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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  • Thursday, July 26, 2007

    Gone Campin'

    See you on Monday or so. I'm off to sit on a rock in the middle of a river and listen to music. I need this like oxygen.

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    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Continuing with That Theme

    A very tired, but VERY happy Des Moines Girl just called me to say that she is now the proud mama of a GIANT baby boy.

    'Bruiser' is nine pounds, eight ounces.

    Everyone's awestruck. DMG's a petite lady.

    Congratulations, guys! I love you!!!

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    Monday, July 23, 2007

    And Now for Something Completely Happy

    Meet my new cousin!

    This is Liz's grandchild. He's beautiful, isn't he?

    Mazal Tov!

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    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Hail , Gardening - or- My Brain, Migraine

    It's been a piss-poor couple of weeks here in Whoa, Lakebegone. There has been no rain.

    The heat. It has melted the plastic seedling trays in my greenhouse. The tops of my peat pots are scorched black.

    And for the first time, I've failed my garden. I wasn't here for the spring harvest, and in the subsequent heat everything has gone to seed. The garden is a mad ruin of romaine spires, cilantro turned flowering coriander, purple thistles (the devil's own weed) broken down pea plants and radishes and spinach, blooming globes of leeks and garlic, parsnips as tall as sunflowers and wild sunflowers that belong out on the Eastern plains. The garden is a tangled brown mess. It is straw trapped and poking out from a sun-baked brick.

    I look at it and think that I will never, ever do this again.

    And then I check to see which pods are dry and rattle in my fingers, I open white envelopes, drop the pods in and seal them. Across the fronts I write, 'Parsnip '07', 'Grey Dwarf Sweet '07', 'Sage '07', 'Chives '07'. Maybe I'll plant them next year. Maybe I'll mail them to you.

    * * *

    You can learn everything you need to know from gardening. You can learn the nature of God if that's what you're looking for. Though the nature of God isn't really a garden, is it? That's more the nature of man. God's more of a wild thing that steals into a neatly-tended garden and wreaks havoc, then turns around and plants patterns in the wild.

    * * *

    For instance, look at the slug. There's all the proof you need that God is all-powerful and has the sense of humor of a four-year-old boy. I mean, He actually conceived of animating boogers, and then had the power to actually do it. Not only that, but they are thriving out here in the desert like some sort of anachronistic plague, leaving behind skeletal wrecks of the marigolds and pansies.

    There are two ways to get rid of slugs. On involves beer and brings to mind an Irish joke. The other is cruel.

    These grey defilements of slime were eating the only bit of green as far as the eye could see. So I went in and got my salt cellar and sprinkle sprinkle sprinkle, they roiled and seethed and fizzled and foamed. It was horrible and glorious to watch them dissolve.

    * * *

    Ah, but the Karmic wheel turns. The slugs got their revenge. One of their massive brethren pulled me over for speeding today. Actually, there were two of them; one in an unmarked car on my tail pushing me over the speed limit, the other standing beside his parked car and waving me over into a neighborhood.

    I thought it was a detour. Fuckers.

    So he slimes up to my car and I say, “Officer, I'm getting a migraine. I'm trying to get home because in a few minutes I won't be able to see...”

    “License and registration.”

    As he processed my number and the bright halos of another oncoming migraine intensified, I considered asking him if he would care to escort me home, a mere four blocks away, since my vision was now definitely failing. But I thought (as much as I could actually think) that he might refuse, then pull me over again for reckless driving since I had admitted to an impairment.

    He gave me my ticket. Instead of asking him for the escort, I silently cursed him with the worst curse I could think of: I hope your wife hates you.

    Then I went one better: I hope you mother hates you.

    * * *

    Then I went home and cried. I bawled like I've wanted to for months now.

    I cried about the ticket.

    I cried about spending too much on food because I can't grow any. I cried about the drought and the garden.

    I cried about the friend/neighbor who said we needed to discipline the boyos better or they'd never be tolerated in Kindergarten. I cried because nine tenths of my friends live so far away.

    I cried about my broken laptop, my broken body. I cried about another bookseller's wife.

    I cried about my family, about a poem I wrote for my dead brother, about going back to school, about the future and its uncertainties. About death and its certainties.

    But I didn't cry about the slugs. I still draw lines, you see.

    * * *

    We went outside to water and the sky had darkened. Thunder rolled across the ocean floating over our heads. We filled the buckets anyway, hedging bets, doubting nature, predicting hail. Gardening.

    This post is dedicated to Stucco, who sent me a pdf copy of The Book That Must Not Be Named a full 24 hours before its release date, and then cried and moaned on the phone for a new post and didn't believe me when I said I was in the middle of writing one. And I still can't get the damned pdf to work. God's laughing.

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    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Technical Difficulties, Or Mona's Friday Word -- Rant

    My laptop is officially kaput. I have no reliable computer during the day. No email. No Blogging.
    I guess this is a hiatus.


    So tell me a story. Tell me about the time something happened that no one, not even you, can believe. Tell me about the one day you'd live over again. Or tell me about the one day you wouldn't.

    Keep me company.

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    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    The Unbearable Politeness of Being Me

    People hurt other people the most when they're trying to kill their own pain, real or imagined. -- Frank J. Page.

    When I returned, Colorado had lost its green.

    The spring almost had me fooled. It was as if I was being courted by Colorado, as if Washington and Oregon had been rival suitors. The spring was cool and green and full of storms. But after fourteen years, I think I know Colorado, his duality, his square maverick ways.

    Sunlight that feels like a whipping; the same old arguments. Straw under my feet; the same old failings.

    I understand Colorado. I don't like it, but at least I understand it.

    * * *

    I insisted on driving the 1000 miles home. I couldn't be a passenger. I was afraid of feeling trapped in the car again. And I needed to be the one to take us away from Illinois.

    * * *

    No magic, this trip. Except the lightning bugs. I was right, I got one thing right. The rest...?

    * * *

    We shouldn't have gone. I know that now. O tells me, “This is it. This is the last time.” And I agree. But, then there's my mom. I want to make her happy. There aren't any other grandkids, nor will there be. I'm her last living child. And I had thought I was making my dad happy too. Before the boyos were born, when I was sitting on the couch trying not to breathe too hard for fear of another bout of premature labor, he groused on the phone that his grandchildren would never know him because we lived so far away. “They'll think I'm some old man. They'll be afraid of me.”

    They adore him, by the way. Or, they did. Yeah, I'm sure they still do. Kids are resilient, isn't that what they say?

    “Come on out,” says my mom. “You need a break. Stay as long as you want. Stay all summer if you want!”

    So we went. And the trip out pretty much set the tone. Being polite is a high priority in my parents' household these days. Unfortunately, the boyos didn't get the memo. They were perceived as being loud, unruly, out of control, immature, and intolerable. And it was my job to keep them quiet. All the time. It wasn't long before I felt like a crack mom who'd brought her illegitimate children home. And I hate myself for feeling that way, for seeing the boyos through my father's eyes. For looking at them and thinking that they are indeed out of control and that I've already failed them somehow.

    I tried to see things from his perspective. He's newly-retired, and struggling with that. He fights battles with his mother, the Grandmonster, and you can't imagine how unpleasant THAT is. He tries to appease her, and here I am, his daughter, making her own demands that do anything but feed the dragon.

    But. I'm realizing now that I've spent my life trying to make everyone around me happy. Trying to make up for things that happened that I see now were beyond my control.

    * * *

    We were in the car. We were going to spend the day in the car going from one thing to the next, but I didn't know that yet. My dad wanted to show off the boyos to 'the ladies'; his former office colleagues. On the way there, he said, “This is what we call closure.” And I realized that my dad had an agenda, and we were baggage.

    We saw the ladies. The boyos were shy and quiet, just as their grandpa wanted them at any other time but this one. He wanted them to perform and they didn't.

    On we went to the next destination where they were too wild. I suggested lunch, since we'd been out for over an hour. They didn't sit still enough at lunch, or clean their plates, which I guess was a sin. Then it was on to a plant nursery to look for yellow petunias. Then another one. And another one. And another one. And a stop in-between. An another one. Toward the end, he insisted that the boyos and I stay in the car, since they couldn't behave. He took the keys. It was hot, and the three of us were bored, noisy baggage.

    This alone would have been sad enough, but then there was that stop in between that I mentioned. An antique shop full of stained glass. Perfect for overtired boys, don't you think? Of course they were impossible to keep calm. They didn't break anything, but it was on leaving this place that I nearly broke.

    Leaving, he said, “Now let's go to grandma's house.”

    Scroll down to the previous entry, if you will. Remember what I said about grandma's house? Was that clear to you, Dear Readers?

    “We are not going there,” I answered.

    “Let's go to grandma's house.”

    “We are NOT going there.”

    And then the dirty trick: “Hey guys! Do you want to go see great-grandma?”

    “We are not GOING there.”

    To my credit, I kept my voice low and even. And the boyos to their credit said they didn't want to. This woman creeps them out, as well she should.

    My dad didn't say anything back. We got in the car, the issue unresolved. And that's when my heart started pounding in double-time, my mouth went dry and my tea light went out.

    I didn't know where we were going. My parents moved from the house where I grew up to one on the opposite side of town, so everything is backwards to me. Not to mention that a lot has changed in the 18 years since I left. I couldn't tell direction. And then something disturbing happened.

    * * *

    When you form a mental picture of the Grandmonster's house, you would do well to remember the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. Her house is painted frosting-pink, with white gingerbread trim. There is a German Hex on the garage door and lacy curtains in the window. Bright, plastic flowers line the walk and fill hanging baskets on the porch that is just a little too dark to be welcoming.

    I think she actually cultivates this witch-in-the-woods image – consciously or unconsciously I don't know anymore and don't care to speculate, because I'm not sure which is creepier.

    The inside is worse. It smells. And the smell is not gingerbread.

    To breathe in that house is to breath her in.

    * * *

    So, back in the car. We passed a neighborhood from behind. There was a house, perhaps five years old, a two-story painted light blue-grey. It looked like every other hastily-constructed new house on this booming side of town except for one thing. White gingerbread trim.

    I remember seeing the house, and it looks the way that I described to you. But in my head was a voice screaming, “That's her house! He took you to her house!”

    And another voice was saying, “No, it isn't. That is not her house. It is a completely different house.”

    This argument went on well after we had passed the entire neighborhood. I don't know when it stopped, but thankfully it did, and it has left me shaken and wondering about what exactly happened to me there in the car.

    * * *

    Nursery after nursery after that, looking for the rare and elusive yellow petunia. Stuck in the car.

    * * *

    There is one other tent pole that holds up this carnival of misadventure:

    The boyos were watching a video and fighting over couch space. I sat down between them to try and end the conflict. The elder protested, kicking me instead. My dad came in from the other room. He yelled for quiet. He got into my son's face. I watched my dad's scalp turn bright red as, teeth clenched, he roared at my son.

    “Be quiet! Do you understand me!”

    Then he gripped my little boy's arm and squeezed. He shook my son.

    At which point, I yelled, “Get out of his face!”

    He stopped. He let go of my son's arm. His scalp stayed deep red. My father looked at me with spitting hatred.

    “Fine.” Through gritted teeth. He left the room, slamming the door behind him.

    The three of us were quiet after that.

    I didn't cry. I shook, but I didn't cry. And then I got up and started packing.

    My mom saw me. She'd just come home from work. I wonder if things would have been different if she'd had the time off, like she told me she did.

    “What are you doing?” she asked. Downstairs, I could smell the dinner my dad was cooking.

    “We're in the way here,” I told her.

    “What do you mean, 'in the way?' What are you talking about?”

    “We're in the way.” I folded another shirt.

    “I don't understand,” she said, tearing up.

    “I'm sorry.”

    She started crying. “No. No. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to me!”

    I stopped. “I'm sorry.”

    “I've been working! I haven't even had a chance to see them!”

    “I can't...we...”

    “Just stay. It's ok. You're not in the way here. Just stay.”

    “He...” I couldn't finish.

    * * *

    We stayed. I felt guilty for pouring the drama out on my mom. It got nominally better with her there. The boyos continued to act out, reacting to all the tension in the air. But my dad quieted down. So did I. I think there was a day when I didn't say more than a dozen words.

    * * *

    My dad burned some CDs and DVDs and put them in my room. The entire Beatles and Steeley Dan catalogues. Yellow Submarine. Pan's Labyrinth.

    You don't know how this breaks my heart.

    * * *

    O drove out to get us and I drove us all back.

    The ugly girl Nebraska had put away her velvet dress. Colorado had lost its green.

    We got to I-25, about two dozen miles from home, and I joked that I was going to pull over and let O drive the rest of the way. And then I realized the traffic was getting heavier. After 15 hours of comparatively thin traffic, I was getting confused. He didn't realize. I drove in on autopilot. And when we got home, I looked around. Nothing looked right. It wasn't home.

    * * *

    I'm better now. I've tried writing this over and over but I couldn't until my voice came back. I've spent a week coming home.

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