Ella and The Red Suitcase

So you know how I often like to end a post by writing “in other news” and then throwing in some odd tidbit from my life? Well, tonight I decided to begin my blog post writing by putting it out there that I dislike gardening and then an hour later, I ended up with a full post bemoaning the injustice of having dirt under your fingernails and what a waste of water and energy it is to keep a proper lawn.

But now isn’t the time for griping. Now, is the time for vacation storytelling. And so we begin.

And we begin not at the real beginning but with Monday morning when one of my doctors was shocked by the number of bruises on my legs. This was the result of The Red Suitcase.

Now, I love The Red Suitcase. It has a garment bag built into it for dresses, shirts, blazers, etc, and its wheels are really unrivaled. However, when you are traveling like me, have week arms, and pack ten books (most of which were hardcovers) and a lot of electronics that take up more space than your clothes, you are going to struggle to lug it everywhere. I swear I didn’t overpack, either. I wore everything in my bag, read all of the books, and used all of the electronics, it was just way too heavy.

I take public transportation in the city a lot, and I know that there are a lot of stairs, but as someone who is young and reasonably fit, the prevalence of stairs has never appeared to be a potential problem. That is, until I had to lug The Red Suitcase with me all the way from home to the train station. And let me tell you, when you are carrying a very heavy bag, staircases seem to go on forever.

We went down into the subway, transfered lines three times, into the train station, down to the train track, down off of the station platform into the parking lot, then up the front steps, back down the front steps, up the steps at the station, down the steps from the track, up the steps into the station, down the front steps of the station, up the steps to Cecelia’s dorm room, etc. I’m sure you get the picture.

I didn’t want to hurt the handle or the contents by dragging the bag, so I kind of picked it up by the side-handle and tried to use one side of my body to support The Red Suitcase as I climbed the stairs. And you can see exactly where it was resting each time I carried it. My right side is like an over-ripe banana.

But other than that, the transportation section of my vacation was nice. I like riding on trains. On the long ride out to my grandmother’s, I wrote in my notebook about how odd it must be a conductor, to get to travel to all of these cities everyday, but never get out and explore. And even though you’re traveling in and out of so many stations, there’s a good chance that the only part you’ve seen of them is their underbelly, the dark, damp tunnels running underneath the grand, stone concourses so often the sets of movies and old photographs. Coming back from visiting Cecelia at Yale, I finished up Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Top of the Stairs and caught glimpses of the Sound out of the window. Two women in saris ate curry and the whole car smelled wonderful.

And then, of course, there was the wonderful feeling of relaxation every time I put my suitcase down in the room I was staying in and then finally home. I’m here. I am the proverbial snail, now able to shed its shell and stop lugging my home around with me. Is there anything more wonderful than that feeling of relief?

In other news, while writing this post, my laptop overbalanced on my knees and the top edge of the screen whacked me very hard against the bridge of my nose, giving me a very cute and swollen red bump. Never say that blogging isn’t dangerous.

In other, other news, for the past half hour, Maxwell has been (literally) unconsciously pushing me out of bed. He keeps inching closer in his sleep, so that I have to move over to have space to write, only to have him move even closer. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to get up and walk around the other side of the bed or wake him up and deal with the guilt of disrupting his sleep. Eleanor Called Ella really is your one stop for Eleanor and Maxwell sleeping drama.

On Returning Home and Storytelling

Mom came home from Hawaii today, and I ate slices of sweet dried mango on the green couch while she told me about hiking a trail slick with red mud and snorkeling with a turtle. She brought home peices of sea glass in a sandwich bags and brightly colored snail shells the size of a single clove.

I also gave her a token from my less exotic travels–a rather broken up slice of carrot cake I purchased at her favorite bakery and restaurant, Claire’s Cornecopia. When they were attending Yale, my father had to set a time limit for how long she could savor her piece of cake, otherwise they’d be there for hours. Tonight, she made the cake last through three 20-minute TED Talks, and I promised to buy her a whole cake for their twenty-fifth anniversary in August. She smiled.

When I saw her walking up the front path, I had the funny urge to go running out of the door and leap on her, the way I did when I was three and thrilled to get to see her for a few hours before I went to bed or left for school. But eighteen is too old for leaping into your mother’s arms, no matter how light you are. Instead, I helped her lug her bags inside and asked her about her trip. She started her stories several sentences in, leaving me to wonder who on earth Patty was and why my father momentarily thought he had broken his back. It’s like skipping the first chapter of a book because it looks boring, only to find out that you don’t understand the interesting parts.

I thought about my blog, my electronic storytelling, and got ready to begin posting again, internet access restored after a week of almost no connection. I missed reading Shell’s, Libby’s, and all of my other favorite blogs. I missed sharing thoughts and stories with my mostly anonymous readers. I missed the joy and intellectual engagement of TED Talks, mental_floss, and The New York Times. I missed Humans of New York and perusing artist’s websites. And I missed things that weren’t the internet, like lying in my bed in those early evening hours when the sun light shines through the blinds and creates horizontal lines of light and shadow across my body. I missed the comfort and stability of knowing where everything is and living out of a dresser and closet, instead of a large red suitcase.

And now I’m back home with all of those things. We’re together again and happy. My mother is putting the house back in order, and Max is lying beside me in bed, annoyed that I’m tapping away on the computer and not curled up with him. Pippa went to her prom last night, and my father is still doing something important and science-y in Hawaii. We’re all bursting with things to share, and I’m excited to share my stories with you tomorrow and the next day and the next. Infinite storytelling!

In Which Ella’s Computer Crashes

Now, I have known that my beloved Macbook has been on its last legs for a few months now. The programs started crashing all of the time, it began to get incredibly slow, and the time it took to turn my keystrokes into type was erratic at best. It was also prone to emitting the strangest sounds and the fan was always whirring.

What I was not expecting was for it to crash while I was putting the final touches on a very long blog post about the Maureen Johnson book launch and Libba Bray. It won’t turn back on, so it seems that until I can take it to the Genius Bar, the post is missing in binary world, a pathetic series of zeros and ones.

Quick! Here’s a great computer science joke:

There are 10 types of people in the world.

Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

I’m hilarious.

If it weren’t so incredibly late, I’d just rewrite it, but it’s about three in the morning, and I’m working to curb my nocturnal habits. My argument that “Stephanie Perkins does it, and she’s a real-life novelist!” isn’t flying with my mom, unfortunately. This also applies to my sometimes desire to dye my hair a very bright and very unnatural color.

(I am always prone to impulses when it comes to hair cutting and dying that are, as a rule, best ignored. Whenever I step into the salon, I suddenly think that it would be a really fabulous idea to cut my hair super, super short, forgetting that every time I’ve done that in the past, I’ve regretted it. Or I come up with the crazy idea of dying my hair bright blue, only to remember just how much that cuts against the other fashion choices I make and enjoy. And it’s not like this impulsivity set in as a teenager, either. At the age of five, I was obsessed with being a “hair-cutter-er” and cut off the majority of Pippa’s hair with pinking shears–for this she or my mother have never forgiven me. Blond curls littered the bathroom floor, and Pippa had hair as short as a boy’s for a little while. I also sprayed her head with air-freshener–I thought it was hairspray–which gave her minor chemical burns. Maybe one day I’ll learn.)

Tomorrow it looks like I may go see the Yale-Harvard football game or, at the very least, watch it on tv. All I know for sure is that I will be decked out in all of my Yale paraphernalia with blue and while ribbons braided into my hair. Go Yale!

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Gets Caught in the Rain, Tells Stories from Middle School, and Visits Cecelia at Yale

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being caught in the middle of a torrential downpour without an umbrella.

Add to that carrying a backpack, a purse, a jacket (no hood), and a bag of books, and you’d have me standing outside of a very large train station this evening, trying to figure out the next leg of my trip home.

The books, thank God, were in a plastic bag from the Yale bookstore that completely protected them from the rain, but I had nothing to cover my body or bags. I watched the leather of my purse turn dark, the padded straps and back of my backpack began to retain water, and I could only imagine what was happening to the things inside of my backpack as the wet seeped through. My shirt was sopping and sticking to my skin like an extra layer of white and blue striped epidermis, and the front of my jeans were drenched. I had decided that I wasn’t even going to think about what my hair looked like, which meant, of course, that I was entirely focussed on it.

And then once I was finally indoors again, the really misery set in. I was sopping wet, and where I wasn’t, I was damp. And all I could do was sit still and wait to dry out. Let me tell you, it takes a very, very long time for jeans to dry and even longer for backpack padding. So when I had to pick my bag back up again to walk, my dry shirt was dry no longer.

But despite the fact that traveling home was not the world’s most fun experience, the trip was entirely worth it, and I have had worse experiences in the rain.

Keeping with the tradition of saving the good news for last, I’ll first share with you one of my rain horror stories.

When I was in middle school, I took the school bus to and from school every morning and afternoon. One day, it was raining. I didn’t think much of it when it started coming down at around nine, but by ninth period I began to get a little worried. The rain had not stopped, I was not dressed for the weather (I was wearing brand new suede Puma sneakers and did not have a jacket or umbrella.), and I could see giant pools of water forming wherever there was an indentation in the ground. An uneven sidewalk seam would create a lake. But then dismissal bell rang, and I ran out of the building, racing towards the buses, along with the other seven hundred students.

At that point, my biggest concern was how wet my shoes were going to get while I ran a block and a half home. (At this point of my life, I had decided that the optimal way of traveling to and from the bus stop was to sprint, completely hunched over with a very determined scowl on my face. My backpack was neon green, and I had strapped my lunch box to it at an odd angle, and it would thump loudly as I ran. It also occasionally would smack me on top of my head. In my defense, I was doing all of this when I was twelve, and now at eighteen, I walk upright with very few signs of complete insanity.) But then the bus started driving, and I noticed that we were taking a very different route. I first panicked, thinking that I had gotten on the wrong bus, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t and the route was just wonky because there was flooding.

I live on a hill at the base of a mountain, and there was no way for the bus to get to my or anyone else’s houses. We got let out over a half mile from home and had to wade across the train track through upper-shin-deep water. I took off my shoes, put them in my lunch box, and did it in my socks. For the next ten plus minutes, I walked in the rain through water of varying depths back to my house. Did I mention that it was early March and the temperature had significantly dropped since the morning?

But in the words of my first choir master, we’ve had our onions, and now it’s time for the orchids. (He said this when giving us reviews of our weekly performances in church. When I first heard it at the age of nine, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with onions. They’re in practically everything you cook! How were they somehow evil? And then my mother had me chop one myself, and my view entirely changed.)

But back to the present.

I got to see Cecelia! Albeit, it wasn’t even for twenty-four hours, but I’ll take whatever I can get. We walked all over campus yesterday afternoon as she gave me the grand tour of Yale.

Now, I have been to Yale a lot. It’s my parents’ alma mater, but seeing it from Cecelia’s eyes is entirely different, and to be perfectly frank, quite a bit more fun. We checked out the farm to visit the salad greens she had planted and explored her residential college. I met her incredibly nice and funny roommate. We ate dinner at my mother’s favorite New Haven restaurant and split a piece of carrot cake, only to eat double scoop ice cream cones five minutes later.

Later, we spent well over an hour in the Yale bookstore where I had the most awful time narrowing down my I-CANNOT-LEAVE-HERE-WITHOUT-IT list down to two: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. And then we watched a movie, which in typical fashion, meant that Cecelia fell asleep about fifteen minutes in.

The next morning, we had breakfast in a bookstore and went to the Yale Art Gallery. I have been having a torrid love affair with their third floor modern art exhibit for many years now, and this Ellsworth Kelly painting and I had a very happy reunion.

(If you ever have the chance, visit the Yale Art Gallery’s modern art collection. It is phenomenal.)

Sadly, after that I had to leave. But the Yale-Harvard game isn’t too far away, so I’ll be back soon.

In other news, I get to see Tal and hopefully Lily tomorrow! There might even be some visiting with Audrey! Long live trains and colleges’ fall weekends!

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Wins an Award for Packing

As it turns out you can fit a lot into a small Jansport backpack. Mine currently has a laptop, laptop case, change of clothes, toiletries, book, notebook, and a DOWN SLEEPINGBAG in it!

The zippers aren’t even all that strained!

I think I should win some sort of packing award, and since no one has appeared to give it to me, I think I’m just going to drink most of a carton of orange juice and eat chocolate chips in honor of my accomplishment.

To explain: I’m going to visit Cecelia tomorrow, which means many, many hours of trains and super-awesome-fun-times to be had by all. I will also tour Yale to see how I like it and freak about applying to college, though hopefully not at the same time. That would probably freak out the tour guide and not help my chances of being accepted.

In other news, I just painted my nails black for Halloween. You can never begin celebrating a holiday that involves COSTUMES soon enough. (And I also may have spent some time trying to paint my face to look like a leopard.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Refers to the Morning as Yesterday

Today has been one of those days where so many things have happened that I become confused and begin to refer to the morning as yesterday.

There is just no way that only seventeen hours ago I was standing in the shower trying very hard not to fall asleep and hit my head on the tile wall again.

I took the SAT, finally figured out how to cast spells on pottermore, drove to Connecticut, went to the Laini Taylor event, ate pork so tender that I fell in love, visited Cecelia, ate ice cream, walked around Yale, and drove home. And I only slept for five hours last night.

These things just don’t happen in Ella world. The most I ever seem to do is go to the book or grocery store and visit doctors’ offices.

I’d love to be able to write something interesting and properly describe all of the events, but there is only so much I can write while typing on an iPhone in the dark car. But I’ll tell you this: Laini Taylor is one of my favorite adults and authors ever, Cecelia is the coolest, and I would very happily live off of pork, mangos, and ice cream for the rest of my life.

Also, thanks for driving me everywhere today, Mom and Dad. Six hour long roadtrips aren’t most people’s cups of tea, and you didn’t even complain once.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Cecelia’s Triumph

On Wednesday of last week, Cecelia was accepted into Yale. Naturally, I saved her text, jumped up and down, and practically (okay, literally) leapt on her when she arrived at Foreign Language Night twenty minutes later.

Now, I’ve been told that I am not allowed to make a really huge deal about this, but I really can’t help myself. It’s Yale. It’s one the best universities in the country. My parents went there; her mother went there; most of my parents’ friends went there. (And, well, George Bush went there, but I try to forget about that and how many soldiers lives he ended by sending them into useless combat.) Her grandfather even taught there. In my mind, it’s the university to end all universities and the loveliest academic place in the world.

Every late night that Cecelia spent doing homework, the many weekends that she gave up to do work, all the times she pulled all-nighters, and the immense stress has created something. Something beautiful and tangible. She’s reached the goal that everyone has been working towards since sixth grade. Seven years of hard work has paid off. She did it. Cecelia really, really did it.

Many would argue, and I would agree, that the American educational system has devolved into one that simply focuses on the outcome of tests and getting into the “right” college. Creativity is stunted, and those who don’t fit the norm are left on the wayside. But the problems with education shouldn’t mask the magnitude of Cecelia’s triumph. The failures of our educational system can’t be changed overnight, and there is victory in surviving something that’s broken and reaching its objective.

Maybe I’m foolish for feeling dizzy and joyous–she’s much externally calmer about this than I am–but the prospect is immense. It’s very rare that you accomplish something that you’ve dreamed about for years, and it should be celebrated until the party hats lose their elastic, and the balloons stop floating and become wrinkly. So until I get yelled at to shut up, I will be blowing party horns and playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I highly encourage you to join me.