Monday, January 15, 2018

Baby Boys

Today I thought of the blog I briefly used for writing about my boys.
I read it all, and loved the memories that fluttered about as I did.
I wish I'd done more journaling during those years, 
more stories of our life, for me.

They are my sunshines, my son-shines...
They teased me tonight about desperately grasping for time with them before they evaporate in a cloud of adulthood...
I'm guessing that like all other mothers throughout the history of the planet,
I will eventually recover from this upheaval.
But I would rather travel backwards and savor them just a little more before that day.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Wish I Knew You

This song is currently haunting me.
I'm not even sure who it makes me think of,
but it reaches into me and stirs something.
Somehow makes me wish I had one more memory to savor,
one more friendship with slivers of
shivers of
something else.
This song makes me look back on that missing moment in my life -
the shadow of a decision I made once, way back when,
rippling out in its own little butterfly effect,
shaping my life around this absence,
letting me move forward with most of the same experiences,
but with this one chapter deleted.
The waters of life flowed around the vacuum,
but I feel it now.
"I wish I knew you when I was young,
we coulda got so high..."
I am sure there are chances I didn't take,
roads-less-traveled that I left untraveled,
and maybe you were one of them.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Armenian Lover

I really dig that phrase -
Armenian lover.
It says so much, doesn't it?
You can almost see his swarthy sexiness, can't you?
I have the advantage, of course,
since I'm drawing on memory not imagination.
He was born in Armenia to an Armenian mother,
but his father was Greek.
He was a demi-god rising from the rubble of the collapsed Soviet Union.
He had eyes as dark as my soul,
a smile as bright as my heart...
Ok, I'm romanticizing something that doesn't need any gilt.
Although, it could've used a bit more guilt...but I digress.
This boy was a passage for me,
the door out of a life I called my white picket fence prison.
He was sexy and strong,
troubled and innocent,
but the best thing about him was that I couldn't fall in love with him.
He was almost not real,
but definitely not a real option for my future -
just someone who wanted to fuck me,
and that is always very attractive...
I would sneak into his apartment and
fuck him then sneak out while he slept.
the grapevine would whisper to me
of the pure wonder and delight on his face as he would say,
"Straight fuck me and leave, she did!"
He thought I was such a badass.
They all did - his Armenian best friend, and my Arizonian best friend who was dating him;
the (holy fucking hot) Russians, and that sassy gay Venezuelan that always hung around them.
I don't know why they believed the hard edge of me that I showed them,
because it was only a sliver of who I really was,
but it thrilled me to be seen that way.
I've written about him a lot,
or I did back then.
It was a strange time in my life -
such a rending of bonds,
and a grueling ascent out of hell
(one I'd built for myself),
all swirled with the crippling grief I experienced at the death of a brother,
and the exhilaration I experienced from returning to college,
and writing for the newspaper.
I'm not sure what made me think of him today,
but cheers to my Armenian lover, wherever he may be.
I hope he is happy and well.

Sweet (Sour) Caroline

Neil Diamond is a complex subject for me.
I didn't grow up with his music,
and by the time it was popular in a retro way,
his legacy had been tainted for me.
I still cringe/shudder/gag at the name,
the images it conjures.
He never did anything to me,
let me just say that right up front.
And maybe I'm a flaming asshole
for even describing him with the precision that I will.
He remains the most repulsive person I've ever encountered.
And he lived in my parents' basement for a while.
He was a member of their church,
and he needed a place to stay -
(which turned into several YEARS).
When I was a teenager, and still a member of that church,
he was a fixture of horror for all the children and teenagers -
we made a play on his last name,
turning it from Bartrug to Bugrug,
and just generally being nasty mean children behind his back.
I'm not proud of this,
but to be fair,
he was repellant.
His skin was waxy and pock-marked,
his hair was slicked back with a layer of what appeared to be lard
(and what I later discovered was actually from the fact that he didn't bathe, period).
Not only was he physcially off-putting,
but his personality lacked any of the charms that might have tipped the balance.
He loomed high above us, with a large round belly,
making odd comments and repeating things he overheard us saying, like he was one of us -
a 50-something man, trying to fit in with teenage girls?? Um, no.
Fast forward to my first year away from home.
I called home from college,
in the (least) wild (part of the) west,
and my mother dropped this rancid,
curdled news on me like a gallon of sour milk from a balcony:
Gary would be staying in the bedroom in our dank, dark basement for a little while,
while he got his feet under him.
I was mortified, horrified, and quite unable to accept it.
I got home for the summer and pretended he wasn't there.
He worked nights and slept all day,
so I rarely encountered him.
After demanding answers from my mother about why he was there,
and how long he would be,
and how could she STAND IT???,
she finally admitted that it wasn't great.
She admitted that he made her uncomfortable, too,
and that even my dad wasn't a fan.
She said that she had give him a set of towels
and they had never been touched.
That the shower never ran.
The smell that emanated from the basement was a low, steady wave of human grease.
And the sound?
The sound I could only associate with his awful face for so long afterward?
Neil Diamond's greatest hits.
On his day off, he would crank that album so that it shook our living room floor.
I felt trapped, assaulted.
This sound was the most solid reminder that this unpleasant person
was sharing my most intimate space, my home.
For years, any Neil Diamond music would make my skin crawl.
I couldn't listen to it at all.
I wanted to love it, in all its campy, nostalgic glory like many of my peers did.
I wanted to get sappy and sway back and forth when "Sweet Caroline" filled a stadium or an ice rink,
but instead I had to close my eyes and try to choke back the bile.

Finally, enough time has passed that I can smile past the faded memories of my overly dramatic response to some poor (icky) man in need of a helping hand.
Cheers, Neil Diamond.
Welcome to acceptability.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Rainbow Soul

I grew up wrapped in layers of “shoulds” and “mustn’ts,” 
and consequently, 
I have spent many years disentangling myself from their gauzy grasp, 
trying to stand free and strong. 
This journey necessarily started by leaping out 
             and away from the path 
that had been set before me by my loving, kind, patient mother. 
She designed a happy web of rules to keep me safe, 
and to lead me onward, 
marching dutifully toward the eternal salvation she so comfortably believes in. 
I once believed, too, 
but there was no room for me in that structured world of black and white. 
I am all the shades in the spectrum 
from pure white, 
on through all of the rich red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purples 
to the deepest shade of absence of light. 
I have a bit of everything in me, 
and I have spent too many years feeling broken 
because of those nuances of brilliance and opacity. 
And now I know that if the god my mother so firmly acknowledges 
is a real being in any sense, 
that he/she/it could not possibly want me to be unhappy 
through my inability to reach the mostly arbitrary standards 
set by some old white dudes in Salt Lake. 
But before there was relief and acceptance and joy, 
there were the years of uncovering those varied shades on my soul, 
like all the strokes of Monet’s brush, 
layered over each other in one girl-shaped palette. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Words have such different meanings sometimes.
Like brother, or cousin.
My oldest brother feels more like a cousin,
and my two closest cousins feel more like sisters.
My family is a big mix of half-siblings and step-siblings and double cousins;
we are close, but not weirdly - this is New England, so emotions aren't really allowed;
we have superfluous drama,
and actual trauma.
We are a family like any other,
but sometimes I feel like the only things that make sense in this world are the things that I knew as a child, or the way that I perceived the world and my connections to it, as a child.

Those cousins who lived next door, and spent so much time with my sister and I, they felt like an obvious extension of our family;
the (half) brothers who lived with us felt like brothers,
but they were gone every summer,
and graduated and moved away by the time I was 6;
the (half) brothers who didn’t live with us felt so much like cousins that I sometimes couldn’t remember, of all my male cousins which two were actually my father’s oldest children.
Their names both started with the same letter as my father’s, which may have been the first pneumonic device I ever used, long before I knew the term.

And so, on this Christmas Day, I spent some time adding to the slow building of a relationship with the oldest (half) brother, whom I never lived with as a child.
He lives on the same quiet, winding street as my in-laws, a street that leads a short distance away from the great, teeming sea in which my brother and our father and our cousins and uncles and grandfather all made their living from the helm of a lobster boat.
We share bowls of seafood chowder, and tell stories - similar but distinct memories of our father and the other members of our family that we took turns knowing.
As the goodbye hugs are being liberally shared, I say to his sweet wife, “I was thinking I might like to borrow my Dad for a while…”
“Of course,” she said. “Robbie won’t mind.” She led me upstairs, smiling as she acknowledged that it probably seemed like a strange place to keep him, but didn’t hesitate to lead me into the happy and real space of their lives, clean but laundry-strewn, and pointing to the dresser where his urn sat.
She asked if I wanted some time alone with my Dad,
which caught me off guard;
that would have been far too much for my carefully constructed walls to withstand
So I just shook my head and blurted out, “No, I’m not ready for that,” with a half-laugh.
I touched the smooth metal and smiled a little:
I hadn’t remembered it as being so big;
I loved the simplicity of the details on the vessel.
“Why don’t you run it by him after I leave? I don’t want him to feel pressured,” I said.
“Sure,” she nodded.
I couldn’t really look at her. I wanted to leave.
It felt like I was being selfish by wanting to have him, when I was his final child,
not the son he’d given his own name to.

I left, and she texted a little while later to let me know that I could stop in any time,
the house would be open.
I’ll pick up the urn tomorrow,
And tuck it into the pile of luggage and Christmas gifts in various stages of dishabille that fill the cargo space of my car, and take him with me to a home he never knew. 
Maybe this one would have been more hospitable.

Related image
Owls Head Light, Owls Head, Maine.
This lighthouse stands guard over the waters my family fishes,
and has fished for...really, about a hundred years.