Friday, May 11, 2007

when everything seems a little more delicate

This morning I came to school to find everyone gathered in the staff dining area. You always know it is something sad, something dreadful, when this happens. Last year, we learned that a student had prank called 911, saying there was an active shooter in the building. We've also heard of senior skipping and pranks, of moments we all need to know collectively, to stifle rumors, to ease tears. Today, it was that: tears. A student was in a car accident on the way home from a track meet this Wednesday and was taken off life support. In the halls: students wearing purple, a purple banner on the girl's locker, signatures scrawled in small handwriting. Her name in big letters making its way down the edges. This is how they grieve--in public, with cell phones close, whispering in the hallways, sharing what they know, speculating on what they don't. And sadly enough, this grief mimics what we had almost exactly a year ago when another girl, a beautiful blond girl I never knew, died in a freak car accident--a trailer flipped off its axis and over the median onto her parents' car in still traffic, killing the girl and her father instantly. Purple in the hallways then too.

This sadness always brings me back to my own moments where tragedy and relief were suspended in the air: hospitals freshmen year of college, where Eve was born and months later my sister waited in intensive care post-accident; hospitals where my sister was born and where, twenty some years later, the woman who was like a second mother to the two of us would die of cancer and I'd have to say goodbye, choking down tears; and recently, the boy in our circle of friends who died of an overdose. People we don't get to say good-bye to, but still haunt is in ways we didn't know possible: Libby, for whom my cat is named, whose heart gave out when she was nineteen, already a mother and a wife, and the person who buoyed me up in the social horror that was moving from the South to the Midwest in seventh grade; Evan, the younger brother of a senior year high school friend who hanged himself in his Tennessee backyard; the boy who died from a single punch to the head at a graduate party in June when I was student teaching. The deaths, so sudden and so young, and the almost-losses. My mother when I was three, sleeping on that orange plastic couch (I still remember it) and (I still remember staring out the window at the parking lot at night; it was raining) Three Billy Goats Gruff and learning the motions of walking again. My sister, whose allergic reaction to morphine caused her breath to stop in the night, turning her downstairs to intensive care, while her bones healed and her face, a mosaic of scabs, began to heal from all that glass. And seeing Dan, his body connected to so many tunnels, truly close to death, and fighting.

On the way out of school today, Emily and I saw something that stopped us in our tracks. It was the kind of sight that you quietly gasp at--the surprise of humanity. Kids, deans, teachers had gathered around the rock, solemnly standing where they painted wishes and mournful messages. Like her locker indoors, this was a graffitied remembrance of grief, of loss, of celebration for a life cut short too soon.

And this rock--it has had so many personalities. Celebrations. It has represented so much to the school: a collection of football numbers as we open the school, many renditions of school spirit, destruction by our rival school, goofy proclamations of math holidays (and later, pot holidays, covered up quickly by students who think this is stupid and declare it senior pride rock instead). And now it is a place of mourning. One of the teachers said to Emily and me as he walked out the door, "We all mourn in different ways." I've thought a lot about this--how some can bawl at the sight of the casket, others are stoic, some take comfort in laughter. At Kelly's wedding last month, her attendant's father had passed on after a long battle with illness, but she came anyway (and didn't reveal why tears lingered until well after the dinner to Kelly, who immediately urged her home and held her and even cried herself in sympathy and friendship) and said it was good that she had this distraction. We sometimes don't understand how some people can bounce back after tragedy, but then in that place, we appreciate the distraction. School was declared to return as normal but with leniency--understanding, counseling, an open ear. We thrive on routine, but leave little things: a dozen white roses, an oversize purple origami crane, signatures on a locker.

It's all sobering to think about as we go into the weekend. As I think about small joys and how important they are, but also how sad I am that this girl will not celebrate the small joys with her family any more. My thoughts, my heart goes out to them. What sorrow will be brought on their lives for so long. I can't fathom what it would have been like if we lost my sister that night so many years ago, how glad I am that she is here, alive, happy.

My own:

K came home last night, much to my thrill and adoration. His plane was late, so I was sleeping when he came in, and coming in, he quietly woke me, embraced me, we shared a kiss, and fell into sleep curled against one another. It hasn't been so terrible without him, but it's so nice to have the regular comfort of his being around. Despite one instance of dog sick, one torn to shreds Kleenex box (with full Kleenex inside and then out, all over), the living room coffee table chewed a bit, and a hole a little deeper in the backyard, we got along well without him. I read until I was ready to sleep, which was nice; the light bothers him, so we often have a balancing act (though I go to bed earlier than him most of the time, so it doesn't make a huge difference). But I'd trade all the extras--the going to sleep right when I want, the hogging the bed, letting Zephyr bark himself out in the morning--I suppose there aren't so many great benefits to his being gone.

The drive home was pleasant today. I anticipate Fridays again, look forward to them with relish. We only have two scheduled tasks this weekend: tomorrow morning, invitations, and Sunday is my day with my beloved Kelly. Otherwise, we have several pressing to-do's with the wedding, but otherwise, a nice lazy weekend ahead of us.

(By the way, do four of these five cows look like they are peering at me? It seems they are distracted by the crazy lady who seems to want to take pictures at the edge of a highway, cars whizzing by, startling her a bit, but she is determined because these cows are gorgeous and really, so typical of this landscape and the collection of dry wood has always fascinated her... enough of this third person nonsense!)

Today is our three month "negaversary." On our one year, we went to the beach where we will get married and ate at the buffet where we will have our reception. The food is delicious, every taste bud thrilled at each taste. We had looked at so many places for our reception. My heart was set on a historic hotel downtown (SO in love with this place from the outside, so in love with the very idea of it), but the reception was dark and awkward and the colors (turquoise) would clash with my own (cornflower, earthy green, cream). Plus, it was very expensive. So we looked elsewhere: a golf club (K liked this one, but I didn't), a round barn bed and breakfast (adorable and perfect but one of the owners was a little off kilter and controlling and I just couldn't have that stress at my wedding), another golf club (bor-ing!) and then the casino. The first two ballrooms she showed us reeked of ten year anniversaries and car shows. Dull, square, beige carpeted. But then she showed us the last--like the inside of a metal tent with ornate chandeliers and potted plants. I fell in love with it, and I think K did too. There were downsides to the casino (not our style being the very first, neither one of us caring much for gambling or that glitzy culture), but the ups were great: cheap in comparison, ease of organization, good food, available drinks that we wanted the most (Honeyweiss), and a built in hotel for our friends who plan to stumble upstairs to bed--so nice to not have to worry through the night.

I have been meandering my way through mazey links and discovered 3191, immediately falling in love with the art and the idea. Just visiting sends little tingles down my spine--the quiet studies of these lives and how real and true it all seems.

And, as some who know me at all, know that I have this wonderfully complicated relationship with my younger sister, who I love, but who frustrates me (as I do her) a great deal. We're working on this. It seems like we expand together like a rubber band--the growing closer, tighter, then something will swallow it up, the band goes slack. Or maybe the band is taut when we are most annoyed with each other. Either way, we both want to be closer to each other but have vastly different communication styles and lifestyles, though I think ultimately, we are similar if you strip away all the excess. We are both passionate, deeply creative, emotional, devoted girls who can throw ourselves into something with fierce determination and give up just as easily.

So we are going to try a little something of our own. I don't mean to be copy-cattish. Let's call it inspirational. After all, we do not have the dedication of a picture a day (well, I do, but I might taper off, and Chelsea is admittedly realistic), but our goal now is once a week. I proposed Mondays and with an idea going into it--like an assignment, like I do with Angie already, I suppose. But here, it's not a way to spice up that picture-a-day idea. It's for me to try to reconnect with a sister who I grew apart from, but who is so important to me, who I love fiercely, and who I don't always understand. But want to. So much, I want to.

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