Tag Archives: family

Home Movies

My sister is home for Christmas. She only lives about twenty-five minutes away, but there’s something so wonderful about having her right in the same house. Suddenly it’s all six of us again with a great-grandma thrown in, and now that we’re grown-up, vacations and time together seem a lot more important.

Last night, after Grandma went to bed, we sat in the living room and watched home movies. We re-plugged in the VCR (yes, unbelievable, really, that we still have one) and watched tape after tape. It was the strangest sensation, looking at those little faces I used to know so well, and then seeing those same faces grown and changed in the chair across from me. Not only the faces, though. The voices changed, too.

I never recognize my voice, singing or speaking or laughing or anything. I’m not sure why that is. I think in my head, my voice is lower, more grown-up, and it isn’t until someone points out that, yes, indeed, that is your voice, that I realize that high-pitched person speaking is me. On the opposite note, for some reason my sister’s voice used to be low, husky, and we tease her mercilessly about her little-girl voice. It’s not like that at all now. How in the world do these things happen?

[There is possibly no baby or toddler cuter than my littlest brother. I mean, the rest of us were decently cute, but my goodness, this kid was absolutely adorable.]

We watched the Christmas when I was six and my brother opened socks and was silently bummed out. We watched the day Mom and Dad surprised us with a new Viszla puppy and we all blinked awake to its cuteness running all over the room.

My favorite, though, was the video of us at camp. The sun, shining bright and hot on our blonde heads. Fishing off the dock, hoping to catch a bigger pickerel even than last year. Running down the gravel driveway at breakneck speed, our little plastic bikes giving Mom a near heart attack. Luddy, our dog, the tough hunter, scared of the water. Dad taking us out in the canoe and the kids, feeling grown up and big, waving from maybe a quarter mile away. Swimming all day long, doing jump after terrible jump off the dock.

Back when all we needed was the bunch of us and a long day.

We went there every summer for one week in August and it’s easy to forget who we were.

In a lot of ways, we’ve changed – taller, bigger, more experience, more hurt – but we’re not that much different, really. It was constantly loud in those home videos, and it is consistently so to this day. We screeched, we pushed, we danced, we hollered. My parents were amazingly patient, I realize now, watching their nearly-perfect hands-off parenting, because what is accomplished by helicoptering? It amazes me that from two people grew a whole family. How crazy it must feel to look at your best friend and then over at the four children you are blessed enough (or crazy enough) to have.

My hair’s a little darker, I’m (only a little bit) taller, and at least now I KNOW I have a problem with being bossy. Admitting it is the first step.

[A little part of me would go back there in a heartbeat.]

[This photo is from the ocean, our more recent family spot.]

Ways I Recuperate

It started snowing unexpectedly, swirling around the light posts, coating the brick walkways. I was wearing a wool sweater (with, of course, a colorful yoke to suit the time of year and my desire to be Norwegian or Swedish or something along those lines). My five-year-old brown winter coat did nothing against the wind, and I kept tucking my fingers deeper into my fingerless arm-warmer-mitts, but it didn’t seem to matter.

We couldn’t get inside fast enough. The shop smelled of incense and the colors and textures that surrounded me made me think of India. I wanted to buy the entire store but settled on a few small things (can’t say, Christmas is coming) and I reconsidered getting my nose pierced, a thought I periodically mull over.

Then to a slice of delicious pizza with mozzarella chunks and basil. We talked about family and work and Christmas on the high stools, and we both checked the time because work was calling.

To top it all off? Peppermint mochas, hot and steaming. I wanted a whoopie pie. Or a croissant. Or a cookie. But I sipped my mocha and counted that as enough.

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That was Friday. This is Saturday. Aladdin, Jr., opened last night, and the looks on the kids’ faces made every frustration, every moment of What are we DOING?! completely worth it.

This is Saturday morning, and I am recuperating. That looks different, depending on what I’m recuperating from. Yesterday, it meant wandering around my favorite port town, relishing Christmas shopping and good food. This morning, it includes writing (as you can see), french press coffee, a chat with my brother, who, even though we live in the same house, I find hard to pin down, and Love Actually.

Because love, actually, is all around us, and it’s helping me recuperate.

What Do You Want Your Story to Be?

I was addicted to stories. I devoured them, one after the other, bending and folding paperbacks with abandon, dog-earring corners, underlining words that were beautiful, words that were true. Young heroines like Emily of New Moon and Betsy from the Betsy-Tacy books taught me how to be spunky and creative. It wasn’t long before I was weaving plots for hours on a 1995 Gateway computer in my bedroom.

I remember wanting other kinds of stories, too. Sitting at the dinner table long after all the food was eaten, we’d beg my father to tell us stories about his childhood. (My mother’d always shake her head when we asked her, saying she didn’t have any stories. I still find this hard to believe.) Dad’s stories often involved fish, foolish things my dad had tried because he was “curious.” The time when he was three and took the goldfish out of the tank “to look at it” is a classic; I can still picture the poor thing gasping on the living room carpet, the victim of an over-active mind and not quite enough supervision.

My mother’s friend from college told us good stories, too. I remember most the one of her throwing cherry tomatoes over the railing and hitting guests. Oh, and the one with blood-engorged ticks (who could erase that memory?!). And the one when the dog ate rising bread dough and its stomach rose with it, waddling proof that dogs do not know what’s best for them.

I grew up on stories.

The voices brought people alive, my great-great-grandfather and his stern Maine-ness. My grandpa whom I’d known but only awhile, breathed again when we talked about his stories of growing up on a fox farm. As I listened and began to craft stories of my own, I realized that one day, I too would have stories to tell my children.

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What do you want your story to be?

[He asks from the pulpit, and I think, I’ve been thinking about this all along.]

When you write your story, think about how it affects others.

When you write your story, make it one you want to tell.

This is the one sentence that rang through the sanctuary, hanging in the air, making the skin on my arms prickle with its truth.

Even though I’ve discovered the repercussions of writing a life before living it, here I was reminded that sometimes we need to shape the life we’re given. Yes, things happen beyond our control, and yes, sometimes we ache from those uncontrollables. But more often than not, we have choice.

I get to choose what story I’m living, and I get to make it one I want to tell.

~     ~     ~

I will tell about early Christmas mornings, all four of us huddling in one bedroom because we wanted to share it that one day. The lights from the tree bouncing off the mirror in the hallway. About waiting for the cousins to come and longing for the day to never end. They will ask where our traditions come from, and I’ll smile and tell them the story.

I will tell about riding horses in the sun and feeling powerful.

I will tell about discovering Laura Ingalls for the first time, about raising chickens and gardening, the plethora of projects done in the name of sustainable living.

I will tell about late-night summer man-hunts when hormones ran rampant and we didn’t know what to do with them so we ran, too.

I will tell about choosing a college and not being sure but doing it anyway. I will tell about loneliness and fear, about trying hard and singing hard and learning. They will ask about friends and making friends, about trying to love. I’ll tell about walks around the pond where so much got twisted around and sorted out.

I will tell about graduating and reeling in my own mind. About disappointments and mis-steps that, while not destroying definitely left me feeling useless. About dark months in winter when I was learning to trust and hating every minute of it.

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And my most recent stories? They’ll include the discovery of joy. The summer we all lived at home again and spent our evenings on the back porch. Riding with the top down in my car, fearing the day when I’ll have to say goodbye to this lovely little bug that’s taken me so many places. Finding a church that allows me to be the silly, too-immature-for-small-group girl I sometimes am. Growing in friendships that have challenged me, shaped me, and made me think deeper than I ever could have thought on my own.

My story isn’t done, but I finally feel like I am choosing it.

Where I’m From

I am from a thought-filled bed –

from pumpkin-pie candles and oak bookshelves.

 

I am from the white house on the slope,

homegrown apples and sage.

 

I am from the golden honey –

the towering pine whose long gone limbs

I remember as if they were my own.

 

I’m from dinners on the porch and too much laughing,

from an open-hearted mama and a dream-big father.

I’m from not enough cleaning and just the right living

and from stacks of books that beg reading.

 

I’m from “don’t wish your childhood away” and “try new food always”

and “Jesus called them one by one.”

 

I’m from cozy Christmas mornings and the yellow lights.

I’m from New and Old England,

sun-warmed vegetables and raspberry jam.

 

From sea-fishing, lake-fishing, ice-fishing,

when long-gone family breathe life again

for just that moment on the water,

 

and scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings

tell us the world.

 

[This is part of a link-up with SheLoves Magazine]

Painting in the Temporary

I’ve been rearranging my bedroom for the past few weeks. Yes, it takes me a long time. Partly because I’ve only devoted small chunks of time to pondering the feng shui of this girlhood bedroom of mine, and partly because something is in the way.

I think I need to paint my bedroom.

This is not a huge development for most of you. But look at it this way:

1. I haven’t changed the color of my room since high school.

2. I don’t like doing big projects and I especially don’t like doing them alone.

3. Alone, you say? What about your sister?

4. Oh, right, she’s moved out and designing her own a-little-bit-too-big-for-one-person bedroom.

So that’s the crux of it. I sit on my bed and look around. Maybe the bookshelves should go here? Maybe I need more bookshelves (well, that’s a definite)? Maybe I should move my pictures to the other wall? Maybe I’m the most indecisive domestic there is? And all of this wondering is stuck because I feel like I need to paint over the white compound marks her posters so cunningly covered, but I don’t have the heart to do it all alone.

~     ~     ~

When we were little girls – maybe nine and ten – we painted our room “Frosted Cranberry.” We huddled our beds in the middle, draped old sheets over everything, and Mom taught us how to roll the thick dark paint on the walls. I was terrible at edging so Mom did that, carefully maneuvering around the moulding with the same attention to detail she brings to weeding the garden.

That is the color I think of when I remember being a little girl.

The deep cranberry of Laura Ingalls Wilder Club, writing inventive and terrible short stories about murders in a small town, trying to start a business – any business – because entrepreneurialship is in my blood, and, probably the best, the color of two twin beds sitting parallel with a little rug in between.

~     ~     ~

If “Frosted Cranberry” is the color of my childhood, and “Waterfall” is the color of my teenage hood, what should be the color of my young adulthood?

I think there is a tiny part of me that is afraid to commit to this place in the form of new paint.

How long will I call this room mine?

How long will I actually spend in this little white house?

And how many hours do I want to devote to a project that will take me far too long for what it is?

But I am reminded that temporary things deserve as much beauty and commitment as non-temporary things. I get stuck when I think that way; if I’m always waiting for certainty, I’ll never do anything. Before I know it, I’ll be living in a room with worn-through carpet and peeling-off paint.

Why live in a room whose walls are covered in compound and the smoke of beautiful candles burned years ago? Does it matter if I’m here only one more year?

Wouldn’t I rather be surrounded by beauty?

I know that I could elicit help from a brother or a friend. Maybe I will. My sister would probably even come home for the weekend and slap some paint on these walls.

But I’m the only one choosing the paint.

Good Things #?!

I can’t remember the last time I was dutiful and wrote a Good Things post on an actual Monday. I may need to reevaluate my plan.

Here are some good things, regardless.

megjaySmack in my twenty-something-face. A friend posted this on Facebook and I love TED Talks. Here, Meg Jay talks to twenty-somethings about what happens when we buy into the lie that “twenty is the new thirty.” It’s frustrating when you see glimmers of yourself.

Music. You know when you finally start doing something you should’ve been doing all along and you think What the heck have I been doing all along?! That’s how I felt after I started listening to The Oh Hellos – MONTHS after a friend recommended them to me. Here’s just a taste:

New Running Shoes. Not sure if this is a Good Thing or not…just kidding…Finally went for my first run since London and Switzerland and two days later I’m still feeling it and wondering if I’ll get it back. I will say, however, that new sneakers make running more fashionable, if not easier.

Birthdays. Who doesn’t like to celebrate birthdays? Today is my twin brother and sister’s 23rd, and hoorah for them! (See how sharp they are?!)

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Fresh out of college, fresh into life, and here’s to finding your own Good Things!

[Prize to whoever can count the number of times I used an interrobang in this post.]

Night Fishing

I hadn’t been night fishing since I was nine or ten. I’d fallen asleep in the middle of our 14-footer, and I remember waking up to the bright stars spread out wide around us, my father at the motor behind me, my uncle’s cigarette lit up at the bow. What were we fishing for? I don’t know, but I remember feeling like a rebel – out past my bedtime, the dark ocean engulfing us in our smallness.

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We went night fishing again this Sunday, leaving as the rain started pelting huge white drops on the pavement. “It’ll let up,” Dad said, even though of course he had no idea.

We followed him anyway.

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Down to the marina, across the wobbly dock, into the boat my grandpa bought in the ’80s. The floor’s starting to give-way, but we cruised out of the channel, me in a backwards Red Sox cap to both contain my hair and make me feel like I was actually fishing.

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There are things that overwhelm you. The ocean is almost always one of those things for me.

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And sometimes, you want to talk about that overwhelmed feeling. Your girl friends sit across from you and plumb the depths of your mind and soul. They ask questions and you question yourself and you hope that no innocent bystander is listening to your crazy.

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And other times you don’t want to talk about it at all.

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Sometimes being on the boat with your dad and your brother is the perfect place to be quiet and thoughtful and melancholy and not be asked why. And a backwards Red Sox cap is exactly what you should be wearing.

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[We caught a fish at the same time, not big enough to keep but big enough to sore my shoulder and bruise my rib where the rod was sticking – I am tender. The fins were sharp but stripers don’t bite, and I was proud.]

IMG_1626 [We got home at 10:00pm and I fell asleep, exhausted. Grandpa would’ve been proud.]

July 5, 2013

I am sitting in a colorful floral dress. The tent I am under blocks the sun, but there is no denying the 95-degree heat, or the fact that there is a line of men standing at the front in three-piece suits. I am immediately grateful for my female status (and the accompanying summer dresses).

There are so many people sitting around me – many I know peripherally, a few I’ve known for over twenty years, their faces as familiar as family. July 5th, 2013 crept up on me, after a life of Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkaccinos and chocolate doughnuts, White Farms key lime pie ice cream, wiffle ball, touch-football, volley ball, “Tribute to the Best Song in the World”, Strong Bad, three goofballs talking and laughing over a beer.

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I have had the amazing privilege of watching one of my oldest friends marry one of my dearest friends. Not too many people can say that. As we all stood, singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I listened to the harmonies that filled the air in that tent, and I thought how beautifully lives were converging right in front of me. From the multi-colored florets made lovingly by women in the bride’s life to the music performed by gifted family, this wedding was like seeing their two souls overlaid.

~     ~     ~

The ceremony is over, we are standing, clapping, hooting, when suddenly music starts playing. They are singing – the newlyweds – singing and dancing and the bridal party joins in. A wedding flash mob? Yes, please. Make it to the Muppets’ “Life’s a Happy Song” and let me join in from the audience, surprising my family, and it’s even better.

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I sing “Life’s a piece of pie!” and run up the aisle to join the dancing. We’re all smiling, singing to the surprised audience, all these faces I have loved for so long, and I’m grateful to be part of this day.

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[Later, at the reception, I will need to leave the room as the bride dances with her father to Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold.” I will rush past the groom’s mother whose eyes will also be glistening, I will run down the stairs and walk around the parking lot, crying alone in the hot summer evening. I won’t fully understand this strong reaction, but I will know that it’s all mixed in with growing up, friendships, changes, love that never happened and love that might happen, and the realization that the midwest is calling my friends away from me. All this will happen, but then I will wipe my eyes, run back up the stairs, and dance for the following three hours.]

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[Proof that I take my dancing a little too seriously. And that my friends are cool.]

Babies grow up and marry their great loves and change the lives of those around them.

[On Going Back]

We all say the same thing: It’s a flash

and slug.

 

You can’t wrap up time in a pink box

and raise it high in definition. You can’t seal

an envelope with a slow, deliberate lick –

explain the work and love, hate and despair

of four years.

 

What do you say to two shining faces

that’s honest, loving, real?

 

Sometimes, I would forsake all the settledness

I’ve uncovered in these two stretched years

for one day surrounded by the me and yous

of that place.

 

Ponds are dark even when they’re shallow.

The paths around them hold every word

whispered, shouted, proclaimed

until you wonder if the very gravel

has ears.

 

So I tell them: Sometimes, I would forsake

all the settledness I’ve uncovered.

 

Mostly, though, I look with gentleness

at those long-tough times, and I praise God

for not giving me the choice.

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Good Things #4

Today’s Good Things

  • Being at the beach with family
  • Playing a horrible game of Phase Ten until 10:30 at night (horrible because I lost – totally demoralizing experience)

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  • Swimming in a pool that seemed humungous when we were five and now proves to be quite tiny
  • Eating ice cream
  • Driving with the top down. The sunburn is worth it.

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  • Quoting movies we haven’t seen since we were twelve and laughing. Emperor’s New Groove and Mulan never get old.
  • Showing our Gram a Madtv video clip and thinking she was going to weep with laughter. Acupuncture’s funny when it doesn’t go well.
  • Not having enough time to read, watch movies or tv, or listen to music. No recommendations, but that’s another kind of good thing.

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