First, a note about salad. Salad is generally a mixture of leafy greens, cut-up vegetables, and a nice dressing, say, balsamic vinaigrette. Here is what salad is not: broccoli, American cheese cubes, and Miracle Whip. A variation on salad is the fruit salad, an assortment of fresh fruits, perhaps lightly bathed in yogurt or sour cream. Here is what fruit salad is not: canned “fruit cocktail,” tiny marshmallows, and Cool Whip. I think it was last Thanksgiving that my sister Barb offered to bring a fruit salad, and I started salivating at the thought of fresh cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapes. But no, what we got was the can, the Whip, the mallow. There is also the notorious Jello salad—Jell-O brand gelatin with carrots or pineapple suspended in it, which is commonly found in Lutheran church basements and stories from Lake Wobegon. Another mixture that is salad in name only is meat ground up and mixed with Miracle Whip: your chicken salad, your ham salad, your baloney salad. Baloney (or bologna, but according to the online dictionary it’s pronounced the same) salad, in particular, is proof that you can never truly go home again: I have tried to eat it as an adult and could not fathom what made it such a treat way back when.
That is all I have to say about salad. For now.
the micro world
I once told a scientist at my lab a joke I had made up myself. Rather, I wrote it down to get the full effect:
Q: What does a cow say in the micro world?
A: mu. [OK, the joke is ruined; apparently I can’t make a Greek letter here]
He looked at me blankly, totally not getting it: “Micron?” “No,” I gently remonstrated. “Mu!” (the Greek letter “mu” stands for the “micro” in microgram, microliter, etc., when you abbreviate them).
If I were a scientist (a big if), I would not be a star-gazer, I would be a particle-gazer at the Large Hadron Collider in (under) Europe, looking to detect the quirks and quarks, the mesons, yousons, shesons, hesons, glueballs, blueballs, charginos, cashinos, leptons, leprechauns, whathaveyous, and howareyouse. (Guess which of the above are real particles!)
But I am up here observing life at the macro level, where there is plenty of micro action to be had. Some powerful things can happen in the course of a split atom when even the unlikeliest pairings of persons meet. If everything happens in the now, then now is both immediate and eternal, and the smallest spark here, between you and another person, is as significant as the largest forest fire far, far away. The size of the interaction has nothing to do with it: It’s all about love, about hearts, about minds for a moment melding, like a sunbeam on a mirror causing an ant to catch on fire. Wait. That’s something else.
2 cases in point:
(1) Back in 1972, living in southern Maryland, I was a long-haired, army shirt-wearing, Red Wing boot-stomping, hippie dyke librarian, just bursting with contradictions. I was walking into a bank one day, and a man wearing a suit and tie was walking toward me. Instinctively, I held the door for him, and as I continued on my way, he said “Thank you!” in the most wondering, disbelieving voice. I still remember him, so who knows if, how, why, or wherefore his mind was blown by having his preconceptions thrown in his face by a door-holding, war-resisting, ungirlie-girl. But in that moment, at least, there was a slight trembling of the earth as one made-up mind met another in a spontaneous act of ordinary human courtesy.
(2) A few weeks ago, I was at the McDonald’s drive-through (mea culpa), and the boy working the window handed me back my change. I fumbled, or he fumbled—a fumble occurred—and a coin dropped on the ground. The boy looked down, spotted the coin, and thrust himself out the window, head down, legs in the air, and reached down and picked it up. He handed it back to me with a flourish, and I said, admiringly, “Wow, that was going beyond the call.” And he grinned and said thanks… not disbelievingly like the man in the previous story, but genuinely, happily. At that moment we shared complete delight in his physicality and sense of purpose, this gangly 16-year-old and tubby 62-year-old of unlike chromosomes and vastly different life experience.
These times of gently shocking grace are what I live for. Eyes meeting across a room when something is funny. A confidence shared with a grocery clerk—“I bought this wine because I was embarrassed to buy the cheaper kind I like better”—and he says he does the same thing. Bantering at the salad bar with a woman I don’t know, who feels the need to apologize for the large salad she’s assembling, explaining that it’s for her and her husband—and then happening to be in line together at the same check-out, where I say to the clerk, “Look at that huge salad! She claims she’s going to share it”—and the woman laughs and I feel like, maybe I’m not such a misanthrope after all, maybe I could reach out more often instead of taking the easier path of restraint and avoidance.
As befits someone who focuses on the fine print (having once proofread California state tax law for a living), prefers the lake to the ocean, and fantasizes that she will someday understand particle physics (as opposed to the ball-rolling-down-the-board variety [though I wonder about particle board]), it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to the small, the subtle, the hidden, and indeed strive to remain largely hidden myself. Over the past month or so, as I watched and waited for ideas, memories, words or phrases to waft up from my subconscious so they could be plumbed, pummeled, and puréed into a ‘zine, what kept coming up was just that word: hidden. It seems to be my second nature to hide, or maybe I just heard too many times from my mother that I was afraid of everyone when I was a baby. It seems as good an explanation as any… yup… born that way.
I forgot about Halloween this year—forgot to hide with my lights off, hoping not to hear the sound of children in the street. Don’t ring my bell, I’m not home! … and if I were, I’d have nothing for you! … and if I did, I would have eaten it all by now! … and if I hadn’t, I’d be hoarding it against my future late night (probably tonight) snacking. In theory, I wouldn’t mind giving candy to random kids, but I hate to open my door to anyone but the UPS guy. Let the little ones pass me by and head to the many households where huge inflatable plastic pumpkins and ghosts in the yard and lighted skulls on the porch announce their willingness to participate.
Maybe the timing of my birth vis-à-vis Halloween has something to do with this. On my birthday, October 30, I feel like neon, lit from the inside, waiting for someone to notice. Then comes the “real” holiday, the sugar-coated ritual of masked intrusive assaults on strangers in their own homes. My “special” day has come and gone, and now I’m at the whim of anyone who wants to invade my space and take away my candy.
I only realized that I had forgotten to hide when I got an e-mail from a friend in California who wrote that she had gotten only 6 trick-or-treaters. I was relieved, of course—no one had come to my door so, technically, hiding had been unnecessary—but I also felt a little like I do when I discover I’ve left the front door unlocked all night… exposed in retrospect… as if vulnerability crosses all time zones to include the unchangeable past—which makes sense if the now is both now and forever. (This also explains why I can still feel humiliated over long-past mistakes, such as handing out separate sheets of dialogue to each of the actors in my little play in the fifth grade: I realized too late that they needed to know, not only their own lines, but when to say them. I’m one who has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. “Micro” again.)
the friday report
Are you sick of reading my homely homilies from the Life of Mare? I’m still trying to figure out this family thing, making a hash of it at times but still invited back week after week. The place where they have to let you in.
[Reminder: K=younger sister; MP=her husband; Barb=youngest sister]
So we’re back on the scene at the K&MP residence, Friday night, the nearly obligatory get-together of the Almost Oldest Generation (one of us still has a parent), sometimes visited by the young and still-floundering offspring. Nephew 1 is still on the lam, long unaccounted for. Nephew 2 is thinking of moving back home from Texas to be with his kids, but the job outlook here is mostly cloudy and overcast with doubts. StormWatch at 11. Seems his geographical solution was no resolution—wherever he goes, there he is. Nephew 3 is “off the road” but still driving a truck locally, has a new girlfriend, head over heels but with the challenge of joining a ready-made family. He’s happy, though. We all sit back, parked in our recliners or on the couch, as he stands in the doorway relaying the ups and downs of living with his sweetie and her two kids. We wish him well, knowing there’s nothing we can do but be there, recline, listen, nod, laugh, and think that there but for the grace of God go us.
His last love affair was with a married woman, also with two kids, who lived in another state. Drama, thy name is Youth. I look back at my twenties and think, How the hell did I make it this far? I was so far off the social grid that I played third wheel in a lesbian ménage à trois—the second wheel had two little kids and was married to a large macho man. (One of my proudest moments was when he saw me for the first time, glowering at the top of a flight of stairs, wearing my cowboy shirt and shit-kicking boots, and he later claimed that he’d thought I was going to kick his ass. Ha!)
So we commiserate with the lad’s challenges and appreciate that he thinks he’s found the love of his life, and then we wave good-bye and return to our Friday night programmed dramas, our “NCIS”s, “CSI”s, “CBI”s, “FBI”s, “SVU”s, “SUV”s, “ISBN”s, and now I’m just being silly.
Most of the time, on those Friday nights, I feel like I’m soaking in warm bathwater, lulled by the distant murmurs of my kin and by all that is left unsaid. I close my eyes and drift, a small pleasure that I could never have in other company. And I think, This is how I’d like to go out, wrapped in my cocoon, no worries, no demands. I see myself as someone who will always choose comfort over challenge, and yet the scratchy sand in the oyster makes its own demands: The challenge, the making of the pearl, is built-in and inescapable. Once in a while something takes hold of me, I get grit in my eye, and I start to shake inside. The pearl remains hidden, but the oyster gets its panties in a bunch. Mare goes off.
One night, MP mentioned that something was happening with Nephew #3, possibly involving his ex-wife, but he couldn’t tell us about it until after a certain date had passed or a certain action was carried out. I protested, “Who do you think we’re going to tell?” And, “Why bring it up, then?” And, “You always do this!” My frustration wouldn’t rest until it was all out there, hanging in the air like a familial mushroom cloud. I even started to cry. This had to be stuff from the past coming up. It seems I can turn any married or civilly conjoined couple into a parent trap. It’s scary to think that we walk around with the bulk of our emotional responses emanating from a deep well of past fears or hurts…. while focusing on the proximal cause, the easy target, the substitute annoyance. In this case, my reaction may have had something to do with the many years of being treated like a child by the married gurus I had orbited back in the long ago… the tyranny of the two over the one: the manipulation, the lying, the denial of one’s perceptions: “Drop M off before you get to the studio, so no one will think you’re special”; “You’re not taking M’s illness seriously enough—now you stay here with her while I go hiking with my friend”).
It was par for the course (it seemed to me) that K&MP were the keepers of marital and parental secrets, not that I would care if they weren’t dangled in front of me and then quickly withdrawn as if I couldn’t be trusted. There had been another incident, a few months back, when one of them “spilled the beans” about something. “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that,” says one, and “Oh, I guess you told them,” says the other. Plus, there’s the periodic suggestion that we “eat before coming over,” or in some other way lessen our Friday footprint. And there had been the apple pie caper, when my sister lied to my face and claimed that the apple pie I smelled did not exist. It felt like—K&MP: the co-conspirators; me: the hapless harridan. So the trigger gets pulled, I react, and BAM, it’s high noon at 6 o’clock on a Friday night.
But it was interesting to see the others’ reactions. K was confused but copacetic: “What’s this now?” MP set about trying to fix the situation, i.e., get me to stop crying. Barb, for a while, sat there as if terrified to move or speak, but then she gathered her wits and tried changing the subject to anything, anything at all. Suddenly crying out, “K, is that a new clock on the wall?” and “Oh look, there’s a chickadee at the birdfeeder!” and even, to me, “So what’s new with you? What’s new with Peggy? How’s the weather back there?” K, like the trouper she is, would take each bit of bait that Barb threw out and try to reel in the big fish (or perhaps rubber boot) of emotion and steer us out of dangerous waters. But MP kept bringing us back to the swirling rapids, wanting to resolve my tears and understand my outburst, long past the time when I saw any point in talking about it. That warm bathwater feeling suddenly seemed like my lost Shangri-la.
The hypocrisy, of course, the contradiction, is that I want to be kept in the loop at all times but reserve the right to hide my own damn self. For example, I’m trying to keep this very ‘zine/blog a secret from my family. I can’t face the hurt feelings or, more likely, the passive-aggressive silence if I write something about them that’s less than flattering. But it’s a secret that’s surely doomed to come out of hiding. Both Barb and MP have been known to Google themselves, other family members, and local pedophiles, so it’s only a matter of time before they stumble across me in cyberspace. In fact, Barb said recently that I should write about a particular event in “your next mary‘zine,” which made me wonder if she’s been following it all along. (And why not? I finally remembered that I had told them about it back when I first went online.) So we could be hiding from each other, which wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Stranger things have happened. I recently got an e-mail from an old friend from the early ‘70s who found the blog by accident and read about himself—as an initial, anyway—in a story I had told about him and another man confronting each other in my log cabin, neither of them previously aware of the other’s claim on me. He wrote to correct one part of the story and said that that standoff “may have been [his] finest hour.”
So my hiding place is no hiding place at all. ‘Zines I wrote years ago that were only read by 20 or 30 friends are now instantly searchable, including the town in which my sister teaches (now removed as a tag), and there’s no way to control whatever shit hits the fan.
(Speaking of which, I had very few responses to my shit massacre story in the last issue, but I appreciate the friend who wrote about feeling the same disaster coming on when she was at an awards dinner 20 miles from home. Fortunately, she made it without disgusting incident: “Your shit storm story kept me going all the way home.” I now feel completely vindicated for that oversharing. Sometimes “too much information” is exactly the amount of information you need.)
But back to my crisis at K&MP’s. We were going to Schusslers’ Supper Club that night for MP’s birthday, so that’s what finally broke the emotional stalemate. K and Barb quickly got up and headed for the door, but MP waited while I gathered my wits and my wad of wet Kleenex. As he gestured for me to go ahead of him, he said softly, “You’re all right, you’re all right,” and I was so touched that the tears started flowing again. I stopped him and pulled him aside and said how much I appreciated his willingness to listen to me and not just try to change the subject. It’s really ironic, not only because women are supposed to be the sensitive ones, but because MP himself blusters and curses and acts like a modern-day Archie Bunker a lot of the time. As much as I like to complain about men, I seem to have a soft spot for the ones who act all tough and gruff on the outside but have the proverbial heart of gold.
MP is cut from the same cloth as my father—working class, comes from a large family, regular beatings as a child, low on the social graces scale—but he has mellowed as a result of the love and tireless efforts of my sister, his wife. I’m not trying to make him into a saint, but I respect how far he’s come. And the fact that he thinks I’m both smart and hilarious doesn’t hurt, either.
So we hugged and then happily went off for steaks and margaritas, and a good time was had by all.
the ever-present past
As if to illustrate my theme of “the past never really goes away,” I have a long-time “stalker”—newly emboldened since I moved back to my hometown 5 years ago—a friend from the fifth through seventh grades who seems to have made me into a lifelong project. I’ve written about her before (#13). I can’t say she’s been overly aggressive, but she’s definitely persistent. Over the past 45 years—ever since I left home to go to college—she has continually accosted my sisters to ask if I was ever going to move back here. My sisters would cheerfully tell her, “Probably not!,” but then I defied logic and all odds by doing just that. I’m sure she was in seventh heaven, at least for the first year or two, when she thought that we were about to relive those halcyon days in the Girl Scouts and Girls’ Athletic Association—but when I didn’t call and didn’t call and didn’t call (the local obligatory 3x repeat for emphasis), she must, at the 5-year mark, be starting to get the hint. Or maybe not.
Several years ago, when I was still in California, she sent me pictures from our grade school (!) reunion along with a tea bag to symbolize how much she “missed” me. I had seen her at my mother’s wake, but other than that we’d had no contact since 1964. So now that I’m in town and theoretically available to attend any and all reunions, she can’t let it go. Every time we run into each other—and when she runs into either of my sisters—she brings up the reunion thing and asks if I still live where I live. (She found out from being on the reunion committee. For all I know, she is the reunion committee.) This summer, my sister was selling her jewelry at an art fair in the park near me, and my stalker showed up, interrogated her (again) about where I live and said she wanted me to help her plan the next grade school (!) reunion. Barb explained, as always, that they don’t call or drop in on me because I sleep odd hours, and my stalker’s reaction was that she would stop by and ring my doorbell because I wouldn’t get mad at her. I know it’s hard for some people to keep track of reality, but this is ridiculous.
A few weeks ago, I saw her at the grocery store and veered away from the checkout lines to hide in an aisle that just happened to be the candy aisle. I’m sure there’s no connection between my sudden relational anxiety and my gratuitous purchase of a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts. If I had fled to the next aisle over, do you think I would have dropped a can of sauerkraut in my cart? I think not. When it seemed like enough time had passed, I paid for my groceries and headed for the parking lot. And there she was, right in my path. It was kismet, but not the good kind. She was thrilled to see me, as always, and the usual interrogation ensued: “Do you still live over by the park?” [Yes] “Do you want to be invited to the grade school [!] reunion?” [No] “Why not?” [I don’t want to]. (My verbal skills abandon me in times of stress.) And here was the kicker: “You can’t stay hidden forever,” she says. I was furious, probably because I had indeed just been hiding from her. Looking straight into her eyes set like coal in her snowman-lumpy face, I protest, “I’m not hidden.” She sneers, “Oh, you’re not? Then what are you, busy?” I get in my Jeep and ignore her suddenly amiable “OK, well, take care!”
If I wanted to be cute about it, I could say I had three Thanksgivings this year: one new, one old, and one vicarious.
Since death and divorce decimated the family troops, our holiday get-togethers have devolved to the point where there’s little ritual and very little magic. This Thanksgiving there were only four of us—the three sisters and one grudging male. And, as always, it was all about the food, the ultimate familial glue. For the past couple of years, we have ordered our turkey dinner as takeout: once from Angeli’s supermarket and this year from Schusslers’, our go-to celebration restaurant.
The original plan, concocted by MP, was for us sisters to go somewhere else and leave him home alone to watch the Packer game. So we ordered the food and planned to drop him off his share and then proceed to Barb’s, where we would chow down, chat without fear of reprisal, and guiltlessly watch anything but football. Then MP decided that we would have it at their house after all, and he would go into another room to watch the game. Fine. So the game in question was on in the living room when we arrived at noon. We took our usual positions on couch and recliner and tried extra hard not to disturb The Man. K and Barb, instead of talking loud enough to be heard over the TV, whispered or remained quiet for whole minutes at a time. But Barb is irrepressible, so she gradually raised the volume on her stories about school, and the teachers’ union, and what she’s bought her grandkids for Christmas so far. Whenever we see her, she has a mental list the length of her arm of things to tell. You’d think she lived a global life of epic proportions. Her 2 cats, their sleeping arrangements, their in-one-door-and-out-the-other, their bringing of unidentifiable small prey into the house to leave inedible organs and fur under the dining room table are but one element of her presentation. I am not above sharing the cutesy details of my own cats’ shenanigans, but her lengthy tales render me mute. I’m kind of a lethargic sort anyway, and I’m exhausted by the inexhaustible energy with which she comes up with these little anecdotes, which I know she has told, or will tell, to at least 5 other people, in exactly the same words. So when it’s “my turn” and I get the dreaded question, “So what’s new with you, Mare?” I either croak out a concise, unhelpful “Nothing” or drag up something I hope will be newsworthy, such as, “My godchild got married,” and I try to make a little story out of it, “Well, she and her new husband are stilt-walkers and clowns, sort of, but he’s also a registered nurse, and they paraded through town with their friends and were married in a park by her stepmother, a minister.” And there’s silence (I can’t really blame them), and Barb asks how old she is, “34,” and that’s the end of that. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know if they’re just not interested in anything outside their world, or I’m so grudging or mysterious in the few things I do share that they’d just as soon not know.
So where was I? Oh yeah, Barb and K have started chatting at normal decibels, so MP gets up and leaves the room, and K looks chastened, like, we all have to tiptoe around The Man’s many moods (I know, I should talk). K leaves the game blaring, only muting the commercials, and I’m sure it’s so she won’t get in trouble for turning it off when he comes back. Not that I really care. I can passively watch helmeted men in tight pants crash into each other, it’s nothing to do with me. Sometimes there’s the long pass that gets caught, and the catcher (I know he’s not called that) does his little victory preen in the end zone. But that doesn’t happen much in this game, because it’s between the Favre-less Packers and the perennially inept Detroit Lions. (How do I even know that much about it?) I amuse myself by picturing the players wearing those Nazi-like motorcycle half-helmets instead of the ones that actually protect their heads, and I chuckle a little bit. Ah, the pleasures of the imagination.
An hour or so later, MP comes back, complaining that he needs to get a bigger TV for the other room, but since K anticipated this, the game is still on and thus he just plops down and continues watching. Of course, all this would have been avoided if he had adhered to his own home-alone plan, but no one mentions that, because silence is golden for children, wives, and sisters-in-law.
Our Thanksgiving dinner, delivered by Schusslers’ that morning, has to be reheated, so that takes up another hour or so, and then K lays it all out on the kitchen table. (We eat in the living room in front of the TV, and no one asks brightly what we’re all thankful for.) I bypass the carrots, vinegary coleslaw, and stuffing, and later regret taking the cranberry/fruit(cocktail?) “salad” because it tastes like nothing I’ve ever eaten, and not in a good way. The “mashed cheddar ranch potatoes” have that instant-right-out-of-the-box aftertaste, and the sliced turkey is kind of dry. K has heated up some canned corn, so I have that, and I do finish the potatoes, though grudgingly. Unlike the usual American Thanksgiving feast, this one leaves me not only not “stuffed” but actually hungry. So I have the one slice of pumpkin pie allotted to me, with a dollop of Cool Whip, and that’s that. MP is surprised when I announce that I thought the meal “sucked,” but my sisters more or less agree with me. Barb takes home some leftovers, but only to gorge her cats on turkey. (The turkey has been ruined for sandwiches because it came with gravy poured all over it.)
I try to perk up a bit as I help K clean up and wash the dishes, because I feel like a slug. Usually, I manage a little hilarity around the proverbial family hearth, but I have nothing to offer this day, and when at 3:00 Barb suggests the three of us go over to her house to watch a movie, all I can think is that I want to go home. Besides, it’s clear that K would only go if MP said she could. But she doesn’t ask, and instead we hang around there some more and watch a taped episode of “CSI: NY.” I take my leave at 5:00, after K and Barb have figured out their schedule for taking care of my cats when I’m gone to the painting intensive in San Francisco. We’re all milling around the kitchen and they’re looking at the calendar, factoring in MP’s knee surgery which will take place while I’m gone, and K says to me as we hug good-bye, “We’ll take good care of your kitties,” and she has such a bright, loving look in her eye, and Barb hugs me too, and MP says Bye, and they watch me leave, I’m in the dark garage and they’re framed together in the bright kitchen light, and I think, wow, it’s really true, I can be myself with these people. I feel a pang because I take them so for granted, but I guess that’s part of the family pact. The place where they have to let you in, and you don’t have to fake engagement when you don’t feel it, though they sure appreciate it when you try.
By that point I’m so tired and sluggish-feeling that I wonder if I’m coming down with something, but after a mere half-hour nap in my comfy chair, I feel much better. I mess around on the computer for a while, checking to see which podcasts have been downloaded, who was interviewed on “Fresh Air” today, yadda yadda, and, as always, I can’t resist checking my “blog stats” at editorite.com (you’re here!… those of you who are here). It’s intriguing to see which parts of the blog have gotten hits, especially when it’s some years-old issue of the ’zine, and on this night, for some reason, I click on one of them, and I read it again because it’s been a while.
So: it just so happens that the issue is #31, February 2005, about 5 months after I moved back to my hometown. And boy did I wax enthusiastic about the family back then, about winter, about Thanksgiving and Christmas and my New Year’s Day brunch. I had such ambition then, such naive hope for my full immersion in this real-live, new-to-me family.
And yet, the contrast between that happy reunion Thanksgiving—when I had everyone over to my house and even cooked Swedish meatballs and arranged Mackinaw Island fudge in pleasing patterns—and this rather desultory one, empty of kids and grandkids, didn’t really depress me. For some reason I seem to be able to accept the changes that have taken place over the past 5 years that are (a) natural and (b) out of my hands. It’s like I’m getting all mature and seeing “what is” for what it is and not wasting my time and thought-energy by being beaten down by unexpected developments. There is still plenty to be thankful for, plenty of surprises, plenty of everyday delights(cats), plenty of the wholeness of life that doesn’t need to reflect itself as a hologram in every little thing for me to know it’s there, nothing missing, nobody perfect (least of all me), the beat goes on, my cats will be well cared for when I’m gone on my dis-comforting trip through the un-friendly skies, with who-knows-what accidents and resentments to write about later, though I’m pretty sure I will not let any goddamn toilet seat cover cling to my sweaty thighs this time, and I’ll have mysterious, deep, disturbing, fun times while painting and hanging with my non-family family of painters, and I’ll get back home in one piece (knock on wood), and Christmas will happen, and we’ll eat cold cuts and rolls from Sam’s Club, and I’ll beg off early to return home to my beloved cats, and then regular life will start up again and I’ll continue on to the next year gone by, and I’ll have all the time in the world—or not, and that’s OK too.
But I forgot to mention my third, vicarious Thanksgiving, which took place on the brilliant show about a charming vigilante killer, “Dexter.” I watched in horror/fascination as two serial killers played out their pretend family blessings, followed by a smashing fight, flying accusations, and Dexter’s escape to his own unknowing family’s holiday meal, and Dexter’s voiceover wonders how many people at his table, besides him, have deep, dark secrets of their own, and I think… hey… my secrets, my hiding and dissembling aren’t so bad, it’s just the way I am. And my family are who they are, with their own agendas, shame and pride, secrets and long, long stories. I’m thankful for them and for my life, whether I announce it around a holiday table or not. I’m living life maybe not to the fullest, but to the best of my ability.