Swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night…

You are a hammer, you are nails
spare change piled up on the nightstand
I am half drunk water glasses on the coffee table top

You are snap shirts over t-shirts
long hair tucked under your felt hat
I am stories scratched on napkins and all the things that I forgot

All the things that I forgot

I am seventeen and leaving
Twenty-one and almost gone
You are eighteen with a ring just waiting for the time

To be together on the backroads
Together at the movies
Together buying groceries in the supermarket line

In the supermarket line

For all the things here that aren’t worth taking chances
For all we lost that wasn’t worth the fight
You are strong arms wrapped around my shoulders
And we are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night
We are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night

You are six eggs over easy
coffee black and keep it coming
I am wild plums in a bucket in the heat of August air

You are that green Chevy
that we bought when we had nothing
I am all the windows rolled down tangling up my hair

You’re tangling up my hair

And you are generations of people leaving town
I am horses and hay crops in the field
You were not supposed to be the one to stick around
Then again I never really meant to leave here

Then again I never really meant to leave here

For all the things that aren’t worth taking chances
For all we lost that wasn’t worth the fight
You are strong arms wrapped around my shoulders
And we are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night
We are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night

You’re two fingers of whiskey. I am a glass of cheap red wine
and we are standing with our bottles in the supermarket line

Another year…

Last night Husband and I sat out on the deck, poured some champaign and toasted to 8 years of marriage while the steaks and lobster tail I splurged on sat waiting in the kitchen to be cooked.

I’ve spent a lot of time away from this house-in-progress this summer, so it was nice to make a plan to stick around and enjoy it. My husband, he’s a good conversationalist, and I like to ask questions of him, hypothetical, favorite memory, why things work the way they do questions.

“In 8 years of marriage, what’s your favorite memory?”

“Tiling the bathroom upstairs,” he replied.

“Shut your face,” I said.

And then he said, “I don’t know. I like the collective. I like how it’s all working out the way I hoped. Most things anyway…”

We looked through our wedding album and commented on how brown the landscape was compared to this year, remembering the heat and the fire danger in 2006, and how maybe it wasn’t a great idea to roast the pig in a pit outside my parent’s house for the grooms dinner.

It feels like it was yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time, when I was almost 23 and making this huge commitment to a man.

Wedding Tree

I had no expectations, except that we would keep going the way we were going, singing and cooking and poking fun at one another to keep things light. I hoped for another few vacations to the mountains. I hoped for a dog and a baby or two.

I hoped for a house in the trees, one that looked a lot like the one I’m sitting in now.

Yes, it’s nice to see things coming together.

Most things anyway.

House

I poured another glass of champaign and a hummingbird flew by us, an arm’s length away. I hit Husband’s shoulder to make sure he saw it. He said he did. He saw it perched up on the oak tree by the deck where it landed. Then he saw it come down to the pink petunias, the only deck flower I can sort-of keep alive.

Then the cat saw it, then it was gone.

Over by the dam a doe walked out of the shadow of the brush and into the light of the open. She was the color of a vibrant summer and we watched her flick her tail at flies and talked about hunting elk this fall.

When I was growing up with this man on a small ranch outside a small town in the small world of Western North Dakota, we were not supposed to mention that maybe we’d want to come home someday.

There was nothing for us here except maybe a job at the bank or a couple kids to raise. We needed to grow up in a bigger world…That’s what we were told, except I don’t know why now remembering how I watched our mothers do just fine, teaching us about happiness and love and how to make spaghetti for the family…

Somedays I wonder what I’d be like between the big city sidewalks. I like to think I would be just fine anywhere, if it’s where I chose. I’d like to think, but then I’ll never know.

But aren’t we lucky to have choices…

I fell asleep on my husband’s shoulder last night and woke up to a kiss on the cheek and a see you later tonight. Today it is 80 some degrees and the wind is sorta blowing. The cats and dogs are in the garage and I’m making plans to stain and finish that deck we sat out on last night.

I think I’ll go to town and buy supplies, pick up an ice cream for the way home.

Ice cream season doesn’t last too long, summer just sort of melts away slowly and then all at once, just like these years…

Just like that ice cream cone.

Some days, when I’m asked, I don’t know how to answer why it is that I decided to be a girl who came back home. Some days I feel sort of silly that I’ve been so loyal to a place and to a man, like maybe I’ve missed something. Like maybe people think it’s a sorta shame while they nod their heads and say “well, isn’t that nice…”

We play that game too, Husband and I. What would you be doing if you weren’t here?

Who would you be with?

He says he’d live alone in the mountains and drink lots of whiskey and trap things. He says he wouldn’t be such a good man if I wasn’t around.

He says the right things.

I say I’d probably still be driving the Chevy Lumina and watching TV on that little yellow set my mom got me when I moved to college. I’d probably still be driving around, wondering if it was time to land yet…

I’m glad I got to him before he became a mountain man. I’m glad he’s home when I come in late from playing a barn dance by a lake and a little town down the road.

I’m glad we’ve got each other.

Glad he likes whiskey so I could have the champaign to myself.

Glad that we get another year…

Rain and how I imagined it.

IMG_1694

It’s been raining around here the last few days.

I’m listening to it patter outside my open windows now, taming down the dust on the gravel roads and watering my flowers. I could just lay down beside that open door to the deck and close my eyes and breathe, imagining that heaven is a good rain.

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On Monday Pops and I got stuck in a downpour on a little highway a couple hours south of us in the middle of the night. We were coming home from a music gig and we watched the big thunderheads in front of us as they lit up from the inside with lightning. I never heard the thunder, but we could see the electricity. It was a fireworks show and then suddenly we were under it, engulfed and waiting, watching hundreds of little white hailstones ping off the road and the hood of my red car where inside we talked about insurance and hoped that it didn’t get worse… for the farmers whose crop has just recently popped up.

But it did get worse, it covered the ground with white in fact. An ice storm in June for a about a mile or so and whatever little growing thing in its wake was likely injured.

Turns out for us, that storm just meant a good story and an extra half-hour in the car together talking about all the worst weather we’ve seen in our life, turning the radio down so we could hear ourselves hollering over the power of those clouds.

Rain make me feel nostalgic and sort of peacefully lonely. It makes me feel glad that I’m home. It makes me feel quiet and grateful and unfoundedly worried about things getting wet…and glad for the dams that are rising and the creek that is rushing and the horses getting relief from the flies.

And then, just a little bit, just for a moment or two, rain makes me feel like stripping down and flinging my arms up and running out in it, following the streams and rivets the water cuts, splashing and screeching and tilting my face up to the heavens raining down.

Just a little bit, just for a moment or two.

Yesterday I went to town to meet my sisters and take Little Man to a movie about dragons. The sky was churning up a good rain so I figured it would be a good night to sit in the dark theater and watch my nephew’s imagination ignite.

After the popcorn was eaten and the credits rolled, we chased Little Man around the lobby for a bit, indulging his fascination with Spider Man, pretending to be bad guys, injured at the sight of his little hands flinging invisible webs our way.

We made our ruckus and then made our way to the door, squinting at the sight of the rain pouring down well enough and then we said our goodbyes, three sisters who used to live under the same roof and a tiny little Spiderman preparing to scamper off in separate directions under a weeping cloud, three trying not to ruin their shoes, the littlest one very likely intending to do the opposite.

I stood under eaves of the building for a minute with Little Sister to say one last thing and then I told her to look.

Look there at our Big Little Sister, so petite and fashionable…elegant.. holding the hand of her tiny spirited son, running just fast enough so as not to splash and so the little one could keep up. “Look at that,” I said.

Like a photo, those two were so small under that sky, but it wasn’t the smallness that made me pause. It wasn’t that innocence that made my little sister look and hold her breath.

It’s just that they looked so much like one there, gracefully, innocently running away from us, running to get out of the rain, not knowing we were watching, with a mission to get home safe. Hand in hand they created a perfect picture I had no camera for.

My big sister has been a mother for almost four years, this we know, but I didn’t know until yesterday as the two of them ran down the street in the June rain, in our town, that this is the sort of life I imagined for them…

This is the way I always pictured them, hand in hand and trusting, sort of laughing at the simplicity of it all.

Last weekend that big sister and I learned that the youngest of us is getting married to a good man. Next June they will take vows.

Between now and then we will be making plans together, the three of us sisters. The family.

Then she will take his hand and be his.

We are all so happy.

And so I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, about the rain. It’s like a deep breath. It’s like relief and good news and plans for the future..a reflection of how I’ve been feeling lately…

Like throwing my arms up, turning my face to the sky and thanking God for it all…and then it’s unfounded worries that it all might be too good to be true, that we’re all ok. We’re all just fine here under these clouds…

Then it’s glad for the plans, glad for the future and to be able to see the creeks fill up…

But mostly it’s that peaceful nostalgia that makes me want to lay down on the floor next to the open windows and let the rain fall while I breathe a sigh of relief and feel glad we’re all home.

 

 

Between “I do” and “death parts us”

It all starts with the best of intentions. Most clean-up, housekeeping, get-some-shit-done-around-here tasks do. Unfortunately, most of my clean-up, housekeeping tasks also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a tiny fort made of logs by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old.

Because inside our houses, the ones we share with the people we promised to have and hold ’till death do us part, there lies unexpected secrets, secrets just waiting to jump out at us when our guard is down, when we’re comfortable and on task and thinking that this time we might have it under control.

Our poop in a group.

Our shit together.

But no. Those secrets remind us that marriage is not always the blissed-out, romantic, snuggle, love fest those ridiculous bridal magazines told us it would be.

No.

Because sometimes your husband leaves an uncooked egg bake from a camping trip he took three weeks ago floating in a cooler filled with beer and warm, melty, mushy, cloudy, curdled water and you, in your attempt at the whole “getting our shit together” thing,  has the privilege of being the one to get the first whiff.

And because it’s wedding season and the two of us had just returned from a lovely one in Minnesota, complete with mason jars and lilacs, heirloom dresses and lights strung across the beams of an old barn, I was feeling sort of romantic about the whole idea of the two of us living out our lives here in the country, quietly and easily, just like we had planned.

Perfectly planned weddings will do that to you…you know, create delusions.

But nothing says love like pulling on your muck boots, turning on the hose and testing how long you can hold your breath as you dispose of your dearly-beloved’s moldy concoction and spray down the inside of a rotten cooler, gagging and gasping when you inevitably have to take in air.

I love my husband every day…I just don’t like him every minute.

I know for a fact that he feels the same way about me.

Anyway, after I returned from the dump, I trudged inside to grab a beer from the fridge and sit on the back deck to contemplate the meaning of life and the consequences of actually living by myself in that little fort by the creek.

I took a sip and listened as the birds chirped and frogs croaked at the dam below the house and thought that some days, on hot days like these, I think I would be ok with being a frog–cool water, an abundance of flies, no worries about what outfit to wear to a quaint Minnesota wedding and definitely no three-week-old egg bake clean up surprise.

There isn’t mention of three-week-old egg bake cooler clean up surprises in any marriage vows I’ve ever heard.

Which got me thinking, when it comes to starting a life together, no one really talks about stuff like that. I’m not just talking about the annoying and surprising things, but the things that come with sharing a house, and plans, and dinner and dogs and babies and landscaping/housebuilding projects together.

The real things.

Because hopefully here is a lot of life in between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing. That’s what I was thinking when the bride took the groom’s hand last weekend and made promises to him. I thought of all of the things that couple has been through together to get to this point.

And then I thought of what almost 8 years of marriage has looked like for us and I realized that not too often has it looked as lovely as that day we were in with the beautiful couple before us. Not even on our own wedding day, you know, the one out in the middle of the cow pasture complete with cow herd crashing, a random drunk guy trying his damnedest to spill booze on the pastor and the groomsman nearly plummeting to his death out the door of a moving RV…

Wedding Tree

Let’s just say there have been more “tragic egg bake style incidents” than I planned on. But I should have known. Just because I got married doesn’t mean the two of us (or our luck) changed. No. We just became a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

But that’s what you get when you’re in it together–you get two. You get a witness. You get a built-in dinner date that sometimes is really late to dinner and it pisses you off.

You get a man who takes off his work boots and stinks up the entire house, but you also get a man who will drive around the countryside for hours and take a detour every day before and after work looking for your missing dog, not because he particularly likes him, but because you do. And that sort of quiet gesture makes up ten-fold for the stinky socks. And the late to dinner thing.

But forget the even score, because from what I’ve learned in eight years of marriage, there is no even score.  He will work late. You will drink too much with your girlfriends the night before and ruin the plans he made for leaving early on a fishing trip. He will take out the garbage and you will forget to get groceries until you’re both eating saltines and wondering  when the new Chinese food restaurant will start delivering to the ranch. You will unload the dishwasher, he will never remember where you put the spatulas. You will be thankful you married a man who uses a spatula.

No, the chores will never be equal because life might be a balancing act, but it sure as shit is never balanced (except when it comes to dog puke on the floor. In that instance, you will keep score). But that’s ok. That’s why you’ve got each other.

Because life is so annoying sometimes, and sometimes it’s his fault. Sometimes it’s mine. But I tell you what’s also annoying, that damn pickle jar that I can never open myself or the flat tire he’s out there fixing on the side of the road in the middle of a winter blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.

I hope he could say the same for me, regardless of the inevitable mess I make in the kitchen when I actually attempt to make a meal or the hundreds of bobby pins I leave laying around the house, driving him crazy. I think at the end of the day that’s what we really want out of this crazy love/union that we all enter into blindly knowing that it just has to work out.

It just has to work out. That’s something isn’t it? As if the whole working out thing happens on its own because we love will make it so.

Now I’m no expert here (if you want experts, ask my grandparents. They will be married for 60 years this September) but here is what I know. Love will never make you agree on the arrangement of the furniture, but love goes a long way in laughing it off when he backs into your car in the morning and forgets to tell you, leaving you to wonder all day when you might have had a car accident you can’t remember.

Love will not make him throw away that ratty State Wrestling t-shirt, but it will make you change out of your favorite sweatpants, the ones he loathes, every once in a while, you know, on special nights.

And initially, love will send him running when he hears you scream in the other room, but there will come a time when he won’t immediately come running. No. He will wait for a followup noise to help him make the decision, because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times.

And love will laugh her ass off when he gets clotheslined by the dog on a leash, leaving him laying flat on his back on the sidewalk, the dog licking his face along a busy intersection in a mountain town while drivers yell out their windows “Hey Rollerblades!”  And love will let her tell that story at every party because, judging by her hysteric laughter, it brings her great joy.

And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and she’s trying on her third dress of the evening.

And sometimes love is not as kind as it should be. Because love is human.

And no human is perfect. Not individually and surely not together.

Because humans leave egg bakes in coolers in basements for three weeks.

The same kind of human that is my husband, the husband who once told me that love, to him, means doing all that you can to make the other person happy.

“Like going to that Dixie Chicks concert with you, or running to town to get you popsicles when you don’t feel well, or hemming your choir dress in college because you failed Home Ec…”

There’s so many fancy ways to say it, but if I were to do it over again, I would put things like this in my vows. I would vow to be a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

And then I would promise, no matter the mess we got ourselves into, to never run away to that log fort by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old, unless I take him with me, you know, to help build a fire…

The way it should be

This week the cows came home, and so did 70+ degree weather.

When there are cows around in 70+ degree weather it’s next to impossible for people like us to stay inside, or do anything other than find the horses and ride around.

Of course there are things to be done, fences to be fixed, etc. etc. and that’s why we ride. Because on the back of a horse at least you can look like you’re working.

And when the cows are home and it’s 70+ degrees things that might have annoyed you, like opening one gate to let the horses in only to watch them run wide open out the open gate on the other side of the corral, make you cuss for only like five to ten minutes while you rush to wrangle the animals off the green grass on the other side of the fence and back to the barn.

Even the bird that shit on your head and the wood tick(s) stuck behind your ear are taken as a small price to pay for the arrival of summer

Because the wild berries are blossoming and it smells like heaven. 

This is my ride.

The man beside me is telling me things that make me laugh and he’s handsome and he’s getting all the gates and I get to go home with him tonight.  

The calves are adorable.

And the cows are home and it’s 70+ degrees and weekend’s here and life is the way it should be back at the ranch.

A conversation with Husband…

Scene: Spring cleaning outside the construction site that is our home. We live in the middle of a coulee filled with oak and ash trees and their bare, fallen branches gave me an idea…

And now, for a quick conversation with Husband:

Me: There sure are a lot of fallen trees around here.

Him: Yup.

Me: Hey, wouldn’t these trees make a great rail fence?

Him: Yup.

Me: I mean, think of the money we’d save!  All the supplies we need are right in our backyard.

Him: Better go get your ax.

Me: Why do I halfta use an ax? Why can’t I use a chainsaw?

Him: Because a chainsaw doesn’t build strength and character does it?

Me: I’ve got enough character…

Him: And also, if I gave you a chainsaw, you’d find a way to chop your own head off…

Me: ……

End Scene. 

Horse frustration

And that, ladies and gentlemen is, how you crush dreams.

 

With that boy…

It’s Saturday and the wind is howling like 50 miles per hour out there. I just spent a good five hours out in it doing the one thing that makes the most sense in 50 mile an hour wind–cleaning up and hauling construction materials out of the yard.

Half of the earth is in my ear…

The other half? In my eyeballs.

Husband and I are on the down hill slope of this home construction project. Which means, when I look around I only see about another year or seven of work left…which isn’t too bad considering we started this project three years ago with a a pretty clear idea that we will be working on this house for the rest of our lives.

But here I am on a Saturday and I can tell you this: there’s trim in the living room.

And base boards. And outlet covers.

So pretty much we’re fancy now.

Except for the air compressor in the master bedroom.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I’ve started hanging things on the walls. This is a huge step for me.

I haven’t committed to the whole wall-hanging/decorating ritual since I moved into my first apartment in college, so this is a big deal.

For those of you who are new here, I’ll refresh you. Husband and I have been married for seven years.

Six out of those seven years have involved some sort of major home/rental construction renovation project, and saw dust and tools on pretty much every surface of the house for months on end. (Oh, and scary ladder projects…)

So you see where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I don’t know why I felt compelled to sit down at the computer on a perfectly, unbearably windy Saturday at the ranch to tell you this, except that I felt like I wanted to say that, yes, the wind is blowing 50 miles per hour out there and I just stood in it for five hours next to my husband throwing boards and boxes, bent nails and shingle cuttings and pieces of plywood and house wrap and leftover pieces of our work into the back of the old green pickup that guy bought in college when we were broke as hell.

I bent down and stood up seven million times. I hauled pallets and filled buckets with tiny little squares of wood and screws. I told him I’m glad we kept this pickup. I told him that this job sucks as he threw a giant piece of plywood over a pile in the pickup box that was dangerously close to toppling over and then I got in the passenger seat as we drove to unload that dangerous pile, chasing after stray particle boards and escaped pieces of plastic flying in the tornado like winds before we went back to do another load.

And another.

And another.

He told me he wished it was summer so that when he lifted these boards he might find a salamander or two.

Salamanders are like tiny water dragons he said.

You’re a dork, I said.

And then I said I wished it was summer too.

We always wish it was summer around here.

And the job, the chore itself, it sucked. And here I am now inside the house on a Saturday night with a homemade pizza waiting to be put in the oven and a husband worn out and sorta snoring on the easy chair…

The evening is mine now.

I can do anything with it.

And I’m sorta wishing we were still out there throwing boards into the back of that green pickup.

And I don’t know why that is except that I would do anything with that boy.

I have just always wanted to do anything with that boy…

 

Happy Day Earth! Thanks for being our home.

IMG_6720Earth, we love you. We love how you bring flowers after the snow. How you promise them to us, even when you’re still brown and thawing. How you don’t let us down.

IMG_6553Earth, we love you. We love how you keep us, how you hold us, how you call us to lay down in the grass under the warm sun.

Cowgirl Wildflower

And how that warm sun changes you so you look different every day.

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We love your tall trees and your tall grass.

Grass and Sky

We love your mud and dirt for growing things.

Rain on the ButtesYou’re stark and flat and predictable.

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You’re rocky and uneven and scary and beautiful.

Horses in BadlandsWe love your horizons and the way the moon emerges from the edge of it all.

moon above the landscape

And then the sun comes.

Ranch SunriseOh, we love your sun.

IMG_6727 Wild SunflowersSunset

Sunset RideAnd your wind.

IMG_6517 WindWindWindAnd your rain.

Rain on horsesRain on ConeflowersRain on berriesBarnyard RainAnd your snow.

Purple flowers in snow Bird in snow

snow stormFrom all who take from you, live on you and love you and thrive…

Horses on Hill

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one last clover Lake Binnoculars Laying in the grass Big Lake Lab

IMG_6745Happy Day Earth. Thanks for being our home.

Landscape

Sunday Column: I’ll be an old woman

I’ve been thinking about growing up lately, about my age and what it means to be an adult, to be a grown woman. To be established in my skin.

Maybe it’s the changing of a season, another summer coming upon us and the noticeable way my plans have changed from frolicking around the hills on the bare back of my sorrel horse to fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, meeting deadlines and penciling in time for the fun.

Maybe it’s the new silver scattered in my hairline, the silver I just sat in a chair for hours to have covered, to camouflage the passage of time as it’s made a splattering of an appearance for the world to see.

It could be those things and then it could be how it feels to watch my big sister raise an almost four-year old, my little sister finish her Master’s degree and my parents make plans for a new chapter in their lives.

Or it could be tax season and the oh, so grown-up responsibility and that cringeworthy check I’m plopping in the mail for the government today.

Maybe. Maybe it could be that.

When I was a little girl no one told be about these things. About what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that the growing up part isn’t like a music montage in a Disney movie.

No one told me the adult version of myself might forget about the ten-year old girl who used to wonder out loud when a person turns from a kid with energy to burn into a tired adult who would rather sit on the porch and drink coffee. No one told the ten-year-old version of myself that one day, I too would find myself a little too tired at the end of the day to build forts in the trees and stay out until dark or suppertime, whichever came first.

No one explained to me that one day that supper would be my responsibility and it’s importance would eclipse my waning desire to lean logs up against fallen trees.

I wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

But all that doesn’t matter now. I’ve made it this far and between the work and the worry I decided I needed to make some promises to myself.

About getting older.

About the kind of woman I want to be.

The kind who doesn’t bother with things like gray hair and doesn’t get worked up about mud on the floor.

The kind that saddles her own horse and breathes in the spring air, declaring the beauty of the season change while searching for crocuses.

The kind that doesn’t mind the passage of time. Who wears the lines on her face and her weathered hands with grace, a badge of a life well lived under the big blue sky of home.

Making these sort of declarations is freeing. To know how I want to turn out, to see myself there in my garden below the house, to know with as much certainty as that ten-year-old girl I used to be that I want to be the kind of old woman who doesn’t just live here on this place, but becomes a fixture, like the old fence posts holding stretched wire across the landscape–expected, subtle, weathered, wise.

Useful.

Beautiful.

Coming Home: When I grow up, I want to…
by Jessie Veeder
4-13-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Catch me at the
North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Workshop
Monday, April 14, 2014
Fargo, ND

Leotards, fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

Ok, there was a time in my life when I wore nothing but leotards.

There, I said it.

I needed to make this confession today.

Purple leotards with pink tights. Pink leotards with purple tights. Short sleeves, polyester, spandex blends stretched tight over my belly, squishing the baby fat desperate to escape the confines of the fabric out  the seams and topping the whole thing off with leg warmers, velcro shoes and a fuzzy ponytail.

I was a sight to behold, a wild-child, a weird kid who had no explanation really for her choice in every day attire except, I can imagine, simply that today, I wanted to wear my leotard.

And tomorrow, I want to wear it again.

Leotard

Maybe it was because my mom was a dancer and an aerobics instructor and I had seen the woman, long and lean and graceful, rocking her own Jane Fonda attire while she lead a class to the tune of the Flash Dance soundtrack.

Or maybe it was because my big sister was a ballerina. A tiny, delicate ballerina who wore beautiful sparkly tutus and toe shoes and twirled and jumped and leapt elegantly across the stage under the lights.

Or maybe I just liked the free movement spandex provided while I drug my blankie through the grass on my way to the sandbox in my grandmother’s back yard.

I’m not sure, because I was too young at the time of my leotard obsession to hold on to the reasoning so that I might go back in adulthood and analyze it. But I’ll tell you this, even though I was only three or four years old, it was pretty clear I was inheriting none of that grace and elegance thing. But it didn’t matter to me. In my mind I was something. In my mind I was leaping and twirling right alongside my big sister on that big stage. In my mind I was Jane Fonda.

Of course I was also digging in the dirt, popping heads off of dandelions, peddling my trike towards gramma’s, making mud soup, bossing around the neighborhood boys, singing Sunday school songs at the top of my lungs, making up the words as I went along and hunting and tracking ladybugs in the short grass.

All in my trusty leotard.

Can you imagine the looks on my grandparents’ faces when my parents brought their girls over for Easter dinner, their oldest in perfect pastels and frills and the youngest traipsing around the egg hunt looking like Jazzercise personified? That was a cute family picture.

Country CousinsCan you imagine what my parents thought when their three or four year old woke up one day and declared it was time to put on her leotard, obliging, I’m sure, because I put up a fight, or maybe, because they were always free thinking supervisors and probably didn’t see the harm in a day in a spandex. But that day turned into another day and on to the next, and, well, you know the rest…

Anyway, eventually I moved on. Probably to my Wonder Woman costume, but that’s another story. I bring this phase of my life up today only because I was reminded of it by my Texas cousin last week via a Facebook post about her daughter.

It looked like this.

“A insists on wearing her leotard every day now. You went thru this too, right?:)”

A 2

To which I replied something like: “Yes, and I hope this similarity doesn’t worry you…”

Now, my cousin M and I were born a month apart and spent our childhood dressing alike (after my leotard phase) and trying to convince the world we were twins. It made sense to me, I wanted to be just like her, and still do.  She’s beautiful and sweet and funny and always pulled together.

She was a perfect long french braid. I was a fuzzy ponytail with plastic barrettes keeping the flyways at bay.

She was a Christmas dress. I was an oversized holiday themed puffy paint sweatshirt with stirrup pants.

She was flute playing pretty notes. I was a guitar playing some weird song I just made up…

She is a math teacher. I’m a long winded-story…

And we get along perfectly.

Then along came baby A…

Baby A, who’s not really a baby anymore because she insists on riding her pony Pearl all by herself, and yes, Uncle G, she can let the cats out of the barn whenever she wants.

Baby A who sprays herself in the face with a garden hose and thinks it’s a riot so she does it again and again.

Baby A who has her own guitar and uses it to accompany herself as she sings long songs at the top of her lungs about girls riding horses through the trees.

Baby A who’s hair escapes that golden brown ponytail and fuzzes just right.

Baby A who is just stubborn enough to convince her mother every day that she should wear a leotard.

A

I looked at the photo, me here between the buttes of our North Dakota home and my Cousin M under the warm sun of Texas, and I wondered if the miles don’t matter as much as we think they do.

That there are pieces of us in our family that surface and resurface throughout our lives, showing up in our children and their children’s children in a familiar laugh, a crooked smile, a skin tone or a shape of a nose.

Cousins

Looking at Baby A standing so confidently in her plastic high heels and pink leotard miles and miles away but so close to my heart, I can’t help but think that maybe an affinity for leotards just runs purple and pink somewhere in our blood, alongside the place where we keep fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

And to that I say, oh, Baby A, I’m so happy there’s someone else out there who understands…