Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And the Phone Rings...

Last night I couldn't sleep. Nothing new. As usual, I was thinking of Keith. I was thinking of what a good man he is, full of the best kind of pride a man can have; the kind that is expressed in taking excellent care of his family.

I was thinking about this and joy and gratitude simply flooded through me. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to tell him, to tell him how much it meant to be able to count on him, to be his. Not that I haven't before, but I just needed to say it right then.

And the phone rang.

"I was just praying for you to call!" I exclaimed in wonder.

"I have some good news," he said, and tingles went racing up my spine.

His 1st sergeant has recommended him for a slot open for a staff sergeant on the advance party. If he gets it, he will be home much sooner than I have ever thought to hope for.

"So I thought that was kinda neat," he finished up, humble.

"Kinda neat?" I exclaimed. "It's the best news we've had all year!!"

He couldn't talk long, he was running out of minutes. After he rang off, I lay in bed while excitement slowly flooded my entire body, from my feet to the top of my head. I simply had to squeeze something, so I squeezed his pillow. Poor neglected pillow; finally getting some attention.

Before getting that call, for the past week or so I'd been sitting in this little bubble. I knew he would be coming home, but I wasn't feeling it. I felt numb, along with a bad case of the writer's block. I was just waiting it out.

It was as if I had been just trudging along, one foot in front of the other. When he called, it was as though I lifted my head for the first time in a long time and the change of perspective took my breath away. We are so close. He will come home some time next month. And even if he does not get the slot, he is still only weeks away. Just weeks.

I feel like a newly wed. I feel like I should be registering for things, so we can set up house.

"I'll take a week off when you first get back," I was telling him earlier. I had been silently worrying about my job and what we would do about it when he got back. I decided it was time to bring it up.

"And then go I'll go back to work until block leave, and then take off all of block leave. After which I probably won't have a job," I finished up dryly.

"You won't need it," Keith said easily. "You'll be busy packing up, organizing the house and working on your writing."

Like wow. (Yes, I watched Scooby doo as a child.) I won't need my job. 'Cause I have a household. And my writing. And getting pregnant. Yeah. I foresee investing a lot of time in the pursuit of the last goal. I think that's a definite priority.

I've never not supported myself. I've sometimes had help, but I've always pulled my weight. I've never before just let go and completely fallen back onto someone else.

It's a good thing we've had plenty of practise in developing good communication techniques during this deployment. Spending "our" money is a very different thing from spending my money. From here on out there won't be any more my money.

This is a major reality shift; Keith has had to remind me many times to call the money he makes "ours." He works so hard for it, its difficult for me to justify spending it on something frivolous. I mean, he literally risks his life for that paycheck.

God, I love my husband. I love the way he plans so carefully and realistically, and then follows through. He has a generous and loving heart; he is true blue. I love all his rough edges, his penchant for giving orders, his bloody stubborn mindedness.

I love his optimism and rock steady confidence. It took a long time for me to recognize true confidence as opposed to arrogance. Only a truly confident man can immediately recognize when he's lost an argument and admit it. Keith does that. I love that about him. He won't stubbornly go on, just for the sake of winning. He doesn't need to win, he doesn't need to brag or show off, though he does. And I love that too. Oh what the hell, I just love everything about him.

I was looking at the game I bought him yesterday and a little shiver went through me, thinking of how soon he will be here, playing that game with the speaker system so loud the walls will vibrate. He will refuse to read the instructions. He will blame it on the game if consequently he makes a few errors at first.

He will want me right beside him, as his wing man; I watch out for the snipers and help come up with strategy. I will work out a compromise whereby he goes to bed earlier than he wanted to and I watch more game that I'd really like. He will beg me to stay up later than we agreed to and I probably will.

He is going to be home, this really will come to an end. I won't have to write about deployment any more. I'm bored writing about deployment. I'm tired of talking about memories. I want the real thing!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I had a strange dream this morning. Sometimes when I am very tired, I have dreams in the early morning that so closely mimic reality that I don't know I'm asleep. I think I've woken up and yet my body is as heavy as lead and I can't move.

I had one of those dreams this morning. Except that I was in a different house, somewhere on an Army post. The air was dim, I couldn't focus my eyes very well and I couldn't move. My parents were there and I could hear them moving around.

"Jenny, Keith's coming back today," Mom said, from somewhere out of my line of vision. I looked at the shadows moving across the wall, at the huge expanse of grey bed covers. I couldn't move, I was weighted down by exhaustion.

No, no, I wanted to tell her. He wasn't coming today, it wasn't that close. There was still over a month until he came. I could hear them getting ready to leave the house. I began to wonder, could it be?

"After all, the Rotation has begun," I thought to myself in awe. In the dream, this word had huge significance. It meant hundreds and hundreds of men were ready to leave, in waves, and hundreds other to come home, a huge transference of people and emotion. This rotation was imbued with heavy, almost religious symbolism. I knew my husband was caught up in this vast mechanism.

"He is coming home today!" I suddenly exclaimed to myself, electrified. "That's why he wanted me to get the computer game today! Because he's going to surprise me by coming home. I have to get that game, I have to get ready!"

And I threw myself out of the bed and woke the hell up, all tangled in the covers and already hot. The pieces of reality slowly fell into place around me. The funny thing is, Keith had called and woken me up out of a deep sleep around six thirty and we had talked about a video game (Kill Zone 2). He had impressed upon me that I absolutely had to get that game and I had remembered the urgency in my dream.

Even though it was just a dream, I bought the game anyway.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I woke to an intriguing statement from my husband. I had woken early, in those long moments before the alarm is due to ring. The morning was tranquil and still and when the phone rang, it seemed as if I had known it would.

“I sent you a picture of something,” he said, pleased with himself. “It’s something for you to wear.”

Something to wear? I thought of jewelry, perhaps something silky and abbreviated. He had never before ventured into the uncertain waters of buying me clothing, always a risky business. Except for the Pajamagram for Valentine’s day, and we had ended up picking that out together.

I was not even close, he had picked out boots. Not cowboy boots or supple suede, knee length fashion statements. They were mid calf, mid Western farmer’s boots for women. Made with flat soles and plain, functional leather, they were a perfect match to his own, only much smaller.

After the initial puzzlement, I was flooded with sheer love for my darling farmer’s boy. It was not a romantic gift or even one that I would probably wear, but I could follow his train of thought so clearly written in the gesture; that he had thought of me, wanted to outfit me not only for the rigors of yard work and ATV riding, but to match himself.

“What happened to the one e-mail and blog a day?” he wanted to know.

“We never agreed to that! It was one e-mail a day…” my voice trailed off. “Are you bored?” I asked, light dawning.

His laughter was confirmation enough. Poor guy; there will be yet several more weeks of that sort of boredom.

I, on the other hand, have been exceptionally busy. I have been covering for a coworker all week, which means I will have worked seven days in a row by the time I'm done. At least it'll pay for all the eating out I've been doing.

On Wednesday, on a whim, I asked a friend of mine if she’d like to go out and get some margaritas and Mexican food after work. It was such a hot day and work was stressful and we got off at the same time and after all, it’s summer time.

So we went. We sat outside on the patio under an umbrella and drank the icy lime drink from tall glasses. I kicked my shoes off and put my bare feet up on the empty chair beside me. We ordered the lunch special, fajitas and they came out sizzling hot and deliciously tempting with scoops of sour cream and guacamole. There is something so satisfying about eating with one's hands.

Later, I went to the dog park with another good friend. Dogs spilled out of bushes, ran down the trails and splashed in the brook, noses down and tails up. They convened swiftly in loose groups, determining rank and gender, what everyone had for lunch.

Our two dogs leaped after one another in the field, looking like gazelles in the Serengeti. My friend has a Great Dane, a beautiful dog with a grey, speckled coat. She is about the size of a pony but plays just like a collie. Lynn is half her size, but was eager to join in the fun.

Afterward, my friend invited me over to her house for some torture and sweet potato fries. Ok, not really. Earlier in the week we had gone up to the outlet mall for some shopping and under the influence of yet another Margareta (I should really avoid those things!) I had assured her that yes, I really wanted to know what a Bear Crawl was.

Fast forward a couple days and I found myself doing a face plant in the carpet, wondering why I thought being in shape could possibly be worth this kind of agony. Bear crawls are deceptively simple. One gets down on all fours, both feet and hands on the ground and propels oneself forward as fast as possible. It hurts like hell and looks utterly ridiculous but damn if it doesn’t get results.

She showed me some other exercises with appealing names like the Dead Cockroach (which is worse, in its own way, than the Bear Crawl) and the Duck Walk. Before we knew it, over an hour had passed. I hurt all over and yet could feel the endorphins surging into my brain, as powerful as a drug and much more pleasant. I had drank four glasses of water, sweated just as much and laughed pretty much the entire time.

Later, we sat around the dinning room table as the light stretched low across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The evening was warm and still and filled with the smell of sweet potato fries, which are so delicious it’s almost impossible to believe that they are in fact healthy. It’s been two days since then and I’m still sore.

Despite that, we’ve planned another work out session this evening and will continue torturing ourselves every other day until our men get back. It should make the time go by.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Boring Blog

Apparently I make my husband nervous when I don't blog. That and him coming across comments from my mom on facebook asking me if I'm ok because I haven't written in a while. I got a worried phone call around 4:30am from Keith asking me if I was ok and chiding me for worrying my mom and telling me that I should blog more. Thanks, mom! :)

I have been writing; I've had the opportunity lately to process through a huge chunk of my life and doing so has been a deeply good experience, though painful at times. But I can't post any of it, which leaves me with the following basically boring blog entry.

1. I read my first Horacio Hornblower novel and damn if it isn't good reading. I mean, I'd always heard they were, but they really are. Except for the fact that he had an affair with a Russian noblewoman and didn't even blink an eye. I was expecting more in the way of character from a fellow named Horacio.

2. Recently I realized that it was possible to buy one onion at a time, as opposed to the mesh bag o' onions I had always felt drawn to in the past, leading to mass onion waste; because really, how many onions does a person use in a few weeks?

3. I like run on sentences with lots of punctuation that I'm not really sure how to correctly use, but throw in there anyway.

4. I may never see my abs and that's ok. Why? Because faced with a choice of rippling abs or a bag of potato chips, I'm going to choose the potato chips every single time.

5. Today I stepped on a moth and felt its dry, brittle body disintegrate under my bare heel. I have now faced my worst fear and lived to tell about it.

6. I listen to hip hop. That's right. I said it.

7. It is possible for a lamp shade to gather dirt to such a depth that one simply assumes the resulting cream color is its natural hue, only to be shocked into discovering that it was actually meant to be white when experimenting with the various vacuum attachments.

8. I've been carrying around in the back seat of my car Keith's big, dirty foot locker of stuff he didn't need over there anymore. I like looking in the rearview mirror and seeing his scrawling handwriting across the shipping label. What I like better though, was him telling me I should probably move it before coming to pick him up, since he'll need to toss his bags there.

Hello, beautiful world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Consequences of Missing a Call

Last night I lifted a pan from the sink and lo and behold, a moth crawled out from under it. For the first time, terror did not jolt uncomfortably through my body. I watched the struggling creature with pity and then turned the water on and washed it down the sink.

I cannot say that we are co existing comfortably, the moths and I, but we seem to be finding some kind of compromise. They continue to come into the house to be trapped and to die without completing their cycle of mothy life, sadly. I step over them, around them, or sweep them out of the house with a broom, or go to bed armed with a dish towel in case they bumble by in the dark.

Tuesdays I look forward to, Tuesday has become the day when I let myself give into my food cravings, lest they overtake me completely and I eat them all the time. It's my outlet day. Usually I have a bag of chips.

Last night I was dreaming about Chinese food. I knew of a good restaurant down the street, but it was too far from home; I wasn't feeling that adventurous. I decided I would just stop in at the first one I saw.

That turned out to be a generic Chinese buffet. I was nervous, for some reason, more than usually nervous. And when I opened the door to be greeted by a huge, bustling room my nervousness exploded.

The hostess smiled a hundred watt smile at me.

"Do you have take out?" I managed to whisper.

They did, sort of. I could pay seven fifty for a take out box and fill it from the buffet with whatever I wanted. This was not what I wanted. I wanted the white paper cartons with the red dragons printed on the sides, with grease slicks and chopsticks, perfect for curling up on the couch and mindlessly eating while movie watching.

But my innate need to be a good girl kicked me in the ass; I was unable to say no thank you and leave. So, armed with my Styrofoam box I approached the steaming islands of Chinese cuisine. Around them swirled people, some of them soldiers from on post. This spiked my anxiety to newer, excruciating levels.

I had been particularly craving crab Rangoons and so piled four of them in my box, then scooped various other stuff in, whatever looked good. I knew that it would all run together and possibly tip out and spill in the car, but at that point I didn't care, I just wanted to escape as quickly as possible.

Back home, the food had indeed run together and it was very bad Chinese at that. I felt cheated out of my weekly calorie free for all. Worst of all, the crab Rangoons were dry and almost tasteless and I had forgotten a little container of sauce to dip them in.

However, my choice of a movie was almost made up for it; I had come across "Moonstruck" and knew immediately that it was the movie I had been dying to watch, perhaps for weeks now.

When it was over I wandered back up into the kitchen for something to drink and heard that most horrible of sounds, the chiming that indicates I have a new voicemail. My phone will sometimes take voicemail when the poor reception will not actually allow the call itself. This happens frequently downstairs where I watch movies.

I had missed two calls from Keith; he had left two voice mails. He didn't have time to call again, he was calling right before a mission. I felt sick to my stomach; my entire day was ruined. I left my phone upstairs on the table by the front door where I could hear it if it rang while I watched the second movie, but it was too late. He didn't call again.

The second movie I knew was an emotionally risky one, but it looked really good. I had chosen "Chrystal" with Billy Bob Thornton. It's set in the deep South, in the Ozark mountains. It was an excellent movie and I emerged from watching it feeling as though I were waking from a dream, and with a profound sense of isolation.

I sat outside on the deck, hoping the fresh air would wash the feeling away, but thunderclouds were massing low over the mountains and the air was thick and dim. I heard the traffic rushing by, several blocks away; it was almost five o'clock.

Usually I feel this kind of unfocused sense of loss and isolation during the third week of the month and it is closely tied to my month cycle. It's far to early for that, it must have been missing those calls.

I never did recover the day, though I turned on the TV to be distracted, to be pulled back into the daily pulse of life around me. I was informed of a lot of stuff that I can't do anything about and that I really would rather not know and then the sun finally came out of the clouds, so I turned the thing off.

Last night a fragment of a memory came back to me, piercingly sharp in it's impact. It was simply of the windshield wipers going back and forth, back and forth across the water slick glass and the sound they made and the sound of the rain on the truck roof as we sat at an intersection in Southern Indiana. The foliage seemed to encroach the road, to engulf the truck.

The rest of the memory is more hazy, but I remember Keith sat beside me literally shaking with rage. I remember how carefully I craned my head to see around the bushes growing at the corners of the road, checking for oncoming traffic through the blurred windshield and the lights changing up head. I remember pressing down on the gas and feeling the rush of power as the truck went forward, aggressive and smooth.

I keep returning to this memory, not because it is significant, but because it is still raw and carries with it the imprint of a man whose memories have become hazy in my mind. All the other memories have become lacqored from over use.

Though when I go back to this memory and follow it forward in time then I can clearly see the narrow winding back country roads and the house where we were staying. I can remember opening the truck door and smelling the rain and the smell of damp and rotting wood, how the loose stones in the driveway turned my ankles in my high heeled sandals and the beads of water on the black, highly glossed sides of the truck.

I can see Keith standing by the soaked firepit, talking on his cell phone, how his shirt pulled across his wide shoulder blades, the back of his neck, closely shaved and vulnerable looking and the black cap pulled low over his face. I can hear his voice even, in this memory, I just can't remember the words. I can simply hear the emotion.

I remember my own surge of feeling, of love and resignation both; knowing I could not make it better, that I had to wait for Keith to work through it and then back to me.

The next day was our last in Indiana; we woke on strangely patterned sheets that were not our own, in a strange bedroom with the fan whirling lazily overhead and the sunlight already outlining the window shades.

That night he drove me through the early morning hours into Kentucky for my flight back. There was construction all along the sides of the roads, endless rows and rows of orange cones glowing eerily in the night; I can hear Keith cursing under his voice as he manuvered between them, along the narrow, shifting route they outlined.

"I don't have to go," I told him, standing on the curb, my arms around his shoulders. With the help of the curb, I was almost face to face with him.

But I went, spent a week back East on my parent's front porch. There were paperback novels and a bag of chips on the bed upstairs where I would sleep, on the patchwork quilt that was heavy and cool to the touch.

In the long evenings I went swimming, my arms pulled me way out into the center of the lake. Wading out of the shallows, I felt my body settle back down onto my bones, the weight sinking my heels deep into the sand. The water in my ears blocked the sounds around me, I heard faintly my brother's laughter, the sound of my own pulse filled my head.

When I arrived back in the city, the heat was almost unbearable. The sun glared from countless cars and trucks in the long term parking lot at the airport, the pavement sent the heat back up into the heels of my shoes, my little bag rolling noisily behind me. I sat in my own car and turned the ignition with a profound sense of relief.

Traffic was slow on the way down to our house, long lines of vehicles were crawling along the wide interstate under the heat of the late afternoon. I missed Keith's call, my phone buried in my purse on the passenger seat, the radio volumn as high as it would go; I was listening to all those songs I couldn't hear any more now that I didn't live in the city.

When I got to our house, he was already gone on some erronds, he hadn't waited for me. I sat on the front step and cried with the disappointment of it. The geranium was half dead from lack of watering while we had been away, inside the air conditioner had turned the air crisp and somehow impersonal, like the air of the lobby of a bank.

Sitting on our bed, I called him.
"You didn't wait for me."

"I waited two hours! I have to get this stuff done."

"I was stuck in traffic."

"I tried calling you; I knew you were blaring that stupid music."

"You could have waited for me. You were just angry that I missed your call and decided to punish me by leaving early."

"I did not," he said, unexpectedly laughing. "Hun. I'll be back soon."

"You ruined it!" I admitted. The corners of my mouth kept wanting to twitch upward into a smile. "You ruined our reunion; I wanted to run into your arms and instead I came home to an empty house and now I'm all angry at you."

When the truck pulled into the driveway I waited upstairs, putting my book down. Nervous then, I waited until he opened the front door and heard him call for me. We met at the top of the stairs. He took the stairs two at a time, he was huge, he was like a lumberjack and he had grown a red bronze beard that made him look like a ruffian, like a pirate.

All in a moment I drew back. His eyes flickered uncertainly, he stopped, he was poised at the top of the stairs. His eyes lost their light and dropped inward, and then I knew him. I knew him for the clarity of his eyes, a clean and rain washed blue, the upright and moral character they reflected so clearly.

I leaned forward and his eyes caught fire again, it was as though the moment had never happened. He swooped down and grabbed me up in his arms; he tossed me, laughing, onto the bed while he kicked off his boots.

Later I traced his beard with my finger. My cheeks were chapped from it, but I still couldn't get over how attractive the beard was on him, how it highlighted his rapscallion nature.

"Don't shave it," I requested, shy.

But the next morning I heard the burr of the electric shaver and he emerged, apologetic and clean shaven, returned completely to the man I had first fallen in love with. I forgot all about the pirate. It was mid July and nothing then stood between us and his deployment; we had one and a half months left.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

It is now two twenty six in the afternoon on a Sunday in early June. Clouds are billowing up from over the mountains, awaiting mass and force before unleashing their harbored energies. Already the wind is racing, laying flat the long grasses of the park and buffing the surface of the river.

Red, white and blue bunting was put up this morning and the wind has caused the swags to lift up and to sail away on a moment’s notice. Several visitors have made their entrance with stray bunting in hand.

The lazy, repetitive strains of Lorraine’s Olde Time Piano social can be clearly heard all the way from the parlor. One resident sings gamely along; the fact that he can no longer remember the words no deterrent at all from his enthusiastic enjoyment of the tunes. This musical performance has the ability to stretch the afternoon out indefinitely.

The house dog stretches over onto his back, leaning into my desk and spreading his limbs. His tongue and eyelids go lolling, presenting a strange and unnerving sight to unsuspecting visitors.

La Madam Resident is roaming the halls, cane in hand. Her patrician features have long ago frozen into a scowl worthy of Balzac. When the closed circuit of her pacing takes her to my desk, her scowl bursts into a cry of horror at the music. Her cane stabs at the air for emphasis.

“She is suppose to play for one hour!” La Madam declares. “Instead she plays now for one hour an’ a half!”

“It is very tedious,” I say, with great empathy.

“It is an horror!”

The residents of the down stairs floor have recently come back from a soft ball game. They returned happy, gently waving their straw hats and went meandering off down the halls while one of their number was being assisted in a wheelchair.

I retrieved the wandering from imminent misplacement by taking a hold of one moist and half curled hand. She whispered to me in the hallway, but by now she speaks a language no one but she can understand.

One resident now sits monumental in his wheelchair, opposite my desk, and drawls on about the decorating. Each word he speaks is a clear illustration of Ohio, his native state.

“What they should do, see, is store it for the winter,” he declares, one foot up on a foot rest. “She’s getting’ ready for the car show, see.” He rolls on into the bistro to prepare for Bingo.

I sit and share a popsicle with an afternoon care manager. It is an orange twin pop and shatters under my teeth into stinging splinters of cold sweetness. It is the kind of popsicle that always ends up falling off the stick toward the end, smearing sticky orange on the desk and the back of my hand.

While we eat the sun comes out from the clouds, a bunting I had jerry rigged with elastic flies loose and Lorraine continues her piano playing indefatigably, switching keys seamlessly between each and every repeat of the five songs in her repertoire.

“She doesn’t stop,” declares La Madam in a voice imbued with fatalism. “She is a pain in the neck.” She says the last four words in a rush, as though they were one word and furtively, as though not sure of the Americanism.

Bingo is begun regardless, it being the heart and soul of Sunday’s activities. The residents have been gathered from the far corners of the building; from quiet, shadowy rooms and from wing chairs where they were dozing off the cheese chowder from lunch.

Now they peer earnestly forward over their cards, listen to the drone of numbers.

“Gee fifty one,” the care manager intones. “G-5-1. Gee fifty one.”

This rhythm appears to be deeply soothing to the residents. They are marooned at the far and solitary banks of life and the numbers give them a feeling of certainty. There, before them, is unmistakably G-51.

They are often dreaming of the forgotten corners of their life, their fickle memories lifting and shutting like a window blind in a breeze. Sometimes they do not know if what they see is their memory, or their children’s, or a dream they had long ago.

It does not matter; either way they are pulled down a long, narrow corridor in their mind until someone calls out “Bingo!” and the numbers are reset.

All the while the warm scent of baking cookies comes curling around the corner to where I sit, looking busy and wishing that like countless receptionists before me, I could at least be doing my nails.

By the time Bingo is finished, the afternoon will have been gathered irretrievably into evening, a long summer evening with the leaves outside the wide windows silvering in the wind.

After dinner, while I am shuffling cards for Skip bo, perhaps the storm will pour out rain, releasing the scent of wet tarmac and the lamp lights will streak across the parking lot.

The members of the Skip bo club and I will sit at the little table in the empty bistro, I will stretch my aching legs out under the table and sigh. La Madam will contentedly shuffle the discard pile when it is not her turn and Ohio will chuckle silently over his latest run of good luck.

Quiet Emma with the lovely eyes will turn her head and look out the windows to the storm, the rain striking the ground and leaping back up again, the air full of spray, everything glistening.

“It’s a quiet evening,” she will say, her voice will be full of peace.

And we will all agree.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Moths Still

The moths in the house are slowly dying. When they die, they remain where they fell. The dying moths are joined by new, energetic moths. Therefore, my house is full of dead, dying, fleeing and disintegrating moths. There is a particularly large one on the bathroom sink which has been preventing me from using the toothbrush holder for the past...four, five days?

What kind of a godforsaken housekeeper am I, you may well ask. I am a housekeeper afflicted with a phobia is what. Today I dragged the vacuum cleaner upstairs to try and take care of some moth business. I went to get the mail first and was affronted with the sight of a large, dead moth hanging inside the door.

This was my opportunity to use the vacuum cleaner, so I dragged it over, attached the hose and tried to steel my nerves to suck the dead (I hoped it was dead) moth into the hose. The large body thunked against the hose on its way down, causing much freaked out behavior from me. A puppet on strings in an earthquake; that might be what I looked like. Except that I was shrieking.

I managed to vacuum up a few more dead bodies in the kitchen before I exhausted myself with the horror. I really think it must be a phobia. There is no other way to describe the intensity or my inability to change my reactions.

Still jittery, I went to the sink to wash up the dishes from the night before only to find a large dead moth floating in a pan.

"Dear God," I sighed. "Really? Are you done? Wouldn't you like to go play with someone else now?"

When I drive, I keep the windows up because the moths cling to the car for a mile or two. I never know when some stray current of air will force them, wings flaying, up against the glass window. As a good friend of mine knows, myself and a moth in a moving vehicle is not a good combination for any of the parties involved.

So now I have chopped moth down the insinkerator, various moths in the vacuum bag and the large dead one still on the bathroom counter.

Further reports as events warrant.

Monday, June 1, 2009


"I'll tell ya what, I'll make us some cocktails and we'll sit out on the back deck and solve all the world's problems," drawled Keith affectionately.

"It's a date," I cried, delighted. "I'll be there!"

"Well, I look forward to it," Keith replied in his rough, mischievous voice.

God, I am so in love with my husband. It's like I'm sixteen all over again, before everything in my life went bad. When talking on the phone with him I find myself slowly sinking downward until my head is resting on whatever object was available, the stair rail, the back of a kitchen chair. If he calls at night, I tend to throw the bedclothes over my head and huddle down into the pillow, hold the phone with both hands and whisper.

We talked for a long time last night and then all of a sudden he had to go. We said our "I loves you's" quickly and then he was gone. Ten minutes later I heard the phone ring again.

"Baby, are you ok?" I asked immediately.

"Yeah," he said, shy. "I just had a coupla' more minutes to talk."

"You know what I was day dreaming about it?" I asked wistfully, kicking at the bedclothes.

"What were you day dreamin' about?" he asked tenderly.

"About grillin' out on the back porch this summer when you get back and for some reason, I was thinking about your crazy friend and his wife and how they were always over..."

"Hun!" he cried. "I saw him a few days ago, did I tell you?"

Actually, I had been day dreaming about how we would grill out on a rainy day, because Keith loves rainy days and how I would sit on the wide porch railing close up the grill. And in between tending to the grill Keith would be leaning into me and I was remembering how good he always smelled, even if it was just his skin, or the cotton tee shirt.

Throughout the entire deployment we have been remarkably chaste in our conversations together. Sometimes I couldn't help teasing my poor husband just a little bit, mostly just because I love the way he responds with "Honey!" in such a darling and helpless way. "Now, honey, you be good," he'll plead, laughing.

Well, lately the tables have turned. The first time he did this, my first and instinctive reaction was lady-like horror; no one talks to me that way! Who does he think he is...And then a shiver of pure pleasure went down my skin in a rush from head to toe when I realized that he was my husband and had every right to talk to me that way.

"Poor Abby won't know what to do," I told Keith last night. "I trained her not to sleep on my side of the bed and she won't be able to sleep on yours anymore."

"She can sleep on the goddamn floor for all I care-that's my bed," Keith replied, matter of fact.

Yes, it most certainly is.

A Tale of Two Friends

My very best friend growing up was a beautiful, strawberry blond girl named Laura. We were serene in the knowledge that our best friendship was meant to be; our mothers were friends before us and had had the foresight to get pregnant and give birth to girls within the same year. They then followed up this master stroke by producing a ragtag bunch of boys who provided counter point to our perfect harmony.

Initially we had to be separated due to the sad fact that at the age of two we had not quite learned the art of sharing. No sooner had we grown up enough to enjoy one anothers company than my father decided that he couldn't handle the heavy snows of upstate New York winters and the depressed local economy.

We left the family dairy farm in the gently rolling valley that sheltered the pastures and oak trees of my early childhood for southern New Hampshire, near my mother's family and began to live a different sort of life.

However, every summer we returned to New York for two weeks in the family station wagon; I remember the blue vinyl seats and the windows that had to be cranked down, eating crackers and cream cheese for snacks on the way up.

Sometimes in the high ridges of the Vermont mountains my father would pull the wagon over to the side of the road and we would all tumble out, go careening down the steep banks to the creek below. Mother would call out to watch out for poison ivy and follow more slowly with the younger children, Scott or Jesse.

Timmy and I would not hesitate to jump rock to rock across the creek in our bare feet; if the current were fast enough, my father would ride down the rapids on the his belly. We chased the water bugs that skated over the amber water and pulled crayfish out of their hiding places as we had been taught to, by the curling, whipping tail in order to avoid being pinched by the tiny, though vicious little claws.

As soon as the New York State sign was sighted a great cry would rise up. From there on we were guided back home by familiar landmarks; the garish face painted on the water tower at Albany, the farm with three towering silos, their white roofs blinding in the sun.

As we turned got deeper and deeper in the farm land of upstate New York, I would be on the edge of my seat, watching each cultivated and gently curving hill pass by, each little meandering brook and ramshackle farm houses surrounded by packed dirt and car parts.

The dirt at the sides of the roads became pale pink, rose and rock red in color, the dusky rose color of the dirt roads was in perfect harmony with the lush green on each side and the canopy of green that often over hung the road. The rose dust clung to the sides of the station wagon.

"Buffalo!" famously called out my younger brother once, when confronted for the first time with hay bales lying in a field. This was never forgotten. Hay bales that had been wrapped in white sheeting became "Ghost buffalo."

At long last we would be in our own little valley of old; the family dairy farm now sold but still standing for a long time, the barn leaning farther and farther to the side. The road would dip down, pass by a trailer at the edge of a brook over hung with weeping willow trees and then up and there would be the sharp turn up into my best friend's house.

Her parents had achieved legendary status in my mind by the act of having built their own log house with their own hands. For this, they loomed in my mind along with the likes of Paul Bunyan and the parents of Laura Ingalls. Their rough hewn house, even their thick, brown patterned dishes fit in well with this image.

They had a wide front porch and a fuzzy yellow dog, the kind of good natured and eager dog whose kind eyes were obscured by fur. Laura's room was patterned red, white and blue. She had beautiful little porcelain figurines that she had received for birthdays. She had music boxes with little ballerinas on tiptoe within. She has sparkly cosmetics, long strands of beads and other necklaces, books and the sound track to "The Phantom of the Opera."

Mostly though, we had Barbies. I brought my own box of Barbies and our combined collection spread in overflowing heaps across the floor. We each chose our own most important doll, the one to represent ourselves; mine almost always had dark hair. I loved the one with the underwear printed into the plastic of the doll's body, she also had very movable limbs; I was drawn to her range of expression and natural modesty.

Then we would choose our Kens. These were always in short supply, but we made do. They also had a limited wardrobe. I tended to dress my Ken in heavy work clothes, Laura's Kens were more elegant and dashing.

Once the basics were in play, we laid out our houses using whatever came to hand. Then the saga would begin and "Days of Our Lives" had nothing on us. Our Barbies had lineages; they lived through generations. They triumphed over tragedies, they loved with passion, without restraint. They came with us on camping trips, they sometimes were taken outside to play out the drama of their lives in a leafy setting.

We didn't limit ourselves to Barbies during our summer week. Laura had fabulous dress up dresses, include one frothy yellow gown that billowed out in a perfect circle when we pirouetted. We lived out many, many lives wearing those dresses. Our most gripping drama was that our men were away at war and we had to make it through the dark times of occupation and danger without them, with our babies clutched close to hand.

These games could last for the entire day and were played mostly outside. Laura's log house was build at the top of a steep ridge. There was a narrow trail that zigzagged down the embankment; all the children knew this trail by heart and could fly down it at incredible speed, our arms outspread for balance, almost without looking where we were putting our feet.

At the bottom of the ridge was a clear, swift creek that ran over a shifting layer of smooth river stones. It never got much deeper than one's knees and was bordered by thick, high green rushes to one side. We would make our home in the rushes, packing them down on the inside and making trails throughout it. There was also a tree house build off the ridge and we made our home there as well.

Our adventures were many and varied. She stayed with me at my grandparent's house one week. My father's parents still lived in upstate New York and my brothers and I would spend a week with them after our week with Laura's family.

On this visit we were sleeping in the room and in the very bed where my great grandfather had lived, and we presumed, had died. In order to further disturb ourselves, we were telling ghost stories in the dark when we heard a faint, but distinctive thump.

We assured ourselves it was nothing, but a few minutes later another thump was heard. Though we were in the habit of letting our imaginations run riot, we still knew the difference between our own worlds and reality. And the thump was most certainly real.

Goosebumps ran up my spine, we looked at each other in the double bed, eyes wide in the dark. The thought was the same; that the dead great grandfather was making his slow but deliberate way down the hall to claim his room and his bed.

I don't know how long we tortured ourselves in this way, but eventually we realized that we ourselves were the cause of the thumps; it was the bed hitting the wall behind us as we shifted position.

We had a very clear plan about what would happen when we grew up. She would marry a tall, blond beach boy, from California, preferably. I would marry a tall, dark and handsome man, from Scotland, preferably. We would live next door to each other and our children would run in and out of each other's houses as they grew up.

We took for granted that our lives would continue to be as closely intertwined as our braided hair, the day our parents met half way at the deer park to exchange us back. The red gold and red black strands was to each the perfect foil for the other and we walked hobbled, arm around each other's waists, our heads bent in to accommodate the braid.

The fact that our lives led us far away from each other, I have realized lately, is one of my greatest regrets. I wish that life were simpler; that one stayed put in one place and that friendships could grow and deepen in the common soil of a shared space.

I am pissed at life that I hardly know her children except in pictures, that she cannot walk over on a morning to drink a cup of coffee on the deck while the children play in the back yard, or call to compare what to make for dinner when we've run out of ideas or to gossip about our husbands; hers the tall dark and handsome one, mine the blue eyed farm boy with copper colored hair.

I see pictures of her and I cannot begin to describe the emotions it evokes; the sight of her face is so familiar it is almost as though I am looking at a mirror, she holds pieces of myself that I could never find anywhere else. I find her as beautiful now as I did as a child and even in pictures of her I can see her sunny spirit shine through so clearly, her gift for enjoying life, her daring me to sneak out into the dark, to fly down the slip and slide, to wear the crazy hats and to laugh.

When Keith and I move, we will be within eight hours of where she lives and you bet I'm going to be making that trek just as often as I possibly can. Maybe my children will get to know that route just as well as I got to know the winding highways that took us through the Green Mountains of Vermont and down into the fertile valleys of New York state.

Maybe we'll meet halfway for a weekend sometime, leaving the kids with our men and staying up late in the hotel room with a bottle of wine and hours of talk and then go garage sale-ing the next day. Maybe I'll have pictures of her in our new house, helping to paint the kitchen, both of us jazzed up on coffee and pastries from the store on the corner.

God, I hope so. Life is just to short and friendships that began with an inarticulate fight over a Kewpie doll are impossible to replace and despite life's twists and turns, just as impossible to lose.