no.roots.

no.roots.

Traditions are held up as the gold standard of society. People described as traditional often evoke images of stoic, genuine, pure people. Immune to corruption. Immune to the progression of society. Or at least, the unsavory parts of it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of this. I come from a long line of traditionalists. Family on all branches of my tree have shaped and molded me through traditions that I’d never trade for anything else in the world.

But there’s something seductive and freeing about the thought of having no roots, isn’t there? Something that says, “You can do whatever you want and no one will care.” It plucks free the guilt like a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth. If you want to go on a cruise for Christmas, you can do that. If you want to bake cookies and go caroling through your neighborhood, you can do that. No one expects any certain behavior from you if you have no roots.

So I’d be lying if I said I never thought about what it would be like to not have such tethered roots, especially during the holidays. The bustle and busyness of it all, the way we’re expected to do too much with too little, the unrealistic bar to which we’re all held by others or maybe only by ourselves, can get exhausting year after year. Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need to say, “Yes, Tradition. We see you. But we’re going to sit this one out so we don’t hurt ourselves irreparably for what’s to come later.”

For some of us, the exhaustion builds over time. We know it’s coming. We know that it’s been years since the last breakdown and we’re due for another. We know that the memories of those who are no longer with us are too heavy this year and are bound to break our thread-bare sanity when they’re dropped, one-by-one, throughout the holiday season.

Other times the exhaustion comes out of nowhere, blindsiding us with its strength, the way it so effortlessly and viciously knocks us off-balance. We have to stop. Catch our breaths. Remember that traditions are important, but they’re not everything. Sometimes, we have to be okay with the knowledge that others are carrying the traditions on in our stead, holding the torch until we can catch up again.

And that’s okay.

Last year, for me, was a no-roots type of holiday season. Everything was wrong. I wished we could go for a cruise and never come back. I wished no one expected anything of me at all. Even this past Thanksgiving, I still felt it. That hole where tradition should be. A hole that wouldn’t be there at all if no one had started the traditions in the first place.

Then yesterday was another Christmas. And some parts of the day were missing major players. Some sections of my day would’ve been made infinitely better by a brother or cousin or nephew. Some parts of my day could’ve been cheerier or lighter. I could’ve been cheerier or lighter. I could’ve gotten more done, baked more cookies, addressed Christmas cards, made more homemade gifts, been more thoughtful and present.

But I didn’t.

Not gonna lie, I wasn’t feeling much like hitting our last stop of the Christmas Day. I was tired. I was missing people. I felt like I hadn’t done enough, hadn’t settled into tradition enough this year. I had decided that maybe this was just going to be my new normal, and that decision covered me in a sadness I thought unshakeable.

And then I got to “the hall.”

The hall for those who aren’t aware, is a VFW Hall where my mom’s side of the family meets for Christmas. It’s tradition, since I was little. I have fond memories of running around the VFW with my cousins, singing Christmas songs and opening presents. Watching my uncle balance chairs and canes and books and anything we could find on his chin. Being able to skate or bike inside. The hall was a Christmas haven for us kids. We could do anything, it seemd.

Eighty of us were there this year. I know, because my aunt makes us count off before we can eat. Tradition. There were so many of my cousins present, cousins I see only once a year. We sang the Hallelujah Chorus, something we’ve done in the past, but had neglected to do last year. At the end of the night we went through old treasures of our grandma’s, on a table marked “Grab-Bag.” Another tradition that had died out, but recently came roaring back. This year we had an entire jar of old buttons and pins on the table. My grandmother’s. We went through them all, my cousins and me–the cousins who used to skate and bike and build with me but who now have kids of their own to do these things in their stead–laughing and remarking about the significance of each of the buttons. Demanding someone take a pin that suited them even if we wanted it too. Running our fingers over the sayings that were our roots. These ideas and sayings that belonged to the head Root-Planter who helped start it all.

I read each one. And I thought, “You know what? Maybe having roots isn’t such a bad thing, after all.”

purple.socks.

purplesocks (2)

 

When your husband–the one who used to willingly get into a cage and fight other grown men for fun, and who, when cut or sliced or otherwise maimed at work usually just tapes up his wound with whatever is closest–calls you at work and says, “I did something stupid. I cut myself and I need you to come get me and take me to the hospital,” you don’t ask questions. You flee your office, barely explaining why to your boss, and go home to see what in the hell kind of stupid thing your husband did that necessitated him calling you in the first place.

In case you’re curious whether or not I actually fled or if I’m just using that term for dramatic effect, I will tell you this: I left a full 24 oz. cup of piping hot coffee on my desk.

Yeah, that’s some serious shit.

On the way home, which, luckily for him, is only about half a mile away, I wondered what I might walk in on at home. I’m not what you’d call steel-nerved when it comes to things like blood or vomit or other bodily fluids. He hadn’t told me where he cut himself, what if he was passed out by the time I got home? What if he couldn’t walk? What if his finger was in a plastic bag full of ice? What kind of stupid thing was he even doing?

There was little time to worry about a lot of these hypotheticals because as soon as I pulled up to the house, he was opening the front door and hobbling out, a towel wrapped tight around his lower leg. I know I have an over-active imagination, but it was a huge relief to immediately know he wasn’t passed out in a pool of his own blood in the living room.

He had no shoes on but there was no time to get him any, because he was bleeding everywhere and let’s be honest, I don’t even think there are clean matching socks anywhere in my house right now, so barefoot seemed like the easier/better option. Who wants to be the wife who tells a eulogy that starts thusly, “It was a real shame that I spent fifteen minutes trying to find two matching socks in the fourteen laundry baskets of clean clothes we keep in the basement. If I hadn’t had to do that, he may not have bled out.”

So off we went, him barefoot, me trying not to look anywhere in the general vicinity of the source of the blood. We were on the road before he told me what had happened, which was this: The remote control airplane he’d been building with our son had turned on while he was, ironically, trying to set the safety for the throttle, and the propeller turned into his calf, slicing it. In case you were wondering, this plane isn’t some tiny little drone thing that can fit in your hand. It’s a plane with a five-foot wingspan.

On the way to the hospital, my loving husband told me details I didn’t need to know. Like how, when it happened, and before he’d really processed that he’d just been cut, it sounded like he’d spilled a cup of water on the floor. And how now there was so much blood all over the living room it looked like a crime scene. And how he maybe thought he had even seen a few chunks of flesh (I think he just threw that detail in to gross me out. He likes to do that). But then he started to feel dizzy and in pain, which probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I was driving in a way that could maybe be described as a sorta cautious maniac.

When we pulled up, I told him to get out and I’d run in to see if they’d let me bring a wheelchair out, instead of making him hobble barefoot up the walk. In the ER lobby, I told the receptionist that my husband had cut himself and I needed a wheelchair. She pointed to where the wheelchairs were and asked if I needed help. After I said I could handle it, she asked what he cut himself on. I panicked, not wanting to go into some long-ass story while he was waiting for me, and just said, “Airplane propeller!” on my way out the door.

This seemed to cause some confusion, but it did end in nurses being called immediately to come inspect his leg.

“So uh, what exactly did this?” was the question of the day. We quickly clarified that the airplane propeller was attached to a remote control plane, and not a real airplane. To which one nurse said, “Ahhh okay. I was wondering how he’d even have a leg left…”

So let that be a lesson to you kids. Clarity is important, but sometimes being vague gets you seen faster in an emergency.

They got him back into a room and I still refused to look directly at the leg because, you know, I’m a giant baby. The doctor saying, “Ooooh no, I need to go get more supplies” was enough to evoke certain images in my brain that I didn’t want to see. Nurses kept coming in and asking questions. One winked at me and said, “Mine’s a big kid, too.” But mostly I think they were just disappointed that an actual airplane hadn’t cut my husband’s leg.

My husband was just embarrassed and kept saying so. But everyone assured him that they’d seen much more embarrassing things in the ER. I reminded him that we’d been in the ER for more embarrassing reasons. But he was just concerned with the state of his toenails and the fact that he wasn’t wearing any socks or shoes, and hadn’t had a shower yet.

Eighteen stitches later, he was all fixed up and ready to go. The nurse who had confided that her husband also loved giant toys came back and laughingly asked (as we were getting ready to leave), “Do you want me to bring you some of the socks with the grippy bottoms so you don’t have to be barefoot?” And he said yes. When she came back, she had giant purple socks, which isn’t a thing I’d ever be able to get my husband to wear, but this nurse had the magic touch, I guess. He put those suckers on, and I walked my maimed husband out to the car. And that is the story of how my husband got his very first pair of purple socks.

 

Convinced.

I am convinced that the universe needs me to be at a certain level of desperation on a daily basis in order for the galaxies to remain harmoniously aligned.

I am convinced that if I hadn’t recently freed myself of self-inflicted guilt about giving up on relationships that I clearly can’t salvage without divine intervention, I wouldn’t have old relationships seeping stealthily back into my days, bleeding guilt right back into the scrubbed-clean parts of my psyche.

I am convinced that if I hadn’t gotten so close to being caught up at work, we wouldn’t have had a surprise audit last week.

I am convinced that there are people in my life I need to spend more time with, and that if I hadn’t had the luxury of spending time with those very people recently, I wouldn’t be feeling so badly about the people I haven’t spent much time with.

I am convinced that if I hadn’t started cleaning my house as soon as I got home today– doing the dishes from last night, washing towels we used over the weekend, and scrubbing the shower that was still fairly clean from its last scrubbing–the sewer would not have backed up an hour ago and ruined a bunch of our laundry.

I am convinced that I’m cursed by a God of hilarity, humility, and all things in between.

 

 

worth.a.try.

worth.a.try.

I realize I haven’t been around much, lately. Summer is hard. Blogging is hard. Life is hard.

We moved, recently. It was a significant down-sizing and I am still dealing with the massive overflow of STUFF my husband, children, and I have accumulated during our lives. We thought simplifying would be easy, but it’s been a real struggle. Mainly because, as my husband says, I’m “an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen.”

I feel like I’ve gotten a little better, lately. While I still miss my mother fiercely, the sting of her death isn’t as harsh as it used to be. It seems to be easier to let go of the things that made her her a little more bearable. Sometimes that realization sends me into a spiral of depressive thoughts and self-loathing, but it is what it is. We’ve gotta move on.

Writing has helped. Writing is this wonderful thing where you can make your thoughts tangible, and if you want, you can strike them down dead again before anyone reads them and realizes what a looney you are. Writing teaches you what belongs and what doesn’t. What is necessary to keep the plot hurtling forward, and what should be discarded. It teaches you how to simplify. It teaches that the most straight-forward way is most likely the best way. It also teaches patience. That your first draft of anything is probably shit, but more importantly, that the shit is okay. Not only okay, the shitty first draft that you cringe to read weeks later is necessary.

That’s a nice thought. I wish it could be expanded. What if I could say, The last ten years were just a messy outline of how I want the rest of this story to go. These next ten, I’m going to cut the fat, limit the long sentences, cut a few of the characters, and focus on moving this story forward to its destination?

I know we can’t, but maybe I’ll try, anyway. Instead of starting a brand new story, maybe I’ll just edit the one I’ve already started. Flesh out the characters. Polish it up. Maybe by the time I’m ninety, my basement will be immaculate, my life will be simple, and my story will be a best-seller.

It’s worth a try.