Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"It's what you do."

(Aunt to Jo, in the movie Twister)

This morning I felt a nudge to come over here and write a bit. I know that writing is my "main thing" but so often I don't come to it daily, to hone my fingers, my mind. When I don't think people are reading, I ignore it, because what's the point, if no one stops by?

A dear friend in an email reminded me why. "Your writing has gotten better." A dear friend at lunch reminded me why. "You are a good writer." An email I got back from a writer I admire reminded me.
"Sometimes when I'm in my normal daily life, doing my normal daily things, including writing, I start thinking things like...this is too hard, and who cares if I'm doing it anyway, it's just a book, does the world really need another book? couldn't I do something easier? If I don't get my work done today, it won't matter, no one cares, etc etc etc. And then I get an email like yours and feel so humbled, and like, okay, I can't give up, this matters, this is why I do this (or one good reason, anyway), and I can't get lazy and apathetic."
So I write. I'm thinking of changing part of my profile to read "drama queen in recovery." Yesterday was a real test of my need to be queen. It started with a friend on Facebook flaming an article I had posted about our President-Elect. I had posted the article because it was written by a woman who is a TCK-A and writes about TCK-As, and so wrote about our P-E in that light. My friend is a fierce opponent. In a hot rage, I calmly (as best I could) emailed him back and said, (in different words) "Facebook is not the place where I look to be flamed." I fought inwardly with myself and it wasn't until hours later when I was on the road, singing along with "If I were a Rich Man" that I could talk through, that yes, it was okay to speak my mind and that, as my mom would say, with friends like that, who needs enemies? (I haven't "un-friended" him yet, but I'm thisclose.) (Notice that the argument was first with me. For standing up, for saying, no, this is not acceptable behavior. I am my mother's daughter, and my mother does not pick fights.) There was something about the open road, the road I'd driven or ridden on so many times before, that calmed me, that reminded me who I was. And I am a woman who sometimes picks fights. But I pick 'em, which means, I'm choosy. What is it about this electronic world that my friend felt so comfortable slandering something that made me feel proud to be a TCK, proud to be an American, proud that I could share something on FB that my siblings, also TCK-A's would see? I am trying so hard these days to let my electronic life not rule my regular life, and to focus more on face to face contact or at least voice to voice. The people I really know and love are the ones I get to hug on national holidays that require driving long distances.

The weather on the road was calamitous. It was sunny and then rain with bits of tiny hail. Sunny again, and then driving rain. On a two lane bridge in West Virginia, the truck ahead of me slowed down and so did I. I hydroplaned and spun into the side of the bridge. It is one of those situations where yes, you thank people that had the wisdom to wait while you straightened your car, but after you were able to pull aside a mile down the road and assess the damage, you thanked God and your lucky stars and anything else you could thank that the car seemed to have not a scratch, nor did you.

My dad was there every time I called his cell phone. I called him from the highway right after I looked at the car. He said, I can come and help you drive home. I said, I'm almost to Berkeley Springs, let me see how it is and I'll find a place to look at the car. I drove the six miles in. The car was shaking, but so was I, so at first I didn't notice that it wasn't just me. As I slowed onto the main drag in Berkeley Springs, I saw a couple of car dealers that had service areas. I cannot lie, tears stained my face. I found a place to park and called my dad again. I said, I need to get lunch, but then I'll get the car looked at. We chatted a bit, he again said, I can come help you drive. No, I need to get lunch first. He suggested that there were a couple places west of town, and I said, no, I know where I'm going. There's a restaurant that I always go to, called Tari's. So I went in, used the ladies, and got a table for one. I pulled out my book, A year down yonder. The grandmother in that book reminded me of Gran in Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman cycle novels. The waitress asked me how I was, and I said, "I've been better." She clucked at me and asked for my order. I got iced tea, unsweetened, my signature drink choice. My dad had said, get some good comfort food, and when I think of my dad and sandwiches at a restaurant, I think of a Reuben. So that is exactly what I got.

My first Reuben sandwich was with my dad on a trip to New York City. It was the late eighties, when I was, oh, fourteen. My siblings, would have been three and four, respectively. We had gone, just us, while my mom stayed at the Lake with the kiddies. It was such a treat to have a day with my dad, to have a day in the City, which is one of my favorite places in the world. We'd had lunch on Wall St., gone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and now we were on our way back. We'd stopped at a roadside diner and my dad ordered a Reuben. This was nothing new, he generally did. But for the first time, I decided, if my dad liked it, I would too. Not, I would like it because it was sure to be good, but I would like it because I wanted to be like him. And I did.

The food didn't come right away, and I was restless, fighting back tears. Tari's sells art, so I walked around, flipping through the prints, stopping at a beautiful one of a hen with eggs called "Counting your eggs before they hatch," and I grinned, to think of how we all do. It was $100, though, so I flipped through some more prints. Jonathan Heath does a series of what is called "relaxed realism," many of which are of older women drawn (painted, I guess) humorously. Here they are, "Frisky Elders." So that made me smile a little. Well, a lot. But my food still had not arrived, so I went back to my slim book. When the food arrived, I was grateful, and took a moment first to text Alyssa. Then I sat there, weeping, praying over my food, which I rarely do at restaurants.

I ate the wonderful sandwich, the wonderful salsa, and when I was done, got a little box for the chips I hadn't eaten. I asked the waitress where I should take my car, saying I'd heard a noise while on the highway. Mike's. A guy standing there who overheard, said, yes, take it to Mike's. So I walked back to my car, called my dad, drove to Mike's. His son quickly assessed it, a bent rim and said, you were real lucky. Yep.

I don't want to exactly pat myself on my back, but I do want to say that I couldn't believe the calm manner I had, or the maturity with which I was handling the situation. Not panicking, taking care of things in the correct order (lunch FIRST), and patiently waiting for Mike's son while he called the parts store to see if they had a rim for me. (They did not.) Mike and son put my donut on, and sent me on my way.

Now, if you think that was it, and the rest of the day went great, you'd be partly right. I got to drive home through the beauty that is southwestern Pennsylvania, northwestern Maryland and that tiny bit of West Virginia (Mountain Mama.) But in true Sarah Louise fashion, whose forte is storytelling, not maps, I got turned around at least once and lost at least a half hour in retracing, returning to the place I should have turned. By the time I reached Harmar, it was dark. But I had happily played the soundtrack to Joseph and the Technicolor Coat and had started in to 50 TV theme songs. I've decided that soundtracks are the best for long trips. I listened to Fiddler on the Roof in the morning, before lunch, and I don't know what it is, but that soundtrack always makes me weep. That is for another post. My CD of praise music has ended, my hair is mostly dry, and I need to get back on the road, now to my mechanic, whose name is also Mike.

See you on the flip side, my dear readers. Til then, keep your feet on the ground. Gravity works. Every single time.


Sarah Louise


KitchenKiki said...

Hmm maybe you should ask Santa for a GPS to avoid the lost feeling on the road.

I'm sorry your trip home was harder than your trip out. I hope you had a good time in between!

Hugs at ya

Kara said...

Sarah Louise,

I've read your blog for almost a year. Have meant to de-lurk for a while. This is a beautiful post. Your descriptions of the scenery of the drive, and how you dealt with the accident differently now than you might have in the past are fabulous. I think you could easily turn the second half into an article to submit somewhere.

Sarah Louise said...

@Kiki--I'm so opposed to GPS but everyone is saying that. I had a fabu time, even yesterday wasn't all horrible, just portions of it.

@Kara--thanks for de-lurking! It's always great to know people are reading, and thank you for the compliments to my writing.


Badger said...

Dude! You ARE a good writer!

And you were SO SMART to ask the locals where you should take your car. That is something I would never in a million years think to do, I guess because I'm not a people person, but it makes so much sense. I will file that tidbit of wisdom away for when I need it!

Glad you made it home okay. Hope your birthday was good!