"It's raining, can you believe it?" my mother asked at about 5:45am this morning, when I had staggered out of my bedroom. Everything was still dark and quiet. The weather meant that my plane was about an hour late getting out of Chattanooga--the worst kind of late, the kind where you're all sitting on the plane, buckled and stowed, and yet the weather has you grounded--so no getting up, no moving around, no getting off and rethinking the whole idea. "Maybe we could just drive there," says the guy in the other row--ha ha, never heard that one before!!! Eventually, they re-routed us over Nashville (who would have known?) and we made it to Memphis, where I had missed my connecting flight to LaGuardia. (None of this part of the story is that interesting or original. I know.) However, there was a flight to JFK that was to depart about 25 minutes after I found myself at gate B1, and the nicest of the nice, "Ms. Anna B.," as her name tag said, was kind enough to put me on it. Hence, I'm on en-route as I write this long rambling post. A miracle!
The woman sitting in the seat next to me on the ground in Chattanooga was quite impatient, making huffing noises and glaring at the flight attendant, as if she had something to do with the rain, or something to do with NOT making it go away. I'm always amazed at these people. Because the pilot--whom you just have to trust, like surgeons or cab drivers or, you know, literary agents--is trying to make the best decisions possible. Because the alternative is, you know, death.
The 4th of July holiday has "become my Christmas," my mother also said. These days, it's the only time our whole family gathers together. With my brother and his family in Orlando, making their own Christmas traditions and rituals, and me having 11 years of being stranded in Birmingham, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Atlanta, Memphis, and even Philadelphia, I try to avoid flying in the snowy months as much as possible. But I like to come down and see everyone, eat bad food that gives everybody strange bowel movements, and watch my dad run in fear from a canon.
The older you get, the stranger your family becomes. Rather, the more you get to know them, and hence, their eccentricities float--dramatically, quietly, hilariously--to the surface. They were weird to being with, most likely. I began thinking a lot about this over the weekend in Tennessee, where the whole American suburbia thing started to make more sense to me--actually, not "make sense" as much as "reveal.". When I say "the whole American suburbia thing" I mean whatever Sam Mendes is always trying to work out in his movies. (See American Beauty or Revolutionary Road, or even, god help you, Away from You, or was it Away We Go, or something.)
Your neighbors grow up and become frail old people. They introduce themselves to you, forgetting that you are the tiny child that they once invited to eat popcorn and watch a movie. They forget that you are the tiny child that was disappointed to find out that the movie was "Around the World in 80 Days," and not something that had been released in the last two weeks--like maybe about Ninja Turtles--let alone his lifetime. It was not as fun as he had hoped, and perhaps as you had hoped, but he remembers it fondly--and I suppose that's the most important thing.
Also, things that happened to you when you were smaller, and that you will never ever forget even if you live to be 200 years old--like the handle bar of your brother's bike jamming up into the side of his mouth and taking off a layer of his gum, followed by your mother rushing out of the house with a bottle of cold water and making him drink and spit, drink and spit, the water rushing red out of his mouth, then pink, then red again and again, screaming--you may learn that your mother, for example, doesn't even remember it happening. "There were so many," she said, meaning injuries, meaning tiny, urgent emergencies.
My nephews are glorious little specimens of humanity. It's good that I do not have children. Children to me are simultaneously the most fascinating subject one could turn his attention to, and the most boring, repetitive robotic weirdos you could meet. Why do they do what they do? I guess, why do any of us? They are lovable little terrors and joyful little bunches of personality.
Miracles do happen! In the Memphis airport, and in your very own family. Okay, miracle may be the wrong word to use--particularly when all "Ms. Anna B" did was her job. But this plane is being battered around quite a bit by the wind outside it--and if you are reading this, then it means that I survived, and made it to my boyfriend's house in Brooklyn, which is pretty miraculous. The nephews, too, are pretty miraculous. If you want proof, here it is: