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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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here.

Yes, I moved.

Yes, I hitched up my lady pantaloons and made the decision to start over with new people, new new places, and new things.

Yes, I wept when leaving my mother, my brothers, and my sister.

Yes, I continued to weep on and off days after arriving in the Dallas area (specifically Carrollton) and still nurse a weepy homesickness that consumes here and there, especially when I’m driving. (Why do we weep when we drive? Or is it just me?)

Yes, I realized that this was a pretty significant step to take in my life and I have to say: I truly underestimated the emotional upheaval that was poised to come.

Yes, it’s lovely here.

Yes, I’ve reconnected with/met a few friends who’ve helped to assuage my aching for home and the familiar.

Yes, I’ve gotten lost on these long, winding roads and have become besties with my GPS.

Yes, I’ve slowly created a routine that I’m getting used to. quotelion

Yes, some roads have already become so familiar that I turn off the GPS when driving, and I realize that my mobile phone’s data plan thanks me for this.

Yes, it’s really hot here. For real. Like really.

Yes, I want to go home. But right now, I won’t.

Yes, the quote to the right explains how I largely feel about staying here.

Yes, I’ve wanted to blog since I got here, but I needed time to wipe these tears. And a wet laptop keyboard wouldn’t have helped anyone.

Yes, I FaceTime my people whenever I can. And I worry about them. And I think of them constantly. And I’m back in kindergarten.

And yes, despite that ache mentioned above, and the homesickness, I’m happy, excited, and curious about the future.

It’s nice to be with you again, dear reader. If you’ve ever made a move, please tell me about how you dealt with it in the comments, won’t you?

Give Me the Panic Attack with a Side of Nervous Breakdown. And a Diet Coke.

If you’d like to order that particular meal/psychotic break, attempt to clean up Chernobyl your room and simultaneously pack up your life for a move across several states. I started this week. Let’s just say that my mother and sister had to repeatedly tell me to calm down. Like stop from taking a swan dive from your bedroom window level of calm down. stress1It’s overwhelming. 11 years in that room, with an abundance of things to rifle through and pack up and/or trash. Le sigh. If you’re peeking through your trusty psychology manual to determine the emotional subtext behind my mania and stress, I’ll save you the trouble: I simply detest packing. I detest moving things from one place to the other. It makes me nauseous. I’m serious. Don’t ask me where that came from. Likely the same place that drives me to rip off my jewelry. We’re all weirdos.

Anyway, in TSP’s continuing effort to always find the silver lining peeking mischievously behind all those clouds, I’ve considered the few pluses that came from this initial phase of moving/packing. Here they are:

  1. Finding bookworm treasures. To my everlasting glee and giddiness, I found my thought-to-be-lost collection of Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Can I tell you how I delved into these witty, smart, exciting tales of the unfortunate Baudelaire siblings when they were first released? I freely read books meant for the youngsters, by the way, because I love a good story and because they’re almost always well-written. (We’ll talk about my soon-to-be foray into children’s books and YA fiction soon.) Anyway, I thought the original six books were lost forever. And then I found them on Wednesday. So here’s to more book-related treasures I will undoubtedly find as I continue with this breakdown of my room. All to build my bookshelf in TX.
  2. Family Rocks. Your Square Peg has a very patient mother and sister. I already knew this, but it was pretty evident on Wednesday evening. My sister was the eternal cheerleader. (You’re doing great! Look at what you accomplished!) My pragmatic and hilarious mother ordered me to stop freaking out, eat some food, and go to bed. In the end, as I finally burrowed myself under my covers, I could only be thankful. Here’s to people who love you and will never be released from their promises to help you, no matter how hard they try. *insert maniacal laughter here*
  3.  Feeling Determined. I have too many things. I’ve acquired too, too many things. Some goals for my move/new apartment include making sure that I have just what I need and no more than that. Here’s to re-reading this blog in a few months when I have a desire to purchase something I certainly don’t need.
  4. Feeling Charitable. A lot of things I have are being donated to various charities that can benefit from clothes, shoes, and other items. I already have two contractor bags teeming with items for donation. Here’s to doing something good for someone else, even while I dramatically slide down a wall as I drownwallslide in tears.

That’s all for now. Told you it was just a few pluses. Anyway, I’ll keep you apprised of the cleaning/packing journey as I go. Pray for me, y’all.

Which one of you likes to pack? And why would you enjoy such a thing? Let’s talk about it in the comments while I peek in my psychology manual…

just beautiful.

My grandmother was hearing-impaired. I have memories of standing in the corner, breathless and amazed, as I watched she and my mother sign to one another. This brief video touched me because it took me to that memory. It also spoke to the simple beauty and emotion of  a hearing-impaired individual going through his day, doing ordinary things, and having the people around him communicating with him. What if that happened every single day, all the time?

Really, really beautiful.

The Wedding and the Web: The End

*

It was a lovely wedding. There was an orchestra and ice swans and roses flown in from Marseilles. My sister Charlotte was rhapsody in white; my other sisters and I wore lovely gowns in various shades of blue. Even Irene Vine, as she cried in the front row, allowed Danny to pat her hand and comfort her. The webs were all around us: between family, husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters.

Notably, a curious new web seemed to be forming. Its long, shiny string drifted from the front of ballroom, where I stood, over into the audience where Andy Flood sat in the fourth row. He openly watched me during the ceremony, a fact that intrigued and delighted me more than the silver flask peeking out from the top of Carmen’s dress.

At the end of the ceremony, Andy stopped upon reaching me in the receiving line and handed me, not a red rose from Marseilles, but a yellow daffodil. “Your favorite, remember? From the flower shop on Baker Street,” he whispered in my ear. “May I have the first dance at the reception?”

“Yes,” I whispered back, after which I watched him move through the crowd until he exited the lobby.

I gazed at the flower. How long ago had I mentioned that I adored the yellow daffodils at the flower shop on Baker Street? That I bought myself a bouquet once a month? It had to be ages ago. But it didn’t matter. He was listening. He had always been listening.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 6

*

“Nervous about tomorrow?” Andy Flood asked as he walked into the break room that morning.

I stood by the counter, stirring my coffee and deliberating over my resolution from a few nights ago. “Actually, no. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“Mostly because of what Carmen may do.”

I watched him laugh. Andy Flood laughed at everything I said. He conversed with me every morning, every afternoon. He was kind and flexible, especially about the general craziness of this wedding time for me, all the time, really. He respected my dedication to my family, as he said, but seemed to be aware of the necessity of setting a few boundaries without communicating this in an outright, intrusive manner. Andy Flood was a terrific guy. I hoped whomever he had this crush on would be fortunate enough to find that out.

“So, Catherine, I’m pretty curious about this royal wedding. Can I crash?”

“Absolutely. Just be prepared to wear a server’s uniform. My mother will be eyeing that guest list like a hawk.”

“Hmm. Well, how about I just come? As your date?” He approached the counter and poured a cup of coffee.

I blinked a few hundred times. “My date?”

Andy nodded, regarding me, his demeanor unreadable. I waited for a punch line that never came. “But,” I croaked, “why?”

“Why not?”

My mind, slightly scrambled, searched for a response. “I’m—I mean—what do you—?”

“Black tie, right?”

I nodded slowly.

“I’ll be there. Email me the address.” With that, he smiled at me and left the break room.

Taken aback, I rushed to the ladies room and called Carmen.

“And Hot Lips Marta Weeks told you he has a crush on someone in the office?” she asked me a few minutes later.

“Yes, but—” It couldn’t be. Could it?

“Wake up, Catherine Vine,” Carmen said, as if reading my mind. “It’s you. You’re the crush.”

“But, why?” I asked for the second time that day.

“Why not, silly? Look, we’ve been conditioned to accept the opposite for far too long, but here it is: you matter, too. To this family, to Andy Flood. You matter. We all do. Deep down, even Bob and Irene Vine know and believe that. That’s the plain truth. All right, call me later; I’m trying to sew a flask into this gown.” With that, she ended the call.

Why not? I asked myself for the remainder of the day.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 5

*

At the co-ed bridal shower a few evenings later, I watched Sanford and Charlotte twirl around on the dance floor. Our parents had rented a much smaller ballroom in a smaller hotel for the event, but it was no less swanky, as it was a black-tie affair. Caroline, Danny, Carmen, and I sat at a table. We were surprised that Danny had agreed to come, but were nonetheless happy he was there.

“You know what?” Carmen began, accepting her fifth glass of champagne from the server. “That chauvinist pig really does love her. Look at them.”

I already was. Sanford whispered in her ear; he intermittently dipped her, to her delight; he made her laugh. There were times, too, unbeknownst to Charlotte, that Sanford simply gazed at his wife-to-be, stupefied and proud all at the same time. I swallowed thickly. My sister was not solely our parents’ miracle, but his, as well.

Caroline glanced pitifully at me, as did Danny. My heart sank. Did I truly believe that my sister hadn’t mentioned my feelings for Sanford to her husband?

“When she was 7, I think, she told me that she was a princess, but she couldn’t marry a prince because she was—she was sick all the time,” Carmen continued, slowly swirling her champagne around in the glass and gazing at the bubbles. “Remember how she was in and out of the hospital for all the bronchial stuff? But, I told her, ‘you can marry a prince, Charlotte. Your prince will love you and take care of you.’” With tears now glistening in her eyes, Carmen downed the contents of the glass and hailed a server for another. Caroline vigorously shook her head at the server and flagged another server down for several cups of coffee.

With Carmen’s words volleying about in my mind, I returned my attention to the couple, really to Charlotte. She was vision in a mermaid-style, black gown, her dark hair cascading down her shoulders in loose ringlets. She no longer dealt with bronchial and respiratory issues, although my mother still forced her to wear a coat during the cool San Diego evenings. At 26, she was a healthy, vibrant woman. Coddling her was no longer necessary, but I knew it wouldn’t stop, certainly not from Bob and Irene Vine. To them, Charlotte Mary Vine was still that baby in the NICU, struggling to breathe. But I had to put a stop to certain things; to babying her, to my parents’ requests that I baby her, to my feelings for her almost-husband. Let the princess alone, I told myself. Leave her to her prince, and do it quickly.

“Cath, would you like to dance?” Danny asked.

Slightly thankful for the interruption to my thoughts, I nodded and left Caroline to mind a belligerent-because-of-coffee Carmen. We walked out onto the dance floor and began to sway to a light jazz number.

“Easier said than done,” Danny said, “but I’m sure you know that you need to get over him.”

“I know. I’m resolved to do just that.”

“Good. But how?”

“Loyalty to my sister and just moving on with my life. It won’t happen overnight, but I’m confident,” I said firmly.

Danny nodded. “I believe you. What made you fall for him in the first place?”

“We were teenagers. But he seemed to care about what I thought about things, my opinions. Something about that stayed with me and didn’t want to let go.” I pondered it over some more. “He listened to me. No one seemed to be listening to me.”

“Someone will, Cath. I know that, we all know that. You’re worth listening to.”

I smiled at my brother-in-law. One day, my parents would understand that their eldest had indeed married up.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 4

            *

Charlotte eventually settled on a venue for the wedding—the grand ballroom of the Hotel del Coronado. Gradually, painstakingly, the colors were picked, the dress was finally chosen, and the bridal party wined, dined, and fêted the bride-to-be. Specifically, this bridal party consisted of the three of us: one matron of honor and two maids. Carmen was the last to accept Charlotte’s request to stand alongside her on her big day, but not without a promise to Caroline and me that she would arrive intoxicated to the wedding and any other wedding-related events. (We believed her.)

“So do you have to wear crowns for the royal wedding?” Andy Flood asked me that morning, after I filled him in on the final stages of the wedding planning. As usual, he stood before my desk.

“Not the ladies-in-waiting. Just the princess gets the crown.”

“Ah. I’m sure you’ll be relieved when it’s all over.”

“Incredibly relieved. I plan on taking a few days off, actually—until I’m tasked with being the wet nurse for their first child.”

Andy laughed. “Let’s hope you never get that phone call.”

Marta Weeks, another assistant, then rounded the corner and approached us. “Andy, you’re being summoned by Ed.”

He waved goodbye to us before heading down the hallway. Marta openly watched him walk away. It was no secret that she had a thing for Andy, as did most of the female population at Hardy and Malloy. “That Andy Flood,” she murmured. “It’s a shame.”

“What is?”

“The fact that he’s not the least bit interested in me, despite my efforts to change that. A gal gets tired of parading herself around, believe me.”

I raised my eyebrows and left that particular statement alone. Marta’s penchant for short and tight-fitted clothing was a point of discussion around the office.

“Rumor is he has a crush on someone in the office, though,” she continued.

“Really? Who?” I knew quite a bit about Andy and his background, but a crush had never come up in conversation. But then why would he reveal that kind of information to me? We tended to discuss general topics like work, family, and things of that nature.

Marta shrugged. “It’s not me, that’s for sure.”

“Well, it’s probably another lawyer. Rachel Neal seems popular.”

“It’s definitely not Rachel Neal. She’s engaged to an aide in the mayor’s office. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Like I said, it’s not yours truly, so I really don’t care.” She winked at me before walking away. For a moment, I reflected on how difficult it was to actually like Marta Weeks.

Who did Andy Flood have a crush on?

The Wedding and the Web: Part 3

*

When I wasn’t sitting by Charlotte’s side during the wedding preparations, I was a litigation assistant for a law firm in the city. The world of lawsuits and trials was a significant diversion from frilly dresses and color swatches, and far more interesting. Nevertheless, my busy job didn’t necessarily mean I could escape from my family.

“Sweetheart,” my mother began when I answered the call on my desk phone that morning, “there’s a potential change in venue. Your sister heard about a lovely banquet hall on Catalina Island. You know how special Catalina is to her.” The island was where Charlotte and Sanford had their first date.

I sighed inwardly. “When is she planning to take a look at it?”

“This afternoon.”

Oh, God. “Mom, I can’t go. I need to be in court this afternoon. There’s a case, and—”

“Catherine.” Her voice had dipped into that lower register reserved for mothers ready to remind older sisters about miracle babies and providing them all the support they needed. I knew it well. “Your sister needs you.”

“Maybe Carmen can go. I know she’ll be free this after—”

“Carmen cannot possibly go. You know that.”

True, it was a silly suggestion. Carmen tended to get physically and verbally combative with Charlotte. Despite being largely incensed with our parents about, well, everything, this didn’t preclude her from taking it out on the baby. “Ok,” I replied. “I can check with Caroline, then.”

Mom breathed into my ear.

Oh, God.

“Catherine, it is important that you go. You know how easily turned around your sister gets, even with that GPS thing. She probably won’t find the harbor. And Sanford is in Sacramento today, so he’s unavailable. Can’t these lawyers understand that your little sister needs you?”

It was the typical guilt-trip triumvirate: Charlotte being alone, her well-being, and how those two things superseded everything. I held my breath and closed my eyes, hoping the phone would somehow disconnect. A slight tapping on my desk caused them to open. Andy Flood, one of the attorneys I supported, stood before my desk. “It’s ok; you can go,” he said softly.

“Are you sure?” I whispered, placing my hand over the phone’s speaker.

He nodded.

“Mom,” I said, “I’ll meet her.” I could practically hear my mother’s lips widening in a smile.

“Wonderful. Pick her up around 1pm, sweetie. ‘Bye.”

“Thank you,” I said to Andy after hanging up the phone. Having supported him for almost three years now, he had become well-versed in my family’s antics.

“I couldn’t help but overhear. Duties for the royal wedding, I presume,” he replied.

I laughed. “Exactly. But is it really ok? I’ve finalized most of the briefs, but there are few more left to finish.”

Andy waved his hand. “It’s 10:15. If you can finish the rest, Marta can take over and come to court with us. No worries.”

I thanked him again and got to work. I dreaded going to Catalina, but in the meantime, anything to take my mind off the island was welcome.

                                                                                          *

After Catalina and touring the banquet room (“it’s a possibility,” Charlotte had decided), I returned to the office a bit after 6 that evening. All in all, the excursion had taken a whopping five hours; my mother and sister failed to comprehend things like the hour it took just to get from the city to the harbor, where a boat took travelers to the island and back.

“Cath?”

I turned around, having walked past Andy’s office toward my desk without realizing he was inside. I approached his office.

“You didn’t have to come back,” he said.

“It’s fine. I have a ton of things to do.”

Andy smiled. “Be honest with me, Cath, really. Do you ever feel like saying no to your family?”

“All the time.”

“But you won’t. Or can’t?”

“Hey, are you a lawyer or a therapist?” I joked.

He chuckled. “I just kind of marvel sometimes, at your dedication to them.”

“You and me both.”

“Believe me, I love my family, too. But your patience is extraordinary. I respect that.”

“Thank you.” Later, the ideas that Andy “marveled” at my dedication and respected me struck me. I wasn’t sure why.

                                                                                            *

By and large, Caroline’s husband, Danny, didn’t interact with our parents. Their tense relationship started when our parents disagreed with their oldest daughter marrying an auto mechanic. It didn’t matter that, at the time, Danny already owned two successful shops. They still objected. In the end, only my father chose to attend their wedding in order to walk his weeping daughter down the aisle. Five years later and a few weeks ago, learning about the price tag of Charlotte’s wedding and their eager support of her marriage was all it took for Danny; Caroline and I had been forced to restrain him from getting into a car and driving to our parents’ home for a confrontation. (Carmen had cheered on his plans.)

The next morning, I sat adjacent to Danny in their kitchen as he sipped a cup of coffee and peered at me over the lid. “I heard you drove to Catalina yesterday,” he said.

I understood Caroline telling her husband everything, but I questioned the wisdom of informing Danny about these types of things, being that he was usually minutes away from burning down my parents’ house. And, along with everything else, my adventures with Charlotte, as dictated by my parents, didn’t rank high on his list of favorite things. I merely nodded in reply.

“What was that, like a six-hour drive?” he asked.

“About five hours,” I said, not meeting his eyes.

“And is she booking the venue for sure?”

“Danny…”

“Don’t worry about it, Cath. After breakfast, I’ll check out your car. I’m sure you’ve been logging more than a few miles on it lately.”

“Thanks, Danny.” I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Caroline entered the kitchen then, armed with a basket of oranges, strawberries, and other assorted fruits from their garden. “Fruit salad, anyone?” she asked, smiling at us. She playfully ruffled Danny’s hair.

He gazed up at her, beaming. Parental objections or not, not one of us doubted their love and affection for each other. It was another web, wasn’t it? I thought. Tested and challenged, but no less solid.

The person you want this kind of love with loves your little sister, a voice then reminded me.

Things need to change, Catherine.

Now.

But how?

The Wedding and the Web: Part 2

Charlotte may have been the fragile baby, but I was the one with the problem. The short of it, akin to a plot from a frothy, clichéd soap opera: we had all grown up together, the Vine sisters and Sanford; I fell in love with Sanford somewhere along the way; he fell for Charlotte. And why wouldn’t he? She was smart, beautiful, trilingual. (There was a year of studying abroad in Portugal, too.) I was fine with it, except for the days, hours, and minutes when my heart seemed poised to take its final beat from the stress of it all. This was what Carmen had alluded to in her apartment those few days ago. Although my parents knew nothing about my feelings for Sanford, it wouldn’t matter, anyway, who I had feelings for—I was merely the nurse whose sole responsibility was to take care of her baby sister. That certainly ruled out expensive weddings for me. (“You’re their spinster martyr,” Carmen liked to say.) All that said, unlike a frothy, clichéd soap opera, there would be no devious plot to steal the man my sister loved. I had no plans to ruin my sister’s life. Until I woke up one morning with my heart and emotions back to normal, I had no choice but to wait, suffer, and ensure that my sister wasn’t overwhelmed by all the wedding planning. A spinster martyr, indeed.

*

“How’s life, my Catherine?” my father asked me that evening.

“Good.” There was no need to provide further details. It was my father’s requisite, surface attempt at conversation, and my “good” would suffice for him. My parents weren’t bad people, however. Having been molded by so much tragedy, our existing family dynamic was the result. The three years between my birth and Charlotte’s had been fraught with two heartbreaking miscarriages. Charlotte was their miracle pregnancy when they had been told that a baby would likely not come; hers was the dangerous journey toward birth, as my mother was ordered to bed as soon as they learned she was pregnant; and when Charlotte finally arrived, she came 7 months premature. Some time ago, I began to recognize that a type of cocoon, a web, formed around parents and children with that kind of history. It was the kind of structure that no other child could penetrate. I didn’t doubt their love for the three of us, but the web around our parents and Charlotte was altogether different and indestructible.

Dad and I continued to wash the dishes—I soaped and rinsed, he dried—in silence. We had been invited to dinner that evening; Carmen had declined the offer, while Caroline had promptly disappeared once the wedding talk commenced. Behind us at the kitchen table, my mother and Charlotte peered through bridal magazines and intermittently punctured the quiet atmosphere with excited squeals over a dress or a decoration. When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, I nearly dropped the plate I was washing. Undeniably, it was Sanford.

“Sorry I missed dinner, love,” I heard him tell Charlotte in the foyer, after she had raced to open the front door. “It was bedlam at the office.” His apology was obviously accepted, as audible sounds of affection reached my ears in the kitchen. My chest burned.

“Sanford, we saved you dinner. Get in here,” my mother called playfully.

As if she had come out of thin air, Caroline appeared in the kitchen. My protector, I thought. She was instantly by my side at the sink, gently pushing our father out of the way and commanding that he go and greet his almost son-in-law.

“It’s 1 and 3. Ladies, how are you?” Sanford asked behind us. “1” and “3” were his longstanding nicknames for us, based on our pecking order as siblings. However, following a particular tense conversation between him and Carmen about the chauvinistic implications of a woman being identified by a number, Carmen was simply Carmen.

Caroline squeezed my hand beneath the warm, soapy water. “We’re fine,” she replied, quickly turning around to smile at Sanford.

I turned and waved at him before returning my now blurry gaze back to the sink.

“Charlotte, show Sanford some of our ideas for the big day. No photos of the dresses we’re considering, of course,” my mother said.

“Let the man eat first, Irene,” my father said mock gruffly.

Charlotte retrieved the pan of lasagna from the oven and began to prepare Sanford’s plate. Peripherally, I watched her hum and smile to herself. My heart skipped more than a few beats. Caroline squeezed my hand again. I looked up at her and silently communicated what she already knew: I needed to get out of there. Quickly, we finished the remainder of the dishes.

“Mom, Dad, lovebirds,” Caroline said when we were done, “we’re going to head out.” An excuse for our abrupt departure wasn’t necessary; my parents were happily preoccupied with the lovebirds. They would not protest. We said our goodbyes. Once outside, I crouched down on the driveway and took in long, deep breaths of the cool evening air. Caroline rubbed my back wordlessly before leaning down next to me. “Things need to change, Catherine,” she whispered in my ear. “Now.”

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