Unexpected Moments…

In which I look at the moments that touch us, reach us, or change us.

The other night I was lying in bed in the dark and letting my mind wander. I had just received my high school’s alumni bulletin, so naturally my mind went to special memories of that time. And then I was struck by the one-time-ness of the memories I recalled. What do I mean? For example, I was in a lot of plays during high school. While rehearsing for Cabaret (the high-school version), I was sitting in the day student break room (you know I went to boarding school, right?) with a group of fellow cast members when someone pulled out a guitar and we all improvised with the music. We harmonized, laughed, sang some more, hit wrong notes, hit amazing notes, soloed, dueted, etc. It was a special moment of no real significance, except that it was rare and unrelivable. We tried to recreate that moment again on a different day, but the same mood, attitude, atmosphere wasn’t there. So the one episode remains a special memory tucked away in my mind that I retrieve every now and again to prove to myself that I was once there and a singer and performer.

Sage Hall Dorm at FVS

For me, the same thing happens with people. I will on occasion have a conversation with someone and make a real connection for just one time, never to be repeated. I went to high school with a man who is now a famous actor. We also attended college together for one year. After a rehearsal of a play we were in together (yes, again, a play–The World is Round by Armand Salacrou), we were walking back to our dorms, when we started to talk. Now keep in mind I had known this guy for four years by this point, and while I had a crush on him for a short time in high school, I was never a close friend of his. Definitely acquaintances, but never close friends despite the small population of the school (everybody knew everybody), being in at least eight shows together and several classes. But that night we talked for about an hour, hour and a half, about life. How he was transferring colleges, how I was transferring college too, about dreams, hopes, goals, etc. I wonder if he remembers that night. Nothing happened. It was just a connection between two people who were fond of each other, but it makes me think of him in an entirely positive light to this day.

Just recently I met an author who is definitely up and coming. I expect to hear great things about him soon. We spent at least an hour and a half laughing, chatting, interrupting each other and generally just having a good time. It was a a very small writers’ retreat, but for that hour and a half, it was just two people making a connection. I will treasure that moment forever, and when he’s huge, and I truly believe he will be, I’ll have that moment to say, yeah, I once touched him.

These pearls are unique. I have copious memories of the people closest to me, but they are often conglomerations of several hours/days spent in one anothers’ company–my husband, my kids, my family. Other memories are mere moments, like the time my cousin slammed my grandmother’s hand in the door of our car in Hungary (I was four, and one of the two memories I have of my grandmother. The other one is the first time I ever saw her. It was that same summer in Hungary–her hair was covered by a scarf, she wore black, and I was scared because I thought she was a witch. She died before we visited Hungary again.)I expect to have and make memories with them. But the ones where I felt a real connection to someone unexpected, those are rare and fun to pull out every once in a while to assure ourselves that we existed.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted by Regina Berreca

Storms

In which I examine power and control.

Yesterday at around 3:00 PM, a sudden downpour hit my neighborhood. I happened to be in my car taking the Youngest to work. The sky was gray, and the drops of rain left marks the size of quarters on the windshield . The sky was nearly black by the time we reached the parking lot of her workplace a mile away. Then the  torrent hit. I pulled up to the door of her workplace so she could dash the final five feet into the safety of the building. The flag that flies outside the store was whipping in the wind and rain and hail. The space between the edge of the flag and the line it was hooked to looked like the letter D. I don’t know why that detail sticks out in my memory, but it does. Visibility was down to just a few feet. And I had to drive home.

It’s only a mile, but the road was covered in water, and cars were lined up on the side to wait out the worst.  I slid back the covering of the sun roof so I could enjoy it better. Because I did. Enjoy it, I mean. It was a glorious display of nature and how puny we are in comparison. I was exhilarated. I was smiling and laughing at the amazing rain.  I have a four-wheel drive (No, I wasn’t driving through any rushing water and I experienced no hydroplaning–I might have enjoyed the storm, but I’m not stupid) and I drove slowly and carefully. I happened to be behind two police vehicles that had been dispatched a few minutes before to make sure there was no trouble on the streets. I followed their taillights (they didn’t have on the flashers) for about half a mile then turned into my neighborhood (It really is only a mile from the Youngest’s work to home.). The sky was dark,  the mountains that rise just off the east side of the road were invisible,  and the rain came in discernible waves across the windshield.

A completely different kind of storm
A completely different kind of storm

Twenty minutes later, the deluge was over. My backyard had a two-inch lake in it (One dog went to explore it, the other wouldn’t step outside). Parts of the city were flooded, the arroyos that run through Albuquerque were full and dangerous, trees had toppled, and according to one news source, my neighborhood had received 1.52 inches of water in the space of an hour–that’s more than we usually get in the entire month.

Despite the danger, I loved it. I marvel at the unbridled, uncontrollable power of the storm and from the safety of my car and house, I watched with pleasure and glee. I’m sure I would feel different if I were exposed to the it, but I wasn’t. Today the sun is shining; they are predicting a possible rain for the afternoon, but I can’t imagine it might be like the one yesterday. Those are one in a million. During those storms the best you can do is find shelter and let it happen.

We have little actual control over much in life. We like to delude ourselves and think we are powerful, but in so many ways we aren’t. I’m not saying that’s bad. What I’m trying to say in a verbose and wordy manner is that you should learn to recognize where your decisions actually make a difference. That’s what you should worry about. (And no, I’m not advocating neglecting your duties like voting in elections or doing your job.)

In the case of writing (yes, it always comes back to writing with me), pretty much the only thing we have control over is the writing itself. Then we hand our work over to agents or editors or the public, and we lose control. Not complete control, but you can’t make an agent like your work, you can’t make an editor throw her support behind you, and you can’t make the public buy your book no matter how hard you beg. So I try to concentrate on the writing. And I try not to let the things I can’t command defeat me. I can’t say I enjoy the lack of control as I did the storm, but I try to keep myself safe and secure and focus on the stories I still have inside me. And, yes, I know I used the word “try” a lot because, let’s face it, I fail sometimes, but the storm always passes, and the sun comes out again.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (a re-read, but oh, so, good)

 

Forget September

In which I examine the quirks of my own mind and ask for the ones in yours…

Weird how our minds work. Take September, for example. For whatever reason. September is the month I forget. I want to go straight from August to October. MonthI writing the date numerically, I need to concentrate on what number represents September. I literally have to count every time. It makes no sense because I know the “sept” part means seven (just as the “oct” part means eight, the “nov” part means nine, and the “dec” part means ten) and I also know that we add two because Julius and Augustus added their own months in the middle of the year. But for whatever reason I forget September. Must be genetic because my daughter recently confessed she does the same thing.

Here’s another quirk: the spelling of certain words. For decades that word was “embarrass.” I finally, this year (no hyperbole), got it because I can remember “double r, double s.” Don’t ask me why it took so long. For Robot Guy, the word is “separate.” I have never claimed to be a speller. I never found that skill important. Memorizing how a word is spelled is a waste of brain space when in the real world you can look everything up. Clarification: I didn’t find it important enough to worry about it, but I do look up everything that I am unsure about. Spell check is a blessing to me, and, yes, I make sure it’s the write word I right when using spell check (See what I did there?). Because I also believe my work should be as flawless as possible (not in a blog–a blog is too casual). I will never forget my favorite sentence from a student paper: Huck Finn crossed the Mississippi on a fairy.

Here’s on more: I have a great sense of direction, but I can’t tell my right from my left without help. Seriously. If I go someplace I usually can find my way back. True story. I had a cousin who lived in a tiny town in Hungary. I visited there once with my parents, and my aunt who drove us and of course knew the way. Four years later, I was visiting again on my own and I found my way back to my cousin’s house without directions. I amazed Robot Guy with that feat (not feet–see how important spelling is; just not the memorization of spelling). But ask me if it’s a left turn or a right turn, and I have to lift up my hands, make an “L” from my fingers to determine which hand is left and then answer. Or I pretend to play piano and then I know which is my right hand.

People are weird. I love it. What quirks will you confess to?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan