When I was three years old, the rapture arrived at my door. (Note: I first wrote “the raptor arrived at my door,” which would be a way different story.) This rapture came in the form of a plague. Frogs rained down from the sky and landed in my basement.
We lived in a old house in western Michigan, right by a pond. When it rained really hard, the pond would overflow, which apparently sent all forms of wildlife our way. This happened one evening, and a deluge of amphibians was sent on a monsoon-initiated journey to me and my family. It was kind of a Noah’s Ark situation, if Noah had chosen just one species to save.
My memories of this experience are scattered but vivid. I can close my eyes and see flashes of frogs hopping around our basement. I remember trying to put them in buckets, as they jumped out to escape. I can still see them plunge from the tiny basement window and jump around on the concrete floors. In my mind, there were hundreds of frogs filling the space. I have no idea how many there really were and, frankly, I don’t want anyone telling me.
I’d like to think if this happened to me today, I’d find as much joy in it as I did then. It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by life’s minor disasters, but if you can just laugh at the all frogs raining down on your face, it’s gonna be ok.
One time when I was six or seven years old, my family took a quick trip to our corner drugstore. Obviously, we did this more than just that one time, but this story is about a particularly significant trip. We must have needed something urgently, because everyone on a budget knows you don’t shop at a drugstore unless you have an emergent need. So there we were, on the hunt for something—my parents, my sister, my cousin and I. As is the case with all our family adventures, a bit of controlled chaos ensued. My parents were trying to check everything off their list, my sister was asking for snacks, and my cousin was trying to entertain the both of us.
We finally made it through the aisles and my parents started to pay for everything. I was rummaging through the candy racks, because I can’t stand to wait in lines. At the bottom of the rack, I saw a broken candy package. A few things went through my mind in quick succession. First, “that looks delicious.” Second, “my parents will never buy me candy like this.” Third, “no one else will want this, because it’s already opened.” And, finally, the nail in my criminal coffin, “I might as well just take this.” I was so good at justifying bad behavior as a child. (Never as an adult though, duh.)
I grabbed one teeny tiny piece and stuck it in my mouth. It was red and tasted like sweet, sweet danger. I slipped the rest of it in my pocket.
I pulled the candy out again once we were in the backseat of the car and offered some to my cousin. Being older and having a stronger moral code regarding thievery, she was appalled. She asked me where I got it and, after hearing my answer, told me I had to throw it away. I thought about how incredibly wasteful that seemed, but when I popped another piece into my mouth, it tasted terrible. I felt so guilty, I threw the rest out the window. I was just happy she didn’t rat me out.
I learned one important lesson that day. Dishonesty makes everything taste bad.
In our house, there were two cures for any ailment. Either you hustled through it or you ate some toast. Have a stomach ache? Toast. Feel a bit tired? Toast. Have a bad day? Toast.
My mother continues to suggest toast as a medication for any number of issues in my life. I’ve called her when I was curled up sick on my couch or when I was just too emotionally drained to be bothered with eating a real meal. The answer is always the same, “Why don’t you just have some toast?” It’s been so embedded in my brain that I now find an unusually deep comfort in a warmed, browned slice of bread—slathered with butter, peanut butter, or jam.
As soon as I get that first bite, I feel like everything is going to be ok. I sink back a bit and relax. It’s not necessarily the healthiest coping mechanism, but it’s better than crack. And, yes, that’s a standard I’m comfortable with, so don’t worry about it.
Of course, any toast connoisseur knows that you choose peanut butter for an energy pick-me-up, jam for an emotional booster, and butter for any health-related concerns. That’s Toast 101. And by Toast 101, I mean a new community college course that my mother is teaching on health and wellness.
When I was growing up, we had a wonderful, smelly, sweet, dumb dog named Sage. She was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which meant she was built to hunt ducks and never get cold. She was deathly afraid of birds, so she couldn’t fulfill that particular calling, but she could brave our freezing Michigan temperatures like a Yetti—a lovable, clueless Yetti. In the winter, my dad would strap her to a sled and she’d pull my sister and me up and down the street. Looking back, it seems strange and just a little bit unkind, but she loved it. I think. We definitely loved it and she seemed to be pretty pleased. She served as both an exciting means of transportation and a great friend. Since the runs filled her with so much joy and we were such excellent company (and maybe because her brain was a little stunted), she couldn’t recognize her exhaustion. We would spend hours romping around in the snow and climbing all over her. Eventually, my dad would force her inside to rest and we would all collapse in front of the heater.
Now when I’m walking down a really snowy street, I think about how much better my journey would be if I had Sage around to pull me through it. The downside was that she left a trail of stink wherever she went, but there’s always a trade-off in life.
When I was a kid, my dad would let me sit on the riding lawn mower with him as he cut the grass. By the time I got to middle school, I was too big to ride with him, but I’d done it for years. At the mature age of twelve, he finally let me drive it myself. I felt a big sense of responsibility. I was intimidated by the machine, but I thought I could probably handle it. Well, I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but I thought I should definitely try. That’s the story of my life.
I made a couple loops around the yard successfully but then things took a turn for the worst. We had a fence around our yard and a smaller portion of fence that separated an area for my dog to use while we were away from home.
After my initial triumph, I somehow veered off path. I was heading straight for a portion of the fence that met the exterior of our house. In my panic, I couldn’t figure out how to steer or slow down. I had no control over my body or the mower. All I could do was stare into the impending doom and prepare myself for inevitable disaster. My dad saw it going down and, with only minor panic, ran over. He got to me before I took the fence down or smashed into the brick wall, but not before I crushed a few posts.
He said, “Well, that’s enough of that.” I was not allowed to drive the mower again. I’d like to think I learned a lesson that day, but I don’t know what it was. I still “fake it til I make it” with most of my just-out-of-reach goals and I stand by that mantra. Maybe it was that my dad has my back. Or maybe it was that I’m just not meant for hard labor, which is a lesson I’ll carry with me forever.
For this year’s Thanksgiving, it was just Dave and I at home. We had one big plan. Or, I should say, Dave had one big plan. He wanted to cook a squa-plant-cchini. It is a squash, stuffed with an eggplant, stuffed with a zucchini. In order to make it, we had to cut each one length-wise, hollow them out, and fit them together. We made stuffing out of their innards and put that between each layer. Then we tied the two halves together and baked it for an hour. Dave thought this would be a genius idea and I thought it would be a great opportunity to slice my hand open. One of us was right.
In the end, it looked pretty but tasted like a bunch of poorly seasoned, roasted vegetables. As a vegan, I’m all about veggies. They’re basically all I eat. However, I am not all about a meal that takes two hours to create and tastes worse than one we could prep in ten minutes. Dave was excited about the first few successful swipes at the squash with his ice cream scoop, but when the clock hit a half hour, even he admitted the task was getting old. It was fun to get in the kitchen together, but the veggies would have tasted better if we’d just chopped them up and tossed them in a pan. So our Thanksgiving dinner adventure was a reminder that often simpler is better. Unless you’re bedazzling a jean jacket. Then please go all out.
Sometimes you have to do something just because it makes you happy. It’s easy to forget that because we all have so much going on in our lives. We have important obligations and we’re constantly thinking about other people. It’s not bad that we feel that way. I’ve made some great decisions because I felt they were a necessity or I thought they would make someone else feel good. But, so long as you aren’t really hurting anyone, there are times when you have to throw that to the wind.
Dave often has a hard time with that. He feels a lot of responsibility for creating a good life for himself and the people he loves. That means he is kind, thoughtful, and hardworking, but it also means he denies himself things he thinks are too extravagant. I decided enough was enough and bought something he’s been wanting for awhile—a new gaming system. He wanted a PS4, but was happy with his PS3. I’d planned to buy the system for him as a graduation gift in May, but I’m not one to pass up a good sale and along came Black Friday. Though I bought it on Thursday. Whatev.
So I made an executive decision and off we went—returning with a fancy shmancy computer for fun and fun alone. It’s sort of the epitome of the “do it just because it makes you happy” motto. And it makes me happy to do something nice for a person who is constantly, silently sacrificing. So really, it’s a win-win. Also, this will help to develop my super cool nerd chic status, which is really important to me.
I just read an article about Granny-Pods—tiny homes you can place in your backyard for an elderly relative. Grandma and Grandpa move into the miniature abode and you take care of them, while still allowing for some measure of independence.
This is the perfect solution for my life. What I mean is, if you would like to take care of me but will still allow me the freedom to do whatever I want at all times, I would like to live in a tiny home in your backyard. Any takers?
I would be quiet. I don’t have much stuff. I’d say strange but entertaining things. I’d just ask that you buy my groceries, drop off home-cooked meals, drive me around, and manage my finances. Also I’d like you to drop in sometimes so I can talk about the good old days.
I used to imagine what it would be like to have an older brother. I thought maybe he would pave the way for me, convincing teachers and students that I was cool by association. Clearly, in this fantasy, my brother was popular and didn’t mind hanging out with me.
He would introduce me to his cute friends, who were an acceptable two years older than me. He would teach me how to play sports, so I could be an interesting, too-cool-for-skirts tomboy. He would tell me which teachers to avoid and which classes to choose. He would be a buffer between my parents and I, providing comic relief in times of tension and snippets of wisdom in moments of sadness.
I imagined him kinda like Eric from Boy Meets World, but not quite as ridiculously void. He would be fun and strong and interesting. It was a funny fantasy to have, since I am so very much an oldest child— bossy and self-determined. Having an older brother replace me in that role seems ludicrous now. I can’t imagine having someone telling me what to do, rubbing my head, or teasing me about being a girl.
I suppose it’s best that I just have a younger sister.
I’m going back to Michigan tomorrow. I’m going to sleep in my old bedroom, run errands with my parents, and eat at a hipster taco shop with my sister. It’s gonna be great.