Sidetracked


Complementary Colors

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I planted some Spring-blooming bulbs in a patch of dirt on our street. I remember my dad planting bulbs in the flowerbed outside our house one steamy Fall day in Houston. He wanted me to help him, and me, being a surly teenager, acted like he was asking me to cut off my arm. He just wanted to spend some quality time.

Now seeing flowers, especially bulb flowers, in public places always makes me smile. I like the idea of sharing a burst of color after a grey Winter with neighbors and visitors. Maybe this can make up for the sullen girl I used to be. Maybe a little.

Scratching #74 off my Life List. I just hope they bloom.


What’s Left

My aunt emailed photos of the beach and what they found there. It’s hard to believe that this was where Maudie’s house stood. Looking at photos of Crystal Beach makes me want to go and see for myself. It’s horrifying to think about the storm ripping through that little community, and sickening to think about anyone who tried to ride it out. My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone or something to Ike.


Lump free. Really.

Does it seem like we’ve be observing National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the past six months or is it just me? I mean, I did purchase some pink handled kitchen knives in June.


Scratchin’ and Surviving

I’m considering taking out a loan to pay for a winter wardrobe. Is that done?

And I’m beginning to wonder if I qualify for food stamps.

Also, I’ve had the Good Times theme song stuck in my head for days.


Cheyenne

We picked up Cheyenne on New Year’s Day 1998. My mom and I found her in the classifieds section of the Houston Chronicle a few months prior. I’m not sure why Mom decided that it was the right time to get a puppy, but I think we just needed something to bring us closer together.

It’s funny how some days remain so vivid. I remember the sunny drive out to Madisonville, Texas, feeling like those winding roads went on forever. The breeder’s house was tucked away behind tall pine trees. In the backyard was a pin containing a slender Golden Retriever guarding her clumsy litter. I picked Cheyenne for her stocky build, red coat and short snout. She whimpered when I held her for the first time, and I was flooded with guilt for taking her from her mom. On the way home, Cheyenne waddled around the backseat and napped on a scratchy red blanket while we ate black-eyed peas from styrofoam cups.

Those first few months, I caught a glimpse of what motherhood might resemble; soothing Cheyenne when she cried, getting up every couple of hours in the night, training, grooming, playing. Her birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, so each year we gave thanks to her. For me, she represented loyalty, forgiveness and love. Family problems eventually drove me away a few years later, and I began seeing Cheyenne less and less. But she never forgot me. I’d come in the front door with my duffel bag and head to my bedroom and she’d circle my legs excitedly, ready for a good scratch on the back.

I last saw Cheyenne a year ago. I brushed her silky hair, played fetch with her, and watched her chase squirrels in the backyard. She rested her head in my lap when one of the cats was hogging my attention. The last day I saw her, I left the house in anger and never said goodbye.

I think she was capable of understanding a lot, and I hope she knew I loved her.


The Bargaining Stages

Maudie’s house was a safe place. The little A-frame facing the Gulf on Bolivar Peninsula was more than a house filled with stuff. It was a home where we could all go despite our differences and dysfunction and be happy again.

My family built the beach house for Maudie and my late granddad when I was about three years old. I remember sitting on the newly built steps leading to the second floor, my eyes itching from the Pink Panther insulation. Not too long after the house was built and fashioned into a home, Papoo got sick. He spent the remainder of his life on a hospital bed in the living room with an amazing view of the water. And we adopted the Robin’s Nest, a beach house down the street, to make everything less scary for the time being.

The beach was just as important to me as the house. Papoo drove me up and down the beach one summer in Maudie’s Mercedes, scolding me for getting my muddy feet on the white leather interior. I dug in the sand, hopped over the waves, filled sand castle buckets with hermit crabs, listened to cousins crying from jelly fish stings, and ate plate upon plate of fried shrimp without worrying about fat. While the sun set over the ocean, we’d walk the stretch of beach in front of the house looking for sea glass. I mostly found newly broken bottles, handing shards of glass to my mom, only to watch her toss it back in the water. We’ll find it next Summer, she’d say. I’d always look at the house and find some family member standing on the deck waving back.

I got an urge to go crabbing on Bolivar last Spring, and rounded up my brother and sister to make the trip down. Everything was as it should be. Maudie assumed her usual position, crosslegged on the couch, a cigarette and glass of wine in hand and a jigsaw puzzle spread out before her on the coffee table. She showed us where the last storm had taken some of the shingles from her roof. Most of the trip was spent around the coffee table reminiscing. That is what we do.

None of us realized it would be the last time we saw the A-frame. Even as I sat in a hotel room in Pasadena, Ca, and watched Hurricane Ike make its way for my home state, I was filled with hope that the house would survive. My family has always talked about the storm that would someday devastate Crystal Beach, but I also thought about how one day I’d take my own children there and watch the collect hermit crabs and hop over waves, acquire a taste for salt, and fall asleep with the ocean breeze stroking their foreheads.

People are talking about how stupid the Galveston residents who stayed are, which makes me more angry. People risk their lives to protect their homes, to protect their safe places from monsters like Ike. I’m sad for those who can’t understand how strong a connection to a home can be. All weekend I thought about Ike picking up the A-frame, tearing it limb from limb and greedily swallowing up the remains. I thought about how I wanted all of us to be there to shield it.

The house is gone. I’ve scoured photos searching for it, only to find sandy soil where homes once stood. Maudie’s talking about going back and buying a new beach house. And I’ve got a pipe dream to build a new A-frame. People also talk about how stupid people are to go back.

They don’t know.


Death and Destruction

We spent an extra long weekend in L.A., and the timing could not have been worse. Much of the trip was spent watching Hurricane Ike barrel toward my family. That got things off to a rocky start. Then, in an unrelated event, I found out my dog, my beautiful Cheyenne who my mom has been caring for since I moved away years ago, passed away.

My stomach has been in knots since Friday. My family is alive and safe, but I’m not sure what the state of their homes is right now. I’m hoping and wishing that somehow they’ll all have unharmed homes to go to once the waters recede. More on these things later.


Separation Anxiety

Dave’s been on a canoing trip with his father for the past seven days. It’s been sort of nice not having someone get all tense when I walk around the house naked with the windows open or try to sabotage my diet by offering to buy me a few beers every night. But Charlie, the cat who’s been plotting my death since he was just a few weeks old, has started to take a liking to me since his playmate left. See, Dave doesn’t mind when Charlie bites and tears at the veins in his wrist. Dave calls this “playing”. I call it “attempted murder”.

So Charlie is bored. He keeps looking at me like, “Now what will we do?” The passed couple of nights I promised him we’d play, but then the sun would go down and the light in the living room doesn’t work and we can’t very well play in the dark, can we? He greets me at the door when I come home each day, throwing his long body on the ground and showing me how good he can stretch. He circles my ankles any time I venture toward the kitchen to fix a snack. He even sits at my feet while I use the restroom, peering over my knees at me. Right now, he’s lying in his tent with his head poking out the window and watching me type.

It’s not that I’m a bad cat mama, and Dave’s a good cat dad. I’m just better at nurturing, and he’s got a higher tolerance for pain. I’m counting down the days until he gets home. Charlie will be so happy.


How I spent summer

When you live in a city where winters are infamous, it’s hard not to notice the summer coming to an end. Labor Day is just around the corner, and I can sense everyone’s anxiety about the cold weather to come. But I think I’ve packed in enough stuff this summer, and I’m ready for what’s next. Here’s a recap on the last three months:

1. Said goodbye to some great people and my home, and moved halfway across the country in search of adventure and a better job market. Found adventure, survived the trip, and learned that the job market sucks everywhere.

2. Somewhat squashed my fear of public transportation and riding a bike in the big city. Saved some money on gas.

3. Discovered how lovely soy milk and chai can be when combined, thanks to Julius Meinl.

4. Had almost daily emotional breakdowns/panick attacks over money/job but kept on truckin’.

5. Bought my first piece of furniture ever: an overpriced black and green futon off Craigslist.org.

6. Watched two of my favorite people make lifelong commitments to each other, boldly going where many have gone before.

7. Sipped beer and read a good book on the back porch, while Charlie sniffed plants, rocks and the breeze.

8. Ate foie gras. On a hot dog.

9. Watched fireworks on the beach.

10. Decided I’m OK with a couple of extra pounds if it means I can eat good food and drink good beer.


Rejected

Is it possible that I’m just not meant to work for someone else?