Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    Daniel Is Traveling Tonight on a Plane

    My parents leave for London on Friday, a combination wedding anniversary gift/ birthday present for my dad.

    I’m waiting to hear the second punch line.

    See, I’m prone to synchronicity. Sometimes it takes years to unfold. Let me tell you a true story, one of my strangest. Bear with me; there will be enough seemingly-irrelevant details that finally tie in to classify this as Dickens Lite, but I think the payoff’s worth it.

    Growing up, we took one vacation a year. Pinching and scrimping, my dad always managed to save up enough money to get us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for two weeks. A point of pride with him. A point of happiness for me.

    On each trip, he’d walk with me along the beach, stop, put out his arm, and through some mysterious process, determine the exact spot on the horizon.

    “Straight ahead,” he’d say pointing , “is England. We’ll go there someday, and see Big Ben and the Queen and Abbey Road.”

    We both knew it had to be someday and not this year, or the next. My family’s vacations had to fall within certain parameters. We couldn’t put an ocean between ourselves and my brother, left in the care of my grandmother during our trips. Christopher could die at any time, without much warning. We took that risk once a year, to be a ‘normal’ family, one that didn’t draw public stares, followed by quick looks away and uncomfortable whispers. For two weeks, we could be invisible.

    I was my older brother’s healthy replacement. When my mom was pregnant, they were sure I was a boy. I was supposed to be Nicolas. They called me Nick until I came out sans penis. I lived my life trying to be perfect and quiet and good and all the things they had wanted from their firstborn. I was even born on February ninth, the anniversary of the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. My parents’ loves were mine. And my dad loved the Beatles and England.

    Thanks to him, England became mythical in my head. Crumbling castles, empty moors, haunted forests. Fox hunts and tea at four. Big Ben, Windsor Palace, Piccadilly Square and Apple Records. Shakespeare, Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria, the Beatles, not to mention our own family roots. I wanted to see it all so badly. And I felt guilty for wanting it, because to find myself exploring Mayfair in the rain meant that no brother would be waiting back home.

    The year Christopher died, I was fourteen. We went to Myrtle Beach, as usual. Everything was ‘as usual.’ I tried even harder to be perfect and quiet and good. We didn’t stop to grieve, didn’t do the things we’d said we’d do.

    But slowly, we came out of the quiet grief, and my dad started talking about England. The eighties were at least financially kind to my family, and we had the money to travel comfortably. I bought and memorized the Fodor’s Guide to London, I had tube routes planned, phrases mastered, restaurants chosen. We talked about staying for two weeks, then for a month, maybe going north into Scotland. So I bought a guide to Scotland and then Ireland for good measure (I mean, Ireland was right there after all).

    The guilt was there, yes. But so was this feeling that we deserved to go. We’d suffered, and this was a reward.

    I remember talking at dinner about getting our passports, when my dad announced that he wanted to buy a boat. All his friends at his new job had boats. He wanted one, plain and simple. My mom and I sat silent and bemused. This boat thing came out of nowhere.

    We looked at small boats. We looked at medium boats. We bought a big boat. We joined a yacht club. On the Illinois river. Yee-ha.

    We didn’t go anywhere that year. The boat was our vacation. Every weekend.

    Do you know what it does to an insecure fifteen-year-old, when you drag her an hour and ten minutes away from her new friends at her new high school every single weekend to brush fist-sized spiders and bat-sized mosquitoes off a boat in hundred-degree weather? Especially one who kind of sort of hoped that maybe she might find some nice English boy in that month-long vacation to the UK?* She gets snappish and withdraws. That’s what she does.

    My parents didn’t know what to make of it. My father was especially angry. He calmly told me one day that I was a cold person. The Tin Woodman. You know, heartless.

    Anyway, I grew up and out of my snit.

    Fast forward about twelve years. I’m married, living in Colorado, getting ready for a trip to Ireland for the first time. We’ve got a stopover in Gatwick, and the possibility of scooting into London with just enough time to snap a photo before turning around and hopping a puddle jumper to Cork. My parents are thrilled for me, my dad especially.

    “We should have gone to England when you were a girl,” he tells me on the phone.
    “It’s ok,” I say. “We had some good times on the boat.”
    “You hated the boat. You still do.”
    “No. It was just an awkward time, that’s all.”
    “Well. At least you’ll get there. I don’t think your mother and I will ever make it.”
    “Sure you will.”

    A layover in Detroit. I’m fidgeting and looking around, noting the time before departure to Gatwick, and hating the clock for going so fast. Why? Because by chance, my dad is also somewhere in the airport making a different connecting flight back to Illinois. And by further chance, the puddle jumpers and international flights share the same terminal (Ah, sweet pre-911.)

    They announce that the boarding will begin. We stand up, and I reluctantly take a place in line. Then I hear my name. My dad is running toward me. I smile, drop my bags and run to give him a hug.
    “Have fun,” he says. “You deserve this.”
    I start crying, overwhelmed. I want to drag him on the plane with me, skip Ireland and see how much of London I remember from Fodor’s.
    I feel guilty too. Do I deserve this? Really?

    On the plane, I take a risk and strike up a conversation with a gentleman across the aisle. He’s going home with his two kids after visiting his wife’s family in America. A friendly Brit, we talk about tea and fox hunts and Shakespeare. I tell him I live in Colorado, but that I’m originally from Illinois.

    So is his wife’s family.
    “Here,” he says. Let me show you some photos I took.”
    He takes out a stack of photos (he had them developed because he didn’t trust the film going through the x-ray machine) and hands them to me.

    Familiar. Very familiar.

    “My brother-in-law has a boat, and we went to see it,” he says.
    I feel my face redden up. “Starved Rock Marina,” I say.
    “Why yes. You know it?”
    “I do. Very well. My parents have a boat there. A Bayliner.”
    He shuffles through another stack of photos. “I took some photos of boats…let me see…yes…”
    He hands me a photo of my parents’ boat. No mistaking it. The name I stenciled on the back is quite clear.
    “That’s my parents’ boat,” I tell him. I’m shaking a little. Despite being used to weird shit happening to me, O is dumbfounded.
    The guy laughs, “Small world, innit?”

    At this point, I still don’t know his name. I won’t know his name until hours later, just before we land and he hands O his card.

    Christopher Woodman.

    So, now that my parents are finally going (really before I did; I never got to see London) I’m waiting for the next punch line. My dad is, too.

    I’ve probably jinxed it, by writing about it, but we’ll see.

    *(Yeah, it’s true. Every single red-blooded American girl wants a Brit. If you come over here, you will get laid, regardless of what you look like or what your father does. We can’t tell one class accent from another and we don’t care. Just keep talking.)

    11 people left me a love letter:

    Blogger D_Man wrote in a love letter...

    I love synchronicity.

    5:21 AM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Bud wrote in a love letter...

    That is one amazing story! I once pretended to be a Brit to get laid in high school. It would have worked too, if it hadn't have been in a room full of other people trying to get laid. This was before the group scene was inventied.

    8:09 AM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Popeye wrote in a love letter...

    (Yeah, well, I, er, I faked an English accent for an entire summer, once. Good times. Good times. . .)
    Maybe now they just have a good story to tell. You told it beautifully.

    6:37 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    D-man: Synchronicity I or II?

    Bud and Popeye: Shame on you guys! And where the hell was I? ;-)

    7:18 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Des_Moines_Girl wrote in a love letter...

    You know who has a sexy accent? Sean Connery. I know he's old enough to be my dad...I know it's sick and wrong...but I just can't help myself.

    8:23 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Dantares wrote in a love letter...

    That is an amazing story. I couldn't match anything like it....I hope your parents enjoy London. I would offer to show them around....but um, not quite around atm!

    8:31 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Lisa wrote in a love letter...

    what an amazing tale! I love love love such coincidentally delicious stories...

    It's soooo true about the non-american english-speakers' accents, too...weak. in. the. knees.

    p.s. I am deciding between Las Vegas and Denver for an early July Pearl Jam tour (2nd,3rd Denver, 6th L.V.) and I was thinking...that if i choose Denver, maybe we could have dinner...? Are you at all open to meeting strangers?

    8:58 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    DMG: Nothing sick and wrong about that. Sean Connery is like a fine whiskey; he only improves with age. :-)

    Dantares: How goes the paper, old chap? My folks could use a native guide like you. My dad has everything mapped out though and he's filled their schedule. I had to give him some pointers on what to expect in a pub, though.

    Lisa: HELL YES come over here! Like you're a stranger!? Puhleeze.
    Dinner, a place to crash, whatever, you name it.
    The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is that weekend as well, my favorite weekend of the year. If you have any interest in that too, it's a lot of fun.

    Email me.

    9:49 PM, April 20, 2006  
    Blogger Dantares wrote in a love letter...

    The paper is done and dusted, thankyou for asking. The exams however, are beggining to loom (ie, they started this morning. I don't think I quite woke up in time. I'm sure the mark will explain all.)

    3:45 PM, April 21, 2006  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    Glad to hear about the paper. Sorry to hear about the exams. I'm sure you've done better on them than you think.

    Are you in your final year? Or is the the first year of grad school?

    5:54 PM, April 21, 2006  
    Blogger jeje wrote in a love letter...

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