birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I used to sit on her kitchen counter-top and tell her she was white. "No, I'm not!" she'd respond laughing. I knew she wasn't white, yet there was something satisfying in my young mind and being to be able to state something as fact and ruffle the feathers of an make them squirm a bit and not get in trouble for "talkin' back."

She was my maternal grandmother, Marylouise, and was the lightest in our tiny family. She had once been married to my grandfather and for some reason I had either been told or overheard that on their wedding night, he had to get her drunk "first".

For Christmas each year, she'd make Butter Cookies and I regret not getting the recipe from her, but most regrettably, I never made them with her. I just gobbled them up on Christmas morning.

For some reason, my grandmother hated my sister. She showed preferential treatment towards me and this preference transferred to my daughter, as well as, my grandmother's disapproval and disdain for my sister's son.

My mother avoided the truth that her mother was emotionally abusive to one of her own children. We've talked about this over the years and although I hear her, I don't understand her complacency. Yet, most puzzling, is why my grandmother treated my sister so poorly. So poorly in fact, that I believe it is part of the reason my sister is mentally-ill today.

Imagine a rape victim being forced to spend birthdays, holidays and family vacations with their rapist and no one acknowledges how wrong it is. This is how I believe my sister must have felt. Yet, my grandmother remained a part of our lives.

Her nickname was Manga. A name she was given by my daughter who in an attempt to say, "Great Grandma," pronounced it, "Manga." Marylouise liked it, so it stayed. When my daughter was under the age of two, I invited my grandmother to live with me. Her apartment had been neglected by management, so she readily accepted. It was an ok arrangement, yet I was mindful never to let my nephew around her alone and years later, when I moved and we both secured apartments near each other in the same complex, I knew it was time to distance myself when my own daughter ran away from my grandmother's home, because, as my 6 year old daughter stated, she "just couldn't take Manga being mean to everyone, even the people on TV."

My grandmother died when she was in her later 80s. My mother had bought a condo nearby and didn't invite her own mother to live with her. I knew the invitation would never be extended as my mother harbored anger and resentment towards her mother and the abuse she forced upon my sister would never be forgiven. So, in 2007, one afternoon, after having lived alone for over 40 years, my grandmother died in her bedroom of a heart attack, that occurred while she sat on the side of her bed, pulling up her adult diaper.