Monday, October 31, 2005

And Your Little Dog, too.


That’s what she said when she realized who I was under all the green paint and witchyness.

“Demon wenches,” she slurred out as she looked beyond me to Kira and Greta.

You can’t go home again. That’s what they say. It’s one of those clichés, supposedly wrought from the experience of wise philosophers. And in some sense, it’s true. Things change, people grow older, they have kids, they get fat, sometimes they turn crazy. They even die. Buildings are taken down, new music wings pop up on the rear end of the high school, and your band conductor retires. Football players who used to throw things at you in the halls hit on you in the bar. You can’t go back in time, and thank goodness for that, I say. I don’t know about you, but you could not give me a million dollars to go back and redo seventh grade. Even if I did get to take everything I know now with me, and I could use the money to redo the bathroom. Everything I gained since then would be dismantled within days by the humiliation, bad hair, and orthodontic appliances. Because I bet I wouldn’t get to go back Hot.

But actually, you can go home again. And when you get there, your seventh grade health class tablemate will call you a demon wench. It’s refreshing; because if you return home expecting things to be the same or expecting some great sense of personal fulfillment or even that you will find that missing piece, and it will make your life entirely complete—something that your mom has been keeping for you in a box in the basement, perhaps—then you will be disappointed and sad. Home is what it is now, not what it was then, and it either needs to be rejected or appreciated on those grounds.

17 years or more after we graduated from high school, I am really only different in things I have and perhaps the way I look. Even green, I look much better now than I did then. It’s not that I arrive in Winona and immediately transform back into that insecure high school girl looking for approval from the alternative kids, but I remember that girl, and I appreciate her, too, for what she was and her part in getting me to where I am now: in charge of a whole fleet of flying monkeys.

The party that we attended was thrown by an ex-boyfriend of mine and Greta’s, sometimes at the same time, sometimes not. Were our lives back then to be made into a movie, it would probably be much more salacious than it actually was. Back then, it was downright painful. Now, it makes for a good story, and we are still friends. He now has two kids who he is raising by himself and runs a coffee shop. He has become the doyen of the Winona alt-creative scene, and he’s the crazy old uncle who has the place where the cool kids go. Everyone knows him, and he seems to have found his niche. He holds puppet shows and hosts musicians; he throws Halloween parties and Funky Formals. He really has not changed, not in essentials, just as we have not. We’ve added layers, for better or for worse, and we choose which layers we show depending upon our surroundings. I can truly say that I am happier, so it does not matter, most of the time, where I am. My life comes with me, and it’s a good life.

Usually, Halloween costume discussions begin in August or September, and we start getting things together soon after. Two years ago, the four girls, Greta, Kira, Liza, and myself were the four seasons, and it went over very well, I must say. Last year, we planned on being Dolls of the World, which was a much more fluid and unrecognizable theme by the time we were done with it. We were international, but we really weren’t dolls. Except for Liza, who went with the doll make up and the doll poses and is still pissed about it. The whole “doll thing” fell apart when Kira and I decided that we could somehow include our boyfriends in the theme. She was going to be the Spanish doll, and she decided to go with the grieving Spanish widow whose husband was gored in a bullfight. That would have made her boyfriend a dead matador. Once she said that, the Irish Doll (me) came up with the brilliant idea that my short boyfriend could be a leprechaun. When I asked him if he had ever done that, he said no in a surprised tone. Like he could not believe he had not thought of it before. Done. We became members of the Irish Faerie Court. Of course, by the time Halloween rolled around, Kira and her boyfriend had broken up, and though they were friendly and he seemed uncertain of his decision, she decided to turn him into the Portrait of Dorian Gray by the time the party rolled around. If he was not going to be her boyfriend, “I’m going to make him ugly,” she said.

Last Halloween, it occurred to me that for this year, I should be Dorothy and Pete should be a Flying Monkey. When I woke up, and Halloween was a week away, I switched to the witch. I have things at home that could make that costume. Dorothy, I would have to make. And Dorothy is stupid. Kira and her new boyfriend decided to be Perseus and Medusa. Greta chose Captain Hooker. Liza was going to be in Bemidji with the baby. We decided to go to Winona. Pete’s band had a gig in Rochester, which is only 40 minutes away from there, so we figured we would just go to the gig and then drive to my parents’ house afterwards. Get ready Saturday, go to the party together, come home Sunday. Perfect. It was all set, all planned.

Then Kira’s boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s mother died in Texas, so he took off at the last minute to attend the funeral, taking him away for the weekend. Kira decided to accompany us anyway, which made us happy, but she was of course sad that he would not be with her. Not to mention wondering why the gods just would not let her couples’ costume ideas work out.

Pete’s band played a great show, and everything came off just fine, even though we were running late from The Cities and then took a wrong turn, causing just a bit of tension in the car. I think that my heart actually stopped when Pete cut across a couple of lanes into en exit lane to turn around, coming up quite fast and quite close to a minivan that was also exiting in a more temperate manner. On Saturday, we took over the house. Luckily, my parents were out of town because we made a mess. By the time we were done, the family room looked like it had hosted a monkey fight. There were makeup tubes and bobby pins, feathers and bits of felt and fur everywhere. We just left it. Tomorrow is another day.

The party was populated by many people we did not know, some we knew by sight, at least one who should not be having a baby (I’m so judgmental), and a few of our high school compatriots. Some welcome, some not as welcome.

While it is disconcerting to see someone for the first time after what is probably a decade and have them be fat and clearly crazy, there is definitely a sense of self appreciation that comes from it. I really don’t care if this person thinks that I am a demon wench. It’s quite funny, actually. “FUUUCK you,” was the first response Kira got from her when she went to say hi. She was swaying and slurring by the time she got to me, and Mattress was complimenting her “bath towel attire” and saying things like “I love what you’ve done with yourself.” She didn’t notice. She was too far gone. Sure, it’s mean and done only for one’s own amusement at the expense of another person, but somewhere inside of all of us is a person who wishes we could just spend one day being Karen Walker. And besides, she was not exactly being complimentary toward us, and this is the same woman who gave Kira a second hand sheet wrapped in a second hand belt as a wedding present. The gift was prefaced with a “I looked really hard to find something that I really though was YOU.” Pete asked us in the morning what she was dressed as, because he was hoping that would identify her in his mind. “A fat crazy lady” was what we said. He didn’t remember her.

Crazy people or not, I’ll go home again. I have family there, and it really is a beautiful town. Winona is part of who I am; it molded me for 8 years and continues to reside in my psyche. It’s an identity, a cachet even in some remote circles, and I am just fine with saying I am from there. It’s full of memories and associations, not all of which are necessarily good, but which stir up the heart and the head and get the cells working, the synapses firing. Besides that, the beer is really cheap.

But what are we going to wear?

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