So, I was home. I thought about writing a series of vignettes for these last five days, five days filled to overflowing with family and friends and myriad events. But then I started writing said vignettes, and they just went and on and on and on and on, and I would have never made it through the five days because there were vignettes happening every five minutes.
In the past five days, I’ve had a thousand firsts. The first pick-up from the airport for my brother and his daughter, after his six-year hiatus from California. The first planning of my dear cousin’s wedding. The first witnessing of her kissing her beloved at the wedding altar I decorated. The first time a dear friend flew home from Chicago… for me. The first time I wore the compassion warrior necklace I made with the #ArtTherapistWhoPresidesOverSandAndFeathersAndAcryllics all weekend, and actually know it made me feel and be more compassionate. The first time my mom and I shared a bed (in many decades). The first time my bestie had a baby shower for me. The first time my nearest and dearest showed me how much the will love our twin baby girls. Not the first time Megan and I ended a visit together by ordering tapas at Va de Vi, but alas, there must be some tradition amid all these firsts.
Liza’s wedding was absolutely stunning. It made me all warm inside to be able to work on it for the two days before it happened. I loved that we were all running around like mad people and tying table cloths to table legs so the wind wouldn’t blow them away, and sending our mothers to steal sunflowers from farmers’ fields, and weaving roses into the trellis under which they were to be wed. I loved that there were little children around, asking Liza and I for popsicles and chocolate milk- I loved that they came to Liza and me, and not to our mothers. I loved that Brandon’s girl Julie was there being silly, and that my mom and my brother picked up the rocker for the nursery while we were stringing flags that red “Eat Drink Love” on Liza’s farm. I loved that we were all a hundred percent dripping in sweat and just changed from our wedding prep outfits into our dress-up clothes, and I love that we put on lipstick in the mirror together and we thought wow, this is just like when we’re little girls.
Of course it wasn’t all love. It’s family, after all. Family always presents challenges and bumps and raised eye brows. Like how my brother thought his daughter could go to the wedding in a Dora The Explorer T-Shirt. And how we got into a totally weird family fight about how I wanted to prepare a veg lasagna for the requisite family veg. Sound weird? Trust me, it was freakin’ weird.
Speaking of weird, I always feel like the family pariah. Folks are threatened by those three letters after my name. (If only they knew the quantity of blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting that Ph.D.). It sounds pretentious, but all my travel, education, and interest in things gender, cultural, and radical are wildly threatening. It’s hard that someone who grew up with you now thinks so differently (She doesn’t want to be called Ms.! She is annoyed at people gendering her girl babies in ways that she can trace back to patriarchy! She used the word patriarchy at the dinner table!)
Relatedly, everyone takes every opportunity to point out I’m wrong. About everything. Anytime. It’s funny, because mostly they attack words that have more to do with my #hippiecommunity than my love of feminist theory. I know I’m that weird #PhD kid to my family, and so maybe I should just hang out with my other friends- friends who don’t give a fuck if I have a Ph.D., because they have either done enough of their own soul searching to know it’s literally three letters and thats all, or because they have Ph.D.s, too, or at least, they’ve been around enough Ph.D.s to know, it’s just a Ph.D. . Like anything, being immersed in a Ph.D. community means you take on the language, the speech patterns, the dreams and visions of that community. So does being immersed in make-up artistry, or working as a nurse, or becoming a salesman. All those people have their own set of words, phrases, idioms, and beliefs that are total gibberish to me. But for some reason, when there are acronyms and periods and universities involved, people Freak. The. Fuck. Out..
When I was getting my B.A., I remember my family so vividly, calling me “College Girl.” I hated it. Not only was I not a girl, but a fucking womanidentifiedwomanthankyouverymuch, it felt like they were mocking me. And they were. It’s not exaggerating to say that my family has bullied me because I read lots of theory, especially feminist/queer/antiracist theory, because I think differently, because I love to travel, because I live my life in another language, because I have pursued a Ph.D. (an exercise in tenacity, not intelligence) and because I do things in a way they don’t understand. They love to prove me wrong because they think I believe that I have all the answers and am sadistic enough to want to engage them in intensive battle every time they think they can prove me wrong or detect an inkling of insecurity in some totally random and off-handed comment I’ve made. (What? Don’t they know I did a Ph.D.? Don’t they know that’s like the most sadisitic thing ever, where I actively recruited all the experts in my field to relentlessly tell me I need to rewrite, rethink, reconsider, reread, re-re-re?) I don’t think anyone I’m related to could actually tell you what kind of academic work I do, but that’s another story. And I don’t care much anyway, but I do wish they’d just appreciate it for what an accomplishment it is, as opposed to it’s incessant teasing potential. The things we put up with!
And then, came the finale. That was my bestie, throwing a more coordinated than perfect little baby shower for me and the twins. Complete with yellow and grey polka dotted flags and macaroons perfectly aligned on a tray, Megan made it beautiful. I was already concerned about this shower- this shower that would be for me without a pregnant belly, for me but for babies inside another woman, for me but for me because I had cancer. And the BFF made it easy. And she made it grey and yellow. And she made it easy. And there were old friends and family and older friends, and PItzer friends and AMIGOS friends, and it was easy. And I was relieved, because there were tiny pink booties and little hoodies and champagne marked “for their arrival” alongside wine marked “for your survival.”
I was worried about this baby shower, you know. I wanted it, enough to tell my BFF to please organize it. But I was also concerned. Concerned because it’s different, concerned because it’s awkward, concerned because most of my community is in Vancouver. But the longest held friends are in Oakland and surrounding parts, and family is in Oakland and surrounding parts, and I want to be in Oakland and surrounding parts. And so we drew together the closest ones, the clearest ones, the ones who could celebrate even though, cancer. And I am so glad.
So I was home. I am still learning to set up the boundaries I need. I am still learning to tell my family when it’s been enough. I am still learning to tell my friends how much I need them. I am still learning to ask for what I need. I am still learning about this wide world, about myself in this enormous world, about the possibility for healing and for love that is so present and so possible. I was home, and I’ll be back there, soon. As soon as the babies are a month old and we have their passports. Signing off for now, Bay Area. See you soon.