Just like me when I was pregnant, we’re at 200!

Yeah, when I was pregnant with The Preschooler, I gained a horrific amount of weight and tipped the scales at 200 pounds.  When I got to the hospital, the first thing they made me do was get on a scale which…I don’t know, seemed somewhat unfair.  Hey, your water broke!  Let’s see how fat you are!

Anyway, today I’m celebrating 200 blog posts!  Yes, it’s a celebratory milestone.

But, I’ll tell you what.  If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.  I have Hambel luck, notoriously bad and often full of irony and offset by chocolate.

So, picture with me if you will, just two weeks ago when I triumphantly finished Random Contemporary.  Yes!  Let’s start editing.  Inspiration struck me mid-week and, in a startling turn of events, I plotted out all the major plot points of Random Contemporary II: Son of Contemporary.  I never plot anything.  I write as writing happens.  Look, I have too much structure in my life.  At least one thing needs to be haphazard.

Now I think I have trigger finger.

Not trigger finger as in, “Gotta shoot!!” but trigger finger as in, “my ring finger wants to turn in on itself and shrivel up and die” trigger finger.  It literally hurts to type.  At first I was thinking maybe it was some kind of dishwashing accident or strain from texting too much.  But…but, no, I think my palm is swollen.  The joint in my knuckle hurts when I hit the S or the W and, frankly, it’s terrible.  Go away, trigger finger.  I don’t want your injections or tendon releases or whatever kind of medical intervention this is going to require.  Maybe I can write an entire novel without using S’s or W’s.

Yeah.  No.

Thanks a lot of showing up right on the cusp of writing my next novel.  Helpful.

Usually, rotten luck hits me at Day Job and typically without as much carnage as my shoddy ring finger.  Take, for example, this jaunt down memory lane with my first catastrophic day of 2014:

I started out the day by trying to remain positive.  It’s a good way to start Mondays.  The first hiccup in the day, the first very faint indication that things were starting to take a turn for the worse, was when I suddenly was rendered incapable of making a conference call.  There’s no actual explanation for this, other than the fact it started out poorly and ended up completely horrific.

All I needed to do was dial a Spanish interpreter.  You had one job, telephone, one job–and that was to dial the Spanish interpreter.  Somehow I managed to incorrectly enter my passkey, so instead of completing the call, the phone disconnected.  Awesome, I thought.  Let’s just dial again.  So, this time I was sitting there, waiting for the cheerful, “Thank you for calling language services…”

What I got instead, was a breathy, “Hey baby.”

A sex line.  I misdialed by one number and got a sex line.

What the hell.

On the third attempt, I finally got the interpreter.  I was a little surprised too, but attempted to brush it off as just a hilarious anecdote to a busy day.  So, then, about an hour or so later, I had to call a doctor’s office.  The patient had given me said doctor’s telephone number.  Or rather, should I say, the doctor’s presumed telephone number.  Because, when I called the telephone number, I didn’t get the doctor.

I got a pay phone in a high school.  In New Hampshire.

What.  I mean, this on its own is a little beyond words.  They’re still using pay phones in high schools?  Sure, there was a pay phone at the high school I went to…but that was, oh, lets say a handful of years ago.  The last time I used a pay phone, I’m fairly sure, was when I was taking the trolley home from school, didn’t have a cell phone, and needed a ride because of snow/rain/monsoon whatever.  And yeah, that last sentence sounds like it took place in approximately 1925.  Whatever.

So, with all this leading up for the end of my day, imagine my lack of surprise when my car broke down.  In the parking lot.

Ta-da.

Look, I drive a mean little ten-year old car.  It’s got a lot of miles on it.  The first year I had it, we had to have the wiring harness replaced because a groundhog ate all the fiberglass insulation and wiring out of the engine.  Yeah.  I know, right, go ahead and reread that.  A groundhog ate my car engine (note: AAA will not tow your vehicle with a live groundhog in the engine.  Just so you know).  I know every squeak, squeal, and creak that car makes.  So, when I turned the wheel and it went clunk clunk clunk I knew something was wrong.

Something was, in fact, wrong.  In fact, it was seven hundred dollars wrong!  Somehow, despite the fact I drove to Day Job with no issues this morning, one of the struts had completely sheered off…wherever a strut would sheer off from.  The tech said he didn’t know how my tire was upright.  Awesome!  And then it needed new front brakes!  And then it needed aligned!

As my late father would have said, “Razzle frazzle.”

But, at least my ring finger worked.

Looking at the positive, I have Random Contemporary II plotted out.  And, guys, I am so excited about it!  It was like the plot sat down in my lap, firmly grasped my chin, and said, “Hey.  How you doing?”

Hello, plot.  I’ve been expecting you.

Of course, now it’s going to take a bit longer to write it since my finger doesn’t want to work.  Well, it works, but it feels like it’s going to snap off.  I swear, there’s always something.  Sex lines, busted cars, busted fingers.  That time a cop was speeding behind me during a blizzard so I pulled over to let him pass, and he in turn pulled me over to see why I was pulling over to let him go around.  Because you’re driving 45 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone in the middle of a blizzard without your headlights on.  You make me nervous.

As one of my Facebook friends summed up, “Only you, Heather.”

Yes.  That’s how I roll.

Sass, accounts payable, and the one where I lose my cool

You may remember from this post when The Toddler got corn stuck in his nose.  For the second time, actually, but in short, we ended up taking him to Urgent Care to see if a medical professional could extract the corn in a medically professional way.  She couldn’t.  In fact, it was me who ended up getting him to blow the corn out of his nose using nothing more than bribery and the promise of milkshakes.  Who needs a doctor when you have your mother?

Present day Heather is scowling at past day Heather demanding to know why she didn’t go to medical school.

So, recently I received a bill for said services.  Part A of the bill was $210 for just showing up at Urgent Care.  Part B of the bill was over $600 for doctor’s services.  Doctor’s services which, may I reiterate, did not amount to anything more than, “Well, take him to the emergency room tomorrow unless he starts hemorrhaging.  Then take him tonight.”

Uh huh.

So, upon closer inspection of the bill, I noticed it hadn’t been run through my insurance.  Okay, well maybe that’s still pending.  I gave it a week or so and checked incoming claims on my insurance website.  Nothing.  So, that means it’s time to call.

Once upon a time, people called companies to resolve payment issues.  At some point, some genius decided he could improve on this practice and invented billing departments.  These billing departments were supposed to give us more expedient services.  Don’t bother the receptionist, when you can just talk to a billing specialist!  It’ll save you time!  It’s the best thing ever!!  Our lives are saved.

So I called this billing department.  Me, the professional individual who talks on the phone every day of my life and handles customer issues for upset customers.  Me, the person who is very nice on the phone, even when people are screaming at me.  Nice.  Everyday.

The billing specialist–we’ll call him a billing specialist–said he needed to confirm some security information to make sure I was A Legitimate Person and not just causing trouble.  I guess.  Anyway, I gave him my address.  My telephone number.  The 47 digit and three letter account number on the bill.  The Toddler’s birthdate.

There was a pause.  “Could he have another birthdate?”

No.  No, he cannot have another birthdate.

This is where things began to go wrong.  I pointed out that the patient in question is two and a half years old and I am his mother.  I provided my husband’s birthday, incase it was recorded under his name.  I gave him my birthday incase it was under my name because I’m the primary on the insurance.

He said, “Let me put you on hold.”

So, there I sat for almost ten minutes on hold, waiting while this fool billing specialist I assume went to speak to a supervisor.  For all I know, he went to the break room and got a bag of chips, because when he finally came back he said, “I’m sorry.  You haven’t provided us enough information to confirm you actually have any relationship with this patient.”

What.  What??  I said, “But I gave you my address, my phone number, and my account number.  I am his mother.”

He immediately got defensive.  “Ma’am, by law I cannot release any information to you about this patient.  We can’t confirm you have any business asking questions on this account.”

For starters, do not challenge my knowledge of HIPAA.  Don’t.  And second, it’s my kid.  I know his birthday.

“I said, fine, look maybe you can just help me out with this question.  I just need to find out what to do to get this resubmitted through my insurance.”

“Ma’am, I already told you, I can’t give you any information.  I can only answer general questions that are not related to the bill you’re referencing.”

Something in my brain went ping at this point and I started to get…well, at this point we’ll call it sassy.  I said, “Fine.  Fine, let’s say for example that a random person and her child show up for services at Urgent Care.  And let’s say, for example, the random person received a bill in the mail and the bill hadn’t been run through insurance first.  In this example, what would that person have to do to have it run back through insurance?”

“Well, I could do that over the phone.”

By the time I heard the words that escaped from my mouth, it was far too late to reel them back on in.  What I heard my mouth say was, “But only if I can prove I pushed the child out of my vagina, right.”

Silence.  Finally, he said, “Yeah.”

I said, “And what kind of documentation would you need to prove that the child is mine?  A copy of his birth certificate?”

He thought for a moment.  “Probably.”

Probably.  Probably?  A birth certificate filed with the state of Pennsylvania is not acceptable proof that I gave birth to the child and enough that I can get a billing question answered?  What do you need, the delivery report and confirmation of the time the umbilical cord was cut?  A picture of me holding him in the delivery room?  It’s a billing question.  It’s not an application for employment with the FBI.

I said, “You know what?  Thanks for nothing.”  I hung up the phone.

I stormed out of the conference room and relayed said information to my coworkers.  My friend Brian said, “Isn’t that your husband’s  name?”

“What?”

“Are you talking about your husband?  Why would he have corn in his nose?”

I had to go back and explain that no, I was discussing my child and not my husband.  Two separate names here, buddy.  You’ve got the names confused.  He nodded and said, “I was wondering what kind of weird shit you people were into.  I can’t believe you said ‘vagina’ to someone.”

It’s a medical term.

My friend Court said, “You should just call the Urgent Care and see if they can help you.”

Excellent idea!  So, I called the Urgent Care we went to and the very helpful receptionist on the other end said, “Oh, I see they had his birth year wrong.  That’s no big deal.  I’ll fix it in the system and then I’ll call billing and get them to resubmit it to insurance.”  Five minutes later, she called back to confirm she’d done what she said and to disregard the bill.  They’d handle it.

That, friends, is customer service.  “Press 4 for billing questions” is not building a better mouse trap.  It’s pissing off perfectly rational people and making them say “vagina” in anger.  Lashing out irrationally and dropping the V bomb.  Move over F bomb.  The V bomb just leveled the playing field.

He was born at 7:00pm, by the way.  And because I was only in labor for four hours, I look ravishing in the delivery room picture.  So there.

Take that, Productivity! Random Contemporary is finished!

In a stunning display of time management, I blew my previously heralded deadline of “finishing Random Contemporary by the end of the month” out of the water and finished it Sunday night.  Here’s what I’ve been doing since then: light editing and sleeping.  I stayed up until after midnight Friday, 2:30am Saturday and 12:30am Sunday to crank out almost one hundred pages.

The Stats:

  • 317 pages
  • Twenty-six chapters
  • 91,466 words

And I dropped the F bomb 46 times.  Eeeesh.

Soooo, here we are!  Back to the editing game, the one where I discover instances of typing “crotch” instead of “couch” or find out I named a character one thing in Chapter Three and then ended up calling them something different in Chapter Eighteen.  Good times.  I’m particularly interested to read through and see what kind of bundles of chaos I left myself.  I had a nasty habit of falling asleep when I was writing.  For example, during my marathon writing weekend, I fell asleep on Friday and woke up to find I’d been typing about warm hugs.  Yeah, so, it’ll be interesting.

Meanwhile, a girl’s thoughts turn to what next writing project will tickle her fancy.  I’m at a crossroads of what I want to write, which is never good, but I’ve narrowed it down to my previously started Edwardian novel: picking up where I left off, finishing it up and editing (boom).  I don’t have a ton written, maybe fifty pages or so, but I had a lot plotted out in my head.  So, yeah, no guarantee I’m going to remember three plot points from that.

Or, option two, is the sequel to Random Contemporary.  Yes.  I adore the characters too much to just leave them where I left them, doing what they were doing.  Dropping the F Bomb, you know.  Anyhow, I have a vague idea of a plot for the sequel.  Nowhere near as detailed as what I’ve got for the historical.

So, I’ve got no clue.  Historical or Random Contemporary II?  Here’s what most likely going to happen: I’ll work on editing Random Contemporary.  Then, while my beta readers are reading it, I’ll hop between Old Historical and Random Contemporary II.  Let the muse decide.

It sounds like a really good plan as I go back and reread that last paragraph.  Here’s hoping my productivity lasts longer than just getting up and making a sandwich.  Momentum, guys!  Gotta stick with the momentum!

Tandem parenting and other weekend notes

I was called a fast talking Yankee yesterday.  It was probably true.

Here in the slums of Western Pennsylvania, the weather has morphed from gray skies and nonstop snow to gray skies and nonstop rain.  Statistically speaking, it’s always overcast here.  That’s how you can tell the kids from Western Pennsylvania.  We go outside on a partially sunny day and say, “I’m blinded!  Someone give me my sunglasses.”  I’m like Gollum.  It burns us.

Anyway, so, seeing that we haven’t had a nice day since, I don’t know, September, The Hubs and I took The Rowdy Boys to the mall to play in the children’s play area.  This is typically my worst nightmare because…it’s like a giant bag of cats.  Just squirming, screaming, running children everywhere.

The Preschooler went one way, the Toddler went the other.  The Hubs and I decided maximize our parenting powers: he kept an eye on The Preschooler and I kept an eye on The Toddler.  Tandem Parenting!  Look at us managing our children out in public, with the eyes of the world (or at least the eyes of distracted parents on their cell phones) critically judging how we’ve taught our children to behave and interact with other, crazed, juvenile human beings.  It’s the test of all tests.

And then, two little brats tried to bully my baby.

Now, let’s discuss The Toddler.  He’s a scrappy twenty-five pounds.  At his two-year appointment, the doctor informed he that he’d only grown half an inch since his eighteen month appointment and, in fact, was in the 15th percentile for height and weight.  He’s a short, skinny little dude and the only blond in a house of dark-haired people.  Upon entering the play area, he took command of a car; pretending to drive and frantically spinning the steering wheel, no doubt mimicking how I drive in the snow.  At one point, he had four little girls crammed in the car with him.

I’ve never been prouder.

Anyway, anyway, the little girls ran off (typical) and these two little boys approached the car.  They were probably five or six–older than The Preschooler even–and the taller one said, “Hey kid.  Get out of that car.”

The Toddler ignored him.  Kept driving.

At that point, I was already set to intervene, but The Hubs made me sit still.

The other brat said, “Where’s your mom, kid?  Go get your mom and stop being selfish.”

The Toddler ignored him.  Kept driving.

The first brat backed up into some bizarre karate stance and said, “I’m gonna get you out of there, kid.  It’s our turn.  Where’s your mom?”

The Toddler turned and sighed very dramatically, then returned to driving.  A girl crawled in the seat next to him.

The bullies, defeated, went to harass some little kids sitting in plastic tree trunk.

Victory!  My skinny little two-year old was half the size of the bullies, yet, he didn’t let them phase him.  They didn’t bother him, because he pretty much ignored them.  It’s hard to bully a kid who flat-out just isn’t interested.  Sometimes I think I need to be more like that; less defensive when I’m critiqued or criticized and more the laid back, “Whatever.”

I’ve probably told this story a thousand times, but I’m old and easily forgetful.  Back in the day, I was writing a novel that took place post WWII.  The main male character had lost his legs in the war and, when he came back, was trying to deal with both his mental and physical scars, as well as fall in love with the main female character.  I was part of a critique group then and, upon reading my submitted chapter, I got the feedback of (and this is paraphrased because I long ago deleted the email), “This is wholly unbelievable.  No one would ever love him because, frankly, he’s a monster.”

That sound you hear is me getting really, really angry and saying words that would shock my mother.

Was it bullying?  Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it hurt me enough that I abandoned the project.  That, friends, is letting the bullies win.  I should have been more like The Toddler: sigh very dramatically and keep on driving.

This weekend I’m going to keep on driving with Random Contemporary.  After all the responsible things are done, you know: cleaning, grocery shopping, tandem parenting, and maybe another bowl of celebratory ice cream.  I’ll find something to celebrate, darn it.  Any excuse to partake in some ice cream or wine is a darn legit excuse in my book.  I got another five pages written last night.  I had to stay up until one thirty in the morning to do it, but it got done.

So, this fast talking Yankee isn’t going to take bullying this weekend.  I might take your distractions and I’ll take your wine, but I’ve put myself on a deadline.  Random Contemporary has to be finished by the end of the month. You heard it here first.  Actually, you heard first in the last blog post, but it bears repeating.

Now, once I find some more free time, we’ll be good to go.  Challenge accepted.

It’s a blog-a-versary! Let’s jam.

Happy two-year anniversary, Rambling Jour!  Two years ago…yesterday…I started writing, with a really lame post that no one read.  How far we’ve come!  I mean, sometimes I still write lame posts.  But, at least occasionally people read them.

Here’s some more goodness that happened over the past few days:

  • Got our septic tank pumped
  • Decided to sponsor a child in Albania
  • Wrote over thirty pages in Random Contemporary

As for item one, the goodness of this fun-filled fact goes without saying.  We’re all very excited.

Item two: I used to sponsor a child, waaaaaay back when I worked a sales job and, literally, about twenty minutes before the economy crashed.  And I’m referring to the crash in like, 2008, and not 1929.  You know, to clarify.  Anyway, I wasn’t able to keep sponsoring because I was broke and it was depressing.  Recently I’ve been thinking about doing it again and, lo and behold, I got an email last night from World Vision about new areas that just opened up for the program.  I clicked on the link in the email to see what areas had opened up (further research showed the information was, in fact, actually at the bottom of the email) and…look, I know that the site just randomly picks a kid’s picture to display first.  But, when I saw this little girl’s picture, I just couldn’t shut the browser down.  She’s from Albania, which was perfect because The Hubs was deployed to Kosovo–that part of the world is really important to us.  I gave it absolutely no further thought and decided to sponsor her.  I feel really good about my decision.  So, that’s how I decided to celebrate The Rambling Jour’s anniversary: Sponsorship!  I’m not going to qualify myself as a philanthropist at this particular junction, but it’s nice to feel like a blessing to someone.

Meanwhile, I’m totally stoked over item three, which is the ongoing development of Random Contemporary.  Or, as I’ve actually titled it, With Me Now.  You know, as a side note, I really need to start referring to Random Contemporary by its given name.  It would be like referring to The Preschooler as “Older Child” and The Toddler as “Younger Child.”  I even titled my last back up file as “RC Backup.”  Yeah.  Maybe it’s because I never assumed we be where we’re at: seventeen chapters in and pushing 300 pages.  No, when I started Random Contemporary (see?), it was this little side fling because I’d written myself into a wall on the historical fiction I’d started.  It was just a distraction.  Now it’s real life!

But, I digress.

So, Random Contemporary is at approximately 270 pages right now.  And, in a scary turn of events, I’ve got the rest of the storyline roughly plotted out in my head.  Words like “plotted out” are a little disconcerting to me.  Now, there’s a plan.  Now, there’s a firm finale in the works.

Conveniently, I’ve also written the final two chapters.  This makes actually getting to the end that much easier, because the end is already there waiting.

Spoiler: I’m already thinking sequel.

Goals for finishing Random Contemporary, you ask?  Well, I’d like to finish the first draft by the end of April.  Because, look.  Here’s what’s going to happen if it takes longer than that: I’m going to get distracted with reenacting.  The 150th Anniversary of Monocacy is in July and this kid’s going to be there.  I’m going to get all dramatic and caught up in men in uniform and spry gents with delightful beards.  This absolutely cannot happen prior to finishing Random Contemporary.  Monocacy leads to Gettysburg, Gettysburg leads to the next season of Doctor Who starting, and next thing you know it’s Christmas and I’m grumpy.  Stay focused, Heather.  Put down the wine, zip up your hoodie, and write.

Which, yes, I will do once Frozen is over.  Promise.

Writing from the asylum

I have a board on Pinterest called Smiles, which started out as a nice little board with nice little inspirational sayings.  Somehow it’s morphed into a board of pins that make me laugh so hard, I weep.  Literally.  The other night, when I should have been in bed sleeping, The Hubs and I were on the Smiles board, laughing so hard (and so quiet, because the Rowdy Boys were in bed) that we were crying.  Anyway, that’s a pointlessly long introduction to the fact I have a pin that reads:

Sometimes I sit quietly and wonder why I am not in a mental asylum.  Then I take a good look around at everyone and realize……maybe I already am.

Here’s an example.  Last night, The Preschooler was drinking sarsaparilla.  Actually, he was drinking root beer, but we call it sarsaparilla.  He sat on the couch next to me, took a drink, and said, “Ahh, sweet lover.”

Um.

Look, sometimes I feel super well put together and like I’m Super Mom: working full-time and being responsible and buying vegetables because vegetables are good for children.  And then, there’s other times when I’m tripping over things, working an entire half day of work before realizing my pants were unzipped, and saying “um” and “like” too much because I’m socially awkward.  Well, sometimes I’m socially awkward.  And then, sometimes I’m a media darling (see here).  More often than not, I’m just….pressed for time.

I once watched a Lifetime movie where the main character was institutionalized because she was stressed at work.  I guess it was a bad thing, I mean, sure she was sort of locked in her room at night.  But, there was a very nice staff of very nice British people doing her laundry, making her bed, and giving her the daily schedule of meal options and activities.  And all this fool woman wanted to do was escape.  Beating people over the head with flashlights to steal their keys and try to escape, trying to shimmy over an electric fence, trying to seduce one of the guys in charge so maybe, just maybe, he’d let her go.  That’s not an institution.  That’s a vacation.  You just happen to be locked in your room.  But there are activities.  And someone is cooking for you and doing your laundry.

I fail to see the downside of that, Lifetime.  I mean, try to make at least one aspect of it undesirable.  Feed her Soylent Green or something (anyone?  Anyone?  “Soylent Green is people!!!  Soylent Green is people!!!”).

My biggest dream (other than the dream where Tom Hiddleston shows up at my front door) is a writer’s retreat.  Facebook has been taunting me recently with ads for agent/writer retreats where you just hang out in Vermont with an agent, eat delicious food, and talk about your novel.  Even Amtrak has a program now where you can apply for a writer’s residency and just zoom about on a train for a couple of days, writing and watching the countryside crawl past.  Here’s the link, but from what I’ve read, you have a better chance of catching Bubonic Plague than getting selected.  Everyone’s applying (except me because…no, actually, I don’t have a legitimate excuse why I haven’t applied).  Just a couple of days or a weekend, spent writing and not grocery shopping, cleaning, doing laundry, or debating if my tire really is flat or if it just looks flat.  Such a fantasy (other than the fantasy where Tom Hiddleston shows up at my front door….)

Until that happens (the retreat, not the Tom Hiddleston part.  Stay focused), I’m writing during my lunch break at work.  I’m staying up waaaay too late and sleeping waaaaay too little.  This weekend I actually have a ton of writer-ly things that need done for Anything You Ask of Me.  And…obviously I’m not doing them.  I have to do them though, (by Monday) so, the sooner they’re done, the sooner I get back to Random Contemporary.  You know, in between trying to keep the Toddler from running around the house without pants on and spilling coffee on myself.  Or, my personal favorite, not realizing I have Pop Tart smeared on my clothes until we’re out in public.

So, if you’re out at the grocery store today and see someone wearing Pop Tart stained jeans, standing amongst the bananas and writing novel notes on the back of an envelope with a broken crayon, chances are it’s me.  Just, you know, utilizing my time to the fullest.

 

The Missing Stairs OR My hour and a half as an archeolgist

It pains me to say it, but this year marks ten years since I graduated from college.  It was 2004 and my hair color was currently blonde.  I was convinced my fresh, magna cum ladue graduating, 3.93 GPA Communications Bachelor degree with a specialization in corporate communications was going to promptly lead to a job in communications/public relations/corporate communications.

Hahahahahahahahaha.

What happened instead, was The Hubs came home from military deployment and we moved to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where we earned seven dollars per day as volunteers with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  That is, until the volunteer funding ran out and we worked to earn free park housing.

That’s the kind of thing you only do when you’re independently wealthy, or twenty-two years old.

Most of our time was spent as period dressed interpreters, meaning I spent eight hours a day in a corset, hoop skirt, and dress running a Dry Goods Store.  The Hubs ran the Provost Marshall’s office.  It’s a separate blog post entirely, but in short it was really fun and we did a lot of crazy things the general population doesn’t do, such as but not limited to sassing Confederate soldiers when they steal bread from your dry goods store.  Have said Confederate pick you up and put you back in your dry goods store.  Smack soldier with a broom.

Anyway.

At some point, it was decided that the current bus depot in Lower Town was going to be moved like, 200 yards to the left and a nice, covered pavilion constructed to keep the elements off park visitors.  Before you can do this kind of thing in a historic district, you first do an archeological survey.  You know, just in case something really, really awesome and/or important is laying underneath the pavement.

My writer brain said, “We’re totally going to find a body.”

The park service knew exactly what was under the pavement.  They knew that it was the site of a two story house, probably used as housing for US Armory and Arsenal employees prior to the Civil War.  The structure was destroyed in a flood in the early part of the 20th century.  There were full time archeologists with the park, but it was a pretty big job–that had to be finished as fast as possible–so a bunch of us volunteers from around the park got to help out.

It was all very exciting.  In fact, Random Contemporary (which currently stands at 206 pages and apparently is more than just a distraction from what I normally write) is about an archeology student helping out with an archeological survey in Gettysburg.  And, in her survey, they found something pretty exciting.

In 2004, during our archeological survey, we didn’t.

We found lots of broken nails.  We found a rat skull.  We found modern day beer bottles and broken glass and lots and lots of rocks.  I cannot stress enough that we found a lot of rocks.

And then, just before the dig was over, we found a staircase.

The staircase probably at once led from the main floor of the structure down into a cellar.  In fact, at the base of the stairs we found a lot of garbage: broken pieces of porcelain.  They were probably pieces of dishes or cups that had shattered, white porcelain with intricate blue or green designs.  Occasionally, we’d find two pieces and could fit them together like puzzle pieces.  It was strange, holding these tiny shards of the past in your hand, knowing that over one hundred and fifty years ago, someone else held them.  Discarded them.  Forgot them.

That was the haunting thing about the missing stairs.  They once had been an integral part of someone’s day to day life.  A person, long forgotten to history, tramped up and down the stairs without thinking about it, much like I go up and down my stairs here at home.  They took them for granted, they really didn’t think much about not having them.  Then, before long, the house was gone.  The stairs were missing.

I think, for me, my dad is my missing stairs.  I never thought I’d grow up without him, yet, here it’s been over seven years since he passed away.

And now, back in Harpers Ferry, the stairs are missing again.  Once the survey was finished, the pit was filled in and paved over.  A pavilion and concrete bus depot sit over our site, solidifying that fact that, unless something changes, no one will ever see the stairs again.

Depressing.  Ugh, I hate to be such an immense buzz kill.  On a more positive (and somewhat related note), I have the rest of Random Contemporary plotted out, a storyline which leans heavily on the concept of the Missing Stair; that is, something long ago lost.  If I stop being so distracted with things like television, Facebook, and Day Job, I’d anticipate finishing it up pretty soon.  That’s something my dad would be proud of.  And, unlike The Missing Stairs, I’ll never forget him.

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