Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The first grandchild

I hadn't wanted to fall asleep that night until I knew. But of course I was already waist deep in a sea of unconsciousness when the jarring sound of my buzzing cellphone suddenly yanked me out of my slumber. It took me a moment to come to and for my eyes to adjust to the harsh light of my phone's screen as I slowly swiped my brothers text and read its contents.

His message immediately thrilled me to the core, while at the same time, saddened me just a little as it once again reminded me of just how fast the years had gone by. What had happened to all those carefree childhood days we had spent together? Those afternoons climbing trees and building forts. Those trips to the Cape catching hermit crabs and minnows. And those lazy Saturday nights eating popcorn and watching Are you afraid of the dark?” How could that all be gone now? How could that other life we had shared be only a distant memory, blurring further and further with each passing year?

But that aching nostalgia would only be short-lived, because as I saw his smiling face gazing down at hers, the sadness of a childhood gone by seemed all that much easier to bear. My brother had become a father to a gorgeous baby girl. And that ever-present pride that filled his face made one thing immediately clear; he had already begun teaching her all the wonders of life, those same glorious wonders that he and I had discovered as kids. And as I clicked my screen closed and looked out the window at the bright moon and glistening stars, all I could think about was "What's more beautiful than that?"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Lost Weekend

No matter how warm the LA breeze felt against my skin during that long October weekend, it could never make up for the fact that I had missed yet another trip to Vermont. Each fading memory of years past felt like a painful punch to the gut, as I sadly watched the tall palms sway outside my window, wishing, if for only just a moment, I could be there with everyone I loved. 

It was a thirty-year tradition that brought the beauty of fall and love of family all into one place. An excitement like no other as each trailer found its spot in our ever-growing circle and each familiar face suddenly appeared with wide eyes and bright smiles. 

But what made this place truly special wasn’t just the changing leaves or the crisp air, but the fact that there was not a bar of reception throughout the entire stretch of the campground. And as I had learned long ago, once we are forced to put down our devices, something magical starts to happen. Because no matter how young or old we are, each and every one of us can finally take a second to actually look into the other’s eyes, and get to know them all over again.  

But for almost a decade, I simply hadn’t been there. My only glimpse coming from random photos posted several days later or brief descriptions during one of my weekly calls home.  It was a conversation that would always end with, “Maybe you can try and fly out next year.” It was an idea that both frustrated and saddened me, because I knew all too well that my “glamorous” LA job would never in a million years allow me time off, especially in the middle of October. But just for that moment, I would try and soak in my mother's excitement; part of me wondering if maybe, just maybe, I could somehow find a way.

And then one day, I did. Because after all that time in LA, I finally decided to do something I never dreamed I’d have the guts to ever do. I moved home. And just like that, many of the things I had lost while living in LA, were once again mine.

I had spent so many years trying to live the so-called Hollywood dream, while in reality, I had been missing out on some of the best parts of life. But in that moment as I finally began to breathe it all in, I no longer felt guilty. Because being away had finally allowed me to see things differently, and to never take this place and everything it meant to me, for granted again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our new pot of gold

I’m certainly not the first person to have been caught in LA’s mighty wrath.  Nor will I be the last to have my soul singed in a place most outsiders think has streets paved with gold. But as much as I hate to admit it, with all that bad came a few nuggets of good.  One of those being a dark and dingy Asian restaurant we liked to call Ord Noodle. 

It was strictly Thai food, a type neither my husband nor I had ever experienced within the white-bread boundaries of our close-minded hometowns. And at first glance, it honestly seemed to be the very reason the phrase “hole in the wall” had ever been muttered in the first place. It was small, poorly decorated, and worst of all, wore the dreaded “B” rating, instantly becoming the ugly sister among a block full of beautiful A’s.  But as fate would have it, that little restaurant was about to become a big part of our lives, being the very spot a coworker and his brand new Thai wife would ask us out to lunch one crisp fall day in October. 

Although reluctant, we entered its grimy glass doors and sat down, ordering something we had no idea how to even pronounce.  Maybe I simply hadn’t opened my mind wide enough to embrace it, but as first impressions go, I assumed we’d never ever be returning. But my husband, well, he had other plans. To know him, is to know that he’s got this unique way of finding the magic in things nobody else can. And this time, at this little dive Thai restaurant, he had found it in a huge, steaming bowl of broth and vegetable soup. I just sat there and watched as his nose hovered over the climbing steam, inhaling its intoxicating spices like a drug addict.  He then proceeded to reach for his chopsticks, as he tightly clenched them in one hand, grabbing a healthy bunch of long hot noodles then quickly slurping them up out of this newly found pot of gold.  It was the only soup in town that could make his cheeks red and his nose run. And it was clear to me then, at that moment, that he had completely fallen in love. 

And that love turned into quite an obsession, as we visited our new mistress almost three times a week.  We become so regular that we even tossed around the idea of one day learning Thai.  But this love affair was destined for an unhappy ending, as only three short years later we finally made the decision to move back to Boston. A decision my husband reluctantly went with, especially for the fact that leaving our sunny LA home now held a much more unpalatable consequence. 

When we finally did make the move, you better believe I searched like hell to find an equally delicious dish; my search turning into a bizarre sort of noodle bowl blind date.  I’d first coax my husband into trying yet another new Thai place, waiting with bated breath for him to finally take that first gulp.  But with each new taste came the same sad realization that nothing, and I mean nothing on this new coast, would ever come close to his beloved Ord Noodle. 

So time passed, and my soup seeking days seemed to be over. I was working now, and I had neither the time nor the energy to keep up with this wild soup chase.  That is until one particular night, when a Thai place called “Pho Countryside” unexpectedly appeared within my Yelp search results. It looked perfect, but at the same time, a total long shot. But something in my heart, and my taste buds, told me to give it a try. So that’s exactly what we did, as I braced for yet another soup failure, at the same time, making a mental promise to myself that no matter what happened, this would be the end to all the madness.

Ever wonder what the gates of heaven look like? Well, that night, it was Pho Countryside. Because from the minute we walked in, we knew this place was special. It had the same feel as Ord, the same smell, and if you looked just hard enough through their tinted windows, you could even make out the same beautiful outline of palms blowing in the wind.  But the true test was still to come, as I anxiously watched my husband. Each movement seemed to happen in slow motion, as the world around us suddenly stopped and my stomach quickly tightened into a thousand tiny knots. But the moment he looked up at me with that same beautiful twinkle in his eye, it all but gave him away. 

But to be honest, it had never really been about soup in the first place, but about making him feel OK about leaving all the glitz and glamor of LA. And about somehow making him happy to be back, or at least a little less sad.  But right now, in this little Thai restaurant, the things we had left behind seemed to matter a whole lot less; as we sipped our soup, laughed about our day, and enjoyed this new found magic cascading all around us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Joy in a dirty place

I found work before my husband. That's just how things happened. So unfortunately for him, he was forced to live the dream of every red-blooded 34 year old male, and become a temporary house husband.  So yes, it was awful at times, frustrating, and our cat was really starting to get peeved about being woken up during his afternoon naps. But then something happened. Something that would begin as just an ordinary day, but turn into something much more magical. Our trash and recycling had been piling up into embarrassing hoard-like mountains. And of course, stupid us had been waiting ever-so-patiently for our new town's loveable barrel-throwing trash men to arrive and empty them.  But as the weeks came and went and that oh-so-pleasant screech of the early morning trash truck never once tickled our eardrums, we knew something was up.  That's when we unfortunately discovered that our town required its residents to take matters into their own hands and take their trash to the dreaded dump. OK, I know what you're thinking, who freaking cares and why the hell are you writing about the town dump? Ok, keep reading, I'm about to get to the interesting part.

So with me of course being gone all day at work, and my husband tending to the household (poor guy), it was naturally now his job to find this damn "transfer" station and get all our junk over to it. But little did I know, that as I left that morning watching him curse and struggle with those annoying little trash bag twist ties, that when I returned, he'd be a changed man.

I remember getting home from work that day and coming into the house, honestly expecting to get an earful of what a burden this trash thing was going to be on our daily lives. But instead, as I walked in, there was this gigantic smile running across my husband's face and a tale so exciting it instantly made me question his sanity. He basically told me that he had had the time of his life at a place that smelled of rotten milk and eggs. Really? I had to see, and maybe smell it, to believe it.

So that weekend we went. And I watched as my husband waved to the guard like they were old war buddies, then saw his face light up the moment we entered those golden brown trashed filled gates. But really, it was a town dump.  That's all it was, right? But then something weird happened. As I opened my door, I suddenly heard the sounds of oldies music flowing through the air like a pleasant summer breeze.  And as I stepped out even further, I noticed that everybody around me was, you're not going to believe this, they were actually smiling! I soon realized that this was all due to those jolly old men who proudly made up the dump work force; a bunch of retirees who had all of us dumpers talking and laughing like we were special guests at some bizarre trash-themed party. But then, as I looked around at the countless families and couples removing bag after bag of toys, clothes, trash, and whatever else they could out of their ever-so-tightly packed vehicles, it suddenly hit me why this place had felt so special to my husband.

These people were all cleansing their homes of unwanted junk. While at the same time, letting go of all those precious things that they'd become much too emotionally attached to. Things they've probably held onto for most of their life, and for no good reason except that maybe somebody they love gave it to them. Maybe that shirt or teddy bear had a way of bringing them back to a happier place. Whatever it was, the moment they dropped it down into that endless bin, knowing they would never ever in their lifetime set eyes on it again, they were doing something really huge.  They were letting go of a part of their life.  

So as we got back into our car after parting with so much of the things we had held dear for way too long, it honestly felt like my husband and I had somehow connected on a whole new level. A level I didn't even know existed. And as we started to drive away, my husband suddenly reached over and gave me the most loving quick kiss on the lips, paused then said "I told you this place was wonderful."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

One year and counting...

So I've done it.  That thing that many of us bloggers do. I simply stopped writing.  And I hated every single minute of it, especially the excuses and the empty promises to myself. But I'm here now, ready with both hands excitedly on the keys to talk about giving up that so-called Hollywood dream, to find an even greater one, here in Boston.

So I'll start with my job. I'm now actually getting paid to write. Imagine that. But honestly, getting it was such a freaking long shot. I was competing against kids ten years younger than me with portfolios that make mine look like a two year old's attempt to stay in the lines. But despite everything I had going against me, I did have one thing that those snot-nosed brats didn't have; I had worked on the show NCIS.  It was a superpower I feared had all but faded away, until that is, it reared its beautiful head during one of my interviews. Because as fate would have it, the thirty-something hipster who met with me was absolutely obsessed with the show. So much so, that he decided to give me, a girl with zero copywriting experience a chance to write for one of the biggest agencies in the world.  I soon realized that those five amazing and terrible years that I had put into working on that show, had all been for this one moment in time. An opportunity to have my cake and eat it too.

Our new house.  Finding this place almost didn't happen.  We had been living in my parent's basement, and honestly, I was actually enjoying it. I mean, I had literally missed more than half of my brother's life while living out in California. When I had left, he was this little wide-eyed kid watching me get on the plane and asking how old he'd be when I moved back.  And when I returned, he had somehow turned into this very tall, deep-voiced teenager. It was a chance for me to make up for some lost time; a chance to really get to know the person he'd become in the last eight years.
But as the months rolled by, we all soon realized that sharing one room with our cat and his litter box wasn't exactly ideal. But finding a place
close to everybody we loved wasn't going to be easy either. So I looked and I looked and I looked and after I had nearly given up hope, I saw it.  A three bedroom house that I'd seen posted months ago that had suddenly, out of nowhere, reappeared on Craigslist.  We were skeptical of course, but something just made us get in the car that day to go check it out. I'll never forget the look on my husband's face as we drove through its very quiet neighborhood and saw its stunning floors and fireplace.  His smile was wider than I'd ever seen, so much so that he couldn't even look at me in fear he'd burst out laughing. We had found it, our little piece of home, our little piece of heaven.
My past year here has brought a hurricane, a blizzard, an earthquake, and of course, a bombing.  April 15th was one of the scariest, if not one of the worst days of my life. And I just couldn't help but let those "What if's" take over my brain. The "What if" my brother had gone to the finish line as planned.  The "What if" I had taken the day off and brought my entire family to watch the race.  It was a trying day, one of those days that just makes you appreciate everything that's good in this world. But April 15th, although frightening, also  showed me the very reason I'm here.  Why I chose to come back to such an amazing place. A city that can so miraculously come together, no matter what life throws at it.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

His Happiness

There's this special kind of excitement that lies within my husband's eyes.  It's contagious, it's beautiful, and it's honestly one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced in this life.  It's something that occurs much too rarely, but when it does, it seems to fill the room with an immediate dose of magic, leaving all those around him hoping it will never end.  But since our move back east a few months ago, that joy had all but disappeared, as I quietly feared that he had left it behind on the opposite coast.  But yesterday out of nowhere, as we explored the beauties of Boston together, the light in his eyes suddenly returned.  And as I smiled back at his happiness, remembering once again why I loved him so, I knew at that moment that things were going to be alright.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Close To Home

It's funny how you can see something so much clearer once you've had time to miss it.  I hadn't been to my brother-in-law's famous pig roast in almost a decade, so of course its beauties had long since escaped me. But as we arrived the day before to help him set up, I suddenly realized that our assistance wasn't needed at all.  That was because there were already literally dozens of Brian's closest friends flooding down the driveway to help.  There were guys young and old simply appearing with truck beds overflowing with firewood, chairs, tents, and anything and everything one could imagine.  It was simply as if everybody Brian had ever known wanted to lend a hand.  And as they joked and jabbed at each other with the kind of familiarity only the closest of friends can possess, an unexpected jealousy suddenly arose within me as I soon realized how special what he had truly was.  For most of my life I had silently pitied those who had never dared to live outside the comfortable boundaries of their hometown, but in seeing all that Brian now had by staying and building lifelong friendships there, it truly made me appreciate the path he had chosen and allowed me to finally realize that I should never again judge a person for choosing to stay close to home.