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The Raccoon Tail –

This is what it means to travel in the family you grew up in.  Family reunions where they are thrilled to see you but nobody brought anything to DO, trips that take a long time in the car but you have a lot of books.  There is always a pool, you realize later that had a lot to do with you.  Sometimes you and your dad go swimming without mom.  It is just what it means to travel in your family.

The Places They Have Never Seen –

Somebody in your family picks you up so you can go away and try to put down parts of yourself.  You pretend to know about Warren Zevon and Jethro Tull until you actually did know about them.  Learning about walking out a hotel by yourself and still managing to get back.  Coming home and telling your parents about a place they’ve never seen before.

I’ll take one ticket (or two) –

You’re doing it for real now.  Traveling.  With your own money, taking time off of your own job, making the plans, and learning your airport.   Vegas because you’re supposed to, Barbados because it is fun to say,  Savannah because of the book, because it is warm, and you might want to live there some day.  Panic hits in Savannah, it was too soon to go away, and the rescue comes at the airport in the middle of the night when your night-owl best friend arrives with cigarettes and enough room for you and your suitcase.

Come on, it’ll be fun –

It is a weekend, or a week, or a month.  You make sure there is a pool, and maybe a park too.  It is more than one suitcase and more than one ticket but you have company that makes you laugh and is brave enough to mention that you should eat instead of just hissing at them.  He naps in the backseat, and you mourn the loss of map reading while your phone helps you navigate.  It just what it means to travel in your family.

The Well Worn Seat –

Some random day that you didn’t even notice pass was the day that traveling was done.  I mean, you *could* with some help – but with all the gear, and how easy you get tired, or cold, or sore it wouldn’t be worth it.  It might have been London you missed out on – but they never even knew to miss you.  A ride north a few hours in the fall maybe, see the colors and stay the night.  Maybe, but the leaves will change color here too so maybe you’ll just wait.

All of this because I got off the phone with my mom, thought of a raccoon tail tied to the back of a bike, and thought of Jeff.  I’m feeling deeply sentimental about all the parts of my life today.

Equal Parts Sugar & Sour Cream.
Enough vanilla
(optional) Caramel drizzle

Stir in first three ingredients, add fruit.
Use caramel to drizzle until you realize that you’ve covered sweet fruit with sugar syrup and then covered again with carmel (so, add caramel until you are 27 years old then get a damn grip already).
Bring wherever it needs to go.
Serve yourself first because once people get brave enough to taste it they will eat all of it.

One summer my Aunt Violet made grapes covered in this heavenly stuff. She served herself first (per directions) and it took me awhile to try it. I cannot remember how old I was but I know that my mom’s cooking was the vast majority of what I knew, and that mom was still my driver all the time.

Ever summer after that my mom and I would look at each other and decide it was time for Aunt Vi’s grapes. However they were made, with equal parts? Or was it 2:1? Sour cream (that doesn’t seem right) or cream cheese? We spun around in circles and wished that somebody would go ahead and develop the internet already because we needed grapes covered twice over in sugar!!!!!!!

We’d call Vi, she’s have to think about it. By the fourth year it was a joke but we still never remembered (there was no internet and apparently no paper or pens either). Finally, it started to sink in.

Jeff & I made two batches today, one for my grapes and one for his apples. We joked about how equal parts could be as much as a truck of each (so long as you had a pool to pour it into and you’d pre-planned a way to stir it). I thought of Vi and her daughter, and I wondered how her daughter is now that it has been months since Vi died. If I would tell her I wrote this with a heavy, wistful heart for those days where Vi’s cooking was a revolution for me.

The internet has taught me that Aunt Vi’s grapes are a pretty standard fruit dressing, but I’m here to set the record straight. I don’t know who made it first, I don’t know how your family got a hold of it, I’m sure it isn’t quite as good as Vi’s, and forever more when Jeff needs to know how to make it he can look on the internet for Aunt Vi’s Grapes.

A continuation from yesterday.

(a) – I talk about how my dad is preparing for cancer treatment, and he is old, and sick, and what I wish for him no clinician, or healer, or mystic, or madman can give him.

My dad was 42 when I was born, and I have spent my entire life afraid of the fact that (in that time) (in comparison to my mom) he was old. I remember clearly the first time at McDs when someone asked me if I was having a day out with grandpa. I never trusted that he would be alive when I got married.

All of that was balanced out over time with the fact that he was older but made of awesome, strong, kickass-ness. He smoked (clearly bad), but he wielded a chainsaw at 75, he drove my belongings all over hell and gone when I needed him to, he has incredibly comforting shoulders.

A decade ago he had a bout of lung cancer. He had surgery and rebounded wonderfully. About 3 years ago a series of medical stumblings began and they just have never really consistently let up. His age has caught him, and it sucks. He has a new cancer now, docs are going to see if they can make him glow in the dark.

What I wish for him. I’d like for him to have one safe corner where he can talk about whatever he is thinking about these days. He tells people things, but the great protector in him isn’t interested in standing down – so he keeps other parts hidden away. It is his prerogative, clearly, but the idea of a confessional, or postsecret or something that was 100% safe just seems nice.

I’d wish for him a clarity that modern medicine just doesn’t offer. He’s going into treatment soon, and it shouldn’t be “too bad” – because he is doing it I would like it to work as advertised, so that he can get back to … whatever comes next.

I’d wish for him a content heart, and I think it mainly is.

(b) I talk about how a lot of my widowhood is non-standard, and still I wonder if I get to write on my own blog about my dead husband because (damn girl) it has been 12 years. If my widowhood was a baby it would have gotten a damn phone of it’s own for Christmas.

My widowhood is non-standard. I was 28 & we didn’t have kids. It is non-standard in the most noticeable way because I have a great relationship with his family who love me and my husband and son the way they do. I’m grateful for that it a way that defies measure.

Still, I am a young widow who has continued to have a good life, is loved and loves back, and is generally an in-the-moment kind of person (ish. Most of the time. At least I try). So when these days roll around, I can’t help but think of the things & people I have lost since then. The things that he missed (iPhones, Call of Duty, etc…), and the strange ways the world plays out. Over 12 years you end up with a lot of Alternate Universe scenarios.

Most of the people I see routinely only know John through stories, because I moved after he died and created a new life. I’m fortunate to know people who have been through similar stories, and that is infinitely comforting (as much as it is heartbreaking because we really LOVED these people who are dead now). Still, after 12 years, it seems like it is something to be witnessed privately, because we leave so little room for the memorializing of those who are dead. We don’t have a Day of the Dead, and that is a real loss. There isn’t a person I know that couldn’t use one.

(c) I look at the sparkling number of 150 posts, and feel proud of that, and move on to tomorrow to see what it has in store.

Heh. 150 posts, for the number of times I’ve staked out a corner of the internet, I think that is the longest I’ve kept one blog going. Hee hee.

I’m about 35% sick right now, so the early parts of today have been pretty low key, and I’ve started reading a book. A physical, FICTION book!!! Harry Potter, because I’ve never read it. Maybe if I get through all of these I’ll take on Tolkien who I have also never read. Or not. Shouldn’t get too ahead of myself.

Happy Sunday all. For those of you who commented or reached out to me personally. Thank you, I felt comforted and surrounded by good company.

Dancing Chinese Dragons and chocolate dumplings at the local science museum were the order of the day.
On a beautiful fall day in October the three of us went on an adventure and for the first time in years I didn’t take any pictures. Not of the shocking blueness of my son’s eyes, or the drummer’s concentration as he played for the dragon. I skipped taking a picture of the biggest (meanest) looking owl I have ever seen.

The people who shout about parents putting down the phone, and free range parenting proponents, and all of them just frustrate me in all kinds of ways.

I am not actually a parenting methodology, neither is my husband. We are actual people with an actual child.
Some days, as a family, we swirl around each other in engaged and cheerful bliss.

Some days we’re lucky we each don’t disown the other two.

Some are hard and all we are really interested in is thinking our own thoughts without anybody talking to us.

Some days there is just too much on the to-do list to think a lot about meeting emotional needs. As Maslow points out, if your pantry is bare then it doesn’t really matter how many art supplies and google eyes you have. The same holds true for clean socks by Sunday night.

So we went, and sometimes we held hands in varying combinations. Each, in turn, put our face towards the sun. We had a day that had different things in it. Not “enrichment”, not “a well-prepared learning environment” (although it was), just a day with a mom & dad & kid where we looked at stuff, and talked about other stuff and tried with determination to spell dragon.

It isn’t a methodology, or training, it is just three lives lived in close proximity and with great affection.

Bodies are awesome and very cool.

Now – before you say, “Yes, bodies as an idea are awesomecakes but my PERSONAL body is … eh” or worse … let me tell you that midwestern / midwinter is the perfect time to remember that bodies are REAL and STRANGE and AWESOME.

Babies is swim diapers, 5 year olds with suits riding in all the wrong places, teenagers getting their swagger, the 22-48 year old parents of kids who are 4 years-old, grandmas with toes that do that grandma toe thing.  We have all got bodies that are perfect for playing at the indoor swimming water extravaganza that is the Wisconsin Dells Wilderness Territory (for my southern friends  perhaps the best way to describe it is as the love child of Pigeon Forge + Chattanooga).

People are covered in tattoos that are precious no matter what they look like, dimples and hair that nobody predicted when they were 20, and smiles all around.  Smiling at each other.  Smiling at their kids, smiling at their parents.  Smiling at strangers as they pass by.  Eating dishes of ice cream as big as their head, everybody smiling because there is the chance that spring will come again.

Bodies are built to move and splash and walk surprising long distances while still in a hotel.  It was great.  Bodies are awesome.  Yours is.  Don’t forget that, bring your body into the springtime sun and feel the warmth of having made it through another winter.