Smells like teen spirit

Sometimes I don’t know which way is up. I know our house is, thanks to hydraulics. I’m in it now, writing at the window, and I can see from here that the world is at my feet. As a barely budding pre-teen, I am actually incapable of fully appreciating this.

Steve and I still struggle through this uncertain phase of our lives, growing our little house inch by inch within the confines of FEMA, the state, the city, and our finances. Sandy swept through two and a half years ago but she’s sent wave after wave in her wake. After each wallop I pull myself up to stand a little taller. It used to be that I’d take a deep breath and duck under again immediately. Now that I have more experience, I can find up before I am thrown back and pulled under.

In each brief blue-sky capture I see the imprint of possibility.

Some part of me has flown six months out, a year, a half-world away, to meet each one. My body is still here in the house scanning signature pages, my mind calculating countertops. But the me that is so me I am scarcely aware of her, the me that is is and not does, brought back a sky of possibility this week. She lay clouds at my feet and I tiptoed around them with Steve. Are we actually allowed? Are these ours?

What shape is this? Can you see that one?

We watched the changing forms, and wondered aloud: What will we be when we grow up from here? Life post-Sandy has been a new coming-of-age, an awkward becoming. I don’t know who I am yet. It’s but they promised me boobs all over again. Like, big ones. It’s wishin’. And hopin’. And prayin’. And plannin’ and dreamin’.

It’s cloud-watching. We were upstate, with no TV and no Internet, miles from Ace Hardware and Home Depot and our file cabinet. Each time I’ve looked up these last few months, I’ve stolen bits of blue and cloud. Over our three days at the Spruceton Inn, these snapshots elongated into a panorama. Like the clouds, like the land, like the shape of the inn itself, the possibilities went on and on. What we could write. What we could do. What we could be. Part of me had already known.


But I was afraid I’d never get there. What if the storm shrank me? What if it ran me through the washer and the dryer? Might I come out less, not more, in the end? (What if I never grow boobs?)

For so long through these trials, I feared I would end up “a bitch in a beautiful house.” Now that we have been thoroughly screwed by the state and conned by our contractor, the time is nigh for bitch-being. But I don’t feel like a bitch. I feel like a flower shouldering my way out of a bulb, on up toward the thawing ground. What colors will I be? What will I be called? What will spring look like for Steve and me? Which cloud will we follow?

Our time away gave us perspective. I loved how at the inn, all was brown and barren. The innkeeper, Casey, told us with a sunny gleam in her eye, “This is all meadow! It will all be green!” Steve and me and the other guests could hardly believe it. “Really? Even that mud?” we pointed. “That brown scraggly stuff?”

“Yes,” she promised. “Green, all of it. With wildflowers!”

Back home too, we are still surrounded by brown (mostly boxes, still the boxes, always the boxes). Still forced to jump waves. Our growth period is awkward. It’s ugly. It’s been hard to keep the faith. But leave it to nature to remind us of the ever-changing cycle that is life! This set of waves will pass and the next will be surf-worthy. This mud and the brown stuff will give way to green. We will find up, and bloom into a sky that is, always, as we see it.

(end note, as I get ready to post this morning: IKEA cabinets are coming out of boxes! new contractors are on fire! stay tuned….)


8 responses to “Smells like teen spirit

  1. Wow Jenn! This is your best post yet! I love the writing, the sentiment, the wonder and uncertainty you express so perfectly. New discovery, especially about who we’ve become now, after life altering huge events, is so amazing! It’s kind of fun even, realizing it all!
    I’m happy for you that the house is coming along well enough now that you can sit and write by the window! Enjoy that! Sending love from Las Vegas!! (Moved here a couple of weeks ago! Yes, im scared about the heat!! Lol)

    • Wow–no!!! You didn’t!! What prompted this move??
      Thank you for the feedback. So many changes have come out of these changes! I know you know! I hope you are enjoying new discovery in your new hometown.

      • New and much better job for Michael! We are in a house now too! I love it so far, we’ll see if that holds in July!! Lol ❤️

  2. This time of year is always so gross ! Meadows and wild flowers really do come true 🙂 or beaches and sand in my case. It’s just so hard to see at this point …

  3. I forget how much I love reading what you write, I love the Nirvana-teen-growing analogies. If you survived the teen disappointments (most beautifully 🙂 then I know you will survive this too. So glad you got away, I know how much you enjoy upstate! You are a talented, STRONG woman and Steve is a talented STRONG man…you will be the most polished diamonds that come out of the rough of Sandy. xoxo

    • Thank you dear; you have always helped me to feel grown-up when I need to and child-like when I need to (when do we feed the seagulls again!?). And going through an awkward phase with you by my side has meant everything.

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