Grasping for any faint summer memory is the only way to cope with the winter misery we’re all experiencing right now.
It is why I bring you back to a glorious July day back in the mid 80’s. It is known in our house as “The Day All The Toddlers Dressed Themselves (And Then Went Out In Public.)”
At the risk of throwing him under the bus, I preface this story by telling you that my dad was responsible for dressing us on this day. And we know that unlike the psychotic micro-managing that an over taxed Mom leans on to keep everything moving smoothly, Dad is the expert “Bottom Line” guy. Bottom Line: Is The Kid Alive? Yes. Great. Mission Successful.
So, my mom laid everybody’s clothes out that morning. An outfit for me, 3.5 years old. An outfit for my sister, 2 years old. And a pair of green bib overalls for my brother, 9 months old.
However, with dad at the helm that day, all sartorial hell broke loose. When The Stylist’s Away, The Aspiring Hobos Will Play!
Let’s first tackle my coup: without my mom around to stop me, I pulled a dress that was 3 sizes too big for me out of the back reserves of my closet and enthusiastically put it on. It was lacy, way huge on me, and more appropriate for dinner with The Queen than, say, laying around at home in the middle of summer. But, you see, I had my eye on this dress since it came into the household and why let a pesky thing like, “it doesn’t even fit you yet” slow down my fashion fast track??
We now turn our attention to my sister’s tantrum. She spotted the green bib overalls laid out for my brother and straight lost her shit. They were originally hers, but were handed down to my brother now that he was the Baby Du Jour. But, they had been her favorite overalls and damned if she was gonna give them up without a fight. Rather than put up with her histrionics, my dad relented and just let her put them on.
So, the bro was out of luck. Welcome to a world full of stubborn ass females, you sucker. We’ll make sure you hate it here!
Later on in the day, we all took a walk to meet my mom at the bus stop after she got out of work. She described the scene—complete with “special touches”—thusly:
I lead the pack. Running down the street excitedly, my elegant lace dress fluttered aggressively in the July breeze. I blissfully flapped my arms up and down. As fabric flew every which way, my mom worried I may, in fact, be lifted off the ground and float away. This couldn’t happen, though, as I had smartly anchored myself to the sidewalk with a chunky pair of Winnie The Pooh boots. Make that thick Winnie The Pooh Winter Boots. In July. Stop your judgement right there! I looked beautiful and I was happy. Dammit.
A few yards behind me, in a much more labored strut, came my sister. Being that she had LONG outgrown the 6-9 month baby bib overalls she INSISTED on wearing, the crotch and the straps did not accommodate her height so she was hunched over and walking with an impaired gait. But she had won her battle and that is important. So shut it down, haters!
And, finally, at the back of the pack. My poor, outgunned father. We were alive. Job done. Now, someone help him throw all these kids in front of a large, speeding garbage truck so he can go grab a beer.
Dad could literally throw my brother into the street, since he was carrying him. My brother? Naked, except for a diaper. Because, if you’ve been paying attention, the outfit he was meant to wear was currently on my sister.
My mom took in the Insanity Quartet headed her way and by some miracle, claimed us anyway and we all walked home together to live and look FABULOUS.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the talk of the day. But many have come before and many will follow after. Whenever a celebrity dies from an overdose, the argument is the same: we’re so obsessed with the game of celebrity drug addiction and what role the creative process plays, but no one gives a second glance when the same death befalls a mere mortal.
But is it something else? Perhaps we’re fascinated by the fact that these gifted artists who seemingly have it all still can’t find a way to keep that universal, ever lurking darkness at bay.
We all have demons to suffer. And the unavoidable truth of the human existence is the inherent loneliness. We’ve heard it time and again:
Fueling these broad platitudes are the worries and obstacles in life that find their way to us and reinforce the idea that no matter how many people are in your corner or even around the corner, you ultimately fight this battle alone.
We navigate adversity, grasping for any innocuous triumph. But, even in moments of sheer happiness, we’re all too aware that riding out all colors of the spectrum are just part of the job.
The darkness can creep in at any moment.
An uncomfortable thought that we should be forgiven for trying to bargain our way out of:
If I’m rich enough. If I’m successful enough. If my children are vibrant enough. If I hit all my marks, I’ll finally cross the finish line and stop racing against time and against myself. I’ll be content. I’ll find the key.
So, maybe celebrity worship is so acute and feverish in our culture because as we search for answers in our own journey, we desperately look at fame, success, money and resources as a talisman against all that plagues us. To the little people, it seems that celebrities are the specially chosen few who have that illusive set of keys. They’ve figured out the path to creative fulfillment and managed to carve it into financial security. They have their pick of only the most beautiful mates. They will raise the most gifted children. They’ll possess only the best material goods as fast as they can get them.
And so it is that with each overdose or tragically premature celebrity death, public frenzy is less about superficiality and more about panic; we’ve moved one step closer to seeing the truth:
There is no real cure for the human condition.
But, we can all take heart in the ironic comfort of this realization: that which terrifies us all also unites us all.
I got this key chain in my Christmas stocking one year. Whenever ppl asked me about it, I’d always make em guess.
My Friend Randy: what’s madly?
Me: take a guess!
MFR: Mothers Always Die Laughing….YESSSSSSSSS!
It actually means Mom and Dad Love You. But every time I see this I crack up picturing his self satisfied giggle as he came up with that ray of brilliance on the fly.
My mom stole this for me. Stealing is caring. That’s how that saying goes, right?
I hope NBC has the presence of mind to let “Growing Up Fisher” build a fan base & find its groove. I feel like it’s the new “Wonder Years.”
I am stalwart, efficient and long lasting
And continually abused
My joints ache, are ready to buckle
As my purpose is served, I am repeatedly used
Day after day
Night after night
I expose myself to the very same elements
That inflict you with fright
How many times have I been rained on?
Soaked to the bone?
Or forced to bear the burden of a hundred icicles,
On my own?
Always, it’s my refuge you seek
While the same things you hide from
Are the ones threatening to make me weak
The howling nighttime winds yank at me
And I’m lashed by the sting unleashed
From one tiny branch on an enormous tree
My bones are eroding
My edges are corroding
And every heavy step
Is a blast to my insides
It’s a non-beneficial job
But I do it with pride
When I was 17, my English teacher gave us a poetry assignment based on extended personification. If the things around you that you take for granted were given a voice, what would they say? And I immediately thought, after everything it goes through, how would our house feel to hear the way we snip about its shortcomings and needed repairs? And this really wrote itself. I made a frame of it with pictures of the various children who’ve been “adopted” and raised by this house and it hangs at my parents’ house to this day.
This winter is hard. On everything. Be extra grateful for your shelter, no matter where it comes from.