Wednesday, November 28, 2012

on a thankful day

Thursday morning I rushed around the apartment, rushed to a cab, rushed to 59th and Lex, only to wait for twenty-five minutes for the Jitney out to the North Fork.  I rushed, to wait.  There's something poignant in there I think. 

Just under two hours later the bus pulled over to the side of Main Street in Cutchogue.  In front of Scoops Ice Cream and a few doors down from the diner and the church turned library.  I stepped off the bus, wished the driver a Happy Thanksgiving, and walked the half mile to my Mum's.  

It was perfectly quiet and clear and cool and I found myself smiling as I walked.  If I had been a character in a movie there'd have been good music, something to make sure the audience knew that this meant I was happy.  That something deep inside felt calm and at ease.  

I walked in the back door to hugs and the familiar high pitched, but welcoming, squeal of my mom.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, and my Mum.  A cacophony of family.  And it was good.  And I was thankful. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

on Life List item #1

Last week, procrastinating at the computer, Mike started listening to various versions of the Notre Dame Fight Song on YouTube (hey, everyone has a vice).  After a few minutes he found a video of a three year old girl singing the song.  The look on his face said what I knew he was thinking, “one day we could have one of these and teach them this.”  

It’s more real now.  It has been for me for a while.  But for Mike it’s always been this vague, distant thing.  Someday we’ll have kids.  Someday he’ll be a Dad.  But now that the attempt is in the present I’m noticing a change in him.  (I'm sorry, I know, I hate these phrases too: “attempt”, “trying”.  They come with such baggage.  With such uneasy entry into a very personal aspect of someone’s life.  At a party and the topic of babies comes up.  The couple in the room link arms, shares a knowing glance, and says, “oh, well, we’re trying.”  Well, thanks for that.  Because now I’m picturing you guys “trying” and it’s not exactly the image I need as I’m “trying” to eat as many cured meat/cheese/cracker concoctions as I can.  How’s that for a parenthetical aside? Whew.)
So yes, the trying.  Oh, the trying.  The counting of days.  The x’s and o’s on a calendar, the calendar purchased just for this purpose.  For the purpose of tracking the things you need to track when this is the thing you want.  I think of Mike’s two students who recently had babies.  As difficult as it must be for them, evolution prefers it.  Our bodies haven’t caught up to our new world.  The world where you wait to get married, combine finances, wait some more, take that little pill at the same time every night because, god forbid, we’re just not ready.  Wait for an even number year to try because that’s lucky (ok, maybe that’s just me).  But then the even number year turns out to be unlucky and you are thrown into the system of x’s and o’s, of counting and tracking and hoping and waiting.
And all the while you are desperate to tell someone, just anyone, but you don’t know who wants to hear it.  So, instead, you find yourself talking to your brother at 11pm on a Saturday night about trying and not trying too hard and ridiculously hilarious stories that make you feel less alone and weird and then thankful for having the most amazing friend in the guy that was born to your parents four years ahead of you.  Even if the conversation does make you realize that there really are no more lines left to cross in the sibling relationship.

painted wall at the Ace Hotel, home of Camp Mighty
But then there was Camp.  On the first night we played Life List Bingo, a way of meeting the people around us by matching them up with squares on the game.  One of the squares was “Get Knocked Up.”  Suddenly the very personal became very public and it didn’t matter.  I announced to my table that they could use me for that square and then, as the night went on, people came to find me, the girl whose number one Life List entry was to be a mom.  It felt funny ("hey guys, over here, I found Get Knocked Up!"), and true, and no longer something that I had to be embarrassed by.   

But I promise not to speak of this when we're at a party together and you're trying to focus on eating the appetizers.  Promise. 
view from breakfast at the Ace Hotel

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

on a bit of mighty

Saturday night, sitting at the diner with a small group of driven, smart, passionate women, I found myself making the case for why the zombie apocalypse was more than plausible, and why the $239 backup power supply from Brookstone* was on my Christmas list because of it.  I had only met these women two nights earlier but somehow felt comfortable enough to show them my nervous-rocking tick as I tried to convey, "this is real guys, it could happen."  It may have been the margarita talking, or maybe the two hours of The Walking Dead I had caught up on before going to Palm Springs but, either way, I felt pretty strongly that they needed to understand the consequences of inaction.  The group was quiet for a second and then Adina spoke up: her mom lived upstate with plenty of land to grow things and the position of the house was "defensible".  Yes, I thought, this is good.  We have a plan.  

I have more to say about Camp Mighty.  More important things than rambling thoughts of zombie tv shows turned real life.  Like how it lifted me out of the din of the past few months and snapped me awake.  How it surrounded me with a feeling so far from the middle-school-cafeteria fear I thought I'd be struck with**.  How the weekend served as a reminder that there is so much more to be and do and these people are the ones who are making it happen. 

But, for now, I am left knowing that if all goes to hell, I have a group of ladies who will have my back.  In a defensible position in upstate New York.  And that's something.

*ok, so I don't actually have a Christmas list, but if I did this would be on it. Most likely because of the Hurricane and the thought of being without power for all those days. But it would come in handy if the world crumbled due to zombie invasion as well.

**The fear was definitely present for the first hour of Thursday night as I forced myself to leave the safety of the hotel room and enter the bar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

on Sandy

We packed up the car with warm clothes and diapers and canned food and flashlights and headed out to the Rockaways last Saturday.

It was a beautiful day.  Clear and breezy and if you ignored the blocks upon blocks of downed trees and dark intersections, you could almost pretend that it was a perfect fall day.  As we turned onto Cross Bay Boulevard the car slowed and we creeped along for the remaining miles.  The roads were crowded with families collecting food and water and others who were standing among the contents of their battered and gutted homes.  The water logged and rotted remnants of everything that was once inside them.  

We sat in traffic while these people moved around us.  For a sick instant, as I played with the camera in my hands, it reminded me one of those drive-through safaris at Great Adventure.  Where you make your way slowly through the amusement park as the zebras and giraffes come up to your car.  You snap a photo, squeal in delight that the live animal came so close to you, and then move along.  I took the three below before feeling that it wasn't right.  We had our car.  We had our apartment.  We hadn't lost power.  We weren't hungry.  Taking the camera out to snap these people at their lowest, when I wasn't a photojournalist but rather just a glorified tourist, didn't feel right. 

As we crossed the bridge back onto solid ground I watched the water disappear in the side mirror.  It was blue and sparkling and inviting.  As it faded out of view I could almost pretend that it wasn't the same monster that came ashore just a few days earlier.  Almost pretend that this would never happen again, that we had seen the worst.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

on car talk

My Dad has been listening to Tom and Ray Magliozzi and their Car Talk radio show on NPR for as long as I can remember.  When I lived at home I'd wake up on Saturday mornings to their Boston r's and a's rolling out of the speakers in my Dad's office.  In recent years my visits to Cherry Valley have been highlighted by Saturday morning trips to the dump and listening along to them. (What, you don't think a visit to the town dump can be a highlight?)

But Tom and Ray have hung up their mics.  As of a few weeks ago they are no longer recording new shows.  Instead, NPR is airing shows and calls collected from the past two decades.  The news stings, and it feels like the end of an era.

It always amazes me that the things that feel like home can be carried along with us.  That home doesn't have to be just one place.  This morning I went to the computer to log on to internet radio, a strange but necessary thing in an apartment with no radio signal and, pre-recorded or not, I listened to the guys.  My Dad arrived in Mexico a few days ago, finishing his annual migration south of the border (like geese, but in a Volvo).  He's 2,544 miles away, but with Tom and Ray's voices as the backdrop to a Saturday morning, he feels close.  And it feels like home. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

on a Mighty list

I leave for Palm Springs and Camp Mighty in a week.  At some point last week, when the wind sounded like it would take our windows out with each rattle, when the images of Staten Island and Jersey and the Rockaways came pouring through the tv screen with heartbreaking frequency, I thought of cancelling.  I didn't think it was important enough, or maybe just that I wasn't important enough, and I was very close to calling United and asking about a flight refund.

A short time later a post came up on my Camp Mighty team page on facebook.  A woman in New York wrote that she was feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of fundraising for Camp in the aftermath of Sandy and was feeling overwhelmed in general.  I responded with my own comment on nerves but ended with encouragement for us both.  A few days later she sent me an email.  She thanked me for my comment and wrote that after seeing my name she realized that I was the author behind the APW Wedding Graduate Post that had inspired her to reach out to me over a year earlier.  She said that she had drafted the email and then never sent it as her own wedding arrived and she became distracted, but that here I was now.  And that we were going to meet in person.  At Camp Mighty.  As I read her words, the big scary leap suddenly felt smaller, more manageable. 

One of the benefits of Camp is taking the time to learn what it is we want to do, be, create, while we can.  So before heading out, we write a Life List and then use the weekend, and the inspiration found their, to figure out how to get some of them finished.  The simple act of writing this list has meant so much.  I found it pretty inspiring, and I love the idea of putting this out to the world in the hopes that some of them will be completed.  I will be adding some more, but for now:

1.   Be someone's mom (and a good one, or try real hard to be)
2.   Perform in a production of “Into the Woods”
3.   Take Mike to a game at Notre Dame
4.   Form a band, sing in front of a crowd
5.   Grow flowers, lots of them
6.   Go back to school for something that I love, not need
7.   Have an OpEd published in the Times
8.   Be published: anywhere, any format
9.   Write a novel…even if no one ever reads it
10. Write more, tell people blog exists
11.  Have a shared vacation home/rental with my brother and his family
12.  Learn how to mix fancy cocktails
13.  Give up the city, own a home somewhere with space
14.  Have a front porch with a swing
15.  Build a treehouse for my (future) kids
16.  Help draft a bill and lobby it in Washington
17.  Be an extra on Law and Order before SVU goes off the air (preferably the person in the first scene who finds the body)
18.  Practice guitar so I don’t need to rely on someone else to sing
19.  Take more photos
20.  Turn photos into cards, sell them on etsy (even if I only break even)
21.  Be that person who hosts great parties
22.  Have a dog
23.  Pay off credit card
24.  Summit Kilimanjaro with Mike
25.  Take a volunteer trip to somewhere that needs me
26.  Send more real/hand written notes and letters
27.  Take care of my clothes (if it says dry clean, dry clean)
28.  Spend more time outside
29.  Camp more
30.  Join a CSA
31.  Speak on a panel for Women in Development
32.  Do more, do better, with what I know (10 years in fundraising development)
33.  Be a board member of a non-profit I respect
34.  Volunteer to help a startup non-profit get off the ground
35.  Quit Diet Coke
36.  Make a significant change—local or greater
37.  Take a road trip across the U.S.
38.  Start a savings account for my future kids as soon as they’re born
39.  Climb Mt. Katahdin and the last leg of the Appalachian Trail
40.  Re-learn how to use a sewing machine
41.  Re-learn how to do a fuete
42.  Re-learn tough math before my future kids are old enough to need help with it
43.  Learn self defense, or maybe just some basic survival skills (I blame the trend in zombie apocolypse tv)
44.  Learn how to play the harmonica
45.  Learn to speak another language
46.  Learn how to grill/bbq
47.  Learn how to cook without needing recipes as backup
48.  Have headshot taken for blog sites/LinkedIn
49.  Make a budget, stick to it
50.  Have assets or, at the very least, a savings account
51.  See a show at Red Rocks
52.  Fix body: feet, back, more swimming, pilates
53.  Feel confident in the kitchen
54.  Work one day a week from home
55.  Participate in a swimming race/event
56.  Be an audience member at SNL
57.  Wear a bikini in public (and look good in it)
58.  Win a superbowl ring (not sure how, but VP of Football Operations with the NE Patriots sounds good)
59.  Take Mom to Paris
60.  Ask Dad to teach me everything he knows about growing things
61.  Record my Mum’s voice telling her stories/poems/songs
62.  Teach someone something I know well
63.  Call up the restaurant where friends are celebrating a birthday/anniversary and buy their dessert/wine
64.  Figure out logististics of performing a show with my Dad and my brother (tentative name: Tom and The Driscoll Kids)
65.  Get called up on stage to sing harmony line for Come Pick Me Up with Ryan Adams or Falling Slowing with Glen Hansard (hey, a girl can dream)
66.  Travel: Switzerland/Austria (the Alps)
67.  Travel: Alaskan coast/British Columbia
68.  Travel: a rainforest
69.  Travel: the American west (rocky mountains, red rocks, canyons)
70.  Travel: Africa
71.  Travel: Italy (Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast)
72.  Travel: France
73.  Travel: Greece and Turkey
74.  Travel: Galapagos
75.  Travel: New Zealand
76.  Travel: Thailand
77.  Travel: Watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala in Hawaii

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

on goodnight sweet girl

Our first long distance call that night before I left Albany.  The roommates had moved out a few days earlier, as had most of the town's population of recent graduates, and I was left to pack and clean and wait for my Dad to come with the uHaul to take me to Boston.  Mike had moved back to his parent's house and it was our first time talking on the phone as two people who were no longer living around the block from each other.  The first time talking as two people who were unsure of what would come next, of whether or not we were going to be together by the time the uHaul was unpacked in the new city.

I was nervous.  I think I said as much.  Mike was more confident, not surprising even then.  He told me that he loved me (something I had only heard for the first time just a week before) and that he would visit soon, that we would figure it out.

We talked about the last few days, about my move, about the new place in Boston that I would be sharing with one of my best friends from high school.  The conversation lulled and I knew it was time to get off the phone. 

There's a scene in the movie Beautiful Girls where Andera (Uma Thurman) and Tommy (Matt Dillon) are talking and he asks her about her relationship.  Mike loves that movie, loves that scene, loves the line Uma says at the end of it.  As the conversation ended on the phone that first night apart, he said it to me for the first time. And he's said it every night since for over a decade now, each night before I fall asleep I hear those four little words.  Maybe it's not original, but I no longer think of them as something that comes from that great movie, they're just ours.  "Good night sweet girl."  And I reply with, "Good night handsome."  No matter if we're angry, or tired, or sick, or in the mountains of the High Sierras, the words are said.  And they force us back together. 

Tommy: Can I ask you a question?
Andera: Go ahead.
Tommy: How long have you been going out with your boyfriend?
Andera: Eight months.
Tommy: And it's good?
Andera: It's very good.
Tommy: He makes you happy?
Andera: Yeah. I look for that in a man you know. The ones that make me miserable don't seem to last.
Tommy: Right.
Andera: You know there are fours words I need to hear before I go to sleep. Four little words. "Good night sweet girl." That's all it takes. I'm easy, I know, but a guy who can muster up those four words is a guy I want to stay with.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

on a rambling post of one night...

Last night*.  Drinks out with the Gotham girls.  I ordered a Gin, lime, soda and sour.  It tasted like lemonade, like something you'd drink quickly after a long, hot walk.  And so I drank it quickly even though the subway ride wasn't long or hot.  And then I had two more.  Add a shot of whiskey, a shot of something suitable "for four cute girls" from the bartender, and I turned into the version of myself who sang along loudly and boldly with the band. 

This morning I was neither loud nor bold.  My head was heavy and my stomach, which only held alcohol and half of a side of french fries, was angry.  I don't do this anymore.  At a wedding last month I had two glasses of wine over six hours and called that a party.  So if that was a party then, in my world, last night was Mardi Gras.

I was not alone.  The other three were in the same state as we eased our way out of the comfort of the bar and onto the street.  We said goodbye as Kate and Chantal walked in one direction and Rosa and I made our way in the other.  Rosa's hand was in mine, her small frame teetering between upright and falling over, and she wouldn't let go.  I clasped her tighter and hailed a cab, gave the directions to her place and then, once she was out, to mine.

The cab driver asked how my night was and I told him that I had probably drank a little too much but that it was great.  That I met these women a year ago in a writing class and we had become friends, stayed in touch, and that my nights out with them were some of the easiest and most fun.  He told me that he wasn't really a cab driver, that he was trying to be a personal trainer but that no one wanted to be trained by an Indian man.  I said he was wrong and over-enthusiastically told him that I'd be happy to be trained by an Indian man.  He gave me his card and I wished him luck as we pulled onto my street and I paid the fare.

Opening the door to the apartment felt strange.  The lights were on and Mike sat at the table with the laptop open doing work.  That room, in that minute, felt like a different world.  Like these two things could not have happened in the same night.  Mike, writing a lesson plan and putting in his attendance records at home and me, dancing along Baxter Street after several hours in a dark bar.  It reminded me that on any given moment there are these planes of being just gliding over each other.  All these thousands and millions of moments and people in one night.  I was most definitely looking into it too much.  Drinking and dancing and singing along will do that to you.

I dropped my bag on the floor too loudly, whispered an apology to the neighbors below us for the noise, kissed Mike hello and goodnight, and went to bed. 

*technically "last night" was several weeks ago. I just haven't posted since I wrote this. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

on her voice in mine

A visit to Cherry Valley, the part of the year home of my Dad and Stepmom, playing music each night from set lists that were older than me, from a time when my Mom and Dad sang and played together.  Yellowed sheets of legal paper filed away in manila folders.  Notes for her voice, and now my voice, more than thirty years apart. 

My parents don't know each other anymore, but they do in those songs.  These two people, so distant now, sang, played, made me.  Singing the same words gives that past some presence.  Reminds me that it wasn't always like this.  That somewhere in the song lists and sets lists were two people who thought they had it.  They didn't.  But maybe for a short time they were close to it.

Not sure how my Dad will feel about my posting this song since it was recorded without his knowledge (from my cell phone under the table). He hadn't played it in years, and it's not his favorite song to play, so I'll give him that disclaimer.


Friday, October 19, 2012

on the new routine

5:45.  I opened my eyes just long enough to see the numbers on the clock and his shape shuffling around the almost darkness.  I closed them and listened to his moves, knowing what was next without seeing him.  I rolled over and made a noise as he came to my side, kissed my forehead, told me to go back to sleep and that he was sorry he woke me.  I made another sound, the syllables meant "good morning", and slid deeper into the bed, under the covers, finding that spot that a minute earlier meant sleep.

Our routine is changed now.  Before, his waking up meant my waking up.  His alarm was my alarm.  It meant he went to work and I grabbed the backpack and went to the pool for a pre-work swim.  But it's been nearly two months since I've smelled like chlorine on my way to the office, or read an entire book, or watched the NBC lineup on Thursday night.  Two months since he started teaching and our world shifted in this huge, great way.  Now he's up well after midnight writing lessons and I am either on the couch fielding questions about how well it's working, or not working, or waiting in bed for him to join me, unable to sleep until he's beside me.  And so in the mornings I'm exhausted, he should be too, but this is the thing he's worked towards for three years, he doesn't have time to be exhausted.  But I am.  I sleep in for another hour when I should be on my 20th breaststroke.

I know it needs to shift again, that I need to adjust to our new way of life.  As small as they may seem, the little movements of routine, once altered, are hard to reinstate.  But I miss the pool.  I ache and hurt and need it again.  That thing that months ago felt so foreign and scary has become the thing that's started to bring me back to my old self.  With it I had been feeling better, stronger, more sure of my feet and knees and back than I had in two years.

So on Monday I will force the old routine into the new one. 

Writing it here means I have to.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

on September 11th

I left the tv off this morning but even without the bombardment of images and video I felt it.  The weight of what this day will always mean.  Outside was worse.  It was a perfect morning, clear and cool without a cloud in the sky. Yes, the same sky, I thought. 

Underground I felt the panic that sometimes finds its way into my commuting daydreams.  But we pulled into 23rd street safe and sound and I walked up and out of the station to face the new skyline of downtown.  It's no longer empty, it's rising, and even though it will never be the same, there's a comfort in something filling that space on the horizon between the east and west sides of 6th as I walk to work.

This blog was started out of a need to write during a period of loss and mourning but I am reminded today of all that we still have, of all we haven't lost, and the incredibly cruel truth that so many cannot say the same.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

on choosing to be Mighty

A few weeks ago, as the cursor hovered above the registration link for Camp Mighty, I struggled with the thought of taking something this big just for myself.  I had done it before, but for some reason this felt different.  That time before, eleven days in the High Sierras, felt worth the travel, cost, time away.  This time felt selfish, like a splurge with no real backing to justify it.  Even though this was the weekend I had been hearing about and lusting over for the past year and a half, even though I knew that it would be inspiring to be among all those amazing women, I still hesitated.

For a long time I have felt the burden of being the only one of us with health care or benefits or a salary.  For years I've struggled with knowing that I couldn't leave my job even if I wanted to, that every financial decision was based on what I brought in, that the big raise I received just as Mike's final year of school and student loan were running out in 2011 meant that I covered the difference in his new, lower paying temp job.  So I never really felt that raise because it was immediately put towards something else.  But it was ok, when Mike decided to go back to school I knew we were in this together, that what was mine was his.  And that it had been that way since the beginning. 

Just a few months out of college and six months into dating, I admitted to Mike that I was in debt-I was so irrationally scared of facing it or the collectors and wanted to just let them disappear.  I was young and should never have been given a cell phone or credit card but I was and those companies had me where they wanted me.  Mike wouldn't have it and sat with me as I called each and worked out a payment arrangement.  At the time I was unemployed and living off the little I had saved from college graduation and my very generous roommate and best friend in Boston.  Mike took what he had and paid them off*.  Six months into dating and he was already sure that we were in this together, that what was his was mine. 

But now the scales have balanced.  Our finances have always been combined but now there is a feeling that we each have, where before it had always been one more than the other. And so the investment in a weekend away to learn and create and do some good is happening: Camp Mighty, here I come.

*It should be noted that even though Mike told me around this time that "I was the woman he was going to marry", I was a bit more skeptical (hey, child of divorce, our skepticism runs deep.) And so I took his offer of paying off my debt but paid him back over time, just with the luxury of no interest rates or scary collectors.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

on August 14th, again

Dear Bernadette,

Last night meteors fell across the sky, all those stars crashing through space at the same time, a hundred every hour.  When I was younger my Dad would wait until dark and then drive us over to the bluffs at Makamaw beach to watch the August showers.  I'd squint and focus on one point in the distance until he would say no, not like that, open your eyes to the whole sky, relax them and you'll see.  And then they were everywhere.  In front and over, in my periphery to the left and the right.  I couldn't keep up with counting.  Last night as I lay in bed next to Mike I imagined what was happening above our too-bright-to-see-stars city and thought of you.

We went through photo albums before bed.  Picked out our favorites and talked about you.  Just before we fell asleep Mike asked me what time and I said I thought it happened around noon.  At noon today he will be wrapping up his introduction to the Principal of his new school, doing the job you told him he should pursue over a decade ago.  I know you will be there with him.  You're never far.  And when I stop trying to remember so hard, when I just relax and open my eyes, you are everywhere.

Onward full tilt we go,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

on a happy shift in our world

The apartment was hot on Wednesday night.  The fans in each corner of the livingroom only succeeded in moving stale air around and the curtains didn't budge from their place in front of the open windows.  The day before I had broken out in hives, a new allergy I've developed from sun exposure, and I sat on the couch itching my skin and cursing the small bedroom air conditioner for not being strong enough to cool the whole place.  But I pretended to be calm, pretended to not be bothered, because Mike was at the computer attempting to stave off the meltdown of all meltdowns.

Earlier that day he had received a call from an Assistant Principal at a High School in Brooklyn asking him to come in for an interview the next day.  With less than 24 hours to prepare, he was googling teacher portfolios and interview tips as I was sifting through his lesson plans from his student teaching days to find something compelling and brilliant so there would be no doubt that he should be hired.  We were not excited, we were anxious.  This was the first phone call in nearly 100 applications.  The first shot and it felt like it was happening too fast, like there should be more time to make him into the applicant they wanted.

The next morning Mike drove out to Canarsie and was interviewed by a group of students, then faculty, then the Assistant Principal, and two hours later he called to let me know that it had gone well.  I could hear it in his voice, in his retelling of his interview answers and their comments, I could hear that he had it.  Or at least had a strong chance.  Twenty minutes later he called again to say that while driving home a call had come in from the Assistant Principal asking him to come back to meet with the Principal on Tuesday.  I was ecstatic, told him that was great news, that he had made it to the second round.  He cut me off, "They want me to come in to meet the Principal on Tuesday because I was just offered the job.  I got the job.  I'm a teacher."  And with that I shouted and the tears came.  My closest friend at work burst into my office and hugged me, yelled her congratulations into the phone so Mike could hear her, and after we said goodbye I ran around the 11th floor for a victory lap, stopping only for hugs from managers who knew what this meant for us.  Two years of full time school, then a year of a temporary staff position (making a salary so low it matched his first out of college job a decade earlier), and then all those resumes before the call from Brooklyn that changed everything.

August is hard.  We lost Mike's mom, Mike's dad, and both of my grandfathers in this month.  But we were married in August and now we have this news to help the balance of joy and grief.  I have found myself unable to hold back tears these past few days.  While cleaning the house this morning I stopped and let a cry out into the broom handle.  It feels like a release valve has been opened, like three years of worry and wondering and waiting has built to this and I am finally allowed to let go.

It was worth it, Mike is a teacher.  I have never been so proud.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

on the non-believer

I was not raised in religion.  Faith, tradition, sure.  But religion, as a practice, no.  It made things confusing at times but at an early age I knew what I believed and didn't believe.  But when you grow up in a town (or let's face it, a world) where nearly everyone belongs to something, not belonging can prove difficult. 

I grew up on Scudder Place.  A walk down to the end of the block, a left onto Vail, and a right onto Church led you to Main Street.  At the southern corners of Church and Main stood a large brick Catholic Church and a tall white Protestant Church.  These things were important, you could tell, there were two of them.  A majority of my town could be found at either one on Sunday mornings.  Instead, on Sunday mornings I was having long, lazy breakfasts or canoeing through the marsh at Crab Meadow or walking the paths at Twin Ponds.  There was a sort of religion there in the quiet and comfort of the migrating warblers and my Dad's whistle, but not the kind of religion my friends were learning. 

One summer afternoon, just a few weeks before we entered middle school, I took my friend Liz to the beach.  We swam and played and laughed and towards the end of the day she told me about the Virgin Mary.  I can't remember how she came up, Liz had just finished her CCD course and so perhaps she was on her mind, but I told Liz that it was an important story but that she probably wasn't a virgin.  I wasn't trying to be blasphemous, I didn't know enough to recognize how important this was to my friend, it was just that I was newly sex educated and there were things I didn't think I could believe. 

Liz looked shocked and plunged beneath the water to get away from me and my words.  She popped up for air about ten feet away and found her way to our blanket on the sand where she stayed, silent, until it was time to go home.  I didn't understand why my opinion had hurt her so much.  I didn't understand why not believing made me different, bad, but it did.  Liz didn't speak to me for a few months after that.  Her mom took up the cause and a few years later when my parents separated Liz was no longer allowed to sleep at my house.  Maybe if we were one of the families who gathered outside on Church and Main on Sunday mornings, maybe if we had just tried to show that we were sorry we weren't like them, things would have been different.  But we weren't sorry, so they weren't different. 

Liz wasn't the only one who didn't understand.  My Grandma, my Dad's mom, used to send me small, delicate crucifix necklaces on birthdays and Christmases.  My Mum, my mom's mom, used to clip the Catachism class schedule out of her church's weekly circular and leave them out for me to find.  And now Mike, the man I've decided to spend my life with, looks pained when I tell him that I don't want my children raised in a specific religion.  

It's our biggest argument to date, and one that hasn't been solved.  Whether he admits it or not, Mike must feel that he has the power in this argument.  His view is backed by 2000 years and millions of like-minded believers.  Mine is all my own, shared by others I'm sure, but mostly a created adaptation of several pieces of several religions.  It doesn't have a name, a beautiful structure attached to it, a day of the week set aside to worship it, and so I'm sure he thinks my argument doesn't carry the same weight.  

But not believing can be as powerful a conviction as believing.  I haven't lost yet.

from the car, over the Triboro