BY suzy

11/01 Direct Link

It was always strange knowing that he was the replacement for a baby who died. Felix’s brother died of crib death, as they called it then. His parents blamed each other, but despite their grief and anger, decided to have another baby to take the place of the lost one.  Of course, the new baby didn’t fill the empty places in their hearts, and their resentment toward the new baby and each other continued to grow. Finally, inevitably, they divorced. He says, “I was three years old, and I was relieved.” It was his first memory.  

11/02 Direct Link

When his parents split up, they also split up the children. The father took the older two children, a boy and a girl, and the mother took the younger two, also a boy and a girl. So they grew up more or less separately, in very different households and different places. The father was a successful journalist and lived in glamorous places like London, Paris, and New York. The mother had to go back to work and became an unsuccessful librarian living in an English-speaking enclave of Montreal, among other places. The siblings were more like cousins than siblings.

11/03 Direct Link

He was born in Princeton, and Albert Einstein was one of their neighbors.  The great man enjoyed gardening and could often be seen working in the flower beds outside his surprisingly modest house. Sometimes the famous scientist would stop by for dinner or a drink, but he was just one of the many well-known faces to frequent their home. When Felix was born, he received a sterling silver porringer engraved with a personal message from Henry Luce, and the few remaining members of the Algonquin Round Table wryly toasted the baby’s arrival with the driest of martinis. 

11/04 Direct Link

It was an auspicious beginning, but things fell apart slowly, in the kind of way you don’t notice until the damage is irreparable and you find yourself looking around at the disaster your life has become and wondering how on earth you got there. If your relationship were a house, you’d tear it down and build a new one. Which is exactly what they did. Well, at least the father. He took his wife out to lunch to tell her that he was leaving her for another woman. She was, as the cliches said, the last to know. 

11/05 Direct Link

He took his wife to lunch to tell her about the affair because he assumed she wouldn’t make a scene in public. She was too stunned to react. Later, she wouldn’t remember how she got home that day, or what they had said during that last meal together as a married couple. When she was finally able to think about it, she realized that their circle of friends had known about it before she did. In retrospect, there had been hints and clues that she was too naïve to pick up on. Then it was too late. 

11/06 Direct Link

Can you change your name back to your maiden name when they’re both the same? She wanted to make the gesture, but even that was taken from her powerless hands. Her husband decided to end the marriage. He convinced her to divide the children like bags of groceries. “I’ll take the older two, and you take the younger two.” A boy and a girl each. Two neat matched sets. What would Solomon have said, she thought hysterically as she threw her clothes into one of her mother’s old suitcases. Because she didn’t get the house, either. 

11/07 Direct Link

Not that she would have taken it. She wouldn’t take his money, either, though he certainly had enough. She didn’t want his pity. She went back to school, something that seemed almost absurd at her age (though later, she would look back and think how young she was, how naïve), and became a librarian. She learned to drive, though she never felt completely comfortable behind the wheel. She had always thought that someone else would be driving to work. She never thought it would be her, or that it would be for the rest of her life. 

11/08 Direct Link
Although they were siblings, the four children were more like cousins. The older two lived the glamorous life dictated by their father’s lifestyle. They lived in New York, London, San Francisco, depending on where The Magazine sent him. In every city, they’d have an elegant home. Their father was invited to all the best parties and knew all the best people. It was a giddy whirl, an education perhaps more valuable than the one they got in the best international schools. For the younger two, life could not have been more different. And not in a good way. 
11/09 Direct Link

Their mother struggled, emotionally and financially. She couldn’t believe that she was left alone with two of her children, the two allotted to her, while rarely seeing the other two. Her ex-husband, in contrast, seemed to be perfectly happy with his replacement wife and the two children he had chosen, living the good life in the most exciting cities of the world, without a care in the world except The Magazine’s deadlines. She felt left behind, frightened, abandoned, ashamed, the same way she had after her mother committed suicide. I am never enough, she thought. Never enough. 

11/10 Direct Link

She was thirteen when her mother died. That night, her mother seemed the same as usual. But in the morning, she was dead, an overdose of sleeping pills helped along with a bottle of whiskey. There was no note. Her daughter found her, still and cold, when she went to kiss her mother goodbye on her way to school. To this day, she can still remember the disbelief and horror. Her father was away on business and she was alone in the house with her mother’s body. There was no phone. She didn’t know what to do.   

11/11 Direct Link

She ran to the neighbor’s house, as if in a dream. He always yelled at her for running through his yard. Normally, she was afraid of him, but not today. When he opened his door, she was white as a sheet. “Mother…father...I don’t….” She burst into tears. It took a while before he could understand what she was trying to say, and even then, he didn’t believe it. “Now, now,” he said soothingly. “I’m sure your mama is fine.” He left the hysterical girl with his wife and headed next door through the snow. 

11/12 Direct Link

Unfortunately, the girl was right and her mother was dead. He called the police and then the school, to tell them that she would not be there, probably for the rest of the week. The girl had no idea how to reach her father, so they simply had to wait until he came home in the latest in his series of Cadillacs – a new one every year – and break the news to him then. In the meantime, the girl had nowhere to go and stayed with the neighbors, who no longer frightened her, now that she knew what fear really was.

11/13 Direct Link

When her father came home and heard the news, he was angry. Angry with his wife, angry with his daughter, angry with the neighbors, angry with the police, angry with life and everything in it. He didn’t come home until a week after his wife was dead, and although the local undertakers had preserved her body as best they could, they did not recommend that he view his wife’s remains. He went along with this in his shock and grief, but her death always seemed like a dream, unreal, though he knew she was gone forever, her choice.

11/14 Direct Link

Her father was never the same after that, and neither was she. Now looking back after the end of her marriage, the loss of her son, and, to some extent, the loss of the children who no longer lived with her, she saw a series of abandonments. It seemed that everyone she loved left her in some way. She couldn’t save her mother or her baby. She wasn’t a good enough reason for her mother to stay alive or for her husband to stay. She wasn’t enough, never was. She decided to never fall in love again. 

11/15 Direct Link

But she did. As most of us do, despite our best intentions. This time it was a swaggering guy from the Bronx. She was completely captivated by him, mostly because it was the best sex she had ever had. There is nothing like the sex haze to blind you to faults in your partner, and she could barely see through this blissful mist. She uprooted her allotment of children and moved them to a Maritime fishing village, where they immediately felt out of place and isolated from everything and everyone they’d ever known. And then there was the violence. 

11/16 Direct Link

He had a temper. She described him as “fiery” and “passionate” to her friends, but she omitted the fact that he threatened her youngest son, the replacement for the Lost Boy, and physically attacked her teenage daughter. The daughter rebelled, which escalated the fights. She stood by helplessly, unable to intervene for fear of losing her newfound lover. Sometimes she simply ignored it all, hoping it would just go away.Eventually, her daughter ran away and ended up living with her father. She had lost three quarters of her children, and was somewhat bewildered by this fact.



11/17 Direct Link

Felix, meanwhile, was terrified, especially after his sister left. He didn’t fit in with the other kids in this godforsaken town, with his long hair, dreamy nature, and love of music and art. Life was pretty much hell, between his mother’s crazed boyfriend at home and the taunting kids at school and the ever-perilous streets between the two. At night, he’d stare out the window, listening to the Beach Boys and dreaming of escape, an escape to California with its surf, sun, and sand. Many years later, he realized that those dreams had saved his life. 

11/18 Direct Link

Eventually, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved back to the city with her relieved remaining child in tow. It was as if a dream had come true, other than the California part. But pretty much anything was better than being trapped in the middle of nowhere with a crazy man and a mother who couldn’t or wouldn’t protect her own child. She got a job and found an apartment, but it was always a struggle and she hated being alone. She had always had a man in her life, and she didn’t like being alone. 

11/19 Direct Link

The loneliness got to be too much for her. Or she missed him. Or something. Whatever it was, she reunited with her former lover. Only this time, she decided to marry him. On her wedding day, she sat at her dressing table, putting on lipstick, arranging her hair, and having doubts. Were they too different? Did she want to give up her life and follow him back to that remote little fishing village? What if this marriage failed like the last time? But the thought of being alone was more than she could bear. She walked resolutely down the aisle. 

11/20 Direct Link
There were no words to describe how Felix felt when his mother told him that she was marrying his tormentor. After they had finally escaped from the monster and the backward little burg and gone back to the city, to his friends and family, where he was just another kid and not the weirdest guy in town. Now they were going back to the nightmare, only he knew what was waiting for him this time. He begged his father to live with him, but his father’s wife was pregnant with the replacement for the replacement, and he said no. 
11/21 Direct Link

The appeal lost, there was nothing to do but serve out his sentence. He cut his hair in an approximation of the other kids’ 1950s era crew cuts and tried to keep a low profile. This worked better at school than it did at home, where he was now the only target for his stepfather’s tempers and tirades. He tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, becoming the invisible boy. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. He counted the days until he was old enough to leave for good. There were too many.  

11/22 Direct Link

The problems that had broken them up the first time reappeared, a fact that was unsurprising to anyone except the couple involved. Their relationship was tempestuous. At first, she loved the drama and the passion, but as a lifestyle, that level of volatility was hard to maintain. As the novelty wore off, she began to finally see him more clearly, realizing that her children were not spoiled brats who resented their mother’s happiness, as he repeatedly said, but were victims of a controlling man who could not control his temper. Finally, she left him for good. For everyone.  

11/23 Direct Link

How many times could she go back to square one, she wondered. It seemed she never collected $200 when she passed Go. Sometimes she regretted her misguided self-sacrifice in refusing to take alimony or child support from her ex-husband. Her family had had money when she was young. Her father bought a new Cadillac every year, and they had a grand summer house on a lake as well as their elegant townhouse. Their father had actually had the caretaker’s house moved several feet so that he couldn’t see it from his own house. How times changed!

11/24 Direct Link

Those days seemed so long ago as she stood in the kitchen of her small apartment, making dinner for her son and herself in the winter’s early twilight. The apartment was in a good neighborhood, but she couldn’t help comparing it to her childhood home, the house she had lived in with her ex-husband, and the grand house he now lived in with his new family. His second wife had provided her own children, which they both seemed to consider superior to the first family he had had. The starter family. The practice for the real thing.

11/25 Direct Link

The children grew up, as children do. All of them got married and had children, except for Felix. One sister had two boys and was widowed young; the other had twins and was divorced. His brother was unhappily married with two daughters, but his wife didn’t believe in divorce. So they stayed together, in the sort of inertia that holds many people in places or jobs where they’d rather not be. Their mother never married again, though she never lost her wide eyed romantic nature and the hope that one day, she would find a great love. 

11/26 Direct Link

Felix fell in love once and for all when he was in high school. Their relationship had its ups and downs, and they finally broke up after several years. They stayed in touch, and when his roommate found Felix ill one Sunday afternoon, she was the person he called. She arrived to find him vomiting, unable to recognize her. She called an ambulance and followed in a taxi. He had meningitis. All she could think of was Mark Twain’s daughter who went blind, then crazy, then died of meningitis. It was the closest she had ever come to praying. 

11/27 Direct Link

He survived, though it was touch and go for several days. One day when she was in the hospital elevator on her way to visit him, she overheard two doctors talking. “Did you see the meningitis case on 5?” one asked the other. “Classic case, just classic,” he added. “You’d better hurry – he probably won't make it.” The other doctor nodded, and she stood there, stunned at the callousness.  He did make it, though he lost the hearing in one ear, with the added torture of constant ringing in that ear, which lasted the rest of his life. 

11/28 Direct Link

When he left the hospital, his mother was supposed to pick him up. He was going to stay with her while he got his strength back. However, she completely forgot. He called her on the hospital’s pay phone with shaking hands, but she wasn’t home. Once again, it was his ex-girlfriend who came to his rescue, bringing him to his mother’s house, finding the key under the mat, getting him settled in bed and sitting with him until his mother came home, surprised to find them there. “Was that today?” she asked, taking off her boots. 

11/29 Direct Link

The years passed, and Felix and his ex-girlfriend stayed in touch. She got married; she invited him to the wedding, but he couldn’t bear to go.  She always sent him birthday cards and postcards, and he told her that when he was living in some godforsaken old age home, the one birthday card he’d get every year would be from her. When her marriage ended, he couldn’t help feeling a twinge of gladness, though naturally he told her he was sorry. He thought that maybe, just maybe, after all these years, their time had come. 

11/30 Direct Link

Years later, Felix’s ex-girlfriend is his girlfriend again. And they live on the beautiful northern California coast. It’s not the Beach Boys’ California, the one he dreamed of during his traumatic childhood, but it’s still California. And even this late in the year, it’s still sunny.

She is still the only girl he’s ever loved. He told her that once. She thought he was joking, but he persuaded her that he meant it, and he did. Sometimes he can hardly believe that this scared little boy has grown so much and come so far.