Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Now, Tell Me A Story About Me

In a not too distant land, a little girl stood crying. She was absolutely inconsolable, because she was terrified of her aunt. No matter how hard the aunt tried to make the little girl laugh or smile it only made the child cry even harder.

**Trayse doesn't believe me when I tell that story, but it's true.**

The aunt was beside herself, trying to figure out why on earth the little girl was so frightened of her. No matter what the aunt did or said, the little girl would have nothing to do with her. At meal time, the little girl would turn her head away rather than look at her aunt, and if the aunt wanted to play games, the little girl would only play if her brother were close by. Sadly, the aunt reconciled herself to the fact, that her niece just didn't like her.

Luckily, time is a great benefactor. In the case of the tearful little girl and the sorrowful aunt, time allowed for both of them to get to know each other better. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and months into years, the little girl soon became inseparable from her aunt. She was now full of sweet kisses and long-lasting hugs. Her tearful days were now a distant memory, soon to be forgotten.

Time together with her niece became such a precious commodity, that the two of them decided to take a trip. So, they boarded a plane and flew to the beautiful island of Hawaii. The flight consisted of countless trips to the bathroom and the fear that the "little one" might fall in especially since the lavatory was too small for both of them to go in together. Barring a bathroom mishap, the flight arrived with all passengers intact.

The aunt's cousin, Shon, graciously welcomed them into his home and gave them the run of the place during their stay. Shon lived down the street from the beach, so the aunt and her now beautifully tanned niece decided to take a walk. While the sun was warm and bright that day, the tropical breezes were a welcome respite. The ocean was just as beautiful and inviting as the little girl's aunt had remembered; it was sky blue in some areas, a darker looking green in others, and a deep blue farther off in the distance.

They saw a turtle that day at the beach, and tiny, white crabs scurrying along the sandy shore. The squeal of her niece's voice as she squished her toes into the wet sand is what the aunt will remember most. Once, a very long time ago, there were tears that came between a little girl and her aunt. Now, there are memories of a turtle, tiny crabs, squishy wet sand between the toes, the colors of the ocean, and a little girl with lots and lots of hugs and kisses for her aunt.

Tell Me A Story About Me

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who absolutely loved his aunt. He would wake up early in the morning and say to his mom, "Aunty."

Not more than a few blocks away, a phone would be ringing in the kitchen. "Hello?" The person answering the phone was not at all pleased to be woken up at such an early hour. At the other end of the telephone line, a female voice said, "Come pick up your nephew, he's asking for you." Click.

Minutes later, a car pulled into the parking lot of the little boy's apartment building. The aunt, blurry-eyed and still in her pajamas, looked up toward the top floor of the apartment building as a tiny voice could be heard screeching "Come! Come!" She could make out the sounds of a recurring thump, thump, thump as it echoed in the morning light. A baby bag appeared to be making it's way down the concrete steps alone.

A much louder voice called from over the top banister, "Trysten, will you just wait a minute! Look! See, your aunty's here already. Stop, before you fall down the stairs! Trysten!" The thumping sound stopped.

Soon, a tiny, dark curly haired boy poked his head out from between the railings of the stairwell. He looked down to confirm what his mother had said. There, standing below him was his aunt. A huge smile spread across his face. Quickly, he withdrew his head and pulled his bag closer to begin his quick descent. His mother started down the stairs after him, and his aunt started up the stairs toward him. He was like a bullet once he got started...all arms and legs moving in one direction and one speed: forward and fast.

**That's one of the many Trysten stories that I like to tell him on the rare occasions when he used to ask me to tell him a story. I doubt I'll have many more opportunities. He's going to be a freshman in high school next year.**

Eight Earthly Winds

Earthly Winds 1 & 2: Gain and Loss
Last year I moved to California from Utah. I spent the next eight months getting reacquainted with my aunt. I learned more about her in eight months than all the years I've been on this earth. I worked a job I didn't particularly like, just because I enjoyed the time she and I spent together.

Earthly Winds 3 & 4: Honor and Disgrace
She lived a hard and crazy life growing up. The stories I could tell you...but then someone would have to die, and the police would get involved, and it would get all messy and ugly. Better for you to just use your imagination...she lived a hard and crazy life. She has numerous nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews...and everyone of them would tell you that she was the bomb-diggity! She was the cool aunt! She was the aunt that would take you in when you were on the run, she'd threaten to beat your butt if she ever caught you smoking weed (as she carefully rolled her joints in front of you), she treated you like an adult when your parents still treated your like you were 10, she was always ready and willing to thrown down in a Jack-In-The-Box parking lot, and she wasn't afraid to say "don't make me get my gun out!" Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was her lifeline to peace and tranquility...and she needed a lot of it!

Earthly Winds 5 & 6: Praise and Blame
On the many long drives that she and I traveled on the way to work, our conversations often turned to her years growing up on the streets. I would have to compare her to Charles Dickens's character, the artful Dodger. She was innovative and clever, and could take care of herself. There were moments though...moments when I could hear the anger and frustration in her voice. It's the voice of that lost kid wanting to ask why her, why not someone else to shoulder the load; why not someone else to be responsible; why couldn't she just be the happy-go-lucky kid? But then, I'd see her take a deep breath and let it out...and the moment would pass. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is like the roar of a lion! That's how I'll always remember her.

Earthly Winds 7 & 8: Happiness and Pain
No matter how many times I have to walk into a hospital emergency room, the icky feeling that settles in my stomach always feels like it's the first time I'm experiencing it. Does that make sense? I don't think it's the waiting that gets me unraveled, it's the feeling of not being able to control the situation. It's the realization, that willing something to happen or not happen isn't enough; it's like striking out at the wind, and being spun around and around because there isn't anything solid to connect with. She was scared, I know she was. I know she was, because I know I was scared for her. She was scared and she never would have admitted it. I know she was scared, and I would have never admitted that I was scared for her. But I remember her love, her life, her strength, her courage, her kick-ass attitude, her laughter, her dreams. I remember her. I will remember her. I miss her.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Breakfast Club

Have you seen the movie, The Breakfast Club? I just caught the tail end of it last night, but I'm sure I've seen it at least 10 times or more since it first came out in 1985. There's a scene in the movie where the five kids (the brain, the jock, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal) are sitting on the floor in the library, and they're beginning to open up, share things and learn things about each other and themselves. It's essentially the pivotal part in the movie when they learn that while everyone is different, they're all pretty much the same. It's not exactly the "ah-ha" moment but, when I watched it last night, I realized that I had had my own "Breakfast Club" scenario in high school.

There were five of us (Daniel, Junior, Claudia, Selena and myself) that had talked our way out of history class under the guise of doing library research. Over the course of the school year, the five of us had all become acquainted with each other just because we had taken the same history class together. Daniel was the star athlete, Junior had transferred during our junior year, Claudia and Selena were popular and intellectual, and I was -- well, just me. I had friends that I hung out with, I was on the track team, and I guess I was fairly well liked by most of the people I knew.

This was our senior year, and I had never really taken the time to get to know Daniel, Claudia or Selena prior to that class; whereas Junior and I quickly became best friends the year he transferred in and we were pretty much inseparable. Junior and Daniel bonded over football, Claudia and Selena were friends with Daniel, and I guess the circle of circumstance just worked its magic and drew us all together.

My "Breakfast Club" moment happened on that one day that we had sweet-talked our way out of class, and got a pass to the library. We took a table towards the back and initially settled down to get some work done. But really, who were we kidding? It was freedom! After about five minutes of small talk, and spreading out books and paper to make it look legit, we began to share stories about ourselves. Some of what we talked about has faded from my memory, but I realized that the people sitting at that table really weren't all that different from myself. Daniel was funny and had a quick wit that I admired, and he had the ability to laugh at himself. Claudia and Selena weren't the enigmatic geniuses that I thought would never give me the time of day. I found myself coming to the realization that we three had a lot of things in common. And, Junior was what I had already known him to be . . . a really great friend. For myself, I think they all found out some things about me that they didn't know . . . and they still liked me.

I have nothing negative to say about my high school years. I had a great time. I had fun. I had a lot of friends. I have tons of great memories to draw on, but I think watching the movie made me realize that I missed out on opportunities of getting to know more people. But, I think that was sort of the point of the movie. Comfort zone; step outside of; bubble; burst.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Born on the 7th of May

My brother and I were both born in the month of May; he's four years older than I am although he would never fully admit to being "that" old. Ever since we were kids, we always celebrated our birthdays together not because it was cute or quirky, but because his birthday was on the 4th and mine was on the 7th, and with four children in the family it gets expensive celebrating individual birthdays within the same month.

My last real birthday party that I had with my brother was when I turned 7 and he was 11. To be perfectly honest, I never minded the combined birthday parties. We had the same friends, same relatives, and board games were big back then so gift giving wasn't a big deal. My mom and dad packed up our big blue Ford station wagon with four very excited kids, and loads of food, drinks, music and headed to the beach. I remember we had a white cake decorated with yellow flowers and green leaves made out of frosting and it said "Happy birthday Danny and Rita." I thought it was the prettiest cake I had ever seen. We played dodge ball, swam in the ocean, ate barbecue, had games and prizes, and then cake and ice cream. The party lasted well until the sun went down and the memory has lasted even longer. It was the best day ever! I love how that moment is such a vivid memory.

As we all got older, there weren't so many actual birthday parties; we had birthday dinners at the restaurant of our choice instead. It was nice, but nothing compares to that one specific birthday. So, on the occasion of my birthday, I declare my 7th birthday as my official birthday memory for all future birthday celebrations. And should my brother and I decide to have another birthday like that again, I will definitely send out invitations.