[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.
just a few highlights from a mother-daughter(s) weekend
"so, i went to the museum of the american indian a couple of weeks ago."
"you did? how was it? i hope they didn't screw them on their museum. the least they could do is give them a decent museum."
"the cafeteria is awesome! really, it's so cool. it's sort of like a food court at a mall, only the way it's set up it's divided by geographic regions. you know, like one section is for the tribes of the northwestern united states, you know, like, washington and oregon..."
"you know, we're actually familiar with the geography of the northwestern united states."
"...so, they had stuff like roasted salmon with juniper berries. and then there was a section for the midwestern tribes and they had fresh tamales and buffalo. and then there was a section for the northeastern tribes..."
"wow, would that be states in the northeastern part of the country, like, delaware and new york?"
"i'm ignoring you. anyway, they had this maple-glazed turkey that was just unbelievable."
"oh my gosh, the food was really good. honestly, just so good. and the gift shops were really nice, too. they had some beautiful jewelry and pottery, although i have to say i thought the stuff was overpriced, which was unfortunate."
"so, i'm going to go out on a limb here, although i'm sensing i know the answer already: did you actually see an exhibit?"
"no, it was getting late, so we just ate and looked in a couple of the gift shops."
"so, for you it was more like the mall of the american indian, then?"
"pretty much. but it was a really nice mall. and, you know, i'm sure the exhibits kick ass."
"yes, i'm sure."
"so, have you met anyone lately? gone on any dates?"
"actually, i met someone last week who i thought was kind of interesting."
"interesting in a good way? not in a 'he would be interesting to study in a controlled environment' sort of way?"
"he's a rocket scientist. seriously. an actual rocket scientist. how cool is that?!"
"okay, that is interesting. so, what happened?"
"well, he said, 'i'm a rocket scientist' or whatever the official title is, and i said, 'no way! that is really cool!' and then i told him how i'm a big science geek and how i love stuff like that. like, that pbs show about string theory, and how i thought that was the coolest thing. oh, and then i watched this other really cool show the other night that talked about these new things they've discovered called 'mirror neurons' and they were talking about how they let you learn how to display emotion and read emotion on other people's faces, and remember that show i watched a long time ago about autism, and how fascinating i thought it was that some people with autism cannot identify emotion from facial expressions? well, while i'm watching this thing about these mirror neurons, i said, 'i bet that's linked to that whole autistic thing with those people who can't identify facial expressions,' and then right after i said that, they cut to this guy who is talking about how they think these mirror neurons might tie into autism and i totally high-fived myself right there. oh, and then there was this really interesting story about why new orleans is totally screwed if a hurricane hits. i mean, i just thought it was because the elevation is so low, but there's actually more to it than that. it's really interesting. there was also a story about sand dunes that sort of hum, but that was a total letdown because they acted like it was some big super-amazing thing, but, i said, 'huh. i would have guessed it was just harmonics from the grains of silica vibrating against each other when the wind blows,' and that's all it turned out to be, so if i can figure it out before the story even starts, it's not that super-amazing to me, you know?"
"anyway, i don't think he was interested."
"just so we're on the same page, honey, now that you heard yourself say those things out loud, you don't really need me to explain why the rocket scientist wasn't interested, do you?"
"no. i think it's pretty clear now."
"good. i love you. now, pass me that eggplant, please."
"none of that stuff even had to do with rockets. you know that, right?"
"i already told mom that i got it. get it. whatever."
"you should just buy a couple of cats and get on with it."
"seriously, mom, you have to see this."
"there's this lady who has a sex show on oxygen, and i swear to god, mom, she looks like gran. well, i mean, she sort of looks like her, but it's more than that, she just reminds me of her. the way she talks and everything. she's so no-nonsense, and it's just some of her gestures and everything...seriously, you have to see it."
[flips to oxygen channel]
"...so you just tell him, 'look, rimming is not in my repertoire,' okay? okay. now,what's this about him wanting to poop on you?"
"see?! doesn't she remind you of gran?!"
"oh my gosh, she does look like gran!"
"see, mom! mom? mom?"
"you just showed me a woman who looks like my mother talking about someone pooping on someone else. i'm not really sure what you would like me to say right now. i might be permanently scarred."
"she's going to talk about cock rings next."
"i will officially name you my favorite child if you turn the channel before that happens."
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i volunteer teach literature and writing to people who are trying to get their ged. the majority of the students are from other countries, and, as you might expect, english is not their first language. most of them have families, and some work two or three jobs to support them. life often gets in the way of class, students don't always show up, or do their assignments.
i felt like i was fighting an uphill battle, despite knowing that i had the easier end of the of the bargain. so, i decided that, at the end of this term, i would stop teaching for a while. i was burned out. i felt as though i wasn't getting through to anyone, or that it was an effort in futility and conflicting goals: i wanted them to love writing. they wanted to pass their test. i didn't blame them. i understood, but it was wearing me down.
at the end of last term, one of my students sat for the ged test. he had struggled with my writing class in particular, and it was his third attempt to pass the test. this time, he nailed it. it was such an amazing and joyful thing to see.
he had been direct and clear in telling me he didn't get my class; didn't understand what i wanted from him. we wrestled with every assignment as i tried to push him to think less and write more. i told him to see the pictures in his mind of what he wanted us to know and then just tell us exactly what he saw, using the most simple and straightforward language he could. tell us the details you see when you close your eyes and imagine the scene. you said the boy was wearing sneakers? tell me about them. make me see them. are they striped? are they new? how are they tied?
time and again he had battled me. pushing back against my questions. telling me he couldn't do what i asked.
"all i want is to be able to pass my test!" he would say, throwing up his hands in frustration. "you want me to be a great writer!"
i asked him to write an essay to tell his son, who had been born in the united states, what his native country was like. he didn't show up for two weeks after that. on the third week, he gave me his paper without comment. the words painted such a vivid picture for me that it was breathtaking. not only because of the writing itself, but also because i knew how hard he had worked.
after we found out he had passed the test, i told him i wanted to have a farewell dinner in his honor. i let him choose what we would have, and so we all sat in our classroom, laughing and congratulating him over cartons of general tso's chicken and shrimp fried rice. as the students filed out, he stayed behind until it was just the two of us.
"someone told me you are not going to teach next term."
"oh, i'm not sure. sometimes i think i push too hard. or that i'm missing the point."
"like you told me a dozen times: it's about passing the test. not about being a great writer."
"you do push us."
"i mean well."
"no, it is good. it is too hard for me to explain, but i hope you will teach here next term. you would be very missed."
i smiled and thanked him, wishing him all the best, and telling him i would miss our spirited exchanges.
"thank you. and thank you for the dinner," he said, putting a brown paper bag in the trash can by the door.
he turned to walk out, stopping for a moment in the door.
"julia? did you get a fortune cookie?"
"hmm. no, actually, i didn't, but that's okay," i smiled.
"yes, i think i got yours," he said. he gestured to an open fortune cookie sitting on the table by the door. "i am sure of it. so i am leaving it for you there. good-bye, julia!"
i gathered my papers and my coat, and stooped to pick up the cookie on the way out of the room. the white slip of paper had been folded neatly in half and placed in the larger piece of the cookie. i unfolded it clumsily with one hand.
i read its red-lettered message: you make people realize that there exist other beauties in the world.
i tucked it into my wallet, and turned the light off on my way out.
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memo to the old dude who was obviously in town for the inauguration
welcome to our nation's capital! i see you are taking the advice to make use of our mass transit system during your visit. i offer here just a few tips to help make your experience more pleasant.
- do not take one step off of the escalator and then promptly stop dead in your tracks. perhaps this is unique to the escalators here in d.c., but we're not a one-person-gets-to-ride-all-the-way-up-to-the-top-before-anyone-else-gets-on system. there are people behind you. immediately behind you. please step aside so as to get the hell out of everyone's way. and while we're on the subject: stand right. walk left.
- this is not a "monorail." it is a subway. well, sort of. anyway, it is not a "monorail." this is not disney world. please stop calling it "the monorail."
- please refrain from asking at every stop "is this our stop?" remember how, at the last stop, that exasperated guy beside you said, "you have about eight more stops to go"? well, it's only been one. that means you now have seven more to go. the evil democrats did not sneak the metric system in on us while you weren't paying attention. eight minus one is still seven.
- see how all of the people who are not wearing fanny packs are very quiet? yes? these people are called "commuters." they ride "the monorail" every day. this is holy time for them. quiet time. this is the last window of silent solace they have before being pitched into the fifth circle of hell that is their job. they read. they listen to music. they meditate. a few of them even attend to their personal grooming, although, really, that's disgusting and we wish they wouldn't do that. here's one thing they do not do: talk.
- one more thing they do not do: put their feet up on the seat in front of them. there are a couple of reasons for this. one is that we operate on a one-ass-one-seat rule here. there are going to be lots of people on "the monorail." they would all like to sit down. also, people don't want to sit on a seat that has been all dirtied up by your big-ass cowboy boots with slush all over them.
- please stop your incessant talk about how easy it would be to "blow this thing up." the "commuters" know this. they try not to think about it. you're not helping.
- please stop asking "is it cold enough for you?" this is true not only on "the monorail," but just in general. and by "just in general" i mean any time or place.
- it is not amusing to look at someone reading imperial hubris and say, "well, i guess someone isn't going to the inauguration today," and then laugh really loudly while elbowing said person. seriously. you should stop this right now.
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well, yeah...okay...that is weird.
"so, what's the red bracelet for?" i asked as he set my drink down in front of me.
"i gave blood," he said, turning it around to show me the letters pressed into the red rubberized band.
"well, i guess what they say is true: there's nothing new under the sun. everybody likes a good idea."
"yeah. it's weird, though."
"what, are you going to tell me you're one of those anti-livestrong-bracelet people? i have to tell you, i don't get that. i have one of them, and i even gave them to my family as stocking stuffers. cancer is a huge deal in my family, unfortunately. he was in town last week for something or other and i heard him doing an interview on the radio. they asked him how many had been sold. he said it's something like forty million. forty million. i mean, how can that be bad?! forty million dollars to help people with cancer! that's awesome. i hear some people say that they're just being worn as a fashion accessory. or that people wear them as a way of saying 'look what a good person i am! i gave money to help people with cancer!' but who would wear a bracelet to say 'i gave a dollar to help people with cancer?!' besides, even if you're just wearing one trying to be cool, you still had to buy it, so you still gave money."
"i actually wear it as a reminder. you know, that there's so much to do, and you never know how much time you have to do it. and maybe it will help remind other people, too...you know, to spur them to give, or volunteer, or whatever. just do something. i also think it's cool that it probably opened a dialogue with a lot of kids about the idea of charity."
"anyway, when i said it was 'weird,' i was just going to say that the other night one of the chicks sitting in here at the bar told me the red bracelet symbolizes that you're a non-smoking lesbian."
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a post sure to draw more than a few comments about meatballs
last month, my office held its annual holiday party. i had just gotten my first [but definitely not my last] drink of the evening and greeted a co-worker when i choked on my vodka-cranberry.
“i’m a big fan of your blog,” he said.
now, it is entirely possible that i choked because i was drinking smirnoff.
but i happen to think that i choked because i was...uh...caught off guard.
yes, i am that stupid. i guess i still had some delusion that i had a certain degree of anonymity in my “real” life. or that i was managing my anonymity by knowing who in my “real” life reads this site.
turns out that pretty much the entire fifth floor of my office [shout out to the fifth floor, down there in their loft offices!!!] reads my site. which, you know, is, um, totally cool.
but, to them i say this: do not read past this point in today’s post.
seriously. it will be much more comfortable in the cafeteria for everyone if you don't.
my best friend and i were a bit strapped for cash during the holidays, so we decided to postpone our gifts to one another until after everything had died down. our hope, of course, was that someone would have given us cash as a gift, thereby giving us a few spare dollars to buy something for each other.
in the end, we decided that we both had more than enough expensive candles and bath products to last us right through 2005, so we opted for something different.
“let’s just treat ourselves to a nice evening out. you know, get some drinks and some dinner. some place nice.”
“that sounds perfect.”
so, friday, we met for drinks and dinner. we had just finished our second round when we realized we had quite a bit of time to kill before heading over to the restaurant.
“what should we do?”
“we could have another drink. that’s always a good choice.”
“i don’t want to get too liquored up before dinner. they have one of my favorite bottles of wine on the wine list, so i want to get that with dinner, and these were pretty strong, so….”
“so, what do you wanna do? shop?”
“well, the truth is...i probably don’t need to buy anything right now.”
“i know, i know...but, it’s time i faced the truth: i have more clothing than any forty women need.”
“forty is lowballing it.”
“just couldn’t let it lie, could you?”
“okay, so, then, what? kramerbooks?”
“and more unread books than any fifty women need.”
“well, since you’re being difficult, you pick it.”
there are all sorts of things i could have said. places we could have gone. we were in dupont circle, for crying out loud. so, i’m not entirely sure what made me choose to say: “let’s walk up to the pleasure place.”
there are lots of great things about having a best friend. someone whose shoulder you can cry on when your heart is broken. someone who will honestly tell you if those pants make your ass look huge. someone who supports you in your irrational anger, and then, at just the right moment, tells you that you’re being a freak and you need to get over it. and yet another one of those great things about having a best friend is being able to say “cool. i’ve been meaning to pick up a new vibrator...and maybe some ben wa* balls,” without any fear of recrimination.
“sweet. let’s get the check and get out of here.”
we made our way up the street and then down the steps that lead to the store. we discussed the attributes of various potions and lotions.
“i don’t like that one. it smells like flowers. that would creep me out.”
“creep you out?”
“i don’t want a flower smell...you know...in that general vicinity. that’s weird to me. i like the other ones. this cherry almond one is a standby for me. good stuff."
“so, it’s okay if your general vicinity smells like food, but not like flowers.”
we moved on to the other accoutrements found at the pleasure place.
“wow! check out this patent pleather nurse’s outfit!”
“hmmmm...i don’t know. i don’t like the way the arms are cut. i think it would make my arms look flabby. i swear, i have got to get back to the gym.”
“me too, look at this...yuck.”
“what about this?” she said, holding up what looked like a bunch of strings hanging from a hanger. “this would look hot on you.”
“first of all: who am i wearing that for?! second: not my color.”
leave it to a couple of women to think that a man, when faced with a living breathing woman standing in front of him in a patent pleather nurse’s uniform with red crosses on the nippular places would think about her arms. or that the fishnet body stocking she's wearing would be more flattering in a different color.
“all right, let’s see what we have here....”
“this one is pretty.”
“did you say ‘this one is pretty?’”
“yeah. it’s purple!”
“it’s purple. what sort of reason is that to buy it, ‘it’s purple?’ it’s not a sweater, it’s a vibrator. look at that...it has a cord. you don’t want one with a cord. who wants one with a cord? you don’t want to have to worry about a cord. that is just a hassle.”
“i just said it was purple. i like purple. did i ever tell you that there was a time when i was young when i would only wear purple clothes?”
“aw, that’s so cute.”
“yeah...my grandmothers made most of my stuff then because there weren’t a whole lot of purple clothes out there. oh my god, that is the hugest butt plug I have ever seen. It’s ginormous!”
“what am i supposed to do with that?”
“well, there aren’t any pictures on the box, but i’m pretty sure you’re supposed to....”
“ha ha. what about this one?”
she held up a box that had “the rabid rabbit” scrawled across the top of it.
“i’m not sure i want anything that uses the word ‘rabid,' uh...in my general vicinity. call me crazy. rabies? not sexy.”
“well, i had one like this, and it was awesome. only it was a beaver instead of a rabbit,” she said as she handed me the box. “check it out.”
“you ‘had’ one like it? what happened to it?”
“my boyfriend kept it.”
“yeah, when we broke up he kept it.”
“that is wrong. wrong on about sixteen levels. what kind of man keeps a woman’s vibrator?! i mean, what is he going to do with that? one certainly hopes he’s not going to…you know…recycle. so, then, what? that is just spite. you know, that had to be all the reassurance you needed, right there, that this was not a guy you wanted to stay with. keeping a woman’s vibrator. that pretty much says it all about what kind of person he is. good riddance.”
“this one looks just like it, only it’s the rampant rabbit. no rabies. so, what do you think?”
“i’m almost sure this is the one they had on sex and the city. samantha wore it out and then mourned its death.”
“and you say it’s good. although....”
“i don’t get the pearls. plus...yeah, i don’t know...this is weird.”
“he has a face.”
“the rabbit. he has a face. and he’s smiling. and he has little...arms. seriously, i don’t know about that. i don’t really think it’s necessary for the rabbit to have a little smiley face. and it’s definitely not necessary to give it creepy little arms. it’s not a pet.”
“maybe you should give him a name since he has a face. you know, something generically manly and not foo-foo-bunny cute. nothing like thumper or anything like that. how about...frank?”
“sure. why not?”
“frank the rabbit?”
“i don’t know....”
“frank the rabbit is the giant psychotic creepy rabbit who is the harbinger of the end of the world or something equally bad in donnie darko. frank the rabbit scared the shit out of me!”
“never saw that movie.”
“oh, that movie is awesome. you totally have to see it. jake gyllenhaal is in it. he’s kind of hot....”
“there you go, you could name him jake. that’s manly. and not some giant scary rabbit.”
“okay, i still don’t get the pearls.”
“have you given any thought to the idea that maybe, just maybe, you are overthinking your purchase? hmm? so, you stand here and ponder the far-reaching ramifications of whether you should get the rabid rabbit or the rampant rabbit or the whatever and i’m going to go look for some ben wa balls.”
“i thought i saw some over there.”
“no, just anal beads.”
“oh. well all i know is there were some purple ones that were really pretty.”
and as we stepped out onto the bustling street, we were immediately stopped by a couple who appeared to be in their sixties.
"excuse us, we're visiting from out of town, and we're looking for a restaurant called siesto, or sieste," the man asked.
too late, i noticed his wife was looking down. i was too busy paying attention to her husband's question to think quickly enough to turn my bag to the side. my shopping bag. with "the pleasure place" written across it in giant letters.
"uh...well, i'm not sure. you might mean sette, which is right there," i said, gesturing with one hand, while trying to gracefully slip my bag to the side. "or you might mean sesto senso, which is several blocks south, on this side of the street."
her eyes had left my bag and were now focused on the window behind my friend. in the window is a silver male mannequin lounging on his side with his legs spread. he's sporting a red feather boa.
and a red strap on.
"well, okay, thank you," he said. "we'll check the closest first."
"good luck," i said.
they started off down the street, and i grabbed my friend's arm, about to burst into laughter when the woman turned around and headed back toward us.
"excuse me," she said. "did you girls just come out of that shop?"
i looked at my friend. suddenly i felt like i was about to be in serious trouble.
"yes," i said, feeling my face grow warm.
"well...do you know if they have any pasta shaped like penises?"
i thought i was going to collapse on the sidewalk.
"yes, as a matter of fact, i believe they do."
"thank you, girls."
and, just like that, she turned and walked back toward her husband, waiting on the corner.
we looked at one another, our mouths hanging open. then we locked arms and laughed as we walked toward dinner.
"all i know is that i'm so relieved," my friend said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"relieved?" i asked.
"yeah, relieved. thank god we didn't have to break her heart and tell her that they're out of ben wa balls."
*edited because apparently it isn't spelled with an "h." i guess my mind was somewhere other than spellcheck...not that "ben wah" -- or "ben wa" for that matter -- is in the spellcheck dictionary. anyway...edited.
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i promise to use my blog to promote bathroom humor...and world peace
the time draws near, my friends. that's right, soon my reign as the best kept secret blog [aka the blog no one really reads but everyone says they do] will come to an end. yes, a new blog will take the title from my cold dead hands as it is once again time for the annual bloggie awards.
[ed. note to next year's winner in my category: they still owe me my $40, so if you're counting on that to pay your gas bill or to buy yourself something pretty, i wouldn't. fyi.]
let me talk for just a moment, if i may [and of course i may. it's my blog.] about the bloggies. people roll their eyes, and there is a whole lot of bitching and snarking that goes on about the awards, and how they really don't mean anything, but i'm going to tell you something: if you get a nomination or are lucky enough to pull off a win, it sure as hell means something to you.
you might find it humbling. or exciting. or it might just be the encouragement you need to keep writing when you feel like stopping. it meant all of those things to me. but, even if it doesn't mean any of those things to this year's nominees, i absolutely positively guarantee you one thing it will mean to all of them: more readers.
building a readership is a tough thing to do. there are so many blogs out there, and you can spend a long time wading through blogrolls trying to find a site that strikes a chord with you. so, the bloggies -- and other blog awards -- are, i think, good jumping off points for people to sample some sites and find some stuff they like. and, usually, when you find one site you like, you can follow their links to find more sites you like. birds of a feather and such. even now, i still get hits from the nominations page from last year's bloggies. it really is amazing the traffic a blog gets when they are recognized as part of one of these things.
so, this is a chance for you to help out your favorite sites. help them feel heard. help them build a readership. help spread the word. help pump some new blood into this thing so it's not always the same people and the same sites time after time after time. there's a category for just about everything from the creative stuff like photography and design to the utterly baffling stuff like best non-weblog content of a weblog [i said it last year, and i'll say it again: what the hell is that?! if it's on a weblog, then it is, by defintion weblog content. i do not get this at all. even after i looked at what won last year, i still do not get it.]. it only takes a few minutes to fill out your ballot, and your favorite bloggers will be very grateful to you. trust me.
i also wanted to say that, in looking over this year's rules, i am absolutely thrilled to see that a new category has been added to the mix: best writing. in the past, i think there has been a lot of emphasis on "what is a blog" and "what isn't a blog." the blogs i find myself reading on a regular basis have one thing in common: good writing. and so i'm glad to see some recognition of the fact that there is so much good writing on blogs these days, and it's not all about ipods or elections. there is room for blogs of all shapes and sizes, and i think it is worth encouraging writers to explore the medium, and a good start on that encouragement is by recognizing the people who are doing it.
so...yay for that.
nominations are open until monday at 10:00 pm eastern, so get to it, time is tight. i've filled out my ballot, and here are just a few of the sites that made my list.
[ed note: i was going to say that the list is in no particular order, but then i realized that there is a particular order: cw is first. why? because i love him. and because he would bitch and whine if i didn't put him first. but mostly because i love him. anyway, i should also mention that he is currently seeking your vote in a totally different weblog award thing. why does he want your vote in that competition and your nomination in the bloggies? because he is greedy and need copious quantities of validation. seriously. he is. and he does.]
witt and wisdom
dumber than a box of rocks
this fish needs a bicycle
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"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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