Tag Archives: you can’t go home again

in which I am raised as a Jedi

On this occasion of my favorite holiday, Star Wars day, aka May the Fourth, let me tell you about how I was raised in the Jedi order.

Not by my parents—everyone knows that Jedi are taken from their parents at a young age. Though they were always tolerant to supportive of my Star Wars obsession, they were not the people who raised me as a Jedi. My parents weren’t even the first people to show me Star Wars1.

I was raised in the Jedi order by the neighbors’ kids.

When I was in fifth grade, a new family moved not quite into our neighborhood, but neighborhood adjacent. There was a boy my age, and a girl my sister’s age2. Our friendship was unlikely—I was right at the age where Boys and Girls Can’t Be Friends Because that Means You Have  Crush on Him and That’s Gross. And all four of us were just a very unlikely combination. They were from the south, abrasively polite, and said “Yes ma’am” and “no sir” to the adults, while I called all my friends’ parents by their first names and had a smart ass streak. They were not Mormons, like most people in my Utah community. They thought the mountains that I had grown up with were the most amazing things they had ever seen. I thought those mountains were pretty average. They had a hyperactive Labrador and an above ground trampoline, while we had a borderline comatose malamute and parents with a fear of dangerous fun.

But they also loved Star Wars as much as the MT and I did.

And so Star Wars became the first common language of our friendship.

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Look at the tiny jedi! And get a load of MT in those Yoda ears.

For the better part of two years, the MT and I saw them most days, tumbling through an elaborate universe that was partly George Lucas’s, partly of our own making. We bought lightsabers and coordinated Halloween costumes and Legos and action figures. While our parents hiked behind us or walked through an amusement park or a convention centers, we ran ahead, just a little too old to be playing pretend this aggressively in public. We even wrote a brilliant musical parody, The Sound of Blasters, which ran for one magnificent night in their backyard4.

I spent two years living as a Jedi knight with this family and the boy I will always think of as my first best friend.

And then the next year, they moved away. As quickly and mysteriously as they came.

It was a delirious, wildly happy two year period for me, and when I look back on my younger self, I can point to this time with them as one of the many reasons I write books for young people. Because I spent those two years more in love than I ever have been since, both with Star Wars and with these neighbors next door. I loved Star Wars like I couldn’t love anything anymore because at some point in your growing up, you get told you can’t love things *that* much anymore, and I loved those kids like I can’t anymore because even the most vanilla life will give you some well-earned trust issues. But when you’re a kid and a teen, no one tells you not to love things that much.

And that’s why I love young people, and why I love writing for them. Because they love things. I think of the way I loved Star Wars. And the way I loved those neighbors who lived in Star Wars with me. I want to write for people who are that open and willing to love.

  1. Though I have a distinct memory of going to Media Play, back when people bought music at stores, and sitting at one of the tables with my dad and watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time.
  2. And then they also had a middle son who fell awkwardly in between us.
  3. If you would like to talk about magnificent parents who never forced gender norms on their kids, when I said I want to be Queen Amidala one year and then Anakin Skywalker the next, they never batted an eyelid at either of these things. I have excellent parentals.
  4. And included the legendary YMCA parody, YODA, of which the first line was “YODA! Been living eight hundred years, I say YODA, he’s got them big old green ears.”
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in which Marx abandons me

It is with a heavy heart that I report my long-time co-conspirator and short-time roommate, known affectionately here on the blog as Marx, has decided that, much like the pioneers of old, there is a better life for her out west. And so, Oregon Trail style, she put her shoulder to the wheel, left home and happiness behind, and began her trek to the other side of the country, where she will undoubtedly find herself surrounded by big skies and open prairie and space and fresh air1.

What I’m saying is that MARX MOVED AWAY. SHE LEFT ME–NAY, ABANDONED ME2. The selfish little twerp.

I am not handling it super well.

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I selected this picture because it was taken on one of Marx and my first real friend outings outside of school. To a Halloween party where we were both intensely uncomfortable, but not good enough friends to yet tell each other so.

 

Marx was one of the first real friends I made in Boston and has remained one of the most consistent. She has been a foundational column of my life for the past three years. Our hijinks are the stuff of legends. From our shared classroom space and love of children’s literature to our ill-fated trip to Ikea to the time we drove across the city with a mattress loosely bungee corded to the top of her car to the time I took her to see her first professional play without knowing it3 to the time we were stuck in a blizzard for five hours to the time she accompanied me to the opening day of I, Frankenstein and we spent the whole movie being hooligans to the time we lost hours aggressively googling Regency embalming4 and grave robbing for my writing research to the time we went to freaking Switzerland, Marx has been one of those friends for me. The sort who knows everything about you and still likes you. The sort who makes you a better person when you’re around them.

I am trying to be mature about her leaving. I am trying to be happy for her. I am trying not to have all the abandonment issues.

issuesIt is really hard.

I admit it—when I found out Marx was moving, there was some angry crying while sitting in the middle of the floor like a two year old, some angsty music listening and depression, some silent treatment, some passive-aggressiveness, some bargaining and pleading5 and attempts at sabotage. My whole attitude to her leaving can be summed up in a scream-howl of “HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME!?”

But yesterday she packed up her little car and started on her cross-country drive to her new home. Yep. She did it to me.

And I remain intensely unhappy about her leaving. Intensely.

2But Marx is happy. She is excited. She is going somewhere she wants to be going and doing things she loves. And I can’t fault her for what I always say is the number one thing I look for in friends—she’s actively in pursuit of what she wants. And if you know what you want then you go and you find it and you get it.

So here’s to Marx, currently somewhere between Toledo and Omaha, in a car with her whole life stuffed into its backseat. To all the great things we did, and the times we will still have, albeit it fewer and farther between. Here’s to her new life and her new dreams and her new home.

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But no new friends. I’ve forbidden her from making any new friends.

 

  1. Let ‘em laugh in my face—I don’t care.
  2. And she took her turn-of-the-century steamer trunk with her!
  3. And it was CHEKOV. That was a terrible decision by me. Don’t introduce your friends to theater as an art form with CHEKOV.
  4. Spoiler alert—nobody was really embalming. They were just throwing people in the ground. Sometimes in coffins. Sometimes not. The more you know.
  5. With both Marx herself, and God to please let something terrible happen that would cause her to remain stuck in Boston, and our curmudgeonly downstairs neighbor to be the thing that kept her in Boston. None of it panned out.
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in which my blog turns two

For the second year in a row, I totally missed my blog’s birthday. For shame.

But in the wake of that missed anniversary, I started thinking about what this blog is, exactly.

Lots of people start blogs, post twice, and then abandon them because, let’s be real, blogging is a lot of work. Lots of people think blogging will be easy, but it’s not. I hear a lot of writers express how much they don’t like blogging and so they don’t do it. I also hear people say that blogging is a waste of time because every word on your blog is a word not written in your novel. I also hear people say your blog has to be something. It has to have a brand. You have to be a book review blog, or a writer blog, or a personal blog, or a DIY blog, or a photography blog. You have to be a thing, or people get confused and don’t know what you are and go somewhere else where lines are more clearly drawn.

I admit—this blog is sort of confusing. It began as a chronicle of my days as an NPR intern, then transitioned into me as grad student, and now is sort of a chronicle of a writer’s life. I don’t totally know what it is. I might never know, and recently I’ve been trying to figure out what I want it to be.

“You should post more about writing,” I think sometimes. But then I think, “But everyone posts about writing, and I don’t really like writing about writing. It’s too meta.”

“You should post book reviews,” I sometimes think. But then I think, “But my opinions about books usually apply to me and no one else.”

“You shouldn’t post weird stories about your life,” I think sometimes. But then I think, “But I like posting weird stories about my life. They’re fun and different and sometimes too hilarious not to share.”

“You shouldn’t write such pseudo-intellectual posts, because they make you sound pretentious and insufferable,” I sometimes think. But then I think, “But sometimes I have to talk issues out with myself before I can figure out my own opinions, and a blog is a good place to do that.”

“You should be consistent and only write about one thing,” I sometimes think.

“You should make this blog a marketing tool,” I sometimes think.

“You should drink more water because all that Diet Coke is rotting your insides,” I sometimes think.

But then I think, “But I like Diet Coke so much better.”

What am I saying? I’m saying that I might be the last person on earth who sincerely loves blogging. I feel like I can be sort of unfiltered and unbridledly myself on this blog. This is my voice, a voice I don’t get to use in my fiction, and it’s very different than other things I write, in structure and tone and topic. I talk about what’s on my mind here. Sometimes that’s writing. Sometimes that’s anxiety. Sometimes that’s my family. Sometimes that’s traveling. Sometimes that’s getting my violin fixed by a Bond villain.

Maybe that will someday make me a PR nightmare. But for now, my blog will remain a really awesome mess. Thank you for being here with me, and I hope you continue to enjoy it.

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in which people who are not me run 26 miles

Happy Marathon Day!

As you may remember, some really terrible things happened in Boston around this time last year. But some really awesome things happened last year too. In fact, there were far more awesome things than bad things. Far more people being kind and heroic and brave than being cruel and cowardly.

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This time last year, after living in the city for almost eight months, this was the week I really fell in love with Boston, and I’ve been smitten ever since. In the wake of a tragedy, everything seemed really united and hopeful, and I felt very much a part of a coming together of different people inhabiting the same space, and through that coming together I fell in love with that space. I had a similar moment of intense Boston love while walking around my neighborhood this morning1. Everything was blue skies and sort of warm after being neither of those things for so long, and I thought, you couldn’t pry me out of this city with a crowbar.

I love Boston. It feels like home.

So let’s celebrate one year—hundreds of years really, but this one in particular—of being awesome and resilient and good and BOSTON STRONG2!

 

  1. On a quest for Diet Coke, because my regular place was closed and it is apparently really hard to find Diet Coke within walking distance of my apartment on marathon day.
  2. The phrase ‘Boston Strong’ has become so overused in the last year that it now can only be written or spoken in all caps. However, after a year of feeling it was worn out and cliché and laughing everytime someone used it, every time I’ve seen it this past week a small part of me has gone “Aw.” But that’s sentimentality for you.
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in which a friend visits

When you move around a lot, there are lots of people who come into your life, and then when you leave, they sort of drift out of your life without much consequence. Being apart is too hard, or too far, or you change and become too different to like each other as much in the present moment as you did in the past.

And then there are the people that stick with you. That no matter how far apart you are, it never gets too hard.

For me, this person is 14.

14 and I met in seventh grade health class1. The random seating chart set off a chain of events that shaped a good portion of my life. We were friends all through middle school. Took the same classes in high school2. We did theater things together. We went to our first school dance in the same group. We were roommates in college, tested out papers and outfits and flirty texts before we sent them to our crushes on each other.

And then I went to Chicago. Then Boston. And then 14 went to Norway. Then back to Salt Lake. And after spending almost every day together for years and years and years, suddenly we were far apart.

But with 14, the distance didn’t matter so much like it did with other friends. Sure, it sucked to have to synch our time zones for a phone call or to not be able to invite her to do crazy stuff with me. And yes, I missed her, but I never felt like we lost anything because we were far apart.

Last week, 14 came to visit me in Boston. As my mom pointed out, it was the first time the two of us have been around each other for an extended period of time since we graduated from college. There was lots of potential for things to go wrong. What if in our time apart we had both grown into different people that weren’t compatible anymore and we didn’t realize that until she was off the plane?

But it just felt like picking up right where we left off. Like nothing had changed3.

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14 and I are really different, but that’s never really mattered. Being friends with her has always been so easy. And that’s how friendship should be.

Here’s wishing you all a friend like 14.

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  1. 14 is the only good thing I got out of seventh grade health class.
  2. And often sat by each other often because we both have end of the alphabet last names
  3. Except we were exploring Boston instead of Salt Lake, and Boston is awesome. Though we could have done without the freezing rain that plagued the city all week. However, we still did some really awesome things. Like getting enlisted in the War of 1812 Navy. Here we are on board in our bunks:

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in which I take a trip

This past week was very likely the last spring break I am ever going to have. In a little over a month I will become a master and my seventeen years of school will end1. And in the real world, you don’t really get a spring break.

So the family decided to do something proper to mark this rite of passage, namely head down to southern Utah for as close as we ever come to doing a road trip2. It was really a thoroughly marvelous vacation. I turned my brain and my internet off for six days and basked in natural beauty and sunshine, both a far cry from the polar vortex of a city I’m currently living in.

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Southern Utah is very special to me. We used to go there a lot when I was a kid, and I never feel so connected to my heritage as when I’m down among the red rock canyons. I love it so much I even set my ill-fated Mormon hook-handed zombie hunter novel down there (you remember that monstrosity, don’t you?). It feels strangely spiritual to me, like a sacred and secret place, though it’s hardly either of those things. 

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I will perhaps have other stories from this trip to share later in the week, but right now I’m am trying to recover from turning my brain off for six days and get everything in order before it all starts back up again tomorrow. So while you’re waiting, enjoy the view.

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  1. NO! NO! NO! PANIC PANIC PANIC!
  2. None of us are particularly fond of cars, small spaces, or spending long periods of time in small spaces with each other.
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in which I read Tuck Everlasting

One of the benefits of being a student of children’s literature is that you get to revisit a lot of books from your childhood. Some of these books I read so long ago it feels like another lifetime, but I remember the way they made me feel, and it’s interesting to compare that to how they make me feel now as a sometimes adult.

Recently, I revisited Tuck Everlasting1 by Natalie Babbitt, a novel I read for the first time in elementary school and have reread several times since then. Each time I revisit it, my affection for this skinny little book has grown, until this week it exploded in a mess of inarticulate feelings all over the freshmen I was supposed to be teaching it to2. Because every time I read it, it’s different. Or rather, I’m different, and my experience adjusts accordingly. In Tuck Everlasting, the difference stands out most strongly in the character I see myself as.

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The first time I read Tuck Everlasting, I was Winnie Foster. I must have been around ten myself, with that same sort of righteous indignation3 stored up inside my heart. And I felt the weight of everything, the impossible weight of entering the double digits, or starting to understand that there were forces at work in the world that I could not control. Why couldn’t we all live forever? Why did beautiful things have to end? Why couldn’t you drink the water and live forever with the carefree boy you found in the woods? I understood that things had to die, but I couldn’t understand why.

The next time I read it, many years later in high school, I was Jesse. Barefoot, bounding Jesse, wildly in love with everything about living, even the parts I didn’t like. I felt like I was always bubbling up with something, like there was this fountain inside me that would never run dry. There was nothing at work beyond the confines of my small sphere of existence, which would never cease to be amazing. Time did not exist. I felt invincible. I wasn’t, but I felt like I was, like I could never be irreparably broken, inside or out.

Then the next time, starting my second semester of grad school, I was Miles. A little bit heavier with what I’d left behind and carrying around empty holes that weighed just as much as the things and people that used to fill them. Not quite certain what I was or where I was meant to fit in the world, and not sure how to go about puzzling all that out. And I had started to understand not just the forces of the world and how they worked on me, but that I was a part of them. Where I sat on the wheel. How it carried me. And that someday I’d fall off it, just like everyone does.

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art by Jeremy Aaron Moore

And then I read this book last week, and I thought about who I am now.

Now I’m sort of all of them. I’m old and I’m young. One day I feel indestructible. The next like I’m already in pieces that can never be put back together. I am Tuck, with regrets and things I wish I had not done. I am Mae, trying to hold things together that maybe can’t be held. I am Gran, who hears fairy music in the woods. Some days I’m even the Man in the Yellow Suit, aware of the fact that I could exploit and hurt those around me if I wanted to.

While Tuck Everlasting is most often billed as a children’s book about the perils of living forever, really it’s a book about how we all live every day on terms with life’s big incomprehensible ideas, and it gives no easy answers to any of the questions it asks. Because in the end, there is no easy answer. To anything. It’s most truthful in that sense. I don’t understand everything about living and dying—no one does. Some days, I can wrap my brain around the immensity of it and have a few minutes of peace and clarity and understanding about how the earth moves. Other days, it totally freaks me out.

Today while discussing this book with my freshmen, some of them expressed dissatisfaction with the ending *SPOILER ALERT*—they wanted to know why Winnie didn’t drink the water and live forever with the Tucks. What happened between Jesse leaving her with a bottle of water on her front lawn and Tuck finding her tombstone eighty years later? They felt like something was missing.

For me, there is nothing dissatisfying about this ending. In fact, I think it is the perfect end for this perfect book. Because the answer to the question “What happened?” is that life happened. Winnie’s life. There didn’t have to be one big idea, one revelation, one moment of decision or impact where she realized truly that death and life are interchangeable. There didn’t have to be one thing that made her realize that life with death was better than life without it. Because life is that moment—life and its great bit pile of good things and bad things and the things that come in between.

As the Man in the Yellow Suit says, “Like all magnificent things, it is very simple.” And then again, it’s not.

  1. If you don’t know or haven’t read Tuck Everlasting, please rectify that immediately. Not to oversell it, but it’s a staggering work of impossible genius.
  2. Contrary to how this makes it sounds, my freshers and I did have a very coherent and amazing discussion about Tuck Everlasting today. It was awesome enough to inspire this post, actually. But I do have a lot of feelings, which they were on the receiving end of in the last few minutes of class.
  3.  I was totally that kid who said “I am running away!” And then made it to the corner before coming back. It was the principle of the thing.
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in which I celebrate valentine’s day

For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same place. Same city. Same neighborhood. Same house. The biggest move I made was from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs one.

But then I moved away to college, and never really stopped moving. In the last five years, I’ve moved five times. Salt Lake to Logan, Logan to England, England back to Logan, Logan to Chicago, Chicago to Boston. So I’ve lived in some great places, and had some great times, and met some amazing people.

But when you move that much, you don’t have enough time to really make friends. You find people you have things in common with, have some wild adventures with them, but then you leave and fall out of touch, only occasionally communicating on Facebook. I have friends from childhood I still talk to pretty consistently, the friends of the life-long variety, but even that’s different when you only have texting and emails.

This is not necessarily a bad way to live. I met some really amazing people and had some great times, but it also taught me to be self-sufficient—I learned to function independently, go to things on my own, and be my own emotional crutch when things went south.

These last two years in Boston have been the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in a while. And I’m starting to feel like I actually live here instead of just passing through. I know the subway system. I’m no long alarmed when traffic seems to be coming from twelve directions at once. I have heard the phrase “wicked hard” used ironically. I know what people mean when they say Allston Christmas.

And, as I realized the other night, I have friends here.

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Real, great, honest-to-God friends. Friends who I drag on my crazy adventures. Friends who laugh at my references even when they don’t get them. Friends who do more than tolerate me, friends who are friends for more reasons than just shared classes or living in the same place.

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Friends who sit on my bed and eat ice cream with me when I had a crummy day, or talk me down from my anxiety, or encourage my weirdness, or don’t make fun of me when I really let my fangirl show. Friends who pick me up from the airport. Friends who listen to me. Friends who like me.

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So this year, on Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating my friends, who I love and adore and am so thankful to have in my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone—here’s celebrating all the weird kinds of love in your life.

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in which December comes and goes

Every day for the past month, I have woken up with the same thought: Today will be the day I update my blog.

But that didn’t happen. December is not a great month for blogging. December’s not a great month for doing anything other than eating yourself sick and pulling your hair out over Christmas gifts.

So here’s a super quick recap of some of the things I did in December that did not involve binge eating or stress shopping:

–The MT and I explored Boston together. And let me tell you, you have not explored Boston until you have explored it with the MT.

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Seriously, friends. It was a time. We committed treason (see above), skated in a cemetery, wrote on museum walls, went to a Speakeasy, ate food in weird places,  wore strange hats, and were transcendental. Among other activities.

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–Flew home and celebrated Christmas with my family in Utah. Which included my mom giving us a knitted sorting hat from Harry Potter. We also got a Darth Vader voice changer mask. Not knitted.

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–Blind taste tested 13 sugar cookies on a quest to find the most delicious sugar cookie in the Salt Lake Valley.

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Seriously, it was a blind taste test. As in we were blind folded.

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The best sugar cookie in Utah, in case you were wondering, can be found at One Smart Cookie.

–Attended a Renaissance-themed murder mystery party dressed as Shakespeare.

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The  MT also came along, dressed as an Irish mercenary/Hamlet/Ronan Lynch.

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–Ate at my favorite Utah restaurant, Cafe Rio, multiple times with 14, fresh from her Norwegian adventure. No picture. Because I don’t believe in taking pictures of your food.

–On that subject, I ate too much good food.

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This is one of many examples. Resisting posting all of them.

–Read some great books out loud with the MT. Then made sweaters based on them, a picture of which was then retweeted by the author of said books. (MY LIFE IS NOT SUPER EXCITING, OKAY!? THESE ARE THE BIG MOMENTS OF MY LIFE!)

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–Saw friends.

–Saw my dog.

–Saw my mom holding a bowl for water so my dog would be more comfortable when she drinks.

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–Was given a Norwegian Christmas troll to protect me. I think he’s actually meant to cause mischief, but he loves me, and so I have trained him to be my guardian.

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His name is Chainsaw.

–Was given some excellent fan art by the MT. Bonus points if you can name either of these characters. 

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And I think that was December. I’m gonna be better about blogging from here on out. I made a pact with myself. I said, “Self, you should be better about blogging.” So that’s gonna happen. I’m even gonna go out of my way to do strange things that will result in good stories for the blog.

It’ll happen. Just wait. You’ll see.

Happy 2014.

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in which some days are perfect

A few days ago, the MT and I were texting. As we do.

And we started talking about a day we had the weekend before I came back to Boston. The family, along with 14, went to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The MT and I traded a few texts with quotes and memories of funny things that had happened that day, and it ended with one of us1 saying, “That was a perfect day.”

Except it wasn’t.

It was really hot that day. I was really tired because we had to get up early and the drive was long. The chairs we had to sit on were super uncomfortable. Our sandwiches were squished. I’d just got my haircut and my bangs looked weird. I think my mom and I got in an argument at some point.  

But when I look back on it, even remembering all those things, it was still a perfect day.

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This is a photo of 14 from said perfect day. It is one of two photos I have of this day, and the other one is blurry.  

Most days are not perfect. Most days are not even good. But still, at the end of most days, when I turn off the lights and go to bed, the first thing I think is, “Today was a nice day.” Even after a lot of shelving at work and even if my knees hurt and even if the T was slow and I didn’t get as much done as I needed to, usually when I look back on the day, I realize it was nice. Even on the bad days, there are good things hidden inside them.

I know this world is far from perfect, and most days further still. But I’ve been thinking a lot about perfect days, and how they are possible. They happen in spite of everything.   

  1. Can’t remember which but it was probably me.  
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