A Day In Provence (French Chronicles) by Matt Carlson

Jie Jie Sola-Binna sat at her desk, in her illegally built wooden house in the countryside outside the village of Cou-Poux (neck poop) where she lived. She had had it built by her son Tony and his friends, from the left over monies of her dead husband Jackie. It was a modest house, but well put together mostly, though the tin roof made it insufferable during the summer months. She wrung her big old hands together while staring at her computer screen, the arthritis taking a toll on her hands the more she aged. She was close to 70 years old now and had on occasion thoughts of death. She knew that that day was coming and she wondered about her existence, had she lived a life worth living? Hell, no! Of course not. The fact that she hadn’t already killed herself or one of her two children when they were young had always amazed her. Now, of course, she was glad that she hadn’t, she loved her grand kids who lived next store, or at least the youngest one who still lived there. It gave her something to do, something to ease the pain of her own painful thoughts. Life had seemed like that: just a series of painful memories or realities in progress. She alone knew that she suffered from BPD (borderline personality disorder) but she had pretty much control of that today – or so she thought. Nothing was perfect or forever.

 
To her,  her whole life seemed like something that should never have been. I mean, her own Mother hadn’t even wanted her, so she grew up living with her grandmother, and a private Catholic school, always feeling a sense of being abandoned, of not being worthy of love. So she never really learned how to love, or to show it. No one had shown her! What could you expect? You can’t wring blood out of a stone, she thought. Later on, she pushed away the feelings that she had for other girls. It was considered wrong to love other girls like herself, and yet the other girls liked her for her masculine side and look. She was a bit comforting, until you got to know her. She’d always kept her hair short, never wore make up and just wasn’t like any of them. She wasn’t feminine at all. But took up the role, the only one this world had offered up to her: a woman. Then she got married to a man she didn’t love, had his children, worked as his secretary and then when he died, she was relieved. He played the guitare alright, was a good provider, drank himself to sleep every night over a bottle of wine, had an erection whenever it was necessary and then ka-poot! He died. And in any case, he hardly ever spoke, for God’s sake, so conversation sucked big time. He spent most of his energy working with his hands or on graphic projects; he’d been a graphic artist. Still today people didn’t know exactly what that meant. To Jie Jie, they had carved out a decent life together, but a modest one. She still wondered about her missed out life as a lesbian. and at least now, if there weren’t any conversations, it wasn’t due to the fact that you had nothing to share with your significant other.
 
Jie Jie wasn’t a happy woman, she never would be and had decided that she could live on, knowing that. She loved her kids now, her grandkids too, tolerated her daughter-in-law Dee-Nuh, and still managed to maintain a friend or two, or three. Her sons, Tony and Bertrand were good kids, though they too had their demons. The oldest was very technical and good with electronics, trying these days to make some extra money in landscaping , cutting trees and such. He was a bit slow in the matter of understanding relationships and so on, but so was Jie Jie, so was Bertrand. They together had no love, but they had blood. For the three of them, it was the same, they had never leanred about love, so didn’t know how to show it, to express it. All too stressful that. It was easier to talk about mundane things, or things outside of oneself, like culture, or  work, the house. Anything too personal was avoided. Love would remain an intellectual concept far from their realities.
 
The youngest was the gay of the family, artistic (well they both were) and was attempting to work as a hypnotic-therapist. Well, at least he had been. He wasn’t able to do anything anymore. She thought of Bertrand’s ex boy friend and how much she hated him. That whole relationship had been a mistake, she thought. But in reality, it was mostly because the ex in question totally had had her number and would have nothing to do with her. She hadn’t been able to manipulate him the way she had the boyfriend before. And now her poor Bertrand was still a mess (three years practically) after the break up. She remembered that day when HE (the ex boy friend) had come over to her house, without calling and run off with Fee-Fee and Fantabulous, the two Yorkshires that she’d been baby sitting together with Bertand for five months (Bertrand was recovering from his back “ ak-si-dent” she would say). True, her and Bertrand had kept them initially temporarily (the boyfriend was working in England) but then, when her Bertand had had that back “ ak-si-dent”  (again due to the ex!) well, she just didn’t want her little precious boy to suffer anymore. The dogs had to stay! That she had lied to the Gendamerie about everything didn’t faze her. That she had said he had broken into her house, while they were bother there didn’t faze her either, that she had said he had attacked her either…didn’t faze her. It was all about the result, not what you did to get what you wanted….And of course he hadn’t hit her physically, it was the emotional cost that he had put upon her that she would make him pay for! And in reality, it wasn’t about her son, it was about her ego and the abandoned feelings that he had brought back – the ex had revived all that by breaking up with her son and then the gall of running off with Fee-Fee and Fantabulous! Those dogs, yes, she had really loved them! 
 
She would make him pay, “Elledgmother-fucker-cock-sucker-in-hell-bastard-theive-hateful-hateful-hateful-black-hearted-son-of-a-bitch,” her rampage began and ended before she realized she was still at her desk, with her painful hands irating alone there…
“Oh, I think I’ll make some tea,” she sighed.  The BPD had roared its ugly head yet again; the sleeper has awakened.

Fresno Times : Jane Snitly ( A continuing saga…)

Jane Snitly parked her blue Dodge Omni with its broken passenger window at the A & W Root Beer. She always had a broken window on all her cars. Not her fault, just some weird curse or something. The large overhang at the drive-in restaurant was nice protection from the hot sun. During summer, you could literally fry an egg on the sidewalk, though she’d never tried and had never seen anyone else do it either. And why would you do such a dumb thing anyhow? Less dishes at home for the washing up? And if you did consider the idea of frying an egg on the sidewalk you’d need to be especially organized with a tray to carry everything out to your sidewalk, like: salt and pepper, oil or butter (butter was tastier) and a spatula to turn the thing over and get it off of the sidewalk! Then you’d need a pitcher of water. Jane always cooked her eggs using a bit of water. You had to have that to get the crustiness on the bottom of the eggs. She liked hers’ crusty on the bottom and the yellow part runny ; but not too runny! None of that transparent slimy stuff on her eggs! No sir-ee! It had to have a slight white covering over the yolk. The trick was to add a bit of water to make steam after the crusty part was done, then cover the eggs with a lid. So, you’d need a lid out there on the sidewalk as well.

She thought about the cleaning up the sidewalk. Wouldn’t neighbors complain about that? A greasy left over egg mess right in the middle where people were supposed to walk? Neighbors were always finding things to complain about.

A high school aged waitress with brown hair and brown eyes came towards here on roller skates. She was slim and confident with pretty tan legs, an A & W Root Beer uniform and a big pink ribbon in her pony tail. She screeched to a stop near the drivers side of Jane’s car.

“Hi ma’am. What can I get for you today? You must be thirsty with all this heat!” Her shiny white teeth glowed from their sockets. Her whole life waiting to unfold like a giant pancake.

“I’ll have a roof beer float hon’ – medium sized, please. And a glass of water with lots of ice. I know, isn’t this heat something?”

“It sure is. And it’s so quiet today. Everybody is hiding out inside with their coolers to stay fresh. I swear it feels like it’s been two ‘o clock for two hours!…Anything else with that ma’am?”

“No thanks darlin’,” and Jane smiled. She had a smile to win the hearts of any man – or woman. Instantly likable, she was the real deal when it came to sincerity. The girl waitress lit up with another smile and hurried off.

The streets of Fresno were paved, long, hard and flat. From a distance the roads seem to shimmer with the heat. They really did. So many roads. So flat. Concrete everywhere too. The city just kept moving north with the white people following it, like cattle answering a silent call, while the black community stayed on the West Side of town. It was nastily referred to by racists as ‘Nigger Town’. Jane never said that, not once. She was not racist, not one degree in any of her bones! She accepted everyone for who they were, but she’d grown up with another generation and from people like that came from the south. Those people were used to putting others into categories, like : wops, jews, red face, niggers or coloreds, spics and wetbacks for the Mexicans… Chinks too; if they were oriental (after the period of slavery where all the orientals were forced to work on the railroads – like, a chain link in a chain). In the San Joaquin Valley, nobody knew the difference between Japanese or Chinese or Koreans really; though you’d think they should have especially after the second World War ! Àt least to be able to recognize a Japanese. But no; chinks were chinks, if you had slanted eyes, you were a chink.  But Jane was not racist towards them either, they were hardly any in Fresno. She had a dear, dear friend who was Philipino, Elsa.

Yes, America had a bad side, a dismal and violent one that the country was still struggling to accept. It hadn’t gotten where it was today by being nice with everyone, especially when the invaders took over land that belonged to Indians, an entire continent in fact through bloodshed. But Jane, she did have one moment or moments when she uttered racist words, though she hardly noticed it. Always when she was driving! She hated it when people were rude on the road. “Those damn wetbacks” she would cry out to herself. “Don’t they know they have blinkers for turning before the turn??”

Sucking down the last of her root-beer float and crunching some ice from her water, she thought about recent events. Normally she was working at the hotel where she was the bookkeeper, but she’d used an errand as an excuse to get away to herself for an hour. Besides, she did enough over time to deserve a break now and again. She needed to think alone, without anyone around her. She was considering how things rarely, if ever turned out the way you thought they would. In her case, it seemed like never. None of her husbands (the drunk’n lot of ’em) or even her kids for that matter. Even the flatness of the valley began to play on her nerves. She needed some  curves and hills, some water to gaze upon. And her family, they were always disappointing her. She loved them, but not their actions most of the time.

And now momma was gone. She teared up for the millionth time refusing it. “I’m so sick of crying! I’ve already cried myself a fuckin’ river and then some!” She didn’t usually curse like that but it sure did feel good. She pulled out a tissue in her purse, wiped her eyes and blew her nose next pulling out a Saratoga Light and lit it up. “Thank God for cigarettes,” she said leaning back for a moment, her right free hand twitching nervously. She stretched for a minute her arms and legs, wanting to escape the emotions under the surface of her; like waves of wanna be tears, they pricked her with their tiny claws.

The images came upon her anyway seeing Mom in the hospital for over nine years wasting away to nothing, most of the time with a blank look on her face. “Blank, blank, blank”, she thought. “My loving Mother with no fucking expression on her face!” The tears broke through the wave like little blond surfers in a race on the surface of her skin. They rolled and slipped and sloshed down her cheeks, across her nose.

The events leading up to her death were none the less amusing. Then there had been Dave Medvikoff her ex-sweetheart from high school. He’d been the saxophone player and she the star of it all as the soloist for the high school band at roosevelt High. David was the potential husband number four. They found each other again after thirty years by chance while grocery shopping at Safe Way in the produce department. She would never look at egg plant in the same way… But their marriage was not to be. Even after relocating to Morro Bay, getting a job there too, not to mention the leaving behind of one of her sons in Fresno because he had a good job at a super market and the putting to sleep of Sandy, the family dog who suffered from after effects from distemper. No one had wanted her, not even Herb’s parents who wanted nothing to do with her or her life choices. The new apartment wouldn’t allow dogs. It had been a death sentence for Sandy, her son Herbert never really getting over that one. Ans she felt responsible for that too.

Dave, the drinking Dave, a bar tender at the Blue Oyster. He’d met of course a younger woman and was an alcoholic. Janie always fell in love with alcoholics – she had to somehow relive the lost love of her Father who had run away from her and her sister. Then, sadly, many years later hung himself in a closet. On the table an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s and in his pocket a picture of two little girls. Janie and her older sister Jessie.He’d left nothing behind, only a trail of broken bottles and unanswered hugs for his two daughters.

Anyway, so they’d broken up, then Cal her step Dad died. More tears. Then she was diagnosed with having cancer cells in her uterus and the doctors said it all had to come out. It did and it changed Jane for good. Her body had begun attacking itself. Without her uterus, she felt a part of what made her a woman was gone. She ran back home to Fresno, leaving Morro Bay – needing  the arms of her Mother. So much pain, but then Momma was there. But not any more.

No pain could compare to that: to that loss. An internal ripping of the most profound. The tearing out (like her uterus) of that which connected her to her Mother. That connection between a mother and a child. It was irreplaceable. She could not find the words for it when she tried to say the words – it was all tears away, emotions away; a dark curtain of blood with eyes a squinting. But instead of the sun blinding her, it was darkness of her suffering. Those waves were forming again in her mind and she was suddenly like a strand of hair in its midst. Floating, twirling, waiting perhaps to be sucked down into the abyss.

“Ma’am, are you alright?” The young girl asked while waiting for the bill to be paid. Jane hadn’t seen her.

“Oh,”  and she grabbed for her purse still not seeing anything as her consciousness was still swimming in those waves. But she settled herself. She had to deal with this money thing. The young waitress was waiting for her.

“There you go,” she said. She smiled again, the young girl had brought her out of her own thoughts. She was thankful and left her a tip.

“Thanks Ma’am. That’s very kind… Are you…okay?” she asked. “You seem upset.”

“Oh no! Honey I’m just fine. An old lady has her moments, you know. Tears cleanse the soul, right? I’ve been thinking. I need a change and guess what?”

“What’s that?”

“I’m moving to San Francisco!”

And that was that.

 

The Precipice by Matt Carlson

Elledge stood there : once again. On the precipice. The precipice of making a decision. The precipice of what was important in his life. He had looked up, he had looked down; he had looked all around. Had he missed something? Because to make the best possible decision, one had to have the key elements in hand. He knew that. But if part of the equation were the people he cared about – where were they? And if he knew where they were, why were they acting the way that they did? Maybe his ‘carrier-pigeon mentality’ hadn’t been the best method, you know: the returning to the places of life before… To see ‘it’ again and look it straight in the eye  – to talk to it even, just to make sure that they recognized each other. The problem was that no one spoke, or was even available to have an eventual conversation. It was: “I’m so busy. I’ll call you.” The phone calls never came.

Then he remembered an old concept that he had held close to his heart (and head) in his dating days : when you start playing the guessing game in your head about what’s in someone else’s head, that usually means the person is not direct, is complicated,  not a good communicator, or absent because they want to be and or DO NOT WANT TO SHARE in the way that you need them to share. So ‘bye bye baby, bye-bye’ (Madonna song refrain…)

The little brother incident had been an emotional blow. While there, he had known being in their home was a potential ‘bomb’ of sorts,  he hadn’t known what the missing pieces were. Now in retrospect, he understood them. His psychiatrist had pointed out the abandoned Father issues that dominated in that household – that Elledge couldn’t have done anything about it even if he had wanted to. That all potential Father symbols had to be destroyed ! Elledge hadn’t  thought of any of those things – though he had considered the father role he had played – still a child himself- with his little brother many years ago: a poor substitute perhaps, but it had been a loving one.

Arriving in California, he was on a life trip while there – still was in fact though now back in Paris – and the people facing him had been on a completely different roller coaster ride. There was finally no ‘meeting of the minds’ so to speak. For that, there had to be openings in peoples heads, the desire to be open to something new, to have conversations together. Instead, there had been ‘people too busy,’ defensiveness, parody, moodiness and recriminations – games within games. Even lying. There were false smiles and “Awesome!” this and “Awesome !” that; followed up with “Your the boss!” But when a miscommunication happened it was, ” You’re a mother-fucking-liar” and “I’ll never trust you again!” with “Why did you do that?” Elledge was still waiting for an answer from an email in May, a sent birthday card and postcards sent over the summer. But no, he had been killed off. His Father symbol was now dead to them. Back then he’s been told by his little brother, “People in the states don’t answer emails!”

The other brothers and their absences too were confounding to him. But maybe that shouldn’t have been so surprising concerning the past.  Elledge had some gaps in his memory and distance did play a role too – still he was very disappointed. He’d truly wanted to connect with his brothers again and on a close level.  but he supposed, that in order for them to understand the efforts taken to return, one had to have ‘sat upon the subject’ a bit, to mull it over and consider those steps necessary for a trip like that; to care enough about someone else –  your brother – and what that meant to you. And if it meant something then you would do something about it, right? Like jump on a plane and go and see him, or if you were in the same city, run over and see him, right?  If not, you wouldn’t have done any considering at all just, “Oh, he’s coming back?…Why? I hope it works out for him..”(end of story ).

The good side to his visit upon returning to his ‘roots’ had been connecting with his nephews and niece, three of his cousins …and some nice virtual messaging with at least one of his second cousins. And he had made a friend or two, gotten to see his best friend in Washington and her family. There were connections with her family too – that was all very nice….

But still, what to do? Which city would he return to? Or maybe it would  be a new place? New faces? And more importantly the ‘what to do’ with ones life was actually secondary to the ‘why’ we do something…Hmm, maybe it was time to develop that ‘why’ question….

 

 

The Father Ghost of Jane Snitly by Matt Carlson

She had never really considered it. It was something that she’d just decided to do. One day Jane Snitly bought the auburn hair coloring treatment, went home, read the instructions on the box, locked herself up in the bathroom and one hour later it was done. She’d become a redhead at twenty.

On top of it all, she looked good as a redhead. It wasn’t the flashy bright red of some, but more classy, like Katherine Hepburn in the 50’s and 60’s. And so it was, she’d chosen this look seemingly out of the blue – thinking it gave her an aura of the beautiful actress. And yet, even while she looked at herself in the mirror, she couldn’t ignore the pressing images that assaulted her there…

It was a gorgeous Buick of light blue sitting outside on the street under the front yard maple tree  – to keep under the shade. It was a hot summer day in the valley. There’d been a woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was very pretty, quite well dressed and she’d come with her Dad who was now in the house. He was having a conversation with Jane and Jenny’s Mother. The two little blond girls were 9 and 12, Jane was the youngest; Jenny the oldest. The two little girls were intrigued with the woman but didn’t dare speak to her. They’d been playing jacks in the driveway.

Blue curling up smoke from the woman’s cigarette went into the tree itself – seemingly dancing with the leaves – and Jane wondered who she was: this silent friend of her Father’s. Jenny felt it too and the girls left long lingering looks in her direction while halfheartedly spinning and catching. Voices were suddenly raised within the house and Jane and Jenny knew what that meant: another argument between their Mother and Father. They’d known something was up as their Father had ordered them to ‘stay outside and play’ upon his arrival and that he’d ‘wanted to speak to their Mother alone.’ Hearing those words had created a stir in their young bellies, but they had no clue as to why.

The wailing coming from within was low at first: a kind of moaning. Was that human? They both wondered while looking simultaneously at the house where their Father was now exiting. He didn’t say anything to them except that he loved them and would talk to them soon.

Jenny being older asked,”Daddy, where are you going? Why is Mamma crying like that?” She asked while chewing on her fingernail. Her Father stopped and seemed to reconsider something. The woman in the car was watching intently.

“Honey, Daddy is going to go and live somewhere else for a while…. but I’ll come back soon and we’ll do something fun, okay?” This was a lie, of course yet he wanted to give them a warm fuzzy of some kind. A lie was better than nothing. And perhaps he’d made himself believe that his words were true. Jenny didn’t say anything and he got into the car and started up the engine.

The wailing from within the house went up a notch and Jane suddenly found herself standing in front of the running engine, standing in front of the car where her Father sat with a strange & beautiful woman. Jane knew what it all meant. He was leaving. Leaving their Mother; leaving them. Leaving with the woman with auburn hair. Her Father stepped out of the car and asked, “What is it Janie?” But a paralysis overtook the little girl and no words would come. “Honey?… Okay, I’ve gotta go now sweetie – move out of the way.” And just like that she did what was asked of her. Her Father drove away. The woman gave her a sad smile and a slight wave of a manicured hand.

“Don’t go Daddy,” she whispered as the car drove out of sight. She’d forgotten to breath for a moment and felt slightly dizzy. Jenny had run inside to see her Mother. Janie stood there for a long time. Watching, waiting, trying to figure out what had just happened. Her tears and the low moaning were suddenly hers. Her Father had left her. Had left her Mom and sister. Only a Father Ghost would remain now….

**** Explanatory Note:

Almost sixty years later, Jane Snitly (her name has been changed to protect her identity) would die of Emphysema at the age of 68. According to a certain psychiatrist, she chose this hair color because unconsciously she chose to be the woman that her Father left with. That means she wanted to be the woman he chose to be with. (To be the woman that her Father loved). At the same time, she also chose to be the Mother that her Father left. The woman scorned and angry. Probably too,  that both of these identities  co-existed subconsciously within.

That being the case,  the two inner personalities or roles were at constant battle with one another; that the Mistress hated the Mother and that the Mother within hated the Mistress…The Father reassures and helps in developing a sense of identity to children in a family. When a Father abandons his children or is absent, the child will constantly search out that Father image – an image that he or she needs in order to construct their identity. The child (and later on adult) will do this subconsciously, of course and unknowingly will set up repetitive failures with people, people that the unconscious mind will perceive as a potential Father image. This is called the Father Ghost. Many of us have a Father Ghost, though we don’t realize it. He hoovers there constantly and is played out within the people around us, especially family members or other potential father-type images. Because it failed with their own father’s, and is an unconscious functioning, it will fail time and time again. No matter if you are a perfect Father figure, the scorned child will find fault with you somehow. Until the child becomes consciously aware of what is happening (and learns to make a conscious effort to change) he or she will continue to destroy potential Father figures. It is something imprinted within and a vicious circle…Some people will find other ways of creating identity with the pathology of the Father Ghost haunting them. Some will choose to work in psychology, health services and even religion…Anything that will give them a strong sense of belonging and reassurance…

*** ‘A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” he says. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”  Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children. It is important for professionals working with fathers— especially in the difficult, emotionally charged arena in which child protective services (CPS) caseworkers operate—to have a working understanding of the literature that addresses this impact.

Such knowledge will help make the case for why the most effective CPS case plans will involve fathers. This chapter lays out the connection between fathers and child outcomes, including cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior. The chapter also underscores the impact of the father and mother’s relationship on the well-being of their children….

THE IMPACT OF THE MOTHER-FATHER RELATIONSHIP ON CHILD OUTCOMES One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is indirect—fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children. A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children’s father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support. One of the most important benefits of a positive relationship between mother and father, and a benefit directly related to the objectives of the CPS caseworker, is the behavior it models for children.

Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females. Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships. In contrast, research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., “the silent treatment”) are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON COGNITIVE ABILITY AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQ’s, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers.

The influence of a father’s involvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents. For instance, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that highly involved biological fathers had children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.13 Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who The Link Between Marriage and Fatherhood Caring, involved fathers exist outside of marriage. They are more likely, however, to be found in the context of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which being the legal and social norms associated with marriage that connect a father to the family unit. That may also explain, in part, why research consistently shows that the married mother-and-father family is a better environment for raising children than the cohabitating (living together) mother-and-father family.

It is interesting to note that, contrary to stereotypes about low-income, unmarried parents, a significant majority—more than 8 in 10—of urban, low-income fathers and mothers are in a romantic relationship when their children are born.

Most of these couples expect that they will get married. One study found that more than 80 percent expected they would get married or live together. However, only 11 percent of these couples had actually married a year later.

Why they do not marry is an interesting question open to conjecture. However, as Dr. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has pointed out, it may be because these couples receive very little encouragement to marry from the health and social services professionals with whom they come in contact.

Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-being play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.

The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Roughhousing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.19 Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self control and pro-social behavior.

One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self esteem.

In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior. In short, fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. A caseworker who understands the important contributions fathers make to their children’s development and how to effectively involve fathers in the case planning process will find additional and valuable allies in the mission to create a permanent and safe environment for children.’

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatherhood.pdf

Away With You by matt carlson

I was in a dream, with him: Joe. Something about sending text messages, impossible because when we’d been together that hadn’t existed. And he had misunderstood my previous message. I smiled inside knowing we would be together soon and all would be fine. I’d explain what I’d meant to say earlier.

Then we were talking and of course we were going to play tennis and after confirming, something about a show and dinner, I ran off into another room to change my shirt. Like in real life, choosing a shirt became a long and drawn out experience! Would I wear that one with stripes or the other one with the blue ? It  now seemed I’d been in that room overlooking that drawer of shirts for hours and that the shirts keep replenishing themselves in different colors and styles – it was a third dimensional drawer fantasy   – and Joe was waiting for me. That thought brought me tremendous joy suddenly. The memory of first love embraced me for a split second and I remembered how good it was…

The dream split into two and the man on the bus with his elephant was also waiting for me !  In fact the bus seemed to be partially made up of elephant and steel, but then not, because suddenly we were off and running with me alongside the elephant inside the bus!  We were trying to keep our balance to the topsy-turvy ride on that desert path and the man from Pakistan was all happy that I’d made it, as I’d promised to be there and he’d been worried due to my being late…

And of course the dream splits into a third incomprehensible scene where I’m going down hill next to the Port in Marseille on a skate board – yea I do that a lot, right? And there’s these little dogs that want to bite my feet further a head, but finally as I go by they just eat the bottom of my shoes which were made up of waffle cookies (vanilla) and so it was no big deal. I laughed and kept rolling along after a cool sliding brake movement. God, I didn’t know I was so good at skate boarding!…

A dog’s head shook  and I woke up, but not completely. I wanted to speak to Joe, spend some more time together. Something was not right…And then there I was on my deflated mattress on the floor in Olympia Washington. Foebbe and Fender there next to me. They wanted to go out again, though I’d been up at around six a.m. already. But, oh,  it was now after nine….

It felt like my head was again ‘up my ass’ so to speak as I half walked and half stumbled out the door, the leash and my two best friends at the other end attached to me. I had to pay attention not to trip over them or get their legs tangled up in the leash. This morning I didn’t feel like going into the forest, I would walk among the living and try to analyze my dream.

It all want back to being twenty years old again, when Joe and I had fallen in love. I’d left my home town, had quit college before the break and had gone off to San Diego to live together with him. We had driven off in my canary yellow 1975 Volkswagen bug. It had a sun roof top, air conditioning and a great stereo.

My Mother and little brother had been left at the door step of my Mom’s apartment. I’d only a short time before explained to my little bro’ about me and Joe.  Guilt and tears mixed with hope and love now  – as we drove away on an unforgettable drive down south to a new beginning.

Away with you…by matt carlson

The Last House by Matt Carlson

It sat on a street with a dead end. It was the last house. A small wooden house from the forties; white with dark green trim. It had a garden in front of it, a tiny lawn, a stunted Japanese Maple and a fat laughing frog. Facing it, on the left side a double swing perfectly angled to catch the sun, when it came out – a place where you’d want to sit. Behind the house, a forest of dark green, tall trees and little creatures, mulch galore because no one ever walked there, human that is.

Spiders lived inside the house, but then they lived everywhere in the forest – and in all of the houses.  Being that all of the houses on the block also straddled the forest – it was of no surprise that spiders lived in them. The wooden houses (they were all made of wood) were merely an extension of the forest for the spiders….

Bee-Bee lived in that last house, on that block known as Idlewhile. A place where they painted green beer glasses on the streets for Saint Patrick’s Day. Where everyone seemingly had a taste for a perfect mix of wild nature and tamed nature in their gardens. No one wanted their yard to look like something out of a California suburb. This was Washington, not California.

Bee-Bee had lived in California before, but never offered up that information as she knew Washingtonian’s didn’t really care for Californian’s that much. Bee-Bee was a quite woman in her early seventies, she enjoyed taking care of her garden, feeding the birds and looking after her five cats: Edna, Bjork, Nana, Burt and Ernie. All street cats, all different colors. They loved Bee-Bee as much as cats can. She always gave them delicious food and always waited for them to come to her, never seeking them out first. They slept on her bed at night when it was cold outside, they sat near her when she ate. Often she would give them bite sized tidbits of whatever she was eating. She understood cats, their nature. They were hunters. But then, so was she.

It all began when she was in her sixties. She had gone shopping at the nearby Sprouts on Heavenly Road and while coming out of the store with her cart full of groceries she began watching a woman. A woman in her early forties with red hair and a pale yellow Vera Wong dress. There was nothing special about her, though better dressed than most.  Bee-Bee had seen her earlier inside the store and had witnessed this woman’s nastiness to a check out lady. She’d been surprised to see such vehemence coming out of the woman’s mouth – something about a product she’d returned. “You owe me!’ The woman had yelled. Bee-Bee thought to herself, “That entitled bitch.” The woman had been quite insulting to the cashier, flaunting pink manicured nails  at the cashier Bee-Bee had always liked so well. Bee-Bee pinched her mouth over the incident and thought briefly that ‘someone’ ought to put that woman into her place. Preferring to focus on the task at hand and not on the woman Bee-Bee went about her business. That is until she saw the woman again in the parking lot. This time she was yelling at a bag boy who had helped her with her groceries, and of course she didn’t give him a tip. This time, Bee-Bee felt a twinge in her gut.

It was on automatic that Bee-Bee found herself turning the steering wheel in the direction of the woman’s car and slowly following her. Bee-Bee’s car was an old ’67 Oldsmobile in mint green and in a perfect state. The red headed woman drove a fancy new black Audie. She pulled out rather fast out of the parking lot and Bee-Bee had to accelerate to catch up with her. Her long gone husband had always kept their car in pristine condition – it still looked brand new after all these years – so she had no trouble at all keeping up with the newer automobile. On and on they went the two of them driving towards the Olympic Mountains. One black car being followed by one mint green one…

Bee-Bee didn’t  consciously know why she was following this woman. Something in her mind had shut off. She was no longer thinking, but reacting, sensing, observing. Her heart was excited. She knew that she shouldn’t get too close to the car ahead of her, that she wanted to remain at a safe distance. Safe for what? She didn’t know; she just continued taking slow deliberate breaths and watching with cat eyes the car in front of her. Waiting. This went on for several miles until the woman stopped on an unpaved turn out. Without considering what she was doing, Bee-Bee stopped too pulling very slowly up near enough to observe the woman.  The red head got out of her car, slipped off her Vera Wong dress, pulled on tight black yoga pants, put on her gold rimmed Nike’s, her ear bud’s, adjusted her Fitbit and while warming up moved towards the woods. BeeBee followed her unnoticed.

Not more than fifty feet a head of her she heard a noise in the bushes. She felt her heart race further, tiptoed without a sound until reaching a short distance away. The red head was stretching her calves on a log. Then she stood up, turned around and looked right into Bee-Bee’s green eyes who now stood a mere two feet away.

Startled and angry ; suddenly she said with beligerance, ” What the fuck?! Who the hell are you? Scared the shit out of me! What do you want old lady? Are you some kind of perv….” Before she could utter another word a blade flashed from Bee-Bee’s hand and was thrust into the younger woman’s throat. A horrible gurgling noise followed as the red head tried to speak, grasping fraily at the knife now protruding from her blood gushing throat, not totally comprehending what was happening – all of it so quickly. She fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes, twitched for a brief moment and then was dead.

Bee-Bee stood for a moment and observed the lifeless body lying there. And for the first time in her entire life, she felt truly alive. An indescribable elation filled her to the brim. She took a deep breath and smiled to herself. What a wonderful feeling! “Wow, she’s dead as shit!….That’s one less entitled bitch in the world…” She said out loud and bent over to retrieve her favorite ceramic kitchen knife. “How’d that get here?” She asked humming to herself  as she wiped the blade on a Kleenex in her pocket.

“Do I feel good or what?!” She exclaimed as she walked back to her car. There was no one around but she preferred leaving quickly just in case. Her heart was still beating fast, the freshness of the kill still alive and well in her breast.

It had been an exceptional day. “I think I’ll bake some chocolate chip cookies and make some tea….” And she sped off to her little wooden house. The last house on the block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Closet Door by Joanie

 

The Closet Door by Joanie

‘Oh no! God – not another test-haven’t I had enough already? Oh well, I take a deep breath, shoulders back, pull up my boots and march forward!!! Let’s get on with it and over with…

I remember so many things  but I’m always saying, ” I can’t remember that”, “When did that happen?”…”Who was there?”, “How old was I?” So I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but oh! What I can remember…

Mother: shiny blue long evening dress, that special sweet good smell, loving arms, her smile, her reassurance and her giving… Her unconditional love and patience… Her utter belief in me. I will miss you and take you with me all the rest of my life; my best friend.

She doesn’t hear me very often anymore, she doesn’t even see me… Not even when I sit right in front of her and call her, “Mom, it’s me your daughter, Joanie… I love you.” Sometimes a soft, “I love you too, honey” ; maybe a little smile will follow.

Sometimes I want to shake her and say, “Hear me! I need you! Be there for me again,” but I don’t….and she won’t be there for me again.

Just before she really went away, she did hear me and I didn’t even say anything. She she just started telling me that we had to accept the things life sent us and that she didn’t like it anymore than I did, but we had to keep going…

Even though I know she’ll never truly be herself ever again, every time I go to see her, there is a little hope that whispers to me, “maybe today…”

Aw, but she’s free from this veil of tears – I hope- sometimes a smile hovers on her face and I make myself believe wherever she is, she’s happy now.

She shared her first loss with me and my sister, when Daddy went away. There was a redhead (strange that I used to color my hair auburn) he became enameled with and I remember my sister and I watching him the day he left – packing his clothes. We begged and begged him not to go. But still, there he was driving out the driveway…. And suddenly I dashed out in front of the car. He stopped and said, “What’s the matter Joan?” All I could do was cover my eyes and run back in the house.

Could I have ever done that to one of my children? No! No! Afterward I blamed myself for not asking him to stay with us.

Mom cried for months it seemed, then went to work selling yardage or dresses or something like that. We had become ‘latch key kids’. Nothing worse than a silent, dark house when you came home from school. When Mom was a bit sick and stayed home from work – oh the joy of coming home finding her there! Even the house smelled better.

I never forgave my Father, I know. Although, when I was going to get married I tried to find him through my aunt. He finally contacted my sister – not me….my sister.

But I got even when I was pregnant. Once he called from the bus station- but I didn’t want to see him so my husband went down and talked to him. So who got even with who? He did spend some time with my sister and her family but I just couldn’t or wouldn’t go there then.

Then came the time when he drank so much even my sister wouldn’t let him come into her house….and then he punishes us all and took his own life. In a dingy little apartment he hung himself on the closet door. He left an inheritance for my sister and I: 800 dollars partly hidden in some dirty clothes and partly in a pair of bedroom slippers on a closet shelf. The rest of his legacy is a feeling of horror for what he did, partly for an old drunk, regret and a loss that can never be found ever again.