Sunday, August 30
There is nothing more annoying than a hipster who runs through Europe in two weeks and regales their experience as though they lived there for years. They offer advice on where to eat, sleep, see and avoid. So high on their interpretation of a place and ego, they overload their social media with selfies and witticism. The worst fancy themselves as wordsmiths and post drones of minutia on blogs no one reads. I am not a dreadlocked hipster, but guilty of all of the above. I conclude we all want to be uniquely remembered.
Here, on the train to Venice I ponder this phenomenon as little towns drift by and hoards of people appear and vanish on platforms, roadways and little back yards. Nosey me wonders who they are and what they are up to. I consider the irony of a well polished police officer and a train captain leaning against a wall of violent graffiti. An old lady sits on a bench with her groceries, a middle aged skinny one is lost in a book. Men in suits and well heeled ladies hastily drag pet suitcases and harried parents drag reluctant children enroute to destinations unknown to me.
The train groans and squeals as it leaves so many behind. Busy little humans all heading somewhere with hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows uniquely their own.
Noticed or not, in a moment they are gone and soon forgotten. Yet every one wishes to leave a mark and be remembered.
Curious me wonders where that desire comes from? Did cavemen draw on walls to say "HEY, I WAS HERE!" Do I write to record my life as though it is so original it should be a feature film? Is it an innate desire to teach or inspire or am I just a clown seeking an audience to tickle? Neurotic me asks if someone in my world makes me feel so inadequate I need to justify my existence in clever prose?
The people on the train are a smorgasbord of personalities and lifestyles. I spend some time doing what we all do. I let arrogant me measure myself against them, partly out of curiosity, but more likely to fatten my ego. It's the whole Honey Boo Boo Effect.
I listen to the man on his phone across the aisle doing business. He sounds important. I fancy there is no one at the other end. I would not want his job. Too intense and boring for me. He is pompous and arrogant. I am better than him. The woman across from him is dressed in designer clothes, her accessories scream label worship and I assume she is posting selfies on her laptop. Adored in well worn bargain basement clothes, utilitarian sneakers, fake pearl earrings and a plastic purse, I am so much better than her. Such a waste of money to chase trends. Who, save celebrities, was ever remembered by what they wore? Who wants the crux of their eulogy to read, "She could really put an outfit together." I write her off as shallow and vain.
I can tell by the back of the heads of the young lovers in front of me they are on vacation. They talk about Milan and Venice, and are making a plan to ditch the friend they were meeting there. They justify it by saying their time is limited, but it's clear they do not like Dan. I am better than them because I feel sorry for Dan.
Once I run out of targets, I move on to the ones who flash past on streets and in fields at 300 miles an hour. In a instant I gauge if I am doing better than this one or that. Bag person, yes. Kid in a field, Yes, Cylist, Yes, Lady in chicken coop Yes. I am better than all of them. This is a useless exercise so I abort.
Euphoric me takes the helm and I decide being alive should be enough. To be myself, live, love and never tire of the wonder and awe available in every day. I know I am not better than any of these folks. Nor am I worse. I concede to be content with the norm I am. I will be remembered for the happy, generous, loving funny person I am. For my good works, sensitive acts of compassion and the ability to record life as I see it from my humble view. I can learn from these people. I could use a haircut, work harder and be more kind to the one friend I have. I feel smug in my altruistic deduction for 30 seconds until bitchslap me starts her own rant.
You are so full of crap! What the hell is all this? She decks euphoric me and takes the podium. Why cut your hair? It's bad enough you dye it from grey to brown. Like everything about you, it's false advertising and no one is going to stop in the street and say "WOW! I love your haircut lady! Will you marry me?" And what job do you think you should be doing? CEO of some fortune 500 company? You can't even go to bed or get up on regular basis! You have ONE friend Nancy. ONE. You suck at everything you think you do well! You are a mediocre painter and your writings are long winded drones of blather! I will tell you how you will be remembered. I can write your eulogy in one word: FORGETTABLE.
I cannot tell you how much I hate this me.
The bitch goes on about my unending to do lists of places to see and world problems to solve. You can't even solve an entire crossword puzzle! I remind her I don't particularly care for crosswords. "THAT'S BECAUSE WE CAN'T DO THEM! SOME FREAKING WORDSMITH!" Do you really think you will do something amazing? You spend half the day in fantasy and the other half eating! I don't eat that much. YES NANCY! YES YOU DO. Do people become morbidly obese from moving mountains and putting their hands to the plough? No, they get fat sitting on their lard making lists of ideas and projects they will never get to! That's you in a jar of Nutella. Why don't you get off our ass and just do something! ANYTHING! Well, I am going across Europe all by myself. WHOOPTY SHIT! IT'S A VACATION! YOU ARE ALONE BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO TRAVEL WITH YOU! HOW IS A SELFISH EXPENSIVE FREAKIN' VACATION DOING ANY GOOD IN THE WORLD?" We aren't even going anywhere dangerous or exciting! We are just exploring cushy suburbia in ten different languages we don't even speak! Hey! I get us lost plenty. That could be dangerous.
We don't get you. We could have been somebody. We had potential. I think I still have potential. You are too old for potential. So what? Should I just head to the back of the train and jump? Oh that's the spirit, make a hilarious joke. Do you really want your children to remember you as the mom who never got a real handle on life? You are a long list of fails; marriage, jobs, friends, art, kids. My kids are not fails. They are spectacular.
Not them, YOU FAIL. They will remember sitting in the rain waiting after soccer games and school plays you missed and then forgot to pick them up. How about little 3 year old Jen shaking you in bed saying it might be fun to have breakfast today or toddler Joel rousing you from sleep because he can't see through the smoke. Smoke from the pan you left in the oven which almost burned the house down. How about the time you left an event and teenage Chris had to run after you and ask for a ride home because you forgot he was with you! You slammed all their tiny fingers in car doors, left Easter baskets on heating vents, and made your shyest child a bush for halloween! Who the hell makes their child a shrub for Halloween? It seemed like a good idea at the time. You don't even have a mom tag line. You used to always say what? Wait! You DO have a tagline, but SHUT UP is not a good one. I take back the eulogy, it should just read FAIL. Put that on your headstone.
Why are you such a bitch and how did you become a part of me?
OMG I can't even believe you are bringing that up. I have one job in your head. ONE JOB: To make you a better person.
Thanks, I feel so much better.
There is a commercial break in my head as we go through a tunnel and I look at the ghostly white reflections of the faces on the train. I hallucinate they are all looking at me in agreement with me. I consider the rant and appreciate though she is hostile, she is not the liar. The liar plaits me with delusions of grandeur and whispers all sorts of devious plots in my head. I remember the time she fancied a career as a cat burglar. Her logic was we could break through the most ingeniously locked doors by sawing through the walls instead. We didn't need anything in particular, so we were all unclear as to why we would burgle in the first place, except to chop through walls. She was outvoted, but to her credit, we now have an unsettling fear of clever burglars.
The bitch is honest. I close my eyes and try to conjure the judge. She will make sense of it all.
Laid back me appears and let's me know the judge is not in today and this is not really her forte. I stretch my legs, recline in my seat and welcome me. I like laid back me.
So what's goin' on Nanc? Why the concern about how we are remembered? I dunno, I see all those people I will forget and I suppose it seems I will be too. So? We will be dead. Dead people don't sit around taking inventory about how they scored, that's the bullshit of the living. So you don't you think I should be working on a grand finale or something? What kind of finale and for who? I dunno, something to be remembered by. A really really good painting. A book maybe. A book by Nancy Zimmerman. I will call it "A book to be remembered by." Me winks and grins. I knew she would like that.
Who do we want to be remembered by? I dunno, my kids, my friend. Maybe the cats and the dog. Maybe the people who read the book.
So you want us to be remembered by strangers we never met?
So just the four people then.
No delusion of grandeur there I suppose. Are we dying soon?
I don't think so.
Well we have time then. What kind of a final tada do you think would impress them?
Shall we write an email of enquire?
Do you think we will enjoy living in an institution when they put you away?
I dunno. Maybe we should just surprise them.
How do we remember the people we loved who have died? How did they measure up? What great deeds were done or mountains moved?
We only know ordinary people. Uncle Rosy had a metal plate in his head from being shot in a war. But I remember Lucille Ball. Did you know Lucy? No, but I loved her. Another wink.
You are missing the point Nanc. We don't care what people we love achieve. We remember their spirits that drove the smiles, kindnesses and silly quirks which made us love them. Did we forget Uncle Doug or aunt Doreen because he was an ordinary man and she a janitor? No. We remember the twinkle in his eye and how he welcomed us as though Santa had arrived every time. Aunt Doreen was laughter loud and coarse. We remember the energetic life she was. True.
I know what's coming. I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge right now being visited by ghosts.
You have the same hair. Wink. So what about Mom? No great novel or prizes. No celebrity. Shall we forget her?
Don't be mean.
I remember the looks of pride and joy in her eyes when I got something right, the regret I felt when I hurt her. I know the comfort of her warm embrace and how her bed could protect me from ghosts, thunder, stomach aches and nightmares. The smell of her powder and the stain of her red lipstick kisses are marked on my heart.
It not what she did, but why. She could sew anything, but sewed whimsical costumes and beautiful dresses just for me. She could cook, but she made fat sugar cookies for me. She made boxes into castles, egg cartons into treasure chests and set my imagination on fire. She saw my mischief and creativity and fed them both with crayons and books of make-believe. She loved so many, but she made me believe she loved me most.
In the now silent darkness of the train, I visit her.
Hi Mom. How am I doing? You're doing fine. Do you think I need a hair cut? Yes. Is this trip is stupid? No. It's been wonderful. Am I am a good mom? Yes. You are a very good mom. Am a good person? Yes. Did I do enough? You do the important things. I'm trying hard. I know.
Do I need a grand finale? No. How about a mom tag line? No. I never had one. Yes you did. My mom always used to say "Who do you are the queen of Sheba? We both smile.
Do you think my kids love me? Yes.
Am I gonna be okay? Yes, Nancy. You are okay.
Do you think I will be remembered even if I don't write a book?
I remember you.