we played "bowl of nouns," as we do every year, when we had family over for post-christmas christmas on saturday night. my dad chose a slip of paper from the bowl, read the word on it, clutched his chest, and slumped to the floor. "dead, dead!" his team shouted, an adjective that doesn't even begin with P, the first letter for that round's words. it turned out that he'd read PROP upside down, which looked for all the world like DEAD in my handwriting, so we gave him the point (i wanted to give him bonus points, really). he and my stepfamily stayed for a second round before retiring to the upper east side, and the seven of us who remained arranged ourselves around the apartment: my sister, brother-in-law, and baby niece in the bedroom, my other sister and brother-in-law on an air mattress in the hall, me and the cat on a busted air mattress in the living room, joe and the other cat on the sofa. the idea of a hotel room to supplement our square footage had been suggested many times, but my sisters and i scorned the idea, as we get just a single night together each year. you guys can get a brotel room if you want. it feels like we spent half our childhood in sleeping bags on the family room floor, in front of the fireplace. why did the houses in our suburban-southern-california development have fireplaces? off-white stucco walls, curved terra cotta roof tiles that'd grind together like teeth when i climbed across them, fireplaces called into service as often as the national guard.
it's been a year of letting things in, of new and exotic arrangements, of trying to do what twelve-year-old me would've done in similar circumstances. the single, humble press trip i took in 2013 begat trips to hawaii, iceland, and turkey; my job wandered off from beneath me, and i became a freelancer; i took on weekly shifts at a wildlife rehab center and a charity bookstore cafe; i started training for a half marathon. my sister had a baby. joe's job mutated into something unrecognizable, and he found a new one.
a shard of anger will turn up in my foot when i hear news of my old magazine, though i left them with the widest smile that would adhere to my face. a decade of my life i gave them! a former freelancer of mine announced to me and the rest of her facebook friends that she'd accepted the new version of my job. Like, i clicked. my sister is designing a monogram for the pro writing site my dearest friend built me; my old mentor is publishing my first piece in the new year, an essay on calling my mother every day for a month. PROP or DEAD? hand me a pillow case and a couch cushion. let's do this.