4th of July of Yore

When I was a kid, in my world, the 4th of July was bigger than Christmas – I eagerly looked forward to it every year. 

The day would start early: our small town put on quite the 4th of July parade. I was up and ready to go by 7am, which was super early in those days. You could feel the excitement in the cool air of that summer morning. My dad, sister, and friend of the family who was like an uncle to me would park near the parade route and then walk to a perfect spot with our folding chairs. My mom usually stayed back to prep for the party.

The parade had a city marching band, color guard, police cars, fire engines, ambulances, horses, antique cars and tractors, as well as some oversized farm equipment. Cheerleaders, community groups, lavish floats – it was all here – and they often threw candy. My sister and I were always ready with brown lunch bags to collect as much as we could. 

After the parade, there were games and food booths in the community square. The foot races were my favorite and I usually won. The marching band would play more patriotic songs and water balloon fights would ensue once the sun got to be too much to bear. By 11, it was time to head home for lunch. The party was about to begin.

Lunch was an array of sandwich options to make your own sandwich. Every type of meat, cheese, condiment, several bread options, chips, and pasta salad – my mom sure knew how to entertain. My dad developed the best cooler the world for these parties: fill your washing machine with bags of ice and put pop and beer in it! Then when it all melts, drain and spin! 

People started to arrive and lunch was in full swing: my dad’s coworkers came, neighbors, and family friends – it was a full house. There were always enough kids for entertainment and every year was different. Sometimes we’d spend the afternoon at the neighborhood pool, playing in the basement, putting together a concert of patriotic songs, or playing croquet. Dinner was around 5, and you had your choice of a burger, hot dog, or brot – my dad was the grill master and my mom managed everything else. Guests would bring desserts and sides and they never disappointed. 

The fireworks didnt start until dark and it felt like it took forever to arrive. We’d drive to the local shopping center – this was the best place to watch – sometimes we’d sit under the bank drive up in folding lawn chairs. In later years, my friends and I would grab old bedsheets and watch the fireworks from the lawn of the funeral home. One year, the pyrotechnics got out of hand and lit the roof of a grocery store on fire. It was quickly put out with minimal damage, but it was the talk of the town for ages. In fact, you could still reference it today and someone would tell their perspective of the event.

After the fireworks, the party was over, all the people were gone. The kitchen was trashed. Everyone was exhausted. I loved every moment of it.

I miss celebrating the 4th in such a grand way. My parents don’t do the parties anymore. It’s too much work, my mom says, and she gets stuck with the prep, serving, and clean up, as my dad is too in the moment to really help. They’re in their 70’s now and they are slowing down. I used to go to Southport for their big celebration, but it feels weird now in this age of MAGA. Watching the fireworks downtown is fun, but it takes two hours to get home afterwards because of traffic. No thanks. Last year my husband and I went to Carolina Beach to watch the tourists set off fireworks illegally on the beach until the cops shut them down. 

It’s not the same as when I was a kid. 

And it will probably never be again. Yet I’ll always cherish the memories of those Independence Days of yore in my heart.

So the Past Walks into a Bar…

I waited for her on the quad of our alma mater.

I arrived first, feeling nervous. It had been well over 10 years since we last spoke heart to heart. How much had changed? Would it be all surface level banter? Would I tell her of my struggles and open my heart to her, like the old days? Or would she be a stranger, far too removed to share that old bond of friendship?

My old college roommate – a long lost best friend and a woman I once considered a sister – was meeting me for dinner.

“Simonne!” Out of no where, she sprinted up to me and gave me the biggest hug, nearly knocking me over. Deborah hadn’t aged a day, in fact, she seemed locked in time at 25, despite being almost 40. Her long blonde hair and shining blue eyes looked more of a college student than a married mother of three who had a corner office and her own secretary.

10+ years might as well have been a few weeks for all the difference it made.

We chatted with animation as we made our way to a local college hangout joint for dinner. I forgot how easy it was to talk to her and how she listened so intently.

No sooner had we gotten our food and we were already diving into the nitty gritty of our lives.

“I got an IUD and its been wonderful,” said Deborah. Then she chuckled, “Look at us, we’ve hung out all of a half hour and we’re already talking about birth control.”

It was quite reminiscent of our college chats. “Well, we decided to go the infertility route, and so far, that’s worked pretty well for us,” I deadpanned.

Our eyes locked and then we both burst out laughing. It was the first time I could genuinely laugh in the face of my childlessness. Once we stopped laughing, she touched my hand with sad eyes. “I’m so sorry that’s part of your story. What happened?” The whole unedited saga came out. 

She was silent, nodding as I finished my story. “Five years ago, huh? That was right about the time my marriage impolded.” It was my turn to listen with wide eyes. “We were almost destroyed, but counseling saved us. We’ve been a great team ever since.”

I shook my head in disbelief. What upset me the most was that we were both struggling with big issues and didn’t lean on each other because we lost touch. 

We left the restaurant and wandered around campus. We both are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and empaths: I’m an Enneagram 9, she’s a 2. I told her how much her words of encouragement had an effect on me after college, by calling me out on my friends with benefits situation.

“Wow, I sounded like such a dick, I’m so sorry,” she apologized.

“No, it came from a place of love, you called me out on my bullshit,” I said. “I needed to hear those those words.”

She signed. “It still sounded harsh. But yeah…I could use a Deborah in my life now.”

I nodded. “Everyone needs a Deborah.”

I confessed I thought I was too clingy when we were roommates, constantly chatting with her at all hours about the boys I got myself tangled up with.

“Oh Simonne,” she said, “we were kids, we were just trying to figure life out. I never saw you as clingy or a burden. I always thought I was the bad roommate because I hardly cleaned and had stuff everywhere.”

I laughed. “I have no memory of you being a bad roommate or leaving a mess.”

It was so cathartic.

We stopped in at our old bar and it was still 2003 in there. We grabbed our drinks and we talked about the old days. I told her I lost touch with the boys of college, she mentioned my ex-boyfriend’s wife looks like a carbon copy of me; I found that quite amusing. She talked about her kids (“This doesn’t bother you?” “Nope, not one bit, keep going.”) and how she ran into one of our old mutual friends from the parties we hosted, and I told her about my writing.

A couple hours later, she had to go home. I was so sad to see her go. A part of me felt like we’d walk back to our old apartment and everything would be as it was. But it wasn’t. We were older and wiser; you couldn’t hide our battle scars since our days as students or the fact we had become more of our own. She was still the same old Deborah, but now she had this quiet widsom about her that wasn’t there before. Her confidence was obvious: it wasn’t hidden away like it was in college. I wonder what she would say about me.

Deborah stated that she is terrible at keeping in touch. I’m determined not to lose contact with her, now that we are caught up on each other’s lives. She is too beautiful of a soul to be lost to time again. Like Phoebe, Ruth, Madge, and Rebeka, they are the women I want by my side as I grow older.

If you have a Deborah in your life and too many years have gotten between you, reach out. A friendship may sail back into the harbor. Or it may not, but it’s well worth finding out.

Return to Huron County

After high school, my family stopped going to the cottages in Port Austin.

I returned in Summer 2002, with my college boyfriend, but our relationship was in its death throws. We spent most of our time at the Bella Vista Inn in Caseville, and he preferred watching TV over exploring the lakeshore. It still clocks in as my worse vacation ever. We broke up a few weeks later.

I went back with my mom in Summer 2011 to visit Ray for the weekend. His wife had passed after a long battle with cancer several weeks earlier. While it was sad, it was also great to see Ray smile and reminisce about the old times. We waded out 1,000 feet into the lake, only up to our shoulders, and talked. As someone who is used to the ocean, it felt surreal to be so far out in the water, yet so good to be back home among familiar faces.

After the crazy spring of 2017, my husband and I, weary from navigating the rough waters, needed an escape. I suggested Port Austin because it was calming without much hustle and bustle. After spending over 10 years together, it was time to introduce him to a part of the world that was integral to my childhood.

We flew into Detroit and rented a car. I didn’t need a map after all these years, the route was still etched in my heart. The little towns leading to Port Austin were exactly as they were in my memory.

The IGA Foodliner of Bad Axe is long gone, but Walmart was in its place. We stopped here for supplies. Just like when I was a child, my heart beat fast as we saw the big billboard sign for Port Austin. A quick glance around downtown and I sighed with relief: time had left it alone. We drove to Ray’s lakeside cottage in Caseville – the first stop on our trip. My husband and I stayed in the same cottage I had always stayed in, while Ray stayed in the other one on the property.

The cottage was not untouched by the years: the 1940’s refrigerator was replaced with something from the 1990’s; the kitchen table was a rectangle bench, no longer the old round table; some furniture was moved to a different place; the walls were insulated. The memories were so thick there, I kept thinking my grandmother, despite dying 14 years previous, would appear around the corner. I found myself expecting that she’d be there getting dinner ready or making tea and we’d pick up conversation as if she never left. I was disappointed every time we walked back in to the cottage to see she wasn’t there. Every. Single. Time.

The lakeshore has changed with the rising water: there is significantly less beach than 20 years ago. Outside of that, everything else had remained as it was in my memory and that was comforting.

Just like when I was a kid, we always took a day to explore Frankenmuth, a cute small town with a southern German flair a little over an hour away. We took the backroads, naturally, and I was astounded by all the wind turbines. They were never there before. Frankenmuth, on the other hand, was the same, yet wasn’t nearly as exciting to me at 35 as it was at 12. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time, ate loads of good German food, walked to Bronner’s from downtown, and left with our hearts full and happy.

We left Ray’s cottage after much hugging and clean up and moved onto our next location: my aunt’s cottage in Broken Rocks. I had been coming here since the late 1980’s and wasn’t ready for all the upgrades they did. The place was even more wonderful than I remember.

My aunt was at her main home in Detroit, so we had the place to ourselves. We played a lot of cards and spent out evenings in Port Austin: ice cream, walking the breakwater, getting cheese and crackers for our card night at the grocery store, eating at the new place, Pak’s Backyard (a must-do if you’re in the area!), and we even caught a show at the Port Austin Community Playhouse. It was everything I loved and remembered about being a part of the local theater community.

The easy going small town lakeshore life was everything we needed. We left to catch our plane in Detroit during a rainstorm. I was sad to be leaving too.

We don’t have any plans to go back at this time – we often toy with the idea of doing an artistic retreat: my husband and his paints, me and my words. Port Austin is at the top of our list for places to make this happen. Summer 2019?

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Sunset on Lake Huron from Oak Beach Park, Summer 2017; Caseville, MI

 

 

The Table

“Oh, what a beautiful table!”

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People often say this as they enter my kitchen.

While it is a nice piece, it’s nothing special; it was purchased from a big box furniture store in 2010 with the intention of it staying around for awhile. The solid maple table came complete with 6 chairs to match, a soft white cloth seat gave it elegance and comfort.

My husband and I are a lot of things, but formal dining room people are not one of them. Even when we had a formal dining room, our only table graced the lesser breakfast nook. In our old house, the leaf stayed out most of the time so it was circular, unless we were expecting a big crowd. Here at the Dovecote, the leaf is a permanent fixture. Not only do we not have the room to store the leaf, but I like to keep our table ready for company. It fills the kitchen space nicely.

This table has lived life with us. We bought and sold a house around it: what began as an informational meeting with a realtor ended with signatures on the final offer. We’ve hosted a gay pastor, a rommate, high strung Midwesterners, and complete strangers – not to mention friends – over meals. It’s held game nights, feasts of epic proportions (usually when my husband was cooking), an art studio, and planning meetings.

If this table could talk, it would tell you a lot of things. It would tell you the only time my husband and I cried together was around this table over infertility.

gouge

Those gouges? Proof I can’t do it all by myself: that leaf is heavier than it looks and when I tried to put it in myself, I scarred the table pretty hard. There is a heat stain is from my rendition of Grandma’s German Stuffing during Thanksgiving 2016. And those light scratches over the heat stain? Me, again, with fine steel wool trying to remove the heat stain. It only made it worse. It seems to have fadded over time and I’m thankful for that.

 

paint smudge

The occasional bit of paint you see is from my husband’s hobby of painting on canvas. He sometimes uses a table easel for small projects and while he uses dropclothes, a few reminders of his art remain. Nonetheless, I have a huge olive green tablecloth that graces the table for dinner parties and other formal events: it covers everything beautifully. All her scars are hidden.

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I wanted a centerpiece that was simple yet pretty. My sister surprised me with this piece a few Christmases ago. It’s meant for candles, but the votives got stuck and full of dust. The seashells offer a bit of the beach and give it longevity. It’s perfect.

The part that bothers me most are the cloth seats.

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They’re white, which means they show everything: dirt, dust, cat hair, and spills. I’ve tried to keep them white as possible to no avail. Even a steam cleaner doesnt work. The next step is to use a light bleach solution, as soon as I get around to doing that. My husband and I are hard on textiles, yet I refuse to make guests to sit on covers. They are meant to be used and used they will be. 

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This is our table. This is our life. It’s messy and we dont pretend for it to be anything other than that. Although its hard to live into when your husband says something completely stupid or unnecessary, guests worry about rings from the glass on the table (I don’t care and they eventually fade), and the smudges can’t be cleaned off no matter how hard I scrub. I will still host friends, family, and strangers, welcoming them into my home to share life together, to be that light of Christ in their lives.

And that’s all of life: feasts, cryfests, scars that won’t heal, and laughter.

A Tale of 2 Phone Calls

Lately, I keep getting woken up by the past.

Tale #1
Rrrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

My phone was blowing up on vibrate.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrrttt.

It was 6am. No one ever calls with good news at 6am.

Rrrrttt. Rrrrttt.

I opened one eye, my brain still foggy from the dream of a machine at work that looked like it was destroyed by a tornado. I glanced at my phone. 2 missed calls and a few text messages from Phoebe. “I need to get away. I need to think. Alex is still with the girl. Can I come to your house today? Do you have plans?”

Whoa. This just got serious. “Give me a minute to wake up and I’ll call,” I texted back. Five minutes later, I’m pacing in the backyard, talking with Phoebe. She was surprisingly calm when I spoke with her, despite the fact she had caught her husband with another woman a few days earlier.

Phoebe flipped the script and left on the lam – Alex’s modus operandi. She disappeared without an explanation, en route to the airport for my house. I sent her a picture of my credit card so she could book her plane tickets without detection, promising to write me a check when she landed. A few hours later, I picked her up at the airport. Ironically, I had cleaned the entire house the day prior for no reason. “The Lord knew,” she said. This is also why I keep my guest room in a constant state of readiness. You never know who the Lord will send your way with a moment’s notice.

Phoebe looked the same, as if 12 years hadn’t slipped by, and we picked up right where we left off. We spent time at the beach, ate good food, sipped wine, and discussed her situation extensively. For 3 days I watched her oscillate between a confident Christian woman who was going to contact a divorce attorney to a puddle of sadness and despair, longing for her marriage to made whole again. I was glad to share my home with her, thankful that she was eating and sleeping – something she hadn’t done much of since the blow up.

An ending has yet to be written. But that dream though: all of us work in the same health care department, and I wonder if that shattered machine in the dream means what I think it does. So much prayer. So much.


Tale #2
The other morning I woke up to a group message from the old church I attended in college. They’re hosting a homecoming for the youth group – the whole lot of us were invited for a picnic. Everyone was replying – people I hadn’t thought about in years appeared on my phone – even Jacob and Hannah are attending. This ought to be interesting.

A private message from Ruth was there too – the reception is one week after we were suppose to go on one of our epic adventures – and we decided to table the adventure in favor of the meet-up. Over the years, we had mused about “getting the band back together” and what it would be like to do a reunion. And now, we have that chance. We’ve booked a hotel room and we are each other’s date for the “bring your family” event. She’s like a sister, so it works. My husband had a gig anyway.

I am ecstatic to be back in my college town, especially with Ruth, to walk down memory lane together, in addition to making new memories. My only concern is that John’s last post was in my college town and I could run into him, if he’s still there. We haven’t stayed in contact and I have no desire to change that status. Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again and hopefully making some new friendship connections with the old church crew.


These sort of things usually come in 3’s, so I’m a bit pensive of the next way the past will pop into my present.

Come what may.

A fissure in time seems unlikely.

Right?

 

Phoebe

Phoebe texted me out of the blue.

Seven years had passed since we last spoke – 1,000 miles and a lifetime between us. We drifted apart as life happened. We communicated through Christmas cards.

She wanted to catch up.

I met Phoebe at my first job out of college, in the barren wastelands of central Illinois. She was a new immigrant from Asia, and in the small red neck town I found myself in, she was the coolest one there. We would walk to house parties, taking pulls off of a flask of rum. We’d go dancing at the night club an hour away – dressed to kill – or grab drinks at the bar down the street. We’d swap boy stories, hang out, have lunch dates, and I learned a great deal about her culture and way of life back home. When we hung out with her crew, I was often the lone white girl, who was a full foot taller than everyone.

She worked second shift, I worked third shift with her then-boyfriend Alex, an American. Alex helped me learn my trade and I kept up with him for job references. When they got married, I was a bridesmaid.

We kept in touch after I moved to the coast for several years. Once the kids came along, we drifted apart. I got a phone call when she found out she was pregnant with her first. I learned of her second child on social media. I haven’t seen her since 2009 and never met her kids.

I was surprised to see her texting me after all this time, but my heart was happy. I missed Phoebe. We talked on the phone that night. She sounded good, she caught me up on all the local gossip, as she and Alex are still in the same town. We talked about the surface level things – fond memories, how “things were currently going well,” both of us still unsure of the other – I wasn’t ready to spill my heart of the past years with anxiety, infertility, and alcoholism. Maybe for another conversation. Her accent was as thick as ever, my ear no longer trained to it. It was never like that before.

We ended our conversation with her and the family possibly coming to visit in the fall.

A few days later, Phoebe texted, Can you talk thru text message?

Sure, I replied. This was bizarre, but okay.

All the pieces clicked in her next message.

I’m not in a good place. I’m leaving Alex. I can’t take it anymore. Can you help me restart my life? Maybe I can get a job by you?

What?

Long story short, Alex cheated on her several years ago and they got through it. The other woman recently waltzed back into town and Alex got a burner phone to communicate with her behind Phoebe’s back – despite his denials of contact. It was a mess that involved the cops at one point when their argument got out of hand over the situation.

I offered for her to come to my beach for a few days, get out of the situation to think clearly, and said several times to get professional help. Counseling in these situations is so important, whether they stayed together or not.

She began to price airfare and planned a long weekend visit in a few weeks.

And then I got this message:
Things are better. We talked it out and I’m leaving for a visit to Asia soon and I don’t have the money to fly to North Carolina right now. But thank you so much for listening and supporting me! I promise I will come down sometime this year!

I told her the invitation was open and that if she needed time to get away, I was here for her.

This was all several weeks ago.

I texted her today, to see how she was doing. Things had returned to normal – the other woman was gone and the harmonious matrimony continued.

I hope stays that way.

Writing Challenge Day 24: Something You Miss

My college roommate once said she could not fathom how anything mattered in her life until after her first child was born. Since I was only part of her pre-child life, I took offense. The part she so hastily discarded as rubbish is, and always has been, near and dear to my heart.

It was at State University that I learned how to live. On my own terms. That was a luxury I did not have in the house growing up.

And I miss that college life.

I miss the moments of self discovery, learning more about myself and how I interacted with the world.

I miss the reckless abandonment of cross country road trips, spending 2am in a diner, and sipping vodka cocktails on the apartment steps after a long week on a Friday night.

I miss the boys – friends and the ones who would wake up next to me in the morning – where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy with where life took them? Do they think of me as I do them?

I miss the relaxed schedule of classes, without the drone of a long workday, of which pivots everything else in my life.

I miss my sanctuaries of the coffee shop, the running trail, and the 18th story lounge of my old dorm that towered over the city. All of those places shaped me as a writer and provided a sounding board.

I miss the smell of the stage where I worked for slightly more than minimum wage. I can’t recall the scent I used to revel in; I’ve been away too long.

I miss having friends readily available. Now, I have to take in account distance, jobs, husbands, children – the list goes on. Gone are the days of hanging out randomly.

While I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was back in the day, I miss the person that was me. I miss the people my friends were before jobs, family, and life events changed them. I’m much more jaded now than I was – even though I’m childless and driving the same car I had in college. Even I haven’t escaped the sands of time.

While I lost my roommate to the abyss of motherhood and career, a college friend I occasionally hung out with – we ran in different circles – is now one of my closest confidants. She’s the one I call when the pain gets too much to bear. She knows all about the storms rocking my world, and I share in hers. I miss I didn’t make the most of our time when we lived a few moments away from each other; and now a 10+ hour drive separates us.

I’m perpetually stuck between what was and what is. I miss that old life so much, but I am thankful for where I am now, healthier in all aspects of life.

I just wish I could go back and visit once in awhile.

Number 35

I turned 35 today.  It kinda snuck up on me, this mid-thirties business.  I swear I’m still in my twenties, but my legal documentation, not to mention the fine lines under my eyes, say otherwise.

I started out the day with a grande pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (it’s free when it’s your birthday!) and a fancy donut from one of the local shops here.  I took my collective 1,000 calories and sat down on the beach.  The Atlantic was choppy and  I was glad I brought my jacket with me.  The sunbathing days are over for now.  Despite that, the sun was shining and I was in my happy place.  I talked with my mom and wrote in my journal – which had been neglected since last spring.  I took stock of my 34th year, and wrote down my hopes and dreams for the 35th year.

When I was 34….

  • I began writing a book detailing the 20+ years of genealogy stories and trees I have rolling around in my brain.
  • I applied for 3 jobs that are out of my area of expertise in hopes of a career change: thus far I’ve been rejected, and am now awaiting to see if #3 will hire me.
  • I learned how the mind of an addict works on the fly.
  • Roadtripped with my sister-in-law, niece, husband, friend from college, and myself.
  • I started a technical writing certification program.  It was time to put some energy into a passion.
  • I learned how to crochet and improved my craft.  I’ve come a long way from my drunk spider mode, but I still have so much to learn.
  • Discovered the lifestyle of contemplative prayer, and how it fits so well with my worship style.  It is so different from what mainstream American Christianity offers, it was like jumping in the ocean on the hottest day of year: so refreshing!
  • Began rock climbing again, and met some very cool people along the way.
  • I learned French (I started with nothing), where I can read simple things, but cannot actually impress anyone from France.
  • I kept up with my German studies through video, lessons, and reading the Bible.
  • I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls.
  • Rediscovered one of my favorite authors of all time, Alister MacLean.
  • I started this blog.

As for 35….

  • I want a new career.
  • I want to nail my capstone project for my technical writing certification.
  • I want my crochet projects to benefit the homeless and others in need.
  • I want to expand on the contemplative prayer lifestyle, connecting further with the Lord.
  • I want to travel out into the western part of the USA.
  • My husband and I have been contemplating an exit plan, perhaps moving away from the beach.  The current job situation went from bad to worse with him.
  • A European adventure is on the horizon:  every time I go to Europe, I am inspired to do something and I wonder what this trip will bring.
  • I want better control over my anxiety and lack of confidence.
  • I want to identify and express my emotions better.  I really sucked at that when I was 34.
  • I want to write my book, finish the stories, finish the trees, get an editor/manuscript.
  • I want to surf.
  • I want to open my home to friends, strangers, and those in need; even if my husband is upset at the idea.
  • I want to be a better wife by growing closer to my husband and reflecting the Lord.
  • While a family is not in the cards I was dealt, and my heart is so tender in that spot; that the Lord may fill it with what He so desires.

Forward

I just finished reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and now I understand what all the fuss was about.

And so, I’ve begun to put her methods to use around my house. I strive to be a minimalist, but I have such a tender heart towards things with sentimental attachment.

And this brought me to my underwear drawer: it was time to face my past.

Stuffed in the back of the drawer were the red satins. They are beautiful, from Victoria’s Secret: red satin pajamas pants with a button-up top as well as a red satin babydoll nightgown from the same collection. The pajamas are conservative enough to wear in front of extended family for breakfast; the nightgown is a different story.

Both were a Christmas gift from John after we began sleeping together. Our tryst had begun only a month before, and with his love language being gifts, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But it did. He loved the covered up look, hence the pajamas. I loved the revealing look, hence the babydoll nightgown. It spoke volumes to this writer’s heart: something for both of us to enjoy. I thought it was a bit extravagant for a friendship that had a sexual component, but I was still thrilled. I remember looking at him, thinking, “Is this more serious than I think it is?” I was the one who wanted a relationship; he was the one that always backed away.

This was all years ago, well before I had my toes firmly planted in sand at the beach. I’ve worn them only a few times since the days of John and I, but they were always there, in the back of my underwear drawer. They weren’t even folded nicely.

Using Marie’s guidelines, I need to let them go. It is part of my past and I have moved far beyond that girl that was messing around with John. Why am I keeping them? I lost touch with John, mostly on purpose; our friendship wasn’t one to bring into a marriage, as we never officially settled our past – if there even was something to settle – I never quite knew where “we” stood. I know where he lives, I know what he does for a living, and I know he has a serious girlfriend, and in all honestly, that’s all I want to know. As much as I’d love to meet up with him in a coffee shop and catch up on the last decade, I prefer him in the past. I don’t know the man he is now, as he doesn’t know the woman I am (….or was, I don’t believe he ever fully understood me back then).

But this stupid intimate wear is the last link I have to this deeply rooted amorous friendship. That’s what Marie made me realize. Perhaps that’s why I subconsciously never parted with it.

“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, you past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.” (Marie Kondo)

One thing is for sure: I have to get rid of the pajamas. They were for him, which brings a different connotation to it. Marie constantly asks in her book, “Does it bring you joy?”

It did. But now….not so much. Regret. Uncertainty. Vagueness. And they’re a size too big for my frame. Definitely not joy.

The nightgown still fits me perfectly and it’s beautiful, I feel so sexy in it! I will keep it. While John is nothing but a memory now, all that remains is an alluring piece of fabric. I am keeping it because I feel joy, it makes me feel good, not because it’s connected to John. I have another piece of clothing that was given to me; the way it makes me feel trumps the giver.

The purging and organizing continues. Here’s to moving forward into the future the Lord has set out for me. I am ready.  More than ready.

All that’s left is a band of gold

Last time I visited my childhood home, my mom set out several jewelry pieces from my grandmother she wanted me to have.  A simple gold wedding band was among them.  It appeared slightly weathered, but it fit my finger as though it was custom made for me.  There was an inscription inside: “RE to GA Dec 29 – 1910.”  I knew right away who it belonged to: RE was my great-grandfather, GA was my great-grandmother.

They were married on a Thursday, like me.  I don’t know how they met or what their relationship story was.  I have pictures of them with beautiful smiling faces, they look so happy together.  I have pictures of her with the ring.  It’s hard to make out, but I can see it.  This union produced one of my all-time favorite people: my grandmother.

If only that ring could speak!

I’m sure it’d tell me of the giddiness of January 1911, every time she glanced at her left hand: I’m married!  Women didn’t have many rights back then, marriage was a step-up for her.  Despite the typically scripted quiet and obedient wife of the time, my great-grandmother was kind, sweet, and quite the firecracker.  She was fierce as much as she was loving.

I wonder if the ring stayed on her finger during her pregnancies, or if the swelling became too much and it was left in the drawer.  I wonder too, what the ring would say to the arguments the neighbors undoubtedly heard: my great-grandfather was a drunk, especially during Prohibition (our family never was one for timing….).  When he was sober, he was a quiet, kind man.  When he was drunk, he would chase my great-grandmother around the kitchen table with a butcher knife, transforming into a monster.  I bet that ring felt awfully heavy in those moments.

It was common in such events, when he was drunk and violent, that my great-grandmother would lock herself and the three girls in the bedroom until he passed out.  Then they would board a streetcar and go to her mother’s house, even in the dead of a cold Detroit winter night.  I wonder if she absentmindedly fidgeted with the ring, as she stared off into space on the streetcar; fighting tears, trying to be strong for her girls, and figuring out her next move.  I wonder if she took off the ring for a time, carefully considering if she’d put it on again.

Nearly 17 years after the band of gold was placed on her left ring finger, she filed for divorce and it was granted.  She was kicked out of her church because of the divorce.  My great-grandmother took things into her own hands by working the assembly line at Dodge to provide for her daughters, despite the small alimony check; she was a welder.  The family lived with her widowed mother.

She had a handy man come to the house to do some odd jobs; they fell in love and married.  This man (my great-stepgrandfather!) was a WWI veteran and beautiful soul who was always smiling.  They stayed happily together until she died in the early 1960’s.

I wonder where the ring spent all those years.

And now it has come me.  I wear it on  my right hand.  It’s a perfect everyday ring, as I don’t have to worry about losing heirloom diamonds at work.  It’s sturdy, and in the quiet moments of work I find myself staring at the inscription.

The three girls from this marriage all died old women.  Their children are senior citizens.  These people are lost to time, only existing in stories and the random documents I’m able to unearth.

And all that remains is this ring of gold, to mark a family united and torn apart. It is a link of my ancestral past, which will always be near and dear to me.