26 Candles

My mother asked me if I had any wishes for my upcoming birthday.

I thought momentarily about the word "wish" and how it had always automated visions of a cocker spaniel puppy, or possibly, as I closed my eyes shut once upon an 9th birthday, a Paula Abdul cassette tape.

I answered, "I would like for the next half of my twenties to be somewhat less tumultuous than the first half."

Said my mother, "I don't know if I could write a check big enough to cover that."

Imagine: Check made payable to: Committee to Lend More Stability to Latter Twenties (CLMSLT). Memo: 26th birthday present.


I would like to live the rest of my twenties with just a tinge more certitude about myself than the previous half.

To review, from the time I was 20, I have lived in five different homes, nine different roommates. I have signed my signature with two different names. I have reported to work for more than eight different jobs. I have come to call three women some form of "mother."

In some ways, even though Bush is still puttering around in the oval office, I find it comforting that at least my nation's leadership has been a constant! Even if constantly abysmal.


My early twenties were marked particularly by a prevailing sense of limbo. There I was marching in the Twentysomething parade, waving my Confused flag with pinache, but never riding on top of the float. Always dawdling in between. In between jobs. In between religions. In between medications. In between hair color (and I know you think that's petty, but sometimes I was too broke to fix my Tonya Harding roots, and see how that sullies your in between jobs self-confidence). In between knowing if my relationship with Lovey Loverpants would make it, if it was supposed to make it, or if I should have been making out with someone else. Bah. Hah. Or if I should have just been making other plans.


But that's the way the Confused Twentysomethings go. As Steve Carrell says in "Little Miss Sunshine" - the years of suffering are the years that we're learning something. And learn I have, even at the expense of my pride and a few tears that I didn't need hanging around in my tear ducts anyway. I think they, the Confused Twentysomethings, are supposed to be filled with a lot of struggle, a lot of learning, very low balances in bank accounts, a few trips to the therapist, and maybe, if we're fortunate, a few good friends who understand.


A few thanks are in order. Actually, just two thanks. One is for all the factors that made my Early Twenties much harder. One thank you for all of the people who made my Early Twenties much more bearable.

So thank you, first, to: Sucky, craptacular McJobs with poor mentorship that have underpaid me for all of my overtime and placed little value on my abilities to write and caused me to feel as though my greatest contribution as a functioning member of society was my ability to politely answer the phone. Thank you, because you've been a great source of health insurance for all of the visits to the therapist to talk about the numbing feeling I experience in getting out of bed in the morningto go to answer your phones.

Thank you, Stoopit Slumlords who took a great fraction of my paycheck and then failed to cash it in a timely fashion and did not return my phone calls and did not make good on your promises to install new windows in my apartment. Thank you, because you gave me something to hope for as a homeowner one day. Windows that might not fall and smash the guts out of my hand upon opening them.

Thank you, also, to dumb gurls, to rumor mongers, to people who gave me mean looks on the subway, to people who hogged the whole seat on the subway, to people who don't bother learning my name, to people who continue to ask me if I have learned to cook Korean yet even though you never ask if my husband has learned to cook American yet, to people who don't answer thoughtful e-mails, to stores that do not carry petites, and also to the vile mosquito who bit my father and gave him West Nile Virus. Thank you, because you have provided the impetus for my character to develop, somehow, some way, into a more refined twentysomething, a more refined lady, a more refined Kendra Stanton Lee.

Second, thank you also to those who have made the first part of my twenties a bit more bearable, and probably even lovely at times. Thank you to my sister whose fits of hysterics have been a great tonic to my soul vis a vi long-distance phonecalls and across vegetarian restaurant tables. You and I, darling TP, the sisters who cannot finish stories, let alone begin them without a rousing cacophony of laughter. We will conquer the twenties together.

Thank you to my mother who was always a mother, who reminded me that she wouldn't be a mother if she didn't ask motherly questions. Thank you to my father who gave the best toast at my wedding, proving that the gift of kind and thoughtful words is one of the most precious gifts to give a daughter. Thank you to my brother for teaching me that gentleness nets one a multitude of good things in life. Thank you to my stepmother who saved my father's life and who may have saved my own.

Thank you to Slashleigh with whom I have resurrected every fond college memory worth resurrecting, and whose empathy during McJoblessness has been unmatched. Thank you to Shaker whose effulgent Polyanna smile has colored nearly every visit home with mirth and whose encyclopedic voicemails are always worth saving and replaying ad infinitum. Thank you to Spas and Meggers Wallers, the dashing duo that have listened to all of my stories Thank you to Ellis for forgiveness and for visits and for cutting my cable; you take the piss. Thank you to MJB for coming in like a closing pitcher and saving the day everyday as we contend with the mercurial weather system that is el turbino. Thank you to Erin/Irenhe, for giving me the sorority sister friendship/roommateship I always desired sans Greek letters. Thank you to Micky Hipps for maintaining a love for me that is undeserved but always steady, and for cracking the whip on the ushers on the big day. Thank you to Spas who can be mercifully forgiven for fleeing Boston, since her counsel is still sage and her loyalty is undying. Thank you to Meggers whose position as Mistress of Ceremonies for White Trash Weekend has revolutionized each and every visit which always seem to come at the right times. Thank you to the Orient Heights Community Center staff for teaching me how to be strong and hilarious at the same time. Thank you to Boston Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church who showed me Christ's address.

And thank you to Lovey Loverpants, who has never once accepted my excuses for stagnancy or playing small, who has pushed me on, and helped me to grow every exasperating step of the way, from the 20 year-old who thought she'd date you for a semestre, to the gal today who laughs from the time she gets home to the time you tuck her in each night.

Thanks also to income tax returns for coming at just the right time, to the makers of breakfast bars who must have considered me in their sales target demographic, to sex for being worth the 24 year wait, to all of the token collectors at Roxbury Crossing station who tickle me pink, to Dansko for manufacturing clogs in black, to Brandi Carlile for making music, to Rachel Cusk for writing Saving Agnes, to Roger Rosenblatt for being a literary hero worth meeting, and to craigslist for providing a multi-tiered buffet of opportunities to occupy my early twentysomethings and beyond.

Finally, thank you to my awesome God, my precious Savior, my loving Lord, "who makes all things beautiful in His time." - Ecclesiastes 3.


I'm 26...

...and I'm ready to party.