This is written almost one month after my last blog post, on the day I get internet at my grandfather’s beach house, where I am
The Girl’s Night group (Thursday was one of the things that kept me sane all year)
spending my summer. There have been several interesting developments over the last month, not the least of which involved me finishing my second year of college. This time last year I was in Florence, Italy, gearing up for another semester abroad. Now? Now I have a year of “real” college under my belt. Despite what people told me, Tallahassee was not all that boring. I was no longer spending weekends exploring abandoned castles or ancient churches, but I was enjoying approximately the same college experience as those who went to FSU in the 1950s, which was glorious and exciting unto itself.
And I got to cement friendships I had been afraid of losing. My friends scoff and think I’m being melodramatic, but my greatest fear has always been that I get more attached to people than they get attached to me. So after meeting Patricia in the Fall of 2011 and seeing her again in the Fall of 2012 (or Ari and Kat in the Spring to Fall, or Nicole four weeks before Tallahassee) I was afraid that they would ignore me at FSU. Paranoia, and luckily they all find that trait adorable.
Me and Patricia, in Paris together almost 18 months ago. Time flies, huh?
So I became better friends with those I met abroad and met new interesting people (here’s looking at you, Laura) and the Fall passed and the Spring passed and I learned about Modern Poetry and also Asian history and a smattering of science fiction. I went to the SLC and ordered a lot of milkshakes and drank wine at Girl’s Night and watched Netflix and laid out on Landis listening to stand-up and people watching. And it was brilliant. When it came time for Summer semester, I found that the need to leave wasn’t so pressing this time. I was building a life away from my home in New Jersey, a life that I liked and liked returning to, and while this was a nice development for someone who had once suffered crushing homesickness in the first weeks of college, it was a little sad to realize that my family was no longer the fixed center of my universe, and New Jersey was no longer the only place I could call home.
Moving out involved a night without anything more than a blanket, a pillow, and my guitar case stuffed with dresses. Patricia had very kindly agreed to drive me to Orlando so I could catch a flight that was $600 less than the one leaving out of Tallahassee. I thanked her for her graciousness with sweet potato pancakes and a tank of gas. We listened to 90s pop songs and she had a last opportunity to tease me about being Captain America, because out of a hundred songs I recognized three. Then I was at the airport alone, my best friend of a year going back to her life in South Florida while I was spirited a thousand miles away.
My worry about getting a guitar through airport security proved unfounded: if you ever want to smuggle something, smuggle it in a guitar case. Not once was I asked about why I was traveling with such a cumbersome instrument. Not once was I asked to open the case. As someone who grew up predominately in a post-9/11 world, this lack of interrogation while getting onto an American airplane was exhilarating and a little frightening.
I got back home with no major problems, excepting that my plane had been delayed for nearly two hours. Both of my college-aged
Me and Diehl, while he is still little and silly.
siblings had been there for a week before I arrived, and the next morning Michael went to the Ocean City Block Party (have I ever mentioned that my family raises Seeing Eye Puppies? We are currently on our seventh, an adorable Shepherd named Diehl after David Diehl, a right tackle for the New York Giants. My father said if his name had been Donovan we’d have to request a different dog) My sisters went to my mother’s fashion show, where we won a bicycle and a tiny iPad and raised money for Sandy relief.
Later that day I was greeted by a very pleasant surprise: the sixth Seeing Eye puppy we’d raised was a loveable, hapless Golden Retriever named Kramer. He’d failed out of the Seeing Eye (60% of dogs do) and my family, for the first time, had adopted back a dog we’d raised. He was now Michael’s puppy, and he planned to take him down to school in the Fall. For now the plan was that he’d join us at the beach house for the summer.
Here the sequence of events start to blur. I went to pick out a bed (mine had been transported to North Carolina for Michael’s new house) and Caryn came over and gave me a lesson in bugs and listened patiently while I talked about the marvels of the public library. I applied for a lot of jobs (more on that later.) I read several good books, like Jurassic Park, which is a terrific book, ten times better than the movie, and The Interestings, which has been on the Bestseller list for a while now and definitely deserves to be there.
I came down to the beach with Michael, who’d already secured a ridiculously low-paying job at the Surflight theater as a carpenter for the sets. I was looking for work, too, anywhere I could get it. I want to have a “real” job under my belt and like the idea of something to break up the long summer weeks. Unfortunately, everyone is a small business and want someone who can guarantee work through Labor Day. The commute from Florida to Long Beach Island is too much to promise that kind of commitment.
After striking out at every business in a twenty-block radius with a HELP WANTED sign, I went down to a job interview at Wawa, where
Part of the “Restore the Shore” campaign for Sandy relief, these signs are all over the island
I was told I could have as few or many hours as I liked and they’d hire me and I could start the next day. The only problem is that the six miles between Beach Haven and Surf City took ten minutes to travel in the off –season and forty-five once people started pouring onto the island in the Summer. So, no dice.
Kramer was my constant companion on these job hunts, and I took him on walks as I talked to business owners who were sympathetic towards my Creative Writing major and assured me that making subs and working a cash register was not rocket science, but they just couldn’t take on anyone who would only be around until the third week of August.
Last week, Kramer led me through the alleys of Bay Village, nose pointing towards a small dive that sold Chowder. Next door was a Toy Store that was loading all its inventory in. A man was just putting up a HELP WANTED sign. Why not? I held Kramer tight and stepped into the mostly-empty store. “Is there an application I could fill out?”
“Sure,” the man said, amused by the Golden Retriever and the fact I’d come in just moments after the sign went up. He asked about Kramer and I mentioned that he was a failed Seeing Eye dog. Like so many other people I’d talked to on these walks Kramer led me on, he was intrigued by the Seeing Eye and, as someone who had being raising these puppies for eight years, I answered the questions while still filling out the application.
“You live so close!” The Toy Store owner, who introduced himself as Nathan, exclaimed, “you have to work here! It’s only weekends until the middle of June but…”
“Definitely,” I said, jumping over his words, “sounds perfect.”
He promised to be in touch, told me I was hired, and after two weeks of looking, I finally left with a job.
What else can I say about the last month? I spend most afternoons writing and cooking meals out of a cookbook my mother gave me, only occasionally moaning about the lack of internet. Michael and I eat while talking about the musical we’re writing together, and I occasionally read him the scene I’m working on. We watch movies (some horrible, some good, some old VHSs that are lying around the house) and Young Justice, a television show I happen to have on my iPad that never fails to remind me of Nicole and Florence.
I managed to see Caryn and Alyssa, two of my best friends from high school. We’ve all three changed, but when we’re together we click
Alyssa (left) and Caryn, doing two years ago what we do now — talk too much and argue.
back into a recognizable group from two years ago, with Alyssa and I always bordering on the edge of an argument and Caryn playing peacemaker. One day Caryn ditched work for an afternoon and joined Alyssa and I on the back porch of my house, where we drank tea and ate watermelon and talked about computer programming, Game of Thrones, and the destructiveness of carpenter bees.
Two days ago, when I was back in Galloway for a dentist appointment, Caryn surprised me at 7 am with a text: WANT TO MEET ME AT MY GRANDFATHER’S HOUSE AND SHOOT?
We’d filmed movies together in high school, short projects for school that were always fun and hilarious. I assumed: SHOOT WHAT? A MOVIE?
LOL NO. THINGS WITH GUNS.
I told my parents, who laughed at the idea of their clumsiest child with a gun but gave their blessing. While my parents don’t own weapons, they’re not anti-gun, and think that not knowing how to shoot is probably irresponsible.
So I went out, and Caryn’s father, who was once a Marine, patiently taught us how to shoot a .22. “This is too easy,” I said, after shooting down the eight targets on the second try, “they should make it harder. Like when the typewriter was invented, and the letters weren’t in any particular order to make people go slow? Guns should be like that. It shouldn’t take an hour-long lesson for me to shoot eight targets.”
Me, and the little baby I babysat all weekend.
Then we tried on a .45, and I didn’t say anything about guns being too easy to shoot. A. 45 is loud, and heavy, and hard to aim. Of course, Alyssa’s dad came to pick her up. He, too, was once a military man, in the Air Force, and he shot the .45 with accuracy that surprised all of us, who’d always known him as a very soft-spoken man.
On a different front, since I haven’t yet started work, I took up babysitting last weekend. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night I went down the island at 8 pm and made sure an adorable one- and two-year-old didn’t wake up. For the first couple of nights they didn’t. I finished The Interestings on the couch and made cups of tea. The last two nights, the one-year-old baby woke up, and I rested him on my shoulder while texting my friends and murmuring memorized poems out loud to him until he fell asleep.
My friends make fun of me, because I often say I want a baby (eventually, mom.) But these things are insanely cute, even when they are waking up at night. Of course, I get to hand responsibility back over when the parents come back (and pocket a not-insubstantial amount of cash.) But the want for a baby is still there, while all of my other friends claim not to feel such a need.
Christina with her crutches and Diehl taking a nap.
Anything else? Christina got surgery on her feet, which have bothered her for most of her life, and is couch-ridden for the summer, spending copious amounts of time watching Criminal Minds and asking me to make her grilled cheese sandwiches. This is more annoying for her than for everyone else, obviously, except when it came to the Star Trek movie.
My family are all varying degrees of Star Trek fans, with my father, brother, and I loving the series (and all things sci-fi) the most. Christina, Amanda, and mom all like Enterprise a lot but have little patience for the other series. Still, we’d all watched more than a little Star Trek, and were very excited for the sequel to the 2009 movie.
Christina’s house-bound state made it difficult to see the movie, and we ended up going to a newly-opened IMAX on a Wednesday night. Michael went without his girlfriend and Amanda didn’t invite her friends and so it was just the six of us at dinner and a movie, which was really nice. We made fun of Christina for being a cripple and she huffed, annoyed, as we raced into the theater without her.
(the movie was brilliant, especially since we’d watched the Genesis project episodes and Wrath of Khan before going to the theater. so what if the dialogue was word-for-word? Chris Pine and ZQ are way hotter than the TOS cast)
There are two pieces missing. Typical.
Memorial Day weekend brought an influx of people to the island, including my grandparents, who exclaimed over the dinner Michael and his girlfriend Tatiana spent an afternoon making. They helped Amanda cover strawberries and other things in chocolate, and brought with them a puzzle from my other grandmother, a present for our slow-moving resident cripple, which led to a spree of puzzle-making. Even though we bought it new, one of the puzzles, typically, was missing a couple of pieces.
But mostly the past month has been spent in a state of pleasant relaxation. By the end of the summer I’m sure I’ll be climbing the walls, but for now it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I love school, and my friends, and my life in Tallahassee (and, before that, varying European countries) but when at school you have to be on all the time. I eat with people and sleep with a roommate and spend most waking moments with friends, and am always conscious of what I’m saying and who I’m saying it to.
At home, it’s mostly just me and Kramer and library books and the steady pounding of the ocean against an island that, despite its best efforts in the Fall, was not washed away. It’s a resilient place, a healing place, and, for now, a quiet place. It’s perfect. Life is good.