In Which Our Heroine Ponders "Always" and "Never"

27 July 2004

In my dream last night, one of my friends showed up and hugged me and said, "It's good to smell you again." This, honestly, is what I think when I see people I haven't seen in awhile. What I say is, "It's good to see you again," because that's the idiom. But what I think is "smell." Or not even necessarily the word smell, if that makes any sense: just the thing itself.

Anyway, anyway. It was a good birthday. The clothes all fit, the books were all wanted, there was a moose potholder. There are cards and presents still on the way. There are celebrations I haven't gotten to yet.

Yesterday afternoon, I started reading Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw, a gift from Sarah and Jeff. It's fun so far. Jo Walton -- and I think I've said this before -- is one of those writers I trust as a writer. If she says, "I'm going to write a book about the rise and fall of a kingdom of green beans," I'll probably be sitting there going, "Well, from the library at the very least...."

I was thinking about what it means to be 26 and not some other age, what has "always" been true in my memory and what "never" has. There's someone who does this with 18-year-olds going into college each year, but half his stuff was wrong for me, so I don't know. Anyway, for me as a 26-year-old....

Housing and schools have always been racially/ethnically integrated (at least in theory). There was always an African-American family living across the street from my grandparents (although they were black at the time) and socializing with us.

We have always been running out of "first woman ______." We had a first American woman astronaut within my memory, so of course I knew Sally Ride's name, but also I knew Valentina Tereshkova's, and that was from back in the mists of time. We have always had people in space. Some of them have always been women.

Space shuttles have always existed. Humanity has always been a species that has walked on the moon.

Space shuttles have not always been things that blow up, so when they do it is shocking and personal and horrible.

No one has ever shot the president.

We have always been eight to twelve years from a "serious" female or ethnic minority presidential candidate.

World War II veterans have always been old. The Vietnam War has always been historical, never current events.

People's parents (including mine) have always been the best source of war protest songs.

There has always been such a thing as The Pill. There have always been tampons. There have always been unmarried people living together openly and/or having sex openly.

There has always been AIDS. We have always known that you could not catch it from a toilet seat or sharing a soda.

High schools have always had vending machines for soda and candy.

It has never been shocking or exciting to hear "Let's Spend the Night Together" played on TV or the radio.

The Beatles have never been together. In fact, the Beatles have never all been alive. John Lennon has always been dead.

Punk has always existed, primarily as a Halloween costume.

Cyberpunk has always been an old literary movement.

Saddam Hussein was always in power in Iraq until now. Iran never had a Shah.

There have always been children starving in Africa. China has always had strict birth restrictions.

Eighteen-year-olds have always been allowed to vote and never been allowed to drink alcohol.

I'm sure there's more, but that's off the top of my head this morning. I've got to get some groceries -- the fridge is full, but none of it really adds up to dinner, especially not for more people than just us, and we're having more. So. Groceries, bank drive-through, library drive-through, then home to more laundry, work on the book, reading Jo Walton, cooking, etc. It was a good birthday yesterday. It's going to be a fine day today, too.

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