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On this particular morning, I walked into the cafe and found Alissa sitting in the back.  She’d already gotten herself a coffee.  She was holding the cup with both hands, still feeling the chill from outside.  She was wearing jeans and a fabulous off white sequined top under the perfect navy blazer (not a spot of spit-up to be found), a pair of slouchy knee high boots – low heel – in mahogany with side buckles and they DID fit her calves.    She had a manicure.  French, pppfff of course.  Her wedding and engagement rings fit her ring finger perfectly.  Her hair looked lovely tucked behind one ear with ease, curls flowing and not frizzing.  As I approached the table, I noticed her looking down and smiling.  Of course.  She’d brought the baby.  He was in his carseat. I stopped and watched for a moment.  As I stepped closer to the table his face became visible and I could see why she didn’t want to take her eyes off of him.  He was THE CUTEST BABY IN THE WORLD.

Me: Hi, Alissa.

Alissa: Hi!  So good to see you.

Me: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.  It’s been awhile.

Alissa: Yes, it has.  But the time off has been worth it. She looks down at her son…nope…sorry her manicure.

Me: He’s beautiful.  How old is he now?

Alissa: Thank you.  Ten weeks, eleven on Saturday. 

Me: He’s so calm, such a good baby.  He seems very advanced.  He was holding a menu running his finger down the list of iced drinks.

Alissa:  How nice of you to say that.  Yes, I don’t mean to brag, but he is quite extraordinary.  I don’t want to compare my baby to others.  Although, he does seem to be gifted.  And perfect.  And gorgeous. In fact, he may start talking next week – you never know! She laughs.

Me: And how are you doing as a new mom?

Alissa: Wonderfully, I think.  I’ve managed to look stunning, didn’t you notice?  And, my child is clean, in a fresh diaper, keeping to himself and occasionally smiling at me to let me know that he needs me but is not overly needy.  My husband is completely content with our new family life and is sure we’ll be able to afford everything a child needs.  If you were to go to my house right now, my floors would be vacuumed, laundry done and put away, dishes loaded in the dishwasher and everything in its place.

Me:  That sounds…almost impossible, but okay.  So, you’re getting back to work then?  We would love to know what’s next for you.

Alissa: Work?  Who’s working? I had a kid so I could stay home and watch Oprah.

Me: Ha.  That’s a joke…right? Anyway, you’ll be churning out something stellar soon? 

Alissa: Totally.  Yes.

Isn’t my child pretty?  His poop smells like the rainforest.

We sat and talked for another hour while her son filled out an application for Mensa or plotted the takedown of all wireless communications – I’m not sure.  I swear he winked at me once.  Look for a continuation of this interview in next month’s issue.  Find out Alissa’s other uses for a breast pump and why you shouldn’t panic when the doctor delivering your baby says, “What is that?”

 

 

This weekend, if your grandmother tells you she has an egg hunt planned for you and your boyfriend, don’t believe her.  She’s just lost her dentures again and is going to make you find them.   Your little cousin will bite the ears off the chocolate bunnies and then place them back in the centerpieces, one on top of the other so that it appears they’re having bunny sex.  Your Dad will screw up the prayer again and his sister’s eyes will shoot death rays because he forgot to ask God to bless her 17 year old pug named “Lancelot”, who by the way, is having trouble breathing through his bunny costume.  Your mother will bring up homosexuality as she passes the mashed potatoes saying, “Well, if one man wants to make love to another man…well, I just don’t see how that’s any of my business.” To which, your grandfather will choke on the ham and yell, “Jesus Christ!  It’s Easter!  Can’t we talk about something else?” And you will decide that’s the perfect moment to tell your family you’re pregnant.  

If you do end up sitting around a table poking your casserole this weekend wondering how you could be related to these clowns, I suggest you do what I’ve been doing and try to find out.

Here’s what it’s like to research your ancestry:

      1.   You find out you had a great-aunt who married her first cousin and they had a kid who they named “Ralph.”  Then, she divorces her first cousin and marries her neighbor and they have a kid who they name….”Ralph.” 

      2.   Your father’s great-great uncle was a mime.  And now your father thinks he’s got talent.

      3.   You’re 1/16th Cherokee and you have no way of using that to your advantage.

      4.   It’s quite possible that your grandfather was adopted and he doesn’t know.  To tell or not to tell?

      5.   Your grandmother’s sister fell in love with a prison-inmate.  The inmate fell in love with his cell-mate.  She never got over it.

      6.   Your great-great grandmother was a pioneer for women.  She was an explorer in the jungles of South America.  It all sounds great until you find the picture of her holding someone’s severed head.

     7.   Hey!  Your mom’s cousin, the one they all assumed had died after becoming homeless and hooked on meth is actually that guy that invented those super-soak towels that you secretly want to buy.  He’s rich.  You’re not.

     8.   Going way back, you find evidence proving you’re royalty.  Your father’s family has roots in France and Germany.  It appears you are a direct descendant of Charles le Gros!  Dammit.  When translated, that means “Charles The Fat.” 

    9.   Your uncle’s birth certificate lists his name as “Wily” instead of “Willy.”  You start calling him “The Coyote.”

  10.   Your mother takes this as an opportunity to tell you how you were conceived.  You can’t remember the whole story because you started taking shots of tequila every time she said the word “penis.”  There may have been some mention of cheese cloth.  You’re not sure.

Maybe you should skip the family get-together and go see a movie instead.

Dear South Carolina,

Hey!  I miss you.  Momma says you’ve actually had a winter this year.  We always said, “Seasons?  What are those?” I guess the change has been nice.

We’re settling in to the new place.  Destro wants to climb on top of my head because the oven makes noises he’s not used to.  Hopefully, he’ll get over that or I’ll have to find a sling big enough for a 60 lb dog and strap him to my back.

I wanted to tell you that I saw your new book.  It’s gorgeous.  You look great!  Historic Photos of South Carolina.  Wow.  So, maybe it dates you, but I’m just saying.  Your Lowcountry, your Sandhills, your Piedmont – all your sides look good .  Doug Bostick tells your stories through photographs dating from 1860-1970.  I’ve  never seen some of these pictures.  The photographers range from the professional to a child playing with a camera.  I think choosing Mr. Bostick to tell your story was a good idea.  His arrangement of the photos and captions are well thought-out; although, I did notice that he is from James Island and an awful lot of the pictures are of the Charleston area.  No matter.  I love Charleston and The Holy City sure does have a history.   Oh, just thinking about it makes me want shrimp and grits and sweet cornbread.

I love looking at the old cars and clothes.  Women’s hairstyles and men’s high-waisted pants.  The storefronts and slow city streets.  There was so much land!  So much yard and unpaved, grassy lots.  Horse-drawn carriages and trolley cars.  Bare feet and rickety houses.  Dusty everything.  It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come.  And wasn’t it hot?  I mean, hot South Carolina hot in the summer.  Living with no air conditioning, and for those not on the coast, little to no breeze.  No sir.  Your living looks like it was hard.

I wonder how it feels to air some of your dirty laundry.  All out in the public.  Your archive isn’t flattering or particularly sordid.  It just is. You had to be honest.  You have a history of being stubborn, resolute in your convictions, often controversial and some might even say a little backward.  I imagine it is hard to visually capture your attitude, but this compilation shows a good try.  Pictures document some of your bleakest moments: cities ravaged by war, hurricanes, an earthquake, fires and people enslaved and living in the poorest conditions.  Beautiful plantation homes and grounds coexist with the darkness and awfulness of slavery. It’s a stark juxtaposition.  But there are also pictures that show your resolve, your willingness to try again, to rebuild.  Can you believe that church in Bennettsville?  It burned down the night of the first service and it took them four years to restore it.  That is commitment.

Your politics, social strata, your industry and your landscapes are all represented here.  It’s not a complete story, but for a coffee table book it’s a good start.  I’ll be getting out my magnifying glass to go through the book again.  I’m pretty sure that’s my great-grandfather walking down the streets of Columbia.  Did you see him?  Or my grandmother working in the mills.  She’s there – somewhere.

So, thanks.  And if you keep your sunny disposition this spring, maybe I’ll come for a visit.  But not too sunny, please.  And by the way, are you preparing for football season yet?  Never too early for a Clemson joke.

 XOXO,

Alissa

Historic Photos of South Carolina
Douglas Bostick

ISBN: 9781596525559

Turner Publishing Company 2010

part of the Historic Photos series

hardcover, 206 pages, 200 reproduced black and white photographs

archives used:

The Library of Congress

Santee Cooper

The South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Trying to buy a house listed as a “short sale” is equivalent to accidentally shooting yourself in the face.  You survive, don’t worry.  You’re rushed to the hospital where the medical team miraculously saves your life, but in order to do so they have to remove both of your arms and you lay in your hospital bed in your private hospital room that is too bright because the last nurse forgot to turn off the overhead beam because she was crying too hard over her husband’s latest decision to quit his job to sell whey protein shakes with his cousin and you can’t turn it off because you have no arms and then the phone starts ringing and the nurse comes in to answer it and she starts squealing and holding her free hand in the air, shaking it back and forth while hopping up and down and she yells at you that it’s Harpo, that it’s Oprah’s people and she asks you “Aren’t you excited? Don’t you want to talk to them?  They want to interview you about your face and your arms!” And you lay there because it’s hard to answer questions when you’ve been shot in the face, but the nurse takes your silence as a “yes, I would like Oprah’s producers to interview me” because who wouldn’t want to be on Oprah? She could be a huge stepping-stone to book deals or a mini-series or an action-figure and you bet she smells nice, too.  So, the nurse tells them “yes, yes, yes!” and you wait and wait and wait and Oprah’s people never come because they decide to go with the lady who got cut in half in a string of unfortunate events that culminated in her legs getting caught between a China Lodge IV building and a fallen sign that said, “Go bless Awerica Fried rice 2min.”  Fortunately, the local news does a spot on you and the owner of a boutique sends over a package containing a mannequin’s arm and leg along with a note that says “Sorry we didn’t send two arms. Neil isn’t back from break yet.” So, you look them over with your good eye and decide that maybe these will fit and you admire the shapeliness of your new arm-leg and you feel good.  You feel good because now you have an arm and an arm-leg and that means things must be looking up…

Saw you at the Laundromat last night…the one on Kirkland st.  You always wear plaid but I’m ok with that.  You were washing clothes and drinking something out of a bottle in a bag.  I remember your perfume.  Musk?  Did you see me watching you from the vending machine?  Don’t use that machine.  It eats quarters.  Find me.

Hello, again, I hope.  We’ve seen each other before on the third floor of the downtown library.  You have an interest in mayan history or maybe boats.  I’m not that familiar with the dooey decibal system.  You have blonde hair and I have blonde hair.  Isn’t that weird?  I would love to read some books with you.  If you see this, email me.

I have to talk to you again!  We ran into each other in line for the new iphone.  I can’t remember the last time I had an in person conversation of more than five minutes and then there was you.  We chatted about apps and Facebook.  We are both bloggers and work from home.  We love Apple products and hate it when other people like our music.  I can’t believe I let you go without knowing your name or number.  Find me on Twitter.

Hi.  You probably won’t remember me.  We’ve never talked, but we’ve made steamy eye contact.  I felt the vibe we had and couldn’t get up the courage to say hello.  Will you be back in Ms. Saunder’s class 5th period?  I will be at my desk.  I will be wearing a red shirt that says “Basketball Rules” with a picture of a basketball on it. Are you still going out with Jason?

Do you know who you are?  Outside the McDonald’s, exit 23.  You are med. height with great legs and a nice figure.  You only have one arm.  I have both of my arms, but I think we could get together and talk or maybe more.  What do you think?  I could help you open doors and cut your food.  We could clap together.  I hope you know how to use a computer and see this.  I could teach you how to use a computer if you don’t know how.  I can do a lot of things.  I love your arm.

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© Alissa C. Miles and "And So They Did...", 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material including pictures from posts and/or other pages without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alissa C. Miles and "And So They Did..." with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Basically, don't steal my stuff. Thanks. -A.

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