How I explain to kids that I'm a stripper: With a poem, of course.
I tell because kids ask. They ask why. They want to know how. And where. And when. And how long it takes. So I answer their questions. With one story after another. It all began in my garage…this story about my work as a stripper. My kids came running in, their friends in tow. My nine-year-old son stopped short when he saw me. At work. “Aw, Mom!” he exclaimed. “You’re embarrassing us!” Ouch! No mom wants to embarrass her kids. “Mom?” my son whispered now as he inched past me and the upturned dresser that balanced precariously atop saw horses. Struggling to reach sports equipment behind me, his words, though aimed my way, were barely audible. “Mom? Jeez. Don’t you know you’re a mess?” A rhetorical question, obviously. He’d already steered his sis and friends toward the door. Hmmm, I thought. Me a mess? I sashayed over for a glance in the wonderfully-ornate framed mirror I’d just finished. What a great garage sale find. Oh, but I was here to look… Ah, yes, ah, yes! I am
a mess. Sweat streaks on cheeks. Plastic bag over hair. Goggles above masking filter. Oversized gloves overlapping oversized sleeves. And saggy-baggy-smudgy pants meeting long-ago-wasted loafers. Yeah, I s’pose my son’s assessment fit. I was a mess. A mess? I thought. Is there a story in this? Yes! It’s all true. And it’s descriptively telling… Words. Phrases. Lines. I rubbed and scrubbed as fun thoughts flitted and flirted. The edginess of this idea. Peeling paint, be gone. More words and lines. So long, gummy varnish! Done with stripping. Time to plug in the sander. And grab pen and pad. More words and phrases. Thoughts coming together, taking shape…like the stripping project. Stripping to scribbling to sanding to scribbling. And so it went as both projects raced to their finish lines. “Me a Mess?” kept its garage-found title. Words, phrases, and lines, however, went round and round before this poem seemed fully-sanded, polished, and ready to be shared…with its edgy backstory, of course.
Me a Mess? Unclean and unbuckled, Unfastened, untied, Unfit to be seen, I'm undignified. Unfolded, unbuttoned, Unbecoming, no less. Unfortunately I'm Unaware I'm a mess. Copyright © 2001 Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz
My kids are grown and on their own. The dresser’s deep drawer conceals while its mirror reveals. And “Me a Mess?” along with its birth story tease many a giggle out of listeners, young and not-so-young. Like others, this poem and its story live on to answer questions from kids and wondering adults. Questions about how it all happens. How a poem or book or song takes shape. Where ideas come from. When and where and how ideas go from thoughts to print. I will leave my personal “why” of writing for another day. Why’s that, you ask? Well, cause there’s a story in that.
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