Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Moonlight Mile: Complete Magic (and Terror)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

There are moments, when you have children, that you want to capture in time like a fossil. You want to be able to pull it out at a moment’s notice, hard and solid, and still exactly like that moment you experienced, suspended in time.

I had one of these moments tonight. I drank wine and played ZZ Tops’ “Tres Hombres” while the kids showered. Rollie went to bed to read the new Harry Potter. Tiller came down to hang out with me. I put on “Sticky Fingers.” We looked at her yearbook from last year. (She’s excited and nervous about fifth grade.) I turned the record over to Side 2. We came to the end of the yearbook, and I lay down on the couch. She lay down on my chest and the dog lay on my feet.

It is hard to explain the stillness of this, of the rise and fall of her breath and how it sounded so very beautiful and calming to me. The way I petted her silken child’s hair, as if it would stay that way forever.

And we listened to all of side two. And as we listened to “Moonlight Mile,” we were silent and tears rolled down my cheeks. The moment was perfect and completely unrepeatable. She will never, ever, be ten again, laying on my chest listening to the Stones, and who knows where I will be a year from now.

It was complete magic. And the most terrifying thing I’ve felt in a long while.

One Foot In Front of the Other: And Walk, and Walk, and Walk

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I went hiking on Saturday. A couple of the people I was staying with at a cabin were hung over, and one had to write a paper. I went by myself. I like hiking by myself. No chit chat; just me and my thoughts. My plan was to walk about a half a mile to trailhead for an easy hike to a waterfall (Juney Wankey Falls). When I got to the trailhead, I realized I felt like doing something more strenuous, saw a trail that was 4.7 miles, and decided to do that one.

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So, basically, I totally screwed up. I missed the loop trail and ended up doing a much longer loop that was over 12 moderate to strenuous miles. That, combined with the hike to the trailhead, and the walk into the national park meant that I did about 18 miles total that day.

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I saw Indian Creek Falls, too.

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I realized at probably about the halfway mark that I had screwed up, but I never panicked. I knew it was a loop, and i had talked to other hikers, so I knew that they knew I had missed my lower loop and that I was worried about scaring my friends when I didn’t come back soon enough. I finally found someone at the top of Sunkota ridge who had a working cel phone, and I sent my sister a text with my location and the trail name, and when I thought I would be back. I also texted a family pet name I knew she would recognize.

I walked and walked. The people with the cel phones had been walking with me for an hour or so. When I first saw them, I had forged ahead; They were on horseback, a group of about 8 or so. (That should have been a sign. This is a group doing the same trail. They are on horseback.) The leader said, “We’ll catch you up soon.” When they finally did catch up, they said they were impressed with my pace. I do walk fast. When I caught up with them at the top of the ridge, about 5 miles uphill, one lady told me “You are amazing!” Trail people are kind. They offered me water. (I always overdo my water, because I hate the thought of running out, and I had an apple and a bag of almonds. I never worried about not making it back, or not having enough water, or being alone; Just that I had worried my friends.)

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I had water and we looked at their maps at the top of the ridge. That was when I realized I still had 8 miles to hike, but it was downhill, so i knew i wasn’t going to fall out from a stroke. I just worried about whether my knees could take 8 miles downhill. I petted the sweet horses, and thanked my Dothraki friends, and headed down. Sure enough, after about 4 miles of that, I was compensating for my hurting right knee, with odd steps and a weird gait, so then my hips and my other knee, and my ankles were all barking at me.

There were a few times when I wondered if I could make it back. I was in pain, and tired, so tired, and sweating that sweat where you actually have salt build up on your skin. I still had water. I thought, “this is bear country. If a bear tried to get me, I’d be toast. I’d give right up.” I thought about how indians had traveled those trails for hundreds of years. I saw deer and centipedes and picked a lot of ticks off my calves. I saw nothing else – no snakes, bears, elk.

I overtook an older hiker. He was about 70. Ron, from LaGrange, Georgia. He had hiked all day. Was doing some kind of 500 miles in the Smokies challenge. He knew all the trails I had seen on the Dothraki map, so he confirmed that I was on the right trail, and it would take me back to the trailhead I had started at. We drank water and I shared my almonds with him.

I told him I had to move on, that my friends might be worried and said goodbye. We walked together for a little while, but I finally moved out of his sight. I had muddy, aching feet. The air was cool and damp walking along Deep Creek, but very buggy.

I thought a lot during that hike. About how nothing much mattered except that moment. That there were people who mattered, and people who didn’t. I wished they allowed dogs in the park. I had moments where I wanted to go lay down in the cold creek water and just go to sleep. I wanted a beer. (I got one.)
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I wanted to soak my feet in the cold water and then put them up.

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I thought how mad my mom would be that I was hiking alone. I laughed at how i was both stupid and tough; stupid for getting on the wrong trail and tough for figuring out where to go and how to get home. For not giving up. I didn’t give up. I knew I had to keep going, that no one was going to fix this, or pick me up, or save me.

I thought about Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed and what it must be like to spend that much time on the trail. I think i would like it. I thought about a hot shower or a hot tub. I thought and thought – What was the answer that the trail wanted to give me to all of my questions?

It gave me peace, but no answers. If there was an answer, it was, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will get there. They have gone before you. They made it. This has all happened before.”

Addendum: I was exhausted and barely able to walk the day or two after this. (Even today, I am hobbling around. It is a delicious soreness.) I had the best beer on the screened porch and ate potatoes with abandon for dinner. And more beer. The best part of the day was probably walking around town (Bryson City) while waiting for our table and running into none other than Ron from the trail. I recognized him and we sat in Adirondack chairs outside a pizza place and compared our days. He is 70 and had done 19 miles. I told him i couldn’t believe he was not sore; i was dying. He said that he couldn’t get up out of his chair. He was camping about Deep Creek and said he was having his third beer, and a pizza, because he’s a vegetarian. I totally dug that guy. Lisa, Nessa, and Robbie all humored me while I chatted with him for like 20 minutes.

Also, I pretty much swam in dogs that night. They are the best to snuggle and give comfort when you are sore and aching.

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I need to hike more. And float down cool rivers. And sit on screened porches.

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And look at bees on flowers.

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And get dog kisses.

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And talk to strangers. And walk, and walk, and walk.

This Week in Beloved Pet Deaths: The Dog Who Knew All My Secrets

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

I wrote about putting my cat, Scully, down on Monday. And then today, I realized that my beloved dog, Quint, the one that I mentioned not even being able to write about yet, had died five years ago today. Seems like it’s time to start processing that loss. So, here’s a little bit of what he was like, my buddy, my very best friend ever.

He was a lover of the lake and babies.

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A kid kisser.

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Kids get a lot food on them, though. (Yes, I think that’s Tiller’s hair when she gave herself the Bowie haircut.)

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He loved riding on the boat.

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And curling up next to someone on the couch.

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Or on the floor when they were sick and watching cartoons.

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He let the kids dress him up and play with him, with no complaints.

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And boy did he love going with us to the beach.

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It seemed like he always wanted to be where the pack was, following me or the kids around.

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He knew where the kids were is where I was.

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And he loved, loved, loved going for rides with me in the car. He was totally my co-pilot.

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And my foot warmer.

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And my best friend.

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The one to whom I whispered all my secrets, even the ones I was scared to say out loud, and who loved me anyway, and never told a soul.

Dead, Towel-Wrapped Cat, With a Daisy on Top

Monday, May 9th, 2016
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We had to say goodbye to Scully today. I’m not a cat person, but she was all my sister and I could have in our little apartment back in 1998. I had her before I had Todd, or a house, or kids. She outlived a second cat and a dog. She was a sweet girl, and her gray and white markings made Lisa and I think it looked like she was wearing a beret cocked over one eye. When she was younger, she could be bad. When Todd and I were dating, I brought him a snow globe from Alaska. He set it on an end table, and Scully walked over and swept it off the table and it shattered. Numerous houseguests and my very own mother were on the receiving end of a middle-of-the-night glass of water dumped on their head, courtesy of the Sculls. In her old age, she would walk around aimlessly, and meow at us until we would shake up the food in her bowl. I guess in her senile state, she thought it was empty. These are small complaints. She was a good cat.
Last photo of me and my girl. I'm going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

Last photo of me and my girl. I’m going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

 
In the end, she started going downhill pretty quickly, but she was never in pain, and I think we timed things right. It wasn’t the horrific emergency I experienced with Quint. (Total PTSD after that experience, and you will notice I have still not ever written in detail about it – it breaks my heart to think about him or look at photos of him.) I got to make the decision on my own time, and I held her while she quietly went to sleep in my arms with her head on my chest. We should all be so lucky. They wrapped her body up in a towel and laid a daisy on top and handed her to me, along with a sweet clay imprint of her paw. I was surprised I cried. I thought I was ready to say goodbye. I saw my neighbor, Paula, in the waiting room on the way out, and I could barely even speak. I was just a crying crazy woman, carrying around a dead cat in a towel with a daisy on top. 
Afterwards was a little weird. I got home and carried in a dead cat wrapped in a towel, and then realized I couldn’t bury her until the kids got home. So, then I couldn’t figure out where to put her down, because our house is so packed full of the stuff that used to be in our basement until the toilet backed up and we had to tear everything out. I decided against the bedroom because ew, dead cat in my bed. Decided against the kitchen counter or the kitchen table because ew, dead cat where I prepare and eat food. Didn’t want to leave her on the floor because Brody was WAY interested in dead cat smell. It would be my luck he would eat her.
Aside: This whole part reminded me of my grandma Palmer’s chihuahua, Princess, dying while they were in Savannah. Grandma just put her on ice in an Igloo cooler until they could get back home to bury her. What kind of crazy person drives around all weekend in a pickup truck with a dead chihuahua in a cooler?) In the end, I set her on bench by the kitchen table, with the daisy on top, until the kids came home. When Todd came in, I yelled, “Watch out, dead cat!” (He knew she was gone already; I’m not heartless.)

 

When Tiller got home, I went out to meet her and bring her inside and break the news gently, but old Eagle Eye Johnson saw the cat carrier in the carport in two seconds flat.
“What’s that?” said Tiller.
“Cat carrier.”
“What’s it for?”
“I had to take Scully to the vet to put her to sleep. She got really sick this morning.”
“Aww.”
“You wanna go inside? I brought her home and we will bury her when R. gets home.”
“Okay.”
“What’s that?” she said, pointing to the towel-wrapped cat on the bench in our kitchen.
“That’s Scully wrapped in a towel. You can see her before we bury her if you want, but you know her soul went to Heaven. You don’t have to look at it. It’s just a body.”
“Okay.”
“You want a snack?”
“Okay.”
A few seconds later, she said quietly, “This isn’t as sad as Quint.”
“No, baby, I don’t think it is. She was old. She lived a good life. She died peacefully.”
So, Tiller ate a snack, but not in the kitchen with the dead cat, and then we realized that if we were not going to wake up with a dead cat in the kitchen tomorrow, we needed to dig a hole and throw a cat funeral before 5 pm, because after that, we have karate and swim practice. I started digging a hole, and when R. came home, Todd told him and he came out and he was much quieter about it than Tiller was. I texted my commune sister wife, and invited her girls up to attend, because they loved Scully too.
Todd came out to help me dig the hole deep enough. (I am now interested in how people buried their dead in all this red clay. It wore me out digging a hole for a 6 pound cat.) We went inside to get the kids, and R. wanted to carry her body out. Out of all of it, watching my boy delicately carrying our sweet dead cat across the yard, her body wrapped in a towel with a daisy on top, got to me the most. Todd held her while the kids and the twins all went around the yard and picked flowers (yellow iris, red roses, and orange/yellow tickseed – I picked my favorite, hydrangeas). Then we asked if they wanted to see her one last time, so we unwrapped the towel and everyone looked at her, and talked about how it looked kind of like she was sleeping, but different, and she was still soft, but not warm.
Again, I said, “It’s just a body. Her soul is in heaven.” We wrapped her back up; Todd laid her in the hole. I picked up a handful of dirt and threw it in. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I said. “You can put some in, too,” I told the kids. Tiller said, “Do we have to say that?” “No, sweetie, you don’t have to say anything at all if you don’t want to. Or you can say whatever you want about her.” Each of them took a handful of dirt in turn, and tossed it in. No one said anything. “Rest in peace, Scully,” I said. “I loved you. You were a good cat.”

 

Todd shoveled the dirt over her and tamped it down, but just a little.  Then we each took turns laying our flowers on top of Scully’s grave, and then I held Rollie, then Tiller. And then sweet Leah said, “Can we have hugs, too?” I teared up, and I hugged Leah and Syd both. And then we all went inside or back home.

 

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Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully 1998 (?) – May 9, 2016. That’s Eddie Rabbit, watching over Scully from behind the azalea.

 

In the end, Scully lived 18 (I think) healthy, comfortable, well-loved years. She spent much of them sitting inside boxes and in sunlight streaming through windows. She left this world in the arms of a loved one as the breath peacefully left her body.

 

Rest in peace, Sweet Girl.

The Plain Gray Hat

Sunday, January 10th, 2016
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Remnants of a once vast collection. + one Argentinian fan.

Hats. I love’em. I used to collect them. Vintage hats in particular, but the random, really great baseball hat, here and there, too. Then I moved into a very small two bedroom/one bath bungalow with my boyfriend (now husband) and at some point, I could no longer justify the space needed to maintain a 100-200 piece hat collection.

So, on New Year’s Eve, I found out the party I was attending that night at my friend Cass’ house required hats. As in, “you need to bring funny hats.” THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER THROW ANYTHING OUT. I had hundreds of the perfect hat. I knew I would need those, even if it was 16 years down the road. Damn it.

Todd reminded me that I still had a few in a storage box in the basement. (I admit that it is also true that you kind of forget what things you have when you keep them in storage and you don’t really miss them.) I rummaged around in the basement and found the box. I opened it. I smiled involuntarily. I couldn’t help it.

Those hats.

I do remember when we moved and I put the rest of them into storage, I kept the “prettiest” one out and put it on our new shelves in the basement, along with many hardback books, photos, some artwork we’ve collected over the years, a collection of hammer heads and figurines that belonged to my grandfather, my old camera collection, and my pottery. (That stuff could be a post of its own.) The hat originally belonged to my Aunt Lessie, who was both an occasional Goat Man, and a very fashionable woman of Savannah. She also forever remains ingrained in my memory for insisting on going swimming at our neighborhood pool with us when I was probably 12 or so. She actually brought her own bathing suit. God, I wish I had that still – probably 1960s! She wore it with her swimming cap, also vintage, a plastic number with plastic flowers on it. She was well into her 70s by this point, and I think my Dad almost had a heart attack when she insisted on going off the diving board. 12-year-old me thought she was a badass. I still do.

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Aunt Lessie’s vintage hat that sits on a downstairs shelf.

She and Grandma seemed to buy many of their hats at Savannah’s Glendale hat shop. Most of their hats had the Glendale label sewn inside them.

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I love the internet. This postcard, part of the Library of Boston archives, was issued approximately 1930-1945.

Um, I guess I should admit that I also collect some postcards, but only of places that any line of my ancestors lived. (If you are interested in Georgia postcards, you can see the rest of that library’s archived Georgia postcard collection here.) I later ended up with these Aunt Lessie hats and about 10 others, plus Lisa and I split all of my grandmother Palmer’s hats. These are the only ones I kept.

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Two of my Aunt Lessie’s hats: The one on the left is Italian, and the one on the right is a weird, stiff material, with plastic flowers. I always loved the way it fit, although now I would probably not wear it often. For one thing, it looked better with my hair dyed black. I used to wear it with vintage dresses and Dad would call me Minnie Pearl.

 

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I did not inherit this hat (or her others) until after she died, but seeing photos of my grandmothers and Aunt Lessie wearing hats fueled my love for hats very early on.

My hat collection, though, really started one fateful day in Little Five Points. I believe I was skipping school that day, although I can’t quite remember the details. I was there with my friends Jenni, John, and. . .one other person, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was. Time makes things foggy. I bought this one at a vintage store. Or it might have been Junkman’s Daughter when it was over near where Criminal Records is now. Again, fogginess.

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Forest green beret with velvet bow.

Oh, how I loved this hat. I know exactly why; If you are a girl of the eighties, the hat with a bow might ring a bell for you, too.

In middle school, when that video came out, I wanted a hat just like Madonna’s. The green beret with the velvet bow was as close as I ever got. Side note: This hat was later hijacked for at least a year by my boyfriend at the time, who wore it liberally. He also wore eyeliner, because it was 1990. My Dad loved that I was in love with a boy who wore hats with velvet bows, and eyeliner. (And he was a Yankee, no less.)

My mom must have picked up on this new obsession, because she gave me the following hat for Christmas one year when I was in high school. (Jason B. Vat 69! And the pink cassette player from middle school. Lisa, why do we not have that any longer? It was awesome.)

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Me, wearing a hat from my mom. Christmas of my Junior or Senior year, I guess? That’s Pop sitting over to the side, wearing his signature goat man outfit.

So, over the years, I collected more and more of them. Vintage stores, yard sales, estate sales. It probably got out of hand, but if you ever loved collecting, you know how that happens. I had so many people start bringing them to me, because they knew how much I loved them. Here’s a not-so-great photo of my room at home one Summer.

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I used to have a protruding clavicle!

I must have really chopped my hair and it looks like it was black at this point. (I cannot even begin to remember what it was like to have so much time on my hands that I would move home in the summer and decorate my room. Does not compute.)

I know it was college, because my sister is wearing a hat that I either stole from my friend Mike Maier, or let him draw on. I know that the artwork on the hat is his. I believe he also drew on some shoes I had, and definitely some jeans. See all the hats on the wall? They went all the way around the room, and it was not the whole collection. There are some on the bedpost over my shoulder, too. You can also see the very odd 1980s intercom system we had in our house (behind the lamp).

Side note: I had a different room in high school. My sister moved into it after I left for college and I took over her room, shown here. In my old room, I would unscrew the intercom faceplate from the wall, pull it out, hide contraband on the ledge inside with the wiring, then replace the plate and screw it back into the wall. I struggle to see how my children will ever pull anything over on Todd or me.

Remember the boy with the eyeliner and the beret?  Here is a hat he gave me for Christmas the first year we were together. We were Freshmen at UGA at that point. It was a beautiful gift. (Another beautiful gift, in the background, is the fan and silver stand that my husband brought me from Argentina a few years ago. I have a habit of picking men who are more thoughtful than I am. Opposites attract, I suppose.)

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I adored this hat and yes, I kept it all these years, despite the fact that it was too small for my large head. I just loved it. I love it still.
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Side note: It was never lost on me that the boyfriend’s purchase, while acknowledging my love of hats, was also a nod to his obsession with Perry Farrell. I mean, come on.

There was one more hat in the box.

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The gray hat.

It is not beautiful. I don’t remember buying it or someone giving it to me, although someone must have. I do remember it being a staple of my wardrobe in college, though. I wore it almost daily, backwards (the 90s, yo), and I think that it’s functionality was the reason that I wore it so much. It was lightweight enough to wear in Summer and I didn’t care if it got messed up, so I wore it while I worked at The Grill, where every time you went home and you smelled like hamburgers and french fries (with feta) and grease. At one point, I lived in a three bedroom house on Prince Ave. with my friend Mya and a rotating cast of characters, sometimes as many as 6 of us living there at one time. There was also a time when every roommate also worked at The Grill and our house completely smelled like The Grill. It makes me gag now, the thought of waking up hung over, or having to be at work at 11PM for a night shift, and unable to find clean uniforms. We’d just share dirty work shirts off the floor of our bedrooms. My bedroom one summer was actually a dining room. With a curtain to the living room and a swinging door to the kitchen. (It is amazing what you start remembering when you start typing.)

I wore that hat out.

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So, here I am, on the day before New Year’s 2016, and we are asked to wear hats to my friends’ NYE party, and I open that box, and I am flooded with memories of high school, college, music, and friends. Of being excited by things and people and culture and life. But it was that gray hat that struck me the hardest. It made me think of that first time in my life that my heart was broken, and I didn’t know yet that pain lessens over time, or that you don’t actually need other people, because either way things will be okay. I learned that, if you’re patient, things will get better. I learned how to be alone and how to get over things, and how to love myself, all around that period of time that I used to wear that hat.

When I saw it lying in the storage bin, I immediately thought of this photo of me in the hat, and my grandmother’s vintage coat (GOD, why do I get rid of things?) standing on the beach in Charleston. I was brokenhearted and had that awful feeling of wanting to run away, of fear, of not knowing I would be okay. I remember discussing it all with my friend Matt, a fellow insomniac who visited me quite often while I worked the night shift at the Grill. We made the decision to drive to Charleston as soon as I got off work at 7 a.m. We took my truck, a hand-me-down tan Nissan truck with a camper on the back that had belonged to my grandfather, with zero bells and whistles and which smelled like old dog farts, no matter what I did to alleviate the smell. We drove to Charleston and spent a cold day walking the streets, snapping photos, and then finding a cheap motel. And the next morning we drove out to the beach – Folly, I guess – and we had breakfast and then walked on the freezing beach. He took this picture without me knowing.

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The other thing I notice about this photo is that it very clearly shows my “old” nose, before the drunken face-first wall incident of my 21st birthday, or the “Memorial Day drunk driver hitting us head on in Florida on the way back from Brant and Melissa’s wedding” accident, both of which busted my nose and required surgery to fix. It looks pretty much the same now, but I can still tell the difference.

I still remember that morning on a Charleston beach, and the thoughts I was thinking, the things making me feel sad and overwhelmed. The feeling of not knowing what would happen. I was on a precipice. And it reminded me of the sadness and depression I felt just last year in 2015, on a different beach twenty-five years later, where I walked my dog at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day, and snapped this photo of myself.

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There I was that morning, on another precipice, seemingly standing at the edge of the world. I was in a similar place: Not heartbroken, but sad, lost, frustrated, and wanting to run away from all of my confused feelings. The difference was that I had already been there once before. And I didn’t really run that first time, 25 years ago, even though I had the benefit of spontaneity, no responsibilities, and a road trip. I came back from Charleston to Athens, and I learned how to deal with feeling the things that I didn’t want to feel, and I learned that no matter what, I would be okay, because I loved myself and I could take care of myself. I learned that Everything would be okay.

And I learned it all while wearing one nondescript, really nasty, trashed gray hat.

Remembering My Grandfather, On the Eve of His Hundredth Birthday

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

My Grandfather, or “Pop,” as we called him, would turn one hundred years old today if he were still alive. I wrote about him pretty often, even before his death, as he was quite a character. After he passed away in July of 2009, though, I struggled to write about him. I would start writing and then not be able to finish.

I wanted to get it right. I wanted to make sure not to leave anything out. I finally got around to writing about him in December of that year, because I knew I could not let the New Year go by and not document his passing.

I write a lot, and never enough. I am sometimes feast or famine as a writer. I have written over 1,300 posts on this blog since I started it in 2004. Some of them were just to remember things, some of them I felt proud of, as they were poignant, or well-said. Some were funny, I think, others sad or angry. Some were shocking to others. Some even shocked me when they poured out. Some posts I think were complete crap, although I have learned the value of writing simply for the sake of putting words out into the world. It is an exercise in avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism.

So I wrote Don’t Puppydog It. I was proud of this post about Pop. I don’t say that about much of my writing. Most of my posts are very personal, but this one is, I think, personal and still accessible to other people who grew up with a southern Grandpa, or who sat by someone in the days before they passed, or who watched their grandma get dressed up for Saturday at the small town mall. It’s not very often I feel like I hit any kind of sweet spot in my writing, but this one felt right.  It’s about big things and little things, just like life. The big ones, like death, and heaven, and generations marching on and on. The little things: one man’s funny idiosyncrasies, and how they are passed onto his descendants. I am reminded that they don’t make people like they used to, that we have it so much easier in so many ways. There are little bits of his story that remind me of just how different modern life is compared to the world into which Pop was born in a small town in south Georgia, January of 1916. Pop was as imperfect as they come, but an interesting man, challenging, smart, and funny.

For all his flaws, I loved him very much.

And So We’re Told This is the Golden Age

Friday, January 1st, 2016

I often have grand ideas about end of year posts, New Year’s posts, the marking of the passage of time, and what it all means. This isn’t one of those posts.

I stayed up until 3 am with friends. I slept late in a bed fit for a queen. I awakened to coffee and bacon, and no hangover. I visited my sister and drank a cup of coffee with our families and dogs. I talked and laughed at a bar and drank a pitcher of beer with my best friend (spoiler: also my sister) while waiting on takeout barbecue, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. It was okay that this year I didn’t make them myself. I met my first stranger of the year, a sculptor named Nate who goes by Hugh, and I hit the jackpot and brought home a brown paper sack full of beer bottle caps for my son’s bottle cap collection.

I stuffed myself on beer, bbq, prosperity, and good luck while watching a movie with most of my favorite people. I am terrible about seeing movies in the theater. I always find other things to do, or to spend my money on. Even when they are on Netflix, it takes a while to get around to seeing them. So, for instance, I saw Grand Budapest Hotel in the theater, but had not gotten around to watching Moonrise Kingdom. Honestly, Lisa, Todd, and I were going to watch Love and Mercy (I was going to invite Kristin to come over and bring Danny Noonan the puppy!), but the sound was messed up, so we settled for Moonrise Kingdom.

Two things: First of all, I love Wes Anderson movies, but I find them completely overwhelming from a sensory and nostalgia standpoint. I find myself constantly distracted by thoughts like “I really need to wear more mustard and khaki,” or “I miss smoking,” or “Holy crap! My parents had that ashtray with the plaid beanbag bottom!” or “That’s totally what Tang packaging looked like when I was a kid!” or “If I were pregnant right now? My kid would totally be getting a Moonrise Kingdom-themed nursery!” Then I have to reign myself back in to even pay attention to what is going on.

Secondly, I had to watch it, because a few folks told us that our son was like Sam in Moonrise Kingdom. We spend a time or two a year yurting with friends. In the fall, we go to Fort Yargo (in Winder, near Athens) and spend a weekend on a peninsula. We have our own canoes. And now that the kids are all older, we slap lifejackets on them, send them off in the canoes, and pour a drink on dry land. This past October, our kids exercised their freedom in the natural world. And my son was a lone trailblazer. He would wake up and before I had finished my coffee, he was out in the canoe, shirtless at times, heading for the beach across the lake, all by himself. He wanted to be in that canoe by himself. He wanted to feel that quiet that you get in the middle of a lake by yourself, and to go somewhere that no one else is, and where none of your people can see you. We hear tell that he beached the canoe and swam by himself. I guess I am a terrible parent for letting my kid canoe out of my sight across an acre or more of lake, and for letting him swim unattended, but I think our kids never have enough time alone exploring nature, so I am willing to chance it. As he headed off numerous times that weekend (I think he may have done 3 or 4 trips out alone on the lake by himself each day), our friends commented that he was “like that kid in Moonrise Kingdom.” I knew enough of Anderson’s movies to know that might be a compliment, but it also meant, well, he’s kind of weird, but then the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing the movie to see a glimpse of what others were seeing in my son.

I saw it, too. His curiosity, independent streak, desire to explore, need to be and do things alone, and his innate craving to be in nature. I’m okay with the comparison.

After, Lisa and Dash went home, I decided to write while listening to my new records. Todd bought me a few albums: Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model; Squeeze’s 45’s and Under; U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky; Prince’s Prince; Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits; Joni Mitchell’s Hejira. (The Joni Mitchell album deserves a post all it’s own, but I’m working up to that one. Still thinking on it.)

I put on U2, because I’m obvious like that. Rollie sat down next to me with his Sherlock Holmes book, and he let me play with his hair. (He’s 12. I don’t get to play with his hair much longer, so I’m trying to take advantage of times like that.) We talked about U2, and we looked at the album cover, and I showed him photos of Red Rocks online.

I wrote some more while he read at my side. He asked if I would play “Cecilia” and I said “Yes, but we’re listening to the whole album.” His two favorite songs right now are Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It is not lost on me that this is fucking awesome. I told him how much my mom loves Simon and Garfunkel, and how much I love them, and how we would listen to Simon and Garfunkel on 8-track, and when “The Boxer” came on, I told him that one made me cry, and he said “why?” and I told him to just listen to the album, and one day it would make him cry, too. I didn’t tell him that it is a sad song on its own, and it reminds me of mom, and makes me feel like a little girl, or about my friend telling me that his father loved the song and one of his kids played it for him on his deathbed, but I thought it all, because I think it’s beautiful in the way that only a classic song can be as it infiltrates our memory and thought and intersects with bits of our lives like a puzzle piece.

Todd has since asked if he can watch Black Mirror, so the music is off and the tv is on. The cat is snuggling up next to me on a blanket and the dog is asleep in the chair next to me, and we’ve cleaned up spilled prosecco by turning over the wet cushion to the ugly ripped side.

All of that is pretty much what life is like in general. We turn over the cushion to the more comfortable side. The less wet and dirty side. It still might be a little torn up. We have to choose which side is better.

This was me last New Year’s Day, early on the beach at Cape San Blas.
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And here is me last night, laughing and giving the finger to 2015. (Okay, I’m actually giving the finger to my friend Jason’s parents while I sit on the toilet, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

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I know nothing of what this year meant. It may mean nothing. Things I know: I know that whatever I think is normal will change. I know that whatever happens, I will be okay. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen. I know I need to think less about it all, and that I need to put one foot in front of the other and try to enjoy the small, beautiful moments.

I thought that this wasn’t one of those posts, a post about the year past and the year to come, and what it might all mean. But then again, maybe it is one of those posts.

A Love Letter to Santa

Thursday, December 17th, 2015
Inaugural year of East Atlanta Santa at Joe's Coffee. 2007

Inaugural year of East Atlanta Santa at Joe’s Coffee. 2007

Every year we see Santa in our old neighborhood, East Atlanta. I can’t remember how exactly it started, but a bunch of folks with little kids bemoaned the mall santa cost, lines, and hassle, and we ended up spawning this amazing fundraiser and tradition. Joe’s Coffee (shout out to Dawn!) offered up their back porch that first year. Friends and neighbors, most without kids of their own, offered to dress up as elves. Dogs and adults and all manner of kookiness were welcome. The cost was, I think, a gift donated to Toys for Tots, or maybe even that first year they donated it all to the boys and girls club?

Tiller with Sheila the Elf, at Flatiron. 2015

Tiller with Sheila the Elf, at Flatiron. 2015

This kind of DIY, easy, laid-back event is precisely what I miss most about EAV. (Okay, well, maybe I miss the people just a little too.) One of those neighbors voiced his dismay that some of us who have been every year since they started putting EAV Santa on are now the old veterans. Which just seems crazy; It seems like just yesterday that I was in Joe’s wearing Rollie in a Baby Bjorn. This friend later posted a retrospective of their photos, and I thought I’d do the same. Well, turns out my archiving skills are not up to par, so I didn’t even locate the earlier mall santa photos. I couldn’t even find the actual picture of the kids with EAV Santa that first year (2007), but I managed, with Todd’s help, to locate a photo outtake in the back at Joe’s, along with all the other 8 years with Santa.

I’m not gonna lie, there were tears shed putting this together. My babies are babies no more. But they will have to deal with our yearly tradition of seeing Santa at Joe’s for the foreseeable future. It’s probably my favorite Christmas tradition. (Since my cousins and I don’t exchange Turtle’s Gift Tokens any more.)

East Atlanta, consider this a love letter. I miss you often. Wishing the villagers and the rest of my loves a wonderful Christmas and an amazing 2016.*

Ages 2 and 4: 2007

Ages 2 and 4: 2007

Ages 5 and 3: 2008

Ages 5 and 3: 2008

Ages 6 and 4: 2009

Ages 6 and 4: 2009

Ages 5 and 7: 2010

Ages 5 and 7: 2010

Ages 8 and 6: 2011

Ages 8 and 6: 2011

Ages 9 and 7: 2012

Ages 9 and 7: 2012

Ages 8 and 10: 2013

Ages 8 and 10: 2013

Ages 11 and 9: 2014

Ages 11 and 9: 2014

Ages 12 and 10: 2015

Ages 12 and 10: 2015

* If I put it out there to the Universe like this, maybe karma will make my 2016 a little better than 2015. No, I won’t be doing a Facebook 2015 Year In Review. People would be wanting to gouge their eyes out or slit their wrists in the bathtub reading that.

A Love Letter to Santa

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

A Sloan Kind of Morning

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

SloanI’ve been listening to so much sad and melancholy music this year, but I think I’m pulling out of it. Not that I will ever stop, because I love the sad and melancholy beauties more than any of the others, but I hear variety is also supposed to be good.

A few things have been a catalyst for this . . .  (more…)