Monday, November 25, 2013

Return to the homeland.

I recently had the chance to spend two days in Michigan, the side of Michigan where I lived from age 9 to age 20, to reunite with some friends and revisit old stomping grounds.  

I have only been home once in 20 years because my parents have not lived there since I started college, so I stopped going there for weekends and holidays 20 years ago.   Time has softened the edges of some of those memories.  Going back home has that trippy quality --things are not just exactly as you remember them to be.  Your childhood home seems smaller, and new restaurants and stores have moved in, but there is so much the same.  It even smelled like Michigan, a smell I could not describe for you (do tall trees have a different smell than regular trees?) , but could identify as soon as we got out of the car. 

The purpose of the trip was to reunite with two friends, Sandy who lives back in the area now after living in France for many years, and Sarah, who flew in from Colorado.  I have seen Sandy once about 4 years ago when she came to Maine to photograph a wedding. 

Sarah is a friend with whom, thanks to email, blogs, facebook and cell phones, I have been in very close touch throughout the years.  We've been connected through birthing and raising kids, and she is my ultra-marathon-super-tough-mommy mentor responsible for inspiring me to start running.  She was a go-to friend while I was going through the divorce, and just the kind of friend who I can talk to about anything.  But I had not seen her in the flesh since 1993.  

What a sweet reunion.

age 18.  Prom night.
And now, a few months shy of 40.

 The three of us in 1992:

And now:

It was so good and so weird to be back.  It was so remarkable to hang out with two women whom I've known since we were just kids, and to have ended up so aligned, having similar takes on our memories now that we are looking back from adulthood, having the same sense of gratitude that we had the kind of friends we did and that we kept each other safe, being so in agreement on politics and world events.  Twenty years is a good chunk of life.  We have all lived in multiple places, and there has been so much joy and pain and loss, divorces, parents who died, marriages, babies, relationships that have stretched us, friendships that have hung on tight.

There was a lot to talk about. We spent much of the weekend like this:

And of course, we did this crazy nostalgia tour of all of our old haunts.  First, the childhood homes:




As we made the turn into my neighborhood (what an odd sensation to not know exactly where I was going but to be able to sense the turns as I came up to them), I thought I might faint from missing my dad so hard, but really it felt good to stand on the solid ground that was my childhood home.

The house looked different, but felt the same.  It blows my mind that when I moved into this house, I was the same age Skyler is now.

The lawn and yard has my dad's marks all over it.  I was proud to see that the deck out back was still strong and standing.  We knocked on the door, but the family was not home.  I was kind of relieved.  

We drove by our old schools, friends' houses, and boyfriends' houses. Remember so-and-so?  Remember that night?  Remember that kiss? 

Sarah's house was the axis of our social lives, walking distance from our high school, and always full of boisterous crowds of teenagers coming in and out.  The current owners let us in and showed us around.  We sat on the stairs for old time's sake.  I had many heart-to-heart talks on those steps as a high school kid, and some very romantic kisses.  If those walls could talk. 

We walked through our old high school.  Holy smokes, the memories.

Senior lockers, what's up.
We even ate sliders at Hunter House Hamburgers.  Still greasy, still amazing.

I feel so settled in Maine, and so connected to the landscape and the people here.  I have now lived in Maine longer than any other place, and my roots are here.  But there is something about going home, to where you figured out who you were, and to walk through those streets with some of your favorite friends.  

In Michigan I was Emilie, not a mom or a wife or an ex-wife.  I was a mid-western girl who loved U2 and REM and The Smiths, wore tapered jeans with over-sized sweatshirts, drank Labatt's Blue out of solo cups in Sarah's basement.  I filled journals with angsty prose and drove too fast to make my curfew, and always landed safely at my home, my family of 5.

Though I hated middle school and suffered through a lot of mean-girl drama, in high school, I had a safety net of a really incredible crew of friends. Thanks to facebook, I am in touch with most all of these fine people. 
in Sarah's back yard

20 years later, these same friends still know me.  
Kaca, me, Sarah, Sandy.  

Another thing we discussed and all agreed on, we WOULD NEVER let our children go to the Bahamas for Senior year Spring Break.  What were our parents THINKING?

We really did go to the Bahamas.  30 of us, without chaperones.  When I first broached the subject with my mom when I was a junior, she said:  "OVER MY DEAD BODY."  And yet, somehow I went anyway.    When I asked her about it recently, she admitted:  "you were the youngest child and your persistence broke me."    We did have a blast, but Skyler and Reed? OVER MY DEAD BODY.

It felt so good to fill in some gaps from my childhood, to reconnect, to re-vision the town where I grew up.  I want to stay right here in Maine, but I like knowing that Michigan will always be there for me, and that I'm still so connected to all of these dear people from that part of my life.  Sandy, thank you for hosting us. 

And dear Sarah, may it NOT be another 20 years.  xoxo
parting shot at the Detroit airport

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Turkey Trek 2013: It's on.

The Turkey Trek has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions, and it is on again this year.  In case you have missed the Facebook page, here is some info and background.  Can you believe we've been doing this for 7 years now?

7th Annual Turkey Trek, a 4-mile trail run/walk in City Forest in Bangor, ME on Thanksgiving morning, November 28th. 

 Tripp Road Parking Lot.

 8:00 am start. 

After the run, linger for hot coffee and snacks.

Please bring a non-perishable food donation.  Read on.

Susan and I address the crowd with Melissa Huston from The Good Shepherd Food Bank

My friend Susan and I started the Turkey Trek 7 years ago because we wished there was a local run on Thanksgiving morning.  We also decided to make it into a collection of donations for a local food pantry.  It started small and has grown each year and we are quite proud of it.  During the last few years, we have had well over 100 hundred runners and walkers on Thanksgiving mornings.  We have done the Turkey Trek in rain, sun, and even a foot of snow.  We have donated many, many trunk-loads of food to local food shelters in Bangor.

We'd love to have you join us (again, or for the first time) this year.  Please spread the word to friends and family.  Please know the event is not technically a race.  There are no bib numbers nor a timing system.  It is a gathering of good folks for a run or a walk through the woods, and it will make you feel good, and you will go home happy and ready to cook up your Thanksgiving feast.

Even though it's not a real race, we do offer some incentive to run fast.  The first 3 runners to cross the "finish line" will receive a homemade pie for your Thanksgiving feast.  Susan and I bake the pies and our pies, we have been told, are kind of amazing.

Most importantly, this event is a way for all of us to be thankful for our resources. Food donations will go to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, an organization that services all 16 counties of Maine and provides food to more than 36,000 people per week.  Their website also provides information and education about hunger in Maine, as well as a great blog about the work they do.

The following is from their website:

Why are people hungry?
Basically, there's no good reason for people in Maine to go hungry. There's plenty of food. The problem has always been overcoming the economic and political obstacles that prevent food from reaching those who need it. Ending hunger means solving these more systemic problems while, at the same time, doing everything we can on a daily basis to feed hungry people.

Many people are hungry because they get sick or injured, a spouse or parent dies, or they lose their job or are unable to work. Unfortunately, these bad breaks happen all the time to people in all socio-economic conditions, forcing them to make painful choices like whether to buy food to eat or pay their rent or other living expenses.

The lovely Grace and Marlee on a chilly Thanksgiving morning. 
 So, mark your calendars and spread the word.  Meet us for an 8 am start in the Tripp Road parking lot of City Forest in Bangor, rain or shine.  The run or walk is a 4-mile loop of trail.  Join us on Facebook, and we hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

so this is November

I love every single thing about October, and this year was an especially magical one.  Look at that burning color on that tree in our backyard, as seen from Skyler's window.  And now the month has blended away into November, which has an entirely different feel.  The leaves on that tree are all gone now, and I'm settling into this new feel that is November. 

But first, back to October.

My beloved Red Sox made it to the World Series, which made for many many exciting nights and extreme sleep deprivation.  Most of the games fell on days when I did not have my kids, and by the end of the series, I had perfected my pre-game system for maximum alertness.

I get up early, most days at 4:45 am, 5:00 am at the latest, so starting a baseball game at 8:07 pm has its challenges for a girl like me.  What worked the best?  Short nap after school, followed by a brisk 4-mile run, and then a large coffee.  It worked perfectly, and I stayed glued to every pitch of every game, except for those two times I needed to close my eyes for one inning and then Tim would wake me up.

I spent many days at school operating on 4 or 5 hours of sleep, feeling like I did when my kids were newborns, zombie-like and scratchy-eyed, and caffeinating to get through the day.  

It was so worth it, and so exciting.  I wouldn't have missed one minute of one game.  Even the kids got into it, wearing their Red Sox shirts to school.  Finding this gem in Skyler's school folder made this mama proud.

I loved connecting with my Sox-fan friends via text and facebook during the games.  My friend Ange and I texted back and forth a lot during games, either celebrating a home run or sharing stress when a play went awry.  She is as passionate about the Sox as I am, and we both use colorful language to express our enthusiasm.

During Game 6, I was texting with my sister Liesel, and I accidentally sent her a text meant for Ange.  Oops.  Then this happened.  (My nephew Cameron is 12).  I redacted it so that I wouldn't spoil any more pure, innocent minds.

Cam!  Avert your eyes.  Aunt Emilie just got a little excited.

We had so much fun watching the games together, and so much fun watching them win.  My bearded and brawny crew, you make me so proud.

I love being a part of Red Sox nation, so much Red Sox love from the state of Maine. 

Other late fall kinds of things include cheering for Ellis on the football field,

Helping Reed practice guitar,

Watching Skyler finish off her soccer season, and, as seen in this photo, collapse in exhaustion.

Skyler had a very exciting overnight up at her friend Bella's camp, so we had one quiet weekend with  a good dose of Reed-only time.  

And there was Halloween, of course:
sick abs, Power Ranger.
Skyler is Hermione Granger.  This is taken AFTER trick-or-treating, and the sugar high is in full force.
And now, things have just quieted into a lovely, colder, fire-warmed stretch of time.  We are starting to talk about the holidays, staying inside more, and enjoying every minute together.

The kids are growing up right before our eyes.  Notice the longer, leaner faces and the older look in the eyes.

November means early dusk, colder temps, and running in long sleeve shirts and running tights.  It's just about time for mittens and hats. 

I'm so happy in my life that it doesn't matter if the leaves have mostly blown away.  The chilly weather, this slightly barren feeling of November, feels totally warm to me.

And, only five months until baseball starts again.  It's a good life.  It really is.