With the snow comes a blanket of sadness.
It’s been almost 10 years since I last played Canasta.
It was an early Saturday morning, I’m sure. Mom and the boys were most likely still sleeping. Dad had woken me up with the smell of his daily dose of hazelnut coffee. Sleepy-eyed, yawning and wrapped up in a blanket, I meandered into the kitchen to join him. Sitting at the kitchen table of our cottage, he was already deep into a game of solitaire. Happy to have some company, he shuffled the cards back up and pulled out the Canasta Deck.
“Should we play?” he asked quietly.
“Sure” sixteen-year-old me replied as I snuggled into the chair across from him.
He dealt us each 11 cards and that was it. We probably played the game until the rest of our family woke up. My mom probably made bacon and eggs and toast. After breakfast, we probably each retreated back to our own corners of the house to read books from the library. A family of quiet, sensitive introverts finding peace in Northern Michigan.
Ten years later, I found my dad’s old deck. The cards are worn, but somehow none have been lost. The discard tray still reminds me of an ashtray and they still smell exactly like the cottage; slightly musty as if someone forgot how to open the window. My boyfriend had never heard of this version of Canasta. (Which I must say is exponentially better than the middle school version most people know). This version of Canasta involves planning and patience and math, which is probably why I love it so much.
But then it hit me that I had completely forgotten the game’s complexity. It had taken me years of watching my brothers, aunts, and father play before I fully understood the flow. I was out of practice and my memory was failing me. After the initial shock of realizing how much time had passed wore off, I googled the instructions.
And I remembered each step with vivid detail. I remember asking questions when it didn’t make sense. I remember my father’s patience in explaining each part to me. I remember begging my brothers to play so we could have teams of two. I remember my mom telling us to put it away because it was almost time for dinner and we needed to set the table.
I remember my family at its best.
My dad may no longer be here to patiently answer my questions, but I feel blessed to have to opportunity to continue his tradition. To patiently teach my own family not only how to play the game, but how to come together and be our family at its best.
Corn on the cob, husked by my not-yet-husband as I tend to the tomatoes.
Accidental vegetarians, farmers.
Fresh cut watermelon made the air taste sweet.
Followed by the smell of blueberry peach muffins, the essence of summer.
Hand-folded batter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and love.
Windows open, crickets singing over your voice,
“Mmm those muffins are smelling real good, Babe.”
Tonight, I will sleep with a full belly, full heart.
Last night I dreamt of driving in the snow.
Icy roads, poor visibility, hazardous conditions.
Yet the city was silent.
The snow fell so softly its as if someone pressed pause
And I was the only one who couldn’t stop moving.
Have you ever watched a car crash in slow motion?
It’s breath taking.
We have hereditary green thumbs on my father’s side of the family.
My grandmother bloomed roses straight from her finger tips.
My father nurtured his vegetables with gloved hands and a wooden stool.
Even my mother’s side of the family knew something of agriculture.
Aunt Terri was the color of leather from her days in the sun.
My grandfather’s onions sprung up every year, even after he was gone.
My horticulturist brothers have seemed to carry on the tradition.
Succulents, Tomatoes, Apple Trees, and Herbs.
But not my mother.
No, my mother has a black thumb and a forgetful mind.
She was much better at growing children.
And as I try to grow these greens as well,
I feel like I’m trying to prove that I belong in this family.
My hands covered in dirt from the Earth where I buried another failure.
It’s as if I don’t deserve even hose water to wash clean.
So I keep my hands dirty to disguise these black thumbs of mine.
And I think,
Maybe I would be better off growing children.
After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media has slowly been demolishing real life social skills while simultaneously making extroversion a competitive sport.
Many introverts suffer from social phobia, or what I like to call – human nature.
Social Phobia (Or Social Anxiety Disorder): the fear of judgement. The fear of making a mistake, being embarrassed, or feeling criticized by others.
Everyone should take peak at this article about one woman’s week long challenge to quit social media entirely. I myself have attempted to do this as well. I completely quit Facebook almost 2 years ago. While I would love to say it was to reconnect with the real world, it was more to run away, to avoid my social phobias.
Living my life on Facebook (and Instagram, too – though I haven’t been able to give up those perfect little squares yet) only aggravated these fears in me. I was constantly comparing my
life profile to those around me and I would find myself embarrassed of things I had no control over. I was embarrassed of the fact that I never left this town while so many of my peers were posting pictures and videos of their adventures abroad and beyond. I was ashamed by the lack of passion I felt. I did not have an exciting career or desirable location. Why? Well, partly because I still have no idea what the fuck I want to do with my life, but also because I have family here that needs me. So I would get discouraged, feel inadequate, and shut down.
My fear of entering a new social situation prevented me from putting myself in situations where I would make new friends or networking connections. I had a picture of what my life was supposed to look like and what I saw on the screen in front of me didn’t even come close. The problem was that I felt lost how to make it a reality.
So I found it was so much easier to not exist – on Facebook at least. I felt more peaceful not having to count the likes or follow the threads or admit that my life was not what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t so much about being popular as it was about being interesting. It was about being someone that people looked at and thought, “Wow, that’s awesome! She’s really going places.” Because the truth is that I’m not going places. I am staying here where I feel safe. And although I would love to be in the mountains, or be able to drive to the beach, or experience big city pride – I would quite honestly rather stay home. I would rather be snuggled with my love, hiding from the world. I am fulfilled by the love that I feel in real life, but only when I stop paying attention to what I may or may not be missing, while the “love” from social media always made me feel desperate for more.
The first rule is to be fearless.
Which is why she was the queen.
Why I was never very good.
I had too much caution, you see,
and I’m afraid she had none.
The next rule is to always look up
and sometimes out.
Look out to soak in this view of the places you already know.
But somehow you are so high that this town finally feels foreign.
So you keep looking up
trying to find the next branch.
The last rule is to be free.
For these trees can feel your sorrow.
But they are sturdy beneath your bare feet.
I was falling in love with the wrinkles on your face.
Jealous of the laughs they have heard and the smiles they have felt.
I was jealous of the years that they knew.
How crazy – that I knew how much I loved you because of the wrinkles on your face!
They told your story and it was beautiful.
Rereading the words I had written, I whisper them into my coffee cup.
The recap is soft, intimate.
Like hearing someone else’s secret that’s been folded up in a note and forgotten in a box on the highest shelf of your closet.
I remember the pain, but somehow it doesn’t feel like my own.
I pause for a moment, wondering if this is even my story to tell.