I don’t think I started this blog with much of a filter to begin with, but I seem to have really misplaced whatever little lining there once was. Maybe I just forgot to pack it? Maybe it’s back in Manhattan, in my devastating disappointment of a first apartment. Yeah — it’s probably still there. Collecting dust next to the bent bobby pin and no-longer-elastic hair elastic I also elected to sweep under the fridge. You can do things like that, when you live alone. It’s kind of fun. Rebellious!
It’s nice to surprise yourself, sometimes. And it’s harder to do, I think, when you’re around people who remember you in a certain way. Who can’t help but continue to picture you in a particular way. You know: doing this/not doing that, liking this/not liking that, eating this/not eating that.
I’m guilty of it too, I think — of tending to put the people I love into little boxes.
There are a lot of boxes in my life, right now. I mean actual, physical boxes. The kind that I simply cannot keep closed without a strategically placed piece of tape. I have the feeling this whole closing-the-box business might be a life skill. Sort of like knowing how to sew on a button, or change a flat tire, or knead a big ball of dough.
Let me tell you: fighting with cardboard flaps is significantly less rewarding.
I’m getting good with stickers, though. You can pass me all the stickers. The yellow yard sale stickers, but the other kind, too. The invisible kind. Mom’s. Dad’s. Up for Grabs? Storage. Goodwill. Recycle. Landfill.
It’s not hard, to help them separate their stuff into piles. Thirty years of stuff. You’d think that it would be hard, wouldn’t you? You’d think it would be a stony, silent affair. Either that, or a really big battle. I want the couch — I bought it. You have to be joking — I’ve been listening to you say it’s hard as a rock for the last ten years.
That’s what I thought it would be like, anyway. Instead, things are unnervingly normal. Normal, except even nicer than normal.
I’ve been trying to give my parents as much space (and time alone) as much as I can, but when I am around, it’s not at all unpleasant. I feel like I’m getting to know them — as adults — really for the first time. And I like them. I really like them! Both. I like them both — especially now there’s no nagging going on.
Instead, I hear my dad asking my mom for advice on which color to paint the cellar floor. I look up and see them passing paint chips back and forth. I smell butter sizzling in a pan, and I don’t have to peek in to know my mom is showing my dad how to hold the spatula. She’s so patient; his hands are so clumsy. They’re so steady, so sure, underneath the hood of a car of the belly of a boat, but it’s as if they’re too big for this, somehow.
She’s teaching him how to cook. She’s writing it all down from him, all of these 1-2-3 recipes that he should be able to rotate through, so that he can supplement what will surely be a steady supply of store-bought meals. That notebook — that’s what really breaks my heart.
So I guess that’s what it’s like, for me. Normal, and then heartbreakingly not normal. Normal, when I’m sitting out in the front yard, looking at the lawn nobody seems to be in too much of a hurry to mow.
And then really rather abruptly not normal, when I notice something like my dad’s eyes blinking too fast. Or when I hear my mom’s voice — usually so strong and clear — wobble for a second before evening out.
It’s then that I’m reminded that nothing is normal. Nothing about this is normal. I don’t think I know Normal, anymore. All of a sudden my Tuesdays feel like Sundays, and I have no idea where I am when I first wake up. In this absolutely enormous bed.
I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster. It’s an unoriginal, overused analogy, and I’m going to use it anyway. I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster — one that I never had any desire to get on in the first place, one that just finished climbing and cresting the steepest hill. It’s like I’m looking down, about to take a deep breath in, and all of a sudden, there’s no track. It’s just gone. Gone where, I don’t know. But it’s no longer here. It’s as horrifyingly simple and as difficult to grasp as that.