Red-faced

It was the worst start to a summer ever. My friend Julie and I were supposed to make a movie together, this summer, but instead, the month before school got out, I found out that my mom lost her job so, right after school, we had to move in with my grandmother. I begged my mom to let me live with Julie instead, but she was so caught up in her own stuff she didn’t seem to care that she was ruining my life.

Mom and Grandma were always sending me outside “to play,” like I was some kind of little kid. There wasn’t even anything to do in Grandma’s neighborhood. There was nobody my age. Mom wouldn’t let me off the block Grandma lived on without her, because she said I didn’t get what it was to be a city kid, but she never had time to do anything. The best I could do was bounce a ball against the step and think about how much I was missing out on.

I ended up spending basically every day waiting to hear from Julie and hanging out on the steps of my grandmother’s place. Her neighbor across the street, Mrs. Pauley, had this son who looked like he was about 25, and sometimes would stop by. He rode this great motorcycle, and never wore a helmet. I thought he was probably a jerk, until the day he caught me staring at him, grinned, and waved. He always waved at me after that, and even though I didn’t want to like him, my breath caught in my throat when I heard his bike turn onto our street.

Grandma said Mrs. Pauley had lived there forever, just like she had. Mom had grown up with and even dated one of her older sons, before she met my dad. I wondered if Mrs. Pauley’s son looked like his younger brother. I wondered if he would have left eventually, the way Dad did. Maybe Mom just had that effect, on guys.

I guess Mrs. Pauley’s husband had died a couple of months before we got there, and Grandma said they were going to throw her out. I guess I thought that, when you lived somewhere that long, things like that didn’t happen to you.

Grandma was always sending me over with baked goods or a hot dish.

“Grandma, I don’t think she’s eating this stuff— she’s always crying and sitting in the living room. She never has room in the refrigerator, when I bring it.”

“Hush, Jennifer. This is what you do.” Grandma would hurry back to the kitchen.

“Maybe we should collect money— there’s a sign on her door that says she’s not paying her rent.”

“You don’t understand, honey. It would embarrass her to know that we were even thinking about that.”

“Isn’t it kind of dumb to worry about being embarrassed? She’s going to lose her home.”

My mother entered the room. “Sweetheart, we’re barely scraping by ourselves. This is the best we can do.”

It didn’t feel like much, on the day that the sheriff came to evict her. I couldn’t sit on the steps that day. I didn’t know what to say, and I couldn’t sit across from her while she waited for her sons and cried softly into a hankie. Even the sound of the motorcycle didn’t stop my heart the way it usually did. I peeped out from the front window, from behind my grandma’s lace curtains.

I remembered what it felt like, to leave my own house, only a few weeks earlier. I had clutched the potted plant from the kitchen. I didn’t even really know why— I just couldn’t imagine life without it. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you where it even was, at grandma’s. Mrs. Pauley gripped the handle of an old-fashioned brown suitcase, and a photo frame from her living room that had fancy gold curlicues all along the edge and a faded black stand on the back. She gripped them tight like they were all she had in the world.

A couple of her kids came and got her, and the few things she had piled on the steps. I was kind of sad at the thought that I might never see her again, or feel the breathlessness and my face get red when her son turned with a knowing grin and waved. He didn’t turn and wave that day.

It was pretty much the worst start to a summer ever.

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What Are You Afraid Of?

U want to know what scares me?

It’s kind of cliched.

I’m afraid that the best is behind me. That I’ve seen the best I’ll see.

Some days, what scares me is that I think there’s more for me, but there isn’t.

I’ll never meet the guy.
I’ll never be more professionally successful.
I’ll never find the direction I’m looking for.

That’s what keeps me up nights.

(This Writing 101 assignment was to write in a style unlike your own, about one of your worst fears.)

Lost and Found, Part III

Last year, I was on a quick turnaround business trip. I boarded the plane early in the morning on Wednesday. I travel some—not a ton, but a few times a year—for business, and I’m pretty seasoned as a traveler. But I was going to Palm Springs, and in April, there aren’t many direct flights. So I left Denver early, and transferred planes in Phoenix. I had breakfast in the Phoenix airport, and hopped on the connection to Palm Springs. The flight into Palm Springs was bumpy, and I was sitting next to a nervous flyer. I chatted with her to keep her calm as we descended through the turbulent air.

When I got to Palm Springs, I grabbed a cab and went to the hotel to check in. They asked to see my ID when I checked in. I have a pair of pants that I wear most times that I fly— they’re great for different climates, and unless it’s snowing, I can wear them with a t-shirt and a sweater and be ready for anything north of 40F and reaching 100F, which was the order of the day. The best thing is that they have back pockets, and I keep an ID and a credit card in the pocket, which comes in handy, checking in, going through security, and so forth. So I grabbed my credit card and… no ID. I double-checked my purse, my carry on. Nothing.

I explained what happened to the desk clerk and… What luck! The cab I had taken was still there. I asked the cabbie if I could check the back seat and floor. But my ID wasn’t there. I figured out how to call the airline and… Lucky again! My plane was still at the gate and the cleaning crew was going through it. The dispatch person relayed my seat number and they checked for my ID. 

Nothing. I called the Phoenix airport, gave them the name of the cafe in which I had breakfast. Nothing had been turned in.

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As a public service, I should tell you that the smart traveler travels with a copy of photo ID in their bag. But at the time, I did not meet that definition of a smart traveler. I had no photo ID. I had a plane ticket for the next day, and no way to either get documentation in time or prove who I was to the government who insists that I do so before I board their major transit. 

So I checked the Internet. They advised to report the ID missing to the local police, so that I could prove my story to the TSA. So I met the lovely sheriff’s deputy, she filed a case report and gave me a number to give to the authorities.

When I finished my business the next day, I headed for the airport early. I pled my case to the TSA, they did an enhanced search, and we found something that proved to them that I was who I claimed to be. I canceled my license and paid to have a new one issued. 

So… that’s the lost, where’s the found?

About four months later, I was in a situation where I was trying to get a family member on a plane on short notice. He didn’t have his license and couldn’t find it, no matter how he looked. Handily, I happened to know exactly what he should bring to the airport to get him on the plane. So it was hard-won knowledge that paid off for me in unexpected ways. 

And now, all my bags have copies of my important information. And I’ve made sure that the pants that I wear on the plane have pockets that button. 

Lost and Found, Part I

Lost and Found, Part II

Preserving

When I moved into my house, it came with two crabapple trees on the edge of the building. 

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And the first year, the trees gave fruit, but I know from childhood that crabapples can be wormy and kind of gross. So the fruit fell, and I didn’t even think much about it. 

And that spring, we got some nasty snowstorms that closed the office and had me working from my home office— the window just outside which the crabapples stand. So I had a first row seat for the birds and rabbits and squirrels, who were visibly relieved to find the remnants of the crabapples under the snow. 

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Film on the Rocks

It’s a fixture of summer in the metro Denver area—Film on the Rocks. The Denver Film Society shows popular movies on the stage at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater at sundown one weeknight a week, all summer long. You can bring a picnic supper and meet your friends after work (bringing something to sit on and foul weather gear, just in case) to see one of those movies you know by heart. While we all eat and wait for the sun to go down, a local band gives a brief concert. It’s incredible to see them approach this world-renowned stage, on which the most famous acts of the last 50 years have played. 

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