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May 26, 2008

Treasure Hunt Part 2

[This is a leftover blog from our days cleaning out the Vermillion garage.]
After lowering down another pile of boxes using my ingenious pulley system (The pulley was so much fun to use that I found myself regretting its efficiency toward the end. The better it worked the less I got to use it.), I noticed several tiny particolored cardboard squares littering the garage floor like confetti. My stomach lurched as I recognized the precious elements of Scorched Earth, the enormous war game that Nate and I have been playing, off and on, for 17 years.

Scorched Earth allows its players to re-enact the eastern front of World War II, the great land battle between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. With a rule book stretching to 87 pages, and each two-week game turn taking Nate and me a little longer than two weeks, Scorched Earth is for serious war game geeks only. Shown here are the German 61st infantry division and the 108th engineer regiment (with an Australian dollar for scale), both of which came to grief at the gates of Leningrad.

Nate moved to Brookings in the eighth grade and, because my friend Chris was his peer natural helper (whatever that was), and we had the same home room, and we quickly recognized each other as members of the same social class (Geeks, But Not Totally Irredeemable*), we agreed to hang out. During our very first afternoon of hanging out, Nate introduced me to wargaming. I’d played the odd game of Risk before then, but The Battle of Krynn was far more complex, confusing, and wonderful.

In my memory, we graduated from wargames that could be played in an afternoon to Scorched Earth in a matter of months. I remember Nate selling me on it (it cost something like $150), by emphasizing its hugeness (3000 game pieces and an eight-food wide playing space), and then for the rest of our school days we spent a lot of our time searching for a place to put it, setting it up, putting it away, and then looking for another place to put it. At one time or another it resided on a ping-pong table in Nate’s basement, on the floor in my basement, and on the floor of Nate’s bedroom, necessitating a tricky double jump to get from his bed to the door.

We play it via email now, so there’s no need to bargain for playing space and, I suppose, no need to treasure a few cardboard counters. But one look at the 61st and I’m carried away by a sense-memory of basement murk and dust, my fingers cramp into the uncomfortable claw necessary to organize and move with precision a stack of eight little cardboard squares, and my mind slips into thoughts of diversion and counterthrust, the search for a weakness in the defense, and the decisive maneuver that will, for the smallest and most personal stakes imaginable, bring triumph.

*The male social strata of Brookings Middle School, from least to greatest:
Total Geeks
Geeks, But Not Totally Irredeemable
Violent Criminal Lunatics
Jocular Suckerfish
Rich Kids
Those Who, Because of Their Aptitude For Football and Basketball, Are As Gods

May 25, 2008

Have a Seat

Mar's Chairs

Last summer, Joel's grandmother Mar gave us a set of lichen-encrusted adirondack lawn chairs. Mar's chairs had happily weathered Nebraska prairie summers beneath a fruit-bearing tree for the last decade. The chairs were uprooted from their cozy spot on Mar's little farm to our front lawn in Vermillion after she decided to move. When we moved last week, the adirondacks made the long trip from South Dakota to Minnesota. They've found a temporary home ringing my parents' backyard fire pit and a revived look under my dad's power washer and Joel's steady hand.

During our courtship, Joel refurbished an ancient picnic table for me one summer when we lived in Minneapolis. The picnic table had been salvaged from the dump by Molly during Brookings annual Clean-Up Days in the early 1980s and sat for years in the Mirons' backyard enjoying many outdoor feasts, its peeling paint and warped boards often hidden by a tablecloth. Joel and I saved the table from another curbside sale and hauled it to my apartment in Minneapolis. After Joel refurbished the table, using tools loaned from a traveling theatre company (Joel performed the part of Sebastian in Shakespeare's The Tempest that summer), the Mirons' old picnic table was transformed into my dining room table. And until recently, it was our primary table, seeing scores of meals, birthdays, dinner parties, batches of cookies, craft projects, and homework in its 10-year lifespan. I have many memories in which that table serves as a centerpiece to all the action of my young life.

It seems to be our thing - recycling old, worn furniture, stabilizing it for another 10 or 20 years use. It's kind of fun to take a scabbed-over, wobbly thing, add a little elbow grease, and make a little heirloom out of it.

I wonder what fun times the new-used adirondacks will afford us?

May 23, 2008

One Week Ago Today

One week ago today, Joel and I put the finishing touches on our cram-it-all-in packing style in our U-Haul. We took one last trip around Vermillion, dropping off our high-speed internet and cable box, recycling our telephone books, shaking hands with our landlord, and lunching at our favorite downtown courtyard pub. One last time, we picked up Adelaide at daycare and said good-bye to all of her little friends and her loving daycare providers. We loaded Nine into the U-Haul’s cab, said a quick farewell to our neighbors, and pulled out of Vermillion just after four o’ clock.

The sun was warming the green lawns and new flowers as kids zoomed by on bicycles and swung high at the Austin School playground a block from our (old) house. In the rearview mirror, I watched as Joel carefully maneuvered the U-Haul onto the street and, from the corner of my eye, I saw our dear neighbor mowing his lawn in the perfect straight lines he always mows while his daughter ran around the yard, playing.

And then, it hit me.

We’re never coming back. Never coming back to live in Vermillion.

After this realization, I felt a deep loss. After all, in four short years, we’d come to love the little town on the prairie for revitalizing our love of theatre, encouraging our professional aspirations, for giving us a community to belong to, and for endowing us with wonderful friends.

But perhaps, the one thing that made me the most sad was thinking of Adelaide. Vermillion is the town of her birth. When Adelaide was born, this little community gave her such a welcome and nurtured Joel and I in our parental infancy. Vermillion is the place where Adelaide first went down a slide, where Adelaide made her first friends, and where Adelaide turned one month, six months, one year, and two. My memories of our time in Vermillion are almost entirely wrapped up in memories of Adelaide’s milestones, challenges, and stories.

It’s difficult to leave all of that behind. Yes, we take the memories with us to our new home, but we leave behind all of the tangible reminders.

The Austin School Tunnel of Mystery.

The Vermillion High School Stage.

The Backyard Clothesline.

The Hill.

The Hospital.

Highway 50 between Vermillion and Yankton.

How do you say good-bye?

May 13, 2008





May 9, 2008

The Hooding

My family’s on its way, the red-and-green hood is hanging in the window, and I’ve just bought $20 black shoes from Walmart. Graduation day, here we are.


Graduating from medical school feels both ridiculous and inevitable. Ridiculous because, of course, I’m still me. After this evening’s ceremony I’ll still be me (perhaps with the addition of a light hangover), but I’ll be Dr. Me (not my real name). There’s a theatrical feeling to this, or, in less confident moments, a feeling of imposture. I’m me, but I’m about to acquire a different role with new and unfamiliar lines to say and convince people that I mean.

On the other hand, graduating feels inevitable. In a way, I’ve graduated from medical school several times. The first graduation was attended by the pediatrician I trained with and a little girl who may or may not have been sexually abused by her father. The graduation happened in my head, and “Nope, I was considering going into pediatrics, but this can’t be my career,” was my silent valedictorian speech on the day that I decided to become a pathologist.

After deciding to become a pathologist, a lot of medical school took on a perfunctory air. I still assisted in surgeries, births, and both fast and slow deaths, but I was fulfilling prerequisite requirements, waiting for my real training to begin. I don’t mean to be crass, I played my part well, knew all my lines, and really cared about the surgeries, births, and deaths, but I kept a mental barrier up, something like invisible latex gloves, that maintained a pristine sense of, “This is just for now. Later will be better.”

The day of my second graduation was in a crowded hallway, but really it was just Aimee watching me open an envelope (Adelaide was there but overwhelmed by all the strangers.). Inside it was the phrase “University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics”, and then Aimee gave me an Iowa baseball cap to go with my exultation and relief.

After Match Day, things became even more perfunctory. It helped that the rest of my training involved watching very specialized doctors do very specialized procedures. These sinus operations, Mohs biopsies, and brain surgeries had a lot to do with pathology (that which is cut out winds up on the pathologist’s desk), and were interesting, but the doctors in charge of my training let me be a future pathologist who was observing for the week rather than a medical student.

And now today, with the robe, hood, and hat. I’m not sure what the ceremony will be like. Maybe someone will talk about history and how we’re joining a society of professionals stretching back millennia and that we’re all colleagues with Galen. Perhaps they’ll sneak in one last lesson on professionalism and ethics. Probably a few people will gently poke fun at me for being in so many plays when I should have been studying. And then I’ll be Dr. Me, with a light hangover.

May 6, 2008

Simply Breakfast: Adelaide-Style

Two fried plastic eggs on foam white toast, accompanied by a faux orange and invisible coffee.

Our apologies to Simply Breakfast ... We simply couldn't resist.

May 2, 2008


Adelaide helps!

In a fit of purging yesterday, I decided to recycle my treasured Martha Stewart and Bon Appetit magazine collections. Our library has a little exchange where one can always find back issues of obscure magazines; my Marthas would certainly be a most refreshing good thing for any passer-by.

Adelaide helped by not throwing the magazines from her moving wagon on the way to the library.

May 1, 2008

Treasure Hunt

We're dividing up the stuff in the garage into four categories: Keep, Sell, Giveaway, and Trash.

However, regardless of whether or not an item is classified as Keep, Sell, Giveaway or Trash, everything has a story.

Charlie Brown Tree and Gourd

This small artificial Christmas tree was used as a prop in an Understudy production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown that was performed in December 2005. During the show's strike, one of the thoughtful young actors said, "We should give this tree to a family who doesn't have a tree." Joel and I were the lucky family.

Small artificial Christmas tree: KEEP.

The gourd was given to us by our good neighbors one hot summer day last year or the year before. I believe someone said, "We saw this in a field and thought of you." Really?

Dried-out Gourd: GIVEAWAY. (It might make a cool-looking birdfeeder ...)


During the early years of our marriage Joel and I kept track of December days with Lego advent calendars - They're hip, they're holiday-themed, and they're less fattening than chocolate.

Legos: KEEP.

L'Prisonnier d'Azkaban

In 2005 when the Mirons visited France to celebrate the wedding of Joshua and Stephanie, I bought a French copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite of the series). I only made it through the first chapter, but give me time!


Dangerous Materials

The label on this box reads: "Shipment of Radioactive Material. Refrigerate upon arrival. Fragile." Where did we find this box? I wonder what the half-life of what was in the box before is? Still, it was a box in good shape, so it now holds paperbacks!

Dangerous Box: KEEP.

Costume Project

I slaved over this technical theatre project my final year of undergrad at the University of Minnesota. It's a poster board depicting costume design choices for all the characters in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. My mom laminated it for me. I loved it.

Poster Board Project: TRASH.

The garage portion of our labor is now complete. Tomorrow we'll start packing up the house. In good timing, too, because it looks like rain.