Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Training Wheels

I'm sitting in the no-shhhh zone in the library taking up one of the free computers that one of those people waiting in line could be making their due-in-an-hour Spanish verbs slide show on and not really feeling bad about it. I am waiting for Lanee to get off work upstairs in the LRC and shrinking into my corner, trying to avoid people from my classes wondering what I'm doing on campus using one of their frantic computers when I'm the one who dropped out because my body was failing.
It was failing! But that was six weeks ago.
A lot of things were six weeks ago.
A lot of things were three weeks ago, even.

I got Elton, my car, my 1994 Buick Regal, in March of 2007. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to fuse with their cars as I have with Elton. With a lot of leg room, stretch room, wideness room, a cracking leather console and slippery seats, Elton was me, as a car. And male. He needed to be pimped out because he was previously owned by two siblings known to be pristinely clean. Before them, he was owned by their grandmother--the Queen of the Pristine Kingdom of Pristine-ness. These were the kind of people (whom I've always admired) whose shoes never have mud on them, or dog poop, or even crumbs. Even when it's raining--no mud. Or pieces of leaves. This car's floor was unbelievably clean when his keys were pressed into my hand. My feet, on the other hand, with shoes or without, showered or not, always seem to leave a smudgy toe-print wherever they land. So, with toe-prints and some beads and a little devil meant to ward off traffic (thank you Trevor), Elton was pimped.
Along with the wideness room and all those other parts of Elton that I fused with came a gigantic, fuzzy ceiling. Later I decided to further his pimpoutedness and cover this ceiling with pictures of my friends after one year of college, because I loved having a security blanket of pictures around me at all times and I was sick of removing layers of tape when moving clumps of these images from location to location. I took a medicine bottle of clear push pins and sleeve after sleeve of pictures out to my car last April, and with the radio on, slid photo by photo out of their plastic cases and layered them thickly on the ceiling with an overabundance of push pins--one wherever a corner was showing. These pictures were of high school, of me and Kristi in our Halloween costumes in the lunchroom in third grade. They were pictures of Alex and Charles and Lily in the snow with matching sweaters, of Trevor playing his guitar in a striped shirt and of Chelsea and I at graduation. There was a picture of my family the day we got sealed to Jenny in the temple. One of my favorites was the one of Lanee, Tom, and myself, squeezed onto my one-person quilt on the grass at Helaman Halls and staring into the camera. There were dance pictures mingling in with all of these, prom with Tanner, homecoming with Jeffy, spring fling with Davie, the other prom with Bry, and sophomore slide with Davie too.

I began immediately to get a lot of compliments about this collageofthepast thing I had going on, people leaning amazedly back in shotgun and pointing at people they knew. Everyone seemed to find it very Neat that I had this silent reminder of the incredible amount of people I have had pushing for me throughout my whole life, and it was fun, telling them about how each person up there had influenced a different piece of the personality I have now formed. I agreed with these pointers-at-the-ceiling, that all of these beautiful people had shaped me, that Trevor had helped me learn my own eccentricities, and Dave had made me feel pretty when we exchanged funny faces, that Heather had listened to my significant thirteen-year-old makeup and boy problems, that Emily was my kindred spirit and Adam took me to my first real jazz concert. That Casey had carried me on his back everywhere when I was tired or trying to be annoying on purpose and Sierra, Chloe, Kara, and Lanee had gone with me to the Indiafest even though I was wearing bright blue pants.

These pictures accompanied me everywhere for an entire year. They watched everything I did. Every fight with Talley, they had with me, and every backseat "conversation" with everyone that I backseat "conversation"ed with, they "conversation"ed too. They listened to me lie to people on the phone, to my cheerful arguments with Eric, to my singing along with Love Songs After Dark, to my self-administered pep talks, to the uncontrollable giggling that Jenna and Ness and I shared that time we sat in the church parking lot with the 2 liter caffeine-free Coke. They were there when I cried and squeezed my steering wheel cover hard while I squinched my eyes. They fluttered in the wind and a few that I don't remember escaped peacefully when I was driving with my windows down on center street and singing along to Band of Horses with my head thrown back and Jenny's right hand fluttering out the passenger window. The pictures curled away from the fuzziness of the ceiling in the thick heat of the summer, the push pins sighing in the warmth and dropping to the floor of the car to find Emma's toes next time she got in.
I would pick up these hot little push pins, hurriedly stamping them back into the ceiling while stretched over the back of my seat. Usually I was still driving while doing this stretching. But then, more push pins began to fall--six or seven at a time, and I let more of them stay off the ceiling, rolling under the seats and nestling into the seatbelt clickers.

It began again this March to get warm outside. I was having a fantastic time driving around with the windows down, except that all those people up there kept fluttering annoyingly and whispering and preventing me from completely enjoying my drives. They were still nice, refreshing drives, but inhibited, because I was constantly turning my head around and back and craning to be the babysitter and make sure no pictures had escaped from the clutches of the other ones and fallen to the floor, often dragging unrelated ones with them. One day, this had become enough, this constant attention, and I became more concerned about the quality of my windowless drives than about preserving and reopening these chasms of memories, and I pulled into my driveway, and I opened both doors, and I cranked up the radio, and I yanked the pictures down in strips and bunches. The pushpins hailed down on me, bouncing out into the driveway, and I hurried, ripping the ceiling down and haphazardly making a pile which I stuck inside an old McDonald's bag and put on my bookshelf to sit for a few weeks.

A picture is worth exactly one thousand words. Right? There were maybe fifty pictures up there, so that's, like, fifty thousand words. These words were ones I'd grown up with, familiar ones, tender ones, words from people who cared about me, but they were always running and running and chattering through my mind, and unexplainedly and very suddenly this was the time I knew I needed to take them down and place them carefully into the black and white photo albums sitting empty under my desk. This was the time to remove them from my present and make them into memories and advice and give them titles like Miscellaneous and Girls Camp 2004 and Grandpa's 80th Birthday. Maybe they were keeping me from making decisions, from doing things, maybe they weren't. But if they were, it looks like I've put them in the right place, their respected place, all of them and their advice and their love and their caring and their babbling, just in time to make the biggest decision I've ever made. They have given me myself, they have shaped me, they have trained me and taught me and followed me for years before they rode on the ceiling of my car.

Thank you.

I never would have been ready for this were it not for you guys.


Michelle said...

Julie you have such an incredible talent! I love reading your posts, you are a beautiful writer. Now, more than anything else, i want to be one of the people on Elton's ceiling.

Kristi said...

Gall Jules, I love you so much. You inspire the creative reflecive part of myself. I love our halloween picture, I need a copy desperately. And I wish you luck with your decision.

Lanee said...

Oh you are wellllcome. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH DRESSES!!!!!!

Andy said...

This crazy world doesn't stand a chance.

Tawny Christensen said...

see the hour? 12:10 and i just sat bemused and fully absorbed into this brilliant post. i agree with michelle--you are phenomenal and i love you for who and all you are.

you are now engaged.
i screamed.
mannnnnnny congratulations! i love you dude and freaking want to bump in to you to hear about this wonderful, joyous time of your life! yay julie!

Constance Marie said...

Julie, I loved this post. It was very sentimental. And I love Band of Horses, and it makes me happy that you do, too.