Monday, November 26, 2012

The Big Cowboy Hat in the Sky

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When Saturn finds itself in the same place it was when we were born, Astrologers call it Saturn's Return. It starts about the time we turn 28 and concludes by 30, or so I've been assured. If we survive this despondent phase, we reach Adulthood. However before we can cross over to the promised land of clarity and confidence, we must trudge through something resembling a poorly planned party where we are all required to play brain teasers while intoxicated on the destructive drugs of personal development and recurring regrets. Our challenge at the party, if we shall call it a party, is to cast off what isn't working in our lives to focus on what is and what will. 

Last month, I turned 29. I've been treading for about a year in a deep kiddy pool of what smells to be piss, pus and puke. For my birthday, I bought myself a used tweed bathing suit with a pleated skirt and found a couple arm bubbles for occasional rest, but mostly I just hang on the wall gagging and hollering questions at the lifeguard like he has any idea whether I should become a certified career woman or not. Three months ago, Scott turned 28. A week after his birthday, my dear husband belly flopped beside me, sinking to the plastic bottom. I watched while the yellowish green water hid his naked body like a G.I Joe guy in the grass. I thought he might be dead, drowned, but I didn't give up and eventually I drew him to the surface with silly songs and false promises of cake. Once he was breathing again, I stole him a kick board, a beer and a wet suit and we laid in the living room talking. An hour later, we were pulled to our feet, our eyes covered with blindfolds and our shoulders set to spinning. After several dizzying turns, we were stilled into wobbling nausea, given sharp pins with dangling tails and told to wander through the darkness in search of our destined donkey butts. Zealously, I accidentally poked my pin through Scott's pants and into his flesh. He cried out, removed the used handkerchief from his eyes, wiped away the dried crumblings of snot from the ridge of his cheekbones and looked at me, then looked to the pin pressing the loose denim to his hip. He didn't pull it out. Instead he just looked at it. That's when I said, We've been procrastinating about one of the most important things, our purpose in life! We thought it was theater. But maybe it isn't. Perhaps leaving the theater has been obvious for awhile. We just didn't want to believe it before. 

"I don't want to be poor anymore." He said then, a cloud in each of his deep set eyes. 

"Me either." I agreed, pulling the pin out. Strangely, he didn't bleed. Instead, he deflated a little. 

After 730 days of such demoralizing activities as these, the fishing nets of fog and fear will be dragged away.  We will be handed goody bags of the graphite sketches and the lists of declarations and newly acquired aspirations we drew while at the stubby craft table in the corner of the kitchen. We will find our dusty car keys in the basket above the fridge and our boots behind the boxes of empty bottles in the yard. 

However until that glorious day comes, I'll be at the sticky ping pong table, swinging at soft lemons. Why are we home nearly every night too tired and cold to socialize with this city? I wonder. We were so busy planning our move here that we didn't really figure out what we'd be doing once we got here. Sure we had some ideas, but mostly we moved to Chicago because we wanted to. I'm afraid that means we're doomed. Perpetually following our guts and hearts instead of our brains and heads. We never knew it'd be so much like life here. As strange and stupid as that sounds to say. We move and move and move with these hopes that everything will just work it's way out like a loose knot tugged from one end. But it doesn't ever. There are always snarls twisting into doubt and depression, which tightens and becomes even more impossible to separate. Particularly now with Saturn staring down at us, it's rings pointing in every direction. With all the politeness I can muster, I shout to the hidden stars above the city lights, Please Saturn, team up with the North Star and give us a little guidance down here. But that big orange stone in the sky remains silent. That's when I throw my shiny paddle at the sandbox, my cuticles burning, and declare to myself that we must stay still for a moment. Take a class. Make some friends. Enjoy this marvelous city.

I return to the craft table where I sit on a doll sized chair drawing pictures of a fictional farmhouse. I draw a dirt parking lot, a bike rack and a row of rocking chairs. I write about piles of mismatching mugs, plates and pots. I draw pellet stoves glowing in cozy corners, sending smoke to the sky. I write recipes. We'll live here, I draw an arrow pointing to the second floor windows. We'll work here, I write beside the cafe on the ground level. Behind the house is a great big field with a vegetable patch and a row of little apple trees reaching from their roots. There'll be live music. String instruments vibrating, raspy spit drenched harmonicas wailing and old folk tales telling. Patrons will sit together on tattered oriental rugs, reupholstered ottomans and blanketed love seats, sipping beer, dipping cookies into coffee and singing along. 

I show my paper plans to Scott. He smiles and tells me to stop searching the Internet for foreclosed farmhouses, but to preserve my pencil sketches and recipes because they might just come in handy one day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sneaking into Jewelry Boxes

The sun is out. It's the 10th of November, but it's something like 55 degrees in Chicago. Scott drives us from the airport. My mother and I sit in the backseat and my father sits in the front. 

"We have a couple options." I tell them. "We can go out to breakfast right now; we can go to the grocery store and I can make breakfast or..."

"Let's go out to breakfast." My mother resolves. 

"Do you still want to go to the movie? It's at noon? We could walk there, it's only a mile away, did you bring sneakers?" The independent cinema I work for is showing Buster Keaton's Cameraman with live organ accompaniment. I thought it would be fun to see the old silent comedy on the big screen together. I also cannot help but spit rapid sentences at my parents whenever I am with them. They don't mind, they tell me after they've been quiet for awhile. They like listening. And yes, that all sounds great to them.  

While my mother and I snuggle in the backseat, she points to Sunny's gold diamond ring on her finger. She takes it off and slides it onto my right ring finger where it settles above my knuckle quite perfectly. I look down at the old gorgeous gleam, flattening my hand to admire it properly. 

"Do you want it?" She asks. An offer which is far too spontaneous sounding for me to accept. I love the ring, but I can't take it from her. It used to be my great-grandmother Sunny's, then my grandmother Nancy's and now it belongs to my mother, Sandy. Though I do suppose my mother calls me Rachey. So maybe it is meant to be. But she needs to think about it more, I decide, giving it back. 

For the rest of the ride to the restaurant, we discuss our plans for the weekend. I have them from Saturday morning until Sunday night. 

"I want to see your water." Mom says. 

"We can take Penny to the dog beach. Maybe tomorrow morning after we check out of the hotel." 

After dinner at a raw vegan restaurant where my father's noodle dish is surprisingly cold and my mother's pizza is on some kind of bark bread, the three of us sit together, sipping water and wine and giggling about how many times I've dragged them to such alternative food establishments. Then my father glances over to my mother and asks, "Don't we have a special little gift for Rachel?" 

"You're here, that's my gift!" I say, thinking Dad's assuming something he shouldn't. But then my mother surprises me. 

"I tried, but she didn't want it." She says touching the antique gold and diamond stones. 

"You were serious?" I exclaim.  

"Would you wear it?" She asks sliding it back onto my right ring finger.

"Yes." I say looking at my hand adorned with a new delicate sparkle. 

"Somehow I always knew that you used to sneak into my jewelry box and try it on like I used to sneak into my mother's room and try it on."

"I would." I say. 

"I think I would pretend it was my engagement ring." 

"Me too." 

"I've always known it would belong to you one day. Do you really like it?" 

"Yes Mum!" I do, of course. 

"Don't sell it." 

"I won't!" I would never. 

Maybe one day I'll have a daughter who sneaks into my jewelry box to try it on.