The boy asks, do you believe in the tooth fairy? and I reply yes.
The girl might have argued the point, but she had been briefed that only people who believe get cash under their pillow. The boy wants to know what his tooth is worth, wants to negotiate a better deal. He asks, what happens to the teeth after the fairy takes them away?
She answers, she puts them in a file and you get them back when you die.
This is an interesting theological perspective, and I imagine a heaven littered with amputated legs, cancerous organs, teeth.... waiting to be be reunited with their former hosts.
It is a sad, sick fact: I am happiest when I have a task to accomplish. I like goals and deadlines.
After our workshop we walked to the Bazaar area to set up a vending table. Ariel and Maria needed to run errands so I sat down with the shirts and books. Inga set up next to me and we settled in for a long day of talking strangers into parting with their dollars.
Most people seemed too shy to approach any of the vendor tables, so after awhile Inga and I took to calling them over and offering free stuff. She was giving away stickers, but since I didn't have anything small I started to give away my zine. I offered all passerby the opportunity to pick one of the five and smiled big and lots of people lingered at the table, buying some of our stuff, or talking to us for awhile. A boy with piercings said I collect milagros, can I take a picture of your arm? so I pulled the sleeve of my dress up and leaned forward.
Lynne Breedlove dashed into the cafeteria and jumped up on top of the table to shout Attention K-Mart shoppers! I'm going on stage in five minutes! and the next thing I knew, I had agreed to sell merch for her: a new book called Godspeed, cd's by Tribe 8 and Sister Spit.
I take a very strange and possibly sinister delight in vending for other people. It is always much easier to promote the work of a friend or colleague than respond to questions about what I'm doing. I sat at the table and chatted people up, trying to convince them that they really need these books, shirts, cd's.
We were in the cafeteria of Mission High, and it was like being in high school again, except all the regular kids were missing. I wondered if high school would have been tolerable if only the eccentrics, thespians, punks, and queer kids had been allowed access to the school. But then again, no, because then the disenfranchised kids would have had to find internal equilibrium, appoint a bully, dissolve in cliqueishness. It seems inevitable, part of every community.
But it was a nice little thought, and sitting there with all the positive girl energy and happiness, the bands playing in the auditorium, I decided to enjoy the afternoon.
The people staffing the AK Press table started a game of tag.
Michelle Tea stopped by and sat with me and we talked about her new book, chatted about our publisher. Lynne sat down too and then Ariel and Maria came back. The cafeteria emptied out, and we decided to go play pool. But I looked at the clock and realized it was time to go to the airport, time to end this trip. I said goodbye to my friends and we walked to the train.
For the last three or four years, when I've done shows with Ariel they have always included either a slide show with music or a live band.
This is a fact that we both forgot, or neglected to plan around, when getting ready for Ladyfest.
Without the other elements, our reading went much faster, leaving an abundant amount of time for Q&A.
Q&A is not my favorite activity, nor does it enter the top ten list of best things about my job. I don't hate it, or cringe in anticipation, I just wish it could be avoided or replaced with something else. Like an ice cream social.
The first question was so why did you really shut down the discussion boards?
I gave the true, appropriately phrased answer; that by the end, we were dealing with 50,000 new messages each month. We had made a promise to moderate all of the messages, to retain our political identity in the face of rapid growth. I said that the boards were not sustainable, that the growth of the community eventually assured the end. I went over the statistics and the accomplishments and talked about how lucky I feel to have been part of the project for so long. I talked about how happy I am to see so many new alternative communities forming to continue the work.
Other questions followed a familiar pattern, and then the group started talking about the politics of ADHD. We had an interesting, faceted debate about drugs, mental health services, nutrition.
After the session I talked to the woman who asked about the boards. She said I thought you would say you shut it down because of all the people dogging each other.
I laughed and shrugged. The social drama at the end of the boards was ugly, incomprehensible. But it was only one symptom of the disease that ate away at the project.
When I decided to shut down the hipmama.com boards, the thought process took a long time. I consulted professionals for advice; I lamented and schemed and tried all of my tricks to keep the project going, to divert trouble, to cure the sickness, to find a solution. It wasn't simple, or easy, but in the end, shutting down was the only possible answer.
I can talk about the unique challenges of managing resources in a new medium, the server problems, the state of the economy, the organizational theories of change. I can be honest and criticize my own failings.
But it is hard to articulate in public how sad I feel about the loss of the boards. I don't say when I finished deleting the forums, I put my head down on the table and sobbed until my eyes swelled shut.
On the way into the venue on Saturday, I saw Inga smoking. I said hello and she hugged me and we smiled at each other and then Nomy said Inga, will you kiss me? and Inga turned away, her cigarette swinging out and burning my hand between the pointer and index fingers.
I yelped, shook my hand, laughed. Inga recoiled and then grabbed the hand, pressing kisses between my nuckles. She held on for a minute but then I saw that a line of fans had formed to say hello to her. I retrieved my singed hand and went in the building.
Later Inga found me and said I'm so sorry. I was going to apologize on stage but then I forgot.
Ladyfest is an excellent festival, but we have too much to do. We missed many of the shows and films I wanted to see and set off on alternative adventures.
We took the train to Oakland and visited Soulmine and her family. She has a new baby named Zen, a tiny little human, only ten days old. We ate Vietnamese food and admired the high arching ceilings. I suggested that when the boys are older, they could install one of those play structures, the kind you find at fast food restaurants, without taxing the space of the apartment. I said the boys can sleep in transparent bubble bedrooms in the sky.
We wandered through the city with Hiya, eating cheap burritos and drinking in bars with too-loud eighties jukeboxes. We talked about literature and landscape and family. We talked about lost fathers, and the politics of expensive small towns. She was visibly shocked to discover that I am a true geek girl, a hardcore Linux user, a first-generation web veteran.
We tried to have drinks at The Tonga Room; we desired to partake of the tiki atmosphere, the floating band, the rain storms and ambience, but we were turned away. The place closes early, so if you want to visit, plan ahead.
Two couples, split boy girl between two cars: an ancient Alfa Romeo and a Ford Falcon. I pretended it was safe. We had great fun at the Gold Dust, a tourist bar on Union Square that serves drinks until 1:59 AM.
We visited the Bitch table to say hello to Andi. Byron wandered off across the cafeteria, exploring the maze of girl products and publications on display for the Ladyfest Bazaar.
After a few minutes I saw him gesturing to me and walked over to see what he wanted. He was standing behind a pillar talking to a man sitting at one of the merch tables. They were talking about eyeglasses, and Byron wanted to show off my spectacles.
We stood next to the pillar discussing vintage glasses, where to buy them, the relative joy and pleasure of wearing them, sharing tips on deals and procurement. I pulled out my sunglasses, a gold shade with starburst rhinestones, and the man said we have a pair like this in blue.
Well into our conversation we made haphazard introductions. The man said I'm just an old pervert and I looked at the table he was sitting next to: sex manuals and anthologies. This was Dr. Robert Lawrence, partner of Carol Queen. He pointed at Carol, wearing sleek aluminum frames, and asked if he could take our picture.
We walked from Union Square through the Tenderloin and mixed up Market and Mission and Valencia and detoured around and over the wrong hills and saw abject poverty, fulsome street culture, cops with their billy clubs out for action.
Byron kept saying just a few more blocks and went rummaging in my bag for the map, visibly sticking out of his pocket, until I snapped and told him he can't navigate around his own pants. He laughed and we kept walking.
In front of a massive stone building on Market Street, we saw a tiny girl with long hair standing next to an old beat-up Subaru stuffed full of boxes, clothes spilling out and pressing against the windows. She seemed to be looking straight at us and she screamed what the fuck are you doing?
We kept walking, averting our eyes. The huge building and the line of cars created an acoustic tunnel for the screams of the girl. We drew closer, and I glanced over; she was very pretty and maybe eighteen years old.
What the fuck are you doing? You know I'm trying to get out of town! she yelled, and I realized there was a tattooed boy walking behind us. He approached this girl and shrugged and mumbled sorry.
Sorry isn't fucking good enough, what the fuck is the matter with you? She was still screaming even though the boy was now in standing in front of her, and we had reached the car.
I don't want to have a fight with you on the street he said I'm sorry.
Sorry isn't fucking good enough she yelled, pulling back her fist and punching the boy on the shoulder, it isn't fucking good enough.
The boy held up his hands, tattooed to the knuckle, his baggy tshirt flapping in the wind. I'm not going to do this he whispered and I could only hear him because I had slowed down to make sure the girl was okay.
It hadn't occured to me to wonder if the boy was okay.
The boy turned to walk away down the street as his girlfriend shrieked at him. We were next to the couple and then behind them as he quickened his pace and the girl ran behind. She launched at his back, grabbed his arms, wrenched his elbows backwards, screaming You so fucking will do this, you fucking asshole as he tried to shrug her off, tried to walk away.
I walked slowly, eyes on the pavement, wondering if I should say anything, call the cops, meet his eyes and tell him it would all be okay if he just kept walking.
Danielle wrote and said she was cleaning the freezer in the Portland house and opened a bag to find what she first thought was a dead animal: a big straggly bundle of hair, and she screamed.
I wrote back that it was just a wig I forgot to thaw.
from the children The International League of Dogs is a school that started out as a league of dog spies. Because they were running out of dogs that could be spies, they started a school for younger dogs so they could teach them how to be spies. Because they found certain individuals who were better than others, that were not dogs, they let some that were extremely talented into the school. Such as Spicey, Emerald, and Zoe. Spicey being a fox, Emerald and Zoe being cats. The ages range from four to thirteen.
Once you reach the age of thirteen, you can become a teacher. Once you have gone through your first day of training as a teacher, you get a special collar. When you are a student after your first year you get a collar which is string with a special colored bead on it which you make.
In the International League there are different classes. They have dancing, language, computer programming, math, the usual. They have a large library with an index of basically everyone who has had a criminal past, for help on cases.
The League has several headquarters. I cannot reveal the location of the sites.
We went to Anacortes for Shipwreck Days & the What the Heck Fest on a hot bright day. I bought a white parasol with a rhinestone handle and we walked up and down looking at the wares on display. My parents were buying things for their shop and we met for lunch at a little diner. Al stopped in as we finished and we talked about plans for the day and the children agitated to stay with grandma.
We told Al we would be his handlers, his security team, and we joked and walked to the park to watch bands. The sun pressed down, overwhelmed us, and we only watched the bands in front of the rockery gazebo for a few minutes before leaving to find a grocery store so Al could buy half a watermelon and carrots. I looked at him standing there with his large melon and said Perhaps you should consider getting cutlery. You can find some in the deli area. I bought two tabloid magazines and we sat in front of the store staring at the dirigible shaped ballon floating above the pizza restaurant across the way.
We couldn't get in to the dinner show so we found a strip mall Mexican restaurant, with fake arched doorwarys, red vinyl booths with floral patterned seatbacks, ceramic parrots hanging from the light fixtures. The place was full of the kinds of adults who teach school or sell cars or have similar respectable jobs in a small town. The people at the table next to us were new grandparents, waiting to visit the baby, and the young parents walked in looking tired. The girl gently pulled her sleeping baby out of the car seat and held her out to an eager grandmother. The baby was wearing a patriotic onesie and she woke up and started to cry. The father was carded for his beer and had to leave to find his identification.
We walked from bar to bar watching bands. We saw the adorable Blau Brothers sharing a set with the Sandman, a rapping Montana cowboy. We saw Laura Veirs and then walked to the Croatian Hall for the end of the dinner show. I stood outside talking to Al and Calvin wandered by and offered his opinion of sperm donation (pro) and a boy was upset because he lost his furry leather Norwegian coat.
I saw half the set of a young local band called Button Happy. I was tired by the time Dennis Driscoll strolled on stage with his princess telephone, and his sweet beautiful voice lulled me as I fell asleep in one of the folding chairs.
We went to Snoqualmie Falls, walked down to the river, and found a shaded spot to settle in for awhile.
The girl picked a big rock jutting out into the water and declared that it was hers. The boy found a smaller rock with a protected cove of water to splash with his feet and a long stick.
Byron found a spot to sit and think, and I started to read as the children played with leaves and pebbles.
Perched on top of her rock, the girl watched some teenagers launch inner tubes, and rolled her eyes. They just want people to look at them she said, because she is a city child.
I read a book and listened to the trees and water and remembered playing on the beach at Illahee when I was a small child. I remembered scrambling up banks of scrubby underbrush, clawing at the dirt and roots, pulling myself up, laughing. I remembered rope swings across rivers that I was always scared to ride.
My daughter climbed across to join her brother and he said Yeah! You're on my rock! I never get visitors to my rock!
This is our gilded summer, the first and probably last time we have weeks and weeks to squander, to use in any frivolous way we prefer.
We have been visiting parks.
Our collective favorite is Kubota Gardens, an overgrown and entirely charming Japanese Garden that evokes our communal history (immigration, internment, sorrow) and also the crazed, messy natural state of living on the edge of the rain forest.
The girl stood at the edge of the waterfall, one foot on each side, water coursing between her legs, and held her hands up toward the sun. Look at me she yelled, her voice echoing across the park. I gasped and called out step away and her friend held out a hand to pull her back before she fell.
We drove past a miniature golf course with wooden rockets, windmills, eagles, next to a convenience store with a marguee reading Love is Friendship Set on Fire.
The girl said Mommy, do you know what I want to do? When I grow up I want to buy one of those big For Sale or Lease pieces of land and plant wildflowers and dance.
I would have poppies, and lavender, and people could pick as many flowers as they liked.
There aren't enough places for people to dance.
James wrote and asked so I'm not crazy to think class is an issue, right?
He asked me because we share the same rural antecedents, the same erratic flight toward careers that would take us far away in geographic terms without erasing the tactile memories of poverty: government cheese, powdered milk.
My children have parents working with ferocious energy to give them a home and lessons and the other necessary accoutrements of a healthy, safe childhood. The children have organic vegetables and soy milk, musical instruments, books, but because I worry about their class status, they don't have trendy toys or superfluous electronic equipment.
I grew up working class and then wandered away, and I worry about privilege. About my children growing up without enough, or with too much, my fretfulness depending on my mood and the weather and the basic alchemy of our existence.
My children travel regularly to visit friends and family scattered across the world. They don't see their home as a singular neighborhood, town, county, country. They know that their boundaries are not defined by a specific mountain range or body of water.
My children know artists, writers, mathematicians. They know gas station attendants, junk dealers, fishermen, teachers. They know indie rock stars, and profoundly gifted academics.
My children have been given the gift of language, words, books and music, as a birthright, as an entitlement. My children have the inherent thirst for knowledge that informs all discovery, but because they witnessed our student years and fledgling efforts at establishing careers, they also know the fundamental disciplined framework of hard work.
I have very few expectations about the futures my children will choose, but I hope that they are learning that artistry and diligence are more important than popularity and greed. I hope that they are acquiring values that will inform their own choices of career; that they have learned that it is never a good idea to spread malicious gossip, that it is always a good idea to promote your friends, that the more you collaborate and cooperate, the better your fortune.
I hope that my children will not be working class, or middle class, or upper class, but something entirely different, a class that accomodates organic vegetables and creativity and economic success.
I wrote back to James oh, yes, class is real.
Sometimes I find things so rare and precious I can't leave them to be recycled or thrown away. Today, I went to Goodwill to look for a hamper, and found thirty albums in pristine condition, needing a good home. They were only about ten cents each so I couldn't think of a good reason not to buy:
The Leavenworth, Washington Marlin Handbell Choir
Queen Anne High School Music Department 1963
Original Soundtrack: Cole Porter's Can-Can featuring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan
Carnival of the Animals music by Saint-Saens, with New Verses by Ogden Nash, spoken by Noel Coward
Original Soundtrack: Otto Preminger's Exodus
Various and sundry musicals, all the regulars, including Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello, and Stop the World, I Want to Get Off; all the obvious Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, plus Flower Drum Song
An Evening of Elizabethan Verse and Music with W.H. Auden and the New York Pro Music Antiqua
French Student Songs A La Notre
Original Soundtrack Album: Ice Castles starring Robby Benson
All of our furniture is in storage, and the apartment doesn't have a desk.
I need a desk.
With the children safely stashed with Grandma, we could drive around the city and poke through stores looking for deals. It was eerie visiting antique and junk shops; I saw dozens and hundreds of objects I own, or that I gave away a few weeks ago. It was like visiting my basement.
We found a blue formica table, a wooden altar conveniently sized for home use, an oil painting of a bride.
From the elevator we have a view of Elliott Bay, the waterfront, the viaduct, and the employees of Immunex. I go up and down the elevator all day long, pointing out and saying to the children Look at the water! Look at the ferries! and occasionally Look at the sunset! and after just a few days, they are bored and roll their eyes. Mina leverages herself across the handrails and tells me about the book she is reading. Aubrey hits the button for every floor we do not wish to visit.
From our bedroom, we can see the corner of the art museum, but not Hammering Man. We can look down into Post Alley, and we can see up First Avenue.
There is a large building with a dome, and at irregular intervals the dome lights up: a vivid blue that wakes me in the night. But we can't figure out what it is, because the lights don't follow a pattern we can discern.
I have a theory it is a giant bathroom and some rich man flicks the light on and off whenever he needs to pee. Aubrey thinks that the firefighters and police officers live in the dome and play baseball at night when they get bored.
From our nest in the sky, we can see the fog descending, blanketing the tall buildings, drifting down to the streets below.
The corporate apartment has strict rules: no playing television or radio or making noise after 10 PM. No throwing things off the balcony.
We promptly broke the first rule by turning on John Denver: Greatest Hits at midnight.
Then we recklessly blew bubbles off the balcony.
If there have been a few moments of wondering whether or not we did the right thing, of missing Portland, of nostalgia for the friends and events, those emotions crashed and burned when my five year old said Mommy, my teeth hurt and opened his mouth to reveal adult teeth sprouting directly behind his baby teeth, pointing backwards toward his throat.
We didn't move for kicks, or for money. We moved because we need dental insurance.
We are a family of sensitive people. We can live, have lived, on almost no money. But we can't do without good doctors, prescription drug benefits, dental care. We can't dwell in the dark shadowy regions of academic poverty where you let regular check-ups slide because you can't afford the co-pay.
Even with Byron ensconced in his high tech job and my work, we couldn't handle the extra costs not covered by our pitifully restricted health insurance, or the consequences of not having other benefits.
In Portland, with no dental insurance, I elected not to have the x-rays that routinely identify cysts in my mouth, cysts blooming through my gums to destroy teeth, cysts that hollow the bones of my face. If the cysts are found early enough they can be extracted; if they are ignored, they can (and have) destroyed large portions of my mandible. But without insurance, I couldn't afford to pay for the x-rays, couldn't afford to contemplate the corrective procedures, the loss of teeth, the root canals.
Holding my son's chin with my left hand, I tentatively poked at his baby teeth with my right index finger. He started to cry and said I love my little teeth, I don't want to lose them. I brushed the tears from his eyes and told him not to worry.
Christine was my co-conspirator in junior high, and she still lives in what she always called the green hell. She has been sharing on streetmattress.com.
Scott sent a second hand report on the festivities back home: Burn a stump, crash a motor home, punch a cop, and toss your boyfriend out of a moving car. Golly, it must be the 4th of July!
Our temporary home is a free corporate apartment in downtown Seattle.
We have a view of the sports stadium and the ferry terminal. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a balcony, a kitchen, a living space with beige carpet featuring a beige couch and an easy chair with an Olde England lion and dragon theme print, all crammed into an efficient space the size of our main floor in the Portland house.
We also have more closets in this tiny space than we have had in any house of any size. The closets line each room and beg to be filled, but we don't own clothes hangers. Also, all of our clothes are in storage.
We walked through Pike Place Market, ate sausages, bought organic cherries, ambled down to Pioneer Square and ate dinner at a trattoria. Across the street, a local group was attempting to have a rave of some kind, but the DJ only had a few hardcore fans writhing in front of his tent, situated in a parking lot under the viaduct.
We walked down Alaskan Way with tourists and sailors to see the fireworks. The boy was scared so we split up, boys at Pier 56 and girls walking all the way to the Edgewater.
I saw the Ivar's fireworks up close for the first time; I am used to seeing the display from a distance of six miles, across the Sound, but here I am under the splay of colors and light.
I stood in the middle of my empty living room, painted creamsicle orange and lime green by Stevie. I found that water was leaking from the corners of my eyes.
My daughter looked at her room. "It is so big," she said, then walked out to the car and buckled her seat-belt.
Byron asked our son if he wanted to say goodbye. I followed as they walked from room to room, all of us crying. Byron pointed out the different rooms that had been our bedrooms. The boy clutched at the walls, sobbing, saying "Goodbye pretty room, goodbye pretty door."
Because we share a fundamental need to appear brave, we offered four wet but calm faces when we dropped off keys for Gabriel and Danielle. Angie crouched by the car and looked at us with concern and we all smiled and blinked in the sun. Angie said take care, see you soon, goodbye and we waved and drove away.
We made it to I-5 and saw the bridge, crossed the bridge, looked at the houseboats on the Columbia River for the last time as Oregonians.
We drove across the bridge in silence. Byron, I said, we need to eat. He blinked and gave me a look that communicated I was misguided but pulled off to find a restaurant.
We walked into a fancy fish place and the host seated us at the window, looking at the river, looking at Portland across the way. The restaurant was full of people on a special evening out or talking business. We were wearing the clothes we had on for the move, the sweaty remnants of our wardrobes, a mismatched assortment of t-shirts and raggedy work pants.
We ordered fish and ate our food and colored on the childrens menu and played Hang-Man. We watched the sunset on the river, and looked across and remembered our life in Portland.
I didn't tell the family, but I realized then that Portland was a state of exile; knew that although I was sad to leave my friends, I was mostly excited to go home.
We ran up and down the boardwalk and played tag and then we got in our station wagon and drove North. I fell asleep with the children and Byron played Daydream Nation.
Anna Ruby asked are you having a going-away party? and we laughed.
I like to throw parties, the bigger the better. I have at least two large parties at my house every year, and for over ten years also did at least one large public event.
But with two unhappy kids, a house full of boxes, countless small chores and large tasks unfinished, I couldn't conceive of planning my own going-away party. Not to mention my lingering, borderline pathological sadness about throwing a party for myself.
When I was a little kid my birthday was always ruined by illness or weather. Now I'm convinced that parties in my honor will always be awful, and when I do events or parties I deflect the attention: I throw Enchantment parties, Travelers parties, Breakfast Bean&Beer parties, book release or birthday parties for other people.
Anna Ruby said, well, we'll do something for you and Stevie nodded.
The very last Saturday before we left, we went to to say goodbye to all of our friends Stevie and Anna Ruby knew to invite. We didn't help at all so the people who gathered next to the gazebo were mostly friends from North Portland, from the house scene, from chorus, from vegan cafe. Anna Ruby had invited the others she knew to call: Ariel, Vanessa, Liz, Polly. Concentric circles of friends had invited other friends, and even strangers. There were fully two dozen people at the party I had never met before.
I made a wish on a falling star that nobody would hear about the party and feel sad that they weren't invited; I couldn't manage invitations and the move.
Dusk was settling across the rose garden and the fountain was lit up. People rode up on their bikes, walked in from the neighborhood.
I emptied several huge boxes of clothes and shoes and said, free box.
Vanessa said she had found the perfect gift and handed me a two foot long wooden phallus. She said she bought it at the Montana Testicle Festival and that she knew it would have a good home with me.
We ate vegan food and drank pulpy lemonade and watched the moon come up over the park. I could smell the roses and the sweat of my friends.
Lli was moving the same day and we stood in the deep shadows past the gazebo, watching our kids run across the fields together. I met Lli when our babies were not yet a year old; she had dreadlocks and an Army jacket and a tight leopard miniskirt. Now she has short hair, elegant vintage clothes, gallery shows. She is a confident single mother moving to the other coast with her school-age child.
Michelle, calm and organized and strong, a single mother again, but the owner of a house on her own terms, one of the most admirable women I know, walked up with her sons. Our kids have all been friends since they were sling babies. We talked about the move and hopes for the future, and it hit me like a fist in the stomach: who would watch the kids for Michelle every Wednesday while she is in school? We have traded child care since the boys were in diapers. Who would watch her sons now? Who would I call when I needed some time to myself?
I walked around the groups of people who had come to the park to say goodbye, drifting in and out of conversation, taking photographs to turn my friends into ghosts. I leaned into the affectionate embraces, tilted my head when their fingers creeped across my back.
Gabriel and Danielle had agreed to rent our house and I talked to Danielle about some of the details. Danielle went to high school with Byron in Colorado; her best friend Angie went to the same school, and I met them independently through Hip Mama. When Gabriel (also from Colorado, also a graduate of a wacked out alternative mountain school, also located via Hip Mama) needed a roommate after our trip to Italy I hooked him up with Danielle, never expecting that romance would blossom: Angie congratulated me on the success of my matchmaking and said she was sure that she would be doing a lot of babysitting for all the girls while Gabriel and Danielle visit Seattle.
The intricacy of the arrangement continues to amaze me, but mostly I'm happy that I can always visit my house, always have a place to stay, that children I love will run through the house laughing.
Toward the end of the party, after most of the bicycle friends had peddled away, Ana Helena leaned on her bike and said I have major mom issues about you leaving.
Stevie Ann burst into tears, mascara streaming down her face. I laughed and then put my arms around her and held on tight. I promised I'll cry later when I'm alone.
The moon passed behind a cloud and the fountain and roses were dim for a moment.
We walked away.
After the movers left on the first day, we were had three beds, no spoons, and a house full of boxes.
The boxes were marked according to the room where they originated, with a notation of contents.
They started with good intent and savvy word choice; the bottom layer of boxes in each room had notations of a legitimate nature. But somewhere around the morning break the movers ran out of euphenisims for randon junk and started to get creative.
Knick-nacks. Bric-a-brac. Curio. Decor. The euphenisms went on and on; one box in the back bedroom said "Dollhouse, cowboy hat." Another said "Artificial flowers."
The 150 or so boxes in the lowest level of the house said, simply, "Basement."
We had been warned that the movers might pack our wallets, our half-finished snacks. And in fact, they did efficiently pack many of the items we had set aside to take to temporary housing. But our movers also resolutely resisted packing the items they did not feel we should move.
They didn't want to move our rusty, broken Tonka trucks.
They packed around, under, and above our collection of horse and cow bones, pulled out of the garden, crusted with dirt. They didn't seem especially fond of the pelvis, femur, and mandibles, though we continued to insist.
I would have rather done the move alone, but we didn't have a choice. The company was very clear: they will pay for the whole move, but only if they hire the movers.
There was a woman our age, thin, with long bangs. There was a red-headed man who seemed to be in charge, who looked beyond me whenever we found ourselves in the same room. There were a couple of college age boys, summer hires, lanky and slow moving until someone yelled at them to hurry up.
I stood in the middle of the living room, hands on my hips, wondering what I should do. The crew swarmed through the house with their boxes and tape and packing materials. I walked back and forth, ducking to get out of the way of the professionals, listening to the sound of tape unfurling echoed through the house.
The children slept on, even as the room was packed around them.
Eventually I ended up on the front steps watching through the window.
It is hard to be a class warrior when your household is being moved by professionals.
The children were so upset they slept through the first day as the place was packed up, and again on the second day as the boxes were moved out. Mid-morning the girl woke up and started to complain and I suggested she could rest better in the car, and she pulled her comforter down the stairs and across the lawn and settled in the decrepit, broken-down Skanky Volvo for a nap.
Around the time the movers went on lunch break, both children woke up and congregated on the front porch, eyes large and shocked. Neighbor children skateboarded and biked past the house, looking at us from the corner of their eyes. I suggested we leave for lunch, and my kids nodded, walking silently to the car.
We went to the Overlook for our final Portland lunch. The waittress took our order for two kids meals and a Reuben. She held her pen over the pad and stared at Mina. "The kid meals are for ten and under only" she said, "How old is she?"
"Eleven. Listen, it's okay, charge what you want- she just wants to order a grilled cheese sandwhich."
"How old is she?"
She tapped her pen. "Okay, ten. Would you like a beverage with that?"
I shook my head and sat back in the brown vinyl booth. I could see the television in the lounge. The noon news feature was about a drug bust at an apartment complex approximately between my house and the restaurant. I watched the live footage of my neighbors being herded into police cars and blessed the strange sequence of events moving us away from Portland.
I couldn't eat my sandwhich and had it boxed for Byron. When we got back to the house, the movers were gone.
Anna Ruby moved boxes from the second story to the basement. Amy Joy took Aubrey out on special dates to the museum and science center. Polly helped sort mounds of junk. Marisa and Sarah P hauled truckloads of debris to the recycling center and dump.
Marisa stopped by every afternoon to visit, sit on the porch, eat dinner, play with the kids. She said she had separation anxiety and that she would miss us. I laughed and pointed out that she is on tour half the year; that she would probably see me as much when I live in a city she has to visit all the time. But she said it wasn't the same, that Portland wouldn't be the same.
Stevie Ann came by on one of the last afternoons, while I was pulling the bones out of the garden, the house already full of boxes. She was walking with one crutch: a literal miracle, the devastation of the accident almost a memory. When the car hit her, pinned her body to the ground, dragged her a whole city block, smashed her almost to death, I was sure she wouldn't walk again. I thought she might not survive. I never expected that she would be riding a bicycle within a few months.
My hair was a mess, four inches of natural roots showing, because I was waiting for Stevie to recover. She mixed the bleach and brushed it on with an old toothbrush and we sat together in the dappled shade of the backyard while Aubrey made play houses out of the lawn furniture, standing on top of the green plastic lounge, shouting look at me, Stevie, look at me!
Ana Helena and Chris stopped by several times, played Lego with Aubrey, watched Totorro with us. Ana said, we're good at goodbyes. Chris offered to help us move the stereo and records up to Seattle.
I stopped by to pick up issue #27 (Freedom) and talked to Ariel about the business. We walked to a convenience store to buy her cigarettes.
It is the mundane facts of friendship that I will miss: a thousand ordinary favors given and received; knowing my friends are nearby, knowing I can drop in any time, knowing that even if they aren't home I will see them later.