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Aunt Loretta’s Laugh Line

I grew a new wrinkle overnight.

This was not a phenomenon I actually knew could happen THAT FAST until I was about 5 months pregnant with Jr and I looked in the mirror one morning while washing the pregnant-lady sleep drool off my face and, BOOM –WTF!?   Brand new, super deep, never there at all before wrinkle above my mouth.

I attributed it to my dry-yet-zitty hormonal skin, but alas, it was here to stay.

Now I have a good handful of wrinkles that have names – along with the aforementioned “pregnant mouth wrinkle,” off my left eye there is the “Jr’s first really scary barfing illness” wrinkle…. The patch of lines in between my brows is the “are we actually going to get to buy this house constellation” (they all appeared about three years ago, as we lost then won the bidding war for The Casa.)

This newest one? It is a deep smile line on my left cheek.

It’s the Aunt Loretta line.

Yesterday evening my Aunt’s battle with cancer ended. Putting death into words is far more delicate and complex than I have tools to express – and I find myself writing and deleting additional sentences here, because it all sounds trite or somehow far too small for all that the topic means.

But noticing a line – a smile line, deep and pronounced and suddenly permanent, on this day of all days, was a gift.

My Aunt had laugh lines – from years and years of freely and easily sharing her amazing, infectious laugh with the large group of friends and family she loved so fully. That laugh lit her from within and spilled over, radiating out of her like a lighthouse, drawing people to her and enveloping everyone she encountered with joy. She was a fireball of joy… of energy, of love and giving and compassion and honesty and passion for living and doing and experiencing EVERYTHING.

Thank you for the line, Aunt Loretta.

Thank you for showing me how to live a life in which it, and all the others, are well and joyfully earned.

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Don’t read my blog…

No Really.

Don’t read my blog.  Read my amazing friend (and fellow dweller of the same suburb) Shannon’s blog.

She is a writer of truly clear and gifted voice, and we are all so grateful and honored to have her here continuing her battle right now.

http://www.sunshine-and-shadows.com/

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Did NOT see that coming.

I am a monumentally somewhat cynical person. I know this. I accept this.

So when the chance presented itself for me to attend a local fundraiser modeled after Dancing With The Stars (including prominent local figures paired with dance professionals,) I confess my internal dialogue went right to “um, that’s a little hokey, no?”

But it was presented as an opportunity to attend and then write an article about the evening and the foundation the evening benefits; so off I went in the back of my editor’s minivan, not quite knowing what to expect. Whatever I could have expected, it never could have compared to what I actually found – in the event, and in myself because of it.

It didn’t occur to me that I would see people I knew. Which seems ridiculous to say in hindsight – you were raised here, Keri. You know this town. This town knows you.

I’d forgotten. I had lost that; or maybe thought that all of us had lost that in the passing years. In the warm, genuine hugs and smiles and inquiries of wonderfully familiar faces I remembered again.

Sitting in the dark, surrounded by people who so love this place, people I know, children of people I know, I was overtaken by the sense of community. I hadn’t expected it, and It engulfed me like a tidal wave. I lost my breath.

I Could. Not. Stop. Smiling.  I found it (or rather it found me.) That connection I’d been missing since we moved back. The understanding of where I fit. Of belonging to a place. Of being home.

In that moment, in that space, my heart just swelled up, so fast and so completely full , and broke the internal Grinchy meter of my cynicism.

Oh.

Riding back home in the darkness and drizzle, I looked out that minivan window and suddenly I saw it all again – the bones and the soul of the little hometown I loved so fiercely in my youth. And the good things about what has grown and filled in and taken shape in my absence.

For the first time it didn’t feel like a betrayal to my “Reluctantly Suburban” persona to understand where I fit in the story of my hometown. Or even to be ok with it being my son’s hometown as well.

It didn’t feel like a threat to my love of the city to have a sense of belonging here – not just in my past, but in the present and in our family’s future as well.

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Having a moment. Maybe look away.

So this is a few weeks late.
Maybe. Sort of.  I don’t know.
The thing is, it’s actually decidedly un-funny, and so, so very not the persona I propagate.
Almost two weeks ago a pain beyond comprehension struck a family I am acquainted with, and there hasn’t been a moment in the weeks since I haven’t felt the weight of what it means to them.
It isn’t my pain to put on paper – it isn’t something I feel I even have a right to speak of. I respect them beyond what my words could express, and I will leave that for them, and those far closer to them than me.
What I know is that, in these past two weeks, I have been more grateful to be home than I knew possible.   To be in this town that molded me and cradled me and raised me. This place that released me with good wishes and all the best parts of itself to take with me. That welcomed my selfish, thankless self back to let my kid run in open green spaces and my husband live golf course adjacent while I ridicule and mock.
The familiarity, the dear friends, the safety and connection and strength – I have closed my eyes each night in the past days, holding my son’s sweet, soft head of hair against my face in the glow of his nursery night light – and I have thanked God that I am home right now… and that I am blessed to feel what home is.
It’s not funny. It’s not tough. It is as “un-Keri” as it gets.
When I was 20 I was lamenting my piss poor decision to give up my partial scholarship to an out-of-state University and stay here. I was young and cocky and kicking around culinary school (and dropping out of that too,) and closerthanthis to heading right on off to the school I thought I had pissed away after high school.
In short – screw this state. Buh-bye parents, need you not, says “Adult” Keri.
Within the year I was blind in one eye and walking with a cane. I was also –thanks to the strength and determination of my ridiculously awesome parents – starting a promising treatment for my newly diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. Because I wasn’t hundreds of miles away.
I was right where I was supposed to be, even if I didn’t like it one tiny bit.
Tonight, and for the past weeks, I’ve known that feeling again. I’ve watched my kid spending time with my afore-mentioned awesome parents (who are now the most stupidly amazing grandparents any kid could EVER have); I’ve sat with my husband, leaning over to rest on his strength, in our comfortable haven of a home; I’ve gone back to places I know are of comfort – both from my past and those that I have found to welcome me in our new life here.
I have found strength in the familiarity of my community. Calm in the knowledge that regardless of if we have talked that day or not, my oldest friend is currently less than a mile away. Comfort in the simple act of packing up Jr and lunch and stopping in to sit and chat and just be at my family’s company with my parents in the surroundings I know so well.
I can (and I will – it’s still me –  ) jest frequently about my observations. I can’t be who I am in my core and NOT feel a pull to the city I loved so much.
For goodness sakes that would be the end of Reluctantly Suburban Keri – and that is like an end to the concept of cocktail hour – it fades a bit but it will NEVER truly go.
But still. At this moment I understand, very truly well, why it is that I am here.
I am grateful.

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I’m always Hungry.

If EVER there was a blog I should write for, it is one called “Hungry.” (Yes, yes I am. Always.)

Here is my latest humble offering for the always terrific Hungry.

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