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the year behind and the year ahead

December 31, 2012 3 comments

 

Today, I am an unexpected swirl of emotions I wasn’t prepared for. As if one can prepare for emotions. But I am thinking about this year, specifically how it started. There’s a symmetry in that, I suppose, as it comes to an end. There have been a lot of ups and downs. There has been a lot of change, some expected, some always probable, and some impossible to brace against.

This has been a year of getting closer to things, even as they feel far away. This has been a year of loss, of reaching out, of feelings, of love, of heartbreak, and moments. Some I wish I could erase. Some I wish I could capture in a bottle.

Looking back on everything I did and I said, I would not change a thing. I would live or love any differently. Knowing what I know, I would not walk away. I would not back away. I would not choose to run, if going back in time was an option. As tangled as they are, my choices are a knot I would not undo.

This year has taught me that I am strong. That it’s okay to lean on people. And that I can be braver than I thought possible. Hands shaking. Pulse racing. Words fumbling – sometimes, blurting out haha at the strangest moment possible. Because, hey, nerves make a person do odd things. I said I was brave, not perfectly articulate.

Right now, my head is spinning, because 2013 is just a breath away, and with it comes all the expectations and hopes that a new, clean slate can offer. Perhaps it’s silly, but 13 has always been a lucky number for me. Taylor Swift came late to that party.

I do not know what 2013 will bring. I have wishes, like anyone else. I could tick them off on one hand, with fingers to spare. I’m not greedy. I’m not uncertain. I am oddly, impossibly hopeful. That is my default. That is my starting place, my foundation – even in the face of total calamity. I may be an idiot, but we are nothing with hopes or heart. Nothing.

2012 brought out the worst and best of me, sometimes at the same time. I wrote more short stories than ever. I sent my novel out on submission. (I am currently tearing it apart for what feels like the 900th time. Once more into the breach, dear friends!) I watched life ebb. I watched a last breath. I took chances. And I put myself out there. I realize that not everyone can do that, and by hurling myself into the fray, I did the right thing. Not the easy thing. The right one. That’s all anyone can hope for, because some truths do not come with expectation or ulterior motives. They are simply truth. They are simply real. And that is what matters most – saying things that need to be said, even when it’s fucking hard. Especially then. It’s not about what happens. It’s not about what doesn’t happen.

It’s about how you feel. Sometimes, that is really all we have.

You cannot teach a heart to love. You cannot tell it who to love. You cannot control your heart at all. Your heart controls you. And if you keep that locked up, silent, you are also locked up and silent. There are a lot of things that a person can fix. You can be kinder, more understanding etc. You can fake a smile, wanting it to be real. But cannot command your heart to love or not love, not for all the right reasons in all the world.

At this moment, things are a mess. Life is messy. Life is rarely neat and clear cut. If it isn’t messy, it isn’t real. There’s probably something you’re ignoring. There’s probably something, or someone, you are avoiding. Maybe you’re settling. Maybe you’re gritting your teeth. Maybe you’re lying back and thinking of England. But when we are trapped, it is often by our own hand. It is most often a choice we make, because it’s the easier one. It’s familiar. It’s safer. Maybe, on paper, it’s the right thing. And yet, if this year has taught me ONE thing it’s that life is short. Too short. It is too short to spend time on something or someone that doesn’t thrill you down to your marrow. Consider the options, all of them. Things are rarely as clear cut as we want them to be. I tend to believe that there’s always a way if you want something badly enough. If you care enough. If you love enough.

And the end of the day, we all want two things: happiness and love. It’s that complicated and that simple. And for 2013, what I wish for you is both those things in excess. Wherever you find them, however they arrive. Be braver than you think you are. Be vulnerable. Give in, even just a little, to some kind of madness. Kiss someone you love beyond words. Also: love beyond words. Say the one thing you’ve been holding back, even if it means you’re crossing a line. Say it, because it’s true. Make a wish. Make a promise. Remember that things worth having are not easily obtained. Trust your feelings. Write your own story. Do not stay inside the lines. Do not think of how things are supposed to be. Instead, see them as they are. Be honest with yourself. Lying to yourself, even for the best reasons, is a disservice graver than any lie said by anyone else.

You deserve to be happy. You deserve more than just getting by. You deserve good things. You deserve to be loved for exactly who you are. Sometimes, we forget that.

And if you find someone who loves you for you? Hold on to that. Because that, my dears and darlings, is everything.

The Donkey of Usual Noises

December 26, 2012 2 comments

 

Remember my neighbor that tried to blind me with the industrial light? If not, go here. For the record, they are actually lovely people, who say hi and act neighborly. I hug their animals. They pretend not to mind. I like them.

I have a new neighbor. I have yet to meet said neighbor, but she did not wave back when waved to – and yes, direct eye contact was made. Supposedly, this is a family with three kids, but unless said kids are chained up in a closet – I have yet to see or hear a single peep from them.

But you know what I DID hear? Their mothereffin’ DONKEY. Now, anyone who has been around a donkey will, of course, tell you they’re cute. But they make an ungodly noise, often at odd hours and sometimes in relation to SEEING a human. I don’t know if this is some kind of hello or a somewhat forceful fuck off of donkey origins. Suffice to say, it is a sound the rivals that offensive decibel of the peacock shriek. However, this donkey is not a run-of-the-mill sort. Oh no, my dear and darlings, it makes a special hideous sound.

I stumbled out of bed early this morning, before coffee and having been woken up at odd hours by The Donkey of Usual Noises, and walked my dog. Mind you, I am bleary eyed, without caffeine, and freezing. And I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard what can only be described as an ear-piercing scream, as if someone had murdered a woman straight out of Hitchcock. At Ass Crack O’Dawn o’clock, this is NOT a sound anyone wants to hear. The only indication that it wasn’t someone ACTUALLY being murdered was that the tail end turned into a bray.

Still, I am fairly certain my heart grew claws and teeth and tried to burrow its way out of my chest. The second time I heard the Murder Bray, I was equally alarmed. Because it is, by gods and garters, a terrifying noise. The kind of sound that makes one exclaim, “DEAR GOD, WHAT IS THAT THING?” as if you were face-to-face with The Pain from the Princess Bride.

Needless to say, this is less than ideal for sleeping or calm nerves. Since the New Neighbor seems about as friendly as a cactus crossed with a serial killer clown, I do not have high hopes for a grand relationship. It isn’t as if said neighbor could DO anything about the donkey’s appalling noises, anyway. Because that’s just what donkeys DO, except the sound is usually less tinged with homicide. They are, I should point out, the type of people who use a golf cart to avoid walking the short distance from the house to the barn. As a horse/farm person of a mobile nature, it’s a bit like a marathon runner taking driving out to get the mail from the box, instead of walking four yards.

My only hope, Obi Wan, is that the Donkey of Death Screams settles in and stops braying at the decibel of Dis. If this happens, I will do a small jig, hug my other neighbor’s chickens, and never speak of this again. Until then, dears and darlings, expect more wacky tales.

Good night, Westley. Good work. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

I Believe in You

December 20, 2012 7 comments

 

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” A.A. Milne

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about courage. Specifically, the things that make us brave. As people, we are varying degrees of strength. Circumstances and feelings influence how strong we feel, but our strength is our own. You need to be strong to handle a certain situation. You need to be strong to speak your mind. You need strength to be WHO you are. Without it, you cannot be true to yourself, because you are too easily swayed by outside opinions etc.

But where, exactly, does courage come from? The courage to follow your heart, to take a chance, to sing in public, to say I love you, to tell someone the truth? It’s not a pill you can take. And while alcohol is often called liquid courage, let’s be honest: it’s more often than not liquid stupid. You wake up Coyote Ugly, wondering what exactly you said to your ex in a horribly slurred voicemail that you only vaguely remember leaving.

My point is this: you don’t find courage, shiny, lying on the sidewalk. It’s not a penny you scoop up. It’s not your misplaced keys. It’s not something you order online that arrives in a box with a smile. Instead, it’s the realization that something/someone is worth it. That’s it. It’s that simple and that complicated. It isn’t even always about believing in yourself (although, that certainly helps). It’s about believing in SOMETHING.

Yesterday, I had a conversation that, in the middle of the night, I realized wasn’t quite complete. What I should’ve added is: I believe in you. You are braver than you think, braver than you even know. I get scared too. There are times where my pulse races, and I’m fairly certain I’m having a heart attack. But believing in an idea, in somebody else? It changes everything. It flips the world on end. And I believe in you.

Lao Tzo once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage” – and I couldn’t agree more. You can argue that everyone has a different motivation, but at the center of everything is love, even its absence. It’s the focal point, the ground zero for every brave thing we ever do. Love of the game. Love of music. Love of words. Love of another person.

You can try to look at life through a smaller, easier lens than love – but what’s the point? We are what, and sometimes, who we love – and even if we love. All kinds of love, not just the romantic kind. Our passions matter. The fact that we have passion matters. It is love that makes us brave. Without love, we are all afraid. We are all scared. We are our walls. And that isn’t really living. It’s hiding. It’s slipping into a shell, like a turtle.

That can be all too easy to do. Stepping out in the spotlight, risking our hearts, exposing ourselves to the world — it’s hard. It’s terrifying. But it is worth it. There is no absence of fear. Courage isn’t about being brave when there is no risk. It’s about being scared, but believing/risking/singing/loving/speaking anyway.

It doesn’t matter if you can feel your pulse radiating in your teeth and toes. It doesn’t matter if you can no longer feel your knees. It doesn’t matter that you’ve stripped off the last of your defenses. When something/someone is worth it — darlings, you do it anyway.

a mad masterpiece

December 17, 2012 1 comment

 

Sometimes, we just need to say things out loud. There’s a power in it, but not one of pride or manipulation. It’s freeing to be honest, without expectation. To simply speak the truth, because it’s the truth. Because it’s what you feel. As you learn somewhere after the age of five, not saying something doesn’t make it less true.

As we grow up, we learn to hold a lot in – to keep a lot back. Part of it is probably self-preservation. But a big part – perhaps a large part – is fear. Fear will kill everything, always. We are afraid of the dark, so we keep the lights on. We are afraid of heights, so we stay on the ground. We are afraid of getting hurt, so we run. Intellectually, we may know that there’s nothing in the dark but darkness, that being up high doesn’t mean you’re going to fall, and running away never solves anything. But when fear starts to dictate your actions, you stop thinking reasonably. You stop thinking about all the ways you’re closing yourself off.

I once explained to a friend that I am all heart and no sense. It’s a phrase that I find creeping into my writing, although not intentionally. But it is true. I’m 95% emotions. The other 5% varies depending on the situation. I feel something, and I follow through. I don’t know any other way to be. But after talking to an extremely dear friend tonight (you know who you are!), I started to think about the things that I regret, and I know without hesitation that each one is something I’ve held back. Something I haven’t said. A conversation that I always expected to happen, but never materialized. At least one of those conversations can never, ever happen now. And that’s on me.

But life is a funny, epically weird, nonsensical, short, mad masterpiece. If there is ONE thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that things should be said when they’re felt. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter what the fallout is. It doesn’t matter if it all explodes. Because chances aren’t something you buy at the grocery store. You won’t find them in the aisle marked OPPORTUNITY.

Too often, we wait for the right time to say something. The perfect moment. A good time. But the truth is, there is no right moment. There is no good time. It’s a myth. It’s an excuse. It’s a way to put things off. Oh, this isn’t a good idea right now… It’ll be better to wait a week. I should let the holidays go by first. It’ll be easier after [whatever].

All of that is pure and simple horseshit. Steaming horseshit. (Because it’s, you know, fresh. You’re welcome for that image.) Those statements are things we use to keep ourselves from taking a risk. Because we’re scared. Because being brave isn’t easy. Because change isn’t easy. Because truth isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean those things are important. Without bravery, change, and truth – who are we? And what is our life?

I am not a naturally brave person. I hate confrontation. I do not like uncertainty. But I hurl myself out there, because I’d rather look the fool than wonder. I’d rather be brave, instead of small. I would rather say the things that are true, simply because they are true. No agenda. No ulterior motive. Just honesty.

I don’t want to fall. I want to fly. But the only way to find out is to jump.

a love in myth

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

somewhere, fear crawls
out of the rain, falling as a mist
born out another place, Avalon
or Brigadoon, a story
told to teach a lesson
or to keep the dark at bay.

The rain does not keep time.
It falls without mercy.
I walk through it to find you.

if you are looking for a fool,
she may, indeed, be me. I unlaced
my heart without a backwards glance,
biting the apple without a blink,
speaking the prophecy out of turn,
and deliberately picking the seeds
out of the pomegranate –
what is six months in hell
if my fingers are met by yours?

It’s time to leave the tapestry,
to forget the mirror as it cracks,
to escape the maze
by the golden thread that binds us.

never mind the monster, pursuing.
never mind the ghost, wailing.
never mind the warnings
and briefly written allegories —

it’s time to trust the story.

Categories: Poetry

a writer’s love letter

December 13, 2012 1 comment

 

The simplest way to know me is to read. To follow along as best you can, guessing at the metaphors, ignoring the misplaced commas. I am nothing more than a pretty cover and sloppy grammar. My font is questionable, a bastardized Comic Sans, eleven points so that you are forced to strain your eyes. I’ve been designed to distract you from all other realities, if you finger through the pages, looking for escape.

Mind the way you turn from one moment to the next. My title page has been removed, leaving a ragged reminder. My spine is worn out. Serviceable, though well-used. Occasionally, when opened, there is a still a slight creak.

My pages are creased, bent to hold a place that no longer matters. I have notes scribbled in the margins, some in pen and permanent. Others scrawled in nearly illegible pencil, halfway hidden by smudges and time. Do not look for page numbers or conventional order. At best, I am playing at Faulkner. At worst, I am a line from Tennessee Williams. My enjambments are deliberate. My stage directions are dangerous. Mind the bear, always pursuant.

Keep in mind that my verbs don’t always match my subject. I am tense in any case. I do not always stick to English. I’m strung out on rolled Rs and three different words for love, all equally difficult to pronounce. Translate only as much as you dare. Conjugation optional, but preferred. Just don’t expect poetry in any form. I cannot be constrained by a syllable count or a rhyme scheme. Do not look for sonnets, here. My lack of couplets will disappoint you.

Whatever you do, do not read the dedication. Do not look for your own name. You will not find it. I’ve already hidden you on every page, even the ones I have not written yet.

Categories: Poetry

goldfish

December 11, 2012 4 comments

you and I
are goldfish, forgetting
and remembering each other
like it’s the first
and last time.
the memories pile up
like water, until they
are the only thing left to breath,
reflections
of you and me, me and you,
witnessed by strangers
that wear our eyes.

i love you
.

where did that come from?
who said that? And why
do I feel
as if oxygen doesn’t matter,
that the only thing worthy
is the breath between a kiss?
memories
are easy enough
to kill, but feelings
are the scales across our bodies.

i love you
.

something I am not supposed
to say, although I pretend
not to remember why. I imagine
us somewhere else,
not a fish bowl, but an ocean,
a lake, anywhere.
then, I forget you.
then, I forget myself.

who are we, and how did we get here?

Categories: Poetry

I Belong to You

December 7, 2012 32 comments

I belong to you.

Four, simple powerful words. Different than I love you, but no less weighty, no less dangerous. Often times, on greeting cards, you’ll find we belong together, scribbled in glittery. A fancy idea. But belong to someone is an entirely different matter. It means love. It means putting another person first. It means commitment. Belonging to someone is no small endeavor, no small love.

On last night’s Scandal (Happy Birthday, Mr. President), we learned so many things. We learned that Hollis was responsible for the bombing; his actions were extreme. He wanted to silence a reporter, so he silenced his source. We learned that Cyrus was, or thought he was, a closeted gay man at one point. We learned that the late press secretary (a shooting victim) was part of Liv’s staff when she was at the White House. We found out that Mellie was always sharp as hell and sweetly ruthless. The reason Olivia Pope left the White House was revealed to be that Mellie confronted her about her relationship with Fitz. (Yes, relationship. Not a one-time thing, as I had previously thought. This was a full-blown affair.) She did it as Mellie does: slyly, with perfect aim. Why waste a bullet, when a well-placed knife will do? After that conversation, Olivia resigned.

Now, Fitz has been shot. This is what brings Olivia Pope back to the White House. The President – the man she loves – is in a coma. So, she does what she can to help, by doing what she does best: try to fix things, while the world hangs in the balance. We don’t know if Fitz’s going to die, but it certainly seems that way. Imagine being Liv, with all the love and unresolved feelings swirling inside you. Imagine the feelings of guilt, of sadness for not seizing that love with everything you had – and facing the fact that you may never be able to. That is a special kind of hell. And only time will tell what happens, especially with Sally Langston, the VP, assuming the presidency. (Which leads me to wonder if SHE was the one that gave the order to have Fitz shot. The only other thing I have to add is: WTF, HUCK? This is bad, man. This is very, very bad.)

The other person fiercely loyal to Fitz, and not just his status or position, is Cyrus. When Cyrus confronted Sally about her complete lack of respect, and her abundance of audacity, it was sheer brilliance. Jeff Perry is amazing. I have loved him ever since he was on a little show called my so-called life. But he shines on this series, and he is a force to be reckoned with. I, for one, hope he eviscerates Sally Langston, whom I do not trust.

But right now, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about Liv and Fitz. Liv and Fitz maintained their relationship, with the understanding they’d stop when he became president. (Side-note: I want to steal her wardrobe. That black and white dress was STUNNING. Send one my way! Size 2.) It did not. Because once you fall in love, once you act on love, there is no off switch. There’s no line drawn in the sand. There’s two people who cannot, physically or emotionally, stay away from each other. And even thought it isn’t perfect, even though he’s married and she works for him, neither of them are victims. They are active participants in a complicated situation.

And they know each other. They see each other. For his inauguration, Olivia buys him an antique pin worn by a former president. It only has 48 stars, and she wanted to give him something special. He quips that she is his something special, and my heart melted. But the point is: the gift has meaning. Mellie is wowed by the pin, which reminds us that in the previous episode, she didn’t know what to get Fitz for his birthday. So, Cyrus took care of it. She doesn’t know her own husband enough to buy him a present. Telling, that. Regardless, both Liv and Fitz struggle with their feeling for each other. Fitz is steadfast. Olivia is panicked at times, flighty, insecure. She wants to run for a multitude of reasons. It all looks wrong on paper. It’s emotional overload. But for Fitz, he can’t stop. He can’t walk away. It’s not an option. He cares too much. He’s in too deep. She, as he confesses, is the most important person in his life. Think about that for a minute. She is the most important person in his life.

Nothing is more arresting than that kind of love. Than belonging to someone else, not just loving them. That’s not something you’ll find on a greeting card. That’s love that seeps into your marrow, akin to obsession, a love that becomes part of who you are, and not just something that you feel.

I belong to you. They both admit this, though in very different tones. They are both desperate, here. Both hurting. Both wanting to do the right thing, and yet, wanting the circumstances to be different. Olivia is trying to push him away – even though by circumstance, he is supposed to be unavailable. But the heart is a strange creature. And Olivia, as she admits in a later, intimate scene (seeing the actual constitution) – is in love with Fitz. She’s in it with him. She’s in.

And then, Mellie confronts her, and it all falls to hell. Because Liv is very much about being a good person, about doing the right thing. And that exchange is enough to shatter her already battered conscience, despite her own heart. Despite all the love that she feels. Despite everything. And since she can’t stop those emotions, she does the one thing she can do: she resigns. She doesn’t talk to Fitz about it, because if they have that conversation, she’ll never leave. She writes a letter, leaves it on his desk with the pin, and goes.

You know, if I was Fitz? I don’t know if I would recover from that. His marriage is a pitiful sham, built on a foundation of façades. And the one person he relies on, trusts implicitly, loves and cares for – she leaves him without a single word. Fitz’s behavior, then, in the past season and a half – it makes perfect sense. Because he was true to his word, when he said that Liv couldn’t push him away. He didn’t give up hope, even (I think) when he let her go.

When Liv, during Hunting Season, told Fitz I am not yours – it was a direct contrast to the I belong to you. It was her, trying to push him away again. And, perhaps, it worked. Perhaps it would only have been a temporary isolation. Because as their history has shown, they can only stay apart for so long. Because the love that they feel for each other isn’t just love. It is also belonging. Fitz is always perfectly calm, except when confessing to Liv. She is what undoes him. Mellie yells at him, and he simply sits there like a statute. But when Olivia does it, passion moves him to speak in such a way that it stops Liv’s pacing in the Rose Garden. She paces, and he is what stops her. That is a balance.

I wonder, with Fitz in a coma, what will balance Olivia now. In a way, he grounded her, as much as she unhinged him. And my question is this: where do you belong, when the person you belonged to is no longer physically there?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know one thing: if Fitz dies, Olivia will break. It will haunt her for the rest of her days. She will lose a part of herself, that part that she gave to Fitz. Because that kind of love, when it is violently yanked away, it leaves a wound that will never fully heal. You don’t feel that kind of passion, that depth of belonging, without consequences. I hope, for Olivia’s sake, that Fitz defies the odds. Because, sometimes, love should win out over logic and reason.

Categories: Scandal

that guy (a repost)

December 6, 2012 1 comment

Because we all know a sweet-seeming creeper. Because some things shouldn’t be ignored. Because sometimes, we forget that we shouldn’t let things slide with a smile.

that guy — audio.

Text:

You know, there’s always that guy.
He’s harmless, mostly. He will always
greet you with a smile, he’s
friends with all of your friends,
though no one can remember
who was his friend first. It’s like
you all woke up one day
and there he was,
and there he stayed,
and you realize
with a kick of dread:
there’s actually no getting rid of him.

You see, that guy can be sweet,
he can be charming, but he’s always
straddling the line between
nice guy and
creepy ass weirdo.
For example,
you wear a nice dress
you wear a bikini
you show off a new pair of heels –
he drools on the floors, walks around
like a dog in heat, smiling at you
this peculiar smile, as if he’s picturing
you naked.
When you tell him that your behavior
kinda creeps me out, he spreads his hands wide
and give you his best mea culpa smile,
professing that he didn’t mean anything by it.
When he does, do not believe him.
Next time, he’ll do it again.

You know you’re in trouble
when he starts speaking in single words,
things like YUM and WHOA,
and suddenly you’re sixteen again
watching blossom on tv, wondering
what it’s like to find your voice –
snap out of it. You are nearly thirty,
and you are no one’s reduction.
This guy is kind of obnoxious.
This guy is the passive aggressive
semi-sweet asshole – don’t you forget it.

When he starts writing you poetry, run.
Do not wait. Do not pass go. Do not even stop
to ask for directions. Just go. He’s one step away
from a dirt pit in the basement,
he’s one step away from a basket with lotion,
he is the most clever creep –
because he seems so normal.
Remember that he makes your skin crawl,
remember that he’s inappropriate with a smile,
remember that you keep a pocket knife in your purse,
and your tongue is a better blade than that –
you have words like bombs,
you have hands like bullets:
use them.
Do not regret this.
Do not ask questions.
Just tell him to fuck off.

When he apologizes, and he will,
when he looks at you like he’s actually sorry,
do not forgive him,
do not tell him it’s okay,
do not believe him when he says it was just
a misunderstanding – it’s not.
And if you open the door half an inch,
he will try to throw open the window,
you will find him sneaking around
leaving messages on your voicemail
when you don’t remember giving him
your number, in fact you’re sure that you didn’t.

You know, there’s always that guy,
with his wile e. coyote manners,
with his ACME anvil moves,
with his oops, was that offense? looks,
with his gee you just took that the wrong way bullshit.
Do not buy it.
Do not forgive.
Do not ignore it.

Categories: Poetry

The Mysterious Case of the Four Christmas Stockings

December 3, 2012 9 comments

 

I think it’s finally happened. I think I’ve FINALLY become a grownup. Or, at the very least, a rough approximation of one, decently presentable to those who do not know me too well. Tonight, I finished decking the halls, because there weren’t enough hours in my Sunday. Holidays, I believe, should SPARKLE. And sparkle they do. Oh, yes…

Between putting the lights on the stairs and arranging the Christmas bears so that didn’t look drunk (I failed. They’ve surely hit the ‘nog, without me), I came across my mother’s Christmas stocking. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to see it. It wasn’t as if it’d been stolen in the night by the Grinch or a wayward, non-Buddy elf. Still, I found myself unprepared for its reality – for the oddly sort of jolt that reminded me that it won’t be used this year. What does one do with such a thing? It seems cruel to toss it out with the trash. Disrespectful in an odd way. So, unsure of what its fate should be, I stared at it, dumbly, before moving. I needed to search the (horribly marked box – for which I only have myself to blame) for other things.

But then I found another stocking of hers. And another. And yet still another. It all felt very Lucille Ball meets Groundhog’s Day. Except instead of pulling an insanely large loaf of bread from the oven, I got stockings. If she were here, the Lucille Ball part would fit my mother to the ends of it. She was always falling into things like a walking pratfall. I’m not kidding. She would, inexplicably, end up stuck in a trashcan, Rubbermaid container, a box, or even flat in a hole – despite having SEEN the hole and despite having been warned about said hole. She never hurt herself, and she always laughed harder than anyone else. Often, until tears were running down her face. No one could laugh like my mother.

Of course, my mom wasn’t one to have an excess of things, unless she was giving those things to other people. (She liked to give.) However, she liked to be prepared, and she liked tradition – which brings us to the Mysterious Case of the Four Christmas Stockings (Nancy Drew’s lesser known caper). When my siblings and I were small, the whole family had this enormous stockings with our names emblazoned on them with glitter. There is a picture of me in mine as a baby, next to a stuffed monkey. Of course, nothing lasts forever. A few years ago, one of them tore, and my mom (in an effort to keep all things the same and equal) bought us all new stockings. My dad wrote all our names on them, again in glitter. (I should point out my father loathes glitter, so my mother probably forced him to do this.) We all now had backup stockings!

However, the following year, all of the stockings inexplicably vanished. No one could find them anywhere, especially not in the handy box labeled ‘Christmas Stockings.’ Which is not to be confused with the box I labeled ‘Christmas Shit.’ I am classy like that. And, apparently, I like to GUESS what’s in the box. Anyway, the stocking were gone, presumably off somewhere with Carmen Sandiego, assuring that we were stocking-less. My mother, of course, would have none of that. Again, she went out and bought brand new stockings. These were less fancy and labeled with a Sharpie. They were still quite awesome.

The year after THAT, only my mother’s stocking was missing, including the newest addition. So, she acquired a fourth stocking, which accounts the entire pile I unearthed this evening. Each stocking has a story, albeit a slightly silly one. Our traditions and our habits are all stuffed with memories. There isn’t a decoration that doesn’t remind me of my mother. And as I was decking the halls, I couldn’t help but here her voice say, “Are you SURE you want to put that THERE?” Because decorating was always something we did together. (Mostly, I think, because she didn’t trust me to get tangled in the lights. Or put things in silly, ill-advised places. Like that time I…*cough* NEVER MIND.) Even the wreath hanging on the door is something my mother made, something she loved. And yet, through all the things, it was the stocking that caught me off guard, that startled me the most. I think it’s because they don’t have a purpose anymore. They won’t be put out. They won’t be filled. It occurs to me, as I write this, that they need a new purpose. That they can, and should, be turned into something else. Something to be put out every Christmas, to retain the bit of magic that my mother always found in usefulness.

A person may be gone, and a stocking may be empty, but love never goes away – and emptiness is not the ending word. I just hope that I don’t hot glue my fingers together, when attempting to be crafty. Goodness knows, it was never a holiday in my house, unless someone got burnt. Or was nearly lit on fire. But that, darlings, is another tale.