Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

2am meditations over dying embers

January 18, 2010

Today I hosted my first party.  I invited a few friends over for a s’more making party, because there’s an awesome working (!) fireplace in our house.  I made marshmallows, and my roommates made graham crackers.  We had cozy drinks, sat around the fire and played games.  I was a little nervous about hosting a party, but it actually turned out fine.

Everyone left late, around 1:30 in the morning.  Then I realized I had the whole downstairs of the house to myself; my roommates having gone to bed earlier.  It was nice to move around the house alone, cleaning up the kitchen, living room and dining room.  I used to live alone before I moved into this house with 4 other people.  I had forgotten how luxurious it is to be alone in your home.  There were still embers glowing the fireplace.  I was tired but didn’t want to go to sleep.  I was not ready to leave the fire.  I turned out all the lights and sat in the dark staring into the embers.

I took in the smell of smoke. Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. My dad was a firefighter and always came home from work smelling like smoke.   I would run to give him a hug when he got home, and smell the smoke in his hair and on his clothes.  Smoke meant my dad was home.  A little over 10 years ago, my dad was elected union rep for the firefighter’s union.  He no longer worked in the fire house.  He worked in a office, wore a suit and tie, and worked regular 9 to 5 hours.  He has not come home smelling like smoke for years.  And now when I smell it, it reminds me of being a little kid, feeling excited that my dad was home, and giving him a hug.

I took in my place right now; in grad school, in Michigan, away from friends and family.  I took in the fact that I was doing OK here for myself.  I had just a houseful of people, who came over because I invited them and because they were my friends.  I admitted to myself that despite this, I still have problems making friends.  Stupid things get me down.  For example, if I see on my news feed on Facebook that a few of my friends from school became friends with someone else from school who I don’t know.  I think, how come they all know this person and are friends with them, but I’m not?  Did they have some party that I wasn’t invited to?  What other fun and cool stuff will they do without me?  All of these stupid paranoia thoughts go through my head.  And that has got to stop.  All it does it make me feel bad about myself and make me doubt myself.

I have a memory from kindergarten that I always think of whenever I doubt myself.  We are learning about numbers.  My teacher asks the class to name a number that starts with the letter “z”.  No one can answer the question.  I think really hard about a number beginning with “z”.  Then suddenly, I have answer.  I raise my hand but the teacher doesn’t call on me.  I wiggle and squirm around in my seat; I am so excited that I have this answer and no one else in the class does!  I notice the girl next to me calmly raises her hand.  Finally I can’t keep it in anymore and I yell out my answer: “a zillion!”  I am so pleased with myself.  Without missing a beat, the girl next to me (after being called on by the teacher of course) calmly answers “it’s zero.”  She’s right.  I feel my face turn red.  I’m embarrassed and shamed.  I was so sure I had the right answer, I yelled out of turn, I was wrong, I made a complete fool of myself, and now everyone things I’m stupid.

I always think about why, after all these years, I still remember that incident and think back on it a lot.  I guess it was the first time I ever felt embarrassed and bad about myself, or realized that other people might think badly of me.  And it really made an impact on me.  Even now, 20 years later, I’m still afraid of calling out the wrong answer.  I’m still afraid of looking bad in front of others.  I like to think that I’m strong and independent and don’t care what others think of me.  But now I do, especially now when I’m trying to make new friends and I’m in a new place.

All of these thoughts came to me as I sat in the dark alone, staring into the embers; smelling smoke and feeling like a kid again.  I took in the fact that I have to let those feelings go.  I am not a kid anymore and I don’t want to be  afraid.  I have to let all the stupid Facebook-induced paranoid feelings about not being accepted just wash over me.  Just release it and let go.  It is not important.  I don’t want to spend all my time stressing about making friends instead of actually hanging out with people  and making friends.  What’s important is the time I spend with people, and not the time I spend thinking about it.

And with that in mind I came upstairs to put everything into words.  And now I’m ready for bed.

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Summer Snapshots

June 10, 2008

I think if you live anywhere in the Eastern U.S. you know that its summer and its really hot right now. I am not complaining about the heat. How can I when I go from air conditioned bedroom to air conditioned car to air conditioned train to air conditioned workplace and vice versa? I always used to ask my dad how he could fight fires in this heat. Imagine its the hottest day of the year in the city, with a heat index of 110 with all the humidity, and you have to go into a burning building? I thought my dad must have superhuman strength to do that. But he always told me it was much worse in the bitter cold, when water from the hose froze all over and guys felt cold for days. I’m not going to be cranky about the heat, that’s one thing about the summer that I like, is that you cannot stress out. Walk down the sidewalk nice and slow, take your time, you cannot let anything bother you or get under your skin. Because if it does, your heart rate increases and your body beings to tense up and you feel additional, unnecessary heat waves come over you. Over the weekend we put the air conditioners in our windows, something my mom doesn’t like to do until July. But after spending all day in air conditioning I just want to be outside. After work I take my book, my dinner, my dog and my glass of ice water and sit out in the porch until it gets dark and just enjoy the first heat of the summer.

Right now a thunderstorm is approaching. Our neighbors have lost power and branches fell down across the street. My mom is afraid of lightning. She has turned off the TV, will not answer the phone, placed candles around the kitchen, and is flipping through a magazine while holding on to her flashlight. We always loose power during the hottest days of the summer. Tonight one side of the train station had power but the other side was dark. When I was younger my neighborhood lost power for 2 days. Every kid on our street spent the day in our little backyard pool. Parents brought over meat they had sitting in their freezers and we barbecued every last piece of meat on the block so it wouldn’t spoil. At night the kids went to bed and the adults took over the pool. Someone brought over floating candles and someone else made the cocktails. My bedroom window looked down into our backyard and I stayed up most of the night, unable to sleep in the heat, listening to the conversations outside. I looked down into the glowing pool thinking I had rarely seen parents – moms and dads – just hanging out like that having fun without children, like normal people! They told stories and laughed and drank in the pool all night. I always sort of liked blackouts. They shake things up a little, a little deviation from the typical routine. There are two exceptions: the 2003 blackout, because after you have no power for 2 days, its not fun anymore; and the time I had to babysit two of the brattiest kids ever and there was no power. This meant no TV, no movies, no video games and two very bored, very hot, very cranky children to watch all day, for 10 hours. It was too hot to go outside, too hot to go to the park, too hot to do anything. We played battleship. Many, many games of battleship.

So lets talk about summer reading. I secretly loved summer reading assignments because I got to pick any book I wanted from my school’s summer reading list. To me, reading is more fun when you choose what book to read. This is why I hated English in school, because we had to read whatever the teacher assigned. Even though I like reading, I hated doing it for school because I had to. Yes I’m that stubborn. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately and I’m feeling like I want to read some history and science this summer. I’d like to read something by Bill Bryson, I hear good things about him. I’d also like to read more books by David Quammen because I think he’s a great science writer. (Here’s a NY Times Review of his book Monster of God, which I read last year.) If I’m feeling especially smart, maybe I’ll try reading The Fabric of the Cosmos or The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, who organized the World Science Festival that I was so impressed with. Maybe I’ll check out Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin, which I found while browsing Amazon.com today, now tell me that doesn’t sound like a fascinating book?

As for reading right now, I’ve finished The Giver for my book club, then finished In Defense of Food and almost finished with Drown. So more book blogging is coming. After this heat wave is over.

Horse Heaven

March 25, 2008

Picked up this book randomly while browsing at a going out of business sale at an independent book store in Hastings last week. Manny and I went to the store after reading an article about it in the NY Times, which said that after this store closed there would no more independent book stores in the entire western part of Westchester County, until you hit Peekskill, a town in the very northwestern corner of the county. We thought that was pretty sad so we went to check out the store and I wanted to buy something and saw this book about horses and decided to get it.This is one of those books that has a “cast of characters” list in the beginning with all of the character’s names and relations to one another. I usually hate these books that jump from one character to another because a) my favorite character gets the least attention b) my least favorite character ends up getting all the attention and c) I hate flipping back and forth in the book trying to remember the last thing I read about a character. But the characters in this book are all mildly interesting so I’m not favoring one story line over another. Plus its about horses which is enough to keep me reading. I was one of those girls who loved horses. I took riding lessons every Saturday for a few years, even jumped over some fences, but stopped around high school because I wasn’t competitive and didn’t want to enter horse shows and didn’t have money to enter horse shows, so what was the point of paying for lessons where the goal was to get you into horse shows? In high school I was a band geek so band practice took up most of my Saturday riding time.

But damn, when I was younger, what I wouldn’t give to be around horses all the time. To have my own saddle, to lease or buy a horse at the stable and just go ride whenever I wanted, this was my dream. One time after my riding class, my instructor asked me if I could stay and be a lead rider for the next lesson. The next lesson was a beginner class and all the students followed a lead rider around instead of riding on their own. So I stayed on my horse for the following lesson had a group of little girls follow me as I trotted around the ring and it was the best feeling in the world. I could tell the girls in the class thought I was one of “those girls” who just hung out in the barn all the time and rode horses all the time and knew all there was to know about horses. I felt so knowledgeable and important, being that lead rider. After the lesson I helped the girls off their horses and helped the barn staff clean up the horses and put them back in their stalls. It was totally one of the best days of my life.