five / friends / writing

The Year of Thirty-Five

New Years. We went to Traci’s, as we always do. Last year, it was really just me, Traci, Valerie, and George, with Lynne and Ross dropping in for a few hours each. This year, it was me, Traci, Valerie, George, Artoo, Ross for a few hours, Dwight, and Nancy. I will confess to not looking as forward to this one as to celebrations past. First, I was slightly uncomfortable with Dwight and Nancy being there. When Dwight taught at HBA, he demonstrated very little interest in maintaining any kind of off-campus friendship with us. We would try to invite him and his wife Nancy to our various activities, but while they were two very, very nice people, they seemed to make it clear that they didn’t want to hang out with us.

So while I don’t like to admit it, I was slightly annoyed that they suddenly dropped back into our lives on short notice, calling George and wanting to get together. It’d been a year and a half since any of us had heard from Dwight (he and Nancy moved to Pennsylvania) and his just dropping back in like that, assuming a level of friendship that never really existed, miffed me. I know, I know: I’m begin petty again. I’m just a little frustrated about some of the weird group-dynamics stuff that’s been going on.

It ended up being much nicer than I expected to see Dwight and Nancy. It made me regret my initial feelings of resentment, but it also made me sad that we never really hung out when he lived here. Married people just live differently, I guess.

And maybe I’m imagining it, but we are losing Traci at an amazing rate. It makes sense, but I wasn’t ready for it, I guess. We are now the second-tier friends. Or, wait, no, I guess we’re still first-tier friends, but of course we become less important when the significant other enters the picture. Especially when the significant other has almost nothing in common with the rest of us. I still loved hanging at Traci’s, but I had the weirdest, most uncomfortable feeling that I wished Traci wasn’t there.

What’s happening to me? I am just not like this–with friend situations, I think I typically take the changes as they come and just deal. Perhaps this particular group of friends–Traci, George, Ross, and Valerie–means a lot more to me than groups of friends I’ve had in the past, and these dramatic changes bother me more than I’m used to.

We had a really nice time, although the usual games-playing (Artoo is not a games-player) was replaced with just hanging out and talking. Since were just sorta sitting around, we lost Valerie and George to sleep much earlier than we used to.

On the huge plus side, I got a chance to begin Tobias Wolff’s Old School, a novel given me by Anto, while the others played with fireworks. Very good novel, so far.

I turned thirty-five on Monday, the day I had to return to work from Christmas break. I would normally use one of my days of personal-leave on my birthday, but I just took a personal-day on the Tuesday of the last week before Christmas break began, and I hate the idea of using both of my personal-days in consecutive school-weeks.

Sunday, I woke up early and gathered my stuff and caught the bus to school. It was a practice run. Since I’ve decided not to fix the clutch in my car until maybe late February, I am now a pedestrian and bus-rider. It was a successful practice run. I got home at around two, took a nap, then went to Cathy’s (again, on the bus) to watch the Sugar Bowl. Then we picked Anto up at the airport and Cathy dropped me off at home.

Then I got everything ready. Clothes. Books. Backpack. Reading material in case a bus was late. The only thing I didn’t have was lunch. So I whipped up some of my killer beef stew (I’m serious–I love this stuff!), which cooks slowly in a low-temp oven for five hours. Then off to bed at a really disciplined hour.

But then I had to get up at two-thirty to take the stew out of the oven and set it on the table, so it could cool, and of course I had to eat a small bowl just to make sure it was good (oh, it was good, all right). Then Valerie called me (she knew I’d be up to get the stew taken care of) to say happy birthday and then I was back to sleep by three.

I set the alarm for five-thirty. I woke up at nearly seven.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I do not know whether the alarm-clock malfunctioned or I simply shut it off in my sleep, but I did know that there was no way in the world I was getting to school on time. I had to call Cathy to bail me out. She wasn’t going back to work until the next day, so she drove to my house. I dropped her off at home and then drove to school, getting there in plenty of time.

Not a great start to thirty-five, but then if you look at it a different way, it was a great start, because in my first real major problem of the year, I had a friend to help me out of my mess. I do love my friends.

Cathy, Valerie, and I went for dinner at Panda’s and then to Barnes and Noble to just hang out. It was the best hanging-out I’ve had in some time. We looked at some children’s books (did you know it’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Frog and Toad books?) and then sat down for some hot drinks and reading. I printed up my NaNoWriMo novel and Valerie had it spiral-bound. There are only three copies–one for me, one for Valerie, and one for Cathy. Valerie, because she knows better than anyone else what I’m trying to do with my writing and she’ll be merciless-but-loving in her critique. Cathy because she was actually with me during the writing of most of it.

We all got home by nine-thirty. It was a nice, mellow birthday and I don’t think there’s any way I’d rather have spent this one.

I did get up in time on Tuesday to make the bus ride, but more about riding the bus perhaps this weekend.

Tuesday was Valerie’s birthday. We were taken to dinner at Zia’s in Kaneohe. Ross, George, Traci, Amy, Cathy, Dawn (yay!), Lynne, and Anto treated us. Normally, Valerie and I have pretty expensive taste, especially for special days such as our birthdays, but we were a little worried that people might not come if we went somewhere more expensive. Zia’s is pretty-good food (though the reviewers don’t seem to think so), but the prices are wonderfully reasonable and the ambience for something like a birthday party is swell. At one point, near the end, I asked Valerie if she thought we’d have had a better time at Cafe Sistina (it’s our favorite restaurant) and she agreed that we wouldn’t. And each person’s share of our dinners was a dollar and fifty cents. For both our meals. It was an all-around success.

Speaking of my NaNovel, I finally uploaded the rest of the novel, so if you wanna read it, just click the link in the column
on the left. I’ll leave it up until the end of the month.

This week’s Friday Five isn’t up yet, so I’ll do last week’s.

What one thing are you most looking forward to:

  1. today?
    There are only a couple of hours left in today, so I’ll take the question to mean Friday. What I’m most looking forward to is getting home Friday afternoon and not having to be anywhere at any time until Sunday morning.
  2. over the next week?
    Pay day. No contest.
  3. this year?
    On a completely impersonal level, I’m really looking forward to the Summer Olympics and, of course, the baseball season. More meaningfully, I look forward to continuing the slow, steady improvement of my personal life. I am going to get my act together this year.
  4. over the next five years?
    I’ll be forty in five years. I look forward to two major events: the publication of my first novel and my wedding.
    Mrs. Dwyer, you have five years to find me! The clock is ticking!
  5. for the rest of your life?
    Wow. That’s quite a question. I guess what I’m most looking forward to is being a husband and father, although that’s not the most important thing. I can quite peacefully accept, if it comes to it, the realization that I will be neither father nor husband, while there are many other things that I absolutely can’t do without. Still, what I most want is the family.

    Fantasy answer: I look forward to the day I give my Newbery Medal acceptance speech in front of the American Library Association.

quick, random opinion:
Great band you’ve never heard of: Evergrey.

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