memories

Memory box

Growing up, my mother encouraged me to keep a memory box of all cards and letters I received from friends and family, because she told me I would cherish the memories one day. Because she was my Ma, and I took her word as Law, I religiously kept all such items as a child.

I became slacker in adolescence, and to my eternal regret, I stopped when I moved out at 19. There are some cards she gave me in my twenties that I would give anything to find again, but I lost them during all my moves, and my carelessness.

Tuesday, after my bad day, when I was desperately searching for something to comfort and anchor me, I opened up the Memory Box for the first time since she died. I found so many treasures there, including her letter to me, aged thirteen-minus-two and this one:

Jan 19, 1995

Good Morning Miss Bingi,

Shake yourself awake little girl!!!

It’s a new day and how hard you work now will make all the difference in your tests today. Wake me as soon as you need quizzing. Say “Ma, I need you! It’s important, my old mom.”

Yours truly,

Sosipatra Hoggstub

P.S. Nightmares Mimi is having tonight:

  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimiburger
  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimihotdog
  • What’s next? Mimi Pizza?

(For a full introduction to Mimi, my childhood bestfriend and teddybear, read When you are having a bad day… and Where I rediscover that Mimi is fidèle.)

I have countless such handwritten notes that she’d leave on the kitchen table for me to find when I’d wake up. Some are whimsical (Sosipatra Hoggstub?! Straight outta Harry Potter, before Harry Potter even existed), some are irritated, some are forgiving, all are written with so much love. Due to her terrible health and pain conditions, she often had trouble falling asleep, sometimes only dozing off at 5am, after my father had woken to go to work. Yet, she always wanted me to wake her in case I needed extra help prepping for school.

What a mama.


Today is my father’s 67th birthday. My old man is off gallivanting in Moscow and St-Petersburg with some friends. He is enjoying his retirement, which given how hard he worked his whole life… is a very good thing.

A tribute to my old man

Happy birthday, Pops!

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Halloween vs a high school reunion: are they any different, really?

It is my 15-year high school reunion tonight. FIFTEEN. That’s a long time. I’m old. I’m old as fuck. OYE.

I am no longer friends with any of the girls I went to school with. This is a reasonable outcome from my experience in high school: I didn’t have any crazy close friends, even though I enjoyed several good relationships, nor was I made to be miserable by any of my schoolmates. Other than a rough start for the first 2 years (+/- = middleschool for all you Americans), high school was painless experience for me. Maybe because I had too much going on at home, with my perma crippled state and my volcanic teenage relationship with my mother; I kept my schoolmates at friendly arm’s length (even then, I was ambivalent about vulnerability!) and viewed school as a drama free space. All my friendships faded within 5 years of graduation. Still, I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls (I went to an all-girl school run by nuns). From what I can see, many/most of them are married with children. Social media lies, of course, but the ones I follow seem happy.

When I graduated high school, I assumed that by 30, I’d be married, probably with kids, a house in the ‘burbs, and some job in science. Turns out I striked out on all 3 counts. I don’t have much to show for my years, other than a solid career that is by no means stellar. I remember a time when such thoughts would have filled me with shame, but instead, today, as I reflect on my life these past 15 years, I feel pride.

And that brings me to last year’s Halloween. During that weekend, I met Strawberry who, in the subsequent months, played a small but pivotal role in my comfort with my identity as a writer (we still communicate regularly, and keep the acquaintance alive). I went to a boxing party where I spoke to Beaut for the first time. I went to another party where I made out with a guy, ending my 17-month sexual fast. Looking back on that weekend, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. When I think of all that has happened since then… I am amazed. Beaut happened: for all the emotional roller-coaster, I don’t regret anything. His worldview challenged mine; it is thanks to him that I am pursing my writing with more conviction; he pushed me to take up dancing, which brings me so much joy. I travelled to Beirut, for my best friend’s wedding. I travelled to France for work and pleasure. I stopped therapy, after 20 months; and despite some tricky moments, and resurgence of some symptoms, I have been managing my mental health all by myself, with success. Lately, I’ve put my career back in high-gear; its been a thrill to realize Smart Vanilla is back. My friends are amazing, constantly reminding me that I am dearly loved.

For the first time, I can say that I live life to the fullest. I’ve had good and bad moments. I have made mistakes. But, after 12 months of taking risks, some of which paid off, and some didn’t, I can look back at what I’ve done and be proud that I tried. I might not have anything concrete to show for the past 15 years, other than the battlescars of life, but these scars remind me of the moments where my spirit almost broke… but didn’t. I’m still here and I am happy. I have my spirit and my smile.

Who’d have thought that a high school reunion and Halloween weekend would trigger such strong emotions of gratitude and contentment?!

2 objects 2 owners

Assignment 4: Describe 2 objects: what they are, how you got them, what they mean to you (emotional connection). E.g. “The chair” or “The cup”. Trick is that you truly own one of the two objects. Class will have to guess which of the two.


Just a ring

I never saw my mother wear it, because by the time I was born, her hands were perma-swollen from all the pain medication for her health issues. I glimpsed it once or twice as a child, the rare times she would open her box of treasures, and stare at her collection of jewelry. My mother favored bright colors in life and clothing: this ring was different, a pale blue stone. Icy. Aloof.

By the time I was a young adult, my mother’s coquettish side had resurfaced. The few times she would go out, she’d picked her outfits with care, occasionally even wearing lipstick. She’d ask me to help her with her necklaces and for advice on which earrings to wear. I loved those girly moments with my mother. We’d sit on the bed poring over her jewelry box, she wearing her dainty reading glasses to better see her “shiny things” with. I asked her once about the icy ring – it mesmerized me, with its delicately wrought silver band, and quiet beauty. She curtly explained it was her almost-engagement ring. Her father died from a massive heart attack the night my parents announced their engagement. My grandmother blamed my parents for killing my grandfather. She refused to acknowledge their engagement, and as my father hadn’t thought to buy my mother a ring, nobody believed they were affianced for the first several months following my grandfather’s death. My father eventually scraped some money together and bought this ring, but the damage was done. Their engagement, and this ring, was forever associated with pain and grief. My mother chose a gold wedding band – a new ring for a new chapter.

When she died, I asked my father for her jewelry box. I’ve kept everything intact, including the pair of reading glasses stored in the second drawer from the top, except for the icy blue ring, that I wear as a talisman. This ring was and remains a ring of grief. But it is also a ring of love, the love my parents shared, and the love I’ll always have for my mother.

My first pair of point shoes

Tucked away on the top shelf in my closet next to my childhood teddy-bears is a shoe box. As the years go by, I take it down and open it less frequently, but I know it is there. A reminder of a by-gone dream that still hurts me.

My first pair of pointe shoes. Almost in pristine condition – I only managed to squeeze in a handful of classes before I blew out my knee in a career-ending injury. Despite their minimal usage, there are some faded brown stains inside, the mandatory traces of blood that every ballerina must suffer for her passion. The ribbons are frayed slightly, from all the times I tied these shoes during the years of surgeries, rehabilitation and endless physio. I’d slip on these point shoes hoping they would magically heal my swollen, scared and bruised knee with their magical properties of beauty, art and soul. They didn’t.

I considered throwing them away when I finally got my professional title as an accountant: surely it was time to accept that my identity as an artist and a dancer was over? Surely it was time to be mature and pursue a real career? I’m glad I didn’t. For here I am, a decade later, finally giving voice to my feelings. My form of self-expression is not and never will be those point shoes, but I hope my words and laptop will fill that artistic void. That shoe-box keeps me accountable for following my dreams. 

#writingwayoflife #soulofanartist


So? Which of these 2 objects do I own? Which one is real? Leave your answer in the comments – and let me know what makes you think so! Please – this will help me work on the verissimilitude of my creative writing. Your feedback is appreciated!