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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
DEC
04

The Tree Lighting

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I had visions of Rockefeller Center dancing in my head when I heard about a tree lighting in the beach town just north of mine. Now, to be clear, I assure you I did realize there would be a difference. Like, a big one. Even as I arrived a mere twenty minutes before show time and got a spot pretty much right in front of the tree, I was excited. Even as I first took in the little tree (much smaller than I was anticipating, even for a tiny oceanside town), I was not dismayed. Because once the switch was flipped, the tree in its entirety would be transformed, set aglow by a healthy coating of spectral colors. I mean, isn’t that why we go to tree lightings? To experience that moment of contrast? To appreciate the difference?

I hate to call the holidays a distraction, because they are certainly more meaningful to me than that, but sometimes it feels as if their sole purpose is to temporarily buoy us up. From life. From reality. From depression and loneliness. From evil and despair. From your college football team not being in the playoff running this year. One of the pre-lighting speakers, some city official or other, basically asked us to—just for this moment—be happy. Just for this moment, be grateful and feel blessed. Just for this moment, celebrate. Southern California in general has been a bit gloomy and on edge this week, such that I guarantee I wasn’t the only one amongst the tree-lighting crowd who swiveled her head in between the high school show choir’s numbers, wondering if some crazy was lurking in the corner, locked and loaded. (I wish I could say I was just being dramatic, but I think for many Americans, the idea of public safety has been permanently shifted to the morbidly paranoid.)

The actual flipping of the switch (the lighting of the tree) was achingly underwhelming. Even having prepped myself for such a scaled-down version, I think I needed it to be more. More than just a faint star and one string of regular lights that you’d see on a regular house in a regular part of town. Maybe it’s that I’m struggling to feel like it’s Christmas at all, what with the temperatures being so warm and the fact that I was at the moment of lighting standing in between a palm tree and a bird of paradise plant. Maybe it’s that the holiday ornaments I bought to make a garland for my living room walls only made enough to go around three-quarters….of one wall. Or maybe it’s that I don't feel as buoyed up by the season this year. But I’ll keep trying. Because I know that for the most part, people are good. I know for the most part, I am safe. For the most part, the blessings in our lives are easy to spot and comforting to cling to. And most of all, I know that it’s Christmas. (Despite the fact that I’m going to spend the day tomorrow at the beach in 80 degree weather.)

JUL
28

Fireworks: Musings on a Small Town

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This is just a firework, and a mediocre one at that, but it's a firework that was set off in my hometown, above the baseball fields in the town park. Other than Christmas, I go home so seldom that I think this past weekend may have been the first time in over a dozen years that I was around for the annual summer festival.

It's comforting, going home. You know where everything is, for a few days you feel as young as you did while living there, and that so much seems exactly the same is a great constant amidst the fluctuations fast enveloping all other aspects of your life. But even as I walked through the booths at the small festival thinking that everything--the layout, the goods, the pre-fireworks exploding anvil--was identical to when I was a teenager and taking some comfort in that, it was also a teensy bit alarming to realize how much about this trip was, in fact, different. The golf course has been renamed. To something totally ridiculous, by the way. The Dairy Queen is about to be replaced by another franchise; some dispute over fry sauce. And when I attended my old church congregation, I saw a sea of mostly strangers. It felt weird to introduce myself. "I grew up here," I said, as if I were reaching for some kind of justification for being there at all.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. You never forget or feel less endeared to a place, but the connections you have there grow thin when you move away and never come back. Writing books about the people you grew up with doesn't really help your cause either, but I've made my choices, I suppose. I guess I just wish I chose home more often. It's hard to find good fry sauce.

JUL
07

The Pines

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Or whatever they are. (Firs?) I don't really know trees, but I grew up positively surrounded by them. It's always funny to hear people talk about how "green" Cleveland is, because are these people insane? They don't know green.

I've just returned from spending the holiday week in small town Americana with family, something I do as often as I can. Shelling peas picked fresh from my grandparents' garden, attending a flag raising ceremony at the local church, the parade down Main Street, the piddly festival in the park, the community orchestra performing Stars and Stripes Forever, the late-night fireworks down by the water.

What gets to me most is Oregon itself. The greenness. The peace and beauty that is country living out there. The quiet. The deer. The lack of paved roads. And while I've always looked forward to returning to Cleveland--my life, my love, my career, my cat--this was the first time in years that I wanted to beat my departure off with a stick. I was misty to drive away from the homestead, misty to say goodbye to my parents at the airport, and usually not one to even look out the window while on a flight, I couldn't look away as the plane took off. I ached to stay. I kept my eyes on the trees as long as I could see them, until the green expanse of Western Oregon had given way to the brownness that is everything else.

Not sure why this occasionally overcomes me. I guess the excitement and adventure that is having your own corner of the world sometimes pales in comparison to the loneliness that can come from being completely on your own and far away from those who care about you. I know, I know, I need to put on my big girl pants and be braver. But I ask you, if this was the view from YOUR homestead, would you ever want to leave it?