On Monday we celebrated the anniversary of the 56th year since Harry Potter survived that fateful encounter with he who must not be named.
But not really. That’s my dad! Happy Birthday, Joe Lyle! My dad is my best buddy. His constant gift to me since birth has been to praise the things he valued about my character as opposed to my appearance. This has of course left me with totally overinflated senses of capability and immortality (Mars, here I come) as well as a shared affection for all things pickled, sour, and funky. Through dad’s insane, beautiful cooking I have savored nearly every cuisine on earth through his tolerance and open-mind I have learned to listen and accept everywhere I go. Thanks for being a baller, Swaldad. I love you, man.
We commemorated the day by heading out to lunch with adopted sister/family friend/lover lady Katie at a completely mediocre new Southern kitchen type of place that boasted a smorgasbord of beige colored buffet dishes and Christian gospel centerpieces. Once recovered we traipsed to the mall to see The Lobster which apparently left only me enthralled and full of queries. Dad was nonplussed and only roused back into celebration-mode once I picked up some sweet B.M.T.’s from Subway and set up to play his new favorite game… Settlers of Catan, of course. My dream of getting the family hooked on Catan finally came to fruition.
In between studying for the RD exam, I got to kick back with some of my oldest buddies. Katie has been keeping the family real for years now by coming over to color with me and being terminally chill and charming AF. She and I used to do all the best technical theater together at Classen SAS. A fine stage manager is she. Ryan and Ethan are also some old (reluctant) theater brothers who spent many a rehearsal figuring out how they were going to get out of the next one. Ryan has been consumed by the draw of the Marine Corps since I met him at 14. And look at them now: Ryan is a real-life Marine and Ethan is getting hitched to a lovely actress this fall! Go figure.
Sadly, my OKC time had to draw to a close. We gathered again for a final family dinner at The Wedge, home of the greatest pizza I have ever eaten anywhere. We even managed to take a few cousin-photos that don’t depict the four of us as small babies. I am so thankful that I got to see my family, spend so much time with my grandpa, and eat so much pizza. Coming home always reminds me that I am a small part of a very big and lovely party of hardy homesteaders, as evidenced by the quality photos shown below. More than anything, coming home reminds me of my grandmother. Char was my closest friend growing up. We were attached at the hip – gardening, crafting, cooking, snacking, dancing. She was everything that I am and we never tire of sharing stories about her and the beautiful home she made for us all here on the hill. Without her as the matriarchal glue, we have pitched in in our own ways to keep the house full all year round. I think we do a fine job.
To ease my transition away from home – for what will be the longest I’ve ever spent away from the 405 – Grant agreed to come camp with me for a night. Neither of us had been to the Ouchitas since we were wee people but I was eager to spend more time with my baby brother and explore Oklahoma’s backcountry. Grant got the quality meats, liquors, and our small hairy friend, Mortimer and we set a course for the Ouchita Mountains. A sweet little Shakey tune played as we pulled away from dad’s. This led to tears which led to cello covers of the U2 songs to which dad used to rock me to sleep. Ten thousand tears later, we found ourselves driving along the Talimena Scenic Byway. It was devastatingly stunning. This perfect drive led us to the Winding Stair Campground, complete with a lookout over the Emerald Vista.
It was a perfect little outing. Grant spoiled me with the finest camp meal I have ever enjoyed – steak medium rare with potatoes and goat cheese/rosemary and bubbly cranberry cocktails. He put on NPR as he cooked. That was when I was sure he was my brother. We were glad to have the tent pitched by the time a storm rolled in right around sunset. But even the rain was fun and the thunder felt like the huge type that would roll in before a tornado when we were kids, watching Lion King in the basement with the rest of the family screened the weather radar. Mortimer kept us safe from critters and kindly woke us up around 3 AM to check out the stars from the vista. We even got to enjoy the sunrise with Grant’s expertly brewed coffee and bacon back at camp. I could not have asked for a better time with my excellent brother before I turned left for New Orleans and he turned right towards home.
Well, Oklahoma. This has been an especially difficult farewell. You will never leave me, no matter how many times I take off only to return to your humid, glowing, verdant arms. I love you, Swalwells and Cultons and Kohlmans and Corbins. And friends, too. We will see each other soon. We always find a way.
Now I must hit the road yet again. Caroline awaits!