When I wasn't salting the beds, pouring ketchup on the couch, or smearing Vaseline on the walls, I guess I could stand still long enough for a photo and pretend to be sweet and cute. After all, Santa was due and I needed to not pout, cry, or shout.
When my efforts to spend time with my boyfriend in 1984 over the Christmas holiday were thwarted by his mother, I had to regroup and figure out what to do. At first, I just thought there’d been a mix up with schedules. It was beyond my comprehension that someone would so deliberately work to exclude me. Especially someone who was kind to my face (except for that episode of mocking laughter at my expense). I was too naïve to understand the machinations in play to block me from her son’s life. I was a slow learner.
By my last year of college, I’d been dating a fellow for most of five years. It was getting to a point of deciding if things were going to be “made permanent” (a phrase from the guy who was unwilling to use traditional words like engagement or marriage or love) but always feeling like I was the privileged one to have his attention or time, I certainly never would have pushed for a commitment, or even a discussion about it. So one day, when he brought up the subject and timeframe, I was thrilled. It was a dream come true, something I’d waited for with only a tiny friable hope over so many years. We were getting close to college graduation. The following year, he planned to be out of the country on a mission trip, with one visit home at Christmas time. He said then, when he was back over the holidays, was when he expected it would work out that we could make a commitment to “make things permanent,” code for getting engaged.
It’s snowing again. I didn’t want more snow. But at least I don’t have to go out tonight. I had to drive in a blizzard last night to go downtown to a rehearsal. The blizzard dropped down on me just as I left the garage. It wasn’t snowing minutes before when I looked out as I got my coat from the closet. Then when I backed out, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see anything. Well, besides that nasty thing of night blindness I have. It was because everything was suddenly covered in a blanket of white. Now, if I were going to stay home, it would have been pretty. But out on the interstate, racing a schedule to get in my chair before the conductor dropped the baton for the first downbeat, it was not pretty. On the highway, I couldn’t see anything, let alone where my lane was. In the middle lane (I think), I got behind a big truck whose taillights shone through the whiteout and I stayed between those two red dots all the way to my exit. We crept along at 20 mph and tried to keep going forward. Three cars were facing the wrong way, their headlights glaring at us and scolding us about how slippery it was. By the time I arrived at my destination and got parked, my adrenaline was racing and my heart was beating harder. No, it wasn’t a pretty snow.
When I was just starting high school after moving back to Colorado from five years in Oklahoma, we got a call from the post office to come pick up a package addressed to me. It was ticking and no one at the post office wanted to touch it, and certainly not carry it around in their trucks for delivery. A different era, when that was the reaction to a suspicious package.
The summer we were in upstate New York at the string camp, we needed someone to take care of our pets at home while we were away. We had two dogs and a cat. One dog, Lady, was a big German Shepherd-Collie mix who stayed outside most of the time running around and keeping the rabbit population in check. Hercules, or Herky, was Cyndi’s small Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix who stayed inside most of the time, but could run around our 1.5 acre yard if he wanted to pretend he was as fierce and mighty as the German Shepherd for a few minutes. Mostly, he didn’t want to. He’d rather stay inside and rest on a pillow with our cat, Poppy. Poppy was mine. He was a Siamese, formally named Papasan. He was an indoor cat and we never let him outside.
The summer that I turned fourteen, my family went to upstate New York to stay near an elite string camp where my dad was working. As a musician, he was always taking gigs anywhere he could to make ends meet. One way was taking up extra summer work when the symphony seasons were on recess, like the many years he played in the pit for the Central City Opera in the Colorado Rockies and the summers he worked for Meadowmount School of Music, a conservatory created and built by Ivan Galamian, a violinist and a legend for his visionary teaching and camp. He came from Paris by way of Russia by way of Iran, spending time in a Russian prison along the way. His camp was the place to attend, where the best of the best musicians have studied—people like Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman (who told my dad to call him Pinky when they played tennis together between gigs in Tulsa), Joshua Bell, and Yo-Yo Ma. My dad had been there before, but that summer, our whole family went so that we wouldn’t be apart so long.
When I was in junior high, my siblings and I attended school in the same building (or next door to) where my mom taught English, so we all commuted together each day. One day in early December, when our tree was up and even had a few gifts beneath it from eager givers, we got home after school and we all swarmed through the front door to get inside. The first thing I noticed was that the coat closet door had been left open. I thought, “Someone left in a hurry this morning.” I pushed the door closed as I passed by to go farther into the room. I noticed a drawer pulled out of the hutch in the dining room. When I saw a piece of furniture out of place, it prompted me to look around in a new way, taking in the whole room.
This morning Spencer and I were talking about a loved one who had a deeply meaningful experience in their life that has brought about the significant healing of emotional hurt. It reminded me of my own journey, and how those moments of deep healing are sometimes hard to articulate or define, but one knows that something profound has taken place in the center (or spirit) of one’s being.
I’ve mentioned before how Cyndi and I didn’t get along until suddenly, when I was 29, all our contention evaporated. Up until that point, the absence of peace between us wasn’t from lack of trying. We did try, and no matter our determination, we’d end up angry and we’d be grumpy at each other. (At least by our mid-twenties we’d stopped punching each other.) She spent some of her vacations to come see me and we’d try to be nice. It never completely worked.
Want my stories delivered right to your inbox? I can do that! Click the button below to sign up and I'll make sure to send my post right to you each day that I blog.