Memories, Parenting, Shared Stories, and Growing Up

My daughter turned nineteen yesterday. That now means I’m officially a parent of those who are exclusively adults.

With the kids in my life getting older it beings back a flood of memories from the time I was a little bit older than two years, to my childhood, and somewhat embarrassing and adventure filled young adulthood.

I hope that all adults, especially those with children, and I mean children of any age, can remember way back when. I don’t mean like those memes you see on Facebook that say “When I was a kid we jumped off of cliffs, played with guns and live hand grenades, went swimming in snake infested rivers, stayed out until dark, exclusively dined on fried food and sugar, and put our hands into garbage disposals, used chain saws unattended, and we’re still alive. Kids these days are spoiled assholes.”

Having children brings up random memories. Sometimes these are fearful. Sometimes they bring a sigh of relief because your child is not doing the same thing as you did. Sometimes they are happy, or bittersweet because of a time you loved that will never be again.

Yesterday I thought about how I waited on the front porch of our house with my mother and my brother Valentine as we watched my three older brothers walking off to school. They were fourteen, thirteen, and nine. Val was almost five. I was almost four. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to go to school. Val was silent on the issue. He’d already started to read on his own and had no plans on going to school. Not ever. He never told my parents so he missed his opportunity to be an exclusive self learner. I didn’t learn to read until I was six and didn’t master it until I was about eight.

I thought about how much I like my daughter’s boyfriend, and my son’s girlfriend.

And the most random memory came into my head. I dated a guy named Orin once who was nice. He had a dog who was nice and a nice sense of humor. His home was nice. What wasn’t so nice was the fact that his sister lived with him. Gertrude seemed nice at first despite the fact that she was loud and exceptionally out spoken. But then it got weird.

Wherever I went with Orin Gertrude would be there. When Gertrude would talk Orin would stop whatever he was doing and give her a dreamy look. Gertrude was the expert in everything and he would defer to her on everything. She monopolized every conversation. Eventually everything we did was what Orin and Gertrude wanted to do. In fact that only reason I think I was around was because Orin didn’t want to have sex with his sister. She already had dibs on all of the other girlfriend functions. It was like dating married man who brought his wife along, only weirder. So the last time I saw him I invited him for cocktails. I said we could do something afterwords. A few nights before I told him that I was bothered that Gertrude, or Gertrude and her boyfriend were always along. I wanted some time with just him. He brought Gertrude along. As we sipped our drinks Gertrude talked and Owen gave her dreamy looks and said nothing out of his goofy love stuck smile. I left after I was finished with my drink and never saw him again.

I’ve told that story to my kids. They think it is exceptionally creepy. Siblings are great. Just not like Owen and Gertrude.

This morning my daughter Clara and her boyfriend left for a camping trip on the north coast. I thought of a camping trip long ago with my friend Amelia.

I was living in Sacramento. Amelia was living in Las Vegas. So we met half way in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, where the highest mountains in the lower 48 are. We were at Devil’s Post Pile, an amazing geological formation. As we set up our tents I heard seals. This was great. Last time I went camping on the beach we heard seals too.

I said to Amelia, “Do you hear the seals?”

She said, “Those are mules.”

Then I remembered we were three hundred miles from the ocean, and in the mountains.

I’ll attribute my memory fade to a four-hour drive in my sports car with the top down. Brain bake. Or maybe it was just me, because sometimes I’m like that.

Amelia is still in Las Vegas being fabulous. I’m still living near Sacramento.

Amelia and I are still having adventures. I heard the seals, aka mules, years before I ever had children. Now Amelia and I have grown daughters. I think our hearing is a lot better now. Parenthood will do that to you.

By the way, I haven’t heard seals in the mountains since then.

I was also with Amelia on my 19th birthday one hundred and forty years ago, but I won’t tell that story today.

In both storytelling and parenting use what you know. Use the truths from you experiences to teach your children. Entertain them with your stupid stories so maybe their stupid stories won’t be so stupid.

We all connect through our stories. Our stories make us who we are. They are something we can share at no cost, except maybe a little embarrassment.

I love to listen to stories and memories others have to share. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting around a campfire, strolling through a museum, or hanging out at home. What matters is that we listen with open minds, open hearts, and a sense of humor. And add in some love.

Yes, even Vampires, despite the misinformation out there about us, know about love. We know a lot about love – and stories. So be like a Vampire and tell your story and collect stories from others. You’ll thank me for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

vm darling girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Salsa, a Story of Friendship, and Vampires…and a Ghost.

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As you know, most Vampires don’t live on blood alone. Every year I make salsa. Not just a bowl of peppers and tomatoes on the table, but a full blown canning operation.

I don’t have an exact recipe. Two parts tomatoes, one part onions, a bunch of peppers to taste. Splash in lemon juice and/or vinegar needed acid. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and other spices.

This time we roasted the peppers, and some of the tomatoes for a brown salsa. We also roasted corn and added black beans for a batch of what we call Cowboy Salsa.

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For the first batch I packed up my gear and went over to my neighbor (and friend) Kelly’s house.

There is something about taking fresh, organic, good for you vegetables and spices, mixing them all together and coming up with something so amazing and crazy delicious that, well, it always makes me feel good. I’m jazzed.

Nigel the Ghost followed me over to the canning party. He looked in pots and explored around the room. Nobody saw him except me. Eventually he sat down in a chair and closed his eyes.

Usually Nigel is wearing a black suit, but today he was wearing a black tee shirt and jeans. I glanced at two long bloody gashes, one on each wrist going from his hand towards his elbow. As soon as he noticed I’d noticed the gashes closed and vanished. He straightened up and said, “It isn’t what you think. Someone did this to me after I died.”

Oh. I was the only one who could hear him.

“What are you doing here?” I mouthed the words.

“What are you doing here?” he asked with a nasty smile.

Kelly’s mother came over to help. She is a small woman, still beautiful at age 86. Everyone calls her Granny. I even call her Granny. With arthritic hands she slowly peeled blanched tomatoes and kept up with the conversations.

Kelly went down out to the store to get more canning jar lids. Granny motioned for me to come closer.

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you? Don’t worry I won’t say anything.” Her strong Southern accent accentuated the word “I”. Ahhhh won’t say anything.

I didn’t even know what to say. It is always somewhat of a shock when someone knows what I am.

Granny continued. “There is a ghost here too. He is sitting right over there in that chair. I can’t see him clearly but his shadow is there.”

“Kelly never mentioned a ghost,” I said. “Does she know I’m a Vampire?”

“No, no, no, not my child. She doesn’t believe. My children tell me to stop my crazy talk when I talk about ghost and folks like you. So I don’t say anything to them. My husband never believed in any of it either. So I just keep my mouth shut.”

“Let me tell you a story. A true story. Give me your hand. Nice and cool.”

And Granny told me her story.

“Papa, that is what we called my grandfather, had a friend named Mr. Ross. Every Friday night Mr. Ross would come over and he and Papa would sit on the front porch and talk until almost the morning. My Mama would always make them iced tea with no sugar and sugar cookies. Mr. Ross would always have a half of a cookie and no more. He was handsome like a movie star and always made Mama laugh out loud. Mama never laughed so it was like a miracle every time he came over.

Mr. Ross and his wife, Mrs. Ross, had moved to town about ten years before. They’d fixed up one of the old plantation homes. Made it into a showplace.

Mrs. Ross never came over to the house with Mr. Ross. One day Mama told me to deliver a half a dozen eggs over to Ross Plantation House. We raised chickens and eggs for extra money. Anyway, I took them up on my bicycle to see Mrs. Ross.

The house was beautiful with big oak trees and white columns. It wasn’t as big as some plantations houses but still impressive. It was called Wind Rose Plantation back before the war between the states. So I peddled my bicycle up to the house and knocked on the big door. I expected a servant to be at the door but it was answered by a woman so stunning that I just stood staring. She had wavy black hair done up in a pearl clip and the most beautiful blue silk dress I’d ever seen. Her face was that of an angel or a movie star.

It was 1943. I was fourteen years old and hadn’t seen much of the world outside of my hometown. I’d only been out of Louisiana once and that was to Arkansas. 

Mrs. Ross invited me in for a glass of iced tea. Her maid came in with the tea. The maids name was Addie. She was a white girl. She was an albino too. I don’t think I ever heard her say more than two words.

So Mrs. Ross and I sat in her cool parlor sipping tea. I didn’t know what to think at first but she made me feel relaxed. I’d been shy my whole life. I never said much of anything to anyone, but there was something about Mrs. Ross that made me want to talk. After that I kept coming back to visit. Mama didn’t mind. In fact she thought Mrs. Ross was a good influence. Mr. and Mrs. Ross didn’t have any children so I figured she was lonesome.

As far as anybody knew Mr. Ross didn’t have a job, but the seemed to have plenty of money. Nobody ever saw them at any church. Mrs. Ross hardly came out during the day.

One day I showed up and found Mrs. Ross in the kitchen with two colored women. One was tall and pretty as a princess. Her name was Ivie. The other one was a heavy set woman with a happy face. Her name was Liz. They were busying themselves with jars and slicing peaches. 

Mrs. Ross smiled at me and for the first time I saw her fangs. I asked her what was wrong with her teeth and she told me she was just happy. Then just like nothing was out of the ordinary she and her friends told me all about Vampires. I told them I’d seen ghosts before. I’d known something was different about Mr. and Mrs. Ross but after that day I could always spot a Vampire. 

I also found out that Mrs. Ross had the given name of Joan. Ivie and Liz were not domestics who’d come in for the day. They were friends going back over 150 years. That day I learned that Vampires like you, are pretty much friends with anybody. That girl Addie was the only domestic I ever saw and it turns out she was a Vampire too. Can you imagine? That pale girl. I couldn’t imagine her ever biting into a neck or wrist. No indeed.

I asked them, Mrs. Ross and her friends, “do you drink blood?”

“Only from those social climbers in the Rose and Ivy Club and their wealthy cheating husbands,” said Mrs. Ross. Then all three women laughed and laughed and laughed. Then Ivie said, “And don’t forget the good Reverend Rich, the hypocritical old bastard.” Then they laughed again.

So we canned peaches and the gossip flowed like syrup. I’d never had better peaches in my life, then or now. After that I could pretty much spot a Vampire too, black or white. Night or day.

A few weeks later Mrs. Ross gave me a ruby necklace. She thanked me for being her friend and made me promise to move on out of the small town I lived in.

I still wear the necklace. Somehow it makes me feel safe. She said she and Mr. Ross were moving on. I never did find out where they went. She never told me. Papa would talk about it. Mama didn’t know either. 

Now I’m canning again with a Vampire. How about that? And that ghost you brought with you. He is a feisty one isn’t he? I can’t see him very well but I can feel him.

Juliette, if you ever come across Mrs. Ross let her know I’d like to see her again. If it wasn’t for her I’m sure I would have stayed in that small town and married some small minded man, or else been a pathetic old maid.”

By the time the story was over Kelly had returned with the lids. We canned thirty jars of salsa in three flavors.

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When I finally made it home, after our kids had also come in and out, plus dogs and cats it was good just to rest for a minute.

I plan on asking around about Mr. and Mrs. Ross. I’ve no idea who they are.

Nigel suddenly appeared in front of me. “The salsa looked great. I wish I could taste it. And by the way, I did not cut myself. I was murdered. The cuts were post-mortem.”

“You already told me that Nigel. Hey, did you ever hear of Mr. or Mrs. Ross?”

“That was before my time Juliette. Way before my time. I wasn’t even born until 1959. I never knew any Vampires before you. Now if they were ghosts I might be able to help you. Hey, the canning was cool. I never did that. Nobody in my family ever did that. And you know I died before I was old enough to start getting back to my roots or thinking about salsa. Very cool Vampire. Very cool.”

And it was cool. Spending time together, sharing stories and just being together.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Follow me on twitter: JulietteKings@vampiremaman

You can tell your story…

My brother Max told me about a guy named S. Harry Zade who had to tell stories. He was good, Harry was. A master at the art of telling his story. If you aren’t following his blog you should be.

http://thenarrativeimperative.com/2014/01/11/intersections-chapter-94-the-terrifying-and-fascinating-mystery/

So I checked it out and found that Max had a guest post telling HIS story. Maybe I am a good influence. Huh. Interesting. Click here or go to the link below for all the dirt, I mean Max’s story.

http://thenarrativeimperative.com/2014/01/15/guest-contribution-from-max-todd/

Thank you to The Narrative Imperative and the good folks at the Epiphany Cafe for sharing Max’s story.

We all have stories but some of us are story tellers.

I always see blog posts and articles and Facebook and other “things” and people asking “Why do you write?”

I don’t know. I really can’t answer that. Why do we do anything that we do? Because we just do.

We tell stories. We live them. We experience them, in our minds or in the physical world or both. And some, with the ability, share those stories.

Sometimes we just make stuff up. Sometimes we tell the truth. And sometimes we make something up and it is the truth and truer than real life. You never know.

Hey, don’t look at me funny, you were the one who decided to visit the Vampire Parenting Blog today. 

Stories are like sex and food and wine and driving fast and being calm and like the ocean waves crashing on the shore and like a monkey chewing on a cigar and talking in an English accent. They can be anything and everything – and sooner or later someone will tell your story. Of course unless you tell it first. Or let someone else tell it for you. Either way… it’s ok.

For more on Max go to:

There is more than this… just do a search.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman