Terry, there is a message for you to go to the front office.
It was my senior year at Arlington High School. I was not in trouble. When I get to the office the woman smiles at me with this strange sort of smile.
Your step-father came by and took your car, he said he sold it. He left you his wrecker to drive to the car lot after school to pick-up a different car. Here are the keys. You’ll find it where you parked your car this morning.
I. was. mortified. Yes, it was red wrecker; a tow truck. It had cherries painted on the side of it.
I went to the mat at 5:30 after editing all afternoon. At different moments throughout the day my first step-father had been on my mind. In the playback of my life, I had never quite figured out how to incorporate him into it. He and my mother got divorced, but he never divorced me. There was no neat way to say, hey, and I have this extra step-dad who had no children and still to this day calls me his little girl on my birthday and every time we talk.
I finally came to the conclusion that life isn’t neat. Bows are only for packages, not life.
Chaz starts us standing up at the front of the mat. I was feeling tired from staring at a screen all day — first writing, then video editing. I needed to move and get the blood flowing. My left shoulder is still slightly sore, but my chest is opening. I am broader and it feels more spacious across the front of my body. We start in a standing forward fold with our legs in a V position. My mind always roams when I start hanging upside-down. As I hang there, memories start rattling loose.
I remember getting in that bright red wrecker. I was so mad I was crying. I had no idea how to drive a wrecker. I knew he somehow thought this was funny. It was not funny. Being the resourceful sort of kid that I was, I managed to get some cute guy to help me get it out of the parking lot. All I had to do was get it to Division Street. I did. However, the guy that sat next to me in English called me ‘Tow Truck Terry’ for the rest of the year. He was not cute, he was just irritating.
As the flow began to heat up I brought myself back into the room. I was focused on the flow; the heat building; the sweat. As I am leaning into an backbend with my upper-back I feel a strength and opening as I raise my arms into the air for warrior one. It was not just the strength or the flexibility I have gained after 50 days on the mat, but a strength and flexibility coming from within me. A strength and flexibility within my soul.
My first step-dad’s name is Cherry Berry (don’t ask). That’s why the wrecker was red and there were cherries painted on the side. He ran a used car lot on Division Street in Arlington called Berry Motor Company. If I were to hand-pick someone to be my step-dad for that period of my life, I could not have asked for a better one. My Dad always made it really easy for me to love him by saying the same thing.
He was always there whenever I needed him. He taught me how to water ski and to drive. Actually, Mawmaw taught me to drive a Volkswagen Bug with a clutch in a cow pasture (the same one I came home from the hospital in when I was born in Hawaii) — but he taught me how to drive on actual roads. He never questioned me when I asked him for $20 to buy a yearbook about 5-6 times each year. I don’t think he actually thought we had bi-monthly yearbooks. He always brought me dinner to CATS whenever I had late rehearsals. I could go on and on … I never heard him once complain.
My shoulder hurt too much to try crow pose, so I just stretched. As we’re slowing down the flow, the song My Head Is a Jungle comes on by Emma-Louise. All I remember thinking is, Yes, it is. I think all of our heads are jungles we’re trying to figure out how to navigate from the minute we get up in the morning. I am glad I have found yoga to help with my jungle head.
At the beginning of class Chaz had asked us to pick our one word ‘prayer’ for class. The simpler the prayer, the better. I chose HELP and THANK YOU. I think they work well together simultaneously. I used them throughout class as my mind would start to saunter away while flowing on the mat.
By the time we get to shavasana, I was ready to rest. My mind wanders briefly to the ovaries of The Girl Who Likes Chicken n’ Dumplings. She started her ovarian stimulation on Sunday night. I say simply HELP and THANK YOU one more time before I drift off to sleep.
As I am driving home, the song Just Fishin’ comes on the radio and I think about Bob. Bob was the man who lived with Mawmaw who was like a grandfather, but not. I never thought of him as my grandfather because my grandfather was in pictures all over the wall — but he did jokingly nickname me Terrible and he taught me how to fish with real bait and grasshoppers. Those poor grasshoppers. I don’t think I could do it now. I couldn’t really see the eyes on the worms, so sticking them on a hook never bothered me much.
I realize as I type this, I did think we were Just Fishin’ and Just Water Skiin’ and Just Drivin’— but we weren’t — the memories were big uns’ — as so many seemingly insignificant moments are when you look back at the landscape of your life.
One day I was fishin’ alone at the cow pond located at the bottom of the hill from Mawmaw’s house. I caught a huge catfish. It was really big. I was 9, but still it was big. I carried it up the hill with bare hands and presented it to Mawmaw to cook for dinner. Bob laughed. Kathie laughed. Mamaw Wines laughed and said, Lord have mercy, child.
Mawmaw screamed. She put that poor catfish in the kitchen sink to give it a moment to breathe and then she stuck him in a paper sack and said, Tige, we do not eat catfish from a cow pond, we eat meat from the deepfreeze.
I ran down the hill, sack in hand, and put the catfish back in his home. Needless to say I never fished for dinner again.
As I am lying in bed, I think again about Cherry and Bob. Had my life been perfect package tied with a bow, they never would have been in it. I look back at the glom of memories I have with each of them and realize in an instant I would not have had it any other way. They too, were part of this family I have culled together across a lifetime and I love them.
Before drifting off to sleep at 11:00pm, I say one more prayer for the ovaries of The Girl Who Likes Chicken n’ Dumplings. I hope that she too, is getting her rest.