Happy Birthday, Chestnut Haired Girl

Today is our birthday.

I am looking at a photo of you and tapping away on a machine you couldn’t have imagine.

Frozen in time, you are forever four years old, in a lacy yellow top and matching shorts with your hair in a sloppy pony tail. Your bangs are jagged because a few weeks ago you thought Captain Hook was in your hair and you had to cut him out.

What the hell were we thinking? Mom was so mad because we had an appointment at Olan Mills to get a photo taken that weekend. HA!

In the photo, you are perched on the edge of a rocking as if you want to leap off. You weren’t interested in modeling for memories. There was chocolate cake, ice cream, balloons, shiny tinsel and presents outside! There was a pink and silver tiara waiting for me to claim my title as Birthday Princess! Why are we wasting time here?!?!

You were ferocious.

A tiny thing, all arms and legs, skinny and tan, we wanted nothing to do with Barbies. We wanted to run wild in the fields, play in the creek, climb trees, look for crawdads, pull up rocks and see what crawled beneath.

The world was so big. Magic was real and everywhere. Angels lived inside clouds. Birds and animals carried messages. A towel fastened around your neck with a safety pin gave you super powers. A ring of clover tied end to end became a crown. Sticks were Excalibur. I remember how the wind rushing through my hair made my feet swifter and I felt like The Flash, running faster than anyone else in the world.

Our imagination was untamed. We had yet to be told of what things Could Not Be or Should Not Be. We only knew What If and Why. The day we learned to read, it was the greatest gift because then the Universe unfolded in our hands. Books were magic. Stories were in our blood from the very beginning. When someone read a story, it came alive, in sound and color, right behind our eyes and inside our brain.

Remember when we learned that not everyone could do that? How sad that made us?

And later, much later, when the life began to dim, books became our refuge, our solace, and our truest friends.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. Forgive me. My mind rambles and my memories cascade.

I found this picture of you, of me…Jesus, it’s hard to think of me so young…..and I wanted to connect again with you….with me. That young wild thing that you are, that I was….Jesus….I still am.
See, I am that strange sort of adult that never really grew up. Not completely. I mean, I’m fully capable of taking care of myself, paying bills, holding down a job, doing laundry and all sorts of Adulting but…I never lost that part of me that sees magic in rainbows, finds delight in clouds and whose mind is constantly distracting by shiny, new ideas and things.

Here I am, thinking about you and wondering if I measured up to what you dreamed we’d become.
All I can say is that I tried my best. I did. I may not have accomplished everything I wanted or promised but I can say that I am still trying.

And I can promise that I will always hold that piece of you, that fiery, wonderful, magical girl, inside of me.

And I promise to never give up. Never grow old. Never lose the fire.


Happy Birthday, Chestnut Haired Girl.

Until we meet again.


April 12, 2011.

I was driving to work, thinking about my sister, Beth. It would have been her 28th birthday.

There was a 17 year gap between us. To say it flatly, we did not have a smooth relationship.

But I remember how fiercely I loved her when she was a child.

Then I married and moved away. I don’t think she ever forgave me for that.

The years went by. Mom died. Dad died. Her health problems, both physical and emotionally, grew worse and worse.

And I was still so far away.

When I moved back home in 2004, it was really too late to try and smooth over our problems. I would try and she would snap back like a feral dog. At the time, I was battling my own mental health problems and didn’t….fuck, let’s be honest….couldn’t handle her fury.

Then in 2005, her cystic fibrosis took a turn for the worse and she was in ICU for months. On life support, thousands and thousands of dollars went to keep her alive. I remember the doctor asking us what we wanted them to do if her condition “decomposed”. That was the word he used. “Decomposed.”

She was in a coma.

Melinda and I would go every night after work to stay by her beside and stay there on the weekends. We didn’t want her to wake up alone.

She finally did wake up. And let me tell you something, it’s not like in the movies. Coma victims are incapacitated afterwards. Her muscles had atrophied. She couldn’t hold up a spoon or walk. The drugs they had her own made her see things. She told us later that we all had Lego Heads.

She had been intubated so speaking for her was difficult. She could barely make a whisper.

I remember the day she tried to use sign language to talk to us. Melinda and I were at a loss. “We don’t know sign language, Beth. Can you write?”

She whispered, “Dumbasses.”

That broke the tension bubble. Melinda and I laughed so hard that we scared the nurses. We told them, “It’s okay. She’s pissed. She’ll be fine.”

I think that time in the hospital taught Beth something. That, through all the fighting, cursing, and throwing shit at each other, the people who were there at her bedside were her sisters. And we weren’t going anywhere.

I remember that November, at Thanksgiving. It was the last one we had and the best one. Everyone was happy. Even Beth seemed to be cheerful. We were talking about philosophy and she asked, “But…what is philosophy?” and I answered, “Exactly!” She rolled her eyes and whispered, “Dumbass.”

She died less than a year later. October 27, 2006.

She had a cold but people with CF don’t get colds. They get pneumonia.

She died at home, on the couch. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Even her doctor was astonished but sometimes people with cystic fibrosis die that way. Their bodies just can’t fight the infection anymore and their hearts just stop.

We had been teasing her earlier that week that there was a grand Halloween party we were planning to go to and if she died, we would put her ass on ice. We had bought themed costumes and I had even made a brain Jello mold with grapes for eyeballs. Do not ruin this for us!

She died the Friday before the party. We still think she did it on purpose.

On April 12, 2011, driving into work, these words came to me and I turned them into a poem.


There is a bag I keep in my head.

Memories are stored there

Like pebbles.

There are damn few shiny ones.

Most are obsidian,

Black, sharp things that bite my fingers.

The few shiny pebbles are

The ones I like to pull out and

Fold into a clean

Skin of cloth-

-polishing them-

These few memories

When just being in the same room

As you

Was a natural thing.

Not a détente

I take these few shiny pebbles of time

And I polish them

In my kid cloth until they illuminate the


Until all I can see

-The only thing I can remember-

Is them.

Once more, around the sun

Five years ago, my husband and my friend, Jadah McCoy, set up a surprise party for my 50th birthday. They were able to corral all my writer buds and friends to come to Fleet Street pub for food, drinks and so much fun.

It was the best birthday party I could’ve hoped for.

And then, there is this year.

Birthday in a Quarantine.

Actually, it’s been really good.

Way back in January, in the Before Time, I had a weird itch to do something special for my birthday this year. I put in for an entire week of vacation.

I dunno. Maybe I’m psychic.

So, I have this entire week to Do Me.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

Well, I’ll be Doing Me* while alongside doing biology homework, writing projects and other Adult Responsibilities crap but…still.

You get the idea.

2020 has been a year of Big Thinks. So, I’m going to do a tarot spread, have a lovely Think and figure out what I want to do with the next 20 or so years in this Flesh Castle.

See ya on the flip side.

*Get your head out of the gutter. Dirty bird.

Birthday in Quarantine

50 years ago today, my Mother brought home a baby.

I was nearly five years old and anxious to meet the sister my Mother had promised me was going to be my new friend. “You’ll play together and have so much fun!”

When I saw the tightly bound burrito my parents had brought home, I was instantly wary. This was going to be my new BFF?

She laid the bundle in the center of my Grandmother’s bed.

I sat down on the bed and it jiggled.

The baby let out an ear bleeding shriek and my parents, grandmother, aunt, and every other adult in the room yelled at me.

I remember rushing off to the bathroom, locking the door behind me, and having a quick think on the potty. I remember thinking these words very vividly:

Well, I guess I have to run away now.

It was a shaky start.

Although later in life, I did try to push her into the creek, told her Ex-Lax was chocolate candy and tricked her into eating dog treats, I’m glad to say that things got a lot better.

Since this year was going to be her 50th birthday, we decided to do something nice.

First, we made an appointment to spend a day at a spa. It was going to be a luxurious day getting scrubbed down, washed off, and doing all the things girly girls do.

Two days later, a tornado smashed the building down to the ground.

Well, shit.

So, we figured we’d do something else. Maybe she’d come over to my house, we’d have some dinner and do a Facebook Live thing. A special Nik and Brian Drinks A Thing with Melinda as a special guest.

That’s simple, right?

And then the whole world shut down.

And that’s where we are now. Quarantine Town.

But we didn’t let that stop us! NOPE! Melinda wanted a spa day and, BY GOD/GODDESS, SHE WAS GOING TO GET ONE!

I put together a spa day box. Complete with all the necessities that Covid has made so precious.

I asked her what kind of cake she’d like and she said she’d prefer a pie. A blueberry pie.

I’d never made one before but that is what Google is for, right?

I dropped the whole thing off at her house this afternoon.

That’s right. Screw you, Covid 19! We Nelson Girls GET SHIT DONE!