I was a senior in high school.
In Panamá the Ocean-To-Ocean Cayuco Race (used to be a Boy Scouts of America event) was/is a HUGE deal. It’s what we Atlantic-siders lived for. The chance to show up the big Pacific side with our natural athletic abilities, meet cute boys people from other towns, a huge party at the end, what’s not to love?
Let me explain.
A cayuco is a hollowed out log canoe. Most of the ones that were used then (not sure about now) were handed down from many years before and changed and perfected each year. They held several people (think it was 5 or 6) and you sat on your knees or little rods and had to paddle simultaneously or the boat would totally flip. Much more sensitive than a canoe, not as fancy as a crew boat.
You practice forever, then race from one ocean, through the locks and lake to the other ocean. A major deal.
I REALLY wanted to race.
I was really athletic then. I’d swim, play raquetball or tennis (badly,) body surf, lift weights, and run usually every day if I could.
My on-again/off-again boyfriend at the time had a crew and a boat, but they of course wanted an all-boys boat. They asked me to be their queen and I said “yes.” The queen brought snacks, looked cute, got sponsorships etc. for the team. Boy, was I dumb. (But hey, they all looked like Jacob from “Twilight” and I was 17, so cut me some slack.)
Then, another friend asked me to be on her all-girl crew. I wanted to say “yes”but I’d already accepted the throne (ha) so I agreed to be an alternate. I practiced with them and with another co-ed crew when they needed an alternate for practice. I LOVED it. Of course, as Irish as my skin is I burned even with Zinc Oxide smeared on me. I didn’t care. Mom covered me in vinegar to heal the sunburn. I smelled like a red pickle but it was okay.
Then, my guy dumped me and picked another queen.
I was now officially just an alternate.
Much worse burn.
Hey, the practice was fun. The party wasn’t, but that’s okay… Lesson WAS Learned.
Thinking about going back to really race this time. Think I could practice in the Arkansas River? Anyone for a team?
Language is a funny thing…
I grew up being the translator for my family. Mom could understand some Spanish, but didn’t speak it at all, and my brother was much younger than me. I was fluent at 7 or so, so I did a lot of strange things like negotiate salaries for babysitters, get car tags, translate from the phone company for my mom. I loved it honestly, that peek into the grown-up world.
I can remember going to Mexico City when I was about 12 for vacation. Mom had this cool idea whenever we traveled to get a cabbie to take us around for an entire day. She’d have them take us to places that they would go on a day off and we always saw the coolest things. (Example: in Costa Rica the cab driver took us to his mom’s house for popsicles, a shoe store where they made the shoes to your feet, a drive by view of a mafioso’s house in town…)
Well, the cab driver in Mexico started talking and I went “huh?” I had never talked to anyone from Mexico and didn’t realize they don’t really speak Spanish. I didn’t know that different Spanish-speaking countries had such different vocabularies and accents. I managed to muddle through to get the point across to him somehow, but when mom looked at me like “What is going on?” I told her “Mom, sorry I don’t speak Mexican.” (A couple of years in the restaurant biz in the U.S. and I quickly learned Mexican by the way!)
After most of my college I moved back to Panama to finish my senior year there. My degree was in Spanish and most of my profs had studied in Spain. I guess I’d been paying attention because people at home would give me looks. “Are you from Spain?” They’d ask.
My biggest challenge was moving to Arkansas. I was in a co-ed dorm (NEVER put your kids in co-ed dorms by the way) and had some kids come up to me the first week of school.
Them: “We fixin ta go up ta tha sto, you want we should carry you?”
Them: (louder now) “We’re fixin’ ta go up to Walmart, want us to carry you there?”
Me: (Thinking, I know how to walk, why would anyone offer to carry me somewhere? What are they fixing?)
Now my roommate jumps in.
“Michelle, they are going to Walmart. Would you like them to give you a ride there?”
That’s my attempt at writing this week. Forgive me, I’ve been sick so my brain is still mushy.
Come join up on Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop!
1.) Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you.
2.) If you could do your wedding over, how would you do it?
3.) Who are you giving a timeout to?
4.) What do you dream about? Explain a dream you’ve had recently without using the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘drunk as all get up”.
5.) What’s so good about it? Write an interesting poem or piece of writing where the last two words of the writing are ‘good-bye’
This is written to a tie-dyed T-shirt I got my freshman year of college, U of A. (Go Hogs!) It was from a school function- and the night I first danced with my honey. He had one too, and I think that actually the one I wear was probably his, and I wore out the other one completely…
Ode To A Tie Dyed T-shirt
Softest old shirt,
Older than dirt,
Back from that freshman year dance.
Tie-dyed and threadbare,
You remind me of that year,
When he put me first in a trance.
You make me a happier one.
We go way back,
So cut me some slack,
If I only wear you for fun.
Oh shirt, I adore you,
And so I implore you,
To please not whimper or whine.
Just like my guy,
You don’t make me cry,
And you both get better with time.
2.) Where were your shoes? Write about an interesting time when you happened to be barefoot. Begin and end your writing with a description of your feet.
(inspired by writersfix.com) (I’m always barefoot so this is too hard.)
3.) Whom did you hide from? Write about a hiding place you haven’t used for a while.
(inspired by writersfix.com) (This could get to serious and I’m not in the mood.)
4.) Write a 20-line poem (rhyming or non-rhyming) dedicated to your favorite piece of clothing (could be a shirt, hat, shoes, etc.).
(inspired by writersdigest.com) (Okay!)
5.) Imagine your life is now a book. In 100 words, write the blurb for it. (It’s what people will read on the back cover.
(inspired by creativewritingprompts.com) (I realized this was really much harder than I thought and don’t know if anyone would buy my book…)
Yesterday was a tough day for mom’s in this house. (Oh wait, that’s me!)
I won’t go deep into details, but they do include a broken nose (mine again) and broken drinking glasses. (Both of these were kid inflicted and had to do with enforcing rules which said stubborn kids did not wish to follow- sounds worse than it actually is for dramatic effect.)
Days like yesterday make me wonder if my kids do love me or if I’m just the worst mom in the world…
Which brings us to today’s fitting writing prompt…
I know my kids really love me because:
Even though they like their school they still ask me weekly to homeschool them next year which makes me think they do want to still be near me.
They acknowledged my presence when I got in last night from a meeting (kid speak for “Wow! I missed you!” in case you didn’t know.)
Oldest kid waved goodbye today and gave me morning hugs (even after fussing about getting up and getting out the door.)
My youngest had to go on for twenty minutes at bedtime with… “Mommy, I love you google-billion-towsand-millions. That is a lot, right mommy? I love you more than that.”
Middle kid still can’t go to sleep without me snuggling him for awhile.
I find syrup on the table, toothpaste on the sink, clothes on the floor, which I know must be secret code for “Love ya mom, didn’t want you to be bored today!”
My oldest two ask me to take them to lunch, and maybe partly because they want to talk to me and not just because they don’t want school food.
Join in the fun over at Mama Kat’s!
1.) Open letter to new moms.
(inspired by Tiffany from The Secret Is In The Sauce).
2.) In honor of teacher appreciation week write a poem to a teacher you remember or currently know.
(inspired by Julie from My 5 Monkeys)
3.) I know my kids really love me because…
(inspired by Sarah from Lit And Laundry)
4.) Memories of mom.
5.) Describe a home cooked meal that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.