Twenty One

It is with great shame that I confess to you that I am not a Colorado native. 

I always wanted to be one of the few, the proud, the natives, who drove around town with their awesome bumper stickers and spoke with their weird non-accents and considered being born with an Apgar score of 6 a freaking medal of honor. 

But alas, I am not...I only play one on the internet. Someone told me a few weeks back that they found my blog by googling "Denver Mom Blog" and I smiled so hard my face broke. I wish I was from Colorado; I wish answering the "where are you from?" question was as easy as "Oh, the box in the middle of the country. You know, the one full of piles of win?" which is exactly how I'd answer if I was actually from there. 

But I'm not. I wasn't born there, I was simply born-again there. Twenty one years ago today I made Colorado my home. Twenty five years ago I started toying with the idea of starting my whole life over in Colorado, but I'm slow on the uptake sometimes. Evidence

This is my birth certificate.

Totally counts as a birth certificate if you squint real hard when you're drunk, shut up.

But it really doesn't matter that I have a deep and abiding love of all things Crocs (and I make them look gooood), or that my pantry is armed to the latches with Celestial Seasonings tea, or that I know what Fat Tire really tastes like - and would take a 1554 over it any old day. No one cares that I own a 1997 Lesbaru manual transmission station wagon, that I know what a Rocky Mountain Oyster is, and how to avoid one at all costs. People just roll their eyes when I proclaim that I actually saw Opie (RIP) play at Herman's, and have forgotten how I've gotten home from Lincoln's more times than I can count. I remember when the furthest south any self-respecting Denverite would go before hitting The Outer Regions was Arapahoe Road, and when only thing between Arvada and Boulder on 36 was Storage Tech. STC. 

I even remember when it was STC, gentle readers. 

But I wasn't born there, so none of that counts. 

But...my *kids* were.

I think it was Confucius who said,  "If you can't beat'm, breed for'm." This has earned me the equivalent of an Ivy-league degree (working on my Master's as we speak), and ipso-facto gets me a lifetime membership to the Colorado Native Club. Pass the hummus and the oxygen masks. 

And while I may never, ever be able to answer "Where are you from?" without needing a globe, an abacus, and a shot of whiskey, my kids, who may have been dragged across this freaking continent by their horrible parents, they know that their home is Colorado. They know they always have a place to go back to, that it will always be there waiting for them, and that it's probably the best place in the world to be from.

Especially if you're into drinking contests #unbeatable

I know all too many of us are gypsies, wanderers, homeless homies, and I think a lot of that is why we gravitate to each other here, online, where there arent' boundaries or bumper stickers, where we get to decide where home is for us. Colorado was home for me, and someday I hope soon California will be, too.

But really, sometimes it's just easier for me to say that this, you, are my home, and I'm totally okay with that, too. 

Here's to 21 years of wandering, of searching, of living a different life. Here's to each of us that was born again, by force or fire. Here's to the beginning of my next adult life, and you all are a part of that. Here's to us. Let's go get wasted on Goldschlager or something. 

(My friend Ryan make those t-shirts, by the way. They're called The Home T and he does a whole bunch of states. They make really great presents for us lost souls and a portion of each sale goes to MS research. (Oh, Ashley, don't read this post, or go look at your next birthday present. DON'T.) I kind of want one from each of the places I am occasionally from, or maybe just one of, like, North America or something. Check him out, he's a cool dude and fellow social media traveler making super fun things.)

Today

There is a stray cat prowling my neighborhood, desperately in the throes of a reproductive cycle that it cannot understand or control. I've listened to to it - shrieking unseen for the baby it know it wants but can't find a way to create - for over a week now, and I keep silently whispering to it, "Sister, I know."

This morning, that cat was in my house. 

Before it was time for the light of dawn to nudge us out of sleep, it began. It wasn't merely thunder somewhere in the sky, the air itself became the raucous clapping of the gods and slammed into us and around us and through us and shook each of the bricks that make up the house while the floodgates of heaven opened up and attempted to drown the city in its sleep. 

My children let the cat in, to save it from the rain. Not for a moment did they think about their allergies, or their dogs, or anything other than the fact that the cat was screaming and they were not. 

This is how it begins, for people like us. 

And then the sky screamed us awake and the dogs screamed themselves dominate and the cat screamed itself free and tore the chest of the child trying to save it wide open and none of this is coincidence. 

We puttered about in the darkness of morning, listening to air screaming from pressure it cannot understand or control. I made the coffee and ironed a shirt while they ate their cereal and he trimmed his beard. We have never had a morning like this, not ever once in the thirteen years and eight months and twenty five days since we have been an us. 

We put medicine on the tears in his chest, to stop the hives which always follow, and I reminded him that not everything wants to be saved, and sometimes the only choice is to let go. He smiled the way children almost never smile at you once they are old enough to believe in a different god, the way I never once smiled at her.

      quiet in so much chaos. Exactly like I had wished for this day, twenty times over. 

I watched the flood warnings and tornado sightings and tried to find words that I am certain do not exist and then my glasses broke in half right here in my hand and as soon as I couldn't see it anymore, I could feel it. 

All of it.

I can feel

       something other than the cold on my face when I walked out of that door, the cramps in my legs from crouching in a phone booth, hiding for hours, the pressure on my chest when the plane took off and the hollow space left in its wake when I landed 2000 miles away from the last moment I will have ever seen my mother's face. 

Twenty todays later so many things matter more than everything I didn't get to know that about the woman inside of my mother. Twenty todays later she may be screaming over my head or shrieking at my backdoor or shaking the walls around me but we are inside here, together, and I am letting her go.  

The boarding pass that I kept, inexplicably, all of these twenty years is here.

Some background is here. There is more here, and at every other January 9th in my archives. Some on the 7th, too.

Watercolors Of The Past

I was determined to not write this post.  I'm tired of writing this post.  And here I sit, writing this post.

22 years ago, I read some book called The Root Cellar.  I remember the story, how sucked into it I was, how I pined for the boy character, how I sympathized with the girl character.  I remember feeling sadness and excitement but it's been so long, I can't conjure up those feelings about it anymore, no matter how hard I try.

30 years ago, I played out front of my house with my brother and my dad.  We nailed each other with the hose, we got ice cream cones from the truck, we made mud pies.  I know the air was hot, the water was freezing and the ice cream was sweet.  I can recall those facts, but I can't feel the heat anymore, or the cold, or taste the sweet when I close my eyes.

25 years ago I sat in a sink with a razor that had been used, oh, 50 times already, and I tried to open a vein.  I didn't know it wouldn't work if the razor was dull, and I don't think I cared.  I just wanted to know how it felt.  I know that bathroom had a florescent light and a cold tile floor, but I can't actually bring back that memory of how blue the light was or how cold the floor was or how the blade pushed and pulled, but refused to dig in.

19 years ago, I kissed a boy for the first time in the hallway of his house while my mother banged on the front door for us to let her in.  It was exciting, it was scary as shit, it was wrong and right and perfect and a disaster.  What lasted 5 seconds in reality lasted for hours in my mind.  He wore too much Drakkar Noir, and had the softest lips in the whole world.  I can't remember the smell or the feel of any of it, just the words that describe what it was.  I did, however, take up using his brand of chapstick that day and have used it every day since then, so for once in my life I got to carry an actual sensory connection from one side to the other.

21 years ago, my 10th birthday came and went.  That night, I sat on my bed, covered in the new Strawberry Shortcake sheets my father had bought me a week before so I could have something close to a 10th birthday present.  I looked out the window at the black night, the trees starting to bloom, and I felt empty inside.  I felt alone and small and enraged.  Today, right now, I can't muster that heart-pounding anger, that soul-crushing isolation.  I know that it was there with me, I just don't know how it felt anymore.

17 years ago today I stepped out of a front door, into a car, into an airport and onto a plane.  It landed in Denver and I stepped onto a jetway and into my father's waiting arms.  We walked silently through the airport, down to baggage claim, and outside into my brand new life.

Today is my 17th birthday.  All of those memories, all of those events that sit in the little black book of my soul, none of them happened to me.  They're all chapters of a book I read, photographs in a scrapbook I thumbed through once some time ago, some life ago.

We walked through the slidey-wooshy doors and into January in Denver, into dry cold and black sky, into more stars than I knew humans could see and thinner air than I knew we could breathe.  We walked, silently, through a lot of cars piled under snow, and as we passed one car of no significance at all, I scooped a handful of snow off its hood.  I stopped, looked at my hand, looked at my father and asked if they were filming a movie at the airport.  He said they weren't and wondered why I'd asked.  I told him, "Because this isn't snow.  This is dry, like salt.  It's like plastic or something."  He put his arm around my shoulder, took my bag from my hand, and told me that snow was just like that in Denver.  He told me that lots of things were different, and that I'd get used to it eventually.

That was the first moment I ever lived.  That car is the first thing I can remember fully.  I can feel the powder in my hand, I can feel his weight on my shoulder, I can close my eyes, breathe in, and feel the air in my nose and throat.  I can make my head spin if I want to, reliving the wonder and confusion that stuff he was trying really hard to convince me was snow made me feel.  That was real.  That happened to me.

I'd sat in the airport earlier that day, crouched in the bottom of a phone booth, watching and waiting for my mother to come find me, hurt me, kill me, drag me back with her, I didn't know.  I just knew it was coming, and I knew I had to hide.  I sat there for hours, and she never came.  All that terror swirling in my head instantly headed south and thudded down in the top of my stomach.  The pain of being let go, pushed out, given up, that pain that I can only describe as being dumped by God, it settled in my abdomen, under my ribs, into my lungs and it knotted and twisted and turned and sucked the life out of me.

I can only recall that with a semblance of clarity because six years later, a small person lodged himself into just about that exact same spot, and when he finally was strong enough to kick his mother he kicked the very spot my pain decided to reside.  He twisted and turned and sucked that pain right out of me.

That day, this day, I didn't just run away from home, I did the first truly courageous, selfish, and right thing I'd ever done in my life.  I didn't just switch parents, I survived something.  I rose above something.  I dared to dream, I took a leap.  I didn't just throw everything I owned in a dumpster and forever walk away from the only family and home I'd ever known, I wrote the end of Me, the book and started in on the sequel.

I don't sleep curled in a ball anymore, with my arms around my head and my head tucked into my chest to try and spare myself visible bruises from silent, secret, middle of the night assaults.  I haven't dreamt of knives and blood and revenge and murder, I haven't gone to the hospital wondering if I was having a panic attack or if my busted up, swiss cheese heart had finally given up since I don't know when.  I can't imagine doing, thinking, or feeling any of that.  I can hardly believe I ever did.

Everything that came before January 9th, 1992 is just faded pictures on a page, watercolors of my past.  16 years were wasted, and for 16 years I've lived to reclaim them, to balance the books.  Today is year 17, the first year out of the red, and finally none of it is real, none of it exists, none of it matters anymore.  I can't forget what didn't happen, I can't forgive what doesn't matter.  It's not about that anymore.  It's about me being thankful that I made a choice, me being proud that I survived, and didn't I survive.  It's about shadows in corners that I don't fear, about strings cut and ties severed.  It's about tomorrow, never yesterday.  It's about the scales being tipped in my favour now.

It's the person I am, not the person I was.  I have no clue who that person was, and I never, ever want to.