Happy Birthday, Mom!

Me: So, you know how old she is?
Boo: Um, [an integer, x,  between 1 and 100]
Me: Ha, did she ever tell you the story of when she looked at her birth certificate one day and discovered she was actually born a year later? So she’s actually [x-1]! (That exclamation point does not indicate factorial.) 
Boo: What? May, you can’t do that. You can’t tell someone they have the wrong answer when they think the information they have is correct. That’s like saying, “Two plus two does not equal four because one of those twos is actually a three.” No, she didn’t tell me that.

But there it is, Mom is a year older today, but a year younger than one would calculate given information from over four or five years ago.  Oh my, every year she’s the same age!

She says it’s raining down there today, so there’s not much to do outside. She really likes spending time at the nearby parks, especially by the river.  A couple weeks ago she saw a manatee family grazing in the St. Johns. She called me and left a message that day. I love manatees.

She did work the bishop’s storehouse this morning, though.

In the rain.

On her birthday.

And she probably had a blast.

Now the internet knows of two secrets that keep her so young. The world should thank her for the grace of her presence among us mortals.

I wish I could spend the day with her.

I miss you, Mom. I’ll see you soon, though.

Happy Birthday!

“Love you, just in case …”

Just got off the phone with my brother. We were chatting along, the way we do. He asked me what my plans are for today. I told him I might try to fit in some sleep, as I awesomely put away another three hours last night. I was about to explain to him my body’s reaction to caffeine, but I sensed an urgency in his voice, so I clipped that thought and asked him if he needed to go. He said, “Well, yeah. But only because there are, like, 20 Asian women around me all of a sudden.” Then he laughed.

I’m pretty sure he was joking, but for some reason I’d imagined the scenario, and it became a very strong possibility in my mind. He was at work when he called. I mean, people stop by his work all the time. In fact, in June after the roadtrip, my mom and I pulled into his work so we all could go to dinner together, because I was leaving the next day to return to New York, and I wanted some Frank time. His friends pick him up to hang out because he doesn’t drive. So. 20 Asian women: why not?

Anyway, he is pretty busy at work, and I was pleasantly surprised he returned my call, even before 9:00 this morning. As we were winding up the call, he said he’d try to call me later, and I said that would be fine. Then we laughed, because we’re always laughing, and then he said, “Love you, just in case,” and that touched me, and I said, “Love you, too,” and then we said goodbye.

Sometimes I get scared that we’ll end a call and we won’t have told “I love you” to each other. It actually terrifies me, and my stomach knots just thinking about it. I could go on and on about that brother of mine, but I already have.

I hope I get to talk to him later.

This Weekend

Friday night, I visited a sick friend, which was nice. We caught up and shared feelings and bonded. You know, the way friends do.

Then I went to another friend’s apartment, and we watched a movie and ate Mexican food. There I continued to develop a crush that will develop no further than a crush. It was fun spending time with those friends, though.

I woke up at 6:45 Saturday morning to get ready for breakfast with a friend. I went down to Chelsea and met my friend and we ate and caught up and it was great. This friend recently got engaged, and I am worlds of happy for her.

Then I went into work for almost four hours and listened to General Conference. After that I went down to watch the New York City chapter of World Pillow Fight Day.

I headed back up to Inwood to catch the second session of Conference. I thought I was going to stay uptown, but I didn’t want to go home just yet. So I called a friend and headed to Midtown. The trip took less than 45 minutes.

Another friend was with this friend. Can I just say Becky and Alicia? Can I do that? We caught up briefly then spontaneously decided to ride the tram to and from Roosevelt Island.

Coming up on 60th Street we saw Serendipity 3, so we put our name on the waiting list and headed to the tram.

The tram is fun. Roosevelt Island is cool, if only for the quarter-fare buses and grass and watching my friends frolic along the sodded shore and singing songs from Phantom of the Opera and Sound of Music. We took pictures with Becky’s iPhone, too. 

When we returned to Serendipity, we were thrilled that we were next on the list to be called. They seated us, and we shared a frozen hot chocolate and got really full from the food we ordered. Some of us got a bit more full than others and felt a little bit sick.

Still, we laughed and talked and advised like good friends are supposed to. We shared secrets and feelings and I was getting all sorts of sentimental. Sometimes we said really funny things.

We rode the NRW to 34th, and Alicia stayed on, where she was probably getting off at 8th street. Becky and I waved to her.

It wasn’t even midnight by the time we got back to Becky’s. We talked a while and I was getting sleepy, so I slept. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit, and Becky got me water. It’s enough when coughing disrupts my sleep, but when other people wake up because of it, I feel bad.

I woke up at 7:45 Sunday morning and headed back up to my neighborhood. I took a shower and went to the morning session of Conference. I talked a little bit with my mom and brother before the afternoon session.

Today’s my brother’s birthday, you see.

Then, the last session of Conference was over, and when the weekend is done, it doesn’t seem like eight hours of church just happened. But it did, and it was inspiring and encouraging and my heart is full of love and hope and I pretty much want to help save the world.

Anyone with me?

Then I talked for an hour with my baby brother. We laughed and talked and reminisced and exchanged opinions on various things. We’re adults, which sometimes is the most bizarre thing to me. We still have our own language, which is English but with weird affectations, and we have our inside jokes, which we’ll always have. I cannot express how much I love that kid. Happy birthday, Boo Boo.

Then I made some dinner.

Then Becky called, and we talked about conference and followed up on some things we discussed the night before with Alicia.

And now, I’m going to eat some popcorn and then get ready for bed.

It’s definitely time for bed.

Boo-Boo

1987. You'd better being "aww"ing, or I'll punch you.
1987. You'd better being "aww"ing, or I'll punch you.

I was going to write another entry about Girls’ Camp, but my brother put this picture on the internet. I saw it on Friday, and I laughed the way you do when you see something from the past that triggers a million good memories. My heart smiled. I called Frank Saturday morning to ask if I could use the photo for this blog, and he didn’t even hesitate. “Yeah,” he said, the way he says it.

This is his school picture from kindergarten. Did Mom lay out his clothes? No, she did not. Frank got up and got himself dressed in a fine, pin-striped suit. Made for a 5-year old boy. I like to think he took one last look in the bathroom mirror and adjusted that Windsor knot, or at least made sure the clip was secure in the collar, before he walked a mile to the bus stop along a dirt road. In his dress shoes. The vest was a nice touch; not too formal, but still keeping some sophistication.

You can tell the summer was winding down. Frank’s brown hair with darkish blond streaks along the hairline implicates the Caucasian in him. He combed his own hair and parted it the way Mom and Dad taught him. He’s been out in the sun. His bronzy tan hints he probably had a good summer of playing in the neighborhood, and the thought of starting school so far from his mind, because forts and treehouses and soccer in the front yard were priority. As they should be.

I wasn’t going to point this out, but would you take note of the size of that boy’s noggin? I’m sure his shoulders kept nice and cool beneath the shadow of that considerable skull. If I had known about bobbleheads 21 years ago, I would have tried tapping Frank’s head as often as possible to see if it would bounce up and down from the neck, connected so obviously by a spring. This is probably the reason he didn’t give a toothy smile: he was too focused on keeping his head still.

When I talked to Frank on Saturday about the photograph, he told me he didn’t even know how to smile, at least for a camera. He kind of has a monkey mouth here. But you can still see his dimple. And you can see the earnestness in his big, brown eyes. Because he’s five. This was when we could still call him “Boo-boo.” That was a nickname he had ever since he was born. I figured out that term could be slang for a mistake, and I’d go around announcing my brother was a mistake, having no idea what I was saying.

Can you see the scar in his right eyebrow? That’s from when TIMMY YATES SHOT HIM POINT BLANK WITH A BB GUN. If I think about that too much, I feel as if I still want to show that Timmy a boo-boo from my foot to his teeth.

When Frank was in kindergarten, I was in sixth grade. I was a member of the student patrol, and the last 10 minutes of school every day I stood at my station to keep the students from cutting corners, walking on the grass and running all over campus on their way to the buses. I wore a fluorescent orange plastic/vinyl belt with a badge pinned to the cross-strap that ran from the shoulder to the waist.

Sometimes my post was close to Frank’s classroom. When the dismissal bell rang, my brother’s class exited from the portable in a nice, orderly line. He would see me, break form, walk up to me and give me a hug. And sometimes I did not always welcome his affection. I sometimes pushed him away, because I had to keep my eye on all the deviant children who were so intent on stepping on the grass. Because they’re kids.

It wasn’t until well into the second semester of that school year when I started hugging Frank back. It took a while for me to realize he might like seeing his sister at the end of the day. I certainly liked seeing him, and I wasn’t embarrassed. I was actually more ashamed of pushing him away so I could do my awesome and incredibly important job on the school patrol. I wasn’t as cool as I thought I was, and I’m glad Frank woke me up to that.

I can’t remember if we went to the bus stop together, or if we walked home together all the time. Frank matter-of-factly recounted to me once on our walk home – or maybe it was while we were in line to board the bus – how I held his arms behind his back and pushed him forward and he fell on his face. And all because he said to me, “No skips, bubble lips!” He laughed pretty hard relating this story to me, by the way, like two hours ago. Because he’s twenty-six and just relived a kindergarten moment – not the hurt of my pushing him so much as his cleverness that provoked my anger. Because he’s that way.

And so it continued as we grew up. I began junior high school and the homework really started to pile up. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my homework and Frank irritating me somehow until I got up from my chair and Frank took off laughing and I chased him around the house until I could get to where I could shove him pretty hard onto the couch. Which was what he wanted.

I remember making him so mad he chased me around the house and I locked myself in my parents’ bathroom and then a moment later I looked down at the floor and saw a knife blade sliding side to side from under the door, and I’d hear him laughing, and I banged on the door until he left the door and returned the knife to the kitchen. Nothing was child-proof in our home. (You do remember all the horror movies we watched together, right?)

Whenever our parents weren’t home we’d do backflips on the couch or have wrestling matches, with our stuffed animals as an audience. We’d play catch with my brother’s stuffed bear, Allen (David John‘s BFF), pretending it was a football and dove into the couch for the completion. We’d play Houdini or something like it, where we’d take turns trying to escape from having our wrists bound behind our backs. We’d stay up late until we saw our parents’ car pull into the driveway, then we’d turn off all the lights and run to our rooms and pretend to be sleeping.

When Frank was about eight years old, he went right up to my dad and requested not to be called “Boo-Boo” anymore. This felt like a really significant moment in our family’s history. I could sense a shift of gears: my brother was growing up. And this could mean that he could nearly crack his skull open while diving head first into his friend’s shallow pool and my mom freaking out at the clinic where the doctor sewed up the gash with eight stitches. Because he’ll always be Boo-Boo.

We got along more than we fought. It was just the two of us, and I’ve always adored him, even when I behaved like the Mean Big Sister. He always forgave me. And I always forgave him, and we resumed playing until we fought again, and we forgave and hugged and talked and bonded and grew up and became the best of friends who happened to be related. The overall effect of this photo is downright fetching. You can’t help but notice Frank’s cute, little-kid cheeks, the way he looks directly into the camera, the depth of his eyes. If you have the chance to speak to my brother for the first time today, you would have no problem believing this is who he was, because he’s the same person now. Because he’s my brother.

Yeah.