brilligspoons: (red riding)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 7: Bupkis

"The worst part," she tells me when we're alone for the first time since I arrived with Dad last week, "is waking up in the morning and not knowing where you are or why you're there. When you open your eyes that first time after a night's sleep, you expect to see the ceiling you've been meaning to patch for the last decade, the dresser from the bedroom set your mother bought you when you first moved into the house forty years ago, and the tape player that's been broken since you dropped it in '96."

I stay silent and try to keep still, but nursing homes make me uneasy and my leg bounces wildly from nervous energy. She doesn't comment on my restlessness like I expect her to - I wonder, briefly, if she even notices that it's happening, and whether or not she knows it's me and not my mother or sisters. I can never tell anymore.

"It's so strange." She pauses to clear her throat, the same high-pitched hem hem sound I've heard her make since I can remember. She continues, "It's so strange, the things you think about in that moment when you don't know what you've been doing for the last four or five years. Terrifying, in a word. You've got all these memories of chasing after your little brothers and helping Mother make Sunday dinner for the cousins, of going to college and then graduate school and traveling and teaching and taking care of nieces and nephews, and then - nothing. It all goes away and you're left with nothing."

She tries to turn her head to look at me, but her body is so weak at this point that she barely manages it. She gives me a wide, toothy grin (and years later I'll see the same smile on my nephew's face and clutch at my sister's arm and cry because I miss her so much) and chuckles, warm and low. "Then, of course, it all comes rushing back to you. Doctors visiting, selling the house, the first assisted living place, updating your will, the nursing home, being confined to your bed, making sure you get to see everyone one last time. I practically ran this family for half a century, you'd think I'd be a little better at managing these things."

I think she wants me to laugh, but I know if I start I won't be able to stop before I dissolve into tears.

"I wouldn't worry too much about it, kid," she says after a while. "You have the whole world until then."
brilligspoons: (bacon)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 6: Food Memory

It's force of habit at this point, so I do it despite Bella yelling at me that I'm making it wrong.

First, I lay out the two slices of bread on a paper towel, bottom edge to bottom edge but not touching. I take two knives out from the drawer, then go into the pantry and retrieve the peanut butter container, and then I take the jar of strawberry preserves out from the refrigerator. I place both next to the bread. I pick the peanut butter up first, open it, take one of the knives and dig it in deep to get a nicely sized glob. I spread it over one slice of bread, and then repeat the action for the other.

"That's not how Mommy makes it," Bella complains.

"No," I say to her, "but it's the way Papa taught me."

I set the peanut butter aside, and then I lick both sides of the dirty knife. Mom used to scold me for this, tell me that I was going to cut my tongue open, and then where I would be? But I'm careful, I repeat this in my head even as Bella scrunches her nose up at me, I've done this a million times, it's fine. I put that knife in the sink once I'm done with it, and then I open up the jar of preserves. I take the clean knife and dip it in, careful to only pick up one of the whole strawberries in the jar. I spread that on top of the peanut butter on one slice, and then I lick that knife, too, before placing it in the sink with its match.

"That's not enough jelly," she says.

"It's plenty. Any more and it'll drip out between the bread."

I take the peanut butter-only slice and place it carefully on top of the one with the jelly, and then I slide it around until the edges align perfectly and wipe the excess peanut butter off with a finger. Bella waits until I've rinsed the knives off and put them back in the drawer to ask me more questions.

"When did Papa teach you that?"

I pick the sandwich up and bite into it. I close my eyes. "I was as old as you are," I tell her. "I kept complaining to Mommy - my mommy, your Mama - that the jelly was soaking through the bread before I even got to lunchtime at school." I hold the sandwich out to Bella for her to rip a section off. "She told me that if I was going to complain, I had to make my own. I went through a lot of bread and got so frustrated with the whole thing that I broke down and went to Papa, and he helped me out. I've never made it any other way since."

I take another bite, and I remember the roughness of his hands as he taught me to glide the knife over the bread gently and without tearing it, the amusement in his voice as he explained the superiority of strawberry preserves to grape jelly, and the mock-stern warning when he told me not to take all the strawberries before he'd had his toast on Sunday morning.

Bella holds out her hand for more of the sandwich. "You still make it weird," she says.

"You come from a family of weird people, sweetie," I say. "Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are the least of your problems."
brilligspoons: (no tea no work)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 5: Inconceivable

I am, above most-if-not-all things, a creature of habit. Every morning when I get to work, I log on to my computer, open Outlook, and check my voicemail. Then I open Firefox, load my personal email, LiveJournal, Twitter, Tumblr, the Archive of Our Own (otherwise known as AO3), and a multitude of other websites I use for Actual Work into separate tabs, in that exact order. No deviations, not in the entire year I've been employed at my current job. I get cranky when any of my sites are down for whatever reason and I can't get into them in the morning; I know, I'm predictable (and spoiled) that way.

This morning as I'm going through this routine, I clicked the handy link to AO3 I keep on my journal, but when I switched to that tab, I saw this:


I immediately panicked. My breath caught in my throat, and my heart plummeted into my stomach.

AO3 - blocked? What? WHAT? How could they DO this? Don't they know I depend on my ability to read fanfic during the day to ensure I don't end up screaming bloody murder at someone? How am I expected to work under these conditions? Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about this sort of situation? It's just not right, I tell you!

Naturally I took to Twitter to express my horror at this despicable turn of events, knowing that my friends would flock to comfort me in my time of need. [ profile] pocky_slash, who shares cubicle space with me, responded shortly thereafter with the appropriate amount of despair:


I'm still having trouble processing this, an hour and change after discovering this betrayal. The day is ruined. We will spend the next 7 or so hours wandering about the office in a haze of hurt and dejection, and even the knowledge that management is buying us pizza for lunch is no source of comfort. One truth remains: there will be no dawn for men Margaret and Kait.

I feel I should put a disclaimer on this entry: Kait and I do do Actual Work during the day, we swear! The rule in our department is that as long as our to-do lists get done in a timely manner, we're allowed to goof off on the internet as often as we want. As much as we joke about it, we're not actually slackers. Most of the time. ;P
brilligspoons: (dying)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 3: Coprolite

I got all excited when I saw this week's LJ Idol topic (well, more like after I figured out what the word meant) - "YES," I said to Kokomo (my teddy bear and constant companion). "Yet another opportunity to tell people the story about my niece pooping in the baby pool! I love telling that story." Alas! I realized shortly thereafter that I'd written about that for LJ Idol last year, so I guess I have to find something else to talk about. Le sigh.

Don't worry, you're safe from more entries about my nieces' and nephew's bodily functions. For now.


So about a year or so ago, my sister Julia calls me and asks, "Hey, where's your Kirsten doll?"

"Hi Jules," I reply, "nice to hear from you. How's life?"

"Very funny," she says. "Where's the goddamn doll? Bella's been asking me to get her one, and I'm not sure I can justify throwing $100 on a doll when you already have one."

For those of you who don't know: the Pleasant Company has been producing a line of dolls based on fictional historical characters known as "American Girls" since 1986. Each doll represents a unique culture and time period in American history - for example, there's a Native American girl named Kaya whose story takes place in 1764; there's also Rebecca, a Russian-Jewish girl from 1914, and Addy Walker, who escaped from slavery with her mother in 1864, and a couple others. Each doll comes with her own book series, five somewhat formulaic stories that are designed to educate and empower.

(Er, don't take me calling them "formulaic" the wrong way - they're awesome! They're part of the reason I love history so much! But looking back on them now, they're all sort of the same. Not a bad thing, just making an observation.)

I don't remember asking my parents for one back in the day, but I suppose I must have. Regardless, a Kirsten Larson doll (timeline: pioneer era, 1856) appeared under the Christmas tree when I was 9 or 10, and I played with her somewhat faithfully (she was a regular character for at least 4 months in the soap opera all my stuffed animals were a part of, married and divorced Kokomo twice) until we moved to a new house when I was 12.

Then, as I'm sort of wont to do with a lot of my possessions, I lost track of her. I didn't think I'd thrown her out, but when Julia asked me about her, it'd been 12 years since I'd last seen the doll. The way things go in my family, she could have been tossed out into the cold and eaten by wolves for all I knew. (Spoiler: she wasn't eaten by wolves.)

But because I live in Boston and the rest of my family in Jersey, I kept blowing Julia off. "I don't have a clue," I'd tell her repeatedly. "If you're so keen on finding her, look for her yourself."

"You're such a brat," Julia would say to me.

"Yes," I'd agree. "Your point?"

Anyway, two weeks ago she and my brother-in-law were going down to Key West for a short vacation, and I offered to babysit with our other sister for the weekend. They accepted, and then Julia told me that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to tear Mom and Dad's house apart and find the doll. I sighed dramatically a lot but agreed - the kids could go play at the park with Grandpa for a couple hours, giving Cathy and me a break from their craziness, and I'd brave the attic in search of Kirsten.

Dad very graciously shifted the heavy attic door for me before he took the kids off our hands, and I very carefully climbed up there and crawled around the exposed patches of insulation to where there was a pile of dusty boxes all marked "MARGARET - STUFF."

"How likely is that?" I asked myself. "I never have this much luck."

Sure enough, Kirsten was in one of those boxes, buried under a couple sweatshirts and skirts I hadn't seen in 13 years. I picked her up and sniffed at her, then recoiled.

"Oh yeah," I said. "You've definitely been the victim of Dad smoking inside this house since we moved in. I am so sorry."

I made my way back down with her (but not before I managed to slam my head into one of the crossbeams because I made the rookie mistake of standing up) and sent a quick text to Julia - the squirrel is in the tree, I repeat, the squirrel is in the tree.

You think you're funny, she wrote back, but thanks, I will send her off to the doll spa when I get home.

(Yes, the doll spa. You can send your dolls in to the company to be fixed up - it's pretty nifty, I think.)

So the outcome of this year-long doll quest is that my niece will be inheriting (a hopefully better-smelling) Kirsten this Christmas. As reluctant as I was to participate, I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased to be passing her off. Uh, mostly because this gets me out of actually buying her a present. That's the best.

Oh, hush, she's getting the first couple volumes of Tiny Titans and Marvel Adventures: Avengers out of me, too.
brilligspoons: (oops!)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 2: Three little words

About two months or so after I graduated from college, the two friends I'd retained from high school, J and L, got engaged to each other. I was ecstatic, as you might imagine; I loved them both dearly, and they were all-around awesome people. They'd been together since we were 17 (in secret at first, since we weren't allowed to date in school), and the engagement was an inevitability that everyone was looking forward to. I might have done a ridiculous happy dance in my cubicle when I received the text about it, but you can't prove anything.

After work that day, I called J to give my initial congratulations and best wishes. We spent over two hours on the phone, chatting and gossiping and laughing, and at the end of our conversation, she asked me to be in her bridal party.

"I mean, you don't have to," she said.

"Like I haven't been waiting six years for this moment," I replied. "Yes, okay? Don't be stupid."

The next day I got an evite from her for a party her soon-to-be in-laws were throwing that night for them. I had to babysit, so I declined and sent her a text with my excuse (and probably a million sad faces). She wrote back that she understood and that we'd have to have dinner sometime soon. Very shortly after that, I received a text from an unknown number - something about being excited about the wedding and being a bridesmaid with me and all that. When I asked who had sent the message, I was told that it was M (another girl we'd gone to high school with, and not my favorite person at all) and that she'd gotten my number from J.

I...did not react very well. I don't like it when my phone number is handed out without my knowledge, especially to people I had been purposefully avoiding for a couple of years. But I tried to pull myself together - I'd have to see her, and other people I didn't like, regularly if we were all going to be in the wedding party; I could totally be an adult about this. So I sent J a message asking her to please ask me before giving everyone else my number, which I thought was only fair. She didn't call or text me back for a while, and by then the messages from M were a slight annoyance in the back of my mind, nothing serious.

She called me after work that night, and the first thing she said to me was, "I have to ask you to not be in our wedding anymore."

I was stunned.

"I don't think it's going to work out," she said. "You haven't been very supportive, and it might be best if you just step down."

It's been TWO DAYS, I wanted to scream at her.

"Anyway," she continued, "you understand, right? We're good, right?"

"Sure," I choked out. "Good. Whatever. Bye."

I spent the rest of that night crying on my father's shoulder, wondering what the hell I'd done wrong.

Neither J nor L tried to contact me for months after that, and I didn't attempt to get in touch with them either. My parents, surprisingly, supported this - you need a couple of weeks' distance, they said, and the rest of my family agreed with them. So I said nothing, and eventually I stopped crying, though I continued to feel worthless and awful. A couple of days after my birthday that year, however, I received a text from J. Sorry I missed your birthday, it read. We should get lunch sometime soon, y/n?

I ignored it. I haven't spoken to or seen her since she kicked me out of her wedding party. I try not to think about it, which is probably the best thing I could do for myself, but every so often I find myself wishing I still had her cell number. Maybe I'd text her, ask her why? or how could you do that to me? or are you happy, at least? Was it a good wedding? How have you been?

Mostly, though, I want to say go fuck yourself and be done with it - not exactly polite, but it'd be therapeutic, at least.
brilligspoons: (no tea no work)
[ profile] therealljidol Week 1: When you pray, move your feet

Gavin and Bella throw their backpacks on the floor and go tearing through the house and right out the door to the backyard once we get home. Cathy and I exchange a look and laugh as we move our groceries into the kitchen. She lifts the blinds on the kitchen windows and watches them chase each other up the ladder on the playhouse.

"They'll be fine out there by themselves, right?" Cathy asks me. She turns away from the window and hands me the bag of tortellini we bought especially for the kids.

"It's their swing set," I reply, "what's the worst that could happen?"

I pull out a pot from the cabinet next to the stove, and as I start to fill it with water, Bella comes rushing back inside. Over the sound of the water, someone is screaming in pain.

"Gavin's crying," says Bella. "He fell, I think."

"Oh, jesus fucking christ, not now," I say, and I rush past her and out the door. Behind me, I hear Bella tell Cathy that I said a bad word in the middle of Jesus' name, but Cathy's response to her is lost in the haze of oh god oh god oh god please let him be okay and thank GOD I kept my shoes on going through my mind.
brilligspoons: (kisses kill)
Well, [ profile] momebie helped me decide this one this morning - I'm going to try my hand at [ profile] therealljidol again. Watch out, world!



brilligspoons: (Default)

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