Short Story: Attachment

Last Friday, I was selected to share a short story at the Midtown Reader’s Story Slam. The theme for February was “Attachment.” Here’s what I did with it:

I ate my twin in the womb.

I know, I know, lots of people say that, but in my case it’s true. I devoured him, bite by bite.

It took months. I had no teeth, you see, and flippers for hands. Try eating a hamburger with mittens on, and you’ll get the idea.

Anyway, my brother. I ate him. I guess I knew that someday we’d be separated, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that. I couldn’t imagine life without bumping up against him every second of every day. I figured if I could hide him inside my body, we’d never be apart. And it worked. I felt him, from time to time, nudging up against my lungs, or squirreling his way through the marrow of my bones.

Then he started talking to me.

The first time it happened, I was two. A friend of my mother’s asked for my name – why do adults do that? She knew perfectly well what my name was. She’d given me monogrammed diaper covers when I was born – no matter. She asked my name, and from somewhere in the vicinity of my left kidney, a small voice said, “David.”

My name is not David.

I was so surprised I couldn’t answer the woman. My mom said I was being shy. I was emphatically not being shy – I was dealing with a crisis! My twin brother who lived in my body was speaking to me. I needed a moment. I toddled into a corner and sat with a crinkly thud.

“Hello?” I whispered.

Hello, he replied. You don’t have to whisper. I hear inside your head.

Oh, I thought.

Yes. Oh, he agreed, and hugged my esophagus.

From then on, I had a constant companion. My parents remarked on how self-reliant I was, how easily I entertained myself. They took all the credit. I let them.

When I was four, my parents had another baby, a boy. They named him David.

Not David, David muttered in my clavicle. I called the baby “Not-David.”

Not-David was nothing like me. He cried in the night, was perpetually after my parents’ attention, and needed constant stimulation.

Perhaps he’s lonely, David mused. He must not have a twin. Poor thing.

What should we do? I asked.

We should probably eat him, David said, matter-of-factly. There’s always room for one more.

Triplets! I was delighted. Not-David would stop being so needy, and David would have someone to talk to all the time. To be honest, sometimes my twin was a distraction. It was no longer acceptable for me to stare off into the middle distance for hours at a time. My parents were starting to notice.

I studied Not-David, who was asleep in his bassinet. Where should we begin? Top? Bottom? Fingers? Toes? You didn’t have bones when I ate you. You went down like a Jello jiggler.

Lucky you, David said.

I touched one of Not-David’s silky earlobes. Seemed as good a place as any. I took the scrap of flesh between my teeth and, after a deep breath, bit down as hard as I could.

Not-David began screaming.

I had not managed to sever the lobe, merely puncture it. There was a good deal of blood, and Not-David’s flailing was getting it all over the bassinet. He was purple with rage.

Perhaps he did not want to be eaten, David observed.

Perhaps, I agreed.

My mother came running. Then she also began screaming.

Should I be screaming too? I asked David.

Best not, he said, from the back of my neck.

I’m so glad I have you, I told him.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Everything Old is New Again

Let’s talk about brass.

For most of my peers, brass was the metal of our parents’ homes in the 1980s. It was everywhere – cabinet knobs, table legs, bed frames.

If you did not have at least one of these in your home growing up,
you are not a child of the eighties.

Naturally, when my generation became adults, we hated it. It was old, sad, tired, dated, and lame.

Brass table bases, brass lamp accents….and a landline phone. Time warp!

My father amassed a collection of brass candlesticks and knicknacks, and if you’d asked me 15 years ago, I would have not taken a thing. I confess, when my mom gave me a sassy brass lamp to use in my first apartment, the first thing I did was spray-paint it.

And now? Humble brass is the comeback kid of home decorating…just in time for me to inherit a metric ton of it.

But my brass did not look like the glamorous photos from Pinterest. Most of the brass I took from mom’s house looked like this:

Gnarly.

I was going to spray it with Hammered Gold paint, but Jason begged me not to. He was going to save my brass. We picked up an accessory kit for our Dremel tool and he got to work.

The satisfaction of using this tool is like the satisfaction of pressure-washing a nasty driveway. After using successively finer grits of sandpaper, he polished it with Brasso. The results are, quite honestly, mind-blowing.

The glass shade has been washed (not quite dry in this photo!) and re-attached. If you told me you just picked this up at Homegoods, I’d totally believe you.

Since this unbelievable transformation, Jason has become a polishing fool. Armed with a bottle of Brasso and some elbow grease, he polished this table lamp.

Then he set to work on this bowl, which looks like it was designed by a team of hipsters in 2019, rather than being 50 years old.

He polished the lamps that sit on our bedside tables.

Then he ran out of Brasso. And daylight.

I am always in favor of repurposing rather than buying new, and I’m happiest searching for treasures at estate sales and antique stores. A little time and patience – and the right tools – can give secondhand brass a new lease on life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Finishing up the Master Bath…for now.

Back in September, Jason and I repurposed an antique buffet and turned it into our master bath vanity.

This was a vast improvement over the lonely pedestal sink we used to have in that space, but the bathroom still needed some personality above the tiles.

For Christmas, I asked Jason and Tyler to build me some slightly chunky floating shelves to put in a 4.5-inch deep recess to the right of the vanity. A previous owner (who is now my next-door neighbor) said that when he bought the house, this was a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, and the recess was the location of the second door.

Tyler and Jason built the shelves last weekend and stained them to match the vanity. OOOOOOOO

I dug out seven Blue Willow plates I’ve been hoarding, er, storing, and hung them on the wall over the shelves and mirror. Jason also moved the towel ring to a more logical location.

And here’s the view as you walk in. There’s much more visual interest up top, which balances the tumbled tiles and the heavy vanity. The room feels much more complete now.

Long-term, we’d still like to completely re-tile this bathroom, but we’ve gotten it to a place where we can happily live with it for another few years while we tackle more pressing renovations.

And now for a before & after. Or, rather, a midpoint-and-after.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking back….

Joy. I decided that the word of the year for 2018 would be Joy. I think I did as well as I could on this one. This year ended up being kind of tumultuous – Jason changed jobs, from a big firm to a small boutique, and his base-salary-plus-commission income has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’m still getting used to it, but it’s completely worth it. He is much happier being more in charge of his own time and workload. We took the kids on a nice vacation to Chicago in June, and it was a joy to re-discover my love for exploring new places (and eating new foods!). I became a certified hospice volunteer and have been working there about three times a month. It seems a bit odd to find joy in such a setting, but working at hospice has been such a gift. I finished all the work related to my mom’s estate, which was a monumental task. And I published my book on the anniversary of my mom’s death. Friends and strangers alike have enjoyed reading it, and it’s been a joy to be able to connect to others going through the same experience.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, of course. I had to do any number of small, hard things – like finally deleting my mother’s contact information from my phone. Hollyn, the oldest, turned 18 and decided to live exclusively at her mother’s house – although we made lemonade from that particular lemon by turning her bedroom back into a study/office/writing room. Jason and I started attending a different flavor of church over the summer, which has caused a great deal of strife for this lifelong member of the PCUSA.

Books. I set myself a goal of 50 books, and read 68. Eleven of them were non-fiction, two or three more were historical fiction in the vein of Erik Larson (heavily reliant on primary sources). My top five for 2018:

  1. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  3. The Emperor of all Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  4. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
  5. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Things. I know we’re not supposed to be in love with things, but there were a few everyday objects I bought this year that added tremendously to my happiness.

  1. Wacoal unlined underwire bras. They fit perfectly, they’re all-day comfortable, and the straps don’t slip. I’m in love.
  2. Yogalicious leggings. I have long ones for lounging and cropped ones for the gym. The fabric hits that sweet spot between soft and slick, and the length is great – I’m 5’7″ on a good day and these actually cover my ankles.
  3. Proper running shoes. After years of simply buying what was on sale at Shoe Station and then crying over my plantar fasciitis and chondromalacia patella pain, I went to the fancy running store and got properly fitted. The good news is that I’ve been wearing the right size and brand, so I’m not a total spaz, but they found a model that works wonders.
  4. Heel inserts. See #3. I now have plantar fasciitis inserts in as many shoes as I can get them in, and my heel pain has decreased to nearly zero. I can run 3-4 miles several times a week with no pain. NO PAIN. I can’t tell you how awesome this is.
  5. Running belt. Jason refers to this as my fanny pack. GOOD. LET HIM. It holds my phone and a key while I’m running (or hiking, or whatever) and it’s thin enough to wear under my shirt. No more shoving my phone into my waistband or an armband.

And now, looking forward….

I think the word for 2019 will be finish. I am great at dreaming up projects, large and small, but terrible at completing them.

One thing that will help me finish tasks is to put my damn phone down. My phone has started sending me a report of my screen time usage on a weekly basis, and it is sobering to see how much of my life is being sucked away by that device. I had my screen replaced last week after cracking it, and was without my phone for a whole hour. It was the longest hour of my life. I couldn’t even tell what time it was. Pitiful.

I also need to get out of my own head. I am a worrier, a planner, a fretter. Being busy keeps me from dwelling on insignificant minutiae, which helps me stay mentally healthy.

Let’s do this thing.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays, Home

Saved by my Own Hoarding: A Vanity Story

I love furniture with history, and we have been fortunate to inherit a house full of it. On the flip side, I have a very hard time parting with any of these sentimental pieces – even when they may be damaged beyond repair.

Take my great-grandmother’s buffet, for example. I acquired it around 2004, after the death of my mom’s first cousin Tommy. He had a storage unit filled with furniture from my great-grandmother Hazel’s house, and this buffet was one of the pieces I claimed. (I was pretty low on the totem pole when it came to choosing items. Obviously.) It was filled with mildewed linens, and only had 3.75 legs – and only two of those were attached.

I put it in my garage in Alabama, vowing to do “something” with it.

Fast forward 14 years and four moves.

Our master bathroom is a decent size but featured a small pedestal sink and almost no built-in storage. When we moved in, it looked like this:

35929985754_2c6762e2bd_z

Over the last year, we painted, removed the large wall mirror, and replaced the light fixture. We planned to replace the pedestal sink with a vanity, add shelving, and replace the tumbled tiles with something more historic-looking.

Then the pedestal sink top came dangerously loose from the base. That moved the pedestal replacement to the top of the priority list. And I thought about OG Hazel’s buffet, which was resting upside-down in the guest house closet.

When we pulled it out, it looked even more rickety than I remembered. But it was constructed of solid pieces of wood, and Jason stabilized it with some small angle brackets.

30004523278_3c0976b1d7_z

We decided to salvage the front legs and use wood blocks to mount the buffet to the wall.

44432007642_e9a5270fd8_z

We bought a basic vessel sink at Home Depot, a drain on Amazon, and splurged on a cool faucet from Wayfair. Including miscellaneous plumbing equipment, we probably spent $400, which seems like a lot until you look at the price for a new 48″ bathroom vanity. We would have spent at least twice that – maybe three times – for a similar piece.

Jason had to modify the drawers on the left side to make room for the plumbing, but that ended up being a lot simpler than I thought. We decreased the depth of the top drawer to about five inches, and cut a wedge out of the big bottom drawer. I used this article from This Old House as a guide.

After some trial and error in the plumbing department (and only a moderate amount of cursing), we were done.

43710382595_57dd7d731c_z

(This bathroom is particularly difficult to photograph, because the window and light fixture keep all the light at the top of the room. I apologize.)

30749121668_91f7e034a0_z

And just as a reminder…..

My Post (6)

Our next bathroom project will be installing some chunky shelves in that recess to the right of the vanity. We’ll get to it. Eventually.

1 Comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Frugal Frannie Rides Again

Today’s the first day of school for the older kids, so let’s celebrate with a good old-fashioned DIY. Last week I updated a dresser that’s almost as old as I am. I wish it were that easy to update myself!

This dresser started life in my brother’s bedroom, at least 35 years ago. It’s held everything from boy clothes to bank statements, and currently sits in Hollyn’s room, where it is stuffed to bursting.

42969870235_328dee4169_z

It’s….fine. A basic, simple, vanilla dresser. I wanted to make it stand out a little more, since it’s the same color as the walls, and give it a bit more personality. I emptied the drawers, removed the knobs, and gave the whole thing a good cleaning. As you can imagine, thirty-odd years of use leaves its mark. In the photo below, the top drawer has been cleaned, and the bottom one has not. Yeesh.

43873900321_60bd0f5b83_z

After cleaning, I lightly sanded the whole thing and prepared to paint it using leftovers from Jensen’s bedroom – City Storm by Valspar.

During the kitchen renovation, the cabinet configuration changed after we’d already ordered hardware, so we were left with ten extra knobs. Guess what I used on Hollyn’s dresser? Go on, guess.

30004520498_7240668654_z

The dresser looks brand new!

42969862315_b27c838df6_z

It wasn’t free, because we had already purchased the paint and knobs for other projects, but it didn’t involve any new spending.

Now, instead of blending into the wall, the dresser has a personality of its own. I love the way it looks with the floor – if you look at the black tiles, you can see it’s almost the same color as the grout. This was a happy accident.

42969862385_2c7bdb4658_z

This dresser is ready for several more decades of loyal service.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Home, Projects

A perfectly ordinary summer. What a miracle.

The older kids return to school in just under two weeks, and I think everyone is ready for the big day. For the first (and only!) time in the history of our eleven-year-old family unit, the three big kids will be attending the same school. PONDER THE MAGNIFICENCE.

This summer feels like the first normal summer we’ve had since 2013….because it is, in fact, the first normal summer we’ve had since 2013. Hazel was born in May of 2014, mom’s brain tumor was diagnosed in May of 2015, and those two events simply consumed the summers that followed them. The summer of 2016 was spent preparing to move, moving, and unpacking, and last summer was devoted to spending quality time with mom as she lived the last months of her life.

So what did we do this summer?

Jason changed jobs at the end of May, leaving his large-firm lawyer job for a small employment boutique. His main office is in the guest house, and I help him out with administrative and paralegal tasks as time permits.

We took everyone to Chicago in June, which was tremendous. We went to a Cubs game, visited museums, rented bikes along the lakefront, and ate our weight in tasty food. Chicago is very much my kind of town.

42724342381_f4b5891f4c_z

Hazel went to Farm Camp, two different VBSes, and Ballet Camp. She also got her first haircut ever.

Our neighbor got goats. I love them.

41119077570_0b469991ea_z

Our unexpected goldfish, Kitty the Fish, passed away at the end of June.

For someone who has lived in Florida most of my life, I visited a lot of Florida sites for the first time. We took the kids to Wakulla Springs. Hazel and I accompanied Jason to a work event in Palatka and visited Ravine Gardens State Park. And on another work trip, we stayed at the Don CeSar, which is (apparently) kind of a big deal hotel.

My Post (3)

I managed to get my patriotic bunting up over a week before July Fourth – a new record.

I painted Hazel’s toes and Tyler’s hair, both for the first time.

My Post (2)

I slipped off to Orlando to spend a couple of days with a friend from college. I listened to podcasts, ate half a cheese board, and watched TV in bed.

In house news, we re-arranged some rugs and did some frugal improvement by sanding and spray-painting the dirty (but functional) floor vents and ceiling diffusers throughout the house. They look good as new, at a fraction of the price.

My Post (1)

My outdoor plants have not died, although my jalapeno and heirloom tomato have steadfastly refused to produce anything. My Sweet 100 tomato plant has made dozens of tiny tomatoes, all of which have gone straight into Hazel’s mouth. She refers to this plant as her “snack bush.” I snort every time. I have ventured into the scary universe of houseplants, after being impressed that our Chicago AirBnB was full of them. I have a fern for the dining room, succulents for the kitchen window, and two new plants I just picked up on Saturday.

My Post

It has been a normal summer. A beautiful, ordinary, normal summer. I never thought I’d be so grateful for one.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects