Friday, October 15, 2021


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Thank you for joining me on this exploration of memory. I have proven to myself that I can write about Mother and remember her without becoming depressed/angry/anxious.

I no longer hear that voice in my head, criticizing everything I do. She's been dead many years. It's taken me a long time to get here.

I'm not saying I'll never bring up Mother again. Some of the things she said were stupid enough to be funny.

Almost 20 years ago, it occurred to me that she was probably depressed, but as a child of the '30s, she never would have recognized it or talked about it. Other than when she issued commands, she was rather inarticulate. Six children was too many. I don't know if she could have handled fewer children better; it might have helped. My brother was the oldest. He was 17 when I was born. She was 38. I can't imagine I was a wanted child. I don't know if any of us were wanted children. She probably believed it was her lot in life to have kids and do laundry and cook for everyone.

She seldom mentioned her own mother and only spoke of her father occasionally. He died when she was a teen. The one story I remember her telling about her mother was a tale of Mother in high school, allowing herself to be called by her first name alone, rather than her first name and middle name as her mother wanted. She said that when her mother found out, "She took me home and beat the shit out of me."

I wonder if her early life consisted of such chaos and abuse that it drove her to try to control every aspect of our lives. If I was cold, she told me, You can't possibly be cold!

I already told you about how she lost things frequently yet became incensed if I lost something. She also said I had no friends. The one who didn't have friends was Mother.

She was fat, but obsessed with our weight.

When I was 15, she started working part time in a children's clothing store. She often said she didn't understand parents who asked their kids if they liked certain clothes. Kids don't know what they like! she exclaimed. So that was the belief behind the strange things I had to wear. I was wearing what she liked, which had nothing to do with what regular kids wore.

But there was good in Mother, too. We always had plenty to eat. She cooked and baked. 

She complained that when she was a child, everything was given to her older sister, who got to take all sorts of lessons. Mother said that everything should be equal. I don't know if my brother and oldest sister took piano lessons, but the rest of us did. Three of us took them for many years. I didn't want to be in the school band, but my older sisters all had instruments and marched with the band and played in concerts. 

Mother was generous. She often baked for people who were bereaved or in need of something good to eat. When X and I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, she and my dad went to Fort Riley regularly to shop. She asked what I'd like and would drop off some groceries. She provided many clothes and toys for our son.

After my father died, she was heartbroken. I don't think it ever became easier for her. Mother visited us at times. She also called me regularly, crying, to complain about someone in X's family who would not leave her alone and had a talent for bringing up upsetting things that Mother didn't want to talk about. If I had told the person to stop, it would have made the situation worse, and X was of no help. It was frustrating that I couldn't do anything to help her.

When she was in the hospital before she died, I couldn't go to see her. We'd had 36 inches of snow. The airports were closed. Driving from Maryland to Kansas was an impossibility. Even getting to the funeral a few days later was difficult. Flights were delayed because of bad weather. When we finally landed, we had to drive through thick fog to reach our destination. It was the same when we returned. 

A lot of people attended. We cried as the eulogist called to memory the happy, funny times we had mentioned to her. No one talked about the bad.

It was a rough life with Mother in many ways. Although she didn't want me to get a college education, she and my dad were thrilled when I got an Associate's Degree. Mother would have been happy when I finished my BA and became a newspaper reporter. She would have read everything I wrote.

She was devoted to her grandchildren and often had the grandkids in her city in and out of her house.

In some ways, I think she lived a hard life. Mother lived by the standards of womanhood in her youth. She didn't change.

I did.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug 


 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When I wanted to help with something around the house, You won't do it right, said Mother.

Consequently, I didn't learn a lot of every day things that most people know. Plus, my older sisters hated me because they had to clean the house, while I seemed to get a free pass other than being required to put clean sheets on my bed––which I didn't do right––and when I was older, vacuum my bedroom, which I didn't do right.

When I was a teenager, I saw Mother getting out the decorations to put on the Christmas tree. I want to help, I said.

You won't do it right, said Mother.

I was never allowed to hang a single decoration on the Christmas tree.

Mother also made it her duty to ensure I had no confidence.

She often told me I was "thick-headed" and if I ever wanted to have any money, then I'd better marry a rich man. You don't have any friends, she often told me, because of the way you act. No one likes you.

I didn't know then and don't know now how I "acted." I also don't know why kids would come by the house to spend time with me. According to Mother, they were not my friends.

Along with the emotional abuse was the never-ending threat of physical abuse. She liked to beat my older sisters with a yardstick or a fly swatter, but me, for some reason, she liked to slap across the face. When I was as tall as she was and definitely stronger, I continued to cower before her raised hand.

Small things could send her into a rage. It didn't occur to me until much later that she was guilty of those small things. If I misplaced something or actually lost something, she became furious. 

She lost things all the time, especially her keys. She got a huge key ring so maybe she'd be able to key track of the keys, but she couldn't. She laughed about it, but if I couldn't find something, it was the stuff of nightmares.

To this day I remain terrified of losing anything.

Mother was rather large, yet she went on and on about the size of some of my older sisters. She'd wave her hands in despair. They're big-boned, she'd say.

When I was in junior high and wore a pep club uniform that included a gray skirt, she told me my legs were too big for me to wear a short skirt. I think I weighed about 90 pounds. Probably not even that much.

The summer before I started high school, I gained a few pounds. Mother became apoplectic with rage. It didn't take long for me to lose the weight. Boy, that gym class sure took the weight off you, she said.

The gym class had 60 girls in it. By the time the teacher finished taking attendance, we had about 10 minutes to do whatever bullshit the teacher wanted us to do. I lost the weight because I ate only one meal a day. Mother would have been delighted if I had been anorexic.

A friend told me that every time she won a medal in forensics her mother sewed it to a piece of black velvet that went in a case hung on the wall. I won numerous medals. I don't think my parents ever looked at them or knew what I had done to win them.

During my senior year in high school, I won a substantial scholarship in a state-wide essay contest. If you really want to go to KU, maybe we could manage it, she whined.

I hung my head. I don't want to.

I knew what was expected of me. I took some classes at the university in town, where I remained other Mother's thumb.

Mother did like one thing about me. People often mentioned how pretty I was. Once when I played in a piano recital, she heard someone behind us say, She always looks so cute.

That put a smile on Mother's face, but it confused me. If I was so stupid and unworthy of friendship, then how could I possibly be pretty?

I think her belief in my looks furthered her determination to keep me from having a career. You will never be able to hold down a job. If something went wrong, you'd fall apart. You'd better get married or you'll never have anything.

I had a long-term boyfriend but he had turned out to be a jerk. I wanted to break up with him but didn't dare to do so because I knew Mother would say he broke up with me and then list the many reasons I wasn't worthy of him or anyone else.

My desperation to hold onto him because of Mother led me into a deep depression.

When I was finally free of him and starting to recover, I began dating someone else. As soon as it was feasible, I married him. I still had most of the money from the scholarship along with other money I'd saved. I used it for my husband's education.

Although she'd been desperate for me to marry, my performance as a wife did not please her. What are you fixing for dinner? tended to lead to That's not enough, so I invented large, substantial meals that were far beyond our means.

Even so, That nice boy will divorce you became one of her refrains

That nice boy was not so nice. 

We had an agreement that he would get his BA and then I would get mine. When he came home one day and announced he wanted to get his PhD, I didn't dare say a word.

The good part was that he got into graduate school in another state. I could escape Mother.

to be continued . . . and it's not all bad

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When the weather was warm enough for me to wear shorts to elementary school, I put on the shorts and top selected by Mother––she chose all my clothes––and tried to sneak out of the house before she saw my sandals. Why?

I wanted to wear the sandals on my bare feet. That's not nice, said Mother.

She caught me every time and I had to wear my sandals with socks, which led to the other kids at school asking repeatedly, Why do you wear sandals with socks?

Because my mom makes me.

It was embarrassing to be different in such an obvious way in addition to all the ways I was already different.

Mother had always been driven to despair by my thin, fine hair. When I was in the fourth grade, she bought a fall that I had to wear to school every day. The fall was quite close to being a wig. The other kids knew something was up, and one day on the playground, I bent over to pick up a ball and it fell off.

Why are you wearing that?

Because my mom makes me.

On special occasions that weren't really special, such as a field trip, Mother chose dresses for me to wear to school. Okay, I could survive that, and of course, I had to wear the dresses with tights. Then she found ugly, lacy tights that were itchy and made me wear them.

Why are you wearing those? They're so ugly.

Because my mom makes me.

When I was 14, I babysat full time during the summer for $25 a week. I put each check in my savings account. When I got the last check, I wanted to go to Macy's to buy a necklace and a new shirt for school. 

Not allowed. The entire check went in savings.

She had my dad put a new lock on the bathroom door, one that had a key kept on top of the doorframe, with the flimsy excuse that a young child who had joined the family might lock herself in the bathroom, which she was much too old to do. 

I knew where the key would lead. Sure enough, she plowed into the bathroom while I was naked and taking a bath. 

I stole the key and hid it. I was surprised when neither one of them asked about it.

When I was about 17, I discovered the joy of sleeping naked. The house was much too cold for nudity during the winter, but oh, how good it felt to slide my naked self between the sheets when it was hot. But early one morning Mother burst into my room and told me to move over so she could sit on my bed. I want to talk to you.

She sat, and then distracted from whatever she wanted to tell me, asked, Aren't you wearing pajamas?


That's not nice, said Mother.

There I was on the verge of adulthood, but Mother still came in my bedroom without knocking. She still chose my clothes. She often belittled me for being cheap and not spending money, but on the rare occasion I was allowed to purchase something with money I had earned, she hated my selection. 

I was the squirming mouse in a giant's iron grip.

to be continued . . . and it's not all bad

Sunday, October 10, 2021


 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Years ago, Sweet Cheeks got me some shelves for my office supplies (he knew that shelves and a steel front door were the way to this woman's heart). Recently, I piled books on them in addition to the pens and papers and staplers and paper clips. Saturday afternoon I moved the shelves so I could clean up a vast accumulation of dog hair and this happened:

It was too much. I had already been disappointed by the job that isn't a job. The collapse of the shelves frightened Franklin, who hightailed it outside and refused to come in.

It was a nice afternoon and I was in no rush to deal with the reality of repairs and picking up, so Penelope and I joined Franklin outside.

We enjoyed the sun.
Penelope listened to birds overhead.

I looked up at the trees.

When we went inside, I checked my phone and found an email from a recruiter who thought I was a good match for a certain job. She asked some questions; I answered some questions. We made an appointment for an initial phone interview. This job is a real job with better pay and benefits that begin on the first day. I'll let you know what happens. Some other opportunities are also promising and I have not turned down the job that isn't a job. It pays and might lead to a real job with the company.

Because it is autumn, Sweet Cheeks' annual rage against the University of West Virginia's football coach is in full swing (SC grew up in West Virginia and attended WVU). Last Saturday, WVU lost by 4 points at the last minute. SC arrived morose. He cheered up after some affectionate embraces. About midnight he said, Well, I think I'll head home now.

But he didn't leave the recliner in which he rested, and a few minutes later, I heard a gentle snore. Soon he made the move to the chair next to mine and asked for a pillow and blanket. He finished out the night in my bed, where he stayed till 9 a.m. He often talks of not sleeping well at home (he sleeps on the floor, which I do not understand). I am glad when he leaves my home satisfied and well rested.

Yesterday, however, West Virginia lost by a lot. Really a lot, in a game they should have won easily, according to my Sweet Cheeks, and it is all because the football coach does not do what my Sweet Cheeks says he should do, which has something to do with a quarterback. He arrived grumpy. I had started picking up the mess on the floor and much of it was spread across the dining room table. I reneged on my offer to prepare tender chicken with the seasoned rice he loves and requested dinner out. He didn't want to go someplace to wait and stand in line and it would be too much trouble and this and that. I made a reservation online and off we went and were seated immediately. His mood improved.

He dozed off in the recliner when we returned. After he awoke, we had a snack and then enjoyed a gymnastics exhibition in bed. He fell asleep in the bed afterward and stayed asleep till 10 a.m., when he went home happy. 

I was pleased this evening because it was cool enough for Franklin and me to have our first walk in months that exceeded the trip around the block we sometimes make in the heat. I chatted with the parents of a Greyhound and a Shiba Inu while Franklin and the dogs exchanged butt sniffs.

Franklin walked happily and easily and not once did he turn around to request we go home.

Yes, things are looking up.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

from the inside of a Bark Box

Thursday, October 7, 2021


 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Thank you for the support you give me regularly, and especially now, regarding my son. Your comments are kind and they help me a lot.

If I could bake for each and every one of you, I would give you chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven and still warm, soft and gooey, and I'd pour a big glass of milk for you to enjoy with the cookies.

I am feeling rather sorry for myself. About an hour ago I learned that the job is probably not a real job. Yes, it exists and it pays, but it is not with the company itself, and therefore, is without the company benefits package. To be hired with the company, one must be "good enough" on the job. No promise exists about this happening with a certain time frame. It might be a few months and it might be never.

I guess I'll start looking again tomorrow. I haven't said I won't take the job, so if I don't find a real job with a real company, then I can still take this third-party job to make a few dollars. 

I always try to visit your blog posts a second time to see if you've responded to comments because it's nice to have a conversation. I have just finished my second visit to a number of blogs only to find that my comments are not there. I know I wrote the comments. I know they were published (if you don't moderate comments). So I don't know where they went. Anyfranklin, if you think I'm not visiting your blog, then think again. I'm trying.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Tuesday, October 5, 2021


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

My son is an addict. As many of you already know, he attacked me on Jan. 3rd of this year. He was arrested that night and went to jail for nine months. As I wrote yesterday, I now have a no-contact order (injunction, restraining order) in place for five years.

The infamous of the world are remembered for the horrors they inflicted on their fellow human beings. But most of us are made up of the good and the bad we do. My son has done much good; I hope he'll return to that part of his life.

My writing here is my first newspaper column. I'm proud of this work––probably more proud of it than anything else I've written. It also gave me my 15+ minutes of fame, with people stopping me in the grocery store and other spots to tell me how much they loved it, and always with tears in their eyes.

I used it as a blog post once long ago and I share it now as a reminder to myself and the world that I will always love my son. He can't make me stop loving him, no matter how hard he tries. But I am not a fool. I do not trust him. I hope I will be able to see him again. I hope I will be able to trust him again. Five years from now.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

 When I took my little red-haired boy to preschool, we met the teachers and looked at the toys. We sang some songs. Then it was time for me to leave.

The boy threw his arms around my knees and cried, "But I want to stay with you!"

I reminded him that we had talked about going to preschool. I reminded him that he needed to spend time with other kids, that I would return soon and we would spend the rest of the day together.

He kissed me good-bye and went off to build a tower of blocks with his new classmates. I rushed out the door, thankful we had just taken the first successful step toward his independence. 

But the boy needed to learn to dress himself. Every morning, he sat down, pulled his pants over his legs and tried to stand up before they were over his feet.

"I'll have to go to college with him to dress him," I grumbled.

With practice, though, he learned to dress himself. Another step toward independence.

The boy went to kindergarten. I removed the training wheels from his first bike. He rode around the block alone. He stopped asking me to marry him. He learned how to read.

I stood on a basketball court for hours while he threw ball after ball up and toward the hoop. None went through. I passed the ball back to him and waited while he threw it again. One day the ball finally went through the hoop.

He played basketball with the other boys. He didn't need me to rebound for him anymore. I breathed a sigh of relief. More steps.

Fourth grade and he started to play the trombone. The sound hurt. I helped him learn to read music. I played the piano; he played along on the trombone. The sound improved. He didn't need my help with the trombone.

Middle school years, and someone on the school bus teased a girl. She blamed the boy and put gum in his hair. The bus driver gave the boy's name to the principal. We practiced at home so the boy knew how to explain to the principal. The principal let the boy go. I didn't have to visit the school. A big step.

High school: Clear the roads -- he's learned how to drive. I felt frightened, then happy. He didn't need me to be his chauffeur. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted.

But so could he. More independence for him and more worries for me.

He had his ears pierced -- six times. He seemed to have trouble pulling up his pants again but he didn't ask for help with his clothes or with anything else.

I fought to stay involved in his life. Could this independence thing really be a good idea?

"Aren't you glad you know I'm independent and I don't listen to you?" he asked me one day as I was trying to gain his cooperation in some endeavor such as cleaning up his bedroom.

"Yeah, I'm glad you don't listen to me," I answered. I laughed, but I really was glad. Wasn't his independence what I had sought all along? Wasn't it what I had raised him to seek?

I insisted he hold down a job and pay for his own car insurance if he wanted to drive. He played on basketball teams, chose his own clothes, spoke up for himself, even became a trombonist in a ska band. And he did it all without me.

We went to college orientation and picked up our name tags. "Students to the right; parents to the left," a young woman told us.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Students go to a meeting in the room to the right and parents go to a meeting in the room to the left."

They were splitting us up.

I threw my arms around his waist and cried, "But I want to stay with you!"

"You'll be OK with the other parents. I'll be back soon and we'll spend the rest of the day together," he reminded me.

He hugged me. Then he walked away to be with the other students. I went to the meting with the parents, but not to build a tower. I had already built one. It was six-feet three inches tall and had red hair. 

On Jan. 15, he stood at the altar of a church. He didn't hold my hand; I didn't hold his. He took the hand of the most beautiful bride I've ever seen and vowed to be her husband for the rest of his life. I sat -- an onlooker in the drama of his life, missing him, but grateful for his independence.

Monday, October 4, 2021


 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I had some firsts today, one that was upsetting and two that surprised me in a good way.

Let's get upsetting out of the way: My son was released recently. I went to court this morning and got a restraining order that prohibits him from any contact with me for five years. I told the judge, and thus told my son because he was there, If my son can remain alcohol and drug free for five years, then perhaps we can try to have a relationship again. My son agreed and did not contest the restraining order. 

It was an exhausting and emotional morning.

Now let's be happy: I started applying for jobs last Sunday evening and had a number of responses to my applications and the résumé I posted online. Several companies reached out to me, but one place grabbed my interest. I had a telephone interview with them on Thursday, a zoom interview on Friday, followed by a lengthier zoom interview today, and the offer of a job about an hour later. I accepted.

Per my usual policy, I won't write about the job, the employer, or my coworkers. But go ahead and imagine me in my Las Vegas residency, singing and dancing in front of adoring crowds, using the moves sweet Mistress Maddie offered to teach me.

Another happiness came when I replied to some of your comments a little while ago and found I could spell onomatopoeic without looking it up. Yay!

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug