July 12, 2000
Where Were You in '92?

 


 
Best e-mail I've received this week:

"I'm the kind of person who will re-read favorite books dozens of times. So much that I can tell you exactly where to find the typos. Most folks think that's weird, but I feel just like I'm visiting an old friend and, if I'm really lucky, finding something new about them I overlooked.

"Your archives now officially qualify as an 'old friend.' Yeah, I'm re-reading them. Mostly because the Memory Books at least temporarily satisfy my ticking biological clock. I get to revel in your beautiful and loving descriptions of your Tots, while also being reminded that all is not Coca-Cola and roses when one is a mother. It's a good, realistic mix for a non-Mom like me.

"So I'm working my way through Memory Book #24, and found this, circa October 1992:

A Thought Out of Nowhere

Where will this family be in ten years? It'll be the year 2002. Ray and I will be in our forties; the girls will be out of high school, Kyle will be in his junior or senior (?) year ... 

...  Where will we be? What will be going on in our lives? What triumphs and losses will we have lived through?

"You know, you're only about two years away from that point. Think you had any idea at all what the next decade would hold? I'm betting not, in terms of both how bad the lows would be and how marvelous the highs would reach ...

Jennifer."


She is absolutely correct, of course.

Eight years ago (god  ... was it only eight years ago?), I had no clue that life was about to take more twists and turns than San Francisco's Vermont Street.

In 1992 I was still:

  • One year away from sitting down in front of a computer for the very first time.
  • Three years away from dipping a tentative toe into the waters of the Baby Boomer Chat Room.
  • Four years away from the online affair that blew up my marriage.
  • Five years away from leaving for the newspaper office one morning ... and never going home.
  • Six years away from standing in the kitchen, in a crappy little apartment in Oregon,  dumping the last of the Mountain Chablis down the sink.
  • Six and a half years away from meeting the true love of my heart, packing all of my worldly possessions into a leaky, creaky U-Haul truck, driving 600 miles over the Siskyou Mountains in a thunder-and-lightning storm and setting up housekeeping in the beautiful Bay Area with The Mighty Ю僱êrvØ¡.

  • Eight years away from admitting to the entire cyber universe that I wet my pants when I cough.

But of course I didn't know ANY of that at the time.




 
My family and I were at an in-between place in 1992.

My home daycare business -- a primary source of income, motivation and self-esteem, for most of the previous decade -- was beginning to peter out. (Mostly because my own kids were getting older. But also because I was weary of wiping poop off the butts of other peoples' children.)  Our family finances were suffering, as a result, and my husband was hammering at me to get a "real job." It had been more than twelve years since I'd worked in an office, though, and my skills were hopelessly antiquated. I'd forgotten all my shorthand. I didn't know how to use a computer. I had no confidence. 

I had no clothes.

So instead we pawned my grandmother's wedding rings, visited the Food Bank once a week, borrowed money from everybody and God, and waited for my inheritence to clear probate.

I was eleven years into a marriage that made me feel tired and trapped and lonelier than I would have been alone. I saw no way out, short of death.

(Preferably his.)

The Tots were the best thing about my life ... and my primary reason for getting out of bed in the morning. (Or more accurately: my reason for crawling off the sofa in the morning.) They were my best friends. They were my confidantes. They were my social life, for the most part, and my support system, and my audience, and my partners in crime.

We had a lot of fun together in those years.

My drinking hadn't yet spiralled out of control, but it was definitely headed in that direction. When I did drink, I drank inappropriately. Once or twice a week I would barricade myself in the laundry room, at the little desk I'd set up for myself there  --  with my typewriter and my Stevie Nicks tapes and a carafe [or three] of chilled Mountain Chablis  -- and I would spend the evening typing and making silly phone calls and growing progressively *happier* as the evening wore on.

Once or twice a month, I would drink myself to unconsciousness.

Once or twice a year, I would throw something at my husband.

I had no clear-cut goals that I can recall, much beyond seeing the Tots through childhood in one piece, and getting the Kool-Aid stains out of the living room carpet, and preventing the phone and the utilities from being shut off every four weeks. I had a sort of vague notion that once I received my share of the inheritance money from Grandma, I would go back to school and learn how to use a computer. Then I would get a job.

Maybe I would write something ... "someday."

I wasn't happy or sad. I wasn't up or down. I wasn't motivated or lazy. I wasn't mostly-drunk or mostly-sober.

I was just sort of drifting through life ... waiting for things to get interesting.




Fast-forward eight years ... and if my life gets any more "interesting," I'm gonna have to start an auxiliary website, just to write about all the stuff I don't have time/energy/room to write about here on *FootNotes.*

(Wouldn't that be fun?! Then the Mandelbrot Set people could ignore me TWICE as much!)



 
If I could magically travel back in time to 1992 -- knowing everything I know now -- would I do things differently?

For instance: would I end my marriage with more sensitivity? Maybe find a way to leave my husband without devastating my entire family? (Or at least leave a goodbye note this time?)

Definitely.

Would I save a few extra brain cells and quit drinking six years ahead of schedule? 

Probably.

Would I pay less attention to my living room carpet, and more attention to my job, my health, my bank account? 

Possibly.

Would I buy stock in AOL? 

You'd better fudking believe it.



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