30 May 2006

30 Things

My sisters and I live at different ends of the Midwest, and it is rare that we all come together. Once or twice a year at most. Since some extended family were having a party for my great-uncle, we all came in for the weekend.

I can predict what happens each time. One arrives at home much earlier than the others (it was my turn this time) and gets the full update on all the neighbors' doings. As each subsequent sister arrives, the neighbor stories are repeated. The house becomes gradually noisier. Somebody starts in a fit of giggles, setting off the other two. There is almost always a lecture, wherein the others attempt to look interested.

And after about two days, we are all silent, since we have pretty much shared all the news that we want to share. There's nothing left to talk about, and we are perfectly comfortable sitting in a companionable silence. No one feels compelled to fill it, and we have been known to spend an entire meal without conversing. I'm sure to an outsider it seems as though we're angry at each other or sulking, but it's really because we feel that if we don't have anything worth listening to, then it's okay to not talk. As for myself, I learned that lesson in the previous post's anecdote.

Partway through the weekend, my older sister mentioned that she wanted to compose a list of thirty things she wants to do before she turns thirty, which will be in about five months.* We came up with only about 18 ideas for her, a few good ones, and a few that could more likely be called chores, like "painting the front door." She had a caveat that they couldn't involve a large investment of time or money. In my case, I have a little more time to consider, and so I'm reaching a little farther.

*It turns out that all three of us want to go skydiving. Who knew? Maybe we should go three times, once on each of our 30th birthdays.

1. Learn HTML for real and design a web page
2. Go to a screening of Letterman
3. Go to the hometown of at least one of my ancestors
4. Get married to my Frenchy (dare I say this?!!!!)
5. Learn something useful about car maintenance
6. Find a way to make some money from my creative talents
7. Gosh, this is hard.
8. Ride on an overnight bike trip
9. ummmm...
10. manque d'inspiration
11. Really learn Italian this time
12. oh, sod it, Letterman is on

19 May 2006


There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing around with scrapbooks.

For the ex-expat, or in my case, the exchange student long returned to her home country, it is uniquely fulfilling to share one's stories from abroad to a willing ear. A coworker and I have contracted that every Thursday night we will have a gourmet dinner and listen patiently to the other's scrapbook stories. It is a long-awaited release, a necessary escape valve, an essential therapy.

Note that I said a willing ear. It doesn't help to have someone held there by hostage. Sure, the gourmet dinner helps (brandy sours, salade de chevre chaud, roast chicken, goulash, four French cheeses and gâteau basque à la cerise) but we each understand the near primal need to share our stories. And we ooh and aah like the speaker has just stepped off the plane. God, it feels good.

During this last round of orientations, I told my little sister that she had become my favorite anecdote about re-entry. I remember the first time I came home from France after a full year abroad. I had just experienced the most life-changing, formative ten months, and every time I opened my mouth, a "Well, in France, we..." seemed to fall out. After a few (dozen) repetitions, my little sister would bodily run out of the room. I think that was the lowest point of my re-entry crash.

And now she, in turn, is preparing to spend the fall semester in England. I am torn between my professional urging to talk her through her entry and re-entry process, to help her benefit in ways that I had to find on my own, and my desire to revisit upon her all the hurt she caused me. I know what I will do, ultimately. But the eighteen-year-old in me wants to repay the fourteen-year-old sister. Will this relationship ever change?