Category Archives: Memories

Rollercoasters to Ferris Wheels

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To most people, autumn means the color change of leaves and cozy sweaters. To others, pumpkins and spiced treats. But to me, growing up in North Carolina, autumn meant prize-winning pigs, boiled peanuts, and cotton candy. The fair had come to town.

Every fall was marked with the smell of popcorn and funnel cakes. Fingers covered in powdered sugar and stained by candied apples would dig around in coat pockets to fish out tickets for rides. My mother would hold our fairground grub and prizes while my sister and I rode the Himalaya. This was the true marker of the season’s change, a tradition that carried for eleven years straight until I moved to New York.

Here in New York, fall took on a new meaning. Fall of 2002, I entered my Senior year of high school. Fall of 2003 was my Freshman year of college. Fall of 2009, my nearly five year relationship ended. I was devastated and struggled to find comfort. Here held too many memories of the times we were happy… and the times we were not. There was only one place I wanted to be and one thing I wanted to do. I called Mom and told her I was coming home and we were going to the State Fair.

Though it had been nearly eight years since we were all together at the fair, it felt the same as before. Mom still juggled turkey legs and stuffed animals and we still rode the Himalaya. The carnival noises and lights still made my eyes go saucer wide. I was surrounded by love. And there, between bites of smoked turkey legs and watergun games, my autumn, which started with heartbreak, experienced a change of its own.

First Love in 2nd Grade

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I started reading at almost three years old and by 2nd grade, I was reading at Middle School comprehension levels. One of the boys in my class, Chris, was also an accelerated reader so our teacher allowed us to check out library books reserved only for 5th graders.

Sitting on nylon mats with legs folded underneath ourselves, we helped each other with the phonetics and definitions of words new to us. He never made fun of me when I stumbled over words that seemed to be too many consonants, not enough vowels; my strength was in understanding passages and tone. There, in the quiet reading section of our classroom, while everyone went to recess, we read. And in between chapters of Bridge to Terabithia it happened. I fell in (puppy) love.

I was living recess to recess, praying the teacher would grant extended minutes of play and we could continue to read. The time spent reading with Chris was a welcome change from the rest of the school day, when our classmates would tease me. I was pretty easy to pick on as I was chubby and spoke with a lisp. But when I read, these things didn’t matter. Books took me elsewhere, to a world where no one laughed because I struggled with saying, “Sufferin’ succotash!” and spaghetti. A world I shared with him, who told me, I was the smartest girl he knew. I asked my mother for an extra dollar for the Book Fair so I could buy us matching bookmarks. I still remember presenting it to him at the end of the school year. With the gift came bad news though, as I told him my family was moving and that I would not be back that Fall.

That was the last time I saw Chris. I made friends with my new classmates, eventually spending my recess outside playing kickball, in which I did not totally suck. But every so often, I’d ask my teacher if I could sit indoors, on a nylon mat to read. When the whistle blew, I’d mark my place with the bookmark identical to the one I gave him. The bookmark that not only reminded me of where I was in my book, but of my friend and the time I shared with him.

photo © Andreja Donko | Dreamstime.com

Philia

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Yesterday was the not only the end of a year, but the end of my trip home to visit my family in North Carolina. I had planned and packed for a trip lasting only three days, but thanks to the Second North American Blizzard of 2010 aka Snowmageddon aka Snowpocalypse, I was in the Good Ol’ North State for nearly a week. Left with no choice, I took the earliest flight out of OAJ which was the 12:40pm flight with two connections, returning to LGA at 6:30pm on New Year’s Eve. After less than lovely flights on propeller planes, I almost succumbed to my bed’s calls. “I’ve missed you. You’ve missed me. Let’s catch up, shall we?”

“Some other time…” I had two hours to go from Frequent Flyer to Foxy New Year’s Eve Reveler. I could hear the tick of my mother’s kitchen timer in my head while I showered. Hurry hurry! You can’t miss this bus, the next won’t come for another hour. There would be no way you’d make it Downtown before midnight. My next thought left me frozen. You’d ring in the New Year, alone.

*Cue the Psycho scream*

Call it tradition or superstition, but for as long as I can remember, my New Year’s Eve celebrations have always been with loved ones and/or friends. The thought of me, alone, on a subway car between the Hunts Point and Longwood Avenue stops at the stroke of midnight was terrifying. Entering a new year surrounded by strangers? What would that mean for the rest of the year? Was my Spinster prophecy coming true? No, I cannot enter the New Year with negative thoughts. As I dressed, I began to spin the outcome and meaning of me ringing in the New Year solo. I moved back to New York in December 2001. Twenty-eleven will mark my ten year anniversary, for which I do plan to throw a party. I moved here alone, leaving all that was familiar behind in North Carolina. I was surrounded by strangers. I went from seeing the same people everyday to utter newness. I had no friends, didn’t know anyone in any of my classes. I even ate lunch alone. Were things coming full circle? You’ve got no time to think about this right now. Hurry hurry!

The transit gods were on my side. I caught my bus and the train showed up as scheduled. Leaping over piles of now tarnished snow, I arrived at our meeting place on time. However, my friends had not. They were on their way, but stuck in traffic. It’s 11:15 pm, no big deal. Fifteen minutes pass and then another fifteen. They still had not arrived. The pounding bass of the music was not enough to quiet my thoughts. It’s fate and a cycle completing itself. You can’t fight fate. Just let it be. My phone vibrates and interrupts my internal pep talk.

It’s a text. “Nside.” My arms fly above my head and my feet do a quick shuffle. People must have thought the DJ was playing my jam. He wasn’t and I didn’t care that I looked like Mumble in the middle of the dance floor. And as we counted down to midnight, the tradition continued. Philia had foiled my supposed fate.

Happy New Year!

Thank God for Google Voice! Act III: Call Me a Cab

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Getting into a cab can sometimes feel like stepping into your doctor’s office. You know you may be faced with an embarrassing question that you’re not quite sure how to answer. I’ve been living in New York for nine years and the Cabbie Q & A, as I affectionately call it, kicks off with the same question every time…

Where is your husband?

Pretty painless. I know the answer to this one. I got this. “My husband? I don’t have one,” I say to the eyes floating in the rear-view mirror. A blink and a nod is returned to my response while a breath is drawn in. “Oh, well I am sure you have a boyfriend,” ninety-nine percent of the time comes next, which used to garner a, “Yes, I do,” out of me. Used to. The first time I quipped back, “Well, no. No I don’t,” I sat back, looked out the window and thought the interview was over. I was wrong.

Wow, I am really surprised a girl like you doesn’t have a husband or a boyfriend. You should be married. I am not married too. Would you like to marry me?

A cabbie proposal! I finally felt like a real New Yorker despite being born and semi-raised here. “You’re funny,” I say after a hearty laugh, only to realize there were no longer eyes in the rear-view. We were stopped at a light and he had turned around to look at me. Looking at me, waiting for my answer. My laugh melted like Frosty in Florida. A disappointed look was smeared all over his face as he explained to me that he was not kidding.

He was a forty-two year old man from Pakistan who had never been married. He said his parents had been putting pressure on him to marry a nice girl because, as he put it, time was running out. So he figured since I was unmarried and he was unmarried, we should marry. Creepiness aside, the whole thing sounded so apocalyptic. I got a mental image of us standing in the middle of Times Square after the world had ended. Light bulbs are flickering and shredded paper wafted in the air like Armageddon’s confetti. He is alone and I am too. Mankind depends on us to save the human race…

Pulling up to my house brings me back to reality. It is not the end of the world. He is not the last man on Earth and I am not the last woman, so I decline his offer. He pleads with me to think about it, cajoling me with free cab rides to and from work. These rides would provide us time to get to know each other. A riding engagement. Then we would marry and he would take me to Pakistan to meet his family, who would love a big-eyed girl like me. He would be all the husband I would ever want and I would be his queen. I again decline and he asks for my phone number so he can show me he is serious.

Now, I know you are thinking, “Just get out of the cab!”, but this man now knows where I live and it’s dark outside. And besides, the doors are locked. So, I give him my number… my Google Voice number, which he decides to test while I am in the cab. To his surprise, the number is not a fake and he unlocks the doors. “I hope I can get you to change your mind,” he says as I collect my things from the backseat. “And I hope you find the woman you’re meant to marry,” I call out as I close the door.

Thank God for Google Voice!

photo © Typhoonski | Dreamstime.com