Jekyll.

Off the coast of Georgia there is an island that seems to have come out of a children’s storybook.  The weeping branches of the live oak trees are covered in Spanish moss. The moss like a lace adding even more charm to the winsome canopy above.  The entire island a mystical place. The kind of place ripe for stories to be dreamt up and evolved. One can imagine it was once a home to pirates who left buried gold deep within the island’s terrain.  Finding the lost treasures a quest only the bravest dare to attempt. I can only assume fairies and unicorns dwell in the enchanted surroundings. In reality there was a point when wild horses roamed free here, although they are no longer seen running through the marsh the way they once did.

At dawn golden rays of sun peek through the trees and moss.  Hidden forest nymphs seemingly coax it back from it’s night time hiding place.  Coral colored flowers grow on the vines climbing the trees trunks, the golden hue illuminating the various pinks and oranges in their petals.  You find yourself wishing to be a wren so you can make a home in the canopy above. Blue bells and small palms grow on the ground. Pathways of fallen leaves guide your exploration of the terrain leading you to small ponds that appear unannounced through the brush.  Turtles sun themselves on logs and elegant herons perch on the water’s edge. Deer feed on the flowers and grass growing from the surrounding land. The canopy above begins to sway as if in a delicate dance when the wind blows, so different from the harsh jerks of the pines on the mainland.

Eventually the maritime forest makes way to picturesque sand dunes.   Small mountains of sand and plant growth giving only a peak at the blue waters of the Atlantic.   Green sea grasses pop up shielding sea turtle nests in spring and summer. Closer to the water the growth on the pale hills becomes sparse, the sand becoming soft beneath your feet.  Sea birds fly over head and the sound of crashing waves lead you forward to the shore.

Meeting you on the east side of the island are long wide beaches.  The tide migrates a wondrous amount through the day, the push and pull of the moon dictating the constant waltz.  During low tide sandbars allow foot travel far out into the waves granting you the ability to look back at a distant shore in wonderment.  At the water’s edge pastel colored clams dig their way through the sand, only to be pulled up again by rolling waves. Whitecaps dot the water when storms form off the coast and the wind whips past.  Ships can be seen coming in and out of port taking the northern chanell leading inland. Fishing vessels and large cargo ships loaded with crates are spotted far out in the Atlantic. Pelicans scoop down toward the water in front of you and small plover birds take quick steps through water pooling in the sand.  Dolphins pass by from time to time, if you are lucky you will catch them frolicking in the water. Their fins peek at you as they flip and spin, seeming to turn catching their meals into more play than work.

The beach at the top of the island is slowly erroading away.  The currents carrying and depositing the northern sand to the south end of the island.  The island is rolling itself down the coast, allowing us only a brief glimpse of its current state.  The erosion causes the northern tree line of the forest to push back resulting in mighty trees that once grew tall and free to wither and grey.  Left behind is a graveyard of driftwood. Ghosts and skeletons haunting the sand in a mesmerizing reminder of what was. Fascinating mazes of geometrical roots create natural lines that can be traced for hours, and ladders of bare branches beg to be climbed.  When the tide recedes pools of salty water collect at the base of the phantom trees. Small fish swim in these warmer pools, waiting for the tide to rise again and sweep them back to sea. Hermit crabs crawl on the roots and trunks, using the wood as shelter.

Slowly city dwellers are discovering the magic of the Island.  While historic buildings show proof of years of settlements, the Island was never largely populated.  The addition of luxury hotels and shops now drawing in suburbanites looking for a brief escape in the spring and summer.  The location no longer quite the whispered secret it once was. While I hesitate to share this secret I will still invite you to come and find the fairy tale for yourself.  See the resorts, follow the bike paths, help build the tourism economy in this tiny piece of heaven. Me, I was never one for the resorts or fancy shops. You’ll find me with the wood nymphs and fairies camping in the forest.  I’ll wake to the golden sun filtering in through the branches and moss, and the sounds of the lucky birds who spend their days in paradise. I’ll follow the unpaved paths wondering about buried gold, and eventually find that the treasure was always the island itself.

Pollination.

Dear Trees,

Please stop trying to kill me.  I’ve wracked the depths of my brain and I honestly can not come up with a reason as to why you wish me harm.  I trim your limbs when they turn brown, I leave you to let cardinals and finches nest in your branches, I even give you water on hot dry summer days.  So why the hate trees?

Every year we go through this.  This itchy throat, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, even headaches (dammit now I sound like a Pfizer commercial). How do you even have the ability to knock us down like this?  What evolutionary benefit could this possibly serve? To add insult to injury I was feeling awesome before you put your demonic plan in action. The sun was out after weeks of rain, it was finally getting warmer, life was good trees, it was good.  I even got in a workout routine again, thinking maybe just maybe I would be little more in shape when pool season came around. Then the symptoms started to set in, my head started pounding and I was tired, just so damn tired. Not even coffee can save me from the hell that is this suffering.

I mean I understand, reproduction and all.  Hey baby look at my stigma, I know you want it.  Hint hint nudge nudge. Why must I get involved in this though?  Wait, are you just super into the group voyeurism thing? Ugh, now I’m just disgusted.  I want no part of this, you do not have consent! I feel very used right now.

Maybe you’re just bored.  I mean it can’t be exciting never seeing anything but the field or woods you grew in.  Were you watching me on the running trails jealous and plotting. What, are you stuck at the development of a 12 year old boy?  Like, he he he, hey tree friend you wanna fuck with her? I know! What can we throw at her? I’m sorry you can’t move around but I DIDN’T MAKE YOU THAT WAY!  Why must you punish me for your misfortune?

You and I aren’t cool anymore trees.  I’ve been left wondering if M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” was actually a prophecy and not fiction at all.  Crap does that mean water adverse aliens are headed our way too? Can they also be susceptible to tree attacks? That might at least buy us some time, slow them down, probably.  I am left to consider how many death by tree attacks are documented in the US each year. I can only imagine the number is staggering. It’s a national epidemic people.

You’ve won this round trees.  I’m going to sit inside and look out the window longingly, plotting my revenge.  Where’s my Claritin?

K.

Baseball.

It’s baseball season, and apparently I have A LOT to say about baseball.  Today alone I’ve made three attempts to write one simple blog post about the good old national pastime.  Up until now I’ve ended up with two short stories and a rambling page of baseball themed nonsense. So, yah, it might take me a while to fully work through this topic. Don’t worry I’m going to try to keep this post to just the basics.  At least my basics.

Wait!  I see the fear in your eyes, don’t run!  No need to panic, I’m not a fanatic, I promise.   You’re not going to be subjected to pages of player stats, playoff projections based on spring training standings, who’s on the DL, or who we should trade.  Nope. Trust me, I don’t care about any of that. Yes, my baseball is the same box of cracker jacks on a warm summer night game as yours, but I’ve never gotten the chance to experience a game as just a fan.  I come from a sort of baseball mafia, if you will.  My Grandfather played baseball, my father played baseball, and my brother plays baseball.  When I say “play baseball” I don’t mean they were the first baseman on their High School team senior year when they won State.  I mean middle kid and I happened to leave the TV on a network channel last night, a game came on and we ended up watching my brother face down The Braves.  Don’t ask me what team he’s on, if I tell you I’d have to kill you (mafia and pseudonym remember?).

Growing up baseball was a constant. We spent weekends at the fields practicing, or in my case fielding balls once I made it clear softball was no longer in my future.  There was always a game taking over our living room television, a running commentary of my father’s take on the mentality of the sport it’s soundtrack. The sounds of Vin Scully’s voice or the Braves Tomahawk Chop would probably put me right back in front of that set at ten years old.  For any baseball aficionados following along the family has southern roots, but we lived in Dodger territory, hence the references. The family schedule revolved around trainings and games. Eventually “vacations” were taken to tournament locations. We just kind of became…the baseball family.

This is where the story turns.  Where I start to get stuck each time I begin on the topic of baseball.  I want to explain what it’s like watching the career of a professional athlete take shape.  I want to explain the importance of the mentality of the game, and that all you couch coaches out there don’t actually have the inside understanding of what’s happening on the field.  I want to explain what I know about players relationships, many that begin as teens. I want to explain that these players were nationally ranked kids far before you ever heard their names.  I really want to explain chronic injuries and how stats don’t matter the way everyone wants them to. I never can quite get to any of this though, I think it’s because I have a more important topic I need to tackle first.

In our family baseball was never a choice.  It was a given. It was stereotypical. You had the parent that couldn’t separate his inability to make it out of the minor leagues, his fate due to lack of either will power or skill.  His failure possibly, even sadder, due to lack of confidence. Like I said, stereotypical. Although, we never did recreate that whole coming of age movie moment with the kid tearfully saying, “it’s your dream, not mine.”  There was no real rebellion, since a major league career was, in fact, my brother’s goal too. Now, there was a turning point for sure. Sometime around the beginning of my brother’s high school career it was made clear to my father that it was time for him to start stepping back.  My brother didn’t need him anymore, he had outgrown the coaching my father was able to offer. This was something I don’t think my father was ever able to fully accept, that he wasn’t needed anymore. He began trying to push himself into my brother’s world. He couldn’t let go, eventually his bleacher coaching became so disruptive he was banned from sitting near the infield at games.  He couldn’t stop himself. The situation became increasingly somber. My father somehow lost his entire identity in his son’s ability to play a game. While our family had been built on shaky ground from the get go, this codependency was the unstable fault line underneath that made our weak foundation begin to crumble. My brother got better. My father lost more control. Son would get moved to a higher level team.  Dad would get reckless. He got called up. Dad had no purpose.

Eventually the only relationship that lasted between the two were post game text messages of advice from a man who had nothing better to do but obsessively watch baseball games.  He desperately clung to a purpose by to give critiques to the players, men who were closer than he had ever been to being experts in the game. Inevitably his desperation caught up to him and created a self destructive breakdown.   This period, wrought with addiction and desperation, resulted in the whole structure of our family crashing down. We were all left to pick up the pieces from the rubble. My brother and I dealt with the instability that followed by constructing a wall blocking us from ever building over the fault again.  My brother and I on one side, my father on the other, trying to make sense of the shambles in front of him. Broken glass and mortar he had built and torn apart himself. My father was never a good man, but a few years after the dust has settled I think I may have a better understanding of how his life snowballed the way it did.  The catalyst always being a stupid game.  

The why of it all we can leave for a four hundred page case study I’ll work on writing once my novel is done.  Right now let’s just focus on the fact that a grown man lost himself so deep into the idea that the only way to succeed in life was to turn his son into a professional baseball player.  This belief was so ingrained in him that when said son no longer needed him he suffocated son. The suffocation to a point that he was pushed out of son’s life. Eventually losing his entire family and own job in the process.  I’m not kidding guys, this was the result.  All over a freaking game.

Do you understand now why it’s so hard for me to just talk about baseball?  It was a slowly burning fire in the basement of my life, eventually rising up and swallowing us all in it’s flames.  For a long time I took all this out on the game itself. I HATED baseball. To me the game symbolized everything that was wrong in my home.  I am pretty sure I didn’t watch a single baseball game from 2005-2011. Then something crazy happened. My brother had been stuck in AA for a while and wasn’t getting any younger, he had decided that this was going to be the last year he played.  He almost walked away mid season. Ironically, or maybe expectedly, the best advice that was given to him was from our father. He said to my brother what I can only imagine he wishes someone had said to him, “If you can walk away and never look back then, awesome, do it.  If you’re going to look back and wonder what if, don’t.”  My brother decided to give it the season.  In September he got called up. I went to my first game in years at Chavez Ravine, home of our childhood summers, to cheer on my little brother.  I still cry sometimes when I see him in person in the middle of a giant stadium fans of the team cheering and supporting him, because you guys I am SO FUCKING PROUD OF HIM.  He always had talent, but when you get to a certain point everyone has talent.  He achieved his goal with sheer hard work, sacrifice, and unwavering determination.  Plus a little bit of being with the right team at the right time. I used to feel like my brother achieved his goal despite my father, but I don’t anymore.  He had the chance to chase his dream because of our father, then suffered the loss of that father in the process.

I am finding now that the bitter feelings that once kept me away from the game are gone, in their place pleasant twinges of nostalgia.  Over time I think my brother and I rewrote our story regarding the game. It helps that he sees the absurdity of it all. He describes his work as, “chasing a ball around a field with other grown men.”  When I think back now to the baseball of our childhood I remember warm summer evenings at Dodger stadium with big silly foam fingers and backwards caps. I remember little league games with the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of cheering parents.  I remember fielding batting practice in the outfield at our school with our Golden Retriever. I remember my brother’s smile when he won, I remember hours upon hours of watching him bounce a ball against a wall because he just couldn’t stop.  I remember that for him and I there was a time when it was just a game, and it was fun.

We now live in this weird existence where I can watch a recap of my brother’s day at work on ESPN.  Seriously, I have never once asked him how work is going. All I have to do is look up his hashtag on twitter, some guy with a handle like @StickAndBalls will be happy to let the whole world know how awful/amazing he thinks my bro is.  We don’t really get to see each other during the season, because even when we do meet it’s for an hour or two for breakfast and then he has to go to the field. It’s impossible to see him at the field because everyone wants a piece of him, and it’s his job to give that to them.  We still dutifully wait by his team’s dugout before the game starts, just to lend our support. We understand, but we miss him and he misses us. This won’t be forever though. Eventually it will be his son’s turn to play, or not play. He’s going to let his son decide for himself.

My kids?  They don’t love baseball, but they don’t hate it.  They think it’s totally normal to see your uncle on TV and that everyone gets to go to the players club at games, or down to the family room.  It just hit middle kid this year that he was being asked for autographs when we stood outside his hotel in San Diego. We discussed plans to meet up at the game for a few minutes (third baseline, right after BP, always) while boys with sharpies in their hands shyly murmured requests for a signature.  He couldn’t say no. My kids like the cotton candy and peanuts, they don’t love Suntrust Park, it’s too hot. They like PNC Park and Federal Street, they’re over long scoreless innings. They like wearing team tshirts, backward caps, and foam fingers. They say “oh cool” when I tell them to “look at the TV, your uncle is on it!”  Then they usually keep on walking out of the room. Yet sometimes, like last night, one of them will sit next to me and route for their uncle’s team for a few innings. They’ll talk about the plays and the calls, they know all the basics of the game but wonder about the intricacies. They’ll ask about players, some of whom I’ve known since we were only a little older than the kids are now.  Others I’ve met over the years at games, restaurants, and hotels. The rookies now look like babies to me, when did that happen? I remember always thinking how the players on TV all looked so old. I sit with them and talk, about the game, the people, and my memories for as long as they’ll listen. Eventually a commercial break will come on and they’ll wander away.

My kids may never have as much to say about baseball as I do, and that’s probably a good thing.  I have realized that I don’t want the family baseball book to close after me. I want them to remember warm summer evenings and “flossing” on the jumbotron.  I hope they someday realize how cool it is to have a player who always meets you at the third base line with a ball to toss your way. I hope they come to understand that in this rewritten version of our family this game has found a way to morph itself into a tie that binds us together, not push us apart.   It’s ten o’clock and the top of the ninth. Middle kid just sat down and asked who’s winning. Her uncle just came into the game, she’s gonna watch him close this thing down.

Grace.

In my youth I was a ballerina.  I spent minutes, upon hours, upon days, upon years criticizing myself in a mirror.  Watching for the slightest flaws and imperfections, striving for an ideal of beauty and a grace that I would never find.  That was the nature of the beast, each one of us pulling and twisting at the bar, pushing ourselves harder to give even more effort across the floor, never having a chance of achieving our absolute goal.  Eventually, at one rehearsal or performance we would be at our best. Maybe that day we would know that this was it, the moment that all the work had been for, the top of our peak. For most of us it snuck up and away quietly, we collected our “good jobs” as we iced our feet and packed our bags ready to go back to the studio to continue our chase towards the perfection that we would never come that close to again.  Whether we had already reached our peak or not we realized that we would never actually perform a dance impeccably. There would be a turn that we came out of a hair too early or a jump that could have been higher, such is the life of a dancer. You wonder why we’re all so wound up. Over time I learned to create lines with my body that would give an illusion of fluidity and ease. I would grab my legs with my hands and pull them into angles that would make them appear more beautiful to my audience, meanwhile stretching my joints to a point that they would never fully recover from.  I learned to balance myself only on the very tip of my toes breaking nails and skin in the process. In the beauty and grace of my dance was the somewhat morbid underside of the cause and effect.

I now have a daughter who is striving for the same ballerina perfection.  She spends most afternoons in class pushing, bending, sweating. She watches the girls around her and uses their success to drive herself forward.  She wants the long high extension, the clean triple pirouette, the over split in the grande jete. Her weekends have been sacrificed for rehearsals, and her social life now centers around the other ballerinas she spends all her time with.  She too understands that she will never be one hundred percent perfect but continues to strive to get as close as possible. Her blisters and muscle pulls battle wounds she shares proudly.

Outside of the studio two of the traits most often attributed to this daughter are grace and beauty.  People watch her because she is, in fact, beautiful and as human beings we enjoy things that are aesthetically pleasing.  Even her movements are beautiful, she holds herself and moves through her world in a way that only comes with years of ballet training.  We tease her regularly for running into walls and tripping over stairs, but watching her tell a story with her hands is like watching an art form.  I supposed that would make sense, dance being a performing art. An art that has been slowly infusing into every aspect of her life. I wonder though, what if the focus on the ideal beauty and the grace she and I have spent so many hours trying to achieve is blinding us to the beauty and grace inherently in our lives?  While this daughter is being complimented on encompassing the ballerina archetype, I look at my other two children and see a beauty and grace in them as well. Just not the versions you are going to find in an opera house on a Saturday night.

We all have our own definition of both Beauty and Grace, most of which are inherently intertwined.  Sometimes we find examples of these qualities it in movement, such as in the ballerinas mentioned above, or in the way a gazelle runs across an open plain.  Daily examples are found in the sky when the wind blows shapes and spirals in the clouds, or when it causes the sway of leaves and branches on a tree. I find grace and beauty in words.  Words that hit me deep in my core. I find examples in books and poems, in some works the entire story or prose striking me, in others just a phrase. At times I find these traits in words that are simply said aloud.  Those perfect pairings shared with you right when you needed to hear them. Some religions find grace and beauty in forgiveness. While I am not someone who tends to find any peace in the act of forgiving and forgetting, I can appreciate the allure.  I imagine this like a grace and beauty in the soul that, much like the ballerina, they are working to consistently perfect.

In our attempts to find and quantify grace and beauty in our lives we often overlook some of the most obvious sources.  Are grace and beauty not inherent in the older woman who has learned from her experiences? She has lost and laughed, watched the world change and observed the people around her as she has lived her life.  Maybe these traits are found in her attempts to share the lessons she has learned, with anyone willing to slow down and listen. Maybe they are in the feet and joints of the dancer. The pain and bruising a simple reminder that she is human, and not invincible.  Perhaps they are in our day to day lives, the warmth we feel when we first sip our coffee in the morning. In the way that I as I sit and edit I wonder if my words are too contrived, then having to remind myself that I have promised to freely write releasing myself from the fear of judgement.

Perhaps we are trying too hard to achieve the ideals of grace and beauty and in the process are losing out on the pieces of these traits we are granted as we live our lives.  Perhaps if we listened to the old woman this is what she would tell us. Her message warning us that in every moment we live and every emotion we feel holds an opportunity we are usually so quick to overlook.  Hopefully we can remind ourselves to pay heed to the little occurrences and observations that hold the beauty and grace we need, while we continue to strive for the ideals and perfections we want.

Sticky.

It’s sticky today.  One of those early spring days in the south where the chill has left the air and the thick atmosphere of summer is beginning to creep back up on us.  When I threw my phone across the room turned off my alarm clock this morning the humidity hit me, lingering even in the house despite the air running all night.  It made me question my decision to wear a sweatshirt to bed. However after dealing with a burst water filter in the kitchen at midnight I didn’t put much thought into my ensemble, I just climbed back into the comforting cocoon under the duvet and six hours of sleep.  

Even after tossing aside the old college sweatshirt, with the little bleach stain I like to ignore, I found little relief.  Hoping to be hit with a rush of cool air when I opened the door to let the dog out I was disappointed to find no reprieve. I stood in the doorway letting even more of the thick air in around me.  I itched to run over to the thermostat and turn it down to a degree that will make my husband complain and my son turn it back up, because after all he is his father’s son. No light should be left on, not thermostat set to a fully comfortable level.  Fine I will sit in the hot dark living room drinking coffee while I sweat. First world problems, I know.

I suck up my growing moist discomfort and wait for the dog who is getting old and slow.  She takes her sweet time sniffing the air and strolling the yard knowing she won’t have the opportunity to get outside again at least for a few hours.  I end up leaving the backdoor cracked for her, I can’t actually close it to preserve the cool inside because she won’t make a sound to be let back in. We trained her too well.  So well that two years ago after getting locked out for half an hour and patiently sitting by the back window waiting for us to notice and let her back in she cut her loses. Figuring we had forgotten her for good she took off to find a new home.  She knew she was going to die from hunger soon, despite having been fed an hour earlier. Understanding her very dire situation it made sense that she was found a few houses down in the neighbors garage helping herself to the bowl of food they had just put out for their dog.  I kind of love the old fart.

I feed groggy children and warn them it’s going to be warm and humid today, so of course they all come back downstairs in jeans and two of them in long sleeves.  I’m glad I say words to them. They clearly appreciate my attempts to ensure their comfort. Oh well. I still end up considering looking up a recipe to make them cookies using the giant costco jar of nutella my husband came home with a few weeks ago.  It’s Friday after all, cookies on the table after school is an acceptable luxury. Plus I don’t have to actually sign in to any job today, I have the time for such indulgences. Eventually I’ll reach my word limit for the day and need to take a break from writing.  Baking is a good activity for that.

Middle kid tells me that today she has a field trip to tour the middle school she is headed to in August.  Older kid is already at said school. I separately tell them to try and embarrass the other one if they see each other.  This might be purely for my own amusement, I hope they do it, because that would be fucking funny.

Water is falling from the sky off and on but not in steady streams.  Soon we’ll be back to the rolling thunderstorms of summer that cool off the afternoons making the choice to have settled here bearable in July and August, but right now its tornado season.  We don’t get tornados too bad here but we were on a watch yesterday evening. It was the main topic of discussion at older kids tech rehearsal for this weekend’s show. I remember again she has dress rehearsal tonight.  Mental note, five thirty at the theater, traffic was bad yesterday leave early. Heavy rain is suddenly pounding on the ceiling, but I hear it first on the chimney flute. Now I wonder if I remembered to shut it after the last winter fire we set.  I tell myself I’ll check later, but I probably won’t.

The rain makes people completely incapable of driving but it at least washes the pollen out of the air.  The pine tree pods haven’t opened yet but we’re probably only a week or two away from that, then the whole city will turn yellow.  We suffer under the haze of tree reproduction until more heavy rain comes through, on another sticky day, and washes it down the street.  We are able to watch cheering while it disappears down storm drains.

I wait in the drop off line at the middle school reminding older kid to embarrass middle kid even giving her examples, a how to guide, that she half heartedly chuckles at.  She’s not going to do it. She’s a dork. I realize that I’m either going to produce a totally traumatized adult or a hilarious one. If she ends up being a functioning part of society I guess I’ll consider my child rearing a success either way.  I only offered to drive her today because I have to drop the ageing dog off at the vet this morning and her stop is on my way. Judging by the line at the middle school a lot of the other parents are pretty sure their precious babies are going to melt if the ominous sky water touches them while they wait at the bus stop.  I fear for the future of my offspring’s generation. Older kid side eyes someone dressed in the school mascot outfit holding up a sign for some student election coming up. She’s not impressed. I feel for the unlucky kid in the stupid costume, this isn’t a day for outside mascots. The school could have been sympathetic and at least let the poor kid stand inside the front entrance.   A perfect example of the exceptional problem solving of our public education system hard at work here folks. I muse on the fact that my kids are going to arrive home sweaty faced and frizzy haired while I make my way to the vet in shorts and a t-shirt, still sticky. At least they’ll have cookies.

Nirvana.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana recently.  It started with my just turned eleven year old daughter and her introduction to the band.  This particular daughter is basically just a recreation of my young self, both in appearance and mental stability (aka lack there of).  She has recently found a connection with music, one that I can understand and appreciate. Her new found fascination began when she discovered that Billie Eilish’s songs speak to her. She reveres these songs as some sort of gospel in that middle school “no one else could possibly understand her” kind of way.  Gone are last summer’s Taylor Swift sing alongs, and gushing with friends about their first real concert experience at the Reputation tour. I don’t think she’d let herself be caught dead listening to Bad Blood now. She has standards. She has Billie posters on her walls, she tells us facts about Billie, her kindred soul.  Facts of such importance like how her brother was a character on Glee, a show that seems was just relevant, but she has only seen in streaming re-runs. Since music has always been a source of therapeutic relief in my life I get it. When I heard “Bellyache” fifteen times in a row (I mean seriously I’m pretty sure I could figure out the whole song by memory if handed an instrument now) I got it.  So one night while she drilled me on what music I liked, and “Oh! Have you heard this Billie Eilish song???” (yah dude I have the album on my phone, I’m not as out of touch as you think I am) I decided it was time to educate her on all the amazing music out there that her “I know everything” little mind had never stopped to appreciate.

I asked her if she ever listens to Nirvana.  She kind of shrugged and was like, yah I guess I’ve heard their songs.  Now I KNOW she’s heard them, the same ones that were played in the 90’s non stop still pop up on our alternative radio station when I’m chauffeuring her around.  Yes, I still listen to regular radio in the car, I’m all old school like that. In my defense my husband listens to political podcasts. Pretty sure he’s going to be yelling at the neighborhood kids to get of his lawn soon.  Projecting back her oh so familiar pre-teen attitude of ya-you-think-you-know-but-you-have-no-idea I said okay, but really do you KNOW Nirvana? Because I have a feeling you and the deep little artistic soul that is bouncing around waiting to break free from you will attach to Nirvana’s music like a leech.

So firing up the old YouTube on our Smart TV I pulled up Nirvana at Redding.  Let me take a minute here to reflect on the instant gratification of not only YouTube but also the fact that I can now pull it up on my TV.  I mean really? When I was her age I was still just hoping my favorite song played on the radio so I could record it on the cassette recorder I had placed next to the speaker.  Without fail the damn DJ would ALWAYS cut in before those last few chords of the song had dissipated. So was life in 1994. I would live with that scratchy interrupted version of my my music until I earned enough money to get to Tower Records and buy the album.  

Carrying on, Nirvana at Redding is one of those truly epic concerts that music aficionados, such as myself and my eleven year old (clearly), will still be enraptured with decades down the road.  I mean I expect that when our education system begins teaching pop culture history of our time period this event will have it’s very own page in the history books. Just like I expected she was enthralled.  My eight year old son did his best impression of dancing man (not gonna lie, he was concerningly good at the part) while we fell into a discussion appreciating the magic of the event. The whole performance still so oddly bewitching even through old streaming video. I explained Nirvana’s influence in music while she tried to wrap her head around Kurt Cobain’s hospital gown.  We discussed the meaning behind his lyrics, talked the intricacies of Lithium. Not only the song but the actual drug which I have had an on again off again fling with since my late teens. When she asked if he was still around, picking up on the fact that something was off about the way he was being talked about, we discussed his untimely death. She took it all in, her far too wise and deep for her young age mind processing and coming to understand a piece of the beautiful and tragic impact Nirvana had on the world of music and youth in the 90’s.

Since this introduction her homogenous playlist of Billie Eillish is no longer the only music I can hear on repeat filtering through the door to her room.  Her alexa now also constantly playing “Come as you Are,” “Rape Me,” and “Lithium,” the latter being one of her favorites. The opening lines of Lithium seems to strike a chord with her tween girl angst and inevitable restructuring of friendships.  She is feeling this particularly hard at the moment as she has spent the last three years using her oddly mature understanding of human interaction to build a web of popularity she now wants out of. She’s tired of being the social performing monkey of her peers.  She is beginning to realize her “friends” aren’t really all that friendly or supportive. While she may not fully yet comprehend the true meaning behind “I’ve found my friends, they’re in my head” the lyrics struck a chord in a way that makes her feel understood, and isn’t that what lyrics are meant for anyway?  After all any artist that needs their audience to connect to their work only in the way they did when they created it is in for disappointment.

So in her new found love of the music that I too had set to repeat years ago, when I finally got a CD player (remember those?  My car actually still has one. I think my car might be getting old…). I found myself reconnecting and once again finding meaning in the songs.  As an adult I have a new appreciation and a different connection than I did as a teen. Gone are the days of thinking that a band or singer was the only person/people in the world that could ever understand the way I felt.  Instead of the dramatic angst of yesteryear I find myself grateful that someone took the time and was eloquent enough in their descriptions to not only so perfectly capture a time and a world that we have moved forward from, but to also capture raw human emotion.  It is these emotions infused in the music that have the power to connect us. Giving us comfort in knowing someone might be able to empathize, especially when we feel misunderstood. In my mid thirties as I come out of the trance of a decade devoted to parenthood I crave a connection that doesn’t involve PTA meetings or gymnastics meets, and when I hear these songs that is what I find.  Maybe I have graduated from my angsty adolescent behavior but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still feel the same thrills and disappointments. Nor am I any less crazy than I was back then, I’ve only learned how to function at a slightly more acceptable level.

So I will continue to pop in my earbuds and play “Nevermind” on repeat until my mood shifts and I connect or reconnect to another artist.  My daughter will do the same and hopefully we will continue to share our new and old findings, connecting with not only the music but with each other in the process.  I find myself making mental lists of what artists to share with her next, Foo Fighters is an obvious choice. I actually have videos on my phone from their amazing concert in Centennial Park a few years ago.  You remember that tour when Dave Grohl was recovering from a badly broken leg but was so rockstar he performed in a medical boot and made it look cool? I tried Fiona Apple last weekend, her music reminding me of a 90’s version of Billie Eilish, my daughter wasn’t sold.  Maybe when I set my Pandora to one of the alt stations I have saved, a song I have forgotten about will pop up and we will spend weeks with Green Day or The Yah Yah Yah’s on repeat. Also, dear daughter, don’t think for a second I haven’t heard those late 90’s pop punk songs filtering out from your bedroom too.  Just so you know I know every word to those songs and spent many summer nights singing them at the top of my lungs in some open air concert venue or on college evenings bobbing my head to the beat in a glorified bar with a small stage in San Francisco. I know you better than you think babe.

Introduction.

Introductions are awkward.  People make an initial judgment on each other during these exchanges based on things like a handshake and eye contact.  We notice someone’s appearance and scramble to fit them in a preconceived category of stereotypes in our heads. We use these groups to compartmentalize the people in our lives, to try to understand their choices and beliefs without them ever having to share with us.  This is how we learn who we can relate to, who we should seek out as friends vs. acquaintances, or who we think we should avoid. Fair or not it’s an inherent skill. Just like you have done with everyone else you’ve been introduced to through your life, you will inevitably place me in one of your segregated predetermined categories.  I will have to accept whatever label you give me. It’s okay, I’m an adult, kind of. I can deal. Probably.

I know a man who has this rule of thirds.  Disclaimer, it is very possible this is some well documented anthropologic theory.  I should probably google it, do my research so I sound like I know what I’m talking about, maybe later.  Anyway I heard it from this guy first, so I will always associate him with the idea. Rule goes like this: a third of the people you meet will like you no matter what, a third of the people you meet won’t be very fond of you no matter what, and the other third will be indifferent but can be swayed one way or the other.  Sounds like a political campaign theory. Win over that indifferent third, the registered independents.

Don’t worry I’m not going to try to win you over.  If I do, awesome, welcome to my club.  We drink a little too much here, both coffee and spirits.  We spend too much time chasing the errant thoughts bouncing around our heads.  We like Reddit to hone this skill, I mean who actually reads past the first few comments in a thread anyway?  You’ll fit right in I’m sure. Grab some coffee, it’s not 5 o’clock yet. After all we like to act like we do have some standards.  If I’m not your cup of tea, I get it. We’re not a compatible fit, good luck on your journey to find your people. The world needs all kinds.

I’ll tell you more about myself as time goes on and on a need to know basis.  Don’t be insulted, most of the people in my real life will know less than you are going to.  Thing is, no ones preconceived notion needs to be based on the fact that I have kids, or a Golden Retriever, what netflix shows I’ve binge watched, or that my major was technically communications.  You probably don’t need to know what cities I’ve spent time in, but you’ll hear about them eventually, they’re ingrained in me. You don’t need to know that the people around me assume I am really type A and extremely organized but in truth I am scattered, ADHD, and at times manic.  That I am afraid of failure and that spurs a constant stream of over commitment ebbing the deep rooted anxiety when I don’t allow myself the time to let it seep in, but instead builds up the panic of never allowing myself to stop. I’m not a martyr, this is all my own doing, but I’m sure I sometimes sound like I think I am.  Whoops.

One thing you should know is I write for myself.  I no longer use my actual name. Over time I have learned that the best writing I do is based on honesty.  The relationships I have with and observations I make from the people around me. No one I know needs to read my real feelings about them.  Even if I think my impression of them and the category I have placed them in is flattering they may not find it to be so. People for the most part are desperate for approval.  I really admire those that aren’t. It probably matters to some that I’ve been published. I don’t think it should though, if you find my work worthwhile who cares if someone else thought it was acceptable or not.  It’s been a few years since my work was out there, it became hard to write regularly when I didn’t have the time to do so for myself, but only for the people who expected certain work from me. If I can’t clear the thoughts of the day from my head I can’t work through the big projects that aren’t really for me.

I read a lot, and probably half of what I read is fluff with happy ever afters.  I don’t write happy endings though, because I don’t believe in them. Let me explain, see I think real life is gritty and messy.  I’m not saying there is never joy, there absolutely is, but it’s not a forever thing. If it is your probably high. You might want to stop reading and go google “rehab near me.”  Don’t do drugs people, D.A.R.E. and all that. Oh yah, I’m a product of the 90’s, my flannel and doc martins are showing. I write what I know, I write honesty, my reality. Take what you need from my words because I am sharing them for you to resonate with how you will.  I have no expectations that anyone else will see my experiences the same way I do.

Hi, It’s nice to meet you.  I’m K. looking forward to catching up with you again soon.