Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuff My Family Says

Serengeti: The technique of ransacking the house for dollar bills and coins behind couch cushions and in coat pockets in order to rake up enough scratch to go to McDonald's for dinner. It's called the Serengeti because we're hunting for our dinner just like our ancient ancestors did on the African plains. This one was my idea.

e.g. Hey I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's do Serengeti and see if we can grab a Happy Meal instead.

Awnooje: Orange

Swanje: Sandwich (both awnooje and swanje come from mispronunciations by baby Margaret and Baby Ciara, respectively)

e.g. For lunch I think I will have a swanje and an awnooje.

Another word for technique or ritual. An action that is taken with regularity at specific times to achieve a reliable end. Ciara made it up when she was four.

e.g. First I eat breakfast and then I get dressed. That is my morning youtique.

Young People Shouldn't Have To Work: This was a phrase my mother actually said to Jim and me the summer we were seventeen years old in order to lament the fact that we both had to go to work at our jobs instead of frolic in the clover. Jim and I have repeated it to one another in similar lamentation every day since.

e.g. I can't believe I have to go to work today. Young People Shouldn't Have To Work.

Late For The Festivities:
This means being overly hasty in general or driving too fast specifically. It comes from the time twenty years ago when my sister-in-law Lisa was making fun of crazy drivers on our way to see fireworks in San Francisco.

e.g. Look at those crazy drivers. They must be Late For The Festivities.

What are some of the things your family says?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I love being a guest. I mean a real guest, not the "guest" like what Starbucks and Target call you now for buying their stuff. I hate how corporations toss that word around like its meaning is malleable. A guest is a very specific, special person. A guest is invited on purpose into a home for dinner or sometimes to spend a night or two.

As a guest you give up control of your destiny for a time. You are at the mercy of your hosts, especially if you are a houseguest far from your own house. Whether or what you eat, how comfortable your sleep, how at ease your feelings—all are in the power of your hosts.

Last week I descended on my friends Laura and Evan for two nights. Two nights is a long time to have someone over. That is over 48 hours of disrupted routines and the necessity of good manners. I knew what I was asking. Two nights is a lot of time.

I had not seen Laura and Evan for eight and a half years. Laura and I have had a handwritten correspondence that is deep and wonderful and essential to my life. Still I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. After the six hour drive I made five u-turns on their street because I kept driving by their house and losing the courage to pull up and park.

You see I wasn’t at my best. There have been times in my life when I have felt strong and successful and good-looking. This past year has not been such a time. When I finally quit the shenanigans I creaked out of my car and up to the front door in my wrinkled shirt and messy hair, at loose ends and weak and deeply tired. Soul tired.

My friends let me in. My friends and their outstanding sons and Evan’s sweet mother let me in their house and they treated me with the sort of friendship that heals weakness. I don’t know how else to say it. I brought them handmade candy and cookies. I left with my soul stitched back to my self.

The readings in church today were all about the Magi bringing gifts to the Holy Child. After a long time traveling, the three kings ducked into the sacred space and left hopeful and healed and better than they were before. My understanding of the Gospels is that Jesus even from infancy models how we are supposed to be a source of love for others. Love is our main job.

My friends didn’t care that I wasn’t at my best. We talked about everything and crammed the two days with everything we have been thinking and feeling about the things that are important to us. They were honest with me so that I could be purely myself. They allowed me into the sacred space of their home and I left two days later feeling whole again. Yes, my friends were excellent hosts when it came to meals and sleeping and my comfort. But I will never forget this visit because of the way they took care of my heart.

This year I look forward to hosting as many of my friends as often as possible. This year I work on my friendships as though they are my main job. These may be hard times, but real friendship is stronger than corporate manipulations and furlough days and bad news.

Friendship teaches you to forgive even when it is difficult (Yes, Ysidro and Aristotle and Laura you are right about that. Of course you are right). Friendship urges you to drink enough water and to go to yoga class and to wear something besides that old flannel shirt because you deserve better.

Friendship doesn’t make you buy anything. Friendship isn’t just free. Friendship makes you free.