Welcome to My Blog

Well, I tossed around the idea of creating a blog a few weeks ago, struggled a few more days over what to name it, and since then have become positively paralyzed by the thought of posting anything. Why? It's only an Internet blog, yes? When deciding upon a title, why do I sit for five hours with my head in my hands running through the internal movie of my life searching for that one word or phrase that pinpoints exactly who I am, what I'm all about? It's this problem I have - be kind and call it an idiosyncrasy, thank you very much - this problem I have with going to odd and wonderous lengths in an attempt to make myself very cleary understood; sweating blood over the precise meaning of a word or debating whether a phrase's double-meaning is apt and not just cute. And yet, I can't spell worth beans and am too lazy to crack a dictionary, nor can I figure out just when to use "lay" rather than "lie". The irony is not lost on me.

After pouring through the scrapbooks of my mind, the closest I could come to a "just so" title was "Most Unique". It comes from one of those high school awards voted upon by my classmates (I'm guessing that I was nowhere near close to winning Most Likely to Succeed or Best Farrah Flip) and even then the redundancy if not arguable no-no of pairing "most" and "unique" was a tad annoying . But not so annoying that I didn't take some small joy in being noticed as being "most" at anything, even if I were being somewhat publicly called-out as a strange agent. But as a blog title? I typed it in, puzzled a bit, puzzled some more, and then decided that it was too much of an obnoxious inside joke that I would need to explain. Overly. As I am doing now.

Anyway...after tossing around a handful of titles which also, obviously, did not make the cut, I found msyelf hunkered down over my desk in the dead of night...or rather, morning at this point...with a sharp pain right behind both my eyeballs and, because I had forgotten to brush my teeth, my mouth tasting like undercooked bechamel . I was thinking way too much about this. And why...why was it so important to be so precisely understood? Why this procrastination? Why was I preventing myself from jumping right in and writing? What was the psychology behind creating this diversion, this self-sabotaging exercise....I was quickly heading into territory best navigated by my therapist and on some sunny day.

And so without further ado or introspection, I give you...Halushki. It's onions and butter and pasta. If I find a recipe, I'll post it. It's comfort food. But mostly, it's a mix of ordinary food stuff that tastes really, really good mushed together. And no, you won't find it on the menu at Le Bec Fin. And no, the ingredient measurements probably don't have to be very precise for it to still taste really good. So yes, this title does not neatly tie-up or tie-into anything I've previously said in this introduction. But there it is...a title. And now, I can start writing.

Well, in a bit...now, I have to go to sleep because I've spent so much time on this introduction.

To tide you over a bit, here's a piece I wrote a while ago for submission to a local writing contest. I didn't win. But, I did get an honorable mention. Rereading it now, I realize that the 1,500 word limit was possibly a bit restrictive. Truly, I need about 1,537 words to really get cooking. And the ending is very Chicken Soup for the Soul, appealing less to the highbrow sentimentality of Magazine of Local NPR Station that was running the contest. Or, you know, maybe my writing just wasn't most unique.

But here it is...I promise to write more stuff and write often.


The Grass is Greener

The day my husband and I announced that we were going to be parents, our family began placing bets on when we’d move out of the city.

We were shocked.

Leave Philadelphia? Leave Rittenhouse Square and Sundays at the Rodin Museum? Leave our favorite Japanese restaurant and the best sushi this side of Tokyo? Leave spur-of-the-moment walks to Phillies’ games and the boutiques on Walnut Street, the theaters and cafes, Independence Hall and all of civilization as we knew it?

Leave cheesesteaks?

No way, we smiled knowingly. Never.

We knew that our families were mostly concerned for their grandchildren’s safety. And sure, the city could be a dangerous place. I’d had my share of nervous nights. And my cool urban je ne sais quoi was a bit rattled the day of a drive-by shooting a few blocks from our house. But plenty of people raised kids in downtown Philadelphia without wrapping the little tykes in Kevlar. A lot of families actually chose to stay in the city. And we would stay, too.

Our families listened politely, and smiled knowingly.

And sure enough, after the birth of our second daughter, my husband and I began to feel a strange, almost primal pull toward greener pastures.

For me, quite literally greener.

I know that my husband and I would each name different reasons, different moments when we’d finally admitted to ourselves that it was time to leave. My husband’s breaking point came over the sad state of the inner-city schools and the realization that the only way we could afford to send our girls to private school would be if we both agreed to sell a kidney. And possibly a lung. But for myself, the decision to skip town came one hot July afternoon while bandaging another busted knee, victim of the six-foot-by-six-foot slab of hard concrete that was our backyard.

That was it for me.

No matter my dream of raising cosmopolitan, Starbucks-drinking, street-savvy, subway-riding preschoolers, I was suddenly overcome by a Mother Earthly conviction that it was more important – essential – that my girls grow up running barefoot and safe through lush green grass. And this image replayed in my mind Band-aid after Band-aid, working to convince me of some larger missing necessity in my children’s lives - summer mornings dashing though sprinklers, picnic lunches sur l’herbe, long nights reclining on soft ground staring up at the sky, counting stars. Over and over the message repeated: there existed a more nurturing, safer sort of safety than offered by a concrete square. Until finally one warm October Saturday, my husband and I made the decidedly bittersweet decision to kiss our concrete slab goodbye and travel 90 miles west on the Turnpike, toward the country.

Or something close to it. And just as safe. And green.

But the moment we parked the moving van in our new driveway, we were suddenly overcome with a dreadful realization that, very possibly, we’d been duped.

It wasn’t the house. We’d made peace with sacrificing our historic Georgian townhouse for a 1970s family-room-two-and-a-half-baths-ample-closet-space-attached-garage-two-trees-in-the-front-yard. We’d come to terms with the idea of residing in a not-the-middle-of-nowhere-but-you-can-see-it-from-here part of the state. And sure, I missed my friends. And yes, my husband missed the Democrats. But we had anticipated and stoically accepted these tradeoffs for the assurance of verdant security.

What we hadn’t anticipated was that our verdant security itself would be…elusive.

There was no grass. Nowhere. Instead, the entire yard was covered with a heavy layer of brown leaves. How could two trees make so many leaves? Where was my nurturing field, my sanctuary of childhood? These dark, crunchy crinkles looked menacing. Were there bad things lurking in the leaves? Under them? Pointy sticks? Rabid animals? The neighborhood child molester?


Our girls leapt from the van, flung off their shoes and socks, and began running barefoot through the yard, kicking up leaves, throwing them in each other’s hair. I looked to my husband, panicked. He was turning slowly, taking in the millions of leaves, his shoulders slumped.

“There go the weekends….for the rest of my life.”

He heaved a sigh and began unpacking.

I was about to grab my children, throw them in the van, and scream all the way back to our concrete slab, when a smiling woman approached me from the sidewalk.

“Howdy! You the new neighbors?”

“Hello. Yes, we are. For now.”

“Well, welcome! You’re going to love it here. Real nice place to raise kids. So safe. Quiet.”

As if on cue, a man fired up what looked like a cannon attached to a jet engine and began blowing leaves all over their yard in a huge whirlwind. The sound was deafening.

“Of course,” she shouted over the din, “you’re here in time for the leaves.”

“We’ve noticed.”

“You got a leaf blower, right?”

I assumed that was the gigantic hairdryer across the street.

“Not actually.”

The woman eyed me suspiciously.

“We didn’t have leaves,” I explained. “We just moved from Philadelphia.”

At the mention of “Philadelphia” the woman stepped back away from me.

“Oh, well…I’m sure you had other things we just couldn’t imagine here.”

I guessed that she was referring to mobsters, transvestites and the Rodin Museum. But I didn’t say anything.

“You’ll want to get to unpacking. And raking! Just came over for a quick howdy. Oh, almost forgot. The other day my boys were in your yard. There’s a squirrel laying under that Chinese Holly bush in the back. Don’t know if it’s dead or sleeping. I told my boys to stay away. In case it had rabies.”

I shot off toward the backyard, the neighbor jogging after me.

“A dead squirrel? ” I yelled, speeding toward the vicious killer. “Call 911!”

“Oh heavens no!” my neighbor laughed. “You need to call Bucky’s Pest Control. Bucky will come out and get it. Costs about $120.”

I charged into the backyard and saw the girls happily rolling in leaves, nowhere near the bushes.

“Here it is.” My neighbor pointed to a spindly, green shrub. There under the shrub, lying belly-up and bloated, was an enormous, dead squirrel. I wanted to cry.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I’d do,” the woman spoke in a low, conspiratorial voice. “I’d just wait until it was dark, put on some rubber gloves, and pitch the squirrel over the fence. Into the other neighbor’s yard. They’ll never know.”

I took a step back away from her.

“Or, you could just dig a hole, sprinkle some lime…”

“Lime?”

“Or a little Clorox – to cover the scent - and just bury it.”

“Just…bury it?”

“There you go! But I’d pitch it over the fence. Anyway, I gotta get. Nice to meet you!”

And she was gone.

I herded the girls into the front yard away from the furry evil under the bush. My husband was sweating and grunting, unloading boxes from the van.

“Honey?”

“Unngggg…wha?”

“There’s a dead squirrel in the backyard.”

“Wha?…I…call the…arrrrrrr….”

I could tell that the gravity of this situation was lost on him. I was beginning to get angry that my verdant dream had so quickly turned black…or at least gray. But, we were stuck here tonight, and I needed to take charge, protect my children from the menacing suburbs and its threat of diseased wildlife. Luckily, the former owners had left some gardening tools. I found a rusted shovel and a paper bag. I couldn’t find any lime or Clorox, but I did find a damp container of Ajax, so I grabbed everything and headed out to dig a grave.

Digging a hole in the ground was hard work. And kicking the squirrel into the paper bag almost made me vomit. But finally, the stiff, stinking vermin was snug in its eternal resting place, and after a brief, silent prayer for its wicked little soul, I wiped my brow and trudged off to find my family. I’d have to unpack some pillows and blankets, but there was no sense unloading the mattresses. Tomorrow afternoon, we’d be safe and sound in Philadelphia, eating cheesesteaks and dodging bullets.

I found my husband and our two girls in the front yard, lying on a patch of green grass, staring up. An enormous pile of leaves and a rake lay nearby. The sky was just beginning to darken, the deep purple of twilight.

“Look, Daddy ! A star!”

“I think that’s a planet. Mars.”

“A planet!”

“Mm-hm.”

“Did we have planets in Philadelphia?”

“We did, Sweetie. But we couldn’t see them.”

“I think that one there is a real star, Daddy.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Daddy?’

“Yes?”

“I love our yard.”

“Mm-hm.”

“And our new stars.”

“We’ll have plenty of nights to count them. Right now, let’s find our pajamas and get to sleep. More fun tomorrow.”

That next summer, while my daughters laughed and danced through the garden sprinkler, I surveyed our backyard and smiled.

The new grass over the buried squirrel seemed especially green.

5 comments:

Jor Jazzar said...

This is a test comment. That's funny about the "most unique" distinction. I, too, was given that "distinction", which I found, by turns, flattering, puzzling, and, finally, repulsive; a linguistic faux pas we discerning types have trouble with. But, as you've demonstrated, we mature and learn not to fret too much over titles....

So, congratulations on this, your third child.

Chantelle13 said...

Ok, so I know I'm not a writer. I know I'm a sentimental sap. I also know that this made me cry. You are so incredibly, beautifully talented. Every thing I've ever read that you've written has conjured up emotion in me, and really, as sensitive as I am, not everything does that. Thank you for including me in your audience! I can't wait to read more.
Love,
Chantelle

anne said...

Congratulations on the first step! The concrete pad seems like a lifetime ago... still, I will forever have to enter Phila as if I were going to Wharton St. It's the only way I know! Great writing, as always. Looking forward to reading more.

Jozet said...

Hey all!

Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm going to try to keep up with writing at least a little something every few days.

And dear seestor, I think you should definitely start your own blog. You're writing slays me, my dear!

Josette

rox_publius said...

a voice from my future?

except, i suppose, we've moderated the shock by holding off a while on the kids and taking baby steps, moving from center city to roxborough (a sort of concrete slab with a few blades of green grass poking through the cracks) and postponing the inevitable future flight from the Philadelphia school system to the suburbs from whence I came.

blog frequently, i enjoyed it.

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