Tag Archives: Family

An Important Life

November 19, 2014

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We blinked and here we are again, entering the season of love and loss, joy and sorrow. The tender and bright life of The Holidays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. All those big, pink hams. It is so wonderful and terrible. Giant spectacles made up of tiny, meaningful things.

So we take deep breaths. Sip our ciders with resounding joy and delicate nerves. There is so much we are supposed to feel.

We pause to put on our winter skin.

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We buried my grandfather on Sunday. His death was unexpected and hard. We grieved and cried and said goodbye to a good man who was a bright light in this world.

It is in these moments we realize we are not forever. That the life we are living now is the only life we are ever going to live.

It is always so startling.

I have been so many different versions of myself, it can be hard to keep track of who I am now. Am I living a life I would choose? Is there something I should change? Will I always eat cold leftovers in front of the open refrigerator door?

Whoever we choose to be, it is easy to feel insignificant. We live our lives through screens and filters, projections of ourselves molded by shaky vanity. Lined up side by side, our Instagrammed faces never look as good as the mirror.

Of course we try to stay honest, but it is hard not to curate a version of ourselves fit for Christmas parties and social media. As hard as we try to be real velveteen rabbits with messy floors and messier heads, we still sometimes slip into the lie that our lives are not exceptional unless they seem exceptional to everyone else.

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A few weeks ago I took the kids by myself to vote. We were the youngest ones there by a hundred years. As we were leaving, a kind older lady grabbed my arm and said, “Look at these babies. These are the best years. You are living such an important life.”

May we remember this under the twinkle lights and beside the big parades. We have so much truth inside of us. Giant spectacles made up of tiny, meaningful things.

A season of hope.

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IMG_9185David L. Baker
1936-2014

When We Stop Pretending

August 14, 2014

August

My first memory is my sister. She was born in the cold of January. I don’t remember her face or how she cried or the softness of her baby skin. I only remember a shift in space, the family changing. A doll come to life.

We grew up in the same room, with the same toys, without any other siblings or neighbors to be extras in our world of Barbies and imaginary boats with frisbee wheels. We had our fights; battles over the front seat or the bathroom or Who Said What. But mostly it was very equal, very amicable, very You Get This and I Get That and I’ll let you know if I hear the garage door so you can turn off Blossom.

But in school we pretended. We pretended to be the kind of sisters who fought because it was more interesting. Even when we were in college together, we nodded along to the sitcom stereotype.

“I bet you girls fought allll the time!” a drunk soccer player would exclaim. Oh yes, we conceded dramatically. She was a real nightmare.

It’s funny who we pretend to be.

I will never forget walking through a street fair in Pittsburgh a few years ago with my friend Carrie and spotting a clown. Immediately I recoiled, shrieking like a scared toddler. “Oh my gosh a clown,” I gasped dramatically. “They really freak me out.”

Carrie didn’t miss a beat. “You should really find something more original to be afraid of.”

It was the first time I realized pretending to be interesting is actually really uninteresting.

There is a shift that happens in our 20s and 30s when we start the lifelong process of being true to ourselves. When we stop pretending to be someone other than who we are.

It’s laughable the things I’ve pretended to fear, to love, to do. It took me years to admit I hate camping. One day I was sitting around with friends discussing our various camping experiences; tents, bears, rivers, overlooks, fires that wouldn’t start….and it just came out. I feel claustrophobic in tents! I get blisters just looking at my hiking shoes! Mosquitoes are my nemesis! I don’t even like Northface!

Of course figuring out you hate camping is only possible if you actually try camping. There is no merit in declaring our pleasures and aversions in absolute terms. There is merit, however, in letting our nerd and jock and I-actually-like-staying-home-on-Friday-night flags fly if only for the relief. The relief of settling into ourselves, of being original, of sitting at home pinning egg salad recipes in the dark while everyone else is out making small talk in a loud pub.

Age has its grievances. Growing into ourselves is not one of them.

May we stop pretending. May we camp and not camp and love our sisters in the most genuine, interesting way.

May we face ourselves.

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