turning the collar up, looks like I picked the wrong time to decide to shave my head

Bright and cold, the sun slaps down on the sidewalks and finds us much as we ever were, maybe here and there a little shabbier. Broken down businesses and those making their valiant try. More cars getting towed DIY-style lately, Ralph and I have both noticed this. I drive by my neighbors sleeping rough or living hard, hunched jackets against the cold in clothes that aren’t quite warm enough, walking with bottles that clink in thin black plastic bags, cheap fleece pajama pants.

My sister visited this weekend and went to some festivities around town. “Irish music and drinking, I know how much you love those.” She and my mother went ahead and did some of that. We also had lunch together Saturday and Jules and the kids and I goofed at the Halloween store, good memories for me. She always buys the children something sweet; this time, their Halloween Trick or Treat bags/pumpkin buckets.

I drive to Aberdeen in the afternoon and wonder why some days I feel in a panic. Nothing is wrong, I tell myself. Remind myself. I am sober, and safe, and mostly sane. We have wonderful friends and family and are surrounded by a great deal of love. My children and I have a roof over our heads and good food to eat. The kids are growing well and exceedingly happy, as far as I can tell. The cats lounge about. My house is tidy, I bought winter boots. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong. I have to talk myself down from the ledge now and then but the feeling passes after a while, like everything else.

Low Tide

“Low Tide” by Τϊζζ¥

More Hoquiam, WA.

xtracycle

you wanna fly / don’t want your feet on the ground

xtracycle

I get a rush when I bike long distances and today was no exception (I’m already used to the seat, by the way). I had a full day including picking up a refurbished New Home sewing machine (squee!), then later a wonderful coffee date with my sister, just the two of us. Afterwards she took me next door to the bike shop and bought my new head and tail lights, in addition to a very generous gift certificate for the family. What a wonderful gift for us and a real blessing.

But the highlight of my day sticking to me now was about ten PM when my friend D. who’s tended towards shyness in the past agreed to ride on the back of my bike there in west Aberdeen, and we did a few loops in the summer street while people laughed a bit, circling around a big bonfire while P. played Foreigner’s “Records” out the stereo of his impeccably-shiny Harley.

Or maybe it was an inadvertant poem I heard early in the evening: “Pray to be sane / drank a Hurricane”.

Or later as it was cold out, meeting Ralph and Cole for hot coffee and pizza at the Mia.

Either way, things seemed to work out real well all day long.

the Mia

 

nothing feels obligatory about it in the slightest

Just about every year for Thanksgiving we take in a person, or two, or three or four who either doesn’t want to be with their own family for Thanksgiving or doesn’t wanna, and we host them for the big dinner.  So yesterday morning my mom asked about this tradition of ours – if we were going to invite any “orphans” over.  I realized today – picking up the naval orange for one of my two cranberry sauces – that I don’t like the phrase “orphan” because it implies a sort of forlornness or wretchedness on the part of those who aren’t going to be with their relatives, and thus makes normative a certain type of family over other types – the latter chosen by will and intent, say, rather than just biology (to be fair, it was one of our “family-less” – as in, someone who had a family but didn’t want to be with them – guests who initially came up with the phrase “orphan”).

The holidays can be pretty damn painful for people.  Even when they’re mostly okay and things go pretty well, I know people sometimes feel deep pockets of sadness or lonesomeness or a descent into nightmarish familial patterns or a sense of wrongness.  Even if it is only an urban legend that suicide and depression rates are higher during holidays, it can sure feel the case (just today I received a message online looking for a man who’d driven away on Friday and who had friends were worried about him).

See, I know my mother pretty well, and I think her Thanksgiving isn’t turning out too awesome – yet.  Two of her three children aren’t coming up for it.  And although my mom is awesome in that she would never hint or guilt-trip them or even in the smallest corner of her heart think that her children “should” come up to see her (and neither do I), I also know that nothing pleases her more than when everyone does.  A thing to remember about my mother, sadly, is that even when she wants something it is very unlikely she would actually ask for it.  It’s taken me many, many years to really listen to what my mom really wants.  And to be honest, I don’t always listen, because sometimes I’m busy being directly asked for shit by my kids and husband, who are less likely to play the coquette.

Back to Thursday: my mother is not going to have dinner with her boyfriend in attendance, either.  They are still very much a couple (and are playing annoying hippie folk music upstairs as I write).  But he’s going to a place and she’s not going with him.  So, OK.

And all of this is okay, and no great tragedy.  And in the way of the suffering of many, many women I know, my mom’s little sadnesses generally don’t inconvenience anyone (ladies are good that way!) or even make themselves known to others.  In my mom’s coping and rarely-if-ever-asking-for-things-she-wants and always being so “laid back” (or at least, wanting to convey this appearance) one could forget she’s only been a widow for a little over a year.  You know, after being with my father for over 35 years.

I don’t really know the heart of my mother – although I suspect now that my dad is gone I’m the closest person who does.  For my part I plan to do my own, deliberate little bit to help her keep from a case of the Holiday Sadkins.  This morning I told her I’d like to cook all the food, if she would only buy the turkey.  She agreed to this with such alacrity I was immediately glad I suggested it.  (Let me tell you, this offer of mine did not come from an obligatory sense of rescue or my role as the matriarch to the family here at 6th and M.  It’s about 85% caring deeply for her emotional well-being and 15% because every goddamned year she annoys the ass off of me by saying, “And this year let’s make it a simple kind of thing, you know, not so arduous for us both.”  This makes me angry like a poo-flinging monkey because in no way do I find cooking a big meal arduous, I completely enjoy it! In fact no one has any evidence, anywhere, that I don’t really, really like to cook)*.

“Family” is a funny thing; we choose to be with those who comfort us, or feed us, or those we genuinely love. And before I was an actual mother to my biological children I thought a lot about myself and what I wanted. And now I think a lot about what other people want (even if I miss the mark a lot too – and I do).  I am not at all saying this post-natal experience of other-care is Natural or Universal (in fact, I think neither).  It’s just my experience.

Today at the store I stood in line behind a handsome man about my age dressed in fancy-looking tennis shoes, new jeans, and a North Face jacket.  He was well-groomed and quiet – his voice so low that when he turned and smiled and said something to my daughter I didn’t hear what he said.  I noticed we were fixing to have the same meal – spaghetti – for dinner tonight.  He was having a simple version – a small parcel of pasta, canned pasta sauce, and a loaf of bakery bread – while I had a basket full of parsley, baguette for toasting the bread crumbs in the meatballs, organic beef and pork, Parmesan cheese, crushed tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and butter.  In noticing his groceries I noticed he didn’t have a wedding band.  And I almost – almost – asked if he had a Thanksgiving plan, and if he’d like to come to our place to join us.

But I didn’t.

Who knows.  Maybe the guy isn’t single, just not wearing a wedding ring, and neither he nor his partner care to cook.  Maybe he’s happily single and that’s his favorite meal.  Maybe (likely!) he has somewhere totally awesome to be on Thursday.  Maybe he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about the holiday.

Or maybe like so many other strangers I’ve offered a meal or a kindness to, it would have made his night just a little more pleasant to be asked, let alone attend in two days.  I will never know because didn’t get the ovaries up to check.

I hope at least he felt my friendliness behind him in the checkout line.

* No, really.  This is insane. Every year she talks like we’ll have a SMALL meal (we never do), and that whew-won’t-that-be-a-relief, when in actuality I look forward to cooking the meal.  Something I hate: when someone tells me how I feel – instead of listening to how I’m telling them I feel. Especially when they get it completely wrong. Especically when they’ve known me since I was born!

this sentence contains appreciation

I had a difficult time this last weekend. And what I want most when I’m having a difficult time is company. Not necessarily to talk about my troubles, not to do my dishes nor sponsor me in a spa trip or even drink with or have a shopping spree. Simply someone to talk with, recreate with, cook with or for (I love cooking for people), go out to talk over a coffee, and relax. Time is something my FOO gives very sparingly, with vague limits suddenly and mysteriously imposed, with reneging of original plans and a culture of denial that original plans even existed. I am probably the only of the four of us who is generous with their time in an open and honest way and a clear communication of boundaries. I also note that when someone is having a hard time, I love to help them. I appreciate all the times I’ve been directly asked because it’s hard for me to know sometimes when someone wants my help or to know how to give it.

There’s a fifth member of my genesis family – my half-sister Jules, who was raised for the most part by her father. I wasn’t thinking about company or family this weekend when I emailed her and told her I was having a hard time. However her immediate response was to literally drop everything, rent a car, drive from Portland and take me to dinner (all with very grateful and slightly overwhelmed thanks). It was at first hard for me to accept her offer because – I don’t know. Some part of me didn’t want to admit I wanted that time. Part of me suspects that some people make these amazing offers and don’t mean them (this is actually rare I think). But mostly it’s just that growing up and now my family didn’t work that way. They don’t seem to need help, expect it, or offer it. One result is I have trouble knowing for myself when I need help and what kind to ask for. I also feel sad asking for help and very sad being rejected. I am working to be different than the way I was raised.

The closer I got to expecting Jules the more excited I got. I began to realize I was going to have a night off from the family. I was going to have all the time to talk and listen that I could want in a visit. We were going to enjoy food or maybe rent a movie or go to a movie or stay up half the night. It was going to be open-ended. She wasn’t going to tell me she was staying until such-and-such a time then suddenly leave early (classic FOO behavior). She was going to tell me she was leaving Tuesday afternoon and that would be when she left. She was going to believe me and support me when I told her my troubles (not “hint” at how I should or could do things better or differently). A part of me even distantly surmised she was being so generous with her time because I myself had made the same priorities about twelve years ago as her relationship with her husband was faltering (they later divorced). I was a young college student who knew nothing about marriage and I don’t know how much help my advice or presence could have been. But I remember riding the bus as often as I could to hang out with her and do whatever she (or we) wanted to do. I remember spending so much time listening to her and caring very much about her and Mark. I realized I have this incredible gift in her and a few of my friends; true, adult friendship that is give and take. It would have been easy in some ways to say “No, but thanks.” I’m glad I didn’t.

Jules got here at 6 PM and as soon as my daughter’s swim class was over I found her and we went out. I hadn’t dined in the restaurant we ended up choosing in a long time – over a decade. We also immediately met and began chatting to two men on the Tour de Fat. I ate every single bit of my dinner and had a bloody mary. I started feeling much better. Ralph took the kids to my parents’ where they had a slumber party / video game night in the upstairs guest room. Jules and I stayed up until 4 AM just talking. I ate too much candy (I literally had a candy hangover the next day) but my sleep was deep and only cut short by the morning responsibilities of my own children.

One problem with taking half a day off: you want more! And I intend to get it. Everyone should try for it, if they can.