Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sur la route de Memphis

here's a song in French about Memphis.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Things You Miss

It's easiest to just say it: my aunt Becky passed away yesterday.  It was sudden, unexpected.  It was not something anyone was prepared to deal with.

When you leave home for an extended amount of time, there's always that little voice that reminds you what you will be missing.  In my case, when I left in September, I knew I would be missing a year of family gatherings, a year of birthdays, of dinners with friends... christmas programs, dance performances, game nights, coffee dates, movie nights, long directionless drives, walks in the park, and so on and so on, all of those events small and large that string together and define the year.  Those events anchor our lives; they balance out the drudgery of the everyday and establish the moments of pleasure that define our existence.
Those are the things that you miss, that you trade for a new adventure.  And I was and am glad that I did.  I know that there are years and years ahead, that this one year contained a different set of events to anchor me.  This year away includes its own small, normal events and big, important holidays - with a  change in the cast.

I don't mean to sound sentimental.  But I am sentimental.  And I knew that a small part of me would regret those things I have missed, the things I am missing.

There's also the tiny, tiny voice that worries you will miss something else.  Something that you don't want to happen.  You don't often voice that fear.  But the fear that you will miss some tragedy stays with you as well.

My Aunt Becky was 53 years old.  She has four children: Emily, Walt, Lauren, and Sara and her husband, Scott.  She has a brother, Robert, his wife, Mariel, and a sister, Merry, and her husband Andrew.  She has a mother, Alice.  And, on this side of the family, one nephew, Stephen. And two nieces, my sister and me.  I wish more than anything I could be with those people right now.
I can only imagine how they all feel right now because the physical distance makes it seem less real.  My heart positively aches for my cousins.

And while I don't want to sound self-centered, the best thing I can do to commemorate my aunt is to recount a personal memory, one of the most affecting that I have of her: my Aunt, as one of the most enthusiastic about my homecomings.
When I left Memphis for Washington D.C. as a college freshman, I was excited and terrified.  Nearly a year later I made the decision to transfer back to Memphis; it was one of the most difficult, conflicted decisions I have made.  The decision carried with it all of the usual second-guessing: Would I regret it later?  Would I like the University of Memphis even less? And the more self-deprecating: Am I a failure?

I have never forgotten what my aunt said to me when I came home that summer in 2006, "I know your mama's glad you're coming home.  We're all so proud of you, and we're so glad you're home."

That is familial love at it's finest, and it has stuck with me ever since.  I have never regretted the decision to come home, and I have certainly never regretted the decision to be closer to my family.  The hardest thing for me to comprehend, to realize, is that she will not be there to say "We've missed you! We're so glad you're home."
My aunt loved her children and kept them close.  That's how I remember Aunt Becky, never so glad as to have her family around her.

all the cousins (back of stephen's and my heads):

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Modest Proposal

I just booked my final tickets for my final jaunt about Europe (well, for this year anyway).  I will be going to Ireland, among other places.  Therefore, in honor of Jonathan Swift, I have named this post after his famous essay on the plight of the Irish.  Although this has nothing to with a starving nation of people, I'm still annoyed:

A couple of rhetorical questions:
In a communal setting should each person be required to clean up after herself?
What are the limits of a "greater good" mentality?
And, is it logical, fair, and reasonable (not to mention hygienic) to punish members of a community for a dirty bathroom, by locking it up?

Ok, what the hell am I talking about?  I am talking about the foyer. I am talking about the foyer and its direction's ridiculous approach to cleanliness.  I am talking about the foyer, its direction's ridiculous approach to cleanliness, and the manifestation of that approach in my everyday life.

I have learned to live without the frivolity of toilet seats. I managed to make it through the winter with rationed hours of heat and air-leaking windows.  I have even re-adjusted to sleeping with ear plugs to combat the ridiculous all-hours kerfluffle of living in an all-female residence.

But I cannot get used to the disgusting state of the communal spaces.  In particular, the atrocious spaces referred to as les salles de bains and la cuisine.  Yes, that would be the bathrooms and kitchen.  Here's the thing: we have a full-time cleaning lady.  Kind of.  
Typically, the cleaning lady cleans the bathrooms and kitchen.  This is a reasonable considering the foyer is designed to house around 100 women, and, to answer two of those rhetorical questions: yes people should be expected to clean up after themselves and the limits are not definable.  But, it is best to have a designated cleaning person to maintain order in 100-person chaos.  

What happens when the cleaning lady, say, doesn't show up for a week or so?

I'll tell you what happens:  all hell lets loose, people do not clean up after themselves, and you discover how absolutely disgusting the human race actually is.  

At the end of February, the former cleaning lady went on vacation.  The bathrooms became so disgusting that the women who work at the foyer closed down the bathrooms.  I mean, they were reasonable about it (if you can call denying someone the fundamental right to a toilet reasonable in any way), they didn't shut them all down at once.  The shut down one for a week.  Then they opened it back up and shut down another.  This resulted in a very unhappy me, lugging my bag of shampoo and soap to another floor in order to take a shower.

Let's re-examine this approach for a moment: what exactly did locking up the bathrooms do?  Nothing. The mess just moved, so other bathrooms became inordinately messy and disgusting.  Those bathrooms were, in turn, shut down for their own one-week period.
The absolute, best part in all of this is that the women who work here actually called it a punition, a punishment!

When the cleaning lady finally did return, the bathrooms stopped being disgusting, and the kitchen trash was taken out again.

But, the foyer has reached another level of ridiculousness. 

I noticed, over a week ago, that the kitchen was looking pretty bad.  Someone had cooked something in our mini-oven (which I fondly refer to as our easy-bake oven) and left food spilled all over the inside, on the grill, on the bottom, everywhere.  In addition, the counters were covered in food particles, and the electric burners had more spillage than usual around them.
And, I've refrained from too much detail in reference to the toilets until now, but one of the toilets on my floor had the persistent, lingering scent of vomit.
Even my hallway, a fairly neutral smelling zone had taken on a really horrible, humid, funky smell.  (My room, I assure you, does not smell funky in anyway.  I regularly open the windows and have a couple of vanilla candles I burn from time to time.)

It turns out the new cleaning lady hadn't come to clean in a week.  To date, as I write this, she still hasn't come in.  Apparently, she's ill.  And that's fine.  I do not begrudge anyone their sick time when they are ill.  But, honestly, people, two plus weeks in a living area without a proper cleaning?

That is wrong.

This is what I think:
1. Residents should try to pick up a little more after themselves.  It's not difficult to wipe down a counter when you've sprinkled lettuce and rice bits all over it.
2. There is a limit to looking after the greater good, and that limit has been reached.  When one person leaves a small mess, another person becomes a little more lax in her cleaning routine.  Before you know it, you've got a bona fide mess.

3. This is why we have a freaking cleaning lady.  If the cleaning lady cannot come, it is not only reasonable, it is necessary and humane that they find a back up.

I mean, good grief!