Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In the corner

They showed Dirty Dancing at the 1988 JEA convention I attended in San Francisco, VHS on a bleary projection t.v. in the hotel ballroom one night. I enjoyed it, sure, but at the climactic moment of the big final dance number, I don't know what possessed me: I leaned over to Holly beside me and stage-whispered:

Do you think they're going to do THE LIFT?!?

Oh, she was annoyed.

I don't know...I was more rattled by the passing of John Hughes, but Patrick Swayze seemed like a good guy and never took himself too seriously. He fought a very dignified battle, poor man.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Four stages

1. My dad drove a succession of pickup trucks throughout my lifetime: a green '49 Ford, I think, in my babyhood--at speeds over 30 mph, it shimmied all over the road and I loved it like a carnival ride. Over the years his trucks got gradually less Sanford-and-Son; his last was a silvery-gray extended-cab, camper shell, decent stereo, and I can't think of the make or model.

But someone in my neighborhood owns a similar truck, and even a year later every time I glimpse it coming down my street my heart jumps, for an instant, and I am ready to run out onto the sidewalk with happy surprise. It has been so long, where the hell have you been?

2. I was crazy for baseball even as a little girl...though I wanted only to hit, was uninterested in defensive play. I didn't get to play Little League; girls' teams were rarer, then, and anyway no one was available to take me to after-school practices. My grandfather indulged me, though, pitching to me for hours in the front yard where we'd marked out a long, narrow diamond.

Dad played beer-league softball one summer. They had somehow mustered up real uniforms, stirrup socks and all, not just t-shirts, and in my eyes this qualified him for Cooperstown. I had a snapshot of him in full regalia for years, a crooked picture I'd taken myself, pressing the shutter too soon, Dad half in, half out of the doorway. Chiaroscuro. I can't find it, now, can't remember if we went to any of his games.

Me and Mom and Sis and Mr. Sis went to the Mariners' second home game, this season (retro-Griffeymania precluded our getting four seats together for the opener). It was a beautiful evening, and an M's win; we had peanuts and beer and stone-cold overpriced hot dogs, and it was a blast like it always is.

Privately, though, I keep thinking about how, for nine years, I'd invited Dad to drive up and go to a game at the Safe with me. Outdoor baseball the way God intended! We could go to a night game and I would put him up here overnight. Or I would pay for a hotel room if he preferred. Or I'd take a day off and we'd go to a day game and he could drive back that afternoon, if he insisted. Kettlecorn and jumbo dogs and foam fingers and the best seats I could afford, any time, any month, year after year I offered--begged, really--but he never took me up on it. Couldn't spare roughly three summer hours in the ballpark, no matter how I asked, and thinking about this I am less sad than furious. Furious.

3. It's a babypalooza around me, lately. My personal trainer, three ladies in my book club, one of the writers on my team. I am enjoying going a little berserk, for all the showers. For the most recent one, I was at a schmancy toy store, and among the hand-carved wooden push toys and the organic felted-wool blocks made by a Guatemalan women's collective, there was inexplicably a chunky plastic toy tractor, with attendant chunky plastic farmer. Bright yellow and green, officially John Deere-licensed. Dad was a tractor buff, and a brand loyalist; one of the biggest Christmas scores I'd made in the last decade was when I bought him and Kathy a four-place setting of John Deere logoed plates, wheat sheaves around the rim, tractor shining in the middle. So when I saw this lurid toy jumbled on the shelf, I laughed, first. Then in the space of ten seconds I was weepy, fumbling for Kleenex in my purse, practically running to the register to buy something definitely else.

4. A dream, this week: that Dad and Kathy are renewing their wedding vows. They are making an enormous production out of it, too, a big ceremony, caterers...and among their wishes is that Sis and I dress in matchy-matchy fashion, much as we did in 1979, ringbearers in prairie dresses. It's all very awkward and uncomfortable as we fret and change clothes and try to arrange carpools to the venue, running late...and something else is bothering me about the whole scenario, too, but in the dream I cannot put my finger on it. It is only upon waking that the nagging sensation lifts, that I remember oh, yeah. Right. That.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

In lieu of brunch or jewelry

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and the conversation somehow turned to mothers: our own, other people's, how the state of motherhood for her is imminent. And I allowed myself to vent, a little bit, as we riffed on the annoying habits of Mothers We Had Known In Some Capacity. I skewered my mother for what is--when I am feeling charitable--a fundamental aspect of her character, and--when I am feeling otherwise--her most maddening flaw: a congenital need to vocalize every. single. little. butterfly thought that happens to alight for an instant in her brain. This often takes the form of rhetorical questions, in life ("Why is there so much traffic?" or "What is it like, this restaurant to which neither of us have ever been?") and, more torturously, during movies and t.v. shows ("Wait, who is that guy? Is he the murderer? What did he say?") I'm pretty sure that my mother, most of the time, is paying scarcely any more attention to what's coming out of her mouth than I am; she just can't help it, likes to hear her own voice, the bright noise of syllables tumbling over each other, dit-dit-dit-dit, like the flurry of hash marks that denoted Woodstock's dialogue in Peanuts.

This is one way in which we're completely different, Mom and I. I like to craft and hone my words, whether spoken or on the page; I consider (and probably overthink) every sentence, given the opportunity. I dwell on other people's words, too, and this has led us to some crises, my mother and I. She has a formidable gift--and maybe this is simply the province of moms, something they all can do--for blurting out a comment or opinion that will cut me to the bone, excise a little chunk of my soul with surgical precision...and after nearly 40 years I honestly believe that she doesn't intend it to hurt, doesn't realize when it might, as unconscious as she seems to be to her own every verbalized momentary notion. Again, as is my nature, I will hoard and mull over a wounding remark, stewing for a week or three months or 21 years, depending. In recent years, when I've had the courage to confront Mom, after some interval of aforementioned stewing, she is always apologetic and contrite; she'll swear she never meant to hurt me...and then she'll more quietly admit that she doesn't remember saying whatever it was that caused me to have my latest private tantrum breakdown.

Mom's traveling right now, two weeks overseas; she won't be here to celebrate Mother's Day proper. Maybe that spurred me to open the floodgates a little wider, at lunch? I snarked on my absent, vacationing, dreamily oblivious mother; it was like my 20-minute set onstage at the Improv, and together my friend and I rolled our eyes and laughed and agonized. Mothers! Can't live with 'em, can't throw 'em from the train. What are you gonna do? You are gonna suck it up, and then you are gonna take them out for Eggs Benedict on Sunday like everyone else in America, or like I'll have to do next weekend, the end.

When I got home yesterday, there was a letter from my mother in the mail.

Not a postcard from Croatia, either: an envelope, a greeting card, mailed locally. I admit that I opened it with some trepidation, thinking What now? What'd I do? Had she psychically known that I'd been taking the piss out of her that very afternoon?

But I was wrong. Today, May 9, would have been my father's 65th birthday. That was what my mother had written me about: she anticipated that this would be a difficult day for me, and she wanted to tell me not to be too sad. That I had been a good daughter, and that Dad had known this too.

She'd thought about this, and she'd written it out beforehand, in between packing and consulting her guidebook and obsessively checking twenty times (a trait we do share) to make sure she had her passport and her blood pressure meds and, like, six pairs of reading glasses in her carry-on. She'd considered this in advance, and then she'd timed it, left the letter and instructions with her housesitter so that it would be mailed a week after she'd left. So it would arrive on the right day, when she knew I'd need to hear it. She knew, before I ever knew, that I would need to hear it.

And this is my mom in a nutshell, really. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, she's blithely orbiting Planet Margo, nattering, distracted, and I'm convinced that she is paying no attention whatsoever. And then she will have a moment like this, of purest grace; she'll set the bar that high, and then clear it by at least a foot, sailing effortlessly over it, and I am astonished and touched and humbled by her gesture. Made small, and then redeemed, by my mother's gaze when suddenly it falls on me after all. Mama, you don't often connect with a pitch, but when you do, you get all of it. That ball is still rising.

I know she'll read this eventually, when she's home. I hope she can read between my lines, and will know that these words, like any others, I have been carefully shaping and pruning for 24 hours now. I hope she'll take this in the spirit it's intended, a portrait as honest as I can make it: perhaps not entirely an ideal rendering of her, but one in which I flatter myself far less. I love you, Mom. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being. Your mimosa awaits.

Friday, April 17, 2009


When I used to work in a bookstore, I had one particular customer interaction over and over. Someone would come up to the counter with a book whose price was written in obscurely tiny type, or buried weirdly in the bar code, or occasionally they'd be brandishing an impulse-buy object whose price sticker was peeling or lost. Every one of these shoppers would say the exact same thing: "I can't find a price on this. Is it free?"

Then they'd stand there, grinning smugly, pleased with themselves...because by God, they were really going to put one over on the ol' mall chain outlet! I always wondered what they wanted from me: mere praise for their scintillating wit? Or did they expect me to throw up my hands in bewilderment, all well, that is not how commerce has worked for at least the last century or so, but YOU GOT ME THIS TIME, sir or madam! I mean...did this fly in other stores? I was a cashier there for five years; how many times was I on the receiving end of this line, in half a decade? Fifty? A hundred?

Enough times to remember it, and enough times that once--just the once--I lost my patience. It was late, technically after closing but this one guy had been dawdling around, taking his sweet time even when my manager had pulled the gate halfway down and stood brandishing the vacuum cleaner ten feet away. (That was another common trope, the I Do Not Understand Hours Of Operation customer. Once I had someone ask me if I couldn't just count the money out of the safe while they were still browsing a little; possibly this was just the most hapless holdup ever.) Finally dude approached the counter with some allegedly price-less item. "I can't find the price on this. Is it free?" he asked brightly.

And I don't know what came over me, because I looked this man right in the eye and said, brighter still, "Wow. I have NEVER HEARD that FUNNY JOKE BEFORE!"

Beside me my colleague Alan dropped wordlessly to the floor--ostensibly to get a bag for the man's purchases, but really to stick his head into one of the under-counter cubbyholes and laugh. I guess I am lucky that the customer was not prone to Mall Rage; he stood there so gobsmacked that I don't think he said another word, just meekly paid whatever the (probably easily identifiable price) was and scurried out. I should have told him it was a hundred bucks and split it with Alan, maybe.

Anyway. I have been thinking of this story all week, because I have been the recipient of a lot of similar well-intended information or advice...that only a cave-dwelling nincompoop would find illuminating. It started with the doctor's appointment, my scheduled-two-weeks-ago session with the clinic psychiatrist to explore a new Crazy Pills prescription. Alas, when I showed up, they'd scheduled me for the wrong shrink, the other one, who does not dispense meds. No, I'd have to go through the referral and scheduling process again; come back in three weeks, thank you, sorry.

But I still had an hour on the clock with Shrink #1, so she asked me to stay and tell her my problems. And I realize that, in a single first meeting, we were not going to do any deep digging. I have a therapist for that; I've been going to Dr. Professional Friend for, like, 12 years off and on. But I'm a grade-grubber at heart, so I tried to be a good little nutbar and get the abridged version of my present depression on the table. In turn, the doctor gave me several suggestions, among them "get more exercise!" and "go out and make new friends!" I didn't know how to respond, truly. Was I supposed to leap up off the couch and scream "I'm cured!!"? Because, you know, I might have entertained these ideas once or twice before, and I certainly see their validity, and yet I cannot seem to do them, PERHAPS BECAUSE I STILL FEEL LIKE SHIT AND AM HERE FOR SOME DRUGS HELLO.

Three weeks. Ironically, I was so annoyed at this comedy of errors that anger has been a strange motivator; I'm more irritated than depressed. Perhaps my wrathful disdain will continue to build, and I'll be perktastic by May?

Another delight this week was that my regular physician sent me the results of my latest bloodwork; my fasting glucose is high (as it was back before I lost--and then regained--a bunch of weight), and she wants me to schedule another appointment, to come in and discuss pre-diabetes prevention with her. (Thanks, Dad, for this legacy to go along with the nose. AWESOME.) I like my doctor, and I believe that she does in fact have my best interests at heart...but I was disheartened, myself, by the "Pre-Diabetes For Dummies" flier she inserted with the lab results; it encouraged me to lose weight, reasonably enough...but then came with its own set of lowest-common-denominator-dipshit suggestions for how one might do this, including "park further away from your destination!" and "switch sugary sodas and juices for diet drinks...or water!" Because as we know, all fatties are inert, except when lifting an arm to stick a burger into their blubbery maws.

I did manage to bring this up with my trainer, this morning; we had a nice chuckle. Between the three sets of fifteen pushups I did, bitchezz.

Clearly I need to flesh (haha) this plan out into a self-help bestseller: Lose Weight and Feel Great, with the easy Everyone Else is An Aggravating Moron program. It will cost one hundred dollars, and that will be printed in 36-point type, right there on the front cover.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking up

I carry on. I'm still not feeling 100%...but the sun has tried to come out a few times in the past couple weeks (today a notable exception, ugh). The cherry trees up and down my block have blown out in full pink puffy madness. I dug out the weedy, bereft planters on my deck and front porch and filled them with pansies. I went to one baby shower yesterday and have another on the calendar for next week, and you really cannot put up much of a fight in the face of cake and presents and bubblegum cigars in pink and blue, dinosaur-patterned sleepers and an inflatable bathtub in the shape of a big yellow duck. My spirits, they are lifted. Possibly with some grunting and straining, scrabbling up the side of a cliff, hanging onto roots...Wile E. Coyote passing me on his rocket sled on the way down...but I'm getting up there.

This, as much as anything, gave me a boost this week: an outbreak of "spontaneous" musical theatre in a Belgian train station.

Sure, it's rehearsed and expertly coordinated. I've watched it five times (shut up) and can see, now, that even some of the "bewildered" onlookers we're shown at first are in fact plants, who drop their bags and rush in as it keeps going, and going, and going. But when the schoolkids come boiling down the stairs? I am totally powerless to resist them, or the white-haired grandma singing and dancing her heart out, or the dude trying to stay cool by the ATM, but he can't help clapping along. Love. It. Nothing like this ever happens to me, but I've always wanted it to--perhaps because of that steady diet of movie musicals when I was a kid.

The train-station locale helps, too--there's something about such a place, a cathedral to banality most days. You rush through your commute oblivious to the beauty around you--the spectacle of the space and of the tide of humanity storming through it--until something makes you look up. What? It reminded me of my favorite scene in The Fisher King, where Robin Williams's homeless, addled character spots the girl he secretly loves, coming through Grand Central Terminal.

I first saw this when I was in college, at the Bronxville NY cinema packed with probably hundreds of commuters who took the Metro-North in to Grand Central every day. I'll never forget the sound they made when this scene came up, when everyone started to dance: aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, a collective sigh, a little chuckly swoon of romance vocalized by every person in the room. All of us recognizing something we'd forgotten to look up for, for far too long. This is what it's like, I thought then and think now, to be in love in New York (and with New York). When you're in love, Grand Central looks like this all the time.

So. Dancing in train stations. It's probably for a commercial of some sort--many of the related YouTube links go to a similar all-hands dance-off in a London station, shot for T-Mobile. But don't tell me. I'd rather it was a prank for the sheer joy of it, the Belgian version of one of Improv Everywhere's missions--a gift freely given, something to make others walk away wondering, and grinning to themselves a bit every time they remember. It's working for me: it reminds me that I can't be unhappy forever, in a world where this happens, where people come together to turn out these little moments of wonder amidst the everyday grind. Look Up More, they say. I'm trying.

(Allow me to also recommend some other favorites from the IE folks: Frozen Grand Central, The Moebius, Romantic Comedy Cab, and Will You Marry Me?)

* * * * *

Coincidentally, The Sound of Music was on ABC Family last night. Is that considered an Easter movie?...maybe because it has lots of nuns? Anyway, I ended up watching the first third or so, up through the "Do-Re-Mi" number in fact. It was an interesting experience; the songs are practically embedded in my DNA, but I had pretty much forgotten any and all of the dialogue and scenery between them. Maria wanted to join the convent because she used to spy on them over the wall as a child and enjoyed their singing? That is...not the most substantial commitment to faith I've ever heard, let's just say. When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian, but because I thought they got to live in the library. Later, I discovered the holes in this theory. Maria.

But it was fun. Sis prized the soundtrack album, on vinyl, a bit before she discovered Madonna and Run-D.M.C. I remember when the movie used to get an annual network airing--around Christmas, if memory serves--nuns again? It was a Television Event, and we'd get jammies on early and gather around the set, maybe even have popcorn. But! It's a long movie. Mom was a stickler about bedtimes, and I can remember at least once, probably on first viewing, being sent to bed precisely when the VonTrapps were fleeing the Nazis. Seriously, Mom! Come ON!

"They get away. Go to sleep," she'd say, turning out the light. Yeah, that worked. Sweet dreams! Heh.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It was all yellow

I haven't been around much, maybe you've noticed. If I have any readers left, I mean. I wish I had a better excuse--or any excuse, really, some singular thing to pin this on: the weather, these long long months of unusually sleety, snowy, relentless Seattle gray. Missing my father. The heartbreaking demise of one of the local print newspapers, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, whose weighty, creaky, neoned globe revolving slowly overhead used to scare the crap out of me when I was a little girl--I never trusted it not to fall. A soy allergy, like Sis is currently being tested for. Something. Something to point at, to identify and then eradicate from my life in one smooth gesture, problem solved. Doctor, it hurts when I go like this.

I've fought depression, off and on, for years; I have been periodically medicated, with pills and sometimes with, you know, loaves of bread. Also brie. And I know that I have some legitimate reasons to be blue--2008 was a tough year. For a while, now, I've wanted to feel whatever it is I feel, to allow myself unmitigated, unmuffled emotions: of grief, yes, but also of excitement at the new job, relief at leaving the old job, screamy joy at a friend's adoption referral finally, finally coming through. I have these little spikes of happiness like that, out with the girls for pizza and beer or whatever, laughing and laughing and carrying that feeling home like a little coal. But more often than not, lately, it winks out overnight. I have insomnia, thrashing around at 3 a.m, 3:45, 4:17, 5:02...and then at 5:30 my bed is the most magnificently comfortable place on earth and I can hardly bear to leave it. I think--I know--that I would feel better if I went to yoga. I would feel better if I made a beautiful risotto, an hour of chopping and patient stirring. I would feel better if I wrote. I do none of those things.

A couple weeks ago I had a moment, an instant I can describe as a genuine physical and even visual experience. I'd gone to one of my coffee haunts, armed with a notebook and good intentions, fortified with caffeine and a donut. I sat down in front of the blank page, and I glanced around the room at all the other people, the couples and families, the folks intent on laptops or entertainment listings, everyone seeming opaque and obscenely happy...and I felt depression rushing back over me like a physical entity. I saw it, a shock wave rolling over the horizon, this undulating ripple that was going to knock me to the ground, and all I had time to say to myself was "oh, no." Oh, no. There it was. Here it is.

So. I made myself an appointment today, to go back to the doctor and suggest, a little grudgingly, that perhaps it is time again for a chemical cocktail, some new crazy pills to even things out a bit. Considering that antidepressents worked fairly well for me in the past, with minimal side effects, I'm amused and perplexed by my own reluctance, by how stubbornly I have tried to bully and bluff my way through. I'm grouchy! I don't want to take my medicine! Even if they made it in grape flavor! God! Why can't everyone just leave me alone oh my god come back I am sorry help. Shut up, serotonin, god!

Having actually made the appointment is, surprise, half the battle--the shade rolled up a little, it's Friday, the Gordian knot in my chest loosened one loop's worth. This morning at Fancy Gym, they were handing out wee bunches of daffodils at the front door, celebrating the first day of spring. I took mine to the office and plopped them in a vase on the corner of my desk, where I could see them all day just at the corner of my vision: sunny, dopily defiant, a tiny blaze of yellow unfolding in a plain white room. The belt around my lungs has loosened one more notch. I can take a deep breath, and another.

(photo stolen years ago from, I think, one of those P-I photographers--sorry, person, and I wish I could credit you now)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Remember who your dad really is

Yes, I am quoting the Bush twins. Roll with me, and we'll see if I can bring this thing around.

* * * * *

It’s been three weeks already, since I was driving to Mom’s and listening to This American Lifeepisode 372, The Inauguration Show. So, pre-Inauguration, technically. It was the final act that got me: the segment where multiple reporters interviewed people all across the country for their thoughts and feelings about the new President coming up over the horizon. They talked to barflies and ecstatic, astounded civil-rights activists, a smattering of OMG SEKRIT MUSLIM!!!1! paranoiacs, a kid in Kentucky whose friend registered as a Republican and voted for Obama just to mess with the party’s collective psyche. And then there was the guy who was excited for the new administration not because of any identifiable political agenda—or none that he cared to discuss—but because he had been teaching himself to belch the new President’s name.

Did we want to hear his first name? Just his last? Or the whole magilla? “Don’t distract me with your laughter,” the man said gravely, and the reporter obligingly stifled his giggles while the subject gulped preparatory air. A tense moment, and then: “BuuuUUHRACKOBUHMUH,” a froggy exhalation. The reporter dissolved, and me? I burst out laughing and crying in the same instant, because it was gross, and juvenile, and totally, exactly something my father would have done. Used to do, in fact. Dad had a belchy repertoire--sections of the alphabet, a few names he favored: Ralph, Bruce. No one we knew, but names that lent themselves well to the medium. Of burping. Rrraaaaalllph!

I stumbled into Mom’s for our lunch date looking…emotional, and bless her, because as soon as I began fumbling to explain this asinine, hilarious, heart-tugging pang, she knew immediately where my mind had gone. “You thought of your dad,” she said calmly, patting my back in a hug, and I laughed on, and wiped my eyes, and then pulled myself together enough to get down on the floor and install her digital cable converter. Which I am sure I would also need to be doing for my dad if he was still alive.

I don’t know, really, what Dad would have made of President Obama. I suspect that he would not have been thrilled, would be dubious and wary at best, however troubled he’d been by Dubya’s hellish muddle in Iraq. Sis reports that stepmom Kathy declared, in one of their recent conversations, that Dad would have really admired the Vietnam-vet contender, “McClain.” Um. No Beltway wonk she, ol’ Kathy. So I can’t guess how Dad might have filled out his ScanTron bubble, given the opportunity. But I can easily picture him shotgunning a store-brand diet soda and standing precipitously in the kitchen, a little bug-eyed with held breath and anticipation, grinning, mischievous, in the pregnant pause before he let fly.

* * * * *

In recent weeks, I’ve started dreaming about my dad, though he’d never previously been a fixture of my REM-cycle universe. A couple nights ago, I dreamed that I had gone down to La Center to visit him. I was riding around with him in his truck, for a lunch outing or something, and it was taking too long and frankly quite tedious and I was fretting about needing to get back…somewhere, home or work or something. But part of the reason it was taking forever was that he was adamant about making a little side trip to go visit his grave. This was not bizarre, in the dream, only awkward and exasperating. It was only upon waking that I had some questions, not least of which was “should I have let the dead man drive?”

Also funny was that when we eventually arrived at the cemetery, someone else was having a huge blowout funeral picnic barbecue event of some sort, crowding all the plots with their Igloo coolers and memorial quilts and what have you, and Dad was even more annoyed. Because they were all in his way. How could you even find the damn stone in this mess? And finally, there was some sort of Eternal Flame monument in his area of the cemetery, but it was decidedly NOT eternal, because it had a slot for change or dollar bills like a vending machine, and you had to feed it some cash to get the flame to belch briefly alight. Which my father grumpily did.

I woke from this feeling jolly, rather than bereft. It was comforting, in a way I am hard-pressed to describe: that nine months in the afterworld had changed Dad not at all. Nor had our relationship changed in the slightest. He drove, he complained reflexively about traffic and immigrants and What Things Cost, and I feigned patience and let his most offensive statements roll off my shoulders and away, surreptitiously checking my watch. As ever, I was quietly amused by his bluster, the terrible jokes he’d gotten off the Internet. There we were, tooling down the highway, exactly the same and still ourselves.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our land

Holly said to me today (over the squawks of baby Ian) that when I didn't even post a word about the Presidential Inauguration, she knew I had to be busy. Which is true. Arguably not as busy as she is, with a three-year-old and a seven-week-old in the house...just different parameters. Two weeks ago I started a new job, though still within the bosom of NerdCo, and I think that is all I will say about that, given the current clime. I am grateful, and happy, and damn lucky, the end.

But yes, I took Tuesday off to witness the peaceful exchange of power in America, and honestly that ritual is always an extraordinary thing. In years past, sometimes, perhaps an extraordinarily boring thing, but still.

I stepped off my front porch in the foggy, frosty pre-dawn hours and settled my stars-and-stripes into the flag bracket on the front of the house, because my patriotism is my privilege. Even when I have disagreed with and despaired of my country's politics, I have flown a flag. That flag is mine; that flag belongs still more to the thousands upon thousands of men and women who have died to protect the ideals it represents. I also recognize that the flag is only a symbol, a swatch of fabric I picked up at the Home Depot, in a package stamped with an eagle. I will defend to the death your right to burn that flag, and I will proudly suspend it from my home on those days when I feel brimful of pride and hope and renewed faith in this remarkable experiment of a nation I've grown up in.

When the sun fully came up, I saw that the neighbors across the street had put out their flag, too. We have been known to get competitive with our Christmas-light-stringing, so this sight tickled me. We're all in this together.

But I'm getting off track. Or am I? Mom came down from Mukilteo, and we threw the coffeemaker into hyperdrive and stared reverently, ecstatically at the television for three hours. We tittered at Dick Cheney being wheeled around like a supervillain, because, okay, we're a little mean. (He is, on the whole, much meaner; Mom and I have never, for example, shot any friends in the face.) We adored those beautiful, composed little girls--Malia, your Flickr pool is going to be amaaaaaayyzing. We kowtowed our unworthiness to the marvel that was Aretha Franklin's hat, because damn, that was A SERIOUS HAT. And when they asked the attendees to rise for the oath, Mom and I stood up. Like dopes, we stood in front of my living-room sofa, irritating the cat with our nth rearrangement of her favorite fleece blankie, and we held our breath and hung onto each other and wept and laughed and believed in change, for a minute, for a week, and maybe for eight long years, we hoped. We hope.

And then we went out for pancakes.

* * * * *

I know he will disappoint me, eventually, sooner than later. He'll let me or you or us down, he'll make a small mistake or a huge one. He'll get mired in something ugly and unmanageable, because politics is a dirty business and President Obama, like any president, is just a man. Human, falliable. I've let myself down in at least ten small ways since Tuesday alone, and like everyone I groan and smack my forehead and consider where I might lay the blame...and then I get up the next morning and face the blank slate of potentially doing it all over again, some good, some ill. But the grace period is hanging tough, so far. I admit it: each time I hear the phrase "President Obama" on the nightly newscast, or see it in print, or type it myself like I just did twice, I get a little tingle. Yep! It's still true! That totally HAPPENED! To see him sitting behind that desk; to hear him moving forward on closing Gitmo and lifting the global gag rule; to read his official statement in Salon yesterday:

"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere."

Well. I am going to coast on this for a while, I am. Godspeed, Mr. President.