January 1st, 2002


Christmases past

I wanted a ballerina doll. A tall thin beauty with toes that pointed, that you could bend to point. The doll came dressed in a tutu, pink probably, but it was mostly the toes that I wanted.

I asked my father for this doll in a letter. I don't know how specific I was. I felt I was very clear, but I was maybe nine or ten at the time. I don't remember. So when the package arrived I shook it. I heard a rustle, like a tutu, and dared to hope. Both my sister Mary and I had asked for these dolls and we both thought maybe that's what was in there.

On Christmas eve, our family had a tradition of opening just one present. A kind of whetting of the appetite, perhaps, or maybe assuaging, finding out what was in just one of those presents. Mary and I both wanted to open that package from our father.

We ripped it open and foundstraw hats. The rustle was the straw. He couldn't get us the doll, I thought, he had to get us this cheap thing. I don't know what my father's financial situation was then, but I had the impression he was trying to get off cheaply, was inclined to find a cheap substitute for whatever we wanted.

Later, when I was in college, I asked him for the Schnabel edition of the Beethoven sonatas, a large fat book edited by one of the foremost interpreters of Beethoven's music. I was clear this time, I know. I told my father I wanted this specific edition, no other, no substitute. I remember his huffy reply, something like, I know the difference. I got what I wanted that year but paid for it with that bit of acrimony, that almost resentful response from my father.


I wrote for over an hour this morning. First, that memory of Christmases past, that I posted here. Then I transcribed the piece I started yesterday from my notebook into the computer and worked on it more, fleshed it out. I think it qualifies as flash fiction now. But I will resist temptation, not post it yet. I can tell it can use more work.

Backing up

An entry from my November journal - written on my laptop:

November ??
It's actually about 7:45 am. The Joester will likely press buttons if I get onto his mom's computer to write, and I will lose everything. I am watching the boy today. I am thinking we might go on a hike, a short one, Elaine & Joey and I. That may be too ambitious, though. Oddly, I tend to lose ambition when I am here. I wonder what happens.

We went out to the Olive Garden for dinner last night. I shoveled it in - not as much as I used to eat but way more than I usually do now. I felt so stuffed and out of it. I am hoping to regain some sense of control from here on. Well, of course I will. I have been too far down this road for too long not to get back on that horse.

We went to Ethel M's Chocolate Factory to see the lighted cactus garden. So wondrous, beautiful. But I didn't have my camera with me. Maybe we can get back there again before I leave. It is hard to describe it otherwise.

2:10 pm

Many hours later. Joey is asleep on the floor of the living room. Probably I could pick him up and put him on a bed but I am not taking the chance. It has been a quiet day, really. Joey is a nice little boy, selfish as young children are yet not overly. Not unreasonably demanding, able to give up when it looks necessary. Altogether adjustable, flexible. Interested in much, learning from whatever is in front of him. Active little brains like his can use a lot of assistance. I have never been great at that, not on a continuous basis anyway.

As I read this book - My Secret History (Paul Theroux) - I keep seeing parallels to my life through this man who is in some ways like Dwain. I see this woman - two women, actually - who are so worried about losing him. He keeps his distance and they worry. They apologize for their words or actions. They second-guess themselves. This is so like me. How much easier to just be, to let go and let it be. Ray can do this. Doesn't worry what people think, expects them to take him as he is or not at all. Dwain doesn't give for another either, although he will berate himself for what he feels was bad behavior on his part. Recognizes his own insensitivity - but this has always been a question for me. If you know you are insensitive, aren't you sensitive?

It's funny how books can come along right when I can get something from them. Likely I find what I need in them and it doesn't really matter which books they are. But in this case there do seem enough parallels to make the discovery of the book fortunate.

I found a book at a used bookstore yesterday: Dare to be a Great Writer. It's got to be a better book in some ways than the usual books on writing. I keep thinking of using these times, this time, in my writing, and I think I have one way at least. There will be others.

Another blast from November

My second (and last) withheld journal entry, from my Thanksgiving visit:

Sunday, 9 am. I am foolishly writing in Word again, thinking I'll load it sometime. Joey is at the computer with a game. I have been trying to show him the connection between the mouse and the arrow on the screen, so he can have more control. If I were here all the time this would be easy to follow up. But he'll figure out a lot of it anyway.

I feel frustrated again. I don't know what I want. If I had the day to myself what would I do? What about the music I should be practicing? I should get the disk out of the car so I can at least listen to it on my laptop, and sing along with it. Get some of the words better.

I will call elaine and we'll plan. That will help. I think what I want is to have someone else here with me.


elaine is called. Joey is mostly dressed. I am mostly dressed. Joey is playing a coloring game and actually doing some things right.

Exercise. I haven't been doing it. It is getting to me. There is only so much I can do in this situation. The VCR doesn't work so I can't do a video. Walks are tough with Joey, can't go far enough and the streetswell. Not so interesting. I will have to get back in the groove when I get home.

Monday morning 5:20

We went to an English pub-wannabe last night, Mary & I. Elaine opted out. Had a beer and mozzarella sticks, talked. That was good, really. I think I had several times to talk to both Elaine & Mary and I think that for me it was good. The insight that has stuck with me, that I have discussed with E & M, is that I have gone too far to please others, that I have been too needy, too afraid.

Yesterday morning Elaine & I took Joey to the Palms for breakfast. There wasn't an open table in mary's section so we had to wait. Her manager was a bitch, telling us primly to stand behind the line while we waited and then ignoring us except to glare when Joey tried to get inside to see his mom. We would have walked if it weren't for Mary. Someone should let the management know - the upper management - that this woman is not good for business. The breakfast was good, though, when we finally got in. I decided while eating that I may as well enjoy it. I was not having a perfect meal for me, but it tasted good so why not enjoy it.

I will have coffee with Elaine and then head out, a day later than intended. I don't know how I am going to get caught up with the music I was going to study today. I will try to concentrate on a few pieces, improve those.

December journal

My lengthy December entry:

23 December 2001

I have only just now taken my laptop computer from my car. It had been there since my last visit here. I discovered the cord with transformer here next to the outlet, in fact. I would not have been able to start the computer at home, because the battery is clearly dead, perhaps forever, never to take a charge again.

It is yet early, not quite eight. Joey is not awake yet, mary is at work.

I had a hell of a headache last night but it went away, thank heaven. I think the tensions I usually experience while here played a part. My overly-sensitive daughters, each feeling Iam more devoted to the other. And my lurch from my regular routine, especially exercise. I told myself I would lighten up, figuratively, would not stress about not doing as much as usual. But it is still bothering me. I think in part because I eat differently and the food bothers me and makes me feel sluggy and not well and so I need the exercise even more.

Mary's tree looks good, well-surrounded with packages. I am looking forward to our Christmas. I think I found nice gifts and they will be appreciated. I think I found funny ones, too. I have gone in with Mary on a few, and with Elaine on one. Combining efforts is good, I think.

While at the video store yesterday buying gift cards, I found videos on sale for four for $20. Previously viewed but what the hell. I bought four. One I had seen before, Memento, and had wanted to own. The others I had heard of. That isn't all I bought for myself. I found picture frames at a dollar store. I wanted to buy myself long slacks at Lerners. Maybe I will, acctually. I don't think there is a Lerners anywhere near where I live so it may be a good idea to take advantage. Nice slacks and tall at that. Doesn't happen often.

Because I had not heard from Dwain I worried about the cats. I called him, at elaine's suggestion. His voice sounded so warm. I felt a rush of warmth myself. Maybe this is good, nice. Words on the computer only convey part of the message. That's what has been hardest for us both, I think.

Elaine gave me early presents - CDs she burned for me (and made lovely CD labels for ) inside a CD case, plus a nice lap blanket, warm and fuzzy. She has a hard time keeping these things to herself, I think! I am impatient, too. I feel especially impatient about the calendars I made for elaine & mary. Pictures of us, pictures of scenes along route 166, our birthdays. A personal calendar. I think it looks good and I am glad I made it happen. I originally wanted to make calendars for everyone in the family but I don't know all the birthdays so I gave up on that. Maybe next year. The binding is a challenge, anyway. For Elaine & mary's I found notebooks with transparent sleeves. Thin plastic covers, thin notebooks, six sleeves. So it was just right for 12 pages. I punched holes in the pages and in the covers of the books so it can hang. I thought it was pretty clever.

I am going to save this and the two journal entries I made in November - that never got posted correctly - on a disk, so I can add them to the journal when it is convenient.

It is cold outside. The mountains around Las Vegas have snow on them. We are talking of going to Mount Charleston after Christmas for the day. That seems a good idea. Getting out of las Vegas may be a good thing, too. But it was funny that when I rolled in Friday night it was almost like coming home. I don't feel the full warmth and nostalgia I might feel if I had actually lived here, but I had been here so often it does feel like home, or a simulation of home, which seems so very appropriate here.

About 5:00 p.m.

I made cookies. Joey helped decorate. They taste good, we made a good mess, they look cute. I am glad I did it!

December 24, early, about six

Mary came in last night at about one, from a party with co-workers. Edward, her new guy, drove her and stayed the night with her, is in her bedroom. Last night Elaine & I made banana bread and it came out really well. How comforting, this baking. I haven't done it in so long. Yet I have eaten more and exercised less these two last days. I was able to tell I had gone three days without exercise because when I sat on the couch my legs started doing that weird cramping thing they used to do. I had not realized that that was no longer happening - another benefit of my regular exercise. Today I am determined to get through kathy smith, whatever it takes, and it may take a lot.

It is not unusual for mary to be out of the usual staples. I wonder why. I tend to go overboard the other way, putting by for rainy days, which may be a sign that I too did this, used to do this. I think I did, in fact, run out of stuff more often. Right now the problem is toilet paper. Yesterday I got her milk and eggs (she did have those but didn't know how old they were) and more juice and diapers and dishwasher detergent. It is a bitch getting by now, for her, because she is making less than ever.

Both Elaine & Mary work today. We'll do our Christmas tonight because mary works tomorrow too. We plan to use gift certificates Mary got as a Christmas bonus to have dinner and then go to a movie (probably Ali) tomorrow night.

I just met Edward. Not what I expected at all. Very brief meeting, though.

I am going to save this now, to disk, and try to send it, get it posted.

(no subject)

I wrote more this afternoon, a half hour or so. The beginnings of another short story. I sent both stories to Elaine & Mary. later I looked at the one I liked best and found a flaw in it. Maybe more. I can fill it in, perhaps, fix it.