Pizza Dreams and Hey Nineteen

Hey I’ve got a life hack for you. And I mean a real life hack.

Not like lint brushing your car or tying a red ribbon around your suitcase. I mean, like to be a photographer or writer so that you can capture memories you won’t otherwise remember. Another life hack is to republish old writing – not only because you have something to say but have already said it better – but because it makes you remember captured memories you wouldn’t otherwise have remembered. Even if it wasn’t that long ago. I’ve always thought you can almost touch memories.

Really it’s that they can touch you.

I was 19, bookended by two BIG summers, and I was a bundle of hormones and pizza dreams.

I’ve even written a short story about that one summer, the second best of my life, and read it aloud to my Creative Writing class. What bravery! I had a major crush on a poet named Kyle in my class and he found me in the dining hall after class, touched my arm and said, “Your story. Pizza Dreams. It hit me.. right here. In the heart.” Then he put his hand on his heart, put his hands in his pockets, and ambled away. This is pretty much the crushiest thing you can do to a girl like me.

That story wasn’t written until I was 21 anyway, so why are we talking about it? Oh yeah. Hormones.

Let’s start at the beginning. I celebrated New Year’s 2000 when I was 19, and I was petrified. Somehow, I found myself invited to a fancy dinner party so I dressed up, grabbed my boyfriend, and partied all night. I may or may not have gotten slight food poisoning by something that night, and I was embarrassed to tell him. Eventually he asked me why I kept running away the next morning and I told him why and he laughed. “You think THAT is going to make me love you less?” Feeling much better later that night, on this day after the clock struck 2000, I went to visit the family I had babysat for ten years, and we had a wicked Mario Kart marathon. I got dizzy – from food poisoning dehydration, or maybe from trying to wrap my brain around it all – the year 2000 and my place in it. The world and the world’s computers didn’t break after all.

I sometimes wonder just a little.

The second best summer of my life was the summer I turned 20, halfway in. The summer I turned 19 was my first summer with a boyfriend, and that was where the hormones really came in. Life sort of hinged on summer nights and the best ways to get him alone, which was challenging since we both lived with our parents that summer. Then school started and I had a seriously insane roommate who talked to her stuffed animals and didn’t sleep, and the college dorms had these creepy, sketchy underground tunnels full of abandoned rooms with couches. I was one of the sketchy people using those tunnels.

The summer I said goodbye to 19 was the second best summer of my life. We went to Orlando in July and hit every theme park in 100 degrees. I remember sitting in the front row of the splash deck at SeaWorld and just putting out my arms and thinking, “Shamu, give it your best shot.” Getting soaked by an orca whale felt quite good, and then later I found the perfect studded hemp necklace for my boyfriend at a street vendor near Universal Studios. Little did I know then that my boyfriend would lose that necklace and be heartbroken, and then several years later I’d find myself back at that same street vendor near Universal Studios and I’d find the same hidden necklace. And I’d wonder about the appropriateness of sealing it in an envelope with a letter that would say, “It was clearly meant for you to have.” And that we’d almost get back together, for that or many other reasons, but maybe.. clearly we weren’t each other’s to have. That would be all right too.

My sister and mom got lost in an alligator-filled river later that week, and I waved to Duran Duran in a record store. I came home to my ridiculously awesome pizza delivering job which contributed to the second best summer of my life. Truly, the stories that fill that summer deserve 17 posts of their own, but let’s just say I had a crush on the short order cook. It was all very innocent, back then, and little did I know that the summer would end and that my car would explode on the side of Route 287, and that I’d fall for my best guy friend. My first love would survive the short order cook, but not the guy friend..

..that’s a story about being 20, though.

This is the life hack. This is why we write, and this is why we take pictures. Only a few years in of kid wrangling and career building and it’s almost just a faint spark, but I can bring it all back in an instant, and it’s like it never left at all, did it?

Today’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “My favorite life hack is…” and there’s still time to write yours. Come link up if you have a spin on that great topic – and I hope it’s about lint brushing your car or tying ribbons on luggage: HERE.

“Hey Nineteen
No we can’t dance together
No we can’t talk at all
Please take me along
When you slide on down” — Steely Dan

For The Love Of Cookies: A Semi-Obsessive Love Story.

I’m nothing, if not loyal. And I’m eating a cookie as I write this.

When I was pregnant with Scarlet, I had this pretty terrible software job at a company in Northampton. I could walk to work, and often I did so, even at nine-months-pregnant and with two of my co-workers nearly ready to call local hospitals or ambulances because they were afraid I had given birth on the bike trail between my apartment and work. Speaking of those co-workers, they were the only two bright points of this job. One, who made me laugh often and made me feel confident in my music knowledge because one day after he snickered through a phone call with a client named “Dr. Wu” I asked, “Like the Steely Dan song?” I’ll never forget the impressed look that flashed across his face. “Dr. Wu” even made it onto a birth mix.

The other bright point was my co-worker, Holly. We became fast friends from the start.

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Right before I went on my “maternity leave” (read: never coming because six weeks unpaid sounds terrible), she brought me a happy face cookie from a local bakery. It had frosting and sprinkles. I was astounded. “Where did you get this?? I’m from NJ and this is like the old school bakeries there! Everything around here is gluten-free, vegan, nutty, crap, cardboard! I want some freakin’ sprinkles and frosting – that’s what I want!” It was just like that but I didn’t shout at her. I just had to know.

Enter Greggory’s Pastry Shop into my life.

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(I didn’t take this photo but it makes me happy.)

The first time I drove through Hadley (a neighboring town), I made Cassidy slow down so we could find Greggory’s. We ran in to find the happy face cookies, as well as cupcakes, cakes, cannolis, and a whole case of various bakery cookies. I remember that I got chocolate chip cookies that day, one of their signature cookies, and it was the best chocolate chip cookie I had ever had. The love story was being written. It’s a cash/check only place, and I’m terrible about cash (and checks), so it became more of a special occasion thing. It wasn’t just about the money – I just didn’t want to EVER get sick of it. Every time there was something to celebrate, or I miraculously came into money, that’s where I wanted to go. Every time Cassidy went to Hadley, I hoped he’d come home with a telltale white paper bag or bakery box. It often happened.. Especially when I looked like this:

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There was this one time that I was short of money and I was counting out change and getting flustered, and it was one of my rare times away from Baby Scarlet and the store was very busy and Greggory was very cranky. He got very mad at me for being unsure of what I wanted right away and then not knowing if I had the money. He made me cry in my car and I left without cookies. I didn’t have the guts to go back for weeks and I made Cassidy go in one day for me and he told Greggory that he had hurt my feelings. I got lots of cookies that day and I eventually went back on my own. Scarlet learned to love “The Cookie Store”

She’d try to kiss the glass cases, and I had to stop her.

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I couldn’t wait to get Des on board when the time came, but there was a big fire six months ago in October, and Greggory’s burned down to the ground along with several other businesses late one night. I was at my parent’s house when I found out through Facebook and I was crying. I had been meaning to go there only a week earlier, because it had been awhile, and now I didn’t know if I ever would again. The first time I drove by there, I was sickened. The first time I drove by there with Scarlet and had to explain how an ENTIRE BUILDING PLAZA was now just ashes was also sickening, but she handled it well. We stayed tuned for updates and found out in January that they planned to rebuild at a new, close location. I waited (im)patiently for details.

About six weeks ago, a temporary sign went up at the new location that it was coming soon! Since it’s on the way to our nearest Target/Trader Joe’s, I would always glance over and check. About a week or two ago, I drove past on the way to Target and it was the same as it had been for weeks, but on the way back, the temporary sign was gone and workers were putting up a new one. Progress! Would I get my beloved cookies again soon?

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Yes. Yes, I would. Last Wednesday, the Facebook page was finally updated to say that they were re-opening the following day – Thursday, April 10th! That was my seven year anniversary of leaving New Jersey! I was so happy I screamed, and Scarlet was mad because she thought I saw a bug. Nope. Only the best news ever! I told her we were going when they opened the following morning. She said, “That’s great..but we don’t HAVE to go so early, do we?”! Who was this kid?

Des would never say that! Hence..the chocolate-smeared mouth.

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We did it, though. We got there before they opened. I was expecting a crowd, but..we were first. Whatever, people. COOKIES!

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We walked in and it was wonderful and I got to give a speech to them about how sorry I was about the fire and how much I missed them. I wanted my face to be one of the first they saw on their re-opening after tragedy and six months of rebuilding. I can’t explain it any other way. I wanted my friendly face to be one of the first they saw, if not the first. I’m friendly.

I like cookies. I like things to mean a lot. I like joy. I like spreading joy and things that mean a lot.

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