It would so often just be the two of us in Sam’s Honda, an early 2000s model with leather seats and two doors and a CD player with Stevie Wonder inside. His greatest hits became the soundtrack to my fall, the Disabled Fall, the Fall I spent in the passenger seat of Sam’s car, listening to “Isn’t She Lovely” and something that starts with “do do do do do dooo”. On the rare nights we’d go out, Colleen, Sam and I would singalong and I’d mix up nearly every word.
I watched the seasons change through the windows I stare out now, the windows in my grandmother’s house, where I have lived this fall with my cousins, the aforementioned Sam and Colleen. We ate dinner every night at the round, ancient kitchen table. My grandma cooked. She cooked a lot, actually, for someone who just turned 77. She says that a good square three meals a day will keep you healthy and maybe make you lose weight too. (It might be true, I lost about 9 pounds of the prednisone weight, which is the size of a large baby.) She bought this house over 40 years ago for $19,000 and damn, was it a good investment! Did you know they almost moved from the Bronx to Levittown instead? I could have been a Long Islander.
I learned that fact this fall, and I learned other things too. I learned a lot about babies and toddlers when I spent a few days at Katie's, hanging with my favorite people in the world. There I woke up at 7 with Emma hollering at me down the stairs "I'm up, Kelly, come get me!" But other than those early mornings, I stayed up late most nights and slept in until the afternoon. (I recently read that this is the sleeping patterns of geniuses. Which, yeah.) If I was awake by 2:00 for ABC Family’s reruns of Full House, then I was pleased with myself. That’ll have to to change, because this week I go back to work and the real world and all the trivialities of daily life that I have forgotten.
I had no money this fall and I still don’t, so keep those Christmas lists short, family. I kept my apartment in the city but my bed was largely unused. I came into Manhattan for Halloween, to gallop drunkenly around a bonfire and break my 3 Blind Mice cane over my knee. I also came in to make a few bucks off literary superstar Julie, and to see my friends, and to go to doctors and have my armpits mangled. But mostly I stayed at Grandma’s because I have felt warm, and safe, and home here.
I watched the seasons as they changed and I tried to go outside every day. Most days Sammy and I would hit the open road, the glistening pavement of Route 18 leading us to Guitar Center that one time Sam let me jam or Starbucks where once we nabbed a table and took advantage of free Wi-Fi. But our best destination was the public library, the library my grandmother cursed to hell because my grandfather (God rest his soul) once donated $1,000 without her permission. One Friday night, Sam and I happened upon a Jewish Klemzer band, and boy, did that accordion player jam.
It was a good fall, a time warp for me, a respite. So often I feel paranoid, fearful that everyone thinks I'm being lazy because I'm not working. But this year proved that I needed this time off. It was necessary. I know that it has not healed me, and I'm not sure I am better. But to rest without judgment, to have the advantage of living here--this has fulfilled me.
If you had told me at the start of the year that I’d spend two months living at my grandmother’s house in suburban New Jersey, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the beds are warm here, the linens old and broken in. It felt right to be here, a perfect place to rest and write and work. I got things done, I watched the leaves fall, and this week I will go back to work, ready to close out the year.
(Also, thanks to my parents--and grandma-- for filling in the $$ gaps when the disability checks failed to supplement my rent/lifestyle.)