Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Day in The Life

127 Weeks

At the hospital Ren is diagnosed with pneumonia and the next day the doctor calls to tell me Ren also has the flu. Greg is on a silent retreat and unreachable for 11 days.

You know that moment in the great eighties movies...

Back from a tropical vacation, happy parents pull a luxury car into their middle-class garage just as the last beer can flies... in slow motion... across the living room... right into the waste basket...

Tan and smiling, the unsuspecting parents open the front door, set down their suitcases and see their teenage son quietly reading on the couch. (Of course they don't notice the book is up-side-down.) Only moments ago that couch was almost set on fire by a crazy party-crashing motorcycle gang... the camera pans down... under his seat cushion... a garter belt gently swings...

Yeah, this week was like that. Only I didn't spend the whole time dancing around the living room in my underwear and sunglasses. And when Greg got home, I made him sit down and listen to every painful detail of our crazy house party, down to the vomit on the emergency room floor.

Ren is still asking for "tambourine" (tangerine) popsicles in bed. He's not sick anymore but sometimes you just gotta say, "What the $%&*."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

There's no place like home.

103 Weeks

"I thought you'd call more."

"Believe me. I wanted to call more."

"We missed you."

"I missed you too. Very much. So much."

"Do you feel better?"

"I... yeah... I do..."

It was September 2016. I had thought it was a smart idea, flying from New York to Texas—going to my 25th high school reunion and gathering what my step-father left for me from my mother's belongings—in one weekend. It was a good diet.


Breakfast with Greg and Ren. A long(ish) farewell.
Work, then the airport.
After three delayed planes, land across the country in the middle of the night.
My young, bachelor cousin and I find each other wandering around the airport parking lot.
I sleep on his couch.
It reminds me of childhood Christmases.


Cousin goes to work. Early.
I shower, walk back to the couch, and realize by the light of day his living room decor includes a cat dish by the Lazy-Boy and a large trashcan by the bookcase.
I text his permission to "move a few things around."
The cat disappears.
Cousin gets home from work and thinks he's opened the wrong apartment.
I introduce him to feng shui then we head out for drive-through and a Uhaul.
We pull into the storage facility where my inheritance was abandoned.
It's late afternoon and 93 degrees.
It feels like another planet.

I asked for old home movies, journals, and the three antiques my mother used to point at every so often and say, "when I'm dead, that's yours."
I fantasized about finding a letter, sealed in a golden envelope with words in calligraphy: "For My Dearest Daughter, Jennifer."

Cousin and I pull up the doors and we are met face-to-face with a canvas tote hanging on a halltree hook.
At the bottom of the bag is my mother's hospital gown, socks, unused toothbrush, lotions, and a small plastic container with her dentures floating in fluid.
Cousin hugs me and reminds me that sometimes people are cruel.
We lift things our muscles have no business lifting.
Sometimes we call out for "THE TEETH" to stop a rolling furniture dolly.

At dinner I sit across from cousin's great stories.
I drop him off to talk the cat out from under his bed.
I nearly take out the car port as I wave a teary goodbye.

On the road again.

In the middle of the night my headlights shine on an angel standing in a suburban road and directing me like I'm hauling a plane.
I almost take out the tree in her front yard.
The angel is someone with whom I've lived so often we call each other sister.
It feels like old times.
Her husband and kids have been asleep for hours.
I'll sleep when I'm dead.


After breakfast, sister and I unpack the Uhaul into their their garage.
We discover the cedar chest is full.
I open it. There's no magic letter.

In one day I tour Austin saying hello to friends from college and high school.
I come back to sister's at midnight.
The truck door is fixed and she's left me a gift on the guest bed.
I wake Greg with a call and my heart aches for home.
I send an email to a friend in New York.
He tells me I'll never be a writer if I can't spell Hemingway correctly.


Heavy eyelids and heavy biscuits are my early morning meetup with another college buddy.
I drop off the Uhaul and almost take out the dumpster by the back door.
Shower and shave.
Sister drives us four hours back to the town I left two days ago; to the place where I graduated 25 years ago.
It still feels like another planet.

We meet up with first loves and joke awkwardly under a wall of talking fish.
My heart pounds as I sit in the presence of generations of founding friendships.

Our reunion starts at a bar and ends around a swimming pool and a table of year books.

A glance in a visor mirror reminds me anti-aging cream doesn't work.
I look around the car and go back in time with the same faces in each seat and Duran Duran on the radio.
I insist we go to IHop.
The sun rises with bittersweet hugs and knowing looks.
We'll always be from here. This moment. Each other.


The hotel sheets are barely wrinkled.
Sister packs us up to drop me at the airport and drive herself more hours home.
(Her official appointment letter to sainthood is in the mail.)
I insist we go to IHop.
I order the exact same meal and wonder why the exact same waiter isn't surprised.

"Y'all'er gonna have to mover your stuff. It's going to be a tight flight."

I can't wait to see Ren's face when I give him his souvenir cowboy hat.

A souvenir from my past.

Where I'm from will always be in my heart, but I'm not from there anymore. I'm from where ever Greg and Ren hang their hats.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Steam Brain, Dream Brain

125 Weeks

"Clickety clack, clickety clack..."

"Mommy. (Turning back from the third page to the first page for the third time.) Start here."

"Buggy, let's get through the whole story first."

"Mommy. Go back. Go back again."

Ren's desire and capacity to memorize has actually frightened us. We are terrified. We can't keep up. A friend gave Ren a new book about trains and five days later, I shut the book, turn out the light and Ren asks me to sing him "the Steam Train, Dream Train" song. I'm thinking perhaps this actually exists. The book is a New York Times best seller, catchy rhymes. Then I recall months ago we made up a Goodnight Moon song because, yeah, what two year old doesn't compose music to their favorite memorized books? Doesn't everyone do that? I haven't memorized beyond the title. I'm not paying attention to the words any more. I'm reading them for the thirtieth time while I think about groceries, bills, bettering my time management skills, my shrunken boobs, work, sleep, plays, old Frasier episodes, work, new mascara, work, jelly jars, and karate.

"Mommy. Sing it."

I start making up a tune and repeat "steam train... dream train..." and commit to it like some kind of weird lullaby mantra or acting exercise circa 1978. He laughs and says, "No, no, no, Mommy," and with another chuckle and patronizing tone says, "Mommy, let me teach you. I'll teach you."

Ren proceeds to recite the first three pages of this book—at least 20 lines of rhyming verse—to a tune he's making up on the spot. I start choking on inadequacies that have been trapped in my spine since high school, bad hair color auditions in Los Angeles, the time I put "bilingual" on the back of my headshot because I thought ordering extra cheese in Spanish was the equivalent.

Ren is already humoring me. He's already pitying my pathetic attempts to entertain him with rusty skills and take-my-wife jokes. I don't have much more than that to offer...

I'm good at cleaning puke off a variety of things before they stain.

And I can cross my eyes one at a time. That's pretty rare.