Tag Archives: memories

A Rambling Sort of Panic

It’s less than a week until I’m in New York again. I’d always planned to make a triumphant return. Instead, it would seem, I’ll be in full failure mode. I’ll skulk in tentatively, trying to avoid memories. “Should I be doing this?” It’s not unlike poking a hornet’s nest with a stick. Poke. Poke. Poke. Idiot…  You shouldn’t have come. You’re not ready for this. Maybe get a rental car? Drive north? See the gravestone while you’re at it.

In addition, the air travel itself is hanging over me like a black cloud. Every time I start to get excited, a horrid sinking feeling comes over me. I hate to fly, you may recall from several of my past posts. Not only is it frightening, but there isn’t anything decent to look at! The interior of the United States, when viewed from above, is about as exciting as a cup of congealed bacon grease.

I’m sorry to be Woody Allen about it, but the hours of horror involved in airline travel make the process that much more uncomfortable for me. Truly, I can’t wait to sit on the edge of my seat for 5+ hours, listening to every groan and whine the plane makes as it goes through its mysterious convulsions that cause it to randomly drop several feet. This always bodes well for my mood. The pilot will come on the speaker and, in a calm voice, try to explain why we’ve suddenly plummeted from the sky. It is around this time I begin to flip through my mental Rolodex of horrible plane journeys to see if I’ve ever survived that noise and motion before. This, by the way, is a very handy exercise for calculating just how much of a panic one should be in. Also, and this could just be my opinion, it’s one hell of a cardio workout because the body immediately flings itself into Fight or Flight mode. As for those rivulets of sweat pouring down between your breasts? That alone must be  – what? – 50 calories worth?

Ah, sitting tense, cross, and sweaty for 5+ hours – it’s reverse yoga. What’s not to love?

This leads me to another issue of air travel, other people. Please, if you see a pasty-faced red-head on the plane, do not attempt to make conversation. I will rip your face off and beat you with it.

1) I want to drink in peace

2) I want to read in peace

3) I want to drink in peace

4) I want to dream of napping in peace, and

5) I want to drink in peace.

Why do you all attempt to converse with me? Do you not see the frenzied look on my face? Do you not recognize my need to punch you in your thorax for smiling at me?

Why other humans feel the need to strike up conversation with me on an airplane is one of life’s great mysteries. There is nothing particularly compelling about me or my demeanor. I’m sure I’m not the only tense, angry, paranoid, sweaty person clutching their armrest and constantly adjusting their seatbelt. I must look like a cocaine addict, twitching away and giving off a malevolent vibe. Yet something about the sweaty cocaine addict look never fails to elicit smiles and hours of conversation. People will spin in their seats to talk to me – the young, the old, men, women, children. It matters little that I give them a look which could curdle milk. They long to interact with this sub-creature, who once asked the air steward to anchor the cocktail trolley to her seat.  Ah, yes, I’m the friendliest of air travelers. And the germs! Dear God…

By the time I arrive, I’ll be in an exceptionally dour mood. I will have sweat through all my garments, I won’t have relaxed the entire trip, I’ll be nauseous and tipsy. Ah, New York… Come! Embrace me…

As for my movements once there; this will be a tough and emotional time for me. I haven’t been back in several years, and the last trip was dreadful for reasons I won’t go into here – except to say, NO, CAPERS AREN’T RELATED TO PEAS!

Yes, New York is filled with memories. The good as well as the bad. I’m already in a panic! I don’t want to look at my favorite places and feel pain, but it’ll be there. It’ll settle on my chest like a goddamn Mack truck. The pain will float around in the back of my mind, too, and as I pass a familiar spot, the memories will come rushing back. I’ll be thinking, “I should have brought my sons with me” to keep me from being too maudlin. There’s a memory attached to everything and it’s really just a matter of time before I have a cry. I’m thinking probably at first sight of the Empire State Building, or maybe Gapstow Bridge – and don’t even get me started on TriBeCa.

So, New York – when you see me, be kind. Understand that I’m tired not only from lack of sleep. I’m beaten down. Haunted. I long to see my favorite places but at the same time, I dread it. They won’t be standing there in a happy light, welcoming me; they’ll have the past thrown over them like a giant banner screaming, REMEMBER ME? YOU SUCK AND YOU’RE STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

I can do this. I WILL do this… and yes, I’ll cry. So be nice, don’t make direct eye contact or smile at me, and I swear I won’t punch you in the thorax.

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The Clock Stands Still

It was just a little slip of paper – something inserted in a baby shower gift. A note. A poem. The top had a pretty bouquet on it. She had written it, I’m sure, on the spur of the moment and had no real thought that I’d keep it forever in his baby book. She certainly could never know that one day I would use it to eulogize her.

I stood before a packed church, straight as a rail, with a powerful voice and no quavering knees and spoke of my friend. I did so without crying. At the end I read her poem – the one she’d meant as a welcome for my baby born fourteen years earlier.

Isn’t it funny how we keep little things that, after we lose someone, become so important? They’re like nuggets of gold in the stream of our lives. We catch a glimpse of them – these gifts – sitting on bookshelves, mantels, or hanging in our closets, and all of a sudden they take on new meaning. They’re gone. The person who shared such times with us is gone and we’re left with these tokens of a life spent together.

On my mantel is a clock that stopped working years ago. I keep it because on the back, written in permanent marker, my friend wrote, “Friends for all of time.” She is gone but the clock stays. I’m sure that’s just a sign I’m far too sentimental (and disorganized!) for my own good. I like the clock. I don’t mind time standing still. If it had, my boy wouldn’t have moved away to college and he’d still be here – trashing the kitchen with his midnight meals. But time doesn’t stand still. It marches on and drags down our jowls until soon our necks resemble turkeys’.

I have a collection of rocks. They began as a gift from my friend Andy. He sent one as a Christmas gift in 1998 and one shortly after. They’re the largest in my collection – more like bricks – and they’re also the most valuable to me.

I have a drawing of an olive from 10th grade typing class. It was drawn by my friend Millicent. She knows I still have it. It’s in a photo album. I have no idea why I kept it. I mean, sure, I like olives, but why I’d have kept that over the masses of horse and shark drawings she’d done since 5th grade, I have no clue. To me, that olive means the world.

I have nearly all my boys’ drawings. Really. I used to have a wall covered entirely from floor to ceiling. They were taped together like wall paper. It was glorious. The drawings are precious.

I have shiny decorative objects and jewelry from Marcia. They glitter and remind me I’ve friends who think I’m sparkly.

I have a lifetime of gifts from my family, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s all about – giving? Your time, your effort, a smile. They end up being memories for those you leave behind. Priceless.