Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Fourteen Years.

The memory is fuzzy now, a mixture of images and emotions, pauses because I really have to think. Fourteen years. I got off work at Osh Kosh B’Gosh in the outlet mall and you were waiting on the curb with your best friend and this beautiful girl from your apartment complex. It was hot and I was giddy because I knew you had waited hours for my shift to end, your cute face appearing inside the store when there were still hours left.

The three of you followed me home in your 80’s five liter Mustang with the leaky T-tops. My dad was just getting off work in his business suit and you were forced to shake his hand in the garage. I grimaced for you. It had to be a strong handshake, your death trap of a car parked out front and that smile on your face.

We decided to drive to a party at a childhood friend’s house. You rode with me in my Mazda 626 that kept on dying when I tried to get anywhere outside of Folsom, more than 200,000 miles on the odometer. Somehow, that night, it made it. You braced yourself each time I braked. We laughed anxiously. Your friends followed in the Mustang.

The party was tame by teenage standards, if anyone drank we had nothing to do with it. Instead we talked and talked until our faces were so close together that I wondered if you always talked to girls so close and then I thought it would be less awkward if I just kissed you. Later you claimed it was your plan all along for me to make the final move. It was the sweetest, gentlest kiss of my sixteen years. I knew you were different than the other boys.

You had to leave early, but at my best friend’s house we talked on the phone, a call filled with long silences and shy laughter. We decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Fourteen years later I am sitting in bed with our daughter scribbling these thoughts into a journal with just a nightlight. Like usual, it is 4AM and everyone else is asleep. I am at my mom’s and you are home, but with our sleeping child warm against my leg, I feel like you are here.

She is the most beautiful part of us but I am also glad we had those nearly fourteen years alone together first. High school dances, endless summer nights, college weekends in Davis, trips to Europe, our Berkeley apartment, our first house, the most beautiful wedding I could imagine. So much life lived, but so much more to go.

I love you, Alex.

Fourteen Years

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Those absurdly beautiful moments…

As I walked down the little country path with my arm through my father’s, the lace hem of my wedding dress was gathered in my other hand as not to pick up too much dirt along the way, the sun glittered through the trees. Time stood perfectly still for just a moment, my entire life suspended in two parts, one married and one not. My closest friends and sisters smiled back at me, their bohemian tresses moving in the wind. We giggled as we walked, careful of the uneven ground in satin heels, giddy over what was happening, my dad’s tight squeeze of my arm.

I wanted to walk just a little slower, to savor those moments before my dad gave me away, but also a little faster to see Alex’s face when he first saw me, his bride in the dress I carefully hid for months. I floated, euphoric, tethered to the ground only by the twinges of melancholy that come with the arrival of life’s most anticipated milestones. I was my father’s little girl and my soon-to-be husband’s wife. Everything at once. Tears and smiles, past and future, present.

Last night as I remembered the peace I find in my wedding day, this memory surfaced to the top. For months afterward, I would sit in my cube and look at the pictures, reliving those intense feelings, the happiness they brought even on the most stressful day of work. Weddings may only span a few sweet hours, but the memories are lasting magic.

Photo credit: H. Starkey

With my dad on our unexpected hike to the ceremony site. Photo credit: H. Starkey

Photo credit: E. Heizer

My beloved friends and sisters as we waited to walk across the bridge. Photo credit: E. Heizer

What are your most absurdly beautiful moments? Do you escape inside them, like I do?

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Life Behind the Wheel of a Vintage Car

I like cars, especially old ones. When I was a little girl, I would hold my dad’s hand as we walked through weekend car shows. We’d climb inside our favorites, I would sit at the wheel, hardly able to see a thing. I can still smell the old leather and gasoline. I was a little girl in a man’s world, my dad and brother’s. A die-cast, Porsche 9-11 Turbo Slantnose, red, sat proudly on my dresser. I assembled it on my own.

In high school, I learned to work on my 5.0 mustang, side-by-side with my husband, (of course, he was just my kid boyfriend, then). He loved cars. I wanted to prove I could do anything a man could do. My dad flew to LA to buy me that beast. I still remember the look on my senior project advisor’s face. He was an old man assigned to all the car projects. I was the only girl. I walked him out to the parking lot and showed him the ram-air I installed, how I changed the spark plugs, put in a new starter, modified the exhaust.

This weekend, an old gold Mercedes sat in front of my dad’s house when we pulled up. Not an unusual sight in our family, an unexpected vehicle with vintage flair. A new project, maybe, but not the usual variety. This one looked pretty slow. Turns out my dad volunteered to help sell the relic– nearly 40 years in the same garage. So much family history.

I was tempted to trade keys, cruise around town like a little old lady with the convertible top off, my big sunglasses, and dog in the passenger seat. I would definitely be the quirkiest teacher in the lot. The smell of that old leather almost sold me on its own. Maybe not the most sensible choice, but something I cannot explain. As I sat behind the wheel, I was transported back in time to when my aunt and late uncle were young, excited to have such a fancy new car, life somehow simpler with a tape-deck stereo. Didn’t hurt that the sun was putting on such an epic show in the clouds, time and life suspended momentarily.

Stereo

Old Car

Vintage

Sunset

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Time Goes by in a Blink

I have been waiting for some sort of moment to blog about for the last couple days, but instead I have struggled to keep up with time. Even in doing less, time escapes me. I do not understand why time spent with family and friends is the time that moves most quickly. It does not seem fair.

This weekend, my family went on our annual San Francisco Christmas trip, the one I looked forward to back in November when we stayed in Union Square for our friends’ wedding. It was a blur. Shopping, dinner, brunch, movie, done. As we walked back to our hotel from dinner on Saturday night, I had to remind myself to put my arm through my father’s as not to lose some part of the tradition.

A bit of deja vu from a month ago and every year for the past 25 years...

Seems so familiar… 25 years of the same view.

To add to the sense of time folding over on itself, here is our annual family Christmas pic in San Francisco five years ago.

To add to the sense of time folding over on itself, here is our annual family Christmas picture in San Francisco six years ago.

This year.

2012. Amazing how six years changes things– my sister all the way to the right has a four-year-old son, my sister all the way to the left used to be the little one in the middle, my brother apparently now smiles, my sister two from the left brought her boyfriend this year, and I am married. What will the next six years bring?

Sunday night we raced home to attend a Christmas party with friends. Standing around talking about babies and weddings to many of the same people I have known since elementary school, there was no clearer expression of time passed. Weren’t we just the little ones making gingerbread houses and driving our teacher crazy the day before winter break? Now I am that teacher…

Monday I scrambled to clean the house and wrap the last presents in time for Alex’s family to come over for dinner. Then I blinked and it was Christmas morning. I staggered the opening of each present as not to let the experience pass by too quickly. My dad sat to my right and refused to open any until the rest of us had finished. We were on the same page, yet somehow it all managed to become part of the blur as well.

Here is one of the presents I took my time opening... And, yes, I was that excited to get a vacuum cleaner.

Here is one of the presents I took my time opening… And, yes, I was that excited to get a vacuum cleaner… Further proof life has changed.

Yesterday and today were filled with visits with friends. Brunches and lunches and afternoons spent drinking tea and laughing. This evening I am certain that the fastest way to pass the time is in the company of those you love. Seems a bit ironic, doesn’t it? The moments we most want to savor are also the moments that pass most quickly.

I hope you are having a lovely end of the year in the company of those you love. If you are anything like me, I also hope you take a moment or two to yourself to help slow it all down. I leave you with a couple of my favorite pictures from the last few days in an effort to hold onto the good moments a little tighter.

And, of course, it's not Christmas without Simon in a santa hat.

Of course, it’s not Christmas without Simon in a santa hat.

My youngest sister and my nephew, this picture is pure love.

My youngest sister and my nephew, this picture is pure love.

Five years from now, she'll be 21 and in college... A very strange thought!

Six years from now, she’ll be 22 and almost done with college and I’ll be 35… Here’s to enjoying all the good moments from now until then!

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Wedding Dresses Don’t Belong in Boxes.

I said I wanted to sell my dress.

I said I was not sentimental.

No one bought it.

I lowered the price.

Not a single bite.

Minus some weirdo who wanted to wire money from another country…

So, I gave in.

Three years later.

I bought a preservation box,

Wrapped the lace in acid-free paper,

Put a lid over my beautiful dress,

Said good-bye for decades.

Now, I open my closet to see a sad white box that won’t fit under my bed as promised.

Before a stunning gown draped over the door frame,

A happy reminder.

Feels like I put away a chapter of my life,

A year spent planning,

A day I will never forget,

I guess the honeymoon is over.

I am no longer the bride.

The dress is tucked away.

I am the wife.

Need a wedding dress by chance?

I still say wedding dresses don’t belong in boxes.

Dress.

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It Won’t Be Long Before Another Day…

I remember being three or four years old. My mom would turn on my little cassette of lullabies and lie down next to me until I fell asleep each afternoon, the curtains drawn, darkness tricking me into a nap. Snuggled up to my mom, I felt loved, safe. The feeling is so real, even twenty-five years later, I can still see the light hitting the back of those curtains, feel the warmth of her arms holding onto me, hear her voice gently singing me to sleep.

Time is a funny thing. I can reach back and touch that memory even though thousands of others have slipped by unnoticed. Makes me wonder what I will hold onto from now.

Tonight, I share a little piece of me from twenty-five years ago, a song I caught myself singing while I made dinner tonight. As a kid, I swore it was written for me and my mom. Now, it means even more. A time capsule from the past. 

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Something Worth Remembering: Digging for Childhood Memories

The importance of childhood memories has been bombarding me lately.  First, the suggestion by a careful listener to my book that my characters needed to be softened through their childhood memories, then bird by bird underlining the importance of conjuring up the past as a writing exercise, and then, finally, listening to The Perks of Being a Wallflower on our car ride to Oregon, paying special attention to how the protagonist recalls his own childhood woven seamlessly together with his present.

So, sitting in the car with my husband, brother, and sister, caravanning with the other half of our family in the car in front of us, headed toward what is a yearly family retreat up on the Oregon coast, I decided there was no better place to conjure up the past.  As a way to pass the time, I asked everyone to share the first childhood memory that came to mind, then we dug deeper, and deeper, until finally the memories were flowing, randomly associated to the ones before, bouncing us all around the sharp and smooth corners of our childhoods.

Thinking back on my own experiences, I realized my memories are already blurred.  It is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction, between what really happened, what I was told happened, and what I probably picked up from some other stories somewhere along the way.  Throughout the past couple weeks, I have been reading Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which while often scattered, is also layered with the complexity of memory and how it propels us forward, even when blurred around the edges.

I’ll leave you with the first blurry memory that came to me playing this game in the car.  I invite you try the same thing with those you love or as a writing exercise.  You might find something important buried deep inside yourself, something worth remembering.

***

For a short period of time following my parents’ divorce, we lived with my aunt deep in the eastern foothills of California.  Maybe it was not that deep, but as a child it felt like it.  We were easily thirty minutes outside Placerville, which is really only a small town itself.  To reach Sacramento probably took about an hour and a half, although time is warped in childhood, so maybe it was not quite as far as I remember.  Regardless, it was a different world than my brother and I were used to.

In order to reach her house, you had to drive down a long dirt road that was covered in frogs during the late spring, precious little croaking green things that would get stuck in the tires, smashed flat across the dusty road, or worse yet, squashed unwillingly beneath your bare feet.  There were no other houses within eyesight, only trees and the kind of pond any kid would dream about.  Galoshes were a necessity for traversing the muddy banks, and a huge Border Collie, German Shepard, perhaps even Saint Bernard, mix of a dog named Muttly followed us around, keeping close eye on everything we did.

Save for the occasional encounter with a coiled, ticking rattle snake, it was a childhood heaven.  I can still smell the dusty, dry, hot earth in summer, taste all the treats my mom protested so much in the sugar drawer, feel the icy cold water of the swimming pool on my face.  But what stands out more than my tough aunt taking a shovel to a rattle snake or me coercing feral kittens to love me or watching chicks hatch or bottle feeding baby sheep was an evening spent with my dad on the steps of the wooden deck, staring up at the summer stars through a break in the large oak trees.

That night, my dad held my brother and me close, and told us to absorb this moment because it would soon pass.  I remember sitting there, just eight years old, loving my dad so much, sensing the sadness in his acute awareness of the brevity of life.  Of course, this same awareness was lacking in me then, but it was his insistence on how important that moment was that forced me to scrunch my little face together and force the memory of those stars and his love for us deep inside my brain.  To this day, this is the strongest recollection of my childhood.

New family memories in Bandon, OR

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Kicking it Old School

Oh gloriously happy day, an old friend was just brought back from the dead.  My new MacBook has roused my little old school pink iPod mini from at least five years of sleep.  It took a few tries, I didn’t think it was going to happen, but then it lit back to life.  Talk about time capsule.  This baby is filled with all the wondrous stuff I listened to in college– Drop it like it’s hot, anyone?

Okay, I did not just admit to that, there are plenty of songs I’d rather take credit for having on there, as well as some impressively intellectual podcasts (what in the world was I thinking?), but for some reason it’s the rap I’m sitting here reliving.  Laid back.  I can feel my feet hitting the dirt trails in Davis, rocking out on my afternoon runs across never-ending ag fields with my high-tech, pink iPod mini fastened to my side.

Now I just feel cool that I have one that still works.  Like, you have an iPod touch or one of those new iPod classics that fits 40,000 songs?  Well, I have a pink iPod mini!  And it works!  Who is the cool one now?  This little discovery is going to make for much better travels in the coming weeks– space for audiobooks galore!  (And, all those glorious rap songs.)

Happy Friday, indeed.

Welcome back old friend. I guess I named you Spunky in 2004.

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Memory & Writing Set to Music

Heart-felt, folk-inspired songs are the soundtrack to my writing, my life.  Each familiar voice brings me back to a separate set of memories, gently guiding my writing beneath the layers of my subconscious.  Today, as often is the case, Pandora is set to “Lullaby” by the Dixie Chicks, conjuring a list of songs and memories that span my lifetime.

Norah Jones puts me on the big red Unitrans bus in college, evoking independence, that first real freedom.  Then, Sarah McLachlan transforms me into a fourteen year-old girl, sitting in the back of my mom’s old station wagon, driving up to the hills to see her boyfriend, her notes like open wounds, angry Nirvana blasting simultaneously through my headphones. Next, Joshua Radin draws in the San Francisco fog as I drive to my first apartment in the City, happy but alone. Finally, Lullaby by Dixie Chicks comes around, makes me want to cry, every time, dancing slowly together in our little Berkeley apartment, a ring on my finger, How long do you want to be loved?  Is forever enough?  

Sometimes, I forget to listen to music while I write.  I’m certain those days my writing lacks the same poignancy.

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Through 16-year-old Eyes

Sixteen was magic, that first year where everything started to come together.  Tastes of freedom, independence.  A momentary eternity, I once wrote.

My little sister is now there, or almost.  Only a couple weeks to go.  Thirteen years apart, the gap between us is slowly closing.  She was the baby, the reason I could not watch R-rated movies.  Now, she is a source of depth, wisdom, and laughter.  Although, I guess she was always a source of laughter, possessing humor beyond her years.  My little sister is the glue that bound us all together.  She makes us one gloriously happy, rambunctious family.

The other night I caught a glimpse into her soul, listening to her recite poetry.  She is an artist, not only with words, but with pastels, watercolors, you name it.

I picked this one to share because it reminds me of me, thirteen years ago.  Life at sixteen is full of angst and wonder.

These are her words, not mine:

We used to dance through the field like feral butterflies.
Our wings grew and our cat feet lifted off the grass,
wind blew us side to side and kissed our bare cheeks.
Our mouths opened wide and we could see everything
as we let our laughter fill the dry air, making music with the birds.
The sky tasted strong and sweet,
like being held in Grandma Jo’s soft arms and under her warm gaze
in the frigid air conditioning of our Mckinney house.
You and I strutted through those halls,
because we were the coolest people we knew.
But we weren’t really cool at all.
But, still, we grew up
to do a new kind of dance
in the poorly lit, poorly ventilated hall
full of unknowns and familiars
all pulsing and numbing to the elegant drops of Dubstep.
Because they were lost, they knew exactly what to do.
Because they were blind, now they could see
the red hot sweat of rage and passion
filling their lungs and coating their eardrums.
We were the abstract hand prints painted on young, wet skin,
lit up only when the lights went out.
And with daylight we walk, undead,
with crusty eyes through walls and over buildings
and drown in coffee just to get by.

Kat knew, she had seen it all
and what she hadn’t seen would soon be her reality.
She was led down paths and to her fate
on candy leashes and with designer treats.
She had to lose herself to know who she never was.
Todo va a estar bien.
Porque eventually the skies would go back to business as usual
and the sun would lean down and brush tears from her eyes.
And lay us both back down in the neon grasses
in a bed of feral butterflies.

Looking at the world through her eyes…

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My Superhero Power: Time Manipulation

Summer makes me nostalgic.  It makes me want to slow down time so that I can savor each new memory.  If I were a superhero, that is what my power would be, time manipulation.

Driving home from my family’s house tonight, my husband and I talked about our differing perceptions of time.  For him, life moves at just the right speed, which makes me envious.  I guess you do not have to be a superhero to appreciate life properly.  Still, I’m not sure how to slow down.  It feels like there are more things I want to do than there is time to do them.

I think this is part of why I like to write so much.  It gives me the space to trap myself in time.

Tonight I want to trap myself in new summer memories.  I want to hold them to my heart so that everyone in them will be with me always.  If I could figure out a way for summer dinners to last longer, I would.  Instead, it is the words and pictures that are left.

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