Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fun With Photos

spiceboy, upon recently viewing several completely humiliating pictures of me from grade school, including the one from my last post, could not help but make the following hair comparison, which I felt compelled to share with you all today:

Me, circa 1984

As an aside here, please note my sister, also pictured, who appears to have normal little girl hair. Which begs the questions: Did my mother hate me? Is my sister truly the favorite child?

Anyway, on with the comparison...

Eddie Van Halen, circa 1984

However, upon viewing the above photo comparison with his eagle eye, Dear Friend ABS weighed in with the assertion that my hair is much more Barry Gibb than Eddie Van Halen:

Since my mother was in charge of all of my hair and clothing choices in those days, I guess the mystery of the origins of my unsavory haircut will remain locked in her heart forever. But since she was, and is, a huge Bee Gees fan, I think it's safe to assume she was going for Gibb over Van Halen.

So that's it. My humiliation is your viewing pleasure. Have a lovely Thursday!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lacks Fine Motor Skills: A Lament (Part One)

I was born in early September in a small hospital in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, in the wee hours of the morning. My father, in a gallant show of appreciation of my mother's long, hard hours of labor, purchased for her a 1 lb. box of chocolates.

While my mother slept off her labor, pale and weak in her hospital bed, and I slept off being born, pink and chubby in my basinet in the nursery, my proud father sat patiently at my mother's bedside. As he waited for her to awaken so they could take their newborn daughter home, he got hungry and ate the entire box of chocolates he'd so lovingly purchased for her.

Which resulted in an explosive case of diarrhea.


My early September birthday affected me not at all until I reached kindergarten age. Apparently, I was born after the cut-off date for which the school officials would allow students to register. It was up to my parents whether or not to have me tested to put me into school immediately, or wait until the following year.

If my parents had waited it out, perhaps my fine motor skills would have had more time to develop, and I wouldn't be the uncoordinated mess I am today, with bruises on my legs from bumping into random objects and chipped polish on my toes from constantly tripping over miniscule cracks in the sidewalks.

But they didn't wait.

My parents sent me to "get tested" to see if I was ready to start kindergarten. I don't remember much from that day, except that I was painfully young and painfully shy and that everything around me was large and frightening. The echoey hallway. The heavy doors. The hard plastic chair upon which I sat, in the middle of a brightly lit room, in front of a vast expanse of table.

Across from me sat two adults, a male and a female, who asked me various questions to determine my I.Q., and then let me draw with crayons, which I loved. Burnt Umber. Magenta. Bittersweet.

Anything else that may have happened during that meeting in that big room on that fateful day is lost to me. Somehow, though, it was determined by the two strangers that while I was bright enough to begin school, I lacked fine motor skills. The two strangers then relayed this to my parents, who made it a point to relay it to me for the whole of my childhood.

So how does a shy four year old girl develop into a confident, graceful, coordinated adult when she is told repeatedly by those closest to her that she lacks fine motor skills?

She doesn't.

My Motor Skills: A Brief History

Kindergarten: Perhaps hoping to help me build up my motor skills, my mother enrolls me in ballet class with a teacher named Miss Bonnie. I love prancing around in my leotard, tights, and pink ballet shoes, but I find the loud piano music disagreeable and the ballet positions completely impossible, and I soon begin to dread going to class.

Still, I stick it out until the first recital, which my father records for all posterity on his cutting edge, top of the line 16 mm camera.

The film, now slightly blurry with age, does not lie:

On the stage eight tiny ballerinas stand in a row. Seven of them dip and swirl and bob in time to the music. The 8th ballerina stands slightly back, staring at the others in confusion. When she tries to execute a turn, it is in the wrong direction.

I was the 8th ballerina.

Third Grade: It is Christmas time. My best friend is Julie, who is the prettiest girl in the class and has milky skin and long, flowing hair. Because I am not pretty, I’m in love with her and emulate her every move.

I have short hair feathered into ridiculous wings on either side of my head. I also have a long gangly neck and stys on my eyes, which makes them red rimmed and creepy, basically giving me the very uncuddly appearance of a freaky, female, third grade version of E.T.

Don't believe me? See for yourself:


Julie wants us to try out for the Christmas pageant as dancing reindeer. The thought of dancing in front of others, as a reindeer or otherwise, fills my heart with dread. But because I love her, I follow her down to the auditorium, where the school music teacher, Mrs. Pasquerelli, a large, heavily made up woman with a penchant for stage performances done completely in blacklight, a voice like Julia Child’s and hair like Charlotte Rae’s on The Facts of Life, is pounding out an angry-sounding version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on the piano.

Mrs. Pasquerelli hands us our props--huge pieces of poster board cut out in the shape of Christmas bulbs and--of course--slathered with special blacklight paint. She lines us up on the stage and shows us the reindeer moves--lots of swaying back and forth with the blacklight bulbs, a couple of turns, and finally a series of bizarre and difficult Rockette-style kicks--before returning to her piano and banging on it while we attempt the routine.

The little girls on stage become eight dancing reindeer. Seven of the reindeer sway back and forth with their blacklight painted poster board Christmas bulbs, singing about Rudolph. They execute their turns and begin the Rockette kicks. The 8th little reindeer loses her balance when coming out of a turn, drops her poster board bulb, and watches in horror as it disappears through a narrow crack in the stage floor.

The music stops. Mrs. Pasquerelli scolds The 8th reindeer. The other reindeer snicker, causing the 8th reindeer to cry and run out of the auditorium.

I was the 8th reindeer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Poorboys and Pilgrims with Families and We are Going to Thailand

No, wait. That's not the way Paul Simon wrote it.

Still, I can't get that song out of my head. I sing it in the shower. I hum it while I'm making photocopies at work.

And in the place where Paul sings Graceland, Graceland, Graceland, I sing Thailand, Thailand, Thailand.

We will go there for our honeymoon.

To Thailand, not Graceland.

Can you even call a trip taken six months after the wedding a honeymoon?

I think I'll just call it a trip instead.

The plane tickets have been purchased.

Various travel guides are strewn about the house like happy debris.

And on December 27th, we will board a plane at JFK and disappear into the sky.

Until then, I'll just keep singing the song.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Saturday Night...

and we are drinking wine at a cozy dark bar, surrounded by men speaking Italian. Outside, there is just enough rain to wet the streets and the leaves on the trees and the few patches of grass on the ground, so the air blowing in through the open door smells both industrial and vegetal.

I drink spiceboy's wine first, because I like it better. It tastes like leather and butter and oak trees. I lean my head into his shoulder, soft and soapy and smelling like home. I take my notebook out of my bag and place it on the bar, opening it to a blank page. In it, I write:

What is today's date?

spiceboy writes:

August 19, 2006.

And so we finish our wine and order two more glasses and have a conversation in the notebook, rather than out in the open air. spiceboy wonders if now that we're married, we'll stop dating.

I write:

Do husbands and wives still date?
I hope so.
If we do not date, then what is it we do?
Talk? That is dating.

The little place is filling with people. The air has become close. The wine has gone to our heads.

spiceboy grabs the pen, thinks for a moment. Writes:

Dating is...pooping.

Then he grins at me.

I write:

No,I think marriage is pooping.

Dating is...waiting until you feel comfortable enough to poop.

spiceboy motions to the waiter for two more glasses of wine. Then he picks up the pen and writes:


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Moving Through Molasses

Lately I feel sluggish, as though I'm moving through molasses.

But the air is clear tonight, and after my third Stella, the words start to take shape.

The breeze off of the Hudson. The glittering lights from the opposite shore. A French accent.

We smoke Gauloises and exhale upward, talking about the things we'd love to do, and I feel something different in the air. It takes me a few moments to recognize it.

It is relief.

Relief that this strange, interminable summer is almost over.

And that the rest of my life is waiting.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Whole. Hole. Whole.

I debated whether or not to write about this. I don't know why. Everyone has their own personal reaction to what happened here in New York on 9/11. Of course I have mine. I don't expect that anyone else should feel the way I do. I don't expect anyone to agree or disagree. We all cope with things in our own way, in our own time.

Since just after it happened, when the whole nation finally unglued themselves from their televisions, I have tried to avoid the visual reminders of 9/11. Which is why I change the channel when the newscasts run old footage or, more recently, when the trailer for the movie comes on. I don't need to see it to be reminded of it--it's just part of me now. And even though it may not always be at the front of my brain, I am aware of it and I mourn it every day.

For these same reasons, I have chosen not to visit Ground Zero.

But last weekend, my parents were in town, and they wanted to see Ground Zero. It was early on a Sunday morning, and traffic was light. So spiceboy and I picked them up and headed down the West Side Highway, down down down, to Lower Manhattan.

On the way down, my parents chatted, asking questions about the city and pointing out various landmarks, but spiceboy and I were more quiet than usual. If my parents noticed, they did not comment.

I’ve hardly been to that part of the city, so it was strange yet familiar to me. The streets were Sunday-morning deserted, and something about it reminded me of my childhood memories of downtown Pittsburgh on the weekends, when I used to think it was the biggest city in the world.

As we drove around, I looked up up up at the tall buildings, all squashed together. Then we made a turn and there was a gap in the buildings. A hole. Bordered by a fence and some sort of a walkway.

“That must be it,” my mother said. We pulled to a stop. My parents climbed out of the car.

spiceboy and I stayed inside.

We found a parking space not too far away, next to a little park, a sweet little park in front of the hole where the World Trade Center used to be. The park was empty, and we sat on a bench there. All around, it was very quiet. Hushed. Everything felt still and heavy.

The air was warm and the sky was bright blue and I looked up at it, then down at my feet, then up at the sky again.

I was holding my sunglasses. I put them on. Took them off. Put them on again.

Then I hung my head and I cried.

“Hey,” spiceboy said. He might have put a hand on my leg. Or on my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said. “But I don’t like it down here,” I said. “It’s very sad.” Then I felt guilty for saying it, so I cried a little harder.

It was the kind of intense emotion that prevents you from forming complex thoughts. Whole. Hole. Whole. That’s what I was thinking while I cried.

We sat there for a little while. Then I wiped my face, but I kept my sunglasses on. Next to the bench on which we sat were several large concrete planters, filled with fresh dirt but no flowers. To our left, there was a fountain, but it wasn't filled with water.

I said what I hadn’t noticed when we sat down: “This is new. This is a new park.”

Several workmen showed up and began fussing with the planters and spraying down the fountain with a hose, getting it ready for visitors. They were chattering and laughing with each other. At first, I was irritated by their good moods interfering with my melancholy one. But as we stood to leave, I tried to hear their laughter in a different way; after all, they were rebuilding something good out of something tragic and sad.

In the vast space in which such a horrible thing has happened, there should be room for every type of emotion. My tears have a place there, but so does their laughter. It’s something that makes the hush of the place feel a little less heavy.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

This Is What A Relationship Looks Like From The Inside

It's early morning. spiceboy and I are in bed. My alarm goes off. I hit snooze and roll over into the crook of his arm and he pulls me close to him, as is our standard morning practice.

I fart. spiceboy stirs.

"That sounded like a little trumpet," he says, his voice thick with sleep.

"I'm playing you a morning tune," I say.

"Thank you," spiceboy says, before turning his head to the side and drifting back into sleep.