Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference a Quarter of a Century Makes

The first time I saw the movie The Big Chill, I was in college. Being in the midst of those heady days of intimate relationships with those whose lives overlapped my own minute by minute, it was easy for me to believe not only in the depth of connection the main characters shared, but in the implication that nothing better had ever come along. When Glenn Close's character said that she'd been the best she ever was back in those days, with those friends, it seemed only natural to me. College was, after all, the best time of your life, right? That's the way it looked to me, sitting in the Student Center movie theater watching The Big Chill for a dollar. That's what seemed to be suggested by authors like Anton Myrer and Erich Segal. That's what my friends and I anticipated when we camped out on the bridge on a starlit night or drank wine coolers from 2-liter bottles by the lagoon and sang old Supremes and Van Morrison songs to one another. It was the underlying assumption in the writings I so carefully preserved from those days, the descriptions of the moments I'd never want to forget.

At 19, I thought the way those characters came back together and the things they shared were romantic and touching. In some ways, they were. But at 44, Glenn Close's line made me sad. Not, as it might have made me sad the first time through, with nostalgia for those lovely lost days, but because with a quarter of a century of additional life experience under my belt, it struck me as tragic that a woman in her mid-thirties would have peaked during her college days (or even feel that she had).

I loved college, and I had an amazing group of interesting, eclectic, talented and supportive friends whose influence in my life I will always cherish. But I was just beginning when I spent those long winter afternoons in the dorm with them, talking about art and philosophy and politics. I was just beginning to learn how to do something about the things I believed, and the things I saw as most important in those days were informed in part by a lack of information. I like to think that I'm the best I've ever been with my daughter; I like to think the best I'll ever be has yet to come.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's Not Nice to Laugh at Your Old Mother

At least, that's what my mom tells me. Fortunately, my mom isn't all that old, so stll consider her fair game.

Because we live in a split-level townhouse and our living room and kitchen are below ground, there is approximately one month out of every year that we have an earwig problem. Since we have a dog only marginally larger than an earwig, I'm afraid to spray, so we just have to deal with it and count the days until they die off for the year.

Unfortunately, my daughter has a fear of earwigs that borders on phobic. This was undoubtedly triggered by the fact that when she was little, we were sleeping over at a lock-in in the children's department of the Rochelle Public Library when she saw an earwig crossing the floor toward me. I was asleep. She shined her flashlight on it and one of the library workers ran over to tell her to turn it off and go back to bed. She reported the earwig and the woman said "Okay" and turned away. Tori thought she was going to get something to kill it with, but instead she just went on about her business and the earwig finished its journey and bit me on the arm (or pinched me or whatever they do), leaving my arm red and sore and swollen for days. That's a lot of responsibility for a pre-schooler.

Her fear, in fact, is so great that she won't say "earwig" and doesn't want anyone else to. It conjures up anxiety. Every year, she comes up with a different name for them, but this year she's settled on "devil bugs". She says that she refuses to believe that God could have created them, so they must be minions of the devil. She often invites them to go back "home" where they belong.

The other day I was out and she was on the phone with my mother when she spotted one. She exclaimed, "devil bug! devil bug!" Then told my mother to hang on because she had to kill a devil bug and needed both hands. When she returned to the phone, she said something like "Okay, I killed the devil bug."

My mother asked what a devil bug was, then said, "Oh, are they those ones you don't like? What are they, earwigs?"

Tori said, "we don't use that word" and my mom said...

"Oh, okay. What do we call them?"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm not a fan of birthdays. It's not that I mind getting older--I'm actually pretty comfortable with being a middle-aged grandma, and I come by the gray in my hair honestly. The thing is, for some reason things go wrong around my birthday. Someone suggested recently that it might be a curse, and if I believed in such things I'd be inclined to think that it was: for five years my birthday has brought everything from sewage backing up into my kitchen to a friend's house burning down to my father ending up in the hospital with heart trouble (and that's just a random sampling). I've reached the point where I try to keep the whole thing low key, as if perhaps if I gloss over it, the fates won't notice and nothing terrible will happen.

This year (thus far) I did manage to avoid catastrophe, even though my family refused to let the whole thing slide by unmarked and couldn't resist putting together a few presents and some cards and a strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries from my dad's garden. We also had a nice dinner out, and I can't really complain (now that I know they didn't trigger a flood or plane crash with their efforts). But the best part of the celebration for me was when my daughter sang this song for me, making all of the women in my family cry.