Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Not Packing

Today is Wednesday. I am leaving California on Sunday morning. My Mexican grandma's 70th birthday FIESTA is on Saturday. I might drive down to my dad's on Friday. And I've got one huge problem.

I have not started packing. At all.

This is a pattern with me.

If my mom had not flown out to Phoenix, I never would have gotten my stuff packed, shoved into my car, and driven back to Sacramento. If Austin had not offered to help me pack for France, I never would have made it onto the plane.

I hate packing. I am the worst packer of all time. I am unmotivated.

So what did I do today?

I bought this:

What is that, you ask? Why, it's a glass mannequin head!

Here is what I did today:
- Lunch with Meagan (Color Guard diva and dogsitter extraordinaire)
- Random Home Depot encounter with Eric (one of my best high school buddies)
- Decided to call Kevin (junior high best friend) and then had coffee and went shopping with him
- Randomly saw Scotty Sutter's dad
- Randomly saw Kathy King
- BOUGHT GLASS HEAD as I was waiting for Dan (best high school guy friend) to finish playing tennis and get dinner with me
- Dinner with Dan and Eric
- Ice cream

So as you can see, I did not pack today. But I did see a lot of people who mean a whole lot to me. And I did buy something that I've wanted for a long time, even though I had no clue what I'm going to do with it.

Fishbowl? Vase? Paperweight? Ideas?

I really need to start packing tomorrow.

P.S. LES SOLDES have started in France. I fully blame my impulse buying on this fact.

P.P.S. I also bought a knit-your-own-teddy-bear set at a craft store. I should have been packing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Clover View Ranch

I walked to the far end of the hay barn in my H&M ballet flats. They weren't the right shoes to be wearing out back. Straws of hay poked my toes. I stood in the very back corner, across from where I found a real dove egg one Easter during an egg hunt, and I sobbed. I peered through the wooden slats which used to serve as mangers for the cattle. I closed my eyes and willed myself never to forget the smell of my grandparents' ranch. A tractor had been running during the service, but the noise had since stopped. It was the first time in my memory that the ranch had been absolutely silent.

My grandma has been dead since the night before the Kentucky students left Dijon. I arrived home at four in the morning to a message from my mom asking me to call her back. I hate when she does that. I knew that my grandma had died and hated that I had to call my mom for confirmation.

My grandma died on April 29th, 2008. She was dead when I was showing pictures of home to a friend and accidentally ran across pictures of her and my aunts. She was dead when my dad and brother flew to Europe to make sure that I was coping well. She was dead when I came back to the States. She was dead when everyone was at her house, but all the animals were gone and the milk barn had been cleaned out.

Dead. She is dead. I don't like the phrase "passed away". It makes it seem like we misplaced her, like she'll be back someday.

My grandma is dead, but I can't believe she's gone. I can't believe that my family will never spend another Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter at her house. I can't believe that there were no sounds of dogs barking or goats bleating when my car slowed to a halt in the gravel driveway. I stood in the hay barn and cried, telling myself just to focus on how the ranch smelled and felt. I wanted to remember the ranch the way it always was before someone let this mistake of my grandma's death slip past me.

It is difficult for me to put my grandma into words, because she was the most amazing woman I've ever known. She raised five kids as a single mother in the sixties. She was a labor and delivery nurse for twenty-five years.

But she was so much more than that. She was the first woman I recognized as a warrior, but at the same time, she was the most loving woman I have ever known. She loved my grandpa, as difficult of a man as he was, and I never once heard her say a harsh word against him. I don't think I ever saw her without a smile. She loved her family. She loved to laugh. She loved her dogs.

I remember believing that my grandma was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. I still believe that. She was a woman who became more beautiful with age. She had a long, auburn ponytail that trailed the length of her back. I will always think of her in a patterned western shirt and jeans, boots caked with mud, grinning from ear to ear.

My grandma fought stage three lung cancer for over two years and I never heard her utter a single complaint. She still went out there every morning to do the chores. She still ran the dogs. She still fixed breakfast, lunch, and supper for my grandpa every day.

I can only explain her in snippets and stories that I've heard a thousand times.

She bellydanced in the kitchen.

She sang loudly and off-key.

She watched David Letterman, read People magazine, and knew every piece of celebrity gossip.

She loved Tom Jones.

She had the best laugh.

We buried my grandparents together, on the ranch, near their dogs. I prayed on behalf of all of us, but didn't know quite what to say. The wind drowned out my words and my tears.

My mom stayed behind to clean out the house. She brought home boxes of old clothes and memories. My grandma's nursing cap from her college graduation. A kimono that my grandfather brought home from his military days. My grandma's stethoscopes. Scarves. Vintage dresses and handbags that she thought I might like.

I sat and cried in my grandfather's kimono, because I am selfish. I cried because wearing their old clothes won't bring them back. I cried at never being able to introduce my grandparents to my future husband (if I ever have one) and never being able to show him the ranch that I had always loved. I cried because my grandma won't be at my nursing induction or graduation. I cried because the ranch will be sold and that part of my life will be closed off. I cried because I don't know how to face a world without her, and I don't want to.

Most of all, I cried because no matter how many words I write, I don't know how to reconcile the fact that my grandma was the most alive person I've ever known with the fact that she isn't here anymore

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who I Am at Twenty Years Old

I'm an honest girl. I generally make an effort to be honest. So here is an honest statement: The past year has been difficult for me.

I've been nursing a broken heart that never seems to heal.
I had no idea where my life was headed, due to the fact that I was rejected from ASU's nursing program.
I spent most of my fall semester crying outside of my classrooms instead of attending classes inside of them.
I felt like a lost a large part of my identity, due to the fact that my primary focus was living up to other people's standards.
God and I have not been on good terms for a long time.

I'm on my way back, but it's a long, hard road. I feel like most of my time is spent sitting on random stumps along the path instead of actually walking down it, but I'm at least headed in a direction.

Here is what I learned about myself while I was in France:

I like:
- kicking the heads off of dandelions
- reggae music on sunny days
- napping in the grass
- faire bises
- daisy-chain headdresses
- paisley
- purple
- purple paisley
- napping in beds that are not mine
- S'mores Pop Tarts
- watching movies
- crying during movies
- dancing to music that reminds me of me
- ice cream trucks
- sunbathing and getting just a little bit burnt
- CNN, especially Anderson Cooper
- hoodies
- stores and homes that smell like hippies
- stairwells that remind me of Mexico

I want to:
- live on the coast, in a town with church bells, where I can ride the bus or the metro
- live in a lighthouse and own a pumpkin patch
- live close enough to go home for Thanksgiving
- grow my hair long and wear jewelry that jangles and never own a winter coat and never carry an umbrella
- buy fruits and veggies from a fruit stand and be a regular at a coffee shop and sing at open mic nights
- have clear skin
- be real brown and laugh real loud and speak at least two languages every day
- sing
- play music with someone I love
- have a dog who I can take mostly everywhere
- live somewhere small and order takeout and watch too many movies and knit gifts for my friends
- do theater in my "free time", if that even exists
- have colored candlesticks and a black lacquered chandelier and a claw-foot bathtub
- read a lot
- have a wrought-iron gate with music notes and a patio full of flowers (which someone else will obviously have to care for, because I'm a mess when it comes to keeping plants alive)
- take naps in the grass in a park near my house
- have colored panes in my living room windows
- have a piano in my living room instead of a TV
- sell my car
- live somewhere with bright colors and lots of paisley and a futon couch where people can sleep when they come visit me and a funky teapot which will nearly always be full of hot water

And that's what I know.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

So here I am again.

I'm not really sure what to write, so bear with me.

I'm back in the States. Back in California. Back in the bedroom that was mine in high school. I'm back amidst my golden foothills, driving along the same roads that it seems like I've known forever.

Where was I? It's a long answer, and I apologize if even a long, drawn-out blog is less than satisfactory.

I had a European Spring Break with my mom. It was amazing and difficult and I wouldn't trade that time for anything in the world. I wouldn't have wanted to spend those three weeks with anyone else. We went to Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam, Lauterbrunnen, Dijon, Lille, and back to Paris again. That's five countries in a little less than 21 days. I had to translate when my mom blew the fuse in the hotel room with her blowdryer not once, but twice. I fell in love with the people in Flandres. I found my version of heaven in a library in Amsterdam with free internet and a grand piano. I found that the water in Switzerland was so blue that it looked fake. My mom and I got stuck in the Swiss Alps and had to get a ride home from a local in the fanciest Audi I've ever laid eyes on. I missed Dijon and referred to it as home. We visited Guillaume, our ex-exchange student, who happens to come from the nicest family I've ever met. I heard more about Rick Steves than I ever cared to hear. I started mourning the loss of my grandfather, something of which I've just barely scratched the surface.

I found out that I got into ASU's Nursing program while we were in Switzerland. I got a job tutoring incoming freshman for English 101. I'm headed back to Tempe in July, and I'll be living with the same girls from last year.

And just as that part of my life was starting to fall into place, the rest of it was spinning out of control. During my mom's last week in Europe, my grandmother was admitted into the hospital. A week later, she was put on hospice. A few days after that, she was gone. I had one incredibly difficult long-distance phone call with her; I held back my tears until I had hung up the phone, then hit my knees, begging God to let her stay. I wasn't ready to let her go, and in many ways, I'm still not ready to face a world without her. I haven't been to the ranch yet, and I don't think I've really accepted that she's gone.

My dad and my brother flew out a few weeks after that, so that Aaron could see Europe, and so they could make sure that I was alright. I was excited to see my dad, but ecstatic to see my brother. He will always know me in a way completely unique to that of any of my friends. He will always understand me better than everyone else. While they were in Dijon, everything felt okay.

And then all of a sudden, finals were coming up, and the reality finally hit: I was leaving France, and I didn't know when I would be coming back.

I can't really tell you where the past four months went, because I'm not sure how to classify it all. I know that it was difficult. I know that I loved it. I know that I met amazing people who I never expected to meet. I know that I cried less than I would have expected, even when my world as I knew it was collapsing. I know that I miss speaking French and riding busses and wearing leggings and eating delicious sandwiches for every meal. I know that everything feels different after living completely outside of my comfort zone for the past four months.

And so here I am, awake again, trying desperately to put it all into words...