Have you ever noticed how September is a crazy month for birthdays? The end of August, the beginning of October–they fall in there, too. I guess it’s because couples are so happy (and cold) and in love during the holidays. And you know what that means? Babies!!!
This past week has been a particularly busy week with us as far as birthdays go, past a future. It’s also a tough week for us, especially my husband. It gets you thinking, about time and passage and life, and how quick it all goes.
This week my baby turned 11. 11!!! It seems like yesterday she was born. I cannot believe how quickly the years have flown by. It makes a mom think she needs to get to cherishing, in between those moments when I’m arguing with her about cleaning her room.
My mom’s birthday was the day after Katy’s birthday.
My grandmother-in-law, a spitfire until her last breath, would have had her birthday the day before Katy’s.
On the the end of the spectrum, this is also the week we lost my mother-in-law and my grandmother in-law.
This week makes me really contemplate the length and breadth of life, the way it is lived and loved.
I think about my daughter, my youngest child, and I’m amazed at the love she has for the world. She loves what she loves, and she loves it with no holds barred. She hugs everyone (not every Down syndrome person does this, but mine is the stereotype everyone is trying to end!), loves everyone, wants everyone to love her and gets sad when things aren’t happy and beautiful. She runs full speed into everyday (after slowly waking), and wants to keep going until her eyes finally close, suddenly and often mid sentence. Katy takes on life with a smile and a hip shake, and wants everyone to do the same.
I then think about my mom, who seems to take life similarly, but with her feet firmly on the ground and without all the hugs. My mom taught me that you can pretty much get through anything, and then you can look back and find the humor in it. Hearing stories about her as a child, she was headstrong and unwilling to take no as an answer when she thought the answer should be yes. My mom fights hard for those she loves. She shows love in action, not words, and her love is deep. She puts her head down and fights through life’s battles, showing that almost anything can be overcome with tenacity, fortitude, and hard work. Because of her, I’ve been able to deal with a lot of life’s curve balls with a joke and a laugh. I see a lot of my mom in my older daughter.
I think about my mother-in-law, a woman who loved deeply but told it like it was. She held nothing back, and when I do something I know isn’t the best for myself or my family, I hear her admonishments. She accepted people for who they were, good or bad. She gave advice freely and without reserve, but never took exception if you didn’t take it (which took me a long time to understand). She loved being a grandmother, especially to girls, and would have loved knowing that her third granddaughter was born this year. She would be proud of all three of her boys and their successes, and she would have some pretty wise words to say about how to make their careers, and their lives, even better.
And her mother, my grandmother-in-law. The most stylish woman I had ever known, and she was in her 70’s when we met. She also told it like it was, and knew what she liked and didn’t like. She had the ability to get people to do what she wanted, either by persuasion or by wearing them down. Whatever it was, it worked for her. She never backed down and was incredibly tenacious. A true Californian by way of NYC, she was the best of both worlds combined. She was one of a kind, and people were drawn to her.
Every year during this week I think of these people, celebrating those still with us and remembering those that past. All four of these women have or had a perspective on life that I can draw from, living a little bit like them every day.
So, for Katy, I will love with abandon. For my mom, I will take the curveballs with humor. For my mother-in-law, I will take advice and criticism from others without taking it personally. And from my grandmother-in-law, I will try to get out of my yoga pants and have some style.
I will take the lessons of these four women to heart, and try to make them proud.
Okay, onto Sara Jaffe’s Dryland.
In 1992 Portland, grunge music was just showing its face and everyone was covered in flannel. And fifteen year-old Julie is caught up in the negatives. Refusing to carry an umbrella, what she cannot buy, the skateboarders she cannot find cute. There is nothing in this world she can find positive.
And then a senior swimmer asks her to join the swim team. And Julie thinks there may be hope.
Just a few years earlier, Julie’s older brother was an Olympic hopeful, and his swimming took over the family. But he now lives in exile in Berlin, talking to no one from Portland, including his family. And Julie could really use an older brother to navigate her feelings, swimming, and her life.
In a hope to find her brother and herself, Julie decides to swim. A little flirtation, a little hope, and a chance to reach her brother and to understand his life.
I almost gave up on Dryland. It’s written the way a 15 year-old talks. “And then I went to . . . ” “She said . . .” “And he goes . . . ” It was very off putting and hard to read, at first. Until I realized that it was a device to help the reader get inside the head of a confused 15 year-old girl.
And Julie is confused. She can’t figure herself out, or her brother. With the help of an old friend of her brother, she starts to understand a little.
I can’t say I loved Dryland, but I did get a lot out of it. Although I never went through what this girl went through, it took me right back to the confusion of high school, and that’s probably why I didn’t love it.
It’s worth a read. I give it 3.5 stars. Another might give it more stars. I just didn’t want to be a 15 year old again.