Early Morning Scribblings: 31 January 2014

It's only 6 a.m. by my body clock, (which has reset to Central time) and this is much earlier that I would normally get up at home. But I'm not at home--I'm more than at home. I sit at the kitchen counter in my old residence at school, waiting on my old goodwill coffee pot to brew the three mugs of coffee I expect to need this morning. Oh no! They're not all for me... one for me, one for Jor, and, I hope, one for Sarah, who might be over this morning (provided she got her expos homework done last night).

Last night I discovered that:

  • two full grown girls can sleep comfortably in a twin bed -- if they like each other well enough.
  • I'll never run out of things to talk about with my oldest and dearest friends
  • my oldest and dearest friends are not necessarily those I've known my whole life. Two years is plenty of time to become old and dear. I always marvel at this fact.
  • you can still have nightmares even when you're really happy and at peace with the world. But it was only a dream... I'm okay. I'm okay.
There are two new girls in Townhouse 10, and though there have been changes in the house dynamics, some things haven't changed a bit. The coffee tablespoon is in the same place I left it, and this small detail is surprisingly comforting to me. The view from the upstairs window still makes my breath catch in my chest and the Bryan Sky is still the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. 

Jor is getting ready upstairs, I've fixed her coffee for her, and its waiting on the counter for her to dash out to her 8 o'clock biology class. I like taking care of people. It's nice to be needed, even if my skill-set of listening and coffee-making is small. I offer what I can joyfully.

I don't plan to do much today. Just being, enjoying the company of my dearests, and savoring this sweet time. Oh, and singing this song.

Through the Closet (and what Sarah Found There)

Yesterday, (because I'm sure you're wondering "what book character has Sarah been imagining herself to be lately?") I felt very much like Alice. Yes, that Alice, of Wonderland and the Looking-Glass.

 It might have been the way in which, while still lying in bed this morning, staring at the terribly white ceiling above me, I told myself with great determination that I absolutely had to finish unpacking my school boxes. Or it might have been the fact that I found my yellow primrose calico skirt (with the perfect pocket: perfect because when I made it, I cut it exactly to fit my hand) that always makes me feel like a storybook character. Or maybe it was the fact that when Elfman's "Alice's Theme" came on my Spotify, I liked it more than ever. Or maybe, and probably most likely, it was because when I opened my closet doors to sort and settle everything from my boxes, it just went on and on in an Odd sort of Wonderland all it's own, in which I had many Adventures of Memories, and discovered many Curious Items. I found some of these relics so fascinating that I decided to catalog them.

(In no particular order)
One Ring to Rule them all. Yes, I was the kid with the die cast collector's edition of the Ring from LoTR. Yes, I wore it on a chain around my neck. Yes, I am a die-hard Tolkien Enthusiast.

Also in the category of Things to Be Worn About the Neck:

  • One handstitched muslin pouch. Highly significant in imaginary play, because pouches are cool. The embroidered name "Song" on it leads me to believe it had to do with my Redwall based adventures that happened mainly from ages 11-15. 
  • One bottle-cork pendant on a length of blue yarn. (To keep the Nargles at bay) Part of my Luna Lovegood costume one year (and now I wonder where the Ravenclaw robes have got to.)
  • The fine gold chain and ruby pendant my parents gave me for my 16th birthday. Quite a relief to find, as I hadn't seen it in a year, and was beginning to despair for it's loss.
A bundle of silver artificial flowers turned up in a box, a delicate snowdrop type that I worn in my hair at my first Bryan banquet. Now, there's a happy memory.

Also Bryan related: not far from the flowers was simple black bow on a pin, discarded from my Women's chorus dress. I loved the dress style, long, empire waist, with a scoop neck and short sleeves (to be worn with black tights, black closed toe shoes, and foundation, blush, and mascara please ladies, we don't want to look washed out up there) , but the WC girls unanimously agreed that the detachable bow (located just beneath the bustline) had to go. 

There was a small mint tin, with an even smaller pencil stub inside. I found myself wondering what brand of crazy I might be to have saved such an insignificant trinket for so long. (but no longer!) A floppy disk with unknown contents also appeared, and I've kept that against the day I find a computer that still has a floppy drive, as Im pretty sure I saved a story on one a long, long time ago. 

My favorite find of the day was the small brass key that turned up in my backup knitting bag. I always seemed to have an odd key or two floating around when I was a little girl. I would wear one on a chain (did I mention that I have a penchant for odd necklaces) and in my vivid imagination, it went to some magical garret that I'd yet to find. No garrets sprang to mind this time, but rather its plain, unextraordinary appearance so reminded me of the key to the TARDIS, that I could almost believe for a second that the Doctor himself had left it with me... and Oh, I wished so hard that it would show up. There's a great many things I could find to do with a time machine. :) 

I'll end this list of Oddities with one last item.. and a picture. I found a magnetic word poetry set-thing. (what is the technical term for these? Anyone?)  that I had acquired from some library event. The last time I'd fiddled around with it had to have been before we moved to Tennessee, so I was probably around 16 when I last arranged these words. I haven't changed too terribly much as, at 22, I'd still say the same thing.

I'm feeling like

Till next time, dear reader.
I remain your Maker of Lists and Collector of Oddities


Finding the New Normal (Coffee Shop Scribblings #1)

I ran away from home to cure my cabin fever, to think, and to have a mini adventure that extends beyond my bedroom, the kitchen, and the complicated lives of the Forsyte family (the period drama my mom and I have been sucked into for the past week and a half.) Since my beloved Red Tree Coffee closed last year, I’ve made it my goal to try other coffee shops around Nashville. The Well in Green Hills is the first on my list. I love the anonymity of a new coffeehouse where I can sit and watch people… and write about them. :)

 (side note: a friend and I have a habit of making occasional notes on what our soundtrack is while we write each other, and I’m feeling in the mood to do that today, so bear with me. I’m listening to the Saint-Saens Symphony #3 at the moment; its glorious, and sends shivers all up and down my spine every single time I hear it.)

There’s a lot of Suits here. I guess this shouldn’t surprise me, seeing as we’re in Green Hills. Mr. Leather-pants-both-ears-pierced-neon-yellow-pocket-square just walked in. You don’t just overlook an outfit like that. My guess is that he’s in either fashion, or fancy penthouse home décor. There’s a mentor/prayer meeting to my left, and pink-macbook-girl (with amazing purple socks!) just in front of me. I think I’m the only PC in the place. #countercultural or #poorstudent? you decide.
I came here with more purpose than just people watch(judge)ing… I was going to work on job applications and plotting my course for these next few months, but I forgot that my borrowed laptop (you’ve decided on #poorstudent now) has a prejudice against joining unfamiliar wi-fi networks, so I’m off line, writing pencil and paper today. It’s actually good, as I’ve been needing to think on paper recently. The spring semester started at Bryan today, but I’m done ( I’m done!) so I’m not there. (Musical interlude: Norah Jones. “Come Away With Me”. I love the swishing brush on the drums in this one. It sounds like a soft, misting rain. What is it about Norah that just fits coffee shops?) I’m trying not to keep wishing that I was back at school, trying not to post melancholy statuses, and trying not to drag my friends down with my mood, but the truth is this: I’m a little lost at the moment… just drifting. For 4 years, my “normal” has been college. For 2 ½ of that, its been Bryan. Those 2 ½ years have been some of the best of my life. I’m not gonna lie; this is hard. 

My favorite read-aloud of my elementary school days was Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham, the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematician who revolutionized celestial navigation. His work, published in the book The New American Practical Navigator is still being used today in the U.S. Navy. As a boy, he was indentured out to a ships chandlery because his family had fallen on hard times. Nat (as he is called in the book) was a brilliant boy and should have been furthering his education instead of learning a trade so young, and this was hard for him. To use the seafaring terminology of the book, the wind was taken out of his sails. An older man comes alongside him at this point and tells him that he has a choice to make. He can either bemoan his situation and just sit there, becalmed, going no-where, or he can put out his oars and “sail by ash breeze” (ash being the commonly used wood for making oars in that day) till the wind picks back up. It’ll be hard work, but at least he’ll be going somewhere and doing something. 

This is my choice… I can sit here pining for the old normal—what I was used to—or I can pick up my oars and begin to row till I figure out what I’m doing and where I’m going—till I find a new normal.
 So this is me: trying out new coffee shops (but still drinking old favorites), listening to good music, applying children’s literature to life and finding the new normal.

 I am, and shall remain, your faithful scribbler,

"In An Old House in Paris..."

... I feel sorry for the girl-child that cannot finish that line.

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
In two straight lines they broke their bread
And brushed their teeth and went to bed.
They left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines in rain or shine-
The smallest one was Madeline.”
 ― Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline

My mother sits across the room, reading to my Fiona from my old Madeline books. Bits and pieces come back to me as I listen, whispering along at my favorite lines. I loved Madeline. I loved her spunk; I loved her smallness; I loved her fiery bob topped with that jaunty yellow hat.  Megan and I based our backyard play on her stories, the two of us only one sixth of the crowd of girls in that Parisian boarding house.
Mom reads Madeline's Rescue, the one where our plucky heroine falls in the Seine and is rescued by a dog, which the girls promptly adopt and name Genevieve. Such a glorious name for such a brave little canine. When Genevieve is banished from the school by the disagreeable Lord Cucuface (I'd be disagreeable too, if I had a name like that) I don't even have to see the picture to know the pose that Madeline strikes as she declares her intentions to restore Genevieve to the school; I stand ramrod straight, in the middle of the room, left hand raised passionately to the sky and declaim the line as my mother reads, "Miss Genevieve, noblest dog in France, you shall have your VEN-GE-ANCE!" (And oh yes, I can deliver that line like a pro.) Fiona probably thought I'd finally lost it. She'll understand one day, only it will be my children she acts the fool for.
The book itself is marked with the wavy-paged scars that signify water damage. I ask my mom if she knows how it got waterlogged. The look on her face is one of chagrin; she knows I'm particular about keeping my books nice, especially the ones with memories attached, but I'm not asking to point blame: I'm asking if she knows the story. She doesn't. 
"I took it in the bath one day," I tell her.
She begins to smile, "and you dropped it in?"
I nod. "Ironic, don't you think, that I should happen to drown the very book in which Madeline nearly drowns."
The damage is the memory in this case.

On Being a Historian

I was near tears in laughter at my corner of the table when Mom repeated the saying that's becoming a family mantra now that I'm home again, "You know, the Historian is always listening; whatever you do or say will probably be written down for a facebook status or blog, but it will be creative!" The occasion for my laughter this time was the ever present posturing for dominance by the larger of my little brothers. The thinly veiled jabs at so-and-so's height (which factors greatly into rank in the oligarchical system of governance that has evolved among my siblings) shouldn't have been funny, but with the lighthearted mood my family was in that night, even my dad was smiling wryly from his position at the head of the table, and the offended party wasn't actually that offended.
My mom was correct in her observation. She's also noted that when she sees me quietly watching the chaos around me, she can see the cognitive wheels turning as I take it all in, figuring out how best to tell the story. She raised me; she notices everything. I confess that I do exactly that. I try to work out the perfect way to describe Riley's dry wit, James' passionate ranting, and Alex's half-smiling grunts. I want to paint with words the faces of the babies, (though at 9 and 5, Cole and Fiona are hardly babies anymore) in their antics. I've never been one to grab the camera and snap a picture, but I still want to capture each telling moment as a living scene in my memory.

I've learned to do this as, with ten other voices vying for air time, I can hardly get a word in edgewise. I craft the vignettes in my head and store them away, till they can become a text to the sister at school, a clever facebook status or, yes, a blog post. 

I'm well of aware of the responsibility I have as the Recorder of the Annals of the Pedens. Written history is very rarely unbiased.  I know that in my brain and through my fingertips, I have the power to cast my family in whatever light I wish, flattering or not. But it is not my goal to glorify or villainize, but to tell true the joy, the love, the crazy chaos that is my life and my family. 

Be Bold. Make Mistakes.

It would be shame to let the first day of the year pass with out adding a little something to my blog, but as of yet,  the things I want to write about are still in the nebulous thought cloud that floats above my head, just out of my grasp, so what I post today is nothing much of my own, but rather a wonderful thought from one of my heroes.

Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, Stardust, and the Graveyard Book among others, has been a hero of mine for quite some time, not only because of his fantastic imagination and wonderful stories, but also because he has spoken quite warmly of libraries and librarians. This alone makes me want to hug the man and then bake him cookies.

A couple of years ago, he posted some lovely words of advice on his blog, words that I wish to pass on to you today.

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something. So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

Happy New Year! Go forth boldly!