I’ve been thinking about defining moments lately. About how some of them are huge and how you know, as they are happening, that this is something that will change you forever. But then there are others that are so small they ought to be inconsequential but somehow, in the grand scheme of things, they grow larger and become touch points in your life that you are unable to forget. Silly things, really, mundane even, that stay with you and retain an almost freakish clarity. Or moments that just seem typical or average as they happen only to grow out of proportion in hindsight so much so that you forget that they were ever small moments at all. And these ridiculous small moments weave together and change you just as much as the grander moments of heartbreak or exultation. You become you are through these tiny ambushes.
I’ve mentioned this before but it still shocks me that an egg sandwich has had they power to change my life as much as it did. Who would have thought on that cold Christmas day as we stopped at one of the few cafes open in Barcelona after a fruitless attempt to visit the Gaudi museum that I would eat a bocadillo (huevo y jamon, por favor) that would be responsible for 4 months of solid illness followed by over 5 years (and counting) of arthritis based pain. Just one stupid sandwich, and it changed the way I think about my body and my health and my functionality as a human, forever. One sandwich that forced me into a crash course on learning how to navigate the NHS (cry if you have too, it makes people uncomfortable and sometimes gets you an earlier appointment). Just a stupid everyday sandwich that sent bacteria into my joints and gave me a new appreciation for the days when everything works right and an equal frustration for the days when my lower back and knees feel like they’re conspiring against me.
And then there was that blind date I went on in May of 1999. I only agreed to it to get my friend Rachel off my back. I didn’t want to date anyone. I was moving to Las Vegas soon, I had plans and things to do, what’d I need some weird Straight Edge character hanging around for? And then that weird Straight Edge character showed up at my door in Hamtramck, telling me how he;d just gotten his hair cut that afternoon and it looked stupid so please don’t judge me on this. And how he’d just ended a 3 year relationship 3 months earlier and he was excited about going on a real date, and I was like, who is this spaz and doesn’t he know you’re not supposed to bring up past relationships until at least the 3rd date? But now I know that spaz is one of the best people I’ve ever met and that I would be lost without him.
And there was a bike ride while listening to Beck’s Odelay on my Walkman down a summery street in Port Huron that made me realize I was going to get through the year ahead and make something better out of it, all because of the way the sun dappled the street and the way the music in my ears made me feel.
And the feeling of sweat on my skin in Oklahoma on the drive back home from Las Vegas that gave me hope again after six long months in the desert where I actually started to miss humidity. The lesson there: I need to stay in green places. Places with rivers and lakes and ponds and deciduous trees. A small moment in the midst of a big one, a weird lonely drive cross-country with my cats, listening to a mix tape from a friend in Minnesota as I made my way west to east from the desert, over Hoover Dam, through more desert and mountains and plains, and back into the surprising lushness of Michigan.
And who knew that my first grade teacher’s decision to have us write a story about every colour of the rainbow would give me this life long love of words and making things up? I still remember laying in the loft part of this play structure in the room thinking about what I would do for violet. An interplanetary story involving a hot air balloon and a new unheard of world where everything was purple.
There are more, of course, countless mix tapes and letters, drawings scrawled in the back booth at Denny’s, marshmallows purchased for a view of the cute bag boy, concerts attended, meals eaten, buses taken, boys crushed on, beers drunk, etc. Too many to count, really. Which is funny, because so often when compared to the big moments (weddings, cross-country drives, international moves, deaths, etc) they can seem insignificant but really they probably carry most of the weight in making me who I am now (overly wordy music fan who won’t eat eggs in foreign countries).
And there’s no real point to this except that it’s what I’m thinking of lately as I continue to deal with the rather more obvious events of the last year. Maybe it’s just a way to remind myself that the death of my father will not define me forever. Yes, it is important and it is defining, but it is not everything and there was so much more I got from him in those small moments (A conversation while driving to our old house to pick up a last truck load of stuff about divorce, and MFAs in Creative writing, and love. The time he tried to convince me that Cornish Game Hens are so small because they are herded cross-country by helicopters. More than I am able to write about at the moment without crying) and they mean just as much as the sad and frustrating end. Maybe, hopefully, more in the long run.