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2002-05-14 - 9:11 p.m.

My sister Danielle, who wrote the nicest things about me on her site for my birthday, requested a heartfelt entry. But first, I need to tell you that Speed Levitch just left me a voicemail. Am I not the coolest person you know? Iím going to New York tomorrow for my sister Erinís graduation, and he called to confirm that he will indeed lead me and assorted others on a walking tour of the city. Oh, and if anyone has any suggestions for places I shouldnít miss, please email me. But on to the heartfelt:

When I came back from Europe, and before I moved to Austin, I lived in my mom's house, in Marietta, Georgia, in the house where I grew up. My mom had gotten remarried the year before, and moved into my stepdad's house. The idea was to fix up my stepdad's house, sell it, and then move into my mom's house. Months passed, and my mom's house stood empty, while my mom and her husband sifted through the boxes stacked up in spare rooms, and the unsold inventory from the failed card shop, and the piles of paper on the dining room table - unfinished tax returns from years back.

So my mom's house was still empty when I got back, and I moved in, taking Erin's old room, on the main floor of the house. I surrounded myself with my things - books and bookshelves and used furniture and my twin bed, the one I'd had for years. The rest of the house seemed alien to me, even though I'd grown up there. Abandoned bedrooms. Dusty family pictures. The old turntable, and the records my parents bought back when they were married. All this stuff, lying stagnant, vacant. It's hard to believe now that I lived there for almost a year, getting up at 6am or earlier every morning, struggling to leave the house by 6:45. That familiar route, all the turns and stop signs etched in my memory, the anger that would settle in the base of my throat when I saw the traffic backed up on I-75, before the sky had even lightened. I usually didn't return home until late as well; no wonder I can't remember spending any time in that house.

When I was growing up, no matter how broke we were, there was always a six pack of beer in the fridge - Miller Lite, I think - or else a cheap bottle of red wine on the kitchen counter. I suppose that's how my mom dealt with raising four children alone. She rarely drank to excess - although I can remember a few times when she did, hazy memories. Too much wine at the Catholic ice cream social (it was only later, as an adult, that I wondered how drunk she had been, and that she had driven us home). Participating a little too heavily in the University of Virginia pep band drinking games, during the UVA/Georgia Tech football game (courtesy of my brother - this exploit earned her mention in a few verses of one particular drinking song). My sister Danielle drove home that time, with my mom passed out in the back seat. She was all of fifteen years old, and only had her learner's permit. The time she and Jesse (now my stepdad) broke up; she drank too much that night so that Jesse would have to drive her home, and pick her up the next day to retrieve her car. But those times were rarities. Usually, it was a bottle of beer while she was cooking dinner, and a bottle of beer while she was cleaning up. A six pack of beer once a week doesn't go that far, I suppose.

When I lived there, I carried on the tradition, and you could usually find a cheap bottle of red wine on the kitchen counter, although I rarely remembered to drink it. It just seemed like a grown up thing to have around. My mom would come by sometimes and help herself to a glass or two. She would leave little notes on the kitchen table, waiting for me when I got home. "I owe you two glasses of wine. Love, your mama." I pictured her, sitting at the table by herself, with the late afternoon sun filtering in through the windows, drinking stale wine. I'd ask her about it later, over the phone, about why she'd come, by herself, to sit alone and drink. "The honeymoon's over, Sara," she'd sigh. "The honeymoon's over."

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