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BY suzy

02/01 Direct Link
My mother. My mother. Like she was ever mine. Like I ever knew her. Like she ever knew me. The deepest connection we had, maybe the only connection we ever had, was when we were one being. When there was still hope, at least for me. I don’t know what she thought when I was part of her; if she looked forward to a new child or if it was a burden, or if it was something she couldn’t admit, even to herself, that she didn’t want, when her parents suffered so many lost babies and wanted her so much.
02/02 Direct Link
I often joke with people that my mother never liked me because I was a breech birth, necessitating the horror of forceps (somehow, it seems entirely appropriate that I was poised to enter this world butt first). Really, I could hardly blame her. But she blamed me. One of the things she said until her dying day was that I “stole” Dad from her. Witness that he was “too busy playing with me to make room for Mom to lie down in the recovery room.” I was pretty calculating for someone about five minutes old. Even I wasn’t that precocious.
02/03 Direct Link
In our baby pictures, Mom often has a lit cigarette in one hand and a baby bottle in the other. A cocktail waits icily for feeding time at the zoo to be over. I can imagine the dismay of 21st century parents gazing at these retro horrors: the crimes of not breast-feeding; of smoking and drinking, compounded by indulging these vices around the baby. In those days, babies were not the object of worship they are now, and I don’t think we were any the worse for it. Certainly we were less spoiled and competitive, and we were not trophies.
02/04 Direct Link
We spent the summers in Maine when I was a child. My father worked at a marine biology lab, and part of the job was networking to make sure you’d get a grant to come back next summer. In retrospect, I’m awed by our luck in having a wonderful cottage in Maine, courtesy of the lab, every summer – otherwise, what would our parents do with four kids underfoot all day? At the time, I just took it for granted, like our parents taking us to cocktail parties and then driving home afterwards. Nothing bad ever happened; no-one worried.
02/05 Direct Link
One day I came home from school and found my mother wasn’t. I was in kindergarten or first grade at the time, and in those fearless days, could walk home alone. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat down on the steps. After what seemed like eternity, my mother came running across the street, wearing a yellow linen shift and slim brown heels. She had been having coffee with a friend and lost track of the time. When I saw her, I started to cry. I hadn’t realized I was scared until I didn’t have to be anymore.
02/06 Direct Link
Mom had all these myths, these stories. I still don’t know if she actually believed them, or whether she just liked to tell a good story. She did. One of her myths: my brother was born three months early and his head fit in a teacup. We didn’t discover until we were in our late 20’s that this never happened. Our godparents, who were present, could tell us for a fact. I asked Dad why he let Mom tell the story so often. He sighed and said he couldn’t contradict her and embarrass her in public. Thus are legends made.
02/07 Direct Link
My sister found a diary our grandmother kept after adopting our mother. Mom was about two when she was adopted from an orphanage. Her legend is that she was abandoned at birth by her mother, who was a patient of the town doctor, who was married, and not to her. This could be another of Mom’s tall tales, but I do know for a fact that my grandparents adopted her after my grandmother had several miscarriages. I believe that they spoiled her outrageously because of that, and by the time she and my father married, the die was already cast.
02/08 Direct Link
Sometimes I worry that I’m turning into my mother. This worry probably afflicts most daughters at some point in their lives, but my mother is the reason I never had kids – I didn’t want to be that mother to anyone, and I was convinced it was inevitable – so I’ve worried about it a long time. I was not reassured by my grandmother’s diary, telling how Mom loved shoes and shopping, or by the entry about sending Mom to kindergarten since “she needs group play and work to overcome her ego and selfishness.” School didn’t banish those flaws for me, either.
02/09 Direct Link
I’m sure Emily Post or Miss Manners would say that re-gifting is always wrong, but it was a total success in this case. I received a hat for Christmas which was cute, but not me, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I finally realized it would look great on my neighbor, and since I never know when I’ll see her, I put it in her mailbox. I ran into her a couple of days later, and she was not only wearing it, she was bubbling over about all the compliments she had received on it. Total success!
02/10 Direct Link
Every day at around this time, the tree in the courtyard hosts a convocation of black birds. They fill the winter-empty branches with their nearly weightless, dark bodies and the air with their raucous conversation. It's the bird equivalent of a trendy night spot out there, although apparently anyone with wings can get in.

When someone walks through the courtyard, the birds fall silent, as if they had been plotting that person's demise and didn't want to be overheard and caught.

As darkness falls, there's a whoosh as they all fly off together, calling out one last threat. Or promise.

02/11 Direct Link
“I still think it’s glamorous.”

“Well, it’s not. I’m just the security guard. That’s it.”

“But you get to meet famous people. In real life. Your whole job is meeting famous people. You could get their autographs and sell them on eBay.”

“It’s not really meeting them. It’s just getting them into the building or their car safely. Without people like you bugging them.”

“Do they drive their own cars?”

“Would you, if you didn’t have to?”

“What are they like? I mean, really like?”

“Like anyone on the subway. Only a little less rude.”

“I still think it’s glamorous.”

02/12 Direct Link
She is utterly preoccupied with being slim. When she and her husband go out to dinner, they share an entrée in the best interests of the thinness. She weighs herself every day, and cuts back ruthlessly on her frugal diet if there’s any gain. The obsession, however, is derailed when she becomes pregnant. Even though she eats less and less, she’s gaining weight. One day, having skipped lunch and gone for a walk, she faints by the elevator and is revived by a co-worker, sternly saying, “Honey, now is not the time to worry about the size of your ass.”
02/13 Direct Link
When I worked in an office, Valentine’s Day was always a hotbed of competition – who got what (and from whom), whose bouquet was the biggest, had the most sentimental card. The next day was reserved for unveiling of jewelry, received at a romantic and expensive dinner, booked months ahead. The women were either flaunters or enviers; I don’t know what the men thought about the whole thing. Possibly they were too busy thinking of and paying for the biggest bouquet they could find, so their wife or girlfriend could be the cynosure of all eyes in their own office.
02/14 Direct Link
At first, she thinks he’s kidding. After all, they’ve been together three years, and considering that the minute stores take down their Christmas decorations, they put up the Valentine’s Day ones, it’s not as if the approaching love fest could have escaped his notice. She gave him a Valentine she made herself, anxiously awaiting his reaction, which wasn’t as excited as she had hoped. He thanked her, kissed her, and she waited for hers. Finally, she had to ask if he had one for her. When he didn’t, she thought, That’s what I’m worth. Exactly nothing. Why am I surprised?
02/15 Direct Link
She wakes up and checks her emails while the coffee is brewing. Among the litter the spam filter has missed, there’s an affectionate message from her ex-husband and one from a former co-worker who has always been on the flirty side with her, though nothing beyond that. It can be enjoyable to flex those flirting muscles, and if you don’t, they’re in danger of atrophying, like any other muscle. She saves these to read, looking through the rest of the list, which is all mundane. Typical, she thinks. I hear from those guys, but not the one I really want.
02/16 Direct Link
Her birthday is a week after Valentine’s Day. That means she gets the dreaded “combined” gift, like those people unfortunate enough to be born anywhere near Christmas. All you get is one present. A friend has a birthday on December 9, and he still gets the combined gift. How far away does your birthday have to be from a holiday before you get appreciated for both? As if it wasn’t bad enough getting all your presents for the year at one time. The worst, though, is that her boyfriend always gives her remaindered Valentine’s Day candy on her birthday. Always.
02/17 Direct Link
Jane worries about the lack of confluence in their schedules. For example, now: he’s downstairs, watching TV; she’s upstairs, reading in bed and wishing he would join her. She treasures the moment when they turn out the light and snuggle up together in the darkness, waiting for sleep to overtake them, knowing they will wake up together in the morning, together again after the lonely night’s journey into sleep and dreams. She doesn’t want to ask, for fear of seeming too needy. But she does need him. She hopes this isn’t the beginning of the end, the long drifting apart.
02/18 Direct Link
He comes in the kitchen door, bringing a swirl of cold evening air with him. “It’s a cold one out there!” he says, as he stamps his feet to knock the snow off and rubs his hands to warm them. He keeps on about the weather as he takes off his heavy coat and goes to the refrigerator for a beer. As he takes a bottle out, he glances over at his wife, who looks up at him, her eyes brimming with tears. “Sweetheart!” he exclaims. “What on earth’s the matter?” “Nothing,” she replies, and goes back to chopping onions.
02/19 Direct Link
When Jane was first married, she was thrilled with her engagement and wedding rings, the engagement ring with its big center stone of nearly two carats, the wedding ring of alternating baguettes and round diamonds. She loved the admiring and envious glances; she loved the feeling of being chosen, special, no longer single, like most of her friends. Later, she thought that the real symbol of the rings is that the engagement ring, the promise, is more beautiful and better than the wedding ring, the reality. Later still, both rings seemed too heavy, too restricting, and she stopped wearing them.
02/20 Direct Link
At the salon, I have both my hair and my outlook brightened. There’s never a dull moment when I’m there, inside or out. Outside, the street cabaret ranges from horrifying to amusing, and occasionally, poignant. But never dull. Inside, we discuss Britney Spears (“Have you seen her? She’s a baldini!”), vacations (“Sicily is a mortgage payment. Seriously.”), Beyoncé’s Grammy hair (“Of course they’re extensions. But I loved the gardenia”), and the mysterious and untimely death of the flamboyant Anna Nicole Smith (“That guy had something to do with it. He’s so shady”). Replete with gossip and giggles, I head home.
02/21 Direct Link
When he’s late, she starts to imagine how she’ll describe him to the police when she calls them after the requisite 24 hours are up. Six feet tall (he isn’t, but will be flattered if and when they find him), light brown hair (it used to be blonde, but the police won’t care about that), blue eyes (like a stormy winter sea, but the police want just the facts, ma’am). She realizes that she can’t remember what he was wearing, though he was probably wearing his heavy leather jacket against the cold. The she hears his key in the lock.
02/22 Direct Link
I wake to a storm: thunder, lightning, the works. As I drearily, blearily head for the coffeemaker, I consider the possible effects these sound and lighting effects will have on my flight later that morning. I consider calling my boss and telling him, cowardly, that I can’t go; the flight’s been cancelled. But I know I have to go, or at least try to. After I finally flag a taxi (calling one was an exercise in futility and frustration), we drive almost as slowly as I could walk to the dreaded airport. But eventually I arrive, and eventually, I leave.
02/23 Direct Link
Trying to call my assistant, who booked the trip, I call a former colleague instead. The mistake is a simple one: their first names are the same, and right next to each other in the directory on my phone. She was surprised, but so happy to talk to me that it was infectious. The stress I felt, trying to change my flights (trying being the operative word here, in every sense) vanished as she told me of the happy events of the past few months, much-needed after a dark, difficult year. My mistake was the best part of the day.
02/24 Direct Link
It seems that nothing works, and further, no-one cares. Repeated pleas to the hotel’s front desk for a power bar to solve the problem of a non-functioning outlet have gone unanswered; maids come charging through the door despite the “Do Not Disturb” sign; the tap drips gently and constantly in the bathroom; calls to the airline to change my flight have resulted in three different answers, none of them the one I wanted. Yesterday, the reader in the subway refused to read my Metro card, and the machine to buy new ones was broken. It’s time to leave the city.
02/25 Direct Link
In my hotel room high above the congested New York streets, I can hear the humming and hooting of the slow-moving traffic below. It’s always in the background, day or night, punctuated by car horn conversations and screaming sirens. New York isn’t so much the city that never sleeps as the city that is never quiet. Ever. The sidewalks and roads are equally crowded; it’s a wonder anyone can get anywhere, especially the emergency vehicles. Everyone’s going nowhere as fast as they can. Maybe I’m feeling hard hearted on this visit, but I’m finding it hard to heart New York.
02/26 Direct Link
At the airport, the theme continues. Once through security and its accompanying annoyances, I arrive at the gate to discover it’s standing room only, and everyone is busy either looking disgruntled or complaining into their cellphones. Outside, the snow drifts down picturesquely. That prettiness outside was the cause of that ugliness inside, planes being delayed or cancelled. The flight before mine is cancelled, leading to a stampede to the customer service desk, where a lone employee is mobbed. Mine is delayed by nearly four hours, and when I finally get home at 3 am, I never want to leave again.
02/27 Direct Link
It was far too late to pick up my beloved dog from the kind friend and neighbor who takes care of her when I’m gone. The house feels so empty and quiet without her presence. How can a dog make herself felt without making a sound? As soon as I wake up the next day, I go to my friend’s apartment. My dog is overjoyed to see me, jumping up and kissing me hello. She missed me, too. She’s had a walk, so we go home and spend the rest of the day together, glad things are back to normal.
02/28 Direct Link
The experience of travelling has changed dramatically. It used to be a special occasion, so the passengers dressed in their best. They could still refer to flight attendants as stewards and stewardesses, and these airline employees were equally well-dressed and polite. There was real food, served on china, with glasses and cutlery. The passengers were not treated like particularly inconvenient cattle, being processed as quickly and cheaply as possible. Now it’s the opposite. And just when I think the process couldn’t be more irritating or illogical, it is. All the pleasure and graciousness are gone. We are product, not people.