Wednesday, August 29, 2012

birthday musings

Today is my birthday. I'm turning 36. Meh. I'm not doing very much today besides collecting all of my birthday greetings on facebook, then later I go to my first Management class at my university's campus in the burbs. Yawn. But there is a party planned in a couple of weeks. Trench and I have our birthdays five days apart, and in our 20's, we threw giant house parties at the end of every August. Good times, but now that I'm in my 30's, I just don't want to spend the whole day cleaning anymore. And everyone leaves by midnight anyway because booze makes us sleepy now. So this year's party is going to be at a swanky bar, but is on a Sunday night and starts at 7 so people can be in bed by ten if they need to. This is how we party in our 30's. But at this point it's more of an excuse to get all our favorite people together in one room.

The parties in our 20's used to be raucous affairs. At the very first one a friend of ours brought over the two baby kittens she found abandoned in her garage, who were destined to become Puck and Elle. Random people from different groups of friends would hook up (sometimes in our basement). One time a whole posse of teenaged punk kids descended on us uninvited, and we finally kicked them out when we saw the 10-year-old drinking a beer. A friend of ours did "psychic backrubs", in which he would tell you things about yourself and deduce your future by rubbing your shoulders. Perhaps he regretted showing off this skill when every year people would descend on him with cries of, "Give me a psychic backrub!" and he would spend entire parties at work. One time Trench and another friend took off their clothes and went streaking in the rain at four in the morning. Another time a friend (the same one who brought the kittens) brought a jug of Peach Schnapps that no one drank. The next morning Trench tried giving it to a homeless man who was crashed out on the stairs next door to us and not even he wanted it. There was dancing and hugging and laughing and people passing out on our couches. I wouldn't exactly say that things have changed that much since we left that particular stage. Just that some of us have an earlier bedtime now, and hangovers can't be chased away with a couple of Advil and a glass of water.

No matter what goes down every year at the end of August, I'm grateful for the amazing friends that I have who bring joy and light to every occasion, whether it's a manic house party in our 20's or a tea party at the nursing home when we're in our 80's. I've carved a pretty fabulous life out for myself, and it's something I need to remember when I fret over whether I should have done this or that differently years ago. That is definitely something to toast. Cheers.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Gentle Read

Recently I needed a new book to read before bed. Something simple that wouldn't be too gripping that could ease me to sleep. I have a shelf dedicated to old favorites from childhood/YA years, and I saw Madeleine L'Engle's Meet The Austin's. "Hey, that would be fun!" I thought. "I haven't read that since I was a kid!"

Oh my.

Um, it was kind of annoying. The Austins were L'Engle's concept of the perfect family. Two parents and four children in New England, with strong morals and high intellects. They spend their evenings singing psalms and quoting Shakespeare. Sometimes they fight, but gosh darn it, they love each other despite it all! The oldest one is building his own space suit. One of the girls wants to be a doctor and performs operations on her dolls. Their grandfather lives in a stable that he converted into a library (okay, that part is cool). They call their parents "Mother" and "Daddy", even the sixteen year old son. But when a young orphan named Maggy comes to live with them, she disrupts everything with her spoiled, selfish ways. Oh noes!

I loved the Austin books when I was younger, and read them over and over, but  I read them all out of order, and when I finally picked up Meet The Austins I distinctly remember not liking it as much as the others. This is the one where the narrator, Vicky, is thirteen, and doesn't do much more than talk about her awesome family, complain about Maggy, and crash her bike. In the other books she's a teenager, and there is Romance and Mystery and Intrigue. This book is merely the introduction of the world's nicest family, who always say grace before dinner and listens to classical music. My Reader's Advisory class at library school would probably classify this as a "Gentle Read."

A small part of me wants to re-read all the Austin books and blog about them, but I feel like snarking on L'Engle crosses a line somewhere. I have a feeling that even re-reading the books I liked might cause great amounts of snark, because I'm pretty sure that although Vicky gets more interesting and has Love Triangles, a lot of her teenaged angst has to do with whether God really exists and if we're just alone in this crazy universe. Just to be clear, I identify as an agnostic (I don't know what's out there after we die, and I don't think anyone else does either), but the heavy Christian overtones don't bother me too much since this was written in the 1960's and I consider it to be part of the time period. That said, goddamn, this one is preachy!

I grew up loving L'Engle's work, so I might leave the Austins and revisit the Murrys. The Murry/O'Keefe family traveled through time and space and even biology (the world of mitochondria!). However, I still might write a snarky review of Meet The Austins if there is popular demand for it.