The trip there was long, the trip back even longer, but it was all worth it to see the expression on my mother's face when I walked in the door and she realized it was me.
Before the surprise, though, there was sweat.
Sunday morning, I ran my second -- and last, for a while, because it's getting hot out here and I'm a wimp -- 10K run, the Nike Run Hit Wonder, which featured 1980s bands along the route playing music for the racers. Tommy Tutone struck up "Jenny" right as I passed the stage, and Flock of Seagulls was aptly singing "I Ran" the second time my path crossed its corner. Tone Loc was there, too, and the whole thing finished in the L.A. Coliseum with a Devo concert. About 20,000 runners showed up to compete, and it was a pretty amazing experience to run through the tunnel and come up on the field, sun shining, fellow racers cheering; somehow it all came together and pushed my legs harder and harder toward a personal record. I shaved about five minutes off my time, finishing the race in 58:52, an average of a 9:28 mile. The whole thing had me so proud, I was glowing, although that might have been the shimmer from the sheer quantity of sweat oozing down my face.
Others might shrug off that distance as a pittance, and in some senses it is, but I am as proud as if I ran a marathon. It's amazing what you can push your body to do. Granted, this is a tiny thing in the scheme of athletic and physical feats, but it's not inconsequential for me. I've always struggled to run a mile, much less two, so the day I ran three -- with stops for traffic lights, of course -- was one of my proudest. Now, suddenly, and I don't quite know how I made it happen, I can run 6.2 miles and I have a hankering to see, slowly, how far I can push myself.
After the race, I rushed home, stretched, showered, and started to pack. I had a couple hours to get to the airport; Kevin took me, which was pretty cool of him, and it was kind of a touching moment in our brief history when we said goodbye. He's so great. He was bummed I'd be gone and I was bummed to leave him, but excited that I'd get a chance to see my sisters and my mother together in one trip. And let's face it -- it was only five days.
I flew JetBlue, which is great because of the DirecTV, although I spent most of the time writing my ER recap. At midnight, we touched down on the Dulles tarmac, and Julie was there to greet me with a big hug and a bottle of Diet Coke in the car. Bless that woman. She knows me so well. We headed out to Maryland the next afternoon; when we arrived, Alison wasn't home, and my mother was sitting on the living room floor playing with the twins. Julie walked in and chatted with her, and I strolled in casually behind her. "Hey, Mom, how's it going?" I asked lightly. She turned to look at me, stared silently at me for a second, then made a sort of choking noise of recognition. Her mouth dropped open. "Oh my GOD," she finally sputtered, too startled to even get up from her spot on the carpet. I ran over and threw my arms around her, and when I pulled back, tears were trickling from her eyes.
I didn't want to stop hugging her. After all the stuff that happened with Lauren, I had just wanted nothing more than a Mom hug, and I got it then and in the days following. Mom had all her girls together, and she was crying with joy; I finally had my mother with me, giving me the kind of squeeze that makes you believe again that everything really will turn out all right -- and even if it doesn't, your family can and will love you back into well-being.
Alison's surprise was as good. She waltzed in from her hair appointment with Leah clinging delightedly to her leg, and went straight past me. Then she turned and saw Maddie peeking up at her with a wide grin on her face, and she cooed at the baby. At this point, it seeped into her consciousness that Mom and Julie had enormous smiles on their faces, and that Mike looked kind of expectant, so she shifted her gaze slightly in my direction and her entire face contorted into a shocked "O." I'd gotten her, too.
It meant a lot to see her, and see her three children. Leah's adorable, and the two babies are just rays of sunshine. They're gorgeous -- all giant, inquisitive eyes and toothy smiles. Lauren's quite solemn at the moment, as she's just figured out how to crawl and is doing so like a little commando -- she doesn't really use her knees. She just trucks along on her stomach, using her elbows to scoot her little body across the floor (or in one case, under the couch). Maddie still thinks she's insane, because in her eyes, if they wait around long enough someone with warm arms will come along and pick them up and carry them across the room to the food or the bed or the couch or the toys, and it just makes more sense to her to save the energy for things she really wants to do, like play with the yellow Blue's Clues ball. It's lovely seeing their distinct personalities come out.
As for Julie... what can I say? I just don't see that girl enough. She's so wonderful -- my best friend, my sister, the most reliable smile I have in the world. I'd missed her loads. We gabbed Sunday night, cranked up music in her car as we drove out to Maryland to my other sister's house, and went out for dinner in drinks with my friend Amy and two of Julie's best friends in the world; we shopped all day Wednesday and did dinner and drinks with another of her friends that night.
We laughed so hard and so much on Tuesday and Wednesday, particularly when in the company of her pals, that I was struck with how much it sucks that Los Angeles can't pick up and move itself across the country. The rub of working in this industry is that it's hard to choose your own geography unless you're really tops in your field, or in a niche so rare that people will let you call the shots and put down your roots wherever you please. I'd forgotten just how easy it is to slip into Julie's social circle -- my memories of her friends are tops, but to get there and have them be even cooler than I'd remembered was both fun and a little depressing. I've got to find a way to get out there more often so that I can share in it; after all, I'm used to relating to Julie as my friend and my sister, but it's fun and refreshing and frankly really damn cool to see her being someone else's friend. Someone else's smile. Someone else's belly laugh. She's all those things to me so often, but usually it's just the two of us, so I forget what it's like to watch her delight other people. She does it so well, and it's effortless because she doesn't realize that's what she's doing. She's just being herself, and people are just loving her because they can't help but do so.
It was amazing to see her apartment and her car and get a mental picture of her world. I hate that I'm not a more consistent part of it, but I guess that's the trouble with getting older -- it gets tougher to bridge the distance, and you have to work that much harder to keep yourself from becoming a ghost in the lives of the people you love.
Someone got here by searching for: cure for morning beer breath Reading: Slut!, by Leora Tanenbaum Watching: American Idol, dammit. Those fools always get me sucked in eventually.