The Reinhard Chronicles: Life Without a Microwave

Sometimes my own ability to do impossible things astounds me. The fact that I can totally make microwave popcorn on the stove, is beyond amazing. Living a microwave-less lifestyle for the past 10 months hasn’t made me a better person or given me hippie green visions of enlightenment. But life without a microwave has certainly made me more aware of how freaking long it takes to boil stuff on the stove! Continue reading “The Reinhard Chronicles: Life Without a Microwave”

True Thanksgiving

We were all bundled up, and packed into the car, the smells of buttered mashed potatoes making my mouth water. The snow hadn’t started yet, but the skies had been hinting at it for a week and by the end of the night, tiny snowflakes would be drifting to the ground to form the first layer of winter. We were gather at the Lighthouse, a regular building on a corner, where missionary and military families would be gathering to share a collective Thanksgiving dinner together.

Continue reading “True Thanksgiving”

Memorable Dreams (Day 6)

With my wedding to Cheshire quickly approaching (43 days from today), I’ve been having a lot of dreams about weddings lately. Most of them involve things going horribly wrong, or huge miscommunications (like the photographer not showing up, or performing the wedding on the wrong day, or losing the rings and replacing them with DIY seashell rings hot glued to tin foil rings). Usually I remember bits and pieces but not enough to piece together a whole sensable plot. BUT. About a year ago, before Chesh and I started dating, I had this little masterpiece. And so, without further ado, I present my wedding day from hell.

You know how when you dream, there isn’t a starting point that you remember. It’s all kind of fuzzy and you find yourself suddenly in a situation not remembering how you got there. It gives us the illusion that we’re awake because there wasn’t a pinpointed beginning. But this time, it was like getting blasted with cold water. One second I’m drifting off and then next second, BAM! I’m standing in a wedding dress in some bridal room at a church. There are bridesmaids from hell in bright pink dresses that make me want to retch, and everyone is smiling too big. My mother dearest is crying into a wad of tissues, fussing over my veil, and my dad is holding back tears as he gazes across the room at me like I’m about to go off to war. I take in the whole situation quickly and handle it with grace and precision.

“What the hell is going on?” I say, eyeing down the nearest bridesmaid who is attempting to straighten the bottom of my dress. I inch away from her.

It’s as if the room didn’t hear my question, and my mom begins blubbery about her “little baby who is so grown up and finally getting married”. I feel like I’m going to be sick again.

“And who am I marrying?” I direct this at my dad who seems the most sane one in the room. I’m mistaken. He eyes me curiously, a quizzical puppy dog look on his face.

“Hannah that’s not funny.”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” I brush away another bridesmaid who’s trying to fit something in my hair, a flower I think. My annoyance boils over. “Everyone! Get out!”

The room freezes and my mother looks horrified. Good. At least they’re listening to me now. I stare back at them all, eyes wide, and stare pointedly at the door. “Out.”

My parents assume they aren’t included in everyone, and they remain. My headache lessens as the pepto-bismol pink puffs of a bridal party leave.

“Will someone please explain to me what’s going on?”

“You’re getting married, honey.” My mom looks like she’s about to lose it altogether. “This is supposed to be a happy day. What’s going on with you?”

I ignore her.

“Who am I marrying?”

There is a silence and I think they think I’ve lost my mind. Alzheimer’s maybe… Finally dad breaks the silence.

“You really don’t know?”

“Humor me.”

Typical dream-based reality, no one has last names and my apparent fiance only goes by the one. Kevin.

“Well could you get…Kevin, was it? In here?”

My mom protests. “But it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!!”

Dad, thankfully, sees I’m in no mood to be messed with and drags my mother out, promising to bring my betrothed.

I take the time to pace the room, and end up tripping over my stupid dress twice. God, did I choose this style? With the strapless straight neckline, and skirt that’s way too long for my legs. I can feel the makeup caked into my skin, and my hair is pilled up in unattractive ringlets on my head, making me look more like a poodle than a person. Dream me had also chosen to spend the day in heels. If I knew one thing about myself it was that me and heels was never a good idea. Especially in a long dress that didn’t fit right.

The door opens, and a quirky but not unfortunate looking guy walks, his left hand covering his eyes. His brow is furrowed.

“Hannah? Where are you? The wedding’s about to start…”

I pull his hand down so he’ll look at me, but he keeps his eyes closed anyways.

“It’s bad luck to-”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Open your eyes. You look like an idiot…”

When he does, he gets this wow look on his face that I would assume every bride hopes for from her to-be husband. I would have cherished the moment had I actually known the guy standing opposite me.

“Look…Kevin. I don’t think we should get married.”

I say it, thinking that this is totally normal at weddings when the bride suddenly realizes she’s about to get married to a complete stranger. But as for typical dream states, I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of my dearly beloved fiance, and so I was trying to break the news carefully. So far I felt like I was doing pretty good.

Kevin lets out a sigh mixed somewhere between relief and a sob. Not what I was expecting.

“Really?” His eyes are hopeful, and for a second I’m actually annoyed at how relieved he is at this statement the supposed love of his life just told him. I attempt to reason.

“I just don’t…know you.” I don’t entirely know how to tell him I’ve never seen him before in my life, and honestly wouldn’t know the difference between him and the preacher.

“I feel the same way!” Kevin’s statement makes me double take and I stare up at him with eyebrows raised.

“You do?” I’m confused.

“Yeah. Like you said, I feel like we don’t even know the real Kevin and Hannah. Everything just happened so fast and we made this decision so fast. I feel like you don’t even know the real me…”

Good gravy, he thinks we need to find our own paths, doesn’t he?

“Yeah…. Sure. Ok. We’ll go with that.” Literally anything is better than him crying in the corner. “So what do we do now?”

I can see his wheels are turning, and there’s something sad about how long it takes him to come up with the simple solution of breaking the news to the congregation that has gathered for our nuptials.

“We’re going to have to tell them, aren’t we?”

I nod at Kevin the Genius.

“I can’t do that! My mother will be so disappointed after all the hard work she’s put into this wedding!”

Aha! So she’s the culprit for the wardrobe choice of my bridesmaids. No wonder.

Since I have no emotional connection to these people, I take the high road and volunteer to tell everyone of the impending lack of ceremony.

Now, at this point, things get a little fuzzy, and I somehow agreed to let him take our limo and honeymoon tickets to Hawaii while I drew the short straw and told everyone. Looking back, I think maybe I just wanted to be done with the whole thing, and as I waved at the disappearing limo, I wondered to myself exactly how I was going to explain this whole fiasco. I couldn’t really walk up to the front and tell everyone there wouldn’t be a wedding today because we didn’t actually know a single thing about each other. Or could I?

And so as the organ attempted to keep up with my fast paced strut up the aisle, I held my skirt a foot off the ground, my bare feet having kicked off the heels at the door. People awkwardly stood, wondering if they were supposed to since the groom was no longer standing at the altar like he was supposed to. A red faced lady on the front row didn’t look happy. I waggled my fingers at her as I passed, guessing she was our dear Kevin’s mother. As I neared the steps and oncoming stage, and faltered, wondering where to stop and make my announcement. Then I spotted the pastor. Poor thing, the man looked confused as all get out, and was awkwardly holding his Bible open, eyes wide like a fish, his lapel mic clipped way to close to his throat.

I came up to stand next to him, leaning over and unclipping his mic.

“Could I just… borrow… thanks.”

Pulling the mic closer to my mouth, the feedback echoed through the building and I saw dear mother-in-law wince from the front row. When the screeching had subsided, I smiled out at them all, wishing I was on a plane to Hawaii instead.

“So. As you have probably guessed, Kevin’s not here.” I pause but there really isn’t a reaction yet. “Yeah, and there isn’t going to be a wedding today.”

A gasp reverberates through the crowd starting from mommy-dearest. That was better.

“We realized we didn’t know a thing about each other, and found this all to be a waste of time… So. Enjoy the cake and whatnot, and I’m just gonna go now.”

I hand the mic back to the pastor, who’s standing there like I’ve just grown a third nostril, and decide it’s time to make my grand exit. People have started to mumble amongst themselves, so I’m thinking it’s time to go. I pick up my skirts and head right back up the aisle and out the door into the foyer. A bridesmaid stands holding her bouquet in one hand, cigarette in the other. She takes a nice long draw and smirks, smoke blowing out of her nose.

“Is that it?”

And it was.


Childhood Memories (Day 4)

My childhood is a combination of pictures scrunched together to fill in the holes of what I remember. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between pictures I’ve seen and memories I remember. But there are memories that I have never forgotten. Things from my childhood that I think about all the time. I remember them so clearly, it’s like I’ve been thrown into a time machine and hurtled back to watch it all again as a bystander. Silently watching it happen again and again. 

I’ve never thought myself to be a particularly unusual child. The same things every normal child loved, I loved. The same things every normal child feared, I feared. The toys at my house were just as good as anyone else’s, and the ghost’s under my bed just as imaginary. Though there is one place, to this day, I have loved with not a quite full understanding. It’s as if my brain shut down the moment we sold her house, and remained that of a child’s; lost to the reality, and ever alive to the stories that were woven between those walls.

Many a time in my adult years I have found myself passing the exit and wondering if I went back there, would the new family let me in? I’d heard they had changed a great many things in that house, and perhaps it is the possibility of change that keeps me from going back. If it remains cemented in my mind’s eye a certain way, then perhaps I shall keep it alive in an alternate universe of my imagination.

It stands, quite nestled in fact, at 305 Lamplighter Lane in a beautiful little neighborhood called Fox Hills. I have never in my life seen a better example of a simple southern American picturesque view of “home.” It was the home of my grandmother, mother’s side, and they were much alike. I do not remember her much, and I wish I had had a better appreciation for her then as I do now. Marion Crick babysat all the children in the neighborhood, and while she was strict with her kids, she was loved by many.

The driveway was always the first thing you noticed about the house. It sloped down from the street, creating the perfect hill for bikes and roller skates, wagons and big wheels. If you don’t remember big wheels, you’re either too young or too old. Big wheelers were plastic tricycles, with a massive wheel on the front with pedals sticking out the side. The seat was low to the ground, and you pedaled like mad getting up that hill, and then stuck your legs out the side to coast back down. No brakes really, and so we used the pedal our way to oblivion and line up at the top. Us kids would eye each other until someone would decide to screech “GO” at the top of their lungs, and we’d all lunge down the hill, screeching like banshees until we plowed into dry pine needles at the end of our “highway of death.”

They, (don’t ask me who), say that smells stick in your brain somewhere, and it only takes one trigger to send you spiraling back to where you began. I am not a great scientist and can’t tell you exactly how it works, but I’ve seen, or rather smelled, it first-hand. One second I’m walking out of my apartment and the smell of fresh fallen rain hits me square in the jaw and the next second I’m zapped back to sitting on that back deck at 305 Lamplighter Lane, listening to the pine trees setting into the soft earth.

And cookies too. Something about molasses. They take me back to her kitchen. Marion had four walls in her kitchen, like most kitchens do, but one of hers was a massive window overlooking the backyard and multiple bird feeders she had. I distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table as she passed me a cold glass of milk and a fresh sugar and spice cookie straight out of the oven, watching the little birds flit from feeder to feeder. Simpler times, I suppose. Her kitchen always smelled of something heavenly, and it was usually bread. And boy could that woman bake! What my mother lacks in technology, she makes up for in cooking. And she learned every single thing from Marion.

There were exactly two things every child who visited her house faced, and each as terrifying as any child could imagine. The first, I understand now as an adult to be a perfectly simple and uncomplicated request, which was to stay out of the music room. The music room was kept to perfection. Antique Tiffany lamps, and a piano whose lid was always closed, combined with the perfectly lush avocado green carpet and a couch I believed no one had ever sat on in the history of all mankind. This made the room an off limits area to kids, and the most perfect temptation. We were not allowed to step even a toe into that room, and certainly not to run through it playing hide and seek. The wrath of Grandma Crick reigned most supreme on this matter. It was to no avail though, and when we knew she was otherwise occupied, we would slowly walk through the room, in one doorway and out the other, as if treading within a den of lions. The wrath one faced if one were caught was horrendous indeed, and the punishment most severe. I very distinctly remember being whipped within an inch of my life for my act of treachery, though in reality, I believe it was only a swat on the behind, as I ran out the backdoor to safety.

The second thing every child faced, and I suppose in a way, feared, was the closet under the stairs. The closet held all manner of childhood fancy: all the puzzles you could possibly dream of, every type of tinker toy known to man, woman, or child, Lincoln logs, ball and mallet games, and books. Yet, even through the euphoric haze of childlike perfection, there was a witch’s hat in the far corner that scared us all silly. That hat, without question, was the scariest thing I’d ever seen in my life, and I was solidly convinced that that hat belonged to the wicked witch of the west, who had taken up residence under the stairs. In actuality, the hat had belonged to my Aunt Amy and had been a piece of a Halloween costume. But, I suppose, to a child who had never been allowed to participate in Halloween, and to whom witches seemed a great and horrible thing, that hat was a symbol of the unknown and an emblem of sorcery under the stairs. This was only enhanced by the magic that seemed to encompass the closet itself. Whenever the door was opened, a light would come on. No switch or string was ever to be found, yet surely enough, the closet would explode with light when the door was opened, and then extinguish itself when the door was closed. The first time I noticed this, I stood outside of the closet for a very long time, wrenching the door open suddenly over and over as if to catch the darkness in the act before the light came on. In my small little head, the conundrum of a darkened closet was something I had never faced, and so I resolved myself to catch the darkness in the act, and close myself in. This act was of course the obvious solution, and it never once occurred to me that maybe the darkness just wanted to be left alone in the quiet peace of the closet. 

Taking a deep breath, I opened the door in its shining brilliance of light, walked in, and closed the door firmly behind me. I instantly regretted my decision. Pitch black, and trapped in the closet with the witch’s hat, I now understood in full why the darkness was better left alone, and the closet merely accepted with its faults. It was then that I understood the mortal terror of every mouse caught in a trap, or a cat locked in the bathroom, for I was, indeed, locked in. The door, much to my sickening dread, did not open from the inside. No matter how much I turned the knob, it simply continued to turn, keeping me trapped in the dark, within the bowels of the stairs, left to the impending doom within the clutches of the closet witch. I wish I could say that I had kept my head, evaluated the situation, and then calmly and quietly dealt with the imprisonment at hand. I wish I could say that I faced the witch herself, fighting her off with a weapon made of tinker toys, and came away with a battle wound to carry my legend into history. The girl who fought the witch under the stairs, and won. Unfortunately I am neither heroic nor brave, and my Irish heritage failed me. There would be no fight today. I instead screamed with all my might until I was rescued minutes later that felt like hours. I had a very decent respect for the closet’s darkness after that.

Pumping my legs back and forth, knuckles gripped white on that chain, it was easy to pretend you were flying. Whether it was the happiest day of your life, or the storm clouds of life had rolled in, that swing my grandpa made was the perfect escape. He’d strung it up between two giant trees in the backyard, facing the house, and the chain went so far up the tree, it gave the illusion you could swing yourself right over the house. I used to climb up onto that wooden seat, gripping the chain, and would beg dad to push me. Braids flying and all smiles, knees scraped up and cookie crumbs still on my face, that swing was the best thing in the world. I could close my eyes and lean back, wishing my hair to drag on the ground. I’d come in looking like a savage and mom would grin like it was usual for her own little girl to look as wild as in Indian. I was always too far off the ground to succeed, but the idea of coming inside with a beaming face and leaves tangled into my brown hair seemed perfect. I was a wild Indian in my own mind, too, a noble explorer who stared death in the face and shouted “NO!” as I fought off evil villains with a stick that doubled as the great sword, Excalibur. Behind that perfect swing was a patch of woods that became all sorts of glorious lands. One day it was Sherwood forest, and I was the brave Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The next day I was a hardworking lumberjack, fighting bears and mountain lions. I could be a princess running from the evil Jafar, or a spy stealing blueprints. It didn’t matter. I was the hero, and I always won. But my victories were never without a price, like chopping off my own hand to remove it from a trap, or pulling an arrow from my side.

Imagination could run wild there. I think back on those times with a smile on my face. If I could go back, I would. I didn’t worry about life back then. I cared only for the next thrill that childhood could offer. The next cookie, the next game, the next big wheel ride. Did it matter that the world slowly shrunk as I grew? Did it matter that as I outgrew my childhood, I saw the world a little clearer? I would like to think that 305 Lamplighter Lane remains the same, despite who I’ve become. I grew and changed, and after grandma had her stroke and moved up north, we sold that house in Fox Hills, and I’m sure the house probably changed too. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to bring myself to go back. I wouldn’t be able to stand seeing the differences. A new deck, or the missing birdhouses. Perhaps the witch under the stairs has moved, or maybe, and this is the saddest thought of all, that grandpa’s swing was unstrung, and the trees cut down to make room for something else.

I realize, it’s just a house, and that the memories are the important part. I realize that people have to change, and move on, and new people have to take their place. I have to “grow up” and put childish things away. But maybe I don’t want to. Maybe to me, that house is a symbol of a piece of my ever fading childhood. And maybe, just maybe, it was more than just a building on a beautiful street in Georgia. Maybe the house at 305 Lamplighter Lane was, really and truly, home.