Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig

Why not squash for breakfast? Left it cooking in the oven while I went for a walk, eaten with butter & sugar when I got home.

This time last Sunday, I was still in Seattle, back at InfoCamp by this time, after having brunch with the Steelers and fantasy football, at my brother's good friend Harley's hangout, Bill's Off Broadway.

My father's older sister, my Aunt Harriet, was a drunk, and she used to call up my Dad at 2:00 a.m. (and wake up all the rest of us) a couple of times a month to yell at him. I guess it was worst when my grandmother was alive - they lived together - because often both of them would call my Dad, "do you know what your sister did to me?" "do you know what your mother did to me?"

My aunt was unhappy, but a high functioning alcoholic - New York City social worker by day, drinker by night. She had trained as a nurse. She was married for about 4 years, got divorced, and went back home to live with her mother. She never had kids. When my brother and I got older, she would sometimes call us - she used to berate me that she and I had never had a real relationship, because she could have introduced me to such a wealth of culture in New York City, and the rest of the world. She was so mean to me on the phone, though, on top of her history of waking the whole family in the middle of the night all my childhood, that I could never see being friends. My brother was far kinder to her, and got to know her better than anyone else in the family, I think.

The only time I thought I was having some real conversations with Harriet was right after my younger son (Al, like my dad) was born - his big brother was born by Cesarean section, but I didn't need it with Al. She said she'd argued with her medical colleagues that this was possible, way back in the 40s and 50s, and no one believed her - she seemed to like that I had been successful in this way. I felt so adult, talking to my aunt about labor & childbirth. I never felt closer to her, and sent her some photos of my kids.

Two weeks later, my dad called and asked if I'd sent Harriet baby pictures. When I said yes, he said, "That explains it. She's been on a tear the last few phone calls, saying 'you have beautiful grandchildren, you son of a bitch.'"

I've always been confident that my brother and I would never carry the argument on into our generation. But sometimes, in my heart of hearts, I worry (the same as Harriet did) that my brother has a better life than I do. He lives in a bigger city - Seattle, instead of Madison WI - so there's more interesting stuff going on. He rides his bike more than 100 miles a week, and does yoga regularly, so he hasn't gained 15 pounds after turning 50, like I did. His house has a certain funky/hip style that mine will never have - although that's probably more his wife's doing than his. He's climbed higher in academe than I have; written books and finished a PhD, while I am a merely masters' degree instructor.

But bigger cities have more crime and drugs than little old Madison WI - here, the armed robbers are my kids' middle school classmates of 10 years ago. And I'm trying to get more exercise. And someday I'll get the house in shape. And who knows, someday I might even publish that cookbook/food memoir that's been brewing in the pages this blog all these years.

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