Writing Challenge Day 23: Something You Miss

My college roommate once said she could not fathom how anything mattered in her life until after her first child was born. Since I was only part of her pre-child life, I took offense. The part she so hastily discarded as rubbish is, and always has been, near and dear to my heart.

It was at State University that I learned how to live. On my own terms. That was a luxury I did not have in the house growing up.

And I miss that college life.

I miss the moments of self discovery, learning more about myself and how I interacted with the world.

I miss the reckless abandonment of cross country road trips, spending 2am in a diner, and sipping vodka cocktails on the apartment steps after a long week on a Friday night.

I miss the boys – friends and the ones who would wake up next to me in the morning – where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy with where life took them? Do they think of me as I do them?

I miss the relaxed schedule of classes, without the drone of a long workday, of which pivots everything else in my life.

I miss my sanctuaries of the coffee shop, the running trail, and the 18th story lounge of my old dorm that towered over the city. All of those places shaped me as a writer and provided a sounding board.

I miss the smell of the stage where I worked for slightly more than minimum wage. I can’t recall the scent I used to revel in; I’ve been away too long.

I miss having friends readily available. Now, I have to take in account distance, jobs, husbands, children – the list goes on. Gone are the days of hanging out randomly.

While I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was back in the day, I miss the person that was me. I miss the people my friends were before jobs, family, and life events changed them. I’m much more jaded now than I was – even though I’m childless and driving the same car I had in college. Even I haven’t escaped the sands of time.

While I lost my roommate to the abyss of motherhood and career, a college friend I occasionally hung out with – we ran in different circles – is now one of my closest confidants. She’s the one I call when the pain gets too much to bear. She knows all about the storms rocking my world, and I share in hers. I miss I didn’t make the most of our time when we lived a few moments away from each other; and now a 10+ hour drive separates us.

I’m perpetually stuck between what was and what is. I miss that old life so much, but I am thankful for where I am now, healthier in all aspects of life.

I just wish I could go back and visit once in awhile.

Number 35

I turned 35 today.  It kinda snuck up on me, this mid-thirties business.  I swear I’m still in my twenties, but my legal documentation, not to mention the fine lines under my eyes, say otherwise.

I started out the day with a grande pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (it’s free when it’s your birthday!) and a fancy donut from one of the local shops here.  I took my collective 1,000 calories and sat down on the beach.  The Atlantic was choppy and  I was glad I brought my jacket with me.  The sunbathing days are over for now.  Despite that, the sun was shining and I was in my happy place.  I talked with my mom and wrote in my journal – which had been neglected since last spring.  I took stock of my 34th year, and wrote down my hopes and dreams for the 35th year.

When I was 34….

  • I began writing a book detailing the 20+ years of genealogy stories and trees I have rolling around in my brain.
  • I applied for 3 jobs that are out of my area of expertise in hopes of a career change: thus far I’ve been rejected, and am now awaiting to see if #3 will hire me.
  • I learned how the mind of an addict works on the fly.
  • Roadtripped with my sister-in-law, niece, husband, friend from college, and myself.
  • I started a technical writing certification program.  It was time to put some energy into a passion.
  • I learned how to crochet and improved my craft.  I’ve come a long way from my drunk spider mode, but I still have so much to learn.
  • Discovered the lifestyle of contemplative prayer, and how it fits so well with my worship style.  It is so different from what mainstream American Christianity offers, it was like jumping in the ocean on the hottest day of year: so refreshing!
  • Began rock climbing again, and met some very cool people along the way.
  • I learned French (I started with nothing), where I can read simple things, but cannot actually impress anyone from France.
  • I kept up with my German studies through video, lessons, and reading the Bible.
  • I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls.
  • Rediscovered one of my favorite authors of all time, Alister MacLean.
  • I started this blog.

As for 35….

  • I want a new career.
  • I want to nail my capstone project for my technical writing certification.
  • I want my crochet projects to benefit the homeless and others in need.
  • I want to expand on the contemplative prayer lifestyle, connecting further with the Lord.
  • I want to travel out into the western part of the USA.
  • My husband and I have been contemplating an exit plan, perhaps moving away from the beach.  The current job situation went from bad to worse with him.
  • A European adventure is on the horizon:  every time I go to Europe, I am inspired to do something and I wonder what this trip will bring.
  • I want better control over my anxiety and lack of confidence.
  • I want to identify and express my emotions better.  I really sucked at that when I was 34.
  • I want to write my book, finish the stories, finish the trees, get an editor/manuscript.
  • I want to surf.
  • I want to open my home to friends, strangers, and those in need; even if my husband is upset at the idea.
  • I want to be a better wife by growing closer to my husband and reflecting the Lord.
  • While a family is not in the cards I was dealt, and my heart is so tender in that spot; that the Lord may fill it with what He so desires.

Forward

I just finished reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and now I understand what all the fuss was about.

And so, I’ve begun to put her methods to use around my house.  I strive to be a minimalist, but I have such a tender heart towards things with sentimental attachment.

And this brought me to my underwear drawer: it was time to face my past.

Stuffed in the back of the drawer were the red satins.  They are beautiful, from Victoria’s Secret: red satin pajamas pants with a button-up top as well as a red satin babydoll nightgown from the same collection.  The pajamas are conservative enough to wear in front of extended family for breakfast; the nightgown is a different story.

Both were a Christmas gift from John after we began sleeping together.  Our tryst had begun only a month before, and with his love language being gifts, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  But it did.  He loved the covered up look, hence the pajamas.  I loved the revealing look, hence the babydoll nightgown.  It spoke volumes to this writer’s heart: something for both of us to enjoy.  I thought it was a bit extravagant for a friendship that had a sexual component, but I was still thrilled.  I remember looking at him, thinking, “Is this more serious than I think it is?” I was the one who wanted a relationship; he was the one that always backed away.

This was all years ago, well before I had my toes firmly planted in sand at the beach.  I’ve worn them only a few times since the days of John and I, but they were always there, in the back of my underwear drawer.  They weren’t even folded nicely.

Using Marie’s guidelines, I need to let them go.  It is part of my past and I have moved far beyond that girl that was messing around with John. Why am I keeping them?  I lost touch with John, mostly on purpose; our friendship wasn’t one to bring into a marriage, as we never officially settled our past – if there even was something to settle – I never quite knew where “we” stood.  I know where he lives, I know what he does for a living, and I know he has a serious girlfriend, and in all honestly, that’s all I want to know.  As much as I’d love to meet up with him in a coffee shop and catch up on the last decade, I prefer him in the past. I don’t know the man he is now, as he doesn’t know the woman I am (….or was, I don’t believe he ever fully understood me back then).

But this stupid intimate wear is the last link I have to this deeply rooted amorous friendship.  That’s what Marie made me realize.  Perhaps that’s why I subconsciously never parted with it.

“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.  If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, you past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now.  To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.  It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.” (Marie Kondo)

One thing is for sure: I have to get rid of the pajamas.  They were for him, which brings a different connotation to it.  Marie constantly asks in her book, “Does it bring you joy?”

It did.  But now….not so much.  Regret.  Uncertainty.  Vagueness.  And they’re a size too big for my frame.  Definitely not joy.

The nightgown still fits me perfectly and it’s beautiful, I feel so sexy in it!  I will keep it.  While John is nothing but a memory now, all that remains is an alluring piece of fabric.  I am keeping it because I feel joy, it makes me feel good, not because it’s connected to John. I have another piece that was given to me; the way it makes me feel trumps the giver.

The purging and organizing continues.  Here’s to moving forward into the future the Lord has set out for me.  I am ready.  More than ready.

All that’s left is a band of gold

Last time I visited my childhood home, my mom set out several jewelry pieces from my grandmother she wanted me to have.  A simple gold wedding band was among them.  It appeared slightly weathered, but it fit my finger as though it was custom made for me.  There was an inscription inside: “RE to GA Dec 29 – 1910.”  I knew right away who it belonged to: RE was my great-grandfather, GA was my great-grandmother.

They were married on a Thursday, like me.  I don’t know how they met or what their relationship story was.  I have pictures of them with beautiful smiling faces, they look so happy together.  I have pictures of her with the ring.  It’s hard to make out, but I can see it.  This union produced one of my all-time favorite people: my grandmother.

If only that ring could speak!

I’m sure it’d tell me of the giddiness of January 1911, every time she glanced at her left hand: I’m married!  Women didn’t have many rights back then, marriage was a step-up for her.  Despite the typically scripted quiet and obedient wife of the time, my great-grandmother was kind, sweet, and quite the firecracker.  She was fierce as much as she was loving.

I wonder if the ring stayed on her finger during her pregnancies, or if the swelling became too much and it was left in the drawer.  I wonder too, what the ring would say to the arguments the neighbors undoubtedly heard: my great-grandfather was a drunk, especially during Prohibition (our family never was one for timing….).  When he was sober, he was a quiet, kind man.  When he was drunk, he would chase my great-grandmother around the kitchen table with a butcher knife, transforming into a monster.  I bet that ring felt awfully heavy in those moments.

It was common in such events, when he was drunk and violent, that my great-grandmother would lock herself and the three girls in the bedroom until he passed out.  Then they would board a streetcar and go to her mother’s house, even in the dead of a cold Detroit winter night.  I wonder if she absentmindedly fidgeted with the ring, as she stared off into space on the streetcar; fighting tears, trying to be strong for her girls, and figuring out her next move.  I wonder if she took off the ring for a time, carefully considering if she’d put it on again.

Nearly 17 years after the band of gold was placed on her left ring finger, she filed for divorce and it was granted.  She was kicked out of her church because of the divorce.  My great-grandmother took things into her own hands by working the assembly line at Dodge to provide for her daughters, despite the small alimony check; she was a welder.  The family lived with her widowed mother.

She had a handy man come to the house to do some odd jobs; they fell in love and married.  This man (my great-stepgrandfather!) was a WWI veteran and beautiful soul who was always smiling.  They stayed happily together until she died in the early 1960’s.

I wonder where the ring spent all those years.

And now it has come me.  I wear it on  my right hand.  It’s a perfect everyday ring, as I don’t have to worry about losing heirloom diamonds at work.  It’s sturdy, and in the quiet moments of work I find myself staring at the inscription.

The three girls from this marriage all died old women.  Their children are senior citizens.  These people are lost to time, only existing in stories and the random documents I’m able to unearth.

And all that remains is this ring of gold, to mark a family united and torn apart. It is a link of my ancestral past, which will always be near and dear to me.

Four Nine

The date echoed in my head.  9 April.  It was like recalling a dream from months ago: I knew it had significance, but I did not know why.

And then I remembered. It was his birthday.

He was my first real boyfriend, my college sweetheart.  We dated for a solid year and half before things began to warp like an old record.  We started out starry-eyed and in love; he was the ying to my yang as we shared so many adventures together.  After that first beautiful year and a half, we had several intermissions and reboots of our relationship, all of them foiled – mostly because there was always another girl or he was too selfish to care.  The emotional abuse he inflected on me should not have been tolerated.  We were not compatible, no matter how much my heart told me we were.

It’s been over a decade since  we ended it all.  A year after our last attempt at being a couple, we met in a dusty midwestern bar at my request – the kind only washed up locals go to – and aired all our grievances, caught up on each other’s lives, and reminisced about those good old days.  Not only was it cathartic, but I also got to spend a few hours with the same guy I had fallen head over heels for so many years ago.  I knew that persona was temporary, however.  We ended on a good note as we hugged in the parking lot long after last call was announced.   While it felt good in the moment and as now looking back, the days and weeks that followed that meeting left my scarred heart bleeding and infected.  The ebb and flow of time have softened that scar.  I told him never to contact me again before we parted.  Here I am, nearly 15 years later and he still has kept that promise and I am grateful for that.

I found myself thinking about him randomly, on his 34th birthday.  I know so little about his life now, but I choose to keep it that way.  It meant taking people off of my social media feeds that were still strongly connected to him, despite the fact he lives over 1,000 miles away.  This cold hearted sniveling super rat (as Holly Golightly would say) is a husband and father now.  His wife is a nurse, blonde, and has one of those smiles that lights up a room; I saw a picture of her once.  I don’t know what he does for work, but I’m going to assume it is in the same vein of his college major.  Despite the healing and the time that has passed, I have no desire to reconnect with him or view his online profiles or to know details about his life.

With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I found myself praying for him.  Last I knew, he was not a Christian.  His priority had always been himself.  Maybe it’s different now with a family; maybe it’s not.  I lifted him up in prayer in honor of his birthday, that the Light of Christ may shine into his life.  That he may turn to God in those moments of both triumph and disaster and for a truly spiritual Christian to reflect the love of the Father to him and his family.

Perhaps we’ll meet again in Heaven, both of us washed clean in robes of white.  That would phenomenal .

So here’s to him on his birthday: may this 34th trip around the sun be beautiful and covered in the glory of the Lord.

 

 

Writing Challenge Day 13: My morning commute

After many years on an off shift, for the past few I’ve had a normal job. Bankers hours, my former coworker once called it. Depending on the day, I leave my house at 0700 or 0800. I have a 9 hour shift.

I drive my orphan car, the same one I’ve had since I was 22. Luckily for me, the drive only takes 15 minutes tops, and I’m able to use the back roads to avoid the main drag.

The road I take is long and winding. It follows the river, mostly, and is boarded by long leaf pine trees.

I continue on through a light industrial depot, and sometimes I can see the big container ships come into port. It doesn’t matter how many times I see them, like a child, I always stop to watch them. Despite a decade of living here, this native Midwesterner still finds them completely facilitating.

Next I go through the only stoplight on my journey. I’m rather proud of that.

I drive a bit further down the line until I turn on the road that leads to my place of employment. This road also holds special meaning in my life: my husband’s old apartment is here. In that living room, we shared our first kiss and got engaged. We lived here together for 7 months until we married and bought a house on the other side of town. I can see the guest bedroom window and balcony from the driver’s seat.

And I finally arrive at my destination. A place that funds all my adventures and is my greatest source of incurable anxiety. While I have stellar coworkers – really top notch people – the nature of the job is wearing heavily on me. As soon as I find a suitable replacement gig with benefits, preferably out of my current vocation, my commute will change.

Writing Challenge Day 3: Your 1st Love and 1st Kiss

Coincidentally, he is one in the same.

Not one to kiss and tell, for this discussion his name will be John.  John Doe.

It was a typical midwestern autumn evening the first time I saw him.  I was a freshman in high school, while he was a senior – older men fascinated me as they still do!  I watched him for several days during rehearsal for a play.  It wasn’t until someone yelled, “John!” from across the room, and he appeared with an annoyed, “What?” did I know his name.  I found his surname printed in the program.  It was clearly attraction at first sight.

John was, by most standards, not good looking.  He was a conglomeration of recessive traits, pale acned skin, with a tall lanky frame and crystal blue eyes.

By the by, we eventually were assigned to work together on a behind the scenes project and we hit it off pretty well.  We flirted incessantly all through the cast party until one of the other actors made a comment.  We started talking in the halls before classes began in the morning; he always managed to sneak up behind me and slam my locker shut in between classes.  We also stuck around after classes to  chat.  He wrote me a long, sweet lovey note in study hall which I still have in a box somewhere in my parents’ house.

After about a month of intrigue, we finally decided we were a couple. “Meet me backstage,” he said after school one day.  I did.

Up in the storage lofts was a couch that fell out of the 1970’s amid other long forgotten props.  We hung out up there talking, which eventually lead to kissing.  And more kissing.  And lots more kissing after that.  I was his first kiss and he was mine.  Technique wise, it was beyond terrible, neither of us had any idea of the mechanics; however it was one of the most beautiful memories I have.  That secret moment was a world of our own.  Oh, to be young and unrehearsed again!

We met up there several times after to make out – that’s as far as it went.  Our relationship started to get weird at the 2 week mark.  John was struggling with it; he came from a divorced family, school was difficult (he was graduating in the spring), and I could feel him pulling away.  He broke up with me on the stage, with the fire curtain down.  I was upset, but waited till I was safe in my room to cry about it.  I always figured we’d get back together, but he was firm about that not happening.  Still, I had hoped.

Several years later, we eventually kindled a friendship over tennis and the occasional emails.  Our respective colleges were nearby and one night I stayed over at his place – we spooned, no kissing – after we saw a play together.

John became that cool guy friend who didn’t mind cuddling while watching movies.  I began to seriously date my college sweetheart and he fell hard and fast for a younger friend of mine.  He dated my friend for the better part of a year and lost his virginity in the process.  She dumped him for the “I need to find myself without you” excuse and there were rumors she cheated on him.  I never substantiated those rumors.  I still want to deck her for the way she carelessly tossed him aside.

A very broken and depressed John spent the night bawling at my college apartment, trying to make sense of the devastation she had wrought in his life.  I watched him progress through all the stages of grief in the following weeks.

I got dumped by my serious boyfriend around the same time, with the same circumstances. We became each other’s comfort, which morphed into a FWB relationship that went on and off for the next few years.  He made it quite clear we would never become more than friends and balked whenever I mentioned otherwise.

The whole thing ended without fanfare.  He kissed me good-bye, full on the mouth, as he did so many years ago backstage.  I had made the decision to move 3 states away in effort to re-start my life.  I met my husband soon thereafter.

Over the years, we’ve lost touch.  I sometimes wonder about John. What are his triumphs and struggles – his career, his life – as he’s nearly 40 now.  Our paths may just cross again, if there is a rip in the time-space continuum.

Writing Challenge Day 2: Your Earliest Memory

Burlington, Iowa circa 1983
I was a toddler.  My Dad’s cassette deck was just at my level and I remember playing tapes on it.  I only recall the music having a good beat and dancing to it.  I was told later by my Mom the album was Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  The tape wore out I was playing it so much.  I remember the living room, where the music components were, and the adjoining kitchen with its thin green carpet.  No other memories of that time and place are left.

This may also explain my fondness for sound equipment; I have a knack for setting up home entertainment systems and equipment for bands.