Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oy with the Poodles Already!

They just put Gilmore Girls on Netflix.  Streaming, instant, whatever you want to call it.  It originally aired in 2000 - fourteen years ago.  This show defined my teenage years.  It painted a sort of picture that I thought my life would look like as a teenager, as a high schooler, as a college student.  The one-liners, the untraditional way I was raised, but most importantly, the close and unique and so unlike any other kind of mother-daughter relationship.

My mother and I, we were the Gilmore Girls.  You could try to understand us.  We could try to explain how we were.  But it wouldn't cover it.  It wouldn't even come close.  She is the reason that I made a funny face as I walked across the platform when my name was called to accept my college diploma.  She is the reason that I broke up with my first boyfriend.  She is the voice in my head that I hear when I think about doing anything important or scary or hard.

Now, all of you know that I have a sister and my mother has another daughter.  She is an amazing one, the best one really.  The kind of sister that other people wish they had.  A kind of sister that you consider your best friend, that you hope doesn't think you're pathetic and ridiculous and horrible for knowing every little bit of your deepest and darkest secrets because she's just so damn cool and great and smart and together  But all of that - all of that closeness and maturity and wisdom came later, came after high school and college and many, many mistakes.

But during the Gilmore-formative-college-choosing-years, my sister was in high school and had a life filled with friends and parties and boyfriends whereas I preferred imagining my life turning out like the girl in a show.  My mother and I spent a lot of time with each other, sitting across from each other, silently reading books and flipping through magazines and drinking far, far too much coffee.  We were each other's best friend.  We dreamt of opening an inn together, a restaurant, a cafe, a bookstore.  We had so many dreams.

And now, watching this show again, watching this show that I watched fourteen years ago, I smile and drop a happy nostalgic tear for the way in which I began this little life.  More than ten years ago, I started looking for colleges.  I requested information from every college that I ever dreamed of attending.  I sent away for the glossy brochures from Dartmouth and Brown and Yale and UCLA and Notre Dame.  I would sit on the floor of my tiny bedroom, surrounded by the applications, thinking about what kind of essay I would write, what I would say when asked what famous person, living or dead, I would like to have dinner with.  Where I saw myself in five years.  Who had the biggest influence on me, and why.

Then, one day, a friend of mine told me about Grand Valley State University.  A small school in the southwestern part of Michigan that had a great reputation and was affordable to those that had higher GPA's.  It was only two hours away.  And one Sunday, after weeks of looking at the pictures and classes and extracurricular activities online, my mother and I decided to take a trip and tour the campus.

I remember walking around on a misty cold afternoon in January, the strange time between Michigan winter and Midwestern spring, following along with nervous high school seniors and excited parents.  I remember being enchanted.  I remember looking at the tall buildings and the massive classrooms and the not at all awful cafeteria food with great coffee and movie nights and book stores and dusty and perfect libraries.  And I remember trailing behind the group with my mom, joking around and sharing a coffee and joyously looking forward to what my life would be like once I started college.

We chose to stay the night, get the full effect and feel and experience of living on campus.  It's so strange looking back and remembering the places we walked and ate and drank coffee and slept and then later knowing them as places I walked to class every day and ate lunch every day and drank coffee multiple times a day and never slept again because it was the Honors College that I didn't want to be part of because it came with too many responsibilities.  Anyway.  We stayed on campus. And they put us in this room that for some reason I don't remember having sheets.  It was just this room that was cheaper than a hotel even though we could have driven home but we didn't.   And I remember laughing with her.  I remember the mattresses being squeaky and both of us being too excited about my future in a college to sleep and the unsettled feeling that comes with sleeping away from one's own bed causing us to stay awake.  So we decided to get up.  And we walked down in our pajamas with a bag of Oreo's and bottles of vending machine water and figured out how to turn on the TV in the great room on the bottom floor.  It was winter break.  Campus was empty.   We watched the VH1 show "I Love the 80's: Part Deux." We laid on our sides on the common room couches, giggling and snacking and staying up into the wee hours of the morning, only to wake up late, groggy and guilty for not putting the couches back where we found them,  We were impressed by the omelette bar and drank more than our fair share of coffee and then we got back in the car and drove home, talking incessantly about the pros and cons of the college that we just visited.  That memory, that magic, that laughter and that trip is why I consider my mom my best friend.

This is her birthday month.  And since that college visit over a decade ago, we've taken many trips and spent many hours giggling together up late when we should have been sleeping.  But regardless of the age that she is turning this year, she will always be 38 to me.  That age, that number that means nothing, will always be the time that I remember my amazing mother.  She is great.  She is crazy.  No one will ever understand her like my sister and I understand her.  I miss her every day. I talk to her every day.  I would not be who I am without the influence that she had in my life.  She is my guidepost.

She is my llama.

I love you momma.

Oy with the poodles already!!

The llamas are vacuuming!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2 - "Tick Tock"

Admittedly, I almost didn't do the second part of this challenge.  I did not place in the last one, at all, the stark and shocking 0 next to my name made it difficult for me to be creative in spite of all that rejection and failure.  But, being the stubborn person that I am, I figured why not?  I'd already paid and I wasn't going to lose anything by submitting again.  I put less time into this challenge - much less time.  And it's not at all as polished as I would like it to be.  But I did it.  I am past it.  I have dealt with my very first submission then rejection then resubmission in spite of feeling like a big fat failure.  So, here is the next challenge, the next try, the next jump towards what I want to do.  And it might get a 0 too.  And that will be ok.  Because if nothing else, I wrote something and put it out there to be judged and seen and read by someone other than me.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Location: A railroad station

Object:  A bag of rice

Tick Tock

Swish, swish, swish went the attendant’s broom, slowly sweeping up bits of trash and dust in front of Adam’s polished black boots.  He had never before cared about the appearance and upkeep of his shoes.  Before the war.  Before Germany.  Before Hitler made a mess of the world.  He had fifty-seven minutes until his train departed.
It was difficult to get comfortable on the hard bench, not designed to hold a sitter longer than the time between trains.  He took several deep breaths and when he closed his eyes, all he could see was her, in a white dress with flowers in her sunset hair.  The guests all standing around, smiling, laughing, a few with tears slowly streaming down their happy faces.  He had sat in the back.  He needed to see it with his own dry eyes. 
He looked down again and looked at the ticket clutched in his hand.  Forty nine minutes.  It had become wrinkled and sweaty with nerves from leaving his home for the first time.  The train would take him to a boat and then to another country.  He was going to fight a war.  He was leaving his family.  He was leaving her. 
He shook his head and tried to shift his thinking from her being his and something he was leaving to just another person that he once knew before the world fell apart.  He looked up at the clock above the ticker reading off the arrivals and destinations.  Forty minutes. 
Beside him sat a bundle of rice.  It was tied with a yellow ribbon.  When the short white-haired lady handed it to him at the entrance to the church, he thought how heavy such a small thing could be.  It felt like it was full of rocks, not rice, and if it had been he might have stayed to throw them.  But it wasn’t.  And he didn’t.  He had heard the words and the promises and the vows and then he couldn’t take it anymore.  He had stood up, crouched and shuffled with quiet apologies to make for the exit.  He didn’t want to see the kiss.  He didn’t want to see the rings.  He didn’t want to hear the applause for the life he was supposed to be living.   Besides, he had a train to catch and a war to fight.   It was clear this one was already over.
Someone had a left yesterday’s copy of the Daily Missourian on the seat next to him.  He picked it up.  Thirty-three minutes.  Over two million men called to serve.  But not him, not her husband.   He bore some condition, something about being legally blind.  He shifted in his seat again, a woman and her screaming infant sat down behind him.  He wondered if she would notice if he switched seats.  Thirty-two minutes.
He got up, and started pacing back and forth slowly in front of the wooden bench.  Again he looked up to the clock and then down at his wristwatch.  It took him twelve seconds to walk slowly from one end of the bench to another.  He did it twenty times.  His shoes were new and made a hollow click-clunk, click-clunk reminding him of the heels his mother wore on Sundays, cooking dinner and washing dishes and setting the table and making sure his father’s glass never emptied.  He couldn’t yell if he was drinking.  Twenty-eight minutes.  He wouldn’t want any of it to spill.
The baby’s wails started getting louder, echoing off the high ceilings and marble floor.  He looked over at the mother, bouncing the red-faced child feverishly on her lap.  He thought about Evelyn’s children.  Twenty-two minutes.  He wondered if they would look like her, if they would have her same auburn hair, her large eyes, her temper.  He wondered if they would be born slightly blind too, if their father would shelter them from anything hard and ugly in the world. 
Fourteen minutes.  He sat back down, smoothed his creased pants, picking a bit of lint from his knee.  Seventeen minutes.  He decided he would become a war hero.  He would go to war, and if he must, he would die trying to protect her and her future children and her blind husband.  He would be honorable. 
The baby continued to cry, louder and louder, its face now turning splotchy and purple. It wasn’t inhaling enough air to compensate for its sobbing. He stared straight ahead thinking it would be better to hear screeching planes and wailing sirens and guns and bombs than her explanations and promises to remain friends.  Maybe he would hear screaming women and children.  Nine minutes.
He heard the low train whistle and everyone around him shuffled towards the platform.  Five minutes.  He got up too, pulling his sack filled with standard clothes and socks and bars of soap and a picture of his mother and a rosary she made him promise to pray.  He checked his ticket again.  He would be on a beach in France in less than twenty-four hours.  Three minutes.  And as he turned to leave, he saw the bag of rice sitting there.  He picked it up, untied it and poured it slowly out as he walked to the train.  The five or six pigeons that had been innocuously milling about the popcorn stand suddenly swarmed the trail following his heavy feet.  One minute. 

He boarded the train, took his seat and stared out the window at the birds pecking and clawing and consuming every last grain.  The train began to move.  Adam would land on the beach the next day, wade in the water, and take only one step on the sand, and at about the same time that a bullet hits him in the stomach, his intestines spilling out into the water, the pigeons’ stomachs would be bursting within them, their cooing turning to squawking and then finally going silent as their bloated bodies fell to edge of the tracks.