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Oh Shit

Boogie 7

I didn’t talk to her on our birthday this year, but I left her a goofy rendition of the Happy Birthday song on her answering machine; a tradition resulting from sharing the same birthday. Just over a week later, I got the call.

Boogie 8

This says it all to me. And she loved that Bug that she named Hester.

She was the cool one. The boisterous one who commanded attention, not because she wanted it, but because she was so outgoing everyone paid attention. She never showed her anger or raised her voice, though there were many times she could have; she was a lot like Granny that way. She could put me in my place and it never hurt because I knew she was right and it came from her heart. She was an amazing force in my life; a larger than life presence. No matter what was going on and how shitty life was, she could always make me laugh. Always.

Boogie 10

Taken around my first birthday, celebrating together for the first time.

She was never afraid of looking like a fool. At least in my mind she wasn’t. She would mirror anyone. I found a picture of her on the ground with my brother, pretending to suck her thumb as he sucked his while watching TV. She and my dad traded gag gifts for Christmas. They were the biggest laughs of the day.

She gave me my first teddy bear – Teddy. I took him with me everywhere and I cried if anyone tried to take him, even if it was just to wash him. I dressed him in my old dresses and didn’t care that I identified Teddy as a male. Even teddy bears can be queer or gender fluid.

We shared a love of Barry Manilow, France, wine, ballet, art & impressionist painters, Shakespeare, Harry Potter, and guacamole and tortilla chips. We were both Girl Scouts and we both spent time in Job’s Daughters. Helping clean out her condo two weeks ago was a reminder of all the things we had in common other than our birthday.

Making faces on Star Wars night.

Making faces on Star Wars night.

I saw Stars Wars for the first time when it came out on beta and drove a ’72 Corvette Stingray around her condo complex thanks to her friends. My first experience with losing someone I knew to an inoperable brain tumor was at a young age; the same friend of hers who started my lifelong love affair with Star Wars.

Once my parents moved us to Southern California, she took me with her to her classroom (she was a high school English teacher) and let me borrow a plastic tub full of books more than once. You know, those plastic tubs that were popular in schools way back when. I filled one up until I couldn’t fit anymore in without any falling out. I helped her grade homework. Yep, a kid still in elementary school grading high school homework. I was far from perfect in English, but even Auntie Boogie recognized that I was miles ahead of her own students. As I got older, I traded books with her and Granny. I picked up my love of Margaret Truman from them.

There were yearly trips to Rodeo Drive with her and Granny. We packed a picnic lunch and ate nearby before wandering up and down Rodeo and Beverly, checking out our favorite stores: Cartier, Chanel, David Orgell, Geary’s, Gucci, Hérmes, Jessica McClintock, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., Valentino, Versace, Williams-Sonoma. The stationery store (closed years ago) was always the last stop so I could buy something I could afford. To end the day, we ate dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Sometimes we took a slice of cheesecake back for Papa.

Boogie 4

My last ballet with my aunties.

She took me to ballets and museums, along with Granny. I saw The Nutcracker for the first time and watched the Joffrey Ballet with them. We went to the La Brea Tar Pits a lot when I was younger. She took me to Disneyland more times than I can count and we created more inside jokes than I can share during those trips.

We lounged by her pool and she watched while I swam. She made sun tea and I thought it was the best thing in the world. She had an “OH SHIT” sign hanging in her apartment and I loved it. Teddy would play with Cuddles, a stuffed doll of hers, when I visited. I loved playing her 8-track tapes (back in the day) – TV was never central in her home.

I spent a week with her one summer in high school to help her clean her condo. After a long day of scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom downstairs, including getting on my hands and knees to do the floors, the hot water heater busted overnight. We woke up to a disaster, then the garage door broke when she hit the button to open it. We both wanted to cry, but we were too exhausted and in crisis mode trying to clean up the new mess.

Boogie 6She listened to me vent about my English 101 instructor then gave me advice on how to do the re-write I didn’t want to do. He asked for a written self-portrait and my layer of purposeful vagueness was lost on him. She simply told me to give him what he wanted even if it went against what I was trying to do with the piece. I did as she suggested and wound up with an A. Go figure.

I wanted her opinion on Family Ties. Then, the part of me that wanted to make her proud and the part that wanted perfection held back, waiting for a finished product to give her. She’ll never hold in her hands, but I choose to believe she’s with Granny and Papa, watching me and proud of me for finally getting out of my own way to focus on writing. Chasing my dream, which is all she wanted for me, my siblings, and cousins.

To say it’s unfair that she left us so unexpectedly is an understatement. She’s gone; her absence rending the biggest hole in my heart to date.

Boogie 3

My favorite picture of us, taken after a trip to Rodeo Drive.

 

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Time To Die ~ Part 5

bouganMyr stopped next to the concrete tombstone and knelt, laying the flowers on the grass in front of it then glanced at the inscription.

Mikhail Nikolayevich Dmitriev

1957-1992

Devoted to his family

Devoted to everyone but her.

She wiped the tears away. “Mama and Papa were right, you were gloop kak prabka, dumb as a cork.” She leaned over where his head would be. “I remember, Misha. But you forgot what love, family, and family honor really means.”

She straightened herself, still gaziing at the ground. “I wanted to come to the funeral but Natasha said you didn’t want me there.“ She let out a long sigh. “You’re going to miss your new nephew or niece. Five more months. And all three of us are fine.”

She stood and brushed off the grass sticking to her pants. “I thought I’d be visiting Chris’ grave first.” She took another deep breath to keep the tears at bay. She mourned the loss of him and his family since the day he disowned her. Now she grieved for the brother with whom she would never be able to reconcile. “Do svedanya, Misha. We’ll make sure Natasha and the kids are taken care of when they need it because that’s what family does when they truly love each other.”

She trod down the hill in measured steps until she arrived at the car. Chris leaned against the hood with his arms folded. He noticed the tears rolling down her cheeks and wrapped his arms around her. He could never make this better for her. She suffered one loss after another and he would be next once his body couldn’t fight anymore.

He made her a promise in Jeremy’s office and at their wedding. He intended to fulfill that promise with everything in him. All his attention. All his love.

“You still have me,” he said, stroking her hair and kissing her head, “and the baby.” Until death do they part.

©Debi Smith, 2014

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Time To Die ~ Part 3

HibiscusMyr sat forward with her hands falling between her knees. Her brother Mikhail, slouched on the sofa across from her, studying the carpet like it held the answers to life’s greatest questions. His shaggy, light brown hair a mess; he was still asleep when she arrived. She watched him, waiting for a response. Any response.

“I forbid you to marry him,” he said, finally making eye contact with hard, grey eyes.

Not the response she expected. “You can’t forbid me,” she retorted, straightening in her seat.

“Mama and Papa would’ve if they were still alive. They didn’t bring us out here to let us die so young.” He would not allow her to risk her life with that boy. He didn’t care how old they were now. They were still kids to him and he made a promise to keep Myr safe.

His reasoning was as flimsy as an old floppy disk, making it impossible to contain her response. “Maybe if they hadn’t brought us out here, they wouldn’t have died in the plane crash when they went back for Deshka’s funeral.” She leaned towards him. “And they didn’t bring us out here for you to continue the oppression we left behind in Russia.”

“What do you know about oppression?” he asked mirroring her posture. His eyes narrowed to slits and his eyebrows almost touched. “You were just six when we left.” He hooked his thumb towards his chest, “I was seventeen. Everything changed for me when we moved here. I had to learn a new language-“

She reined herself in and interrupted quietly, “And you speak it very well, Misha.” She used the shortened form of his name to soften him and chose not to point out how things were different in Russia now. Their motherland would always be the Soviet Union to him; not the recent years of Gorbachev, perestroika, glasnost, and the end of the Cold War. “Besides, not everything changed. Natasha came a few years later and you have your own family now.” Once again, she used the short form of Natalya’s name to keep the mood light.

She thanked God that Natalya and the kids were at the park. They didn’t need to bear witness to this, and this was about to turn ugly. Mikhail had a temper he could not, or would not, control.

He stood and glared down at her. “That’s not the point.”

She rose to her feet calmly. “You’re right. It’s not. You don’t treat your kids this way. So why are you doing it to me?”

“Because you know about family honor!” He waved his arms around frantically. “You could die but it will reflect on me. People are going to look at me and say to themselves, ‘There goes poor Mikhail. His sister is dead because she married someone with AIDS.’” He set his hands on his waist.

“He’s HIV positive. He doesn’t have AIDS yet. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to be afraid for me or you or your family.” She kept her gaze on him without blinking. “I’m going to marry him. Mama and Papa liked Chris and would want me to be happy. You have to let go of this fear you have because of the accident. God took them home with him.”

“There you go with that religious stuff again. It’s all a bunch of fairy tales.”

“How do you know? Huh?” She paused a beat to see if he’d answer. He didn’t. “Christianity wasn’t allowed. We had orthodoxy with no personal relationship with God until we came here.”

“Sure,” he replied sarcastically and crossed his arms over his chest. He couldn’t debate that with her because she was right on the last point, so he chose a different tack. “If you go against my wishes, don’t expect me or my family at your wedding. We are no longer family.”

“But you’re supposed to give me away,” she protested while pain seared through her gut. Mikhail was full of the unexpected today and this last stand shredded her heart. Her brother was the last of her family and he wanted to toss her aside like a useless, broken toy.

He forced the hardness in his voice so she would never see him breaking behind his tough exterior. “Tough shit.” He marched past her his bedroom in the back and slammed the door.

Myr headed for the front door. As she placed her hand around the cold metal knob she heard Mikhail shouting in Russian. Phrases she hadn’t heard since she was five.

They lived in a small apartment in Leningrad. Just her, Mama, Papa, and Mikhail. Deshka took her out for a walk one day and when they returned, Mama and Papa were yelling at Mikhail for being stupid and selfish. She didn’t know why they were yelling and no one ever spoke of it after that. Deshka led her to the bedroom she shared with her brother and she asked him about the phrases she didn’t understand. He laughed and told her she would know someday.

“I understand now, Deshka,” she whispered, glancing towards Mikhail’s bedroom.

She sighed with more sorrow than when their parents died, then left with her brother still yelling in his room.

©Debi Smith, 2014

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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