Saturday, November 14, 2009


A few months ago, Sam's uncle visited. I had never met this particular uncle, but I had heard many stories about him from many different perspectives. He was the wrestling uncle, the basketball uncle, the chummy kid-at-heart uncle. Sam hadn't quite made it home from work in time for formal introductions. I had just kicked off my shoes for nap time next to Beatrice, when the bell rang. It was an hour before they were due to arrive, but there they stood. I welcomed them into our home. Offered them drinks and kept my voice low. "There is a sleeping child in the house," my demeanor said. And so we retired to the lounge with our fuzzy water. We sat back for a moment in the uncomfortable silence of not knowing how to break the ice after questions of travel.

"So, Angie," the uncle looked at me very intensely, "how did you bounce back from your stillbirth?"

If I were Danny Thomas, there would have been a spit-take. Covered with water, Uncle would have looked at his wife and said, "Whaaaaaaa?" And the laugh track would have faded into commercial. But since this is New Jersey and 2009 and I have not unwittingly spat out liquids onto my conversational partner in decades, I just said, "I haven't quite."

He nodded and asked me about the Embran and Woonan baskets displayed on a floating shelf six inches above my head.


My mother-in-law is visiting right now, and it is lovely to have her here. Beatrice is finally at the age where she wants to show off for her, say her name over and over again, crawl on her lap and make her laugh. I realize after her last visit less than two months after Lucy's death that her seeing me in such a vulnerable space and at such a vulnerable time has given me a kind of ease with her. I let down my walls, and conversely, let her into my fortress of solitude. It has been a good lesson.

Yesterday, we left town and drove to the area in Pennsylvania where I grew up. It felt strange to tell stories of my childhood, because they are different, I imagine, than what others think about a half-Panamanian and half-Irish-German woman. One half of my family, the one surrounding me in my youth, was very American. I sang "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go" when we were indeed going to my grandmother's house. I was given half lemons with peppermint stick straws in the summer, and played Canasta until all hours of the night. I was taught to appreciate Glen Miller and jitterbug by my Nan. I grew up hearing German in town and Spanish at home. It is sort of strange to feel a nostalgic longing for Moravian stars, potato candy, and traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut when I am so brown, and yet, this is also who I am. Explaining our very German rituals amidst the also Panamanian ones felt like opening up a window into my happy place. My identity and tradition is a conglomerate of loving comfort. The best of all worlds, I like to think.

I have had house guests of the familial variety a few times this year, and it has been a mixed bag. I crave the distraction. I love hosting and cooking for others. I love my family, and love spending time with my in-laws. And yet, I need alone time. I would be a great bed and breakfast owner if it wasn't for all those damn strangers in my house. I crave the cry and regroup. I want to be grumpy in my own space. I want to kick my own shoes across the room without appearing immature. I have a deep need to sulk and obsess about my email.  Or simply, I need the space some moments to sing and play instruments with Beatrice in a cacophony of un-self-consciousness.


My mother showed up to share lunch with us at the Moravian bookstore, and rub my fuzzy head.

"You look so cool, Angie," my mother beamed.

People are nicer to me with short hair, even my mother. There I said it. I'm not sure I am going back to the grow-out cycle. My mother thinks it makes me more confident and smile more, which is probably true in some regards. I am not the sad person covering up for months of bad hair days, and months of even worse baby-yearning days. I am the sad person who is no longer battling stray hairs, which takes a level of frustration out of my day. I actually got HIT ON by a phlebotomist with a tail. Not an actual tail out of her ass, but a rattail, like Anakin or like your seventh grade hair experiment. It was exciting, especially as I am fat, pregnant and married to a man. It wasn't at all aggressive, just an innuendo and some compliments. When I told Sam my theory about my short hair, being hit on and people being nicer, he said, "Maybe they want you to be their token lesbian friend."  Yes, maybe I should attribute the positive images of lesbians in the media for my recent flooding of good vibes from strangers.

"I am lucky to have a token lesbian wife," he mused. And then I felt lucky. So lucky.


  1. I want you to be my token lesbian friend. :)

  2. I think you exercised great control in not spitting out your water. I have an uncle that about a month after Peyton died asked my dad if I had bounced back. My defensive father said "bounce back??? you don't bounce back from this." I appreciated his understanding.
    I love the idea of half lemon with a peppermint straw. I have German heritage, but our traditions were of the open presents christmas eve and eat lots of potatos kind... the lemon and peppermint sounds delightful.
    I think you should feel really great to be preggo and married and straight and still be attracting this woman's attention.
    I wanted, too, to say thank you so much for saying that you will try to find something for our collection. I was really really touched. :)

  3. Hmm I am intrigued that people are nicer to you with short hair. The lesbian friend thing kinda makes sense.

    Yeah, I think perhaps the uncle was trying to say something to start a convo but completely bombed. How nice to go from talking about your dead baby to baskets. I think perhaps I would've had a 'are you kidding me?' look on my face.

  4. Since my hair is very short I get hit on by women a lot. Seems like rule 1 in the "How to spot a lesbian" book:
    - Watch out for very short hair.
    (So you might be in for some more attention...)

    Kudos for not spitting at the uncle! I would have probably jumped in his face (arse first).

  5. Your posts always contain so many juicy and insightful tidbits that I have trouble narrowing my response down to one coherent thing. So how bout this (these): 1) "I'd be a great b-n-b owner if I didn't have to have all those strangers in my house." SO TRUE. lol. 2) Yup, house guests: good to have'em, good when they're gone. I feel the same way.

  6. Another brilliant mixed bag here, Ang. I give credit to your clumsy uncle for having a go (because hey, we hate it when they say NOTHING) but yeesh, he sort of missed the mark. Credit to you for keeping your cool.
    I love house guests, too. Seem to love them more when they're gone though. Our house is just too small. There is no where to hide.
    And even though we are a sorry bunch of unlucky girls, sometimes it is nice to stop and remember just how lucky we are. I know I'm lucky to know you.

  7. I had tail in seventh grade, or maybe it was sixth grade. I think you are a year younger than I, so I suppose sixth grade would make sense. The rest of my hair was very short and sort of punk rocker, while the tail was seven inches long, braided and bleached with peroxide. One day, I just cut it off. I probably have it somewhere.
    You have much more patience than I to host so many guests. I really applaud your openness with these guests as I know I'd rather hole up away from all the world.
    Peace, my friend.
    P.S. I need your help on a craft idea -- check my blog.

  8. "I haven't quite" - kudos on the restrained response, Angie.

    I hope you and Beatrice have found some time for your cacophony of un-self-consciousness. What a wonderful phrase.

  9. token lesbian that. I agree it's better he at least tried to comment on the elephant in the room, even if he did end up tripping all over it, it's worse when they ignore it all together.

  10. like Sally, I have to give him credit for asking at all, because i hate when people ignore my loss. but it was a little audacious to assume you'd "bounced back."

    yea um, i havent quite done that either.

  11. sitting here in the Lone Star State with tears in my eyes and laughing at the same time. Ang you are a true blessing- LOVE this post!!
    thank you,

  12. I'm sure your hair is beautiful, and we could all appreciate some kind strangers.
    Glad to hear you are smiling more. Thinking of you, wondering how you are and such..
    much love ang xoxox

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