Remembering

A Bedtime Story

The air in my room is a little too still, so I crack the window and let the cool November night sing me to sleep. I bury my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase and wish for sleep to come quickly, just this once, a nightly ritual. It doesn’t, as has been the case all week. Despite the restlessness, my eyes are thankful for the rest the nighttime lends. Out the window I can hear cars pass on a highway a few blocks out, a murmur that blends with the breeze.

Clearly, distinctively, the sound of a train interrupts the rhythmic rustling of my body as I kick the sheets away, then pull them back.

I am a little girl again, burying my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase that smells of home, in a blue-walled sanctuary with soccer trophies on a bookshelf across from my bed. A train keeps me awake as it calls in the distance, warning the road of its presence. It’s strange how close it sounds, but it’s not close at all.

I know exactly how long it would take me to pedal there. It’s a long ride, one that takes me around Dead Man’s Curve, down the shaded street with speed bumps every ten yards, past the house with the mean horse, the sometimes-sweet goats, the streets named after flowers, and all the way down the big hill, the really big one with train tracks at the bottom. It’s not close. It’s a long ride, one I’m not allowed to make alone.

And in this new city, far from the room with the blue walls and a bookshelf now empty of childhood trophies, I’m having trouble remembering where I’ve passed a single set of train tracks, where a train could be running close enough I can hear it so clearly, so distinctively, warning the road of its presence.

Maybe it calls to me from the other side of the highway, where I only wander when I’m a little sad and a little lost. Maybe it’s a few blocks out, in a part of this city that remains more foreign to me than the rest. Maybe it’s far from me, past a set of streets named after flowers, at the bottom of a very big hill, a long bike ride away, one I’m still not quite old enough to make alone.

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Reflection

More Than Bitter, More Than Sweet

I miss this place even though I am still here, even though the boxes aren’t completely packed and I still have a pile of clothes in the dryer. I miss it more and more as the reality of leaving becomes tangible, as my little sanctuary looks less and less like my own. I pulled the artwork and photography off the walls of my apartment and carefully wrapped the frames with paper and the purple bubble wrap that Makes Packing Fun so they would make it safely to a new, albeit temporary, home with new walls to tell stories to. Stacked one on top of the other, they fit snuggly in two medium-sized moving boxes, and I was amazed at how small that seemed, and how empty my walls look without them.

I couldn’t bring myself to unscrew the wooden block with the sturdy rubber arms that holds my ukulele on the wall. I imagine that will be one of the last items to be packed. I have dreams that my last few weeks in my hometown will be spent under trees late at night with the breeze that is still warm from the day, with old friends home for summer, playing ukulele covers of old favorites which are not-so-old when you’re twenty one and have only really cared about music for less than half of your lifespan, but manage to feel comfortable and nostalgic anyway. And if I had it my way, there would be minimal tears and minimal sadness because it seems like such a waste, but I’m not foolish enough to truly hope for such luck.

I constantly try to sort how I’m feeling about moving away. I spent many days saying I would begin packing, but found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom instead, crying over old drafts of stories from my first creative nonfiction workshop two years ago or feeling too overwhelmed by everything to do anything at all.

Everyone I love and care for is excited for me and they tell me how proud they are and I smile and thank them and tell them I’m excited too, but that leaving will be tough and they remind me I’ll have a great time and I usually say I know but I’m not very convincing. I feel like a talking cardboard cutout with a few recorded sound responses could replace me most days, because I have the same conversations about grad school and moving to New York three times a day.

I am excited.

I’m also terrified, nervous, sad, uncertain, and numb about the whole thing. And in these stock conversations I hear the same word over and over again: bittersweet.

Bittersweet just might be my least favorite word, because anyone who has ever felt conflicting emotions, who has simultaneously waved goodbye and hello, anyone who has left home to find home, knows that bitter and sweet don’t even come close. Bitter and sweet and sad and excited and nervous and all of the words I have can’t touch what it’s like to move away from people you love in a place you love with bedrooms you’ve cried in and trees you’ve played music under and streets you kissed boys on and beds you were tucked into and a group of barefooted ladies that you danced with to polka music and a sweet dog that felt like your own, and a town that for the only life you can remember called you one of its own to live in a new town with all the promise and possibility that comes with discovery.

And through all the fear and uncertainty, the only thing I know is that I’m incredibly lucky to be so sad to leave such a wonderful place.

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Reflection, Remembering

We’ll Be OK

The only recurring dream I remember having as a kid was of my house burning down in the middle of the night. In the dream I would wake to flames all around my bedroom window, and firefighters would carry me out of the house with me balancing in the middle of my mattress. I was, quite simply, afraid of large fires, and also of sleeping. I think the idea of sleep causes most children a bit of anxiety, which is why our parents, grandparents, and babysitters read bedtime stories and tuck us in and check for monsters and kiss us goodnight as we clutch our stuffed animals and blankets and do anything to make the ritual easier. Sleep has the potential to bring dreams and sometimes nightmares, neither of which are within our control. I remember sleep causing me a great deal of anxiety as a kid. And with the addition of the typical Texas storms that haunted the otherwise silent nighttime six months out of the year, the whole process was futile.

Luckily, I had an older sister just down the hallway from me who rarely resisted a Sister Sleepover, which almost always included a few rounds of Guess Which Song I’m Humming, a game I remember losing more often than winning. But on nights when I was on my own, I would watch the alarm clock on my bedside table for hours, the neon numbers that glowed onto the lenses of my purple frames. The time passing made me nervous, but I remember taking comfort in the fact that the time seemed to pass slowly late at night as I watched the geometric shapes shift from sixes to sevens and eights and so on until the patterns reset and repeated. And when I think about being a kid, I feel like I was afraid of everything. Sometimes I still feel I am.

I remember my mother recommending various tactics that occasionally helped (I did some serious counting, folks). But at some point, I took matters in my own hands and developed a way of pausing my neurosis just long enough to fall asleep. I would take my pillows, place them where my feet were supposed to be, untuck all of the sheets and covers, and I would sleep backwards on my bed. Maybe someone taught me this and I’m claiming as my own childhood brilliance now. Maybe everyone did this, but I saved if for the most dire of situations, when midnight would turn to 1 AM and my necessary-eight-hours-of-sleep opportunity had long passed. For whatever reason, this usually worked. And when I think about this strange habit now, I imagine it had a lot to do with control; it was something I could alter, something I could change.

The most overwhelming heightened moments of anxiety I’ve experienced in the last couple of years as a young adult align well with the experiences I had as a kid trying to get to sleep at night. And what all of those recent instances had in common was they occurred precisely at a moment in which I completely surrendered control, and the outcome of that moment I irrationally perceived as necessarily dreadful or threatening, when that wasn’t the case at all in the end. As a kid, I would always wake up the next day with no justification for my obsessive anxiety from the night before. But the cycle would often repeat.

As an adult, the fix may not be a simple one, and it may not be a complete fix at all. But I guess all I can do is try to make sense of the mess.

I’ll start small. I’ll place my pillows at the foot of my bed. I’ll rest easily. I’ll be OK. We’ll be OK.

We'll Be OK

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Rainy

Not sleeping, but writing.

My room is transformed. Outside my window a strobe light flashes slightly out of sync with a booming bass. Sound surrounds me with quick rhythms, a tap-dance party at two a.m. with thousands of little feet tapping on my roof (shu-ffle, shu-ffle, shu-ffle, ball, change). No sleep for tired eyes, so I dance along in dreams of dreaming dreams I won’t recall when the alarm clock wakes me a little too early for these tired eyes to want to see the morning sun after a night of summer storms. I remember how terrifying nights like these were when I was a kiddo. I’d work myself into a frenzy counting the seconds between the lightning and the sound of thunder that trailed behind as the space between the two became smaller and smaller until I was sure the next one was going to fly through the roof, through the attic, through the ceiling, to my little fingertips holding my covers over my eyelids. One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi. I remember the first time I decided not to be afraid of lightning. I was twelve at a birthday party in May. There was a trampoline and summer thunderstorm and a little girl who felt perfectly safe in the world, in her world. I don’t remember when everything changed.

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Ridiculous

Before Julia goes to bed

This post was supposed to be titled “Trip down memory lane” but I’m leaving it as it was changed to at two in the morning so Julia could partially read my post before she went to bed last night. I imagine none of you are now up to read this now, as has typically been the case lately. In an attempt to do some (not quite) spring cleaning, we stumbled upon a few little gems from my childhood. Apparently my sister’s closet was more of a black hole than mine was as we found a handful of fabulous items I’d like to document here.

1. Attempts at artwork by Cristina Lioy. Mom’s proud.

2. My first (and only) published illustration. In the third grade, my class wrote and published a book for some competition. I did some of the writing, but my main contribution to Dixie Doodle Dog in Outer Space was a series of fabulous illustrations, one pictured here. Brilliant, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

3. This wasn’t anything old or found, but the artwork in my hot chocolate this evening at Jupiter House. It’s kind of the coolest thing I’ve ever found created in my cup of ho-cho from Ju-ho (I couldn’t resist). Really, this post is more about strange artwork than anything. Whatever.

4. My favorite Little Golden Book read aloud by yours truly. For this to be most effective, don’t watch this video now unless you’re reading this post right before you go to bed. (Read with accent) It’s for fun!

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