Two interesting questions came up at work today, although don’t ask me how. I was straining to hear the Phillies game on my little radio over the hum of the vent above my desk, which as of April 1st has mysteriously and suddenly switched from blowing air so hot your skin threatens to melt off, to Arctic-tinged air that leaves me in suspended in a permanent state of goose bumps and shivers. The Phillies were down 6-1 at the bottom of the six, when by some miracle of miracles, they get nine runners on base and take the lead 7-6. I shouldn’t get so excited while at work, but it’s hard not to. It’s been several long months since football season ended, and now I have a team to root for once again.
The two questions that were posed were as follows, and the relationship roles are gender specific here only because everyone in the conversation happened to be a woman currently in a relationship with a man. Substitute the male pronouns with female if that floats your boat, and it’s still the same question.
1. If you could talk to your current boyfriend/husband/fiance’s ex flame, on neutral turf, with just the two of you in the room, what would you say to her?
2. If you could talk to your ex-boyfriend/husband/fiance’s current flame, on neutral turf, with just the two of you in the room, what would you say to her?
Both of these questions seemed really easy to answer, until I actually opened my mouth and started to answer them, at which point I completely changed my mind about what I’d actually say, given the opportunity.
The first question was the easiest. Jeremy and I have a pretty solid understanding about past relationships. They’re over and there’s not really any need to re-live them in any sense of the word. It’s not like there is a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy around our house – on the contrary, we’ve both spilled the beans on previous relationships as part of getting to know each other. There were things that when I first met him were still emotional sore spots for me, and he needed to know about those things in order to be the fantastic boyfriend and soon-to-be-husband that he is. Beyond all that, it’s probably better not to go into details. I don’t need to know their inside jokes or favorite songs or the story of their first kiss. Neither Jeremy nor I has ever had any kind of weird jealousy regarding each other’s exes. We’re both really confident in our relationship and each other, so what’s the point? From what little I know, they all seem decent enough. They don’t bother us and we don’t think about them.
So I guess I’d probably just say “Thanks for dumping him! I win!”
The second question was the hardest for ALL of us to answer, even those who had been happily married for a decade or more. All of us admitted that we’d thought about it before, although in most cases it was years ago. One person admitted that she had confronted the current girlfriend of her philandering ex-boyfriend. Balls of steel. Seriously.
It was easy to view my ex as the enemy – a weak man who always saw the grass as being greener on the other side, and although his current girlfriend was the other woman, I tried not to view her as the enemy as well. I absolutely hate it when women turn on each other when the man is actually the one to blame, where is the sisterhood in that? I mean, I wasn’t dating her. She had no allegiance to me, he did. He was the one who made the promises and talked about our future even as he planned his escape.
As miserable as I was, I didn’t want company. I figured that she either knew about the way he treated me during and after the breakup (sordid details of which I won’t go into here- suffice to say there were a lot of broken promises, lies, and general spinelessness…) and didn’t care, or she was completely unaware of how everything went down, in which case it wasn’t my place to tell her. If he was happy with her and she was happy with him, then what was there to say after all? I knew who she was, it wouldn’t have been all that hard to contact her, had I truly wanted to. It wouldn’t have been hard to tell her things he’d said to me years later that might have completely destroyed their relationship. But I never wanted that. I just figured that if you enter into a relationship with a man, knowing that he had to completely trample all over another person’s life to be with you, then you’d better hope that he’s completely changed and will treat you better than the person he left, or you should just be prepared that it will inevitably happen to you at some point down the road.
And what would I say to her now? Nothing. It’s been a long time, and I’m a forgiving person, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he’s changed. It felt awful having so much negative energy pent up inside for so long and at a certain point I just let it all go. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but one day something made him cross my mind for the first time in a year and I didn’t feel angry. Maybe he grew up, maybe he became the person that I once thought he was. We haven’t spoken in years, so anything is possible. I highly doubt it, but who knows? And if they’re happy, they’re happy.
I’m getting married in three weeks to a fantastic guy, so to say that he did me a favor would be an understatement. The point being, I think I did the right thing by never saying anything, and if you’ll listen to a small piece of unsolicited advice, I’d highly recommend it to anyone elsethat may find themselves in my situation. The universe usually rights itself without us interfering.
When Jeremy and I became in engaged almost fourteen months ago, I made a promise to myself and to him that I wouldn’t become a Bridezilla. I’d heard enough stories about crazy women becoming complete alternate versions of themselves and they became immersed in wedding planning, and I didn’t want anything remotely close to that to happen to me. I wanted the experience to be fun and full of memories-in-the-making, not stressful and insane. Both my husband-to-be and I are very laid back people, so the chances of us resembling the little girl from the Exorcist were slim to none, but it was always in the back of my mind to make a conscious effort to remain stress-free.
I’ve come to the conclusion that being stress free in the weeks leading up to your wedding is a nearly impossible feat. As far as I know, my head hasn’t started spinning as I screamed things like “I TOLD YOU I WANTED WHITE LINENS!” or “THIS IS NOT THE FONT WE AGREED ON FOR THE PROGRAM!” but there have been times where I had to remind myself to take a deep breath because everything would work out in time.
The thing about planning a wedding is that at certain points along the way, you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. One moment you’re deciding whether or not you want Asiago or Muenster cheese in your asparagus puff appetizer and the next moment you’re engrossed in a major existential thought that leads to all sorts of self discovery. And I’m not just talking about what kind of cheese you prefer.
One of the first, and probably most important things I learned is that I am much better at compromise than I ever thought I could be. I can be sort of a firecracker- very steadfast in my resolves and often very stubborn when it comes to doing things someone else’s way. I never imagined myself getting married in a church. I’ve never been particularly religious –I didn’t grow up as such and it never factored into my life until I met Jeremy, who was raised with a religious background. From the get-go, he said he wanted to be married in a church, and for someone who never asks for much of anything, you can bet it must be important to him. I couldn’t shake the thought of our wedding day being anything less than either one of us imagined, but it seemed like we were heading down that path. How could our wedding be in a church, yet be secular enough to suit my tastes as well?
That was when I discovered my alter ego, Ms. Surprise Compromise. We’re in this thing together, for the rest of our lives, so why should our wedding day be the Jessica Show? We looked into our options, and found a fantastic Episcopal priest at a church with a perfect location downtown. He was willing to work with the two of us to make sure we were comfortable with the whole day. We were allowed to select readings from Song of Solomon that read like poems, we got rid of the out-dated “Who gives this woman away” jazz, and he’s letting us replace the traditional organ hymns with Beatles songs played by a string quartet. (In case you’re curious: Grow Old With Me, When I’m 64, and Imaginewill be played pre-ceremony, If I Fell is the wedding party processional, I walk down the aisle to I Will, Blackbird will be played in between readings, and our recessional will be, of course, All You Need Is Love.) How rad is this priest?
Somewhere along the way I also discovered that I’m slightly more traditional that I thought I was. Don’t get all excited. I said slightly. We’re still opting for the cute little cupcakes shaped like bird’s nests instead of a cake, we’re still going to have our infamous Midnight Snack table for guests to load up little satchels of candy, and snacks on their way out, and I’m really excited about the tattoo to commemorate our wedding that I ’m getting on our honeymoon (sorry Mom!) Still, I didn’t want to be making decisions just because they were non-traditional. I didn’t want to be like one of those 14 year old kids that hang out in the mall at Hot Topic and wear striped socks pulled up to their knees or dog collars around their necks because it’s so different. For example, It’s okay that I always thought I’d waltz down the aisle wearing my something blue on my feet, only to search for months for the right kicks, completely in vain. Then one day, completely by accident, I stumbled across the perfect pair of vintage peep toes in – gasp… white. Yeah, all brides wear white shoes. I. Don’t. Care.
Although I initially thought I would ditch the head table for the more modern sweetheart tables with the bridal party in rounds nearby, it didn’t seem to work with our venue. The room is much longer than it is wide, and there was no feasible way for us to design the floor plan to make it look the way we wanted. I really stomped my feet over this one, because to me head tables are a throwback to 1983. I envisioned gaggles of puffy sleeved bridesmaids with wall bangs and white tuxedo clad groomsmen and rat tails sitting at a big long table with an ice sculpture at one end and a five tiered wedding cake decorated with those awful plastic bridges and topped with teddy bears dressed as bride and groom.
When I finally accepted defeat and realized that we’d be going with the head table after all, it was sort of a blow to me for a solid couple of days. Then I thought about it some more and realized that our wedding party were made up out of the people we hold closest in our lives – our best friends, our siblings, the first people to congratulate us on our engagement and the people we wanted standing up there with us as we became husband and wife. We should all be sitting together. We’ll have a blast, modern weddings be damned, I’m going to sit in the middle of that big old head table and be proud. But I’m totally not having an ice sculpture.
I also didn’t think I wanted to throw a bouquet, go through all the rigmarole with the garter, have people stand in line to pay us for dances, or do anything resembling an Electric Slide. I’ve changed my mind on a lot of that, because I realized that it’ s fun. Our guests are going to have four solid hours of dancing, it’s kind of nice to break up the monotony with a single woman free-for-all over flowers. We’re still not doing the garter thing, and there is no way in hell the Chicken Dance is getting played, but I’ve put myself in my guests shoes and realized it’s okay to let loose and be slightly ridiculous. Traditional and lame can be mutually exclusive.
And last, but not least, I realized that I rather like myself just the way I am. I didn’t go on a crazy crash diet to morph into a body that I’ve never had, and probably will never again have in my life. I didn’t go tanning to become a weird shade that I’ll probably never again be in my life. I didn’t get hair extentions, fake nails, or zoom whitening for my chompers. No, this is one girl that people will recognize when she walks down the aisle. And those people? Well, they like me just the way I am, and I do too.
So this wedding planning thing has been fun, and in a way I don’t want it to end. I could definitely live with the pampering, presents, and cupcake tastings for a few more months, but it’s time. I’m ready to walk down that aisle in a couple of weeks and become a spouse, now more sure of who I am than ever before.
I love food. I do. I love shopping for it, I love cooking it, I love reading magazines devoted to it, and above all I love eating it. At home, I’ll regularly tune in to the Food Network to watch an instructional cooking program, or one of the many food preparation competition shows that have sprung up in the past few years. Since my cooking at home rarely even comes close to gourmand, I find that the bowl of Ramen noodles I’m eating suddenly tastes better if I’m eating it in front of the television, watching Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, standing in her sunny kitchen in the Hamptons preparing a feast before my eyes. It’s almost like my brain somehow tricks my mouth and my stomach into thinking I’m the recipient of all of this awesome food. No, it says. No, these are not mushy, reconstituted noodles that taste similar to seasoned cardboard. This is a grilled leg of lamb. Grilled with rosemary and olive oil. Ina gave it to you, along some caramelized butternut squash and asparagus roasted with prosciutto. Go ahead, it it up. Maybe by the time you’re finished Paula Deen’s show will be on. She’s making caramel apple bread pudding with a cream cheese drizzle. It’s your lucky day. My brain is very quixotic. And greedy.
Although I watch what I eat now because I want to fit into a wedding dress smaller than a parachute come April, in a perfect world I would eat pretty much everything. I could probably list, on a single sheet of paper, foods that I don’t like. Everything else is fair game. Milk is out. American cheese, bologna, mustard, and raw onions revolt me. Mayonnaise will never go on my sandwich but it’s okay as a binder. I’ve never tried liver and don’t think I want to, and if that means I’m missing out on something wonderful so be it. Every other kind of food is generally okay by me. I’ve tried some really crazy recipes, cuisines, and food type items in the name of culinary expiration. I’m pretty much up for anything. As long as it’s not near, on, or past the expiration date.
My fiance will eat bread a week past the expiration as long as it’s not moldy. He’ll eat yogurt as long as it doesn’t smell bad. I insist that he brushes his teeth and thoroughly gargles before I kiss him after he consumes said foods. When I met him in 2005, he had a cupboard full of cereal boxes, all of which had been expired at least a year and a half. A year and a half! I wanted to wear gloves just throwing it out. God only knows what kind of insane bacteria were lurking in every nook and cranny of those Golden Grahams. Now, he likes to point out that these dates printed on the labels aren’t the date that the food goes bad, but just the date that the manufacturer suggests you buy or consume it by in order to enjoy optimal taste. I, on the other hand, will throw out a gallon of juice or a bottle of vitamins a full two days before it hits the expiration just so that I don’t risk accidentally consuming it after that dreaded date. I look at expiration and sell by dates while I’m at the grocery store, and goddammit I will search an entire shelf of Starkist just to find that one can that expires in April of 2008. Take that, tuna that’s only good until March! Of course, that tuna will more than likely be consumed within a week of my purchasing it, but it makes me feel better to know that in case of nuclear attack, where I need to hold on to all my canned goods in order to survive, I just may make it a month longer than the other fools who bought their tuna at Acme that day.
I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid of getting botulism or E-coli or beri beri or whatever other food borne illnesses are out there. I’m afraid of spending hours on the toilet and of biting into a big hunk of hairy green mold. If Jeremy had his way, things would stay in the fridge until they became science projects. Still, it’s terrible to waste food. I know it’s terrible to waste food and I make every effort not to. I try not to buy anything I know we won’t finish in a reasonable amount of time. Personally I can’t afford to throw away things we haven’t eaten and I can’t deal with the guilt I feel as I picture starving Sudanese refugees as the 2 days-past-expiration Maraschino cherries, the ones that I bought to make sundaes with but only used once, slide into my trashcan. Waste not, want not, I know. But I cannot bring myself to do it. Those dates are there for a reason, people, and that reason just may be to save my digestive system from ruin. Maybe one day I’ll outgrow this annoying and expensive quirk, but for now if that cheddar expired yesterday, it is not going on my broccoli today.
My brother was the kind of child who was easily influenced by things he watched on the television or read in a book. When he first saw the Karate Kid, he became obsessed with making up his own form of kung-fu and practicing in his room wearing a pair of pajamas that was made to look like a karate outfit, complete with a black belt. Considering I was the target of many of his newly invented moves, such as the jump-from-the-top-of-the-bunk-bed-and-beat-the-shit-out-of-your-sister-while-saying-HIIIIYYYAAA! move , this was a rather bleak time for me.
When Back to the Future came out, he immediately started begging my Mom for a jean jacket and a padded vest, a pair of sunglasses, and those old school white Nikes with the red stripe on the side. If memory serves me correctly, he got at least the jacket and vest for his next birthday, and although he had already moved on the imitating characters from other movies, he would still put on his get-up every time we watched the movie. He had cowboy boots and a hat to wear when it struck his fancy, and an Indian headdress and rubber tomahawk that my Grandparents brought back from a trip to a reservation years before suddenly wouldn’t leave his head once he began watching a local children’s television program hosted by Chief Halftown, a Seneca Indian who began each show with the greeting: “Ees da sa sussaway!” Although we never knew exactly what that meant, and still don’t, Mike naturally adopted it as his catch phrase for short time.
My parents always indulged our imaginations, and I give them a lot of credit for that. They never told me that in all likelihood I would not grow up to be a professional ballerina during the day and an astronaut at night. I was never discouraged from writing love letters to all the members of the New Kids on the Block and planning what Ralph Maccio and I would name our future children. Just for the record, it would have been Ralph Maccio Jr. for a boy since Ralph seemed like the type to want to pass on his legacy, and Laverne Shirley Macchio for a girl.
Although we were encouraged to dream and wish and create to our little hearts content, there were times that we clearly took it over the limit. For instance, one summer my Mom was out in the backyard hanging laundry on the clothesline to dry, when suddenly she heard giggling and scampering feet coming through the kitchen. Seconds later, the screen door leading to the backyard popped open and there stood my brother, with most of his exposed skin covered with hair. For a few moments she was unable to grasp exactly what kind of catastrophe she was witnessing, until my brother made his hands into a monster’s claw shape, howled, and exclaimed “Look Ma! I’m a werewolf!” Inspired by his recent viewing of Teen Wolf my brother had taken scissors to his head, cut off huge clumps of hair, and then pasted the hair all over himself. A buzz cut and a stern talking to later, my Mom gave us both large cardboard boxes decorated with felt and filled with various crafting items like pipe cleaners, pom-poms, buttons, and construction paper. I think she realized that if we weren’t given a proper medium for expression she was probably risking waking up one morning to find us covered in homemade tattoos that we’d inked from a ballpoint pen and sewing needle.
Still, my brother continued to be extremely effected by all forms of media, which was especially evident in the myriad of career choices that his youthful self planned for the future. One day, when he and his friend Gregory read a children’s book about a graveyard on Halloween, they decided that there was nothing they wanted more in life than to one day become grave diggers. They weren’t at all interested in dealing with the mortuary end of things – the embalming or the funeral arrangements, the soft spoken condolences to the family of the deceased. No, Greg and Mike were blue collar men. They wanted to wear coveralls and bandanas, they wanted dirt under their fingernails and calluses on their hands.
Ambitious and eager to perfect their skills at their future vocation, the two boys started digging. Starting in our sandbox, they soon realized that it lacked the depth a real grave would surely have and quickly became dissatisfied. However, using child sized shovels made out of hard plastic, it was difficult for them to break ground in our newly thawed backyard that Spring. After breaking their entire arsenal of sand shovels and Little Tykes Gardening Set instruments, my Dad reluctantly took one of his own small metal shovels and sawed down the handle to make it more appropriate for his three foot, seven inch frame. Then he took a rubber grip off of an old mop and fashioned it to the handle, and cut the fingers off of an old pair of batting gloves he had in the garage. They were still a little big on my brother, but they gave him the satisfaction of feeling like a real gravedigger. It didn’t take long for Dad to regret modifying the grave digging shuttle for Mike and Greg’s practice digs. Our backyard was soon becoming pock- marked and unsightly. Mounds of dirt full of wiggling Earthworms sat next to shallow holes, abandoned when one of the boys encountered a tree root or got tired of standing in the same place for too long. After a day or two they were ordered to fill in all the holes and relocate to a park down the street, where they spent most of their summer.
The grave digging ambition continued for some time, although the practice decreased in frequency once the boys started school. Mike would doodle headstones and grave markers on his sketch pad, trying to make designs he thought fit the personality of those near and dear to him. My mother was told that he was going to make her a pink heart for her headstone when she died, and on days when he was feeling particularly mean to me he would threaten me with a promise to forget to close my coffin during my burial so that worms could crawl inside and eat my nose. He took his chosen profession very seriously.
My brother is now 24 years old, and he’s had some difficulty deciding on a career. After graduating college a year and a half ago with a degree in International Relations, he took a job in personal finance. Deciding he wasn’t interested in a desk job, he left that position after a few months and has worked in an Irish pub style restaurant ever since. Later this month he’s taking a test to start apprenticing for an electrician’s union, which I’m hoping works out for him. He’ll probably never become a grave digger/ headstone maker and I’ll probably never be a part-time ballerina/astronaut. But having those dreams and parents who let us believe in them made us who we are today – dreamers still.
So after reading about a spooky psychic experience over on Idle Ramblings… I became inspired to tell my own story of psychic creepiness. I can’t draw any conculsions from what happened to me, I can only tell y’all exactly what happened and let you be the judge.
I was working in the cafe of a bookstore in New Jersey soon after moving there after college. I was in that stage of my life where I had no idea what I wanted to do and was perfectly content with working for peanuts and talking to people about books and coffee all day. Like any other coffee shop, the cafe had a regular morning crowd, a regular mid-day crowd, and a regular evening crowd. It was kind of comforting to have regularity day in and day out, especially because I was hopelessly homesick. I’ll always think of New Jersey as being the Pit of Dispair, but that job wasn’t half bad. I got to talk a lot, and we all know I love to talk. I talked to college kids, dog groomers, stay at home moms. I talked to a woman whose father was the founder of a cult that she would never tell me the name of. She changed her name, got a Phd, and has recently solved a very important mathematical theorum. But she is not the focus of my story.
The woman I want to write about is named Sarah.* Sarah worked close to the bookstore and came in around mid-morning for a latte nearly every day. She was bubbly and sweet and loved to talk, so we got along swimmingly. Around Halloween she told me she was participating in a ghost hunt. I assumed that she meant one of those guided cemetary tours that pop up around October and lead you around by lantern light to “haunted” areas, kind of like one I went on in college. No, she told me, she was leading the hunt, because she was a psychic. Now, when someone says something like this to you – especially when you’re not expecting it- it kind of leaves you speechless. Not wanting to be rude, but not really having time to think of anything to say I just kind of nodded and said “Wow, really?”
Now, let me take a break in the story to let you know that “Wow, really?” is the quintessential thing that I say when I have no idea what else should come out of my mouth. It’s especially useful when listening to someone with an accent so thick that you have no clue what they just said. Usually people just respond with a “yes” and you move on. And we did just that. Several weeks went by and she never mentioned anything about ghosts or psychics, and I never brought it up. One morning, she came in as she usually did, we made small talk, she paid for her drink, and then turned to leave. Before making it out the door she stopped, turned around, and came back over to the counter.
“Would you be uncomfortable if I told you something that is coming to me from a paranormal source?”
Would I be uncomfortable? The first thing that came to my mind was: please don’t tell me I’m going to die, please don’t tell me I’m going to die.” But what came out of my mouth was “No, not at all.”
“Well, okay. I’ve been wanting to tell you this for quite some time,” she started. Please, please, no death, I thought. “I’m not going to talk about death!” Now she had my attention. Was it the look on my face that gave me away, or was she really picking up on what was running through my head? “First of all, I need to know the connection to the rose.”
The connection to the rose? Where do I begin? Well, for starters, Rose is my middle name, I explained. “Because from the first time I met you, I’ve seen roses all around you and I don’t think it’s just because of the name. It’s connected to the older woman who I sometimes see hanging out near you.” Now I was spooked. Rose is the name of my fabulous great-grandmother who is sadly no longer with us. For most of my life, I’ve felt that Rose was indeed still hanging around me, but more on that later. I explained the connection, and Sarah nodded. “Well, she really wants to let you know that even though things are tough and you miss your family you’re going to be home soon enough.”
At the time, this didn’t seem like a possibility. I was in a relationship, hence the reason that I was in New Jersey in the first place. He had a local job, and he seemed to like it, and while I didn’t really have any direction in life and hated nearly everything about the Garden State, we didn’t have any plans of leaving in the immediate future. to the contrary, the plan was for me to go to graduate school, and I was in the process of being certified as a social worker in the state. When I started to explain all of this, she cut me off. “There is a little bit of bad news…” Again, no death, no death. “Rose wants to let you know that she doesn’t want you to stick around with this guy. He’s going to be up to no good if he isn’t already.
“What kind of no good?”
“The kind of no good that involves some other woman.”
She must have seen the look on my face. Somewhere between shock and disbelief and utter dispair. She reached out and touched my hand. “Still, it’s the best thing that could happen.”
And then the conversation was over. Just like that. I didn’t know what to think for a long time. The Rose connection was eerie, but I wasn’t completely sold. She could have heard me talk about Rose, she could have heard me mention my middle name. Hell, I could have told her my middle name and just not remembered the conversation. Still, it always stuck in my mind because how could it not?
I didn’t really believe it until about a year later, when the guy I was dating, who I thought was the bees knees left me abruptly. For someone else.
The connection to my great-grandma Rose and myself has three and a half other quick stories, each one of them kind of eerie. The first happened when I was very young. We were on vacation during the summer, and I was asleep with the bedroom window open. At some point during the night my Mom came to check on me and discovered that a trail of big, red, fire ants had made their way in through a small tear in the window screen and were all over the headboard of the bed I was sleeping in. As she ran over to grab me, she swears that she heard Rose’s voice saying – clear as day- “Don’t worry gal, I didn’t let any bugs get on our baby.” Sure enough, there wasn’t a single bite on me, even though the ants were all over the pillow and the bedsheets.
The second story happened when our family first moved into the new home my parents built during the 1980s. I was at school and my Mom was putting away laundry. She walked upstairs into my room and as soon as she entered the threshold, she smelled her grandmother. Sometimes there really isn’t an accurate way to describe the way someone smells. It’s a mix of shampoo and perfume and laundry detergent and body chemistry, but after awhile it becomes familiar. She knew what it was, and she got the feeling that Rosie was checking out the new house and making sure everything was okay.
The third incident also involves my Mom and the house. A few months after the second experience, she was walking through the kitchen and noticed a yellowish square of paper on the white linoleum floor. My Mom is kind of nuts about being clean, so she picked it up on the tip of her finger and flicked it into the trashcan. Hours later, there it was again on the counter. She picked it up on her finger once again, flipped it over, and discovered it was a photo. Of Rose. It was just Rose’s face, and it was a photo she had never seen before. The shape of it and the lack of centering made it implausible that it was cut for a locket, but there it was all the same. This time, she put it safely in her jewelry box, where it stayed for several weeks until one day it suddenly wasn’ t there anymore. We still have no idea where it came from. Maybe it was just Rose’s way of letting us know she was still checking up.
The last story is the one I call the half, because I’m really not sure if it was related to Rose or if I just want it to be. In late June of 2004, I got into a really bad car accident on my way to work. My car was hit by an 18-wheeler on a highway and completely totaled. There wasn’t anything left of the back seat of the car, the windows were all smashed in, and yet I walked away without a scratch. If there is someone watching over me, then they brought their A game that day. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, I talked to the driver, who happened to have grown up three houses down from the little red house on Hutton Street in Jersey City where Rose lived for the better part of her life. Later that night at my parents house in Delaware, while I was looking through a bunch of old files to get my insurance papers in order for the rental car I needed, I found a letter my grandmother Lore had written me talking about her mother, Rose. In it, she wrote “When Grandpa and I got married, we bought our first car. We probably didn’t need it, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and we were thankful for it when he got transferred to California. Mama was TERRIFIED of cars. This came from never having driven one herself and never having the need for one in the city. She always told me: I can’t stand the way buses and truckers drive! They’re gonna kill someone, and it won’t be me because I’m taking the train! When we would pick her up to bring her to our place for a visit she would make Grandpa put a medallion of St. John the Baptist on the mirror.”
Saint John the Baptist. The patron Saint of Highways. So there you have it. Like I said, I can’t draw any conclusions for you, but this is my story. Maybe I’m reading in to it too much, but maybe I’m not. Regardless, I hope that one day when I have a daughter (who I will undoubtedly give the middle name of Rose to)I can share it with her as well.
*Name has been changed.
When I was about seven years old, a really bad late summer thunderstorm rolled through my hometown.It wasn’t a tornado or anything, but it was pretty serious. There were loud rumbles of thunder that shook the house and big bolts of lightning that lit up the entire sky and made it seem like the sun was still out even though it was well after eight in the evening. The wind was so strong that the trees seemed have diagonal leaves, and a big hunk of shingles blew off my neighbor’s roof and landed against the sliding glass door of our living room. The lights flickered on, and then off, and then back on again before a loud click finally threw the entire town neighborhood into darkness. My little brother started to cry, and my mom began to scramble around the house looking for candles. And for me. She searched all through the second story of the house until she heard a faint whimpering coming from my bedroom closet. She opened the doors, turned on her flashlight, and there I was -sitting no the floor inside my closet, clutching a bright red suitcase. I jumped right up, wiped the tears from my face, and said my my best pretending-I’m-brave voice:
“I’m ready Mom!”
“Ready for what?” she asked.
“Ready to evacuate!”
See, I’ve always been paranoid, even when I was a little kid. A little rain and some thunder and I’m packing up my bright red suitcase full of books and pictures and ready to move into my FEMA trailer. This has never really changed, as anyone who knows me well will tell you that I can get more than a little paranoid from time to time. My latest episode of severe over-reaction occurred last Friday afternoon. See, to get to and from work, I drive to a Park and Ride and take a trolley into the city. The trolley drops me off right near my office and saves me the aggravation of driving downtown and – most importantly – the cost of parking my car in a garage 5 days a week. In the afternoon the same trolley takes me back to my car and I go home. Friday afternoon was really hot and muggy, so as soon as I got into my car I started it up and reached over to turn the AC on full blast. Not even a second later, I heard a really loud POP! that scared the shit out of me. This wasn’t just a little noise, it actually made my ears ring for a few seconds afterward.
My immediate, paranoid thought was that someone was shooting outside. I mean, it is the city and I am a little bit crazy, what did you expect? I hate to admit this, but I think I may have actually ducked down in my seat for a couple of seconds until I realized that if someone was shooting, people outside in the parking lot would have been running and screaming. Instead, as I peeked over the dash, I saw that everyone was acting completely normal and starting their Friday commute home. Everyone except me that is. I was huddled in my car like an asshole thinking that a rogue shooter had wandered to the Park and Ride. Still unable to think of anything except for the worse case scenario, I drove home feeling anxious and nervous. I pulled into my driveway, and immediately got out to inspect my car for any and all signs of bulletholes, grenade divets, leaking gaskets, or anything else out of the ordinary.
Then I realized what the pop was. It was a pop. I mean, like a soda. I left an unopened can of Diet Pepsi in the back seat all day, and the heat finally made it explode just as I had gotten into the car. Feeling extremely sheepish, but increasingly glad I didn’t completely freak out and call the police from my cellphone while trying to huddle under my dashboard, I walked silently inside.