I grew up in Texas, where it gets very hot. The asphalt melts now and then, on the hottest days. When I’d walk home from kindergarten, I always tried to rescue the pillbugs who were stranded on the street or the blistering sidewalk, moving them into the cool(er) grass. Eventually I started imagining them saying, as I approached, “Here she comes, our benevolent queen!” in their little high-pitched voices.
A couple of points. Yes, I used the word benevolent when I was 5. And yes, I still think of myself as queen of the pillbugs. I’ve spotted them in Tokyo and Sri Lanka — they seem to follow me.
Welcome to my palace.
part-time residents of the palace of the pillbug queen:
- Katie, my oldest beloved daughter, born in 1982 and living in Austin with her husband Trey. In October 2012 they lost their beautiful daughter Grace, at birth. Their son Oliver was born in March 2014 and he is maybe the most-loved child in the whole world. Beautiful Lucy was born in September 2016 and we’re all smitten.
- Marnie, my 2nd beloved daughter, born in 1985 and living in Chicago with her husband Tom. Marnie is an accomplished artist; you can read her professional news here, at Monkey-Rope Press. Their darling son Ilan was born in March 2016, and he is adored by all.
- Will, my beloved son, born in 1987 and living in New York City. Will always beat me at Scrabble, and that killed me. He has estranged himself from our family for so many years, and many days the ongoing loss is more than I can bear. Other days I can bear it as long as I don’t linger in the pain, but it’s always there. Always. I miss him terribly. Always.
- It’s important to maintain my husband’s privacy, so I frequently frame stories in a way that keeps him tucked away, and I’m most likely just to mention “my husband,” but he’s nearly always present in them.
26 “I am”s, in no particular order:
- I am a 59-year-old mother (x3), grandmother (x4), wife (x1), and friend (xso-many).
- I am a new resident of the Catskills, so far off the beaten track I have to drive for half an hour even to find the trailhead to the beaten track. It’s an adjustment for sure. We also have an apartment on the UWS of NYC, but I spend most of my time at Heaventree, which is the name I’ve given our mountain place. It’s derived from my favorite passage in the English language: “the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit” (James Joyce, Ulysses). I’m using the word in a more ordinary way than he did, but I love the word, and the reference, and it stuck so readily that it must be right.
- I am a social psychologist; I received my PhD in 2003, from the University of Texas at Austin, after starting college at age 36.
- I am an old-timey Texan, by which I mean I have a thick north Texas accent and my people have been here a long time. Plus, ancestry = Native American (Chickasaw) on one side and German on the other. That, my friend, is Texan. But deeply, truly, I am a New Yorker. The first time I went to NYC in 1999, I felt like I’d come home. I still always feel that way.
- I am a freelance editor (for now).
- I am called Pete by many who love me, and it’s my grandmother name. My own grandfather, Big Daddy, called me Pete when I was a child and the name always signifies love to me. I love closing the circle by having my grandchildren call me Pete.
- I am inordinately fond of the Oxford comma, the semicolon, and parenthetical asides, and will get into it with you given half a chance. But I am not a grammar Nazi. I only do that if you pay me.
- I am a specialist in being happy. It’s my temperament, I have always been this way. It’s fundamentally who I am, lucky me. There’s a funny story about it in this post, about halfway down the page.
- I am a tattooed person, with tattoos the length of my spine and covering the outside of my right calf. I love my tattoos and wish I had more.
- I am a world traveler — Vietnam (x4), India, Laos (x4), Cambodia (x2), Thailand (x3), Myanmar, southern China, Borneo, Indonesia (Bali (x2), Java, Lombok, Roti), Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Turkey, Peru, Colombia, Netherlands (x2), France (x2), Scotland, England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Honduras (x2), Greece, Mexico (x3), and Canada for good measure. (Plus 46 out of the 50 states.)
- I am a baker of delicious things.
- I am a professional reader, a serious reader. Seriously. With seriosity and seriousishness. Friend me on Goodreads!
- I am a photographer (and right here on Instagram).
- I am a consumer of good poetry, but not a writer of it. A poetry group met monthly at my home in Austin, for more than four years, and it was routinely my favorite night of the month. I hope to organize a similar group in the mountains.
- I am intelligent and well-read and will love to talk about books with you. Or good movies. Or philosophy. Or why people do what they do. Whatever. Just no small talk, please, it makes me feel frantic.
- If you are an enthusiastic supporter of the terrorist organization that has our country in its clutches, you are my enemy.
- I am from a deeply ignorant and terribly destructive background — I left as fast as I could, though of course I left with some suitcases filled with crap I’m still working to get rid of. I’m down to a small coin purse of it by now. Sometimes the coin purse bulges in my pocket and makes my back hurt.
- I am rootless, geographically, having moved 82 times. I’m very rooted, people-wise.
- I am a person who knows about suffering.
- I am in love with the whole thing, top to bottom and side to side.
- I am tall but shrinking. Hello, aging. I’m finally learning just to be tall. Thank you, Cindy.
- I am a writer. It’s how I understand the world and myself.
- I am big inside.
- I am damn glad to be here.
- I am a person who will find something in common with you within the first several minutes of meeting you.
I am a big fan of sweet food — I’ve never met a sweet I couldn’t love right off the bat, or find a quick way to love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “good” sweet or a “bad” sweet (come to Mama, cherry Pop-Tarts and Peeps [peeps!!]). I’m widely known for my love of donuts.