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Old photo of youth. Eternal shaggy bangs and chubby cheeks. 

My friend's family didn't eat pork because of their religion. Her Mom told me once that Yul Brynner got trichinosis from eating bacon. I incorrectly remembered it as he had died of it. I ominously warned everyone of this who had the misfortune to eat breakfast with me for the next 17 years, nervously chewing and wondering if it would eventually lead to my end, too. I didn't really even know who Yul Brynner was, but he didn't die and it was spare ribs, not bacon. He sued the restaurant, and his wife joined in the suit claiming it irrevocably altered their marriage. I was always fascinated by my friend's family. Her parents were both photographers, and they lived in a house on stilts right next to the river. Sometimes, when the river got up, they had to row a boat to their house. There had been a tragic car accident claiming the lives of two of their four children, and I would stare at the portrait of the entire family and wonder what those two who had died would have been like. I observed her family as if they were my private Tenenbaums or Glass family. They had a pottery wheel under their house in an outdoor room where the older of the two sisters threw pottery. If she wasn't throwing pottery, she would be in the living room, watching British comedy.  My friend's father refused to turn the air conditioner on in the dead humidity of the south until July. They were fine financially, but my friend would roll her eyes and attribute it to him being cheap. She would spend most of her time over the summer at my house, soaking in the AC and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. Her mom would turn on their oven, heating the house up to an even more unbearable level, and make homemade Yucca chips that she'd offer us. This was before the Whole Foods Movement and Kourtney Kardashian's Wheatgrass shots made the Top 40. I loved her hippie food, but my friend longed for the weekly spaghetti my Mom cooked.  She introduced me to Tony Bennett's music. We where on a trip with her family to Europe once, and they almost didn't make the flight in time. They got stuck in customs with their cases of vitamins and herbs and film. When a college girl got tanked on the trip, they offered her ginger the next morning for her hangover. I had a blister completely encircle my right baby toe, and they offered up mole skin. The girls were allowed to paint their bathroom wild colors, and they were both effortlessly artistic and intelligent. They both were in Gifted and Talented, so named as if the rest of us where some mediocre trolls that crossed the school doorways every day. They'd often laugh at inside jokes, not bothering to explain the meaning to outsiders. Their unique family sense of humor that seemed as hereditary as their freckles.
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High School Graduation

When I had completed third grade, my parents announced we'd be moving from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to a rural town in Arkansas called Pocahontas. I was devastated.

Thus far, I'd attended a private Catholic school, and even though we weren't Catholic, I adored the atmosphere. I went to mass once a week where I was comforted by the holy water fonts. I loved the kneeling and praying, the beautiful statues, and most of the Sisters that taught me. I appreciated how we colored in a different candle on our color pages during Advent each week, and I loved lugging around my cardboard suitcase of things to sell for fundraisers. I enthusiastically peddled Weebles each year, and once my family had purchased them, I'd harass them to give them to me. I was always in trouble in Catholic school. I went to the office to see the Principal, and my mother was called more times than I'd care to admit. Yes, I was a problem child from kindergarten to third grade. I was smart though, and I read at the top of my class. As in, myself and one other boy were the only ones in the group, and we were given the task of assisting with teaching the lower groups along with Sister Hanneke. We mostly went to a smaller sanctuary for mass, but a few times we to memorized and recited verses in our
larger church which was/is was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. It was built in 1898 by Slovakian Catholics.

I grew up surrounded by diversity, and I loved that. I was my Mom's date to glamorous parties thrown by her friends where the guests spoke to me respectfully, as a fellow individual, never a child. I paddled around the hot tub with doctors with heavy accents with skin as beautiful and dark as mine was translucent and pale. I was convinced I would marry one named Sayid who tickled me, and I knew I wanted to have a life like my Mom's best friend. She had a wall to tall tank of Oscars behind her couch, and I was allowed to play in her lab at the med school and deliver babies from obstetrical manikins or give breast and prostate exams while she and Mom worked.

We moved over the summer, and that upcoming Fall, I started school at M.D. Williams Middle School. At my new school, we would change classes seven times throughout the day. At Most Holy Trinity, we had never changed classes. There were so many more students than in Catholic School, and I was a 4th grade child with the anxiety level of 10 adults combined. On my first day, I couldn't find my class. There were tons of papers taped up with lists of names so you could find your homeroom class. I was completely overwhelmed. It had started from the time I came to the tiny town and saw the cover of the local paper, The Star Herald. This was certainly no St. Louis Post Dispatch. There were society pages detailing who had visited whom that week.  On the cover of the first edition I read was that Bessie Lou had the first tomato crop of the season. There she was, photographed center cover, displaying a ripe red tomato proudly. I wondered where in the Hell Mom and Dad had moved me. As I struggled to find my class on the list, hot tears began to roll down my face. I was near sobbing when I heard a voice behind me, "Hey, is there something I can help you with?" I turned to see a girl with long, silky blonde hair and a welcoming smile. "I can't find my class," I manged to get out. "Well, I don't know you, but I can help you," she responded. She went on to ask me my name, and then she determined that we were in
the same class. I felt like she was my angel.  I followed along behind her, and it was the beginning of our friendship.

I spent summers with Paige in the shed her Mom had set up for us to play in with our American Girls. We played "Olden Days" and pretended to churn butter. We spent nights snuggled up with her cat Gizmo and her rottweiler, Tigger. We made mud pies, and I pet her bunnies through the squares of their cage. Paige was friends with everyone, and she was readily accepted into the popular clique in school, however, she never socialized with them at the expense of anyone else. She would be a rare one who could move effortlessly through all the social realms.  I was kind of an oddball outsider/loner, and she was my closest friend for years. Later, we both went to college at Arkansas State University, and we remained dear friends.

As often happens, we lost contact over the years after college, and we eventually reconnected on Facebook. I noticed over the next few months that we had significant differences in politics. I let those differences anger me, and I unfriended Paige frequently. She reached out to me, and explained that she still cared about me and that I had hurt her feelings. I convinced myself I never had known her and that maybe we had grown apart.  Yes, in some ways we had, but I wasn't giving nearly enough importance to the many years we had together, our history. I was nasty in my responses to her, edgy and angry. She was honest and calm and kind. Many times she moved past my anger with grace and forgiveness. She continually sought me out.

Recently, Paige shared a photo of several beautiful brooches and tagged me, "You need these, Sarah." It struck me because I had recently bought a similar one on a trip Kelly and I had taken. My eyes were immediately drawn to a beautiful peacock one, and I laughed when she posted a comment, "I'm going to try to find you the peacock one. It reminds me of you and all of your sparkle!" It made me smile down to my bones, and it made me sad about how I had treated Paige. She hadn't seen me in years, and yet, she knew me as if we had sat side by side in class yesterday. A few weeks went by, and I received updates from her that the peacock brooch was sold out, but she was still on the hunt for it. Then, "I have your brooch!"  I told her where to find me in my office on campus, but I cautioned her it was hard to find. In truth, I was nervous. What if we had nothing to talk about? What if I didn't know her anymore.

Today at work, I walked down the hall to run a quick errand to the ATM. As I rounded the corner, there in the sunlight was a mini version of Paige. I couldn't have missed him for the world. Her youngest son Abram has her exact eyes, lashes, and skin. Paige stood there with her back to me, and I was able to surprise her. We quickly hugged, and we were able to share a quick chat. They presented me with my beautiful gift to me proudly, and I adore it. It was as if no time had passed, and we laughed so much, as we always had. I was charmed by her funny little boy, and we finally reluctantly parted with promises to get together soon. We hugged, and she smelled good as she always had when we were kids.

It was the highlight of my week. I am grateful for Paige's friendship even when I don't deserve it. It was a special deep down to my bones feeling, timely reminder (Ash Wednesday), and moment.

Beautiful brooch Paige gave me! I love it.  

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Image from

Lately, I've been nagged by how untrustworthy our memories can be, and how other times, they rise from some inner depth and break the surface unexpectedly and crystal clear. I've recovered something so wonderfully precious, yet randomly, as stumbling across a fourth leaf clover.

I have this one memory that I was so sure was true, and I kept it for years. One day, I mentioned it to my mother. It involved a square maroon car that we used to own, and I was shaken when she responded, "We never owned any maroon car." "Yeah, remember the plush velvet seats? It was some type that old women drive," I responded in an effort to jog her memory which to be frank, is horrible so can I really trust it? We went around and around, but I guess she'd remember what kind of car she owned. Where did this pseudo memory come from? How and why did it appear? It seemed so vivid. Come to think of it, I also remember a dark navy car that was similar. Maybe I'm getting the color confused? I think my grandparents gave or lent it to us. Same sort of velvet plush seats. I could put up the armrest in the front seat, and no one could see back to me. I'll have to ask her if that's a true memory. I guess I still keep the Maroon Car Memory even if it's false. It's a parallel universe memory of sorts that doubles back on itself as now, I remember that I didn't remember it!

Actually, quite a few of my early memories involve cars. This one involves a dark green Aries with lighter green vinyl seats that stuck to your legs and burned you in the hottest part of St. Louis summers. At some point in my childhood, I found a delicate robin's egg, and I found it to be the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen thus far in my young life. I asked if I could take it to school for show and tell, and someone, maybe my stepmum, agreed. I was so excited to show the class, and off I went, climbing into the front seat with it cradled greedily in my palm. As I was buckling my seat belt, I crushed it between my palm and the metal clasp. I can remember wanting to cry out and being shocked. First, that this beautiful blue egg was gone, just like that. Secondly, the tactile horror of cold yolk squishing between my fingers and getting on my school uniform. That memory floated up recently and caught me by surprise! It was so lucid, it seemed as if it had happened yesterday.

Nostalgia has overtaken my life lately, and I am not a nostalgic type. I generally never want to go to my hometown, and I hate even thinking about high school and my youth because I made horrible decisions repeatedly, and I wasn't sure who I was and I was uncomfortable and stifled in small town monotonous Hell. I guess, I'm going back before that, though. I do like to remember and think about when we still lived in St. Louis, and when I went to Catholic school. That's a nice spot for me to visit in my thoughts. I'm comfortable going there, and it feels safe. I remember my Grandma Jo's kitchen vividly. She had this little framed picture of a mouse that had a different saying for every month. I would also sit at the kitchen table and snack while seeing what the mouse was doing that particular month. The prized part of the memory and my youth in that kitchen always took place in the afternoon. She had a small kitchen window above her sink, and she had put prisms and crystal suncatchers there. When the afternoon sun came through the window, the room would be covered with rainbows. It seemed so magical. If I'm remembering correctly there were a few plants tucked in the window too as it had shelves. I have two windows over my kitchen sink, and I have taken up the hunt to find pretty things to make rainbows and sparkle in the sun. K. has taken up my effort, too. He actually picked out our first addition to that window, a bluebird of happiness we picked up during our trip to
Terra Studios.

Bluebird of Happiness in our windowsill


I want our kitchen to have rainbows everywhere like this one but a ton more! Photo from here.

Another in my memory Rolodex, is my dad taking me to a store called Faru that specialized in imports. I loved how it smelled in there, and how everything was so unfamiliar and unique. He bought me many treasures from there over the years--jewelry, this display with small sticks that had different African animals on the top of each one (I can't remember what they were used for or what they were called), and a beautiful handheld mirror with a fake jade handle and butterfly on the back. I loved dusting them when I cleaned my room and wondering if I'd get to travel to see the countries they came from someday when I was grown. I always was transfixed by this eyeball jewelry in the case, and I remember Dad telling me it was of the Devil and to never buy it. That must've really stuck with me because now when I see any of that stuff in necklaces or jewelry, it sort of creeps me out. I think he was referring to the evil eye, and it was supposed to ward off bad things. But my memory usually goes first to it being of the Devil. He may have said the second, but I usually go with the first explanation. I didn't tell my Mom his take on it, and I convinced her to buy me a cheap version that turned my finger green. She relented even though, unprompted, she said it was, "Ugly and weird." 

Photo from here


Photo from here

To close, here is a video of dancing lights from a crystal.  I like the rainbows best, but the teeny light flecks are nice, too.  



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