for the past five days, every email i have received from my mother has concluded: "i am coming to see you!!!"
my mother is a lady- a southern one at that- so she would never admit that this is eatonspeak for "clean out your effing vacuum cleaner, caroline." trust me. it is.
the granddaughter of a carpenter, i prized shop class above home-ec and, thus, made it all the way to adulthood without knowing a whole heap of semi-vital common things. like sewing and hair jewelry and silver polishing. and teeny tiny facts like, hey, vacuum cleaners have bags! and one must change them! regularly!
(sidenote: i have tried to inform my mother that this is a generational ignorance as even lindear, a know-it-most, only recently had a similar revelation and she has managed to be married and buy a house and have a child without knowing anything about vacuum cleaner bags. sadly, this argument netted me nothing but an arduous workshop in mother cupcake's kenmore college.)
so, yes. vacuum cleaners have bags. and one must change them. regularly. this i did not know until my mum came to town two years ago and vacuumed my apartment. a seemingly simple task that resulted in a small house fire and a filmy layer of singed vieve hair that clung to the floor with a tenacity only ever rivaled by the sequins of nuit blanc.
i do not know why but when my parents come to town my life- my lovely, lovely little life- somehow inevitably comes off as a vortex of disorder. just as whenever we take my grandparents to a favorite restaurant, their food will unfailingly be overcooked or underdone or topped with multiple strands of some stranger's hair, when my parents come to town, my beloved chicago seems to fall apart.
the wind whips up.
the balcony is condemned.
rats pilgrimage to my back door to die.
rodents of unusual size pilgrimage to my back door to eat them.
and the neighbors have very very loud sex that echoes across the courtyard and punctuates the bi-annual discussion of the living will with periodic shrieks of "OH GOD. YES. YES. NOW."
not now. oh God, i beg you.
when i go to memphis, we go to mississippi. and, in a lo-fi reenactment of the glory days, we sit on the front porch in old, old rocking chairs on an old, old plot of land and talk about the stuff you talk about with old, old people who are preparing to die.
mississippi breaks my heart. it is hard to breathe. someone's always leaving the room to cry.
in chicago we are different, my parents and i. we are us. the three of us as i remember it. ridiculous. slightly off. alive and always, always laughing. the big, huge kara beautiful gold laughs with no holding back.
my father says i belong here. in chicago, in this mess of rats and wind and whispers.
when he says this- usually in the context of how i am so far from my family that if bird flu/terrorism/earthquakes/tsunamis/[insert random unlikely devastating event here] happen(s) i will be entirely on my own and will probably die because i so seldom carry cash and never read islandia and haven't the sense to care for a vacuum- when he says this, as his voice comes down the line, i can hear it.
that little crack of pride. a simple, small break of the voice that i have come to covet all the more the more i hear it. an almost imperceptible change of inflection that acknowledges, without ever saying so, that by being here, by leaving there, i have done something terribly important that none of us quite understand. something that might be almost worthy of all that adoration. almost.