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BY suzy

05/01 Direct Link

As soon as my sister heard my voice on the phone, she knew.ďIíll be right over,Ē she said.

She found me weeping over Henryís still body, my hands on her soft fur, rocking back and forth, repeating ďMy little loveĒ over and over again.

We wrapped the little cat in a soft, blue towel and drove over to the family property with Henry on my lap.

Our brother was on his way to work, but he started digging the grave under the chinkapin tree where his dog and Meganís dog and cat are also at rest.††

05/02 Direct Link

Digging a grave is harder than youíd think, and like many seemingly simple things, thereís a certain technique involved.The rain, cold, and wind made it harder, though that was in keeping with my mood.

We dug the grave deep, for fear of it being disturbed by other animals.When it was time, I kissed my Henry Etta James goodbye, told her I loved her, and laid her to rest.My sister allowed me to cover her up first before helping.She apologized for tamping down the soil, but I thought of it as tucking dear Henry in. ††

05/03 Direct Link

On the way home, wet and filthy, I thought there was something cathartic about caring for your loved one yourself, digging the grave, getting dirty and doing it all with your own hands, instead of being removed from death and its realities.Not for the first time, I wished we could have given this last gift to our father.The Victorians may have been onto something.

Back home, I wept through my shower, the water washing away my tears and the grave dirt.I couldnít get out of there.I let the water wash over me a long time. ††

05/04 Direct Link

Not a day goes by that I donít think of Henry.I miss her more than I would ever have thought possible.She was in my life for three years.I fed and watered her outside in Oakland for most of that time, taking her with me when I moved to the country.During the last months of her life, she was my constant companion, sitting on my lap or on her bed by the heater. She grew to trust me. I feel as if thereís some lesson be learned here, but I don't know what it is.†

05/05 Direct Link

The perils of Facebook: I learn that my older sister has gone to Africa on vacation.She stole our motherís inheritance, and while the rest of us are struggling financially, she is apparently doing fine.Karma is a myth, my friends.

I also get a friend request from one of my old high school boyfriends.Iíd love to catch up and hear how heís doing, but I canít bring myself to accept because heís so much more successful than I am.I donít want to be pitied by someone who used to love me. † †

05/06 Direct Link

My sister and I spent a whole day driving to pick up a foster dog. The dog, Star, went over a cliff and her owner chased her over the edge. The dog survived; the owner didnít. The whole incident was witnessed by the ownerís son. The boyís father gave the dog to someone who abused her, so it was Megan and me to the rescue. Sheís a beautiful dog, but totally untrained - we have a long road ahead of us before sheíll be ready to be adopted.Fostering is a lot harder than I expected. ††

05/07 Direct Link

I never chop green onions without thinking of my motherís father. He had a little garden down by the creek which separated his property from the high school where he was principal for so many years (to my motherís chagrin).He grew vegetables there Ė my grandmother was responsible for the splendid flower gardens and fruit trees Ė and his favorite was green onions. †As soon as the green onions were ready in the spring, heíd pull them out of the ground and eat them with pleasure, whistling on his way home as if he were a schoolboy again. †

05/08 Direct Link

Iím lucky that I can work at home most of the time.Today, for example, I was on a conference call while wearing my pajamas and transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer.Usually, I feel weird about wearing pajamas during calls with people who arenít my co-workers (which I realize is completely irrational), but this call was at 6:30 in the morning, so the way I look at it, theyíre lucky I was there on time.Itís nice to have the freedom, not have to dress up or have a long commute. †

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05/09 Direct Link

Storms and cold.†Darkness. Gloom.†Youíd think it was mid-February instead of nearly mid-May.In the cold light of morning, I notice more fallen trees, more beaten down bushes and dejected branches. Rain batters the sides and roof of the house. I turn the heat on, sit by the heater bundled up in my sweater, mourning my little cat and the passing lilac blossoms.I realize that weíve endured six months of winter weather now.Half a year. Isnít it time for some warmth and sunshine before winter starts again, another six months from now? †

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05/10 Direct Link

I used to think the cats just went outside to play and hunt.And they do that, but lately Iíve seen them napping outside or just sitting on a stump, sniffing the air and keeping an eye out for cats, dogs, mice, moles, birds, or anything that might be interesting. They have become a lot more independent since we moved to the country.Iím glad that theyíre happy and have become their own people, as it were, but I miss spending more time with them.As the weather warms up, Iíll probably see them even less.†

05/11 Direct Link

For someone who hates moving, I seem to move a lot. I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if my parents hadnít moved so much. What would it be like to live in the same place your whole life?To grow up with your friends, graduate, grow up, attend each otherís weddings, say hello in passing at the store or the post office?Here in the country, there are a lot of people like that, and I always want to ask them. But theyíd probably just say itís normal, and it is Ė for them. ††

05/12 Direct Link

I sometimes envy cats their idle lives, the way they parlay their cuteness into being waited on hand and foot.Not to mention their ability to nap at any time.But they are also very patient creatures.Iíve seen my cats sit still for an hour at a time, waiting for a mouse to emerge. Their focus is impressive, as is their stillness and determination.Once the prey emerges, though, they are all action, chasing the poor thing and then playing with it mercilessly if they catch it.Itís the only time I ever feel sorry for mice. † †

05/13 Direct Link

My landlord stopped by yesterday with news. He and his family are hosting two Japanese exchange students for a week.The girls are about 10 and 11 years old. I canít imagine how weird this place will seem to them after Japan Ė theyíll feel like theyíre on another planet.I hope his daughters will get to go to Japan. It will be an amazing experience for all of them.In other news, heís getting two black and white kittens from the shelter as soon as theyíre old enough.I canít wait to see them. †

05/14 Direct Link

Iíve been writing up a storm lately.I had two articles published in a magazine over the past couple of months, and have commissions for three web pieces.I have to admit that itís more exciting to see your name in print in a real magazine than on line. It makes it seem more real, somehow.

I have also written up background stories on Star, my sisterís foster dog, and Shiloh, a rescued puppy, for a fundraiser tomorrow.Neither is ready to be adopted, but hopefully they will be soon and weíll find them great homes. †

05/15 Direct Link

Elaine and Edward had tried so hard to have children, but it was not to be. Neither was particularly religious, and neither was particularly accepting of their fate.They were overjoyed when they adopted a little girl, and always told her how treasured she was.Secretly, Elaine hoped that she might become pregnant after the adoption, but that didnít happen, either. Although she was completely delighted with her grandchildren, part of her always wondered why her adopted daughter had so many and she had none.Why her and not me, she thought, setting the table for all those children. †

05/16 Direct Link

I wonder who is living in our houses now.Who is in the old white house perched on top of a hill where I grew up?Does another girl sit on the window seat my father built for me, looking across the fields to the wooded hills?Who lives in my English grandparentsísemi-detached pebble dash house on the outskirts of London?Is the box room where my father slept used for storage?†Have they found the bomb shelter?Is my American grandparentsí grand three story Victorian house now divided into apartments? Itís probably better not to know. † †

05/17 Direct Link

Arriving in the hotel room, I drop my bags and flop on the bed, even though my best friend is utterly horrified by hotel bedspreads.ďThey never wash them!Ē she hisses, yanking them off.Her grandparents lived in a grand hotel for many years, and apparently even grand hotels are remiss in this particular area.Hotel bedspreads still horrify me much less than, say, bowling shoes, which may well be why Iíve never bowled. And I love to flop on hotel beds and read the room service menus and spa descriptions.†Itís a flop on the wild side. †

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05/18 Direct Link

Iím about to order a club sandwich from room service when I notice that the message light is blinking.Not only have I just checked in, no-one knows Iím here.The plane was delayed and Iím staying overnight unexpectedly.I press the button, and hear a childís voice.ďDaddy? I miss you!ĒThe next message is a seductive purr, reminding a past guest what he could expect when he got home.Next is a slightly drunk reminder from a colleague not to be late the next day. I listen to them all, my order forgotten. † † †

05/19 Direct Link

The battered old house needs a lot of work, but she sees it as a challenge, one she cheerfully welcomes.As she scrapes old wallpaper, paints, plasters, refinishes the floors, she sings happily, imagining her dream house as it will be in the rosy future.In the course of her renovations, she finds a walled-up window in her bedroom. Her soft heart is pierced by the thought that no-one will ever look through it again. She works hard to unearth it, buys new glass for the panes, and then discovers that the window looks over the town dump. †

05/20 Direct Link

Cables fly back and forth across the Atlantic that long ago December. Neither set of parents agree on anything, and the wedding of her dreams is rapidly becoming the wedding of her nightmares.Sheís in a foreign country with her fiancťís parents and wants to please them, but sheís also an only child who adores her parents back home.In the end, she doesnít wear the dress she wanted, it's not Christmas, and her parents arenít there.She still looks for them as she walks alone up the aisle in the cold light of day. † †

05/21 Direct Link

It's 35 degrees outside, dark,depressing, and it's pouring rain. The calendar claims it's May, but I think there's been a mix-up somewhere.Everyone is saying this is the coldest and rainiest spring they can remember."Worst May ever" comes up a lot, and I've noticed people eyeing me askance as they make the connection between my moving to Hooterville and the increasing crapitude of the weather. If I don't look out, I'll get run out of town on a rainy rail.At least it will be too wet and windy for the tar and feathers to really stick. ††

05/22 Direct Link

Well, I never did get to meet the Japanese exchange students. Theyíve gone home after their rainy week in Hooterville.I wonder if theyíll go home and tell everyone that California is cold, rainy, and full of junk (the former owner of the property we all live on was an avid junk collector for decades, and I can tell you for a fact that he didnít take it with him).But my landlordís daughters had a great time with them, even though the visitors couldnít speak English.Girl talk, it seems, is the universal language.†

05/23 Direct Link

I still havenít met the new tenant of the front house.Whoever it is has made serious strides in restoring the garden abandoned by the previous owner, who is a few years into a prison sentence.Iím hoping to get her address and write to her soon. I wish Iíd written sooner, and now so much time has passed that I have the same feeling I used to have when I skipped too much school.I hope sheíll be glad to hear from me, and Iíll be sure include stamps so she can write back. †

05/24 Direct Link

The phone rings before 8:00 in the morning.Iím always surprised when someone calls that early, and I still havenít quite lost my immediate instinct that something must be wrong. It used to be my mother, and now itís my brother-in-law, who stoically endures a myriad of health problems.It turns out to be an old friend, calling to catch up.We talk for an hour and a half, and itís as if no time at all has passed. Thatís the magic of old friends.†I'm so lucky to have great friends.†

05/25 Direct Link

Itís my sisterís birthday.She was supposed to be born on my birthday, but Mom's obstetrician had a feeling something was wrong and took her out early (my brother was a Caesarean, and in those days, that meant that the next baby was one, too).Good thing, because the cord was wrapped around her neck, so she might not have made it.

Instead of being born on my birthday, she came home from the hospital on my birthday, and I couldn't wait to peek in the bundle of blankets.She was the best birthday present I ever had. †

05/26 Direct Link

We are fortunate to have a friend who used to be stylist to the stars in Beverly Hills, but who is now a landscape artist living in our very own Hooterville.He cuts our hair for free a couple of times a year.My sister and I drive to somewhere near his house, then climb down a steep dirt path to where his house sits nestled in a valley, shaded by ancient redwoods, surrounded by flowers. We sit on his deck in the sunshine, laughing and talking as his scissors flash through my sisterís brown hair and my blonde. †

05/27 Direct Link

We dodge in and out of showers to attend the farmersí market, which is open for two hours one day a week, making it easy to miss.We have already missed the first two weeks.Itís a fledgling market, since not much is ripe and ready yet this cold, rainy summer, though there is fruit brought all the way from Fresno.Not local, but delicious, and if they want to make the drive, Iíll happily eat their cherries, oranges, and blueberries.We pick up some local lettuce and splash back to the car through the sunshine and shadows. †

05/28 Direct Link

I went to see ďSex and the City 2Ē yesterday and loved it. Everything reviewers objected to were the very things I loved about it: the clothes, the shoes, the fairytale location in Abu Dhabi, the pure escapism and beauty. Yes, I sighed over Carrie's closet (and regretted that she and Big let that fabulous Fifth Avenue penthouse go in the last movie) and Charlotte's matched set of Louis Vuitton luggage.I'm glad the ugliness of the recession and the drabness of everyday life hasn't touched our glittering girls. It was bad enough being returned to reality after two hours. †

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05/29 Direct Link

Itís so nice having a friend stop by unexpectedly.Erica and her seven year old daughter Jessica were looking at a house about three miles away, and dropped by to say hello.I hope they decide to rent the house, since I would love to have them as neighbors, the school here is so much better than the school where they currently live, and Erica would have a lot more help with Jessica.She is the most singlemother I know, living atop an isolated mountain, with no family or friends nearby. Here sheíd have more than enough. † †

05/30 Direct Link

Got up just after four this morning.Both of the cats were out, and the sky wasnít as dark as it used to be at such an early hour.By six, I could turn off the lights, both inside the house and out.When the refrigerator turned off, I realized how deep the silence is this deep in the woods.Even the birds were asleep.But as the sun warms the trees, the birds begin to sing, the squirrels begin to chirp, and bees and bugs begin to buzz. Hummingbirds whiz around the flowers, and the day has begun. †

05/31 Direct Link

The end of my sisterís birthday week: a barbecue at our brotherís place.The sun is shining, friends and family are together, the fire is burning, the dogs are playing.My brother is making a pie, and the rich smell drifts out and mixes with the wood smoke. We make mojitos with mint from my sisterís garden, the ice clinking in our glasses as we laugh and talk and remember the long-ago past when we were children together.The setting sun seems to burnish our memories, making them golden as the chill of evening sets in. †