The Perfection of Memory

“I always designed Gravity Falls to be a finite series about one epic summer…It’s meant to be an exploration of the experience of summer, and in a larger sense a story about childhood itself. The fact that childhood ends is exactly what makes it so precious- and why you should cherish it while it lasts. “

-Alex Hirsch, on the ending of Gravity Falls

So.

I loved this show.  I fell into it almost to the day my husband was carjacked at gunpoint.  I was having, easily, the darkest part of a dark, dark 2 years.  Sitting under the dining room table, eating a dozen cupcakes and drinking bourbon from the bottle dark.

Nightmares for weeks dark.

But it was everything I remembered about summer and being 12 and thinking you might have the keys to solving mysteries just by reading books like “How to Hunt for Ghosts” and “How to Hunt for UFOs” and going through the paranormal section of the library and trying to sneak books you’re REALLY not old enough to be reading past your parents.

And the librarians who go to your church.

I watched the entire series, to that point, in a week.  Conveniently, it was being shown as a marathon.  Then I caught the newest episode.  Only to find out that the series was ending.

On, what I promise, is the pitch perfect note.

It ended.  The summer ended just as it must and it should.

And a week from today I start my new job.

I can’t help but feel the cyclical nature of life.  2 years…really…3 years ago started with the agonized phone call from my mother that my uncle had collapsed…that he needed to be resuscitated…that it was brain cancer.  Then things were ok for a little while.  Then my husband lost his job the first time…my Nana died…my uncle died…my cousin died…my cousin died…my grandfather died…another cousin died…down and down they go…

Each time I felt that this, this was it, this was the time things would get better.  That it couldn’t possibly get worse.

And it did.

And I fell into a pit I didn’t want to crawl out of.

I wanted someone in the world to just look at me and say “Wow.  You’re really messed up from this, aren’t you?”

But I pride myself on a “Can do!  We’ll make it through this !  Put more stickers on it!  Sparkles!  Sunshine!  I can do this!  Let’s find joy in this moment!”

Until…I lost my job.

And even though it was Christmas.

I didn’t find joy in those moments any more.

I went to events out of habit.

Made presents and went outside because its what I knew I had to do.

But I knew the signs, even if others hadn’t seen.

I went for days without showering.  I mean, I didn’t go out and do anything so why should I bother?

I didn’t want to eat.

I wanted to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes I was confronted with what I thought were my own failures in strength, resilience, and talent.

So I cleaned and unpacked boxes in the house we live in that, we were supposed to buy from my parents, but can’t even do that because I don’t have a job.

I was in a place that should be home, surrounded by chaos and hopelessness, with only the reminders of what I’d lost around me.

So I made things.  I made scarves and hats and painted.

I read the trashiest of trashy romance novels, whatever I could stomach.

I found pictures of puppies.

I came up with a routine for my skin to eat away the time and be productive.  (Might I add, my skin is great right now and I’ve gotten a lot of “Your make-up looks great today” when I am wearing none.  So that was totally worth it.)

But watching the end of this show…at the same time this unemployment is ending…I feel like maybe, this is finally the end.

That I’ve gone through the deep, dark, tunnel and maybe…just maybe…

its finally over.

And I can move forward with whatever my life is supposed to be now.

And think that now, maybe now, is the time to have the best spring ever.  To celebrate new life and new growth.  To plant things and nurture them to bud in the scorched earth that was left behind after it all fell apart.

So I’m going to go out and find the new things I love.  It will be a beautiful spring.  And I will use it to build up to another perfect summer.

I will use this to be kinder and have more patience.  To move past my anger and regret.  Because it will tear me apart if I don’t.

So to new beginnings, my friends.  To new friends and new haircuts, new clothes and new jobs.  To hope springing eternal and maybe, just maybe.

To spring.

-C

 

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Fear the Sixth: Moving On

Call the police and call the press
But please, dear God, don’t tell my friends
This is where it ends

-This is Where It Ends, The Barenaked Ladies

Right when I graduated from college, I decided I would not move back into my parent’s house, but I would stay with my oma, in the city where I graduated.  The boyfriend I had at the time being in the same city may have had something to do with it, but also, so did the idea that the smaller city where I was from had nothing to offer me.  I knew if I moved back, I’d never leave.  So I decided to stay here, where there was more opportunity.

The first job I got was working as a receptionist.  As first jobs go, not bad, I was able to memorize lines for the shows I was in while I was working on filing.  But it was hard to start a job, the beginning of summer, right after graduating.  Quickly, I despaired at the lack of vacation I had, the hours I had to work, and missing my friends and family.

This all came to a head one day when I was sitting at my desk, and my dad had stopped by to take me to lunch.

My dad works a unique schedule as a minister, and often, during the summer, he would take my brother and I on “adventures.”  We’d drive to nearby cities and check out stores and grab lunch.  And it was always “going on an adventure.”

After lunch that day, I sat down at my desk, pulled out the invoices I was to work with, and the thought suddenly came to me “You’re not going on adventures any more.”

My own graduation didn’t really bother me, I didn’t get choked up or cry.  But the thought that, there would be no more summer adventures on a moment’s notice…there would be no more random trips to the bookstore and getting out of town.

It was an awful realization to see, so clearly, the end of childhood.  I had a job.  I had phones to answer.  I was wearing professional clothes and writing ’06 on a stack of invoices while women gossiped around me.  Something had happened that I didn’t even know I was afraid of.  I’d never been afraid of moving on, because I’d always been moving toward something.

Now I’d moved on.  And I didn’t know where I was, where I was going, what my goal was.  And I couldn’t even escape with my dad to go figure it out.  I felt I’d moved past where I’d been too fast and I was simultaneously stuck in a place I didn’t want to be.

I now have a job that I love…I don’t feel so stifled and stuck any more..  But sometimes…sometimes I just want to be able to say “You know what?  I’m done with today.  Let’s go.”

Any time you move on…it hurts.  You’re probably moving on to something bigger and better.  But it still hurts to leave those moments behind.  Or to be left behind with them.  So I fear moving on when I’m not ready, being moved on from, and moving on to something…I don’t yet know.

-C

Fear the Fifth: SURPRISE!

AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

-Me, age 8-15

When I was growing up, my brother discovered is favorite way to freak me out was to jump out and surprise me. To this day, I hate jump scares, can’t handle horror movies, and am a general scaredy cat.

Thanks.

In the house we grew up in, our basement stairs ended with a landing that, if you turned to the left, you entered the finished part of the basement, and if you turned to the right, there was a small piece of wall that was JUST big enough for a little brother to hide behind.

And the light switch for the basement had a terrible habit of sometimes working…and sometimes not.

So I’d run down the stairs and I’d hit the landing and he’d jump up at me, I’d scream, and he’d be thrilled.

He’s a jerk.

Most little brothers are.

Oddly enough, though, I really like good surprises, presents especially.  If I get a great surprise, I’m a happy camper.

Moral of the story: The opposite side of what you fear may also be something you love.

-C

Fear the Fourth: Regret

“But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”
— Haruki Murakami

“Is there anything special of Oma’s that you would want?”

“What?  Oh…”  I’m on the phone with my mom.  We’re discussing my Oma, her mother, who is recently in declining health.  She’s losing bits of her memory and we’re at the end of the time where she can live alone any more.  My mom has been staying with her, part time, and helping her put together paperwork.  They’ve just finished with the lawyer today, working on ironing out the will. “Well, some of her dirndl schmuck, I think…I know its not worth anything….”

“She has one with pink stones, actually…anything else” my mom asks.  I’m sure she’s making a list of some kind.  The woman has more lists of anyone I know, on the backs of envelopes and receipts she’s entered into the checkbook.

“Well, there’s the figurines on the sideboard…the”

“The Gossiping Girls, sure, your dad and I got them for Mom and Dad.”

“Yeah, I like those.”

My mom pauses.  “I’d like the portrait of Stanley’s Mother in the hallway.  I always thought the story behind it was so romantic.”

I know the painting she’s talking about.  I had no idea it had a name.

Stanley's Mother

Stanley’s Mother

“What’s the story about Stanley’s Mother?”

My mom seems surprised, sure she’s told me before.  I enjoy strange family stories, so I’m surprised I don’t know this one.

“Well, when we lived in the old house, the duplex, right after I was born, on 26th Street, we were in the lower level of a duplex.  Upstairs, lived Hildegard. She was an art teacher.

Her apartment was small, just a sitting room, kitchen, and a bedroom, though I never saw it.  She was very pretty, in a Ingrid Bergman, old hollywood kind of way.

One day, Hildegard met Stanley.  I remember them spending time together.  The first I knew of her, Stanley had come to pick her up for a date and they went out into the country and stopped at a field.

Hildegard thought the field was so beautiful, she leapt from the car and ran into the field, singing and dancing as though she was in the Sound of Music.

Stanley yelled for her to stop.  She finally listened when he said “Its all poison ivy!”

Hildegard has poison ivy rashes all over both of her legs.  It was so bad, she was laid up for two weeks.  I was only 8 or so at the time, and I remember my mother going upstairs, and tending to her poor legs with calamine lotion.  As a thank you, she had me sit for her and painted the water color portrait of me that’s in the hallway.”

“I always liked that painting…was that something you wanted?” I asked.

“Oh of course, I very much would like that, when the time comes.” she said.  “Anyway, we got to know her through that time, and Stanley would often come to visit.  He played the violin.  And as I got better at piano, he would play the violin with me.

They were older.  She was probably in her 40’s, Stanley, in his 50’s.  And, even a 8, I could see they were very much in love.  You can just tell looking at some people.  But Stanley still lived with his mother.

Hildegard very much wanted to marry him…and Stanley loved her.  But…his mother would have nothing to do with it and she wouldn’t let him move out.  Hildegard even painted the portrait of Stanley’s mother.  But she hated it and refused to have it in the house.  So Stanley couldn’t bring it home, and Hildegard didn’t want to keep it.

Eventually, Hildegard left.  She went back to Germany.  She never married.  And Stanley stayed with his mother.  Gosh, she didn’t die until she was 95.  That’s how we ended up with the painting.  Stanley’s mother didn’t it want it in the house, and well, Hildegard couldn’t…didn’t want to keep it.  So we have it.”

“That’s…that’s so sad.  That’s…how is that romantic?” I asked, feeling an unsettling emptiness in my heart for two people I’d never met and thinking of a painting I’ve stared at my entire life.

“I always thought of Hildegard and Stanley in comparison to my parents.  They left behind everything.  They only had each other.  They left Germany with nothing, and without knowing any one.  And Stanley could never leave his mother and Hildegard refused to be second.

And even at the age of 8, I remember seeing them come to dinners at our house together…I remember thinking about how in love they looked with each other.  And that painting…of the mother who would never let her son go…not even for his own happiness.

It reminds me of how lucky we are, if we find the one person we’re supposed to love…and how we need to take that opportunity, no matter the difficulty.  Otherwise…well…Hildegard died in Germany, Stanley died here.  They never saw each other again.

But they always looked like they loved each other so much.”

“That’s.  That’s sad.  That’s Romeo and Juliet sad…or fairy tale sad.”

“It is.”

And I think of that painting, of Stanley’s Mother and how unhappy a woman she must have been to see a chance for her son to be happy and to be so wrapped up in whatever her own misery was that she couldn’t let him go.  Not even in his 50’s.  And beautiful Hildegard.  With, I imagine, old hollywood red lips and fading glamor, up in her apartment, painting the portrait of a woman who likely hated her and thinking of the man she wanted more than anything in the world.

But not wanting to be second place.

I think of these sad people, who had a brief, shining moment of love…even if it had moments of poison ivy.  And I have a picture in my head of my mother as a young girl, playing the piano and watching Stanley play the violin and seeing Hildegard sit down to dinner with them and basking in the glow of their love.

And then watching as they separated.  Neither able to compromise with the either, neither able to move back, only able to move forward…alone.

I wonder about them, and the end of their lives…if they remember that trip to the field…or dinners at my Oma’s house and sitting across the table from each other.  Maybe holding hands, or just simply catching the others eye, and smiling a couple’s smile.  I think of the tentative love they must have had for each other.  And I wonder if, in their last moments, they wanted to do things differently.

Would Stanley have left his mother, if he’d known he would never see Hildegard again?  Would Hildegard have compromised?  Knowing she’d return to Germany on her own?  What about Stanley’s Mother?  What had made her so unhappy, so insecure she could never let her son leave?

What did they regret in their last moments?

Lost love? Not being brave enough to make an important leap? Or maybe just the sun glinting off of Hildegard’s hair in the giddy moments before everything went wrong, and she was scratched and scarred?

I fear regret.  Because its something you cannot ever fix.  You cannot turn back the clock to find your lost loves.  Sometimes…they are lost forever.  And all that’s left is a memory and a picture on the wall.

-C

Fear the Second: The Bottom of the Sink

*watching Supernatural as yet, another person is pulled into a sink or murky bathtub*

“What does Supernatural have against sinks?!”

me

I suppose this idea feeds into “fear of the unknown…but don’t you just hate having to reach into the bottom of a sink after you’ve finished doing dishes?  The water is grey and murkey, you can’t see what’s at the bottom and you’re feeling around blindly to find the plug and, through your mind, you wonder “Will I feel anything else in the bottom of this sink?”

And it doesn’t make any sense, the water was clear no more than 10-15 minutes ago, all the dishes are out…and yet…

It could be gross food pieces.

It could be a knife, hiding and waiting for a moment to slice your fingers.

It could be a hand, coming up through the pipe.

Which, of course, couldn’t possibly happen.  Nothing can fit there, nothing can grab you through the drain.

And yet…

You’ll pause, reaching your hand down.  Because you can’t see what’s there, and all you can do…

…is touch it.

-C

Fear the First: Moths

I am the terror that flaps in the night.

-Darkwing Duck

When I was a junior in high school, I was a part of a theatre group for kids in their early teens to early twenties.  We’d cast, director, costume, stage and perform a play.  It was pretty darn cool.  For someone who wasn’t very popular in their own high school, the novelty of suddenly being one of the cool kids, even in a group that maybe, from the outside, wasn’t actually cool…was pretty great.

That summer was one of the first where I started adventuring at night.  I’d found a group of other teens, they had cars and licenses and, after rehearsal, we’d stay out and go to 24 hours restaurants, tease, flirt, and generally be teenagers.  It was fantastic.  There’s just something wonderful about being out at nighttime in the summer, when you’re young.

This particular evening, we went to Perkins.  I remember sitting at the end of a bunch of tables we’d all smushed togther and throwing straw wrappers and nibbling on the edges of a bread bowl.  It was was about 11:30 or so when we finally decided to pack up.

I’d ridden with a guy who was going to be joining the army at the end of the summer, someone who, I’d imagine, would be good in an emergency.  Someone, also, who gestured kind of wildly…so as we left Perkins, into the warm, summer night air, we walked past the lights outside the restaurant.

And a moth, with a death wish, dive bombed him.

He backhanded it, and in a moment that I wish there was instant replay for…it went INTO my ear.

I would be hard pressed to come up with something that feels more awful than a foreign, living, creature suddenly inside a bodily orifice.

I started screaming.

And Mr. Army Guy?  He stood there looking at me like I was crazy.  And that he didn’t know what to do.  As luck would have it, the rest of my cast mates started filing out of the restaurant.  One girl sees me, bent over, pulling at my ear and asks me what’s wrong.  I whimper “I have moth stuck in my ear.”

So she runs into the restaurant, and I can hear her yelling “Does anyone here have tweezers? C has a moth stuck in here ear.”

Ahhh, the humiliation just continues…fantastic.

Now the director has emerged.  She’s fairly capable and good in a crisis.  So she pulls me to the light.  Some idiot makes a joke about the moth seeing the light on the other side of my head and crawling out my other ear.

Despite the fluttering distraction in my head, I contemplate his murder.

She starts pulled on the earlobe and blowing into my ear.  With every pull I feel the fluttering and it is awful.

Now I’m envisioning going to the emergency room and trying to explain it.

An older lady walks past and asks “Is she having a seizure?”

I again contemplate murder.  I also briefly wonder if moths have inherent murderous tendencies.

After what seems like hours, the director has a good pull and somehow, the moth is pulled from my ear.

That’s when I really start sobbing.  The moment is past, but it still feels like something is there, maybe just the memory of it.  They bundle me up in a car and take me home.

I walk in the house, still crying, a mess and my parents are rightly concerned and ask me “Sweetie, what happened?!”

And, gulping from breath I say “…walked out of Perkins…lights…moth stuck in my ear…”

There’s a long pause.

And my loving parents burst out laughing.

After they calm down, my mom runs a bubble bath for me, with her fancy, special bubble bath that looks like champagne.  I settle in…and idly rub my ear…

and grey dust comes out.

From the moth’s wings.

There is no amount of scrubbing in the world that will get rid of it.

I’m like Lady Freaking McBeth…out, out, damn moth dust.

So I get out of the bath, and I’m crying again and my mom gives me a sympathetic hug and says I’ll feel better once I go to bed.

I cannot sleep on my left side because every time I move my head on the pillow it sounds like the moth is in my ear.

And that is why I hate moths.

And also, why, in the middle of summer I carry earmuffs in my car.

You can never be too careful.

-C

Day 28: Changes

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.”
― Gilda Radner

How many of your friends have you kept?

1? 2?  Maybe 3-4?

Why did you keep them?  Was it because of how they talked to you?  How you laughed when you were together?  Because of their strength?  How they challenged you?

Or how they changed you?

One of my friends uses the phrase “The struggle is real.”  So I’ve picked it up.  And its hilarious, when used in an appropriate ironic context. (first world problems, etc…)  And I listen…and I hear it spread across the office…and its like listening to a friendship form.  Your friends add words to your vocabulary, phrases to your life, and adventure.

If you have found a good friend, you will not remain unchanged.  A good friend will challenge you when you’re wrong.  A good friend will be there to pick you up when you’re down, or if you don’t think you can ever get up again.  A good friend will, in your moment of despair, make you eat your dinner…make you go for a walk…tell you that one thing you never knew you needed to hear.

They’ll say it.  And you’ll sigh and be happy because finally someone understood.  They got it.  They knew WHY you needed to hear something.  They know the difference between “You look hot” and “You look beautiful.”  Between “You’re a good friend” and “You’re my best friend.”

With the best of friends, time, distance, they don’t matter.  They’ll find their way back to you.  Friends don’t leave another friend behind.  You are better for the friends you have made.  You don’t deserve the friends you have, any more than they deserve you.  Rather, you have the kinds of friends that you have been.  Be the friend you’re looking for.  Be the shoulder to cry on, be the confidence they may lack, be the strength when someone is weak, and be the love that they need…and that they might not be able to say.

Be kind.  Love your friends.  Be thankful for them.

In the words of Guardians of the Galaxy “I have lived most of my life surrounded my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.”

To a less dire extent…I am grateful to be surrounded by my friends.

Physical Health:

Hours of Sleep: 9 hours.  That’s MUCH better

Exercise: Lifting the lawn mower, mowing said lawn, up hills…booooo

Breakfast: southwestern egg scramble

Health

Cleaning or Packing?: Mowed the lawn…mowed alllllll of the lawn.  And trimmed bushes.  Without electrocution, thank you!

Made my bed?:  2 more days!

Read 1 book a week:Not sure what to start with next…its starting to get crisp and fall-y outside…hmmmm…tba

Conclusion

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
― Elbert Hubbard

Love,

C