This weekend was camping with Oriana, her beau and K — scheduled, but planned as much as you plan a peanut-butter sandwich. In a good way.
-Campfires need dry wood, medium-sized sticks, and lighter fluid. You can ask your techno-blasting neighbors for lighter fluid.
-Got coffee cups? You got wine cups.
-Waking up to the lake and a morning fire is the world’s most relaxing prescription.
-The hot dog buns were probably not kidnapped. But the techno-neighbors are suspects.
-Who needs to pack clothes when you can just wear the same thing twice: encore outfit!
-Camping is a legitimate excuse to eat Hershey bars for breakfast. Graham crackers and marshmallows optional.
I’m envisioning a black-and-white movie where the female lead keeps switching hats and pretending to be other people. She slinks into the dinner party in her wide-brimmed feathery hat… (gathers intel, samples a deviled egg); she slips on a jaunty satin cap and collects secrets at a speakeasy… (tiny notebook, tiny pencil, swig of gin). Everyone is fooled.
I’m not sure if this movie exists. Maybe it’s actually just my brain’s visualization of the phrase “wearing many hats”. Either way. When I think about my mental state, I think of this idea. Lots of people with all their different needs; I’m fitting in, blending into the wallpaper — and maybe the subterfuge isn’t against the Russians, it’s against my sanity.
On a Friday morning the best I can do is take a deep breath and feel the tightness where my lungs forgot how to breathe and wait for them to open; watch how a hot cup of coffee makes curls of steam, better than a three-D, live-action Van Goh; crack the crick out of my spine and listen to the traffic whir on the pavement; pull back a thin white cotton curtain — outside is damp from a misty rain; forget that my hair will be all crazy today because hello, humidity; listen to the ceiling fan click click click where the pull-string thwacks the light fixture; wonder if this is a sneeze, wonder if this is a sneeze; no sneeze; ponder last night’s smudgy wine glass still on the coffee table — and start this day.
I haven’t written much about Zipper, my family’s golden retriever, but today she’s leaving this puppy world after 14 fun years, so here’s what I know:
She was born on a farm run by my fifth-grade teacher. She had lots of puppy brothers and sisters, but she seemed to be the most ambitious. She was dragging a stick around that was four times her size.
Her name is Zipper because of the cowlick running between her eyes.
She loves gathering shoes. If you show up at the house, she will bring you a shoe.
She basically likes to hang with her people. Not too close, doesn’t have to constantly snuggle, but if you’re around she’s around.
She loves a good snuggle.
She is the only dog that my Italian grandmother has ever liked, ever, in her 80+ years of existence.
She never failed to remember me every time I walked in the door.
Zipper, strung out!
Zipper, guard dog!
I’m not the world’s most flexible gal. This is nothing new. The “sit and reach”portion of the President’s Fitness Challenge in school was always a sad joke. And in yoga class I’m usually apologizing to the instructor after like 15 minutes. Luckily in yoga they’re like, “Whatever you are, it’s perfect.” Whee!
But I recently took a fitness test as part of my new (already under-used) gym membership. In most areas, even though I could only squeak out a few push-ups, the trainer remained objective. But she truly went eye-poppingly amazed when I couldn’t touch my toes. Like, not at all. Like, my fingertips and toes were like feet apart. Really? No, just reach a little harder there… Seriously? That’s all you can do? Yes, lady, shuddup.
So I’ve been practicing a little each morning, thirty seconds at a time, and today the very tips of my fingers curled over the very bottoms of my toes. It felt unnatural. Like waving a third arm out of my spine. The bottoms of my toes were rougher than I remembered. (I guess I don’t spend a lot of time on my feet…) But in the tiny universe of stretch, reach, stretch: a victory.
I think Jeff Goldblum was picking two-by-fours out of the dumpster behind the dry cleaners on my way to work.
I think this sunshine is giving me immortality. Unless coffee will be the death of me, a caffeinated jitterbug death dance because I had more than half a cup.
Shiow brought me two soft juicy peaches yesterday, that her friend gave her, from a farm, and today I gave one to Oriana, and this is what friends do.
Julie & Julia is a good movie, better because I saw it with Eliina, Tara and Amanda. Milk Duds and wine. We’re all grown up.
ADHD is not just mental, it’s an organism, a living thing, there’s an ADHD caterpillar that bores into the base of my skull and makes small tasks vibrate and pulse with nuclear horror and someone give me a hazmat suit and then I’ll start this project.
Whenever I’m visiting Buffalo, I try to meet up with Deanna and Janelle. We catch up via long conversations that wind and loop through the past months. Often this means curling up on the corner cushion of Janelle’s family room couch, or crunching through fall leaves on a long walk in Clarence Center with Deanna. Every time, I learn something new about myself, and them, and the way we’re growing up.
Usually I see them each individually, but this time we decided to gather as a trio. Later, when my mom asked me what we did, I said we spent the day talking — which was true. But that doesn’t really capture the beauty of a day to connect, the deep relaxation and 8-hour vacation from everyday life.
Between the ages of 10 and 13, I must’ve picked up my worn copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women approximately 1,973 times. The first few times, I read it all the way through, and then later I’d just read chapters here and there before drifting off to sleep under my Laura Ashley-knockoff comforter.
Last weekend I was home in Buffalo for a whirlwind few days of family and rest, and some quality time with Zipper, Golden Retriever Champion of Cuteness. My old copy of Little Women was there on a bookshelf, and so I flipped it open again, expecting to find nothing terribly interesting and only to reminisce about just how boring my tween tastes were.
But I was still captivated. Jo’s struggles with being an oddball who likes writing, Meg’s first stabs at independence, Amy’s doubts over her creativity — all pulled me right back in as vividly as ever. And when Beth first got sick with The Fever and then recovered? Tears, I tell you. Tears.
With 15 years of distance, I can now quantify a little bit of the magic. Louisa May Alcott only hits the big moments in their lives. Every chapter is on the cusp of a crisis or change. She spends a lot of time on characters, and slips in new details about them in passing, as though these people were pre-formed and now’s just the right time to tell us about Jo’s pride in her sewing abilities. Everyone is flawed, in their own ways, and collectively — the sisters drift towards laziness, bad tempers, self-centeredness (though Beth only drifts the tiniest smidge, when she spends too much time playing with her cats). They learn lessons at every turn. Sometimes heavy-handed lessons, but we see them grow. Their inner monologues intermingle with the narrator’s voice at times, in a version of free indirect style, so that their thoughts are seamlessly delivered when necessary.
My copy of this book is hardcover, a huge book only slightly lighter than a dictionary. So I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take it on the plane. I could leave it on the shelf. I could pick it up again next year. But Meg just got married and she’s about to have her babies, and Laurie’s going to ask Jo to marry him, and Beth is looking pale again … I shoved it in my carry-on and took it back to Chicago.