I wish I could take all the credit for being so thoughtful about remembering your birthday, but Bev is the one on Facebook so this is from both of us.
We wish you all the best and many, many, many more! Do you like the cake we baked for you???
Love, Ana and Bev
Friday, January 16, 2009
When I got home from work today, I found my house covered with little brown feathers. Initially, I suspected my son's down jacket. But then I found feathers in the kitchen sink, in the bathtub, even in the toilet... As I dustbusted, unquestioningly, I caught my youngest son out of the corner of my eye joyously stomping up and down, giggling madly, on a tiny brown object (see above).
This raises many questions. Obviously, my cats had found a sparrow but they are indoor cats. Unless one of Bev's cats made a take-out delivery, this poor little guy somehow found his way in my house (I'd like to think the holes aren't quite so gaping), seeking relief from the bitter cold, and found himself in the clutches of two very inexperienced house cats. Judging from the evidence, his must have been a most brutal demise. I found bird shit on the walls and doors, a lamp was knocked over, one entire table in my kitchen was cleared off and my mantle was destroyed (thankfully shattering one particularly horrible Christmas gift from my mother-in-law). Avian carnage.
While I feel bad for the poor little bugger, a part of me wishes I had been here to see the mayhem. I keep forgetting my cats are animals.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So, it's finally time to finish my trilogy. To review: discovery in La-Z-Boy led to banishment to Montana.
I was ten years old and had never been on a jet, nor had I traveled further than Canada, which borders Wisconsin and therefore does not really count as international travel (nor does Montana, I realize, but in terms of distance, it seemed very far away). A tyro to be sure. But I had read a lot of Judy Blume and considered myself very worldly. I spent weeks planning my solo flight, what I would wear, what I would do in the various airports. I was actually excited about receiving my punishment. AND I wanted to be a veterinarian so the opportunity to work with horses was another adventure I looked forward to with unbridled romanticism. I had visions of myself in a light cotton frock, riding a black stallion, bareback, as our long flowing hair waved in the wind, in slow motion, mind you.
The trip was great. I read another Judy Blume novel (Wifey, I believe) -- right in front of everybody on the plane. I wore my favorite 3/4 sleeved rainbow jersey shirt and my blue corduroys. I carried a purse. I was something.
At the airport in Billings, I bought cigarettes from a machine and went to the airport restaurant where I chainsmoked (I'm wondering now how old I thought I looked) as I ate my T-bone steak and drank my Pepsi. I called my dad and pretended to be very scared by the whole experience of traveling alone, but I was nothing short of ecstatic.
When my aunt (whom I had never met) greeted me at the airport in Helena, I'm sure I reeked of smoke but she smoked too. Bonus! Add to my vision of independence stealing cigarettes from her pack, which I did, all summer long. She didn't smoke menthols, but I learned to love her Benson and Hedges nonetheless.
As you can see, I was a girl in need of reformation.
And then my cousin arrived, the very next day, and brought the gleaming light of God with her, a God I had never seen even though I had attended church every Sunday until I was seven years old. Beth was a blond-haired beauty. She was 21, she loved Jesus, and she wore her hair in French braids every day, with little hand-tied ribbons running the entirety of their gorgeous length. She was an intense horse woman with a vicious temper when it came to other peoples' laziness (both moral and physical). She was a rabid anti-smoker and she was a power-converter. She told everyboy they were going to hell and became irrate when they didn't believe her.
Her approach with me was a bit more tender, however. She simply invited me to go to church with her. I agreed, figuring it was the usual Lutheran service (boring but something to do). To set the stage, I should tell you a little more about my experience with religion up to this point. As I said, we went to church every Sunday and I knew about Jesus and Adam and Eve and Moses and the Apostles but that was pretty much it. Oh, and I knew it would definitely be cool to be chosen to play Mary in the Nativity play (I, unfortunately, was given the role as the back end of the donkey and that ended my career in Christian drama). For example, my notions of the "holy spirit" were so confused that my friends and I made up a game called "Holy Ghost" ; it was just like tag but the person who was "it" made ghost sounds as they chased the others around and we only played it on Sunday after church as our parents chatted with each other in the church parking lot.
So off we went to church. I remember my aunt snickering "Have fun..." when we left as she lit her cigarette and sipped at her coffee. I knew this was going to be a very different experience from the moment we drove into the parking lot. In the first place, the lot was full -- there must have been 100 cars. The church itself was very modern, all glass and carpeted staircases. As we sat down, I noticed the "pulpit" was more like a stage (with a full rock band set up behind it). There would be no organ ladies here in orthopedic shoes stumbling their way through "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." And the people... they were so... happy... about being at church. And they were huggy and kissy. I was introduced to everyone as "my little cousin from Wisconsin." "Welcome! We're so happy to have you!" was the invariable response. And it seemed like they meant it. Weird. I detected no sweet midwestern insincerity in their voices... a sound I was very familiar with.
There's really no point in trying to describe the microphoned preacher, the emotional congregation, my reaction to hands lifted in the air, people speaking in strange languages, the river of tears cried in joy. It was surreal. What got me to accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior that very day was the sermon itself. It turns out, Jesus is coming back, a fact I had never heard before that day. And when he came back, the shit was going to hit the fan. I thought I had years to make up for sinning on La-Z-boys, but suddenly my arrival in hell by other means was a certain reality; and according to the preacher, it was going to happen any day now. I was terrified. So up I went to that rock-star stage, fell to my knees and confessed myself a ten-year old sinner (which as you know was undeniably true).
And then my life split in two. I was a bible-carrying born againer of the newly-converted type during the day, but at night in my bedroom I would smoke my aunt's cigarettes, read Danielle Steele and torture myself endlessly about my weakness for the Devil's temptations. This sorry state of affairs would continue until I was 19, by which time I had read the bible eight times, accepted Jesus about fifty times (in case it didn't take the first 49), attended summer bible camp six times, was touched by the holy spirit and spoke in tongues (which I faked but could never tell anybody), learned the horrible truth that The Beatles were satanists and their records, when played backwards, spoke of sex with corpses. I became a Christian puppeteer, a Sunday school teacher, a leader of the youth group in my born-again community back home, a rabid pro-lifer, a hater of gays -- a young woman of great potential, in other words.
And while I did fall prey to all this nonsense, I can never regret my time as a born-againer. It gave me many gifts. I became a great reader and interpreter of texts, a self-policing teenager who never drank (the smoking was a different matter but I hid it well), a daughter who could be trusted by her father and a more caring individual. My father was right to have sent me and it had unforeseen benefits for him; I did all my chores without being asked, never lied, and except for my occassional attempts to convert his doomed soul, he must have been very happy he sent me.
I'll write more later on the horsey aspects of this summer. I received other great gifts from that as well, one of which was the certainty that I did not want to be a veterinarian.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Bev has assured me it is okay to post this story from our neighborhood. I'm so paranoid, however, that I'm not even going to use the fake names I already created for my characters. I'm going to use the names of trees instead.
Okay, so Elm and Apple are a couple who live on my street. They are in their 50's, a little eccentric but very nice and always stop to talk or at least wave as you drive by. Every year until about four years ago or so, Apple would deliver Christmas cookies to all the people on the street on Christmas Eve afternoon. Her cookies and fudge were scrumptious. Five years ago, the following happened.
Enter Maple and Birch, a couple who lives very close to Apple and Elm. It was Christmas Eve afternoon and Birch was out grocery shopping for a party she and Maple were going to. Maple was taking a shower. When he got out of the shower (and vigorously toweled off his dripping wet rippling muscles and blond hair, which I'm sure every woman on the street has imagined at one time or another), he got dressed and went to the kitchen. There, on the counter, sat a plate of cellophaned Christmas cookies from Elm and Apple which had decidedly not been there when he entered the shower. While pondering this anomaly, Maple jumped when the phone rang right beside him. He didn't recognize the Vermont phone number on the caller ID but picked it up anyway. On the other end of the line was an enraged man: "Did you just call my house and hang up?" "No," replied Maple. "Well, I just redialed the last number that called my house and here I am talking to you." "Listen," said Maple, "I just got out of the shower. I don't know who you are or how you got this number, but I did NOT call your house." The man refused to believe Maple and accused him of having an affair with his wife. Maple hung up on the man, still scratching his head.
Although this mystery has never been solved, it seems pretty obvious that Elm made the cookie delivery to Maple and Birch, let himself in the house when nobody answered the door, and helped himself to a long-distance phone call when he heard the shower running.
That's just creepy.
Friday, January 2, 2009
I have decided it would be fun (and possibly ill-advised if not downright dangerous) to write every so often about my neighborhood. Like every neighborhood, here on (long and difficult to spell Native American name) Street, there are a wide variety of personalities and a good amount of lore and legend. It has certainly kept me entertained for the last nine years. Of course, I won't be mentioning names or addresses. And some of this must be reserved for Bev (she will know which ones belong to her).
First, character names and categories: #1: Crazies: Crazy Man at the End of the Street, Crazy Man with the Yard, Crazy Drunk Mother (that's NOT me), Crazy Retired Lady; #2: Meanies: Mean Old Lady with Nice Old Husband, Mean Old Man and His Mean Younger Sister and Their Mean Old Parents; #3 Eccentrics and Miscellany: No Visible Means of Support (I probably won't write about them for various reasons), the Realtor, Hot Tub Guy and His Dad, Hot Rod Guy; #4 Widows and Widowers: There are five that I can think of; I won't write about them either. #5 Coolies: the Gardener, the Landscape Architect, the Cute Young Couple With No Kids, the Horse Lady, the Funny Couple With Kids, the Gay Guys I, the Gay Guys II. There are many others who fit in no category.
Second, the setting: imagine a three-street microcosm of Peyton Place and you get the idea. Well, sort of. It's actually not that interesting but there are eerie similarities. Tree-lined streets, homes built in the 40's, 50's and 60's, mostly Capes. Lots of kids and dogs and cats and trees and birds and wild turkeys and squirrels and chipmunks. A little slice of heaven hiding an even tinier piece of hell (like the proverbial razor blade in the apple at Halloween).
My first story is actually about two kids who used to live in the neighborhood -- until they drowned in the river at the end of the street in the late 50's or early 60's. One was a little boy (whose exact age I have never been able to ascertain) who lived in my house. The other was a little girl who lived in the house across the street (now occupied by Funny Couple With Kids). There are older adults in this neighborhood who remember that day because either they or their children were invited out to play that day by the two children who drowned. Funny Couple with Kids were pregnant at the same time as me and that's when we found out about this story. We made a pact to teach our kids to swim at a very early age, although in this case it wouldn't have mattered. It seems they were playing on the ice and fell through. The current then dragged them under the ice and they couldn't find a way back up. I also found out about this after I had the following experience. I was sleeping and woke up, my heart pounding. I opened my eyes and saw nothing but the usual darkened room but the feeling was like having someone's face very close to my own, peering intently, but not angrily, into my eyes. It happened again about three years later. You all know I believe in ghosts but I've never felt this house was haunted (confirmed by the The Duchess, the traveling psychic of these parts). I've often thought of that little boy, but I think more about his parents, especially his mother. I guess they moved shortly after their son's death. And that's all I know.