Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Drive Home

Every year growing up, our family spent a glorious week in Long Beach Island with my father’s brothers, sisters and all 17 of our cousins. We stayed in one crowded beach house, and each one of us with our freckled Irish skin went through bottles and bottles of sunscreen.

On the drive down to LBI, my father used to remark jokingly that the drive to vacation is the best part, full of anticipation for the fun to come, and the drive home is miserable. Driving home you’re sunburnt, broke, tired, and too aware of the impending doom of returning to work and school. Dad deemed Parkway South as the happy side, and Parkway North the “depressing” side.

It is ironic that my father said that the drive there is more pleasant than the ride back, because for as long as I can remember, every trip we have ever taken begins with the same exact argument between my parents. The scene is all too predictable. Dad wants to take just one more work call, or fix the leaky sink just when my mother has planed for us to leave. She says “No Tom, we’ve got to go, come on Tom,” and he rubs his forehead and widens his eyes. When we are finally in the car and Dad’s behind the wheel, it takes about an hour and two Diet Cokes for him to actually settle into the moment and enjoy it.

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My favorite picture of my father enjoying a rainbow in our backyard.

As everyone grows up it has become difficult for all six of us to get a week off from work, especially in the summer. My mother, who scours the internet for affordable family fun within driving distance, will not be denied at least a two-day family getaway. We tease her intentions to preserve just a percent of family trips in these busier times, but appreciate her efforts to make it happen. So these past few summers, we’ve enjoyed a weekend at a cabin, nestled in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, and earlier this week we took a drive down to Washington D.C.

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Fam road trip…!

My mother planed for us to visit the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum, because my brothers are “interested in history.” I was not at all excited about going. I anticipated the museum being upsetting and intense, and it was. I wondered why, for our one annual trip away together, she decided on this particular spot. All summer I’ve been wanting to enjoy a nice hike, or swim in a lake, so in the character of a complaining child I begged my parents, “Whyyyyyy? Why can’t we do something fun and happy and light?”

My request was unmet and to make matters worse we visited Arlington National Cemetery as the main attraction of day two in DC. My brothers, “interested in history” as they are, wanted to see John F. Kennedy’s grave, and wander the historic grounds. I sobbed ceaselessly throughout the entirety of the tour through the cemetery, at the sight of endless fields of tiny graves of men and women who passed in combat. This is not cool or fun this is tragic and ridiculous, and I want to leave, I thought. I dubbed the weekend “sad-cation.”

 

The last thing I ever want to do is sound ungrateful, because I truly enjoyed the time my family gets to spend together, no matter where we go. I know my gratitude to be true because somehow, my favorite part of “sad-cation” was the four hour car ride home. With plans originally to sleep off my food coma from lunch and two desserts we ate just before heading home, I placed my head on a makeshift car pillow of bundled sweatshirts and closed my eyes.

Driving through the outskirts of DC, my parents and brothers and sister began discussing what they were surprised to learn in the museum. My brothers explained what they learned in history class about the second World War, facts that informed their experience walking through exhibits. I asked about their teachers, and remembered my last experience in a U.S. history class in high school.

Hearing my family talk confidently about WWII and history made me glad we had visited the museum together, and that my younger brothers and sisters  could discuss history. It’s not as if we were having heated scholarly debates, but just having an informed discussion with them was enlightening. We eventually wandered through other unrelated topics, and before I knew it we were on I95 in New Jersey. While I grew up remembering the drive home as the low point of every getaway, this drive was quite pleasant. The drive home was my favorite part of our trip together. Perhaps with the pressure to enjoy a museum that I was not particularly thrilled about visiting and monuments that upset me behind us, I was able, comfortably spread in three rows of our Suburban, to simple take delight in the company of my family.

Maybe it is because I just didn’t really enjoy DC, (sorry Mom) but I found it ironic that the dreaded drive home, the “depressing side,” of the highway, as my father might say, was actually really great. Maybe my childhood idea that “real life” was something dreaded to return to after the bliss of escaping is totally false (yay). Or maybe the drive home was the only place where all five of my favorite people sat within inches of each other, with nothing to do but talk, laugh and eat Reece’s peanut butter cups.  We can entertain ourselves for hours with our own jokes and banter.

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Uhh you can’t swim in the WWII memorial monument.

My friend Jack, who is the youngest child of his family with sisters much older than him, asked how it felt to be on a trip with my family at this point in my life, at 22,  just after graduating from college. Besides feeling cranky in a freezing cold museum surrounded by heartbreaking and horrific stories, or a cemetery full of men and women who lost their lives to war, two places that I wold happily never visit again, it felt awesome. I felt full from gratitude, and thankful for the time to laugh with my family, especially throughout the drive home.

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Excerpt

Resistance holds the hand of doubt.
Structure used to help me cross the street.

Traverse the earth with ungodly fears?
Would you consider breaking back into prison?

Smoke crept out her wrinkled mouth,
“No way, my child,” she whispered to his grave.

While pleasantly rooted in fear, I
blindly trusted the word “always…”

But the strongest flowers grow beside the highway,
they are not sold with instructions or guarantee.

Numbed to the point of thoughtlessness,
foggy insight cracked the bathroom mirror.

Potted plants of your mother’s made me
remember there was something I forgot-

It is naturally occurring.
It cannot be bought.

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Someone’s Garden

Have you not touched your body in so long
that you forgot the
jellyfish quality of kneecaps
and the way they freely slide?
Have you not felt in years
your thigh and shin, smoothly sealed?

The constancy across your face hides
the moist miracle of your Portobello stems.
The depth of your gaze has rendered you blind
to your very own Southern hemisphere.

I see you kneeling in the dirt of loam
picking heirloom tomatoes-
home gown,
from the neighbor’s vines.
Coalescing with earth, your
bare knees on the inside, slide.

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The Veteran

With the sting of pavement
warming beneath us,
you and I ran from the wet sky.

We found a roof to smell its roots
when history found one another.

He broke into your mind
with a hand on your barstool,
bending the image
of that familiar green.

Budding images of bedded nights
flew around our held hands, as I read
“Free Omelet Tuesdays” and watched the taps flow,
blissfully distracted and mindfully absent,
while you heard of places unseen.

The drenched mind spoke from
somewhere exotic and not free.
You looked in an accelerated mirror,
rough like the corners of your
conscience bellowing through
lines and lines and lines of men again.

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Haiku for A Lazy Day

Waiting until two
P.M. to brush ones teeth is
post-grad-limbo-life.

Dinner shifts prove to
Fill my wallet but not my
soul. I get tired.

Perhaps if I got
dressed, more could be accomplished.
But, relaxation.

It’s not as if I
don’t have work tonight, I do.
It starts at 4:30.

Showers are for the
hour just before I must
be somewhere pressing.

Lunch today was cool-
Salad with avocado.
Good tastes all around.

(response haiku from my friend Pip…
Okay now I want
avocado too. Thanks Kate
My fridge is empty.)

At first, humans seem
so permanent. All that stays
is what we create.

(response haiku from my friend Pip after discussing how ridiculous haiku can be…
Haiku are silly
But we need them. In the end,
all is vanity.)

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The time I flew away

When I left for a semester studying in Barcelona, Spain in January 2013, I was in love. We began dating the previous April, and I was enamored all spring and summer long. We spent nearly every day learning about each other, enjoying meals with each others’ families, taking long drives and day trips, swimming in the ocean, introducing each other to friends, enjoying every piece of the newness of being together. I was 20 and found parts of myself that I was previously blind to. I learned what I want in a partnership, and how it feels to care so deeply about another person.

This is not a post about my last relationship, however. This is a post about the first time I left home by myself, and the first time I left the country for an extended period of time. It was a time when one journey collided with another.

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Castellers

I boarded the flight (only the third flight of my life) clutching my passport and boarding pass, obsessively checking the zipper of my backpack to make sure it was closed, and peeking in my purse to make sure I had not forgotten anything. (If I did would it have mattered?) I was petrified. Armed with nothing but a Benadryl hoping for sleep, I found my seat beside a young couple who spoke sexy French. The next eight hours seemed like they were going to last my whole life, and I wondered where the hell I was going. What if I hated Spain? Why was I leaving all of the people I loved to go somewhere that I knew nothing about? The answer of course was that it had been my dream all my life to study in Spain, and eventually reach fluency in Spanish, but in my panic, I flooded myself with panicked thoughts.

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Lara, Katherine and I atop Tibidabo at sunset.

In an effort not to freak out further, I browsed through the films that Delta offers to passengers to watch. Immediately upon seeing Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom on the queue, I began to quiver and cry. Sentimental, sleep deprived, (oh and hung over, this flight was on January 1st my friends…) I remembered seeing this movie at the theater in Red Bank one rainy night the past summer, with my boyfriend, it was the first movie we went to together.

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Barcelona from Montjuïc on a sunny day

For some reason his card didn’t work at the box office, so I paid for our tickets, which I loved to tease him about because he was obsessive about paying for everything all the time. I remember sitting in the theater wondering if he liked it, because I did not yet know his taste in movies at all, and breathing relief when he said he did during closing credits. So in the plane, leaving him, leaving New Jersey rain, leaving home, seeing that, I lost it, and still I had to watch it. So I watched and sobbed throughout.

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Learning to make paella

My mother had stuffed tissues in the pockets of my sweater before I boarded and I went through nearly all of them before the French woman next to me asked timidly if I was ok. I couldn’t tell if I was. I asked the flight attendant for more tissues.

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Hiking Tibidabo in Barcelona a few days after I arrived

Thankfully I cried myself to sleep and woke up somewhere somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. I needed to watch something more distanced from myself, as the airplane carried my body away from everything and everyone it was ever surrounded by.

 

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Gypsy village in Granada, Spain

I chose to next watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie that I knew was a classic but for whatever reason I’d never seen it. Watching it calmed me down, and I was inspired and excited by Holly Golightly’s independence, attitude toward men, and beauty. I quit being a weepy American girl and thought excitedly about what the next few months would bring: independence, new friends, a new language, a new home, everything I wanted.

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Small streets, something I wanted

Well, the semester was nothing short of incredible. I spoke a lot of Spanish, traveled to different cities and countries, met people from all over the world, took chances, trusted myself, everything anyone will tell you about a semester in another country.

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The library at Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

At times when I was not with friends or in class, I strolled the windy streets of the gothic quarter by myself, sharing small talk in Spanish with strangers, snapping photos of architectural corners, stopping for a café solo in pretty coffee shops. I stayed out late at night with the girls in my classes and we met lots of people, other travelers, Spanish and Catalan citizens. I learned balance, in a place where it was possible and almost expected to act totally recklessness. Passing Poesia Hispanica class was most difficult academic endeavor I have ever faced, it was a poetry class taught entirely in Spanish.

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Hexagon windows

It has been over a year since those months in Europe came and went. Since then, I ended my relationship, graduated from Rutgers, moved home, and began thinking through my next move. A significant part of me is yearning for travel again. I am saving every penny I can from the restaurant where I work, and I want to plan a trip to central America or across the country very soon.

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Friends one night at the port

Before I went to Spain people told me there is nothing like the first time you travel by yourself. The first time I left I was so nervous that at times I thought I was making a mistake. The next time, I do not expect to feel so. I anticipate readiness to explore, and enthusiasm for the unknown. I want to feel that space of uncomfortable magic that I felt in Spain. I want to feel the adventure, but this time, without doubt and fear, because I proved to myself that I can.

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Lara and I in Granada

I enjoyed the stretches of experience that come from crafting a life for yourself away from home. I thrived making connections with new people and finding similarities when there seemed to be none. I loved stumbling into a situation that felt so impossibly perfect. The first time I left, I did not know such an experience was possible. Now that I do, I crave it.

 

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Recession-istas

My favorite way to recycle is by purchasing and selling clothes, purses, furniture, and household goods at consignment shops, thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales. For as long as I can remember, I have taken delight in finding a perfectly-fitting frock or a cool velvet chair that once belonged to another, and buying it at a discounted price, rather than buying new items at a store.

At Rutgers my roommates and I took pride in furnishing most of our apartment in yard sale priced or free, given away furniture, and we had the coziest, best-looking apartment in all of New Brunswick, I’m sure.

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Lounging in the living room. American flag scored at Ocean Grove flea market, little iron table at an estate sale, reclining chair given to us for free, plants obtained mysteriously by horticulture enthusiast roommates. 

When I was a junior in high school and all the girls in my grade were nervous about potentially wearing the same dress to the prom, I was completely calm. I bought my lace cocktail dress at a consignment shop sidewalk sale for $15. I spotted it hanging on the rack outside, and thought it was beautiful and unique. By the grace of the thrift shop gods, it fit perfectly, no tailoring necessary. When I slipped it on and zipped up the back I felt like Jackie Kennedy (alright maybe a stretch.) I absolutely loved wearing that dress.

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I loved that car too. RIP Cabrio. May 2009 

I especially  LOVE bringing clothes that I no longer wear to sell at Squan Dry Goods, in Manasquan, NJ and receiving a percentage of what they sell for. I could not be happier that their business has grown from a tiny, one room shop a few years ago to two multi-room stores, one in Manasquan and one in Point Pleasant with clothes, shoes, purses, and furniture.  I have sold clothes there for years now and the profit has certainly kept my wallet from emptiness while I was in school and not working.

Being a consigner there is nearly effortless. Just fill a bag of gently worn, quality clothes, bring it to the store, and the girls there price them and put them on the floor for you. There is no fee to start, and consigners receive 50% of whatever an item sells for. I truly hope their business continues thriving. I can even see myself opening up a consignment shop like that someday.

My friend Janette sells her clothes online, on a site called vinted. I have not tried vinted because personally, I must try everything on and examine it very closely before buying, but Janette loves it. On vinted you upload a picture of the item to sell, price it yourself, and then other users can buy or swap with an items for theirs. Vinted only takes 20% of what an item sells for. Janette is working on opening up a new shop to sell mostly vintage clothes. She asked a few friends and I to model the clothes for her vinted pictures, and I am hoping my totally inexperienced, improvised modeling session helps her sell lots of clothes!

Check out Janette’s store Harmony Revolution.

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Who’s that modeling such a rad romper?

I find something kind and human in the experience of buying previously owned goods from individuals or small businesses. There is a communal and friendly feeling that I prefer over the sterility of buying in a store. It also feels better to consume less, and to make mindful and conscious purchases. Mahatma Gandhi’s words on ecological justice come to mind, “the earth has enough for everyone’s needs but not for some people’s greed.” I would recommend using both sides of the consignment coin, buying and selling, to anyone looking to save money while maintaining an exciting wardrobe, and make a few extra dollars on the side, simply by cleaning out what is no longer worn or used.

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The last time

The last time you saw him,
you begged for the kind of
forgiveness that expects
nothing at all to change, or
the kind of forgiveness that
will still bring you home
beneath moonlight and traffic lights
of the city where you learned him.
You were drunk and stole his cellphone
and it was the least important
of all that he thinks you have hidden.

You once mastered understanding
what he sees, hears, thinks and acts on,
but the last time you saw him, it
nearly failed (until the morning when
he squeezed you, reminiscent of
him teaching you to find ripe kiwis.)

But in the dark, his face was empty.
There was absence in the eyes that once
begged for yours
(but yours
were out of focus
never could you focus.)
Leaning, becoming one with a concrete wall
In a hot Juney haze you finally felt it- freedom!
Sweet and lonely freedom! It is something that will not
drive across the country and let you choose every song,
or walk to the laundromat when it’s cold in Brooklyn.
It will not worship your body even when you’re putting on shoes,
or cook a grilled cheese when you’re sick in New Brunswick.
No, it will not be kept a secret.
So you left him three times and finally it feels a little real.
You left to keep on moving
to continue growing and going,
to create
the way women do,
yet on these nights
you are so still.
You sleep in beds around the corner if
somewhere strange at all.
You meet moments of deciding.
Do you disrupt time’s remedy?
Do you pick surgically at the scab?
Pry open all that you closed so tight?

Or do you let things be?
There is never any certainty
so you idle, you merely
consider how dangerous both will be.

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Notes for Today

The story itself need not be extraordinary, but you must express it with such honesty that it can is felt through every sense.

Sometimes it pours, but I wonder if restraint is necessary for depth to be truly shared.

Beauty is all in the limbs.

The bee keeper has gone home for the evening
he works in the yard behind mine-
well, my parents’ yard,
the green acre behind the home
where I live too and wonder daily
if it matters. The bee guy left
just as the maple leaves flipped
above on this tree, this canopy that
filters geometries of light onto
the hammock on which today I
lay. It was a tennis lesson
the summer I turned 14
where I was told, leaves turn
upside-down
before rain.
My brother hates the hammock,
says it is filthy,
I do not disagree nor
do I mind, it cradles my limbs
and from here I see
both the bee keeper and
my aging grandmother smoking
her cigarette gracefully like
the lady in a nightgown she is.
Suspended here I wonder, how
real can I be? Much less
than my grandmother once was,
holding smoke in one hand,
the other flipping an omelet,
breakfast of most mornings. Or
Nameless neighbor keeping bees-
sometimes I see him
smoking-out the bees to sedate
them and I wonder just how anxious
they could be, yards from
my parent’s home and could
proximity transcend species? Anyway

from this hammock I
read, romanticize life
and wonder why at twenty-two I
spend the humid afternoon
in the yard, a witness just
to leaves tossed on
their fragile backs.

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