The things we do for family. Yesterday Daughter #1 was due home to start a temporary job here in New Mexico. I arranged for a flight (yes, she’s an adult and independent, but when we can help out, we do. She isn’t rich.) for her to come visit before she got the new job. The new job meant we had to change the ticket, which isn’t a problem, but the flight changed from a month from now to next week. Needless to say, no flights were available without a fee. But what can you do? We paid and changed the flight. I”m not complaining. It beats two days of driving or three months in a Conestoga wagon.
She was due in at 11:00 PM. As I implied, we had limited options, and this was the best flight. Unfortunately, the rest of the country doesn’t have wether like New Mexico. Her flight was delayed arriving to her airport from Tampa. Four hours. Which meant that she took off at the time she should have been arriving here. Because of flight trackers on the Internet (thank goodness) we knew about the delay. I went to bed at 9:30 to sleep until I needed to wake up to get her. 1:00AM my alarm went off and I drove to the airport to retrieve her.
I’ve always loved the night. I like the lack of crowds (see my previous post), the relative silence, and I love to imagine for what reason the few people on the road are up at this hour. I actually saw a motorcycle with a man and a woman speeding (without helmets), and I do mean speeding, on the freeway. Her head was thrown back as if she was enjoying the thrill. I was torn between the appreciation of the abandon and the idiocy of riding in such a manner (the idiocy won, by the way–it may look good in movies, but this is real life and I prefer keeping mine). I saw a “nurse” driving home after a long shift waiting to jump into bed (that was for you, Brenda), two sneak thieves making their way from a “job” with their loot, and a man fleeing the house of a woman he had made the mistake of sleeping with.
Two AM isn’t a time I would normally sacrifice my sleep for even if I do love the night. Society has regulated me into accepting their boundaries, not the ones I would have chosen for myself. But for my kid, I was more than willing. I was eager. Funny. For the right people you’ll do anything and not consider it a sacrifice at all.
I don’t like big cities. That’s probably funny to those of you know I grew up in the Los Angeles area and that my father loved to go to “Downtown.” Big cities bother me. And yet, conflicting and contradictory person that I am, I couldn’t live in a rural setting. It’s just not in my blood. So as a nice compromise, Albuquerque is small enough, yet large enough for my needs. Oh, I have complaints about ABQ too (see the conflicting and contradictory line above), but it often displays a very small town personality.
I also love to travel. And that usually means big cities. I’ve been to Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Rome, Seattle, and others. I enjoyed visiting, but big cities still aren’t high on my list of places I’d like to live. I may have a mild case of agoraphobia–the fear of crowds part. Open spaces don’t bother me at all. Just crowds. That’s why I don’t do concerts well, or events of most sorts.
Interestingly there are a few people-packed places where I’ve never felt uncomfortable (see the conflicting and contradictory line above):
London (though I’ve only been there twice)
RWA Conferences (but don’t ask me about my one RT experience)
and I love Rome.
This is why I find human nature so intriguing. I’m not afraid of many things others are–public speaking, spiders, snakes, elevators, bridges–but I could seriously do without crowds.
And heights. Can’t do heights anymore. Except on bridges in a car, roller coasters, and airplanes. Yeah, see the conflicting and contradictory line above.
When my children were small, in fact pre number three, some called to ask if we’d be willing to have a couple of graduate research students come to our house as part of a study on parenting. We said sure. Two lovely young ladies showed up with clipboards, and as they walked from room to room they just smiled. In each room their smiles grew bigger until they laughed. At that point we asked what was going on? They explained that their study was about books and the reading habits of parents and whether babies were exposed to books. Our house had books in every room.
I don’t know what the data proved; we were never visited again. I think they just wanted statistics about how many homes had books in general. I know New Mexico is pretty bad about books in households. I was thinking about this visit just recently. With two of our daughters out of the house, we are trying to fix up the house. Bathrooms were done last year, but we need new carpet, new tile, new paint, etc. And I’m insisting on getting rid of the extraneous furniture that we’ve collected over the years. Which means however we have to get rid of books.
It’s difficult to get rid of books. I know I’ve advocated not finishing books if you don’t like them, but books we’ve kept are here for a reason. Just this week I took our entire collection of hardcover Tom Clancy novels from the eighties (dating myself?) to Goodwill. My husband and I both read them (except Red Storm Rising–I couldn’t get into that one). But we’re still stuck with more books than we have room. There are books we will never re-read, but keep them for memory’s sake. When I glance at my shelves, I can remember exactly where I read them and the feelings they evoked. We once read a John Grisham book aloud to each other on a camping trip and long drive. We had so much fun. I’ve always wanted to do that again, but I am so over camping.
The books have to go. They simply must. And it’s heartbreaking. But on the other hand, now someone else can bring them to life. Meanwhile Robot Guy and I have just finished reading/are reading The Merchant of Venice so we can better enjoy Christopher Moore’s A Serpent of Venice. Together. Yup. I’ve decided that reading the same books will be one of our hobbies now that the kids are essentially gone. That and bird watching.
We all have strange little things we like; things that really have no major influence on our lives, but we like them just the same. I get a thrill when I get/experience/happen upon these stupid little things Here is a sample of a few of my random favorites:
The smell of cornmeal—I don’t know why. It gives me a warm and safe feeling. Maybe it’s because when I was a child, and I’m talking really young here, my parents owned a chicken farm that they bought with four other Hungarian couples right after they arrived in Los Angeles. One couple stayed in the little house on the farm and worked there during the week, and the others went out on the weekends to build coops, fix whatever needed fixing, and general chores. They raised the chickens for the eggs and feed them cornmeal. That smell brings back vague memories of the chicken farm. (I may have to blog just about smells; I have several that mean something to me.)
Wooden ice cream spoons—you know the ones wrapped in white paper that came with those ice cream cups? I love those things. A few years ago, someone was doing some sort of ice cream giveaway and I squirreled away about a dozen of those spoons to pull out when I needed special cheering. They’re gone now, but whenever I have a chance I eat ice cream with a wooden spoon. Those new fangled plastic ones that they put in gelato just aren’t as good.
Miniatures—again, I don’t know why. I have enough dust catchers in my house. But anything miniature I love. Totally useless stuff. Maybe it’s a reaction to being tall and having gone through years of teasing for my height.
Staring at waves or water flowing—I don’t know. Something about the constant change mesmerizes me, and I can get lost in the images. I can’t even say lost in thought, because I’m can’t really remember thinking while I do it. Maybe it’s just a form of meditation for me. On an opposite note staring into a fire (not a candle flame—too small) does the same thing.
Finding random obscure grammar facts—My learning of language will never cease. Yeah, I’m one of those people. But I get a real thrill when I discover something (It could just be the sense of superiority I feel when I know something few others do—yeah, I’m that kind of person too) In grammar facts, please include the origins of idioms, punctuation, and all matter of language, including foreign and linguistic matters.
Books I can get absolutely lost in—Okay, this one is cheating. I love this, not like this. Unfortunately it happens less and less these days. I can like a book, but not get so caught up in it that I’m living it. Those are the gems, the ones that make it hard to remember or care about reality. Mostly I just read books I enjoy.
What about you? What odd little things help color in the nuances of your existence?
I’ve only ever heard this story second hand, but it shows the quiet (well, maybe not so quiet) strength my father had. As a young adult in communist Hungary, he knew education was the only way to get anywhere. He was determined to be an engineer—not so much because he had a passion for it, but because he knew he could earn a good living and support a family as an engineer. Unfortunately, at that time all young men had to serve in the Hungarian army for two years starting as soon as they finished compulsory school. He really, really did NOT want to serve in the army. There were few exemptions, but it wasn’t like he was an ultra genius whom they would immediately excuse so that he could work on secret projects or something. Yet somehow he talked his way into getting a university exemption. He could attend school and not serve in the army.
Someone neglected to tell the army that.
He was told to report on such and such a day to register and enter basic training. Well, he showed up but started arguing that he wasn’t supposed to be there, he had an exemption, he was supposed to go to school, etc. They didn’t listen. So one the second day, he continued: It was a mistake, he was supposed to be in school, the army wasn’t supposed to have him. He complained for four solid days until they finally said okay, go, we don’t want you, just shut up.
He went to school.
If you were a University student, you were supposed to serve summers. He didn’t do that either.
This was his ID for his second year of school.
I miss you, Apu. You left us much, much, much too early.
Books I’m reading now:
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
(But I’m getting a bunch of new books today because I’m attending a book signing by friends and fellow authors Darynda Jones, Katie Lane, Celeste Bradley, and Jeffe Kennedy.)
I thinking of creating a personal time capsule to be opened when my first great-grandchild is born or one hundred years from now, whichever is first. I don’t really know why. I never met my great grandparents—heck I barely met my grandparents. They lived in Hungary while I lived in California. I met one grandmother when I was four and then I never saw her again. I have three fleeting memories of her, the most vivid one being my first sighting of her. A scarf covered her head, and I was afraid of her because I thought she was a witch. Hey, I was four. Too bad because everyone says she was a wonderful, loving woman. The other grandparents I only saw one time after that when I was eleven.
I don’t really have many memories of extended family, and I don’t set store in the importance of genealogy. In the first place, I’m not a royal and stand in no line for any throne. Second, I read an article once that anyone alive today with a European background can claim to be a direct descendent from Charlemagne. Same holds true for Julius Caesar. At some point we all have shared ancestors. Name a famous person of the far past, and I’m descended from him/her. Go back to ancient times, and I can claim Nefertiti. So really, who you are descended from makes no difference.
So why the time capsule? Well, Mark Twain has no direct descendents (although he and I are cousins very far removed through Charlemagne), but he is and will be remembered. While I would prefer to enjoy my celebrity while I live, a part of me thinks it wouldn’t be bad to be remembered after (even if I’m not around to enjoy the fruits of my accomplishments). But at least I would like my family to remember me. I can’t even tell my children stories about my grandparents (except the witch one), and my father died before they were born, so they have no memories about him either. Thus the time capsule.
Here are the items I would include in my time capsule:
A copy of every one of my books—I’d put them on a flash drive, but who knows if they’d be able to access them. It would be worse than trying to find something today to play a Beta videotape (and if you’re young enough, you’re asking what’s a videotape.).
Pictures of me throughout my life—this would be hard because I have a real problem with pictures of me. I don’t like to take pictures.
My engagement ring—it’s not worth much monetarily, and I don’t wear it. Suffice it to say that graduate students don’t have a lot of money and neither Robot Guy or I think/thought going into debt for a hunk of metal and a rock was worth it. We went to Europe instead. Much better. Whatever. The ring seems to have worked.
Wait? That’s all? Hmm, having thought about a time capsule, I think I’m depressed. I don’t have many things I would want to pass down to my descendents. I have tons of books I would include, but that would no longer be a time capsule but a time storage unit. I would love to share my thoughts with them, but I don’t keep a journal (Gasp! A writer who doesn’t journal? For shame. Yeah, yeah, yeah.), so I don’t have my philosophies to pass along. I have a gazillion knickknacks around my house that all hold meaning and value to me, but really they’re kind of silly. Things have no real value to me. If I lost everything tomorrow (not people or pets), it would be inconvenient, and I’d be angry and sad, but, eh, I can collect more. Home is people not a place. (One of the many reoccurring themes in my novels.) Experiences are more important than possessions.
So I guess I’m stuck chasing after celebrity in this life again. Gotta go write some more books. What would you put in a time capsule?
Books I’m reading now.
A Dance with Dragons (I know, I know you’re sick of reading this one)
I am a huge Harry Potter book fan. I liked the movies okay, but the books are what I return to over and over again.
So a few years ago when I was traveling in Germany, I picked up the German copy of the first Harry Potter book. Why I didn’t buy more I’ll never know–probably because I didn’t have a lot of room for books with all the clothes I had to bring and all the souvenirs that came home with us on that trip–but only one book came home with me. I read it as soon as we reached home. And enjoyed it. (Although I have two gripes about two translations–one: while Schnurrbart can colloquially mean a cat’s whiskers, it threw me right out of the story to picture a cat with a mustache; two: Ein Junge überlebt does NOT have the same effect as The Boy Who Lived). So my goal became tracking down a complete set of Harry Potter in German.
Okay, you’d think–go to Amazon and order. Well, I don’t want them as ebooks (I have no problems with ebooks, but some books I must have in tangible form), and since the first one I bought was paperback, I want them all in paperback. New, not used. The paperback versions cost between $40 and $50. I understand the cost of importing, etc, but really? For a brand new unsigned, not rare paperback? Because of my upbringing (immigrant parents who were the products of war, poverty, and communist takeover), I have a very strong frugal bone that I try hard to overcome. Often with little success. I have a really hard time spending money on frivolous things (On the plus side, I live with very little debt. House mortgage, that’s all). So the quest for Harry Potter in German became a real adventure.
I thought acquiring the second book in the series would be easy-peasy. My mother and niece were traveling to Hungary. They had a four hour layover in Munich. Airports have bookstores. I asked my mother to go to the store and buy me book two in the series. I assured her that everyone in Germany speaks English (and that’s true for the most part. When I was there, no one let me speak German. They all spoke English to me. I was quite depressed about it. I know my accent has become terrible over the years, but I have no chance to practice here at home.) and Harry Potter was ubiquitous enough that any bookstore would understand Book 2 in the series. She couldn’t do it. For whatever reason, my mother couldn’t handle going to the bookstore and asking, and my niece was too shy to carry out the task herself.
Now the story could have ended here. My mother simply could have said, “I didn’t get it.” I would have dealt with it. Not that big a deal. But no, my mother involved my cousins on my mother’s side who live in Karlsruhe. These cousins are two of the nicest people anywhere. They would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. I can’t ever repay their kindnesses toward me–how they entertained me in Budapest when I was a student abroad, how they hosted my entire family when we traveled to Europe a few years ago. They always go above and beyond. So when they heard I wanted this book in German, they pledged they would get it for me and send it to Hungary to my aunt’s house where my mother was staying, so my mother could pick it up there. Now,these cousins aren’t readers, and don’t understand the worldwide impression that HP created. When they went to the bookstore to get the book, the store didn’t have it. They had #1, and #3-7, but happened to be out of #2. So they left the store and called me to tell me that, see, your mother wouldn’t have been able to find the book even if she had tried, but they could have the book store order the book for me and they would still send it. I immediately said, no, this wasn’t that big a deal, but I believe I mentioned above that these cousins go above and beyond. They wouldn’t hear of me not having this book if I made a special request, so they ordered the book. Interestingly, the bookstore received it the next day because it was already on order (Yes, HP is that big a deal). So they picked up the book and sent it to their parent in Hungary. The guilt I was feeling by this time was enormous. I blame my mother (don’t we all?) for having told these cousins about my quest.
Meanwhile my mother, who is getting up there in age, wasn’t feeling well on her trip. Her blood pressure was elevated, she was feeling stress from having to watch my niece, and so decided to travel home with my niece instead of staying for the two more weeks she had planned. (Don’t worry, Mom is fine now; the blood pressure thing has been taken care of; the good news is that with the levels she reached, if she didn’t blow an artery then, she never will). The book, of course, arrived after my mother left.
So my book, which was supposed to be a time killing task at the Munich airport, was now sitting in my maternal aunt’s house in Hungary.
Fast forward to this spring. My paternal aunt (also Hungarian) decides to travel back to Hungary for a visit. The two sides of the family know each other, if only because they have the emigrants in common. My maternal aunt is willing to get the book to my paternal aunt, if the paternal aunt is willing. Well, it was pretty smooth from there. The book was delivered, and HP#2 in German is sitting in my paternal aunt’s house…in California. My mother lives about 60 miles away from her, which means a good hour and a half drive or longer in SoCal, a drive not taken lightly at their advanced ages. My mother does not have the book yet. And I believe I mentioned that frugal bone I inherited above. Even when she does get it, she won’t mail it to me because we shall be visiting at some point, so she can wait until we get there. Save some money.
I never thought collecting a series could be so complicated. I suppose if I tweak a few of the details, it might make a grand farce. Meanwhile book #3 was easy to acquire. A dear friend traveled to Germany with her husband on his business trip and brought it back for me. She doesn’t speak German either and was able to find it without difficulty. It’s now sitting on my table. I can’t read it though. Not until I read book #2 first. There are rules, you know.
Books I’m reading now:
A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin
A Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (and yes, there’s a reason I’m reading this now; stay tuned)