fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: unexpected adventures

conversations with drivers

by caitlin meredith

elpasoborder

I could write a whole book about my conversations with drivers. Most of them have been in long, pot-holed sections of bandit roads in Sub-Saharan Africa sitting shotgun as my local driver expertly navigated a Land Cruiser between the ditches on either side of the road. A lot of funny, tragic, harrowing, familiar and confusing stories are exchanged on those drives. Like the Kenyan-Somali driver Tigania who complained about dividing the cabbages evenly between his three wives on market days. Was he supposed to give each wife the same number, or dole out according to how many children each had? As you can imagine, each wife had an opinion that correlated with her child count. Being completely out of my realm of practical experience, that one really stumped me. Like anyone who has ever taken a taxi in Manhattan can attest, conversations with professional drivers often give you more of a sense of place than any of the monuments or attractions you visit. The same thing happened to me last week in El Paso.

I went to El Paso to research a student media project at the University of Texas that covers the U.S.-Mexico border called Borderzine. I knew I’d be talking to a lot of journalism professors and students about the border, but I was curious about how “normal” people thought about it. It seemed like a big deal to me, living on the border. All of the news reports we get in Austin are about how dangerous it is, but maybe, like many over-sensationalized stories in the media, it was no big deal. Read the rest of this entry »

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how to beat the holiday blues: be nimble

by nikki meredith

via Terry Vine/CORBIS

There is a saying in Italian: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con qui vuoi . Which means: Christmas with your family, but Easter with whomever you want! My parents weren’t Italian but they subscribed to this notion. The one and only time I dared to spend Christmas away from them was my honeymoon and they never quite forgave me for it. As a result, I vowed that, with my kids, I would never make spending any holiday with me compulsory.  In the beginning it was because I didn’t want to burden them. Later it was because I didn’t want to be so wedded to one way of celebrating the holidays that I’d be crushed if it didn’t work out. I do have a tradition, however, and it’s to be forever nimble on holidays. And I think it’s a tradition that might work for others.

I have a friend who was depressed for most of the weeks leading up to Christmas last year because her adult son and his wife decided to take their kids and join some friends of theirs in Hawaii for Christmas. Taking Grandma and Grandpa apparently wasn’t an option – either because they wanted a break from the old folks or because no one could afford the extra plane tickets. My friend and her husband are on a fixed income; their son’s wife is currently unemployed so the only way they could manage the trip was to cobble together a package of frequent flier miles and to trade their home in Marin County for a condo in Oahu.   “Christmas has always been at our house,” my friend said, “that’s our family tradition.” I felt sad for her but that always is a problem. There is no always in this life. People move, they divorce, they die, they decide they prefer palm trees to redwood trees on Christmas. Read the rest of this entry »

imaginary friends and neighbors

by caitlin meredith

A few weeks ago I developed an intense attachment to a couple that lives in the neighborhood. It happened very quickly, the way some of the best friendships do. It was immediately clear how much we had in common – everything from our favorite kind of organic tea to the poetry of a lesser known writer. Having this kind of chemistry can be bittersweet – on the one hand you can’t believe your luck to stumble upon a kindred spirit (two in this case!) but on the other you regret all the time wasted not knowing each other already. The memories that could have been made! They’ve lived four blocks down from me for a while now, and yet we’d never crossed paths before. Sadly, I got to know them on their moving day, which sucks.

Another thing that sucks? They never existed.

Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

a different kind of mystery at the book festival

by caitlin meredith

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All of the post-menopausal women from a 30-mile radius had descended upon the Senate Chamber. The event? A panel discussion among four authors about women changing their lives at the halfway mark. It was called “Take Two: Women on a New Path” and the venue was the Texas Book Festival a couple weeks ago. Now, not every attendee was a post-menopausal woman – I was there, for instance – but that demographic was the clear majority. As the panelists were settling in front, stragglers continued to fill the peripheral seats in the auditorium. From my perch on the side-wall pews where the press corps usually sit during the legislative session, someone caught my eye. A youngish guy, alone, passed me to sit further down, closer to the front. I half smiled, wondering how long it would take for him to realize that he was in the wrong chamber – the Civil War session was in the House Chamber, not the Senate. Oh well, I thought, he’ll figure it out soon enough.

Then the panel started and the moderator introduced all of the authors, briefly describing their works. One by one she went down the line, highlighting their extraordinary paths, brave journeys and amazing work (throw in your own cliché here) as women, women authors and women authors writing about women and their women’s experiences and relationships. By this point there was no mistaking the fact that estrogen and ovaries were on display here – not just display, they were being banged over the audience’s head with a two by four. And yet, the guy remained in his seat. More than that – he was following the panel with rapt attention.  What the fuck? Read the rest of this entry »

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