And then they’d hang up on me all frustrated. Like I was the idiot. Like I’m running around town scratching the last digit off the phone number on the printed materials of hotels through the Phoenix metropolitan area. Some nerve I had, not taking their reservation over the phone for the hotel they didn’t call that I don’t work at.
Like my friend Julie who got a call from some guy freshman year looking to rectify problems with his girlfriend. Julie was not his girlfriend but after hanging up and trying to call his actual girlfriend only to get her voicemail, he called Julie back to ask for her advice.
Oh no that is not this number, who were you looking for?
While we are very different people we also have very similar interests. Be it food and restaurants (though I will never forgive my sister for deciding to start liking ketchup. I can’t believe she abandoned me on that one) music, or just a unique activity, there are so many things that we both enjoy.
Aside from Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" (which I could listen to every single day on repeat without getting sick of... seriously, I love that song) my favorite songs are the ones I find on my parents old records. I even bought a record player just so I could fill my apartment with the crackle and pop of Mr. Johnny Mathis on the turntable.
Granted I only have about 6 Christmas records (I don't count "The Care Bears Christmas" or "Christmas With The Chipmunks Volume 2" as part of my collection) so I listen to the same songs pretty frequently. And I've noticed something strange about what people considered holiday music 30+ years ago.
For instance, I have two different albums entitled "Christmas America" (I have no idea why they made 2) from 1974. And on these albums there are compilations that include:
God Bless Our Native Land
My Country, Tis of Thee
Star Spangled Banner
Battle Hymn of the Republic
America the Beautiful
America (My Country Tis of Thee)
Now I have nothing against America (I live here) but there is nothing about decorating a tree with ribbon and ornaments that makes me want to burst into the National Anthem.
Maybe I'm kind of misguided, but patriotism and Christmas have just never gone hand in hand for me. When my friends and I regularly get together to discuss the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph we rarely bring up the birth of our nation.
"You know what Frankincense and Myrrh remind me of? The rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air!"
But those patriotic songs don't really bother me. Christmas music is Christmas music wherever and whenever you are. But there is a more modern song that doesn't appear on my records that really gets to me. Like I said, I like most songs, but this particular song makes me so angry that when it comes on I want to shove a Christmas tree in each of my ears.
It is a song that, for some ungodly reason, gets a ton of radio play and has been covered by other bands as well.
That song is none other than "Last Christmas" by Wham! For me, this song is quite possibly the most depressing, annoying Christmas song that exists. I don't expect you to feel the same way I do. But I will now point out some of my issues with the lyrics of this song. We will start at the beginning.
I gave you my heart
You gave her your heart? What are you 12? Did you also tie it up with string and attach a note to it before you put it in her locker? Who even says that? I gave you my heart. Did you also plan to give her your flower?
But the very next day you gave it away.
Well, did you ever stop to think maybe your heart was defective, or maybe it was a crappy heart? That's why I give shit away. Maybe this girl felt the same way. People regift things sometimes. Get over it.
To save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special
Seriously? Are you still giving your heart to people? But aside from that you are really getting profound on me. So you didn't think this girl was special when you gave her your heart? Why on earth did you give it to her for, moron? You're so dumb it's no wonder you gave away such a crappy heart.
Once bitten and twice shy.
Once bitten and twice shy? What is this, A True Blood Christmas? Here's a hot tip for you songwriter of the year, if you are looking for a romantic verse to slip into a song, girls rarely fall for lines about biting. That just doesn't put them in a great holiday mood.
I keep my distance.
But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?
Why do you care? You already said this person is not special. Why do you care if a not-special person doesn't recognize you? Why? Do you have some other crappy thing you want to give them?
It's been a year
It doesn't surprise me
I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying "I love you"
I meant it
So basically it's been a year since you decided to give your heart to a not special person and since nothing happened you thought it was a good idea to contact them again and your opening line was "I love you?" Really?
Perhaps you are thinking at this point that I am being a bit of a scrooge about this song. And maybe I am. But I am not an overall scrooge. For some reason this song just irks me. I know Christmas isn't the most favorite time of year for everybody. But listening to Wham bemoan their Christmas woes does not put me in any kind of mood other than "stabby."
I guess I am just more of a traditional guy when it comes to Christmas. I like songs about the magic of winter, the joy and rapture that comes from singing carols around the fire, and of course, bombs bursting in air.
Happy Holidays everyone.
I put great effort into this by engaging in such activities as hanging around cool people, and wearing brand name clothing that others would recognize as "cool."
But it was a house of cards. And my coolness was always, at best, fleeting. It was almost as though the universe knew this and was going to make its best efforts to point this out to me. And on two very specific occasions, my ability to appear cool was squashed by an almost clairvoyant ability of others to point out deficiencies I wasn't even aware I had.
I was and still am, a scrawny white kid from the suburbs. My world awareness and cosmopolitan nature did not come along until much later in my life. As a kid, my music knowledge was limited to the radio station Z100 which played the top 20 pop songs in the country ad nauseum. I knew vaguely of the blazing Hip Hop and R&B of Hot 97.1, but I did not listen to it, nor did I understand it.
My childhood best friend however, was much more urban conscious than I ever was. He knew that radio station and its songs very well. It was his forte. He was much tougher than I was. And even though he lived but 2 miles from me, he was over the border and into Queens. Things were different there. He was hardened steel and I had all the street toughness as a bowl of wet spaghetti.
So one night my best bud and I went to the movies by ourselves. We didn't meet girls or get into any shenanigans, but in terms of independence and growing up, it was kind of a big deal. And I was feeling like I was really something.
So suffice to say when we got picked up from the movies by his mother, sister, and brother, all of us crammed in the car like a gang of teen sardines, and the Hot 97 came on, the coolness I had been feeling started to quiver a little bit.
And before I knew it, everyone (minus myself) was singing along to a Mary J. Blige song. And my best friend's sister, a very gregarious girl, turned to me out of the blue and in an accusatory manner that made my soul drop through my butt, said;
"Don't you know the words to this song?"
Of course I didn't. And admitting so was like admitting my status as a second class citizen. And all I could do was stare and make a constipated face. My coolness cover was blown.
But as I would find out, not knowing something, was way better than thinking you did.
Back before the D.A.R.E. program taught all of us prepubescent lumps of clay what drugs were, and exactly how to use them, we were limited to second hand knowledge from friends and older siblings.
Unfortunately, I did not pay close enough attention.
That became blatantly obvious when my sister and I were at a pool party of our parents' family friends one summer. At this party there were a lot of kids of outgoing personalities and considerable privilege. Kids who had done the coolest things, had the coolest toys, and clothing. Kids that I, of course, wanted to impress.
I was trying so hard to fit in that I was wearing my prized #9 Dan Majerle Olympic Dream Team basketball jersey. It was the crown jewel of my wardrobe.
We were sitting at the table eating hamburgers and hot dogs and pasta salad and dinner rolls. We ran the gamut from pre-pubescent to post, and we were all engaged in one large conversation of multiple topics.
The conversation shifted and the topic of drugs came up. Marijuana and smoking weed was mentioned. Somebody mentioned being stoned. And out of the blue, for no obvious reason, and like she had been clued into a major gap in my knowledge, one of the older girls turned to me and said, "You do know what being stoned means don't you?"
Of course I did. And I told them.
"It means to have rocks thrown at you."
I am hard pressed to find a time in my life when people laughed harder at me than they did that day.
My catholic upbringing had betrayed me. Never once did I think Jesus might have been a pothead. My knowledge was way too literal.
Everyone laughed and my poor sister was so embarrassed that I was essentially useless when it came to being cool. Especially since she too probably wanted acceptance from these kids. One particular boy that I did not like really pissed me off with his laughing and general existence.
I was so embarrassed from being made fun of, and in poor control of my emotions that I, in fact, stoned that boy.
I took a dinner roll from my plate and threw it at the boy's head.
I believe that the boy I pelted with a carb grenade, responded in kind by throwing a limited amount of sprite on my jersey.
And me being completely embarrassed, and wanting to escape, I ran into the house to change my jersey. Not so much worried about the quality of my jersey, but that my own ignorance had turned into an assault on my most favorite article of clothing. Perhaps I was really throwing that bread at my own embarrassment.
Either way, I learned a lot about being cool that day. I learned I wasn't. No matter how hard I try, no matter who I think I am, some things never change. And I learned another lesson. Whether it is right or not...
Sometimes it feels good to throw bread at people.
The Tempo was barely more than a go-cart itself, which suited me well because that was what I had the most experience driving anyway.
I'm not entirely sure why I drove more with my Dad more than my mom. Maybe it was just one of those things, or maybe it was because my Dad and I had bonded over an experience that took place while I was still in the thick of puberty. The event I speak of was both traumatic and hilarious. It is a story my father and I recount often. it is the story of my first "car" accident.
The accident I speak of took place while we were on a family vacation. During family vacations we would usually pair off. My Mom and sister would spend the day shopping or at the pool, and my Dad and I would play golf.
Mom would drop us off at the golf course and my Dad and I would load our clubs onto the back of a white electric golf cart.
Now there are rules about minors driving golf carts. I'm pretty sure I remember it being that you must be 16 years old to drive the golf cart, and in some places you must have a driver's license.
My Dad has always been very trusting of me. And we both thought that rule was ridiculous. Did they honestly believe that maneuvering a 600 pound plastic lawn mower around a park at 9 miles an hour is exactly the same as going 70 down the highway in a 2,000 pound Buick?
But my father believe in my ability to be responsible and handle such a complex task as knowing the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, and the subtle variances between going forwards, and going in reverse. And besides, he was sitting right besides me. There was no traffic. Was there anything that could really go wrong?
The answer of course, was yes.
We had just finished hitting practice balls at the range, and were going to head over to the putting green for a little practice before we teed off. I asked my Dad if I could drive. Sometimes he would wait until we were out past the first tee box but this day he wasn't worried. Either because I was starting to look older, or because he was relaxed being on vacation. The point is, he let me. Way to go Dad!
So we hopped in and I started along the little path to where I thought the putting green was. Humming along at all but a brisk pace we took the turn around the clubhouse and were approaching a fork in the road. Thinking I knew where to go I started to turn the wheel to the left.
"Left?" I asked my dad, already deep into my turn.
And my normally calm and relaxed father realized my error.
Slightly panicked I yanked the wheel to the right. But golf carts don't come with power steering, so my race car like maneuver was not nearly as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And instead of swerving to the right path we were now set to split the fork and crash into a wooded area.
I would like to take a moment here to tell you a little about my experiences with crashing vehicles up until this point in my life.
While I had driven a golf car before, I had never crashed one. in fact all of my collisions had taken place no on 4 wheels, but on 2. My black 12 speed mountain bike was my primary form of transportation up until I got my license.
I rode that thing with moderate success over potholes, ice patches, and all other manner of obstructions. Once in a while I'd lose control and jump a curb or hit an old lady. But I would brace myself for impact, like all other kids did, by using my hand brakes and taking my feet off the pedals, putting them out in front of me to brace myself for the crash.
So it makes sense that as my father and I headed for a (kind of) high speed collision with a gaggle of shrubs, I didn't step on the brake. No. I instinctively put my legs out in front of me to stop the cart from crashing.
And seeing as I was not Fred Flintstone, this did not work.
Instead we crunched over a plastic bucket which made a horrific sound and we came to a rest firmly embedded in the shrubbery.
"Back up back up!" My Dad said, more embarrassed than angry.
Terrified that we were about to be in serious trouble, I threw the cart into reverse (which actually means I just flipped a switch). It might not have attracted as much attention if it hadn't made the ear piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound when it was put into reverse.
With the cart screaming for attention I punched the gas and we crunched over the bucket again, scraping it along the pavement, the sound even more horrific the second time.
"Go go go!" my Dad said, as I killed the screaming and put it into forward gear. Flooring it, we drove away trying to play it like we had not just crashed a $4,000 machine into a $4 bucket and a beautiful bit of greenery.
We tried to stay out of sight as long as we could, but we had to drive past there to get to the first tee. We passed the scene of the crime shortly thereafter and saw a golf course official inspecting the mutilated bucket and destroyed bush, wondering what moron could have possibly been so incompetent.
My Dad and I both peered over at him raising our eyebrows as if to say, "Oh geez I wonder what could have happened there."
But of course we knew.
My Dad had been my partner in crime. We were both guilty. He would tell me later that he realized the next time I started to make a wrong turn, he would let me continue on instead of trying to correct me halfway through.
And I realized that the real reason they want you to have a license to drive a golf cart is so that you realize the breaks are located inside the cart, and not, as I had thought, in the bottoms of my shoes.
Oh well. Live and learn.
But it’s not all coupons that I love. No, there is a particular coupon that tickles me unlike any other. A coupon, that upon sight of, I begin to engage in semi-ridiculous and (once again) seemingly irrational behavior.
And that is the coupon for a store called Bed Bath and Beyond. My friends constantly make fun of me for being what they call “obsessed” with Bed Bath and Beyond, or the BB&B as I like to call it. And I suppose it’s only fair because I used to make fun of my mom for the same thing… until I became her.
For a long dark time in my family’s life, there was no Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I don’t know where we got our toiletries. Maybe we borrowed them, perhaps we stole them. But I remember BB&B suddenly bursting on to the scene later in my teen years. Before the arrival of the BB&B, all bed and bath stores were alike, there was no beyond. But once the Beyond came into play, there was no turning back.
If I needed deodorant, toothpaste, or hair gel, my mom would say to me. “Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, it’s cheaper.”
What made it cheaper was Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s infinite stream of never expiring 20% off coupons. They send them out nearly every week, they are good for any item in the whole store, and they never expire.
And back when their competitor Linens and Things was still in business, BB&B accepted their coupons as well.
What also makes the coupons unique is the fact that they aren’t normal sized, they are giant. Their coupons are large, half page sized, so you can’t even put them in your pocket. You need like, a man purse (also known as a murse) or wagon to transport them all so that when you get up to the counter with your 6 items, you can save $2.50.
It is kind of like trying to buy something with one of those giant celebrity checks they give out at golf tournaments. Every time I use them I expect the cashier to ask me to smile for the camera.
Now back when I was 19 years old walking through BB&B, the store itself was a little overwhelming. A whole section for towels? How many aisles of bedding sets were really needed? And pots, Jesus how many pots and pans could one person use? (Answer here)
But nonetheless every time I needed toiletries, I would end up at that store. It was a pretty basic trip, grab my necessities and then split.
But then again I was the only 19 year old male in Bed Bath and Beyond during the summer trying to get 20 percent off Crest white strips with a 2 year old Christmas coupon from Linen’s and Things.
However, now that I am a homeowner with an apartment full of needs, guess where I go for nearly everything?
And it’s not even just a normal enjoyment I get from the BB&B, its kind of an obsession. When I tell my friends I have to go to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy deodorant, they make fun of me. But you know what, if you had to pay 8 dollars for the fancy deodorant your dry cleaner got you hooked on like a crack junkie, and you could get a buck sixty off the price with a coupon that came in Sunday’s flyer, you’d be no different than me.
I don’t just collect the coupons, I horde them. I have a little place where I stash them in my apartment and then after several weeks I examine my stash to see what a collection I have, and then I skip merrily to BB&B.
And yes I admit, if my neighbors don’t take their coupons when they get home, and they just leave them sitting on top of the mailbox, well… I take those too.
Plus the fact that BB&B coupons get mailed out with the name of the resident on them. The woman at the register is scanning coupons in which every other one has a different persons name and apartment number on them, all while I stand at the register and try to pretend I didn’t steal, ahem, save those coupons.
It’s exactly the same as when I would go to parties as a kid. Right when everyone was going home I’d run around the banquet hall collecting all the left behind favors, ultimately confusing my mother when I’d come home with 11 mugs that said “Melissa’s Bat Mitzvah.”
I know this really is obsessive but I even took a day off in the fall to do some of my shopping. It was fantastic, and quiet. I bought all the things I need. And just so you know, the best day to go is Friday morning because that’s when they replenish all the stock.
Honestly they work really hard on that Beyond part. They should really call it Bed Bath Above & Beyond. I mean sure we are all susceptible to the impulse items by the register, but the whole damn Bed Bath and Beyond is impulse items!
Everything seems like a really good idea. Cedar shoe trees? Sounds good. Shower curtain liner (which I didn’t even know I needed)? Check! Arm and Hammer refrigerator baking soda with color indicator strip? Don’t mind if I do!
Recently I went in with a list for these 5 things:
Here is what I bought
Mesh dish scrubber
Arm and Hammer Refrigerator Baking Soda
2 cedar shoe trees
Extra long sponge dish scrubber
3 tooth brushes
2 allergen free pillow covers
What was supposed to be a simple shopping trip had me walking out with a receipt that looked like the Declaration of Independence.
So how did I go in with the intent to spend 20 dollars and come out spending 96? Well obviously… I have a problem.
I think it’s fair to say that some months I spend more money at BB&B than I do on alcohol. But you know what, the day that they switch the daiquiri mix they sell from virgin to loaded; you can guess where I’ll be.
God I love coupons.
For all my thinking, one thing has become painfully clear to me; with everything my mom has done, and all she has given me, I will never be able to truly say thank you.
I don’t make nearly enough money to buy her something really impressive, like a trip to Paris or a BMW. But even based solely on gestures, I struggle to find a single act or otherwise that would come close to the feeling of gratitude and love I have for my mother. Nothing I could ever find would do that justice.
Even in my wildest fantasies where I am a man of boundless means, my mind keeps wandering backwards to a gesture from my childhood.
I couldn’t have been more than 5 at the time, back when I still felt considerably smaller than the world. Dad was working, my sister had already started school full time, and my mother hadn’t yet gone back to work. So it was just the two of us at home those days.
I’d run errands with my mother, “helping” her do the things she needed to do, grocery shopping or waiting with her while she got her allergy shot. We traveled around New Hyde Park, buckling and unbuckling me from the back seat of that big powder blue Pontiac.
My memory has held tightly to a trip to the dry cleaners, though the specifics are hazy. It was a place around the corner from our house, not more than 2 blocks away. One day we went to pick up some clothes. I remember standing just short of the counter and feeling the mood change.
Something bad had happened. They had screwed something up, ruining a coat perhaps. My memory tells me that my mom had brought a sharp cream colored blazer there and when she got it back there was some awful ink stain on it. Whether or not that was the case is really of no significance.
But I remember my usually friendly and smiling mother losing her temper and getting very upset with the dry cleaners. I know whatever concessions they offered were not enough because my mother left there fuming and possibly in tears.
I’m sure I knew what had happened, but I also didn’t know what to do about it. I may have asked questions but I probably knew that it was better not to. Something about the situation told me to be quiet. It wasn’t like when my mom got mad at me. The rules and roles for that were obvious. There was an uncomfortable difference here. My mom was very upset, it wasn’t my fault, and I had no idea what to do.
We went home and my mother went into the office in the back of our house. Maybe to cry, maybe to call my father and vent about what had happened.
Uncomfortable and confused I felt so useless in this situation. I was only 5 but I knew I wanted to make her happy again. I felt that I needed a gesture. I needed to do something. So I did.
I made the grandest gesture I knew how; I drew her a picture.
I took a white sheet of paper and my crayons and I just started drawing. I probably didn’t lay out any kind of outline, I just drew the things I knew how to. There was green grass, a blue house, a small flock of crudely drawn birds, and a rainbow. And written in blue in the sky was what I hoped would be the cure for what ailed her;
“I love you mommy.”
When you’re 5, your ability to influence is dependent on hugs, tears, and crayons. It seemed like the third one was the best option at this point.
So I finished my drawing and walked into the office where she was sitting, and still visibly upset.
I approached her, hesitant, possibly a little scared, proffering my drawing before me like a document needing to be signed by the king. She took it from me, looked at it, and gave me a hug and a kiss, and I think it made her happy to see my work. She even pinned it up on the bulletin board.
And all was well with the world.
There it stayed for the rest of the day, for the rest of that year.
In fact in all our years in that house, she never took it down. It hung there until we finally had to pack up the house when we sold it last year.
Honestly it was just a piece of paper covered in colored wax, nothing artistically brilliant or creatively courageous. It was just a house and a rainbow and some birds.
But it always stayed up on that wall, through a renovation of that room. Even though that space could have been used for something more important, some necessary calendar or tax document. It hung there, scrawled in my 5 year old affection, “I love you mommy.”
Granted I wasn’t trying to say thank you at the time. I wasn’t indebted for anything. Hell, I was only 5 and my universe was barely bigger than my own neighborhood. But I wanted my mom to know how I felt, and while I didn’t have much to give, I gave her all I had.
It seems fitting that my little hands could only create a gesture as big as a piece of paper, but I think it was far larger than anything I could craft today, anything I could buy, anything I could do.
Perhaps it is impractical to place so much importance on a drawing I did when I was a boy. Perhaps what worked then couldn’t possibly work now. Perhaps I have found my very own Rosebud and developed a fondness for a thing and a time that exists only in my memory.
But as I chase nostalgia even at this young age, I find myself holding that drawing up not just as a memory, but a symbol. A symbol of who I was and who I’m trying to be. A symbol of a time when my thoughts didn’t impair my judgment, when my imagination didn’t outpace my ability, and when I could tell my mother everything she meant to be with a little blue crayon.
I love you mommy.
I remember the first piece of gum I ever had. I don’t remember how old I was but I remember still feeling quite small. I believe the piece in question was an individually wrapped blue stick that came in a box of Cheerios. I begged my mom to let me have it. So she and my sister, 3 years my elder, sat on the steps while I stood in front of them as though about to partake in a spelling bee.
My mom opened it for me and handed me this sacred new candy. Her instructions were very clear. She said “Don’t swallow it, do not swallow this. Chew it, but don’t swallow it.”
As I recall I chewed it once and then swallowed it.
Throughout my youth (after I stopped swallowing my gum) my mother would only let us chew half pieces of sugar free Trident. We would ask for a piece of gum and she would tear us a half of an already pitifully small piece of Trident. As though a whole piece of Trident was more than our little mouths could handle. You may consider this to be foreshadowing.
Somewhere around elementary school a rumor started going around that the Trident that came in the multicolored paper could be eaten without being removed from said paper, and that said paper would dissolve in your mouth.
I can’t tell you how many gum wrappers I swallowed that year.
I would chew and chew and chew, periodically removing the gum from my mouth to examine what looked like a very gnarled piece of green trash, and then pop it back in to continue working this paper until it dissolved.
Gullible and determined are a terrible pair to be.
When I would query about said task, the answer would always come back, “oh it takes a while.” Sure it takes a while, after a while ANYTHING will disintegrate in your mouth. I’m sure if I put a Raptor fossil in my mouth that too would disintegrate after a “while.” But my excitement at the sheer possibility of success far outweighed any ounce of rational reasoning I might have applied to my task.
But probably the biggest moment in my gum chewing life came while I was still in elementary school. These were the days when Bubblicious and Bubble Tape (6 feet of bubble gum… 6 FEET OF BUBBLE GUM) were popular amongst the gum chewing crowd. Perhaps it was the fluorescent colors, or the fruity flavor that made them popular. Maybe it was just the sugar.
I of course chewed these gums without prior consent or knowledge of my mother.
I discovered something different though, something better. Somewhere on the bottom shelf of my candy store I found a little gem called Big League Chew. I’m not sure what Big League Chew was actually made of; I’m guessing the ingredients list went something like this;
That stuff was addicting. Especially the strawberry flavor. Oh man to this day I still get goose bumps thinking about it. It came in a package like chewing tobacco would, and was even cut into tobacco like strands; everything about it was tobaccoish – except for the bright pink coloring.
It was great because you could help yourself to the perfect portion of fluorescent colored strands to suit your needs.
This for me, was invariably the whole package.
Oh it started out innocent enough, putting a pinch in my mouth, and then another pinch, and another, but the taste was so good that I was soon jamming fistfuls into my gullet. Over and over, I dipped my sugary paw into the pouch only to push a pile deep into the depths of my mouth.
By the time the package was empty all I could do was sit there in catatonic state, my mouth impossible to close, while a thick stream of pink drool slowly made its way down my chin and onto my t-shirt.
This by the way almost always took place while sitting on my front porch. Yes I know, not only could I not talk and chew gum at the same time, but I also couldn’t stand and chew it either. To me, the only appropriate activity that matched Big League Chew was sitting on my porch staring at passing cars.
I would sit there like I had just shot up, who knows how many grams of sugar coursing through my veins as I slowly started to zone out and see rainbows and unicorns and mystical tiny Martians hoola-hooping on my lawn.
Ok it wasn’t that severe, but it was close. That Big League Chew was as close to the 60s as I would ever be.
Even today I get a little giddy if I see a package of big league chew. Granted I don’t go candy shopping much… or….at all any more. Believe it or not Trident is still my sugarless gum of choice. And if you offered to split a piece with me, I would most likely oblige, not nearly as outraged as I was as a child.
But you can bet your ass that if I ripped open a package of Big League Chew, it would be only a matter of minutes before that pink drool had found its way out of my mouth and onto my dress shirt.
Some things never change.
I said goodbye to the home I grew up in last week. It was the first and only home my family ever knew. The place where a girl became a woman, a boy became a man, and a couple became a family — it was more than a childhood home. It was my family's home. And despite the fact that we no longer have keys to 24 Redwood Road, it will always be my family's home.
It took so long for my parents to sell the house that I honestly came to wonder if it was ever going to happen. I remember them putting the sign out on the lawn just as I was starting to look for my own apartment. It seemed scary and kind of unnerving that strangers would soon be walking through my house trying to decide if it lived up to their standards. I would sit on the couch avoiding eye contact as they walked through and made comments. But all I really wanted to do was scream "GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU DON'T DESERVE IT!"
Our house had no flaws, only wonderments. It all seems kind of ironic considering I spent so much effort trying to leave it. Going across the country for college, and moving out just a couple of months ago. I try to put every aspect of my house into the context of my daily life. I think, whether or not realize it, I seek to recreate the type of feelings I got from experiencing my life through the different rooms in my house.
Saying goodbye to your childhood home feels a lot like saying goodbye to a vault. There are so many things that are locked up within the walls of that house, more than anybody could ever imagine.
It was the only constant that made it through family photos, sadness, cancer, Little League, puberty, Easter, remembered birthdays, forgotten birthdays, fires, floods, break-ins, sneak-outs, surprise parties, 3 a.m. phone calls, records, tapes, and DVDs. It saw blackouts, proms, and emotional breakdowns. It saw it all, absorbed it all. It never asked a single question and never refused a single request. It was a second skin, a blanket of love that I was constantly wrapped in. We all were.
Even now as I feel the heat behind my eyes, I didn't expect to feel the sense of loss that I did when I walked out of that house for the last time. I knew the day was coming when I would have to say goodbye.
It was like watching a dark cloud approaching from off in the distance. I knew it would arrive, but it was just a matter of when. But it didn't feel real. Kind of the way you know your mom is going to tell you that playtime is over and it’s time to get inside before it starts to rain. But as those weeks turned into days and the days turned into hours, I could feel the change. The ending came quick and startling, like those thunderstorms in the summer that flooded our lawns.
I tried to say goodbye to my home. As I did my last lap around the house, not knowing exactly what I was doing, I would point to spots around the house and try to recall a memory. I could have done it for weeks. But reliving a thousand memories there would not have made it easier to leave. Dare I say it would have made it infinitely more difficult?
I have this thing I do with cards people send me. After I’ve held on to them for a certain period of time, and before I throw them out, I kiss them. I’m not sure why I started doing it, but it felt wrong to throw something away without giving it some sort of affection, some sort of a thank-you.
So that’s what I did with my house. I walked around the house and kissed a wall in every room. Even as I write this I know it sounds ridiculous. It was just a thing, a pile of wood and stone and glass and paint. But I didn’t know how else to say goodbye.
I wanted that house to know that I loved it. That I was so grateful for every tear it had absorbed, for every scream it had ignored or acknowledged. That for as many things that I broke, scratched, scraped, or dented, whenever I felt broken, scratched, scraped or dented I could always find refuge in that house. I could always find sleep in that house. And I would never feel as loved, as absolutely cosmically loved as I did in that house.
And I suppose that is all any of us can ever hope for in our lives — to come from a place so absolutely saturated with love that anything less than that seems completely unsatisfactory. I know that I am lucky that two such wonderful people chose to create a beautiful family in a big white house on a quiet street in Suburbia. And as I do not get to play a part in the future of 24 Redwood Road, its past is forever locked up inside my heart, constantly reminding me of all that I have and all that I am lucky to be.