Old photos and procrastination

 

I’ve lost track of how long ago I asked my sister whether she remembered a particular photo of me and a childhood friend.  I could figure it out if I wanted to increase the guilt I feel for procrastinating on my promise to do something with our rag tag collection of family photos, but I don’t feel like it.  She overnighted her portion of the collection to me at no small expense and I promised I’d do something with them.  

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College + Life: Year One

It’s been an interesting year and writing about it on July 6 is odd considering most people think about doing so on January 1 when they’re busy taking stock of their lives, yet again caught up in the idea of promising themselves the moon if only they might eat less, organize more, drink less, exercise more, want less, or earn more than they have in preceding years.

Go ahead.  Just try and say that three times fast.

My reason for this reflection is to acknowledge my youngest son’s 19th birthday and with it, the conclusion of his first year of life away from home.  No birthday cake and no wrapped prezzies.  Out of tune renditions of Happy Birthday sung through a shared receiver.  An agreed upon mini fridge for his dorm room being delivered shortly so he won’t have to walk to the corner for a snack or soda after remembering we tell him not forget to eat.

What strikes me as most significant about this past year is his adaptability.   When others ask how he’s doing, we respond that he’s doing extremely well, loves San Francisco, has made friends, and is happy.  He enjoys his classes, is interested in what he’s learning, and has a level head about how he’s doing performance-wise.

Those inquiring seem surprised by our assessment, and signs of that surprise lessening has coincided with an equal lessening of inquiries made.  A collective huh if ever there was one.

Or, in the words of Wally and The Beav, “Go figure.”

The MoH would say I’m being irrational, but he listens to me as I blather on about it all being so curious.  Not our son’s adaptability — others’ reactions to it.  Perhaps everyone had their doubts.  If a kid doesn’t exude hard charging in-your-face drive while he’s growing up, then the assumption is that he’s unmotivated — or even incapable, I suppose.  If he’s not wielding a bat, or tackling someone on the opposing team, swinging, pedaling, spiking, serving, then maybe, just maybe he lacks muster.  Stick a mirror under his nose to see if he’s breathing, I guess.

But I know better.  Still waters run deep.

When I think of my youngest, I’ve come to the conclusion he quietly indulged his father and I all our fussing over him throughout his childhood.  Even my mother has muttered, “Well, he has been somewhat sheltered.”  But bear in mind that much of the fussing was our attempts at not acting like we were fussing instead of actually fussing which had to be comical on most days, exhausting others.  He endured it — and us — with patience, grace, and a quiet but determined focus to carry on with his interests his way.  The occasional flat-browed silence following the semi-terse exchanges one expects between a teenager and his parents notwithstanding, of course.

He continues to indulge us, tolerating requests to have an online chat at a particular time on a specific day, numerous texts from his father (I lack that function on my cell, lucky kid), and horror of all horrors to many others his age, I’m sure — comments on his facebook wall.

You gotta love parents who don’t get it — or act like they don’t get it.  That would be us.  But we do get it, which is why we’re omnipresent — well, sort of — in his life from a manageable distance of 600 miles or so.  Not quite helicoptering, but close.  Very, very close.  Telescopic helicoptering?  I wish.

After getting his driver’s license in the nick of time late last summer and with no practice until returning home this June for a short four weeks, after one reminder session with the MoH, he was on his own, remembering to ask if I had plans to use the car before driving away to meet with friends.  Suppressing the urge to sneak out the front door to snap 10 or 20 photos of him driving off the first time by himself, I had a little talk with God about keeping him safe instead.  And I’m not one who talks to God, but the stars weren’t out, so I couldn’t see talking to a sunlit sky making sense.  I count myself lucky that I didn’t have to deal with the worry of his wanting to drive when he was 16.  The three years’ wait time gave me a chance to mature a bit or find out a few screws were loose.

I think what I miss about him the most is the conversation we’d have.  A glimpse into what he was interested in (sci fi, video games, modeling…) and what he found funny (LOL cats?) was always an excuse to stop what I was doing to listen, watching his eyes as he talked, the start of a smile thinking about what he was telling me.  Nice kid.

It’s a challenge to get much out of him on the phone now, and worried he might feel compelled to talk to “Mom,” I usually make it brief and on the not so fuzzy side of things I warned him I’d remind him of periodically, like, “Are you eating enough, and washing your hair?  Taking showers, cleaning your face, putting on your deoderant?” before he cuts me off with an even-toned, “Mom” and patient explanation that he is, in fact, taking care of all of those things.  Good answer.

You’re wincing, I’m sure, but someone has to remind him.  It might as well be me.  Call it a public service.

The MoH and I are fairly jealous that he’s getting this opportunity.  That he gets to be in our favorite city every day, and when he leaves his dorm for class, it’s to walk among those who live there, work there, and vacation there.  And then there are those who hang around the streets there, too, but that’s part of life, isn’t it?   Knowing when to be aware, safe.  It feels like we’ve made two steps in one with this experience of sending him out into the world — that he’s getting his education, but he’s getting it in a big city instead of on a traditional college campus.

We’re happy for him.

And proud.

Happy Belated, Doog.  We love you.

p.s.

Has your mini-fridge arrived yet?

Billy Collins and stiff upper lips

I love Billy Collins.  He makes me think differently about the things I think about.  His sometimes irreverent, and certainly candid perspective always stops me long enough to think:  Really?  Do I need to take myself that seriously?  It’s refreshing.

What’s not refreshing is that in this month of heightening everyone’s awareness about breast cancer, and celebrating survivors and their warrior stories, I’ve just found out my aunt  has bone cancer.

Stage 4.

Meds to help her pain.

My mother beside herself with it all, but sporting a stiff upper lip.

All I can think of is how my aunt always has that knack of making things seem funny with little or no effort, a tough thing for some.  She’s one of those people everyone else wants to be near, soaking her up.  But I’ve always thought it was at some detriment to her.

I could say more, but it makes me sad.

I know I’m supposed to have a stiff upper lip and all that sort of thing, but I suck at that.  People just think I’m good at it.

Pardon me if I don’t put up a yellow ribbon.

But I’ll find a star and put her name on it tonight.

I will.

Finding time to relax again

Busy season is finally over yet another year.  There have been so many I’ve lost count.  It means the MoH is home before dark, and that it’s time for me to have an idea or two to plant in his mind before he heads for work in the morning about what we might do in the evening.  It’s so he can begin to feel like there’s actually a day — or at least part of one — to be enjoyed even though it’s not quite the weekend.

Or maybe it was that we were celebrating the beginning of the weekend — the first of many to come before the next string of late nights and work-filled weekends.

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Loving my Valentine

I don’t expect that on Valentine’s Day anyone will be spanking me with dog or goat-skin whips in order to increase my fertility this year, because although some may find that entertaining, I wouldn’t.  I’m thinking that the MoH wouldn’t like it much either, since he’s my Valentine, and I his.

We’re more about simple things and goofiness like emails that come as soon as I sit down in front of my Mac because he’s figured out nearly exactly when that happens each day.  Some people think that after two people have been Valentines for 25 years that there might not be too many more surprises, but I’d say they’re wrong because I’ve been surprised four times this week and it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet.

The first email said…

On the first day of Valentine’s your true love gave to yooooouuuuuuuu….

Something sweet under a pillow very near by.

Chuao Chocolates

He knows I love Chuao chocolate.  Love.  It.

On the next morning, just as I was wondering if there would be a second day of Valentines’ and whether I qualified for it the second email came…

On the second day of Valentine’s your trule love gave to yooouuuuuuu….

Your true love gave to yooooouuuuuu

Something stinky that thought it was going to watch TV but ended up in a dark cave.

Let me know if you can’t figure that out.

Now, I don’t know about you, but since I’m sort of stuck in all things food on most days, I thought of a very nice piece of cheese.  I know.  But the MoH knows me and clearly he was enjoying himself with all of this Valentine’s Day revelry, so I went with my first instinct and checked the cheese drawer in our fridge.  It’s pretty dark in there these days since I haven’t changed the light bulbs that have long been burned out, and I supposed you could consider it a cave since…well, okay, maybe not so much, but still.

Regardless, there was no package in the cheese drawer, so I went down to the laundry room where it is actually quite chilly and is stinky, too, since that’s where the cat box is.  But no present.  And then the garage where the second fridge is, but nothing was there that I didn’t recognize, so upstairs to his closet to see if I’d neglected to do his laundry.  But no.

So he sent me a second clue…

Stinky generally means it means bad, but maybe it just has a strong fragrance.

See clue 1 and then you were close with d) the garage fridge.  And you will have to open up something to find it.  And no it’s not in the trash cans.

I ventured back to the garage fridge and opened the butter box and found a bag of peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets with a $1.00 tag on them thinking, “He must have forgotten that he was going to do this riddle scavenger hut thing and ran into 7/11 on the way home…Or wants to get rid of me feeding me tainted peanut butter snack products.” Hell.  When it comes right down to it, peanut butter isn’t high on my list of special things unless it’s in the form of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that’s been in the freezer for a while.

So I sent him this… Nuggies

And then he sent me this…

So hmmm, I said you were close but that is too close.

What used to have a TV in it, is now in the garage and has a cavernous opening that you can close that sits next to the trash cans.

It starts with an A and ends with an R

Poor things, sitting waiting for someone to find them.

: )

And so I venture back to the garage and open our old armoire to find these thinking that this is all so much fun.  Yes, the presents are nice, but I love this goofy, romantic man I’m married to who has taken the time to do all of this for me and in between meetings is keeping up with it all when I still haven’t decided whether I’ll change my clothes or not.  Or combed my hair.
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This morning, I hadn’t yet opened my email because I was focused on other things.  But no sooner had I opened my email and the MoH’s latest arrived…

Are you sitting at your computer waiting?

Sweets,

Have you already rifled thru the house wondering what treasure your sweet husband has left for you??

So here we go.

On the third day of Valentines your true love gave to yooooouuuuu.

A piece of plastic and a folded piece of paper.

But before I tell you where it is, it looks like you have a headache and need an aspirin.

Now I had already emailed him about what I was preoccupied with — our son, the RTR, who is somewhat absent-minded on most days.  The night before, he’d been talking about spending the weekend with his cousin, and we have a routine where my sister-in-law and I meet half way to their house and drop off whichever boy is doing the visiting.  I was worried that the plans weren’t in stone and that he needed to talk to the carpool driver about not picking him up after school today, or whether he’d packed a bag for the weekend.  I  needed to figure out Plan B and realized that the MoH and I could go out tonight and maybe see a movie or something.

With a barely recognizable rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas oddly coming from my pursed lips, I opened the MoH’s most recent email …

There’s no need to fear — Underdad is here.

I reminded him to tell M that he wouldn’t need a ride
I asked him about the bag and he said there would be time to come home
and pack it after school (then why do you need to cancel the ride?)
3pm at the halfway point is correct
See my last e-mail regarding your last question.

This makes me smile since my fat butt was still in bed sleeping this morning when all of this was going on.  The MoH was the Mom of this family for many years while I was working, so he’s good at organizing details about who should be where and when.

Today’s riddle was very easy since I knew where the aspirin was even though I rarely have headaches.  This is what I found… More Presents A gift certificate to shop in a favorite store and dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant.  Guess I’ll have no excuse to wear sweats.

With Valentine’s Day still not quite here, I’ve collected quite a few Valentines from my Valentine.

And because I’m a sap, the best part has been all the fun.

He makes my heart go flippety-flop.

Fifty Years, Love and Memories

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Today is my mother and father-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Fifty years is a very long time.  I should know because that’s how long my very own bones have been on this planet learning to walk, and run, falling down, then starting again.  Relentlessly.

Fifty years.

A marriage lasting fifty years is more something to read about in the section of the newspaper that also records births and deaths, engagements and graduations than it is something people I know have accomplished.  Sure, my grandparents were married fifty years, but it took my mother’s mother three tries to get it right, and at that point, I think maybe she was just tired.

When I think of my mother and father-in-law, they’re rarely considered separately.  They go together like a nicely wrapped present, and if you’d told me years ago that they would matter to me as much as they now do, I would have had trouble believing you.  But they matter quite a bit. IMG_0670_2.JPG

IMG_1532_2.JPG Maybe it’s because of their unwavering support — their interest, their enthusiasm, their curiosity, energy, patience, graciousness…uncomplicated kindness.

IMG_2133.JPG I’ve known them for nearly half the time they’ve been married, which is an interesting perspective now that I think of it.  And in that time, we’ve shared quite a lot:  Thursday night pizza and wine — lots and lots of wine; annual dinners out to celebrate our anniversaries and birthdays all in one big night;  old jobs and new jobs; trips and family holidays; mint juleps and phone calls from the Kentucky Derby.  It may not sound like anything out of the ordinary to others, but I’m smiling as I think about it all.

I think about my father-in-law’s quiet, positive outlook, and my mother-in-law’s plans of places to go and things to see.  I think about what caring grandparents they are, and how good they are at making sure everyone knows that he or she is thought of in a special way.

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I guess thinking about all of this today has made me realize that outside of a few stories about how they met, and where they lived, I don’t know all that much about their lives together — except that they raised a remarkably patient man I happen to be married to.  I haven’t seen many photos, either, and wonder about them now.

We’re all going out to dinner tonight to celebrate their 50 years together.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to get a story or two out of them, and if I’m lucky, some photos not too much longer from now, just to see.

Fifty years.

The MoH and I aren’t quite half way there, but we’ll get there.  We’ll get there with bells on, grinning all the way.

The Things We Keep

Yesterday I tackled the garage, and although I’m far from being done, I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made.  It’s  a jumble of items you’d expect to find in a garage: a fairly recent deposit of my kitchen overflow;  remnants of our recent construction;  boxes expelled of Christmas decorations waiting for their return;  and my son’s truly unbelievable collection of crap.

Son's Crap

Not exactly a glamorous way to spend the first day after the holidays home alone, but pleasant.  I popped the garage door open to let in the light and brisk air realizing that if I had an attic or basement, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy either of those or my less than friendly neighbors as they passed by on their morning walk, furtively avoiding my gaze and the greeting perched on my tongue, just waiting for an opportunity to be human.   Ever the optimist am I.

I think the reason I avoid organizing our garage or anything else in my house that collects pieces of our lives over time, is that I’m forced to think about the memories attached to every item I handle.  It isn’t that I regret those memories — it’s more about having to accept the time it adds to the task, and the mood I’ll need to wallow in when I’m finished.

My thoughts wandered from annoyance with my son for keeping what resembles a rat’s nest wherever he goes, to flippant defiance:  What if I printed our address in craigslist in the “free” section and just left the garage door open to  the inevitable riot?  Instead, what I’m left with this morning are what lies between, like thoughts about boys growing up who were never interested in playing sports, but did to indulge us.

Old Trophies

 

 

Old Toys

Thoughts about school and career, and where all that knowledge and understanding goes when one is done with it.  Of an old house and all its poignant memories.   Of grandmothers and Martha, old friends I should call or write, and school kids I will never, ever forget.

Beauty lost to function and sentimentality to practicality on many counts during my purge. Copper pieces that have gleamed in the morning sun and cast sparks of light on my dining room wall for years are in the discard pile.  Decorations for Valentines Day and Easter that used to liven up the house when the boys were little also ended up in the pile along with a huge bag of stuffed animals I haven’t opened in years.  If I see them, I’ll have to think about who owned which and at what point in life.  It’s sort of leaning against the discard pile, not quite a part of it, and not quite separate.  Is there a child’s stuffed animal heaven somewhere I haven’t heard of?

Old Bunny

But there are things I’ve not quite decided to let go of, and If they’re any indication of who I am or what I’ve been, then I’m as odd as I’ve always thought I’ve been.  As odd as the stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines that seem to be about much more than the paper they’re printed on.  What does one do with that many magazines sitting, collecting spiders and bugs with too many legs to count?  Do I get one out each week, leaf through it, cut out what strikes my fancy and toss it to get on with the next?  There’s something about a sharp pair of scissors cutting along a perfectly straight line and thinking through one’s life.

Ferd, a giant bunny, sits in a corner on a stack of coolers.  It’s not a very dignified place for something that reminds me of how simple love can be if we allow it, and how easily life can be taken for granted, or lost if we’re not careful.

And these bottles?  I dug them up in the washed out area of an old dump near one of the last places my grandmother lived.  It was in the middle of nowhere — one of those places people used to go and then forgot about after the freeway was built.  The bottles aren’t valuable, but I like their varying shapes and embossed surfaces, each a slightly different tint than the next.  She was like that.

Junk Yard Bottles

Or a bag I packed the day I left my job, nearly two years ago.  It’s moved from one side of the garage to the other, but I haven’t unpacked it yet.  But I might blow the dust off the silver bar that used to sit on my desk to remind me that others see us quite differently than we see ourselves.

Career in a Bag

I’ve done quite a bit of thinking since finishing my work yesterday, and realize that as much as I got some exercise and fresh air, I’ve only moved everything from one side of the garage to the other.  It’s more organized than it was, but it’s all still sitting there.

It’s only been sifted.