The Terrible Twos

I have always been strong-willed. Or stubborn. Or unyielding. It depends on who you ask.

My earliest memory of this sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-useful quality is from when I was two years old. We lived in western Michigan in a big* white house with an above-ground pool in the backyard. I had a bedroom on the first floor, and it had a enough floor space to hold all my toys. I know because I tested the theory out once** and determined it was indeed spacious enough for everything I had to my name.

One day, during this experiment, my mom came into my room and told me to put all my toys away. I said no, obviously. She repeated herself, and I said no again. She finally said that if I didn’t put my toys away, she would pack them all up and take them away. I stared at her. She affirmed the threat. I stared back. Like I said, I can be unyielding. I thought maybe I could call her bluff. Even if she was telling the truth, I didn’t like being forced into anything. I stood my ground. My mom left the room.

I knew better than to take her leaving as a guaranteed win, so I waited. She came back with garbage bags. I watched as she put everything I’d left on the floor inside them. She threw all these tiny little toys into these huge black plastic bags, then she carried the bags out of my room—which now had a very clean floor but was definitely less fun. Still though, I looked her straight in the face and didn’t say a word.

At least, this is how I remember it. I could have been crying, but I doubt it. I don’t even remember if I got those toys back. All I remember is standing silently, stoically, stubbornly—watching them disappear into the abyss.

I’m sure this behavior didn’t make me an easy child. It doesn’t always make me an easy adult. But it has it’s benefits. I don’t give in easily to peer pressure, and I’m not often swayed by something’s popularity. That could be because I don’t have peers that want to pressure me into anything and I don’t know what’s cool. Whatev, I’m putting it in the win category anyway.

The biggest benefit though is that I’m so stubborn, I can’t even convince myself of something I’m not 100% behind. When I’ve tried—and believe me, I’ve tried—my unshakeable, rigid self pushes it’s way through, rocking the paper boat I’d built. It’s not pleasant to be shaken back to reality, but I always feel better when that stubborn two-year-old rears her adorable head and does it for me.

*adjective subject to interpretation since I was the size of a large porcupine
**maybe way more often than once

Higher and Higher

When I was younger my mom used to scold me for climbing on the counters to get stuff out of the high cupboards. I obviously never stopped, because I’m short and I need things.

When I was home a few weeks ago, she asked me to get something from a shelf above the fridge, knowing full well I am the same size as always and have not developed Inspector Gadget arms. So I went for it. She watched—without comment—as I climbed up on the counter, reached across the fridge, and handed the thing down to her.

Either the world is falling apart or everything is finally falling into place. I haven’t decided yet, but I know something’s up. I’ll fill you guys in when I have more evidence.

Sappy Sweet

maplesyrupaddiction

I spent this past weekend in Vermont for a friend’s wedding. On the drive back home, we passed a shop for a local farm with a huge sign boasting the sale of the greatest sugar known to man: maple syrup. We sampled their specialties, opened up the machine they use to boil the syrup, and peeked into the stockroom. While Dave learned about the process, I hatched a complicated plan to steal an armful of the sweetener. It was a poor strategy involving a messy distraction and a broken window, so I decided to just settle for visiting the store.

I’m particular about my syrup. I’ve never eaten a meal with fake maple syrup—that disgusting concoction made from corn syrup and artificial flavoring. Growing up, I had more than what I needed, but we didn’t have a lot of room for luxuries. We ate our share of store-brand cereal and carried last year’s backpack to the first day of school. Maple syrup, however—the real kind that comes from a tree and has only one ingredient on the label—was always in the fridge. My parents made plenty of sacrifices to get our family to the place we are now, but my dad wouldn’t make that one.

It seems small. That one little splurge didn’t break the bank. It was just a standard he’d set for himself, for us. And, really, you can’t back down on those kinds of things. A life without the little wonders isn’t worth living. Plus, how much syrup could we actually have been eating each month? Ok, probably a lot, because my sister used to douse every breakfast item on her plate with it. Still, it was a small indulgence with a major payoff. And it stuck.

I’ve annoyed plenty of waiters with my questions about the syrup served at breakfast joints. Many a confusing interaction has begun with my query of,” So, do you have real maple syrup?” I usually get a perplexed look from the waiter and a response about how they think so and that it’s just the normal kind. Once someone responded with, “Yeah, it comes from the bottle shaped like a lady.” Amateur. If the waiter doesn’t know the answer to this question, I assume they serve maple-flavored corn syrup. Then I don’t order pancakes because that’s disgusting.

This shop had the real deal—walls lined from top to bottom with gallons of it. Sometimes people ask me if I want to go wine tasting or get a flight at a brewery. I usually just nod my head and pretend I can tell the difference between each sip. At this tasting session, I was on top of it. I sampled each grade, carefully noting their hues and flavors. I was an expert. I’d been training my whole life for that moment.

Power of Love

Loving

Facebook keeps telling me how many days it’s been since my last post. It’s an embarrassing number. I stopped looking. Ok, I didn’t stop looking. I looked and then yelled at my computer to stop shaming me and to just let me live. Because I’ve been up to something important.

A lot has happened in the past week, the most significant of which was my sister’s wedding. I was busy completing Pinterest projects, holding her hand, and dancing the night away, so I didn’t get to write much. I did write one thing though—for the happy couple. They seemed to like it and my mom threatened to post it herself if I didn’t put it up here. Based on my knowledge of celebrity gossip, I know it’s crucial to always answer the threats of your number one fan, so here it is.

This is the speech I gave at the reception. It has a few corny jokes, which go over great in big crowds (a lesson I learned from 90s stand-up comics). I’m such a nerd I can’t even write about love without getting all literary and sci-fi-y. That’s obviously not a word yet, but I feel like any word (even a newly created one) that requires two en dashes is worth typing out. Also, I really thought I might have a heart attack before I picked up the microphone, but I survived. Barely.

People have been thinking about love for thousands of years. We’ve made sonnets and screenplays and sculptures all its name. I’d bet there are cave paintings depicting loved ones embracing. Or arguing over what to eat for dinner. Probably both. But I’m going to talk about one particular love story. And it’s not yours. Well, not exactly.

In ancient Greece, privileged men used to sit around and talk about important subjects—history, science, politics, and, of course, love. So, Plato was doing this with his pals and he asked them what they thought of love. The conversation eventually came around to Aristophanes.

He said mankind has never understood the real power of love. He got a little preachy about it all, as the Greeks tended to do with their myths, but here’s the important part:

At the start, people were round, with four arms and four legs. They had one head with two faces. I know, this is getting a little sci-fi, but bear with me. They were basically two people in one. It may seem like an odd shape for a person, but they were super powerful. They literally had eyes in the back of their heads. And they could carry so much. Most impressively, they could roll like crazy. Like, if they were at a family reunion or a field day, they would be killin’ it.

But this story is in the vein of most Greek myths. The people got a little arrogant and the gods got a little threatened. They were worried these two-for-one people might be able to overtake them. To protect themselves, the gods decided to split people in half.

After being split, people began to look for the rest of themselves. Literally, their other half. They would search and search and then, finally, embrace. Once the two halves found one another, Aristophanes said, “the pair [were] lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one would not be out of the other’s sight, even for a moment.”

Because they were whole again. They were complete. And, he said, that’s love. Finding yourself whole.

I’m so glad you’ve found one another. That you can embrace and be whole. I hope you’ll be so powerful together that you make the gods of the ancient Greeks nervous.

And then everyone hugged and drank bourbon and danced to an eight-piece band—all in celebration of a four-armed, four-legged, two-faced creature. Or love. Either one.

A Jiminy Cricket Mother

IMG_20160628_0001

When I was young, my parents took us on a road trip. Like nearly all our vacations, we were camping in our lovely pop-up camper—equipped with double beds, a mini-fridge, and a heater. We may have been living among the trees, but we were extra fancy about it. In between hiking mountains and eating wild blueberries, we stopped in a few towns.

At one of them, we were making our way down a store-lined street after some wholesome vacation activity, like eating ice cream or window shopping. My sister and I were a few steps ahead of my parents and had stopped to talk to someone. I can’t remember what she said to us, but her voice was deep and raspy—very deep and very raspy. We talked with her about whatever we were doing at the time and then she went on her way. Once she left, and our parents had caught up to us, we turned to them and asked why that girl had a voice that sounded like a boy’s. My mom looked at us and said, “Because she was a boy, but now she’s a girl.”

It was the perfect explanation for two young kids—simple, straightforward, and free of judgment. With that short phrase, my mom explained the truth to us. She didn’t hesitate or hedge her response. She said it as the fact it was and left it out there for us to take. I’m not sure if she expected us to keep asking questions, but we didn’t have any. We heard her, acknowledged it, and went on with our business—the business of eating summer treats and looking at trinkets. We accepted that we’d just had a nice interaction with a stranger and that stranger was a woman. It wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t difficult to understand. It wasn’t hard to keep living our lives without judging her or hating her or wanting her to be harmed.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about the tragedy in Orlando. I’ve thought about it again and again. It’s filling my newsfeed and my mind. There are so many pieces to it—the hate, the gun violence, the political response. Stories about the attack have been popping up alongside pictures of my friends celebrating Pride this month—dancing in the streets, celebrating their truth, and recognizing the value of the people around them. The joy of honesty is sitting right next to this deep sadness. I’ve had a lot of emotional responses to the attack, but my gut keeps coming back to that memory.

I can’t speak for my LGBTQ friends and I won’t try, but I can speak for that little girl who heard a gruff, masculine voice rise out of a tall, beautiful woman. That moment wasn’t wrought with conflict for me. I wasn’t confused or offended or bothered. I was affected only enough to cement those minutes into my mind. And that’s because of one reason—one person, really. I was lucky enough to have a mother who explained the truth simply and kindly, and who raised me in a way that made the truth easy. I know not everyone is gifted with that, but what if we were? What would happen if we had an army of openminded, openhearted mothers? What would the world look like if, when a question arose, a thoughtful mother appeared to answer? What if every politician, every community leader, every businessperson was assigned a Jiminy Cricket style mother to explain how he should act?

We might be forced to quiet down just long enough to accept one another. The trade off would be that we could never walk too close to the edge of a balcony and we’d have to eat a lot more vegetables, but it’s probably worth it.

Wild and Free

FollowYourStomach

Last weekend, Dave and I drove back to Michigan for some family fun. We took the turnpike, so we saw a whole bunch of big rigs on the route. Two things happen when I drive past a huge truck. First, I usually get creeped out by some guy staring down into the car at me. Second, and much more pleasantly, I am reminded of the time when I was four and a truck like that changed the way I thought about the prospects of the world.

Years ago, one of my dad’s oldest friends was working as a truck driver. One beautiful morning he drove past our town and stopped to hang out for a bit. I have two distinct memories of what was probably only a 20-minute visit, both of which are filled with the kind of wonder and amazement only children can muster.

He parked in front of our house, the truck taking over most of the tiny neighborhood street. When he arrived, he called me up into the cabin and sat me on the big, worn-out seat. He pointed up at a rope hanging from the ceiling and told me to pull down on it. I looked to the roof, lifted my tiny hand, and tugged. The most glorious, loud, obtrusive noise came out of the truck. I’d heard those horns on the road, but it was a lot of power for a four year old and I loved it. I obviously pulled it a few more times, no doubt annoying the lovely old couple across the street.

After that, we went inside to take a break from the gleeful mischief. He pulled open the fridge, grabbed the milk, and took a few gulps right from the carton. I couldn’t believe he didn’t use a glass. It seemed so bold and broke what I’d assumed were the rules of not only our home, but everyone else’s. I’m pretty sure I just stared at him chugging the milk in the middle of our kitchen—my mouth open and eyes wide. He may or may not have winked at me. I know I repeated this story to my mom about forty-eight times immediately after it happened.

The world felt wide open after his visit. What did it mean that someone my parents loved got to be so wild? How many of these rules could be broken? And, most importantly, what couldn’t I do now that’d I’d honked the loudest horn in the universe? This friend, with his easy confidence and unbroken spirit, showed me there were so many ways to be. I was four and the shake-up made everything seem ripe with possibility—the possibility of a world where I could sound the call of an elephant, a world with cars the size of dragons, and, most significantly, a world free of cutlery and dishware.

Never Time

PizzaTime

My parents have a tight knit group of old friends. They met them in their childhood neighborhoods, elementary school classrooms, and first jobs. Because most of them stayed in Michigan, the most wondrous state in the country, they’ve remained close. So, despite my parents both having siblings, they created another family for my sister and I. Their friends became our pseudo-aunts and almost-uncles and the children of these friends became our cousins. These relationships have been wells of love, acceptance, and joy over our lives. But this post isn’t about that. That’s just an introduction to the real point of the post, which is why I feel real flexible about time and the reason I latched so quickly onto Einstein’s theory of relativity.

One of these nearly-aunts and practically-uncles had a home that was perfect for summer barbecues and evening hang out sessions. It was on a bunch of land and we’d go there in the afternoon, wander around the woods, and eat corn on the cob. After awhile, it’d get dark, and we’d go inside. The adults would talk and do other boring adult things and the four kids—me, my sister, and our two almost-cousins—would play whatever ridiculous game that happened to slip its way into our minds. Then, inevitably, some parent would come in and tell us it was time to go home.

At that point, we’d turn our heads to a big clock on that wall that was stuck. We’d exclaim, “It can’t possibly be time to go. Look! It’s not even 9pm.” And our parents were convinced. They’d retreat and keep talking about politics or hamburgers or whatever it is adults discuss. On average, we could persuade them 3.67 times before they finally gave in to the pull of responsibility.

We thought we were really compelling. We thought we were playing a trick on them. We thought we’d become master manipulators. Ok, we knew they knew. We did it every weekend. Grown-ups are dumb, but they aren’t that dumb. Clearly, our parents wanted it to actually be early in the night too. They wanted to stay and have more fun, so they let it be true. It seemed so easy to make it real. We just said it wasn’t time to go and it wasn’t.

Later, when I learned about the strangeness of time—the weird in-between in which it lives, being both so innately real and so rooted in nothing—it didn’t phase me. I was comfortable with its pliability. When a high school acquaintance of mine became obsessed with the ticking of his watch, in that way a teenager becomes obsessed with something he thinks is profound, I was uninterested. He would snap his fingers along with the second hand and announce, “This is how fast time passes.” I would turn my head and think of the clock that never moved. I’d remember that those tick-tocks don’t mean anything more than what we’ve all assigned them to mean.

It’s also the clock I think of when I’m late for work in the morning, when I miss a train, or when I walk into a party an hour after it starts. It’s not an excuse. I’m not being rude. I’m just enlightened.

Different Pages

SamePage

I didn’t know what to write about for today’s post, so I asked for Dave’s advice. He was playing virtual soccer, and he wasn’t paying much attention to what I was saying. I decided to give him some options to help the conversation along. Here they are with his actual responses:

  1. French people smoking cigarettes: “cee-gar-etttttes!”
  2. Monsters who eat people: “Oh my god, Lindsay, watch this replay.”
  3. Pizza made from the tears of my enemies: “Yes. Anything made from the tears of your enemies is great.”
  4. The octopus that escaped its aquarium by opening an unlatched door, squeezing through a tiny tube, and scooting into the ocean: “What is the call!?! What is the call!?!?”
  5. Girls being told that little boys like them when they pull their hair: “Yes, cause I like you. I’ll prove it.”
  6. Why lakes are better than oceans: “Oh man. You’re driving me bonkers.”
  7. Maybe something about…: “No. No. That sounds like garbage and I will not support it.”
  8. A t-shirt that cleans itself while you’re wearing it: “Look at this. Wait. Look at this. Look. Look. What a shot.”

We’re really good at this whole communication thing.

Gamegirl

SilentFriends

I just heard someone is making a big budget film based on the game Tetris. I don’t understand this at all. Are the pieces going to come to life? Will someone be playing the game on-screen? Are we all actually stuck inside a giant Gameboy? It sounds like an impossible task and a movie I will hate, but I’ll definitely see it, because Tetris and I have a deep history.

When I was 12, I asked my parents for a Gameboy Color. I’m not sure why I wanted it so badly. We didn’t have a lot of technology in our home and it wasn’t something that usually drew my attention. I was way more into books and paint and dirt. For some reason though, that little handheld console spoke to me. I requested one as a Hanukkah gift, thinking there was no way I’d ever get it.

A few weeks after I asked, we went to Canada for a family reunion. Before the buffet lunch, my dad pulled me aside and told me we were going to the store. I was so struck by the surprise, I didn’t know what to say. We drove to a big department store and walked through the aisles until we found them—all those tiny Nintendo boxes stacked together inside a locked case. He called over an employee, asked him to unlock the shelf, and told me to pick the color I wanted. I couldn’t decide. It felt like the most luxurious gift I’d ever received. It was the most luxurious gift I’d ever received. So I had to make the right choice. At the same time, I was afraid if I took too long to decide, the whole situation would unravel and I’d leave without the tiny computer of my dreams. The pressure was compounded by the chaos of holiday shopping going on in the store at the time.

I settled on the transparent purple and we got two games—Mario and Tetris. I spent a lot of hours on that little machine lining up small colored boxes. It was an activity that matched my particularity and introversion. I could sit alone and organize the world. At the end of a successful level, I was rewarded with a fireworks show, each one bigger than the last. And I really enjoyed coordinating things in peaceful solitude, so I earned some excellent pixelated displays on that tiny two-inch screen.

Since I’ve been tight with Tetris for so many years, I just don’t understand how they’re going to make a movie of the game. Maybe it will just be a room full of nerds sitting in silence. If they need extras, I’m available. I come cheap and can supply my own props.

With a Bit of a Mind Flip

stoplightdance

When my sister and I were young, we were allowed to watch the first 15 minutes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We didn’t get to see many movies and the tv wouldn’t turn on without the pliers my dad hid from us, so we relished the times we could indulge. Plus, the songs were so much fun. We would play it over and over, singing along to “Dammit Janet” and the “Time Warp.”

We memorized the lyrics and would sing them together, stepping to the right and bringing our knees in tight. We would break out in song when inspiration struck, just out of the pure joy of it. It wasn’t the result of a cool confidence. It was mostly us not knowing that we weren’t cool. This is something that has followed me through my life. Pretty much every time someone has praised my confidence, I was just cluelessly walking around as myself, forgetting that I shouldn’t.

Our expert performance of this adult classic made for a great gag at parties but some uncomfortable moments in public. One October, we were walking through a pop-up Halloween shop with our dad, looking at costumes we weren’t allowed to buy. We found glittery gold top hats and the discovery spurred a full-on performance in the middle of the aisle. A middle-aged suburban mother turned toward us right at the moment we started doing pelvic thrusts. She scoffed, gave the three of us a disapproving glare, and turned the corner.

Feeling her stare, I remember doubting my sick moves for a moment. Now, I’m sure she thought we had been watching the whole campy, scandalous film, but, even though I didn’t understand it, her scorn distressed me. I took off the hat.

Then I looked over at my dad, who was chuckling to himself. He gave us a nod of his head—a universal Midwestern father signal of approval. I’m not convinced his response to the situation was meant to show us we were ok or if he just got so much happiness out of pushing the limits of this buttoned-up woman. He’s prone to a bit of contrarian behavior, so it was at least a bit of the second. But it was enough.

This isn’t a fairytale. I didn’t gain some superhuman confidence that day, but I did put the hat back on. That chuckle showed me it can be really fun to be yourself in the face of people who are uncomfortable with that very awesome you. Maybe the woman just wished she could do the Time Warp in the middle of a shopping center. To her, I say, “you can.” It’s just a jump to the left.