Let’s Talk About Age

I’m nineteen. I working at Edie Adam’s Cut ‘n Curl. I’ve had my hairdressing license one year and already I hate it. I’m about to leave for a trip to Scotland. Me, naive, a girl who has never even traveled to Seattle by herself (an hour away). Still living at home, kind of envious of friends getting apartments of their own. But not so envious I’m brave enough to do the same. Seeing friends fall in love and marry, but no envy there because I know better. A girl with frizzy hair and freckles and glasses.

Lisa 7th grade 1972

Writing secretly. Because I’m not good enough.

I’m twenty-one. Taking Scottish dance classes and for my big birthday, that milestone of age, they give me a giant cardboard key because girls get the key to the house when they turn twenty-one. Still doing hair and still hating it. Still living at home. About to leave for my third trip to Scotland. A little braver now, about traveling. A friend of my parents comes to the house one night when they are gone, when he knew they were gone. Because, after all, looking at me, it’s obvious I must be desperate, right? Luckily nothing happened because a dog foiled him.

19th birthday 1979

Still writing secretly. Still not good enough.

I’m twenty-eight and have found my home in the woods. The parents have retired and we made a deal where I would live with them and pay their bills and eventually inherit. I’ve made my plans. It’s obvious to everyone, including me, and I’m looking forward to that future of being a spinster in the woods. I have it all planned out. I’ll be the eccentric aunt the nieces and nephews will love to visit. I’ll have all the dogs I want. I’ll write whenever I want and it won’t be secretly. I’m looking forward to that future.

Lisa with white Bear & chickens

I’m thirty-four and I’ve been talked into joining a fire department – so far out of my realm, so far out of my vision of my future. And a guy joins the fire department, with a dog that likes to go for walks. I don’t see what’s happening until he takes my hand one night. I don’t understand because, obviously, thirty-four years of never attracting male attention. Remember, frizzy hair, freckles, glasses.

wedding 1

I’m forty-eight and diagnosed with lymphoma and getting radiation and a wife and a mother of a twelve-year-old boy, and both males in my life think I’m a writer and they love me and they see me. Even when I don’t.

Art and Arthur Vegas

I’m sixty and have books with my name on them. I am a wife and he’s the most perfect person (honestly, he is) and there’s a twenty-four year old male in my life that used to be a fat baby. I go to the doctor for an annual test and find out I no longer have to have them because I’m sixty. I guess at that arbitrary benchmark you are no longer at risk for female cancers so you can just quit worrying about those annual tests.

But wait. Sixty? Really? Have I spent sixty years not seeing myself? Sixty years self-conscious? Sixty years being less-than, never-will-be, not good enough for those who love me? Sixty years not looking in mirrors?

Fuck that. I’m done with that woman.

I don’t know what that means.

But it means something.

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Tradition and Quirks

Many years ago I read a moldy old Reader’s Digest magazine while spending the night with Auntie (our grandma surrogate). I’ve never forgotten this little piece I read, although I have no idea who wrote it.

A young woman always cut her roast in half before cooking it. When asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the mother was asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the grandmother was asked the same question, she replied that she’d never owned a roaster big enough to hold the whole thing, so she had to cut it in half.

It stuck with me because it showed how we do things out of habit, and sometimes without understanding why.

Aunty and us Easter 2

Aunty with three of us. I’m not the one eating her basket.

I have passed on a tradition to my husband and son about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You ALWAYS put the peanut butter on first, then the jelly.

My dad was diabetic and he loved peanut butter. Every night he would say ‘what are we having peanut butter on tonight, mother?’. (One time I suggested a spoon, which he didn’t find as funny as I did.)

Because of the diabetis, no jelly could contaminate his beloved peanut butter.

My husband and son aren’t diabetic. But still, the rule remains because of habit and training. Peanut butter first.

Dad

Last night we had hamburgers. They wanted tomatoes. When my son was putting his burger together, he put condiments on the bottom half of the bun, added onion, and then waited for the burger. I said ‘don’t forget your tomato’. My husband and son both spoke at the same time, saying the tomato had to go on top of the meat. I asked what difference it made. They couldn’t tell me. It was just the way you had to do it. Not me. I don’t add a tomato. I go for extra onion and I don’t care what order it goes on as long as it goes on.

Arts birthday & climbing 088

 

But all that got me pondering about the little quirks we have, the odd traditions we follow, the habits we form, all without remembering why, or being able to explain why. ‘Just because.’ ‘It’s always done that way.’ ‘The world will end if you don’t.’

For instance, always leave about an inch of beverage in the bottom of the glass for the fairies. It doesn’t matter what I’m drinking. It doesn’t matter if the glass is full, or partially full. It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am. I have no idea why I do that, and I don’t even realize it until I do dishes. But I’ve always left something behind, even when mom would get mad at me for wasting milk.

Lisa and mom 1994

Always avoid stepping on black ants, but don’t worry about stepping on red ants. Another habit of mine that my son has picked up without knowing why. As a child I read a book about kids shrunk down to ant size. The black ants helped them and the red ants were trying to get them. Ever since, I have to help those little kids and their black ant friends.

And so it goes. Traditions without known cause, habits from forgotten reasons, quirks just because.

We’re so strange.

Us three taken by Kathy

Diaries

I love the concept of keeping a diary. I don’t love the reality.

My mom kept a diary in her later years, during the time when she was suffering from the effects of menopause, a stressful life, and a difficult past. She’d been given antidepressants and other medications which, I think, contributed to her deep unhappiness. The result of that was when she passed away, we found that diary. There were so many cruel things written in there. So many lies that were, for her, truths. Or at least how she perceived her world in those moments of medicated depression.

Mom and Lisa

In the emotional moment, I burned that diary. And then, full of horror that some day my child might read my diaries and be hurt by my words, I threw all of mine on that same fire. I’ve had regrets occasionally. I think that my son would have laughed to read all the drama of my young teenage years. And there were the diaries from my travels. All gone now. But for the most part, I don’t regret burning them.

There have been a few times over the years when I’ve tried to start one again, but it never goes anywhere. I keep a journal of canning recipes. One for gardening. One that has writing tips and quotes. All of those have pieces of me in them as commentary, but they’re not a ‘diary’.

Last weekend I hiked with my sister a couple miles into the Alpine Wilderness area. We talked about that diary I burned, and her regret that I burned it. We talked about the diary she keeps. She writes in third person, (‘she sat down’ rather than ‘I sat down’) as if creating a story, and doing a diary in that manner has allowed her to write in ways that give her insight.

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That intrigued me because it felt like writing a story. As if in third person allows a degree of separation between the writer and the words. For a few brief moments, on that path, I thought that maybe I could write a diary in the same way.

Then she gave me a binder that belonged to the sister who passed away in February. In it were affirmations, poems, thoughts, and happy little stickers. Her handwriting was always rounded, almost juvenile, and I could see the pen in her hand. And in her words I could hear her laugh. I am so, so beyond grateful she kept a diary. That we have her voice to rest our hands on and hold to our hearts.

So, will I keep a diary? Doubtful. I’ll just continue with this blog, which, I guess, fulfills the same thing.