Ode to My Umbrella + “Good Girl” by Sarah Tomlinson

11186438_10206509638641111_430250533_nI know it’s odd to write an ode to an umbrella, but I’m gonna do just that. Because every time I use this umbrella, it makes me happy. And it has been with me for quite awhile.

When I worked at Starbucks in the early Zeros, not too long after we were married (I talked all about my Starbucks years here and my coming to love coffee here), I got a lot of coffee paraphernalia. Awesome mugs, coffee grinders, a French press–all of which are still in use, some on a daily basis. My Starbucks was in Colorado, a nice one that was very busy in the heart of Denver’s Tech Center. We got some really great, cream of the crop stuff–including the umbrellas.

Now, Colorado doesn’t get tons of rain (and, when it does, it is immediately in jeopardy of floods, often of the flash variety). When there is rain, you can see it coming from far away and get inside. And, in the summer and even the fall, the rain usually comes in the late afternoon for maybe a half an hour, and then it’s over (there are exceptions to that rule, but that’s the gist of it). Umbrellas aren’t a big seller; at most you need the small, cheap ones. Or at least my family only had those, if we had them at all. Other than golf umbrellas that is, and those were used more often for sun on the course than for rain.

So, these larger, sturdier umbrellas weren’t big sellers in the fall of 2000. When I started at Starbucks in December, they were marking them down. And they still didn’t sell. I waited until they were REALLY cheap, and then snatched up two of them for even less with my discount.

I believe I gave one of them to my mother-in-law; she live in New Jersey and they actually got rain. And I hung onto one of them.

I quit working at Starbucks when I became pregnant in 2002, and I was working as a teacher. Libby (the baby in my belly) drained me too much for me to keep working two jobs. We moved a couple of time, gave birth to another baby, and then made the big move across country to Ohio.

Where it rains. A lot.

Now, I’m surprised that it didn’t get torn up in our closets in Colorado. Or our moves in Colorado. Or our move to Ohio. And, since we moved her in 2007, it has been used A LOT. It has been mistreated in our coat closet, left outside for a few daywpid-img_20150505_112055.jpgs, kicked around in the car.

And it’s still kicking ASS and keeping the rain off my head.

It’s a big umbrella, but not golf umbrella big. It’s perfect for one person or two people. It’s never ripped or bent, the up and down mechanisms still work really well. Even if you discount those first few years of non-use in Colorado, it is still been in steady use for about eight years. That’s a pretty handy umbrella.

A couple of weeks ago my husband began an organizing project in our garage. Hooks and bins and storage everywhere. And my umbrella got its own, special hook. I think it’s earned it.

I love that its basic black on the outside, but underneath it discusses the beauty and necessity of coffee in life (at least in my life). I love that it’s understated but long-lasted, getting the job done without flash or splash but with personality–much like myself.

I love that umbrella combines two things that go together so naturally in my mind–rain and coffee. And I love that this umbrella has been with me almost since the beginning of our marriage–nearly 15 years.

And I really hope I haven’t jinxed it by glorifying it in writing.

Okay, book time. Onto Sarah Tomlinson’s memoir: Good Girl.

I’m not a huge fan of memoirs, for the most part. They often seem whiny or self-aggrandizing, a little too much like you’re sitting next to someone and listening to every detail of their lives.

And it’s hard to critique a memoir, which is why I’ve put this off. It’s her story, and it’s seen from her eyes. The author may whine, or promote, but it’s their story seen from their eyes. It’s probably not whiny to the author.

That said, and taking out the things I don’t necessarily like about memoirs, this one wasn’t too bad.

The Premise

Sarah is bright, precocious child born to hippy parents in the 70’s. When her dad’s lifestyle and gambling force her mother to leave him, she and a few others head to rural Maine to live life on the land. She reunites with her college boyfriend, and bands with five other families to buy 100 acres.

Sarah’s upbringing is rural and bohemian, but she dreams of more, including more time with her father. His visitations into her life are hit or miss, making young Sarah believe that if she can just be good, he will show up more often.

Sarah is smart and ambitious, seeking more than her small high school and her bohemian home life. Acceptance into early college at age 15 (a special program at Bard College), Sarah seeks to grow closer to her father (a gambling, acid dropping, mystically ‘enlightened,’ itinerant taxi-driver) by growing up. While seeking a place to be safe and to fit in, Sarah’s life is scarred by a school shooting that shatters her small school.

Sarah’s tale continues with her search for meaning and growth, taking her back and forth from Maine, Oregon, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. She lives a big life in search of her place, and she shares it with us.

My Thoughts

Again, not a memoir fan. But Tomlinson’s story is interesting and engrossing. A child of divorce, seeking to connect with a father that is a little to introspective to realize what he is doing to his daughter, I can imagine that Sarah’s story is probably familiar to many children of the seventies and early eighties (when the Age of Aquarius folks were becoming parents). Her quest for more from life is familiar to me, although my life was much different.

Tomlinson is a gifted writer, and a pretty good storyteller. She does a good job of telling her story in a captivating, compelling way that I enjoyed. The fact that a memoir kept me reading is proof that it was pretty good.

I’ll give it 3. 5 stars.


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