I am a winter child. I never make New Year resolutions.
One year ago today I was almost thirty-two and the thing I wanted most in the world was a new agent. Concerted efforts did not yield a result; instead, I sold two book proposals for nonfiction projects without benefit of professional assistance.
I decided to abandon another book, too dismal to contemplate, about danger and safety and having cancer as a child.
I was healthier and stronger than I had been in five years – but then ended up in the hospital, and emergency surgery, another much-delayed result of the disease that nearly killed me at age twelve.
Upon being released from the hospital I decided not to do one of the nonfiction books, but then finished the memoir I had decided to destroy. I don’t know what to make of this fact but the manuscript proceeds into the world.
Now? I am nearly thirty-three years old. I have every material thing I have ever wanted.
Tomorrow I will write letters to the people who made a difference in my life. Several are dead now; a few are beyond reach. I believe that I have a responsibility to contact those I can still find.
I want to thank my high school history teacher and tell her how important she was in my life. She took me aside and told me that I should go to college. She opened up the world in a tangible, practical way.
So to summarize: happy new year, and happy birthday to all the other sad winter babies.
I have now officially cooked two large holiday meals for many guests without the benefit of a fridge on the same floor as the stove (not to mention the fact that the downstairs fridge holds approximately two yogurt containers and a head of lettuce).
Yesterday in the middle of preparations the sink backed up. I skittered around trying to pretend that all was well and only admitted otherwise late last night after dosing it with chemicals. Byron took the trap apart and poked around but the problem was beyond us.
This is what I learned today: hiring an on-call plumber during a holiday is very expensive. Also: even if you can afford to pay, the problem may not be resolved.
If you happen to own a house that has been renovated from a one-room bungalow to a two-apartment four-room duplex there are many complicated jerryrigged pipes.
If you are an especially lucky person you may learn that your house has not one but three (or more) connections to the street sewer line. If you are even more fashionably eccentric you may be informed that existing pipes lead to no known outlet. Or that the upstairs toilet is leaking and rotting portions of the carpentry and downstairs walls.
To learn these lessons, you may find that many large holes are knocked into your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. Without any noticeable improvement in the drainage of the sink.
But after paying the plumber and resigning yourself to the idea of taking out a second mortgage to fix the whole system you may find that the sink suddenly works again – mysteriously, hours later, and for no discernible reason.
All is well if you don’t mind big holes, enormous repair bills, and the impending doom of bathroom repairs.
The in-laws arrived yesterday for a holiday visit. Byron’s dad looks healthier than ever before; remarkable after the harrowing illness.
Rumor has it that certain members of my extended family will join us for supper tomorrow, along with AEM.
Our house is warm, the children are content, we are having fun. I do the work I want to do and wear the clothes I want to wear. My stomach still hurts, but aside from that grim reminder of illness, I am content.
This is what I know right now:
I am lucky. I have a good life.
The company is too large to have just one party; each division or group has a separate celebration. Because Byron works in two divergent areas we get multiple invitations…. but this year we forgot to attend the decadent big party and instead had dinner with the research crew.
What does the scaled-down version look like?
Last year they rented the Seattle Art Museum during the Frida Kahlo exhibit and we had free run of the place. This year they chose the only truly grand hotel in town. The food and open bar were endless; the tables were massed together with enormous floral decorations. I think that there might have been some kind of carnivale theme based on the big swaths of fabric and sparkly masks.
I like free stuff. I also like research scientists. So long as I can avoid the question So what do you do? these events are always quite jolly. Much fun was had by all.
I always say: if you sell out, at least get lots of treats out of the deal.
Plus, I had a good excuse to wear my demented majorette dress.
Today I went to an actual mall to purchase sundry gifts that could not be found elsewhere. Winter is a wretched season and shopping in an enclosed space with angry humans and overpowering scents does not generally improve my mood.
But instead of getting angry I started to hum and sat down right there next to the caged Santa to take notes.
Here are a few of my favorite things:
-Comprehensive health and dental insurance
-Reading in the bath for hours
-The Olympic range, from a distance
-The way Mount Rainier seems to slide across the horizon as the Fauntleroy ferry motors toward Southworth
-The burrito bus down in Rainier valley
-Collards, rice & gravy with a biscuit at the Globe
-Swallows swarming over the knoll at Sand Point
-The friendship of my children
-The love of my friends
The best thing by far this year? I’ve made so many promises and commitments I simply do not have time in the schedule for pesky cancer tests. Tra la la & happy holidays!
Byron has been in California and my co-editor and co-author have been either sick or working so there hasn’t been much progress on the books in the past few days. I would have been stressed out but Erin Scarum arrived for an unexpected visit.
One of the great things about moving away from Portland is the fact that people tend to arrive and stay for days at a time. When we lived in the same city, even when we used to sing together every week, normal life was so chaotic that I never really had a chance to talk to most of the people I considered true friends.
I remember the first time I ever talked to Erin. We were asked to work the door at an event because we were arguably the toughest chorus members – and would make everyone pay to get in. She was wearing regular clothes, work pants and a shirt, but I had on some kind of costume – my see-through orange dress with a ruffled bosom, or maybe my green square dancing dress. I kept the door receipts wedged in my cleavage and we sat there on stools, not talking, while people glared at us as we collected the full cover charge with no discounts for friends.
During various lulls in the event we realized two things. One, that we both felt compelled to check our teeth even if we had not been eating; and two, that we share a birthday.
Our lives are not, in the abstract, very similar. But we have so much in common that it is almost eerie. This is true of everyone I know who was born on the same day as me, regardless of the actual choices they have made. No matter what they do or believe, they react to events and encounters in much the same way I would.
Today when we picked the boy up at school he had one of those little paper games where someone asks a question and picks a number and he showed Erin. I talked to the teacher for a moment and then we walked out of the building.
My question was Will it snow?
Erin said I asked if it would rain. I
picked the number four and she said I picked four!
During the visit we went to museums and thrift stores, cooked greens for supper every night, and talked. I am so happy to know someone who makes sense. My general reaction to socializing with people (even those I love) is to wonder exactly what they are talking about.
But folks born in the winter are not mysterious; they can decide on a plan and stick to it.
This morning I heard from a friend who told me that someone who has professed loathing for me, and demonstrated their ire in obvious ways, is now enthusiastically looking forward to reading my next book. Recently I heard from another friend that someone who was highly critical of my young self now tells all who will listen how much he always adored me.
I don’t really know what to make of these reports. I maintain an almost fetishistic devotion to the concept of truth – even if the truth is uneasy or sad.
I’m sure that whatever happened with these people was mostly my fault. I am a difficult, prickly, eccentric person. During the cancer years my sense of pride was the only thing that kept me alive long enough to make a series of profound mistakes. It has taken extraordinary effort to remain tethered to this world and act with decency.
I do not expect people to enjoy my company.
But then as I sat here fretfully considering my dark past I remembered that it doesn’t really matter. If people want to revise their own history and be friendly, I’m willing to accommodate this as a new truth. I bear no grudges precisely because I understand the inexorable reality of imminent death.
I feel no ill will toward anyone, regardless of what they have done or said. It is foolhardy to care more about the past than the present.
I went back to my journal from last December. Reading the whole thing was rather startling; I guess I had lots on my mind last winter.
I seem to have accidentally forgotten to go to a few of the company parties (once may well be enough) but we did see the arrival of the Lucia bride in Poulsbo. I do not particularly believe in criticizing community events; suffice to say that we had more fun last year, when the whole presentation was geared toward true believers.
This year I could easily have skipped the whole thing and hung out with my relatives in the Sons of Norway private bar. But I will hold out hope for the future based on the memories of past events.
I mailed about twenty-seven promised packages; if you are expecting an order or trade and do not receive it by the end of next week please let me know. Except for those of you who live in Europe – the post office predicted at least two weeks.
I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to keep up with correspondence but I’m so happy to have received such great stuff lately! Get well cards from lots of folks including Opadit, and Hiya & Jonathan, holiday greetings from Chokobotkid and others, good wishes and a care package from Candywarhol, a mix tape from Sholanda, an audiozine from Erin Yanke… the list goes on. I am sure that I have neglected to mention scads of others. I’m lucky to have so many interesting friends.
Eli is visiting this week while she performs at Mixer 2: A festival of contemporary dance solos.
915 E. Pine
Tickets are $12 for one program (Eli is in Program A) or $20 for both. Shows are December 4 – 7.