June 29, 2007

Aunt Contrary's birthday

For years I have mocked my father's sister's family, with the exception of my cousin and his family in Maine who adore me, and, occasionally, my cousin and her family in Philadelphia.

The middle cousin, their sister, otherwise known as the Midtown princess, traded in her Subaru for a BMW because someone told her only lesbians drove Subarus. Odd, I would have thought a Subaru a family car, and no one would mistake the Midtowner for a parent. On the sexuality front, me thinks thou dost protest too much, and no one actually cares.

When my father died, I didn't even think to telephone the Midtowner, his niece, who has demonstrated less compassion over the years than a piece of shirt cardboard. Cardboard, after all, bends. My friends got me to my parents' house, held me though that whole mind-numbing new reality for months, if not years.

The Aunt of "Happy Chris-mukkah," a post I wrote in 2004, is Aunt Contrary. Her husband, Uncle Pompous, is dead, his ashes in a Brooks Brothers shoebox that I do not plan to see buried.

Our longtime family housekeeper, who retired about 10 years ago, after 15 years of daily coffee with my grandmother and subsequent 10 years of weekly cleanings at my house, had mentioned over the years that Aunt C. and Uncle P. were jealous that my dad had gone out on his own, taken some chances, made some big money, traveled when and where he wanted, with and without us in tow.

Yes, Daddy did, and he paid some huge prices along the way, while Uncle Pompous Chicken toiled for someone else until he was pushed out of working misery with a gold watch at age 65.

My parents didn't attend the retirement party; they said they were in Haiti. Well, they could have been. My mother has also been known to be unavailable for Passover post-Daddy, chez Aunt C. and Uncle P., claiming she was in Paris. Apparently Paris and Wonderland have a lot more in common than one might imagine. Right now my mother still owes me one for that bat mitzvah she avoided in 2004. Should our presence be requested at any religious ceremony for a member of Aunt C.'s family, it's her turn.

Aunt C., meanwhile, held up her end as helpmeet to Uncle P. til death did them part. In the 1980s, she was all in favor of feminism so long as it didn't interfere with their dinner as a couple. In the 1990s, they fled the town in Long Island where both had grown up (pre-WWII, pre-Levittown, when their town was actually in the country) to retire to warmer climes in Florida, along with half of their friends and neighbors whom they had known their entire lives.

I do not know if Aunt C. has any friends that she has not known 50+ years, which I find astounding. I know Aunt Contrary's female friends were all "couples friends"; that they socialized as Noah would have wanted, two by two. As a single woman, I cannot fathom this way of life: wanting to see me does not require the presence of my partner, whether I have one or not.

Aunt Contrary played piano; she played tennis; she chauffeured her children around town -- even to Wonderland -- to music, art appreciation, and other cultural and athletic lessons. She did some paid work that she could turn off at a moment's notice (or when the employer tired of her), and she ran the Long Island household with the help of our (my generation's) baby nurse, a housekeeper, and a laundress.

To this day my female cousins and I know how to scrub a toilet simply because we attended Camp Hell-in-the-Woods, where we learned tasks we would never perform as adults.

At her 80th birthday last weekend, a "ladies' lunch," Aunt C. chatted away. (My cousins were under the impression that if if were women only, Aunt C. might not realize her husband, Uncle P., was no longer among us. No one ever voted either of them "most observant." Most of Aunt's friends are in her age bracket, and few have remained standing in the two-fer position of the 1950s.)

To this day, she considers the former owner of Camp Hell-in-the-Woods a dear friend. Mr. Camp Director, a widower, lives in the same neighborhood as she in warmer climes, Florida. If an 89-year-old man can said to be doing such, he is dating a relative of Uncle P. who is no relation (teetotaling is not our genetic strong point) to me. When Mr. CD wants a drink, he calls Aunt Contrary.

"Send him a bottle of rum. With my compliments," I suggested. For when Mr. CD had kicked me out of summer camp, urging me not to darken their door again and telling my bunk mates that I was "disturbed," an alcoholic [at 13], and the proverbial Bad Influence, he had done so because I brought a bottle of rum, taken from my parents' extensive liquor cabinet, to camp, and I had shared it with my bunk mates. (At least I shared.)

Mr. Camp Director was so afraid of bad press for Camp Hell-in-the-Woods that in lieu of taking me straight to the local hospital for alcohol poisoning, he made the camp nurses sleep in shifts, each one taking watch for 10 minutes at a time, until the next morning when I awoke, in the infirmary, my hair somewhat worse for the tantrums and wear, but my body feeling not a trace of a hangover.

In all the literature about what we could (gum) and could not (candy and snacks) bring to camp, neither alcohol, cigarettes nor drugs merited a mention. Name tags topped the list of necessities.

No one thought to ask me what was wrong. No one at Hell-in-the-Woods had paid attention to my previous years of misery. From my vantage point 30+ years down the road, if Mr. Camp Director had been so concerned that I was going to be an increasingly Bad Influence (from age 8, I showed fierce tendencies in that direction), it would have made much more sense for him to let my parents know that Camp Hell-in-the-Woods and I didn't particularly get along, as I had tried to tell them in letter after letter, summer after summer.

Instead, Mr. Camp Director and wife took my parents' money and ran. (Sleepover camp, in those days, cost about $26 a night per child, the equivalent of about $102 in today's dollars. Refunds were not available upon request. For $102 a night, I can find a decent bed and breakfast on a lake, no housework required.)

In the process of pocketing my parents' check, Mr. CD seared a hole in my adolescence, a third-degree burn I fault him for applying much more than I fault my parents for missing that same burn. I hid from my parents during that era, emerging only when I excelled at what they craved: great academic results. Camp required an entirely different set of talents, all of which I lacked the agility and coordination to display, and none of which I cared or was capable of mastering.

I was a camp failure: not only was I a washout at athletics, I never cared to commune with nature. I did so only to escape the actual camp premises, where we had to swim twice daily in a lake with leaches. You would have thought I was Julie Andrews, climbing every damn mountain in parts of New Hampshire and Maine. Trust me, I didn't do it with a song in my heart. I was lured by the lack of uniforms and promises of Dairy Queen before returning to that wretched camp.

We also had to compete -- not just participate -- in "land sports," those team-sports-bonding games involving the kicking or throwing and catching or hitting of a ball, something no counselor managed to teach me to learn -- a clue that athletic competition was not going to be my forte, one might think.

From the age of 9 onward, I figured out that sleepaway camp was a place to give my parents a two month respite from me. On the outside, it looked very caring, to send your daughter away from the sweltering Wonderland heat, to enjoy the cool mountains in rural Maine. My brother was sent off as well, at a younger age than I. Did either of us want to be there? Well, not so much.

I never did, shall we say, share in the camp spirit, something patently obvious to everyone but the person in a position to profit from it. You had to be legally blind not to notice my lack of aptitude and my attitude.

Given that we were at camp 24/7 for 8 weeks, at a ratio of 4 campers to one counselor, with weekly comments sent home by our counselors, it seems to me Mr. CD tripped over his bank account and well under even the low-1970s standards for monitoring the health, happiness, and well being of his pre-adolescent and adolescent charges.

Mr. CD and wife, I think, owed that much to our family, whether to Aunt Contrary, whose two daughters had put in seven to 10 summers a piece, as both camper and counselor, or to my dad. Dollar signs, however, seemed to blind him, despite his role in loco parentis. (I do not think Mr. CD and wife had any children of their own, fortunately.)

Mr. CD and wife could or should have, but didn't, take the approach of my prep school, which suggested that my brother (who managed to absent himself from ninth grade) might be happier elsewhere. It would have been, dare I say, responsible of him to observe my nature in the five full summers I spent under his eyes, instead of leaving it to the sixth very truncated season to discover how much trouble I could be.

At Aunt Contrary's 80th birthday luncheon, she told me that she thinks about my father every day. I didn't ask what she thinks. Once I heard how cozy she and Mr. Camp Director are, I was reminded that, as her cousin, Superman's fiancee, characterized her and my father repeated to me, she is a sanctimonious cunt.

Being a sucker for sleepaway camp has always been behind her drive, my distaste for the concept not withstanding. When I was a child, vacationing with her always wiped my parents out. The woman could not sit still; she needed regularly and frequently scheduled outdoor activity prior to cocktail hour.

As a kid, for me, one half-hour tennis lesson (I dressed well, but I sucked at and didn't care about the game.) and one water-ski run around our Adirondack lake sufficed. Dad played golf; my mom needlepointed, read, and showed up for afternoon tea at 4 pm; my brother was left to his own devices; and the entire family met for predinner cocktails nightly.

On rainy days, we played countless games of backgammon and cards, and my father had an ongoing gin game with my de facto uncle, who owned the hotel where we stayed each summer. I learned to operate an old-fashioned switchboard without disconnecting callers.

A few theories about Aunt C. and her role in our family: Jealous, much, Aunt C.? You were handing in your algebra homework while your cousin, prior to her incarnation as Superman's fiancee, was photographed frequently in Life magazine at various social venues where, had you been of age, you would not have been sufficiently sophisticated to hold up your end of the conversation. You might, however, have held up your end of the alcohol consumption. That is how I know we share the same genes.

It has been confirmed that you and your best friend used to throw parties where all the guests were boys, so you two could have your pick. I suspect Grandma liked the idea of a popular, smart (Seven Sisters grad in the days of restricted admission for Jews), daughter, and that you convinced her not to care who might get hurt along the way, people like my high school best friend's mother, who, at 80, still feels slighted.

Still, my life and my brother's have had much more of a Superman's fiancee edge to it than have any of Aunt C.'s overly responsible offspring. I can't tell if who she resents more: me, my brother, my mother, or my late father. I'm sure she disapproves of us all. My response? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

It's also hard to tell which of her offspring she disapproves of most: My eldest cousin, the Philadelphia connection, after being force-fed culture, is the outdoorswoman in the family. So much for her ever-so-cultured childhood. My middle cousin, the Midtowner, failed to marry and reproduce, though she is one hell of a shopper and her income probably exceeds her siblings, mine, and my brother's combined. My youngest cousin, the Maine connection, married a Presbyterian and is bringing up their kids as some variation on mainstream Protestantism. So much for his bar mitzvah.

Sibling rivalry, much? Once I empathized: she is the elder sister, deemed the responsible one as was I, and my father, her brother, was the younger child, like my brother, both deemed the "bad" boys, and determined to live down to their reputations). Now my attitude is, you're 80 years old; Daddy died at 59, 16 years ago. Grandma died more than 20 years ago. Get over it, lady.

Incidentally, I need a phone call to be reminded of the day Grandma died or was born about as much as my mother has needed a call wishing her a happy anniversary -- to a man to whom she is no longer married. My dad cannot come to the phone, not now, not ever. Aunt C., grow the fuck up.

Aunt Contrary thinks about my dad? About what? How much she must have taken perverse pleasure in the trouble that my brother and I tended to find ourselves, compared with her children? About how orgasmic she must have felt getting my father blackballed from a country club to which one of her good friends belonged?

That friend was a birthday party invitee whose name was mentioned so many times I finally made the connection between where she lived and for what hurt she had been responsible, which reverberated as a deed not favorable to Aunt Contrary's history of sibling rivalry with my father.

Think about how much she loved her brother -- my father -- and me to the point that if she can, even now, twist a knife, she had no qualms about doing so. She even did the family housekeeper (whose work did not meet Aunt Contrary's standards, but did fine for my grandmother and me) out of the plants the housekeeper had tended over the years, in favor of her daughter who had hightailed it to Philadelphia, out of local reach.

I once entertained the notion that Aunt Contrary might not be conscious of her words and actions. But over the years too many instances have illustrated that "unconscious" was far too polite and agreeable a term. The term malicious springs more rapidly to mind, and not simply because it starts with the same letter as martini, the predinner beverage of choice at her house.

After my grandmother died, we were told that all five grandchildren would gather on a specific day to choose which of my grandmother's possessions we wanted. Next thing I heard, cousin Philadelphia and husband were coming with a truck. As if they had been living on orange crates and futons into their 30s. Grandma's kitchen equipment? Offered to the offspring of one of Aunt's friends. Photos of Grandma's childhood I was promised? Grandma died in 1985 and I have yet to see a one.

Blood ties have been convenient for Aunt C. : they are certainly not thicker than water, as the saying would have it. In mid-life, I have finally realized, I need not spare another drop in her direction.

No cousin from that family tree, regardless of the distance of the relation, has turned out to be an improvement on the original set with whom I grew up, my first cousins, offspring of Aunt C. and Uncle P. My mom is an only child, from the South, so the only cousins she has there are distant even to her.

Yes, you can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. That old cliche holds. Friends truly are the family we make, the people with whom we make a concerted effort to hold on, to remain connected.

When Aunt Contrary goes off to meet Uncle Pompous, there won't be a wet eye in this house.

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June 22, 2007

One cappuccino, hold the morality

The coffee I drink, I have learned, is "ethically grown." Who knew? I don't think the beans per se have much of a sense of ethics, and I rather doubt the plantation worker involved in nurturing the beans thought they had developed a moral compass of their own.

No matter what, you can't dress up the fact that growing and harvesting coffee, like most other crops, is a very hard job, and the foodstuff's successful move along the food chain is a result of hours of sweat, put in by someone who may or may not be literate, have access to proper nutrition, health care, and education, or ever dreamed a place like Wonderland existed.

I have visited sugar-cane plantations and rice paddies around the world, and I suspect the closest either came to the topic of ethics was the concept of a fair price for goods produced. Given corporate purchasing mentalities, I rather doubt the subject came up at all. If you are a peasant living at a subsistence level, you do what you have to in order to survive, whether it be earth-friendly, good for the environment, or will just see you through the night.

I grew up smelling charcoal burning in the Haitian countryside, knowing the mountains had been deforested by people who needed wood to cook the food they ate. Soil preservation was was not at the top of their list, and sustainable agriculture remains dream I hope can be fulfilled, although I have my doubts.

But I digress: the morality police have moved from dairy, produce, and meat sections (organic is good; any protein or vegetable with a price tag accessible to middle-income families seems to lack this sanctimonious designation) into my coffee cup. Am I supposed to feel good about the coffee grower's life? Am I immoral if I don't give it much consideration, or simply amoral?

I understand the principles behind the ethical growth concept; I just don't believe they will apply in the fields of the world any more than child labor will cease in sweatshops here and abroad. (You don't have to leave Manhattan to find a garment sweatshop; your airfare to Indonesia would be better spent improving the conditions down the block and determining what the root causes of our own social ills might be.)

I say all this as someone who grew up benefiting from Third-World labor, from so-called emerging markets. My family didn't care about politics so long as business was good. Whatever else you may say, and I can argue either for or against exploitation, our company offered jobs in places where there were damn few opportunities, and a weekly wage was welcomed.

We gave jobs to people living in a dictatorship. We didn't pay first-world wages; the workers, in turn, didn't have first-world expenses. I don't think a credit card was ever used along those shores. If you have no electricity and live in a country where news is controlled or censored, where sustenance is at a premium and school a luxury, chances are your consumption levels are not going to interest anyone selling any product more expensive than beer. Gas and oil were also dear, and personally owned cars the providence of the few elite.

When the 17-year reign of the dictator ended, courtesy of the U.S. government, all hell broke lose. Now, that island has no jobs, no tourism; disease runs rampant, and our state department has a longstanding travel advisory listed for this country to the effect of, go there at your own risk. Diplomats consider the assignment purgatory, and U.S. embassy personnel are required to comply with a very specific curfew.

At the same time as we have revised "give a hoot, don't pollute" for the 21st century to include any recyclable products such as plastics, our manufacturers are wrapping their goods in so many layers and in such child and adult-proof packages that it is hard to care whether my plastic container is labeled 1 or 101.

You want to talk morality? The ethics of coffee growing? Reuse of plastic soda bottles? Spare me. When we create one universal page for the land, the people, and the size of our carbon footprints, give me a call. With contradictions abounding, I won't be waiting by the phone.

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June 18, 2007

Cruelty is rarely conscious...

You probably think, like any sane person, that I should have shown TCP the door for good. You would probably be right. However, we have this history, see, that we each cling to. He claims he told me he wouldn't be staying the night Saturday, that I shouldn't have expected him. Given the week we had just had, recovering from reunion, I might be willing to concede he may have said as much. On the other hand, he may not have.

TCP was my first love. Freshman year, I disposed of my virginity to someone I didn't care to see again. More than a year later, TCP seduced me, and I fell in love. Perhaps someone with more experience would have reacted differently to him, but I lacked perspective. I had no idea then, in April 1980, that one night would be the beginning of my adult lifetime. That through TCP I would learn that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

I have, intermittently, loved people who were "good for me." Yet a line of Phillip Roth's seems to sum up my entire romantic life: "The sane ones bore you practically to death and the ones who fascinate you turn out to be nuts."

At our impasse the other day, I accused TCP of behaving like my father at one of his worst moments. TCP, in turn, kept telling me that I was not his mother, and I was behaving like her, in flashbacks he would have preferred not to remember.

We were, I suspect, both right: we have been together and apart for 27 years. Why we return, despite our pasts, is simple and hard, if even possible, to eradicate. No one speaks to this more eloquently than Doris Lessing: "We use our parents like recurring dreams, to be entered into when needed; they are always there for love or for hate."

Regardless of our memories of our respective parents, they were never boring. Their characteristics have imprinted on us, in us, for better or worse. TCP and I are at home, stuck in the second generation of a holding pattern that I cannot bring myself to sever, knowing the limits of the comfort zones established long before we were cognizant of the situation.

It is frequently said that a man marries his mother and a woman her father. I see that in my brother, in his choice of wife #4. She is the first to have my mother's sense of humor and, despite a lack of overall sophistication, she shares my mother's sensibilities. TCP and I, no matter how infrequently we acknowledge it, are in a similar position.

We may not bring out the best in each other, but we do take comfort in what we bring. All the hurt and disappointments and cruelty we can mete out has been long since taken into account. In college we discussed poetry; 20-something years later, we debated taxes. And no, there has never been a chance we would file them together.

I do have choices to make, defining what behavior is truly unacceptable and trying to separate it out from the scene of my own parents having the same argument over and over. My dad would promise something, and my mother would ask him to do what he said, and he would say yes, yes, I'll do it, and it would never get done, and that's just the way we lived, my mother resigned to my father's unmet promises.

My brother and some of his previous wives have had that same fight, and then, I would leave the room. I didn't need to see those re-runs.

I'm well into the syndication track myself: hoping against hope and knowing what I'll receive in return, yet somehow being surprised by the simple fact that insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

I know that; TCP knows that, and yet, he can and does still comfort me after such events as the previous impasse. In my way, I comfort him.

The best I can do is protect myself: I'm sure we will have future encounters; what I can choose is where and under what circumstances. I'm sure TCP and I will spend a night or two together this fall. I am equally sure that my house is no longer open to him the way my heart once was. Next fall, I would prefer a hotel.

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June 17, 2007

The Croquet Player and I reach an impasse

Come June and October, The Croquet Player habitually stays chez moi, with the happy exception of our time last year in a posh hotel room. He may have to look for new lodgings this fall.

I don't have great expectations of him -- after 27 years, I know just about all there is to know, and I've made my peace with it. Sexual favors as owed from last week have been collected.

However, I do have one tiny standing request: if you're not coming home, leave me a message. It is not too much to ask of a house guest, regardless of the state of the relationship. I live in Wonderland. Shit happens.

Yesterday morning, TCP left my house around 6 am. I stirred in my sleep by way of acknowledgement, then resumed my unconscious state. Last night, I took my medication, and its sedative effect worked its magic. TCP was out celebrating, I think. The end of the tournament he was running usually finishes with a "croquet ball," of some sort, and he usually returns in the wee hours, considerably worse for the wear. That, I expect. That is no surprise.

In any event, I wasn't planning to wait up for his return.

Today I woke up, alone, and realized TCP had not returned last night. Depending on my mood, he may never be welcome here again. Then again, he may never return for reasons that are beyond me.

I left a cell phone message and page at around noon for him: "I hope you just got drunk and passed out somewhere last night. Please call to let me know you are breathing.

"Today is Father's Day. My dad's been gone 16 years now, but when he failed to return home, when he went missing, disappeared, the year I was 28, I called every hospital in the New York metropolitan area to ask if anyone had seen my Daddy.

"I cannot and will not do the same for you."

In March of 1989, no one had seen my father -- not a hospital, a police station, a morgue. He returned to my mother's house within 24 hours of my phone-a-thon, our relationship indelibly altered.

This year, I think my father is sending me a message. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what his spirit is telling me. Yet so many of the messages he conveyed in life have been twisted in the years since his death, their meaning become opaque and baffling. How to interpret this one? They say when you hear hoof beats, think horses. In my life, however, sometimes zebras share those sounds.

I hope TCP got loaded last night and is hungover in the sunshine today. I will be sorry if that is not the case. I'm fairly sure that is now it will play out, but after 27 years, I am numb.

Numb for the moment, but, alas, I know myself too well: with The Croquet Player, I never say never again. It is the history we share, my emotional downfall, but there you have it. TCP and I seem linked for life.

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June 11, 2007

Pink feather boas everywhere!

Three nights, 18 hours of sleep. Was it worth it? After all the angst and agita, YES!

We threw one kick-ass reunion -- the best ever (Alice says modestly). My reunion co-chairs and I each played to our strength -- mine, writing/editing, taste-testing caterers, and commandeering on-campus transport; my two friends gathered great swag, put together astounding evenings of dinner and dancing, exquisitely timed our music, drinks, and overall partying. It was a year's work, some of it seemingly without thanks until the Saturday evening toasts, but the payoff was grand. Our class, as they say, rocked.

The class of 1982 paraded behind a banner complete with hot pink sequins, black studded leather, pink mylar fringe, and all manner of textured exotic print fabrics. We wore our hats, our T-shirts, our pink feather boas, our temporary tattoos. No one looked better or more festive than we did.

Twenty-five years down the road, and we're still here -- mostly better, kinder, and happier than when we were handed our diplomas. No one acted awkward, even after encountering blush-making acquaintanceships from decades ago. A few, sadly, had grown affected: one in particular had acquired a British accent within the past 10 years, while every other American who lived in London spoke in tones I recognized, even our class's most (in)famous representative.

It was wonderful to connect with people I didn't know in college, to exchange confidences, wish we had known one another sooner. What artifice we once hid behind has disappeared, and I spent time with people who were far more real, thoughtful, and substantive than I could have imagined (or been) 25 years ago. We danced to the same music, less inhibited (if that is possible) than we were at a younger age. I am exceedingly grateful to have the opportunity to know these people, to share my life story with those I would be proud to call my friends.

A good time was had by all and then some. Not until yesterday morning did my body announce its age: too much dancing, too little sleep, too much to drink, many intense conversations of a length we rarely have the luxury to indulge -- none of us knows how we managed four years of it; after two nights, we were exhausted. When recapturing our youth, chronological age didn't stand a chance, except to catch us unaware when we awoke on Sunday.

Eight of us sat on a blanket in the quad where we once sunbathed on Friday night, watching fireworks from afar, confessing various exploits: one friend reminisced about how she had to rearrange her class schedule so that she didn't take classes from the professor with whom she was having an affair; another classmate recalled having sex in a phone booth in the center of town.

Swilling wine from a bottle, we agreed that what was said on that blanket will stay on that blanket. Though everyone conceded I won the prize for outrageousness: when I was 36, I slept with a woman half my age -- in a dorm on campus.

The Croquet Player and I had the rendez-vous I had anticipated, and he seemed not to mind wearing my lipstick kiss for a day. We did realize one difference between our college years and present day: two people of a certain age cannot sleep well on a single bed, particularly one whose mattress is charitably described as "hospital quality."

We were together the night before the reunion officially began -- given how the dormitory hallways echo, our timing was perfect. Yes, we regressed, but not completely. After 27 years we know everything about each other, and time will never erase that. Yes, he kept trying to shut me up in public, but I borrowed his cell phone overnight to tease and confuse him, returning it in exchange for favors I have yet to call in.

I was reminded that my ability to write is a gift that I need to use, and the stories I have to tell have a place not only on the blog but perhaps also in print for the world to see. I need to write a memoir of my family, revisit and reclaim the past so I can move beyond it. Thus far, I have the opening line:

"On the beach in Haiti during my senior year in high school, my rolling papers disappeared Christmas eve. I realized my father had appropriated them, but little did I know the harbinger that represented."

The campus set off alarms from decades past in my brain: I have not had a migraine so excruciating in more years than I can remember. (In college, I would awaken in the middle of the night, screaming in pain, then medicate myself and pace the halls, crying with pain. I was not every one's favorite neighbor.) Still and again, that seems to be the price I pay, not while I am anxious and stressed beforehand, but Saturday night, after dinner and dancing, when I had the chance to relax, when I realized how successful the reunion felt.

Then, it was too much for my synapses. Those neurotransmitters that had been most cooperative beforehand chose a moment to snap, and several rounds of narcotics were needed to restore my equilibrium.

Now I have returned to Wonderland, with a camera documenting my weekend, and new, happy and astonishing memories to carry with me. "Only connect," E.M. Forster wrote. That we did, with a flourish and pink feathers everywhere.

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June 06, 2007

Primped and polished, partially panicked

Today is the day my reunion begins. In three more days, I will be finished with this event. Meanwhile, I am packed, (do I have the right clothes?), primped (two trips to dermatologist, one haircut), polished (manicure, pedicure, recent dental visit) prematurely pampered (one deep-tissue and one Swedish massage, plus reflexology), and yet, panicked.

This is a far cry from my my basic fluff-and-fold attitude toward my looks. Then again, I'm trying to focus other people's attention on what hasn't changed, in lieu of, say, the 20 pounds I've gained, or the smile/frown lines (as they are politely called) etched into my face. I will encounter people I've seen in the past year, and people I haven't seen or spoken to in the past 25 years.

I am one of the three alumna who is running this show. Most of the preparation is out of my hands now, but the curtain has yet to rise. The next 72 hours is the payoff -- already I can see errors I've not corrected in the reunion book (once printed, further proofreading is beside the point, not that that stopped me), so it's not so perfect as I would have preferred -- but whether everyone has a good time remains unknown.

I don't know what will be expected of me on-site. I'm hoping it won't be much. Next time someone asks me to help plan a weekend for 150 people, I know what my answer will be. Perhaps if I weren't attending, I wouldn't feel so anxious: logistics without presence would have taken a lot of pressure off of me. Or vice versa. Anti-anxiety meds, here I come.

I do know that the next time I sign up for volunteer work, it will be for a three-hour slot, not a year-long, 100-plus hours time frame (including the two solid months it took to produce the reunion book).

However, we only have one 25th reunion, off the isle of Wonderland, and, ready or not, here I come.

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