Gratuitous Color Shot #4: Horton in the house

Lately my time has been occupied with a mix of superficial + potentially life-course-altering tasks, tasks which are helping to distract me from simmering extended-family issues over which I have approximately zero control.

Of course by “distract” I mean “tip my stress management meter reading from ‘Handling’ to ‘Expressing Overload Via Bizarre Minor Health Situations That Generate Eyerolls.'”

I swear I’m putting a lot of effort into stepping back, but really: what’s the protocol when the proverbial elephant moseys into one’s living room and can’t get everyone’s full attention? Besides hope the the elephant is pink, and thus an accepted marker of drunken hallucination.

[Except when it’s an even more tangible sign of HEY, OVER HERE!]

Hallucinating BIG pink elephants or crossing paths with Seattle signage?

Hmmmmmmm.

Though the rosy-colored variety gets a bad rap in Western culture, bog-standard elephants represent many wonderful things in their native lands: faithfulness, intelligence, strength, wisdom, endurance, memory, prosperity, sexual vigor….

All those enviable qualities certainly come in a large, hard-to-miss package, though. Maybe those of us who are waiting not-so-patiently for others to see the room is rather crowded need to take a deep breath—or twelve—and throw tons of effort into channeling the metaphorical guest.

Salad, anyone?

If I lived a catalogue life

As the Vix Household gene pool has a lot of OCD: Hoarder Division chromosomes swimming around in it, we like to scare ourselves straight every so often.

After spending a chunk of the holiday weekend watching 4 hours of hardcore decluttering shows in a near-row, I’ve decided scared-straight-once-removed is a far superior way to experience homes that have too much crap in them. Turns out it’s just as motivating to sit on my butt ogling piled-up boxes, papers, and unspeakable junk as it is to visit an OH MY GOD GET ME GASOLINE AND MATCHES abode!

And it’s so much less stressful.

The downside of acquiring such externally-driven motivation is that one has to act quickly before it flees. While Mr Vix returned to his basement clear-out project, I decided to plow through all my “I’ll recycle this after I read/cook/re-enact it” towers and to take on my overflowing, horridly dusty bedroom bookshelf.

[Because really, the odds that a future houseguest couldn’t get along without a borrowed copy of Scruples 2 are pretty slim.]

It’s all very freeing, once one gets over the guilt of thinking:

If I were a better person, I’d save all these things which could help me be a better person.”

Unfortunately, some dreams die harder than others. Granted every single book is now dust-free and uncrowded…

Mr Vix's childhood sock monkey + non-compulsively-collected pottery top a random variety of tomes

but I’ve been meaning to do something arty with my accessories forever, and I’m no closer to a solution than before. In fact, I’m probably farther away given that I no longer have this tearsheet to shame—er INSPIRE—me into changing the status quo:

Coming to terms with the fact that my accessories and I aren't "goin' there"

A “quo” which involves eco-friendly but pedestrian boxes.

Semi-accepting that the non-crown jewels are staying here

If only disposing of a sliver of paper didn’t trigger an endlessly-looping set of rhetorical questions:

If I lived a catalogue life, would a sock monkey guard my jewels?

If I lived a catalogue life, would Mr Vix have an addiction to tools?

Guess it’s good to know that for every self-defeating crazy I escort out of my life, there’s an equal and opposite crazy ready to take its place. Normally I’d be at least somewhat tempted to have a good wail about that—but with ole Sock Monkey’s newly glittering eyes just DARING me to fall apart, I’m determined to hold steady. Too bad I didn’t unearth my stiff upper lip from beneath a mound of past-their-sell-date magazines….

Perhaps I'll reframe this as "my little corner of delight" vs my accessory-station failure

Criss-Cross

The usual holiday notes and calls, along with my recent California road trip/Holiday 2009 Freeloader’s Tour, emphasized life’s natural flux a bit too much for me.

It’s been rather a mixed-bag whirlwind of people joining my extended network of family and friends and of people leaving it. Of people redefining their role in it (by choice or necessity) and of people oblivious to how they’ve been redefined.

It takes a fair amount of energy to assess the level of intimacy each one seems to desire or deserve. It’s my opinion that some need to be brought closer and some set adrift, but follow-through takes more effort. And brings the risk of a battle.

But onward ho. Because while we’re born alone and die alone, in the middle there are others.

…going into the new year (over?)thinking about the way our relationships continually evolve as we support, protect, overlap, and connect in ways that feel right to us—as well as how our ties fray through benign or deliberate neglect…

(top to bottom: Strolling through Sonoma County redwoods; encountering Topher Delaney’s “Garden Play;” jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium; a princess fantasy made public in Balboa Park)

Not just whistling Dixie

We’ve actually had quite a few bolters in my family, though most died before I came along. Disappointingly, no one appears to have high-tailed it due to scandal. Leaving home in hopes of finding perspective or power is a univeral tradition, but considering how much my family talks there’s a dearth of narratives about the wanderers. Who looked at expectations and felt they could tell the end of their story before it started? Who looked at the furrows, stared at the plow, and realized they needed to take off running?

Other than my grandmother, that is.

Her life story may have gained in complexity over the years, but once she was just a girl who ran North at 17, a girl determined to find an identity that had little to do with the one she was leaving behind.

As a pre-teen, I was fascinated by her past behavior. No doubt she was a fun grandmother—and a young grandmother—but she wasn’t particularly spontaneous; like all the other women who floated in and out of my life, she was firmly embedded in her domestic and workplace duties. Her life was full of daily routines, her escapism seemingly limited to cigarettes and romance novels. During visits I’d eavesdrop on the grownup chatter about jobs and kids and money and remind myself, “Once she just up and LEFT everything she knew!”

Sure, both of my parents had moved away from their hometowns. Somehow, though, it wasn’t the same. They had boring middle-class reasons for leaving: college, jobs. Structure awaited them. The unknown called to her.

Being smart and vivacious in wartime America meant she had more than a few opportunities for adventure. Hers never strayed from the civilian variety—unless wholesome frolics with men in uniform count. And among all the soldiers and squids milling about, she managed to fall for a Yankee. Not a fairy-tale Yankee with old money and a penthouse on the upper East Side, either; just a good-looking, good-natured guy with modest prospects and ambitions.

Marrying him meant she ended up further north. Whatever regrets she may have about her life with my grandfather and her life without him, she seemingly has few regrets about the location: after 7 decades her siblings have yet to entice her back for anything more than fleeting visits.

Of course vestiges of her Deep South past loiter: there’s the accent that grows stronger after a little bourbon, the backlog of magazines which celebrate all things (genteelly) Confederate, the generous hospitality visitors receive no matter how brief the stay.

But she’s transplanted herself into a different life, a place where winter means snow and she’s nobody’s daughter, nobody’s sister, nobody’s disappointment. She’s just herself, a hybrid who hasn’t always thrived, but has grown to be part of the landscape.

No more monkeys jumping on the bed

Coming from a long line of jesus mary and joseph get to the point storytellers basically means I am screwed when it comes to thinking in logical and precise ways.

And because logic and precision have always had top-notch PR people, cultures have been only too happy to swag them in laurel wreaths or make them the center of multi-day feasts or throw them televised extravaganzas.

But come on: if it’s not a case of putting things together (brains, buildings, transportation devices) or taking them apart (bombs), can’t we all agree that a little slapdashedness and meandering can be a beautiful thing?

And likewise, can’t we all agree that A LOT of slapdashedness and meandering will cause most to gnash and rend?

I hope so.

Because then I can take you with me the next time I go off to see family. I will stack us like a vegetable display, I will hand out Gorgon-bedecked shields, I will chirp “let smiles be our umbrellas!” when hope’s cinders start raining down.