I admit, when Q said that, I resisted. I said, well, isn’t that what I’m doing already, revealing a little about my personality by expressing the way I feel about you and about Michigan? She didn’t really budge. And that’s another thing about her that I love. She says it like it is. So after I got off Skype, I thought about what she said and I guess it might actually be a little awkward for you, Michigan, the fact that I write about you every week and yet you don’t know me like Q does. I mean, she’s known for four years now, but you haven’t. So, I’ll try to take her advice. I’ll try to tell you a little about my story and hope doing so won’t seem too self-centered. After all, I told her, this blog is my love letter to Michigan.
Once upon a time in a land too far away (i.e. upstate New York) there was this man and this woman and they met in a paint store of all places and they fell in love and the man got drafted into the army and they spent much of the next few years apart, but when he came home they got married and then he got called back into active duty overseas. It was the 60’s (Q said, "they don’t even know how old we are" and I told her "I’m not sure that should matter," but hopefully this helps a little). After the man came home again, he and the woman lived in a small apartment and the woman got pregnant and nine months later, after 17 hours of excruciating labor (hey, I’m shy, what can I say), the woman gave birth to a boy. No, really, it’s true.
The boy was full of light and love and happiness (he’s been told he still embodies these things, which is the only reason I mention them now). He was pretty sick as a child. Not a bubble boy exactly, but close. He spent a few weeks (sometimes a couple months) each year in an oxygen tent (which is basically just an old hospital bed with this way-too-thin mattress and this thick barely-able-to-see-through plastic tent hanging down all around it and this machine that pumps in air you can breathe because for some reason or other your lungs don’t feel like doing the work on their own). The boy had a lot of days like that, usually after he was out running and laughing in the yard, or playing under the lilac bushes, or climbing trees. Six months after the boy was born he weighed a lead-bottomed 25 pounds and there are photos that suggest he had one chin for each member of the Brady Bunch (including Alice, but not including Sam the Butcher). But that’s right around the time he started with the breathing problems and the hospitals. Of course, a year after he was born his parents had a baby girl, so maybe that’s when he really started getting sick.
They were very close despite the fact that the sister had a propensity to tick off three neighbor boys who were older and bigger and who hit a lot harder than her brother did. They hit the brother, that is, he didn’t hit her, though he did finally threaten to do just that. He used to hide during recess at school so he wouldn’t have to go outside, but the teacher always found him and made him go. He knew what would happen. He’d be playing and having fun with his friends and then he’d hear it from across the playground, his sister’s voice calling for help and even though he knew better he couldn’t stop his legs from running, couldn’t stop his hands from curling into balls of let-her-go fury and he’d hurl himself like a bundle-of-bones missile through the air into the boys. And that was usually the best he did. Two of them would hold him and the other would pound away (they took turns holding because they’d been taught to share). Until one day the boy came running to his sister’s side, but he stopped there before unleashing his tazmanian-devil self and he told that her he’d hold her while the boys swung away if she kept doing what she did to antagonze them (flirting the way eight-year-old New York girls tend to do). And it stopped.
I suppose that’s one thing about the boy you should know, Michigan. Someone can pound him and he'll take it, he's got a very long fuse, but if someone tries to hurt the ones he loves he’ll throw his body through the air to stop them. I don’t know how much to tell you. So I’ll just share one more thing today. Maybe, if you want to know more, I can share other anecdotes along the way. But I’m much more comfortable talking about Q and about you.
The boy’s first true love (almost three decades before he met Q) was this round leather ball and this hoop that someone had hung a bit too high and he had to dribble the ball (which was easier to do with two hands, but that wasn’t allowed) and he had to push it up into the air with all his strength like it was this small moon that had fallen and needed to get back into the sky and he’d push it up and it would rise a little and it would hang for an instant and then it would fall back down to earth through that hoop if he was lucky and it was the most exhilarating thing making it fall through that hoop and the most rewarding thing the boy had ever known (this was in a land far away and long before he had ever felt what it was like to hold Q’s hand, of course, or to kiss her tenderly or to sit with a big window behind them, her head on his chest, and talk about so many things).
In less than a week, Michigan, I’ll be out there with you and with Q for the entire month. I hope to find a job while I’m there. I hope to see as much of you as possible and to introduce myself more fully. I can’t wait to see Q and the mice and the rest of her family and her friends. I can’t wait to just be with her.
I don’t think love is one of those things that’s beyond words simply because it’s abstract; I think it’s beyond words because we use the words we know for such common things that they lose their potency and their magic. And love – this love I feel for Q and for you, Michigan – is the sort of thing that requires potency and magic. I miss you! I love you! Soon! xoxoxo
*Michigan photos courtesy of Anjan Reijinders