I had it wrong


What I saw: it was dark, and my alarm hadn’t gone off yet. The cat stretched out along the length of my body with his two front paws pressed gently on my chin. I was up early to drive the Bacon Provider to the train.

Late fall dawn, Bedhead Hills

What I did beforehand: dreamed about fence-building, and getting knocked over by an eagle.

What I wore: tiger t-shirt (“I just chugged four beers!”), TomboyX flannel jammies pants, insulated waterproof Irish boots, big parka, fingerless mittens.

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Who went with me: my husband of thirty years. 

How I got a ticket: the last speeding ticket I got was about ten years ago. I was driving home from a part-time community college teaching job and failed to check my speed down a big hill past a familiar speed trap. Or maybe it was a couple of years after that, on 520 westbound, with the Graduate in the car. That time I was thinking about how bad things were, but also how much worse they could get. About this I was not wrong.

Why I saw this show: every minute I spend driving someone somewhere is another minute I don’t spend wondering why I’m here.

Where I sat: behind the wheel, listening to Tommy Wieringa’s “These are the Names.”

Mom & Dad, 1970s Xmas

Things that were funny:
the other day when we got our Xmas tree, I started thinking, as I do every year, about my mother’s thing about Christmas. Her name was Sarah, and she would have been 76 today. When I call my brothers on Christmas, they will say, “Sarah Christmas!” to me. My cousins, my mother’s sister Mary’s kids, may text me, “Sarah Christmas,” too.

According to my Aunt Mary, and both of her kids and both of my brothers, the reason we say “Sarah Christmas” is because when Mary was only 3 or 4, she heard people saying “Merry Christmas,” and understood it to mean, “Mary Christmas.” And she felt, in fairness, people should also say, “Sarah Christmas.” I checked with Mary and both of her kids and both of my brothers about this story just the other day. Because, you see, I was writing down why we say, “Sarah Christmas,” and somehow I knew the story differently.

The way I understood it, it was my mother who wanted people to say “Sarah Christmas,” not Mary. It was my mother who wanted it, because she was jealous of her younger sister. 

Now, I have always thought this, as far back as I can remember. And I think I am wrong about this. Mary is still sharp as ever, and she remembers. Both her kids remember. And both of my brothers.

So, why did I remember it wrong? Did I learn it wrong? Or, was it that I was too distracted and impatient to listen to the story when I was little, and I never bothered to get it right? Or, did my mother tell me that in secret? Or, did I invent that version, to fit my outlook on my mother?

Mary on the left, Sarah on the right, with their Daddy

Things that were sad:
I will never really know why I got it wrong. 

Something I ate: a mix of Bob’s Red Mill Honey Oat Granola and Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes with Stonyfield Farm organic 1% milk, with a large spoon.


What it is: something I will not argue I am right about, nor is it something I will revise my thinking about. It is, as they say, what it is.

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Who should say it: all of us. We should all say “Sarah Christmas.” 

Things that were not funny: on the way to town, we saw a black car sitting on the shoulder of the road. Sometimes the local police wait for speeders under the nearby bridge, so I thought maybe it was just that. 


What I saw on the way home: I got a better look at it on my way back. The ground was all torn up from the skid, and its front bumper was gone. It had spun and wound up perpendicular to the road. Only the dense brush had held it back from falling backwards into a ravine.

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A List (Because I Have Run Out of Ideas)

Schwartz and the Parking Ticket


1. There is no such thing as an idea
2. I might be wrong about number 1.
3. Words were invented by people to represent ideas.
4. Numbers were invented by people to represent quantities.
4 ½. Sometimes people mistake the symbol we use to represent a number for the actual quantity itself.
5. Not every thing I write down needs to stay on a list.
6. Cherry is getting old, and some days it’s more noticeable than others and today was one of those days.
7. Not every thing I write down in an effort to be funny turns out to be funny
8. Cats might be good at accounting but we’ll never know because who would let a cat handle their books?
9. People really liked my tweet the other day comparing Donald Trump to cat shit.
10. I lost my list of the missing stuff
11. Sometimes when I need to sing something I sing “Acres of Clams.”
12. On August 21, 2009 I watched six episodes of Hannah Montana and liked them. I think I was running a fever. The only reason I know this is because I said it on Facebook.
13. Cats remember how many kittens they have, so they probably have an idea of number.
14. I think about numbers all the time, both in the sense of numerical quantity and in the sense of the symbol for a number.
15. Whenever I see a parking ticket in the gutter in New York City, I feel sad for the person who got the ticket and doesn’t know because the ticket fell off and the fines go way up over time if you don’t pay them.
16. Sometimes I feel like writing is always going to be a struggle.
17. When I wake up really early and can’t get back to sleep I worry about things like whether I got a parking ticket that blew off my car and I don’t know it and the fines are going up right now as I lie here in the dark not sleeping and worrying about it.
18. My mom didn’t realize she was allergic to our cat until after he died and as her house got clean she started to feel better.
19. I had lots of favorite numbers as a kid, including 16, but I do not have one now. I like the number 8 for a variety of reasons but I still wouldn’t call it my favorite.
20. My friend had a cat with terrible allergies and it always struck me as kind of funny.
21. This other list said, “Find my pajamas,” and I don’t know if I ever did.
22. I don’t even have a favorite color.
23. Once I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own house in Seattle and I’d forgotten to put the new registration sticker on the license plate.
24. When I was a kid I was allowed to watch as much TV as I wanted and so I watched a lot of TV. I almost never watch TV now but I waste a lot of time on the Internet which you probably knew anyway.
25. This other time, I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own apartment building in New York and I was going in to check the mail and get the new registration sticker.
26. I am so easily distracted.
27. Once, I was house-hunting in Bedford, New York and got a parking ticket in a paid lot, and they issued the ticket about ten minutes after the time expired and the car had been there for like four hours or something so I definitely got the feeling that some police officer sat there the whole day waiting for my paid parking to expire in the town’s one public lot and the only thing he did that whole day was slap that ticket on my windshield and when I got that ticket about ten minutes after it had been written I was like, Oh, hey, guess I don’t actually wanna live here in Bedford, huh? But, maybe, in retrospect, having cops with absolutely nothing whatsoever to do is a good sign and meant that I should have come back and looked at more ranch houses. Maybe that was my error.
28. I can’t decide if cats would give parking tickets or would just piss on anything you left in a place they considered against the rules.
 29. I thought about making a list of advice for college sophomores but once I thought about it I was like, “You got this.”
30. Some lists aren’t really necessary, but they do manage to help organize one’s thoughts.