Tuesday, February 21, 2012

November Rain

It's 8:14 on a Saturday night. My glass is half full. My wine glass, anyway.  The girls are asleep. I'm wearing sweatpants & drinking a decent pinot noir sans a brassiere. If I had a cigarette it would be as close to perfection as one can get. But I quit years ago & you can't buy Marlboro's with a bridge card. VH1's "100 Greatest Metal Songs of All Time" is keeping me company & I have plans to bring my daughters' scrapbooks up-to-date. As Brett Michael's frighteningly young looking face (he is older than me..Right?) introduces #81, "Heaven & Hell", a Black Sabbath ditty that sufficiently summarizes marriage & subsequent divorce, I begin the layout & design for Vivian's first year of life. Bear in mind she'll be three in January.

I glance over at Madeline's scrapbook. It was co-authored by Leo Tolstoy.  I recorded with an anal retentive OCD like disorder all of Maddie's special moments. Her first holidays are commemorated with photos. Lots & lots of photos. Her first stuffed stocking from12/25/2006. Her first Easter basket brimming with jellybeans & bubbles & sidewalk chalk. (She was 7 months old and ate the chalk) Her every move and milestone are cropped & centered. With whimsical stickers and glitter markers I detailed the arrival of solid foods, sitting up & walking. Her first curl is there along with a painstaking record of every tooth in her head. She had professional photographs taken at 3, 6, 9, & 12 months wearing overpriced monogrammed frocks. It is, in a word, ridiculous.

I glance down & Vivian's book & begin to laugh. Two photographs (and mind you, she's not actually alone in either one) & a tiny hospital bracelet fall out. This child is completely undocumented. Like stay-out-of-Arizona-someone-might-call-INS type of undocumented. The Rollins Band is #64 with "Liar." That is exactly what I feel like trying to piece this shit together. I have a Tupperware container full of snapshots & a Ziploc bag of hair. (the latter sounds much creepier than it really is.) I begin searching for clues as to how old Vivian might have been when any one of these were taken What color / length is my hair? Is Madeline still in diapers? Did Owen have all his teeth? I begin placing the pictures on thick, pink card stock with flowers & rainbows & puppy dogs decoratively flitting across the pages. Mr. Michael's & his tan introduce #34. "Barracuda." I love the Wilson sisters. Ann & Nancy led the band, wrote the songs, & played the instruments. But for as much as I dig female empowerment, I love the day I threw away Jeremy's childhood even more. 

It began last November as an innocent Sunday evening project: clean out the attached two car garage that had morphed into a catch all of sorts.  Boxes too small children's clothes & baby gear. Lawn tools & toys the kids had outgrown. Holiday decorations. A freezer chest. It was Sunday night--"garbage night" in North Royal Oak & I was ready to get my purge on. While I was sorting into piles of PITCH / DONATE / KEEP something caught my eye. A varsity jacket peeked out of a Sterilite box. I walked over, popped the top & was greeted by Jeremy's past. Conveniently packaged into three containers & mocking me. I was storing this man's personal possessions because______? I couldn't answer.  There I was. Alone. In my garage. With a box of HEFTY bags, an iPod loaded with Guns-n-Roses & AC/DC, & white hot rage.  Crazy on you never felt so fucking good.

I dragged everything that represented the life & times of Jeremy C. Lawrence to the curb that night. His varsity coat was just the beginning. All his report cards & art projects & mementos from elementary school through college are gone. Christmas ornaments. Yearbooks. Trophies. Family photos. His framed B.A. and Masters degrees are in a landfill. There is no record of camp or vacations. The baby book his mother poured over for years bit the dust. When I finished hauling away his life I was panting & sweating & sobbing. If you can leave four beautiful children in 2010 you can leave a birth announcement from 1974.

I look down at Vivian's baby book. It's come together quite nicely. I have the Detroit Free Press from both the day she was born and Obama's inauguration. A church bulletin & invitation from her baptism day. Her gorgeous ladybug birth announcement. Lots of photos of her with her big brothers and sister. I used stickers & colored markers to log my educated guesses at when she popped teeth & ate solid food. I write her a letter telling her how her sweet & silly disposition helped both me & Madeline survive this past year and how her personality truly fits her name: vivacious and full of life. 

Brett Michaels tells me #6 is The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Ah, yeah. Amen, Mr. Daltrey. I know my issues have issues right now & I couldn't care less. I'll eventually get over it. Like Axl said, "nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain."