Gonna Fly Now, Birthday Update

(I wrote this in January 2016. See updates below.)

This weekend, I read another writer’s list of New Year’s resolutions. Boy, did it get my thong in a twist. No, I don’t really wear those.

I subscribe to the guy’s blog. Like all of his other posts, it arrived via e-mail. But this one? Oh, this über-lofty index of 2016 personal and professional goals quietly lurked in my in-box, just waiting to be opened and read — and to smash my head repeatedly into a virtual row of middle school lockers. I innocently clicked on the message while emptying my trove of MacMail, thinking it was an ordinary post about his kids, his wife or his car — and I got swiftly knocked on my sweet, middle-aged ass.

This guy didn’t want to finish his first novel. He wanted to complete his sixth. BECAUSE HE’D ALREADY WRITTEN FIVE. He wanted to write three picture books. He wanted to win not one, not two, but THREE Moth storyslams in 2016. This, from a man who had already won eighteen storyslams in the past four years. And get this. He wanted to do yoga. Mother. Fucking. Yoga. I mean, Jesus H. — we  all “want” to do yoga — but this guy planned on going to class consistently. As in, three times a week consistently. And he shared that with other people, as if it were actually possible. Like it was nothing. Honestly? I fool myself into believing that bending over to move the rolled-up, dusty yoga mat in the basement while I’m vacuuming is something akin to a sun salutation. I’m stretching something in my lower back, because ow ow ow holding the wall OK I’m back up to a standing position while I lean on the vacuum. That counts for something Kundalinesque, doesn’t it? Fine. Hatha. Let’s call it downward mother pose. It counts, damnit. It just does. I’m too tired to even Google “yoga schedule” and just READ ABOUT when classes are available.

As I stared at this guy’s words on my glowing — nay, mocking — computer screen, I felt brutally beaten about the midsection. I felt like I’d been kidney-punched. Seven times. By God. And then chatch-kicked twice by Buddha, for good measure. I heard Burgess Meredith yelling in my head, growling at me to get up, Rocky McKitty, get back up. Eat lightning and crap thunder, kid! But I couldn’t. Not right away. God, I felt so flattened by his statements. So many worthy goals that this writer set before me. So much that he had already achieved. Like any good self-sabotager worth her salt in the ring, I kept reading. With my one good eye that didn’t need to get cut open.

This writer had lost thirty-three pounds, and wanted to lose twenty more. He wanted to launch a podcast. He wanted to publish AT LEAST one Op-Ed in The New York Times. At. Least. He hoped to deliver the kind of talk whose name we shall not name because it just hurts too much to say, but which rhymes with FRED. A goddamn SOUNDS-LIKE-FRED TALK. But that’s not all. He wants to pen a musical. Of course he does. For a summer camp. For the kids who go there and roast marshmallows. Of course he wants to write a musical for the happy summer camp for the kids who go there and roast marshmallows. This isn’t a goal so far out of reach for him, apparently. Because he has a composer-slash-lyricist in his virtual Rolodex, with whom he’s previously collaborated. Kill me now.

I reared up from my desk chair in a burst of adrenaline, reeling from the blows, and staggered over to the kitchen counter. My unsuspecting husband entered the room. I implored him to read the list while I lay my head on the cool granite counter, whimpering. He sat in silence for a few minutes, and then exploded while reading the text. “WHO IS THIS GUY?” he said, almost too conspiratorially. “DOES HE HAVE A JOB? WHEN DOES HE EAT?”

At that very moment, I wanted nothing more than to jump on the resulting bandwagon of snark, and summarily take this dude down, with my husband riding snarky-snark shotgun. How dare he flaunt his desires in front of all of us? (YEAH!) How dare he achieve, and make us all look woefully bad? (YEAH!) Entertaining and moral-building musicals geared towards children, for Chrissakes? Will this man stop at nothing? HARUMPH!

Then, I decided to look back at his earlier posts — ones he had written about resolutions in earlier years. This, from 2010: “Participate in The Moth as a storyteller.” For the first time. Ever. In 2009: “Land at least one paying client for my fledgling life coach business.” He admitted that he had failed in the pursuit so far. In 2011: “Publish an Op-Ed in a national newspaper. A failed resolution from last year.” He went on to list three more goals, all of which he failed at achieving in the prior year. I softened. I liked him a little bit more. Most of all — I admired him. He’s fucking accountable, a quality in which I am seemingly, perpetually lacking. He’d endured a great deal of hardship in his childhood, as I’d read in other posts. He simply wanted the most he could possibly squeeze out of his life, and he wasn’t afraid to fail at the attempt, year after glorious year. Good on him, I thought.

Some things would come to pass, I realized, as I read his yearly entries. Others would be achieved. Still others would fall off the radar. I thought about this for a few minutes. While I did so, the skies opened outside. My daughter gasped at the sound and sight of it. God had clearly left the hose running while he was away on vacation. Torrents, sheets, buckets — what have you — fell from the darkened skies. Then, as soon as it started — the rain stopped.

Just then, my daughter noticed a text from a friend. “Jessica says there’s a double rainbow outside!” she yelled, and bolted from the table to get a glimpse of it from our back porch. I followed behind her. One colorful arch, and a second, somewhat fainter, appeared above our garage. We called for my husband and son to join us, and stood in momentary quiet — considering the apparition.

I’d like to say that this event tied everything up neatly for me this afternoon — but of course, it didn’t. The rainbow faded as the sunlight receded. There was more homework to do, more cleaning, more messiness of life. The beauty was, as always, temporary.

[Writer’s postscript: Later news accounts indicated that this seems to have been the same time when David Bowie was passing through this life and entering the next. That moment stays with me, foolish and fabricated though it may seem. That much energy, that much creativity, that much life still left within him — producing such an effect on the world. I need to use all of mine up before I go. Even if it only amounts to an organized attic and a well-documented family history for future generations.)

The event did, however, cause me to think about the way I view difficult, dark times in my life, and how I view goals so often left by the side of my road. I see them as insurmountable and impossible, as forever, never-ending, Jesus oh Jesus why are things going to be like this until the very end of time don’t tell me any different because they will be they just will be. So what’s the use of trying? What’s the point of doing?

Because maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll shift things, McKitty. Maybe you’ll make it happen this time. Maybe you’ll get there, kid. So get up off the mat. Eat lightning and crap thunder. Just like you always have. Risk it. Give yourself another fucking chance. Do this. Go and get your goddamned life.

That hard-working writer assumes nothing is owed to him in this life. That’s the right approach. He shoots at all the targets with bravado. And he’s bound to hit something. God bless him for never losing aim, or looking away. His brass-coated cojones inspired the fuck out of me today. Mostly because I got pissed. Which is often the very best way to motivate my Irish tuchus.

What angered me most — and what shamefully lessened me — was not his own achievement. I truly don’t begrudge him that. I was angry about the fact that forced me to look at my own damn self, and at every excuse I’d offered up to bypass accomplishments. He’s earned every goddamned minute of whatever glory he feels. I’ve earned every small feeling I have about being less-than, underachieving, and unproductive. If happy little fucking bluebirds and writers fly beyond the rainbow — then, why oh why, can’t I?

There’s no good reason why, Judy. Simply no good reason.

So here then, are my goals for 2016. They are lofty and cocky. Far-reaching and exhausting. I’ll fail at most of them. But I’m gonna fly now, ummmkay? So stand back. I don’t know how big my wingspan gets. XO k.

Writer’s postscript: I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before and I’ve been moved by her observations. I seem to be an Obliger — one who is accountable to others, but not to herself. Like all of you didn’t know that already. If you’re struggling with habit-making, it’s an interesting book to read, and consider. 

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016 — MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT AS MY BIRTHDAY NEARS:

HEALTH

1. Lose 30 pounds in 2016. I’m going to San Francisco and Sonoma County for eight days. We’ll table that one until I get back from vacation.

2. Meditate several nights and several mornings a week. I had meditated most nights throughout much of the school year with my husband and son, but the practice has falled by the wayside during the summer. Just told my husband at dinner last night that we need to be 10 percent slower in our lives, once the school year begins again. “How can we take things away from the schedule and do that?” he said. “We can’t,” I answered. “We can only add something to make it so.”

3. Take a restorative yoga class once a week. I’m not meant for Kundalini or Iyengar. I know this about myself. And I’m really fine with that. But I do need to be very, very gentle with myself. I know this about myself now, too. I need to be still. To rest. To stretch and relax. It is not weak to lie down somewhere for 45 minutes and breathe deeply, and feel loved and cared for. It is necessary. I attended a gentle yoga class with my daughter last week and loved it. I’m returning at the end of August.

4. Recommit to twice-weekly weightlifting and several days of cardio exercise. It’s happening! Back on the horse. I’m up at 5:30 am several days a week — because I have to meet someone else at the gym. Again with the Obliging thing.

WRITING

5.  Have an essay published in the New York Times’s Motherlode column. No longer possible. Column is closed. 

6. Have an essay published in the Boston Globe’s Connections column.  This is possible.

7. Write several days a week. About anything. I’ve been doubting my ability. I need to get back into practice and not give a shit about the outcome.

8. Write the first draft of my screenplay. I have twenty-five pages written. More pages are possible. Just not right now.

9. Have an essay published in a print anthology somewhere. Could be about hats. Could be about French fries and the aiolis I have loved. Could be about being a survivor. I’m not picky. Sent one essay out. Need to send more.

10. Be diligent about submitting regularly to a variety of magazines. DONE! Two essays out now for literary journals. One essay hanging in limbo until I receive confirmation of publication from the editor.

11. Work on the elderly storytelling project with Nicki. Not sure about the status of this project. What is it? Why are we doing it?

STORYTELLING

12. Perform in — at least — one Moth StorySlam this year. Preferably before mid-year 2016. Win one, too.  I just have to get the damn tickets. These shows sell out in minutes these days. Thanks a lot, Lena Dunham.

13. Perform at the Woodstock Writers Festival StorySlam this year, and win it. DONE! Performed and won!

14. Perform at several other storytelling events in the Northeast. At least two other venues. Need to research this.

NEW PROJECTS

15. Build a creative writing space for me to hole up in and make epic shit. DONE! We even made a crafty space for my daughter nearby.

16. Organize all photos/video so you don’t panic at 3 am about losing the visual talismans of your children’s lives, when DVDs get scratched and computer files get corrupted. Make photo books. Print out hard copies. Organize them by year. Make duplicates, so there’s no fighting over photos when they move out, or if they’re lost to the ages. Terrified of the enormity of this project. Not happening as of yet.

17. Continue the Creative Coven. Not sure where this stands. What should this become? Is it still needed? 

18. Volunteer regularly and include my children in this activity. Head out of ass. Ditto for kids. Be a better human being. Consider others more often. Give away more of myself. Help people.

19. Clean out and organize our attic. Make better use of available space. Give away things no longer needed. Let go. Still in process. Made progress in the spring.

MISCELLANEOUS

20. Get into New York City more often. I am me, I am alive, I am closer to everything I am capable of becoming when I am at home in that world. Go time is September – November, and again between April – June. Make plans. Write things down. GO.

21. Spend more time with my husband. I fucking hate the phrase “date night.” Ewww. But there it is. I love him awful, Ma. Even more important, I like him. I want to be around him more — you know, when we’re both conscious. Happening. See CA trip above. 

22. See more movies.  They spark my creativity. Need to do more of that.

23. Read. Crucial to my progression as a writer. Why am I avoiding it? Because my attention span has been shot to shit by social media. I want to severely limit my presence there. See below. 

24. Make peace with social media. I can’t eliminate it from my life. But I can continue to lessen it. Major goal for me throughout the rest of the year. I need to step away from social media. 

25. Keep playing drums. Don’t give a fuck about how good or bad I may be.

26. Play my guitar more often. Not happening. 

27. Learn to crochet or knit. Make something warm and comforting for someone whom I love. Not happening. 

28. Fall deeply in love with myself.  Not like an asshole. Like a good, caring, decent, kind and wise woman should. Fits and spurts. 

 

 

 

 

The 52 Lists Project: List the wildest things you want to try.

I have always lamented my abject wussiness.

As a small child, I watched from the sure safety of ground level as my peers clambered to the top of city schoolyard monkey bars, and swung upside down from metal-chained swings. This was the seventies, of course, before a generation of fearful parents nullified — or at least, successfully sued against — risky, lead-paint-adorned, and terribly fun playgrounds, replacing them instead with injury-proof play structures formed from molded plastic, and banality.

I was perpetually reticent at such a young age — opting far too long, for example, for the less-popular “uniskate” option, while my more daring friends sailed past me, balanced and confident, on the more popular choice of two rainbow-laced disco skates. I didn’t cheat on tests. Because nuns. I shied away from MTA-bus-surfing, as so many other kids did in the city — clutching to back bumpers from their ten-speed bikes and skateboards. I didn’t ring and run. I never even progressed to Double Dutch jump roping, for fear of tripping and breaking a limb. Quite the shonda, for a Queens kid. An embarrassment, really.

Some might argue that I was simply more aware, more astute, more mature than others, at that tender age. Others would say that such anxieties are inborn, or the product of, say, a girl’s city childhood during a tempestuous, crime-ridden era. I don’t know. I was mostly watching “The Love Boat” with the air conditioning on full blast, and afraid to answer the door in case the Son of Sam was on the front stoop.

What I do know is this: I wish I’d taken more risks. I’m glad that I’ve chosen to be more of a risk-taker, as I’ve grown older. I’m sure that some of my life choices which I’ve viewed as commonplace — living in downtown Manhattan, for example, doing stand-up comedy in New York, or choosing to travel to foreign countries alone — would be viewed as wild by others. Perhaps I don’t give myself enough credit.

This week, I’m writing another list from Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists Project: The wildest things I want to try. See below.

List the wildest things you want to try.

  1. Race at Lime Rock Park.
  2. Perform at — and win — MOTH storytelling events.
  3. Write — and sell — a screenplay.
  4. Write — and publish — a novel or memoir.
  5. Buy myself a vintage drum kit and play it really fucking well.
  6. Take a cross-country road trip with my husband and kids.
  7. Host a girls’ weekend in Vegas.
  8. Wake up and buy a plane ticket on a whim to a random destination — and travel there that day.
  9. Live in AirBnbs — or whatever the fuck they call those things — for weeks at a time and being able to live temporarily in: NYC, San Francisco, Sonoma County, LA, Ojai, Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, New Mexico, New Orleans, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Toronto, St. Bart’s, Cuba, Paris, London, Dublin, Rome/Venice/Florence, Madrid/Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin, Mykonos, Santorini, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore…
  10. Swim naked in the ocean. Just not bodysurfing. Ouch.
  11. Run the NYC Marathon. Just once before I’m dead.
  12. Audition for a movie.
  13. Write and perform in a one-woman show in an NYC theater.
  14. Drive a motorcycle.
  15. Spend a night in a haunted house.
  16. Meet with a psychic (I’ve seen a few in the past) and ask questions.
  17. Take an underground tour of NYC, and find abandoned subway stations.
  18. Host a ridiculous party. An insane party. With live music and fire and couches and tattoo artists and whiskey and swings and pie.
  19. Form an improv troupe.
  20. Host a podcast.

There are several other items on my list — which I will not mention in public. Because I’m a nice girl. Or at least play one on TV. Cough.

What’s on your list?

 

52 Lists Project, continued

Several years ago, I stumbled across something called the 52 Lists Project, which was conjured up by Moorea Seal, a creative soul and lover of lists.

I began scribbling — or more accurately, typing — lists based on Moorea’s weekly prompts, which inspired me and ignited my brain cells. After about three months, I noticed that the prompts stopped coming. Moorea had pitched her idea for weekly list-making to a book publisher. And sold it. Good on her. So, I bought the book and delved back in. If you’re interested, it’s titled The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration.

Seal’s structure allows you to start at any point during the year. I like that. There’s too much pressure in January to develop new habits and clean chalky slates. I’m starting up again today, simply because it’s Wednesday, and because I want to do something positive, no matter how small it might seem. XO

 

List the things that make you feel healthy: mind, body, and soul.

1. Rising early in the morning with the sun. The days are growing shorter, as the summer fades into another blessed memory. This winter, I promise to employ one of those cool blue lightboxes to help me wake more gently. Without wanting to bludgeon someone with my bedroom slipper or smother them with a decorative bed pillow. That kind of thing.

2. Getting enough rest. I’m waking more often in the middle of the night. Not sure if it’s hormones, age or worry — or my beloved’s involuntary snoring. Or all of the above. I’m using every trick in the book to log enough hours of shut-eye, and stay asleep.

3. Meditating for a few minutes each (or at least most) nights. I feel relaxed, calmer and softer afterwards.

4. Exercising. I love boxing. But Gawd, I hate running. I might have to let that activity go. Everything hurts for too long afterwards when I run. I have to exercise. I always need to be doing something — to somehow move my body. I get ornery after a few days if I don’t. Exercising — and sweating — keep me sane.

5. Yoga. Why have I fought this practice? Why have I fought so many practices that are good for me? What if I didn’t do that anymore? I’m going back to yoga again. My back and my hips and my shoulders all opened and softened last week, after a 45-minute class.

6. Drinking a shit-ton of water. Preferably lemon-lime seltzer.

7. Avoiding sugar. I’m the proud descendant of generations of superlatively Irish drunks, ergo — sugar doesn’t agree with my genetic makeup. When I have too much of it, I spike and rush and crash every damn time. And then seek out more of it, like a textbook junkie. I need to stop seeing the limitation of it in my diet as deprivation. It isn’t. It’s self-love, sweet fool.

8. Not taking as much shit as I used to. I recently had a showdown with a family member. At least in my own mind. Enough, I said to myself. Basta, O Not So Nice Person. I’m not a toy, or a punching bag, or a repository. I’m no longer a defenseless little girl, who should have been protected from such harm in the first place. So, I’m drawing a kind line in the sand. Detaching with love. I am vulnerable and open. But I’m not stupid. Far from it. So why be a victim? I say no now. And that feels healthy.

9. Crunching on mini bell peppers throughout the day. I wash a bag of them in the morning, empty them into a bowl, and leave them on the kitchen counter for all-day grazing. There’s satisfaction in the snap of biting into them. Nom nom nom.

10. Reading. It’s been difficult during the summer. I need to make that less so in the fall.

11. Writing.

12. Sleeping in bed with my husband sidled up next to me. I speak of this often. Other people don’t always like to sleep this way. That’s fine for them. Do whatever feels good, peeps. This is everything for me — this is the peace of a thousand years, the sense that his muscles, his mind and his soul are so relaxed and eased by the nearness of me, and that he senses the same within me, as we both breathe deeply and drift into sleep. This isn’t found in a casual relationship or a friend with benefits. This is hard-won, from years of marriage and searching, soulful work. I feel healthy and sane in such a thought — that I’ve been a partner in creating such an emotional place of being. We’ll be married twenty years in the fall. That feels so healthy.

13. Working out at the gym. I’m getting older, but I still lift shit. I still slam sledgehammers on tires, still do bicep curls and skullcrushers, still row and pull and push and lunge. I still exert myself. My grandmother was wearing old-lady lace-up shoes and letting her hair go gray at my age. Fuck, no. I’m in perpetual pursuit of guns. (I mean delts, not weapons. Sheesh.)

14. Getting massages. It took me years to allow myself to be touched. I started massage therapy in my twenties, when I was running long races, and hobbling around with tight muscles. What resulted was an unexpected bonus — laying my head in kind strangers’ hands, and letting them heal me. I’ve cried on massage tables when it’s been safe to do so. I’ve made weird noises when prompted, and even cursed a bit under my breath, too, at the pain. These sessions have helped me so much — to relieve the hurt in my muscles and in other tender places.

15. Nurturing my children, and my ever-evolving relationship with them as they grow older. I came from a home that did the best that it could — but, to be honest, never should have been built in the first place. I didn’t necessarily come from a place of love, but instead — mostly from a place of sadness and unintentioned mistakes. That makes some people uncomfortable when I write such things, but it’s freeing to me to say so. I shed light on it, and it grows smaller each time. Many people have experienced the same childhood pain. My greatest goal in life is to end that thread, to set that baggage aside, and heal the karmic hurt that I — and so many generations before me — have felt. I want our children to know an inordinate amount of love, for themselves and each other, and for everything that my husband and I have built here — so they can build their own structures, their own homes, their own places, and love so much more.  I want them to know what kind of love they blossomed from. I don’t want to perpetuate the pain that so many of my ancestors have felt. I want to heal it. That feels like a healthy pursuit.

16. Seeing friends. Having friends. Knowing funny and kind people. Being a friend to others. Feeling full up with so many characters in my life.

17. Setting limits. Saying no more often. Not spreading myself too thin anymore. I can’t.

18. Seeing a doctor who specializes in integrative medicine. Not focusing on random symptoms. Looking at the whole picture, and the whole person, seems so much healthier.

19. Asking for help when I need it.

20. Forgiving myself. Being kind to myself. Accepting more of myself.

21. Not responding right away. Waiting. Counting to ten. Breathing.

22. Eating less carbs and more protein and veggies.

23. Not fucking around. Just saying what I feel — as honestly, clearly and kindly as I can.

 

What I Wish I’d Known (in homage to Nora Ephron)

It’s better to be interesting than impeccable.

 

If you’re lucky to live long enough, you’ll see it again — but it will cost you more the second time. Examples: Bob Dylan, the Musée d’Orsay, the revival of the Broadway musical, childhood toys and vinyl albums happened upon at antique stores.

 

The person she was at twenty-five is the very same person she is at forty-five — but now she just has slightly more expensive shoes in her closet.

 

Don’t give too much of yourself away. You are not common.

 

Stretching is no joke.

 

Social media isn’t getting you more exposure.

 

Let him make you breakfast. Eat it naked in bed with him. Don’t worry about crumbs.

 

Time is far better spent in the devouring of novels, than in tubs of popcorn at forgettable summer blockbusters.

 

No one is sane. Especially you. So stop trying so hard.

 

Waterproof mascara has its cons.

 

Don’t sleep so far away from him.

 

People who say “I don’t judge” are most assuredly doing so — at the precise moment that they’re uttering that very sentence.

 

Let the saleswoman fit you properly for a bra.

 

White zinfandel and port give the worst hangovers.

 

The dishes can wait.

 

You don’t have to vacuum if you have dimmer switches.

 

No one is happy all of the time, no matter what their voicemail message sounds like, what their Christmas letter says, or how clean their car interior is.

 

Don’t lend people any amount of money greater than twenty dollars, unless it’s a matter of life and death. Otherwise, it shifts the balance of things.

 

People who have no regrets are delusional liars.

 

White upholstery and young children are a bad mix. Upholster everything in chocolate brown, and let them build forts and bounce in knee socks.

 

You were far prettier than you ever realized.

 

You will have nothing to show for a half-hour spent with your wet hair, a round hairbrush and a nozzle hair dryer, once you step out the door into a humid August morning.

 

Read a few books about pregnancy. Read none about menopause.

 

There’s no end date on the parenting gig. Ever.

 

A cluster of candles in a softly-lit room is a woman’s best accessory.

 

Wear what makes you appear trust-worthy, wise and touchable.

 

You’ll own the room if you order scotch instead of white wine.

 

Get in the pictures more often. Even if you’re ten pounds heavier than you want to be, even if you don’t like your haircut, or even if you haven’t put on makeup yet. They won’t notice any of that when they discover those pictures of you after you’re gone. They’ll just feel your love around them a little bit more, and only see how beautiful you looked.

 

No one will ever love you in the way that your mother does. Your father loves you, but not in the same way that your mother does.

 

Dogs are problematic and messy and worth it. So are children.

 

Flirt more. Let life fall more sweetly in love with you.

 

Take off one item of jewelry before you go out to the party.

 

When you find the right shade of red lipstick that suits you, buy as many tubes of it as you can possibly afford. And then buy two more.

 

Stick with the instrument lessons.

 

It doesn’t matter if they’re first or second cousins. They’re family.

 

There’s no shame in believing that they have to earn it. That’s not arrogance. That’s self-preservation.

 

Ask your grandmother or mother to make your favorite dish, pie or cookie for as long she’s able. Stay in the kitchen with her while she sifts and stirs. You will never replicate the exact texture, taste or aroma — but each time you cook with her, you will more deeply imprint the sensory memory, and it will then be more easily conjured and comforting to you, when the loss of the dish — and of her — clutches you in the randomness of subway commutes, and in drives late at night on the highway.

 

New York City outlives everyone.

 

Love them anyway.

 

Love yourself a whole lot more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pieces of Me

I am ten and I am crying, because I am scared and my stomach hurts. My mother is pale and stern, standing before the lacquered mahogany door to my bedroom. Her hand rests on the old glass doorknob, which is cut like a faceted diamond. She is yelling at me, but I don’t know what she is saying. I know that she wants me to stop crying, to stop being like this. My father enters the room and crosses in front of her. He kneels in front of me, and asks me why I’m upset. My mother doesn’t move from the doorway. I tell him I don’t know, and I cry harder. My words catch in clutches and the back of my throat tightens and burns, and it’s hard for me to talk. He kneels down and he puts his arms around me, and he hugs me until my diaphragm stops spasming. The palm of his hand rests on the crown of my head, and I feel mostly safe — but not entirely, because I think that we are both somehow betraying my mother, and that I will suffer for his kindness.

***

My husband and I are sitting together on the couch in the beginnings of a Sunday morning. We are in a small town in the Catskills, and we are both reading from books that we’ve purchased from the small bookstore in the town center. Birds are chirping and trilling somewhere outside the house. My husband gets up to look for the feathery source, and calls me to our front door. A large, gray bird trills in the snowball hydrangea bush near our front steps, and we watch him from behind the panes of glass. He — or she, we’re not sure — is twitching and fussing at a nest secured in the boughs. We had noticed the nest earlier in the winter, and assumed it was unoccupied, or left behind from a pregnant spring. Still, we left it untouched. Places like the Catskills lend themselves to letting nature lie fallow and run its course — trees upturned and rotting in clearings; the bones of animals left to whiten in the sun in undiscovered places; groupings of twigs and pillars of stones that give meaning to other builders in their fragile construction. A second bird alights outside our door, and the nested bird puffs up and trills. We make a joke about summer rentals and latecomers to BnB websites. Are they together? I ask my husband. Or is he an intruder? How do they know who to pick, who to reproduce and nestle and settle with in the small space of life? I think. How do any of us decide?

***

I often find myself explaining things like air-conditioning wall units and pay phones and cathode ray tube televisions and rotary dials and hot rollers and flip calendars and metal Rolodexes and suntan lotions that offer no greater protection than SPF 8 and crank windows in large American cars and typewriters and transistor radios and the gasoline shortage and the whole notion of UHF and VHF to my children, but not for very long, because then they’re off to something else. I sit in the hyphen of space that separates the telling and the next moment of our lives — and wonder what will happen when my generation is gone, and no one remembers these things anymore. I decide that I’m just alligator-wrestling with my own mortality in those moments, personifying myself in cast-off objects that end up oddly stacked together on thrift-store shelves.

***

My husband and I are planning a trip to Big Sur this summer, to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. We haven’t been to Big Sur in more than fifteen years. I was young and lithe and smooth when we last visited. We were transplanted newlyweds living in San Francisco then, trying to make some sense of California, and where — and if — we belonged. We stayed at the Ventana Inn, a cliffside resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and brought along a camera that neither of us were particularly skilled in using. An unseen hotel employee laid a fire for us before we returned to our room each night. I was embarrassed at such a gesture. Who was I to deserve such labors?  I felt uncomfortable about the exertion and the transference of energy, about the wood breaking down and the ashes that remained, just so I could have misappropriated comfort and luxury. We stayed for several days, and I often lay naked on the white, white pillows that adorned the hotel room’s gargantuan bed. It was too big for us. We hadn’t grown into our lives — or our marriage — yet. One morning during our stay, my husband grabbed the camera, stood over my naked form on the white, white bed and asked to photograph me. I complied, denying my beauty, even as he sighed at the sight of me. After he shot several photos, we lay together and looked at the images on the digital screen at the back of our Canon Rebel. My husband gripped the black case and gasped at my beauty, eager to show me what he had seen. I waved away his love with criticisms of my skin tone, my lopsided breasts, and my soft double chin that emerged when I propped my head up awkwardly on those white, white pillows. So young, so embarrassed, so undeserving. He refused to delete the photos, even when I protested. We left Big Sur and grew older and moved away, and hid the photographs somewhere in the digital folds of our hard drive, once our children were old enough to navigate the computer. This morning, before the children woke up, I wondered aloud where those pictures had gone. My husband jokingly asked if I’d like to have large matte prints made of them. Yes, I said — but just the one where I’m lying in bed looking away from you, I said, and you can really see me. Yes, he said. I remember that one. And he smiled at me, and we were still sort of young — but we are mostly glad to be this old now.

 

City Spring, 1978 — A Monday Haiku

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City Spring, 1978 — A Monday Haiku

 
On Avenue H
Near a Brooklyn chainlink fence
Honeysuckle grew

***

My grandmother sat
On a bench nearby and talked
I breathed in sweetness

***
Up from the asphalt
This wild aromatic bush
Offered me pleasure

***

Soft scent, cold metal
Caressed the tip of my nose
Reaching through the wire

***

I must have been eight
Two springs after Pop had died
The memory stays

***

Near cigarette butts
And broken beer bottles
Hope bloomed on the vine

Things I Know For Sure, At the Rest Stop of Forty-Five and a Half

  1. Bigger kids, bigger wine glasses.
  2. Soon means never. As in “let’s get together soon!”
  3. Sleep is for the just. And for the heavily medicated.
  4. No one is talking about you, and everyone is talking about you. So just do whatever the hell you want, anyway.
  5. Add four weeks to every estimate given to you by a contractor. Even it’s just to install a shelf. One shelf. Four weeks. Six, if he’s your brother-in-law or first cousin.
  6. You’re going to die. Not in the next eight minutes, but with each passing  year, the odds are becoming increasingly likely. Especially if you keep celebrating your birthdays with hookers and coke. Or even worse, with Fudgie the Whale birthday cakes. Because that Carvel shit’ll kill you.
  7. Should is a four-letter word. Just with two silent letters.
  8. Music was better then. It just was. No matter what your fourteen year-old says.
  9. The popcorn and soda combo at the movie theater is not a better deal. Sure, it seems so at the time, but at 3 am the next morning, in the pale light of the bathroom vanity mirror, you gain clarity.
  10. You’re not as talented as you think, or you’re more talented than you know. You’ll never find out unless you do the damn thing. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Knit it. Create it. Do it.
  11. Your mother was right about certain hairstyles, wardrobe and footwear choices, ex-boyfriends, apartments, and sectional couches. Let her know before it’s too late.
  12. Writing one page a day means you’ve written 365 pages in a year. 244 pages make for a decent book. Do the math. Then write it, for God’s sakes. See #6.
  13. Little boys still need to sit on their mother’s laps sometimes and be rocked. Especially on Monday mornings. Worried, middle-aged men still need similar acts of kindness. Especially on Sunday nights. Nurture men, young and old. Be tender with them. Heal the hearts of little boys inside grown men. It helps the world in the long run.
  14. It’s better to give love away. All the time.
  15. All deep house music tracks are about 1:30 too long.
  16. If you feel the same lump in the exact same place on the opposite side of your body, you probably don’t need to call the doctor.
  17. The fourth cocktail is never, ever worth the trouble. Even if someone else paid for it.
  18. Smartphones have not made us smarter.
  19. No one is perfect. Most of all, you.
  20. Comment less. Nod more.
  21. Have sex now. As much as you can. Say yes to each other. Don’t worry about thighs or paunches. Dim the hi-hats. Light candles. Be available. Laugh.
  22. There is no hell. Except the one you create for yourself.
  23. The view of Manhattan from Brooklyn’s River Cafe is the Ninth Wonder of the World.
  24. Happiness is often unattainable. Run towards it anyway.
  25. Don’t eat the food under the heat lamp at the highway rest stop. It’s an interstate conspiracy to force you to stop multiple times along the way, use the bathroom again and be tempted by even more disgusting food, and become trapped in a cyclical hell of travel. Pack a lunch instead. You’ll make better time.
  26. If he kisses you on your forehead, pays the bills on time and is kind to your mother, then he loves you.
  27. Don’t wait for the sign. It never comes. But look for it afterwards. It always shows up afterwards.

Things I’ve Fallen In Love With Lately

It’s been a while since I’ve been writing here at Sweet Jesilu, but the always-inspiring Lindsey Mead at A Design So Vast motivated me with her recent blog post: what have you fallen in love with lately?

 

Unplugging from social media.

I can’t deactivate from it entirely, because hello world we’re living in. But I am turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to ranting and screaming and conspiracy theories about Obama and trolls and passive-aggressive comments and questionable news articles and absolutely everything Kardashian, as well as plenty of other things that no longer serve me. It’s a little weird to unplug at first, but once you step out of the virtual hamster wheel, you can see that it’s going nowhere. So much energy is wasted.

 

The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.

Yes, I’m late to the Tolle party. No, I can’t sit on a park bench for two years and watch the world go by, as the author once did. But there’s something here within these pages to grasp and better understand. I’m a life-long student. I’m here to learn until I die. I’m underlining lots of sentences in this book.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff.

This woman is just the bomb and the shit and the fuck. Visit her at her website.

 

Making a writing space for myself.

It’s cramped and it’s in the basement but it’s mine and my drums are there and I’m happy.

 

Bodywork and massage therapy.

I am tight and I am tired and I am sore. A few weeks ago, my amazing, kick-ass massage therapist held my head and whispered, “Little warrior, lay down your armor.” My jaw clenched, resisting the release. I heard myself whisper, “No.” I twisted away from the pain. Tears streamed out of my right eye. Ah, that’s your masculine side, she said. She was right — the tough-guy identity I adopted from childhood, constructed largely from fear, unintentional abuse and shame. Lay your body down, baby girl. Let go. It’s time.

 

Drinking cups of blackberry mojito green tea with my daughter, which she brews for me.

It’s really yummy. So is she, when she’s all fired up about politics and books and her life, which she shares with me for a few minutes while we sip from mugs.

 

Doing the work.

I’ve submitted four essays this week to various magazines and journals. A delightful way to avoid writing the screenplay in my head. But, still. Four fucking essays. If we all spent less time being jealous of or comparing ourselves to others — or even fearing our own potential — we’d find so much more time for ourselves, and just might create something that the world is waiting to receive. In that span of found time, we might only produce something as simple as a sentence. A drawing. A photograph. A thought. A feeling. Or it could possibly be the biggest, greatest, juiciest project/idea/installation/book/sculpture/dance/mathematical equation that Life has ever seen. All with that one hesitant step, taken after putting aside the fear of comparison and criticism and failure. Step. Go. Do it.

 

Seeing the irony, and saying nothing.

In both myself, and in others. Watching as people do the exact opposite of what they preach. Witnessing the quiet excellence in others, as they wave away praise. Noticing my difficulty in going cold turkey with anything. Acknowledging the gorgeous, exhausting dance of humanity.

 

Myself, again.

I didn’t come from an entirely happy place. But I’m making one now for myself, as best I can. I am worthy of this. Perhaps that ripples out towards the people I love and strangers I meet along the way. That’s my intention. Listen for me when I pass by. You are lovable, too. You are worthy. Believe that.

Things I love about men


(This Wood Brothers video was filmed at my grandmother’s former Catholic grammar school — St. Cecilia’s — in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. I love that.)

I’m just gonna come out and say it. I love men. I do. I’m a big fan.

I don’t love all men. Not so much with the deadbeat dad type. Or the one who screams at his son in front of everyone else at the baseball game, the school concert, and in church on Christmas Eve. I’m not a fan of the serial cheater, or the cowardly abuser of women and children — or of other men, for that matter. Nope, not a fan of any of those. I don’t really see them as men, anyway.  They’re facsimiles. Not the real deal.

Walk around Manhattan for a few years in a skirt, and you’ll find some examples of not-so-good men. I’ve been leered at in midtown like I had thin slices of hot pastrami dangling from each ear. (I may have, actually. I was a messier eater in my twenties.) Don’t even get me started on the flashing. There are more exposed penises on the 4/5/6 subway line than in all the urologists’ exam rooms in the tristate area. (Take the 2/3 downtown instead. Far fewer penises.)

I do love the idea of men in general, though. I love the way they can smell like a mixture of wool, caramel and scotch, with a cedarwood chaser. I love how their laughter sounds from the other room when a group of them are talking together in your kitchen. I love how they sneak tastes of food while you’re cooking. I love the way they try to wrap gifts for you on your birthday. (They use a whole roll of Scotch tape on one gift. Adorable.)

I really don’t love the idea of male-bashing just for sport. It’s become a national pastime, in my opinion. Usually at Girls’ Night. (Not at our Girls’ Night, of course. Ahem.) You’ve seen Girls’ Night — a group of cougars with day-glo cocktails, whooping it up at the table next to you while you’re trying to have a quiet meal. Be sure to look for the sequins, chandelier earrings and selfie sticks. Dead giveaway.

Men aren’t all bad, ladies. Some of them are far worse than bad, but some of them are really, really good.

Let me rephrase my earlier statement:  I love good men. I’m lucky enough to be married to a good man. And I’m happy to call a few good men some of my closest friends. (There’s a joke in here about that military courtroom film with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore in that silly hat, but I’m really too tired to map it out right now.) Dare I say it — my girlfriends picked some winners to marry as well. I know. I’ve eaten with them. They don’t diss you at Girls’ Night, boys. Not too much, anyway.

I’m gonna give you a bit of unsolicited advice, ladies. If you haven’t already, or if you haven’t done so since you’ve been dating, tell the man in your life what you love about him. Don’t stencil it on a piece of reclaimed barnwood, dress it up with eighteen yards of burlap and hang it in the kitchen, for God’s sakes (thanks a bunch, Pinterest), but just tell him. Not while he’s trying to watch a football game or some movie with the word “Bourne” in it, either. (I’ve been married for many years. You tend to pick things up along the way.) Tell him before he goes to sleep, when he isn’t snoring yet. Make it an early birthday present. Wrap yourself in a bow if you want. Just don’t do the giftwrap thing, for God’s sakes. Or you’ll get paper cuts in places you didn’t even know you had. And then I’ll have to hear about it at Girls’ Night. Ewww.

Whatever you do, don’t say it to him because you expect something in return. Say it simply because you love him. Otherwise, that’s the ickiest kind of present — the kind with a long, taut string attached.

But don’t be surprised if he takes out the garbage the next morning if you do. He might even kiss you on the forehead before he leaves for work. Isn’t that all we really want, anyway — a kiss on the forehead, a helping hand, and a kitchen without smelly, overflowing garbage?

I wrote a list last year for my husband — eighteen of which could be shared publicly, the rest of which can’t be listed here because my father reads my blog. I think my husband liked it. He took out the garbage without being asked. And then kissed me on the forehead.

I feel like writing another list today. Not just for the good men in my life, but in all of our lives. Thank goodness they’re here.

Things I Love About Men

1. Men’s eyelashes. I love it when men close their eyes while they laugh, allowing me a sneak peek at all that feathery sweetness. It’s really not as cute when their eyes are closed and they’re in your bed, snoring. You can stare all you want at those eyelashes, to will them to shut the rest of the face the hell up, but it ain’t gonna work. Sure, men are tough and burly and all that, but those eyelashes are like a little look-see behind the man curtain at their inner mushiness. (Charles Manson had good eyelashes, so I’m sure my theory doesn’t hold water.) You know their mommas swooned over those eyelashes when they were little boys. I know. I’m the momma of a little boy. I get it. I want to hang him by his boxer briefs on the towel hook when he’s being incorrigible during the day, but when he’s lying there asleep in his bed, arms akimbo and eyelashes fluttering, I could forgive him for his primary role in a Madoff-esque pyramid scheme.

2. Men who are so tall and broad that I have to get up on tippy-toe to hug and peck them on the cheek when saying hello. I’m only 5’3″ and a half, so that’s most men, actually. Is that all men, actually? I haven’t met one shorter than me yet. I also like the way they hug me. Women do that pat-pat-half-kiss-half-hug-get-me-I’m-a-cold-flounder-kind-of-hug. Men? They hug you for seventeen minutes and squish your ribs and always kiss you — on the top of your head and your cheek and the tip of your nose and your hand while they hold it. No air kisses with dudes. Ever.

3. Men who say “Heeeeyyyy!” when I walk into their house for a family pizza night or a couples’ cocktail party or a Super Bowl thingy-ma-jig, and they’re all talking low and guffawing and opening beer bottles and just standing around in the kitchen, waiting to eat something, and they turn my way and state said exclamation. They might actually be saying “Heeeeyyyy!” because I’m carrying some cold beer, as well as that onion dip that their wives won’t let them eat unless someone else brings it, but I like to think it’s because they like having me around for a few minutes. Just for a few minutes, mind you, until they need me to leave so they can keep talking about that divorced cougar in the low-cut dress at the fifth grade band concert last week. Oh, who am I kidding? They’re not that happy to see me. They’re happy to see the booze and the onion dip. Heeeeyyyy!

4. Men who are outside with their sons — and daughters — playing ball until the sun goes down, and who turn on the outside lights so they can get in a few more catches before it’s time to go inside.

5. Men who like to eat. I love to cook for men. They make yummy sounds and they ask for seconds and they lean back in their chairs when it’s all over, and they sigh. Some of them even fall asleep on my couch afterwards. (That sounded sexual. Whoopsie. I make a mean beef tenderloin in pastry crust. It can’t be helped.)

6. Men who say unsolicitedly kind, sweet and heartfelt things about their wives. And mean it.

7. Men who take their kids out to breakfast at the diner on Sunday morning so Mommy can sleep late. And let them order the waffles with the whipped cream on top.

8. Men who take their elderly mothers — or mothers-in-law — to the supermarket. I’ve stood behind many a middle-aged man in Stop & Shop, who patiently waits at the checkout line with the little old lady in his life, while holding her basket containing Sanka, two chicken breasts, a box of prunes, and Dentu-Creme, while she babbles on and on about all the different kinds of medication she’s taking. They nod, kindly, and say nothing. Gems, they are. Unless, of course, they’ve kidnapped these little old ladies for ransom and let them out once a week for sundry items, while carefully supervised.

9. Men who aren’t afraid to hug other men in that big, bear-huggy, back-slapping kind of way. Some of my big Irish FDNY cousins even kiss each other. They would totally kick your ass in a bar fight or if you messed with me — no question — but still, they kiss each other. Smack each other right on the cheek. Especially when they’ve had a few. They even kiss my husband now. It’s official. He’s in.

10. Men who let their kids do all the stuff that their wives wouldn’t let them do. The jig is up, babe. The kids told me all about it last week.

11. Men who shop for Christmas gifts before 6 pm on Christmas Eve. Thanks for that bottle of Jean Naté body splash that you just picked up at Rite-Aid, honey, but it smells like my grandmother’s talcum powder and cold piss. And it burns — oh, how it burns! — when I dab it on my skin. Gum would have been better. Trident Original Flavor. Fruit Stripe. Anything. Just not Jean Naté.

12. Men who show their children — not just in word, but in deed — how to be good and honorable people. Men who love their little girls so they grow up to be women who love themselves first, and find the right kind of person to love them later. Men who teach their sons to be strong — and tender. Men who love their wives in a way that sets an example for the men their sons will be — and the husbands they will become.

13. Men who know that I can handle myself, but who still ask if I’m OK or if I need something or if I need a lift somewhere or want some company or need them to accompany me on a dark, foreboding street until I’m safely home.

14. Men who innocently and absentmindedly play with my hair while they’re talking to me. Men who can’t resist, and just have to playfully tug my pigtail, or tuck my hair behind my ear when it falls across my cheek, and tell me how my new hair color flatters me. I’m always softened by their gentle impulsivity. My father used to sit at my bedside, and stroke my hair at night to help me sleep. It’s still the loveliest feeling in the world when my husband does that, too.

15. Men who wear shirtsleeves and expose that teardrop of bare skin beneath the broadcloth, right where the fabric puckers and opens at the button closure. I have to touch that spot of skin whenever my husband wears shirtsleeves.

16. Men in stockinged-feet with their big boats up on the coffee table. Especially after holiday meals. Heartwarming and hilarious. I don’t care if they’re wearing Gold Toes or 70′s era tube socks, just as long as they’re not stinky. When my husband’s shoes are off, the workday has officially ended. And he’s all mine. Until he falls asleep on the couch, because he’s so comfortable with his shoes off and his feet up. And that’s not when I’m thinking that his eyelashes are adorable, because the God-awful snoring has begun.

I love men. I do. Especially the good ones. I’m grateful to be married to one, I’m hopeful that I’m raising one, and I’m thankful for all the other good men in my life who’ve helped me become a (fairly) good woman along the way.

The summer wind

Everyone’s in love on a wedding day. There’s hope for all of us at such ceremonies, isn’t there? We’re thinking the best possible things about love, while the bride says “I do” and wipes the tear from her beloved ‘s cheek; while the groom cups her chin while he softly speaks his vows to her; or while the two tuxedo-clad lovers are finally, finally pronounced as man and husband. Those of us in committed love are standing up there with them — renewing our vows all together, at secret, sacred altars. We reach across the pew to squeeze knees and drape our arms around our love’s shoulders, with our sweet babies wiggling between us. We mindlessly trace infinity symbols on the other’s bare skin with our fingertips, in that vulnerable place under his leather watchstrap, where the hair has stopped growing near the wristbone. We’re noticing where her pashmina shawl has slipped down to reveal sleeveless, soft arms, and the smattering of freckles that still entice. We reach places where only the other knows us so intimately, where only the other can go.
 
On our wedding day, we danced to Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are,” because it was honest, sentimental, and simple. Kinda like him and me. After our first dance, several of our wedding guests sought us out — while we were awkwardly scarfing down already-cold crab puffs from the cocktail hour, which some kind soul handed to us so we didn’t faint. The guests wanted to share that the song had been their wedding song, too, and squeezed my hand or my husband’s shoulder as they said so. Sometimes, they placed arms around their beloved and pulled them a bit closer while telling us.

 

There were other songs that we considered during the wedding planning — John Lennon’s “Woman,” for one, because my husband used to play that for me on his acoustic guitar when we were in college. We considered Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” too — because, well, because have you met me? Because I’m nuts. But I didn’t like the idea of the whole woman-on-a-pedestal thing. What about the guy in this? What about his remarkable qualities and reasons for being loved and cherished? One-sided adoration doesn’t sit well with me. Marriage is an even playing field, baby. It’s what happens after I take off this silly, old dress and veil. It’s about both of us. My soon-to-be husband liked that way of thinking. I guess that’s one of the reasons why he picked me.
 
Now, as a wedding guest of a certain age, “Summer Wind” is the song that makes me get up and dance. The first few whiny notes of the organ — followed by the tease of horns conducted so masterfully by Nelson Riddle — sounds over the wedding DJ’s speakers, and that’s it. I’m up, and I’m mistress of the rented parquet dance floor.
 
By this point in the program, I’ve had a couple of glasses of white wine, and not enough shrimp at the cocktail hour — which makes for a superlative state of disinhibition. If I’m with my extended family at the wedding, one of them usually yells out, “Oh, that’s it. Here she goes.” And I do, indeed. Oh, how I go. I make eye contact with my husband, even in light of the extremely gaudy floral centerpiece that blocks everyone’s line of sight in the reception hall — the same one that several guests are already critiquing, or arguing over as to who will be the lucky one to take it home after the reception, just as long as it fits in the back seat of the Cadillac with Aunt Ida.

FRS02

Sometimes, if I don’t catch my husband’s eye between the orchid stems and floating votives, I make a big show of walking around to his chair and tapping him on the shoulder — just for the bit. He feigns surprise, every time. I offer my hand, and he grasps it, and leads me to the dance floor.

My love places one hand on the small of my back, and extends my hand with the other, folding it tenderly in his palm. He guides me along through each verse, and we sing the song together, while friends or cousins laugh and dance and sway nearby. I curl my arm around his neck, and I hold him to me for a minute, with my cheek on his padded suit shoulder, before he twirls me out, and we start to get a little ridiculous.

There’s something inherently outerborough New York embedded in the bars of “Summer Wind,” and in so many other Frank Sinatra songs. Perhaps because they’re featured on so many mafia movie soundtracks, or because our grandfathers used to sing along to such music in the front seat of the ’69 Chevy Nova along the Grand Central Parkway, or while they danced with mops in their Brooklyn kitchens. Maybe because we foolishly believed that Frank still belonged to us, even though he’d left us for California so long ago. To so many New Yorkers, he was still that kid at the Paramount Theater with Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band, crooning for our teenage grandmothers after the war. We don’t think of him as a carouser or a drinker or a womanizer. We think of Sinatra as the person we still need him to be.

There’s irony in such a dance, in two people still happily paired together, and in singing too loudly and drunkenly about losing love to the summer wind. Our days and nights have gone flying by, even in the best of times. We’re no longer kids. Our love isn’t new. But it’s still here, ticking away. So dip me, baby.

The other guests laugh and point at our foolishness, and raise whatever glass they’re holding to toast my husband’s semi-slick moves. The best part? When we belt out the last verses together, in our outrageous New York accents, toasting illusions and ideals.

 

We’ve somehow been promoted to the older generation at weddings we now attend. We sit down during the Sugarhill Gang songs. But when Frank comes on, we are moved to act. It’s complusory. It’s ours. We remember childhood summers, and Sunday dinners, and the way things were. We dance in our minds with grandfathers no longer here — who came home from the war, and who honestly believed that Frank would leave Ava and go back to Nancy. Who stayed married to their goils for almost forty years — almost — if she’d just made it to the fall, before she passed away. What a party they woulda had.

In moments like that, we’re just a room full of sweethearts. And the summer wind. The warm summer wind.