Monday, June 28, 2010

My sister's tribute to Robert C. Byrd

I don't often post just for the sake of sharing a link. In fact, the only time I ever do this is to share something one of my sisters wrote.

From Jennifer's blog, a farewell to the senior senator from our home state of WV, Robert C. Byrd:


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three little stairsteps

It's a bright Tuesday morning, post-rainstorm, in Huntington. Cat's in the window like she's never seen a guy with a shopping cart before, even though the same guy makes his way down our alley every day at about this time.

I haven't found my own routine here yet. Yesterday when the shopping cart rolled by, I was playing with the dogs in the kitchen. The day before, fixing lunch. The day before that, breakfast. Today I'm still working on my coffee and writing, listening to music and waiting for the mail truck to bring me work to do.

What I'm doing most of this morning, though, is I'm missing my sisters. I mean, I always miss my sisters. But today it's at the forefront, heavy in the room. One's 45 minutes away. That's all. Just 45 minutes. But my car won't start and she doesn't have gas money. We post on each other's Facebook wall. We call, once in a while, when there are minutes on our phones.

The other is in Philly. Not sure how far that is, but it feels immeasurable. Haven't seen her in a year and a half now.

We used to hate it when people called us "three little stairsteps." Three little blond girls spaced almost evenly, two years apart. Jennifer, Heather, me. Except eventually Heather and I had to switch places because I grew taller than her. Became the middle step even though I'm the youngest. You could see us around town almost daily, when we lived up that way. Sitting on the stone wall outside the laundromat, outside the courthouse, outside the movie theater, scribbling with our blue pens in our college-ruled notebooks. We were quiet kids in jeans and canvas sneakers and these odds and ends of T-shirts that came from big black trash bags people inevitably handed our parents. Shirts that thought they were clever. "Pobody's Nerfect" and "Never trust a smiling cat." We wrote till we got bored, got free candy from the theater, held contests to see who could suck on a fireball the longest, bought ten-cent cups of ice from U-Save to cool our tongues. Then started writing again, in tandem.

I don't think it ever occurred to me that someday we might live in separate cities, with separate stone walls to sit on.

Heather's got a guy and six cats in an apartment in the city, and Jennifer has a husband and three beautiful children. I'm engaged to be married and I've got this great new place. We have good lives, the three of us. Three separate, beautiful worlds.

But I don't know what kinds of shirts my sisters are wearing today or what color ink they use. And this kind of morning feels familiar, feels old. A little cooler than usual, post-rain. I'm wanting to sit elbow-to-elbow on the wall outside the courthouse in our little small town, tap our heels against the stone, suck on fireballs and write about our futures.

Miss you, Dooley girls. One lone step doesn't lead anywhere.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I snuck in between floods.

A couple months after one. You could still smell the mud. Still had to dodge the crumbling edges of highways.

They banded together, those people, in that flood. Cleaned up their school together. Cleaned up their roads together. I slid in late, and, having done nothing to help, became a spectator, pretending to understand the words and looks that communicated whole paragraphs between the people who were there to see it.

I never fit in that school, that county. Never particularly wanted to. I was nervous, anxious, the whole time I stayed. Trying not to say the wrong thing. Trying not to do the wrong thing. No one was unfriendly, but I didn't make friends. Didn't know how to relax into the rhythm of a place that felt so desperate, so distant. I was homesick for any other county, any other school.

My kids were all right. They bounced back. Just, every once in a while, one of them would stop typing or reading or coloring and look up at the ceiling.

"The water came up real fast that day."


"We was out playin' and Mommy hollered for me to get in, it was floodin'."


"This computer won't work. Did it get flooded?" and "My marker's out of ink. Did it get flooded?" and "This rug smells yuck. It musta got flooded."

Sounding every bit like some little old man embellishing the tale for his grandkids. So matter-of-fact. Uphill both ways in those kids' days. They were six and seven and eight years old and they knew more about mud and water and shifting foundations than I ever hope to know.

I loved them, but I couldn't wait to leave. Consumed by the selfish, by the desperate. Eaten up by anxiety and guilt, not about the flood, not about anything in particular -- just the way the gray sky and gritty air down there will make you desperate. I wondered how any of the older kids managed it, the desperation, the will to leave. You could see it on some of their faces as early as fourth grade, fifth grade.

But -- not on as many faces as you'd think. So content, some of those faces. So unaware that the sky could be any color but gray. Or maybe they just saw blue in places I didn't.

Maybe I was seeing gray in places nobody else did. That's part of why I loved those kids, and why I never understood them -- they could see home, shining bright, beneath the tiniest sliver of blue sky, while I couldn't spot home anywhere, even in bright sunlight.

I got out, finally, feeling scarred and still desperate. Glancing over my shoulder, shivering, trying to shake off the grit and the gray. Still not seeing blue. Still not all the way gone.

Then Saturday dawned lovely, if rainy -- a soft, gentle gray I hadn't seen in a while. My best friend took me wedding dress shopping and we put the perfect gown on layaway. Had lunch out. Tried on shoes. I felt good. Distant. Like I'd finally escaped.

That very moment, back down in that county, the creeks were escaping their banks again, claiming gardens and bridges and basements and churches. Sneaking into hallways and whispering down alleys.

Now I'm back in this odd state of being half-gone. In my head I keep seeing hopeful gazes, hearing matter-of-fact little voices. Want to gather them up and rebuild their basements, help them structure their hopes around something dry and solid.

But I'm gone.

And life there continues without me, like it did before me: wet and gray, oddly hopeful in the face of things I've never seen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Starting to wake up

I don't post much anymore. Not so much because I don't have anything to say. But because of three things:

1. I have too much to say and I'm too lazy to narrow it down.
2. My dear, sweet old painters-taped laptop has gone to a better place. I've been getting to know my new machine, which sports no tape and not much personality yet.
3. I'm getting married in July. Apparently weddings do not plan themselves.

But those are excuses. The real reason is that I'm tired. Tired from school. Tired from moving. Tired from being tired.

Tired multiplies. If you wake up feeling tired, you're going to feel tired all day. Then you're too tired to sleep. And that causes you to wake up tired the next day. Tired eats up entire hours of your writing time. Deletes passages from your brain before you have the chance to type them.

I've let myself be tired for too long. I'm firing up the coffee pot. Buckling down at this new machine. Remembering why I moved here in the first place.

It ain't to nap. I'll say that, at least. Nap time's over. See you soon.