Mixtape

“Reorganization.” That’s what Shelly Matthews calls it. In her book, Reclaiming YOUR Life! she instructs newly divorced women to “Reorder your morning routine. Reenergize your bookshelf with new magazines and knickknacks. Reshuffle those stale memories and place any items in a Reorganization Bin. Then take that bin out with your trash!”

Reorganization means cleaning. And cleaning is the best aging elixir—back strains, skin-crinkling chemicals, and fumes that convince your lungs you’re a chain smoker. I don’t feel reenergized after I clean, I feel like a vodka tonic and a nap. Do other 30-something divorcees believe this psychobabble?

Shelly preaches, “Today is the first day of a centered you. Reorganize old habits, unpleasant memories, and focus on simplicity.” I interpret that as the day I “reorganize” all my ex’s treasures to the incinerator. Ha.

Tom never dusted. Neither do I. Dust covered my CDs with a layer of hazy antiquity; my CD tower looks like a prop in a play about an old, haunted Border’s. Younger me would eat that shit up.

The dust camouflaged a cassette, nestled between the original Now compilation and Chicago: Greatest Hits. I reorganized the ancient compact disc tower; it toppled in a cloud of dramatic dust. I found a tape player among its remains.

“KELLLLLLZ! I made this for you and I know you wish I played the guitar but I don’t and didn’t play any of these songs—but I still think they’re great and you’re great. You’re my favorite, Kell.”

Newly pubescent Tom had such a wholesome voice, before the whiskey and chain smoking of his college years. His voice was much raspier when he told me he was leaving. And track number one,

Tangerine, Tangerine, Living reflection from a dream;
I was her love, she was my queen, and now a thousand years between.

Ha. Smartass. He thought he was so clever with my citrus allergy. I’ll never forget his terrified face when he stabbed me with an EpiPen—The Orange Julius Incident of 1997.

And what it all comes down to, Is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet.
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket, And the other one is giving the peace sign.

I think we both had a crush on Alanis Morissette. We used to blast Jagged Little Pill when we’d take drives. Tom always insisted on keeping the windows up til we got to Route 40 cause he didn’t want the rest of the Rugby team to know about his infatuation with a Canadian songwriter.

I’ll make love to you, Like you want me to, And I’ll hold you tight
Baby all through the night, I’ll make love to you, When you want me to
And I will not let go ‘Till you tell me to.

Only we would choose Boyz II Men for our wedding song. No regrets.

We’ve come a long long way together,
Through the hard times and the good.
I have to celebrate you baby,
I have to praise you like I should.

Our go-to hookup song. It also slipped into the Honeymoon playlist. If Fatboy Slim only knew the memories he helped us create…

We ran our town in high school. Dodging all the small town gossip because we were sweethearts and everyone knew it. Rock solid. Not that I’d care if we were the talk of the town. I didn’t care about anything, other than Tom. It’s a miracle I even made it to State on a full-ride with the Diving team.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night…

He came to every Diving competition. I was head rally girl for the Rugby team. Jesus, the time spent at each other’s games, competitions, practices. Hours we can never take back. I wonder if he regrets those. I don’t really know what else I’d be doing—mm, well maybe drugs. Probably kept me outta trouble.

Baby’s black balloon makes her fly.

No, not this song. This was on after we lost the first one. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. He pulled over on the turnpike and just held me. His state champion hoodie was soggy with my tears and snot and confusion over a situation we both weren’t taught to deal with. We were 17.

Damnit, Tom. I dug his new address out of the reorganization bin. Mailed him the tape with the note: I’m sorry.

There isn’t a chapter in Shelly’s book for this. This whole re-centering thing is selfish.Shelly, I can’t make it alone.

I reorganized that book to the trash.

Please, God, Let it Snow

Global warming’s a bitch. For nearly every December eve I spent gleefully shivering under my covers in hopes of an overnight snowstorm I can recall another bright and disappointing morning, sunlight reflecting off the bare blacktop of the driveway.  The heat would seep up into the snowboots I wore hopefully and I’d instantly regret the wool socks I’d pulled on thinking that maybe, just maybe, the air would cool and the skies would cloud in time for an early dismissal.

Sure, anyone who’s ever been eight has at some point wished for a snow day. But you hit a point in late December when you’re willing to settle for a two-hour delay or an inoffensive snowfall that serves no other purpose than to cause a disruption in your third grade class. By January you’re wondering if you should abandon all hope of some decent snowfall and just invest in a decent pair of rain boots to traipse through the slush. We can drag each other through the muck on our sleds and built mudmen out of bits of wet grass and sludge. Pelt each other with dirtballs.

New York State all but promises its children snowy winters and snow days abound. Its public school calendars are equipped with three extra days in case of weather-related cancelations. We expected, even demanded that December showed some signs of fulfilling that promise. Christmas felt fake and cheap without biting cold. New Year’s Eve was meant to be spent in layer upon layer of fleece and down. I felt that I’d been cheated of the childhood I was entitled to.

One glorious Christmas we got our wish. While adults cursed the skies for disrupting travel plans and endangering travelers, my sisters and brothers whooped at the sight of the heavily blanketed ground. The snow was so deep it came up to my ten-year-old waist. We crawled through the snowbanks and built forts, snowmen and snow angels. We didn’t even mind being made to shovel the driveway, especially in light of the ongoing downfall that made us shovel a second and third time, our efforts joyously futile even as night fell.

Of course, years passed before we saw another snow that was quite as magical. Ice storms and freezing rain didn’t count. Just a few years later we rang in the New Year with weather so warm it melted the ice rink in our backyard. That may have been the year we just gave up on building the thing. It’s bad enough that we couldn’t get it to fully freeze; it’s impossible to justify the expense of erecting a skating rink that you can go swimming in during what should have been the dead of winter.

I’m starting to accept that I may never see another white Christmas as long as I live south of the Canadian border. In fact, I say we all just get over it and adjust. However rapidly the November temperature cools, that picturesque, ‘A Christmas Story’ kind of December is the stuff of myths now. One day we’ll tell our grandchildren that back in my day it would almost snow on Christmas. They’ll guffaw their suntanned little faces off and kick their holiday-colored flip-flops off in raucous laughter and say grandma, you’re off your lounge chair.

On the bright and sunny side, letting go of those wintery hopes makes room for what the holidays should really be about, more wholesome and intangible things, the stuff of Charlie Brown movies. In the midst of all the not ice skating, the not sledding and the not throwing iceballs at one another, we have a second to remember that the perfect holiday can still involve swimming in your melted ice rink as long as you’re splashing around with the right people. Christmas is still Christmas, even in 60-degree weather, because of the people you spend it with. So maybe I’ll keep grumbling through the sunshine but I’ll do so in good company, next to my sisters and my brother, with my parents in the background thanking heaven that they don’t need to shovel. Still a perfectly suitable holiday. Thanks for the reality check, Mother Nature.

It’s 2013; orange is the new black and December is the new early-autumn. Put away your holiday sweaters and invest in some cranberry scented sunscreen and a jolly red and green bikini. And get used to it kids, Mr. Heat Miser’s not going anywhere.