Table of Contents for Erin Coulter
Chapter One: An English Teacher and a Man Who Writes
Chapter Two: Cottonwood Trees, CBs, Flannel Shirts, and Leftover Coffee Sips
Chapter Three: High School Doesn’t Count
Chapter Four: The Sensitivity Gene: Unaccounted For.
Chapter Five: Farmers, Car Salesmen, and a Guy Named Neil
Chapter Six: The Stoplight Oracle
Chapter Seven: Building a Real Home
Chapter Eight: Planning a Party in Your Happy Place
Chapter Nine: The Direction Home
Chapter Ten: The Facts About Friends
Chapter Eleven: Saying Goodbye to the Future of My Past
Chapter Twelve: My Shattered Glass Half Full
Chapter Thirteen: Superglue and Duct Tape.
Chapter Fourteen: Moseyasauras
Chapter Fifteen: Bubble Girl
Chapter Sixteen: Walkin’ the Line
Chapter Seventeen: A Ripple Runs Through It
Chapter Eighteen: Noise Solution
Chapter Nineteen: Comfort and Joy
Chapter Twenty: Yes. We. Should.
Chapter Twenty-One: The Treasure Chair
Chapter Twenty-Two: Pretendo!
Chapter Twenty-Three: Lesson Learned
Chapter Twenty-Four: Art Imitating Life
Chapter Twenty- Five: Feeling Important
Chapter Twenty-Six: Favorite Things
Chapter Twenty-Seven: An Open Letter to My Porch on June 15th 2013 at 7:30.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Cleaning Dance Party
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Mom'll Find It
Chapter Thirty: Dad's Rules Make Dads Rule
Chapter Thirty-one: Festival Fever
Chapter Thirty-Two: Christmas Tree-ality
Chapter Thirty-Three: Practical Magic
Chapter Thirty-Four: Ain't No Party Like A Hotel Pool Party (When You're Five).
Chapter Thirty-Five: Worship Hour at the Church of Nice.

Chapter 4: The Sensitivity Gene: Unaccounted For
Elevators? We Don't Need No Stinking Elevators...
Elevators? We Don't Need No Stinking Elevators...

I learned one very important lesson on my first day of college: When you’re assigned to a room on the seventh floor of a dormitory, get there early on move-in day if you expect to use the elevator. My first memory of entering Thompson Hall on that muggy, August afternoon is of the line of nervous-looking students and their family members, some carrying TVs, clothes, and computers, some sitting on bulging suitcases, and ALL waiting in the same line that snaked back and forth across the lobby. Once every ten minutes or so, the elevator door would open and swallow up the next few people who were lucky enough to be at the front of that line, but since I’d been anticipating this day for months, my impatient nature wouldn’t allow me to quietly wait my turn for a lift to the seventh floor, especially when there was a perfectly good stairwell that was hardly being used. So with the first load of all my worldly possessions in our arms, my parents, sister, and I made our way up the first flight of stairs.
After the fourth and final trip up seven flights, and as we made our way down the hall toward the room I’d be calling home for the next couple of years, the four of us looked like sweaty, red-faced pack mules. We entered my new dorm room, dropped the last of my belongings on the floor, and took a well-deserved break. There we were. The four of us -- my sister, mom, dad and me -- all sitting together in my new home. And across the hall sat another student with her parents, and in the room next door the scene was pretty much the same. As the day began to draw to a close we were all ultimately waiting for the same thing: the moment we’d have to say goodbye to our families.

When the moment came for me, I walked my parents down the hall to the stairwell that we’d become far too familiar with earlier in the afternoon, kissed, hugged and thanked them for their help, and watched as they made their way down the stairs. Finally alone, I turned and walked down the hallway toward my room, glancing into the other rooms as I passed in hopes of catching a glimpse of my new neighbors, and I began to notice just how many of the girls’ faces were stained with tears. Then an odd thought occurred to me. Why wasn’t I crying? Was I supposed to? Was that part of the college experience that I was already missing out on? Was there something wrong with me? Was I missing some sort of sensitivity gene? Sure, I felt nervous, even overwhelmed, but not sad. Why didn’t I tear up when I watched my family descend the stairs and make their way home without me? How could I have simply said, “See ya later!” to my parents and happily made my way back to my room without shedding a tear?

The answer was simple. I was ready for college; I’d been ready to make my own decisions for a long, long time, and I wasn’t sad because I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. My excitement had usurped my sadness, and as I unpacked I couldn’t keep myself from smiling.

Chapter 6: The Stoplight Oracle
Worth The Wait

When we pulled up to the stoplight, Jessica, my best friend of 16 years who sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s Chevy Lumina, was in the midst of revealing to me the identity of her latest crush. The sounds of Blues Traveler emanated from the radio and provided the soundtrack as we cruised around town. Aside from an occasional stop to socialize in JC Penney’s parking lot, the high school cruising circuit was always the same: up Main Street, around McDonald’s, down First Avenue, and around the square in one continuous loop.

Jessica and I sat stranded at a red light in mid-loop when she completed her revelation. “I’m going on a date with Neil Coulter next weekend,” she exclaimed excitedly. I fell silent. Shocked, I stared straight ahead at the red light, my hands tightening around the maroon leather of the steering wheel.

“Erin, the light is green,” said Jessica, and with that I was startled back into reality. Somewhere between Jessica’s revelation and the stoplight’s color change, my mind went blank. “Oh, sorry,” I replied as I stepped on the gas and shook my head in an effort to physically remove myself from the twenty second stupor I’d just experienced.
As we made our way around the loop again, Jessica continued to talk, but I didn’t really hear what she was saying. Hadn’t I told her I liked Neil just a few days before? Or did I dream that? Perhaps I hadn’t said it outright, but surely she knew. Weren’t best friends supposed to adhere to a certain code of conduct when it came to things like this? Seriously? Was she seriously going to do this to me?

Her detailed description of the courtship rituals that led to the making of her date with Neil lasted an entire cruising loop, and so did the silent struggle in my head. Should I say something? Call her out? Tell her how horrible she is and demand her to cancel? And all of this at the risk of looking like a crazy person in the eyes of my best friend and a boy who was quite possibly unaware of my existence?

As we finished the loop, we slowed to a stop at the same stoplight. Red. Stop. Wait. Again. Perhaps it was a sign. “That sounds great,” I said. “Neil seems like a really nice guy. I’m happy for you.” The strain in my voice produced by the lie was barely detectable. As I sat at that stoplight for the second time that night, I comforted myself with the fact that Jessica’s interest in one boy never lasted long, and neither did most high school relationships. Something inside me said stop. Wait. So I did.

The light turned green; the night continued, as did my friendship with Jessica. Nine years later I ran into Neil again. Two years after that I took his last name. The stoplight on Main Street, the one that decided my future, is visible from the bedroom window of the house that I now share with Neil. I came full circle thanks to one continuous loop.

Chapter 7: Building a Real Home
Proof That Love Makes You Blind...

I used to live in a house that lived on a hill. It wasn’t a big hill, but it still made our humble home the tallest, proudest house on our street. Its elite elevation did nothing for the house’s outward appearance, though. The driveway that sidled up against the right side of the house was one part gravel, four parts overgrown grass and weeds. Visitors entered from a side door because the front porch sagged just enough to make them think twice about the climbing the rickety stairs.

But, as the adage goes, it’s unwise to judge a book by its cover. The outside of our home may have been in desperate need of repair, but the inside was much, much worse. Visitors who had balked at climbing the front steps had to work extra hard to mask the fear in their eyes when they ventured indoors. We lived alongside peeling paint chips, Swiss cheese walls with holes which lathe peeked through, and light fixtures that dangled dangerously, threatening to disconnect entirely from their ceiling fixtures. If the purple kitchen and its conspicuous lack of a stove was a disaster, then the black hole bathroom with its makeshift shower was an atrocity.

Despite the decrepit nature, the sad little house on the hill was a thing of beauty to me. We lived there. And now that we were officially an us, living in rubble was nothing but an afterthought. Our blank canvas with its good bones was part of a dream that was coming true. We were rebuilding a house and laying the foundation of a life together.

Chapter 9: The Direction Home
Chip Off The Old Gene Pool

When you’re little you have to hold everyone’s hand. Hold mommy’s hand while you cross the street; hold daddy’s hand or you might get lost at the grocery store. However, when we become independent, we no longer need a hand to guide us through the big, bad world. Unless you’re me.

I never grew out of holding my great-grandma’s hand. I still do it. Every time I see her. As I lean down to kiss her, she instinctively grabs my hand and she just doesn’t let go. She’s the only adult whose hand I feel comfortable holding. We talk hand in hand, and we used to walk hand in hand before the accident left her 98-year-old hip shattered beyond repair. But during our visits she still takes my hand in hers while we talk, and because we’re sitting down, I finally take time to notice her hands.

They’re exactly like mine. Great Grandma, mom, and me. We all have the same hands with rounded fingernails. Our hands are before, during, and after. Mine are white without age spots, the youngest, and they look a lot like the hand I used to hold to cross the busy street in front of my childhood home. Mom’s hands have brownish spots on them, signs of age, but they’re still a lot like mine. However, Grandma’s near century old skin is thin, and highways of purple-blue veins run through her hands. Grandma’s hands are a road map. And they always lead me back home.

Fright Night Done Right
Chapter 14: Moseyasauras

There’s something about a kid in a Halloween costume that always makes me choke up a little, and since I’m not the weepy type, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s the costumed cuteness, or perhaps it’s the excitement that is reflected in the eyes of a child peering out from behind a little mask. But mostly I think it’s because Halloween is simply the best, most purely joyful holiday. Halloween lacks the fanfare that is associated with most special occasions. There are no family gatherings to attend, no religious service or taking time out to focus on the real meaning; It’s fabulously fanfare-free, the ultimate goal to assume a fake identity and have fun raking in truckloads of tasty treasure. And this year I saw it all through the eyes of a toddling green dinosaur.

Witches, Disney princesses, Transformers, and ghouls of all makes and models braved the crisp fall air and populated the sidewalks of downtown Canton on Halloween. As we made our way around the square to collect treats from the various merchants and vendors, I walked backwards through the throng of trick or treaters in an effort to capture video footage of my little dino’s first independent trick or treating experience. Dragging his dino tail behind him, he warily approached the first vendor, and after just a little coaxing, uttered his first official “trick or treat.”

His request was greeted with a shiny red lollipop, which he immediately tore open and deposited in his mouth. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he had little interest in acquiring more candy. While other children clamored to the next stop, my dino’s floppy dino- feet shuffled slowly along the concrete sidewalk, his blue pumpkin candy container swinging happily from one hand, red lollipop grasped firmly in the other. He set his pace to mosey, stopping periodically to gaze at the streetlights that were beginning to flicker, or to carefully study the scraping sound that his blue plastic pumpkin made as it bounced and scratched against the face of one of the tall brick buildings that line the downtown district. He quietly observed the other ghosts and goblins as they zoomed past him in their frenzied quest for more sugar, and the round face that shone out from behind his dino facade wore an expression of perfect, happy contentment. He was warm inside his furry dino exterior; he had his favorite sticky snack and was still too young to understand that he had not yet reached an acceptable Halloween candy quota. Our little Moseyasaurus had no place to be and no place he would rather be besides on an evening walk with the two most important people in his two-year-old life. And it was a rare moment of simple perfection, and in our tiny Coulter circle on that busy city sidewalk, Halloween had never been sweeter.