Shindig

I am hosting the greatest dinner party of all time.  It’s a good thing I live in a sprawling home with a gourmet kitchen.  Ahem.  I encourage you all to invite a few of your most favorite favorites of all time, no limit on numbers.

I begin with my very own list:

1.  Freddie Mercury

2.  Dorothy Parker

3. Johnny Cash

4. Carrie-Anne Frances White Thayer

5.  Harper Lee

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So.  Which people are you going to add to the list, friends?  Need some guidelines to help you get started?  Begrudgingly, here you go:

1.  Guests can be alive or dead, I don’t care either way.  And I guess they can be real or completely created in literature or film (or your own pretty little head, if you’re so inclined.)  Go ahead and invite Jay Gatsby if you’re looking for that kind of gibe, just be aware his liver is completely fictional, and we should probably consider quadrupling the size of the bar.

2.  I do insist that you not choose any family members to be on your list,  that’s too obvious.

3.  And you can’t choose people who might set the world on fire. Again. –Lizzie Borden.  Sid, Nancy.  Bonnie, Clyde.  Al Capone.  Stay away from the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer.  Don’t be gross.

4.  Make it the most raucous, rip roaring dinner party in the history of the world – in the absolute best possible way. Let the room be full of the greatness that has come before, or is unfolding now.  Let it be bigger than you, so you can – do what?-  bite out a piece of their soul and sew it into your skin, bring them to life in a new and vibrant way.  With words, of course; use your words, people.  I said no cannibalism.

5.  Be smart.  Don’t put people who would have hated each other together at the table.  No one wants this brilliant moment destroyed by flying steak knives. Feel free to invite Steven Spielberg.  If you do, keep Hitler deep underground.  Should you choose Crazy Horse to join the foray, ixnay the invitationway for General George Custer.  You catch my drift?  We don’t want a scene here on Cedar Street.  We don’t want to catch the attention of the neighbors.

6.  Let us also all agree, if you don’t mind:  Jesus (or Buddha,  Brahma, Allah), Elvis, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and John Wayne have a standing invitation.  As in:  they need no invitation at all.  They’re the reasons the rooms are clean and made up fresh and they can stay as long as they wish.

7.  Lastly, don’t worry if we run into repeats.  Create your list and send it off.  I’ll create a massive list at the end.  I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

 

 

 

 

Coo Coo Cachoo

Date night used to exist at our house, and recently it hasn’t, and the topic just isn’t worth the 7 paragraph explanation I wrote and then deleted.  In essence:  we used to need it, then we didn’t.  Now we do again.

It’s been a particularly difficult winter, even by Maine standards. One of those that brings with it too much gray, too much of a feeling of being trapped, too dismal, interminably internal-organ-freezing cold. You can venture out, but you feel you’re fighting, even with your parka to your ankles and your hat down past your earlobes, to breathe.  It began to hold us under.  And I can’t speak for you, but I’m going to go ahead and do so when I say:  that is not good for anyone.  Anyone at all.

In February we took a night for ourselves, as a couple and not as parents, necessarily, to spend some time together actively making sure we still know who the other is, in what might be the worst winter of our marriage.  These years are busy and these days even busier than that, and we felt it might do us some good to sit in the same boat, inciting spring to arrive, and row in the same direction, see how our synchronicity still fares.

It used to be that date night was a hurried affair, with frequent checks that the babysitter hadn’t, in fact, called during the eight seconds it took to gulp down a chicken wing.  It came with a lot of reminders that we had veered off into discussion about our children, when the first rule of date night was: don’t talk about the children.  We were tense, because there were little people at home who were certainly terrified, not knowing where we were or when we might return, who felt abandoned and who had curled up into little tiny balls into corners of the playroom, rocking and swaying to soothe themselves.  This fact, of course, was disproven every single Tuesday upon our return, when one or another of them would yell “why are you HOME?!” as feathers from the pillow fight they’d been having careened around, landing ever-so-softly in my hair.

Our first date night in 7 years brought with it an ice storm significant enough to cancel school.  Determined, and with a reservation, dammit, we went out anyway.  The minivan couldn’t hold itself in the first parking space we tried, too steep of a hill on an eighth inch of ice, so it slid itself into another, where we were grateful no one else had already parked.  It rested peacefully enough for us to shrug and consider it safe.  We had to hold hands and lean on each other as we made our way to the front door of the inn, shuffling like elderly people must, to keep our footing.  “Are you going to take care of me like this when I’m 85?” I asked Guy.  “Nope,” he said with no hesitation.  “Well, why NOT?!” I demanded.  “Because I’ll be 90!” he laughed.

I ordered a martini, something made special for Valentine’s Day.  Something with basil, I think.  Or cucumber.  Something very spring-like and in complete juxtaposition to the falling sleet clinking at the window.  White lights still illuminated the trees outside the inn, from the holidays, and through the watery panes, cast a lovely soft shine on us.  We ate several wonderful nibblets of seven different courses for our meal, including something Asian-inspired, to begin, which got us talking about our year in Korea, a time that in some ways feels lost, like a word you can’t quite bring to your tongue.  Life pulls us forward, incessantly, and there is little time for reflection, even of that incredible experience and of the year that changed us so.

There was a salad, a bisque, a risotto, a cut of filet mignon with accompanying brussels sprouts and also, once in awhile, sorbet.   As morsel upon morsel arrived from the kitchen, our conversation deepened, lengthened – maybe the longest one we’d had since fall (since before coaching basketball had begun), wherein we had nowhere else to be, and no one else needing our attention.  I’ll state the obvious; this is good for a marriage, and I, for one, had forgotten how lovely it feels to have someone not just listening to the way you see things, but who, whether they agree with you or they do not, is on your side.  Rounding out the dinner was a chocolate souffle into which our waitperson poured luscious chocolate fudge sauce, which, if you have to end things, is a good way to do it.

Picture, if you will, a walrus who has gone and gotten himself stuck up to his armpits in, say, snow, since that works here.  See that walrus faloomph itself, somehow, maybe inchworm-style, maybe baby sea turtle-style, out of that snow.  Free at last.   Watch the walrus when it lands on the ice which inevitably surrounds all that snow. Picture how, with it’s gigantic walrus belly leading the way, it gives up the farcical belief in having any control whatsoever over the weather, particularly this ice and this snow we’ve been facing, and just lets go, with a wooohooo!, putting its head back, closing its eyes, and riding the slick carnival slide down the icy hills of life.  It is then that you will have some semblance of an understanding of — not only how full we were upon leaving our dinner, which was uh, to the gills– but of why date night must exist, and will it continue to, for another while.

 

 

 

 

 

Six of One

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Dear Universe,

I should probably tell you, since you seem so intent on hanging around: I have accepted my invitation to attend graduate school at Stonecoast, through USM. This was not without strife, both emotional and logistical.  Thanks for that.

What is it with you?  Every time I am standing on the precipice of a major life change, you send what I have come to call straight up horrible signs I can’t decipher.  It’s an old Latin term. It means I ask you for guidance and you send neon signs both for and against whatever is on my mind.  Case in point:  remember when we were getting ready to move our entire lives to Korea and I asked you for a sign?  All seemed right with our tickets, contracts, house rental…  But then, our Visas didn’t show up, and Garrett broke his pelvis and cancer showed up uninvited to our neighborhood’s party, and you stood on the tallest mountain in my land and laughed? Well, I remember, Universe, and I still feel the sting.

It doesn’t fail.  It’s as if you’re testing me:  when everything goes wrong at once, how’s she going to handle it?  You can’t just send a clear cut yes or no, pro or con, stay or go?  Would that be so difficult, Universe?  It really doesn’t seem that hard.  Maybe I could get fired? Perhaps Stonecoast could go bankrupt?  How about, I know, how about I just win that lottery?  The one with the $1,000 a day for life jackpot? That would make things pretty clear cut.  Instead, you offer all sorts of dandy choices and go hey there, whatcha gonna do now, little feller? 

Let me be clear:  I don’t really like this strategy of yours… making everything a six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other situation.

Hey.  What a second.  Was that “tastes great/less filling” pitch yours, too?

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Here’s the thing: you know I have to work full time while I attend school, and yet, (let the horrible signs I can’t decipher commence!) my workload, as I found out last week, is increasing by 2/3 next fall (2/3! Teacher friends of mine are you listening?!), as both my class load and student numbers increase. That’s some divine timing, right there.   Never mind that I TOOK this job in the first damn place because of the manageable workload. Remember THAT, Universe?  Well… yes, big guy, that was actually pretty nice of you.  I should have said thanks more loudly and boldly.  That was a great thing you did there, and it’s been a nice two years. Maybe you’ve been waiting all this time for a bigger ‘thank you?’  Maybe, contrary to popular belief, you do hold a grudge.

This new job workload at my job?  It’s going to mean, sir, far, far less time for writing.  Or, more pointedly, far, far more opportunity to put my time management skills to use.  You know darn well there will always be a baseball game I should be attending, or an art class someone needs a ride to, a band concert I’m late for, or a casserole turning to mush in the oven.  And by the time I realize it, I … I will have already paid my tuition, and there will be no turning back.

Or, maybe all this trepidation just makes you laugh.  After all, there’s rarely been a time I didn’t weigh all the options and then dive in head first.  You know it and I know it.  Hell, everyone who knows me knows it.  It’s some rocky, shallow water sometimes, but no head injuries yet.  Maybe you just enjoy making me think I have a choice in the matter, when really, my heart is screaming to go back to school and make that dream come true.  It’s never mattered before what you throw in my path, we all know I’m just going to keep on moving.

That makes me wonder:  is that why I’m waking up in the middle of the night with these song lyrics in my head, night after night?

There’s a stranger in a car
Driving down your street
Acts like he knows who you are
Slaps his hand on the empty seat and says

“Are you gonna get in
Or are you gonna stay out?”
Just a stranger in a car
Might be the one they told you about

Well, you never were one for cautiousness
You open the door
He gives you a tender kiss
And you can’t even hear them no more

All the voices of choices
Now only one road remains
And strangers in a car
Two hearts, two souls, tonight, two lanes

You don’t know where you’re goin’
You don’t know what you’re doin’
Hell, it might be the highway to Heaven
And it might be the road to ruin

But this is a song
For strangers in a car
Baby, maybe that’s all
We really are…

Strangers in a car

—Marc Cohn

Could it be that “all the voices of choices” aren’t mean to trip me up at all, but to do their due diligence, and nothing more?  Universe?

In that case, welcome, stranger.

In love and trust,

Vicki

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Life begins where the blacktop ends. I can’t wait to see what’s beyond that horizon.

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