Smells Like Vanilla

“Struck brightly by the winter, when the snow falls thick and silent, I can only hear you breathing.” ~Matt Pond PA

I miss the smell of freshly fallen snow. When we were kids I used to dive into it, just lie there all clean, just waiting to get washed in white. It wasn’t about the snow angels, or about the snowmen, or even about catching snow on my tongue, even though I did all of those things. It was just about the symbiotic relationship. I fed off the snow, and it off me, as I carved out a spot in its purity for my incomplete self.

It didn’t matter that my coats were often ratty and full of holes. It made no difference that on my block the snow was mostly black instead of white, with car exhausts wreaking havoc almost before it had even landed. I would always find a patch on the postage stamp-sized front lawn and turn it into my utopia. I would lie there with my face turned sideways, my lips nearly blue, smelling that vanilla goodness. I closed my eyes and pretended it was heaven.

I closed my eyes and pretended it was heaven.

Sam

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2018, In Memoriam

I imagine this is how the chaps and dames felt as the clock motored down to close out 1918, totally unsure of what awaited in 1919, but hopeful that it would be better than what they were leaving behind. As December bled into January of a new year, I imagine them dancing their dances, and drinking their last tastes of liquor before Prohibition would officially kick in during the coming year.

But it’s 100 years later, and what has changed? We are still watching the clock, albeit the small ones on our phones instead of Big Ben. We are still hopeful that next year will be better than this one we will be leaving behind. As another year in a “new” millennium gives way to the next, it’s easy to be complacent, to think that it’s just another day. But how many days are promised to us?

Time moves on, and as 2018 comes to a close, I’m reminded of it more than a little bit. I’m reminded of the precious nature of that time, and why we should savor it. So, as tradition holds, I’m looking back on the time I spent this year. Saying goodbye to the year that was.

  1. In 2018, I started my dream job. I had to pinch myself as the clock turned on the new year because the reality of it all was just so enormous. Not just for me, but for my family as well.
  2. In 2018, I wrote a novel, from start to finish. I am deep into the process of editing it, but just finishing the book was a monumental achievement, one that I can’t just dismiss as “something I do” anymore.
  3. In 2018, I traveled to Philadelphia thrice. It’s always wonderful to go back to the city of my birth, even though I haven’t lived there in over 20 years at this point. Seeing my mother, my sister, and my nephew is soothing to my soul.
  4. In 2018, I got to see my nephew graduate from college. It was a long, hard journey, but just watching him walk down that aisle and receive his diploma was a beautiful sight.
  5. In 2018, I joined a flash fiction group. I’ve been a writer for a long time, and I’ve been in several writer groups over the years, but they were all short-lived. This one seems more permanent, and I enjoy it very much.
  6. In 2018, I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary. If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary this year I would have called you bonkers, but it all seems so natural at this point.
  7. In 2018, I bought a new vehicle. After having the Santa Fe for nearly 10 years, it was time.
  8. In 2018, I revived a friendship. You know how it feels when someone disappears from your life? I had finally made my peace with it, but my friend returned from out of nowhere and I am hopeful we can regain what we had as we roll into the new year.
  9. In 2018, I met one of my biggest influences. Lyrics have always been a big part of my life. I’ve always felt close to those who can write their words down and set them to melody, especially when I personally feel those words. Meeting Marc Cohn was one of the highlights of my life so far.
  10. In 2018, I attended three concerts. Going to see Live (with the Counting Crows), the Gin Blossoms, and Marc Cohn was a lovely trifecta of shows that crossed a few things off my shallow pail list (I have no buckets).
  11. In 2018, I celebrated the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. This was one thing I had always hoped and wished for, but as a lifelong Eagles fan I could never truly envision it… until it happened. Foles forever.

I will honestly miss 2018, but I’m so excited for what’s in store in 2019. It’s always fascinating to me when years end, because they’re never really ending. The seeds we’ve sown in 2018 will flower and bloom in 2019, and will create a whole new list of experiences that will carry us along. I look forward to the journey.

Sam

42.

Maybe I’m really 24. Maybe the past 18 years have all been a dream. If I wake up tomorrow and I have no trouble getting out of bed, I’ll know it was all a lie. I’ll know I’ve still got a sizable chunk of my life left to live. I can’t be middle-aged. That’s not a possibility.

Except it is. And I really am 42. “How do you feel?” someone asked me on my Facebook timeline this morning. I miss when it used to be a wall. But that was just me stalling because I honestly don’t know. Am I really 42? Have I really traversed over 4 decades of this thing called life? What do I have to show for it?

Well, I have a wonderful family. Check. My knees may creak more than they ever have before, but I’m not doing too much kneeling anyway, so I’m okay. My children are both into the double digits agewise, which makes too much sense for me to make sense of. When did that happen?

I shaved my head this morning. I needed to take the obligatory birthday selfie, and it turned into a photo shoot. First I had hair, then some hair, then no hair. Click click. But my phone doesn’t make a clicking noise unless I figure out how to make that happen. I realized halfway through that I didn’t care to find out.

What else? I have a job that I love. I’ve had it for a year now, and I still pinch myself every morning before I head in. But I don’t have to work today. Continue reading “42.”

In the Beginning…

“The farmer looks to his field for sustenance, even when it is a lean harvest. Because he is a farmer, and that is all he has.” ~Theodicus

I wrote my first short story when I was in sixth grade, well, the summer after sixth grade, while everybody else was at the YMCA learning how to swim. I spent that summer in my mom’s office, for the most part. These were the days when kids could do that without repercussions from employers. My sister and I would hang out in the back offices, where no one seemed to have worked for a decade, drawing, playing tag, and occasionally getting into other sorts of mischief.

We also took these classes through the university (where my mom worked). These were for kids who were in middle school, to keep up their skills. I absolutely loved most of them, one of which was a creative writing class. Sure, I had written flashes of fiction prior to that summer, but nothing cohesive, nothing that hung together nicely enough to call it a real story. So I was excited to put it all together. I had an inkling that writing would mean more to me and my future, even back then.

That’s when I found out how hard it was to write, to put words together that made some kind of sense in a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first day of class our teacher came in and said, “Write a story.” He told us we had the whole 50 minutes to write on anything we wanted. I spent the first 20 coming up with something I thought might be good enough for him. Continue reading “In the Beginning…”

How I Remember It

My parents left me at EPCOT Center on my birthday.

I know, it seems like a wish come true, but for a newly minted 9-year old who was afraid of his own shadow, it wasn’t quite as cool as all that. The day before we had visited the Magic Kingdom and all the fascination that came along with it. In fact, they had given me the choice of if I wanted to spend my birthday at Disney or EPCOT, and I chose EPCOT because the 26th was closer to Christmas, and I felt that Disney would be lit up better because of the proximity of the holiday (My birthday is the 27th). I was wrong. It was just as lit up on the 27th.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, my dad told me once that I didn’t remember it correctly, that I was sitting on the bench, refusing to go on whatever ride it was with them, so they let me think they were leaving me. But I recall wandering alone, crying, hoping I would see my parents again someday (my sister too, if I’m to be honest). I was also mad at them, though, because it was my birthday, and they were supposed to treat me like the king of everything (“Who died and made you king of anything?”). It seemed inherently wrong to exclude me from any of the fun, to leave me sitting there thinking I was deserted.

My sister told me that I was in a pissy mood from the start, that I wanted everything to revolve around me, and when it all didn’t I pouted and threw a tantrum. I remember no tantrums. Continue reading “How I Remember It”

Not ’95 Anymore

“Our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange.” ~Live

It was the summer of ’95 all over again, when Live was on everyone’s lips, when they sold out amphitheaters and arenas seconds from the tickets being available, when they had the rock world by the throat and weren’t easing off. It was taking the ferry across the river knowing that on the other side would be anthems you could sing in your sleep, and a band that truly connected with its fans in a way I hadn’t seen from many bands in live forums before.

But that was 23 years ago, the summer of ’95. That was a simpler time, before digital took over, before CDs went the way of Betamax, before concerts became passe, before rock bands took a back seat to what passes for hip-hop and rap anymore. Yet, for one night, it was easy to believe we were back there because, for one night, it was Live again, doing what they’ve always done better than most — rocking a live show. I guess they were aptly named.

Of course, during the summer of ’95 I hardly ever had good seats to shows. I saw Live about 20 times that summer, and the closest I got was section H in the Spectrum (think nosebleeds — Michael Jordan looked small from that spot). In amphitheaters like the Mann Music Center and the Camden Center for the Performing Arts I was always on the lawn, fighting my way through the crowds to the barrier that separated us from the roofed in portion of the venue. I screamed my lungs out, but we were too far away, even though we were in the same place, at the same time. Continue reading “Not ’95 Anymore”

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