Tag Archives: family

The Naming of Dreams and Ghosts

The first thing I ever named was a baby doll. She had molded plastic limbs and a molded plastic head sewn to a soft cloth-stuffed body. I may not have even been the one to name her, since I don’t remember a time before I had her. She was called Molly, which may have been because it rhymed with dolly. My mom made doll clothes for her and for my sister’s baby doll, Mimi; I remember one Christmas in particular when we woke up and our dolls had matching outfits. She was also nearly newborn-sized, so actual baby clothes fit as well.

It wasn’t until I had been an adult for quite some time that I realized her eventual death was fitting with her name, as she was mauled apart by a dog, her stuffing torn out and tooth marks all over her feet and face.

* * * * * * *

You were my first-ever baby in a dream, a little boy with white-blonde hair and blue eyes. I named you Chase for the boy who would have been your father, had you been real, because it described exactly how I felt about him, even after a year into the relationship. I’m glad you never existed, just as I’m glad I stopped chasing the boy. Now that boy has two nieces and one of them has his eyes, and when I see photos of her I am haunted by the dream baby.

* * * * * * * *

I’d wanted a cat for so long, and after he moved in with me we decided to find one at the shelter where our neighbor volunteered. We went three times before we found you. You had the most unusual face and you’d had a really rough early life, so we named you Petra because the enemy’s gate was down. You were our first “baby,” and our first experience mourning together. We still miss you every day.

* * * * * * *

We’d been together for years and talked about the future all the time, couched carefully in hypothetical terms. Someday, and maybe, and might, and what if. What if we got married, he said. Whose name would we use? Not yours, I said. Not yours, he said. Let’s think of a new name, and so we named you Stryker, a blend of our heritages as denoted by the letters of our last names. Long before we were officially engaged, we’d named the baby family we’d already started to build long since.

* * * * * * *

Two years into trying to conceive and a year after our diagnosis, I had a dream about you. There were two of you, two little girls born sooner than you should have been and so you were in the NICU. To give you strength, we named you Arya and Lane after two of the strongest females we knew. We were a team, united in our love for you and wanting only for you to grow and be healthy enough to come home.

* * * * * * *

The very first cycle we tossed the birth control and started trying for a baby, my period was a week later than it had ever been. The night before I peed on my first-ever negative pregnancy test, I had dreams all night. The one I remember most is the dream of a baby girl. We named her Alice, for my maternal great-grandmother, descended from Irish royalty.

We named her Alice, after my sister.

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Things I learned on (or around) my Thanksgiving vacation

* Loki gets carsick (both ends), at least in the dark. Ugh. This is a recent development. But he doesn’t make a peep. (Petra peeps. Very loudly. The entire drive.)

* Sometimes when you are shopping for something in particular and having a difficult time finding it, if you make the decision to leave the store and then just decide to go back once around, just in case, you will find exactly the right thing. In my case, a coat at H&M.

* Shopping when I feel like I actually have enough money to buy something is far more fun than not, even if I don’t buy much.

* One’s perceptions about prices can change drastically depending on the setting. In a regular store, while buying yarn, I frequently decide a skein that costs over 5 bucks is too expensive. In ArtFibers, especially because everything in there was 10-30% off AND everything feels like it got shat out of an angel’s butt, $65 for enough to make one scarf suddently doesn’t seem so bad. (I didn’t actually buy anything, but I did spend an hour touching EVERYTHING).

* For some reason, airport security employees do their best to make life more difficult for people. There was almost nobody in the airport when we were there Saturday afternoon, no line at security – but the lady made me put my purse in an already overstuffed bag. Which I promptly removed on the other side of security. WTF?

* My mom’s boyfriend is the epitome of “Doesn’t understand the concept” when it comes to the game Taboo. Somehow, he just didn’t get that you CAN’T say any of the words on the card…or any derivation or root thereof.

* Some recipes I make in Denver take far more time in California. Is it my mom’s oven? Is it the frozen whole wheat flour? Is it the altitude difference, the additional humidity, or something else altogether? No matter, it turned out OK.

* You really can fit 11 adult-sized people around my mom’s table, but only if one of them actually doesn’t sit with everyone else because she has her annual Thanksgiving migraine (Sorry Lis.)

* Spending time with relatives who are also friends is highly underrated. 2 meals spent with awesome cousins plus their husband/boyfriend (respectively) = highlight of the trip for me.

* This was the first trip to the Bay Area in 2 years during which time we didn’t have to do anything for anyone’s wedding. It was awesome.

* Flying to CA for Thanksgiving (especially on off days, like we did) is infinitely preferable to taking the train for 2 days in each direction.

* My mom’s dog is weird. She has taken to obsessing over floor shadows, and entertains herself with them for hours on end.

* A Specialty’s cookie tastes even better when you have to wait months or years to eat one (and their sandwiches are just as good as I remembered).

* Wombat’s name is a highly guarded secret, and one which I don’t know despite subjecting his parents to Chinese water torture. OK, not really with the torture thing.

* Leah does late-term pregnancy with style and panache, and she looks like her pre-pregnant self with a basketball under her shirt. And she kindly let me maul her belly while Wombat did his limited gymnastics given the small amount of space he has to maneuver.

* Everyone in CA that we talked to about it wants us to move there after Dan graduates. We’ll see what happens.

All in all, a great trip. And I have photos, but the memory card is in Dan’s camera so they’ll have to wait for another day.

Tar Babies

Our original plan was to drive north and do some wine tasting in the Santa Ynez valley (thanks for the recommendations, Slackmistress and QIR) but by the time we made it through SB we decided we weren’t feeling up to it. We did drive a little ways north up the coast, enjoying the view, then turned around and went to the Santa Barbara Mission.

The restrooms at the mission have chalkboards inside with a note that says “If you must write something, please do it here” which really amused me. I got some cool photos that I am going to try to get on the internets so I won’t talk about it too much now, only say that it was a neat experience, and also say that man, they really need to update some of their displays.

After we were finished at the mission, we called my sister who told us where we might find restaurants that wouldn’t cost 8 arms and 6 legs like the ones on posh State Street (she directed us to Goleta, where we ended up just getting sushi and a wrap to share from Trader Joe’s). We did some more TJs shopping – stocking up on chocolate supplies for us, plus buying a few things for the next day. My sister had another graduation to attend, but she told us how to get to her house (right on the beach, on Student Row in Isla Vista) and where to walk to have a nice beach experience. We dropped off some stuff at her house, carefully avoiding all of the students packing and moving (apparently, everyone has to vacate their apartments at once, during the same weekend as graduation, so the neighborhood becomes a complete madhouse, and is the only place I’ve ever seen someone on a bike pulling someone sitting in an office chair down the street). Up the street we walked, through a park and down a path, and found some stairs that led down to the beach.

It’s been some time since I walked on the beach with no other time commitments or other things to do, and many years since I walked on a beach in Southern California (where the water is slightly less cold than in Northern California). We took off our shoes and found all kinds of treasures as we dodged large bundles of washed-up kelp, rocks, shells, and other beach detritus that helps differentiate Northern from Southern CA (all the beaches I’ve been to in SoCal had WAAAAY more stuff on the sand than in NorCal). We passed a large dead elephant seal, skirting around so as not to get too close, and Dan nearly stepped on a large dead fish that was missing its eye (surely the tastiest bit, we decided). We sat for a while on a sunbleached log and watched people surf, Dan snapping action shots while I made interesting shadows on the sand with my hands and a heart-shaped shell I found.

A surprising thing was the overwhelming smell of asphalt on some parts of the beach, and the tar that washed up along the shoreline. We did our best to avoid it, and saw how it covered large rocks and small pebbles, a black ugly stain on an otherwise beautiful scape. I wondered if there had been a recent oil spill as we rounded the bend and came across a rock with a piece of iron ship embedded, rust streaks dripping down the rock like paint. The rest of the beach was less interesting, and we wiggled our toes in the shallows, and then a few waves came up faster than we expected and we got a little wet around the hems of our jeans and shorts, respectively. My leg grew tired, the one that is still healing, so I asked if we could go back. We walked all the way back, stopping to inspect the iron grown into the rock once more, splashing through the water and just next to it because it was easier for my leg to walk on packed wet sand than on powdery dry. And then a wave came up and soaked the back of my jeans up to my butt. Awesome.

Past the dead fish, the tar, and the seal corpse, we climbed slowly, wetly, and sandily up the steps to the cliff, where we stopped to put on our shoes. At which point we realized the bottoms of our feet were covered in tar, despite our valiant attempts to avoid it. I had been wearing sneakers with no socks and so after I scraped what I could, I put my shoes back on, resigning them to a tar-filled afterlife. Dan had socks to go with his shoes, so he only ruined a pair of socks. As we walked back to my sister’s house, my family pulled up in the Prius, having driven four adults plus luggage down 101 from the Bay Area. My mom and cousin, my sister and her fiance, all gave us hugs and joined us at Laurel’s only to realize her roommate had left and Laurel was still at the other graduation. Dan and I were wet, sandy, and tarry, while my family was tired of the long drive and wanted to relax. So we drove down to Carpinteria to our hotel, through more ugly traffic.

There was some sort of mixup at the hotel that I’m still not clear about, but they doubled the price my mom was quoted and were generally nasty all around, so instead of two rooms for that night, we had to all sleep in one. Six adults. Two queen-size beds, one ridiculously small and uncomfortable pull-out couch. We lounged in the room and discovered the one good thing, three little premoistened towelettes in the bathroom labeled “tar-off” (note to hotel in Carpinteria: excellent idea!) so Dan and I were able to remove the tar from our feet. I removed my wet, salty, sandy jeans and changed into a skirt. We sat around the room for a while, the six of us, and found a place to eat dinner when Laurel and her boyfriend drove down to join us. (a passable Thai food place, at which only a few of the diners enjoyed their meals). Laurel informed me that there hadn’t been an oil spill, that tar comes up naturally out of the ocean along that part of the coast, and it’s pretty much impossible to avoid small particles in the sand.

After dinner, we bought a small variety of items at a liquor store, giggled over three sizes of tequila that came in the most phallic bottle I’ve ever seen, and retired to the hotel room for an hour or two before Laurel and her boyfriend left and the rest of us got ready for bed. Six adults in one hotel room, sharing one bathroom, good lord. Needless to say, most of us slept terribly, especially Lissa and Curtis who ended up putting the pull-out couch mattress on the floor and piling blankets on top (they were the only ones who could both fit on such a small mattress, but I understand neither of them really slept). I slept, but had nightmares all night.