Today, I nearly suffocated in my daughter’s room, buried alive under a mountain of clothing, a lot of it gorgeous, most of it too small. Half still had tags; the other half was barely worn because my daughter prefers to wear the same pair of shorts and the same Beatles t-shirt every day. After she’s worn something else, she drops it on the floor of her closet, where it soon becomes buried under the next thing that’s not her favorite shorts. For two hours this morning, she tried on everything, every single piece of clothing, including costumes appropriated for School of Rock shows. As the hills of shirts, pants, dresses, and school clothes eroded, new mountains formed—these marked for uniform exchange night or a friend’s daughter or her cousins. I filled paper shopping bags until they tore. The air in Serena’s room was suddenly oppressive, mixed with fabric chemical smell and anxious lizard smell and stress armpit smell—mine and hers. We had to take a break before tackling the drawers.
This is part of our back-to-school ritual. So are wondering whether we skipped this back-to-school ritual last year and lamenting the brisk disappearance of summer vacation. What too-moist beast ate the days? Yet when I look back on the friendships I forged in three short months, the places I visited1, the pictures I took, the nose I pierced, the concerts2 and meals and leisurely drinks I enjoyed, I feel fulfilled and lucky.
While my husband was on his annual retreat in Zion Canyon, Utah, his personal mecca, from where he sent us amazing letters, we were each supposed to write a song to be played upon his return. Serena started some complicated piece about Freddie Kruger. Marty played some chords he didn’t commit to memory. But I did my assignment with gusto, writing what I call “The Country-ass Song.” The lyrics start like this:
You keep moonshine whiskey on the kitchen sink
So when you’re doin’ the dishes you can take a drink
And wash it all away
Like you try to do every day
Spy your girl through the window on the tire swing
You always told your baby she could do anything
But so could you
And this is what you choose to do
So no regrets, no tears
Throw in the towel
Toss back a few more beers.
It’s not autobiographical. Well, the beers part, maybe. But I do like my days. Even today. Especially today. This kind of purge and reorganization is spiritually cleansing and enlightening (note to relatives and friends: don’t buy the girl anything pink or with any kind of heart or flower or bow). Sure, summer’s a tough act to follow—this weekend alone is jam packed with concerts and dinners and lunches and company. But autumn always kicks ass!
Now, post-ritualistic closet upheaval, I feel more ready to let go of the summer of 2010, one of the hottest summers on record; the summer of Resurrection in a can; the summer of a bouffant ‘do and Hairspray at the pool; of running five miles again; of dinner and drinks with my homegirl, Sheri Booker, and our agent, Betsy Lerner; sushi with Bahhhhhhhb’s drummer; crabcakes with Monica Mansfield. So long, summer of poetry and music and friends and one delightful, glittery gem twinkling beside my nostril.
1I spent the perfect amount of time at the beach—with my sister’s family and my daughter, as well as with a new friend, Betsy Merrill. I overcame my fear of flying to attend the Madison, Wisconsin wedding celebration of a dear friend, Gabi Helfert, overcoming severe stage fright to play her and her new partner (and my new dear friend), Joey Johannsen, a song. I stayed with a beautiful woman, Lee Davenport, whom I met online, and visited with the talented printmaker, Tracy Ducasse, my funniest friend , Teena, and the beautiful writer, Carrie Kilman. People visited me, too—like Janer and Joy, two pals from back when the Internet was only just invented! My house has been full of love this summer. One good pal, Monica Mansfield, examined my old dog, Cleo, and brought her medicine; instant love right there. And Gail Dragon was my buddy for an overnighter, seeing Jason Ager at a tea house before driving home to North Carolina. I relished my time with BFFs, too—Kim Webster, Kim Stanbro.
2Peter Frampton, Yes, Bahhhhhhhb (Bob Schneider, for the uninitiated), Taylor and Evan, Justin Trawick (this Friday, 8×10, CD release!), Jason Ager, The Dead [Fucking] Weather(!). And the best: I watched my daughter nail sax, guitar, and vocals on The Beatles and Pink Floyd, and I watched her band, the Oxi-Morons, play a block party. Oh, and she plays again Saturday and Sunday at Angel’s Rock bar, the hits of 1970, followed Sunday by Marah!