[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
"identical twins in the way they see the world...as long as they don't discuss who threw their vote away in the last election"
once upon a time, a long time ago – or at least what passes for a long time ago these days – i was the only grandchild.
and then came my cousin, michael.
sometimes when there is one child, and another comes along, the first child has a tough time, or resents the newcomer. but that was never the case with michael.
that was the case with my sister, but you already know that story.
and so, for a while, it was just michael and me. we were thick as thieves. peas in a pod. yin and yang. we were a study in physical contrasts, me with my olive skin and michael all peaches and cream. me with my coal-dark eyes and hair, and michael with crystal blue eyes and hair like spun gold.
michael had a laugh that was like shaking a soda bottle. it would start at the bottom and then just bubble up until it exploded all over itself when it finally go to the top. and it seemed that once he started laughing, he would never stop. i used to tickle michael. a lot.
and of course there were his eyelashes. eyelashes women would kill for. or at least pay a whole lot of money for. all the women in our family lamented how unfair it was that michael got those eyelashes and none of us did.
our summers seemed endless. standing barefoot in the thick green ankle-deep grass of our grandparents’ lawn, learning to play croquet. listening to the locusts swarming in the shade trees while we sat at the edge of the lake, fishing for blue gill and sunfish, dragging our toes across the glassy surface of the water. racing on our bikes, the handlebar streamers flying out behind us for what seemed like miles. helping our grandpa wash the dogs in the big galvanized metal tub, a task which inevitably ended with michael and me infinitely more wet than either of the dogs. sitting out on the breezeway until late at night, watching fireflies and listening to the laughter of our mothers.
each summer, we went to myrtle beach [as is the tradition of pretty much everyone who lives in west virginia]. we begged and pleaded to stop at south of the border. we hunted sharks’ teeth with our grandfather. built sand castles. played putt-putt golf. ate shrimp until our buddha bellies ached. we climbed the stairs of the gay dolphin and looked out over the boardwalk, arguing over who could see the furthest into the distance. we rode the ferris wheel at the pavilion, laughing until we couldn’t breathe any longer.
we were inseparable. until we got separated. michael’s father was in the army, and they moved quite a bit. and each move seemed to take them farther away. i missed michael. most especially in the summer.
as we grew older, we saw less and less of one another. holidays. occasional visits in the summer. michael’s wedding, as well as his brother’s. and, finally, inevitably, our grandparents’ funerals.
michael grew from a beautiful boy into a handsome man. he joined the military, following in his father’s footsteps. he married a beautiful and amazing woman, and, together, they have made a home as parents to two phenomenal children.
this summer, for the first time in a very long time, we were all together again. the house was filled with children, and as i sat and watched, i was struck by how quickly the memories of those summers came back to me. watching as they learned to play croquet in my aunt’s backyard just as we had learned all those years ago. listening to them playing children’s games, the kind with rules that make no sense and are as malleable as pink gum on an august sidewalk, i heard echoes of our own voices. splashing in the pool with them, i thought of the endless games of marco polo we played day after day after day.
but the truth is, our family has drifted apart. with the passing of our grandparents, the family which had once seemed so tightly knit is now scattered. and not just geographically.
i thought back to a summer evening shortly after our grandmother's death, as michael and i sat talking on the back porch.
“i’m scared that now that gran is gone, we won’t see each other anymore.”
“i know. me too.”
“it’s up to us now. we have to try and keep it together.”
and i know that, when we said it, we both believed it. we both wanted it.
with the passing of time, children grow up. they have their own lives. their own responsibilities. there are always a million things to do. never a weekend that is good for everyone to get together. money is tight. time even tighter. there’s always an excuse. it’s easier not to try, and so we haven’t.
it was during that visit this summer that my family found out about my writing and about this site. by the morning after my revelation, i think they had read pretty much every post i’d written in almost two years. posts in which i had revealed things they might not have wanted to know about me. and posts in which i had revealed things about our family they might not have wanted me to reveal.
i was flattered that they read my writing, but, at the same time, felt awkward. exposed, maybe. i worried they would feel obligated to say something nice. or that they would see me differently. but, the love of family, even a family that has let time and distance push them apart, is unconditional and uplifting. and, in the end, i was glad they knew. proud, almost.
even so, i never imagined they would keep reading. i never realized that, in some small way, this site would become a thread stretching across miles, keeping us in touch in the most odd of ways. it’s funny when i think about it – perfect strangers make time to come to this site and read every day, but it never crossed my mind that my family would.
and so, it was the most touching and fantastic of surprises a few months ago when michael walked through the doors of the love café, having driven down from delaware to come and hear me tell a couple of stories at fray day. it had never crossed my mind that he knew about it. never crossed my mind that he read this site. i can honestly say, he was the last person in the world i expected to see walk through that door. and it wasn’t until he was there that i realized just how much i miss him. how much i miss our family. i feel their love for me every day, but seeing it on their faces is an experience without parallel.
michael told me things that night that might have seemed inconsequential to him, but meant more to me than he will ever know. that this page is the default page on his browser. that he checks for new posts almost compulsively. that he’s read all the archives. that he’s proud of me. that reading my writing makes him want to write, too.
and i don’t know if i told him that night, or if i’ve told him ever, how proud i am of him. of the man he has become. he is good to his core. he is funny. and smart. and kind. and the best dad you’ve ever seen. and i’m not sure if i mentioned it, but he still has the most amazing eyelashes.
i know that, even if michael wasn't my cousin, i would want to know him as my friend.
on christmas day, my mother and i called her sister, michael’s mother, to wish her a happy holiday. that’s when she told us that michael’s unit has been called up to go to iraq.
and so, michael, since i know you will read this, i want you to tell you what i hope you already know: that i love you. and i know you’re going to be safe and that you will come home to us all as soon as you can.
writing here can feel like a chore sometimes. i have a job. a life. responsibilities. there are always a million things to do, and my weekends are my own. time is tight. ideas even tighter. there’s always an excuse. it’s easier not to, and so i haven’t. but sometimes we need to do the things it’s easier not to do.
this site is more to me now than it was before. it's more than just words. more than just stories. and while you are away, i promise not to let this thin thread that will connect us while you are halfway around the world go neglected as it has these past several months.
and when you come home, we’re going to sit together in the humid air of the summer evening and watch your children play croquet, and we’re going to laugh and bury our feet in the thick green grass, and we'll start all of our stories with "remember that time...."
please be home in time for summer. we’re going to try harder. i promise.
"someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, what have you done with your life? & though there are many moments i think i will remember, in the end, i will be proud to say, i was one of us." - brian andreas
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