The family curse

The cabinet creaked. It scared me for a second as I snapped my eyes towards the master bedroom. Stupid, why’d you even look? I scolded myself. It’s not like Mom ever came out of her fairy tale fortress once she grabbed a handle of Grey Goose for the night.

My clammy fingers gripped the cabinet door as it opened. The vodka glistened. The moonlight filtered through the shimmery eggshell curtains, enough to see the inside of the cabinet but not enough to see my face in the mirror opposite the liquor. If there had been enough light, I could have seen the blushed, puffy, tear-streaked face staring back. There wasn’t enough light.

Student of the year. An award never given to a freshman at James Madison High. Somehow, it fell into my lap. Me, Leah Renee, for being a “model student who impressed the faculty and never failed to help a struggling student.” A prestigious award. A sparkly, shiny plaque. A ceremony. A spotlight. A speech.

“Michael, don’t forget about the ceremony!” I reminded my father two nights ago, one of the few evenings he could fall asleep on his own Tempur-pedic mattress and not out on an international business trip in a Trump hotel. He glanced over me with a dull “You know you have to talk to the assistant.” I don’t know why I expected anything different.

But when, earlier today at the ceremony, hundreds of pairs of eyes locked on me, and my eyes couldn’t find him, it sent a shock right through my body.

My body that was the only one conscious in the house, late on this Midsummer night, and I’ve finally turned to the only proven method of dealing with my father.

The cabinet creaked. The vodka glistened. The moonlight faded.

Killing two birds with one kite

I welcomed the early March air with a sharp inhale and easy grin. The cool air tingled in just the right way—not like allergies or a building sneeze, but with the newness of the soft spring grass slowly coming back to life. This feeling resembling the birth of a hatched chick, the same hatched chick from the Incubator and Eggs DIY pack Mom bought for me as a wonderful-amazing-totally cool Christmas gift when I had never so much glanced in the direction of a  freakin’ chicken. Of course, Mom forced me to follow through with every dumb thing she bought, grumbling about a lack of responsibility and focus, but I zoned out, ignoring the end of her rant. I had more important things to focus on: The Greater Indianapolis Area 10th Annual Kite Flying Competition.

When I was younger and overcome with a desire to claim something of my own, something to be mine, something that wouldn’t be mine-and-Mom’s-together, I found a faded, scratched green kite behind a pile of broken pastel sidewalk chalk. He was promptly named Kitey, as my eight years old brain so creatively named things. “Come on, Kitey, you can do this!” I encouraged as he whirled and twirled with the gusts of air, a fight against nature. We fought fiercely against the powers of the wind, my heart growing bigger, thump-a-thump-a-thumping through my chest as I solidified my part on a team that wasn’t the me-and-Mom team. Me and Kitey. Kitey and me. Nothing compared to the first perfect gust of wind we experienced together, the quickening of heart thumping as Kitey’s superpower was revealed: conquering gravity and wooshing higher and higher into the mixed-up blueberry pudding sky. Well, maybe one feeling can compare.

I crave the rush when I go to competitions, the competitions that turned from a neighborhood-childhood-meet the stuck-up kids block party to the greatest legitimate competition I’ve ever qualified for, The Greater Indianapolis Area 10th Annual Kite Flying Competition.  Of course, kite flying wasn’t my day job, and despite how much I whined, Mom always responded with the character building-it’s good for you-I never got this opportunity rant about the importance of school. My sophomore classes required so much busywork and cumulative tests to succeed, but success in school paled in comparison to entering in the biggest and best kite competition, so that’s why on this early March afternoon I snuck out of school after lunch, running-walking-skipping straight to the park, legs happy to be outdoors, kite in backpack. Kitey lived in my room now, promoted from his former place in the garage, but for my competitions, I flew the smooth, custom-built glass string kite I bought with my very own money.

At the park, I carefully removed the kite, its tendrils fluttering as I unzipped the case. As I stood barefoot with my flip flops kicked off, my feet melding with the slightly damp grass, I felt at home, my hands doing the dance they learned so long ago. Going to school was no match for flying practice.

From there, we formed a routine, my new kite and me. Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we left after lunch, skipping the pointless classes in favor of flying. Mrs. Tyler and Mr. Reed both pulled me in for the skipping class is bad-you have to go to school-I want what’s best for you discussion, to which I opened my mouth in a dramatic smile and in a saccharine-sweet voice responded with the of course I’ll be better-I’m so sorry-Thank you for helping me answer. At the same time, the true answer pounded through my mind, my I love the park-happy place-kites are better than school mantra that calmed me down.

But it wasn’t just my teachers all up in my face. My mom said the same thing when she found out I was skipping class, boosting her argument with insults of selfish and stupid and threats of grounding me and preventing me from flying, wait no not just threats, now she actually followed through this time!? How could she do this, just one week before the greatest competition? “Remember, you can only go outside to let the chicks roam for half an hour and make sure they come back!” she added with her I’m your mother-respect me voice. I rolled my eyes with a “duh.”

Still, not even the grounding could keep me away from flying, especially since Mom had just left for her four-to-twelve waitressing shift. I turned the doorknob, kite in my shirt, ready with the excuse of the chicks if the trailer park neighbors next door saw me outside. I unlatched the door to the coop to let the chicks free on the hill a for a little, while I unraveled my kite’s string and breathed a smile ready to fly. Little did I know that my custom glass string kite had formed a hole by being carried next to sharpened pencils in my backpack.

When I threw it up with the wind, anticipating the rush, I was met with a downward spiral straight to the ground just like Kitey did that first day. Only this time, the kite didn’t just land in the grass. This time, I couldn’t try again and ignore the fall. I had completely forgotten about the baby chicks I let out to explore the earthiness of the soft new grass. The kite tumbled down, its top point spiraling with the forceful inertia before a sudden stop right on top of two chicks, tiny enough that the blow from the kite stole their last breath.

I breathed a sob as tears spilled down my face. And I lay on the bed of grass, which somehow lost some of its softness, eyes shut but still leaking tears, clutching the other four chicks, the broken kite next to me. The beginning of the green grass felt like an end. The newness was gone.

The importance of detours

So there I was, mindlessly driving down the road, singing off-key to the bouncy pop music from 97.9 FM, unaware of what would happen.

In the greater Columbus area, it seems like there’s always construction, always the sharp orange workers filling the side of the highway. But at the same time, carefully driving over the cracked, faded roads, we get used to the conditions, never expecting a fix. Construction lurks day to day as a mythical creature, manipulating time and our experiences. Several years we crawl the traffic-infested, broken paths at rush hour, hearing whispered promises of the roads fixed, but the empty promises fall on lost ears. Several years we encounter the orange men on I-71 South, narrowing the highway to one lane and worsening traffic, but this time because of their presence and not lack thereof. None of us expect the change, the arrival and departure of construction, to be true; none of us expect our eternity to be interrupted.

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But on one soft summer morning, the sight of bright orange cones shocked me away from the new Taylor Swift song. The very path I used every day, the same path I remember from childhood that twisted next to the Scioto River, was no longer my path. The very orange cones we had been promised for years were suddenly in front of me, keeping me from my path, keeping me from my routine.

I quickly spun the volume control to the left, emptying the notes from my head in favor of brain waves.  Where the hell should I go? I thought to myself. Which new road should I take?

My quick decision of a new path energized my soft morning, jolting me awake and alive. Driving on the opposite side of the river filled my route with new scenery, the dark green deciduous trees and pastel-painted local businesses stealing my interest.

I never would have used my brain that morning, had there not been construction. I never would have broken my mindless routine. I never would have discovered a new path that I liked even better than the old one.

So far in my first semester of college, I’ve made friends and met new people, always with the introduction of name and major. Some people have known their whole lives what they want to be, the future doctors, engineers, and teachers.

But me? First semester and even most of winter break, I had no freaking idea. My majors bounced from psychology-premed, to middle level education, to communications. By learning all I could about majors, careers, and my identity and goals, I finally feel at home with communications. I took a detour my first semester, but the scenic road the rest of my life will be worth it.

This blog is a chance for me to document my experiences throughout college while practicing and polishing my writing. I am excited to share my life and potentially help readers, but if my blog changes course, I won’t worry about it. I know to embrace the detours.