The holidays mean I’m booked solid. Every weekend, there’s something to do, somewhere to go, parents to see. This season isn’t much different. Except—and I don’t really know what to say here; I’ve typed it and backspaced a lot—except, this year, I experienced the first death of my college friend group. And, I’ve wanted to talk about it all week but it’s been so busy, so emotional, especially with this first sweep of truly bone-chilling temperatures and a Friesen family celebration this weekend (which I’ll address in greater detail later in this post).
Last weekend: I tried to rent a car.
I recently turned twenty-five and I only just left graduate school so figuring out basic things like car rental, and credit cards can be a challenge. It wasn’t until I was at Hertz that I put together how I couldn’t use my debit card on a rental with an out of state license. This provoked a crying/yelling jag rendering my morning a soup of emotion. All week, I’d wondered if I’d actually go to Logan’s funeral. Logan was at one point a serious figure to me. She was my first lesbian crush in college (freshman year I was green with envy when I realized my boyfriend was friends with the cool girl I saw at woodworth occasionally). Later, she was my neighbor and friend. But getting to Fort Wayne for the ceremony seemed hard and my last conversation with Logan had been an awkward goodbye after a strange, drunken one night stand with her and her partner.
Fortunately, my best-friend, Greg offered to drive us. He’d been my roommate at the time I lived behind Logan and Tessa. He’d been the first to tell me Logan had stage 4 melanoma and the person to relay news of her death. I was shocked. I mean, Logan could be sick, but I never thought she would die. When Greg picked me up, we smoked a cigarette on the porch and recited the litany of our day to days, our fears about the funeral, our love lives. It felt wonderful to be in familiar roles as I played out my confusion and grief.
The funeral, I guess really more of a wake, was like living a double life. On a big screen, Logan’s face smiled down in photos. We talked about her and joked about her. At one point, Tessa described returning to her life in LA and announced an idea for a new TV show. She said she’d call it, Widowzilla. We remembered our sloppiest and most loving moments with Logan shamelessly in front of her mother and her aunt. Logan was present in everyone’s voice, in the photos on the screen, in the food we ate but not really. Eventually, the college and California friends, and the more chill family retired to Logan’s brother’s house to play beer pong and do jello shots—how Logan would have wanted us to remember her. Tessa was a rock the entire time; it’s exhausting to imagine how. I’d always remembered Tessa as a little frazzled but sweet and funny and fully of light. At the party, she was a matriarch, perched somewhere and surrounded by family. I liked this image of Tessa. I pretended I could see the person she was before she met Logan peering out form the beaming person she’s become, even shining in her grief, even swearing to herself she’ll be okay.
I want Tessa to be okay and more than anything I want Tessa to feel the fire still inside her.
Over the course of the week, I’ve thought a lot about the wake and the party. I can’t say I’m coming to any conclusions but I’m starting to feel like that’s okay and maybe even good. I have this dream memory, this feeling of being back in senior year, in one of the most comfortable communities, of living hard and filling up. And, I’ll remember that feeling every time I think of Logan which is an irreplaceable gift.
This past weekend: I celebrated a tradition with my family. For the past few years, my mother has organized an event at her house called: Cookie Weekend. It stems out of my childhood and perhaps her childhood as the weekend of the year where we make as many batches of Christmas cookies as possible to gift to friends and family. This has been the first “Official” Cookie Weekend I’ve been able to attend and boy did I score. I have five containers of cookies to spare this holiday season, by far the bleakest and poorest holiday season I’ve had in almost a six years (re: the season of my parents divorce). I’m not trying to mope here but really, the last three years I was making actual money through my MFA stipend and through my work in ESL or my teaching. The years before that I was still in college, which meant Christmas Break parties or at least double Christmas at my divorced parents back when I asked for presents other than socks and money.
This year everyone is getting matching hats. I mean everyone. Sorry boutcha. But at least some people will be getting cookies and I got to spend the whole weekend getting drunk and then sober again and then drunk while mixing dough and listening to my sister’s boyfriend’s Irish band. It wasn’t all in that jumble. Leah and I made it to Goshen around 3:30 on Saturday after my mom, sister, and two sort-of aunts (momfriends) had been working and drinking since at least 10. They were a little grumpy and I was a little grumpy from a party the night before—grumpy/hungover.
Honestly, I spent a lot of time whining. For some reason, I imagined the weekend at my mom and stepdad’s to be more like a mini-vacation. They have a nice house, an entertainment center, free alcohol, free breakfast, nice showers, new carpet, etc. But, shame on me bcause
I’d forgotten, yet again, that money can’t buy you happiness this holiday season (ever).
By the time we were watching my sister’s boyfriend’s band at Fiddler’s Hearth in South Bend, I was cranky, tired, and venomous but it wasn’t super big deal because my family knows that I get this way without regular food or sleep. Eventually, we got back to my mom’s house and I passed out promptly. Leah and I spent the night fighting for sheets and kicking the dogs back and forth and slept not that much.
Despite my complaining—don’t kill me, it’s cathartic—I was reminded not to forget that money can’t buy happiness this holiday season or ever. Cookies might be able to spread a little though and so could some family ritual. Like it doesn’t have to be Cookie Weekend or anything religious but spend time with the people you love if you can please. The best part of the weekend was getting to be myself with my family even if that self was/is kind of a butthead.
**If you ask Leah about this trip to Indiana she will likely mention her battle with the icy/snowy roads as we headed back north and it should be dually noted that she was indeed v v v heroic.