December 20, 2011

Maybe It's Me: December 17th, or, A So Needed Good Day

December 17th.

As far as I know, there is nothing particularly spectacular about this date. It’s just another ordinary day in a calendar year filled with other routinely ordinary days.

Or so I thought.

It’s amazing how when we wake up in the morning, despite our best intentions, we really don’t have any idea how the day is going to turn out. We may think we do – we may anxiously anticipate or dread things that end up being much more harmless than we expected; we may be disappointed or underwhelmed by those things that we had looked forward to with delight; we may even be pleasantly and unexpectedly swept off our feet by the abundant beauty, inspiration, love, and peace than we ever thought was possible by seemingly undistinguished moments.

Today was a perfect day in a year of imperfect days. And by no means do I expect you to find it especially extraordinary or impressive, beecause my small miracles, may not be yours; we may not share the same moments of joy; your simple pleasures and mine may be different.

But December 17th was good to me. And it was good for me.

And I so needed it.

Maybe it’s me, but any day that we can look back on and genuinely remember as being a “good day” to be who we are, to be alive, to be actively living life is good enough to make the “bad days” not seem so bad.

My sister – one of my best friends and love’s of my life – moved too far away from me in this past year. And I think we both can feel the strain. Not just emotionally, either: for me, at least, it sometimes feels as though a part of my physical self is being uncomfortably stretched in a way that alternatively aches and feels liberating (because, I know she needs space to grow as a person – and if there’s one way to do it, running away to a foreign country certainly helps. Trust me. I know a thing or two about doing that. Selfishly, though, that still doesn’t stop me from hating the miles between us.). She hasn’t been back home much. And the first time she did come to visit for a couple weeks during summer, the time we had together was a little awkward. She had changed so much, it was a little difficult to try and race to keep up. For the first time ever I wondered where I fit into her new life, how I would evolve or conform to be a part of it, and whether or not I would contribute anything important to her life as her “big sister” ever again.

But the bottom line is that when a person can give and receive love to and from you unconditionally, when a person can make you laugh right from the deepest depths of your soul, when you share so much private history with someone . . . very little can get in the way of a relationship like that.

And very, very little has ever gotten between her and me.

Her coming home for the holidays may have been the number one thing I was looking forward to, especially since I was having a tremendously difficult time feeling festive. I was absolutely delighted that I would be able to spend an entire day with her when she first arrived back in town – that, in and of itself, was the most amazing gift I could have ever hope or asked for. And I had an idea of how I wanted to celebrate this very special season with her, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to take her, but I had no idea that it was going to turn out better than what I had wanted.

I picked her up and we collapsed into a loving embrace, breathing the familiar scent of each other in, before leaving for our grand adventure out. We quickly picked up where we left off, falling back into our witty banter, quips, and intelligent conversation.

She was openly chatty the entire car ride – and I just soaked in the beauty of it. It had been a long time since I could just listen to her voice – still girlish in some ways, yet raspy from years of cigarettes in others - listen to her speaking freely about any and everything. I didn’t say much, but that was as it needed to be: sometimes it really is more important to just stop and listen, because it can be just as meaningful.

When we got into town, we stopped for coffee and I coerced her into getting something other than coffee. Trusting me, she got a peppermint mocha latte and loved it. “This was not nearly as pretentious or confusing to order as I thought it was going to be!” she exclaimed, slurping on her drink while I felt the tendrils of warmth of my own cinnamon dolce latte with soy milk-no whip cream-no toppings expand throughout my own torso. It was nice to see her open and receptive to new things – that may have been part of the glow I was feeling internally.

My gift to her was tattoos: matching wasps on our left arm in honor of one of our favorite songs about siblings that have been through a lot, are best friends, and have been separated for one reason or another (no, I don’t feel the need to expand on this: I’m intentionally being vague, because this is between me and her). We have each had some exceptionally bad experiences with tattoo artists in recent memory, and I was excited to introduce her to my new one: someone who invoked calmness, was genuinely honest, had a reassuring presence, and was both surrounded by and exuded a clean, positive energy. As she sat in the chair getting tattooed in a black hoodie, her graham cracker colored hair falling in her face, she looked over at me with tears in her clear eyes and said, “This might be the most relaxed I’ve been all year.” And for me: that moment . . . that beautiful moment of sitting in an art studio, in my favorite town, with one of my favorite people, in what felt like a totally peaceful and organic moment, sharing an incredibly meaningful and permanent piece of work on our bodies . . . made my already good day perfect.

After our appointment, I took her to lunch where we sat quietly and ate ravenously. I took a photo of us and it might be one of my new favorite ones, maybe it’s because I know what we were thinking, how we were feeling, and the lack of wanting anything else in that exact moment.

I then though it would be fun to take her someplace in our beloved city that she had never been. So we headed over to the East End Beach, a gem right in the middle of town. Despite the frigid temperature, we leisurely walked up the isolated crescent of beach, our shoes sinking and slipping on the cold sand. We stopped here and there to collect pretty or unique shells (something we've been doing our entire lives: we're ocean babies), and to stare out onto the majestic Atlantic, mesmerized by the sound of her waves rolling up on to the beach inches from our feet. "You know, I haven't seen the ocean in five months," my sister mentioned softly. "The longest stretch I've ever gone." Nearby a seagull mocked us teetering close then wobbly shifting away again. And it was an incredibly serene and majestic moment.

Before heading home we stopped at the grocery store where we meandered around encumbered like the other shoppers rushed around here and there, totally self-absorbed with their “last minute” shopping lists. She and I laughed over private jokes, people watched/mocked, tried too many samples of everything, and were just us. The us we always have been.

During our drive home we had a heart to heart about love and boyfriends. I am not sure what I accomplished with it: did I perhaps reassure her about the feelings she had? Did I remind her that she wasn’t alone with those feelings or her thoughts – that she had someone she could identify with and confide in? Did I permit her a brief respite from her usual guarded self to let her feel those feelings and think those thoughts openly? It was just as good for me as it was for her to put into words and outwardly voice my own feelings and thoughts of my relationship – it made it even more real. And it was nice to have such an adult moment with my little sister. It really, really was.

I dropped her off at my parent’s house where we spent a few more hours together. She helped me construct a vegan salami loaf (layers of salami and cream cheese, topped with green olives – I’m sure it sounds disgusting, but it was a staple holiday nosh item when we were younger and something I wouldn’t dream of eating now . . . until I figured out how to “veganize” it). I was totally convinced it was going to taste absolutely repulsive, while she – from the beginning - had unwavering confidence that it was going to be delicious. And she was right: it was very tasty. She is the only person I could have made such a food disaster with, and it was thrilling to me that it worked out.

We ended our night like we always have and probably always will: with music. We discussed the best albums of the years, bands surely to be popular in the year to come, trends in the industry, etc. She introduced me to several new songs I had never heard of. One of which, when I would listen to again later that night, would make me cry big, salty tears of joy.

Because it had been such a good day.

Good to us.

And good for us.

And we so needed it.

After I had hugged her and said goodnight for the third time, I wondered if my leaving for the night was a mistake. I could stay just a little longer, couldn’t I? We could spend a few more hours talking. For that matter, she and I could probably spend a few more days just talking and laughing and being us. Good days are so far and few in between for she and I, not just as a team, but individually as well. And part of me didn’t want to see it ever come to an end: so how could I prolong the beauty of the day we had? How could I sustain the deep sense of peace and love that was resonating within each of us?

The truth is: I couldn’t.

Because at some point it had to end – the day that is. Nothing else had to end if we didn’t – if we don’t – want it to. She and I have been blessed enough to have already shared multiple days together throughout sisterhood that have been “one of the best days of our lives.” We don’t forget them. We draw from them in our dark or lonely moments. They strengthen and encourage us. And this day? This December 17th which I assumed would be just another ordinary day in a calendar year filled with routinely ordinary days?

This was something totally extraordinary. I was pleasantly and unexpectedly swept off my feet in a way I never thought was possible by a string of seemingly normal moments.

And it was another day for us to add to that catalog of “best days ever.”

Despite all of the awful things that I suffered through this year, I know beyond reasonable doubt that this one good day will be remembered more than the rest of those ugly days will be.

So with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart I headed home.