Suburban Fall with an Unemployed Whiny Person

Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely Syracuse, New Yooooork… she took her mom’s CRV goin’ to Marshaaaall’s Homegoooooooods

Oh, don’t mind me. My boyfriend just went back to work today to yell at kids to put on masks and not touch each other…and also to teach physics, I guess. And I’m still just a little candle in the wind…clinging to unemployment when the rains set in…

That’ll be my last song parody, that’s not what this is.

So anyway, my boyfriend went back to work as a teacher today, and I am still just chillin’, getting used to a new season in suburbia after 6 years of city life…

Man, suburbanites…THEY 👏🏻 LOVE 👏🏻FALL! They do NOT mess around with it. The Marshalls/Homegoods parking lot this past Saturday? SAVAGE.

And…it’s clearly contagious, seeing as I found myself in this parking lot, middle fingers flyin’ left and right trying to get a parking space to go look at ceramic pumpkins and talking skeletons.

Wanna know an actual quote from my mouth that I actually, actually, for real, for real said the other day?

I said…FROM MY OWN MOUTH…and I quote,

“I do love the pumpkin spice latte, but I MUCH prefer the pumpkin cream cold brew…it’s a few less calories and the foam is delicious.”

-MY ACTUAL FOR REAL VOCAL CORDS

So I’m a little…concerned.

I’m worried that with my boyfriend gone during the days, I am going to further morph into a fall-obsessed house-wife…which, ya know…there’s really nothing wrong with. I just always thought if I became a housewife it would be because I married one of the rich businessmen I used to take care of at the restaurant in New York City, and he would move me in to his penthouse and I would have maids and stuff and so while he worked I’d just go get pumpkin-Starbucks-anything and then go to the yoga studio and make myself throw up in the bathroom and then maybe actually do the yoga or maybe just go catch a matinee of Jersey Boys?

I never, ever thought I’d find myself at a place called “Witty Wicks” for the second time in one week buying a pumpkin scented candle and looking at pumpkin decorations.

(And, I’ll just point out, the visits to this gift shop are in ADDITION to the parking-lot-danger-filled Marshall’s Homegoods trip I took on Saturday.)

“Witty Wicks”, if you must know, has incredible candles.

HOWEVER.

The rest of the gifts are just…not my cup of tea because they basically all have quotes on them.

Quotes a-plenty, quotes galore.

Like, maybe you’re looking at a cute little pumpkin face and then your eyes scan downward and you realize it’s a little pumpkin-man-statue thing and he’s holding a sign that says “WELCOME TO OUR PUMPKIN PATCH.”

Sweet Jesus, the day I buy this kind of decoration is the day I just buy a sign that says LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, have a kid, and sell Avon.

“FAMILY GATHERS HERE” on the front door.

“DANCE LIKE NO ONE’S WATCHING” over the fireplace.

“DREAM BIG” in the bathroom, so you don’t forget to keep dreamin’ while you take a piss.

I can’t guys. I just can NOT with quotes on decorations. It’s one thing to become a suburban fall enthusiast…it’s another to become a QUOTE person…then I’ll really know it’s the end of the line for me.

My soul is dead.

Might as well buy a crockpot while I’m at it.

Anyway, this is where I find myself, folks. My boyfriend went back to work and I’m over here drinkin’ pumpkin cream cold brew, alienating quote-lovers, and ordering big Snooki slippers.

Happy Halloween, I guess.

NEEDLES

It seems to me we spend our entire childhoods wondering who we will be.

Will we be beautiful, tall, successful, happy, rich, married, etc, etc.

We ask these questions and say we want to be a This or we want to be a That. We play MASH and determine we will live in a mansion with Aaron Carter and drive a blue punch-buggy.

We work hard to get good grades, good SAT scores, good everything so we will get in to a good college and be good and do everything good, so that when college is done, our lives will be good.

It seems to me that once we grow up—once we get the degree, get the things, find the cow as white as milk, the slipper as pure as gold—once we get our wish, or alas, we do not get our wish…there is a strange reversal.

We start wondering, and this time it’s more of an investigation because this time there are solid clues—real evidence. We start wondering who we were.

What were we thinking?

Why did we do that?

Why did we want that?

*

I have spent quarantine-time up at my childhood town in Upstate New York.

It has been both lovely and strange.

I have nothing but time…time to go through old boxes in my bedroom, time to go through plastic, dust-covered bins full of photographs in the basement. My boyfriend, who also lives in town, (and who I conveniently met three and a half weeks before quarantine began), has now sat through many dinners with my family and heard countless stories about me and my sister growing up:

“Jesse used to run upstairs and lock herself in her bedroom when we tried to sing happy birthday to her.”

“Jackie refused to face the audience during her 4th grade chorus concert.”

“Jesse touched the burner on the stove to see if it was hot the first time she made a grilled cheese.”

We all laugh.

But now with all this free time, I really, truly think about these things. I wonder why I couldn’t stand the attention of a “Happy Birthday” chorus. In a shyness all her own, why Jackie could not stand the audience watching her sing in a chorus concert.

I search my face in piles of old photographs for a sign of what I was thinking on that day in history. Was this the phase where I worried constantly about my pimples, or was I struggling with math…why did I love that T-shirt? Why that haircut?

Looking at a few, I wonder had you even met a black person yet? Had you had a black classmate? A black schoolteacher? When did you first know it was better to have your skin?

*

On HBO, Lorraine Bracco leads Tony Soprano, the famous, fictional mob boss, through therapy. Uncle June used to tease him about not making varsity, and why was his mother so cold and volatile and how has it impacted him? Why is he broken today because of who he was yesterday?

How will he ever stop fainting at the sight of sliced meat after watching his father cut off Mr. Satriale’s pinky?

*

I sit at a table with my mother and three of my aunts, listening to them talk about their parents (my grandparents). What they used to say to them. How it made them feel. What they said to “you and not me”, “he was that way with me and X”, “she’d say that to me, too”, “he never was that way with Y”.

“I remember a moment on my first trip home from college—” says Mom, “X, do you know what I’m going to say?”

X remembers, and she remembers how she sat on the front stairs waiting for her in the freezing cold and how later on Papa wouldn’t sit with her at the table. How that made her feel.

How that made Mom feel.

These women—these strong, influential women of my life—remember these tiny needles from their past, and they work through their memories and words to figure out how these needles lay in the giant haystacks that have become their lives.

It makes me all the more curious about my own needles, and I think I must have a lot of needles.

Nearly four months outside of my New York City life, I have enough space to speculate on my world there—my behaviors and habits, wants and needs, triumphs and failures. I can see the whole haystack that was my life there.

And here upstate, I have nothing but time to sift through it.

*

We became someone. We became adults. But who even were we back then?

Birds of the Moment

Daddy Cardinal

When my parents retired, I teased them for turning into bird-watching old people. It seemed like as soon as they had extra time, all they wanted to fill it with was commenting on birds in the yard, setting up birdbaths and bird feeders, and looking up any birds they thought were remarkable.

My dad even liked to break-up bird fights.

When the weather finally changed this spring, and we could finally spend time outside-but-quarantined…I found myself falling Alice-first into the rabbit hole that is birds, and I thought ‘maybe there’s something to this…maybe the reason it happens to retirees is because they’ve finally stopped working long enough to smell the flowers. Taste the spring. Listen to the birds.

Mama Cardinal

Feel the moment.’

Being on unemployment during this pandemic is a lot like being a retiree I suppose—I feel so much more attached to the moment because I have no choice but to notice the moment.

The only difference besides my age is that the promise of a return to the “real world” looms on high. And it is frightening.

There is a cardinal nest in the bush outside my window. The babies are a little less than a week old. Each day I check on them, check on their progress and wonder which will come first:

My departure from the nest, or theirs?

@itsmy_pardee