Category Archives: Nostalgia

Six Wedding Words

There cannot be enough Armenian dancing.

Counselor Hunt

The ground angling down to the shore is precariously lined with dry, brown pine needles over soft soil. Roots arc up from the ground, twist and dive back, creating hazardous steps as I descend, sidestepping slightly for balance. Sunlight filters through ashes, birches, and firs, pale and green-scented on my face and bare arms.

The rock is warm, the lichen soft-green and dry on its surface. A watery breeze drifts over the shoreline here; there sunlight breaks and glitters on the pond. My body settles into the saddle-shaped depression at the rock’s center, my back against the dirt rising back up from the water’s edge.

The pond laps at the rock, a soft splot-splot-splot. A motor boat whirrs over the water past Blueberry Island like an industrial dragonfly and the wavelets amplify against my perch: splot-slap-splot-slap. Voices and laughter and raucous song drift over the water, tumble down the embankment from the forest trail above as campers in groups wander the acres, searching.

Water snake, peeper frog, pondweed, canoe, a kiss of shadow as a cloud slips past the sun. My thoughts empty, leaving space for fleeting observations.

Fill with deeper thoughts. Summer’s inevitable close, the crisp breath of fall in a new place, a shift in my life’s center of gravity. A dull ache between my shoulders muscles ahead of thoughts; I sit up and stretch, awareness and blood pushing back into flesh.

The heat from pond-mirrored sun dusts freckles on my skin, infuses my hair with the smell of summer, and I settle back into the hard saddle. The quiet cove down the shore is thickly skimmed in waterlilies, recently opened, nodding gently on the nearly still surface.

Footsteps above. I still myself, breathe quietly, drawing the air in silently. Giggles. I am found.

For this week’s memoir prompt, we’re going to let narrative take a backseat. Choose a moment from your personal history and mine it for sensory detail. Describe it to us in rich, evocative details. Let us breathe the air, hear the heartbeat, the songs, feel the fabric and the touch of that moment.

The Pee Church, or Sprinting in Red Heels

I wrote about a theatrical wardrobe malfunction and about getting stuck in Dave’s bathroom. Clothing and urination and my good-girl days. Then I remembered what happened when that girl grew up and was released into the wild.

(Seriously? Not much happened. I’m still a pretty good girl, and also? Hi Mom!)

Around the Millenium, I lived in near Boston, and two of my best girlfriends lived about a half mile away. Many were the nights of carousing, and if we were lucky catching the Red Line back as far as our stop. A cab from the T station, or better yet the bus, was always cheaper.

That night we caught the Red Line, and decided we’d use the mile walk from the station to their apartment to sober up. I would crash on their couch, and head home the half mile to my apartment in the morning.

Back in those days public restrooms on the T were rare and foul. After last call, the square buttoned up tight, so if a girl needed to pee, she was right out of luck.

“Just use the Pee Church,” my friend suggested, pointing to a gray stone church about a block away, ringed with hedges, thickly shadowed and inky green in the darkness.

“They don’t lock it?” I asked naïvely.

“No. Yes, they do. Just pee behind the hedge. My University friends used to do it all the time. It’s a long walk home if you don’t.”

“I can’t.”

“Suit yourself.”

I kept walking, bladder pressing on my thoughts. Halfway there the urge was desperate, and cover was scarce. I had given up the option to squat when I passed the Pee Church.

I soldiered on up the hill, my bladder insistent with the knowledge that we were getting incrementally closer to a toilet.

With a tenth of a mile left, I’d had it. I was still tipsy, I had to go, and I couldn’t wait anymore. I demanded the keys from my friends, and took off.

I ran, full tilt, in four-inch platform peeptoe sandals along the sidewalk until I got to their place, unlocked the door with shaking hands, and sprinted down the hallway to the bathroom.

I made it, but I didn’t close the front door.

There is a place called the Pee Church, despite my lack of reverence I can’t do that, and I can sprint in heels under the right circumstances. Lessons learned.

Write a post that either starts or ends with the words “Lesson learned.” Word limit: 400 words.

Dave’s Bathroom

My friend Dave grew up on the posh side of town. I love his parents’ house. A big, roomy colonial on a quiet, winding, tree-lined street. We were warmly welcomed there as geeky, awkward teenagers. We watched movies in the den, played pinball in the basement, ate ice-cream from their freezer, and I even once kissed a boy in their living room.

But I was terrified of the powder room.

New Year’s Eve. December 31, 1991, and a few of us were gathered at Dave’s house. I don’t think his parents were home–but that’s not a big deal. We were good kids, curfew obeyers, nerd girls and nice guys the lot of us.

I innocently went into the first floor half-bath to pee. And you know how, when you’re a teenager, everything is a huge deal? Peeing at a boy’s house, even just a boy who is a friend, is a huge deal. Because, you know, peeing. Near strangers. Some of whom are male.

I locked the door–one of those funny antique pin-style locks. I peed. I washed my hands. I went to unlock the door.

Shit.
Shit shit shit.
(Except I’m pretty sure I was fourteen, and didn’t say shit out loud yet.)

So, I panicked a little, and waited a few minutes, and tried again.

And then I called for help. Simultaneously wishing I could just flush myself down the toilet in embarrassment.

Dave came to the other side of the door and tried, increasingly less patiently and more mockingly, to explain to me how to jiggle the handle and press the pin and wiggle my nose and whisper the secret word to release the lock… but I couldn’t get it.

Until finally, he wasn’t outside the door anymore.

He was outside the window, hoisting himself up and inside. He did manage to finagle the lock once he was in there with me. And thank god we were a drama-free lot because hello? Locked in a bathroom with a boy. In high school.

I spent a lot more time at Dave’s house over the years, and I never once again locked the bathroom door.

Mama’s Losin’ It1.) Write about a time you had to crawl through a window. (inspired by Barb from Half Past Kissin’ Time)

Okay, so my friend crawled through a window, but it was to save me.

Oh Diogenes!

Final Dress.

The Boys from Syracuse, Worcester Academy, spring of 1994.

I am playing the role of the Courtesan, which is what happens when you’re a curvy alto. You play the nag, the mother, or the whore.

We, myself and my four courtesan underlings, are fully costumed, in orange togas, slit up the front from mid-calf to just under the bustline, under which we wear yellow leggings. To set me apart as Chief Among Whores, I have a chunky, gold-link belt slung on my hips. The belt is pinned at the back, since as a singing, dancing lady of ill-repute, I do a big kick line number in the eleventh hour, and the costumers don’t want the belt bouncing and knocking off the blue jewel I have pasted above my navel.

Yes. A blue navel-jewel.

So, the rehearsal is running well–which, for anyone not in the theatre, is a bad sign, and my big number is up. The whore’s jazzy plea for an honest john. I’m ready, the girls are ready…

The choreography goes well, the vocals go well, we’re in time with the pit… we link arms for the kick line. Right knee, right toe flexed, left knee, left toe flexed… right knee, right toe flexed…

And like a spinning galaxy in a model of the universe, I watch the belt twist and arc up–out over the proscenium extension…

Left knee, left toe flexed…

It flashes in the follow-spot as it hits the apex and begins to fall…

Right knee, right toe-flexed…

Into the lap of the bassist, who’s also my music theory teacher.

Jazz hands uuuuuuupp!! And hold!

As the lights fade and we scurry offstage, we’re met with snorts, chortles and guffaws… and that’s just from the pit. The cast and crew are in silent hysterics. But I hold my head high, giggling and blushing scarlet.

I never missed a note.

And a wardrobe malfunction is a good sign. Screwing up in final dress means you’re more likely to be on your game opening night.

And opening night was great. I vamped it up, hit my smoke-bomb cues, smooched the leading man, and made it to the eleventh hour number.

We took our places in the dark, feet on our glow-tape marks, and as the scene lights come up for the intro to the song I see, where none had been before, a hard hat on the bassist.

I never missed a note.

But I never lived it down either.

To this day, when I see that particular teacher at alumni events, I am reminded of my belt flying into his lap when I was 17.

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life.

Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Or did you bring it upon yourself?

Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

One Could Do Worse

I have an old copy of A Swinger of Birches: Poems of Robert Frost for Young People.

Before Felix was born, I filled the bookshelf my father built for me when I was a child with all of my childhood books. Lovingly arranged with the Sandra Boynton board books I got at my baby shower and Guess How Much I Love You are my copies of The Dark Is Rising and A Wrinkle in Time. Miss Rumphius, Bread and Jam for Frances. A Swinger of Birches.

So, every now and again, from between his many favorite stories, he pulls out a memory, pages slightly yellowed and musty with age.

Two nights ago he pulled out the Frost. I read him Birches, The Oven Bird, and Canis Major, before moving on to his current favorite, Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton.

Last night he pulled it out again,we read The Road Not Taken and The Drumlin Woodchuck. Then it was on to Dumpy the Dump Truck (a very sweet story by the incomparable Julie Andrews).

Tonight for a third time he pulled it out. I opened it to Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. He said, “No, Mama. I want the Birches one.”

No, Mama. I want the Birches one.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

The Beginning of Everything

Carmen was playing on Boston Common.

Opera under the summer sky. I wanted to go. I invited him. We were new to each other. A few weeks of phone calls, emails, a first date that left me unsure. I liked him, but was that enough? I wasn’t prepared to release him back to the dating pool, but neither was I willing to dare myself to open up to the idea of him.

Looking back, I think my subconscious knew. Trust your gut. But at twenty-five you don’t always do that, especially where men are concerned.

I worked two blocks from the Common in those days, he lived a T stop away over the bridge. That much I knew, but we had only seen in each other in public space. Movie theatres, restaurants, bars.

He met me at work. He had a picnic and a blanket. I remained calm, but my insides swooned. Baguette, paté, cheese, but I was careful about what I ate. Later he would say that he wondered if I didn’t like the offerings. Au contraire.

We sat through the performance, we ate, we talked a little during the intermission. As we packed up to leave, I realized my cell phone was missing.

He crawled around in the grass looking for it, but it was gone. Not in my bag, not on the blanket, not in the grass. Gone.

In those days, losing my StarTac was like losing an iPhone.

I was a mess. I couldn’t afford a new one, and again, in those days, someone else having my phone meant extra minutes and charges and oh, god…

“Let me buy you a drink,” he offered. I was a mess.

We took the train back to his stop, me fretting the entire time about the damn phone. We got drinks at a bar neither of us liked because it was there.

“Let me drive you home,” he offered.

A quandary, because I wasn’t ready to say, invite him in. I didn’t want to make him go out of his way, to make him lose his parking spot–so coveted in his neighborhood of more care than parking spots. And did I mention I had friends sleeping on my air mattress in the living room?

I explained these things awkwardly.

“Let me drive you home,” he insisted.

He drove me home in his grubby pick-up truck. He stopped outside my apartment, idling in the narrow road, while I fidgeted and fussed with my bag.

I don’t even remember what I said just before he kissed me.

Which didn’t matter, since after he kissed me was the beginning of everything.

Mama's Losin' It4.) A memorable date.

Do I Get Martha Points for Posting Wedding Photos?

Hey, check me out! I’m babysitting at In Pursuit of Martha Points today!

The smell of spring was hiding under the distinct funk of melting dirty snow this morning, and so I offer you a few photos of a very special late spring day, five and a half years ago.

We are gathered here today...

 

This is one of my favorite photos from the wedding, even though I'm headless.

Newly Announced!

 

Mark, his brothers and best friends, late in the festivities.

Christmas

Lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner, one gift from under the tree, which meant one that was from an aunt or family friend, as gifts from my parents and Santa always appearing magically in the night. Would it be a Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightie from my fabulous Aunt Helen (And by “aunt” I mean my mother’s stepfather’s stepmother – I think. Either way? Truly a hot ticket!)? Or a wonderful new book from Aunt Linda? Would my Uncle Pete make his bus from New York? Baking gingerbread cookies from my grandmother’s recipe, the decorating always starting out ambitious and deteriorating into a few raisin eyes and a cinnamon buttons; my little brother’s cookies always horribly mangled a little crooked. Last minute shopping with my Dad. A fire in wood stove. Reading aloud from my Mom’s ancient copy of The Night Before Christmas, hanging the stockings, leaving the best of gingerbread cookies with milk for Santa. My Dad negotiating how much it would cost him to have me wrap the gifts he bought. Listening to our vinyl copies of John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Waking Christmas morning to my little brother in my room with his flashlight. “Is it time to open presents?” “No, not until seven o’clock.” Coming down the stairs together, after my parents had gone down to turn on the tree and start the coffee get the camera ready for pictures. My Mom’s coffee cake, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Squeezing the oranges for fresh juice with the meal. The four of us, together, spending the morning opening gifts, my job, and then in later years, my brother’s job, to hand out gifts, to be the Elf. My brother’s best friend, our neighbor Jeff, calling him at a ridiculously inappropriate hour to ask him about his haul. Christmas dinner, wearing the crowns from the Christmas crackers, trading the bad jokes and showing off the toys inside. A long, easy afternoon, playing with new toys, reading new books, watching movies, eating too many red and green M&Ms. A late night, knowing there wouldn’t be school for another week, at least.

This week’s prompt featured the word tradition and a photograph of a beautiful handmade ornament, courtesy of the lovely and talented Lori at In Pursuit of Martha Points.

Not Kiddo or Rumplysnort

Perhaps someday, I’ll get my Dad to explain to you the precise origins of my childhood nickname, for I do not know them.

My Dad is the Guy Whose Nicknames Stick. He called me by mine well past the age where I became vaguely embarrassed about it. (Of course, now, when I have moved through acceptance and into embracing such a goofy nickname, he has forsaken it for the more literal Daughter.) He called my neighbor, Juliet, JB (not her actual initials) the whole time she lived across the street. My brother is Boo Boo, my high school friend, Jason, he called Ed. I could go on all day.

While in some cases odd, none of these nicknames are embarrassing, right?

None cause the innocent eavesdropper to snicker, do they?

For me, though, his firstborn?

Not Boo Boo, Ed, JB, or Larry. Not Peanut, or Sweet Pea. Not Hey, You! Not Kiddo or Rumplysnort.

My Dad called me Stink.

For years.

Into high school.

Though in his defense, not in front of my friends. Unless they happened to be at our house. Which was often, since our house was where people often gathered.

And you know what? When I look back, I don’t find that I am scarred by it. In fact, I love it. For my Dad, it was a term of endearment, and indicative of our family’s slightly… um… quirky humor.  So, to the naysayers out there who worry about calling your youngest child Baby, I say, “Be thankful it’s not Stink.”

Stink.