I dreamt that a device used in a Samsung promotional campaign to send a selfie of Cara Delevingne into space crashed into someone’s backyard in Michigan. And I don’t even take Ambien.
Someone in this house used Snuggle.
There are a number of suspects, but no one’s talking. I wanted to ask my new housekeeper about it, but I don’t know her name. She definitely told me her name when we first met, but then I immediately forgot it because it was a word I’d never heard.
If I had used Snuggle, I would have admitted it right away. Mistakes happen. Like the double-sided Scotch tape fiasco. I bought three of those by accident even though two-sided tape is not usable for anything. But, in this case, it wasn’t me and everyone knows it because I’m afraid of the laundry room. I’ve seen horrible things in there. Examples: A huge bug with arms, and a brownish puddle of some kind that couldn’t have come from anywhere.
When I got into bed last night, it only took a second to realize my sheets had been tainted with an industrial strength sweetness that I’ve come to associate with stupid people, psoriasis, and weed killer.
“What are we going to do now?” I asked my husband, knowing that if my sheets smelled like fabric softener, all of our clothes were also ruined and everything would have to be burned.
“Don’t worry. The scent will go away eventually,” he said.
“How? How will it go away? We’d have to rewash everything we own and honestly, which one of us is going to do that?”
“Not me,” we both mumbled.
I walked outside and looked up at the sky hoping for answers.
“Maybe we imagined the whole thing!” I wondered, and forced myself to go downstairs to the laundry room.
I didn’t want to believe it, but there it was, a half empty baby blue bottle with a picture of a stuffed animal acting like a human being holding a blanket and inhaling its fumes.
I picked up the bottle and looked at the teddy bear.
“You monster!” I cried, and threw the bottle in the trash where it belonged.
And that’s when I noticed my garbage bags were scented.
This is a sad story that ends with me peeing in my pants.
My mother’s twin sister died. If you have twins in your family you know what that means. It means part of my mother died. And half of my childhood.
My mother and aunt are/were insanely beautiful creatures. As legend would have it there was a good twin and a bad twin. I secretly loved the bad twin too.
There was the time she took me for my allergy shot and let me hold the steering wheel for the entire ride, the time I felt sick in the car and she put her hand on the cold windshield and then put her cold hand on my forehead to make me feel better. All the times she went shopping with my mother and me, trying to buy me things that would make me beautiful like them. I would stand there in the dressing room, with my hair a mess, legs splayed in baggy tights, seeing their reflections behind me, cheering me on.
My aunt had movie star hair, she wore red lipstick, and she walked with the kind of femininity that you don’t often see on real people. Her cheekbones were so prominent I remember her touching them. When she smiled, it felt like something was happening in the room. Her nails were polished on her death bed. And even though she was dying, when she lifted the covers and one of her long, thin legs peeked out, it was like opening the door and seeing Cher.
She was also the rule breaker, the one who overspent, who put herself first, and the one who was most likely to burst out laughing if someone had a coughing attack.
She was the one who toughened me up.
“You let a stranger make you cry? Oh honey, never let a stranger make you cry.”
I used to fake sick to stay home with my mother and my aunt. I imitated the way they talked, the way they walked, the way they sipped their coffee, and the way they looked in the mirror. Their twinness will always be the focal point of my life, my sister’s life and both of my cousins’ lives. The twins were pathologically close. Mentally conjoined like a twisted, gnarly vine. It was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. My sister and my cousins and I know we are their slightly less identical shoots. Whatever we are, we are still rooted in sameness. Our mothers.
I don’t usually turn to poetry because I can’t understand it, but I looked at my mother, and all I could hear was a jumble of words…
“I carry your heart with me…breath of my breath…eyes of my eyes”
How would my mother’s heart beat without her sister’s? Whose air would she breathe?
I’m not sure my mother even realizes what just happened to her.
At my aunt’s funeral service, we sat in a circle. Most of the family was there and a strange woman was sitting in the room with us. She was there to officiate the service. There was something judgmental about her expression, although none of us had ever met her. I wondered if I should have worn black or some kind of a religious hat. What were we doing wrong? I wondered. Maybe she wasn’t used to seeing a family that sat so close to one another. That looked so much alike. We were practically in a huddle. Whatever it was, I sensed her disapproval.
We were so stunned by the idea of a non-family member sitting in our circle, we were all overly polite to her. My mother offered her a tissue.
“She’s not crying, mom,” I said.
I imagined my aunt sitting there, making faces behind the woman’s back.
“Who invited her?” my aunt would have joked. “This is our funeral.”
We sat there in that cold room whispering to one another. Some of us were crying. Some of us were numb. And there sat the stranger.
“I would like to start the service now,” she said.
There was a dark silence.
We all looked at her, and then at each other. We were holding it together, but we knew whatever she was about to say would bring us to the breaking point. She was about to make it perfectly clear that my aunt was gone forever. That we would never see her again. I looked over at my mother.
And then, as God is my witness, the woman started belting out a tune.
It was a religious tune and I can tell you that no one in my family knows anything about religion other than that we are all afraid of God. Were we supposed to sing along? No one knew.
I looked over at my cousin whose eyes were bulging out of his head at the sound of this woman’s unbelievably loud voice that came out of nowhere. The only thing worse than the fact that she was singing so loudly in such a small room was that she was trying to sound really good. She was using all sorts of vibrato techniques, changing her pitch, and going so low at one point, I thought she was going to fall off her chair.
I tried not to look at my cousin again, but I knew he was about to laugh, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Everyone’s shoulders were bouncing up and down as we stole glances at one another.
Baseball hats were covering faces.
The more she sang, the more I told myself the same thing I always tell myself in situations where one shouldn’t laugh at people who are just doing their jobs, like: teachers, doctors, performers, small children, anyone wearing a bow tie. I once laughed out loud at a bride (i don’t want to talk about it, but it was her hair).
“You don’t have to laugh,” I said to myself.
“Just don’t do it.”
“Choose not to laugh.”
“Show your family you can handle a funeral service without acting like a five-year-old.”
“Think of something sad.”
“Your freaking aunt, who you loved like a mother, just died!”
“Keep your mouth shut or try to cry!”
And then I spit laughed and peed in my pants at the singing woman. At my aunt’s funeral. In front of my entire family.
As I flew out of the room, I felt my aunt’s cold hand grab mine.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” she whispered.
And together we laughed at the stranger for the last time.
Ever since this weekend of fabulous author readings in the most beautiful inns in the Hamptons (White Fences Inn in Water Mill, Topping Rose in Bridgehampton, The 1770 House, Baker House 1650 and The Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton) I can’t stop reliving my all-time worst book signing. Each one of those inns I just listed is more enchanting than the next and I was thrilled to design the flowers for all of these incredible places. It was any author’s/designer’s dream scenario: the magnificent porches, the pristine dining and the warm cookies at White Fences Inn, the antique charm of 1770 House, the magical arched vine entrance to Baker House 1650 and that barn at Topping Rose! Except for me it was an author’s “I dreamt I showed up to school naked having not done my homework and peed all over the floor” scenario because all weekend I was haunted by the memory of my most cringeworthy of all book signings. Not even the one I did in the train station, on Valentine’s Day, can top it.
Every time I remember this particular book signing, it gets a little worse. Maybe my memory plays tricks on me, but it’s hard to forget that I arrived late to my own book signing because I went back home for more copies of the book. I was fearful there wouldn’t be enough books to go around, only to discover that the only people who showed up were my husband, my son, one of the mom’s in my son’s class who I knew instantly wanted to leave, but had somehow gotten herself trapped in a middle seat in a very compact seating arrangement for fifty, and the book store owner’s wife. At one point another woman wandered in looking for the ladies room and took a seat while she waited for the bathroom to become available.
My son was sitting in the front row engrossed in some kind of hand held gaming device that was popular at the time and he kept looking up at me while I was giving my little speech indicating that he’d also like to leave. I was spewing words into a sea of empty chairs, using my thickest New Jersey accent, a nervous tic (at one point I said “wit” instead of “with”) not knowing what I was saying or even what my book was about when suddenly there was a commotion in the back room of the bookstore and several more people appeared and sat down. And then a few more trickled in, just enough to make it look really not crowded.
I just kept talking to almost no one, wishing I’d done virtually anything else with my life. Clown school would have been a better choice. Why did I choose to sit there for hours stringing words together? So I could read what I wrote back to myself? Why do writers insist on writing when most of the time no one’s listening? How does it help them? Unless the book is a How-To, what exactly are we trying to achieve? Some kind of connection with the human spirit? You could just as easily read a book to make that happen.
There was nothing in my book alerting the nation about a possible threat or delivering some new medical breakthrough. It was essentially a book about a girl who loved a boy. And shoes. It was funny, though. I’ll admit that. But WHY God WHY did I write it?
At one point, my mouth was so dry I literally apologized for the clicking sounds I was making. And then, a miracle happened. I was saying something about the importance of women supporting each other in the workplace, when an actual human hand shot up with a question. Could it be that in my utterly humiliated, bewildered, language butchering state, I was saying something worthwhile? That I’d managed to pull off some kind of meeting of the minds with another living being about what it means to be a woman trying to make her way in the world? Was it possible I’d made an impact and that it didn’t matter how many people showed up as long as I touched one person so deeply they actually wanted to learn something by asking me a question?
“Yes you, over there, sitting next to the other person,” I said, calling on the kind hearted soul who raised her hand. “What is your question?”
“This might be dumb, but where did you get your boots?”
“Oh. I got them at Barney’s.”
“Do you think they still have them?” she asked
“I’m not sure. I got them last year. Are there any other questions?”
“Can Dad give me a ride to Zack’s?” my son asked.
“I guess so.”
The book store owner was sympathetic enough to step in and put an end to my misery shortly after the last audience question, the one about getting a ride to Zack’s.
I thanked him and swore to myself I’d never do another reading as long as I lived. But the truth is you have to do them, and sometimes they’re not so bad, and sometimes a lot of people show up and you feel better, even though you have to find a way to answer everyone’s questions, particularly your own.
Stop eating food off the floor.
So the flower business happened. Boy, did it happen. I am now building a flower cart so I can take the whole build-your-own bouquet business on the road. I should tell you that I finally started editing the book I was writing at the same time I was working my fingers into a knot by removing trillions of thorns, and dropping things in front of people who were trying to enjoy themselves at parties. It was a harrowing time, but I got a ton of material and I met the most amazing people. I also learned some pretty interesting life lessons that I’d like to pass on to you my young readers/writers, fellow flower lovers:
- If you find something you like to do better than what you thought you were supposed to do, do the thing you like better instead.
- If someone isn’t nice to you, it’s probably because they’re a horrible person.
- No matter how hard you work, you will get old.
- Fortunately, you can always get plastic surgery and I recommend you do it sooner than later.
- People who have great difficulty learning English are nicer than people who can learn English. This is 100 percent true. I’ve met them all.
- The more overworked you are the more you can do.
- Wear socks. No one ever taught me this and I’m always cold and generally uncomfortable.
- If you’re good at something, people will ask you to do it for them for free. Just do it. Honestly, who cares? About anything.
- Surround yourself with beautiful things and try to write a little every day. You’ll always be happy.
- People steal.
I wrote another book. I never meant to, and I apologize in advance to all the people I will force to read it, including both of my children, my husband, and anyone else who steps foot in here. In the meantime, I will continue avoiding the editing process by playing with flowers all through the spring and summer. That’s how this whole flower thing got started in the first place. Turns out avoidance can be a very powerful tool if you use it to do something you love. I’ll be launching Millstone Flowers Memorial Day weekend in the Hamptons. I’ll keep you posted about the website: millstoneflowers.com. It should be up and running soon. I just have to stop changing my mind about what it should and shouldn’t be. So far I’ve ruled out game show and dating advice column. Those never work out for me.
My son, Jesse, the poor soul who got stuck designing the website. thinks it should be a place where people can visit to see and buy flowers, but do I really want to have to sell stuff to people? What if someone asks for something ugly? What if I fall asleep during business hours? What if I stub my toe? Any of these things could easily happen. But I guess that’s the chance I have to take to look at stuff like this all day instead of rewriting an entire book.
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I might be a genius! I quickly shook awake my husband to tell him that I actually invented something in my sleep.
“This is it, honey!” I said.
“What is?” he asked.
“My invention. It’s gonna change lives. Especially the lives of flowers.”
“Ok, then,” he said.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?”
“I do and I don’t.”
Granted, it was a very odd hour for this kind of thing.
I proceeded to explain a device that would make it possible to transport liquids hands free. I had already come up with a few names for my invention. “The Water Porter” was one. The “H2-tOte” was another. There were others, but they weren’t as good.
“If this thing really takes off, let’s promise each other right now that we’ll never change.”
“Okay,” he yawned.
“I’ll have to go to the patent office first thing tomorrow,” I said. Mostly because of the handy strap I’d envisioned. If someone steals that part of the design, the whole concept will be ruined. The strap is the game changer.”
“You might not want to go first thing,” he said with one eye open.
“I think what you invented is called a thermos.”
I guess I was relieved in a way. Just thinking about all that marketing and advertising I was gonna have to do. The competition would have been fierce, what with the invention of water bottles and the like, and I’d have to set up a whole other Instagram account. Imagine all the photos I’d have to take of liquids: Soup, tea, juice. . .soda. And all the prints and patterns I’d have to draw by hand for the outside of the bottle. I can’t even draw a really believable tree.
“I guess I’ll go back to sleep then,” I said.
“It was a good idea though,” he yawned extra loudly. And we both went back to our dreams.
Photo credit: http://jennaanderson.com and www.ruffledblog.com (Campfire Wedding Inspiration)
Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to work in a flower shop in the Hamptons? I was so stressed out I lost two teeth. Fortunately, they were in the back. I love telling people how much I suffered in the whole month I worked there. I guess I didn’t realize working is work or how little I move while writing. I hadn’t anticipated the effects of using one’s muscles and I certainly had no idea what a dirty business I was falling in love with. The flowers were sprayed with all kinds of pesticides, stuck in that green toxic foam and sometimes sprayed again to make them smell like flowers. The whole thing was pretty scary, and yet it was one of the most beautiful looking shops I’ve ever been in. The flowers were perfect. Funny thing about beauty. So much of it is sprayed on. But the more I research, the more I’m finding gorgeous organic farms that only grow and sell clean flowers. I think if you’re going to work with something it’s important that you’re not afraid to touch it. The first thing on my to-do list is to plant an antique rose garden on our property. Those are the roses I love.The kind that look and smell like roses, and like they’re relaxing to the point that they’re practically falling out of the vase. The kind that don’t stand straight up in the air because they were manufactured to look like floral soldiers. The kind that are proud to be hundreds of years old. The kind that when you dream about them, they look like this.