TuckerSelfPortrait Fish Have Dreams Too Girl With Cat Budda

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY UN-FAVORITE THINGS

(There's one born every minute...)
Jumbo Hotdog

Hyperbole, statements of intended exaggeration, was once relegated to the circus and carnival midways: “See The Greatest show on Earth! Gasp at the Boy Donkey! Marvel at the Human Frogs! Be amazed by the Mermaid! Don’t miss the Monkey Woman!”

What a great way to get the family out for a little entertainment. I mean who wouldn’t want to check out “The dangerous Alligator Man” and finally confirm that a “Never ending ice cream eater” really does exist?

After a few carnivals, midway games and three ring circus fun, you might get that a “little” exaggeration went a long way, but half the adventure was checking it all out and getting lost in the fantasy.

Nowadays, hyperbole is overrated, unimaginative and just plain boring. Do any of us over the age of sixteen really believe the “This is a special message meant just for you” mailings sent by one of our modern-day PT Barnum’s? (Please forgive the comparison, Mr. Barnum).

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WHAT DO YOU DO WITH ALL THE OLD STUFF?

FRIENDS
littlemer

Thinking about my 60th birthday this year, I wondered how I'd celebrate the momentous occasion. I knew I didn’t want the kind of party I threw when I turned 50.

For that affair a caterer and band were hired. I displayed my life on large canvases, so guests could view telegram congratulations to my parents, bottle feeding techniques of the fifties and pictures highlighting all the years leading up to my fiftieth birthday. I invited dozens of friends to a hip club. On stage, I belted out “Simply the Best” when jazz singer Yvonne Washington handed me a mic for our duet.

But something felt different about this birthday. I wasn’t interested in any hoopla as I started my sixth decade on this planet – just a desire to share the day with close friends and family.

So my attention turned to just who those friends and family might be. And wondering just how many of them would actually show up.

It turned out to be a short list.

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WHAT DO YOU DO WITH ALL THE OLD STUFF?

HUSBANDS
Majestic Metro EXT Sign

Forced to go through boxes and boxes of stuff in order to move into a small apartment, forced me to go down memory lane.

The move was in anticipation of tearing down my 89-year-old home to make way for a new one that I hoped to build and move back into. A process that of this writing is closing in on TWO YEARS.

The boxes contained hundreds of photographs, mementos and videos of relationships I forged, fucked up or got fucked by. More precisely, memories of the two men I married and divorced.

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WHAT DO YOU DO WITH ALL THE OLD STUFF?

PREFACE
Ouija Board

I’m on my fifth month of meticulous house cleaning. And by that I mean cleaning out my 1,600 square foot house…completely. The job of building a new home over the course of a year means me, Gary (my partner) and Tucker (my 13 year-old son) must take up temporary residence in a 1,000 square foot apartment along with Kaylee, our cantankerous cat.

So there has been the move into the apartment and the move into the storage unit. This requires incredible vision (mainly on my part I might add) - a look into our future – what do we need now and what can we live without for the next 12 months? And what should be trashed, recycled, sold or donated? How does one give up the ghosts? It’s a task I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy (actually, it's just the sort of thing I would).

The men in my life have no problem with this division of property. They packed some stuff then said, “I don’t care what you do with everything else. I’ve got what I need in this box.”

How can they be so cavalier toward their stuff? How can they not look through every book and re-read the paragraphs they highlighted years ago? How can they not try on their clothes to see what no longer fits, what sort of fits, what might fit later on? How can they not care about photographs, old magazines, letters received and sent (did they not keep copies of the really good ones they mailed)?

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BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME?

The McMansion Next Door
McMansion Nextdoor

I was having a conversation in Spanish with Ariela, the nanny from Monterey, Mexico, who lives with my recently married, recently parented, recently home- owning neighbors across the street. She was pushing their baby in a swing they recently attached to the venerable front yard tree (the only thing left of the 1928 home they recently demolished).

But let me be honest, when I say a “conversation in Spanish,” I mean my broken, basic grasp of that language with Ariela, who speaks no English

The young dad came out and as any good nosy neighbor would do, I asked about the home he and his wife are building to sell. A year ago, they purchased the 1,048 square foot, one story 1929 bungalow next door to me from the distant relatives of, God rest his soul David, my dead neighbor. They quickly tore it down. With the exception of increasing the rat population now scurrying in my attic, that was a good thing.

Their spec home is partially completed and towers above my two-story crumbling abode, taking up close to the entire lot. I nonchalantly asked how big it was going to be. “Six bedrooms, 5,300 or so square feet,” was his answer. I guess he noticed my widening eyes and added, “Well, we have to build what this neighborhood is asking for.” And with that, he turned on his heel and took off for a jog down our construction-laden street.

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IF A CONFESSION FALLS AND NO ONE IS AROUND TO HEAR IT, DOES IT STILL MAKE A SIN?

(Robertson Prize Nonfiction Winner)
Meri First Holy Communion

The drills happened every Wednesday night -- up at St. Francis de Chantal. The earthly saints, bound in black and white, snapped the whip as we recited our catechism lessons, instructions and protocol —beating and berating us with the seriousness of it all. Our First Holy Communion.

As part of this religious rite of passage, we had to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (as they call it now). Back then we just called it, “going to confession”. And it was up to me to come up with mine. I worked on it for months.

How far back should I go? Should I start big and work my way down? Or inch my way up to my worst transgressions? Should I include all of them or save some for later? What if they’re too bad? What if they’re too good? What if I don’t have enough? What if I have too many?

The saints never told us how long a confession should be.

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IN THE BEGINNING

Meri in Red Sneakers

The first time I lied I was four. I stood my ground, digging my size one’s into the carpet. Unwilling to admit the truth, I was ordered to bed with no milk and cookies. It was a seminal moment for me.

I was living with my father’s old and beloved Aunt Bella and Uncle Bill, while my very sick and pregnant mother was in the hospital and my out-of-his-mind father and three older sisters were back at home an hour away. I had never been alone before and believe this experience was life changing - irrevocably separating me from my family’s identity, sometimes in big, loud and rowdy ways and sometimes like a whisper.

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