Sunday, November 22, 2009

be nice or leave

Title of course borrowed from a friend, I think its his mantra. Its straight-forward enough to be near obvious, and in my life just taken for granted. I've been fortunate enough to find very wonderful and nice people along the way.

Its applicable in a new fashion for me, where its new use fits quite perfectly.

Yet another study session in the library has been interrupted with a chat online. This time its with a friend on his way to a date. Being that I know the mysteries of women that he surely does not, he asks questions that make me smile. Its not by any means his first date but he's trying to perfect being a gentleman.

What I had to say really didn't apply to him at all. He just isn't the kind to need to hear it but it gave me a chance to articulate something I have come to realize, be nice or leave.

Who doesn't love a nice awkward first date? I have come to love them. They can be so telling and interesting. There really isn't anything more endearing then a nervous guy taking care not to let himself slip. He's fidgeting with his tie or apologizing for his phone. He's cautious when mentioning politics and wide eyed when he realizes you've heard of or read some avante garde book. He smiles when you speak and he takes care to be kind to the waitress.

Its a lovely scenario, a start to a night well spent and bound to be repeated.

I love being inspired into some sort of talk. I have been talked into many things. Joie de vive, lets hear it. Sunsets in Sonoma, how your mother taught you guitar, the book you'd write if you had the time, your perfect bottle of wine.... I'm easily entertained, I don't ask for much more than a person with a taste for living.

The path you choose to get lost on in conversation is important to me. Nothing is more telling between strangers than what is first said.

However, there are nights my time is utterly wasted. I hang my head in disbelief that some people could be so stone cold and offensive.

I tell my friend not to....

Kick off the night complaining about life. Its unfortunate to hear the fortunate oblivious of their luck.

Complain about work. Do something else. If you haven't found some peace with what you do, even if its just knowing its temporary, don't try to strike up a new relationship.

Talk about why you hate your family. I spend half my life talking about how much I love mine, perfection isn't a prerequisite for loving your family.

Don't mock what you don't understand.

I once had a man point blank tell me had had me figured out within an hour of meeting me. I should have said what I was thinking "My best friends can't even say that, I can't even say that."

Don't be rude to people. If someone bumps into you I'm more impressed if you strike up a conversation with them than if you give them that look that demands an apology.

I don't really care what rank your school was.

Do not start listing things you own. I don't care. I really don't care. Seriously, stop, I don't care.

As he is tearing apart the restaurant and explaining to me how he'll never go to France because they hate Americans I am desperate for escape. He is mocking me cause I won't try his steak and assuming I know anything about the going rate for closing costs on a condo.

The epic worst is the interview. This is when you get asked a bunch of questions which are clearly set up because this douchebag has a checklist for wife material. Once this starts I begin brutal honesty to scare them away. Nothing makes one of these guys run faster than talking about how I want to take years off just to travel with my children or how I'd like to hike the Appalachian Trail with the kids I plan to adopt in retirement. Or I just talk about my plans for tattoos.

I once couldn't bring myself to return a call because the guy spent a good half hour explaining why he hated dogs. Never spoke to him again.

I'm not jaded, I am fond of the experience. It is intriguing however. I could never imagine any of my friends behaving that way. Its like finding a needle in a hay stack to me. To be honest, its not the usual at all. I have been quite lucky to have met some of the best guys you could find on the East Coast. These rare flukes make a lasting impression that can't be denied.

I just want to get them to see that this isn't a dress rehearsal, this is life. We're in the middle and the show must go on, keep calm and carry on man! Stop whining and try to make a girl smile. Its a noble thing to do after all and one of the best investments you'll ever make.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ponce was wrong. its not water, its ink.

Each box of packed books must weigh fifty pounds. Not the usual luggage of choice for a nomad, but I couldn't part with them. Stuff could never make a home but history always does.

They aren't books, they are windows. I might be reading Joyce and then there it is, the ever-familiar cursive belonging to the hand of my mother. Random and surprising, noting something she found interesting on page eighty-seven.

I'm studying new books. In the margins I've scrawled information and when I see it I crave my bookshelf. It reminds me. There is immortality in the pages. Precious paper I will forever protect.

I'd let money or even my skin burn before the flame might touch their leather bindings.

There is one, so perfect and rare. On the binding and cover a name is embossed in gold, Peter D. Holmes. On the inside cover of the Bible is my Mother's script... "Happy Graduation Peter, God Bless. Love Always, Mary."

I can picture Mom special ordering her boyfriend a high school graduation gift in 1960. I can see her giving it to him. I packed it, I know where he kept it. It was always in the top drawer of his dresser. Mass cards and obituaries tucked into its pages with a ticket numbered 27 to the Mistletoe Dance.

I keep it on a shelf next to her Bible busting at the binding from her using it as a scrapbook. In it are mass cards, letters from Ireland, wedding announcements, death notices and one ticket numbered 26 to the Mistletoe Dance.

Simple twists of fate brought me here, life is delicate. The little writing between the lines. The notes of what is plain as day. Subtle and small, but, grand in hindsight. Cherished memories of tiny occurrences on pieces of precious paper, bound in leather and sitting on your daughter's bookshelf.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


agression, testosterone, good intentions and beer

when blended

makes three parts fool and one part superman

but we all want to be heroes

like we believed in once upon a time

in vino veritas

at first her name was gabrielle

the way she used to stand for hours knotting threads into bracelets
why was everything teal and purple

dealing cards for snap
sleeping over on school nights
I will never forget how she stood up for jamie
for shannon
and for me

she'll always be my goalie
the one I'd rather loose a lung protecting
than let that CBA bitch take a shot on

she knows she's family to me
our alma maters are not just schools

they are nights at lourdes on the lake
late buses home with P
exit 45 on I90

bonfires and double sessions
freshman bio
cardinal costumes

we don't need a reunion
just plane tickets and time


I was in her new condo, sitting in her dining room
staring at the sketches on her wall
and I could see her
curls and a plaid jumper tole painting

she was always gifted
spray painting reader's digests folded like bells
when she could have perfectly shaded a still life

decades go by quickly
friends stay the same
there with me for the best
holding me for the worst

she'll have to deal with my sentimental heart for a lifetime
and we're just getting started

Friday, November 6, 2009

can Mary come out and play?

I've been dreaming of relay races.

I am not sure when we stopped playing. There are groups of adults who do, but it feels so rare. The kickball league here and there. But the priority for the whole practice of physical interaction seems to have disappeared. We grow up. Terrible thing to do really. We stop playing with each other. We rarely, mostly never really, play anymore. It was once a daily ritual, the hour of recess. It had its ups and downs, but it was where we learned to interact.

Now I see people hop around a barroom like it was a schoolyard. We are missing the schoolyard. We substitute relationships with facebook or text messages. We sit around for hours running our mouths and drinking poison. I like poison. But I can't help but wonder if as a child I would have been impressed, doubtful. I always dreamt of being independent to do all the fun things I cared to. My independence finds me missing a great deal of what a child would call fun.

A major pursuit in my life is honoring the Lost Boy in all of us and refusing to leave Neverland. Faith, trust and a little fairy dust. I know it gets me a reputation of odd, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope it doesn't make me seem irresponsible. That couldn't be further from the truth or my intention. There is more to life than all of the burdens we have, there's a great and never ending amount of joy we forget to see and fail to realize.

People have kids and fall in love with play again. I want to play now. I want to have a relay race around the circle of my school and a pickup game of footie. I want to ride bikes and play hide and go seek. I want to get paint on my hands and make something with a friend. I want to do something for the sake of indulging creativity. I want to see what comes out of the heads of the people I care about.

I want to hear my friends laugh with natural ease and no pretense. I want to not care what I am wearing or if it gets dirty. I want to see the women I hold dear without make-up and the men without their everyday conforming behavior. Remember when it was okay to not be great at whatever the game was and still have fun? I bet we'd all crack under the pressure of being "it." We've forgotten the resiliency of childhood and we haven't heard our friends cheer us on in ages.

I wanna race.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The First

Mara, is a Hungarian form of the name Maria. I don't think my sister Shannon knew that when she chose it. We're Hungarian, so it was a lucky coincidence maybe. This was before you could find a name meaning on the internet. Mara, is, to us, an Irish form of the name Mary and a tribute to one of our great-grandmothers who's last name was O'Mara. Kathleen, is our sister Katie's name. So this was Shannon naming her daughter after her two sisters when she gave us Mara Kathleen.

Mara was born on November 4th, 1991. I will never forget a moment of that day and how I was so happy I could have exploded. I don't really think I have ever really written about the strangeness of being an aunt as a kid. I mean, I think I was the best aunt out there under ten years old. I instantly couldn't really relate to my friends like I used to. I wanted to talk about Mara every minute of every day and that wasn't really what fourth grade was about.

Happy Eighteenth Birthday Mara Kathleen!
I tried to write this about you kid, but I just have to write it to you. It won't cover everything, it would take far too long to even try to. Why not just give this to you? There is no statute of limitations on bragging rights owed to aunts!

We had a ton of fun when Shannon was pregnant, it was some of the best times in the Holmes Camelot of Cherry Road. We'd all sit in front of really bad movies your father would pick out and eat pizza and ice cream. There was like a never ending supply of pizza, ice cream and movies - highlights of my childhood right there.

Your father was the coolest person in my eyes. He had a dunbuggy, let me play on his computer, always took me to Wegmans, always bought me pizza, and above all else - He had rollerblades and took me bike riding with Ben. He had to pass my big brother test long before you came into the picture. He passed, I guess we'll keep him.

There were many jokes about the size of his head that I think maybe scared your mother.

We had this huge couch at Cherry Road in front of the fireplace that would soon become your stage. We would all pile in and be together, never guessing that at some point, that usual thing would be rare or just gone.

Think about that the next time you plop down next to Sinéad. One minute you're fighting over who just farted and the next you're playing phone tag across an ocean or state. You'll miss just having a full house.

Dad would be sitting in his recliner, Grandma Rhoades would be in hers. Your Mema would be in the kitchen non-stop all night cooking and sloshing dishwater. Then, when she would finally grab a drink and sit for the movie, she'd be out in five minutes. Dooley would be curled up on her somewhere and I would be on the floor with Beau. Your parents would be snuggling on the couch. Your Uncle Chris or Aunt Katie more than likely there somewhere.

After the movie we'd once again swear to never let your dad near a video store. Then Shan and Pat would head home to your first home on Essex. It was a two-bedroom apartment and my favorite hangout. Everything was new. I remember when they moved in and unpacked all of their wedding gifts. I remember when they built your crib. Your Aunt Wendy, before her last name changed to Holmes, gave you a really soft blanket with two matching pillows that said Mara and Kathleen.

Your first bedroom was the one next to the bathroom to the left of your parent's room. One night, before you arrived, I was helping your grandmother and mother set it up. I was amazed at the things my mother had kept. I was still so little myself but I remember being confused why she kept things from when I was a baby.

You had so much stuff before you even got here. First grandchild, absolutely spoiled. You and I even had matching clothes. Purple Gap Kids and Baby Gap dresses. I think I told everyone I was going to be an Aunt.

Right before you arrived we were incredibly busy campaigning for your father. I would walk around door to door with Mom. We had fundraisers and loads of work to do. Then, you were born on election day. Hysterical.

It was a school day. I remember waiting in the hospital for ages. They wouldn't let me into the room with my sister. I was too young. What a crazy rule that was back then. I was tearing up because I thought they were going to make me leave the hospital without meeting you.

I stared at you through the viewing window until finally they needed to bring you to Shan. I stopped the nurse with the basinet in the hall and that's how we met. You had a little pink hat on and tons of dark hair. There wasn't a thing about you that didn't fascinate me. You were so small but you had the whole family stunned with glazed over goofy faces and smiles.

The first.

That's your title and no one can take it away. You went from making me watch Barney after school everyday to commanding a room's attention to your stage. From little girl in my hands trying to walk a step to a kid making me run 5ks with her. From this tiny little baby to this gorgeous, gifted, intelligent woman.

I love the feeling I get when I see you reading Austen, listening to punk and parallel parking. Or when you yell at politicians on TV (you are so my mother's granddaughter). Its a feeling of not just pride, but complete confidence. I know you, I know who you are, and Mara, you're great.

All my love, All the time, No matter what.

Aunt Mary