One of the things you always used to say to me was that I had to learn to appreciate “being ordinary in an extraordinary world.” It has taken me a long time to get that down. Hell, I’m not sure I actually DO have it down.
Sometimes the “ordinary world” in these parts is pretty scary. I can’t walk in a convenience store around here without having to listen to some guy with his buttcrack climbing out of his low-riding shorts cussing at his baby momma on the phone while he buys his Slim Jims and cigs. Our “ordinary” in this neighborhood feels like a Jerry Springer casting call sometimes.
But here is where I am, and since it isn’t really feasible for me to go anywhere else anytime soon, I am really trying to find the beauty and the happiness in each and every day. In the past, I’d share all those things with you. If you weren’t experiencing them with me, I’d be texting you or talking about them with you on our “beer nights.”
There’s no reason I can’t still tell you about them, though. So here’s our happy hour conversation. It is morning, so I’m having coffee instead of a beer. The funny thing about that is we NEVER talked over coffee. Your rule was that no one should talk to you until you’d had your java. If I spent the night or we were on a trip, we’d have our coffee together in the morning, each staring off into space and collecting our thoughts before starting the day. Even though we’re both grumpy morning people, it was a companionable silence.
You don’t need your java to get the gears turning anymore, so I get to break the rules and chatter to you in a letter. So here’s what’s been going on that doesn’t suck:
1. I have watermelons growing in my garden! All our gardening successes make me think of you. We’ve had two eggplants, a ton of tomatoes and a few peppers so far, too. But the watermelon is a new thing. Lee threw some random seeds in our “leftover” garden space to see what took. I hope they stay healthy. Last year was our Great Pumpkin Experiment. I got so excited when the pumpkin vines started flowering, but they stubbornly refused to turn into Jack-O-Lantern material. I sure had fun trying, though, and talking about them with you.
2. Coors Light Summer Brew. I only discovered it because Lee and I stopped at Deb’s over her birthday weekend and I had one poolside. It tastes like the perfect summer day – warm sunshine and blue skies without our usual scratchy wool blanket of humidity. It has become my thing when I want poolside drinks, and I’m pretty sure you would have loved it too.
3. I got to see Sherry and her family last weekend. I have a tiny handful of friends who have been part of my life so long we had to sneak into bars together, and she is one of them. She’s a year older than me, and I laugh when I think about how we had to sneak me into the Fell’s Point pubs on her 21st birthday because she didn’t want to celebrate without me.
I remember the minute rice, too. Do you? Dad still does. When I told him I was seeing Sherry he brought it up. She came over after school one day when she was a senior and I was a junior. We were hungry, and rummaged in our cupboards and found the minute rice. Dad wandered into the kitchen a while later, to find us standing side-by-side at the stove reading and re-reading the directions and staring at our pot of water like two novice witches casting their first spell. He was flabbergasted that two college-bound girls who spent their days in the “smart kid” classes at school could be so confused over the directions on a box.
As you know, I never became domestic. I’d probably still stare at a box of minute rice with a “duh” look on my face. In my forties now, I have a small handful of things I whip up in the kitchen, and reserve the rest of my creativity for words. If I lived alone, I’d probably subsist on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pickles. But Sherry is a different story. She’s a wife and the mother of two beautiful children. I spent the day with her family at the harbor, having brunch and reminiscing about old times.
Sherry and I can go years without talking much or seeing one another, but our friendship just clicks into place like we never missed a beat. There are a handful of people in your life that are there forever, even if your fates take you down very different roads. Like you, I was never much of a phone person and always “mean to” call but don’t. Facebook saved my introverted ass in terms of keeping up with friends because I can do it all in one fell swoop. But those who are meant to be among your besties for life just are, even if they move to Florida and become mommas while you stay in Maryland and continue to live the life of a grown woman who seems to get herself confused with a twenty-something bachelor when it comes to the whole grown-up thing.
4. This coming weekend, I’m taking a little road trip to Aunt Dorothy’s with Shannon and Deb. Chrissy is heading down too, and so are Aunt Cin and Laura and Katie.
I have to admit this one is going to be bittersweet. When Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Larry retired at the beach, visiting them became “our thing.” I would have no more thought about going to their house without you than I’d consider going to work naked. You and Aunt Dorothy aren’t just sisters, but true best friends. Her house was your escape from reality. Sometimes we’d go down with the intentions of hitting the beach and the shops and going out to restaurants, and once we got there spend most of our time just hanging out on her porch drinking wine and talking . That porch was one of your happy places, and sitting there with you and Aunt Dorothy and listening to your childhood stories became my happy place too.
I see so much of you in Aunt Dorothy, like I see you in Jamie and Jordyn and myself. We all reflect different aspects of you. When she and I were talking on the phone a few weeks ago, a hummingbird came to her feeder, and we figured it was you saying hello.
It will be strange being there without you. But I think it will also be healing to be surrounded by so many people who loved you – your sisters and nieces and brother-in-law and dear friends, in one of your favorite places. I will bring along some wine and we’ll toast to you.
Love you Mom. Like a Dog.