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Is Martha's cousin an interesting enough character for "Seventh Grade"? I see her as shy, clumsy, and friendly. She likes sports but is lousy at them. She misses her friends at her old school, a Catholic school that closed because of low enrollment. She's chubby and short. She reads a lot. She has a lot of brothers and sisters--is she the youngest? Are the others all a lot older than she? What do her parents do for a living? Her mom runs a home day care; Lupe loves helping out and playing with the kids. What does her dad do?
My tooth hurts after biting down on popcorn ice cream. Did I irritate it, because it has a fracture and needs a crown? Or am I exaggerating the pain in my mind because of my hypochondriac tendencies? Not much I can do, as I'll have to wait two weeks before Dr. M. can put a temporary crown on the tooth, and I don't want to have to go see him before then, as with this winter and my new knee it's tricky getting there. Ugh. This will teach me to avoid nuts and crunchy stuff until I get the crown!
I love when bad things bring good. Last week, I had a tooth extracted and glumly sent my college-student son a text, "Tooth extracted. Soft food. Love you"--I'd told him I'd let him know how the dentist appointment went. So, home, I sat on the couch chewing gauze, ice pack on cheek, watching something inconsequential on TV, when I heard my son's signature knock! I limp over to the door (did I mention I'm also recovering from knee surgery?) and greet my son, who says, "Thought you might needs some friendly company!" Bless him, I sure did. Nice to feel loved.
Today is the anniversary of my right knee replacement surgery--it's my new right knee's birthday! What a year it's been--running back and forth to physical therapy, becoming mobile again and taking 7-11 walks and running to FSB and the Art Institute, even feeling braver about crossing six-corner streets at dark--until the cold weather triggered problems with my left knee, and worries about 2014 deductibles prompted me to schedule that surgery too. My favorite moments? After the surgery, my son's grin, happy I'd made it. Realizing J. and S. planned to stay with me every night I was in the hospital.
When I prepared for knee surgery, I found myself rereading Perry Mason mysteries that were like "comfort food"--Perry Mason always won, and the same reliable characters featured in each--Perry, Della Street, Paul Drake. Now I'm rereading Sherlock Holmes--also mysteries, with good ol' reliable Sherlock and Dr. Watson in each--but I feel less like I'm binging on the literary version of potato chips. The writing is so wonderful, transporting me to foggy nineteenth-century London and the Baker Street rooms and Sherlock's violin and opium pipe and loyal gang of street urchins, and stories featuring everything from orange pips to engineer's thumbs.
Going to Subway for a personal write-in after physical therapy has become a ritual, even more fun now that I've discovered their amazing veggie falafel sandwiches and now that they serve flavored coffee--and that they now have wi-fi! I can write my 100 words using Written Kitten (where a photo of a cute kitten pops up after you make a word count deadline). The people here are nice; one guy always notices when I haven't been here in a while. It's comfy, sitting here writing to pop music and sipping coffee, grateful for physical therapy and a place to write.
What is the difference between wimpy and appropriately cautious? Am I wimpy or sensible because I avoid walking on ice? It's not even three months since my total left knee replacement surgery. Yet I'm sure others have skated down the street soon after similar surgeries. But shouldn't I listen to my body and my "gut" and make my own decisions without looking to others for confirmation? Does it matter that someone may call me wimpy--I'm the one who will pay the price if I fall. And I'd be tempted to blame those who encouraged me to go against my gut.
S. is friends with the monsters under her bed.
She, the monsters, and the dust bunnies are buddies.
"I want to visit Monster Planet," she says. "Where you guys are from."
She grabs her monster dust. She knows that will make them sneeze. The power of the sneeze will shoot the monsters all the way to Monster Planet.
"But what if I hold your hand while you sneeze! I'll go with you!"
But she tells her cuddly lion and her teddy bear to hold onto her so that they can all go.
So, holding hands--"1, 2, 31"--S. sprinkles the dust.
I'm smiling. It's daylight savings morning, and last night my 22-year-old son stayed overnight with friends. I read his Facebook post about something, but it's one of the comments that makes me smile--"You're up? Let's go get pancakes." I smile because my son has a bunch of healthy friendships that I just didn't have when I was his age, and I'm so glad. They like and accept him and add stability and fun to his world. And today I have similar friends plus a supportive family, a dream job, and passions--reading, creative writing, my violin--that I love. I am lucky,
Stress. Outside the window, snow covers my landlady's lawn, and along H. Avenue, clear sidewalk probably alternates with undetectable ice patches. I'd probably stay inside anyway as I don't feel well, a bad cough signaling the beginning of a cold, but I still feel cabin fever. Which is probably part of my stress. Working at home is wonderful after recovering from knee surgery, but it's also isolating. And how to stop worrying about stuff I can't control, like my son's college classes? Not good. I tell myself: Think glad thoughts, pray, and be positive about self. Not working. Still stressed.
Now you know that Santa is magical.
He can do magic with time.
How else could he and his reindeer buddies deliver toys to all the world's kids in one night?
But when your parents are divorced, he does even more magic.
He makes time repeat itself, and he comes twice.
Here's what happens at my house.
On the day before Christmas Eve, Santa magically makes the calendar zoom forward a day.
Presto! It's Christmas Eve! Mom and I leave out cookies.
I go to bed. It's so hard to sleep, listening for reindeer hooves.
I wake up--it's Christmas!
Yes! Santa came!
Mom and I sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before opening anything. And after we open gifts, we eat birthday cake!
We go to church, and later Aunt S, Uncle J, Uncle C, and Aunt H come over. We eat pasta and everybody talks and laughs, and more gifts from Santa.
But at nighttime, Santa makes the calendar zoom back, and it's Christmas Eve again.
The next morning, Dad picks me up and I spend Christmas with him and Grandma and Grandpa. Lots of good food and hugs and more presents from Santa, and everybody talks and laughs.
Time. How much should I schedule without overdoing it and denying myself precious writing time? I'm excited about joining the chorus, and I also want to get back into swimming. But I love lazy at-home weekends where I can leisurely read and write--or go to Dunkin' Donuts and write. But why not plan to go to a Dunkin' Donuts or Caribou coffee for a solitary write-in right after chorus practice or swimming! I remember, back in high school, also being concerned about over-scheduling myself, as I was the kid who made straight A's by studying 22 hours a week.
Hurray! I can access "Written Kitten" on my netbook here at Starbucks, although the connection is very peculiar--when I try to check mail I get error messages, and although the little icon says I'm connected to the network, it mentions some weird problem with the adapter. No clue how to fix that! I try to open up "100 Words" and it's been a few minutes and nothing has opened--ugh! I get better reception at non-yupppie Subway. Still, it's fun to be typing on "Nettie" at Starbucks, and it is funny how I like yuppies places although I'm not a yuppie.
St. Patrick's Parade Day (when the real partying happens, when the river is dyed green), my son and I spend the day at A's, old country Italian who is like a mom to me, a grandma to my son, more family than many blood-related folks. Being Irish is complicated in our family, and my son is half African American: "If you'd started singing along with those people on the train, no one would have thought anything of it--if I had, people would have looked." Yet he'd be as Irish as any of the ones singing Irish ballads or drinking songs.
I hate when things don't work, Doesn't matter if it's an Internet connection or a scratchy pen, a story draft that I can't figure out how to revise, a relationship that is floundering, even seeing my son seeming to struggle as he works on his thesis--I just want everything to be perfect. I find that I'm not enjoying a pleasure, be it sunshine and blue sky or a quick nighttime chat with A., or that the vet found the problem with my sick cat, because I'm too busy stewing about a late bus or a rude salesperson. What a waste!
St. Patrick's Day, my gran's birthday. After reading an article about the estrangement between Irish Americans and African Americans, I buy a book by the author called "How the Irish Became White." I remember a fellow student in a Columbia writing class writing about how Italians weren't always considered white, either. As the mom of a son who will always been seen as African American despite his Irish ancestry, I have mixed feelings about my own heritage, remembering my gran asking me if it was OK to give a Christmas gift to the maid: "She's only a colored woman." Yikes.
So S., Monster-Under-the-Bed, Dust Bunny, Cuddly Lion, and Teddy Bear zoom out of the room and through the night sky. S. holds tight to Monster and Cuddly Lion. Monster holds tight to Dust Bunny. Cuddly Lion holds tight to Teddy Bear.
They pass by stars and planets with rings and moons.
They all find themselves all sitting on a soft green surface.
"Why, it feels as soft as marshmallows!"
She sniffs it.
"It tastes like marshmallows," Monster tells her.
"Only they're minty," Dust Bunny says.
"Here are some monster friends. They want to play," Monster says.
Monster children approach.
I am a worrywart, as my son and others who know me would readily agree, so recently I've wondered--what if someday I want to publish something that I've already posted on 100 Words? The 100 Word site assures me that I retain ownership--but will agents and publishers shake their heads, "Nope. Already published online." Of course, I could restrict my 100 Word entries to thoughts on the current day, but sometimes it's so helpful to figure out plot points and character traits in 100 Word "bites"--it's a nice tool. (Although it may be boring reading for fellow 100 Word readers!)
What of my childhood is worth remembering, and what better forgotten? I no longer respond to my cousin J's Christmas cards--there's no feeling behind them, no desire to keep in touch--so why respond? The essence of family is that there's a connection not to be broken--so if there's no real connection, why pretend? When I emailed her after she had her twin babies, she made sure to point out in her response that she wouldn't have time to keep in touch. And after learning that Uncle T died without anyone telling me, I no longer consider Uncle D as family.
Last night, trying to get rid of a dry cough, I make myself a hot toddy, using Jameson's my son and I bought for St. Patrick's Day. When I add the last swig and sample the toddy--ah. This is what I remember my mom and gran giving me as a child when I was sick. I feel happy, and yet. So much of my childhood I try to forget on purpose, as though another person lived it. Like my Uncle T. playing the accordion at family picnics--my relatives didn't even let me know when he died. Yes, a different person.
Yesterday I watched my ten-year-old nephew, and today I played video games with him almost all day. He said, "It's been two years since anybody's played this with me!" I'm glad I had the chance, although on the ride home, I didn't want to play checkers, what with him in the back seat, me in the front--hope he wasn't too disappointed. But I think--I didn't get a chance to be my brother's big sister, as our dad never told us about each other--but at least I get to be his son's aunt. I wonder if my brother ever thinks about this.
When C. came by to give me my share of our brother D's life insurance, he said he planned to buy something fun with his share, something that would bring pleasant memories of D. So instead of using the money for bills, I suggested to my son that we buy White Sox tickets. We'll go to games and remember D. Although it's awkward, as D never accepted that I was his half sibling; at my dad's funeral, he referred to me as his stepsister. But maybe he sees things differently now, glad that we think of him during happy moments.
I wish I felt better about myself. The reasons I'm down on myself are shallow, and I dislike the kind of people to whom they'd matter! I wish I'd gone to U of C not NW; I wish I'd graduated from NW instead of leaving because I disliked its shallowness; I wish my class rank had been higher; I wish I lived in a fancier place; I wish I had savings; I wish I had a PhD; I wish I had something to point to so I could say, yes, I made it! These feelings are shallow but they're mine.
- Burger King Sundays with my best friend J. when my son was a toddler, wearing a paper crown over his curls.
- long late-night conversations about religion with my (now much older) son
- Sox games and seeing my son's joy
- the phone call from the Reader, the editor telling me my story would be published
- K, at Walgreens, with a friend, telling me my middle grade novel was "amazing"
- getting the H. job
- falling in love with the Bobbsey Twins books and reading
- finding new books at second-hand bookstore or Goodwill
How fun to be back at the Cell for Opening Day, wearing my green White Sox jacket and hat, with my son in his black ones, and I remember when I first starting bringing him to games when he was about nine, and how I'd feel nervous leaving him in the seats while I ran to the restroom or for treats for us. Now he's six foot five and almost done with college, and he's a much more intelligent fan than me; I try to focus on the ball but find myself people watching or becoming lost in my thoughts.
Scary--I agree with Kirk's email, feel tempted to send him my healthcare horror story. Yet I'm glad people who were uninsured can now go to the doctor! I can't rail about "those people" because, for my entire childhood, I was one of "those people," living on welfare. But why couldn't Obama have been honest and not promised that healthcare reform wouldn't adversely affect anyone? Sure, I'm keeping my doctor--because I chose to pay more rather than thrust myself on the mercy of an HMO. The last time I was with an HMO, an incompetent ophthalmologist almost cost me my eyesight.
Am I becoming boring? D suggests I join them at the bar for J's performance. My first reaction--"Yes!"--but now I'm not sure. I don't know D well, won't know her friends. Traveling in the dark feels tricky since those horrific falls that triggered arthritis leading to knee surgeries...Still, it would be nice to be closer friends with D, and who knows what guys might be there, smile. But I'm shy, dread walking into a roomful of people I don't know, and will I recognize D? T is impatient, says "Go." and "See what it's like to be told sensible things?"
Too often I try to prove myself--I want to be interesting, full of life. But this weekend, I want to write, watch Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family, and clean. Boring--or is it? Writing about a mischievous witch and make-believe middle schoolers while sipping flavored decaf at Dunkin or at home, and lounging while vicariously enjoying adventures of young wizards and witches at a magical school--that doesn't seem so bad. I do feel bad that I didn't go see JC last night--but I tried, turned back, exhausted. And maybe it's OK, as a writer, to have a boring external life.
Harry Potter Weekends--love them. Funny, we own the movies, but something about knowing I can just turn on the TV and there they'll be--Harry, Ron, and Hermione--enjoying friendship and battling clear-cut evil with clear-cut good. I recall the wonderful magic of the books and think of unanswered questions. Snape--did he ever have moments of happiness since he lost Lily, and since she died? He's one of the most altruistic fictional characters since Jean Valjean. How does Harry reconcile his love for his father with the knowledge that his father cruelly bullied Snape? He names his sons after both of them.
Coming home tonight, I see K. running down the front stairs; her family used to live upstairs but moved suddenly, probably because her mom and boyfriend split up. Now, they're moving out their stuff, their lease officially over. She greeted me happily. Two years ago, she read my middle grade novel and told me, in Walgreens and with a friend, that it was "amazing." I told her I was sorry they were moving, and that I was working on a sequel and would send it to her mom. I feel sad. I hope K and her family will be OK.
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