If you stick around long enough, you’ll realize just how much I adore the Motown girl groups of the early ‘60s. Yet, Be My Baby by the Ronettes is perhaps my favorite. There is something downright haunting about the song and Ronnie Spector’s voice. In fact, some of my favorite Christmas songs are versions sung by the Ronettes as well.
Be My Baby demonstrates Phil Spector’s wall of sound so well. In fact, I can’t imagine the Ronettes sound without it. Yet, here I am probably the only person on the planet under the age of 50 to know what Phil Spector’s wall of sound is or who Phil Spector was. The funny thing is that it didn’t always work so well. I normally love it in the girl group music he helped produce, and yet, The Long and Winding Road and most of the Let It Be (1970) album is overproduced. I actually understood why the Beatles, led by Paul McCartney, released a stripped down version called Let It Be… Naked (2003) decades later, reimagining the entire album without Spector’s wall of sound. I actually prefer Naked.
Sadly, Ronnie, who happened to have befriended the Beatles at the height of their (and her) fame, passed away in January 2022. Her legacy lives on, and frankly, I can’t imagine a time when Be My Baby won’t be considered an absolute pop gem.
Some songs just immediately take you back to a certain time and place. Sometimes, you have to dig to learn the actual name of the song, artist, or band, especially when it is included in a soundtrack. Such as the case with Change by the Lightning Seeds.
First, a little history. My little sister Erica spent much of her early adolescence obsessed with the movie Clueless (1995). She wanted to be Cher. I have a feeling she can still recite large sections of dialog from the movie. Yes, she adored everything about Clueless.
I vaguely remember seeing it in the theater with her, and I loved it too, but it wouldn’t inspire me as Evita (1996) would a year later. Still, there was much to love in Clueless if you were a young teenage girl in the midwest – or anywhere for that matter. In addition to Cher and friends, there was Josh (the incomparable Paul Rudd) and Cher’s incredible closet. I bought the soundtrack.
The entire soundtrack fit the movie perfectly – early alternative rock smack dab in the middle of the 90s. Change always stuck out in the soundtrack, but when I sought out the song with the lyric “stuck on drive” for a piece I planned to write on learning how to drive (I have yet to write that post, and frankly, it is quite the story), I didn’t come across it right away. I finally discovered the right song, Change, and its incredible video. Seriously. Check out the official video and lyrics. It is definitely worth it.
I’ve never come across a song that summed up the high school experience in the 90s quite as well. It resonates with me in a way that makes me wish I had discovered The Lightning Seeds back catalog decades ago. It is a perfect introduction to the pop/rock perfection that was 90s “alternative.”
Good ol’ Night Court. I have to admit: I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Growing up in the ‘80s rocked and that included TV. My favorites were The Cosby Show, The Wonder Years, Cheers, and of course, Night Court. Something essentially slapstick quirky just resonated with kids. I largely tuned in for all the zany characters and the craziness that befell the cast. Keep in mind I was all of 11 when it went off the air.
My mom remembers that my favorite character was Dan, which rightfully left her a little concerned. That is not how I remember it at all. Yes, I loved to laugh when Dan quite rightfully got himself into trouble every episode, but my favorite characters were Christine and Harry. Just like everyone else, I wanted them to end up together. The bailiffs – and I mean all of them going back to Selma – were great too. I suppose that is what bothers me most: Night Court never seemed to get the proper sendoff or recognition it rightfully deserved. What endears me most about Night Court is the fact that it never tried to be something it was not. We just loved it for the campy, quirky, crazy show that it was. Anything could, and often did, happen.
This is precisely what gives me hope for the reboot. Going by what I saw in the first two episodes, Night Court isn’t trying too hard. Is it perfect? No. I want to know what happened to Christine, Max, Roz, and Bull. Christine especially deserves a mention considering the “ending” of the original series included both Harry and Dan professing their love for her. While Harry decided to remain a judge and turndown several incredible job offers, he and Christine acknowledged their feelings for one another. At the end of what should have been the last episode (altogether another story that only highlights issues with the ending), Dan decides to resign as assistant DA and follow Christine to Washington, DC. Harry is told this, and immediately exclaims “My Christine!”
In the first episode of the reboot, Harry’s daughter Abby moves to New York to become the new night court judge, taking over a position her father held 30 years ago. She is just as idealistic as her father. She also happens to look as though she could be Harry and Christine’s daughter. Almost immediately, the public defender in her court quits and she looks up Dan. Given the “ending” to the original series, Dan most assuredly would have asked after her mother if indeed Christine was her mom. We only know that Harry is her dad. Sadly, much of the original cast has since passed on, including Harry Anderson (Harry Stone), Markie Post (Christine Sullivan), and Charles Robinson (Mac Robinson). If I have one hope for the new reboot, it is that they find subtle ways to allude to the earlier show/cast. They do a wonderful job of doing so in the case of Harry and Dan. As of yet, no one else is mentioned.
I admit, I wavered as to whether or not I was even going to watch. Then I learned that John Larroquette (Dan Fielding) was instrumental in getting it made, and the new cast consists of fans who grew up with the show much as I had. The first two episodes are off to a solid start. We will see if it will find its own niche. I will say that the creators of the reboot did an incredible job of keeping the vibe of the old show (the dingy old courthouse in particular) while “updating” things a bit. The new bailiff, Donna Gurgs, somehow channels both Roz and Bull at different times throughout the show. There are tons of nods to the ‘80s in new show, my favorite being the mural of the Golden Girls – a stupid silly plot point that could only take place in Night Court.
I recently watched some of the earliest episodes of the original Night Court from season 1. It is clear that it took a while for the show to hit its stride – a few years, in fact. The reboot definitely has potential, and I am reassured that it is in the hands of fans of the original. Do not be afraid to check it out. It is currently streaming on Peacock.
Over the last several months, I’ve given plenty of thought of where I’d like to take Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. For years, I’ve wanted to incorporate my love of music into my writing. The issue is that quoting song lyrics, even with proper attribution, can be seen as copyright infringement. Yet, I want to share some of my favorite songs and the memories they represent.
Early childhood and dolls aside, my favorite Christmas and birthday gifts all related to music – everything from my earliest Fisher Price record player and tape player to various albums/tapes/CDs, to my last Sony Discman. They were all used and abused. In fact, there were times I had to repurchase CDs due to overuse and sand. I replaced several Sony Discman due to the same issue.
Enter the mixtape. See, I am just old enough to remember how fun it was to listen to the radio long after my parents went to bed in order to record my favorite songs. I’m thinking of creating a category here that will serve as a mix tape of sorts. On a separate Mixtape page, I will outline and categorize my favorite songs and albums. Each link to to song or album title will include a passage about that particular song/album, along with links to lyrics and official music videos. I am beyond excited about this, and I am looking forward to seeing this project take off. It will take time.
In addition, my reading life has really taken off. I’ve read so many wonderful books lately. I’ve been thinking about how to best share it all with you. I plan to start sharing book reviews again as well. Stay tuned! Right now, I am working on how best to do this. I’ve researched the tools. Now it is a matter of figuring out what works out best for me – and you, the readers.
I’ve always loved traveling, no matter how short or long the trip. This wanderlust has taken me on so many wonderful adventures over the years, and fortunately for me, so many of my best childhood memories were made hitting the road with Grandma Reid. The woman just loved to go. She rarely spent time at home, at least until age caught up with her. In fact, she spent over forty years selling women’s clothing from a variety of catalog companies. So many of her customers were housewives who lived out in Michigan’s Thumb. She’d drive to her customers, bags and bags of clothing samples in tow. She quit selling in the early/mid-1990s only due to the fact that she could no longer find a quality company to represent. The last company she carried sold more home goods than clothing. Unfortunately, the quality was nothing compared to the companies she worked for during the 1950s-1980s. Even as a teenager, I loved to go clothes shopping with Grandma. She had a way of helping you find the right fit and could be brutally honest if need be. I learned to love the road and basics of business, at least in part, at my grandmother’s knee.
During my preschool years, Grandma would pick me up from time to time. At the time, I was used to her late ‘70s/early ‘80s blue Chysler station wagon, the same one that I tried to make Grandpa Reid promise to take care of as it was now his. If you knew Grandpa Owen, it was a futile effort, even if asked by his adorable granddaughter. I can still envision the station wagon parked underneath the old apple tree at the canoe livery – or as we always called it, the park – Grandpa napping in the backseat in the heat of a Michigan summer.
Then one day, I couldn’t find Grandma’s station wagon in the preschool parking lot. Grandma’s new vehicle was one for the books. She purchased one of the first Chrysler minivans, and what a vehicle it was! I have no idea how many miles she put on the thing, but I do know that she replaced the engine at one point. She finally totaled it in the early 90s in an accident on her way to one of my sister’s softball games. That iconic tan minivan, when it was finally put to rest, represented the passing of an era.
What makes certain vehicles from our childhood so damn memorable? I wrote a piece about my first car, which my mom drove for a large chunk of my childhood. I could write something similar about my dad’s ‘77 Freewheelin’ Ford Bronco, his green Jeep Grand Cherokee that my sister inherited as her first vehicle, or even the lemon fullsize blue Ford van with the squealing fan belt that hung around the canoe livery forever – the one we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World. It isn’t the vehicles so much as the journeys and times they represent.
Last spring, touring the Henry Ford Museum for the first time with my middle school students, I was taken back by a veritable wave of nostalgia seeing one of first Chrysler minivans (in this case, a Plymouth Voyager – almost identical to the first Dodge Caravans) at the end of a long line of evolving family vehicles. It stopped me for a moment. All it needed was a tan paint job/interior and Dodge badging to be Grandma’s minivan of my childhood.
More than anything, that minivan represents, at least to me, countless trips to the movies, Lutz’s Funland in Au Gres, putt-putt golf in Tawas, ice cream runs, and the Bear Track. I think of the infamous trip to Kings Island in Ohio where Mom and Grandma tried to remain calm as we were caught in an awful storm. We were parked, Grandma had her foot on the brake, and the van was still shaking. How many trips to weddings, family reunions, and showers did I take with her in that van? Last, but not least, we took Grandma’s van to the airport on our infamous trip to Aruba with Dad, Erica, Emily Lammy, Grandma, and Dean Gillette (Mom was too pregnant with Garrett to fly) for New Year 1991. On the way home, something was wrong with the van, and we could only travel in 15 minute spurts. I thought we’d never get home, but eventually, we arrived.
Grandma knew how to make any trip fun. It wouldn’t be a summer adventure if we didn’t stop for ice cream. On one such occasion, we’d stopped for ice cream after hitting a local amusement park for putt-putt and go-karts. Per usual, Grandma had a van full. In addition to my sister and I, cousins Michael and Linda were there as well, and I may even be forgetting someone. As we are enjoying ice cream on the way home, suddenly my sister’s ice cream falls off of its cone squarely into Michael’s hand. We had to pull over we were laughing so hard, especially Grandma. Now well into our 30s and 40s, the ice cream incident is still mentioned from time to time. Something about it was so incredibly funny, or as Grandma would say, comical.
Now, I’m the one who is rarely home. I’m the one “running the roads” as my dad would say. I hope to make the same kind of road memories with my niece and nephews as they grow up, but that is more my mom’s territory, for now. I normally tag along in her car, playing navigator if need be. Maybe one day they will reminisce about all the Buick Enclaves in our family at the moment (3 and counting) or Uncle Garrett’s Avalanche.
At this point, I doubt my love of the road will ever die. Thank you, Grandma.
Funny how certain cars from your past just stay with you. Where do I even begin with my first car, my 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix, a perfect cheery red? My love affair with that car began right off the lot. My parents purchased the car brand new in Gladwin, MI in 1989. It was the first proper car my mom had since my parents married in 1977. After my parents married, they sold my mom’s car to help purchase buses, and the full-sized vans that replaced it doubled as a canoe livery vehicles in the summer. She definitely earned that brand new car! I think I was just as excited as she was – almost. If anything, I inherited my love of cars from Mom. I even went to the dealership with my parents, an exciting new experience at age 8.
By 1995, a friend of my parents, who owned the GM dealership in town, happened to drive over the latest Grand Prix model – again, bright red. The Grand Prix had just been redesigned, and few people in Arenac County, if any, had it at that point. Soon, Mom had another new car and the old one, later mine, went into the pole barn, waiting for me to turn 16 and earn my license.
During the fall of 1996, I spent hours detailing it, getting ready for when I earned my license in December. I carefully drove it through the campground, practicing backing up and avoiding things like fire rings and electrical posts, carefully storing it back in the pole barn, waiting not so patiently. My mom had taken great care of it, and now, it was up to me.
A few features of that Grand Prix still stand out. 1989, frankly, was the end of an era when it came to cars. My Grand Prix was probably one of the last models that didn’t include air bags and CD players. Instead, it had a futuristic 80s electronic dash and a retro tape deck. Later, we had a five CD changer installed in the trunk. I could not have asked for a more perfect first car.
After much heartache, stress, and tears – another story entirely – my dad took me to the Secretary of State on my birthday to get my license. He even let me pick out a new license plate for my car. I ended up with a centennial plate commemorating the 100th anniversary of the automobile industry. Somehow, some of my best memories with Dad always seem to involve vehicles, whether cars, SUVs, minibusses, or big ole school buses.
Car and license in hand, I now drove myself and my younger sister Erica to school and around town. The biggest issue, of course, became control of the radio for the entire 10 minute drive to school. We didn’t fight much, but we did argue over music and sharing a bathroom on the daily. That first winter driving, Erica and I experienced our first accident. A fender bender that could have happened to anyone, we both freaked out as only young teenage girls can. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was easily repaired.
I kept that Grand Prix well into college. In 2001, I drove it to and from my internship with IBM out in Rochester, Minnesota. Alone, I will never forget driving home along US 2 across the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in late August with incredible views of Lake Michigan along the way. It is still one of my favorite road trips. That trip finally helped me to become completely comfortable behind the wheel.
The following year, after a year studying abroad in Ecuador and Spain, I spent six months living and working in Austin, Texas. I had landed the co-op with Applied Materials at the same time I landed the gig with IBM. As I already knew that I would be studying abroad the following academic year, I convinced Applied Materials to bring me aboard the following summer, June 2002. By this point, it was time to replace the Grand Prix.
The original plan was to sell my car in Texas, fly home in December for my birthday and Christmas, purchase a new vehicle, and return to Michigan State for winter semester 2003. Well, best laid plans rarely work out. On July 24th, 2001, on my way to work at Applied, a moving truck turned in front of me. I had had the green light, and he hadn’t seen me. I slammed on the brakes so hard that I broke my big toe and the metatarsal on my right foot. I ended up in a splint and, later, a walking cast, up to my knee.
The entire front end of the Grand Prix slid under the truck, stopping just in time. If I had had a passenger in the front seat, he or she probably would not have made it. All I could think of was how many times I had had my brother or sister with me, usually shotgun. I walked away relatively unscathed. My only other injury, other than a badly scraped left knee from the dash, was a deep cut behind my ear from the window molding. Somehow, the safety glass held.
Thank God that car didn’t have air bags. First generation air bags later gained a reputation for killing shorter drivers. At 5’0, I may have ended up a statistic. That Grand Prix that I’d loved for so long had saved my life. It was the end of an era.
I ended up with another Grand Prix, of course – a 2002. Yet, nothing I’ve owned since could ever top my first car, not even purchasing a brand new car on my own. So many childhood, teenage, and even young adult memories – way too many to share here – wrapped up in one vehicle. I’ve even dreamed about it. I dreamed that, somehow, it was still stored in my parents’ pole barn, waiting for me to drive it again.
These last few weeks have been eventful, and frankly, fun. While my parents were in Ireland, I house sat for them. First, I love my parents’ house. It is comfortable and, next to my own house, is a space where I can just be myself. Housesitting for my parents during the early part of the fall means checking our Crystal Creek Campground as well. Crystal Creek is adjacent to my parents’ house. In fact, the house – my home from ages 3 to 18 – sits behind our store. It is hard to separate the two.
There is something about the empty campground, with the promise of fall in the air, that gets me every time. It is gorgeous and my favorite time of year. I can’t help but think of all the time I spent playing in the campground as a child after the campers left for the season. The land itself is forever a part of me.
During the great shutdown of 2020, I lived with my parents. It didn’t make sense for me to live alone at a time when no one knew how long it would last. Those days were largely a challenge for a variety of reasons, but the campground helped. Even though we had no idea when would be able to open up for Summer 2020, my parents and I spent time getting the campground ready. It was something tangible we could do. Mom and I picked up sticks and garbage daily while my dad and brother took care of most of the brush. It gave me a new appreciation for the land and the river, especially after we had the 500 year flood in May 2020 and rebuilt to open in mid-June.
But, home is so much more than just my parents’ or my home. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Michigan State’s unrivaled campus – the home of some of my best memories. My brother, sister, sister-in-law, and I made sure my nephews and niece had a great first experience at Spartan Stadium. While wonderful in many ways, unfortunately my niblings didn’t get to see the Spartans win. Still, just being on campus brought back so many memories – the kind of memories that can only be relived when you’re home.
Lately, the cottage has been on my mind. In Michigan, many families have a “cottage” or “cabin” Up North, however you define it. Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but Michigan actually has more, only outnumbered by Alaska. As a true Michigander, I am drawn to water in all of its forms. The cottage in my mom’s family, going back at least five generations, still plays an important role in our family.
Actually, there are two. The “old cottage,” which belonged to my great grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick, otherwise known to her great grandchildren as Great (I wrote about her life in Family History), had character to spare. Dating back to the 1930s or 1940s, the “old cottage” looms large in my childhood memories. It was the site of numerous weekend get-togethers with extended family, particularly my Buttrick grandparents, cousins, and aunts (and their husbands). Great spent most of her summers at the “old” cottage on Sage Lake, which made these early memories extra special.
Once Great passed away in 1993, it was decided that we needed a cottage closer to the lake, a new place to make new memories. Thankfully, this cottage is still in constant use during the summer and still the site of countless family summer gatherings. Still, there is something special about the “old” cottage, warts and all. It is still there, largely unchanged, to be enjoyed by a new family.
If anything, I would have to say it was Great herself that made the cottage special. She was always there, smiling and laughing. She seemed to just take it all in, surrounded by her granddaughters, great granddaughters, son, and daughter-in-law, among others. She always had a tin filled with Hydrox cookies for her great grandchildren and would look the other way while we snuck them.
It was a treat to spend the night at the cottage with Great. I believe that my mom, sister, and I stayed overnight with Great at the cottage a handful of times. I loved waking up near the lake, having toast with real honey from the comb and an individual box of cereal for breakfast. The “old” cottage may have been located on a large bluff overlooking Sage Lake, making swimming and boating a workout, but the view was second to none.
As Great’s birthday was in late August, I vividly remember driving up to the cottage to take Great out to dinner. Mom, Erica, and I pilled in Great’s huge seafoam green Caddy to take her out for frog legs, her favorite. We all adored Great, but the relationship that my mom had with her grandmother was truly special. It must have been for my mom to pack up her two little girls and drive over half an hour each way to take her grandmother out to dinner for her birthday. I am so grateful for all the time I got to spend with Great. As I was 13 when she passed away, I knew her well Not everyone gets the opportunity to know a great grandparent in such a wonderful, detailed way.
The thing about going to the cottage during my childhood was that it was a process. Yes, there may have been times when I actually traveled to the cottage with my parents, but that is not what I remember as well. What I will remember most is all the fun I had piling into my grandparents’ huge 1980s station wagon with my older cousins. At one point, Grandpa B. owned one of those coveted wood paneled station wagons that had a rear facing seat. Of course, as kids, we all piled in the “way” back. My sister Erica, our cousin Abby, and I spent the entire 20 minute trip making up songs, playing silly finger-snap games, and hoping that we would be the “first one to see the lake.” Getting there was half the fun.
Actually, in those days, my parents presence at the cottage didn’t register much. No. The cottage was all about playing with cousins. We would climb the tree in the front yard, create dance routines on the parking pylons and the torpedo towable, and swim. There were trips to the pop shop and pontoon boat rides too. Grandpa could never understand why I would always pick out baseball cards (normally Topps ‘87s) instead of candy at the pop shop. I think it amused him.
Swimming and boating at the “old” cottage required a little planning. The obstacle to lake access was a large, steep set of stairs. If you were going down to the lake, you stayed there for a while. If anyone was heading up to the cottage and planned to return to the lake, she automatically played waitress. It wasn’t kind to head up without asking if anyone needed anything. It is the one thing that I do not miss about the “old” cottage. If we weren’t down at the lake, we were hanging out on the large covered porch in the front yard, facing Second Ave., the lake behind. This was the site of all of our games.
Of course, no description of cottage life would be complete without a description of the food. For dinner, there was chicken, burgers, and hotdogs on the grill with plenty of sides and salads, you name it. What really stands out, though, is so simple: Grandma B.’s fruit platters. Even us kids devoured mounds of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and blue berries. As soon Grandma brought out the fruit tray, it was time to take a break from all the fun.
Then there was the cottage itself. It was small and pine paneled with lots of windows overlooking the deck with the lake below, decorated in a mix of mid century cottage style. Even though there were only two bedrooms, it never felt cramped to me as a child. It largely smelled of fresh air and the lake, with Great’s Airspun powder lingering in the bathroom. Overall, it is a place where I made countless memories that I will always carry with me.
I am grateful that my brother Garrett takes his kids to the cottage often. For him, it is all about catching air on Sage on a wakeboard. Both of his kids, both under 10, adore wakeboarding and tubing behind the speedboat. Yet, I feel for Garrett. He has little to no memory of the cottage atmosphere I just described – the one seared in my memory, the one that started it all. While he definitely knew Great, she passed away when he was only two years old. It saddens me because the image of how fiercely my toddler brother adored our great grandmother is among one of sweetest things I have ever witnessed in my life. I’m just glad the cottage still lives on. The cottage is still a place where cousins make memories.
As I have said before, I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day. I am always happy to put the canoe livery to rest until next year, and yet, summer always seems to go by way too quickly. I only made it out on the river once this summer (our annual company trip) … so far. While there is a part of me that wishes we always had summer weather here in Michigan, I know better. As a lifelong Michigander, I definitely need the change of seasons. Both times I lived in Texas, I missed it. In my soul. It never felt natural to hang out on patios in December, needing only light jackets. Where was the crisp fall weather, the smell of burning leaves, visits to apply orchards? It just didn’t seem right.
I came home today to see all of the canoe livery buses and mini buses parked in my backyard, safe from any flooding. The store is condensed and ready for us to close in a month or so. All of the picnic tables are stacked, put away until spring arrives yet again. Just a few weeks ago, we were packed at both locations and had several hundred people go down the river on Saturday morning. Now, we have the place all to ourselves once again. It always catches me by surprise how quickly we go from beyond busy to ready to close up for the year.
I can’t imagine the canoe livery not being a part of my life. I thought about it earlier this summer, and I realized that it truly was my first home. Until I was three years old, my parents, my sister Erica, and I lived in a mobile home at our main location in Omer. It was located where our large pole barn is now. I’ve literally watched my parents build their business my entire life. My brother and sister saw much of it as well; however, I am just enough older to have witnessed a bit more than either one of them. It is interesting, and frankly, I’m not sure it could have been done today – at least not in the same way. I remember my dad making annual spring trips to Minnesota to purchase more canoes, the original three buses purchased after my parents married in 1977 (they made the best forts when not in use!), and the tiny walkup store we had prior to our current store in Omer.
So many of my childhood memories are tied up with the canoe livery. One of my first memories is of playing the card game war with Grandma Reid in the old store. Another early memory is of Grandma and Mom playing two-handed Euchre, snacking on MadeRite cheese popcorn, waiting for people to come off the river. I would spend hours playing in the river and by the dock, not getting out of the water until I was completely waterlogged, trying to ignore my goosebumps. I distinctly remember being excited when the calendar changed to March and April – and yet being SO disappointed that it wasn’t nearly warm enough to go swimming in the river. I can’t think of a better way to grow up.
I love the fact my niece and nephew are growing up right near the canoe livery. They visit me at the store several times a week. I can’t begin to describe the nostalgia I feel watching them play. They are fish, and there are many times I have had to warm them up after they have spent a little too much time in the river. I have to remind them to put on shoes in the store constantly – reliving the time I found a bee with my bare foot at age 6. One day this past summer, my niece decided that she wanted to take a shower in the showerhouse at the campground, nevermind that she could take a shower in her home (a two minute walk at most). What cracked me up most is the fact that I remember doing the exact same thing at her age. It was a production. The forts, the pooling of money to purchase items in the store, leaving bikes in all the wrong places – sigh. So fun. I’m glad I’m in a position to spoil them a little bit. I hope that they enjoy every minute.
Lately, I can’t stop thinking about my life in September 2009 and all the changes it brought with it. I can safely say it remains among the worst times in my life. That month, I lost two people close to me, both of whom I knew most of my life, and my ex lost his job at a time when I found it impossible to find one. The aftermath of that particular month still haunts me with unanswered questions and things left unsaid.
It started with Joyce. She passed away on September 2nd. It left me in shock as it was her husband who faced serious health issues at the time. The thing is Joyce and I always had a special bond. She babysat me from nine months of age until I was old enough to stay alone. We always referred to her as the “babysitter,” but she became so much more to me, my sister, and my brother. The truth is more complex. She and her husband were essentially another set of grandparents whom happened to live next door. When it came to grandparents – biological and otherwise – my siblings and I won the lottery.
As an adult, I tried to talk to her about subjects such as infertility and faith, but I never found the right words. I found her increasing pessimism as she aged hard to take at times, even though she had every right to feel the way she did. I knew that she would have wisdom to share, but I could never bring myself to ask her the hard questions. Now, a bit older and wiser, I would love to have those conversations with her.
Shortly before or after Joyce passed away – that time frame is still fuzzy in my mind, even though I am fairly certain it all happened within days – my ex lost his job. He just came home one morning when he should have been work, completely devastated. It turned out that the company he worked for at the time slashed their workforce by 20%. Only a few months prior to the layoffs, I had hoped to work there as well. They never filled the position I so eagerly sought.
In fact, nothing I did during the years 2006-2009 seemed to matter much. There were openings in my field. Unfortunately, those positions would remain forever unfilled or I would be competing against someone with 20 or even 30 years of experience – for an entry-level job. There simply were not enough jobs. Period.
As cruel as it sounds, I wish I would have known then that things weren’t meant to work out for us. My ex and I spent years trying to make it all work. It never did. As soon as things appeared to be getting better, something would happen to force us to start back at square one. Out of all the years we were together – 2004-2014 – we both held jobs only one year. One year out of ten. The rest of the time, one of us remained unemployed, even though both of us held college degrees (three between us) and had plenty of work experience, not to mention looked continuously for jobs in our fields. Still, both of us were far too stubborn to give up. After all we had been through together, it took two years of our relationship essentially unraveling before we finally had had enough, although the end wasn’t nearly that nice or simple. I haven’t looked back.
Just when I began to adjust, one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. To this day, I think of him all the time. I came home from work only for Brian to tell me that Derrick passed away. It is the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing shock without physically being in shock. Derrick and I went back so far I can honestly say I have no idea when we met – elementary school or possibly earlier; I don’t know. What matters is the fact that I don’t remember life without Derrick prior to September 25, 2009. We experienced so much together from elementary school to college. I tried to capture our memories here.
First, nothing prepares you to lose a good friend who happens to still be in their 20s. Nothing. I didn’t know how serious his issues were. Now, of course, I’d like to think that I would have been able to help in some small way. Second, when you are unable to attend a close friend’s funeral, it does affect you – family or not. I still remember trying to keep it together because I had to work the day of his funeral. Later, I still found it difficult to be around his great aunt E. Memories came flooding back as soon as I would see her. I became so uncomfortable that I didn’t see her nearly as often as I should. Now that she is gone too, I regret it. Finally, I still see Derrick and I sniping at each other 50 years in the future, somehow managing to end up in the same nursing home. Frankly, I feel cheated knowing it is simply not possible.
Ten years later, I am not the same woman. I’ve experienced more loss in those years – and a lot of happiness. I know myself better and worked hard towards new dreams and goals. Still, when I think of those awful days of September 2009, I’d like to think that Joyce and Derrick both somehow know where I ended up. I can only imagine the conversation Derrick and I would have had in the aftermath of my awful breakup with Brian. He had been so happy that I’d finally found someone. I can also imagine how happy Joyce would be to know that I am now a teacher and how deeply her faith affected me. To Derrick and Joyce, I still love you both.