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Home and Happiness

“I hate it here. I absolutely hate it here,” said my thirteen-year-old self, staring my mother straight in the eye. This certainly wasn’t her first round with an angst-ridden teenage girl. I can recall sitting ringside for a few fights between her and my sister. “In this corner, Aubrey, weighing in at 115 lbs, who just threw out an entire jar of mayonnaise. Annnd in the other corner, Momma Glo, weighing in at 130 lbs, who bought said mayonnaise and is madder than hell.” I’ll give it to my sister, her jabs were sharp, direct, and though she was quick tongued, Momma, master of the bob and weave, usually ended the fight with a knockout blow of “Go to your room.”

But this fight between my mother and I was different. I didn’t so much care about expiration dates in the refrigerator or going to the really-awesome-everyone-else-is-going-I’ll-be-a-loser-if-I-don’t birthday party, at least not yet anyway. This fight was caused by my unadulterated, persistent dislike for my hometown, The Cove. As many of you know, having grown up there yourselves, The Cove is a small, often forgotten valley containing four boroughs: Roaring Spring, Martinsburg, Woodbury, and Williamsburg. We have a grocery store, Giant Eagle, referred to as Big Bird by locals, two ice cream stops, Ritchey’s or Stock’s, which no one in Cove history has vocally expressed preference over one or the other. That just wouldn’t be right. And we have cows. We have a plethora of cows, readers. So many cows that everyone’s child’s first word is cow, and your first word was cow, and your daddy’s first word was cow, who was taught the word by your grandaddy, whose first word was cow.

Pennsylvania roads

Pennsylvania roads

At thirteen all I wanted was to move away from The Cove to New York City, where I would be on Broadway, live in a brownstone, and eat a fresh bagel every morning with my mocha-choca-yoyo-leroy-brown-bada-bing latte. I lived and breathed New York. When playing MASH with friends I would only give one option for PLACE TO LIVE, New York. When playing Barbies, mine was always visiting  from New York. When given Christmas money I cut a whole in the lid of an old UTZ Pretzel jar and declared it my fund for New York. All I ever wanted was to leave The Cove for New York and when my mother finally confronted me, asking why I was so desperately unhappy all of the time, why I didn’t want to go outside, why I watched the same Liza Minnelli movies over and over again, why the show Friends was more important to me than actually making them, I looked her dead in the eye and said, “Because I hate The Cove and I can’t wait to leave and never come back.” I listed my reasons, I gave her my five year notice, and promised that I’d be out of her hair just as soon as I found an apartment for $20 a month. My mom stood still for a long time, looking out at the backyard her and my stepfather had worked so hard mulching that day. The  dog was sun bathing with the cat, kid’s laughter rang through the air from the park, and the smell of burgers and garden zucchini drifted by. She crouched down, eye-level to me, pushed back my sun-bleached hair and said,”There’s no sense waiting for happiness, Olivia. A place is not going to make you happy, a person is not going to make you happy. You have one job and it’s to be happy. If you can’t do it here, I’m not sure where you will.” And with that she patted my head and went inside, the dog and cat close behind with a “Hmmph, yeah, what she said.”

That moment comes to mind so often anymore. From my first night at SUNY Purchase, five hours from home, where kids listened to Johnny Cash as a nouveau-hipster trend not because “Walk the Line” is considered a hymn in their homes, to my first apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where I met my first cockroach family, learned the meaning of “hot and humid,” and cried myself to sleep.

My four years in New York went by in a flash and I honestly did everything I set out to. I attended Broadway shows, met some amazing playwrights, took on a big internship, wrote my own play, wrote a short film, lived in Brooklyn, learned the subways, had a mocha-choca-yoyo-leroy-brown-bada-bing latte, and fell in love. Wait, no. Nope, that last one wasn’t in the plan. I’m pretty sure I didn’t save all of my lifeguarding money for you to move to NYC and fall in love with a Russian. WHAT? Hold on, wait a minute. The only man you were supposed to possibly fall in love with in NYC was a deeply disturbed creative, who would set eyes on you and find that you and only you were the muse he’s been searching for all of his life, and you and only you could release him from his artistic shackles that have bound him to mediocrity. Hello! A Russian filmmaker? Simmer down, thirteen. You weren’t exactly listed under “Winning Best Cinematography” on his “When I Grow Up” plan either. But, believe me, you couldn’t be happier and you realized it about five days ago.

Last Friday was the first day in the last few weeks that Fil and I kept entirely to ourselves. We woke up late, made breakfast, worked on a puzzle, drank beer, and made Pad Thai. It was absolutely perfect and will hold as one of the best days of  my life. It wasn’t because I was in a big city or because we achieved fairytale status, certainly not. It was because there with cheap beer, a mean little tabby cat, and damp clothes hanging on our windows and chairs because we ran out of quarters, it was there when I realized exactly what my mother meant 11 years ago. Nothing and no one was going to make me happy until I found my happiness myself and I have. I find it everyday in my writing, my students, my cobblestone streets, my neighbor’s laughter, my friends, my family, and I find it when I think of being back home in The Cove, sitting on the front porch, letting time stop.

I still have a ways to go when it comes to happiness. I can’t be happy every day. There are times when I miss my mom, dad, Dan, and my sister so much that it hurts. Just last night I thought of my family and couldn’t help but cry. I miss them so much. I miss The Cove, I miss Hemlock Hill, and at times I miss the past, but for the first time I’m missing it all and still completely happy. I wouldn’t change a thing.

So, Momma, dust off that New York City fund and send it on up here. We have to buy new tires. 😀

 

 

 

 

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“It’s Crazy.”

The little girl with wild curly Qs sprouting around her pixie ears, studies her mommy from the kitchen table, swinging her legs to the soundtrack of her two-year old mind. It goes something like this: Doo, da, da, Dee, Doo, da,da, Dee.

Mommy looks different today, she thinks. No, it wasn’t that she was taller and it wasn’t that she got smaller, but mommy was certainly different.

She’d been told over and over that Mommy is “sick,” that Mommy’s medicine makes her tired, that she needs to be a good girl for Mommy, but no one told her this. How come? Why not? 

The little girl strokes her curly Qs, pulling on one before letting it spring back into place. Wonder why mommy did that, she thinks. It looks kinda funny. Looks like Pap’s. Looks like my babies’. Wonder why.

She watches as Mommy makes her way to the bedroom and follows.

Mommy pulls a shirt or two from the dresser, playing dress up. The little girl watches. Mommy is good at dress upMommy has nice dress up clothes.

Before long Mommy and the little girl are joined by Drouchy, the dog. “Hi, Drouchy.” She jumps up on the bed. “Ugh, move over, Drouchy!” The little girl fights for space, deciding to use Drouchy to her advantage; as a head rest.

 Which baby should I take to school, she ponders, while popping another Goldfish in her mouth. Will I see Gigi today? Maybe Grammy. Why does Drouchy do that? Eww.

Now Mommy has work and the little girl will go to school. Mommy bundles her up and asks, “Which hat?” The little girl crinkles her nose as Mommy pulls the green sparkle one over her head.

“Sparkles.” “You want your sparkle hat too?” She nods and off they go.

On the way to school the little girl thinks of everything she loves starting with Mommy and Daddy, Gigi, Grammy, her Pappies, Goldfish, Babies, Playdough, and swimming.

She looks out of the window and wonders where the leaves went. Wonders if the trees are cold. She waves to the cows with their butts showing and wonders why they don’t wear pants.

At school the little girl plays with the other little kids. They play with babies, toys, and crayons. The little girl bounces about all day discovering answers to all of her questions, making friends, within minutes losing them, and making them again. The little girl with the curly Qs thinks of nothing but play all day.

But at 5:00 the little girl remembers her first question of the day. She sees Chloe’s Mommy, and Sarah’s Mommy, and Ryan’s Mommy.

At home the little girl lies on the bed with Mommy and Daddy. She rubs Mommy’s head. “It’s a wittle scwatchy. Why you cut your hair?” “Remember, Mommy’s medicine makes it fall out.” She rubs Mommy’s head again and after her dozens of questions and hypotheses, the little girl with the curly Qs comes to one conclusion; “It’s crazy,” she says with a shrug.

The little girl lies her head against Mommy’s, the prickles tickling her ears. She snuggles against Daddy and let’s out a soft sigh, thinking how Chloe and Sarah don’t have sparkle hats like Mommy’s.

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Easy as Pie!

I was once described as an apple pie, so why not bake one? This is the recipe I followed yesterday. Pretty easy, but if you’re going to take this on make sure you have the time. I started at noon and the pie was in the oven around 3:45. Best of luck, readers! Also, a new post will be up tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., just in time for your lunch break!

 

http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/classic-apple-pie.aspx

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If You’re Scared…

Today you find out your treatment. How they’ll deal with it all, how they’ll BEAT it. How they’ll make you healthy! I want to tell you something. I want you to remember this.

If you’re scared remember your first day of school.

If you’re scared remember moving to the farm when you were little.

If you’re scared remember being the last kid on the school bus.

If you’re scared remember the three of us living in the apartment.

If you’re scared remember living on your own at 17.

If you’re scared remember the two of us sleeping in the attic and the bed falling.

If you’re scared remember moving away.

If you’re scared remember driving from Cincinnati in a snow storm on Christmas.

If you’re scared remember your first heart break.

If you’re scared remember letting yourself fall in love again.

If you’re scared remember carrying another life inside of you for 9 months.

If you’re scared remember bringing her into our world.

If you’re scared remember saying “yes.”

If you’re scared remember walking down the aisle.

If you’re scared remember we love you.

And if you’re scared remember all the times you told me not to be.

A little Stevie for the ride home. 😀

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Big SqueezeAbout 72 hours ago my best friend, my long time idol, my big sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. And for 72 hours I’ve been angry, I’ve been crying, and I’ve been beating myself over the head for moving ten hours away.

It’ll be a month this Friday since my parents and I packed a UHAUL full of family hand-me-downs. From our sofa to bath towels, Fil’s family and mine made sure that our first home would be just that- a home. Our apartment is just right. Perfect if I do say so myself. We often look at each other and think we don’t deserve it or wonder how we got so lucky. We’ve narrowed it down to this: our families, friends, a dose of hard work, and lots of faith.

Since Wednesday, though, I’ll admit, that faith has been tested. When I first heard the news my first thought was, “Why my sister?” Immediately I scolded myself. We shouldn’t think that way. Or so we’ve been taught not to. Everything happens for a reason. This too shall pass. He never gives you something you can’t handle. They all went through my mind. Those verbal teddy bears your mom hands you in a crisis. But this time they just don’t seem to be working. The teddies aren’t enough to keep the nightmare away.

Aside from the anxiety, I’ve felt a great deal of guilt. Guilty for moving away to Portland, Maine simply because we like it here. Guilty for not being home with my sister when she needs me the most. Guilty for not being able to make my niece laugh, not being there to hug my mom, and help my grandparents. Now, my family knows I do not deal well with guilt. The tiniest inkling of it and I’ll spill my guts. From my first crush to my first joint, my parents have heard it all. But this guilt is different. It keeps me awake. It keeps the wheels in my mind spinning and spinning, the way a car does in mud. Not getting anywhere, but still going. The other night I was so overwhelmed that I nearly packed a bag and left. Left the cat, left Fil, left Portland. Just to be home to give my sister a hug. I know I can’t do that though. I wouldn’t do that. Because in the end I know my big sister wouldn’t want me to.

So what can I do for my sister ten hours away? My tears aren’t getting anywhere except for being washed down the shower drain, which honestly has become a safety hazard. It’s dangerous to shave your legs with tears in your eyes. My guilt isn’t getting me closer to her. Just gives me bags under my eyes. My anger doesn’t help at all, only gives the cupboards and doors a hard time. So, I asked again, what can I do while I live ten hours away? Ten hours away in a brand new place? A place full of life, people, art, and nature? Hell, I went to school for it. The least I could do is, well, do it. I’ll write. I will write for my sister and maybe after awhile it won’t just be for my sister. Maybe it will be for my friends, my neighbors, maybe even strangers. Maybe this will be for anyone who is having a hard day and needs a distraction. So, that’s what I’ll call this-My Sister’s Distraction. I’ve been that for most of her life, but hopefully this time it does some good.

I’m going to write about my adventures in Portland, Maine. I’m going to write about the kids I teach and the tourists I sell cheese to on Saturdays. I’ll write about the farmer’s market, the ocean, the art galleries, the bums…I’ll write about it all. That’s what I can do. That’s what I can do for my sister. I’ll give her a distraction. A productive, insightful (okay, maybe not all the time) distraction.

All I can ask is that you only leave friendly comments. All others will be ignored and deleted. Share this with whomever you like, correct my grammar, and, if you can, give your sister a hug.

Much love,

Olivia

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