I have run the gamut of emotions when it comes to Valentine’s Day. As a child, I spent hours pasting together red and white paper doilies with glue-covered hands. I remember sifting through my box of valentine’s from the sundry store, reading each cheesy message carefully before selecting a recipient–careful to save the valentine with the cutest picture for my best friend du jour, and the card with the most BE MINE-worthy sentiment for my crush du jour.
As I grew older, and crushes–and the teasing that often went with them for me–grew more serious, my enthusiasm for all the Valentine’s Day splendor diminished. I would still dress in my most cupid-inspired pink and red, hoping to catch the eye of some last-minute admirer. Sitting in my last period class, I would listen to the P.A. as the secretary called a long list of girls (and a few guys) to the office to pick up flowers from their sweethearts. I would feign nonchalance, doodling on the back of my notebook as the list droned on and the classroom thinned to a few lonely hearts. I never held my breath, but grew a bit more melancholy each Valentine’s that passed with not so much as a candy-gram from a secret admirer.
Until I met Big. We dated the last two years of high school, and off-and-on through college. There were flowers, and teddy bears, and special evenings, perhaps even a bottle of wine or two. Those were years when I was so completely intoxicatedly infatuated that I didn’t even notice the poor lonely out-of-love folks (or anyone else) on Valentine’s Day. But, the higher you soar, the harder you fall, and when things fizzled between Big and me, I went a little, well, dark.
After a few bitter breakups, I went totally anti-cupid. I wore a lot of black, and some pretty severe makeup, and treated myself to some nice gifts and decadent girls-nights out with other single girlfriends.
My Valentine’s angst was still in effect two years ago, but was waning after a weekend in January with Big had given me new perspective (I can now see that it was closure). I was feeling a little less cursed by love, mostly stupid–and stupefied by it, so I dropped the all-black on Valentine’s Day routine and put on a simple taupe sweater dress that made me feel pretty (and showed off my legs). I straightened my hair; I curled my lashes; I sprayed the back of my neck with a spicy perfume; and I went out to celebrate Valentine’s Day–not drink to its demise–for the first time in years. Continue reading
Filed under Change, Dating, Men
November 1st marked one year since I put my life and career on pause and moved back to my hometown to . . . re-evaluate. Day-to-day, the year has crept along at a pace only those who have lived in a truly small small town can understand, but the months and seasons continue to sneak up on me. The weight of summer’s humid air lifted from my shoulders so slowly I hardly noticed it leaving. A late summer drought slowly leeched the color from the hills of trees, taking them from lush, saturated green to the washed-out golden-green of a faded polaroid, then seemlessly to the rust autumn tones with no announcement. It was all very stealthy–so stealthy, in fact, that I only appreciated the transition from subconscious memory as I glanced at the hills in late October hoping to take in the beautiful fall foliage, but instead found a treeline of dark skeleton arms up-stretched, groping horrifically at the grey clouds overhead. The hills had donned their ghastly costumes in time for halloween.
I’d like to say that I’ve taken advantage of the slowed pace this past year to do all the things I never had time to fit in my busy schedule before. The truth is, Continue reading
And sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name. Sometimes you want a clean slate–not so much to reinvent yourself, but more to reintroduce yourself. After finally closing a door on the guy I always kind of thought I’d end up growing old with, I realized I’d been treading water, marking time, waiting for him to grow up and see that we were meant to be together. But we weren’t, we aren’t, and as hard as it was is for me to admit: we’ve grown up, and into people those wild-eyed high school sweethearts never imagined they’d become. I’d thought I’d shut that door many times, only to find it flung back open again. But all those times shutting the door had been a sad, mournful act. This time was different; it was empowering, and for the first time in my adult life I felt like my own person, finally untethered and free to move in any direction I chose.
Later that week I chose to celebrate some work success by letting loose my new-found freedom with a girls’ night–solo. While I could’ve had a fine time going out on a more traditional girls’ night (you know, with other girls–plural!), being surrounded by people who knew me as I was before my recent epiphany would only enable me to continue my old water-treading ways. I needed to do something bolder, something out of my comfort zone and a little bit scary. Plus, He’s Just Not That Into You had just come out in theaters, a tie-in/spin-off of one of my greatest guilty pleasures–Sex and the City. So I headed out for a SATC-worthy pre-movie snack at one of my favorite chain bar-and-grill restaurants from college.
I walked into the restaurant and found a seat at the bar with the confidence of a woman who’s just solved one of life’s great mysteries. Continue reading
I hear this song and suddenly I’m cruising down the street I grew up on in my electric blue ’93 Chevy Beretta with a carload of my fellow high school cheerleaders, windows down because the air conditioning was broken (or, actually, never really worked), letting the easy breeze that comes from hitting 40 MPH between stop signs relieve us from the soupy mid-July air of Southern Ohio. We’d spent the weeks since school let out practicing non-stop in preparation for the cheerleading competition at the county fair, and now that the fair was over we were relishing our free time. However, we soon realized that there wasn’t much for a bunch of 16-year-olds to do with so much free time and so little cash; at 78¢/gallon, a tank of gas split four-ways would give us hours of fun doing what all the other teens did on hot summer afternoons: cruising.
Those afternoons cruising in a wide, distorted loop around the eight or ten blocks of town, represented some of the only typical teenage behavior I can remember. Aside from the fact that we were all cheerleaders, I didn’t have much in common with my cruising pals. I’d never really dated–in fact, never been kissed–while they were completely boy-crazy, hopping from one “relationship” to another. At parties I preferred to get a nice sugar buzz from too much Pepsi so that I could remember all the sloppy, embarrassing antics my more inebriated friends might pull, though always playing the good sober baby sitter who stops them from doing anything truly regrettable. I attended a fairly strict church, helped with Sunday School, and participated in the church’s bible quiz team on Sunday mornings while my friends slept in and slept off their Saturday night indiscretions. They were still my friends–great friends–and we got on with only a tiny bit of teasing for my Sandra Dee persona.
That summer we couldn’t get enough of The Bloodhound Gang–probably because none of us had CD players in our cars, so we were at the mercy of the repetitive playlist of the one radio station we could get in that wasn’t exclusively country music or gospel. The music of that summer always conjures up warm, happy memories, but this past winter on an unforgivably cold February morning, the droning repetition of The roof. The roof. The roof is on fire. had a cold, numbing effect as one of my old cheerleading friends and I sat in my living room watching her house across the street burn.
Summer came early this year, with a suddenness that took my breath away–and replaced it with steam. Thick, humid, steam fills my lungs with every inhale, and like a steam engine I chug along through the sticky summer days and nights, months before the summer solstice. Thank you, Ohio, for the warm welcome.
Late May days of my childhood were always approached with anticipation of the beachy sunshine and balmy temps promised by the Memorial Day sale ads on TV, but were all-too-often realized with sharp, biting rain as I bravely marched with the scouts in the Memorial Day parade in my defiant shorts. However this year, weeks before the long Memorial Day weekend we were greeted with July-like weather: temperatures in the 80s and humidity well above. In Northern California, summer weather often flirted with me as distant a month as February, and I naively took this Ohio early warming as a similar flirtation. But this was no quick caress–this weather has become a clingy, sweaty lover whose cuddles and nuzzles have long overstayed their welcome, all the way into legitimate summer territory. The steam is here to stay.
And so I find myself walking through the dense air in the two blocks from the grocery store to my home, fighting the urge to practice my breaststroke in order to propel my body forward. The air is heavy with … something. Water? Perhaps, though it seems to have taken a form that is neither liquid nor gas nor solid, but something akin to an ionic charge. It seems impossible that my body courses through this substance without evoking little static bolts as it shifts and alters the particles. Butterflies flutter a little less fleetingly from bloom to bloom, and I wonder at their ability to move their wings at all through the soupy summer air. It is the very portrait of (literal) oppression.
For better or for worse, the heat and humidity have inspired me return to my blog. Maybe it’s the slow bopping Gershwin-esque melodies of tree frogs and crickets in chorus or the gentle lilting lightshow of the lightning bugs their song accompanies. Whatever the source of the inspiration, here’s hoping the urge to write remains after the heat subsides.
I made it. The move is done. Well, the sorting, purging, packing my life into 15-odd boxes and 3 suitcases and plodding around an airport from 6 o’clock in the morning Pacific time til 7 o’clock in the evening East Coast time–that’s all done. Now I’m set unpacking those 15-odd boxes, which were meticulous and orderly for the first several trips to the post office, but become increasingly haphazard–I daresay schizo–as the moving day drew nearer and the contents of my apartment I had left to deal with became increasingly daunting.
And I’m not unpacking them into a new, empty space–a clean slate, if you will; no, I’m unpacking them in my old room in my parents’ house where I grew up. I carefully drew a box opener over the packaging tape sealing the first box and pulled out a beautiful mahogany frame encasing a photo of me and one of my best friends from college on the beach on Kauai at her wedding a couple years ago. I surveyed the room and placed it on the entertainment center next to some antique glass bowls that once belonged to my great-grandmother, a trophy from a writing competition in 7th grade, and a picture of me and my high school boyfriend at my senior prom. There it was–my heritage, my childhood, my first love, and my current best friend–a cluttered mess…or a beautiful mess?
This is my life. I suppose the beauty is in how you arrange it: in having a knack for keeping just enough of your past to be cozy without waxing too nostalgic; in having the good taste to keep that which is truly meaningful and to cast away the rest; and in having the sense of balance to blend the new with the old, the proud with the awkward, the joy with the heartache. This is my challenge. Continue reading
Do you ever stop to think about what a memory really is? Like exactly what it is that is sticking around our brains, how we store it, and how much detail we store? I sometimes wonder if memories, at least the kind we reproduce anecdotally, are just that–anecdotes–stories that we tell and retell to ourselves in our own mind. And as things that get told and retold are want to do, these stories morph as details blur or merge or disappear or get embellished (ever play the game Telephone?). So our memories are less like snapshots and souvenirs in a scrapbook and more like folklore–dangling from a thin cord of facts amidst a cloud of details and possibilities.
I think we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another, or else have been asked, what our first real memory is. When do children start making memories, anyway? I can tell you things that happened when I was only a few months old, like the time I stole my cousin’s pacifier and clutched it–and my own– next to my face, giggling, while he bawled and screamed. But I’m certain that these are merely anecdotes related to me by other adults in my life and not real memories. I think I remember hitting that same cousin on the head with a hammer a couple of years later, but wonder if I only remember hearing this rather remarkable tale repeated by parents and other adult parties involved in ajudicating the situation in its aftermath.
I distinctly remember deciding when I was in first grade that my first real memory was of my cousin (yes, same one) biting me on the arm when I wouldn’t give him my Baby Glowworm (this might’ve been why I later hit him with that hammer!). But now I wonder if my memory of that event–which had no adult witnesses to retell the tale to me–is really just a story that I told myself, that I replayed in my little tow-head as I lay in my crib, and then in my big girl bed, until by the time I reached first grade it had solidified as a bone fide memory. I wonder.
But there are others types of memories I can’t explain in the same way. I can’t explain the way walking by a display of Love’s Baby Soft perfume after it’s just been sprayed brings to mind images of my hot pink Caboodles makeup case full of all my contraband cosmetics I used to hide in my closet; I’m certain I’ve never replayed a story like that (until just now, putting it into words). It’s more than just recognizing the smell and then associating it with a time and place in my past. The smell creates the memory, and suddenly I’m recalling slumber parties and dresses I wore on school picture day or to school dances that I didn’t remember I remembered.
Then there’s the memory of a familiar voice. Continue reading