First Walk To School.

I don’t actually remember this. My mother told it to me over and over again, so that it has become a memory, even if it’s not, really.

I was ready. I was eager. I knew kindergarten was the place for me.

My two best friends, Cindy and David, were not. David, a sturdy redhead, kept shaking his head.”I don’t think I want to go. I don’t know…I don’t want to go…” over and over. Cindy, whose parents came from Canton province, was more reserved, but more stoic. She placed one Mary-jane-shod foot in front of the other, saying nothing, her eyes wide.

Finally I got impatient and took Cindy by the hand and David by the tie (Yes, back in the day, mothers sent their children to school on the first day wearing ties.) and bodily hauled them along towards the excitement that was school. Since I was the smallest of the three, I don’t know where I got the strenght to drag two bigger kids. But somehow I managed.

We three came out of school with the biggest smiles on our faces.

“I wasn’t scared at all,” bragged David.

I didn’t correct him.

First Time My Bank Card Was ‘Compromised’.

Can I get it in under the midnight wire? Only time can tell. Oh, and maybe typing speed.

So, today  was one of those days.  Technology hates me. It’s a thing. I had to go get a new phone. Well, really I didn’t, I had to renew my cell plan, but why not get a new phone, because my old one was dangerously close to breaking. I’m hard on cell phones. So I went there, and the attractive phone saleswoman is showing me all these phones, and really, I’m thinking, “Why do I have to choose? I don’t even know what to look for. So now I have a new phone. It has a camera. And apparently I can listen to MP3s. But I’m never going to. So.

I had the added confusion in that when I went to the bank to get rent, the machine didn’t take my card. It didn’t eat it, but wouldn’t let me have my money. So I called the bank and they told me my card had been ‘compromised’. It made me think of spy movies. A willowy brunette in leather had extracted secret information from it.  She left it for dead in a Moscow gutter. Or maybe it had been caught out in the conservatory at Lady Haversham’s Yule Ball, its lacy shoulder straps at its elbows. Marriage was the only way to avoid scandal!

Whatever the case, it necessitated a trip to my home branch to change my PIN, thereby missing Latin Funk class, the whole reason I was walking around in sneakers, which I never do, because I am worried that someone will think I am a soccer mom.  So I schlepped in the misty rain (Great for my hair! And with the sneakers? Such a fashion plate!)up to the bank and then stammered like a yokel at the patient bank teller. But now it’s fixed,  and I have a new PIN I hope I will remember.

So I went home and began to pry the keys off my computer, as I had spilled tea in it. Arwen and John assured me that I could fix it with rubbing alcohol and Q-tips, so I tried. The space bar is still wonky, but I think the others are working well. It was a little gross to see what was under the keys, though.

And, lo, tomorrow is the last day of November.

First Time I Realized I Am A Viking Throwback.

I was trying clothes on on my mom’s bed for some reason. I think it was the end-stages of the long and dreary hand-me-down sartorial slog that was my clothed life. From the time I was a baby, I got my mom’s friends’ daughter’s hand-me-downs. But I think we had just had another tense mother-daughter time where I tried on someone’s castoff navy blue polyester pleated dress slacks (I hate slacks. Bury me in jeans, people. Jeans. ) and I was feeling discouraged.

Mom went to her closet and grabbed her wedding dress.

It was beautiful: A simple, ivory wool sleeveless dress to just below the knee, with a little shrug jacket to go over it. Timeless. Perfect. Very Audrey Hepburn.

“Hey, try this on,” Mom said. I probably rolled my eyes, but I complied.

It was like a mastiff trying to fit into a poodle coat. My shoulders strained the seams, my boobs didn’t fill the chest area, and Mom couldn’t do up the back of the dress.

I looked at myself in the mirror, hair afrizz from clothes coming on and off, face red from resentment and embarassment, and I saw this miserable valkyrie where my mom was expecting a sylph.

Evidently, I had more of the Viking heritage than my tiny, bosomy mother. I  felt sad that I couldn’t fit into her dress, the way she obviously wanted me to, but I also felt a little proud.  Hey, look at that.  Built for working hard. Endurance. Fighting alongside my man.

Of course, looking back on it, I was more English Setter than Mastiff. I wasn’t exactly hulking.

I just wasn’t my mom. I think that was weird for both of us.

First Book I Read By Myself.

Was Green Eggs and Ham.

I woke mom and dad up at 4am to show them, to read the whole thing out loud to them.

Having heard a lot of kids stumble their way through oral reading, I can only imagine my parents’ enormous sense of pride, shading through astonishment, wonderment and down into “Boat, kid. The word is boat. You know this!” as I stuttered along.

I think probably about 40% of North American kids read a Seuss book as their first.  For that, I hope Theodor Geisel is drinking beer and eating chocolate brownies in heaven.

First Kiss.

On November 26, 1999, I had a date. It was a first date, which I was nervous about, with a guy I really didn’t know that well, which I was also nervous about. He was a guitar teacher and we met while drinking coffee at The Fringe. I would mark and mutter, and he would try to engage me in conversation. That’s what he says, anyhow.

But the date? It was a New Years Eve party (in case the real one sucked) at the ANZA club.  We got there and it was this slightly grotty cavelike place. There were lots of people I knew, also from The Fringe. My date was solicitous and generous with the beer. I thought, “Hey, this is nice, this socializing thing. Maybe I should do this more.” I was in the middle of my long teaching practicum, so tended not to actually see people much.

My date asked me to dance. I looked at his horrible orange-and-blue patterned polo short and up into his face, and smiled.

He kissed me on that dance floor. Right in front of a bunch of his friends, people who have become my friends, and I thought, Oh. Yes. This one.

And I never looked back.

Happy anniversary to E and me.  I love that man. And one day I will be able to throw out that orange-and-blue patterned polo shirt. A girl’s got to have goals.

First Conference.

I was fourteen. I heard about conferences from an older church friend, and she had had fun, so I thought I should give it a shot. I was the oldest teenager in the Vancouver Unitarian Youth Group, and in that group was the one place I felt sure and secure. I was the oldest, I was the leader. So I wanted to see if there was more out there for us.

Mom and Dad came out with me, I guess to check it out and make sure I was okay. The Coquitlam Youth Group was hosting it, and so it was only an hour’s drive to Crescent Beach, to this sunny little triangle of grass where the camp was.

We walked in the gate and a tall, willowy blond smiled at me. “You’re new. Welcome to Conference.” You could hear the capital C in her voice. “I’m Lara. C’mon, I’ll take you to register.”

I turned to my parents. “I’m going to go register.” And Lara was so reassuring that they left. Without embarrassing me at all. Lara was a miracle worker!

That was Friday night. Some time around three on Saturday morning, I was pretty sure I’d found my real family, and that I was bulletproof, and that these people were going to save the world. I had filthy jeans from participating in a game called Wink, had eaten some baked potato with a girl called Laura, and knew, when I couldn’t focus on the bonfire any more, that I had to go to bed. I had wandered around meeting people and listening to ideas and conversations. I hadn’t contributed that much, but no one seemed to mind. They were supernova blurs to me.

I went to my assigned dorm. It seemed as though I had put my sleeping bag there months before, and it was a kind of shock to see it there. Laughter and thumps rang in the fluorescent hall outside, but I was too exhausted and too full of images and ideas and new people, people who spoke my language, to stay awake. Before I fell asleep, I leafed through the orientation magazine. It was largely rules and suggestions, with a lot of comics and an introduction profile for each of the conference organizers. Twenty-and-some years later, I still laugh at ‘cross-country skydiving’ and ‘downhill tennis’ . I slept smiling the whole night, I am pretty sure.

The Saturday, I have so few memories. I went to the beach with a tall boy named Ben, who went to Quaker college. I remember the wind on my cheek and the surprising heat of the sun.

That evening they had a carnival planned. I sat on the kissing couch and kissed strangers. I giggled with new friends. I was so tired I can’t even remember.

Some time around midnight I climbed into a hot tub with about 12 other kids. It wasn’t lascivious, it was just fun. I can’t believe I ever trusted near-strangers like that.

The heat stopped working in the hot tub some time around three. When it got too cold for even our huddling and slippery bodies, I climbed up into a loft room and went to sleep beside a beautiful, alabaster-skinned goth boy named Gabe.

When I woke up as the sun was flooding the room, there was a small, birdlike girl watching me.  Laura with the baked potato.

As the sun rose, we turned into friends. She lived on Bainbridge Island and I swore to visit. She would come to me. We would write.  “I wondered who Gabe spent the night with,” she said. “I’m glad it was you.”

“But we didn’t do anything!” I protested.

She grinned wickedly. “I would have!”

That Sunday morning, Gabe and Laura and I ate pancakes and laughed so hard our ribs hurt. We could have solved every problem in the world, if only we’d thought of them.  The sun shone down on us bold as love, and we reveled in it.

Some time around eleven AM I acquired a boyfriend, Doug. He was fifteen and had a blond mustache, and was from Olympia. He was a rocker, through and through. We kissed on and on in the sunshine, and I thought I was the luckiest girl in the entire universe. I was a part of the universe. It was unfolding around me like a mandala, dancing.

Yeah. A good conference is a high. That one, because it was such a wonderful, unexpected first, was the highest high.

First Visit To The Emergency Room.

I was four, I think. We had one of those ancient top-loading dishwashers, and the top swung down on my little fingers. Wham!

I screamed. I screamed and screamed. My fingers started swelling up and turning purple and my mother was alarmed. She might not have been if I was the kind of child who habitually got hurt. But I didn’t. I habitually sat in a corner and played quietly. I sang to my books and my teddy bears.

So when I wouldn’t shut up, Mom called a cab.

It must haver been the days before car seats, or maybe it just didn’t matter, because I remember sobbing on my mom’s lap in the front seat of the cab. The cabbie gave me a plum from his lunch box. I think that quieted me a bit. I remember the plum.

I don’t remember the hospital, but I do remember the plum in the cab. Weird, huh?

Anyhow, the fingers were not broken, only bruised. That makes sense. I have strong bones and teeth, but I have skin that bruises if you look at it sideways.My fingers were swollen and useless, but not broken.

And I never went near that dishwasher again.

First Time I Made Coffee.

Wilderness Camp again. Why are there so many firsts there?

Anyhow, it was a grey day, raining on and off. The lake was uncharacteristically choppy, and we were all uncharacteristically wearing jackets.

We kids were hanging out at the Community Tarp when my dad came over. “The tarp’s up. I’m going with Russ to help out. It’s a little rough out there.”

Russ was the bronzed and wizened, semi-civilized, sometime-boyfriend of Auntie Joyce. Also, he was the guy who kept the weather eye on Johnson’s Landing, waiting for the tarp to go up so he could go get the people coming to Wilderness. That’s how we operated: Put the tarp up, signal Russ. Pretty cool, huh?

Except these people (Obviously no Wilderness veterans) had put the tarp up in the rain. You don’t put the tarp up in the rain. Ever. It’s rude, plus conditions might be too dangerous for Russ.

But Russ made the call: He was going to go get them, so Dad went, too.

We kids watched the runaround get smaller and smaller, the motor uneven in the grey chops of the lake.  We went back to what we were doing, but our hearts weren’t in it. Mine wasn’t, anyhow.

I got it into my head that I would make coffee for my dad when he got back. He drank coffee. Coffee was warm. He was going to want coffee. That was it. I was making coffee.

Did I know how to make coffee? No. I knew it involved water and coffee grounds, and heating them up. Or something. But I didn’t feel comfortable using the campstove without an adult around.  And I wasn’t going to go get an adult, because then the adult would run the show. And it was me making coffee for my dad.

So I built a little fire. Adult Liz recognizes that maybe I shouldn’t have been playing with fire without adult supervision. I think I was 12 or something. But whatever. I built a fire, and then on an old grate, balanced some creek water in the coffee pot, into which I had carefully spooned some coffee grounds.

I waited and waited for it to boil. It took forever. How the hell did Ma Ingalls manage, I wondered.

Dad and Russ came back, with the newbies in bedraggled tow. The world was right again.

“Hi, Dad. I made you coffee,” I told him. I poured some gritty, brownish hot water into a melamine cup and handed it to him.

And my dad did the bravest, most heroic thing I have ever seen. He drank the coffee.

When I was older, I apologized to him for that godawful drink. He smiled and shrugged slightly. “It was warm. That’s what counted.”

First Time On A Wii.

Wheeeee! Or Wiiiiii! Or something.

Anyhow, Rachel was talking about this game they had, called ‘Endless Ocean’, the other night. In this game, you don’t shoot things up or rescue princesses. You dive in the South Pacific and learn about sea creatures! THIS is my kind of game, so she kindly invited me over tonight to try it.

I hadn’t realized it was a Wii game.

I am somewhat resistant to new gaming platforms. Part of this is the fact that games seldom capture my interest. I don’t care about turf, or bullets expended, or capturing the most deep-space cargo ships.  So even when the Wii came along and people were doing yoga and guitar stuff and whatnot, I said, “Enh,” and continued reading/watching TV/blogging simultaneously. Generally, I think I should wait until we discover a way to wetwire ideas directly into our heads and we kill off the human race because we are unable to make the simplest decisions wthout a megacorporation feeding us the subroutine I find a game I really like. Ahem.

So I was wary of the Wii. But I really shouldn’t have been. Also, I should have been studying my tropical fish beforehand, as Rachel’s five-year-old son was so much better the marine biologist than me.

It was embarassing, but it was also a lot of fun. “Look, it’s some kind of parrot fish,” I said, my control wobbly as I swam in circles.

“It’s a Blue Tang!” B leaped across in front of me.

Seriously, that kid schooled me (see what I did there?) about the fish in this ocean.

But I got past the humiliation to eat some pizza and (maybe) train a dolphin. If I shake the Wii controller at it, it does tricks. I don’t really know how that works, though.

I am glad we don’t own a Wii, because this game could eat up a lot of my time.

Rachel, if I try to move into your living room, please call the police.

First Time at Celebrities.

Tonight I went to Luvafair Remembering Night or whatever it’s called. I punked out at midnight, I am ashamed to say. No energy and feeling a little iffy. So why am I not in bed? My head wants to dance, but my body is too tired.

When we got there, they were playing eighties stuff, but weird eighties stuff, like music that came out of post-punk Warsaw or something. It sounded like that, anyhow.  I began to wonder if Elissa and her fetching chapeau and me and my riot grrl eyeliner were there for naught.

But then it got good: New Order, Bowie, Depeche Mode. You know, the good stuff. I went dancing. I love dancing. It is a fact.

I also got tired. Damn you, thirty-six-year-old body! How can you not dance the night away after a full day?

So CSI is on the television, and the cat is snoring beside me, dreaming his little cat dreams.

In my dreams, I will dance til dawn.

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