Friday, February 8, 2013
“Like shit, but good” is the punch line to a hilarious story my grandfather used to tell. Some people are scarily good at remembering funny stories, and Paul Crosby was one of those people…had a card file in his head full of lines he’d haul out at the most inappropriate times. I’m pretty sure the story involved hunting a moose, but somehow the hunter ended up with a skunk. Certainly, with the metaphorically twisted "like shit, but good" punch line, it had to be a story straight out of the heart of Québec. Funnily enough, though, almost no one in my family remembers which story of his ends that way. We don’t really have to…all one of us has to do is say “Like shit, but good,” and the rest of us all smirk and nod, or if it’s muttered in public when it ought not to be, some of us spew beverages. We know exactly what we all mean, but none of us can explain it. Writing a first post after a year and a half without blogging, especially for readers who haven’t been following me on Facebook, feels a lot like inviting you all back into a room where people are still laughing, but the joke's long gone. I run a serious risk of either overwhelming you with ninety-three jokes because I can’t remember which one goes with the punch line, or alienating you because hey, it was funny a year ago, and now I can’t explain it. This is Lysander. He’s new on the scene, so he can’t explain it, either. Also, he’s eaten an entire bowful of nip, so you really don’t have to remember the joke. You’re hilarious just standing there. So, where was I all this time? What the hell was my problem, anyway, ditching the old blog, starting fresh, and then not posting after such a rollicking, promising, oh-look-she’s-perilously-close-to-turning-her-life-inside-out-AGAIN start? Was I still writing? Still knitting and spinning? Did my history of diving first and asking questions later (which I fondly, and often blindly, refer to as “intuition”) come back to bite me in the ass? Did I know that Vogue Knitting’s Made In Canada readers are really tired of checking my blog link, only to find that damned sheep with the stuff on his face from a year and a half ago? Did I shave my head and take a vow of silence? Did I run that second marathon? What happened to the cute cartoonist? Was I stuck in customs prison for smuggling really tiny Gotlands over the Canadian border in my purse? Did I leave Montréal’s slanted three-flight staircase of chiropractic delight and my beloved running and knitting community behind to come home to New Hampshire? Did I wander into the family garden intending to harvest the last of the ugly tomatoes and accidentally eat the datura? Did Tig ever learn to tell a story from start to finish? Did I successfully hide a live sheep or five behind the manure pile in my dad’s garden? Also, what happened to the hot cartoonist? A “like shit, but good” conundrum if ever there was one. Tell you what: I’ll start with the most karmically intense, life-changing event that’s ever been granted to me, and we’ll go from there. Three years ago, my best friend and first love, my childhood sweetheart, the only person who read as much as I did way back then, who would walk anywhere with me, would willingly read anything I wrote, and who made me laugh until my stomach hurt, responded to a hello with “I’ve been waiting thirty years for this moment.” Not a moment has passed since then that I don’t know, fully, that I am loved about as much as a person can possibly be loved, no matter where I’ve been, what my life has been like, what joys I’ve passed up in favour of turning myself into someone more acceptable, what wrong turns I’ve taken in the name of smoothing things over, what scars I’ve acquired along the way. And last April, Justin Kane married me. That’s what happened to the cartoonist. Living in my hometown again after twenty-five years defies description. My parents are all here, right down the street, instead of six lonely hours and a nervous border crossing away. My inlaws are not just my parents but my friends: they make me think, and they make me laugh. My daughter goes to a school where there are still teachers I know, with the children of classmates of mine, and instead of being threatened with “special school,” she’s handling her learning struggles with real help on a daily basis, side by side with the rest of the kids. (Middle school is one big struggle, anyway, no matter what your learning profile.) Her English sounds French, so no, stories haven’t gotten easier to tell, but once in a while, this kid delivers a punch line that slays us all. My husband and my kid. Walking punch lines, both of them. There are so many stories down every single street in this town. A run anywhere here opens up the floodgate to memories, events pushed under by the matted riverweeds of early adulthood. Strangely, I recognize almost everyone’s face, though their names elude me unless I sit poring through yearbooks to search them out later, and even then, I don’t always remember. Sometimes I just think I know people, which makes me oddly brave. I’ll talk to anyone here. Still, I wander around a good part of the time feeling like I get the punch line, but dude, the story, she could be anything. And every few weeks, I run into an old friend. Town fairs are good for that. Voting, too. And school concerts. I have hugged and been hugged in public places more in the past year and a half that I’ve lived here than I have in the ten years previous. (Yes, by people I actually know.) And I’ve made new friends. This one’s named Clover. I fed her by hand through much of last summer. Yes, she’s a porcupine. Don’t hold it against her. In fact, don’t hold anything against her. (Dude. Quills. Enough said.) She will, however, hold your hand with her paw while she eats, if you’re quiet and calm. I have not run a second marathon, but I have run one of the toughest, most rewarding half-marathons I’ve ever run in my life, with more new friends: The Great Bay Half Marathon in Newmarket, NH. Hills. Nothing but hills. I loved it. Best race I’ve ever run. I have learned to fish. Obsessively. And I was the only member of the family to catch a striper this year, though it was too small to keep. Damned fish keep swimming around the canoe. They’re taunting me. I have also learned to garden. Obsessively, and on a grand scale. We grew a ton of vegetables this year, plus sunflowers that threatened to take over the universe, in a former hayfield behind my dad’s house. The infamous family garden where I have threatened to hide sheep. The master gardener tells me there’s still time. I have rediscovered the forests, oceanside cliffs, and mountains of my childhood, and climbed a few that were too big back then for me to scale. And now that I have my Three-Day Backpack Of Pocket-Rich Doom, I will carry forty pounds on my back practically anywhere. I have officially become a peak-bagger. I am writing, working from home on a variety of projects, with varying degrees of productivity. Shackleton, our one-eyed smooshy-faced survivor cat, likes to help me. Lysander is somewhat less helpful. I’ve always been the person in the house who fixes things, and now that I live with someone who does the same, it’s tool heaven. I have demolished a porch front with a pulaski and rebuilt it. (A pulaski is a huge chisel-axe-like thing that is pretty much made for smashing stuff. Also, I just like to say “pulaski.”) I’ve stained more bookshelves than I’ve ever had before and we still don’t have enough for all the books we have together. I’ve patched my mechanic’s driveway when our truck’s gas tank bled out all over it (we ran over a deer, which tore a hole in the gas tank). Doug, my mechanic, is out of photo range, asking my husband what planet I’m from. Loooong story, Doug. Note that the tool I am using here is called a "tampah." Not just a city in Florider, it turns out. I have learned to whisper to cows. At the UNH Organic Dairy Research Barn, I have been, up until a couple of months ago when a few health issues derailed me, volunteering once a week, taking on any job my friend Emily Pavlidis, farmer extraordinaire and master cow whisperer, will give me. One of those jobs was to watch for hooves while she raced back from lunch…I got to assist in bringing a calf into the world. That was pretty wonderful, though it was a bull, which meant we couldn’t keep him at the farm. (Jersey bulls are mean, mean, mean, and with students around, not a very good idea, safety-wise.) This little girl is named Blue. She's a kisser. If you thought my sheepy hair was bad, calf-kissed hair enters a whole new olfactory realm of Bad Hair Day. I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend the last year and a half of my stepfather’s life close enough to him to really be there for him, and for that alone, I couldn’t be more grateful. Jim Kennedy was my second daddy, and my mother’s heart. Before I came home, I realized that if I could not have a relationship with someone who was truly my best friend, as my mother did, I didn’t want a relationship. Jim was a big factor in making sure that I not only knew what it looked like to have a loving marriage, but that I was able to come home to live it for myself. He spent the last year of his life in the hospital waiting for a heart, but the docs couldn’t find one big enough. There isn’t a heart big enough for a man like Jim Kennedy. I miss him more than I can express. I’ve come back home to return to far more than my family, my love, my town. I’ve come back to return to myself. It’s not a straightforward journey, that. Sometimes it’s incredibly tough. There are days where I run headlong into my old failures, opportunities lost, dreams ignored in favour of doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Days when I feel like I’m late to the gig, I’ve missed my entry, and the punch line isn’t all that funny anyway. Days where “like shit” stands all on its own and demands to be the life of the party. Then I remember where I live now. No stilettos or flatiron in sight. I'll take this over nightclubbing any day of the week. Most importantly, for me, there isn’t a day that can possibly stay “like shit” for long, when it starts and ends with this man. But good, indeed.
Posted by Lee Ann Dalton at 8:50 PM