Summer Camp Blues

(or So. Many. Questions.)

The boys went to an overnight summer camp for two weeks.  I’ve had so many questions I’ve been so excited to ask them.  I tried, I really did, to not ask so many questions.  But it was hard.  I wanted to know all about this fabulous experience and understand their new world, even though I probably am not a welcome visitor in that world.  I’ve tried to respect that and honor that, and yet inquiring minds want to know!!  I just can’t help myself.

Did you have fun?
Did you make new friends?
Who is that blonde kid you are always standing next to?  What’s his name?  Where is he from?
What activities did you like best?
What did you learn?

I really think that for the most part, summer camps, especially southern summer camps, are all very much alike.  There is something that can only be called “camp spirit” that is a living part of this magical experience.  Also, all summer camps smell the same – or at least all baggage and dirty clothes smell the same.  This I confirmed as soon as we got home and I opened the duffle bags.  This makes it easy for camp-people to relate to each other, even if they went to different camps.  This is in part how I knew the boys would have a great time, even though they would not be romping through the same forests and streams that I did as a kid.

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Lagniappe

(or Is This My Home?)

This week I find myself in New Orleans, and so naturally, this idea of “home” continues to plague me.  I’m here for a work meeting, and the city is surprisingly quiet.  I went to Café du Monde on the first night in town and I’ve never seen the place so empty.  Sure it was a Monday night, but even so, the French Quarter was all but deserted.  Perhaps it’s because it was a weekday, or because Mardi Gras season, while technically in effect, isn’t nearly in full swing yet.

img_2978I feel conflicted, in a way, being here.  The last time I was in Louisiana was 8 years ago, to say goodbye to the family home before my parents sold it and moved to another state.  I feel drawn to this city, the stomping ground of my youth, and yet also feel very disconnected from it.  But there are triggers for long-forgotten memories everywhere I look, everywhere I walk.  There is the Aquarium of the Americas, destination of many-a-school field trip.  There is the parking lot where we would always park on day trips to the city.  There are the Canal Street shops where my dad would buy his suits from Brooks Brothers.  There is where the Hard Rock Café once stood.  There is Jackson Brewery where we would buy trinkets from souvenir shops.  There is the plaza where the street dancers would perform.  There is the Riverwalk, once the site of the 1984 World’s Fair (which I did attend), and later a boutique shopping mall, and now, after a freightliner slammed into the building, after Katrina flooded it, sadly an Outlet Mall.  There is Café du Monde.  And St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, uncannily devoid of the fortune tellers and street performers.  And Central Grocery.  And Mother’s Po-Boys.  And Court of the Two Sisters with it’s legendary brunch.  And Pat O’Brien’s with it’s legendary dueling everything.

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Love Actually

(or Please Keep Your Bah Humbug to Yourself)

It has come to my attention that some people do not share in my love for the classic holiday movie Love Actually.  Now this is fine as we do not all have to share the same taste in movies – or anything for that matter.  But what I don’t get is the need to publicly bash this movie and let everyone, everywhere, know of your disdain for this one particular flick.  And it seems to me, completely unnecessary to hurl all this hatred towards a movie that is all about love.

If I could make just one wish for the new year, it would be that we fill this world up with love.  There is enough hate, there is no need to add to it.  So you don’t like the movie.  Then don’t watch it.  But there is no need to spew your hatefulness, to add to the toxicity that already exists or to bash the people who do like this quirky, silly movie about love.  Unless you are a professional movie critic, please keep your negative, bitter, smug comments to yourself.  No one needs to (or even wants to) hear your rantings.

I agree that the movie is a certifiable overstuffed holiday buffet – but for me, that means there is something for everyone.  The movie includes just about every kind of love: romantic, sexual, platonic, tarnished, dreary, reciprocated, intoxicating, neglected, unrequited, habitual, anomalous, parental, familial, friendly, true.  If you can’t find something to love from that list, then I question your ability to love at all.  So I just don’t get how a movie about love could be so polarizing.

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas

(or Caterpillars & Cucumbers, Confusion & Clarity)

I’ve got the idea of home on the brain again.  It’s probably not surprising, given the time of year.  Well-meaning friends and neighbors casually ask “are you going home for the holidays?” to which I can only reply “no, we are staying right here.”  But it is actually fitting because, for all intents and purposes, this is home now.  It’s the place I’ve lived the longest.  It’s the only home my boys have ever known.  Yet this idea of “home” seems to elude me, and gnaw at me, a kind of still unresolved story line.

My wife and I often play the “where should we move to” game?  I actually get unnerved when we do this because we just seem to talk in circles, feeling more unsettled each time we take up the discussion.  “If you don’t like where you are, just picture where you want to be” extols August “Auggie” Pullman in the movie version of Wonder.  It sounds easy enough, but this particular vision seems impossible to see.  Earlier this year we flirted with packing it all up and moving somewhere else, a kind of “anywhere but here” mission.  But in the end, the stars just didn’t align.  Job offers never materialized.  Negotiations stalled.  Dreams and desires and hopes collided.  It was as if the universe was clearly sending us a message.  We are meant to stay put, right here.  For now at least.

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Dream Dream Dream

(or The Ghost of a Therapist Past)

I was awoken the other morning by the most disturbing dream.  It was one of those dreams that felt so very real that it took me a few minutes to realize that it was only, thankfully, just a dream.  So here goes:

I was at my old summer camp, or a place that felt and reminded me of camp.  I was there with a group of cousins and their spouses.  Actually, they are my first cousins once removed, the first cousins of my mother, but due to some wacky birthing patterns on that side of the family, I am closer in age to those cousins than my own actual first cousins.  There was also a group from KAAN – the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network – at this camp-like retreat, and it became clear that the space had been double-booked, and we were forced to share this communal space for our respective gatherings.  We were tolerating each other – and each other’s presence – but only barely.   Suddenly, I said out loud, to no one in particular, “I never thought I’d live long enough to actually feel home-sick, to actually want to go home rather than be a camp.”  To which, the ex-therapist, who was sitting in a rocking chair across the room, replied “but you did” in the most snarky and cruel tone.

Perhaps I should stop and explain.  The ex-therapist has 2 adopted children from Korea, which is why my unconscious put my family gathering in conflict with this KAAN meet-up.  That part makes some sense to me.  What I do not understand, at all, is why the ex-therapist is still showing up in my dreams and what in the world I can do to expel her, once and for all, from my unconsciousness!  And I don’t have any idea of why my unconscious needed to send me this message or what it even means.  Was the ex-therapist making a statement on the length or quality of my life as compared to her own?  Was she a ghost or spirit in the dream?  And why was she and her chosen family intruding upon my own family gathering at my beloved summer camp of all places?

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On Repeat

(or the Stories We Tell)

Almost as soon as I hit the “Publish” button on my last post, I started to have writer’s remorse.  I feared that I had not actually said anything new and was merely restating that which I have said many times before on this very blog.  And maybe that’s partly true, and maybe I’m being unduly harsh on myself.  I nearly added an apology at the end of the last post, to say sorry for saying the same things over and over again.  But then I caught myself.  After all, this is a place for me to try to process and make sense of what is going on in my head.  So, yes, sometimes that same diatribe might need to come out in a few different ways before I am able to fully process the narrative.  Maybe I need to write it and say it several times in order to fully believe it and comprehend it and internalize it.  And I don’t think it’s exactly the same thing.  Maybe some of the facts are different, but my understanding and self-awareness shifts each time.  Maybe not by much, but I take baby steps just the same.

What happened with the ex-therapist was a monumental event in my life.  It was an incredibly intense few years with her, and a terrible, brutal ending.  It is going to take time to unpack it all.

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When the Shrink’s Away

(or 35 Days Down, 14 Days to Go…)

I find it hard to believe, but here we are, already at the end of August.  Yes, August, that glorious month of the year when shrinks everywhere go off and do something else.  What, I’m not sure.  When I asked my own therapist what she does during this mysterious August sabbatical, she replied “oh, it changes each year.”  Which is a typical shrinky-response but does not, actually, answer my question.  Who knows.  Perhaps she is off relaxing on a tropical island or attending an international conference or making lesson plans for the fall semester or catching up on sleep.  Maybe she just sits in her office and basks in the quietness and emptiness of it all.  I honestly have no idea and, as she is not giving any hints, I guess I must just let my imagination run wild.

After I asked her what she would be doing this August, and after she gave her non-response, she then inquired “do you have any feelings about that?”  I simply said “no.”  Firstly, I’m not going to spend any more time in therapy talking about any feelings that I have because of something that a therapist did or did not say or do.  For me, that shifts too much of the focus from me to them, and maybe I’m still squeamish at that prospect.  It’s much better to keep everything squarely focused on me less I get pulled into someone else’s shit.  And secondly, and more importantly, the feelings that I did have were actually ones of relief and anticipation.

So I said “no, I don’t have any feelings.”  And then “I think we all need a break, every now and again.”  And that’s the truth.  I need a break from her and therapy probably as much, if not more so, than she needs a break from me and her work.

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