Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Back to the Blog's another Mr. High School post.

It has come to my attention (thanks, Lucinda!) that I never really finished the reunion with Mr. High School story. I leapt from the moments before our face-to-face meeting to The Harry/Sally Question without much mention of our actual meeting. Mostly, that's because I thought up that ridiculous line about my Hairy Aunt Sally and was so proud of it, I simply had to use it somewhere right that minute.

But there's also the fact that an event of this magnitude--the object of so very much insane anticipation and huge expectations--couldn't help but be a little, teensy,weensy bit anticlimactic, right? And it was, a little, but it also wasn't at all.

Part of the reason I haven't written about the weekend in any kind of specifics is that everything I have to say is so wishy-washy and non-specific and even directly contradictory. These are some of the sentences I've rejected while working on this post:

--It was weird, but the weirdest part was how not weird it was.

--We talked about everything, but when I try to remember what, exactly, we talked about, all I can come up with is "everything."

--We are trying to find our place in each other's lives, but in some ways, it feels like we've been part of each other's lives this whole time.

--Is it the long overdue resolution of something old or the beginning of something new? And aren't beginnings and endings always hopelessly intertwined?

--It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Oh wait! That wasn't me...

Friday night, I wandered over to the hotel--I was so nervous, I could barely pick my feet up. I was nervous in a way I've rarely been since, I don't know, high school. We had talked so much on the phone at this point that I felt like I knew him very well, but we hadn't seen each other in almost twenty years.

There is something about seeing someone again when you haven't seen him in so long that makes you look around your own life in a whole new way. You're seeing it through the eyes of this person who knew you way back when and, somehow, through the eyes of the person you were then. When the me of then looks in the mirror at the me of now, she's a little shocked, but she likes to think that there is some essential Me-ness in there that hasn't been changed, or that has only changed for the good: wiser, deeper maybe. But what the heck does she know? She's seventeen.

My opening line laid bare all of those insecurities. He opened the door to my knock and I said, "I feel bad for you--driving all this way to see a fat chick." His opening line let me know that the seventeen-year-old he'd been was still in there somewhere as well, "Shut the hell up and get in here."

So much for acting like mature adults. We spent the next five hours flipping through yearbooks, catching up on classmates, and I even read some of my sillier journal entries from high school out loud for him (editing for grammar and, occasionally, content when the sap got too sticky). I wandered back home around midnight, exhausted, but relieved that it had gone so well.

Saturday morning, he wanted to scope out state forest lands in the county. He has a friend who has a hunting cabin in this area and he'd heard good things about the hunting. So we set off into the woods with his handy-dandy GPS unit. We walked and talked. We rode in the car and talked. We had lunch and talked. We sat in the car on a deserted dirt road and talked. We went back to the hotel room and talked some more. I stumbled home just after midnight, exhausted again.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Daughter-Only tagging along. (She would never have forgiven me if she hadn't had the chance to meet Mr. High School. I warned him: "She may talk a lot or she might not say anything at all. Could go either way." She surprised me by acting normal--must be she wasn't as nervous as her mama.) He told her how relentlessly I picked on him (I picked on him?!) in eighth grade, once even tripping him and sending him falling down a flight of stairs. I said that, no, for the record, I was running from him--he was chasing me because I had stolen his hat, but only because he had snapped my bra--and I had fallen on the stairs and he then tripped over me and we ended up in a tangled mess on the landing in the stairwell, where our amused classmates stepped over us while making rude comments.

Our weekend reunion had the potential to become a whole other kind of tangled mess--this was, after all, the guy I had suffered untold* agonies over and I am, after all, married to a whole other guy. I'm happy to report that we seem to have outgrown our mutual and individual agonies--when we're together, or on the phone, the dynamic is pure buddy. We both understand and respect the rules, but more than that, the temptation to explore those "forbidden" options seems not to even be there. I care very much about him and I am happy (and, corny as it sounds, grateful) to have him in my life again, but I am, somehow, far too comfortable with him to be lusting after him. Maybe we're too old, or too much alike, maybe we know the risks and won't even dream for a split second of taking them.

Maybe I'm a complete idiot to imagine we can build a friendship on the foundation of a twenty-plus year old unfulfilled crush, but hey, it's worth a shot.

*Okay, I guess the agonies were actually told, but you know, only to my journal and to all my friends and family and, years later, to unsuspecting hapless victims, oops, I mean blog readers.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blog The Livelong Day

I know, I know "they" always say "don't quit your day job," but I was thinking this weekend that I'd really like to quit my day job and just spend all day blogging and reading other people's blogs. I have only been a blogger since May but already I feel I am falling ever further behind.

I read yesterday (in a magazine, not on a blog...) that the number of online diaries and blogs reached 5 million in 2004--even allowing for the "fake" blogs that are all advertising and the blogs that read like they're kept by seventh grade boys (whoever they may in fact be kept by), that still leaves a whole lot of catching up for me to do.

Anyway, no one's offered to pay me for it, yet, but the second they do...I'm on it!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Do the Right Thing

Just this week, I finished the book "Baghdad Burning." It was recommended to me by one of my favorite Library Ladies* and I can't thank her enough. The book is a collection of blog posts by a young Iraqi woman who lives in Baghdad and blogs under the name "Riverbend." The book covers the period between August 2003 and September 2004. It was at times very difficult and frustrating to read, but I couldn't put it down. It was full of horrible moments, but there were heartwarming moments as well--like the school supplies shopping trip for Riverbend's cousin's young daughters where Riverbend explains to her cousin's wife that scented erasers are significantly superior to the ones that just smell like rubber. (The blog is still active, though it hasn't been updated since July 15.)

The whole time I was reading it, I kept catching myself in the midst of my everyday whining about too little time and too much to do and not enough money and my cranky boss lady and I would feel like a complete ass. Here was a woman who didn't know from one day to the next if she and those closest to her would be alive and I was whining about what essentially amounted to blessings--my family, a job, even the money problems have to do mostly with wants rather than needs.

The way I felt reminded me of the foreword in E.B. White's essay collection "One Man's Meat." The book was published during World War II and White was sheepish about the timing--"a book concerned with the routine pleasures and troubles of a peaceable life is almost embarrassing." He opens the foreword: "One thing about the war, it gives a man a feeling of guilt every time he finds himself doing some habitual or comfortable thing, like eating a good meal or getting out a book in springtime. "

In an essay in his collection, E. B. White talks about the movement among writers during WWII to write only what is "good and significant." He says, "I know of one gifted crackpot who used to be employed in the fields of humor and satire, who has taken a solemn pledge not to write anything funny or 'insignificant' again till things get straightened around in the world." But White believed, "Even in evil times, a writer should cultivate only what naturally absorbs his fancy, whether it be freedom or cinch bugs, and should write in the way that comes easy." He went on, "In a free country it is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty."

And if no less than the ghost of E.B. White expects me to keep on whining, to keep the superficial, self-involved torch burning, well, then, I guess I'm up to the sacrifice.

*My town's library is the absolute greatest, staffed by lots of helpful Library Ladies--so many who are so helpful and generous, I can't pick a favorite, but if I were going to pick a favorite this one would have to be it.

--With the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina uppermost on most of our minds, following White's advice seems even harder. So while I may present a wholly self-absorbed front, please know that there is a whole portion of my heart and soul that is with those who are suffering. The damage is breathtaking in scope and I can only hope that the relief efforts become much more efficient quickly enough to make a difference.