Monday, June 30, 2008

Strangely, Pleasantly

I’m delighted to report that I’m married now. So many barely perceptible changes have taken place. My fiancé (a term I was never comfortable using) has now become my husband. My eyelash extensions have all fallen out, leaving my stubby blonde lashes in their wake. And I have a thick band of silver on my left hand that glows like moonlight and makes me feel so very Grown Up.

Leading up to the wedding, there was lots of stress and insomnia. Lots of cooking and shopping and driving to and fro. Lots of talking and laughing with family. Lots of meager showers with zero water pressure (my mom’s house has plumbing like from the late 1800s).

The day of the wedding was warm and sunny with fluffy white clouds dotting the sky. Then immediately before the ceremony, the sky became dark and menacing. Thunder rumbled and it began to pour with rain. I was on my second glass of wine and beyond being perturbed.

I rode to the ceremony with my brother and his wife and baby girl. We sat in the car waiting for the rain to let up. My best friend Terri, who was serving as our Maid of Honor/Best Man/Rock, came to the car and asked what I needed. “Bourbon,” I told her. She promptly returned with a tumbler full.

Eventually the rain stopped and the chairs were toweled off. I was strangely, pleasantly calm as my parents walked me down the stone path serving as our aisle. I felt relaxed and happy. And why not? My man was there and waiting (I wouldn’t be stood up at the altar; yay!) the rain had stopped (yay!) and midway through the ceremony, the sun broke through the clouds and we were flooded with golden evening light for a Dawning of the Universe affect (triple yay!).

I had asked my cousin and his wife to surprise us with a reading. I had read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein at their wedding about 15 years ago. His wife read an excerpt from “Les Miserables” and my cousin read “Hug O' War” by Shel Silverstein:
“I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.”

How awesome is that?

We exchanged the vows we had written for each other, and then we exchanged the rings. My man said, “I am honored to call you my wife,” and put the ring on my finger. I was suppose to return the favor and say “I am honored to call you my husband.”

But instead, out came “I am honored to call you my wife.” My mom yelled out “Freudian slip” and everyone else erupted in laughter, including me and my new husband.

My new husband. My husband. My husband. The word feels strangely, pleasantly good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Full Set

I’m getting married in five days. I’m distracted, scattered, excited, nervous. Caught up in a flurry of activity one minute, staring into space a thousand miles away the next.

I started packing on Friday. Went shopping and worked on my vows on Saturday. Did laundry and more packing and had my eyelashes tinted on Sunday.

Eyelashes what? When a hippie friend of mine told me that she regularly had her eyelashes tinted, I said I’d never heard of anything more frivolous or ridiculous.

Then an old roommate who had gone to cosmetology school insisted on tinting my eyelashes once. She had me lay down, close my eyes, and then she saturated my eyelashes with black dye. I lay there for 10 minutes, letting it soak in, then she wiped it off. Voila—done. Instead of invisible blonde eyelashes, I had sweeping black eyelashes. No more itchy, gloppy mascara. And I wasn’t blinded by the experience! I was hooked.

I used to have my eyelashes tinted regularly when I lived in San Francisco. Salons where littered around SF like Starbucks. They were everywhere, they were fast and they were cheap. An eyelash tint was about $15, and took about half an hour.

However, eyelash tinting isn’t part of the Portland scene, apparently. I had a very difficult time trying to find a salon that did it, and the one salon I did find charged $30. So I don’t get my eyelashes tinted on a regular basis anymore. I save it for special occasions.

My wedding is a special occasion. When I made an appointment at the salon down the street, the Chinese gal asked if I wanted a “full set.” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Both eyes? Top and bottom lashes? Yes, and yes.

She had me lay down and close my eyes. And then she went to work, applying the dye. Another Chinese woman came in and they chatted and laughed back and forth in Chinese.

I thought of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine goes for a manicure and the Chinese ladies are insulting her as they work on her nails. “Princess wants her nails done, does she?”

What were these ladies saying about me? Surely they were insulting my inadequate eyelashes. “White girl with stubby lashes wants exotic black eyelashes, huh?”

A half hour passed. The ladies continued talking and laughing. Another half hour passed. The gal who was doing my eyelashes was hovering close to my face. “Cuse me,” she said when she burped.

An hour slid by. “What the hell is she doing?” I thought. This was taking far too long. And she seemed to be tugging and pulling on my eyelashes. I was getting really impatient. And irritated. When she worked on my left eye, she placed her hand under my nose, blocking my nostrils. Was she trying to kill me? Eyelash tinting had never been such an ordeal before. What the hell was going on? Another half hour passed. Then she announced that she was almost done, that it would be just another half hour. I was seething.

Finally, finally, she was finished. She told me to sit up. She handed me a mirror and instructed me to take a look. I had long, black, sweeping eyelashes. But they weren’t my own. I looked over to see a jar filled with little black eyelashes. Unattached to eyelids as they were, they looked like little eyelash corpses. Much to my surprise, she had given me eyelash extensions.

But that wasn’t the only surprise of the day. Next she charged me $137. I looked like Morticia, and it was gonna cost me $137 (plus tip) for the privilege.

Morticia, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?

I do.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ode to Leo’s Couch

Leo’s couch is, without a doubt, the 1973 Cadillac of couches.

A marvel of 1970s construction covered in green and gold fabric, the couch is large. Very large. It’s also beginning to cave in on itself, and it’s very lowest dipping point—where the left-end cushion and the middle cushion meet—is where Leo struggles to climb aboard and settle himself into sweet lounging oblivion.

It was the fiance’s furniture showpiece before I moved in and brought my couch along with me. But Leo claimed it as his own long before that.

When the fiancé and I were first dating, we spent weeknights at my little apartment and weekends at his house. I told Leo it was our country house and he made himself right at home. On the couch.

On Saturday nights, the fiancé and I would settle in to watch a movie and he would try to coax Leo off the couch. I, however, was happy to squeeze into whatever small space Leo left for us. It was surprising to me then how absolutely fulfilling I found this simple act: squeezing onto the couch with my man and my dog made me feel downright giddy.

Maybe it was because I had been single for so long, with the couch all to myself. It also brought to mind a photo of my mom’s family in the 1950s.

It was New Year’s Eve and my grandmother (who died when my mom was only two years old), my grandfather and six kids (my mom the baby on an older sister’s lap) are all crammed together on one couch (and a pulled-up chair). All tousled hair and party hats and noisemakers. I can almost feel the body warmth in that photo, smell the smells of kids and old slippers, feel the elbows and hips of the bodies seated next to each other, on top of each other. Isn’t this the intimacy of home and family life that we all desire?

Funny to think that our furniture plays a part in this intimacy. Silent, reliable, mere props on the stage of our daily productions. Barely noticed and taken for granted. Until years later, that is, when we see them in pictures and ridicule them for falling out of fashion. An orange velvet chair? A purple flowered couch? We point and laugh. “What was I thinking?” we ask.

Perhaps children understand the true essence of furniture best. A child’s world is such a small world—usually the confines of a house. So much time is spent on the floor, climbing on the furniture, jumping off the furniture, building blanket forts with the furniture. It’s children who come to be familiar with the undersides of tables and chairs and beds, the thrilling discoveries that lurk beneath couch cushions, the peculiarities of patterns in upholstery.

When my parents divorced, my father moved out and left behind his Lazy Boy recliner. It was green with armrests of wood and a wood lever on the lower right side that kicked up the footrest. I was six years old, my brother was three years old, and the recliner became Ours. It was big enough for both of us to snuggle in and watch “Little House on the Prairie” or “Happy Days.” It often served as the main pillar of a blanket fort. And the armrests were perfect as pretend motorcycles that we could race, side by side (though we often fought over who got the right side with the lever, because it made a perfect kick start).

The recliner is long gone from my mom’s house but it’s still clear in my mind’s eye. I can see where the green fabric was wearing thin, where the wood armrests were beginning to splinter, where cookie crumbs were likely to gather. I can still sense its bulk, still see the gouges we made in the wood floor every time we moved it, still remember how it smelled when I buried my face in it to do a headstand.

The fiancé says we need to get rid of Leo’s couch, that it’s stinking up the house. I tell him no way, that Leo will be buried on that couch. I picture Leo resting in peace on the couch, being lowered by a crane into his grave.

Or maybe a burial at sea would be nicer. I’ll launch Leo and his couch into the Pacific Ocean and watch as they float away into the sunset. Leo Mosquito Burrito riding the Cadillac of couches to the Other Side.

This might be a fitting way for them both to go.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Leo Flies the Coop

Leo escaped from our backyard a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a preconceived escape plan, like that depicted in “Escape from Alcatraz” (a movie I loved when I saw it at the age of eleven, though my fiancé asserts that “Papillon” is far superior). No, Leo didn’t have a file buried in his fur, or a shank hidden under his collar. It was all rather sudden and reactive on his part, and downright startling on mine.

Our backyard is mostly fenced except for the entry leading to the deck. In order to keep Leo confined and out of trouble, I’ve been using one of our large planter boxes as a barricade there. It’s easily two feet high and I assured myself that there was no way he could jump over it. After all, hip dysplasia and arthritis in his spine have rendered his back legs pretty much useless. And, I reasoned, he has a hard enough time hoisting himself up on his couch.

So I often leave him out back unattended. He likes to stare down the neighbor’s cat as she basks in the sun on the other side of the fence, or nibble on my fiance’s favorite plants or just lounge on the welcome mat in the shade.

On this particular night, I had just gotten out of the shower and threw on my bathrobe and flip flops. My face was a neon red from some new facial astringent that apparently was burning off my epidermis. It was almost 9 p.m. but still light out, and I decided it was time to bring in Leo.

Leaning out the back door, I called for him to come in. He ignored me but he always ignores me (unless there’s the scent of food emanating from my hand). He was staring intently at something, every muscle flexed and on edge, ready to fire. I turned my head to see what he was seeing and caught a flash of movement. Then I turned back to Leo, just in time to see him leap over the planter in a single bound and tear across the side yard and the street in mad pursuit of….something.

I wouldn’t fare well in combat. In crisis situations, I tend to freak out a little bit. This was a crisis situation. First I screamed to the fiancé, who couldn’t hear me. Then I flung open the gate and began my own mad pursuit of Leo, who by now was tearing across the neighbor’s lawn.

Flip flops a flippin’ and bathrobe a flappin’, I ran across the street, not even thinking to look both ways, my eyes trained on Leo (a ball of black fur gathering speed and momentum), my stomach a rotten pit of fear and remorse. There was another street in his path, a busier street with fast-moving traffic. I was terrified I would hear the screech of tires, terrified I would hear his yelp of pain, sick in my guts at the imagined sight of him lying in the street.

But there he was. Running circles around a big old tree in the neighbor’s yard, his eyes fixed on something way up high in the branches. As he veered my way, I dug in my flip flops (how pitifully weak one feels in flip flops) and made a grab for the thick fur on his back, prepared to wrestle him to the ground.

Adrenaline must have fortified me because with a little work, we both came to stop, my hand buried deep in his fur. I thought he might snap at me, or try to pull free. But he only gave me the usual indignant whining I get when we’re walking and I drag him away from something he desperately wants.

My limbs were still trembling from fear as I took hold of his collar and led him home. He trotted along, occasionally shooting glances over his shoulder back to the tree.

We came inside and found the fiancé on the couch, where I’d left him. He’d missed all the excitement. Breathless and still trembling, I told him what had happened, how I’d screamed to him, how scared I was that Leo would be hit by a car, how I’d grabbed hold of his fur. It all sounded so melodramatic, so silly, so commonplace.

The next morning, I fortified the barricade. A three foot high piece of plywood on top of the planter box should do the trick. Leo will need a file or a shank to escape now.