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The winter closed in on us with alarming decisiveness this year. One minute I was outlandishly tan, floating down the Snoqualmie with screw-top Coors Lights dangling off a tube, and the next I couldn’t feel my fingers.

As soon as the chill sets in, I get very brave. For, like, two seconds. I charge into November, sweaters in tow, breathing in the woodsmoke and the misty bite in the air with vigor, thinking YES, this is the time for nesting and warmth and I am ready and this is good. The daylight starts to dwindle earlier and earlier, until lunch is a sunset affair. The rain pours down with no consideration for what shoes I decided to wear, and all my socks break up with each other, leaving my sock drawer a sad and a pathetic singles scene.

I tend to limp into December with a whimper, hiding under my sweaters, gazing out into the icy abyss and thinking Fuck. Five more months of this. 

And then I burrow into my apartment, and only leave to do necessary things like get food, booze, and earn money.

But it doesn’t help.

I read this gorgeous and educational (gorgeducational) book about five winters ago called Winter World by Bernd Heinrich. It talks about all the different ways that nature not only survives, but thrives in winter. How animals have evolved to find abundance in the sparse sparkle of the deep winter. I remember one quote from the book that has always resonated with me;

“We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience.”

When I recalled that quote (or the gist of it; I had to flip through the book again to make sure I wasn’t making it up, as I am wont to do), I was curled underneath about five blankets and my duvet a few nights ago, with Netflix running. No wonder I always get in such a funk in the winter- I have never made it possible not to be. I predetermine what I am capable of, what I see as possible, based on my established patterns.

But fuck patterns. Life is a fleeting and glorious mess, exploding in color with no traceable consistency. There is no use trying to contain it. It’s easy to see that call to action in summer, that season of sateen nights and gauzy days, all fluttering and wild and light. The winter seems like a hard stop- the period to the sentence of adventure. But it’s not, it can’t be.

So I woke up at 5:45 AM and went to Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls are about 45 minutes away from me, east from Seattle and just past Fall City. In the summer, they tumble down the 270 foot rock face into the river of the same name, surrounded by gossamer evergreens and an ever-present veil of mist. In the winter, they freeze. The mist clings to the rocks, glazing them with glitter in all shades of blue and white, and the ice-heavy trees bow in deference to the tireless churn below.

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And I raced the sunrise out there two days in a row, breathless with solitude and buzzing with the expansion of the winter world as I-90 opened up. The second morning I took my friend Kelly with me, stopping for gas station coffee and pulling over as the sun rolled lazily out of her fiery sleep.

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I can’t decide which day I liked better- the solitude or the companionship. But it’s not a dichotomy in the purest sense- we need to be alone so we can center in ourselves. We need people to let into that center, even when we feel enshrined in ice; slumbering and protecting our warm center. We need to look at things that are much bigger than we are, things that transform their presence with the seasons. We need to peek out of our winter hibernation to knock the limits off ourselves, so we know what’s possible. At this point, it seems that anything is.

That could also be the sleep deprivation talking.

For a taste of what I was listening to in order to stay awake, here’s a playlist:

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Dear Internet God

I pray that for every selfie I see, I remember the entire person behind it and that they Know Not What They Are Doing in General.

That I remember for every joke on Twitter, I am asking for approval more than laughter.

That every well-lit dinner party is populated with people who spend 90% of their time eating Ramen and watching Netflix, Just Like Me.

That I also remember no one is having Fun all the time, because that would be exhausting.

That for every Facebook post extolling a person’s perfect life, there is aching loneliness that must be healed with Touch and Cake, and that is where our physical presence comes in.

Give me the strength to not get too hurt at feeling left out, for people have been left out for all of History, and it was only until your inception, O Internet God, that it was so Fucking Apparent.

On that note, perhaps grant me the wisdom to not post everything I ever do, For That is Annoying, and I am Guilty of It.

Grant me the kindness to not roll my eyes at people who post too many pictures of their Significant Other. They cannot help it- it is hormones flooding their brains and they Shan’t Be Held Responsible, the same way I wasn’t when I made those mix tapes in middle school with too much Michelle Branch.

I plead with you, in all your Infinite Binary Wisdom, to destroy hashtags.

Just, why?

#why?

May I and the ones I love or even tolerate never be too focused on turning ourselves into brands.

I pray all the unflattering pictures of us live forever, while ones where hair is perfect fade forever as our dying youth does.

Finally, venerated God of Information, bring us closer together. You’re doing a terrible job of it so far, but so are we.

 

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Angora Holly Polo and Poppy Helena Van Liquer doing the damn thing

I used to write occasionally for one of my favorite sites that has ever existed, The Donnybrook Writing Academy. A site dedicated to the finer things in society, each author had a nom de plume that communicated a certain joi de vivre and other French things (fromage). Mine was Poppy Helena Van Liquer. Under this pseudonym, I told people what the sexiest song ever was, reviewed some shows (but all classy and stuff), interviewed Daniel Johnston, and confessed something very deep and dark.

Donnybrook is shutting down, which is OK. Things run their course, and as the editor and my much-missed friend Erin Barnes explained- it’s good remember what Donnybrook did, and how much fun everyone had doing it.

In memoriam, I have decided to put the aforementioned deep, dark secret on my personal blog. Here it is, taken straight from the Donnybrook archives. Published on April 4, 2011.

Confessions of a Secret Dave Matthews Fan

By Poppy Helena Van Liquer

There are things that a discerning music appreciator has learned are
just perennially “uncool.” Some of these are, but are not limited to,
hippie dancing with dippy arm movements, actively loving 99% of Top 40
radio, lower back tattoos, yelling “free bird” under any circumstances
(including at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show), attending a Lynyrd Skynyrd show,
that one Iz medley with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and loving any
Dave Matthews singles.

It’s become an easy hobby to hate The Dave Matthews Band. Almost as
easy as hating their fans. A big smelly mass of people chanting along
the words to Dave’s distinctive croon, pausing only to sway in an LSD
laced communal wave to sickly smooth sax solos and to upchuck the Bud
Light sucked out of Camel Backs snuck onto the muddy festival grounds.
There are some Dave Matthews’ fans who will do this multiple times in
a summer, following the warbling messiah all around the country to
relive all the overembellished strumming and practically meaningless
lyrics that make up almost all songs (Please reference the lyrics for
“Big Eyed Fish.”)

But I have a confession to make. Under all this seeming disdain for
DMB and his band of loyal, if not usually passed out, fans…I’m
guilty.

I’m guilty of it all.
I like a Dave Matthews song.

And not some deep cut. Not some live recording with Stevie Wonder that
really showcases how Dave is a real songwriter of songwriters.

It’s “Crash into Me.”

I didn’t realize how irrevocably I loved this song until today. I work
at the Apple Store, you see. As a business, Apple does wonders with
computers and typefaces and clean lines. When it comes to the
corporate playlist, however, I am forced to listen to not one, not
two, but three Boston hits, and everything Jack Johnson has ever
lethargically mumbled into a microphone for eight hours a day.

The store had gone quiet toward the end of the night, and I was
standing in the unusual quiet, when the song I had heard four million
times since it was released in 1996 came on with its precious bright
intro and deceivingly innocent little melody. (Really, at nine years
old I was completely oblivious to what Dave was singing about when he
sang all those falsetto “crash into me”s.)

And I filled up with something akin to silly joy. The song built with
its notoriously great percussion, and equally as notorious
over-instrumentation, and I just loved every damn sentimental second
of it. This called for some self searching.

“Crash into Me” has been the most successful single Dave Matthews has
ever released. This is Dave Matthews we’re talking about. The man
earns money whenever he idly hums on the toilet. There is an entire
double platinum record “The Toilet Hums; Dave Matthews featuring Tim
Reynolds One Urinal Over.” But “Crash into Me” was the most played,
highest grossing, most loved.

Why do I hold a torch for this symbol of all that is overplayed and overdone?

Probably because when I heard it first, I wasn’t quite as ironic or
desensitized as I am now.

“Crash into Me” was played at all my middle school dances, which in
retrospect totally went against all that abstinence campaigning
schools were doing. My older brother was the biggest Dave Matthews
fan, which I only use against him occasionally now, and played this
whole album loudly while being infuriatingly older and cooler than I
was. I rode my bike past places blasting this song on hot California
days, infusing the building snares with ocean breezes and the feeling
of pedaling faster, faster down sun scorched pavement.

I heard “Crash into Me” tonight at work and for the first time it
brought me back to before I had been conditioned to care about what a
song had become to everyone, or even what it really meant, and back to
when I made music work for me, and only me.

For the gangly little kid Poppy, “Crash into Me” wasn’t an
overplayed supernova of a hit about flimsy euphemism…it was about a
sparkly melody that made me feel something buzzing deep in my gut. I
hadn’t really connected emotionally with the songs I had learned up to
that point (not that I didn’t know all the words to “Kokomo” by The
Beach Boys), and it just sounded like…growing up.

Not to mention, it had guitar in it, and I was just learning that
guitar was cool. All the older kids liked guitar, and some of them
played guitar. None of them played flute, which I should have taken
into consideration when picking my band instrument…but the past is
past.

The song talks about a seemingly very complicated big relationship,
and a boy was clearly singing it to a girl. Dave seemed to really like
this girl, too, and I was getting to the age where the idea of a boy
singing songs with tinkling chimes about me wasn’t so repulsive.

And let’s be honest here, Dave Matthews has a voice that I love. As I
make fun of his sudden choirboy leaps, his vocals are always
expressive. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but for all the stacked
harmony I love…I am drawn a voice that’s just a little bit off.
That’s why a nine year old could love the song without really getting
how graphic it was. Because Dave always sounds like he means it. Even
the unbearably cheesy stuff. You just know that Dave believes what
he’s singing, even if no one else in the entire world gets it
(again…see “Big Eyed Fish”). His voice feels intensely personal,
connective and deliberate. It makes sense, actually, that people would
get so attached to this guy.

When the song ended and I left work, I realized that maybe I only
dislike Dave Matthews so much because I’ve been conditioned to. Sure,
I may not connect with all his music the way I might connect with The
National or Joan Baez, but that doesn’t call for a blanket ban on DMB.
Because while all of us young folks fighting the man think tearing
down the most successful, highest paid artists and their fans makes us
come out hip, unstoppable musical mavens, I’m thinking we’re all
tools. For one, it’s too easy, and we’re smarter than that. But more
importantly, hating other music doesn’t make the music I like any
better. And often times it’s just that type of cynicism that takes
away from what makes music great, which is an innocence I understood
more when I was nine years old and hadn’t read Spin or Pitchfork yet.

Because I think loving music for how it resonates in the chambers of
my own temporal heart is the most radical way to appreciate it. It’s
not owned by anyone, then. It’s just yours, and just mine, even if it
does have a four minute tenor saxophone solo and too much “mmm”ing.
Because, really, no one can bully you into thinking your taste is
lame.

Unless you like Blues Traveler.
C’mon.

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I have been on the road tour managing now for about three weeks. And while I perhaps should wait to write anything until the whole shebang is over and done with, last night I was perched on top of a rickety bar stool in Mobile, Alabama, and was overwhelmed with senses and wanted to write them down.

This is my first time touring, and when people ask me why I haven’t been writing much during the down time, I can only explain by illustrating tour as a very slow blur. A hazy and bright rush of countryside and tattered green rooms, nice people, mean people, people riding down the streets of New Orleans with a boom box strapped to a bike, blasting zydeco as I nervously take pulls from a Moscow Mule on the sidewalk, sure that it can’t possibly be legal to drink under a speed limit sign (it is).

Tour has been a shock of color, like waking up with the sun in your eyes and sitting up to the room filled with red and blue and green spots blinking everywhere as your eyes take too long to adjust. Nothing is that different, but everything is. It has been a study in extremes; enormous sound and heavy silence; breathless rush and impossible slowness; happiness and frustration; vibrance and exhaustion; stretches of kinship, and comical bursts of the awkward. I bought a sundress yesterday morning because the South has caused my whole body to wilt like the dry Western flower I am. I have seen long lost friends and met strangers. I met a fifteen year old girl and her father in Houston. She wants to be a graphic designer and live in Russia. He uses records to teach his small town science class about waves.

I had a guy in Salt Lake City tell me I shouldn’t carry guitars because I was a girl. I have since decided that women in Utah just must not have arms. Which makes me sad for them, because it means they will never know the joys of raising the roof or waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care.

We accidentally left the trailer door open on the way out of Denver one early, early morning, to be honked at on E-470 by a man in a truck, gesturing wildly to the rear. In an hour of panic and tension at 6 AM, we circled around my parents’ neighborhood, finding guitars stacked on the sides of roads and against trees like Easter eggs. We left having recovered 4 out of the 5 guitars, only to get a call from my parents later saying that they had found the last one- a firefighter had found it outside his home and had promptly printed up signs and taped them all along the street. We got it back in New Orleans- when we arrived at the venue it was cozied up on the green room sofa, much better rested than any of us.

I have been asked thrice who in the band was my boyfriend. All three times I have given three different answers:

1) All of them.

2) No one, I have a boyfriend at home in Seattle (the truth).

3) I’m not into dudes.

I’ve made mistakes while tour managing for the first time, from not being vigilant enough with the promoter, to not managing time well enough, to not seeing a speed bump in California late at night and terrifying everyone dozing in the van. I haven’t worn make up in three weeks, and I’ve worn the same shorts for 75% of the run. No one has slept much, and I ate a shrimp po boy yesterday that is still having a conversation with me.

We have played big shows full of excited and dancing fans, and small shows where the merch booth is a small and lonely island.

And I can’t wait to do it all again.

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Erin on the left, me and my trusty steel frame on the right // Kalispell, MT (2008)

My dad threw away my bike.

I know to most grown up people, this isn’t such a big deal. I’m completely aware of war, famine, poverty, One Direction, and out of season tomatoes (GROSS, GO AWAY UNTIL JULY YOU WATERY STYROFOAM IMPOSTORS). But when I found out, after Ty and I had dug through my parents’ garage for a while trying to find it, I lost my mind. My dad said he didn’t remember if he had kept it or not, which isn’t hard to believe. Dad had a stroke a little while ago, and his memory is spotty at best. So I bit my lip, turned to toss the salad, and then started crying big, fat, I-lost-my-balloon tears into the balsamic. Quietly, I finished tossing the greens through watery goggles, turned around, and went upstairs.

I felt like someone had put my dog to sleep while I was away for the weekend. You see, this bike was special. An unassuming little thing, you wouldn’t know that it was made of steel, solid and unbreakable. I crashed that bike into a guard rail once, and I came out of it about 600% more bruised and battered than it did. If it was a sentient being, that bike would have bounced up, giggled, shook off some leaves from its spokes and cheerily asked if I wanted to go for a hike.

My ex-boyfriend Phil built that bike for me after working at Community Cycles in Boulder. The frame was a rusted over steel Centurion from the 1980s, and it was tossed in a corner unceremoniously. Phil, being a bike-handy dude, recognized that surface rust wasn’t enough to break its spirit, and instead decided to use the bike as a way to bring me into his world of bicycle things. Bicycle things like stripping a frame with sandpaper, carefully rubbing away the red spots until the silver sparkled again. Things like rear derailleurs, which are annoying monsters that smugly wield their necessity over you, forcing you to poke at it until something makes sense.

Phil and I built that bike together (well, mostly him), he stenciled my last name in big capital letters from stencils he made himself onto the frame after painting it a delicious deep burgundy, like I was being charioted around on red velvet cake. I went out and bought chamois shorts, real clip in bike shoes (only fell over a few times in public), and nice pedals. He showed me how to wrap the bars in white bar tape, and how to clip in like real cyclists do. I learned how to do that thing where you ride standing up, and also how to patch a tube.

I took that spindly tank of a bike from Kalispell to Missoula with my friend Erin (pictured above), getting all tan and heaving up huge Montana hills with all my stuff piled on the back, giving my trim bike a very voluptuous booty. I scraped my knee a couple times. The bike was totally fine.

I rode it around Helena during the school year, speedily riding it to see my friend’s first baby at the hospital, or out to the limestone kilns past the state park. I took to locking it to assorted things around the extremely bike-unfriendly city, like trees and road signs and hostile Republicans.

Phil and I didn’t last, but dammit that bike did. It whipped me around from place to place, speedy and perfect and so familiar it felt like a part of my body. I bought a $40 cruiser at a garage sale at one point, and felt so guilty about not riding my faithful Centurion, that I eventually stopped riding the clunky blue cruiser at all.

Before I moved to Seattle, I had stripped down the bike, ready to give it another paint job and gussy it up a bit, before I realized I wouldn’t have time to finish before I was supposed to leave. No matter, I thought, I’ll finish it when I visit and bring it to its new home. It will wait for me, I kept thinking, as two years stretched by and my trips home were short and busy. Remember, this things lasts even when I can’t seem to stop tripping over myself. It will be there, waiting.

But it didn’t last. Now it’s gone, and I’m more heartbroken than I would have ever guessed. Sometimes our special things are thrown away without our permission. A really balanced person would probably say that everything is impermanent and that things don’t matter. I would probably not like that balanced person. That balanced person definitely never rode my bike.

All I can hope for now is that my persistent little bicycle ended up right where we found it almost six years ago: resting in a corner, in the eye line of someone who can see all the places it wants to take them.

When I was in college, my friend James and I bonded quickly over our love for music. Going to school in Montana meant that we didn’t have access to many shows, and certainly no all-ages venues. So we started an evening show at 7 pm on Tuesdays called Kames and Kath…and for LIKE TWO MONTHS we totally rocked.

I wish we had taken this much farther, but we didn’t, and sometimes that’s what happens, and now I’m looking back at it to help me figure out what I can take farther. We did, however, open all the shows with the first thumps and bleeps and bloops of the pop-nihilist song “Thou Shalt Always Kill”, a smart and slightly cranky number by Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. It’s a song that aims to detonate the explosives in every cultural pedestal, and knock us all back down to the level earth. To stop idolizing, and just start listening. To be better people, based on this English duo’s moral code.

Seriously- listen to the song. It’s about as good a moral code as I’ve heard since Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer Liberation Front” was put in front of me.

Not a new take on the whole “rock gods” mentality (see: Kill Rock Stars), but when I was 20 and heard them sing in their cheeky accents:

Nirvana… Just a band.
The Pixies… Just a band.
Oasis… Just a band.
Radiohead… Just a band.
Bloc Party… Just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys… Just a band.
The Next Big Thing.. JUST A BAND.

Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-english speaking countries as to those that occur in english speaking countries.
Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be.

I felt as close as I thought I ever would to a revolution. I kind of wanted to go find some abandoned warehouse party somewhere. I imagined hoardes of kids with blue hair, spiked leather, cool names like “Amalia” and “Simon” meeting each other and inviting each other to DJ nights and not even liking The Arctic Monkeys (I love the Arctic Monkeys), because they knew of another band that was so much better and more British and more dry and caustic. I had very brown hair (still do). I couldn’t even get into the few shows that passed through Helena at Jester’s. Which ended up being fine, because Jester’s has the feel that it offers free Hep B with every beer.

I wanted to play music that would make other people want to be a part of something, too. To be fair, we also played quite a bit of stuff that would make a teddy bear diabetic, so let’s not pretend we were going out and slashing our jeans here. But it documents my first little whispers into the void, trying to figure out if anyone was out there listening, if anyone thought a little bit like James and I did about music and the world.

I recently stumbled on the playlists for three of our shows. We were good, man. We really got it.

(Text taken directly from our posts)

October 2, 2008:

“First Show Playlist

Maybe not exactly in order, but here you curious cats go:

Thou Shalt Always Kill-Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip
Chicago- Sufjan Stevens
We Are What You Say- Sufjan Stevens
The New Year- Death Cab for Cutie
The Luckiest- Ben Folds
Another Song By Ben Folds (if you heard it you know it)
I’m Sticking With You- The Velvet Underground
Who Loves the Sun- The Velvet Underground
Big Trucks- Pedro the Lion
White Winter Hymnal- Fleet Foxes
Blue Ridge Mountains- Fleet Foxes
Cut Your Hair- Pavement
…and Carrot Rope- Pavement
Love You Madly- Cake
Better Days- Citizen King (Again, not Sublime)
Don’t Dream It’s Over- Crowded House
Second Chance- Liam Finn
3rd Planet (Live)- Modest Mouse
Mushaboom- Feist
I Feel It All (Britt Daniels remix)- Feist
The Way We Get By- Spoon

Requests:
Caring is Creepy- The Shins
Fighter Girl- Mason Jennings”

October 15, 2008

“Second Show Playlist

Golly I need to start remembering these better. But here’s the jist of what we played…

The Night Starts Here- Stars
Acid Tongue- Jenny Lewis
Silver Lining- Rilo Kiley
Nothing Better- Postal Service
Ragged Wood- Fleet Foxes
Plasticities- Andrew Bird
Hold It In- Jukebox the Ghost
Say Darling Say- Dirk Powell
October- Rosie Thomas
Brand New Colony (live)- Benjamin Gibbard
Teenage Riot- Sonic Youth
Hot in Here- Beck (Nelly Cover)
As Tall as Cliffs- Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s
The W.A.N.D- The Flaming Lips
My Brilliant Feat- Colin Hay
Arms of a Thief- Iron and Wine
Lost Coastlines- Okkervil River
Wading in the Velvet Sea- Phish
No Cars Go- The Arcade Fire

I may have forgotten some…
I’ll start some sort of Post-It system next week…

Keep tuning in friends, we love your love, support, enthusiasm, and requests!!”

October 21, 2008

“Third Show Playlist

In case you missed it, create it on your iTunes! You’ll miss our dulcet tones, but you can always just invite us up for tea.

Is There a Ghost- Band of Horses
California Stars- Billy Bragg/Wilco
The Kiss- Prabir and the Substitutes
American Blues, Vol 1.- Pete Yorn
Elephant Gun- Beirut
Major Label Debut (Fast)- Broken Social Scene
Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down- The Toasters
Dinosaur on the Ark- The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit)
Michelle- The Beatles
Red Right Ankle- The Decemberists
Urban Lull (At Once Charmed)- The Umbrella Sequence
Walk in the Park- Oh No! Oh My!
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea- Neutral Milk Hotel
Inkwell- Blue Scholars
Butterfly Nets- Bishop Allen
Lille- Lisa Hannigan
Myriad Harbor- The New Pornographers
Human- The Killers
The Saddest Song- Streetlight Manifesto
The Set Up (You Need This)- Reel Big Fish
True Affection- The Blow
New Soul (Ukelele Sessions)- Yael Naim
Toxic (Cover) (Ukelele Sessions)- Yael Naim
Oliver James- Fleet Foxes
To Sing For You (Cover)- Ben Gibbard
We Get On- Kate Nash”

Funny thing is…

I don’t remember why we stopped.

Makes me a little sad, actually.

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dad at age 22 in 1968

My dad used to wave at me every morning out of the sun roof of his fire engine red Audi as he pulled out of our Chicago driveway. I was only five or six, so all my memories of that early life in Chicago are tied heavily to color and senses. I remember the red Audi my dad loved, the dark blue Buick LeSabre my mom drove with seats bigger than my daybed, and as soft as any of my stuffed animals. There was the big sloping lawn down to the garden where rhubarb grew with its bright red fingers, that my mom turned into pies that my dad and brother would demolish in less than a day. The wood playset with swings hanging off yellow chains, and our family friend Mr. LaCandia teaching his son Joseph and I how to swing. I even remember the rolled up jean shorts that hung around my knobby knees the first time I actually made that magic leg pumping carry me into the sky, and the white keds that blurred into the clouds as I swung as mightily as any big kid on Balmoral Circle.

I remember my brother’s blue and green plaid room, my white iron bedframe with its delicate swirls and shiny brass knobs so fancy that I was sure I was probably a duchess or princess and my parents were just not telling me to keep me humble.

I also remember the first time I told my dad I hated him.

My mom was out of town, and my brother was at his dad’s house for the weekend. I don’t know what my dad would not let me do, or would not give me. I also don’t know if I knew what those words really meant yet. All I remember is digging deep into my five year old lungs, practically brand new to summoning language at all, and finding those three words to scream tearfully at him.

I don’t remember what happened after that. I do remember not being able to sleep, being kept up for the first time by some nagging adult feeling- a feeling of loneliness, of regret. I perhaps also wanted a glass of water, and there was most likely a terrifying shadow on the wall from the towering trees outside. Whether it was my advanced emotional recognition, or fear of tree monsters, I padded into my parents’ room to see my dad crying on his bed.

My dad is 6’1. My dad can beat up your dad. Well, maybe not. I have never seen my dad throw a punch in his life. He can cut someone down who is particularly vulnerable to cheesy jokes, though. He could carry me almost until I was seven, when I got too tall and gangly and it was brought to my attention that I had been walking successfully for about six years at that point. I was unaware that my dad was a permeable human. I didn’t know he had any more settings than Happy, Really Happy (eating rhubarb pie, The Patriots or Red Sox winning anything), Mad at Me, or Falling Asleep During 60 Minutes.

I didn’t think dads had tear ducts.

I crawled into bed and told Dad I loved him. He forgave me without hesitation. I didn’t want this power to hurt my dad, and at five years old I decided to make sure I wouldn’t ever ever again.

Unfortunately children and parents keep hurting each other, finding new and creative ways to hurl each other’s insecurities at one another. Almost twenty years later, I know that my dad and I have had our rough patches, our screaming matches, our disagreements.

But when that story came back to me yesterday on Father’s Day, I don’t remember what it felt like to actually want to scream that I hated my dad. I remember what it felt like to want to make him feel better, to see him smile when my brother and I cheered after he raced into the garage to stop on a dime about two feet away from the garage wall as Mom would shout “Dennis!”, to see him wave out the sun roof of that Audi.

My dad wasn’t a SuperDad, wasn’t invincible or perfect- he still isn’t. But he remains one of the gentlest people at heart I’ve ever met, teaching me even at five that family is about letting each other in to heal the wounds that we may have caused in the first place.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You may not be able to carry me on your shoulders anymore, but in a way, you always have been.