5 May 2001

This week is flying by, due to pleasant company, good news, and the fact that it effectively ends on Friday, when Mark and I leave for Milwaukee. (Note to prospective burglars: the scariest person who lives here will still be living here this weekend. Maybe second scariest? Votes?) His little brother is graduating from high school. Yay, Matt! I don't consider it a huge accomplishment to graduate from high school -- there was no doubt he could do it. I'm just really, really happy for him that he gets to move on to bigger and better things. My parents lived pretty near my high school, and it took me a little over a year to get past the "Whee! I don't have to go there any more!" feeling when I was done.

It'll be interesting, mostly because of Sarah. (Who reads my journal. Umm....) Last time I saw Sarah, we were e-mailing each other every couple of weeks. "Major news" types of e-mails. But for the last several months, we've been e-mailing about five times a week. That's a whole different level of communication. That's the level of communication where you discuss what you like for breakfast, why C.J. Cherryh is cool, and whether you vote or not and why. That is, in short, friendship level of communication.

Being an in-law, folks, is not as easy as it looks. It's not just, hey, you marry somebody, and there, you're set. There are all these people who are important to someone you love in ways you don't fully know about. Or are not important to someone you love in ways you don't fully know about. It's all very hard to predict. I think this is because parents are fairly straightforward, but siblings, siblings are hard.

As an only child, I am an inveterate sibling watcher. I've observed them in their native habitat for many years, and some truths hold. One I used to believe quite firmly is that the more kids you have, the fewer nice things you can have. By "nice," my child-brain meant "breakable" or even just "decorative." Tiffany and I were the only children in our area, and our parents had lots of nice things. Gina and Jimmer had a sibling apiece, and they had some nice stuff. And so on, to the Swobodas, who had seven kids and no room for anything that wasn't strictly functional. I thought that Mark's family was a refutation of this, since they have four kids and nice stuff, but Mark informed me that much of the nice stuff was acquired as the kids got older and left for college.

Anyway. Another firm rule about siblings is that you will not be able to tell how much they have in common, or what it is. Sometimes it's their handwriting and their quirky humor. Sometimes it's their hobbies and worldview. (This is the case for the Gritters.) And sometimes it's just the way they all set the table backwards and roll their eyes at the Superman joke their dad won't stop telling. But the problem is, you can't tell until you've been around them a significant amount of time. With my friend C.J. and his little brother Tony, I thought they had nothing in common. And then I hung around with them and started noticing the way they moved their hands, the jokes they didn't have to finish for each other, the way they both behaved around little kids...and they were clearly brothers. There was nothing else for it. Everything had to shift to accommodate that fact.

(Another rule is that they hate it when you treat them like a movie and sit and watch them fight and eat popcorn. And will gang up on you if you do this. Ah, the scientific method.)

So I have a fundamental wariness about groups of siblings, what you can assume about them and what you can't. And these are Mark's siblings. Thus, while they're stuck with me, if my estimate of what they're like as sibs is messed up, the problems are potentially greater. And to a certain extent, my relationship with them is already limited: they are primarily Mark's in some sense. Or they were.

The transition for me with Sarah has been pretty gradual, from "Mark's sister" to "my sister-in-law/friend." I think the last hurdle to overcome was in the conversation I mentioned a few weeks ago -- when she had a coworker who wanted to give her 11-year-old sex-free fantasy novels. Sarah and I got into a discussion about parenting. And we didn't always agree. I kept wondering if I should keep my flaky ideas to myself, just say, "oh, how interesting," and move on, rather than risk, "Never mind, I decided I don't want nieces and nephews from you guys after all." I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't. Friends are able to disagree on things. Siblings are able to disagree on things, too -- they have practice at it. It's just in-laws that are this weird middle ground. I don't always speak for Mark, and I don't necessarily want to give the impression that I do, and I don't want to be the one to spring what might be unexpected news on his family. ("Hey, guess which political party's candidate Mark voted for in the fall election?" That kind of thing.)

(Which sprouts a question in my mind: how many third-parties can we have? How many times can something that is not Democrat or Republican be a third-party? How many third-party candidates are possible in a given election? And why does our news media insist upon referring to them as such?)

It's all a matter of getting to know people, I suppose. All of a sudden they're your family, and they weren't before. Whether this happens at the wedding ceremony or not is pretty irrelevant. Getting new family is always an adjustment. It's just that I'm starting to feel pretty good about how "adjusted" it is.

So I'm dealing with the idea of having "my" book editor now, and that's pretty darn cool, if you want to know. I've also gotten all sorts of helpful suggestions about how to deal with cutting 30 pages, and I'd welcome any more, or any further volunteers to slash my baby to bits. Er, I mean, to prune excess growth from the topiary of my work. The most common suggestion so far (and so useful!) is to cut off the end and write, "To be continued...." I sigh. But the most amusing comment was from Larry: "It occurs to me that the excised pages would be just the thing to sell the DVD version of your book when it gets made into a movie! See? Look on the bright side." Oh, indeed.

My brain is playing silly games with me. Conscious mind says, "I don't want to listen to Ben Folds Five. Turn it off. Put something else on. Something bluesy. Tracy Chapman, put her on." And then it pauses and says, "After this song. Don't turn off this song. Turn off the next song." Repeat. Why won't my conscious mind let me know that I want to listen to Ben Folds? Why is this a big secret? I mean, I've heard of people repressing unpleasantness, but I like Ben Folds, and I'm not ashamed of it. I even put it in my journal.

Unless, of course, Ben Folds is a pseudonym for something I'm embarrassed to like....

Nope. It's really Ben Folds. And I really need to get back to work.

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