Reunion

These are my people. More specifically, these are my college people. Not all of them, mind you, although we did attend a small liberal arts university in the woods of New Jersey.

We, my people and I, have been places – London, Amsterdam, Rutland, Las Vegas, assorted diners, bars and athletic fields.

We have done things. Surfed couches. Mixed cocktails. Danced madly. Talked deep into the night. Fell extravagantly in love. Pushed one another to our limits. Wrestled while intoxicated. Spooned. Hiked. Roadtripped. Hooked up. Broke up. Bucked up.

Degrees were earned. Jobs won and lost. People died and babies arrived.

In other words, life: in all of its imperfect perfectness.

And in July, we came back together – in two houses, up a dirt road in Vermont. And in a jam packed, joy-filled 48-hours, this magical band of people filled my belly, mind and heart.

As a writer, I should have more words for those 48 hours, these feelings, than this, but they seem somehow sacred. Perhaps because we are so much older now, and our lives have taken turns and been shaped in ways we can’t know because we are in the midst of them. Because there are deadlines and commitments and responsibilities that could easily keep us apart. Because we know how easy it is to slip from one another’s reach.

Perhaps this is why it’s such an exquisite gift to enter a room of friends you haven’t seen in years, with whom you share time and life and memory – and be embraced, exactly where and as you are.

For Maureen: a three-legged race

I feel so angry, sad and confused right now that I’m not even sure I should be writing. But maybe writing through these feelings will help me make sense of them, because at this moment, there is so much that makes so little sense.

Back in July, I wrote about a childhood friend that suffered a massive heart attack and slipped into a coma. Despite all medical efforts, healing thoughts and prayers, the damage to Maureen’s heart and brain was too great. She passed away Sunday morning. She was 40 years old.

Maureen leaves behind her husband, Mark, her five-year old daughter, Natalie, her lifelong best friend, MaryBeth, and a host of friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.

The knee jerk reaction to this sudden, unexpected loss is to ask why. Why does a wonderfully loving wife, Mom and friend die this young, this tragically? We try so hard to figure it out. We cry; we yell; we shake our fists at the sky.

Maybe the space between life and death is only as wide as a strand of hair after all. Every moment of every day, there are near misses: semi trucks that just miss plowing into cars packed with kids, falling glasses caught seconds before smashing to bits, blood that slows almost to stillness and suddenly finds its flow.

Maureen: It’s not so many years ago that we were playing kickball and hopscotch. We don’t have to dig back far in our memories to remember days spent running three-legged races across each other’s yards. It’s easy to hear your voice in my head.

I think of Natalie, age five.

At five, our parents are magical beings, capable of great feats: keeping us safe from real and imagined harm, carrying us high on shoulders, sending us off to sleep, molding the way we experience the world.

I don’t know.

Perhaps there is no reason in any of it. No lining up of facts. No theories to prove. Life and death exist side by side, because one simply cannot exist without the other.

This is when it hurts.

This is why the ancient Aleutians bound tightly the limbs of the bereaved. Without it, they feared those in grief would, literally, fall apart. Or so said Annie Dillard in her novel.

I can’t leave it like this. If there is sadness and anger, it must also mean that happiness and joy eventually follow.

So I go back to basics.

Back to girls with legs bound together, arms linked, running and laughing hard, leaning on one another.

Friendship has no end.

 

 

Anne’s gardenia

Years ago, when I moved into my house, my friend Anne gave me a gardenia as a housewarming gift. As a Northern girl, I didn’t grow up with gardenias, or for that matter, know much at all about many plants, trees, or flowers. One of the things I love most about the South is the working knowledge so many folks have with the trees, plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables that grow so abundantly here in the heat.

Anne planted the gardenia very purposely right near my front door, and every year, I forget about it, until the first hot days of spring arrive, the white buds burst open, and the sweet, heady, heavenly smell envelops my senses and yard.

Anne gave me that gardenia, in part, because her Grandma whom she had adored and lost just before we became friends, loved them.

After enduring nearly simultaneous breakups, Anne and I solidified a lifetime friendship by licking our wounds, mending our hearts, perfecting our sarcasm, making dinner, and laughing over cocktails.  In fact, I think the other reason she gave me the gardenia was to remind me of what flourishes and flowers even in the most extreme conditions.

And we did.

We Love Rock ‘n Roll


Recess. 1982. Laura, Jen, Kelly, Jenni, and I stand on the raised concrete slab by the cafeteria kitchen’s back door, near the empty milk crates. We are singing Joan Jett’s, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” as passionately and loudly as we can. Over and over again. We stomp our feet. We raise our arms triumphantly. We are irreverent and strong and cool. We are a gang of 9 and 10-year-old girls, and we are awesome and liberated and yes, we know what that words means.

Sometimes a rotating cast of other girls would feel brave enough to join us. And then the gang felt like a mob, like the start of something else.

Sometimes the boys would stop killing each other long enough to stand with their arms folded against their chest and scowl at us – or laugh. Sometimes they just rolled their eyes and said, “Come onnnnnn. Let’s play kickball.” Sometimes we would stop singing and play kickball, but mostly, we just sang louder.

The teacher’s aides who policed recess watched us out of the corner of their eyes, vacillating between looking annoyed and amused.

I know neither how the singing started, nor why it ended.

But there are days when I want it back. The singing. The stomping. The arms raised. The feeling that I could do anything, that we could do anything.

If we just sang loud and long enough.

Hurricanes & Bourbon Manhattans

Spent an amazing 36 hours in Carolina Beach, North Carolina last week with one of my best friends, Amy. Though we had to leave early due to Irene’s impending arrival, we made the most of our hours together: lazing on the beach, talking, laughing, eating, drinking and watching in awe as the waves grew larger, and the ocean churned and turned a mysterious, deep green. Standing waist deep in the water, we rooted our feet in the sand to keep from being pulled out into the ocean’s mighty ebb.

My trip home, a mere 4 hours, passed swiftly, while Amy’s turned into a 10+ hours, rain-soaked anxiety attack back to New York City. When she finally returned home with Gus, her Yorkie sidekick, she sent me a text. That text, and the ones that followed are too good not to share.

A: Home. On my stoop. No keys. Oh look, there’s the pity trolley.

Me: Oh no! Gus likes bars, right?

A: I am in hate with all things right now.

Me: Ugh, I know.

A: Gus is going to like a bourbon Manhattan. Well, at least one of the ice cubes.

Me: One bourbon Manhattan with extra ice, please.

A: So delicious. I’ll never understand why embryos don’t like them.

Me: And, scene!

The Funniness of Others: Chapter 1

I’ve made the executive decision to start sharing the hilarious things my friends/family/colleagues/clients say. Or, in some cases, the funny stuff I overhear. So, let it be known, if you make me laugh, you may just end up with a starring role in my new series, The Funniness of Others.

Editor’s Note: accidentally-on-purpose falls always make me laugh. Thank you and good day.

Katie, on her eating habits.

” I realized I don’t really eat. I sort of snack all day. I eat like I’m camping, like protein bars and beans from a can. Or, I eat like a divorced man from the 1950s. Like the other night? I ate three pieces of wheat toast with pesto on them. What is that?”

Joan, on one very short date.

“…But when she showed up in a purple Camaro…well, let’s just say it was over before it started.”

For CoJo

CoJo, Jake & Aaron

Tomorrow a dear, sweet friend of mine leaves Charleston to its own humid devices to venture north to the land of clams, patriots and red sox. Yes friends, BOSTON.

I’ve known Courtney Jo for nearly three years now, and in that short expanse of time (a blink, really), she has become an indispensable part of my life. Might I add we have both packed in the life experiences over the course of these three years, to include:

  • Job strife
  • Job hilarity
  • Creative inspiration
  • Creative disillusionment
  • Personal empowerment
  • Job loss
  • Job find(s)
  • Death
  • Birth
  • Break ups
  • Back togethers
  • New relationships
  • Laughter
  • Tears (of all varieties)
  • Food & drink (of all varieties)

Through it all, I have come to adore this woman’s face, her easy laughter and tears, her hugs, greeting cards, rides to the airport and support and encouragement beyond measure. CoJo is the little sister I never knew I wanted (I’m the youngest in my family). She’s the friend you can call at 3 a.m., and she will show up. CoJo, I am a better girl/friend/writer/person, because of you. Thank you. Safe travels, my bear!

P.S. Don’t worry, we’ve already planned our fall festival road trip/beer fest/apple picking bonanza trip to Boston.

P.P.S. If you start talking with a Boston accent, I will totally break up with you. LOVE!