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A couch’s value lies in the stories its stains tell

standard February 23, 2010 3 responses

I enjoy flipping through the Pottery Barn catalog – the neat rooms, the coordinated decor, the classy grown-up looking homes. They have everything, couches that don’t bear the signs of a cat, two babies, and countless dinners eaten in front of the tv, counters that aren’t covered in three months worth of mail, a printer, toys, art, and god knows what else, rugs that still bear some resemblance to what they looked like the day they were first created, and even cute little knickknacks, without any nicks or nacks.

I turn the pages and think of a day when I too will have rooms that look like that in a nice white house with a picket fence and a lovingly tended yard where I’ll plant perennials or whatever it is people plant in their yards.

Then I look up and I see my house with all it’s clutter and well loved furniture. I picture our overgrown yard, where only flowering weeds dot the growth with spots of color. And I know that we’ll never have that home and that yard. Not because of money, even if we were millionaires and lived in a mansion, it would still look much like our small home looks today.It’s who we are. It’s how we live.

When faced with the question “people or things,” M and I pick people, hands down, every time. And when we’re faced with the question “things or experiences,” again things lose. Which is why we’d rather celebrate events with outings than gifts and why we’d rather play with the girls, cook fun things, go for a walk, or just enjoy each other rather than cleaning the house.

I can’t fathom that I’ll ever get to a place in my life where I’d give my belongings more importance than the people in my life. Things are just things, you can’t take them with you. People? Memories? Emotions? Those are the things that give life its value. All the Pottery Barn catalogs in the world couldn’t make me change my mind. A couch isn’t worth anything until you can point to each stain and tell the story that comes with it.

This post was written in response to the {W}rite-of-Passage prompt:
“The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing.” pg 103 Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
What is is that you believe in your core? Values, morals, etc. Write in a way that is fair and balanced but real and honest.

See below for links to other bloggers’ responses to this prompt.

Write of Passage: Dialogue in the night

standard January 26, 2010 7 responses

“Here.” I snarl, thrusting the screaming pink bundle at the bewildered girl. She shies away from me, but I insist, dropping the hysterical child onto her lap. “You woke her up. You put her back to sleep.”

The girl gapes at me, looks at me like I am the crazy woman I must appear to be, but she leans forward, one hand on the baby, and puts her beer down on the porch. She throws me an unreadable look before awkwardly scooping up the infant. Her two friends have yet to utter a word.

“Shhh shhhh. There there.” She says hesitantly. She places the baby on her shoulder like it’s a loaded gun. The infant takes that as a prompt to scream even louder. The girl’s eyes roll wildly and she tries shhhing a hair louder while frantically looking at her friends for guidance.

They shrug helplessly and she looks at me, standing there, with my arms crossed in front of me.

“Don’t look at me. You do this every night. You sit out here with any number of people, laughing and talking all night long. Every single time you laugh, you wake her up. It takes me hours sometimes to get her back to sleep. This time you deal. Got it?”

She nods weakly and tries to pat the baby’s back again. But I know my child, that’s not going to do the trick. Nothing is going to do the trick. It’s going to take hours of rocking, crooning, bouncing, humming, and eventually a feed to get her to stop shrieking and go back to sleep. But I’m not telling her that. Not yet. I’m going to make her sweat a little first. Going to let her feel a little of the misery she puts me through every night.

She stands up and jostles the baby a bit, trying to rock her. “It’s ok baby. It’s ok. Go back to sleep baby.” The movement and the unfamiliar voice infuriate the baby even more and the screams reach an unholy pitch.

She pulls the infant away from her shoulder and holds her out towards me.

“Please. Please, just take her back.” Her eyes are filling with tears and I start to take pity. I reach for my writing baby who is so relieved to be back in my arms that she settles down instantly, snuggled deep in the crook of my neck, peering out intently at the crying girl.

“Every night you do this. Every. Single. Night.” I turn around and walk away, taking my now peaceful child into our home across the street. As I step back into my bedroom I hear the girl sobbing through the window that looks out onto her porch; I don’t feel an ounce of remorse.

For twelve months my second daughter slept in our room which overlooks the street. On many nights the girl living across the street would stay up until all hours of the night having loud, gleeful conversations with her friends on her porch. Their bursts of laughter often woke my very light sleeper and as I rocked her back to sleep again, and again, and again I fantasized about walking across the street and making her take over for me while I went back to sleep. I might have danced a jig the day she moved.

This post was written in response to a Write-of-Passage prompt. click any one of the links below to see how other writers handled the prompt “Dialogue.” 

The man at Starbucks

standard December 8, 2009 4 responses

He arrives an hour or so after I have set up shop at my favorite corner table. He walks in, looks around for an open table, and heads over to it. His Sudoku puzzle of the day and book are clutched in his left hand. He prints those puzzles out every morning. No newspaper cut-out for this aficionado. I like that kind of dedication to rituals.

When we first noticed each other months ago – the only two morning regulars at this particular Starbucks – we barely acknowledged each other. After a few mornings spent working at neighboring tables we started nodding a brief greeting. Today as he surveys the line at the counter our eyes meet and we smile at each other conspiratorially. I’ve been keeping an eye on his favorite table, hoping it would still be open when he arrived. Hoping he would arrive. I haven’t seen him in a few days and I’ve been worried.

He came in right on time today and I smiled a bit brighter than usual, taking him aback. I’ve missed my morning companion. He’s wearing the fleece vest that he always wears and his forest green shirt seems familiar too. He is the constant in my ever changing days and I feel more grounded when I start the day seeing him performing his coffee and Sudoku ritual.

I watch him out of the corner of my eye as he orders his Tall Latte and frown as he pulls out a brand new iPod touch instead of his printed out puzzle. I look around on his table to see if I can spot the folded sheet of white paper, but it’s nowhere to be seen.

A bit later, after some intense peering at his new gizmo, he jumps up when he sees the manager walk by. I strain to overhear their conversation. He can’t get online. The technology is failing him. I force myself to bite back a snort and keep my eyes focused on the computer screen.

Ten to one says that tomorrow he’s back, green shirt, black vest, wire rimmed glasses, and a printed out puzzle clutched in his hand. You can’t mess with morning rituals.

This post was written in response to the second {W}rite-of-Passage prompt – Character. I’m a bit of a rebel (and terrible at reading instructions) so instead of observing a stranger and building a story around him, I plucked one out of my day to day life and shared him with you. Visit the following posts to see how other writers tangled with this topic. Join us if you want some writing challenges!