It is a soft rainy morning, the second day of a three day weekend, and the love of my life is snuggled up in bed with the kitten. My work computer is defragging itself while I sit here and read G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. There is a bird on the wire outside the window, and music in my head.
Today I want to clean the living room, so we can pick up our new couch this week. But right now? I’m just content to sit here and listen to the rain.
I am feeling blue tonight. Lonely and sad. Like no one in the universe really knows my heart, and no one would love me if they did.
I know that this is patently untrue. And that goes a long way to warming up my heart. But I wish I felt loved or loveable right this moment.
Instead, I just feel really, really worn down, and really lonely tonight.
Though less so with a small, purring being who keeps trying to “help” me type and/or chew on my fingers, and has turned the Firefox menu bar off twice with her unpredictable and very soft paws.
Tomorrow’s the Hudson Valley Pride March & Festival… tonight, now that I’m home from the Board of Directors’ wine and cheese reception tonight, is sending out a last-minute eblast, and cleaning the house, and finishing the alterations to my T-shirt if I have time, and wishing I had the time to make example crafts for the kids’ booth tomorrow, and also making believe I’m not tired.
I’ve got my Ipod on random, and it’s so much fun to have each song be something I do a double take on, and say, “Hey, I love that song!” (No, that has not yet gotten old.) That’s giving me energy. On the drive down to New Paltz tomorrow, I’ll play some fun activist type music, maybe. I keep meaning to make a playlist that would include songs like these:
And several other songs I love that, one way or another, remind me of the need/hope/power for change that are a big part of why I’m an activist. Since I won’t get to that tonight, though, maybe I’ll pull out my copy of the Indigo Girls’ double album 12 O’Clock Curfews, which is both their best album and one of my favorite live rock concerts. There’s a great energy in that show, and it’s the right kind for Pride day.
Or I might just keep the Ipod on random. Oh, here’s another song I like!
I love Pride, even though the whole damn thing is exhausting when you’re one of about ten people responsible for making it all happen. I’m actually looking forward to the drive, as a time to sit down and not work. That’s how you know I need those days off I get next week.
Whew! Back to it. Or maybe I’ll sit here just a little… longer…
I was thinking the other day about the house I grew up in. Not the Clermont house from my wild and worried teenage years, but house we lived in when I was a child. The thing I remember best about it is the yard. At the time, it felt like the perfect place. It had a falling-down swingset that we climbed on like a jungle gym, and a tree swing my dad made us, on which I spent hours pretending I was in The Jungle Book or writing stories about traveling in time. We had a wooden clubhouse with a secret door, and a tree fort with a giant wagon wheel in it. There were wide stone steps in the back, and peony bushes, and a sledding hill, and a sprawling yard for wandering in. A 200-year-old maple tree perfect for climbing with a book for the afternoon, that dropped leaves we raked into enormous jumpable piles at the bottom of the sledding hill. A shed that felt like a scary place— I can still smell the warm, acerbic dust in there— and where bees nested, so we fled from it. A horizontal basement door— and the basement was our domain— that we used to go back and forth between our two worlds.
And further back, there was a pond we traveled around again and again as settlers on the Oregon Trail, or orphans fleeing an evil stepmother. There were woods with deer trails that twisted and whorled. There was a hill with a stand of birches— imaginatively titled Birch Hill— that was separated from our yard by a little stream you had to climb over by a narrow plank bridge. Later, it became my retreat. Then, we pulled bark off the ground and wrote messages with ink we tried to make from walnuts soaked in rainwater.
If it sounds idyllic in a wholly improbable sense, it was. I suppose that’s one of the few wry positives to growing up in a family so isolated by religion and fear that it becomes its very own cult. You don’t have friends or outside interests, so you get really good at making your own adventures. Because I’m an introvert by nature, my inner world was much richer than anything else I found without, but this is partly a testament to how little I was exposed to. It doesn’t mean I didn’t want friends or activities or school: I just didn’t know what I was missing.
Inside the house, my best memories are of the basement, where we listened to records and dressed up in musty clothes that felt like film costumes, and of the closet I was sure had a secret room behind its wall. I don’t remember Christmases or birthdays, grandparents’ visits or ordinary afternoons. I do remember how I ran I ran and hid after they told us my mother had miscarried her fifth pregnancy; how I spent years believing I had killed my prospective sibling by having privately thought four of us were enough. And younger, I remember keeping my sisters in the living room with the door closed after dinners, running in circles and laughing, while our parents engaged in loud, vicious and prolonged warfare.
Most of the pieces I still have from childhood are illusory, and rooted outdoors.
The chronology of my past, I know not firsthand, but by rote, the same way I learned the wars of Western Europe. I have no clear pictures of either of my parents in the same room with me; I have gut-level emotional responses to memories of rooms, smells, objects, where the details that created the response are wholly blank. But I’ll always have that sweeping watershed, evocative and steeped in memory, of the land in which I grew up. It was as far away as Narnia, and like that other seemingly perfect place, it was getting out that was the problem.