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I Can’t See Clearly Now
Sep 20th, 2009 by Christina

I’ve always been a bit arrogant about my vision, which was as perfect as it gets for most of my life. I was the 3437022309_9c0f1382f6_mone who could see which bus was coming from 6 blocks away and I could read the tiny print on over-the-counter medications. I sort of understood that those who couldn’t read without glasses couldn’t help it, but secretly I felt they just weren’t trying hard enough.

Simply put, I did not get what it means to have your eyes fail you.
And now I do. Dammit.

Why must my blurry vision join the unwieldy mattresses, sides of trees, and petulant automobiles in their metaphorical mission? My eyes seem to be saying ha, ha, get it, Christina? You can’t see clearly anymore now that your future is blurry.

Duh. Really clever of you, eyes. Like, could you be more obvious?

But it isn’t just me who can’t see (though it IS just me whose car spontaneously combusts). My previously un-bespectacled friends have started holding newspapers six feet from their faces, and on every date I’ve been on since separating, there was a menu moment, where the man pulled out a pair of reading glasses and gallantly offered them to me when he saw me squinting in an attempt to distinguish steak from salmon. (Me: “It must be the light, but, thank you, I’ll use the glasses just this once. I’m sure my eyesight will return to normal any day now…”)

Once I accepted that ocular decline was just another non-negotiable midlife perk (and reading glasses the skinny jeans of my age group), I broke down and bought a pair. But I keep going through cycles of denial and acceptance. I lose the glasses, pretend I don’t need them anymore, then grudgingly buy more when I realize I can’t see jack. I recently purchased three pairs from the dollar store and sprinkled them here and there–anywhere where reading matter and I might converge.

I was really taken aback when I saw R toss on a pair, because his vision was possibly more perfect than mine (I said possibly, not definitely). Since I don’t see him every day anymore, the small physical proofs that time is passing as we soldier on in our separate lives tend to jump out at me. He wears clothes I don’t recognize, and more and more gray seems to sneak into his hair when I’m not looking. And now the glasses.

I’m starting to think that my sudden need for glasses suggests that I, too, am aging–a fact that hits me right between the eyes.

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R.I.P. Little Green Wagon
Sep 14th, 2009 by Christina

IMGP0242My conflicted relationship with my car came to an abrupt and tragic end on Thursday when the engine spontaneously burst into flames.

I did not make that up just to get attention.

I parked the Saab (which had passed inspection the day before) as usual on a nearby block on Thursday morning. Then I went home and began my daily procrastination routine. About an hour later, a neighbor rang the doorbell and asked:
“Did you park your car on the corner of 16th St, near the church?”
Me: “Um, yes.”
Neighbor: “It just burst into flames.”
Me, chuckling, certain that neighbor is delusional or has nothing better to do on a Thursday afternoon than pull jokes on gullible females: “Excuse me?”

Turns out the neighbor was not delusional and walked me over to my green vehicle, which was surrounded by two big red vehicles, also known as freaking fire trucks! The fire had been extinguished and the hood of my car sported a big burned bruised boo-boo (see photo, above). The engine was a charred black melty mess. Totally weird and shocking, right?

So that’s it; experts believe there was an undiagnosed electrical problem aggravated by a possible oil leak.

After all we’ve been through–the drive to Maine, the numerous breakdowns–and after just sinking six hundred !@#$%^&* dollars into it a couple of weeks ago, my car officially totaled itself, resulting in more family shape-shifting. You see, the Saab was originally R’s baby; in fact, he was so taken with it when we first got it that he spent hours on a nerdy website for Saab owners. We had joint custody of it for a few months after the separation, and then I got solo custody when R downgraded to a used Geo Prizm (one might say downgrading became a global aspiration for R, in fact, if one couldn’t resist being catty just once.)

Honestly, I think the car never got over losing its preferred driver, because it has been kicking and screaming ever since. Last summer, it broke down on the West Side Highway during our first R-less drive to the Adirondacks and, as chronicled in previous posts, has found every possible way to let me know things are not OK.

For now, I’ll be sharing R’s Prizm, which is not nearly as lovely as the Saab, but seems to have a more stable personality. Beyond that, my vehicular future remains unknown.

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Are We Having Fun-Again-Yet?
Sep 8th, 2009 by Christina
IMGP0238

These are my toes on vacation.

I just got back from vacation. Sort of. It was a single-mom style vacation, so the days were roughly twice as exhausting as usual. The girls and I and a delightful assortment of friends were up at the beloved house in the Adirondacks that’s been in my family since it was built by my grandfather in 1912; I’ve gone there every summer since I was born. Because so little in the house and the surrounding landscape has changed since then, the things that do change from year to year–the cast of characters, life circumstances–are thrown into stark relief against the ever-constant backdrop.

R first joined me up there a few months after we’d started dating. It was July 4th weekend, 1989; his immediate and total appreciation of the place sold me and my entire family on him and ushered in the all-about-the-two-of-us vacation years. We were strapping twentysomethings who voluntarily woke up at 5 am so we could hike 14 miles and be back before sunset. During our free time, R would play with wood–chop it with an axe or make nifty things with twigs–while I made the house lovely. We were just adorable in a way that was probably a little nauseating to those around us.

That phase lasted until 1996, when our daughter was born (we baptized her with water from the lake.) Those early baby-makes-three years involved waking up involuntarily at 5 am; if we had any leftover energy for hiking, it would be a brief hike, carefully scheduled around nap time; the pursuit of glorious mountain-top views was replaced by the pursuit of a rock at the ideal height to change a diaper and frantic attempts to keep the baby from toddling off the dock.

In 2001, we added daughter number two and fully surrendered to a child-centered, the-four-of-us life.  We compromised in ways that would have seemed blasphemous during those early years, purchasing a brightly-colored plastic kiddie pool, even though the house is set on a magical lake. Sweet the-four-of-us rituals evolved–popcorn by the fireplace upon arrival, no matter how late; a trip to the library in town the next morning, roast chicken and potatoes for our first dinner. R built a Barbie tree house. We wanted to introduce our girls at an early age to the joys of hiking in the wilderness, but the relative convenience of mini-golf was suddenly apparent too.

So there’s 19 years of summer fun in a nutshell, during which my house became unmistakeably ours. Hence, last August–two months after we separated and the first time R did not join us–we were disoriented. The surroundings were still there, reliably stunning as always, but it was a week of non-stop soy-milk episodes. I knew R wasn’t with us, of course, but still, I wondered “where is he?” Sitting on the dock felt weird because I kept expecting him to do his signature run-jump across it and into the lake. Looking at his assorted twiggy touches around the place made me cry. The first-night roast chicken tried too hard to make everything OK and didn’t taste good. I was certain I would never find my magical summer place fun again.

But this summer, I’m pleased to report, fun started to seep back in (you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you? It would be such a downer otherwise.) I didn’t wait for R to run-jump into the lake and I didn’t cry once during the entire week, not even when I caught a glimpse of the Barbie tree house in the corner of the play room.

I guess the girls and I have officially entered a new the-three-of-us phase–a different one–to be played out against the reassuring, constant backdrop until the cast of characters, or the circumstances, shift once again.

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