Nine summers ago, over this very holiday weekend–though not the same date–I was in my mom’s bedroom when she got the call from her friend Sherri’s uncle telling her that Sherri had been killed in a car accident.

My mom and Sherri–along with my mom’s best friend Lisa and their friend Laura, who lives in New York–had been friends since high school, and Sherri lived pretty close to the house we moved into when I was 13. In fact, we’d looked at a house even closer to Sherri’s.

I remember going over on occasion, and I remember her kids, Andrew and Ashley, who were 6 and 13 when Sherri died. And then after she died, we all kind of lost touch.

Then, within the past few months, Ashley saw my mom in the mall, walked up to her, and said hi. If I remember right, Ashley’s seen us all out before but just wasn’t sure if we’d remember her, but we all absolutely do. I wouldn’t have recognized her had she approached me, but the second she said her name, I’d know who she was. My mom, however, did recognize her, and she says she looks a lot like Sherri.

Ashley filled my mom in a bit on the past nine years–her dad started dating not too long after Sherri died, they were still together until the past few weeks, and she and Ashley never got along well. It’s a relationship that all around sounds like it’s been a cause of stress and conflict between not just Ashley and the girlfriend but Ashley and her dad, too. But Ashley mentioned wanting to get together with my mom, so they went out to lunch one day, and it was probably good for Ashley.

Since Paul moved, I haven’t been back in the area much. In the meantime, Ashley’s seen the rest of my family out and about quite a bit, and maybe a month or so ago, she messaged me saying she’d love to get together sometime. I explained that I hadn’t been home in awhile but said when I was gonna be around for a substantial period of time, I’d be in touch.

That finally rolled around this weekend. I had a hair appointment and whacked down what little hair I do have, then I met up with Ashley for lunch at Shogun. And really, all we did was eat and talk for a couple hours about everything from family troubles to friend troubles to just general chat about animals and jobs and stuff. I think it was good for both of us, and she’s pretty cool. And when we were planning it, she was telling me how cool I seemed and how excited she was, and someone having that high praise for me and that much interest in spending time with me–not counting Paul, duh–is pretty new to me.

My mom mentioned later that it was kind of weird, too, that we were almost like the second generation of Sherri and my mom and that we met up over Labor Day weekend, the same holiday weekend when Sherri died. To make matters even creepier, Sherri died in a car accident leaving Kennywood, and we ended up driving down that very road past the park on our way to Burgatory to celebrate Brandon finishing college, which was a fun trip.

Burgatory’s a really cool place, and I appreciate that they make veggie burgers. I know it seems really counterintuitive for a vegetarian to want to be included at a burger joint, but I really do love when businesses have vegetarian-friendly menus that aren’t extremely exclusionary. It’s really easy for people to throw together a pasta and a salad and call it a vegetarian menu, but at Burgatory, you’re not really limited. Sure, some of the menu items aren’t cut out for you, but you have the option to create your own burger, and it’s awesome. While they don’t taste like a proper burger, you’re still getting a great sandwich and nearly the full Burgatory experience with it. Good job, Burgatory, cornering that vegetarian market!

Meanwhile, I expected to have to try to convince my mom that I’m not a hoarder, but the subject never came up. Oh, she’s still pissed about the dissatisfactory state of my car, but she didn’t call me a hoarder, and I’m trying to just let it slip by without turning into a fight, especially because she and I have very similar tempers and can fight nasty. But I do have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow night to discuss this, and I fully expect him to tell me she’s wrong. When I tell her that, if I tell her at all, is up for debate, what with avoiding a screaming match and all.

I went to church Sunday for once, since mass was for Grandma Pawski, and we went out for breakfast afterward. I hung out for a little bit and then spent the rest of the long weekend at Paul’s, mostly lounging. We ventured out earlier today to buy him a vacuum and have lunch at Chipotle, but mostly we write, play on the internet, and try to work our way through a very large Netflix queue.

And listen to his gecko crawling around her little cave in the middle of the night, of course. And apparently, I had a small conversation in my sleep with Paul last night after he came to bed late.

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