Over the long holiday weekend, my husband and I went to NYC to visit his parents and then I traveled, alone, to LI, to see mine.
This was planned -- it was not my husband dissing my parents or anything. I'll explain in a moment. One warning, though, this is going to be a long, long entry because there has been so much going on.
The actual day of Thanksgiving was spent here, and my mother in law made turkey meatloaf. I was thrilled as I knew my own mother would be making roasted turkey so this way I wouldn't have so much repetition. The meal was quiet and we talked and laughed.
The three things I was worried about, not just there or for that meal but in general for the weekend were carbs, salt and exercise. Too much of the former two and too little of the latter. As a result, I kept strictly and did my best not to deviate, and also did whatever I could to work out. Since I can do situps and Pilates on my own, and mild weight training (I only brought the really small weights and the resistance bands), I did all of that every single day, even though under normal circumstances I change it up. That was just not possible. I needed to get something done, anything.
My husband and I did spend a good chunk of Thanksgiving walking along Riverside Drive. That was pleasant although you can see the tail end of Autumn is just about upon us, even there, where it's a good three weeks behind Boston. Trees are getting barer. Remaining leaves have turned brown. Little dogs are wearing sweaters and humans are wearing gloves. It's dry and raw, and the heat (which is very drying) is on constantly at my inlaws' apartment. There was no problem getting the water drunk. It was all I seemed to want.
On Friday morning, early, Mr. J took me to Penn Station and I got onto a Long Island Rail Road train to my parents. He stayed behind, and I know he went to the Y one day and also helped out around the apartment (he's taller than his parents, so he was getting things off shelves or something like that).
My parents had planned for Friday to be our Thanksgiving, and had invited more people, for a total of nine of us. I had to get laundry done so that was one of the first things that happened -- me just getting it started. I helped out a bit and then just had to get outside, despite the nippy and now damp weather. My father offered to walk with me but I asked to be alone. Perhaps this is how Greta Garbo got in her cardio.
I walked for something like 50 minutes and, yes, this song was cranked in my iPod, along with a playlist of songs from my teen years (more on that later).
I got back maybe 20 minutes before the other guests began to arrive, one of whom was a woman I was friends with when I was ten or so years old. She came with her son; her parents also came (they are two of my parents' closest friends). There was much oohing and ahhing, apparently she and her folks spotted me walking around the area (she and her parents live just a block away). So I am recognizable, whereas last time I was on LI and walking with my father, someone wanted to know who the chippy was.
The dinner was all right but man, was it LONG. I immediately rocketed into "dutiful daughter" mode, clearing plates, filling and emptying the dishwasher, arranging serving dishes, putting food in the fridge, making coffee, etc. etc. etc. My mother is 76 years old and my father is older. Part of this was, certainly, to help them out. But another part was to not have to look at the food any more than the minimum amount of time and, frankly, to not have to listen to too much conversation. These are lovely people but the relationships are frozen in time. I just don't know how to relate. Not really.
The worst thing, I think, is the good-byes. They take longer than the meal, or at least it feels that way, and everyone keeps dragging them out, over and over again. See you, I'll talk to you, no, we'll email, wait, did I tell you, hang on I have something for you, oops I'll give you your serving dish the next time I see you, you looked so nice this evening, thanks for coming, I'll see you, I'll talk to you, we'll email, did I tell you .... And on and on, seemingly ad infinitum.
I do not begrudge my parents their friends or their entertaining. And it wasn't even that late. But I was getting tired and knew that the following day would contain very little rest. Plus I needed to get upstairs and get online. I was able to go online most days but I did nearly no Sparky socializing. Just food and exercise logging, mainly. Spun the wheel, of course.
The following day promised to be very full.
The first item on the agenda was a family get together in Nassau County (my parents live just over the border into Suffolk County). This was for a cousin's 80th birthday. Here's the relationship: her husband is my mother's first cousin. Hence her daughters are my second cousins, and her granddaughters are third cousins to my nephew. And now there's a new generation being born. They will be fourth cousins to any kids my nephew has.
A lot of this family are the people I saw when I was on LI in March of this year. I'm friends with many of them on Facebook so they've seen photographs and read status updates. They've seen the numbers and read about my races. But I suppose nothing beats being in person. Again, oohing and ahhing. Of course I don't mind that. They also ask for weight loss advice, or at least some of them do. I dispense what I can but that's not really why I'm there so I don't want it to dominate the conversation. They are mainly teachers in the New York City school system and, as you might imagine, they have a great deal to say about No Child Left Behind. Or, as one cousin said, what got left behind was childhood.
We are family. We love each other. But we also let our guard down, so there was bickering at the table. All I'm trying to do is keep away from the pasta (it was a Northern Italian restaurant; I ended up skipping, I kid you not, three courses) and ignore the fighting. I do better at ignoring the food than ignoring the fighting these days. My parents and I don't butt in, of course, but all I want is to go out running there, too, and just get out of it. But it's my cousin's birthday. I'm not going to just bug out and insult her, of course.
I put my father to work taking pictures. This is not as mercenary as it sounds as my father, even though he will turn eighty in a couple of years, has more energy than anyone I know. Much like Cesar Milan the Dog Whisperer, I go with exercise with him as a means of creating, what is it, calm, assertive energy.
Dad takes pictures. These are not all of people I recognize, and he fails to get a picture of the new baby (the one who will be fourth cousin to any kids my nephew has -- that kid), but it gets Dad up and mingling and that's a good thing. Then the singing begins.
This is not your garden variety "Happy Birthday". Understand, this is the musical branch of my mother's family. First her husband sings "Embraceable You" to the birthday girl. He's 82 himself, and his voice quavers a bit, but he's still got it. She's over the moon. Then, oh man, there are calls for the cousin who is the new mother to sing. Now, I knew she sang, but I had never heard her (Mr. J and I didn't attend their wedding as it was too far from us).
She is amazing. She sang the old Etta James number, "At Last". You know, what Beyoncé sang at the Inaugural? Yeah. THAT ONE.
And this nice Jewish girl from Queens, who is a Microsoft Certified Engineer by day, opens her mouth and sounds like a professional soul singer.
Did she ever miss her calling!
The fights more or less patch up. The party ends.
But there is no time to rest and there is no time for more cardio.
I have to get ready.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
My father set up the GPS in their Toyota and off I went. This was my 30th reunion and it was being held in a hotel several towns over. My father took this photo before I left.
My graduating class had had about 400 people in it. I was not expecting anywhere near that many and I did not expect any truly close friends to attend. All weekend I kept wondering why I had bothered. It was not cheap and I was not going to be eating the dinner anyway, or even drinking much (as I was driving, of course, plus it's a carbs issue). Why was I bothering? It felt odd.
I got in early and sat in the car, listening to more of my playlist, including The Ramones' "Rock 'n Roll Radio" (with it's line, "it's the end, the end of the seventies, it's the end, the end of the century"). Lab Lover will be happy to read that I listened to Bruce Springsteen's "Growing Up" while waiting. Then I repeated today's blog song. It was time to go in, ready or not.
I got into the bar area and saw a few people milling around. Hugging was happening. It had that dread feeling of, oh God, is that all there is? W___ spotted me and hugged me. I was not close to her in school but we are Facebook pals and she has followed my weight loss saga closely. She was always lovely and kind and has not changed. Beautiful inside and out, still. I saw another gal I'd known, well, had known of. From the title of this blog and the line I selected, and the song, I think it should be obvious -- I was somewhat of an outsider.
I was not popular. I was not surrounded by boyfriends, even though I did have three (two were over Summers) while in High School. I was an Honor Student. I was not an athlete. I kept quiet and withdrawn.
The second woman I saw mentioned to me that we were actually supposed to go downstairs to a private room. Ah, so we were not just going to stay at the bar? Already a good thing. I followed her down the stairs.
There I came face to face with a gal who I'd been friends with, but, frankly, she was closer to me than I had been to her (B___). She hugged me tightly, told me she'd missed me and was SO thrilled I was there. Whoa. I had not expected that. Then she asked me for a ride back as her car had died. Ai yi yi. Sure. Egad, what am I getting myself into here?
There were photo albums out. It turned out they were the photographic proofs from when we had all graduated from Junior High School. There were pictures of teachers, too. Everyone was so young, so fresh-faced, so short! How could they possibly be related to the middle-aged people in the room.
Then I saw Z___. Now, Z____ was not her name in High School. Apparently, yes, folks, it's her real name but it's also her professional name. Yep. It's a stage name. Fire engine red dress with matching pumps. Slim, blonde (she was both of those things in High School). After greeting me, the first words out of her mouth were: "Oh my God, you have no wrinkles!" That made me laugh.
W___ came back. "The cosmos are great!" I thanked her for the report and also hugged K___, who has also acted (off-Broadway). How the heck did I get such famed classmates? Then it was time for the bar. I had room for a 12-ounce light beer. Miller Lite or Bud Lite. Eek. I mentally flipped a coin and went with Miller.
"Jes, it's me, A___!" said this man. I've seen him on Facebook, too. We hugged and he introduced me to -- eek, I can't recall if he said friend or girlfriend. Girlfriend, I hope, she's so sweet and pretty and they seem to suit each other. I remembered B___ had had a crush on him. I said to the girlfriend, "My strategy for the day is to tell every guy I see that I had the biggest crush on him in High School." She laughed and then proceeded to tell A___ that I'd had the biggest crush on him in High School. "Really?" He totally believed her. I went with it and said, yes, I did. And then I felt myself getting red and he got red and I tell you, suddenly it didn't matter at all that I hadn't. But I did make a mental note: that phrase is powerful, so use it sparingly.
I leaned over to the girlfriend. "You're a stinker." I said to her. "That's what I like about you." She replied: "You don't know the half of it." So all was well.
Then D__ and his wife came over. I remembered D__ as a shy, tall guy who rarely ran in the same circles as I did. He asked me, "Do you remember, you and I hung out together during a class trip during Senior year. You had a friend, she was tall with long, dark hair. Remember?" I confessed I didn't and I wasn't sure who the girl was, then realized it was someone who had not graduated with us.
We milled around. People talked about getting a table. B__ insisted I make sure she got to sit at the table with me. She kept telling me when she'd get up or whatever. There was no need whatsoever for her to check in with me, and I certainly did not feel the need to reciprocate. How very odd.
And then I saw ... hmmm ... how can I put this? J___ was a guy I really had had a crush on, but back in 6th grade. He was always funny, always nice. This year, he'd even seen my parents; they'd all gone to some library function (it was World War II reminiscences). He had recognized my mother because she had chaperoned a class trip when we were in 6th grade. Yes, folks, that was 36 years ago.
I touched his arm lightly and said, "I believe I may know you." Well, he knew ME. This was, suddenly, it was as if the years had melted off, and we spoke readily, zinging one-liners back and forth as if we were a rehearsed comedy team. "Wait, wait, wait there, hang on." I heard that a few times that night.
We sat down, all of us or most of us, not D__ and his wife, I don't think. We went to the buffet, J___ saw all I took (just a few vegetables): "Are you a vegan now?" See, I had been a vegetarian back in school. "No, just dieting." See, J___ is a big guy, and always has been.
J__ got up for some reason. I fished into my bag. I had brought business cards and wanted to hand them out to some people. Partly to give them my email address and partly to practice networking, a muscle I really need to use more and better.
I gave cards to A___ and B___, even though they both already had my email address. Hey, you've gotta start somewhere.
I got up (nature called). I did not feel the need to tell B___ where I was going (although she had been doing that all night). I also went to refresh my lipstick. I had forgotten -- I'd left the stack of cards on the table. I returned via the bar and got another drink. J___ came around: "I saw your cards and I took one. Hope you don't mind." Oh no, of course not. Someone called him away.
I was walking back towards the table when D__ stopped me. He was alone; I don't know where his wife was. He said to me, "I want you to know why I asked you about that time during Senior Year." Oh? "I wasn't asking about that other girl." Oh? "I was asking because it was YOU I had had the crush on. I remembered that time because of YOU." "Oh D___", I said, and I hugged him and kissed his cheek. "I had no idea." He said, "But you weren't approachable." "I wasn't?" But I suppose I wasn't. It's funny; we had done different things but ended up in almost the same field. D__ has a lovely wife, I have a great husband. But it does make you wonder how things would have turned out. He told me of his life; he owns a glider and flies a bit. Funny how things turn out.
I went back to the table and this time I picked up a portion of my cards and my camera. B___ followed me and so instead of talking to J___ I talked to some other folks and took a bunch of rather badly posed shots. People were dancing and a woman was trying to get us all to do The Electric Slide. A___'s girlfriend gamely joined and so did Z____. Then another guy came in and he and Z___ danced together, very graceful. Don't forget -- we were in High School during the Disco Era.
It was J__, back again. We talked about the music. Score positive points for getting something within our era, negative points for too much Disco. He mentioned he'd been listening to the Frampton_Comes_Alive album in preparation, to get into the mood. I mentioned Springsteen, and this song. I had four different cards, two of the types had some of my own artwork on them. I had done some watercolors last week and scanned them and used them. They're small -- you can't really see that I'm not much of an artist. But it's unique and quirky and certainly a conversational prompt. I gave J___ one of the artwork cards, which he took in exchange for giving me his Doctor Evil impression. But his voice (and mine) was getting raspy. We'd been talking over the music for too long.
We got onto the topic of online friends, and he said he just can't get interested in anything like Facebook. "If I can't see you or touch you, I can't consider you a friend." he said. Well. I suppose I'm just the World's Biggest Flirt because I replied, "You never touched me in High School." This is when he grabbed me by the waist and hugged me, and kissed the top of my head. I guess in a way it was almost like D___'s confession. Crazy. I liked him. I (think) he liked me. We actually did run in similar circles, and we've known each other since 6th grade. So why was it impossible to connect in High School? I was, despite brief times with boyfriends, lonely. He was apparently lonelier still.
Why is it that people can't build a bridge when they need it the most?
He is married, I am married. I am not looking to make a change; it's nothing like that. But again, I saw a parallel line. What could have been? What were the possibilities? What would have happened? It is unknown, and always will be.
We took a group photo, and the evening began to wind down. B___ wanted to leave. Sheesh. No. Let's stay until the end. Then B___ wanted to just have a private conversation with me, kind of cut me out from the pack. Er, no, I want to see everyone. B___, I know, is, how can I put this? Less than perfectly socially aware.
J___ was asking me to hang out. Let's talk, let's catch up. I know, I want to, I'm saying. But B___. Well, I know her shtick, he says. She wants to play "oh poor me, no one remembers me." But that's not true; lots of people remember her. Don't go. Not yet, he says. Okay, I say.
But the evening winds down further, and I realize it's something like 12:40 and I am tired. And I know we are getting up SUPER early the following day, as my folks are driving me back to NYC and then they are going to a friend's in New Jersey. The plan is to be at my inlaws' at 11 AM. This means leaving at 9:30 or so. I do the math. I have to get back, whether I want to go or not.
I hug D__, in front of his wife, and he hugs me back and I wonder what he is thinking and all I can hope for is that I didn't cause him any pain or, if I did, that it was brief or at least forgotten or, at minimum, happened a long, long time ago. I hug J___ and I am reminded of the line from the Dan Fogelberg song, "Same Old Lang Syne":
"Just for a moment I was back in school
and felt that old familiar pain"
And I hope that I have never hurt J___, either, and I don't think he has ever hurt me or if it ever did happen that God knows it was not deliberate, it was the kinds of slights and disappointments that teenagers just get sometimes.
B__ and I leave, and I call my parents to tell them I'll be back as soon as I've dropped her off. She cannot stop talking. It is about the reunion, a little, but mainly it is all about directions, even though the GPS lady is cranking out instructions by the minute. It is as if B__ cannot leave a silent moment because then we'd be forced to actually think for a moment, muse and ponder. I take a wrong exit and we meander around some of Long Island as the GPS lady reorients herself and then I stop listening to B___ entirely and devote my energies to listening to the GPS lady and trying to ignore anything else I am feeling, for I am tired and it is pitch black and the island is no longer familiar and if I stop and think of what might've happened three decades ago I don't know what I would do and I just can't confront that, not now, not while B___ is there and babbling inanely and all I want is for her to just stop, stop, stop it already and leave me to my thoughts.
Finally the ride ends and I silently return to the house. My parents don't even hear me come in or hear me at all until I am up an hour later (nature again).
This time the visit is short but we have yet another obligation, it is to see an old High School friend of Mr. J's who was at our wedding. She is a pleasant woman and we are having lunch with her and her daughter. My parents drop me off and soon Mr. J and I are walking over to the Mexican restaurant. The lunch is mainly uneventful as there is more oohing and ahhhing and while it is pleasant enough I am tired and also a little tired of being so "on" for the last few days, nonstop.
Mercifully, lunch is fairly short and we walk back to the apartment, having refused a ride in favor of instead getting in some cardio. The following morning, early, we get on a train for home.
That was yesterday.
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth"
Oh, and that group photograph? It's on Facebook. And D__ and J__ are both standing just behind me. I'm glad they've got my back.