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.

The First One

Well a very happy holiday to all my fine friends. This was my first Thanksgiving ever away from home. The first time my mom did not force us to go all around the table, each one of us trying to come up with something sillier or more sarcastic to say we were thankful for (well, I’m sure this still happened, I just wasn’t there). The first time I didn’t get to eat matzoh ball soup before turkey dinner, a Schachte family tradition, even when Thanksgiving doesn’t coincide with the first night of Hannukah.

It was just The Boy and me, and our first Thanksgiving together was a little bit old, a little bit new. I cooked all day, just like I have watched my mother do every year. We ate a roast duck, candied butternut squash, two kinds of potatoes (because I have my priorities right), stir-fried green beans, cranberry sauce, and salty honey pie (bring this one to dinner parties; it’s delicious, unbelievably easy, and impressive).

Five minutes before we sat down to eat, I grabbed a stainless steel pan out of a 400 degree oven with my bare hand. As I stood there, hopping up and down and cursing like a sailor, some small unburned part of me was laughing in the back of my brain. It seemed like the perfect reminder that this was our first time, that we haven’t quite gotten it right yet, that we are so far away from home, and trying our best to do this together, the only way we know how, and still screwing it up sometimes. The Boy went to bandage my hand, and found that we only had electrical tape, so I spent the rest of the night with a big black glob of burn ointment and gaffer’s tape wrapped all around my palm. We don’t have a dining table (hello, 400 square feet), so we ate on the couch while we rewatched Battlestar Galactica. As I sat there, belly full of duck and two kinds of potatoes, mind a little fuzzy from the half a pain killer I’d swallowed, watching the Cylons nuke the entire human race, I turned to The Boy and murmured, “I think this is our new Thanksgiving tradition.”

Photo by Steven Alkire

This Is What I’m Feeling Like These Days

I love The Moth very much, and this story is just so exactly perfect. I too occasionally mourn the loss of the first date, the first kiss, the first few months when you are just an absolute loon in love. But sometimes I’ll be lying on the couch after dinner, and The Boy is doing dishes in the other room, and he’ll come in to grab the last few plates, and hand me a fresh glass of seltzer even though I didn’t ask, and I think, “No matter what happens, or where I go, I’m so glad you’ll be there to bring me seltzer, and braid my hair when I can’t quite get it right, and remember an extra pair of socks for when mine inevitably get wet, and do the dishes, and be mine.” Sometimes I try to tell him all this, but it usually just comes out like, “I love you.”

Story by Jeff Simmermon, via The Moth.

Goodbyes

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 Name Game

Photo by Katch Silva

I have been married for over a month, and I still have not figured out what I’m doing with my name. Some people seem to have decided for me. To them, I am Kylie Keeping, no questions asked. Honestly it hasn’t bothered me too much, and for the most part I haven’t gone out of my way to correct them. I suppose it’s sort of a sneaky way to try it on, see how it fits, how it looks on me.

The fact of the matter is it’s adorable. It’s a great name. A name many other actors or writers would kill for. And then we look at my old name, clunky and German, awkward to spell and say, the bane of substitute teachers and telemarketers alike. My mother and sisters were baffled when I told them I was unsure if I would be exchanging it for something cleaner and, well, cuter. Why on earth would I want to hang on to Schachte? Why did I always have to be weird about these kinds of things?

To be perfectly honest, I’ve wondered the same thing myself a few times. The last name issue has been an ongoing debate between The Boy and I for years, and on more than one occasion I have woken up in the middle of the night, turned to him, and said, “I think I’ve decided. I’m changing it.” And then the next day I’d wake up, suddenly unsure all over again.

Because that name, that clunky German name, odd as it may be, is mine. It’s been my identity for nearly twenty-four years. And the nineteen-year-old liberal arts student wearing too much eyeliner who still lives inside me demands to know: why didn’t The Boy even think about changing his name? Why do we live in a world where it’s assumed that this is my issue, not his? Why aren’t there more guys like this? Why are we hanging onto these outdated labels of propriety that don’t even make sense in modern society? And then the part of me that does not spell women with a y rolls her eyes, because Keeping is a great last name, and it’s kind of a nice idea that everyone can automatically tell that The Boy and I are a family, that we’re a unit.

I feel like either way I lose a little something. I know that if I do change my name I’ll probably mourn the old one awhile, and then get over it and move on. I know that if I decide to keep Schachte that we will not be any less of a family. I know that there are alternatives, ways for me to decide without really deciding, but hyphenation feels like a cop out, and The Boy wouldn’t even discuss both of us changing our names to something new, like Adama or Stark. I know that this decision is really not all that important, and either way it will be just fine. But the question sticks in the back of mine, and every once in awhile I take it out and weigh it up and down, like a loose tooth you can’t help but play with.

So as you can see, there is no end to this in sight. But I did just get my new California driver’s license, which means I can’t step foot in a DMV for at least another two years, so I have awhile longer to decide. Hell, I have our whole lives.

Photo by Katch Silva

Sadie, Sadie

photoWell it’s all over now, and what can I say except it was the most delicious and magical night of my life. It’s hard to say what the best part was, maybe when The Boy tried to kiss me before the ceremony was even over, or when my officiant nearly burst into tears, or when it rained for exactly thirty seconds after a whole week of dire weather forecasts, or when everyone decided to light off their sparklers underneath the tent, so that I spent my entire first dance wondering if we were going to light the thing on fire. I think it was right after the ceremony, when The Boy and I had a few minutes alone to take a walk down the block. We paused in front of his neighbor’s driveway, the same driveway that The Boy drew in this picture so many years ago, and I thought about how much and how little had changed, how we were all grown up and yet still just two kids running around in the yard, making trouble. And then his neighbor drove up and chatted with us for awhile, and I was amazed to see that the whole world was trucking along as though nothing had changed. But I knew the truth, and so did he.

Beautiful photo by Maggie Jo Shapiro

The Green

Last week I flew back home, back to where it all started, to get ready for the wedding. I got in late at night, and when I woke up the next day I couldn’t believe how alien the landscape, the landscape of my home, had become.

It is just. so. green.

Dense, eye-watering green that hangs heavy overhead. Beneath this canopy the air is thick with the fecund perfume of growing things and thunderstorms. The green, so wild and ancient, seems to muffle all the human buzzes and beeps of civilization, and at the same time amplify all the rustlings of creatures in the undergrowth, all the whistles and calls of birds. Even just driving down my suburban road, it made me feel completely alone, like the last person alive after the green has reclaimed the earth.

I had forgotten how much I missed this. Moving to southern California, it’s easy to miss the changing seasons in autumn, which basically doesn’t exist in Los Angeles. But it’s harder to talk about why I get so heartsick in June. After all, how could I possibly miss the summertime, living in LA? Summer started in February for me; I get approximately ten and a half months of summer a year. But when I walked out of my parent’s house for the first time, I remembered how it feels to wake up one morning and realize that everything around you is alive, and wide awake.

Photo by Ajaytao.

The Last One

Four years ago today, practically to the hour, The Boy picked me up for our very first date It was the first day of summer, it was Father’s Day, and I ate tart lemon sorbet by the water with him.

It’s always seemed so fitting that our anniversary was on the solstice, the longest day of the year. We fell in love in a haze of green, and gold, and lawn sprinklers, and trampolines, and popsicles, and fireworks (literal and figurative). I took great pleasure in telling people that our anniversary was Midsummer’s day, and I became as aware of the impending solstice as a child before Christmas. As you may remember, we originally planned to get married on this day next year. But when we started wedding planning just a few months ago, it quickly became apparent that June 21st was out for both this year and next, so we picked another date. Still in summer, but lacking the delightful symbolism.

So this is my last Midsummer anniversary, and in a way I feel like that’s emblematic of where my life is at right–where our life is at right now. We’re not kids anymore, and our love is less about popsicles and fireworks, and more about wool socks, and reading before bed, and remembering to pick up seltzer on the way home, and making the bed each morning; about my feet in his lap on our yellow couch, and all those soft little noises of domesticity. But of course, there’s still the popsicles and fireworks, too, and always that shimmering haze of green and gold.

Image source.

The Rush

Sometimes I freak out. I start thinking about how I’ve been in Los Angeles for over a year now and I’m still not acting as much as I want, or writing as much as I want. I think about The Boy’s new job, which is so far beneath him. I think about all the plans we have, and how far away they still feel. I think about the sidelong glances and clucks of disapproval I get when I say, “Yes, we’re getting married, and yes, I’m only twenty-three.” I’ve always been a girl of convictions, but lately I’ve been overwhelmed by this feeling of where are we going, what are we doing, is everything going to be ok? With the wedding right around the corner, everything feels so filled with consequence, like every choice is a building block in this life we’re creating, and there’s no going back or moving bricks once they’ve been laid. And of course this is a very serious decision that The Boy and I have made, but I think it’s also important to keep reminding myself: there is no rush.

There is no rush to figure this out. That’s why we’re doing it together, one step at a time.

There is no rush to have our perfect life, the life we always dreamed about. We cannot skip the beginning and jump to the middle, and we shouldn’t want to.

There is no rush to know exactly how to love each other. We are going to learn, and it will be just right, because we will learn it together.

There is no rush. On the one hand, it feels strange to be heading into this major life decision and still feel so unsettled about so many things in my life. On the other hand, I am so lucky to have a partner along the way. And the older I get, the more I realize that you’re never really settled the way you thought you would be, but you make it work anyway.

Getting married has weighed me down with this pressure to have all the answers right now, right this second. So sometimes I have to remind myself: there is no rush. Let’s just spend the morning talking and laughing in bed. I’ll make you tea if you make me coffee, and then we’ll go from there.

Or, as the great oracle Buffy Summers once said, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking.”

Image via.

Furthur and Father

One night, while I was home for Christmas, my dad and I trooped down into the basement to watch a 2005 Bruce Springsteen show in Spain, which my dad had on DVD. It was kind of a cool moment, not just because the show was excellent (it was), but also because it was just neat to sit in the basement with my dad and share something that he thought was really cool. So we struck a deal: if I brought him to a Furthur show, he’d bring me to see Springsteen. Well, two weeks ago I upheld my half of the bargain. The Boy and I flew home to take dad to his very first Furthur show (by the way, this will mark the fourth time that I have actually gotten on a plane to see these bozos play, and the sixth time I have traveled more than a hundred miles).

Would this be my number one favorite Furthur show of all time? Musically speaking, no. As I’ve said before, that’s kind of the delightful and frustrating thing about this music: you never know when lightning will strike. But I will never forget how cool it was to have my dad with me at a show. Of all the people we have introduced to this music, and there have been several, no one was as openminded or sincerely invested as my father. He showed up genuinely excited to participate in this thing The Boy and I are always running off to do. I think this speaks to one of my favorite things about my dad: he has always taken my thoughts, my opinions, and my values seriously. This music is something I really care about, so he wanted to see what it was all about, and I love him for that.

During the set break, my dad turned to me and asked, “So which one of you was a deadhead first?” And I had to say, “Both of us.” The Boy and I fell in love listening to Furthur and the Grateful Dead; you could almost call it the third wheel of our relationship. The very first time we heard Furthur play, we were sitting in camp chairs at a music festival, both completely immobilized by awe and wonder. He told me he loved me for the first time that night. The band played at the same festival again the following year, and that was the night The Boy proposed. I’ve never gone to a show without him, and even though I love this music with all my heart on my own, I’m not sure that I could go to a show without him. So more than anything else, that was the coolest part about sharing this with my dad. With the wedding less than three months away, I got to invite him into my relationship a little, and show him this magical thing that The Boy and I care about together.

UPDATE:  My heart goes out to Bob Weir, that magnificent weirdo, in his recovery. Please stay with us, I’m not ready to let go of this music just yet.

The image at top is the sweet poster from Furthur’s Capitol Theatre show on April 20th, which is now rolled up in my closet. Photo courtesy of Furthur.