Riding along with windows down and sunroof open, I looked out at miles of salt water estuary. Heading to Walmart to pick up a prescription, I drove along the one road off the island.
A carefree solitary moment and then dagnabbit — Brandy came over the radio. The 1972 song by Looking Glass.
“And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works laying whiskey down
They say Brandy, fetch another round
And she serves them whiskey and wine
They say,”Brandy, you’re a fine girl
What a good wife you would be
You could steal a sailor
From the sea.”
Every time, every last time this old song surprises me on the radio, emotion swells at my throat. I’m 8 or 9 riding in the passenger seat of a Chevy station wagon on the way to school. My dad wearing a suit drives. Who knows how I’m dressed or if my hair is up in a pony tail? A metal lunch box might sit at my side but there isn’t a backpack on the floorboard. In 1972, we didn’t need such things to carry a slim book home.
Dad and I, Easter 1968.
My dad reaches over to the radio knob and turns up the volume. “I like this song,” he says.
I’ll remember that moment till my last breath.
Why do tears well up and a lump form in my throat? I tried without much luck to force tears pooling in my innards into submission.
Why does a tune about a port city barmaid pining her life away for a sailor who can’t settle down make me soppy with emotion?
I need to figure this out because it’s most irritating when you have to leave the car and appear composed and not like you’ve been crying about riding to school with your father 45 years ago.
A conservative guy, my father didn’t listen to popular music.
In 1972 didn’t all fathers vote for Nixon, wear a crew cut as naturally as a white undershirt and leave work at 5 p.m. no matter what was on their desk? As far as I knew, he didn’t listen to music at all. It was like sex. Parents didn’t do such a thing. Ever. Okay maybe once. Three times tops depending on how many siblings you ended up with.
Here was this solid, straight-as-an-arrow guy turning up the radio for a Top-40 song. And one having to do with an attractive woman serving drinks in a bar.
Who was this man?
Maybe the tears are for the sea of everything I’ll never know about my father? For all the conversations we didn’t have. For all the ones did.
Maybe they are for the sea of things that went on between that moment and now? How that expanse of time, all its joys and mistakes, is lost forever.
Maybe because when things get overwhelming there is nothing I’d rather do than erase all the chatter in my brain and be with my dad riding to school listening to Brandy?
I can’t pin it down to one or even a hundred things.
Surely when I left the car that long ago morning, I had worries.
A test? Lord knows if it was on grammar I was worried. Or should have been.
Maybe it was my week to be on the outside of the in circle? My week to be talked about behind my back and have notes passed to-and-fro about my wader pant legs (an occupational hazard when you’re a tall girl growing an inch every other day).
And surely the boy with whom I was in love didn’t know I existed. For that was my usual elementary school love life modus operandi.
Life is wonderful but it’s complicated and not at all like I thought it would be in 1972. Things will be easier when I’m grown up. Children. Career. Novels. Time for everything. No indecision. Adults know what they want and make things happen. Just like they plan.
Just like I planned. And dreamed.
You know what really puzzles me? How moments fixing dinner and folding laundry seem to drag by then you look up and over half your life has roared by with the furious velocity of a locomotive plowing through Minnesota farmland.
Beats the heck out of me.
I do think I’ve figured out why my dad turned up the radio.
Holy Week advances. Maundy Thursday has passed. The day marking the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples.
A few hours later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ cried out to his Father.
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
Not my will, but yours, be done. Christ reciting part of the Lord’s Prayer he had given believers.
Candidly, when I’m not caught in the rhythm and ritual of chanting those words as part of the The Lord’s Prayer in church — Thy will be done sticks in my mind and throat.
In earnest prayer, Thy will be done . . . On earth as it is in heaven can be hard as my will to accept at times.
The eternal battle of human pride verses humility. The world has always celebrated rebellion, whether storming the Bastille or lying in a field in upstate New York smoking weed to Jimi Hendrix, as more heroic than submission.
What is Thy Will anyway?
Do we clump earthquakes and car accidents, heart attacks and infertility into Thy Will?
I don’t like feeling I’ve lost control over outcomes. Most people don’t.
Recently I read that readers have more satisfaction while reading a novel no matter what trials fate throws at the hero, if they know the ultimate outcome for the hero. Which means reading the last page of the book first.
A few nights ago, my husband and I stumbled upon the movie Jerry McGuire. After cleaning my face and slipping into bed, I forgot my vow to go to sleep at a decent hour.
You know the movie. Tom Cruise plays a high-strung sports agent to perfection like a Johnny Cash riff from Folsom Prison Blues.
When betrayal brings his high life crashing down, McGuire was clueless that within the next 30 minutes everything would be better than ever. Having seen the movie decades earlier, I knew McGuire would find love and career success again. Knowing “You had me at hello” followed Cruise’s wallowing in the depths of despair (and the foil of Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s Oscar performance) made watching McGuire’s meltdown all the more enjoyable.
However over two thousand years ago on Good Friday, the opposite was true.
Unlike McGuire, Christ knew how his story would end — happily ever after in reunification with the Father. Yet even with that certainty, knowing what he was to endure the next few hours, Christ pleaded with God for another way.
Not my will, but thine.
How about saying Thy Will never includes death or loss? Anything with a price higher tag than a 1972 Nova. Or more painful than being stood up for Senior Prom.
Unlike penning a screenplay, in life we can’t rearrange paragraphs, delete a death-defying climax or shorten any ordeals. Nope. No one gets through life unscathed without scars, external or internal.
At this point in my life, Thy Will be Done doesn’t make me angry like a petulant teen after parents insist upon putting a tracking app on her phone. It’s more wondering what sacrifice might entail? What pain might be endured?
The fear of a diagnosis. A financial collapse. A lightning strike frying our modem.
I’m really into pain avoidance these days. I always have been.
But funny thing about insisting on a Pain Avoidance Clause in your contract — Pain Avoidance and Hurt’s attorneys didn’t get the memo. Or unbeknownst to you, they struck a black Sharpie through that line. And if they didn’t, seems the rebellious sons of bleeps didn’t ever or won’t ever give a flying flip about messing up your world.
The first an evasive leech snaking up and around tree bark melding itself to the body of a pecan minding its own stationary business.
English ivy sounds so lovely. It is lovely when confined to the parameters of a terracotta pot on my porch or the exterior walls of an ancient manor in the Cotswolds.
The above pictured isn’t a bush. It’s the trunk of a pecan tree in our yard.
To be honest, this takeover must have been happening for a while but only till this fall did it start to bother me. Baffled about how to get rid of it, I took a pair of yard clippers to it and after hours of (maybe minutes) of struggle, I managed to cut through one anemic teensy branch.
You see once attached to the tree, the vine grows into the bark. Ever put a screen protector on your phone and then decide it’s not quite lined up? Just pull it up and … Nope. They have become one flesh.
Just like the English ivy and the tree.
After no luck with my efforts — other than turning one or two strands a sickly yellow — what was a minor irritation consumed my waking hours. Like looking in a mirror and only seeing cellulite on the back of a thigh or a fold of skin in the crevice of a smile, driving up to the house, all I saw was English ivy inhaling a pecan tree.
I needed a horticulturist gone rogue. One gone all Darth Vader. I considering emailing the guy who poisoned the Auburn Trees.
On the other side of our house, the second vine was mat of smilax woven in an old metal rack. Or it used to be.
At one time, this vine formed a screen for our porch. Last spring after a nest of mockingbirds cleared out, I hacked it all down. I do this every few years because the vine swarming all over itself inevitably chokes portions causing dead brown spots in our lush smilax screen.
My husband hates when I do this because he loves his screen. But it has to be done and it always grows back.
That is it always has grown back — except when there is a severe drought like we had last summer and the yard service keeps cutting back any shoots attempting to sprout.
“It will grow back when the rains come again,” I told him. And one or two branches would shoot up toward the screen.
Only to be hacked down by the well-meaning yard service. Over and over. Last time it happened, y’all — I thought he was going to have a stroke.
Thankfully it has been raining and we finally got on the same page with the yard crew so it looks like we might have the beginnings of a screen again.
Climb sweet smilax climb. Stretch your tendrils to the sun.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the house.
Our son was home this weekend and I once again grabbed the clipper to tackle my nemesis. I called on him for strength when I couldn’t muster enough brute force to shear through a root.
“Mom. Those aren’t going to do it. You need an axe.”
An axe? Like Snow White and the Huntsman? Aren’t axes evil things wielded by escaped lunatics causing death and destruction to wayward teens having sex in parked cars?
Funny how I didn’t need to bother the Auburn tree killer at all. I just needed a well-placed axe.
My toes tingled at that mighty thud and the sight of blade biting and splintering those big as anaconda ivy roots at the base of my trees.
Who knows if that will solve my ivy problem, but now when I look at my poor overgrown pecans, I search for the first sign of a shriveled leaf, the first brown clump.
Hope. The feeling I have the upper hand in a battle against a relentless force. Once again I can sleep at night without haunting images of vine tentacles burrowing into my face.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
I sent a text to a friend visiting Tybee Island suggesting that her children might enjoy the lighthouse.
My dad would have gone to the lighthouse. Paid the donation and climbed to the observation catwalk with my sister and I in tow. Something to do. Dear dad always looked for something to do with us.
Me personally? Lighthouses are pretty images associated with the sea. I’d never diss a lighthouse. Jellyfish aren’t my favorite things either but I’d never talk smack bout a jelly for it hath sprung from the sea.
I’d never given much thought to them. Lighthouses, that is. Not like it is 1889 and I’m a crusty seafarer guiding my ship through the ink of night and don’t want to splinter the hull of my lady, shattering my livelihood and life.
A friend once told me she collected lighthouses. I think of her every time I’m in a gift shop selling coastal trinkets. I see a mini lighthouse on a shelf. My hand hovers over it for a moment — should I buy this and send it to my friend — only to walk away dismissing the notion because surely one reaches a point in life when you say, “Enough” to the number of lighthouses scattered about your living room.
Lighthouses are for people who . . . I don’t know? People who are moved by them. The tall cylinder. The beacon. The rocks. The spectacular ocean spray.
Me not so enchanted. I’m bent toward dear sea turtles laying eggs deep in a trough they spent half the night digging.
Or surfing. An athletic skill with a board. If you mastered surfing — now that would be something.
I would never be a person putting a lighthouse sticker on their car.
Except I did.
What can I say? It was a winter day at the beach. The kids stared at their phones. Anything would be better to me than watching them silently scroll through their phones all day. I entertained thoughts of walking to the lighthouse.
Being a holiday week and not warm enough to spend much time by the water, there would be lots people to mingle with. Then we would have to climb. We would climb round and round surrounded in stereo with echos of chattering people and their excitement to be climbing a lighthouse.
Lighthouse People with whom I have nothing in common.
But as much as I never entertained the idea of climbing a lighthouse, I refused to be holed up with kids and watch their ability to run and jump and speak to each other in complete sentences atrophy before my eyes.
So we walked to the lighthouse. An exhibition of sorts. That made the whole going to spend-an-hour-at-a-lighthouse more palatable.
Two hours later after a winding trip to the top, something in me changed.
Now when I walk through a hedge of sea brush and look up to see the lighthouse a quarter of a mile away, my heart lifts. Upon seeing the black and white sentinel, it’s as if carnival midway worker shoved a tube attached to hydrogen tank into my heart and gave it a squeeze.
My heart plumps up. Buoyed. Floating. Breaking free from a doldrums sea.
There she is. I love her.
What changed in the electrical charges haphazardly firing in my brain? Maybe finding out that the light itself is just a regular bulb. Like the one you’d screw into a bedside lamp to read. A huge magnifying glass does all the work.
Maybe remembering the winding metal stairs and the sighing brick walls that have stood there. Silently. For so long.
Maybe I identify with the lighthouse keeper. The one waiting at the shore with the light. Climbing the steps to light the light. Stable through fog and storms so fierce the first two Tybee Lights washed away. Till someone got the bright idea maybe we should build this next one in a different spot? Hope she got a raise.
Not sure if I’m an official Lighthouse Person. Not ready to commit to traipsing up the coastlines clamoring up the insides of any old beacon.
I’m pretty monogamous with my lighthouses I’m guessing.
I wonder if they still need a keeper?
Just my luck to find the perfect career a 100 years too late.
I wanted to start this post with a coolio photograph of ashes crisscrossing my forehead but I won’t receive those till later this evening.
Which is best because that saves me the angst of deciding whether it is prideful to post a photo of my ashy forehead or an honest representation of my day. Or both. Which would lead me to fretfully weigh my hubris against my desire for honest journalism.
The infernal question haunting the dreams of all Real Housewives Who Would Be Pulitzer Winning Journalists, or Bloggers, er . . . forget it.
Every year my sister and I give up the same thing for Lent. Sweets and Chips.
This year after much soul searching on the true meaning of Lent, I decided to give up Sweet and Chips. Said as any woman due to be Mother of the Groom in four months and wanting to drop a few pounds.
But I also want to grow in the spiritual sense as my waist shrinks by a couple of centimeters.
So what else to give up?
Dying my hair? Yoga? Raisins in my granola?
My sister asked what I'm giving up for Lent. Sweets, chips and worrying. #AshWednesday
No waking up at night allowing my brain to latch onto a million things that I can’t do one thing about at the moment.
No way you say?
Okay. You are probably right.
Worry and fearfulness have plagued humans since humans begat humans.
Fight or Flight.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin Roosevelt
The Girl on the Train.Elaine Benes
“Oh, this is great. This is what I need, just what I need. Okay, take it easy I’m sure it’s nothing. Probably rats on the track, we’re stopping for rats. God, it’s so crowded. How can there be so many people? This guy really smells, doesn’t anyone use deodorant in the city? What is so hard, you take the cap off, you roll it on. What’s that? I feel something rubbing against me. Disgusting animals, these people should be in a cage. We are in a cage. What if I miss the wedding? I got the ring. What’ll they do? You can’t get married without the ring. Oh, I can’t breath, I feel faint.”
“I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home.” W. C. Fields
“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Plato
I bet Plato never had to tidy his temple for a baby shower with 40 women in attendance.
Christ used lovely imagery to illustrate the futility of worry pointing out the effortless beauty of the lilies in the field and how birds neither sow nor reap but are provided for . . . But Matthew 6: 25 – 34 is a lot to memorize.
This Lent, Psalm 37:3 is going to be my mantra.
Trust in the Lord and do good. Easy peasy.
To memorize that is.
Trusting God in all things is more difficult.
Though staying busy doing good does help take the mind off your own troubles.
Especially for a former tomboy who could transform a smidgen of dry bread coupled with a drop of spit into an siren’s call for an unsuspecting brim.
Why was I spitting into a tube?
Let me back up.
Our two youngest are ours by adoption. An amazing, incredibly complicated journey for the adoptive parents, it’s even more so for the adoptee. Who never really had a say in the whole thing in the first place.
When we received our babies years ago, I didn’t know anything about how adoption might affect the baby through child, teen or adult years — but I’ve become quite the expert by book knowledge and experience.
One thing is clear. Though those of us raised by birth parents have our issues, we also take things for granted.
Such as how both my children admitted extreme anxiety when faced with the standard elementary school introduction into genetics.
Questions like — What color are your parents’ eyes? Is your parents’ hair curly, straight? Blonde or brunette? — led one child to stare at the blank page asking how do I know? And that child became more distressed when the unknowing teacher innocently marked the paper incomplete.
How can I answer questions I don’t know the answer to?
Finding and communicating with birth parents is a private family issue and one we discuss openly with our children — but as this past Christmas rolled around, I thought of another more general way for them find out more about their genetic roots.
Back to why I spit into a tube.
I ordered everyone in the family a DNA ancestry kit for Christmas. I researched the most popular companies and ultimately went with the one that had a $10 off Black Friday sale.
Now it’s obvious why my children would find tracing their ethic past fascinating. But why would I?
A lot of my ancestry has been researched and passed down.
A paternal great aunt traced my father’s family to the Minorcans from the Spanish isle of Minorca. In 1767 a Scottish physician, Dr. Turnbull, sailed to Minorca to find a labor force to build his settlement — New Smyrna Beach, Florida. My ancestors left their beautiful island in the Mediterranean to provide something close to slave labor for Turnbull’s New World venture. When my ancestors became sick of their indentured servitude to Turnbull, they slipped away to the beach and walked north to join the Spanish settlement in St. Augustine.
My mother has traced her family back to the Mayflower. I’m genetically connected to two of those smartly dressed Pilgrim passengers.
British Puritans and Spanish. Or that’s what I’ve always thought based on family members who have researched.
But what about my paternal grandmother whose maiden name was Camp? Seems Camp can be traced all over the place . . . British, French, Dutch even way back from the Old Germanic Kemp.
What if all the while I’ve secretly attributed my scattered undisciplined creativity to my warm weather, Mediterranean genetics and it turns out my DNA is over 50 percent Germanic? Old Germanic at that.
How will I now excuse an unmade bed at 11:30 in the morning?
The other day I placed my tube in the pouch and mailed it off.
I’ll share my results in a few months.
So Adios for now.
Got to go wash the baseboards and dust the root cellar.
At one point, the discussion turned to obstacles writers face.
I mentioned my need for stillness and how it is the opposite of our world today. Even when sitting, we flip through phones filling our brains with the chatter of news or social media.
Looking to the woman who asked the question I said,
“If I wanted to get to know you, we’d go out for coffee. Spend time talking. To find out what makes you happy or sad — and how through life’s journey you arrived at what makes you happy or sad — I’d take time to listen. That’s the way it is with our characters. We need stillness and time spent writing so they can tell us who they are and how they got there.”
That’s my problem with finishing these last two scenes.
I’ve put a Southern character briefly in Chicago in the 1950s. She’s young; she’s African American. I’m getting to know her, having her tell me what those years were like.
Code for time spent researching and not writing the important scene that comes when she is an adult back in the small Southern town — many years after she lived in Chicago.
I’ve studied on the Great Migration and the history of African Americans moving from the South to places like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Her time in Chicago is necessary to move the story but I don’t need to get bogged down researching the history of the Chicago school system and desegregation because she was of school age at that time.
I want to get to know her. I need to get to know her.
But I also want this flippin’ thing finished in 2016. Because it’s year’s end and that would be symbolic. I’m a writer and we live for symbolism like starting edits of a first draft on January one.
Sick bastards we are.
That’s where my first year Contracts final comes in. Way back in my law school days, Contracts was a four hour class (most classes were three hours) and its grade was weighted as such.
There was only one four hour test at the end of the semester with three questions.
Ten minutes before the exam was over, I was reviewing and refining my wonderful answers. Then I turned a page and saw . . .
an entire question that I had missed.
HOLY MOTHER OF BATMAN. There were FOUR questions.
Ten minutes left in a four hour exam and I found a question I should have allotted an hour to complete. My brain misfired so I couldn’t read the words.
Channeling every great drill sergeant in movie history he barked, “OUTLINE. OUTLINE. OUTLINE.”
Which I did.
Got a 73 on the exam which was okay considering my answer for a quarter of the grade was an outline. My law professor understood the basic points of the fully-developed answer I would have written had I taken more time.
I figure the same counts for finishing this draft. Outlining the scenes, leaving a structure to develop when there is more time.
Deadlines are friends. Property lines. Destination points. Managers. And voluntary.
When I first started writing for publications, I took deadlines as literal lines in the sand. You cross one late and your laptop drops off a sheer cliff into the Bering Sea. And no one hires you again. Ever.
As the years went by and life’s obligations kept increasing, my line in the sand attitude shifted to one where deadlines were more of a suggestion. A time frame. Until your editor sent a panicked email.
I wasn’t terribly late. At least not every time.
Reading Jean and Stan’s thoughts made me again see that deadlines are good things. Goals to keep us on track to accomplish things before we find ourselves 89 years young.
So what am I doing differently?
Getting up at 4 a.m. on weekdays. I used to get up at 5:16 for coffee and quiet time. That’s when I decided if I got up an hour earlier, I’d still have my quiet time, then an hour to write.
With the house dark and quiet, I focus better and can usually get 500 words done by 6:00. Then it’s time to awaken the rest of the house.
Except the cats and dog who have been up with me since 4 a.m.
Members of my writing group — would be novelists like moi — are using NaNoWriMo the same way. To spur them on to finish their first drafts.
So here’s to deadlines.
May they keep us writing when:
We don’t want to get out of bed to turn the alarm off in the bathroom. But of course I have to get up and turn the alarm off before it wakes up my husband.
The real struggle is standing in the dark in the bathroom fighting every fiber of my being that wants to rush back to bed.
There is laundry that you could do later when the kids come home. Errands to the store that can be done after 1000 words. Bills can be paid after the daily word allotment done.
You stare at a blank page to start a transitional scene and it would be so much easier to start a load of laundry than suffer through a halting, stop and go, fretting that this isn’t any good 30 minutes.
A deadline for first draft means screw it being perfect. Start writing even when your muse is still asleep (the lucky sob). You’ll figure out something. It might be just the thing. It might not. Anything can be changed in revisions.
Above all — keep that story moving to cross the finish line.
Gina’s post about her beloved Cubs going to the World Series triggered memories of those exciting years in the early 90s when the Braves went from worst to first.
John and I had been married a few years, were childless and lived 10 minutes from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
I commented to Gina that I should have one of those early Braves’ World Series tickets somewhere.
Here’s what I found in my bedside table. Not a World Series ticket, this was for a playoff game against the Pirates. They lost this game but Game 7 was one of the all time great Brave finishes with Francisco Cabrera’s two out bottom of the ninth hit scoring David Justice and Sid Bream.
Hence, the Braves made it to the 1992 Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dad came up for a game. The one clear memory I have of that night was looking down and thinking something is not right with the maple leaf on the Canadian flag.
But why wasn’t the World Series ticket crammed in the back of the drawer to my bedside table?
You see Gina, World Series tickets are big and very fancy. Just the kind of sentimental keepsake a reformed Pack Rat such as myself couldn’t bear to throw away.
Then I remembered.
Upon entering the stadium in the crush of folks, I went to the bathroom. (Some women tend toward paranoid at the notion of being trapped in the middle of a long row of seats at important sporting events and having to excuse themselves over and over to the bathroom.)
I went to the bathroom, waited in a very long line of women, took care of business, washed my hands, came out, met dad and up we went. Arriving at our section in the upper deck, we pulled out our tickets.
Alas I had no ticket.
Blood rapidly drained from my face through my throat — pooled in my stomach — and I became very sicky.
My dad had driven seven hours. We stood inches away from our seats. And I had lost any proof that Seat 113, Row 14, Aisle 312 was my very own.
No one in the universe felt worse than I did at this moment — with the possible exception of the person who attached the Canadian flag to the pole upside down.
No memory remains how we talked our way to our row.
Once seated, I constantly checked the entrance to our section for a character clad in dark leather wearing a grimy, bent-to-hell New York Yankees cap. The specter who was sure to march up to our row, motion at me saying, “Hey, missy get your @** out of my seat.” Then Braves’ Security would arrive to escort dad and I in the walk of shame back down the ramp to probable arrest.
I didn’t relax till the seventh inning. If that.
Thankfully nobody in the crowd coursing through the cement ramps of Fulton County Stadium found a trampled ticket face down in a sticky pool of Budweiser.
And messed with my World Series memory.
So hold on to those tickets all ye Cubs and Indians. And enjoy the show.
The Lord has his eye on the sparrow —
and those of us scattered-of-mind at the most inopportune times.
After first seeing the Facebook announcement for my 35th High School Reunion, I looked at it. Then I looked at it again.
The passage of 35 years was so hard to conceive and my arithmetic so weak, I took out paper and pen and subtracted 1981 from 2016.
Gag me . . . it had been 35 years.
I vowed to lose 5 pounds. Take every yoga class for the next four months. Pick out a dress. Face lift. Butt lift. Skin-on-my-legs-especially-the-skin-above-my-knees lift.
Months passed and it was two weeks till the reunion. I weighed about the same. I’d made it to three yoga classes the month of August. Nothing had been surgically lifted, so I packed some make-up, a pair of Spanx and rubbed self-tanner on my legs. Though I did think it the perfect excuse to get a facial.
Reunion photo credit to Ricky Silva. Can you find me?
Random thoughts on attending your 35th High School Reunion.
— Commit to going. Don’t think about it. No one ever gives birth or adopts children, signs up for a marathon or goes to a class reunion if they ruminate on it.
— Note to the venue. For the love of Mike, when most party-goers are over 50 — dim the lights on the dance floor.
— Try on the dress you decide to wear before the night of the party. I bought a dress last spring and never once had it on again until the night of the reunion. Whatever mojo I felt in the dressing room wasn’t there reunion night. Didn’t like it. At all. Thankfully, I did bring another dress. But logic says to try the dress on before leaving your closet in the rear view mirror six hours down the road.
— To those who went to high school in Florida and haven’t lived there in a while. HAVE A BACKUP PLAN FOR YOUR HAIR. I completely forgot about the Florida humidity. It was raining as well. My hair went up in a coated rubber band.
— Your mother can show up at the party before you, talk to people, and you laugh about it. If my mother would have shown up to a high school party 35 years prior, I’d have dropped out of Winter Park and enrolled at Edgewater under an alias.
My 83-year-old mother dropped by the party before I arrived. (She was eating in the adjoining restaurant.) She walked in and started talking to all my high school friends, and some of their children. When I arrived my friend Ann said, “Did you know your mother was here?” She laughed saying, “I looked up and thought that’s Jamie’s mother . . . this is wild.”
This photo is Facebook credited to Ann who is in the middle of this pic. Ann who talked with my party-crashing mom. (I think her husband must have had the phone.)
High School Reunions are wild in a Twilight Zone sort of way.
Facebook is for cowards. Nothing can substitute the authenticity found in a face-to-face conversation after 35 years.
I heard a great phrase today. Out having breakfast in Madison, we were approached by an acquaintance we hadn’t seen in a while. He asked the standard “How are things?”
We gave the standard reply, “Things are great.”
To which he said with a smile, “Things are great with us too . . . with an asterisk.”
By the time you’re heading to your 35th High School Reunion, everybody can say, “Life is great . . . with an asterisk.”
Asterisks don’t discriminate. They are equal opportunity offenders in the form of losing loved ones, of divorce or divorces, children heartbreak. Financial struggles or collapse. Job traumas. Battling illness as if our lives depended on it. And the universal of challenge of experiencing our young selves — becoming not so young at all.
We’ve have lost the urge to play the comparison game to feel better about ourselves. If I asked you what you’ve been doing the last 35 years, I was truly interested in finding out your journey. Not to boast on my superstar decades headlining as wife, mother — and writing a blog.
On Facebook you get a bunch of amazing photos. Ones people post after they deleted the first fifteen they took.
It is a great way to keep up but,
With Facebook you can’t throw your arms about somebody’s neck in a squeeze or learn how fun life can be with a sugar monkey. Or giggle with friends you giggled with 35 years ago.
Thanks to Michelle for this snapshot.
So as Nike said back in the day,
Just do it and go to that reunion.
What’s to lose? It was quick. Just a few hours and then done.