Friday, April 29, 2011

on hold

Mike and I went to a birthday party for our friend's baby last Saturday.  She was turning one, and the room was packed with his family and friends, and their pregnant friends, and the babies of other friends.  So many babies were crawling around that at one point I told Mike that I was scared to move because I felt like a giant and feared I would squish one. 

And a strange thing happened.  It seems I have somehow come to the point in my life where strangers think it is socially acceptable to ask when you are going to have a baby.  And, the truth is, we're starting to think about it.  And so I decided to tell the questioning people that.  The pregnant women were very excited to hear this, I think knowing that non-pregnant people might someday soon be in their position was comforting.  But later that day we went on to my grandmother's house, and the topic came up again, and so I told my aunts what we were thinking.  One started clapping with excitement, one told me I was crazy and too young and what was I thinking I hadn't even seen the world yet, and later that day on the phone with my brother, he came back with, "why don't you guys just relax for a while".

I get where he's coming from.  Mike is unemployed, no one is hiring teachers, and we're just coming out of several months of an intense emotional roller coaster.  Actually, not a roller coaster but more like that freefall ride, where you plummet down a few stories with your stomach in your throat and your knuckles white from gripping the safety bar so tightly*.  That's a bit more fitting.  So, it's been rough, but we're better now and it feels good to talk about all that will come next, instead of being weighed down by the past.

We have put things on hold before.  We had been talking about getting engaged when Mike's dad got sick, but decided to wait until he was better.  And then he got worse, and then he passed away, and then we were sad for a long time.  When things got easier, we got engaged, only to suffer the next great loss just days before the wedding.  So I guess we don't believe that holding off until some future relaxed date is really the answer.  Because life is going to keep happening.  I hope we're through with the tremendous sad stuff for a while, but who knows.  I'm just not so sure we're willing to put anything else on hold again.  But for now, it's just talk, and I think we've learned to maybe keep these conversations to ourselves-which is a funny thing to say as I am about to hit "publish post"...

*I haven't actually been on this ride because I am not a crazy person, but I've seen it drop with my friends in it while I watch from a safe distance on a Six Flags park I can imagine.

Monday, April 25, 2011

on memory

A few years ago, I wrote my Dad on the Monday after an Easter with my mom's family.  I wrote him that my cousins and I had taken a drive to our grandparent's old house, told him how we had we had parked at the public beach on nassau point and walked down the shoreline to the steps that led up it, how we had sat on those steps in the shadow of the bluffs and talked for over an hour about missing the place, missing our grandfather.  I wrote him that even in the dark on that beach, there was so much memory there, such loss, and I wondered how I could write it all down, why the words weren't coming to me. 

His e-mail reply (yes, I save some things like this): What's Wordsworth's definition of poetry?  Something like strong emotion remembered in tranquility.  Meaning that you need time to process (as we'd say today) the experience, to explore the implications of the feelings, to uncover the meanings.  It might take years. Decades.  But you hold on to the memory of the moment.

beach at nassau point
And that's how I feel about this past Easter weekend.  As I sat with my now grown cousins on Saturday night and we dyed eggs, even though no one was going to be hiding or looking for them the next day, I was wrapped up in such a feeling of memory, tradition.  Yesterday morning, setting the table with my aunts and grandmother, we moved about the dining room in a sort of dance.  Each on a side of the tablecloth, simultaneously lifting the fabric up and then bringing it down, smoothing it out.  Wordlessly eying each other, how much do you have on your side, I need more on this side.  The movements we have been doing together for years bring comfort, but I'm still not sure how to write that down.  How to explain what a memory feels like when you are living it.  So this post will have to do for now.

north fork, Easter weekend last year

Friday, April 22, 2011

on good friday

We are not particularly religious.  Mike is in his select ways, for the past 38 days he has gone without his afternoon candy craving, and we'll go with my grandmother to church on Easter morning, but our leanings don't go much further than that.  Maybe for Mike it does a bit more, he was raised Catholic, but for me, raised by former Catholics, the holidays held more seasonal significance than anything rooted in Christianity*.  But three years ago at Easter I visited my Dad and stepmom in their winter hometown of San Miguel de Allende, and it was an entirely different experience.  Religion, minus the commercialism, just the pure belief on display, was an amazing thing to be a part of, even for a skeptic like me.

I wasn't thinking of San Miguel, or Good Friday, earlier tonight as we made our way to Friday night dinner at Cronin & Phelans.  But as we walked down the street, we heard music.  Loud, solemn music coming from somewhere in the neighborhood, and as we tried to cross 35th street a police officer stood in our way, and then we saw them.  Hundreds of people silently moving towards us, walking down the middle of the street with candles in hand, various statues held above their heads--we had walked right into the Procession of the Holy Burial.

We paused for a minute and then turned up 35th, walking on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the quiet crowd, and I thought of my rooftop perch in San Miguel three years ago, of what was happening in towns all around the world right now.  For a few minutes I felt a part of something larger than our little neighborhood, but then we were at the end of the procession, and we turned onto Broadway, back into the noise of Friday night.

my poor quality photos of San Miguel de Allende, March 2008
* Can't help thinking of Jim Gaffigan's bit on this: "Easter the day Jesus rose from the dead, what should we do? How 'bout eggs? Well, what does that have to do with Jesus? Alright we'll hide them.  I don't follow your logic.  Don't worry there's a bunny".

Thursday, April 21, 2011

on sheets and future smirks

Dublin.  2004.  Day 11 of a 12 day trip.  No fights yet.  Not when I sat down to play poker with the men cousins and Mike's aunt Rosaline told me that I would be more comfortable in the kitchen with the women.  Not when we got lost in Galway.  Not when we were tired and hungry and needed a place for dinner and we circled the same block for a half hour because he just couldn't decide what he wanted to eat.  No, we made it through the trip without any battles, but now it was night eleven.  And maybe it had all started to build up.

Getting ready for bed, I noticed that the bottom sheet was off the corner of the hotel mattress.  I stared at it, long enough for Mike to pick up on what I was looking at, and said "fix the sheet, Mike."  It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm a little ocd about a few things.  Odd numbers mainly, but the exposed mattress/messy sheet as I am getting into bed is a big one.  Exasperated, "Mike, seriously, just fix it", as I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.  A few minutes later, calmer, willing to admit how ridiculous my fixation on the sheet thing was, I walked back into the bedroom.  I stopped moving and inhaled sharply, choking on a laugh as I took in the room: the mattress had been stripped, bottom sheet, top sheet, comforter, four pillowcases, pillows, all strewn around the room. 

I bring this up now, because the look on Mike's face as he watched me take it all in from the chair in the corner of the room, the mix of smile and holding back a laugh and "now what are you going to do" smirk, comes out a lot.  Mainly when I am acting slightly irrational and deserve it.  And as we talk more and more about when we would like to start growing our family, I can't help but imagine that clever smirk on our future children as they do something similar to put me in my place.  And I'm beginning to realize that I am going to be outnumbered.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

on radio silence

I haven't posted in a week.  I'm not exactly sure why, it was a long, stressful week, and maybe I just wasn't sure how to put it into words.  Maybe I felt forced to be positive, or maybe I panicked a bit when I realized that two whole people were checking in on this, and that sent me reeling: what to say that would be of meaning enough to ask people to read?  Yeah, I put a little unnecessary pressure on myself.

Something strange happened mid-week too.  Mike had his last day of student teaching on Tuesday, and I think we thought that there would be an immediate feeling of relief, like something would click and we'd be back to our old selves as soon as he came home that night.  And even though I am so proud of him for the incredible work he's done this year, and we are thankful that this part of his training is over, I woke up the next morning and felt sad.  The rain and the cold that crept back in to Spring this week probably didn't help, but the sadness surprised me, how it was there as soon as I opened me eyes, how it hung around as I was trying to get out the door, how it sat just a little bit heavy on my chest as I tried to write about it.  I think we built that finale up in our head, so that when it came, and we instantly didn't feel better, we were disappointed in ourselves.

But I know better than to try and force it away, so I said hello to it, accepted that it was still here with us, and moved through the week.  And today was the first day of a week of vacation.  There was sleeping late and catching up and even a mid-afternoon guilt-free nap.  And we feel better.  The healing properties of a well timed nap are not to be underestimated. And a little Billie doesn't hurt either:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

on getting engaged

People tend to have a look of disappointment when they ask for the "proposal story". They don't look satisfied with my answer, as if they wanted something more from my telling of it, fireworks, top of the empire state building, maybe a live televised feed from times square with a national audience.

Two years ago, I knew I was about to get engaged. I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen soon.  On April 8, 2009 I came home, made dinner, put pj's on, and sat down for a night of watching the Mets game.  I had not forgotten about the ring that I knew had been purchased, but was certainly not thinking of it as I got up from the couch to move to the computer to check some e-mail.  At the desk I said, "I'm going to call Christina".  I picked up the cell, heard Gary Cohen shout "it's out of here" on the tv, and when I turned around to look, Mike was on one knee with this sweet smile and the ring held up between two fingers.  I made some sort of yelp-like noise, shut the cell phone as he said, "Cait, will you marry me?". I remember thinking it was funny that he sounded nervous.  He had told me he wanted to marry me after six months of dating nearly seven years prior to proposing, yet his voice was shaking when he got the words out. 

After I said yes, we sat on the couch, curled up in each other watching the end of the Mets game, and stayed like that for a half hour before making the first phone call to my mom, who responded by nearly blowing out our ear drums with squeals.  So it's not the proposal story the masses want to hear, but it's ours, and it fits us, and who really wants a story to please the masses anyway.

p.s I am aware that I now have two posts this week that are fixated on dates.  I'm a history buff, what can I say, dates matter.

Friday, April 8, 2011

on brass and a celebration

Last night I headed out to see Rebirth Brass Band, a group out of New Orleans, at Brooklyn Bowl.  And as I was listening and singing along and moving about, I reminded myself that this music was not only played in celebrations of life, but in death as well.  And it made me a little sad that we don't do that in my family, that instead of being joyful that a life has been lived, there is mainly only mourning for the life that has ended.  So for the night, I celebrated, and let the music remind me of how good things can be.  And note to my own family for the hopefully far, far, far off distant future, when I leave this world, I think a parade of brass would be pretty great. Just saying.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

on April 6th

On April 6th, 1945, at ten in the morning, John Egan Gillies was shot by a sniper in the German town of Hamelin.  Moments earlier he had lost his best friend and as he was lifted up onto a makeshift stretcher, and dropped and lifted up again, he decided he had seen enough of war and let his glasses fall into the mud beneath him.  At the time his thinking was foggy, he was not yet aware that half of his body was paralyzed and he would be sent to France and then England to recover, but he was sure that being without those glasses would be his ticket out, so he let them go. 

members of Pa's 30th Infantry Division crossing the Rhine
Pa, or Jack as he was known to everyone else, did not talk about the war, but he would talk about this day, and the wound it left him with-a small depression below his shoulder where the bullet left his body, just large enough to hold a small child's fist.  Each year on April 6th, Pa would say grace at dinner, a prayer for his best friend Tim who died that awful morning, and another for the German soldier who shot him, with a hope that the sniper lived to be an old man.  Fifty-two years and a few months after Hamelin, my grandfather was buried beneath the shade of an old Copper Beach.  Rows of trees, not soldiers, took the form of sentinels and corn fields, not battle fields, surround his resting place.

At home with my grandmother and their 9 children
Today, there are nine children, eighteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren who are here because he came home.  And since he is no longer here to say it himself, I will do it for him: today, I wish for peace for my Pa, for his old friend Tim, and for the German soldier, that he made it home to his own family, that he lived to be as loved as John Egan Gillies.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

on hope

Winter is over, and I am not sad to see it go. It felt longer than usual, snowier, colder, darker.   

rare glimpse of winter looking picturesque, visits to Gloucester and the North Fork
Buds are coming out on branches and through the soil, flowers are back in the farmers market, the kitchen window was actually kept open all day today.  It feels like this is what we were waiting for, just a sign from the world that things were changing and we could too, it all just feels hopeful.  And you know, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of ability to relate nearly any moment of my life to a Shawshank quote could be material enough for a short novel.

This morning there was an outing to that foreign place one calls a gym.  And it really did feel foreign.  There was such anxiety just walking into the place, as if everyone in there would turn as I entered, stop what they were doing, and point and stare.  But no one stopped what they were doing.  No one even noticed as I climbed up onto the arc trainer and pedaled away.  No one stared as I huffed my way through the 45 minutes of what used to be routine.  But I left feeling lighter, smiling, proud, and might I say, just a wee bit hopeful.
buds in Union Square