How to Get Your Grandchildren Ready for Church

It’s a little easier, but not by much, if the children’s parents also spent the night before Sunday service, but for the mornings you are alone preparing anywhere from five to seven grandkids for church:

Wake up the two girls first. Give the sisters a little privacy as they pick out their toothbrushes from the bathroom collection. Invite them to the table as you finish your coffee. Remind them to bring what they need for their hair. No, not on the kitchen table. Coffee table is fine. Make sure it’s blue Ultra Sheen for extra shine.

Corral the boys. The girls are savoring perfectly toasted bread spread with real butter. They fantasize about the day they will be old enough to be offered a pour from the percolator. Shout the wrong names at all the boys until they get it together enough to sit at the table for scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice. Inspect all their haircuts. Giggle to yourself remembering the edge ups their grandfather had given them the night before: Lord, how that Tony screamed, then, with tears drying in his eyes, reassured his brother in the chair that it doesn’t hurt. It don't hurt, Andy. That Tony, oh boy, that Tony.

Style the girls’ hair and here comes their favorite part: picking out the hair ribbons that match their dresses. Clip barrettes to the ends of their ponytails, pin a bright bow to their pigtails. Inspect their knees for ash.

Cry out for the industrial-sized lotion bottle and attack those ashy knees. Pile everyone into the Lincoln after carefully wrapping their offering coins into embroidered handkerchiefs. Arrange those beautiful black children in a row on your regular pew. Sorry, Sister Campbell, my grands are visiting and they are taking your seat. Pass down to each a hard butterscotch candy and a final warning hush. The service is beginning.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

- Erica Hoskins Mullenix is a freelance writer and editor, and a contributing editor here at Dead Housekeeping. Besides personal essays detailing her life as an introverted middle kid, bewildered but kickass mother and special needs parent, she also writes short fiction. Proudly an alum of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Erica created the online writer’s community known as yeah write in April 2011. She has had essays published in Salon, The Houston Chronicle, PANK, and other print and online publications. Her fiction and other writing can be found on her personal blog. Follow Erica on Twitter @freefringes

- Jacqueline Bryant Campbell is a contributing editor at Dead Housekeeping, and you can admire and order her dolls at her shop, Jacq's Dolls.

Save the Bows

It’s early and you’ve barely put in your teeth and combed your strawberry blonde hair with a plastic comb made at the factory where you work, but your velour robe and house slippers are perfectly matched.

The author's grandmother at 18 years-old

The author's grandmother at 18 years-old

Gifts are opened in order by age. There is a big, black trash bag into which all the spent wrappings are collected, and you repeatedly call out over the bustle to save the bows. You will use them again next year and the year after. Sometimes you will save the boxes and flatten them to use again. You don’t call this recycling, you just have seven children.

After gifts are opened, you will leave the boys to put on football, the children will play with their toys, and the food will come out - shrimp dip, sweet mix pickles with cheddar and pepperoni, meatballs, and ham. People will yell at the television and yell at each other because that’s how you get heard in a big family. Your house is warm and full.

The author's grandmother and mother on Christmas Eve

The author's grandmother and mother on Christmas Eve

Two days before Christmas you will be taken off of life support. Your children will be gathered around you. You will be cremated over Christmas, and share your mass with Saint Stephen. Your children, their children, and their grandchildren will all gather in your house every year to carry on your traditions. There will be shrimp dip, sweet mix pickles with cheddar and pepperoni, meatballs, and ham, every year. They will save the bows.


- Tamara Oliver is great at banana bread but pretty awful at Twitter. Find her there and admire her socks @sensoryoverlord

Permanently Pressed

Peggy got up every morning at five to fix Bobby’s breakfast and iron his work clothes. She stood behind the ironing board looking out the window, dreaming about the men she saw on the TV the night before. Every few moments she let the iron rest in order to build up the steam that provided the magic puffs that set the creases permanently into the legs of his uniform pants. The radio played on the windowsill, a Ray Charles song. 

Born to lose, I've lived my life in vain.

As the iron rested, Peggy twisted the small, diamond ring on her left hand, as if it might be tight. Bobby leaned out of the bathroom in his boxer shorts, shaving cream on his face and an unfiltered cigarette stuck to his lip.

"Did you make any coffee?"  He called out, the cigarette flapping up and down.  Peggy sighed,

"No, I'm ironing your pants."

She thought she had loved him once, but that was so long ago. Peggy wished she could be a better housewife and have Bobby's uniforms ready and all, but she really hated ironing, and the afternoons were so warm that they made her sleepy. Peggy twisted the ring around her finger.  

"Is there any coffee left in the pot or did you boil it dry?"  The smell of burned coffee wafted throughout the house.  Peggy pulled up her apron and used it as a potholder to pour a cup of coffee. 

Bobby left for work and Peggy sat in a chair smoking his cigarette butts staring at the picture of Hawaii on the kitchen calendar, twisting the ring, she sat there daydreaming about places she had never been to keep from getting blue.

photo supplied by the author

photo supplied by the author

- Nicole Chakalis is an MFA alum in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. She studied at the University of Havana and received the Sylvia McNair Award for Travel Writing. Nicole was the recipient of a fellowship at the Ragdale Artists Residence and the featured reader at 2nd Story during Story Week 2014.