On the morning of my wedding, I was lying in the hotel bed that I had shared the night before with my mother. Mom was getting ready in the bathroom. But I was still in bed, very absorbed in an episode of America’s Next Top Model. I have always been drawn by the novelty of freely accessible cable TV, a luxury perpetually unknown to me. After 15 minutes of inactivity, Mom looked at me and said, “Um, are you going to get out of bed and get married? Or just stay here and watch Tyra?”
When Sam was 3, he crushed his little hands in the door handle of the truck. Somehow, he’d gotten his baby fingers jammed up inside the exterior handle itself, so that Dad had to push his bruised, tiny hand even further into the metal handle to get it out. He screamed for such a long time, and it was miserable; us three girls were afraid for him, watching his chubby face contort with pain, sneaking glances at his purple fingers. Mom was in Atlanta on a business trip, which added greatly to our concern. Dad put all four of us on their big bed and turned on The Lion King, presumably hoping that the novelty of getting to watch a movie in the middle of the day would distract him from the pain. Naturally, it didn’t. We all ended up going to the ER together and waiting for hours, just for the doctors to tell us that his fingers weren’t broken and that he’d be fine.
I was rattled out of my tiny bed in the middle of the night by an earthquake, my first earthquake. I was in Oyumino, a relatively unknown suburb of Tokyo, in my host family’s home. I felt like I was dreaming. Half-awake, I looked around the room, looked at the walls and waited for things to start to fall off them, one by one, but it was my body that was shaking. Things weren’t shaking; the whole room was shaking.
The next morning at breakfast, Keiko was excited that I’d experienced an earthquake; she said it was a rite of passage for those who dared to live in Japan. She told me that no one was really much hurt by this quake, except for a teenage boy who was killed when his stereo system rattled off a shelf and crushed his skull.
I remember Spencer’s velvety gray ears, his constantly twitching nose, his long transparent whiskers, how the fur under his paws was yellowed and brown, how his testicles looked like wrinkled purple cocoons. We acquired him from our neighbor, who bought a bunch of rabbits from a pet store, in a moment of short-sighted weakness, and left them all in her backyard. Rabbits, as they are wont to do, reproduced quickly, and soon she had a semi-feral rabbit colony in her yard. I like to think we rescued Spencer from her. Dad built him a two-story bunny mansion in the backyard and lovingly stained the wood and added waterproof house shingles to the roof. When we were kind, we’d pick him up and cradle him on his back as if he were our baby. When we were unkind, we’d zip him up in purses and throw him down on the ground too roughly. He was always good to us, miraculously. Rabbits are not necessarily great pets for small children; they are nervous and tend to bite when cornered. But Spencer was astonishingly good-natured; he never bit any of us, even though he had plenty of reason to over the years.
When the cousins would go to the edge of the lake in our grandparents’ backyard, we would throw rocks from the gravel path into the water. The older cousins would yell at the younger cousins, “You can only throw the black rocks! You can’t throw the white rocks!” Because Da-Dan had reminded us that the white rocks were expensive to replace. After a few years, though, there were only white rocks left, and so we cheated a little, throwing rocks that were white-pink or white-red.
Late at night, Emily and I would cross the street from Winston over to Hooker Field as everyone was gathering. Young and fit and beautiful, everyone was converging for ultimate. We would run and run for hours under those dazzling lights. I don’t know if anyone was ever keeping score, but everyone was fiercely competitive, always vying to annihilate the randomly chosen opposing team.
Afterward, we’d talk about the gender politics of Frisbee, how we respected the men who would take a risk and throw to a woman. The Hyltons and Lydia were always the outstanding women on the field; the men trusted them. I was never remarkable, but I became somewhat dependable. I remember with great clarity the few glorious passes I threw. The surge of self-pride was something to reckon with. But it was always such an emotionally tense action, as a woman, to risk a play. If you messed up, even once, you might never get to touch the Frisbee again.