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Laurie Markvart's Diary of Nothing Left Unsaid

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Memories in Boxes of Love in Storage Locker #39

I stumbled on a journal entry about my mom that I wrote in 2017, a year after she passed. I’m glad I kept it. And that I found it, stuffed between my other journals and books in a box labeled “stuff” at the back of my closet.

The journal entry now gives me insight into an agonizing time when memories were not formed but discarded.

When Mom passed, I was with her, an agreement we had previously made, and the experience hypnotized me. We were very close. Those memories of her departing are beautiful and crystal clear. But I have shreds of anxious, heartbreaking memories in the weeks, months, and year after her death, the year I refused to return to Wisconsin and sort out her belongings. No one was pressuring me to return. My brother and his family were dealing with their grief and were in no rush to sort through Mom’s stuff. Who wanted to go through a storage locker of someone else’s memories? Or was it our memories too?

A week after Mom’s death, I returned home to Los Angeles and back to an entertainment job I thought I could handle while processing grief. But was I processing? I sure put on a happy face and dove back into a job I was satisfied with, but it was not enough to distract me. Her memory infiltrated almost every hour of the day, and the idea of returning to her storage locker gave me an ache that meant I’d have to admit she was gone. So, I had no problem writing a monthly check for $119 to the storage unit in Wisconsin to hold her possessions, and apparently, my grief.

I was numb. I was a robot to my job, boyfriend, music, and my teenage son. That worried me the most. But her loss plagued me, and I thought, who was I, without the woman who made me?

Within two months of her passing, my son and I took a trip to Hawaii, in which I thought beaches, a Luau, and a rented Corvette convertible would uplift me; and provide my son and me time to regroup. But I discovered a Corvette or even Hawaii couldn’t fix a broken heart.

In the months after Hawaii, I fantasized what Mom would tell me about returning to Wisconsin to sort out her things. About getting my life back in order. How would she tell me to grieve her? I did feel an instinctive push to get back to music, writing and I’d find the answer on how to move on.

Six months after her passing, I quit my entertainment job and returned to writing a memoir I started in 2011. A memoir I thought was about me, but it became just as much about her, which in turn, is me. Unknowingly, writing the memoir became an outlet for me to process her death. As I continued writing through guttural tears, moments of laughter, and some anguishing and joyful memories, I knew I could handle the trip back to Wisconsin.

Finally, 15 months after her passing, in September of 2017, I returned home, and my brother and I opened her storage locker. The monthly payments kept her items safe from thieves but not from the ravaging season of Midwest summer humidity and frozen winter. Mold had grown up the legs of furniture and into boxes, papers, journals, and photos we didn’t think we cared about until we did. There was an odor to that storage locker that was part mold, mothballs, and dashes of her (which meant the smell of cigarettes and Fendi). It smelled like home. Which meant the woman I ached for over the past 15 months was now all around me. To sort through her belongings, notes, and writings, I knew I was getting the chance to know her again. And a chance to know the new me.

That journal entry from the day after opening Mom’s storage locker:

September 5, 2017, Wisconsin

I’m not sure how to connect my thoughts. I’ve come home. This is where she lived; I once lived. We all lived, and some still live. I’m here to clean out her belongings. To create space. To recoup costs. To close her physical life. To open mine. I look at her storage unit, and it just looks like stuff, shit. Before she died, all this stuff, this shit was vital to her. And I get it! We humans consume, create and collect stuff. Either physically or emotionally. I’m overwhelmed by her shit because I care about it. A lot of her shit was about me, my bother, our family. I care. Now, how do I separate her shit from mine? From protecting it to throwing or selling?

Today was travel from CA to WI. But it’s the first time I’ve come back home, and she’s not here. Tonight I rest. Tomorrow, I know there’s a lot of work. But also a lot of love. All documented in boxes. Boxes in storage unit #39, to be exact, of her.

© 2022 Laurie Markvart

Chapter One from “Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir”

ACT ONE – on the verge

1 – Pride

Los Angeles Sports Arena, March 2011

  “Tickets and wristbands, please,” the daunting security guard in black jeans and t-shirt repeats like a drill sergeant straight out of Central Casting. As I get closer to him, my heartbeats speed up.

           With a trembling hand, I show him my seat ticket and the purple wristband that’s been attached to my wrist for the last 36 hours. He glances and waves me on. Grasping the railing to steady my wobbly legs, I descend the stairs to the arena floor, realizing that- –I beat the system.

           My group from Section 12—30 strangers—gather around a show staffer, a twenty-something gal. Half my age, she’s petite but assertive, waving her arms above her head, drawing everyone to her like she’s presumably done with hundreds of previous singers on this audition assembly line. We cluster in closer. An intense aroma of makeup, hairspray, and body order permeates the group. A contestant directly behind me forcefully sighs, and her breath smells like stomach acid. My gut lurches in response. Well, this is Round One for X-Factor.” Keep it together, Laurie. This is just an audition. You’ve been through far worse than this.

           On the arena floor, it’s apparent how loud the upper arena is: packed full of contestants, families, friends, cheering, talking, clapping. The clamor radiates off the concrete floor, like at a sporting event.

           I fumble in my purse for my iPhone. I need to listen to my music to gain perspective, even as my eyes remain deadlocked on the staffer. She’s still wrangling people, so I have time to get it together. I roll back my shoulders and stretch my neck from side to side to calm my nerves.

           A fellow contestant taps me on the arm. I pull out one earbud.

           “You, okay?” he says. He appears in his late fifties and looks like a street magician from Venice Beach. He’s scruffy, has a drastically receding hairline, and his thin ponytail is a too dark for your age shade of black. He wears a faded black tux tail over a ragged floral print Hawaiian shirt. The only thing on him that looks current is the purple wristband, just like mine.

           I’m surprised by his curiosity and attempt to interact. If anything, I’m annoyed. What does he care?

           “Hey, I’m in my zone, and you just messed it up.”

           He gapes at me, lifting an eyebrow. His face softens. “You just look really nervous. Relax. You’re about to be discovered,” he says with sparkling eyes. “Be proud you’ve made it this far.”

           “Proud?” I shake my head, then smile remorsefully. With my head hung low, I stick my earbud back in. I’m such an asshole. As well, I’m lying. I’m not in my zone. The only zone I’m in is one warped with anxiety and confusion.

           However, proud? My husband Neil said the same thing this morning as I left our house to go on this wild goose chase. As I paused at our front door, Neil followed closely behind. I sensed the warmth and calmness of his tall body behind me. I assumed he had something to say. In a somewhat uncomfortable but sweet send-off, he muttered, “Good luck today or break a leg or damn, which is it?”

           “It’s break a leg.” I chuckled and turned to him. He kissed my forehead. I reached up for a hug and melted into his strength. I wish things were better for us. If only we hadn’t suffered so much. I whispered, “Thank you. I’ll be in touch throughout the day.”

           As I walked to the driveway, he added, “I’m proud of you.” That comment stopped me in my tracks.

           “Why are you proud of me?” I said, turning to him, a quiver of curiosity in my stomach.

           Leaning against the door frame, Neil removed his hands from his PJ bottom pockets and folded his arms across his muscular chest. “Well, I mean, the last few years have been tough for you. I hope this is what you’re looking for. What you need.”

           I hesitantly nodded in return, got in the car, took a deep breath, and let out a loud, satisfying sigh. I reminded myself, again, I’m someone who is getting the chance to audition for a reality TV show. Finally, there is no age restriction. I can no longer complain or hide behind ageism. However, I also can’t hide behind my anxiety and all that has happened, or my mom’s long-held expectations of me becoming a famous singer or mine, for that matter. Proving it might be enough to fix things. To fix me.

           Backing out of the driveway, I realize that no matter how stressed, frustrated, or ill-minded I’ve felt leading up to this, I desperately miss this part of my life—making music, auditioning—the apprehension, energy, and the full-on engagement of the moment. It’s an instant of being fully alive, too mentally and emotionally high to be touched by heartache or loneliness.

           Now, standing with aching high-heeled feet on the cement arena floor next to Venice guy, I’m no longer worrying about my song selection or how I look. It’s too late for that. I’m next in line for the audition booth. While I try to ignore my sweaty armpits, I steady myself with deep breathing. I got this. Of course, I do. I’ve been singing since I was a kid. My first performance was at church. A duet of “Jesus Loves Me” with my only sibling and older brother David. We were barely six and seven years of age.

           I revert to thinking of my song choice. Which one will I do? I hum each one in my head. Does one feel better than the other? Ignoring all around me in our tight group, I hum the songs out loud to check how my voice feels. My humming turns into words, louder and louder, with no concern of who can hear me. I can barely hear myself, muffled by the intrusive sounds of the arena and those next to me doing similar vocal warmups.

           My voice is cold and unsteady, restricted and tight, like any muscle until it’s warmed up. Nice as a warm glove is how I’d like my voice to feel. Instead, it’s as frozen and unforgiving as the winter pond I skated on as a child growing up in Wisconsin.

© 2022 Laurie Markvart

“Karma Burrito” from “The Cut Collection” – Scenes, scenarios, and passages cut from my not-yet-released memoir.

This is the first post in my “Cut Collection.” A group of scenes, scenarios or passages deleted from my not yet released book, Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: a Memoir.

I kept these “cut” pieces in case they’d go back in the book, but at this point they’re scrap. But not the kind of scrap you throw. They’re saved like a baking spice, used once and then shoved back into the kitchen cabinet to maybe use later. Expiration date: unknown. 

I think karma is a “thing.” It’s defined as A powerful action bringing upon inevitable results good or bad in this life or the next. Yup, that’s a big “thing.” If you believe. I don’t practice Hinduism or Buddhism, but I respect both and dabble with some of their concepts and beliefs. Especially this one. I do think what we put out, we get back. It’s the whole “universe” thing. So, if I see someone in “karma peril” (I just made that up, I think?), I’ll mention it to them. This happened in my life, and I wrote it into my memoir. And then I cut it. But, I cut the scene only because it didn’t move the full story forward. Yet, the situation did happen, and I do believe it’s worth sharing. If anyone can learn from someone else’s “karma peril,” good karma then!

Cut Scene from the book: “Karma Burrito” 

Who:
Laurie Markvart – a forty-something singer – waiting to audition
Stephanie – a forty-something friend of Laurie, along for support
Trey – early twenties singer, fresh out of college – waiting to audition
Jacob – early twenties friend of Trey, along for support
Jackson- thirty-something, experienced singer – waiting to audition

What: A group of five acquaintances (including a pair of two good friends) is waiting with over 8,000 other attendees, to audition for the reality TV show, X-Factor. The group is in their third hour of waiting. The scene is told from the perspective of the author, Laurie Markvart.

Setting: Los Angeles Sports Arena parking lot. Warm weather, in the upper 70s, but comfortable. Most people remain calm even though everyone is packed in like sardines within galvanized safety/police type barricades. There has been no announcement from organizers. There is tension in the air for the pending audition, but most of all, excitement is prevalent – just like the energy of a crowd waiting to go into a major sporting event. Except, those who are waiting are the sporting event.

When: May 2011, Los Angeles

“KARMA BURRITO” FROM “SOMEWHERE IN THE MUSIC, I’LL FIND ME: A MEMOIR”

“I am starving! I’m gonna look for food,” Jacob announces to our group. He departs and makes his way through the crowd, tapping people as he slithers through the shoulder to shoulder attendees.

“I wonder if we’ll ever see him again?” I say with a laugh.

“He better come back. I’m his ride!” chirps Trey.

A mere five minutes’ passes and Jacob appears from the crowd, right back to his stance at our circle. He hasn’t broken a sweat nor lost his breath.

“Whoa, that was quick,” Stephanie says.

“Yeah, there was no line for food. The worst part is getting in and out of this crowd. But I got an awesome burrito. Check it out.” He shows it like a prized turkey he shot for Thanksgiving.

I must admit; the burrito looks damn good, beans, cheese, and chicken oozing out of the wrapper. I’m getting hungry. It’s almost noon, and we’ve been standing here since 9am.

Jacob takes a big bite and in between chews offers, “I don’t know when I’ll eat again. And I’m low on cash, so this is good!”

“How much was that?” Jackson chimes in.

“Eight bucks,” Jacob slowly replies his mouth full. After a gulp he continues, “But check it out, I gave the girl a ten, and she must have thought I gave her a twenty because she gave me twelve back. So, hey, I got this badass burrito, and I made ten dollars.”

With a quick snap of my head, I say, “You didn’t tell her?”

Jacob eagerly stuffs another bite in his mouth, cheese dripping off his lip, “Nah, I need the money. Oh, well, too bad for her.”

“Wow, that is bad karma,” I reply like a school teacher.

He lifts his head, sheepishly, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you just put something dishonest out into the universe. You lied. Don’t you know that what you put out comes back to you?”

After my brief rant, I look around for support. The rest of our group have their heads buried in their phones, or they’re not listening.

Stephanie looks up, eventually, with a snicker, “Laurie, it’s bad karma to call someone out on their karma. It’s like double karma.”

I shift my attention to Stephanie annoyed she may be killing the point I’m trying to make to the kid. Tapping my foot, I reply, “What are you talking about, Steph? If that’s the case, you just called me out on my bad karma by telling Jacob about his! Isn’t that the same? Are we now at triple karma?”

Steph looks at me with a blank stare, wrinkles her face in confusion and looks back at Jacob. “I’m confused now. Whatever’s,” she says, diverting her gaze back to her phone.

I adjust my footing and unfold my arms. I’ve been holding them tightly against my chest ever since Jacob disclosed his shenanigans. Maybe I need to lighten up.

“Look, I’m not the karma police, and I shouldn’t call you out on it because I don’t know the true deal with karma, but my point is, that girl is now short ten bucks, and it could get her in trouble,” I say. Stephanie hums the Radiohead song Karma Police. The entire group chuckles, except me. I nudge Steph’s arm with my elbow. She stops.

Jacob squirms a bit in his stance. He takes his final bite of the burrito, rolls up its foil wrapper and shrugs, hesitantly smiling in my direction.

Maybe he didn’t get my point, or he really needs the money. I do remember being that age. Short on cash and common sense.

©Laurie Markvart

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