From Rags to Riches

**Names have been changed for anonymity**

                When arriving at Catherine B’s house, you’re greeted with a hug, a kiss, and one question: “what would you like to eat?” And don’t even think about telling her you’re not hungry, because she’ll make you something anyway.

                Upon entering her living room and waiting for her to wander back from the kitchen it’s apparent that my grandmother loves her family. There are pictures on all of the walls, sitting on every table, inside the china cabinets that line two walls and stuck into the sides of a large rustic mirror of her children, siblings and grandchildren.

                This deep love for her family is different than most, however. The love and importance my grandmother places in her family stems from something tragic that happened when she was just a young girl—becoming an orphan.

                Her father, John Demetris, immigrated from Greece to work on the Panama Canal and eventually settled down in Clinchco, VA, where he worked as a coal miner. While there he met Pearl Stanley and they married and had seven children. Catherine was the youngest child and has the least memories of her parents.

                Her mother died in 1936, when my grandma was four months old. From what she was told her mother died at home in their bathtub due to a loss of blood. It was assumed she died from late complications of birth, but after finding Pearls’ death certificate, it’s assumed her death was due to stomach cancer. Catherine’s father died in 1944 when my grandma was nine years of age. He got into a car accident while driving home from work. He was ran off of the road by a drunk driver and tumbled over a cliff. His body was recovered and he was in a coma for three days but ultimately he died from head trauma, brain damage and paralysis.

                After both her parents passed away she was shuffled between her siblings. She jumped mainly between two of her sisters and oldest brother. She lived with her brother Tom in Virginia until he went away to California to work on ships for the Navy. She was then put in her sister Irene’s home in Virginia. When money was running short, she was given a few dollars and a can of food and put on a train for New York, where her eldest sister Beatrice lived.

                While she lived with Beatrice, she was put in charge of taking care of the children. When she wasn’t doing that, she was babysitting for other families in their apartment complex in the Bronx. It was then that she decided if she ever had children, they wouldn’t have a life like hers. If she was lucky enough to have a family, she would make sure they knew they were loved, they would be cared for, and she would make sure her family was always close.

                Catherine was passed back and forth between the two sisters for her entire life. After World War II, both Irene and Tom moved to Michigan and Catherine went along. Here, she met her husband, Earl B., and was finally able to have a family of her own. She had five kids and while she and Earl weren’t able to afford to feed them the best food or give them everything they wanted, they always knew they were loved and were always close.

                My grandmother knew she had succeeded in finally having the family she always wanted when she got married and had children, but even more so when she became a grandmother. Her five children are all married and have given her eight grandchildren, seven of whom are still living. All 19 of us get together for the holidays and that’s when you’ll find my grandmother the happiest: surrounded by the family she strived to give a better upbringing than she was afforded. 

Valentine’s day dilemma

Valentine’s day is an awful holiday regardless of your relationship status. Single folks hate it because they’re made to feel more lonely than usual. With the increase in commercials and Valentine’s related items in stores, it’s hard not to. The holiday is awful for couples, too, because they’re made to feel pressured into doing or giving things to their significant other. There’s a lot of pressure from society telling us to either find a significant other or to spoil the one we do have. It has never made any sense to me. 

A Christian Saint named Valentinus was imprisoned and he sent a letter to a female on the day of his death signed “from your Valentine.” Thus Valentine’s day was born. It didn’t become associated with romantic love until the middle ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle began expressing love by presenting others with flowers, candies, and greetings cards, which they called “valentines.” I always blamed Hallmark for the holiday, but I guess now I can blame Chaucer. 

I’ve spent the holiday both ways before and I can vouch for those feelings. On the years I spent it without a significant other I didn’t feel included or up to society’s standards. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how stupid that really was. When I was in a relationship, I always felt like I’d be an awful girlfriend for not making the day ridiculously special for my significant other, and that may just be equally stupid. 

Why does there need to be a day to let our significant others know we care about them? I think that’s what confuses me the most. If you have a significant other they should already know they’re loved and cared about. They should be reminded verbally and by your actions daily. If you don’t have a significant other, there are still people you can let know you care about them, be it your mother, father, or best friend. Unfortunately, though, society can’t make money off of that. 

Nobody loves Valentine’s day more than Hallmark, Hershey’s and flower businesses. I guess I can’t solely blame Chaucer. If they weren’t shoving the holiday down our throats for their own profit, telling us we need to buy mushy cards, tons of sweets, and bouquets of flowers, maybe we could admit how superficial the holiday actually is and forget it even exits. 

Together We’re Invincible

It was nearing the second hour I’d been standing in line. I was one of the lucky people who had a spot indoors. It was one of those frigid days nobody wants by the time March rolls around, but you aren’t surprised when it does because we’re in Michigan. I had already done my fair share of people watching (concerts are the best place to do this. Wal-Mart is the second runner up.) There were three very tall, average-looking men standing in front of me who couldn’t have been older than 25. From what I could hear they drove in from New York just to attend this concert. They seemed like nice enough men, would be pretty decent body guards, but I really hoped they wouldn’t be standing in front of me. I was caught by surprise when a security guard shouted that the gates were about to open, and that everyone with floor tickets would have to find the table with wristbands before they could go into the pit. No sooner had he finished his sentence that the gates open and people started running.

I had been to the Palace of Auburn Hills before, but this was my first concert at the arena. I hadn’t expected that people would start running, nor did I have any idea where they were running to, but I decided in the moment that the safest bet was to follow the three large men that had been standing in front of me. Even if they didn’t know where they were going they would definitely keep people from trampling me to death. They did know where they were going, though, because they led me to a large table set up in the middle of the walkway. I sheepishly handed my ticket over to the woman standing behind the table and in return she gave me a two-page piece of paper. She must have noticed the confused look I had because she laughed and said “it’s a waiver, dear, you’re in the pit and anything could happen.” If I wasn’t nervous before, this is where they set in. I had been to Warped tour before and I swore that was the last time I’d ever get stuck in any crazy pits. I assumed I wouldn’t have that issue at a Muse concert, but signing off the waiver and getting my wristband made me doubt my decision to get floor tickets.
By the time I made it down to the floor it was pretty tightly packed despite the concert not starting for another two hours. I managed to weave my way across the floor to the right side of the stage but once I got there I had nowhere to go. I stood off to the side by myself trying to think of the best way to get to the barrier. A sudden hand on my shoulder snapped me away from my scheming. “Hey, you’re the girl that was behind us the whole time in line, right? My group has some room on the barrier and you could totally fit…unless you want to stay in the middle of the pit.” I was so caught off guard that I couldn’t think of any response other than a massive grin and a squeaky “thanks.” I followed him to the front of the crowd and claimed my spot next to him on the barrier. It was the happiest I had been in a long time and the concert hadn’t even begun.

“So, why are you a Muse fan?” he asked, catching me off guard for what seemed like the billionth time that night. Many people would probably answer “because I like their music” or “because Matt, Dom and Chris are really attractive.”Both of which are extremely accurate but neither are the main reason I’m a fan. I knew the answer to this question was going to take a while, and from my hesitation I’m sure he realized this, too.
If you would have told me more than five years ago that a band consisting of three British men in their mid-thirties would be one of the most important and influential things in my life I would have laughed in disbelief and thought you were somewhat crazy. Nobody can feel so strongly or attached to people that just make music and don’t even know you exist, right? I would have been very, very wrong. You see, when you go through difficult things in life you tend to become attached to the person or thing that helps get you through them.

I started listening to Muse after escaping an abusive relationship, and while I did have people helping me through the repercussions, the music Muse created was the only constant I had. This was the first band I’d found that had a song catering to any emotion I was possibly feeling at any given time and the first band that I could relate to. Whenever I was depressed, angry, or in the middle of an anxiety attack all I needed to do was turn on a Muse album and it was able to calm me down. They were also the band that cured my loneliness. I’ve always been a quirky person, with a love for conspiracy theories and deep space exploration, neither of which are ideal when searching for friends with mutual interests. There were three British men that shared these mutual interests with me, though, so when I was lonely I’d watch interviews. Sometimes they’d make me laugh, sometimes they’d make me cry, but they were always there to cure my loneliness and make me feel less ashamed of my interests.
I was snapped out of my thought process when the lights dimmed and the band went on stage. Hands holding cameras and cell phones shot up and everyone went crazy. They began playing their song “Invincible” (the song that bears the most meaning to me because of the moving lyrics) and I felt like I had run into a brick wall. I instantly began crying. With tears streaming down my face I looked behind me and saw I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes and that’s when it hit me.
Being in the front of the crowd, surrounded by thousands people, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my strong feelings towards them (read: obsession). I realized that they mean much more than that to many others. I realized that sometimes, three British men and the music they create can make more of an impact on your life than they, or you, know. I turned to the man standing next to me and said “I’m a fan because they saved my life.” He looked at me, tears in his eyes, too, and nodded. I knew he understood.