I have a sort of wrap-up of Summer 2013 post coming along. I started it a month ago when it would have actually been relevant but obviously my commitment to documenting my life has, uh, evolved. But I have to take a moment to document September 24, 2013, the day after the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a playoffs spot for the first time in 21 years. I wrote about my hopes for their then-potential first winning season for Draft Day Suit back in July, though my hopes for that milestone are now replaced with bigger goals.
The baby and I were watching the game, which was one of the more stressful things I’ve ever watched. There were multiple moments where my heart sped up in excitement or terror, but I don’t think I want to know what might surpass the final play of that game in terms of sheer insane intensity.
I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you that I was SCREAMING during this play. Screaming obscenities, screaming prayers, screaming in tongues. Rewatching it later with the husband, who had been DJing during the game, the sensation wasn’t at all diminished. Watching it now, my heart still pounds.
As someone noted on Twitter last night:
It started 21 years ago with a play at the plate. It ends 21 years later with a play at the plate.
This win, of course, is still many steps away from the real goal. But the poetic bookends of our losing streak beginning 21 years ago at a home plate in Atlanta, a bomb in the shape of Sid Bream, to last night’s excruciatingly marvelous play at a home plate in Chicago killing that streak could not have been written better.
I stayed up way too late last night, too wired to sleep, looking at any pictures I could find of the game. This one struck me and I checked this morning to make sure that it was actually that perfect or if my brain was just exhausted.
I’m fairly certain that this is one of the finest sports pictures I’ve ever seen. The umpire’s melodramatic stance and gesture, the utter defeat of the runner, and the triumphant catcher. It’s a perfect sequence of a defining moment in time, a story told in one flick of the eyes from left to right.
The more I looked at it, the more my eyes kept drifting up to the man in the stands, his arms raised in triumph, his shirt giving the slightest detail to communicate who he is cheering for. It reminded me of a somewhat similar picture, taken over 40 years earlier, when the celebration was even bigger.
In between Manny Sanguillen and Steve Blass, a lone Pirates fan cheers for his new World Series champions.
These are not the same kinds of moments, because any wins that we get beyond last night’s will be even bigger and more important. But everyone who was in Pittsburgh last night, either physically or in their hearts, struck the same pose. And, man, did it feel good to stretch.
A perhaps too-large portion of my brain is dedicated to remembering movie and TV quotes, which has served me well in life almost never. Nonetheless, I’m trying to figure out a way to note on my resume that I have a running database of Boston actors rattling of a list of names:
Mark Wahlberg in Ted
* * * * * * * * * *
Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting
* * * * * * * * * *
Comedian Steve Sweeney performing a bit that I initially saw on a Comics Come Home special in 1996
I mentioned to the sister-in-law when she was in town over the 4th that perhaps one of the reasons that American society shifted to quick, cheap, processed foods is the fact that kids can be ungrateful little turds. I have been on pretty severe pancake and banana bread kicks this summer and almost every weekend sees me sweating over the stove trying to achieve buttermilk pancake perfection.
The morning of the 4th, I was back at the pancakes, having skipped running a 5k nearby because of female trouble.
Giddy on Aleve, I added dashes of nutmeg and cinnamon to the batter and fresh, organic blueberries from the farmer’s market while the pancakes were cooking. I was thinking up names for my new domesticity blog when the kid looked at these glorious circles of flour and buttermilk and feminine mystique and said, “Eh…they smell too Christmasy.”
It was the nutmeg, I guess, but DUDE. Come on.
“Haven’t you ever heard of Christmas in July?”
“No. What’s that?”
“It’s uh…it’s…you know,” I replied, slowly realizing that I had no clue what it was aside from something that I heard about at an age young enough that I accepted its existence because it sounded awesome because hell yeah let’s do Christmas now; why wait?
“…It’s Christmas…but in July.” He was obviously past the age where this sounded like anything to get excited about, plus Hallmark has their Christmas stuff out already, so who cares.
Anyway, it turned out to be an appropriate segue for the rest of this month. I’ve been trying to fit the events, both small and annoying and large and frustrating, into a reworked version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but I’m not that creative. If I was, it’d go something like:
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
12 days of pinkeye
11 days of antibiotic eyedrops
10 days of heavy rain
9 days of 90-degree highs
8 days of fruitfly infestation
7 days of housefly infestation
6 days of uninhibited poison ivy growth in the backyard due to aforementioned heavy rain
5 days of waiting for dry days to get toxic spray on the poison ivy
4 days of stinkeye from my neighbors who are all fancy and don’t live in their own personal urban jungles
3 days sunburn and unsatisfying peeling
2 days of flash flooding
And a partridge in a pear tree
This week, the kid is making a repeat appearance at a frisbee camp. Yesterday was the first day and we got a kick out of meeting all of the coaches. The staff is mostly college-age kids who are best described as clean hippies. Very little hemp or facial hair but just so many exclamations of, “Duuuuude,” and “Awwwwwwesome,” and that laugh. You know the one, that kind of breathy, throaty chuckle. Not a bad way to spend his second full week of summer vacation.
The big milestone around here, aside from our wedding anniversary, is that my kid was promoted from his elementary school in an adorable ceremony two weeks ago. All of the kids, excited by finally being free of school uniforms, got dressed up in suits, dresses, and wackier outfits. My kid wanted to look fairly clean cut.
Clean cut down to the shoes, that is.
He received several awards for academic achievement and perfect attendance. It’s such a relief to me that his time in school seems to be going so much better for him than it did for me. He still has a reasonable amount of gripes with it. But overall he seems to enjoy learning and being around his peers and things “click” for him pretty smoothly. I was always too busy flailing about something to get consistently good grades or go to school every day. WHATEVER IT WAS MY JOURNEY AND I HAD TO GO THROUGH IT ON MY OWN TERMS *sob*.
In the fall, he goes off to the big 6-12 school. He’s really excited and I am, too. But the new school just seems so different from his elementary school. It was so warm and sweet and just the right size. His new school is in a huge, imposing building and contains huge, imposing teenagers. My kid is still so physically little that it seems like the new school will just swallow him up.
Anyway, yesterday and today I’ve walked to the park to pick him up from camp and it’s been nice to have a little bit of time just the two of us. We don’t get to do that often enough. Yesterday, he got a chance to see my new office, which he liked. Having recently watched Office Space for the first time, he appreciated my red Swingline stapler. On the way back today, we walked past my old building, which was one of the earlier buildings on campus and has a lot of cool, early 20th-century details. My new building is more modern; it’s maybe 30 years old and has a more basic appearance. We then had the following exchange:
“I think I like your old building better than your new building. Your new building is kind of…business casual.”
“Oh? What’s so ‘business casual’ about it?”
“It’s just kind of casual, not fancy. It kinda looks like Initech.”
I’m going to go ahead and open myself up to some eye-rolls, but I love Justin Timberlake. Outside of my immediate circle of friends, the opinions that I’ve seen expressed about him in my social networks online have ranged from amused derision to downright venomous hatred (which, honestly, get a life). But musically, he’s definitely one of my favorites and I also really admire how his “brand” is marketed. Branding isn’t something that I’m necessarily an expert in, but I know a bit about it. In my opinion, few artists have navigated the necessary evils of the music industry as deftly as he has. And this makes me like him even more, as silly as that may be. I just really admire people who are able to do their jobs really well.
Anyway, my favorite track off of his new album is “Mirrors.” I don’t think it’s necessarily the best song on the album, but I love listening to it because I love how it conveys a particular level of grown up. Timberlake is not old. Far from it. He knows he has a lot of life and experience and wisdom to come, but he’s old enough to be able to reflect on his past mistakes and take at least a partial survey of where he is.
Something that had kind of frustrated me about popular music the last few years was how there didn’t seem to be any delineation between what was for kids and what was for grown ups. When I was a kid, I liked stuff that was definitely geared toward my age group, but I was also aware of (and liked) music that seemed very mature, like Sade and Anita Baker, two artists who I LOVE now as an adult. Recently, I felt like everything was a weird mixture of immaturity and couldn’t really get into it. But Timberlake has emerged from his 20s and entered into his marriage with both peace and preparation for what comes next.
The song “Mirrors” is long and at the end transitions into practically a different song altogether, with the hypnotic chant of, “You are, you are, the love of my life,” that serves as the background for his gentle plea to his wife to get home.
It’s that mention of “home” that I think gets me. Part of why I hadn’t been writing here very much is because things have been really good at home. Like, really, really good. In fact, I don’t think the husband and I have ever been this happy. Today, we’ve been married seven years. June 17, 2006 was definitely one of the happiest days of my life, but I don’t know that it can compare to June 17, 2013. It’s the same date but with so many good and bad days behind it, so many rough patches that have led us to where we are now. I would be naive if I thought that things would always be great from now on. But knowing that we’ve made it through so far is encouraging.
The video for “Mirrors” depicts the tale of a couple spanning many years, supposedly based on the relationship of Timberlake’s grandparents. I love this element, that shows the couple looking to the past for wisdom even in their old age, knowing what they’ve accomplished and when they’ve failed and being able to enjoy being with each other.
I love having a love story. I love that we’ll be writing it until the end.
When last we spoke, we were stuck in the depths of winter. And now it’s June, my favorite month, and everything is different. I had started to feel weird about this space. There seemed to be only a few of you still checking in and while I wish I could be nonchalant about audience, I can’t. “Know your audience” has been drilled into my brain by every writing instructor I’ve ever had. Not knowing who was still around made me feel odd. Then one day the “visual” editor in WordPress was no longer working and life got really nuts and I thought, “That’s that. Taking a break. Not thinking about it until I think about it.”
I haven’t really missed it here, partially because I really needed a break from being the writer I had become, and partially because I needed to focus on other things. A few weeks ago, a writer who I respect and admire complimented what I had put here, and it got something stirring. It wasn’t ready yet, and I’m not sure that this is really my jump back into this space, but this awkward re-entry seems necessary.
So much has happened, and all of it required my full brain. It seemed like there was no room for immediate reflection, so I didn’t even try. The biggest thing is that I got a big, new job that is really perfect for me. I was really scared, though, to go from the job that I’d had for over 9 years to something completely new. But with each day I realize what a positive thing it is and it’s disarming to see how good things are, to see some really hard work and a lot of difficult years pay off.
My husband and my kid are amazing. I’ve been letting this particularly good patch just ride, maybe snapping the occasional picture or posting the occasional tweet. I’ve always liked being able to read back through time, and it seems like documenting good stuff would be helpful, especially when rough times inevitably return. But I don’t think I’ll regret just living without simultaneously writing a rough draft of a recap in my head.
All of this meandering is to say that if you’re still here, cool. If not, cool. I’ll be tinkering more and more and I hope to hear from you now and then.
Here are some fajitas smothered in cheese that we got in Detroit:
I was a terrible writer in college. Every once in awhile I would come up with a snippet of a good imagery or maybe even a decent sentence, but my stories were trite and immature. Of course, at the time, I thought I was writing such deep stories about minor scandals that hadn’t already been told by every slightly damaged young woman since pens first touched paper. I reveled in my workshops and panted with excitement when my stories were read aloud. My teachers were kind, though, and were skilled enough to give me the kind of criticism that they knew I needed without crushing my spirit. Chuck Kinder and Buddy Nordan knew that someone who wants to be a writer only has to write. Achievements like publishing and accolades were secondary to the act of gathering words together, a step that scares off countless.
There was a legend among the fiction writing majors that Chuck Kinder invited a group of students over to his house for a party every year. It was a select group, though, and when someone asked me about an invitation that had obviously not been extended to both of us, I knew that I was not one of his favorites. I was disappointed in myself, but glad that I had at least had the chance to sit in the same room with him while he read my clunky words.
A professor that I work with stopped in the other day and asked if I had ever had class with Kinder. “Yes. Why?” Kinder had mentioned me in an email to this professor. The context was muddy and I’m still not sure that it actually happened. But the possibility that instructing me floated to some murky surface in his memory meant the world to me. I had written things and he had read them and he remembered me, kinda.
* * *
I rode the bus to work this morning and as the 61A chugged onto Forbes Avenue, I was struck by how much of my life had unfolded on that street. In my head, I narrated the spiel that the imaginary tour guide would give to a trolley full of my admirers.
This is the hospital where her son was born. She had a C-section and the cafeteria’s Jell-O was the best she’d ever tasted.
This is the Arby’s where she had lunch with her former co-workers after they closed down the record store they worked at. (Or “worked” at.) They choked on roast beef while laughing about all of the silly things they did inside that store, like riding the CD tower down the stairs and running after shoplifters. They never saw each other again.
This is the street where she almost lived in a cute row house during her sophomore year of college. She’s still annoyed that that living arrangement never came to fruition.
This is the Department of Health where she accompanied a dear friend to learn the results of a test.
This is the Jimmy John’s where her husband dined right after their son was born.
This is the building where she considered a choice and, sobbing, decided something else.
This used to be a night club where she spent countless hours and shed several pounds of water weight from sweating.
This is the Rite Aid where the cute girl named Jaimie worked. The boys Kelly worked with adored Jaimie and would visit her at work to serenade her with Weezer songs.
This is where the record store that Kelly worked at used to be. It’s a Qdoba now.
This is where another record store used to be. Kelly made many of her lifelong friends within its walls.
This used to be the Beehive. Kelly started frequenting that establishment in high school when she legally shouldn’t have been.
This is the wall in front of the law school where Kelly and her husband sat a few times and made fun of pigeons.
This is the cafe where they spent an afternoon drinking ridiculously huge fruity drinks adorned with candy necklaces, getting sickeningly drunk and giggling and falling in love.
This is the library that is cool on hot days and echoes in the best way possible. You really must stand inside and breathe it in. Kelly has a picture of her husband holding their young son in front of the dinosaur on a pretty spring day.
And all of this pavement is a little bit flatter because of her.
I always look forward to the break that we get from school and work at the end of the year. Nothing all year tops the nearly two weeks that I get to spend mostly at home and with my family. This year, I literally can’t wait. These last few days of the regular routine are excruciating, because I can’t wait to be away from the world for awhile. I need so badly to be in my house with my husband and my son, to see them, to touch them, to reassure myself that, yes, they are here. Yes, they are real.
This is all exacerbated and made more raw by the shooting last week. I still don’t feel as if I’ve come back to a normal thought process since it happened. I still cry a few times a day, quietly and quickly, trying to make sure no one notices. This tragedy has affected all of us, of course, but it’s not mine. I don’t have to live the rest of my life with it as part of my story. Jonna did an excellent job articulating a lot of this.
I also get frustrated with the small actions that we’re encouraged to take: hug your kids tighter, tell them you love them, never take one moment for granted. Yes, of course I will but what about tomorrow? My hugs aren’t bulletproof and my love won’t make this go away. Please fucking tell me that we’re not going to try to just kiss this hurt away because it’s not fucking enough.
* * *
Yesterday, during some polite chatter over lunch, a few people asked me if the kid still believed in Santa Claus. I replied honestly: “He’s on the fence.” I never formally renounced Santa Claus, which isn’t to say that I think that a man literally performs all of those legendary actions. But I do notice (or perceive) a shift at this time of year that seems to be It. He’s asked me a few times if Santa Claus is real. I’ve always asked back, “What do you think?” and he has always replied, “Kinda. Some of the kids at my school don’t think he’s real.”
“The kids at your school are no older than you and they are definitely not any wiser.”
* * *
The other night, after we got our tree up and decorated, we did what we always do and turned off all of lights so that we could see the tree in all of its glory. The three of us cuddled together on the couch and stared up at our handiwork. We lingered a little longer than I think we ever have. It’s so confusing to be this excited at this time of year while also feeling so desperate.
I had a nightmare last night that was obviously my brain working out some of the bigger tangles of my thoughts about Sandy Hook. It was a bizarre but terrifying journey to the darkest depths of possibility, where I did what was awful but necessary, apparently: feel for a second in a hypothetical reality what those parents are feeling. I woke up hating myself for it. I shouldn’t get to entertain those thoughts when others have to endure that living nightmare forever. And who am I to think that I could possibly imagine what they’re feeling? I hate everything about this so much. Even the good moments that come out of it seem to make me sadder ultimately.
* * *
Something that has always always made me tear up is, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.” I think when I was a kid it was comforting to read something so kindly authoritative about something that can be kind of scary when you’re little. Now I love the sentiment and I love the idea of a busy grown-up taking the time to find just the right thing to say to a young reader. Coping with this particular unimaginable fear and sadness at this time of year, it suddenly seems much more poignant and necessary (and makes me sob). It’s comforting to read those words and feel them stretching across time because we now have to figure out how to explain to our children that the intangible things that make life worth living are still very much around, even though we let all of the bad things in far too often, that we still care about them and keep them safe and help them when they’re scared because otherwise the, “eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”
I used to blog on LiveJournal and I would post there every single day, often multiple times a day. This was before Twitter or Facebook, where I could deposit brief thoughts and this was also before I had a job or the life that I have now. I was a young mom and my days were very baby-centric, revolving around naps and nursing and diapers. In between those shifts I would write and think and write. I would offer up my thoughts on almost everything and very few world events passed without my input.
Now, I don’t feel comfortable expressing my feelings about huge events that much. I quickly grow weary of hearing everyone else’s opinions and then don’t wish to add my voice. Now it’s so frustrating to watch the dialogue degenerate from the communal shock and grief, to outrage, to the various factions of outrage, to the bitterness over how no one is saying anything right anymore.
Get rid of guns!
No! We need guns and 2nd Amendment and this poorly drawn analogy!
We need better access to mental health resources!
I’m not paying for some monster to talk about his feelings!
Illness is illness, why must you categorize it as mental?
Not enough religion!
I don’t want to say anything because it will inevitably be the wrong thing according to someone. And unfortunately I don’t think that any real changes will come from this, still, because of that fear. Because we continue to allow a flawed set of ideals dominate. We won’t try something new (just try!) because a bunch of people don’t want to. I guess that’s freedom. But I hope that the folks who will fight to keep guns in our hands and money out of our healthcare and pollution in our environment are right about their, “everything will be fine if we change nothing,” approach. I honestly do. Since we won’t take a chance on trying something different, I hope that they’re right. But honestly I don’t think that they are.
The scariest part was how often the word “normal” popped up in my thoughts and words surrounding this latest glimpse of hell.
I said “usually” but I started to write “normally.” “I’m normally pretty stoic when a bunch of kids get killed.” Because this is normal now. It’s not everyday, not on this scale, but it’s normal.
I’m not so naive that I think at some point we’ll become totally peaceful and horrible things will cease to happen. And I’ve had to adopt some kind of rational outlook about that. I can’t exist in a bubble because bad things happen and I have no way of knowing whether one will happen to me or someone I love. But please could we at least try to get to a point where we can no longer gauge our reactions to the latest mass shooting? Could we try getting rid of guns? Could we try putting our money toward each other’s health and wellbeing? Just try? And if it’s a failure we’ll go back?
I asked the kid if he had any questions or wanted to talk about it. He just kind of shrugged and said that it was really sad. I told him that I wasn’t sure how to relate to his perspective since stuff like that didn’t happen when I was a kid and that was only 20 years ago so I don’t know how and what kind of scary it is for him. But I think he sees it something that happens sometimes. And that gave me chills.