checking the mailbox // a story + playlist.

Tonight, I had my first writing class of a series. We did some free writing. Get a prompt. Write for five minutes. Share.

The third prompt was “I remember…”

For unclear reasons lately, I’ve been thinking about mailboxes. What they mean for homes. What they mean for love. What they mean for communication. And in the instant the of the prompt, I remembered a mailbox. Here’s what I wrote…

I remember the mailbox. The mailbox so empty, every time. My heart so broken. Every time. I had no way of knowing it could feel this bad. I was 17. I was in love. And after two years together, he went off to spend a summer as a camp counselor. I was so sad… but we wrote each other all the time. I had to get my wisdom teeth out that summer. The feeling wasn’t pain. The feeling was life underwater. Slower because of the drugs. My head was light, but my mouth was heavy, full of gauze. He just so happened to be visiting home the day after my procedure. He looked at me. Me with my chipmunk cheeks. And he told me we were over. “Whaaad?” I asked, muffled and swollen and crumbling into the pain now. I don’t remember much after that. I just remember the weeks to come. Checking the mailbox every day. Feeling inside the empty tin. So hot. So empty. I wondered if I could climb in, shut the door, and be in that darkness instead.

I assured my classmates that I am happily married now.

Checking the mailbox. It means something different to me now—thank god. It means something, though. I’ve put together some of the songs—old and new—then and now—full and empty—in a playlist for sharing. I hope you enjoy the tunes.

checking_the_mailbox[click me.]

[hoping the hot tin burns.]

we embrace our love/friendship and go.

This weekend has been brutal.

Why?  Oh, because my whole Texas-dwelling family was privileged enough to attend the Austin City Limits Festival.

Brutal?  Because I couldn’t be there with them.

Convincing my brother to go see Pretty Lights:

…and getting back a rave review.

Having texts sent throughout the days of favorite songs by favorite artists and then at night, being sent videos from “the youtube” to show just how incredible certain shows were… painful.  I love my family so much and I love Austin so much and I love live music so much… aww, man!  [bratty pitty party going on here.]

And though I was bumming, I smiled all weekend at the thought of how much fun my fam was having.  I loved every little bit of sharing they did with me… helping me feel like I was there… like I was remembered/loved/there in spirit.

My favorite thing that I got from my family this weekend was an email from my dad, received last night, that hardly mentions any music… but, somehow, he captures a music festival [the joy] perfectly…

“freebie field trench reporter:

     It was a perfect day, no hypebole intended.  We all had free ACL passes, Stevie Wonder & 25 other major acts in attendance.  We had clouds, a miracle in itself, then RAIN: are you kidding?  My oldest & dearest Tx Chainsaw Massacre house roomates/friends (77′) let us park in their driveway 4 blocks away from the entrance.  They are so dear & kind & just returned from a badly needed vacation in Maui where Mom&I honeymooned/recovered in 81′.  We embrace our love/friendship and go.

    Walking downhill in that wonderful old S Austin neighborhood with various parties ‘goin’ on’ ,10 minutes later we are going thru the front gate in a lite rain & its NOT 105 degrees under unmerciful sun hoping that someone doesn’t throw a butt on the ground to start a fire.  Miraculously pleasant compared to the last 6 months of biblical Drought.

    We hook up with other couple whose kid also ditched ’em, and have a great & wonderful time. 10hrs later our kids decide they need a ride home.  We reunite & head out with 60,000 other people walking down the street, goin home, shuttle, aftershow, bar, club, or wherever.

     We take a right uphill turn apart from the herd. Its been a long & glorious day with less than usual severe physical demands under the elements, but yet we are tired & we trudge to return to our car, uphill.  Mom has been doing fantastic all day with her leg endurance but now she voices concern as we go straight uphill.  She takes my arm for support.

    “I have some good news & some…….”  Good news is the1st part is straight up & the hardest, Bad news is its all uphill.   We trudge.
    We crest the hill to take an immediate left turn & there is a party ‘goin on’ at the first house we see at the top of the hill.  As we turn, on the curb on the right is a group of people mostly young women holding a bottle of whiskey saying ‘show us a tit & get a sip, men included’.

    I immediately lift up my bright yellow tshirt & get my sip and Mom & Ry move over to the other side of the street & don’t talk to me for the next block.

    It was a great hike back & so much family fun, how many times can you say that.  A pleasant drive home with a phone call from you to add to that.”

And in about ten minutes, they’ll be watching my all-time fave, Arcade Fire, and I’ll be listening to “The Suburbs” in my kitchen, drinking wine, being there in spirit, dancing, singing, embracing the love/friendship.

crying, smiling, singing, loving. magic.

My dad has had his moments.  By that, I mean he’s a quirky, silly guy, but every once in a while, he’ll blow you out of the water with sweetness.

For the rest of this story to make any sense, you must read this old blahg post:

And if you refuse to do so [being difficult], just know that the most amazing gift I’ve ever received was that my father stood up in our living room a few days before Christmas and sang me a song.  A song about love.

He ended the song [me in tears], telling me that I would have to learn it one day and sing it with him.

I said, “Of course!”  I thought, Noooo effing way.  Too embarrassing.  I can’t sing!

My father’s birthday was on Tuesday and I dreamed of being there for his big 60th.  I even designed the invitations for his big bash that is this weekend [today].  But it was not in the cards… and by “the cards”, I mean, “the bank”… It was not in the bank.

Text and calls went back and forth about how I was going to be missed and how as a family, we just couldn’t make it work this time for a visit.

And then something very unfortunate happened.  A family who we [evan and myself… oh my gourd, i just became a “we”er… get me some adult diapers… this is a problem] were housesitting for had their father pass unexpectedly.  It was tragic.  In the process of it all, the family [the daughters] paid Evan and myself a generous amount of money… money for the whole time we were supposed to have watched the house.  It was too nice.  It brought tears.

– Evan, we have to give that back.

– They’re dealing with a lot right now.  I think it would be less of a hassel if we just kept it.

– …What if we used it to go see my dad?… for his 60th.

– I think the girls would actually really appreciate us using the money for that.

So we did.  It was the night of my dad’s actual birthday, a Tuesday and I called him to wish him a happy day.

– Happy birthday, Daddy!

– Thanks.  It’s been a great one.  Your mom and I are drinking wine and making dinner.

– Oh, that’s great.  I wish I could be there.

– Me too, Rocky.  You know, I had this little day dream that you were coming here to surprise me for my birthday, but I realized it’s just not in the cards.  It would have been so great, but I know that you’re doing your best up there and would be here if you could.

– Yeah, I so wish it could have happened!  I love and miss you guys.  Have a happy rest of your birthday.

– Thanks.  I love you too, Rocky.

And I hung up.  I looked over to Brittnee [my amazing friend from college who picked me up from the airport] who was driving me to my parent’s house… to surprise them.

– Did you hear that?!  He’s on to me!

– No, he’s not.

– No, I don’t think he actually is… but it was close.

Brittnee and I stopped at one of my favorite mexican restaurants.  We had a margarita [to calm my nerves] and then it was time… time to go show up at my parent’s front door.

I was so unbelievably nervous.  I don’t know why.  I’ve never really surprised anyone like this before.

Brittnee pulled up, dropped me off…

– I’ll do a big lap around the block and then come back.

– Okay.  Thank you so much!

– You’ll do great.

– Thanks.

I walked up to the door, shaking.

I rang the doorbell.

Momma opened the door, took one look at me and screamed…

– Oh my god!

She looked like she had seen a ghost… she did not run towards me… she backed away in shock… walking backwards, with her eyes bigger than I’d ever seen them.  She shrugged her arms heavy to her sides, looked up, mouth open in shock and turned in a few circles.  Then she backed to the living room and said…

– Jim!  Get over here!  Get off the phone!  Or, don’t get off the phone… just come here!

Dad came over to the hallway and screamed…

– Ahhh!  Rachel’s here!  I gotta go!

…and threw the phone down.

I was laughing the whole time.  They started laughing, smiling so big.

I was still standing on the front porch.  They came and hugged me, laughing hysterically in disbelief.

They wouldn’t stop hugging me, but I wouldn’t come inside…   I kept saying…

– No!  Stop!  I had this all planned!  This wasn’t how I planned it!  Hold on!  Stop!  STOP.

They stopped and took a few steps back and then I took a deep breath and started singing…

– When you find yourself alone… No way of getting home…

And I was the first to burst… I started crying, but carried on through the whole song.  My parents joined in and we all sang together.  It was nothing short of magic…

When you find yourself alone
No way of getting home
Wrap yourself in a blanket of stars
My love is there It’s the night that always burns
The day will take its turn
Picture my arms around your neck
My love is there

My love is there
It can find you anywhere
You’re gonna learn just how to trust
My love is there

If nothing’s going right
Fear sleeps with you and I
Oh, remember this if nothing else
My love is there

My love is there
It can find you anywhere
You’re gonna learn just how to trust
My love is there

Oh, you’re gonna learn just how to trust
My love is there

Crying, smiling, singing, loving.  Magic.  Perfect.

I came in, we laughed and hugged more.  Brittnee came back by with my stuff.  [p.s. Evan had gone to his friend’s house in Austin.]  We all chatted for a while and then Britt took off.

The three of us sat in the kitchen, drinking wine, listening to music, smiling, catching up, laughing.  Every time I would leave the room, I would hear them say something along the lines of…

– I still can’t believe it.

– The best.  Just the best.


Ryland [my little bro… four inches taller than me] came home from the rec center from playing basketball and I hid behind the front door.  He tried to open the door.  I pushed it shut.  He tried to open it.  I held it shut almost all the way.  He shoved, I shoved, he pushed, I pushed and finally I popped out from behind the door and said…

– What the hell, dude?!

He smiled so big and said…

– Wait.  Are you kidding me?


We all stayed up too late, laughed so hard, danced, ate, smiled, loved.  It was perfect.

And then Ryland went to bed and we all stayed up later and it got to the point of the night were you just have to pour another glass of wine, start a kitchen dance party and take pictures of yourself.

The night came to an end, but it will live in infamy.  So special.  Magic.  Thank you, sweet family, for a perfect homecoming evening/night.  Every minute of it was worth the trip.