Graduation

 

I told the kids come June they’d suffer for all those snow closings and delays this past winter. I also told them that when I was a kid we walked to school in snow. Piles and piles of it. Blizzards even. Barefoot. None of that was true. I did not walk in blizzards barefoot. There may have been slush, but not six foot drifts.

And they are not suffering. Not even close. Yes, school’s been extended into summer to make up for those days spent sledding. Mid-June, their days are spent in the classroom rather than in the backyard climbing trees. They don’t care. Friday I found out why. I’d been invited to an authors’ tea by the third grade. I had no idea what to expect. I asked if I should dress up, which got a laugh from my nine year old. Apparently not. I put my gloves back in the drawer. In the end there were no dainty tea cups or diminutive sandwiches anyway. The authors’ tea featured punch and cookies while the kids took turns reading books they’d written aloud. This is how we spent the morning. I stayed for lunch, which I ate surrounded by giggling girls doing one another’s hair. I saw the fifth grade teachers carrying out tubs of Italian ice for their class party. The rest of the school picnicked under trees with their parents. I passed out chocolate bars to the girls and we went to the playground. They are not suffering. This is one long party. I’m glad.

Flash back to Thursday night’s fifth grade graduation. Belatedly my fifth grader remembered there was a dress code. (Boys!) Everyone scrambled to change into something nicer or even just cleaner and I phoned a friend for advice. Two of her children had already been down this road and a third would give the official welcome that night. The welcomer answered with a “hey”. I asked what he was wearing, thinking to make a joke about it, but he surprised me with “a blazer”. A what? A sport coat? “Mom got me a flower to go on it.” A boutonniere??  I was seriously underdressed. My daughter, who knows everything about everyone, informed me then that a certain fifth grade girl (she of the sun-gold hair and pink sweaters – ah, poetic puberty) had gotten flowers and that all of the graduates were getting gifts. This is fifth grade! We didn’t have grand graduation ceremonies in fifth grade and we certainly didn’t get gifts. We got beat if we DIDN’T graduate to the sixth grade, that’s what we got! I considered telling my children this, then thought better of it. My humor is sometimes lost on them.

Instead I rummaged through my son’s room. He’s allergic to nice clothes, but I knew he had some. If you’ve ever broken an arm you know what I’m saying here: Everyone needs at least one button down shirt. This boy has broken his arm twice. I knew those shirts were in there. I came out waving a pale green dress shirt and matching tie triumphantly. He crossed his arms and set his jaw. Wrestling him to the floor and forcing him into the shirt was a momentary possibility, but I’d spent too much time doing my hair. We compromised. A short sleeve shirt – tucked in. Black trousers – with sneakers. I added a belt, he refused socks. It was a really nice belt though. Worth the loss of the socks. At the last second the phone rang. Could we bring an extra shirt with us? I guessed it was for some underdressed child and we’d never see it again. My son eyed the green shirt and tie. He’s generous.

And then we were sitting in the auditorium. There were speeches and award presentations. They went on forever. Yes, my friends’ children and even my own son gave speeches and were presented awards. You know what I mean though. It went on f o r e v e r.  At the end was a slide show the teachers had put together. A baby picture would appear on the screen, then a photo of a chubby toddler, a toothless grinning six year old, and finally a current picture along with the student’s name. The graduates loved it. As soon as they could guess, they shouted out the names to go with the faces. “Phil!” “Kimmie!” “Tommy!” I had tears welling up long before the image of my sweet little six month old boy in red overalls appeared. I was reminded that this whole production, which I’d thought overkill on a grand scale, was for them. They deserved it. And it would not go on forever. It would go on for a few moments of my life and then they’d be gone. The baby in red overalls became a toddler in nothing but a diaper and cowboy boots riding a stick horse, then a blonde boy rolled on the ground laughing with a big yellow dog and I couldn’t tell them apart by sight or smell. There were turtles and toads in buckets on my back step and pockets filled with marbles and rocks and BBs. He’s discovered where the lost teeth he put under his pillow went. He plays chess. He questions my logic. It won’t go on forever.

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Twilight

 

I could still feel warmth where his skin touched mine. The moisture of his lips was on my throat and the silken bristles of his hair brushed over my face as he drew his mouth down. The smell of him lingered in my nostrils. It was not like flowers.

I wanted him to bite me. Instead he pulled his head up and looked at me curiously. No question came, but I knew he was trying to understand. Trying to see what had brought me to this place. He looked like a cat with his head slightly cocked, as though listening for the words I couldn’t dare to utter. He was beautiful. Eyes aglitter, cunning written plainly on his face. Then the cat became a tiger.

“Get up.” The dream memory broke off and I opened my eyes. The tiger was alive and pacing. “Get up. NOW.” I scrambled to the other side of the wide bed, finally afraid. Two thoughts clicked into place simultaneously:

This is what he’d warned me of. He’d been watching me sleep.

And there was no hope for me. No escape. I was alone with this beautiful man and this ravenous beast and the danger was of my own design. He’d tried to tell me but, headstrong and foolish, I didn’t believe. And now, when I believed it to the very core of my being, there was no escape. Not that I’d have wanted one anyway.

Yeah, I just made that up. I am such a girl. We’ll come back to that. First, be warned: This is going to be another sloppy nonreview that tells you nothing of character, setting, or plot (There was a plot?) beyond the next sentence, which you may hate me for. This book is not well written. It’s just not. Meyer’s a storyteller but this is not great literature. The typos I grumbled about while reading? I wasn’t complaining so much about the typos themselves – okay, I kind of was – but what really bothered me was the type of typos. It’s clear someone has actually done some editing, but to improve the writing rather than to add a dropped period or correct a misspelling. It didn’t help.

And yet I enjoyed the book. I am such a girl. This is, I am convinced, where Meyer has struck the mother lode. Edward is handsome. Beautiful even. A marble statue of masculine beauty. I hesitate to say hot because the fact is he’s not. He’s cold to the touch, which makes him all the more attractive because he’s a challenge. Untouchable, so obviously all I can think of is touching him. Did I mention he’s handsome? And he likes me. Me! He spends pages and pages and pages fighting down his attraction to me but I’m so sweet smelling, so delicious, so special, he just can’t. I’m his own brand of heroin. More dreaminess: Edward’s beauteous and smart. Brains are sexy. Can I get an ‘Amen’? But so is brawn and Edward’s as agile and athletically gifted as he is beautiful. Did I already say he’s beautiful? Sorry. It’s just that he’s sooo beautiful. And rich. And he likes me. Me! And he’s bad. But he’s good. He’s struggling against his bad side because he’s so good and he likes me. Me! I must really be special.

And there it is. Special. We girls like to be made to feel special. Like we’re the only one. The only one whose mind he can’t read and the only one whose mind he wants to read. The only girl he could spend all day talking to and still want to spend tomorrow with. The only girl he’s ever kissed. I’m so extraordinarily special that he’s fighting his very nature for me. Never forget Edward is a vampire. He’s dangerous. And he likes me so much he’d like to feast on me. But I’m (almost, maybe, not quite) safe because he’ll protect me from himself. “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb. What a stupid lamb. What a sick, masochistic lion.”   Aww… He loves me…

* sigh *

Anyway. Points given for bringing my teenage daydreams to life. Points taken away for making my hero a vampire. Points given for writing a long book. Points taken for filling several pages of it with a girl googling and sending emails to her mother. Points given for not including sex in my teenage vampire love story. Points taken away for not including sex in my adult vampire love story. Points given for creativity. (Vampires sparkle in the sunlight??) Points taken for trying to undo hundreds of years worth of vampire lore in a mere 480 pages. (Several of which have been wasted on google searches for “vampire”.) What does that tally up to? I’d say three stars and two fang marks. Cause I really wanted him to bite.

 

Note: Star ratings are based on an out of five. That’s five stars possible. Got it? Good.

Heal Thyself

 

Dr Gray leaned back in his chair, rubbing his nose meditatively. Then he spoke, eyes still closed so I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or himself. I always get the feeling he’s more of a philosopher than a physician and that in itself makes me feel better. In college we had a Philosopher in Residence. Every now and then I wandered down the hill and up long, narrow, switchback stairs to visit. It was like climbing the Sacred Way to consult the Oracle. At the top was a small, dark landing and a door. That’s all. I drew myself up to knock and the door opened onto a sanctuary. Sun poured in from long windows and stacks of books rose up everywhere like the vapors of Apollo himself.

There are no stacks of books in Dr Gray’s small office, but there are paintings. His wife is an artist, which is how we met. So we talk a lot about her and a lot about art and a little about my physical health. This suits me fine. As he walks me out I realize there is a life-size marble bust of Julius Caesar there in the hallway. He’s sitting on a faux woodgrain laminate desk as if the waiting room were too plebeian for him. Obviously the doctor would see him immediately. He’d wait right here. If it were a smaller sculpture I could imagine someone walked through and said: I’ll just set this down here a minute. But this is Caesar, large as life and ten times as heavy. He demands homage.

Dr Gray sighs. “That belongs to Dr Billons. I think he wants to put it on ebay.” Dr Billons, who I’ve never met, has been brought into the practice as a relief pitcher. I imagine him young and brash and wearing rubber gloves. He’s very clinical, probably diagnoses patients with his eyes open. This is his? Suddenly I don’t want to pull his name off the door. I want him to assess my lymph nodes speaking Latin. I picture him reading Catullus to the matronly receptionist between patients. “I entreat you, my sweet Ipsitilla, my darling, my charmer, bid me to come and rest at noonday with you…”  as she photocopies and files prescriptions for antibiotics and diuretics.

“You want it?” Dr Gray asks. Yes. YES.

No. Well, yes. But no, not really. What I really want is to have it at my doctor’s office. Julius Caesar wearing a bronzed breastplate and set on a chipped laminate desktop amid oil paintings of the doctor’s garden, his boat, his cat even. I want my doctor to know I was once 18 with a ridiculous crush on a colorblind painter and that I cut the tip of my finger off with a paper cutter trying to impress him. I want him to ask how many kids my sister has now and what I’ve been reading. I want to hear the funny story about his vasectomy and to have his home number in case I need it. I want there to be a huge marble bust of a Roman dictator sitting in his office for no particular reason. I want him to be a real live human being and to know that I am.

Isn’t that what we all want?

So I left Dr Gray the way I used to leave the oracle at the top of the stairs; no clear answers but lighter in spirit, with much discussed and more to think about.