Saturday, May 31, 2008

Parental Visit Day Two: A tale of epic proportions.

10:15 am - so I wonder which level of hell this would translate to?

OK. So today's the day that my parents arrive, that I have to get them (along with Jonathan's parents) out to dinner together without incident, and that we will (hopefully) deliver the big news to (hopefully) the delight and glee of all. This, in and of itself, I was finding stressful enough. As we know, I came to the realization last night that my parents are not going to behave themselves, and it is I that will have to be the eye in the center of the storm, the voice of reason throughout the proceedings. I who will have to be the rock.

So I'm super excited that I'm on 5 hours of sleep, and that there's a crew of men banging on the exterior of my apartment building right now.

See, we live in a "pre-war" building. This is actually code for "hasn't been renovated (or cleaned all that much) since it was built in 1915". And that's fine with us; the place has character, with its crown moldings, high rounded ceilings, wood floors, and plaster walls. And it comes with that magical phrase that glosses over all manner of sins: rent stabilization. But every now and then some crucial bit of maintenance does have to be done. And apparently, this week that bit is to scrape the last 40 or so years' worth of accumulated rust off of all of the fire escapes.

The enterprising young men pursuing this endeavor were not at all dissuaded by the fact that today is Saturday, no. They in fact began their work at 7:50 in the morning, approximately five hours after I was finally able to get myself to sleep last night. Now, for some reason that I don't completely grasp, this job requires banging as hard as possible on these ancient metal structures. And it just so happens that today's assignment is the death trap / BBQ platform directly outside of my kitchen window, the one bolted to my bedroom wall. And so, since 7:50 am, no less than three full grown men have been serenading us with five floors of wrought iron xylophone orchestra.

Just the thing to put me in a calm, relaxed mood to deal with mom and dad!

* * * * * * * * * *

11:40 am - so that's why the banging stopped...

Around 10:50 or so, the banging stopped. So I was able to relax for a minute and have my breakfast. We figured that the guys were just on a ten or something, but the work did not resume. Maybe they're finished with that set? I'd seen them on the second floor, the one just above ours. Maybe that was their whole goal for today?

Jonathan went out for a cigarette, came back in reporting that he'd seen police outside. I peeked out, and the first thing I saw was a smashed car window. Ahh, I thought, isn't it wonderful when the neighborhood's children become teenagers. But people were gathering, and the police were yelling at people that there was nothing to see here (universal code for "there's something big to see here!")... and then there was the ambulance. So, maybe the car window wasn't the news. What was the commotion? I got a feeling. I went into the kitchen and just happened to notice about a gallon of fruit punch spilled in the alley below my kitchen window... below the fire escape. Or maybe... not fruit punch. I looked up to the fire escape on the second story, and saw that part of the railing was now missing on the side. Just about exactly above where that enormous red stain is.


So that explains the cessation of the noise, and the ambulance, and the dozen or so people milling around on the sidewalk out front; directly in front, in fact, of the gate leading out of the alley beneath the fire escape in front of my kitchen... I feel like an ass for not having seen or understood more sooner, but then images like that tend to haunt me, so it's probably for the best. The giant pool of blood I suppose is enough. I'm really just hoping that the kid's not dead. I mean, I wasn't exactly in love with them being here making all that racket so early in the morning. But I'm guessing it wasn't on their "top ten fun things to do on Saturday" list either, and I wasn't wishing severe bodily harm on any of them. Actually I just wanted them to have a day off...

Ah, well, anyway, time to go into the city and meet the folks!

* * * * * * * * * *

1:30 pm - It could be worse; it could be raining...

Mmm. Right. So I leave my studio, and it's pouring. And I'm the moron in the impractical shoes, because I haven't seen my parents in a year and I want to look good. Which for some reason requires not the most practical rain shoes. And it's as if the rain is coming on cue; it gets thin, and so out I step. But just at that moment, it becomes a torrent. So I run to the next enclave. But as soon as I duck in, It slows up again. So out again I go, only to have it come down again hard and heavy... By the time I make it to the subway my lovely, impractical shoes are slick and slippery on the inside, and I'm soaked up to my knees...

* * * * * * * * * *

1:45 pm - Seriously? On Lex? You must be joking.

But they weren't joking. There it was, with the grilled meat and the pineapple chunks and the cheap pashminas and the "Chanel" handbags only $9.95 - a goddamn streetfair. Ok. Sure. Of course. Why not. Why wouldn't there be a street fair on Lexington at 48th street the day that my crowd hating, agoraphobic parents are arriving?

* * * * * * * * * *

3:00 pm - Maybe they left the phone at home. Or did they think the flight was tomorrow?

The internet claimed that the flight landed at 1:51 pm. So no way were they still stuck on the airplane - and even if they were, they would have been allowed to turn their phone back on, to call me or at least accept my call. Unless, of course, they'd left it at home. I called their house, just to make sure my mom didn't pick up. She didn't pick up. Jonathan kept saying that they must have forgotten to turn their phone back on after landing, but how could they have forgotten? The captain and crew remind the passengers about when they can and can't use phones approximately every ten minutes. Finally, I just go down to the lobby to wait, hoping that they'll pop up.

And at 3:30, they pop up.

They forgot to turn their phone back on after landing.

This, of course, doesn't explain why they didn't call me upon landing, but what's the point? They're here, and there are bigger fish to fry...

* * * * * * * * * *

Fastforward: 10:00 pm - and they all lived happily ever after, because apparently hell froze over?

Well, it's done. The parents met each other. They got along just fine. The rain stopped. We all took the subway together, my parents included, down to Soho. And no one freaked out or got upset or anything. We even got seats. And we got to the restaurant, and it was half empty, and we got a nice table and ordered. And then, as planned, I put on the ring. And my mom noticed it first, not Jonathan's mom like we'd figured. And then I said it, and a cheer went up, and everyone was thrilled, and my dad ordered champagne for the whole table and then picked up the tab. We rode the subway home - seats again, even, for all six; Jonathan's mom was seen tearing up a little bit. We got them all back to the hotel, and slowly said our goodbyes to each parental set.

And now we're home, and exhausted, and relieved, and happy, and wondering how we pulled it off, and how we're going to get through tomorrow...

Friday, May 30, 2008

No crises... yet. (I am the rock, I am the zen.)

So, Jonathan's parents arrived in town today. Mine come tomorrow. Jon's parents are nice, normal people. They know how to behave in public, and in social situations. We picked them up from Penn Station with nary an incident, and took a cab to the hotel, where we got them settled into their lovely hotel room. We went downtown, to Little Italy, where we strolled through a street fair and then had an early pasta dinner at one of the many, many Italian restaurants on offer, but one they've been to before and were excited about going back to. Then we brought them back to their lovely hotel room. They've rented suite-style accommodations with a separate seating area, complete with couch. You know, in case they want to invite my parents up to socialize.


Like I said, my parents arrive tomorrow. And the series of events I've described above, a fairly normal interaction with Jonathan's parents, would be a small miracle should they occur in the presence of mine. I've been nervous about this visit, but I've been thinking it's going to be OK. Despite the fact that their last trip here was horrendous, and left me violently ill and in a severe depression. Despite a lifetime of witnessing them being completely incapable of behaving like normal parents or even normal people in any social or familial situation. Because they swore it would be better this time. Because Dad said he'd be less anxious since they've done it once now, and since they're staying in the same hotel as they did last time (familiar turf), and since he's doing better overall these days. Because they've been saying this time it's going to be alright. And I've been believing them, mostly because it's what I've wanted to believe.

So, foolish me, I've been worrying about things like, how will they react when we tell them the big news? And, how will we sidestep the questions of "money" and "parents' roles in the ceremony" until a later date? And, will it rain?

That is, until I got on the phone with my mom tonight.

"Hey Mom! Are y'all excited about coming up?"
"Oh yeah, I'm excited and Daddy is too. We can't wait to see you. It should be really good. The only thing is that Daddy doesn't want to take the subway."
What? "What? He said he was gonna do it this time! He promised." (Crap hell damn!)
"Well, maybe that's what he's telling you, but to me he says he doesn't want to do it."
"But it's gonna cost you like $150 a day to take taxis everywhere!"
"To keep Daddy calm? So what." (My mother, the rationalizing enabler.)
"But it doesn't keep him calm! He gets just as freaked out in a taxi. Plus, you can't put six people into one taxi. We'd have to take two..."
"Well I don't know honey, I'm not going to bring it up with him now. We'll deal with it when we get there." (This is my-mother speak for "I'm going to go along with whatever crazy thing your father does and then bitch about it during and later.")

And so, we're back to square one. See, my father isn't content just keeping his anxieties and phobias to himself, noooo. He insists on taking everyone along with him. He doesn't feel comfortable someplace? Well then everybody has to leave. NOW. He doesn't want to take the subway? Well then everybody damn well better pile into a cab, or maybe he just won't go at all. He's tired of being in the museum? Day at the museum officially OVER.

I suddenly have visions of my dad creating a huge scene, as he is so apt to do, right there in the lobby of the hotel not ten minutes after meeting Jonathan's parents for the first time. I see not getting them to the restaurant at all, or getting them there but having everyone in such a tense miserable state by that time that there's no way we can make our big announcement. I begin to panic. So I call the only person who could possibly understand this predicament: my sister.

And of course, she understands perfectly. And since this is not her crisis, she can see it for what it is... not a crisis. See, the problem is largely that my parents are catastrophists, and in being such they've trained me well. There is no such thing as a small problem for us. There are only end-of-the-world, earthshattering, unsolvable nightmares. Perfection or utter chaos, those are your choices.

That is, until I take a breath, remember my unlearning, and recall that I just have to treat my dad like I would a difficult twenty-year-old. If I am calm, this will not be a problem. If I am calm, this is just my goofy dad being my goofy dad, a barely noticeable bump in what can still be a lovely evening. He wants to take a cab? Fine. No problem. Him and my mom can take a cab. We'll see them there. As has always been the case with my parents (though it took me decades to realize it), I must be the rational and strong one.

So when we're at the hotel where all four parents are staying tomorrow (oh yes, we did it that way), and my dad makes his pronouncement that he refuses to use the mass transit system that is good enough for at least six million people to use every single day, I will calmly and happily tell him that the restaurant is called Spring Street Natural, is at the corner of Spring and Laffiette, and that me and Jonathan's family will see them there. Because you know what? I'm not humoring that crap from him any more than my friends humor it from me.

Ahh, yes, that's a funny part of the story - All my hysteria? Got it from him. I inherited all of my father's anxiety problems, directly, and then threw in some of my own. The main difference is that at some point in my twenties I realized that I didn't get to torture other people with them; that rather I should a) seek help, and b) should find ways to reduce my anxiety that don't screw with other peoples' plans. In this I have been not completely successful, but I do alright. And hell, at least I try. Unfortunately, my father at age 58 has not yet had this realization.

But, back to my focus. Tomorrow, and likely through their whole trip, I must chant this mantra: It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one... As my sister reminded me, a tsunami is a crisis. The hurricane that destroyed both of our lives, that was a crisis. This? This is just dinner in Soho, and should be treated as such. It's just dinner with six adults, for chrissake, and I'll have my man there to hold my hand.

And so, deep breaths. I am the zen. I am the rock. If I can stay calm and rational, everything will be fine.

God help me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dear MTA, would you PLEASE stop f*cking with the N train?

We understand. There's necessary track work to be done. It's an old system. It needs maintenance, repair, loving care. Sure. Fine. Grand.

But MTA, let's be logical about this, shall we? Your constituency, we have some concerns, and we'd be ever so grateful if you'd hear us out for just a moment or two. You would? Why, how very gracious of you.

Concern number one: If you must stop all the N trains from going past 57th street, might you perhaps not do it for four weeks straight? I know what you're thinking. "But I don't do it until after midnight, and I only do it on weeknights." Yes dear MTA, this is true. But please understand that we work on weeknights. Sometimes we get off of work at 1am (or later). And so to us, it has been 4 weeks in a row that we must take three trains home instead of one, that we arrive home at 3 am instead of 1:45. So we ask you, might you have broken that up just a little bit? Hmm? After all, it's not as if the tracks are totally unsafe or unusable, is it? We certainly hope not, since, as you so correctly point out, trains are running over those tracks all day long and straight through on the weekends.

Concern number two: You know that you've told us to get off of our beloved N train at 42nd street, to get onto the dreaded and foreign 7 train which will take us to Queensboro Plaza where we can rejoin the truncated N, where there on the east side of the river it is performing an Astora shuttle dance. You tell us to do precisely this over and over again over crackly overcom. So why, why, why is it that when we get out at Times Square, run up the first staircase, around the bend, up the second staircase, through the hallway with the bad public art, and finally down three more staircases to get to the 7 train platform, we arrive exactly in time to see the 7 train just leaving the station? Sometimes in time to hear the doors closing as we mount that third and final descending staircase? At this point it is at least 1:30 in the morning, sometimes much later. There will not be another 7 train for at least 15 minutes, and after it arrives it will wait awhile at this end-of-the-line destination. You knew we were coming. You, in fact, invited us to come, just short of handing out engraved cards. So is there any particular reason that that 7 train could not wait for, say, another 60 seconds in order to shave 20 or so minutes off of the already abnormally extended commute of work weary travelers?

MTA, we love you and appreciate you for all that you do. But make this one simple request: would you please, please, PLEASE stop f*cking with the N train?

We'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Ring!

Below is the G-rated, family approved version of why my betrothed and I chose not to purchase a traditional ring, and why in fact I refuse to give a large sum of money to a jeweler that deals in regular diamonds these days. Here's the UN's version of what's going on with conflict diamonds. Here's a more colorful tale of child soldiers that have gotten caught up in the rebel action - distinctly NOT G-rated, reader beware. And of course, this doesn't even breach the topic that mining is incredibly environmentally destructive... Soon I'll tell you the story of getting my fancy ring, which is a whole other story indeed.

* * * * * * * * * *

On Saturday, May 24th, Melissa received her "real" engagement ring from Jonathan. The ring was custom ordered, and so had not arrived on time for the anniversary engagement. But no matter. The ring is special in many ways, reflecting our unique, non-traditional style as well as our values as a couple.

Due to various recent socio-political and ecological issues, we didn't want a ring that was made with either mined stones or metals. Luckily we happened upon GreenKarat, a company that specializes in making stunning pieces of jewelery from lab created gems and recycled precious metals. The ring we chose contains three stones: a sapphire in the center with a diamond flanking each side. All three stones are blue... like Jonathan's eyes. The color comes from trace elements not always found within the minerals; the sapphire is blue due to traces of titanium and iron, while the diamonds contain traces of boron. (Geology rocks!) The result is a beautiful, lustrous ring set in shiny, gorgeous, recycled white gold.

Melissa couldn't be happier with the ring's origins or its appearance, and Jonathan just seems relieved to have the darned thing on her finger. As far as sparkly things go, though, he seems to think it's pretty alright. It's a beautiful symbol of our relationship in many ways, simultaneously classic but unique, delicate but durable. The three stones are said to represent past, present, and future; with any luck our future together will hold as much beauty.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Brooklyn! The West Coast Tour.

Springtime! Finally! After endless months of the passive-aggressive late onset winter that would not die, we are finally having some nice weather. Birds singing! Blue skies! Seasonal Affective Disorder subsiding! So on Sunday, my darling Jonathan and I decided to make the rounds along Brooklyn's East River banks. We were originally inspired by an art installation in the shadow of the far side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Since we hadn't done it yet, we decided that it was a good opportunity to walk the bridge... with all the other people who also thought that that would be a good idea. Regardless of the crowds, it was a lovely walk. The bridge is of course a striking feat of engineering, even if frighteningly old.

We made it to the far side and worked our way back to the waterfront to see the spectacle, which is part of the 125th Anniversary celebrations for the bridge that were happening this weekend. The particular item of interest, the Telectroscope, is a well executed Victorian / steampunk bit of techno-multimedia art that allowed us to wave hello to some people in London. Er, I mean, an amazing underground tunnel with an intricate mirror system that allowed us to wave hello to some people in London. Yeah. It was neat. And an entertaining footnote: there were at least three brides in full regalia with maids in tow having pictures taken.

From Brooklyn Heights, we made our way north through Dumbo. And I have to say, what the hell happened? I was over there just two years ago for an art show in some girl's illegal warehouse studio, and I definitely did NOT see the fancy furniture stores, or the sushi place, or the freaking Starbucks. Not that I think this gentrification started last week; I know it's been under way for well over a decade. But seriously? A Starbucks? Well, at least it gave us someplace to use the restroom.

After taking in the new Dumbo for the sights it had to offer and perusing a bookstore which inhabits a space that could easily be an amazing gallery, we were starving. It's a long walk over the bridge, you know. So we decided to partake in the gentrified meal offerings and stopped into Miso sushi restaurant. We were encouraged by the "vegetarian" section on the menu outside... and ended up ordering 5 out of the 6 veg rolls on offer. We also had their miso soup, which they swore did not contain any type of fish product.

For the most part it was standard fare as far as vegetable sushi goes, with exceptions in each direction. Exception #1: the bad - the avocado and sundried tomato roll. Good in concept, but you can't just slap a huge, inedible slab of sundried tomato into an avocado roll and expect it to suddenly be delish. slice it thin, chop it, or according to Jonathan-the-foodie rehydrate it at the very least. Exception #2: the good - the peanut avocado roll. Yes, yes, yes! My favorite sushi place in Midtown does a peanut roll, but it's just peanuts in rice and so it's a little dry. But throw a little avocado in there and... yes! Vegetable fat a-go-go - the perfect peanut roll. If Miso would work on the sundried tomato issue, and add a mango roll, their "vegetarian" roll section might approach perfect.

After our afternoon (sushi) delight, we jumped on the F train to get to the G train which took us up to good old Williamsburg... ish. We were on a mission: we'd heard tell that vegan ice cream cones, involving neither grocery store nor the frustrations of self scooping, were now within reach. Sure enough, at Penny Licks on the west side of Bedford between 8th and 9th streets, we found what we've been kvetching about not having for ages. A dainty ice cream parlor and pastry shop, Penny Licks offered us the options of scoops in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cookie dough in sugar or cake cones. They also boasted several flavors of the now ubiquitous Vegan Treats cakes as well as some amazing looking vegan brownies, whoopie pies, and other tempting diabetic nightmares. While they do sell many non-vegan items, we couldn't help being tickled pick at the range of options on which to gorge ourselves. Jonathan and I each walked out with cones in hand, he with simple chocolate and I with chocolate and cookie dough, both content as can be at finally besting the snobs lined up at the Mr. Tastee truck.

We finished up the day with scotches and beers on the back deck of Union Pool - hey, we can play hipster with the best of them. Summer is in the air, I can feel it. Anyone up for tofurkey sausages on the BBQ? All in all, it was a good way to spend our first full day together being officially engaged, real ring and all... but that's a different blog entirely, now isn't it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Venue, The Ring, and The Anxiety.

Because the anxiety is constant and related to many other things, chief among which is that I still don't have a job (nor am I particularly looking for one) and the savings are basically gone. "But, didn't she have a plan when she quit her job?" you're thinking. "I though she said she'd be fine for months and months... how are the savings gone already?" And indeed, you would be correct. But that was before she realized that she'd be dropping a $4000 deposit this week, to get the whole venue problem out of the way right up front. That took a significant chunk of savings, and left her in a spot where she basically needs to find a job. NOW.

But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's back up, shall we? Last Friday, May 16th, Jonathan and I were finally, blissfully, officially engaged. Now, we'd decided months back that the first thing we'd do once it was official was to firm up the venue, which meant putting down at least a 50% deposit. Granted, the wedding is still almost two years away, and even in New York things don't need to be booked that far in advance. But it's better to be safe than sorry, and every other arrangement stems from the venue, and we also felt that it's best to spread out the major spending as much as possible so as not to end up with $20k worth of expenses in a 6 month span or something equally as terrifying.


This being my understanding of our understanding, a day or two after the engagement was made official, I asked Jon about making the appointment to have a second look at The Foundry and giving them a shitton of our money. And that's when he says to me, "don't you think we should look at other venues?"

Now? Really? We looked at The Foundry in March and made these decisions in March, and this is occurring to you NOW?

I swallow back the small explosion going off in my head and say, sure, ok, what other venues would you like to go and look at. The response? "Oh, I don't know, I haven't found any other ones that I really want to go and see. I just feel like we should go and look at some other places."

Mmm hmm. Ok. Well.

I personally require a bit more effort than this. I told him that maybe he should spend some time on the internet on Monday and Tuesday nights searching around for possibilities. Lo and behold, when Wednesday came, the few stones that had been overturned revealed only enforced catering or empty white warehouse loft spaces in neighborhoods that we don't like... the exact same things that I had found in March when I spent exhaustive hours searching every venue listing in New York City.

Nevertheless, I spent Wednesday making that same search, again, and again finding the same unsuitable venues (a steakhouse in midtown starting at $35K? perfect for two vegans on a budget!). And after a bit of quibbling and cajoling and explaining and discussing on Wednesday evening, we came to the conclusion that there wasn't much point in spending time visiting venues that a) aren't any cheaper than what we've already found, and b) are in neighborhoods that we don't go to on purpose. Jon realized that he really does want to go with The Foundry; it simply felt wrong to him to choose it without spending more time on the duds. Like renting the first apartment you look at. I reminded him that we live in the first apartment that I looked at after moving to New York, and that I rented it 45 minutes after I first saw it. And it's an amazing apartment. Sometimes you just get it right the first time. And technically, we did go visit the Museum of the City of New York. We didn't get the spiel from their events coordinator, but since they don't provide anything it would have all been useless B.S. anyway.

And so, yesterday morning we went back to The Foundry, and it was just as beautiful as last time. The events manager there, who last time had struck me as chic and intimidating, this visit made me feel welcomed and was friendly and accommodating (doubtless a change in my mental state rather than in her behavior). This is the right space for us, and we're really excited about it. It's just stressing me the hell out because, while I'm glad to have one major detail and financial hit taken care of, it drained my savings to almost nothing. Which means I need to start saving again. Which means I need a job...

Last night we went to fancy dinner, and I got my fancy ring.

But you know what? I think that's for another post.

Monday, May 19, 2008

it's officially official! well, sort of.

so... it's done! he asked! friday the 16th was our second anniversary, and what better time to make a proposal? and it was adorable and we're very, very happy. i've begun really telling people, which is fun.

the catch? the real ring's not here yet. the complications in getting it ordered led to it not being here on time for the anniversary. so i am wearing a ring on the appropriate finger, but it's not the ring. but that's alright... because he asked, and he meant it, and he's happy and excited, and that's all i've really been wanting these past few months. and... because it means i get two proposals! and, you know, i'm cool with that.

friday's proposal was intentionally low key. it was a big stressful event at the start of a big stressful weekend - i had my first open studios event happening on saturday and sunday. so we decided that fancy wasn't the right way to go, since it's not really how we roll and especially since we didn't / don't have the real ring yet. instead, we went to our favorite vegetarian diner on 14th street. there, we know the waiters, we like the music, and their vegan mexican chocolate milkshakes kick ass.

one of the funnest features of Curly's Vegetarian Lunch is that they provide their patrons with paper placemats and crayons, to keep busy until the disco fries arrive. after we'd ordered our meals, jonathan mentioned that he was stressed, and i said i was a bit nervous too. but that we shouldn't be stressed, only happy. and so, upside down to me and rightside up to him, on his placemat i wrote "no stress, only happy." and he said, alright, and on my placemat he wrote, "ok - will you marry me?" with my stomach doing backflips, he said it out loud, i of course said yes, and he put the ring on me. what can i say? it worked for us.

this saturday should be the fancy proposal. we'll get spiffed up and go to Blossom on the west side, high class and whatnot. it will be more stressful due to fancyness and the presence of expensive jewelry, but also less stressful because we're actually already engaged. so really it should just be fun, and i can't wait. i want my sparkly thing! but i've already got my man, the man, my partner and future husband, and that blows most anything else out of the water... ugh, look at that, i've turned myself into a pile of mush.

busy busy busy

ok. so i haven't gotten to post in forever. to make up for it, here's a funny anecdote that i hope you'll all enjoy; the girl who's putting together a zine about cabbage patch kids sure did. i promise that soon i'll be posting all of my would-be blogs about jury duty, getting engaged, my first open studios event, selling my first piece(s) of artwork, and teaching a classroom of brooklyn 10th graders how to stencil t-shirts. but for now:

* * * * *

i was 7, about to turn 8; it was the winter of 1985. i desperately and wholeheartedly wanted a cabbage patch premie doll. how was i to live without it? but we weren't exactly well off, and even by that age i knew not to go around asking for presents that seemed fancy and expensive. plus, and this was really the kicker, my older sister was just too old for cabbage patch kids. she had just turned ten, after all, and double digits were big stuff. she thought they were stupid. so obviously i was stupid for wanting one - as far as she could see, this logic was rock solid, flawless.

but despite cool big sister taunting my desire won out, and i got up the courage to ask for my cabbage patch premie for christmas. my parents, of course, reacted like i had asked for a corvette, but they conceded to get me "the damn thing". they surprised me, though, when a few days later they came back to me for some specifics. (upon reflection, my father was probably drunk or stoned or both during this conversation.) turning slightly purple and trying not to explode with laughter, he asked me this: if i wanted a doll that was completely bald, or one that had a little hair. now in my mind, the choice was obvious. bald! bald all the way! babies are bald, you fool, don't you know?! but i was far too embarrassed to say so, especially with my parents on the brink of hysteria at my expense as they were. so, "a little bit of hair" is what escaped my shy and tortured little mouth. my stomach turned over and i knew i'd made an unforgivable error, but there was nothing to be done now. it was too late.

well, christmas came, and there under the tree was little mara kate, birth certificate from the cabbage patch and all. and there was the patch of hair, a perfectly round little circle of yarn loops in the center of her skull. the sight of the hair was so embarrassing that i considered cutting it off, but i'd learned my lesson in that department with barbies and my little ponies, and did not attempt a crop. i covered it instead with a makeshift bonnet, and my teddy bears were none the wiser.

so despite the hair, she was my best friend for a while. i even convinced my parents to get me real diapers to put on her. i knew of kids who had several cabbage patch kids, but as far as i was concerned it was a miracle that i'd managed to get the one, and i loved her and treated her as precious. more likely than not, with a minor search i would find her in my parents' attic, face dirty from our days playing in the florida sun climbing trees, catching tadpoles in the creek, and eating the petals of my mother's day lilies... meanwhile, my parents would be downstairs telling you how i "had to have that thing", and my sister would only be rolling her eyes.