a shed full of polaroids. a daughter. a mission.
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tiny amy.

i guess my mom didn’t get the knee sock memo. look at little amy up on stage wearing tights. and white tights at that. what was it about dressing little kids in the 80’s that white tights were allowed, encouraged even? either amy went to preschool with a bunch of giants or she was tiniest kid ever. i’m pretty sure the greater merrimack valley area did not have a bumper crop of abnormally tall children born in 1979. i could be wrong about that fact. but these same kids on stage with amy all grew up to be average sized adults. so i feel pretty confident in saying that. and pretty confident in my reaction of, “oh my god she was so little!” tiny amy. and god bless her little heart, she is really trying her best to keep her arms at her side. she’s like some teeny tiny soldier. you can feel her holding her breath. their teachers must have instructed them to stand that way. i must commend amy on her effort to carry out orders, unlike the jolly green giant red head who is blowing it. hands clasped in front and looking off to the right, what is she doing? she’s a mess. leave it to the little guy to get it right.

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free play.

oh the casio pt-1. i sure do a good job of making it look like i know what i’m doing with it. of course, i don’t. i don’t have a clue. i can only play piano with one hand. i am not sure what to do with the beats and samples it offers. i am wishing it came with a this is how you sound cool on this thing guide, but, alas, it didn’t. i’m on my own. i’m so accustomed to my violin teacher telling me exactly what to do and how that i have no idea how to handle the freedom this silly little thing affords. there must be a right and a wrong and it would be very helpful if someone could just share that with me. but i asked for it, and here it is, so i guess i should make it look like it’s all going as planned. fake it til you make it, that has always been one of my greater skills. i always open my mouth and talk the talk before i can walk the walk. so i just keep talking. and talking. until finally i end up walking.

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excuse me.

um, hey, you, at the sink there, dad. i’m right down here, don’t know if you noticed, but, yeah, i’m right here and i’m wearing your shirt. pretty cool, huh? well, i think it’s pretty cool. god help us all if i try to walk anywhere in it, but it looks darn good in my opinion. i never really was that good at getting people’s attention. i feel like i’m still not. i have all these awkward hand-raised, mouth open, trying to utter a sound or a word moments. “excuse me” are sometimes the hardest two words for me in the english language. some might argue that “i’m sorry” or “my fault” should be in the running for that title, but i assure you it’s “excuse me.” i’m sorry, it just is.

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believe.

there’s so much that i love about this picture, not least of which is how unbelievably adorable my cousin tommy is in that tie and sweater vest. i mean he’s so dapper, right? he’s like a little man. but i love that he’s being held by santa and santa is really his grandfather, earl, in costume. and tommy has no idea. he thinks he’s santa. that power of santa, to just clear children’s minds of their doubts and observational skills. we see santa, we just kick it into high i’ll accept any truth you throw my way gear. it’s one thing to go to the mall and sit on a stranger’s lap and believe that he’s santa, it’s another to be picked up by your grandfather and not know it’s him. that, my friends, shows the power of a red suit and a good beard.

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gifted and talented.

this crew doesn’t look so gifted and talented. though we were supposed to be. at least according to the name of the special program we were invited to be a part of. i can’t even really say what we did in gifted and talented. or what the point of it was. from the pieces i remember, it was like some weird crash course in government. we were split up into groups and had to debate as the different presidential candidates of the 1988 election. i was on jesse jackson’s team. i had no idea who jesse jackson was. and then we also had to write and perform this goldilocks piece about the different branches of government. oh, how artsy. goldilocks and the three bears as metaphor. now that hasn’t been done before. we really went all out with sets and costumes. i’m sure the performances were riveting. i was cast as goldilocks because i was blonde. it turns out that the gifted and talented kids were lacking in blondes. i really didn’t care how i ended up there or why they gave me the title role, it gave me an excuse to curl my hair and that was enough for me.

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christmas cheer.

that is one tired mama. christmas with a 1 year old and a 2 year old will do that to you. poor parents, christmas with little kids is not easy. especially when you celebrate christmas eve with your family, then try to put your two wired kids to bed and convince them to fall asleep, then climb up to the attic to retrieve the presents you’ve wrapped from santa, without making any noise of course because your kids are sleeping with one eye and ear open waiting for any sound from santa claus or his reindeer, then arrange the presents under the tree, amy’s on one side and julia’s on the other, and then make sure santa’s milk and cookies are “eaten” and roodolph’s carrot is gnawed. at long last you can go to bed, but not for long, because nothing wakes kids up earlier than christmas morning. and once they’re up there’s no going back. so you throw on your bathrobe and you all go downstairs and you will be excited to watch them open their presents, you will feel good every time they smile with joy and surprise, but you just might not have enough energy to smile for every picture.

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the hangover.

happy new year, uncle mark. there are worse places to find yourself passed out after a raging new years eve party. actually, for my uncle mark, in an armchair under a comforter is doing darn well. he has been found the morning after curled up under a tablecloth. which makes this situation look downright cozy. of course what this picture doesn’t quite capture is what my uncle johnny’s house had to endure with a house full of hendersons partying like it was, well, new year’s eve. sure, you can wake up on new years day and feel bad for all the hungover people. but what about the place where the party was? imagine how that hangover must feel. dirty and trashed, littered with empty cups and bottles, sticky from spills, the music from last night still ringing in the air. it’s not as simple as some coffee and a shower and maybe a little greasy food to shrug off the new year’s overindulgence. that poor place will suffer in its post-party shame until all those hungover people recover themselves and get around to restoring it to its normal condition. and as much as it may crave peace and quiet, that place is done for. once you have a great party somewhere, you are guaranteed to go back there again. only louder and sloppier. might as well get used to this hangover, it’s gonna become a regular thing.

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drink up.

i have ten bucks that says amy isn’t even hungry. in fact, i’d even risk another five on the guess that that’s not her bottle. i think i might be sharing mine. whether i’m trying to help her with her milk or share mine with her - and if that’s the case, well, then it’s her lucky day because that isn’t any ordinary milk, that’s good old soy formula in that bottle - i certainly am very serious about what i’m doing. you can see me trying to will her to stop with the smiling already and suck. hasn’t she seen a bottle before? doesn’t she know what’s she’s supposed to do with it? amy, i’m holding this bottle for you, you know, someday they make you do this on your own. you are very lucky to have a sister like me who will hold it for you. now, drink up. to this day i like to feed people. i also like to share my food. it brings me great pleasure and satisfaction to cook food and to give it to people. i love to cook, but what is the point if people don’t eat it? and what is the point if they don’t enjoy it? it’s an amazing feeling to go through the steps of preparing and cooking something and then to have that result in something that makes someone else feel full and happy. maybe it’s a guilt thing, i enjoy the task of cooking, it makes me happy, so then if i, in turn, make someone else happy with what i’ve made, i deserved that happiness i felt when cooking. or something convoluted like that. maybe someday i’ll just be happy and be okay with being happy. i’ll be happy without asking myself what i’ve done to deserve to be happy. in the meantime, i guess i’ll keep cooking and shoving bottles in people’s mouths.

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tune in tokyo.

i’ve got my dad’s shirt and headphones on and i’m ready to go. i just need something to plug into. i am a week away from starting school for radio documentary, and i am particularly drawn to this picture. it’s like some gentle sign that this path i’m on did, in fact, start long ago. i was on it even then. i’ve been on it since the beginning. and for all the twists and turns it’s taken, all the ups and downs, all the times i’ve felt lost and lonely and in desperate need of a compass, all the times i’ve decided enough of this i’m going this way, all the times it’s felt so straight and narrow and predictable, all the times i’ve wondered where is the road crew? you can barely get past with all these potholes, a person could die out here…it has all been one long journey after all, these have all been pieces of my larger puzzle, and they do actually fit together. and it puts me at ease, all those nerves and jitters about this program and this new city subside, because that little girl, with the do-whatever-it-wants stick straight hair and the pudgy little fingers, feeling sassy in her father’s shirt, she has got it all down pat and she can take care of anything.

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big screen.

that is a 48-inch screen tv. and that was huge. both in terms of size and importance. when we purchased that television in 1985, a 48-inch screen was gigantic. of course i should not say when we purchased, i should say when my father purchased that television. because he bought it. he wanted it. and he bought it. he took my sister and i on a secret mission to shrewsbury, massachusetts to get it. for those not up on their massachusetts geography, shrewsbury is out near worcester, ma, it’s more than an hour away from andover where we lived. we woke up on a saturday morning in the late autumn of 1985 and my dad asked us if we wanted to go on an errand with him, which we did. he wouldn’t say what we were doing or where we were going. 15 minutes passed in the car, he still wouldn’t budge or give a clue, 30 minutes passed, 45…and then we started seeing signs for the mass pike. it was a total “toto, we’re not in kansas anymore” moment amy and i were having in the back seat. and so my father just played on our panic and told us that he forgot something at the hotel in chicago on his last business trip and we were going back to get it. chicago? really?! this was both the most exciting and terrifying news. i didn’t know much about actual driving times between major u.s. cities at that point in my life, i was only 7, but i knew that this was going to be a long trip. i was fairly certainly we wouldn’t be home by dinner. and my dad maintained his story. for the rest of the drive. until we pulled into the parking lot of the appliance store. and he told us to get out of the car and come inside with him. and it was only then that we learned the real mission of our journey, to buy a big screen tv. a big screen tv so that my dad could watch the rest of this amazing patriots season. a season that went all the way to the super bowl. which we watched on this 48-inch screen. 48 inches of pure agony as the, patriots, so much larger and lifelike on this new television, got humiliated by the bears. everything was huge on that tv, especially the disappointment of the patriots’ loss.