I Have Been Ungrateful

The Box

The Box

Yesterday while I was unpacking, I found a box I had not seen in quite some time, in fact, I had all but forgotten about it.  Not quite, I had thought about it a while ago, but I did forget about the contents of the box.

The box is made of wood more than 100 years old, handcrafted with love and care, and it plays “I will Always Love You”.  I remember when it was made for me by the stepfather of my other; he made it was because he liked me instantly and had always had a strong disdain for the previous wife of my other.  The box was a symbolic welcome to the family.

I know it took him hours to construct; the hardware alone took him time to find exactly what he wanted.

While I was sorting through boxes I had not seen in almost 15 months (some years longer than that), I came across my little box; I recognized it instantly. I smiled when I remembered how much I had been thought of at the time when it was made for me.  However, as soon as I opened the box, my heart dropped; the contents of the box flooded my mind and my heart with a pain I was not prepared to endure.

There were only three things in the box: my other’s class ring, a diamond necklace he had given me, and a breast cancer pin.

It seems silly to be my age and to have a class ring hold so much significance; however, it means so much to him so it means so much to me.  The fact that he once loved me so much that he entrusted me to have a ring that he has had since the early 1980s, when the most important things in life were Lettermen’s jackets, class rings, cool cars, and prom dates… at least in his world.

The diamond necklace was one of so many gifts he gave me I do not even know where to begin, other than the fact that when it was given to me, I was ungrateful because I am certain I would have preferred more diamonds.  It was in the box because the chain was broken.  I was that way with every gift he gave me. Ungrateful.

As for the breast cancer pin, it is a complete conundrum; I do not know where it came from, or why it is in the box.  The strangest coincidence about the three items represented in the box is that, his mother has breast cancer.  I would have not known that when I put those items in there, as I have not seen that box for at least five years…

I spent the rest of my evening thinking about how ungrateful I had been with his generosity over the years: when he gave me a $300 portable DVD player for my birthday, I had wanted a new laptop; when I got a Fanch Ledan for my office, I wanted the Fabien Perez; when I got a new Tiffany necklace, I had wanted a $30,000 diamond engagement ring… it never ended.

As I continued unpacking, I threw away boxes of ruined Bath & Body Works lotion, body spray, and body wash because it went rancid from being in storage.  I thought about the monthly trips where we would spend no less than $150 a month so I could buy whatever I wanted to smell good and have soft skin.  I threw away bags of countless dollars of skin care products purchased at high-end makeup counters because they were outdated and sour.

There was no end to his generosity and my spoiled behavior.  I always said “Thank you”.  I felt it.

But I think it fell flat.

I look at that class ring now; I feel it in my fingers, imagine him wearing it, think of him giving it to me, imagine him loving me… and remember.

***

As an aside, I had not always been so bratty and spoiled; in fact, I had never been treated this way before, never had anybody buy me things, love me, or want to do anything for me.  I truly did not know how to behave.

Fanch Ledan "Interior With Max" hanging in my apartment

Fanch Ledan “Interior With Max” hanging in my apartment

“You can’t go Home Again”

Vincent Van Gogh's "Bedroom at Arles"

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles”

They say “You can’t go home again”, and I think they are right (well, whomever this proverbial “they” might be).  However, I think you can reinvent what home can be defined as.

Whenever people are making small talk, the inevitable question arises, “Where are you from?” I always answer the same, “I am not really from anywhere.  My family moved all over when I was a kid and I lived in 53 places and attended 15 different schools before I was 15.  I lived in Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada as a child.”  Granted, it was probably more information than they were looking for; it was, essentially, small talk.  Nevertheless, I would ignore the bored look on their faces and continue, “As an adult I have also lived in Washington, Texas, California, and Oregon, and then back to Texas.”

Having no idea why they would engage me further, most would ask me, “So, where do you consider ‘home’?”

Often I would pause before answering, “I guess that would be Reno, Nevada.  I lived there longer than I lived anywhere else, and it was the last place I went to school.”

Returning “home” is not as one would imagine where you visit the familiar and are welcomed by family and friends and visit your childhood home.

The Biggest Little City in the World is entirely different from when I was a teenager here; the days of me cruising up and down Virginia Street in my beloved ’57 Chevy are over, I am no longer a teen with a classic car, and they have outlawed cruising entirely.  Downtown looks old and depressing with locals dragging the sidewalks like zombies amongst the dilapidated and empty buildings; the economic downturn hit the area hard.

I have no friends from high school, having had few to begin with, and not keeping in touch with (or falling out with) the few I had.  My family is mostly here, but is so dysfunctional I might as well be here alone.

There is no childhood home, as we rented a duplex for the few years I lived here with my family.  Eventually, my parents bought a home they owned for 20 years or so, but we sold it to pay for my mother’s attorney when she killed my father.

Other than my evening of “emotional cutting”, I am reluctant to return to my regular haunts of years past; there are too many memories, good and bad.  I have a tendency to get mired down in the pain, but if it is not in front of me constantly, I can suppress it and pretend it never existed.

Time to Reinvent

I have reconnected with a friend I worked with during my second “homecoming” (this is my third).  We have reinvented a friendship that exists in the present; we are the only two involved and there is nobody from our past to stir up trouble and create a triangle wherein they create drama.

For the first time, I am living alone; granted, the apartment is not ideal.  It is smaller than most hotel rooms I have ever stayed in, and the neighborhood is less than upscale.  Very much less.  Nevertheless, I am alone and I can write to my heart’s content; the goal of this exercise.

My days are filled with working out, going to Starbuck’s for an internet connection, interviewing people to write about, and learning about life by myself.

So, while you cannot go home again, I have decided to reinvent what home is to me… it is wherever I happen to be at the time.  For now, it is here, at Starbuck’s on a lonely corner downtown.

Met My Old Lover in the Record Store

imagesRemember the song about the man who saw his high school girlfriend in a grocery store and he waxed poetic about their relationship.  The song has been remade hundreds of times; no, not literally, but figuratively.  Everyone looks back at their past during troubled points in their life and yearns for a simpler time, or thinks about a lost love and wonders “what if”.

Those are precisely the reasons I have never joined any social networking sites; I have not wanted to be found by anybody wanting to reconnect with me, nor I them.  I have never been curious about anybody from my past.  I have lived a very cyclical lifestyle; aside from family that I am bound to by DNA, there is nobody in my life that was here 10 years ago; three people that were here 5 years ago, and only one that I speak to or see regularly.

If I had any desire to know people from my past, or they me, I am assuming we would have continued (or even started) a friendship while we were in high school, which is where I assume most of the connections on these sites begin.

However, due to a very recent career move, I was required to join several of these dreaded sites; I reluctantly agreed, but made no move to advertise my presence.  I simply signed up and existed.  All was well until approximately a month ago when I received a “chat” message from somebody:

“Wow, I loved your work on that piece.” Him

“Thank you.  I appreciate you following.” Me

Mindless banter regarding my work.

“So, do you still have that ’57 Chevy you used to drive?” Him

A few minutes of stone silence on my end.

“Uhmmmm…” Me

“Are you still there?” Him

“Yes, I’m still here.” Me

“Don’t you remember me?”  Him

“No, not really.  I apologize.” Me, completely clueless as to who I am chatting with.

“We used to date, in high school.” Him

“Oh.  We did?  I am so sorry.  I guess I dated a lot.”  Me

“Lol” Him

“So…” Me

“You used to drive a ’57 Chevy BelAir.  You lived in the ghetto, remember?” Him

Yes, I am thinking, I know who I am, who are you?

“We dated for like three months, junior year.  I don’t remember why we broke up; but I remember making out like crazy, until my jaw was sore.”  Him

“Oh, yeah, now I remember you.” Me, still having no clue, but trying to be polite.

The banter continued for a few hours that night; he told me how he was unhappy in his marriage with his wife of 10 years, how he had lost his passion for life, how life was basically dragging him down.  He was nostalgic about our relationship and wondered about me all these years; he was happy to have finally found me and hoped I was doing well and was happy.

We ended our conversation that night wishing each other well; I told him that I hoped he would find peace in his marriage, but that I thought he deserved to be happy, I believe everyone does.  He thanked me for some advice I gave him and we said good night.

For the next few weeks, we said hello in passing, wishing each other a happy holiday but nothing more.

Then, a few nights ago, the inevitable happened; he said hello and we chatted for three hours.  He opined how unhappy he was with his wife, and asked when I would be in town again.  When I told him I would be there next week for work, he asked if we could go to lunch because he wanted to say some things he never had a chance to say in high school.

I asked how his wife would feel; he said he did not care anymore about how she would feel.  I told him I was in a committed relationship; he said it was all right with him, he still needed to say what was on his mind.  My heart ached for him.

He remembered why we broke up; he admitted that he had been a virgin when we were in high school and that he feels I wanted more.  I confessed that I was a bit “fast” in those days and gave myself away far too often and to too many people; like the tacky country music song lyricizes, “looking for love in too many places”.  However, it made me remember him.

As we ended our conversation again, I realized how dangerous these sites and this new genre of communication can be.  I longed to tell him that if he put those three hours of chat time into his marriage, imagine what he might get in return; but I did not want to judge or imply.

He is holding onto a memory of a girl that no longer lives; maybe she never did…  But each time somebody sits behind their keyboard and holds out hope searching for a lost love from high school from 25 years ago, they can only be looking for memories.  It is like pulling out a dusty old scrapbook and looking at photographs, the pictures are static, they cannot change; time has passed, things change, people change, but the photos are the same…

 

The Ugly Duckling

indexIt took years before I was aware the prettier I became the easier life was for me; the more people wanted to do for me and wanted to be around me.  There were times things could be fairly easy because of my looks; however, like with my personality and being bipolar, my beauty waxes and wanes.  I have a tendency to go through periods of “letting myself go”; I have gained weight, had acne, and gone through lengthy periods of leaving the house without caring about my hair or makeup.

Still, I have a personality most do not forget; rarely would anybody say they would not remember me.  They would say either they like me very much, or they strongly dislike me; though, seldom would anyone say they could not recollect me.

Even during those periods of my waxing physical attractiveness, I have noticed my ability to charm others and usually get what I want.  I have never had a job interview that did not produce employment, a date that did not result in a request for a second date, a romance that did not blossom into something, and have great luck in getting quick service in restaurants while others have to wait 45 minutes or more.

A few months ago, my mother and I were out on my birthday and were at a saloon in a historical town; she wanted to test her theory about a local bartender who was only interested in tips from tourists.  She challenged me to order our drinks thinking he would not help me for an inordinate period of time.  When he helped me immediately, she was incredulous; snapping, “It’s because you’re pretty so you always get what you want.”  The bartender responded to me instantaneously all evening and was flirtatious and gracious, much to my mother’s chagrin.

On the other hand, there have been times when I have not been as confident and I have been on the waning side of my charm and good looks; choosing to sink into the dark side of the pole of my bipolar madness.  During those times, I am lonely in my relationships, would not think of going out for a job interview, and only whine when waiting in line for a 30-minute wait at a restaurant.  I am the ugly duckling.

***

My uncle’s ex-girlfriend has five Pomeranians; she moved out but could not take the dogs with her, so she left three of them with my uncle.  She takes two for a few weeks and then comes back and rotates them out taking two others.  Both my uncle and his ex have a hierarchy of their favorite dogs, with each favoring the smallest, a three-pound cutie with the smallest legs I have ever seen.

It is easy to love the beautiful ones with the most outgoing personality; like me, they put themselves out there, the look at you with loving eyes, and they respond when you talk to them.  Whenever there is something going on in the kitchen – practically all day during the holidays – the most outgoing of them come running and perform little tricks to get a morsel; they are rewarded with scraps of meat from roasts or other goodies.

Conversely, there is one little dog who is the least preferred of them both; she is very timid, she does not have a fluffy coat like the other dogs, and when you talk to her, she cowers down as if she has been abused.  She is not as pretty or outgoing as the other dogs; when you want to give the dogs a treat; she has to be tracked down so it seems fair.

At one point, one of the neighbors wanted the dog, so the ex-girlfriend gave her away to them; the family returned her after two weeks when they claimed she was not housebroken.  That was it, she was not good enough for them, they just brought her back, she no longer belonged.

She is the ugly duckling.

I think she is beautiful.

She is my favorite.