The Gift of Petty Grievances

The Gift of Petty Grievances

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Thursday night I was the second to last parent to pick up my daughter from the middle school football game because I went first to the wrong school and sat there in the crowded parking lot while I talked to her on her friend’s cellphone, wondering why she couldn’t see my car right in front of the main entrance where I said it was.

And Wednesday morning my mother texted me to ask if she and Dad could stay at my house another night because their brakes were suddenly shot and the mechanic told them it was unsafe to drive back to Alabama, where they live now and spend the majority of their time fixing up the house they just bought and taking care of my elderly grandmother, who needs them like I presume my daughter still needs me.

My brother has been looking after their golden retriever, who requires a thunder shirt when it rains. It rained three nights ago in Auburn, and the thunder shirt could not be located.

The day I moved into my house eight years ago, a hornet flew in and landed on a second story windowsill in a clear story unreachable by any normal sized ladder, and it died there and the crumbled remains remain.

The air conditioner stops working on the hottest day of summer. The water hose disconnects from the washing machine and floods the basement. The fruit flies return. The email piles up, then disappears (along with the IT guy) in an email vortex. You disappoint a colleague and annoy your spouse. You run out of clean pants.

God, the petty annoying stuff of life is always there, but we don’t even notice it when we’re freshly in love, beginning a new job, or packing for vacation…

And then the minute routine kicks in, so does our sensitivity to irritants, until sadly someone we know is diagnosed with something terrible or otherwise dealt a hand irrefutably uglier than a crowded inbox, kid waiting at the wrong school, or large repair bill. Suddenly, the daily bullshit things are reminders you’re still here in this game, still fighting and mostly winning.

A cat falls asleep on your feet, a teenager trusts you with a secret, your boss calls you a star. Life is good, and you can see that it is. You kiss your darlings good night, and you sleep tight without Ambian or alcohol.

My Love, Before I Knew Him

We had dinner last night with his best friend from childhood. These two grew up together in a small town, attended college together in Murfreesboro where they played in bands they say no one listened to, and they both remained in Nashville to work in the music business.

They share an inside language of family, music, friends, exes (girlfriends, band members), trips they’ve taken, dumb things they’ve done, gossip, gin and sometimes work.

This childhood friend’s wife is a photographer – quite exceptional with portraiture – and she pulled out some prints she’s made of the two of them, and others in their friend group, from seven or eight years back. This is before I knew him and his circle, when I was married to someone else.

I was afraid of what they might think if I did what I wanted to do, which was inspect and dissect every pixel of his portrait, so I said a polite, “Great photo!” or whatever, and left it at that. But it was beyond a great photo. This is what I saw:

I saw a classically handsome man of 35 or 36, with hyper-animated, expressive eyebrows, a half-smiling snarl in one corner of his mouth, subtly but suggestively jutting hip, black suit. If his friends read this, they’ll tease him, but he looked to me like a celebrity, like if I had seen him out somewhere at that period of my life, I would have intentionally ignored him so I didn’t look like I was staring.

In that photograph, I saw a man a few years younger, cockier, and perhaps even freer than he is now. I saw a man who had already known for a long time how beautiful and sensitive Chris Bell’s music is, who had already read “A Prayer for Owen Meany” 900 times, and who had given copies of that novel and “I Am The Cosmos” to plenty of other creative, sensitive brunettes.

Knowing someone intimately does not necessarily mean you know the details of their life before you were in it. Sometimes those things reveal themselves in conversations with old friends, in photographs, in the context of someone else’s circumstances, or seemingly from nowhere but fate.

Sometimes mystery is best.

I looked at that photograph of him for but a few seconds, felt jealous that I wasn’t in it, then almost as quickly felt the sort of crush I’d felt when we met, when every little thing about him was new.

He will always have years that are not mine, things about him I don’t know. That is wildly sexy, and I hope someone has taken photographs of those moments he was awesome, long before he met me.

Defining “family” when there’s a divorce

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As a child I remember spending time with relatives and mentally drawing the family tree while everyone played cards and mixed cocktails and cheered for Auburn. These hilarious and super accomplished women are my mom’s first cousins. Their kids are my second cousins. Mom’s sister’s husband’s nieces are my cousins by marriage.

We had a couple of divorces in my family, and sometimes the “related by marriage” person would appear again at a funeral or wedding. But for the most part, in those cases, they drifted away from the rest of our group. I didn’t think about those folks’ relationship to me.

Sometimes it has to be that way, and I don’t judge any families in which that is the case.

But divorce does not have to split a family.

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A Southern great-grandmother: “If they were gay and whatever, so what. She was one of us.”

I’ve asked my grandmother several times over the years to tell me about Maude Pick, her aunt Pearl’s lifelong companion and housemate.

Maybe because the issue has been discussed so persistently lately on the cable news networks she watches between Andy Griffith reruns from her easy chair on her lake house porch, but this Easter weekend – following the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of arguments on the Defense Of Marriage Act – she seemed more relaxed when talking about the relationship between Pearl and “Pick” (as Maude was known).

The video here was shot by my daughter on that lakeside porch in teeny Dadeville, Alabama. My mom and I are in a few shots, as is my parents’ golden retriever. It’s a little grainy and jumpy, and I wish I had photos of Pearl and Pick, but I love this all the same. Regardless of what you think about this issue, I hope it inspires you to ask your grandparents interesting questions, and to record their responses.

Life is short. Love is always.

Your Tween’s Perspective: The Five Most Annoying Things Parents Do

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I have a tween. I annoy her. See this picture I’ve posted here from a building that used to be a strip club before it was a church before it was a motorcycle shop? I love it! She does not! Therefore, I feel qualified to write a blog post for other people who want to annoy their tween children.

Here are five great ways to annoy a tween girl (girl, because I am pretty sure boys don’t pay enough attention to get annoyed).

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In Due Time: ‘The Story I Finally Feel Ready To Share’

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The following is a guest post written by my lovely friend Catherine. She writes about the longing to be a parent, her struggle with infertility, and the closeness she has developed with her husband, Joe. Catherine and Joe are my daughter’s aunt and uncle, which is one of the great lucks of my own life during good times and bad. Continue reading

Things We Overcome

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A breakup.

A divorce.

The money you had to spend to replace your leaky garbage disposal, your broken thermostat, your refrigerator that died on Christmas Eve Eve.

A hangover.

A fight with your best friend.

A fight with your spouse.

A fight with your child.

Someone saying something mean about you on the internet.

A lunatic shooting up a school.

A lunatic shooting up a movie theater.

A lunatic shooting up a shopping mall.

Burning the main course.

The dog eating the caramel cake as it cools on the counter top.

The dog passing away.

Losing your job.

Moving away.

Missing your family on Christmas.