50 years: thirties

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Part four, a memory for every year I’ve lived. First decade, second decade, twenties. Here are my thirties.

31.The best Valentine anyone ever gave me was when Kevin (the cool bass player from last decade) surprised me by renting a car and driving from Chicago to Strong City to bring me our cats. It was a difficult time in my life, and having them with me helped me maintain my shaky sanity.

Toulouse and 23

Toulouse in the foreground, the late 23 behind him.

32. Another time he was visiting me and drove me to work at a fitness club in Emporia, then took my little ’85 Celica for the day. (All-time favorite car, stick shift.) While I was working, a big storm came up. When Kevin came to pick me up, the sky was dark and menacing. Back in Strong City, the cats were outside, so we rushed to get there and bring them safely in. The rain was so heavy, we might have waited it out in Emporia, had it not been for the cats. On the highway, visibility was severely limited. We had the radio on, and the remote reporter was talking about a barrage of hail near Saffordville Road. Before we got there, the hail pelting the car was deafening, and the reporter’s voice dissolved to static. Kevin was at the wheel. We were afraid to stop. A vehicle approaching from behind might not be able to see us before we were all dead. I kept my eye on the white line to make sure he didn’t cross it, until the hail and rain were so thick I couldn’t see the line. I couldn’t bear to think what terror and danger the cats were in.

Finally I could see the line again, then the hail was behind us. We were past Saffordville Road, in an ordinary thunderstorm at night. We got to my house a few minutes later. The cats were waiting for us on the front porch, barely wet, their luxuriant coats not the slightest bit ruffled.

33. I celebrated the birth of a new millennium at The Light Center in Baldwin City. Shortly after that, I moved back to Chicago. Kevin appreciated me and supported me, and it wasn’t clear that I made much difference to my family in Kansas. He deserved me more.

34. One of the things I did in Kansas was go to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, the third weekend of September. Kevin went with me the second year I was there, and when September rolled around again, we decided to make the trip from Chicago. We didn’t want to leave our precious cats for any longer than we had to, so we decided to drive them to Kansas and board them with Kevin’s parents, who are animal lovers too. 23, the tabby, would suffer motion sickness in my little Celica, so we thought it kinder to rent a nicer, bigger car for his comfort. On the day we left, first thing in the morning, we got in our car to drive to the rental agency. Kevin turned on the radio and we found out that the World Trade Center had been destroyed.

We still managed to get the rental car. As we left Chicago, not yet knowing the extent of the attacks, I felt that I had what I needed, if we never came back. The cats were in carriers in the back seat, my violin and guitar were in the trunk, and we were together.

We dropped in on my Dad in assisted living in Emporia before we went to the festival. Years prior, he had been disabled by a stroke, which left him unable to speak or write. Kevin and I came into his apartment to find Dad hunched in front of the TV. When he saw me, he made a frantic noise in his throat, and held up a hand imploringly. It hit me that for two days he had been watching the nonstop coverage of the collapsing towers and their aftermath, unable to tell anyone that his daughter lived in New York City. “Melora’s okay,” I couldn’t tell him fast enough. “I talked to her. She’s okay. Sebastian’s fine. Hollis is fine.”

35. Before we married, we went to an astrologer named Bovani for a consultation. She told us that if we married in June, it should be after the 21st, because Gemini isn’t a great sign for beginning a marriage, but Cancer is much better. She said there was no doubt we were meant to be together (which we already knew), and that Kevin’s job was to keep me uplifted, while my job was to ground him. Being on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius, he was really an Aquarian, but came in on the goat side to ensure he’d be good at getting things done. She also said that when we have sex, the angels like to watch.

36. I was thirty-six when I read The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, after Amy Carlson gave it to me for Christmas. I had a strange affinity with every character in the book, as if I could be the person that character was modeled after. They were like mirrors of my essential nature, even though they were all different from each other. The main character Chip is kind of a loser who’s never been able to get his shit together, despite high intelligence. His lack of success is a source of anxiety, and whenever confronted with failure, he looks for the nearest attractive woman and creates a fantasy about her. At one point his anxiety is particularly acute, but there’s no one he can fantasize about because he’s in Manhattan and every woman in the vicinity is thirty-six and pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant, but I felt I could be one of those women.

37. We had a contract to buy a motel in Strong City, near both of our parents. We quit our jobs, packed everything into a truck, and took our cats to Kansas to purchase our first property and start a business at the same time. Shortly before we left, we found out I was pregnant.

38. After Rowan was born, I had an incredible surge of creative energy. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’d always been creatively stifled, but suddenly I knew I could do anything. But how long would it last? I was terrified that this newfound ability would pass, and I’d have done nothing with it, because I had a sweet little baby who needed my constant attention. I could get about thirty minutes between nursing her to sleep and having to pick her up again. So I put her in her little baby rocking chair just inside the patio screen door, and went into the back yard. There were some switches that had been trimmed off the hedge. They were mostly around three or four feet long, and flexible enough to weave together into geometric shapes, which I hung on the fence around the yard. Kevin was baffled as to why I was doing that, and I couldn’t really explain it either.

39. Rowan had night terrors. It was terrifying to me too. She would huddle up to me, stiff with fear, and bury her head in my arm. I would ask her what she was afraid of, but she was too afraid to talk.

40. Both times I was pregnant, I slept as prescribed on my left side. As my belly got bigger, cat Toulouse found my torso and belly made a nice spot to sleep on. It was comfortable for both of us.

 

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