel. But where was the damn plain old cookie?

Organic Oreo?

Golden Original? The Bea Arthur cookie? If you have to Google "Bea" you are officially too young for this blog.

Of course. Why not package a fine spring breeze in your product?

Oreo Cakester? Wouldn't that be cake? She realized her math skills weren't up to the task of tallying the ingredients.

Oh, well, thank God there's chocolate Cakesters.

Finally, the Matron settled on the only thing she recognized, which would be this:

America's favorite cookie? More like narrowing down to the Top Ten of 46. Yes, there are 46 kinds of Oreo Cookies.

And increasingly, we get one breed of chicken and the choice between three grain: corn, wheat, rice. Not that she's tracking.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Certifiably, The Matron

Here and there, the Matronly post hints at the intensity of this household. Hers are not a quiet people. Once, the Matron was talking to a friend who is a child psychologist and the friend said this: "Mary, there are children alive who are laid back, mellow, low maintenance."

Matron: "Ha! Good one. Now I'm buying that swampland AND the authentic Louis Vuitton bag from the guy in the alley!"

Psychologist Friend: "Really. I'm not joking."

Matron: "Oh my."

While the Matron was shaking her fist at the gods, tricking her so, her husband reminded her: "Uh, they take after you, honey."

Not that again! She hates to be reminded that her little apples are not falling far from the maternal tree. Sort of makes the whole nutty situation her fault.

Did you know that a child's boy gun can shoot TicTacs? At this very moment, Merrick is outside in the 90 degree weather in a black turtleneck, camouflage pants and mirrored sun-glasses -- which is the outfit he's been wearing for nine days, ever since Stryker appointed his baby brother to the post of personal Body Guard. So now Merrick is on his belly, shooting TicTacs at Stryker's potential assassins, with a fellow body guard, Jack shooting alongside (apologies to this mother!).

Merrick is the child the Matron describes as 'laid-back.'

During last night's Tornado Watch, the Matron could not peel her screaming, hysterical daughter from her neck. Like a wind-up doll, Scarlett screeched, closed windows, called friends and family members on the phone to alert them of danger, wailed and ran through the basement until the exact minute the damn watch ended. Then she stopped, just like that and said, "When's dinner?"

The fine line between hysteria and God-given dramatic flair will be sorely tested throughout this coming week.

On Saturday, July 26 at 4:30, Backyard Productions presents its Third Annual Show: Peter Pan. Yes, it is time for Scarlett to once again drag her whole family through back yard theater. This year's show has a cast of over 30 children!

On Saturday, the 9th Annual Matron-John Block Party follows the performance. Block party is a misnomer. About 200 people show up. There is a band. The fire department brings a truck for the children. There's a pinata, a GIANT pinata. Every attendee brings food! It is the world's largest potluck!

Wait! Read the first line of this blog post again. Point made yet?

If not, consider this. From Monday through Friday, those 30+ children will be rehearsing, set-building, costume-making, sound system establishing, choreographing, dancing, EATING (a lot) and singing from 6-8:30 in her back yard.

The mermaids will need a lagoon and the pirates, a ship. How to evoke Neverland with all its whimsy, promise and peril? Walking the plank has been bothering Scarlett all week, not to mention the whole issue of flying. Stryker's worried about how the Crocodile suit will be created. Merrick is already working on his four lines. If they could create stars for the journey to Neverland, wouldn't that be great? And is there formal wear for the parents as they prepare for the party?

On top of all this, Captain Hook's aunt tragically died and that child is at this very moment on his way to Oregon. We're sorry, Tommy. The Matron hopes every reader gives a prayer and moment for that lost life.

But now she needs a Hook!

So for the next week, she will be navigating Scarlett's dictatorial and dramatic psychological terrain. She will be surrounded by hordes of painting, hammering, sewing, singing and dancing children in circumstances that will undoubtedly dissolve into utter chaos most of the time. In her spare time, she will be preparing army-size portions of food -- and driving to Home Depot and Ax Man and thrift stores for more white sheets or pirate hats or wire or whatever comes up.

Not only will her entire family be caught up in the proceedings -- the programs! the tickets! the sound system! --- by day 3, she knows that other families will too. By Friday night, the house will be teeming. There will be other parents hard at work under their child's direction (because the kids are in charge of everything regarding the set/show and the grown-ups help materialize that vision), hammering walls and eye-patching pirates.

She will be a total wreck!

And, surrounded by all this chaos and community and art her family has created? Doesn't get much better than this.

Addendum! The Matron just got a call from the set of the film Scarlett is shooting, where that child has been for seven hours. They're going longer. While writing this post, the Matron actually FORGOT about that film, which conveniently shoots during the day, this entire week.

She thinks perhaps she should take bets and money on who will crack first.