A Decade’s Worth of You and Me

Boxes with xander 2Look at that goon! The Boy turns twenty-five today, which means we have officially known each other for ten years. As I mentioned the other day, in just six years we will have known each other for the majority of our lives.

As many of you know, The Boy and I are complete opposites in a lot of ways: fast/slow, verbal/visual, small/big, etc, etc. Well another one of those ways, I’m figuring out, is memory. The Boy can’t remember what we ate for dinner yesterday, whereas I never forget anything and can tell you what I wore on the first day of school in 10th grade. (Seriously, what kind of room would I have in my brain for actually useful things if I could just get rid of that knowledge?)

So anyway, a few weeks ago we were talking about our upcoming wedding anniversary and how long we’ve known each other, and I started reminiscing about the past. It quickly became clear how little The Boy remembered about our shared history, so I started telling him all of the stories I could remember.

And the more I remembered, the more I remembered, and soon it seemed like a good idea to start writing things down.

So for you, my forgetful husband, on your birthday I have a story from every year we have known each other. And for the rest of you, I thought you might enjoy some goofy pictures of The Boy and I from our wonder years, like this gem….

222307_503974354271_4726_n15 was the year that we met and the year of our first ever kiss, which happens to be one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. It was the second to last day of summer, and I was hanging out with two friends, who (because they were teenage boys) plied me with several glasses of what I’m pretty sure was every type of booze in their parents’ liquor cabinet all mixed together. You came over, and I had to keep drinking because I was so nervous…. I’d had one of those idiot swooning crushes on you for months. Here it gets a little fuzzy, the rest of the night a string of isolated images…. sitting next to you, watching This Is Spinal Tap…. making out with you (finally!) with Spinal Tap still on in the background…. throwing up in the bathroom, desperately trying to make the room stop spinning, so I could go back to making out with you…. you dragging me outside for some fresh air, my head still spinning as I tried to kiss you but missed and landed face down in the grass…. later that night, when someone drove me home, you offered to walk me inside, but I declined. I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling, giddy with the knowledge that we had just shared the first of what I was sure would be many kisses. I smiled to myself, and then rolled over and threw up on the floor.

16 was the year where I browbeat you into giving me a ride to my after school job, but then I changed my mind and called in sick. We went back to your house and laid side by side on your bed listening to music. We were both dating other people, but somehow, inexplicably, I ended up with my head on your chest while you drew lazy circles on my arm with your thumb. We stayed that way awhile, not saying anything at all, and afterwards we pretended like it never happened.

17 was the year that I cried in the backseat of your car after I’d gotten caught doing something extremely stupid at school. My parents had been called, and I was dreading going home. I was especially upset because things had finally been getting better… I wasn’t fighting with my mom and dad so much, I was doing alright in school, and then one little thing came back to slap me in the face. I was babbling on and on about the impending apocalypse, and you listened patiently until I ran out of breath and then said, “That’s the thing about apocalypses, though. Once the smoke clears, it’s a brand new world.” I was so surprised that you were capable of saying something so eloquent that I stopped crying.

DSC_080318 was the year that we got lost hiking to a special spot that you had visited as a kid. The mile long hike took us an hour more than we expected, and I was sweaty and complaining as I rounded the final corner, but when I saw where we were I stopped mid-whine. Before us were giant hillocks and heaps of glittering mica. I scrambled up and down these mounds, kicking up the crystal shards like stony snowflakes. You told me about when you were a kid and you’d hike there in the winter when the trees were bare and the sky was grey, and you’d pretend that you were exploring the moon of some far-off planet. I looked at you and wondered for the millionth time how on earth you managed to make every tiny little thing sound like the grandest adventure.

19 was the year you came to see me at Sarah Lawrence, and we tried in vain to find a decent place to hike. We ended up at a sad and barren dog park in New Rochelle, where even under the shelter of the trees we could see the cars whistling by on the highway. We’d been fighting for weeks because I finally felt like maybe I was ready to date you, and after all that time waiting for me you’d started to pull away. Though we were on pause between arguments, we were still mad and walked mostly in silence until you very quietly murmured that you didn’t think you wanted to be with me after all. My step faltered so slightly that I don’t think you even noticed. I looked at you with eyes hard and dark and said, “You’re not the person I thought you were, anyway.” And that was the last thing we said until we got back to the car. I slammed the door on my way back in, and you said my name so softly I thought maybe you had changed your mind, but then you realized how many missed calls you had from your girlfriend, and we didn’t say anything else the rest of the way back to my dorm. As I watched you drive away I thought, “He’s slipped away from me. He’s gone.”

66034_1496898377594_6778884_n20 was the year we saw our first Furthur concert, and in all the thirty or so shows I’ve seen since I’ve never been to one without you. We sat in camp chairs at the back of the crowd, and I was immobilized by awe. To my right, two chubby women were spinning in circles with flowers in their hair and Coors light cans in their hands. In front of me, a burly bearded man was dancing with his toddler son up on his shoulders. I looked your way to tell you how beautiful it all was, but when I saw the fireworks, and the stars, and the giant tree of Seaside Park all glowing in your huge eyes I just said, “I love you,” instead.

21 was the year we cast a sky lantern up into the air at dawn. We sat on a rock wall at the beach watching our flaming lantern grow smaller and smaller as the sun rose. You had just asked me to marry you. I had just said yes. Life paused briefly in that small and perfect moment, and then your brother came and sat beside us, and everything picked up right where it had left off.

image22 was the year you came to visit me in Los Angeles. We’d been living on opposite sides of the country for half a year, and we weren’t enjoying it. It had been unbearably hot in LA for weeks, and I had no air conditioning. My fan, perhaps in protest from overuse, had started doing this peculiar thing where it would stutter as it oscillated, jerking violently from point to point rather than swinging smoothly left to right. It made this horrible crunching robot noise that had been keeping me up at night for weeks. But at the end of your visit I returned home from dropping you off at the airport, and the fan was working perfectly again. You hadn’t said anything about it, but I knew you had fixed it while I was at work that day. I hadn’t asked you to, you just did it. And I stood there in my bedroom and cried over a fan and The Boy who always took care of me without having to be asked.

23 was the year we sat around a bonfire in the back of your backyard. We’d been married for about six hours. Almost all of our guests had left, except for a small handful of our very oldest friends. We sat on one of the big rocks with my head resting our your shoulder as you roasted a marshmallow. It was after midnight, but somehow the air was barely cooler than the scorching afternoon when we’d said our vows. Your mom sat out there with all of us, telling stories about you, and your brother, and your father. And I thought about how the people who were still there with us around that fire were the same people who were always bumming around your house somewhere during that magic summer when I was eighteen and we both fell in love. It was a ragtag group, and in the intervening years we’d all changed, and drifted, and moved, and grown, but that night by the fire it felt like everything had come full circle, and we were the same stupid kids who used to sit around your driveway drinking beers at 11 in the morning and driving ATVs across your front yard.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.56.30 AM24 was the year I slept in my very first Best Western. We had packed up all of our belongings and our cat and hit the road for an unknown city. Moving had not been easy. Like fools, we thought it would take a matter of hours to pack our entire house — after all, how much stuff can you fit into 400 square feet? There had been a fair amount of yelling and eye rolling as we left Smog City behind, but by the time we reached the motel in Redding, California I had never felt so free. Matilda was ecstatic about all the carpet in the room — so many feet to smell! We sat on the edge of the bed together for a little while and laughed as she ran all around the room, rubbing herself up against every surface she could find. I was too exhausted to move, and sitting in that hotel room it finally started to hit me that everything I knew I’d really left behind, and all that lay ahead would be new and foreign. It wasn’t scary; we were doing it together.

I think that last sentence pretty neatly sums up the entire ten years that I have known you so far. In all the adventures of my life, you’ve been there in some form or another… on the phone, by my side, or just in my thoughts. Let’s keep it that way for the next ten, shall we?

Thank you to anyone whose pictures I stole for this post.

One Year

One year.

One year ago today.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was double checking all the flower arrangements in the basement, thanking the gods that they made it through the night.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sharing my first Texas Lollipop with him in the kitchen.

One year ago today I was standing in his mother’s bathroom in my underwear — nearly falling over as I tried to take off my Doc Martens — ready to put my wedding dress on.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sitting on his lap on the rocks at the back of the yard by the raspberry bushes. Our photographer stopped to change lenses, saying “Don’t do anything cute until I’m ready!” I surreptitiously poked my tongue out and licked his cheek while she wasn’t paying attention.

Xander-Kylie-195Xander-Kylie-196One year ago today I was praying to any deity that would have me — begging the rain to hold off for just a little longer.

One year ago today I was standing on the back deck and freaking out because the processional song started playing too early. I hyperventilated as my maid of honor told me to seriously chill out.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was walking arm in arm with my dad across that lawn.

One year ago today I was standing in front of one hundred people but speaking only to The Boy… retelling the story of the magic summer, the summer when we fell in love.

One year ago today I was nearly dropping the ring as I moved to put it on his finger.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today he was hunching over trying to speak into the microphone, which was still set at my height. I couldn’t help myself, “Oh for god’s sake, just raise it!” Everyone laughed, and someone in the front row said, “And so it begins.”

Photo by Katch SilvaXander-Kylie-348Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was kissing my husband for the first time.

One year ago today the clouds finally burst and doused us all in thirty seconds of cool, blissful rain.

Xander-Kylie-372Xander-Kylie-377One year ago today we were standing in front of the long driveway where it all began, holding hands and grinning conspiratorially at each other.

One year ago today we were married.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaMy wedding day was the happiest day of my life so far. It was electric and intoxicating. The golden glow of thousands upon thousands of string lights was reflected in the starry eyes of all my family and friends, and of course in those of The Boy I love. I felt the most intense, buoyant euphoria…. like my whole world was encased in a shimmering bubble that was destined to pop, but for that one moment I was seeing everything reflected through the glassy iridescence, and it was just exactly perfect.

I’ve only ever felt like that once before. It was the day when the junebugs hummed in the tall weeds, and the light bent and refracted in rainbow whorls around the green leaves, and I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we both started the long fall that has never since slowed or stopped.

It’s an incredible feeling, and one that I return to often in my memory, remembering it with a kind of bittersweet yearning, because I’ll probably never feel that way again. And that’s ok, because my wedding was a dazzling ecstatic culmination of family, and friends, and me, and The Boy… this whole community of people feeling the exact same unparalleled joy all at the same time, but my marriage is about so much more than that one perfect moment.

It’s about the conversation we had a few days before the wedding, when he and I were taking a break from the planning whirlwind to wander quietly in the woods together. It was the happiest I’d seen him in months, and I smiled softly to see him so at home amongst the trees. As if he could hear what I was thinking, he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me. “I’m not happy in LA. I think we need to live somewhere else,” he said. And all the hurt, and anxiety, feelings of being lost were so evident in his face that I just said, “Ok. I’ll go wherever you want.”

It’s about the time I got the stomach flu in March, and he made me mashed potatoes because I asked him to, even though he knew I was just going to throw them up again.

It’s about preparing our joint tax return, sitting side by side as I filled out and signed all the documents, passing them wordlessly to my right for him to sort into piles.

It’s about going to see Phil Lesh together, listening to the band play this song, and turning to whisper to him, “We’re so lucky.” It’s about him whispering back, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

It’s about grinding my teeth down to little nubs of frustration because he’s developed some sort of psychic awareness of exactly when I’ve sat down to write, and that’s when he suddenly decides he has thirty questions I absolutely need to answer immediately.

It’s about how I can’t ask a simple question without getting a twenty minute lecture on physics/3D modeling software/meteorology/firearm safety/wilderness skills. It’s about how I roll my eyes every time, but this is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

It’s about how I’ve discovered that the most effective way to communicate an idea to him is to draw a picture, so at some point in nearly every conversation I find myself hunting around on his desk for the sketch pad.

It’s about how he can’t send an email without me looking at it. It’s about the inevitable argument that ensues when he doesn’t write down exactly what I dictated.

It’s about how I didn’t have enough appropriate socks to hike in, so I took all of his to Israel.

It’s about how I’m slowly learning to cope with his anxiety, to help him figure out how to deal with unexpected or unwanted outcomes and minor setbacks without losing sight of the big picture.

It’s about how he’s figuring out how to communicate with me, to use words in ways that are completely unfamiliar, foreign, and often uncomfortable for him, because he knows that’s what I need.

It’s about how we’ve started to realize that, even in the middle of a fight, we can stop and say, “Let’s just both apologize and have a better day from here.” It’s about learning to really mean that and follow through.

We have learned so much this year. It’s surprising at times, because we’ve known each other for so long, but there is still so much to discover about each other. It’s not that I’m learning new things about him, per se… more that my understanding is deepening, growing more complex. This delicate spiderweb of shared stories, and personal histories, and old grudges, and childhood memories, is constantly expanding but also wrapping in on itself as we become more and more entangled with each other. In six years, we will reach the tipping point where we will have known each other for more than half of our lives.

It has been a year of adventure, of unknowns, and of goodbyes. There has been so much change–some good, some bad, some magical–that at times we’ve both felt completely overwhelmed. Through all of that, it has been unspeakably meaningful to have each other as constants. We have not always lived up to those roles…. I have been guilty at times of being a bad partner and a lousy teammate, and so has he. But, as obvious as it sounds, I think we’re both learning that the point isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be together.

Photo by Katch SilvaBut every once in awhile, his fingers will brush the palm of my hand on our walk home from the restaurant, or I’ll look up and find him reading the email I’m writing over my shoulder, or I’ll wrap my arms around him from behind as he does the dishes, or Ripple will come on the radio on a long drive home, and in his eyes I can see — just for a moment — the reflection of all of those stars, and fireflies, and sparklers that I saw on July 20th, 2013.

All photos by the incomparable Katch Silva.

The Promise of Summer

Last week we had a freak hot spell, and even though we’ve since returned to sweaters and soup it put the taste of summer on my tongue. With the prospect of long days and warm nights ahead, The Boy and I have turned our attention to the yard.

photo 1After our wedding, I knew for a fact that I wanted to plant dahlias the next season. I ordered the tubers from a local supplier, and man, can you say “ugly duckling”? Pretty incredible that such gorgeous flowers come from such hard and knobbly little potatoes, huh? But to me dahlias are pure summer, and that’s how summer goes, right? In the depths of winter, with all that cold, hard, gray, you think the days of green and sunshine will never arrive. But they always do.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetThere’s a quote that I love, though I have no idea where I heard it: “Summertime is always the best of what might be.” Google tells me it’s by Charles Bowden. Whatever its origin, those words have always resonated with me. School children and old folk alike wait and pray all year for it to come around, begging to be released from the bitter ice and solitude of winter. We spend a whole year daydreaming of the far off lands we’ll visit, and strange people we’ll meet, and wild adventures we’ll have, and even when the season finally rolls around, containing no more excitement than a run-around in the sprinkles, a cherry popsicle, and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, it somehow does not disappoint. No matter how ordinary, no matter how stiflingly hot, summer always seems to carry with it the electric promise of freedom.

photo 4It was 90 degrees here a few days ago — definitely not ordinary spring weather in Portland. As we lay sweating side-by-side in bed that night, The Boy was finally inspired to fix the stuck window in our bedroom. With a decisive crack of his fist, he finally got the damn thing open, and it was such sweet instantaneous relief to feel that warm night breeze on my skin.

It was still too hot for cuddling though, so we held hands in bed instead, and it felt so nice that I started thinking of the summertime, and all the good things that have happened to me in summers past, and all the wonder that’s waiting to come. I kissed him for the very first time on the second to last day of summer, two days before school was due to start, the year I turned sixteen.  I married him eight years minus a few weeks later, on a sweltering day at my favorite place in the world. I’ll be visiting my baby sister in Israel this June, which is so surreal I can hardly even wrap my mind around it. And sometime in July, we’ll be heading back home to return to our very favorite music festival (the site of our “honeymoon”) for the sixth year in a row. I love New England in the summer, and I’m so excited to go back and see all our family and friends, but it makes me a little sad to think of a certain house and a certain yard that we won’t be visiting this time around. It’s a foreign notion to me; I’ve never gone home and not been in that house. I don’t know yet how it’ll make me feel but, after all, that is the magic of summer: you never know what she’ll bring.

Oh, and if you have a few seconds, go check out our wedding photographer’s gorgeous new website, designed by the one and only Boy. And, since wedding season is coming up and I know someone out there must be looking , I’ll just say one more time that Katch was an absolute dream to work with.

Sisterhood & Sour Patch Kids

309_68792770084_8483_nMy baby sister turns twenty-one today! I knew that I wanted to write a little something for her, so a few weeks ago I started casting around for special memories. I wanted something that would perfectly encapsulate our relationship. I thought about how protective I feel of her, how all I ever want to do is defend her, and tried to think of some kind of story that would represent that feeling.

And then, quite out of the blue, I remembered something. Something I had completely forgotten about.

I moved to Connecticut with my family when I was fourteen. To say that I had a hard time adjusting would be an understatement. At a certain point in my freshman year, I had had enough. I started scheming about how I could get my parents to let me move back to California and stay with a friend. I plotted this so carefully, trying to pick the right moment to broach the subject, but in the heat of a desperate dinner blowout I blurted out my plans. I got a resounding no.

I begged and I screamed, but when those things didn’t work I threatened to kill myself. They still didn’t cave, so I stormed off to my room.

I don’t think I would have gone through with it, but obviously my threat got my parents’ attention. Both of them came to visit to me in my room that night, to plead with me, to tell me how frustrated and scared they were. I remember feeling so tired and empty. I sat there in the middle of my bedroom floor, and said nothing.

But what I remember the most about that night is what happened after my parents left my room. Janey, who was eleven at the time, came tip-toeing up the stairs with a jar full of Sour Patch kids. If memory serves, we didn’t really talk about anything. She just sat with me for a little while, sharing her candy with me.

This is the heart of sisterhood. Sometimes you love her to pieces, sometimes she drives you crazy. But in those quiet moments, when not a single other person in the world understands you, she’ll be sitting right next to you.

I thought I was going to tell you about my little sister, the one I always feel like I need to shield and protect. But I guess this is more fitting, on her twenty-first birthday, to tell you about all the ways she’s protected me.

1374185_10153387503540085_1172391932_nThanks for the candy, Jane-the-pain, and for all the other stuff too.

Those Darling Buds of May

I have been known to under-appreciate the spring. It is so brief, and not quite truly warm, so I think I have always skimmed right over it in favor of its more sultry and playful sister, summer.

But we moved to Portland on the very cusp of spring: those first few days of warmth and sunshine when everyone comes out of hiding, where people talk to each other on the streets, and the teeniest little daffodil buds appear above ground. I had forgotten how powerful this moment can be. It’s so infectious… people were so hopeful, so friendly, so full of ideas about the coming months, when they could think about more than just staying warm. It really affected me. Everywhere I went in those first couple weeks, complete strangers would stop to chat with me, and invariably the talk would turn to the weather. “Can you believe this weather we’re having? Isn’t it fantastic? Are you doing anything today? Going outside?” I found myself nodding along with the same enthusiasm, which really I had no right to feel. It had been 80 degrees in LA for the whole week before the move. Coming to Portland was the coldest I’d been in months. But still, I felt myself swept up in their unbridled optimism for the future.

When I was at Sarah Lawrence, one of the first heralds of spring was the blooming of the magnolia trees. They were all over the campus, particularly around the theatre building, where I spent most of my time. The blossoms were huge, and if you ever really look at a magnolia flower you’ll see that from the moment they come into bloom they go into this state of decay that’s quite nearly erotic–their petals hanging wide open and heavy, so that they fall in languid heaps around the base of the tree.

And the smell. It was, for lack of a better word, absolutely intoxicating. For some reason it always reminded me of that electrifying line from Pablo Neruda, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” For a few weeks in the spring, every time I entered the theatre building I had to walk through a haze of that heady perfume and, like the full moon, I’m sure it did strange and wonderful things to my mind as I climbed up on stage to perform in my next class.

There were a few smaller, younger magnolias scattered around the campus lawns, and I used to nap underneath them between classes on warm days, lying in a giant pile of decomposing petals, hoping to take some of their scent onto my skin. But when I arose, I only ever smelled of grass. In a few weeks, the blooms would disappear entirely, and with them their amazing perfume, replaced by ordinary greenery until another year, and another spring.

The power of spring is the power of momentum. We were stagnating in LA, not unhappy, but not fulfilled, and not moving towards anything better. In the coming weeks, we’re going to try to capitalize on the momentum of our move, and all the excitement and the earnest hope of springtime, to make some big changes. Hopefully something good will come of all this, but if not, at least we kept moving forward. I’ll keep you posted.

Something occurs to me, now. There were no magnolia trees in Los Angeles, but here… they bloom on every street corner.

Photo by Flickr user yocca.

So Long, California

BigSur_05_011.19.14_LA_14Over the last few months, two of my very best and most beautiful friends came to visit The Boy and I in LA. I wanted to show them all the magic and splendor of the golden coast, so I brought these ladies to Big Sur–“The Most Dramatic Meeting of Land and Sea”–and Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu. We scrambled over rocky bluffs, peered into crystalline tide pools to spy on lazy starfish and anemones in briney blues and violets, gazed up in awe at the tops of towering redwoods, and scaled peaks to look out across the whole wide earth all the way to the glittering sea.

BigSur_41_011.19.14_LA_341.19.14_LA_60BigSur_03_01BigSur_15_01These pictures are especially poignant to me now, because The Boy and I are packing up and hightailing it out of California. We debated this decision over weeks and months, but in truth it was while we were in Big Sur with Lorenza that my heart made its decision. I was sitting on top of a rock on a mountain overlook, looking down on a valley grove of redwoods that stretched all the way west until the land finally gave way to the Pacific. I felt nothing but happiness and the sun setting on my shoulders. Then something broke inside my head, and I had one of those perfectly clear thoughts: we need more space. We need more room to breathe. We need better air in our lungs. We need seasons, we need change. We need something more than the feverish grit and dizzying, disorienting, omnipresent sunshine of Los Angeles. But, sitting on top of that same mountain, I knew I was not ready to give up the wonders of the west, not yet. So Portland, Oregon, here we come.

BigSur_17_01BigSur_31_01BigSur_33_01I am beyond excited for our new life in a new city. We knew from the start that LA would not be our forever home, and eventually it seemed pointless to keep putting down roots if we weren’t ready to commit. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for our Tiny Cottage one day.

BigSur_26_01BigSur_08_01BigSur_40_01In many ways, it was the perfect place to live as a newly married couple. 400 square feet offer no hiding places, no refuge, no room for cold shoulders or silent treatments. This house has been a wonderful crash course in marriage. The space forced us to be close, to speak plainly and honestly about our problems, to be gentle with each other even when one of us had had a bad day, and wasn’t feeling especially nice. We had spent so much time apart before we moved into the Tiny Cottage, and it was a little disorienting at first to swing so rapidly from 3,000 miles between us to just 3 feet.

BigSur_37_01BigSur_30_01To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t always easy. The Boy was slow to adjust to LA, and for months he was cranky, out of sorts, vulnerable, and lost. It fell to me to pick up the pieces a lot of the time, and quite frankly I did not always accept that role gracefully. We went through a little rough patch in those months, where it felt like we were arguing all the time and getting nowhere.

This was especially tricky during wedding planning, also known as hell on earth. I have one particularly fond memory of the early stages, which happened to coincide with The Boy’s poor mother staying with us for a weeklong visit, where a casual conversation about when we should start hanging lights in the yard erupted into an argument over nothing. I can see his mother so clearly, pretending to read on an airbed in our tiny living room, while we had a heated conversation in undertones just fifteen feet away in the kitchen. Ahh, wedding planning… that perfect melting pot where two different sets of values on family, religion, money, and tradition all come crashing together. Good times.

BigSur_19_01BigSur_21_01BigSur_11_01But little by little, the Tiny House showed us the way. I learned the value of small measures: making an extra cup of coffee in the morning, without being asked… picking up his favorite soda from the grocery store… washing the dishes, even though he told me he’d take care of it in the morning. These things count in a very real way, and they can make all the difference. Around October, without warning, the load got a little easier. We were sweeter with each other, and bickered less. We spent a little extra time in bed each morning, talking softly together about our plans for the day. And we both learned something important, something critical, something obvious but nevertheless difficult about our marriage: sometimes, some days, one of us will have to carry the heavier load, and that’s ok, but it’s especially important, when those days roll around, to not just remember that we love each other, but to say it, too, in gestures large and small, explicit and unspoken.

BigSur_42_01Our new house will have a lot more space, but we’ll carry these lessons there with us anyway. And one day, when we’ve been married a lot longer than we have now, I’m sure I’ll tell someone about the tiny cottage we lived in when we were so young, and so in love, and so full of plans for the future.

All pictures by Xander Keeping.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Echo Park_28X Echo Park_01Echo Park_81Echo Park_03Echo Park_75Echo Park_13Echo Park_65Echo Park_87X Echo Park_52X Echo Park_18Echo Park_82Echo Park_101The weather in LA has been lovely lately, so refreshing after being home in the snow for a week! The Boy and I have been trying to take advantage, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days walking around our neighborhood and taking pictures.

We live in my very favorite part of LA, Echo Park, right in the middle of one of LA’s biggest parks, Elysian Park, which is also home to Dodger Stadium. The Elysian Fields were the Greek mythological paradise in the afterlife, and as a total mythology nerd I get a little thrill out of that. The Elysian Fields were supposed to be a pastoral haven free from snow and bitter winds, where the earth bore sweet fruit and the sun was always shining. Our Elysian is still very much a city park, though very large and not especially manicured, but compared to the smog and ceaseless traffic of LA, it feels like our own little paradise. We love our neighborhood because it’s very quiet, much greener than the rest of the city, and there’s this great feeling of an older artists’ community, where both the people and the houses are a little more eccentric.

There’s also an abundance of exciting nooks and crannies to explore, thanks in large part to the many “secret staircases” in the area, some of which you can see above. The staircases in Elysian Valley traverse the incredibly steep hills that line Echo Park Avenue (our home!) on both sides. Back in the 1920s, when Echo Park was being developed, the staircases served as direct routes for pedestrians in an age where there were far fewer cars. I was so excited when, during one of our first weeks here, I walked up one of those staircases and found myself in a little secret garden complete with a public swing, pomegranate trees, a babbling stream with a footbridge, and a whole flock of hummingbirds.

LA can be a bit intense sometimes, and neither The Boy nor I think of it as a forever home, but some days, when the sun is shining, and the jasmine flowers perfume the air, and I’m standing on top of a very tall hill looking out all the way to the Hollywood sign, I think, “Well this is nice.”


I Remembered

When The Boy left home for college his bed tagged along with him, so this time I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. His old room is the only one on the top floor of the three-story house, and virtually the entire southeast wall is windows. Lying on the mattress in a dark and nearly empty room, I stared out of those windows for the second to last time as The Boy wheezed softly in his sleep beside me. What with the room being so high up, and me being so low to the ground, all I could see were the tops of the trees, branches bare and black against midnight blue, like I was in a treehouse or a small boat floating through the sky. It was one of those cold and clear winter nights, and I could see a handful of crystal bright stars winking at me from behind the branches. I hadn’t expected to be back there again, looking up through those windows across the tops of the trees.

We weren’t supposed to go home for Christmas. Earlier in the fall, when we’d discussed how we’d spend our first holidays as a married couple, we tip-toed around the real reason. We’d done so much traveling that year, we said. With The Boy’s graduation and subsequent move, and then the wedding… it was all too much. We needed a break. Some quiet.

But staring up through those windows, so far away from the relaxed and balmy LA Christmas I’d imagined, I knew something I had always known, but hadn’t said or even thought before. I hadn’t wanted to come home, because I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye.

The wedding had been the perfect ending to my relationship with that house, because it hadn’t really felt like an ending at all. The house and yard were still full of furniture, full of people, full of shouts and laughter, full of life, full of that magic green and gold. Weeks later, when I learned the house had been sold, it seemed fitting that the last memory I would have of the place was one of being loved, of loving, of running around in old shorts in 105 degree weather making flower arrangements, of wildflowers and the same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen watching over me. I was sad that it was over, but I wrote this, and felt a little better. We had sent the old girl off in style, and it really didn’t get any better than that.

But things change, and somehow I ended up standing in that driveway again, walking through that door again. Only this time it was bitterly cold, half the house was in boxes, and the green and gold had been replaced with bruised purple and grey. This time, it felt like an ending: sad, and leaden, and with the kind of finality that you know won’t feel fully real until weeks later, when it’s over and gone, but you can still sense waiting in the wings.

That night, lying underneath those windows, I remembered.

I remembered the summer before The Boy and I started dating, when we’d get too tired and too drunk to drive me home, and I’d end up crashing in his bed, sleeping right beneath those windows. This happened almost every night. We were still just friends, but every once in awhile I’d wake in the middle of the night and find that our bodies had unconsciously wrapped themselves around each other. We’d pretend like it hadn’t happened when we woke the next day at 4 am to drive me home before my parents woke up and noticed I hadn’t come home. Who was I kidding? Like they hadn’t noticed…

I remembered waking up on hot summer mornings in a haze of blinding sunshine baking me alive through those shadeless windows. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, we’d pull all our blankets and pillows out onto his balcony and sleep off the rest of the morning in that cool early morning summer breeze carrying the smell of fresh cut grass. The railings were tall and solid wood, so lying on the floor all I could see were the swaying green treetops, outlined against a cloudless blue sky.

I remembered standing on that balcony in the middle of the night in my underwear and old leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. It was a warm summer night, and we’d only been dating a couple of weeks. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her lights were off. She’d left us hours ago to go to bed.

I remembered standing on that balcony on a hot summer afternoon, the day The Boy and I fell in love. He was waiting for me in the yard while I ran upstairs to grab something. His room, with its air conditioning and slate blue walls, felt so cool and refreshing after the scorching heat, and the heady smell of the trees, and the irresistible momentum of falling in love. I grabbed what I needed, whatever it was, but for some reason I felt compelled to go out on the balcony before I went back downstairs. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her car was gone. I could see a red garden hose, curled up neatly on the black asphalt of The Boy’s driveway. I could see him, waiting for me on the front stoop. He didn’t look up, but I smiled at him anyway. I didn’t tell him I loved him that day, but I would.

I remembered standing in that driveway a few weeks later, talking to The Boy over my shoulder as I rummaged for something in my friend’s car. It was late August, and he was home visiting from college. He’d only left for school two weeks earlier, and he hadn’t been planning on coming home yet, but we missed each other so much that he did. We still weren’t dating. When I went over to his house that night I actually ran across the kitchen to hug him and he breathed into my hair, “Hey, kid.” Later, he walked out into the driveway with me so I could get my cigarettes out of my friend’s car. For some reason I’d decided to take all of the cigarettes out of the pack, and we were trying to put them back in, talking about something unimportant the whole time, when finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I dropped all of the smokes we had so painstakingly been trying to fit back into their cardboard box on the ground, reached my hands around his neck, and kissed him for the first time in years, with the moonlight filtering down on us through those same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen.

I took an oral history class in college, and in it we spent a lot of time talking about the powers and limitations of memory. One image that’s always stuck with me is the notion of memory as a hydraulic wheel. The more it spins the faster it goes. You start remembering a single image, or perhaps a smell, and that leads to another and another, and the more you remember the more you remember, coming faster and faster until you’re left swimming in the deluge. I laid beneath those windows on a cold winter night with the hydraulic wheel of memory spinning faster and faster in my mind, remembering, and remembering, and remembering with the cold brightness of the stars piercing through my heart and the warm skin of my husband’s back pressing against my side.

This was the goodbye that I never wanted to say, the real reason we hadn’t wanted to go home, and it was bittersweet and heavy. But on Christmas Eve I sat on the floor with The Boy, and his brother, and his mother, and his grandmother, wrapping presents. This song was playing softly in the background, and The Boy and his brother were joking around about something or another, while his mother sorted through old photos, running back and forth to show us when she found one of The Boy sporting a baby mohawk in his bath, or his sister in her wedding dress, and I hummed along to the song and thought, “I never would have wanted to miss this.”

Photo by Decade Diary.


Xander-Kylie-285A few months ago I was lying next to The Boy in bed. It was one of those lazy afternoons, sunny and pleasantly cool. A plane droned by overhead, and a breeze carried the scent of trees through our window. Without really meaning to I started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” The Boy asked me. I didn’t know what to say. Something about the smell of trees, and the sound of the plane, and my head resting on his shoulder… I was suddenly nineteen, and lying on his bed in his mother’s house on a summer afternoon. And it was one of those sweet memories that makes you a little sad, because you can never go back.

The Boy’s mother sold her house today. We knew this was coming, and it was definitely past due. It’s time for everyone to keep growing up and figuring things out, and there are other places to do those things now. We had the wedding in that yard, and it was a great way to say goodbye. But today I’m sad, because it was such a special place for me, so inextricably tied to the ecstasy, and sorrow, and wonder, and all those other feelings you can’t quite name but have something to do with waking up one morning and realizing you’re not a kid anymore, but not quite an adult yet either. It’s all rather impossible to explain, but I know that you know, because we all have places like these. And no matter how right or how just, it’s never so easy to leave them behind for good.

I don’t know anything about the new family that will be moving in, but I hope they have a little boy. I hope he walks out his back doors one morning, and realizes he has a yard the size of the whole world. I hope he explores it, really explores it, so that he comes to know it in all its intimacies. I hope he touches each tree and each rock with the confidence that they are his trees, and his rocks. I hope he sees the magic, and rules wisely over his kingdom.

And I hope he meets a little girl. I hope he does not listen when she tries to act tougher than she is, and holds her hand anyway. I hope he sees through all her little cracks, and reminds her that sometimes there is magic, if only you know where to look. I hope he takes her around, and shows her all his trees, and rocks, and blades of grass, and I hope he is kind enough to share them with her. I hope that they are best friends, and maybe a little more. Maybe a lot more. More than they can ever say.

The Boy and I have well and truly grown up now, and our life could not be any more perfect. But I just hope that while our adventure starts a new chapter, someone somewhere is waking up in that house, with the scent of trees, and the drone of a plane overhead, and the promise of magic in the air.

Photo by Katch Silva.

The World of Lisa Frank

“The World of Lisa Frank” – A Short Film from Scott Ross on Vimeo.

This is a really important documentary about Lisa Frank: beloved designer of rainbow-maned unicorns and puppies wearing necklaces, and icon of my childhood. Three things:

1) I want her office.

2) Why is Lisa Frank the JD Salinger of this generation?

3) Did you spot Mila Kunis?

Video by Scott Ross and Karl Beyer, produced by Urban Outfitters