the parachute.

In my family, you carry a parachute. My grandma on my mother's side, called Gigi now that we have little ones, is our card-carrying Parachute Club President. If you find yourself at lunch, for instance, and there's no sweetener, never fear! Gigi has pink, blue and yellow packets hidden in the bottom of her purse. Need a bandaid? Not a problem! A plethora of sizes awaits. Breath mints or gum? Advil or Tylenol? I'm certain the lost city of Atlantis is down there somewhere. Falling from a plane? Think nothing of it. She has a parachute in a side zipper pouch.

It's been a running joke in my family as far back as I can remember, but it wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I conceded and became a member of the Club. I shelved my collection of cocktail-sized purses and graduated to the larger, more mature purse. It was a matter of necessity. I needed to carry more than 4 items, and it was time. The only time I get to dust them off and carry a lighter load these days is on date night. I fish out those 4 items and pretend for a few hours that's all I need [hardy har].

The problem with the mature purse is that there's always room for one more thing. And then that one more thing becomes a permanent resident. Confession time, people. You know you're right there with me. Even if you're a dude, you know you carry that gym ID card from 3 years ago you refuse to toss because you'd have to admit the only 6-pack in your life anymore is in the fridge.

The other problem with the mature purse is that without it, you feel naked. In-the-middle-of-Times-Square-without-your-pants naked.

On Monday I received the call I'd been waiting for. "We're going to call you on Thursday", she said. The woman wasn't talking about calling me for a chit-chat. She was referring to the witness stand. So the next day I packed for our trip to Eugene. David didn't even have to ask; he went out and brought me the big suitcase. God bless that man, he knew I was wound tighter than a top and needed room for the extra large parachute.

Thursday after a visit to a park not far from the hotel, I traded in my 'mommy' clothes for some sling-back heels, pressed slacks and a blouse. I had packed a purse, knowing the diaper bag would need to stay at the hotel with my mom and the kids. I set it on the table and moved over my wallet, lipstick, keys and phone. Then I stopped. It was practically empty. That wouldn't do. Some inner-compulsion led me to scour the room for more. I found a mini-lint roller, travel-size tums (maybe not such a bad idea), 2 pens (because you never know when one will run out), and a little bag of kleenex (also not a bad idea). I stopped when my macbook wouldn't fit. Seriously...there has to be some kind of 12 Step Program for this.

Because interviewing witnesses isn't an exact science, I arrived early so I wouldn't be late. I also wanted to be sure Angie knew I was there to support her, even though I wasn't allowed inside until I had testified. The witness before me was an expert, a Doctor. To be honest, I'm thankful I couldn't be there to listen.

Out came Gordon, one of Angie's attorneys. He's disarming in a wrinkled sort of way. His tie was crooked and the tail was tucked in to his shirt, the way a man does when he doesn't have a tie pin."You're up", he said, and kindly reached out his arm.

I was asked about my relationship with Angie; what she was like back then. What I remembered about the first time I met her, and how meeting her family changed my perception of what could be tolerated in this world. About the time I saw her drunk, and about the scars I saw on her arms. About the time she tried to end her life and how her mother petitioned the court to withdraw the subsequent court order for 24-hour adult supervision, because she couldn't possibly find the time.

Afterward I sat in the courtroom next to her brother Steve, who has driven over an hour each way from his home to visit her every week so she knows, without a doubt, she is loved. The witness after me was one of the two detectives that worked her case. He had 'interviewed' her. He had purposefully messed with her head and made her believe she had failed a polygraph when, indeed, she hadn't. He put words into her mouth she hadn't spoken and turned them into a confession. Job done. His file didn't contain half the documentation it should have and he appeared as though he took the whole of 5 minutes to review his file before entering court. It was pathetic. It was also good for Angie's case. We shall see.

I'm not sure when I'll stop crying. I feel as though I'm grieving for a 15 year-old girl who still exists in that stoic, sunken figure I saw in the courtroom. I'm grieving over the realization I should have been able to do more. I'm grieving over a baby I may never know ever existed. I'm not a 'cryer', but on occasion that's just really all you can do.

My pleasant life now seems astonishingly superficial. It makes me sick that I actually wrestled with the question of whether to buy new curtains for the living room a few days ago. I don't know whether I'll ever be able watch a news story reporting that so-and-so has been arrested for such-and-such as they display the person's mugshot and not lose an evening wondering what the person is really like. 

What I do know is that somewhere between Eugene and Salem, when I stopped to get Em a snack, I realized why I can't stop crying. I lost my parachute. I think I must have lost it a few weeks ago. I've been running on fumes, but didn't realize it until last night. Whether or not I decide I need to find it is a matter for another day.


is "subpoenaed" even a word?

In high school, I dreamt of a career in litigation. Somewhere between Ally McBeal and Law and Order, I pictured my life a steady stream of challenging cases where, naturally, I'd maintain a strong winning record and make the 40 Under 40. Then came Willamette. A fantastic University with, not-so-coincidentally, a world-renowned Law School. As any overly ambitious Freshman with a pipe dream does, I declared first semester: Political Studies. My future was so bright, I busted out the shades.

Now it may have been the 200 and 300 level classes I insisted on taking in addition to the part-time barista job I needed, student government responsibilities, pledging a sorority, holding down a crazy piano rehearsal schedule to maintain a scholarship, and an admittedly demanding party schedule that, when added to the overwhelming amount of reading I quickly realized it would entail until I was successful enough to have a staff of paralegals to do the research for me, made me realize Law simply wasn't in the cards. At all. And besides, there was a really cute boy in my rhetoric class. Done! Second semester I re-declared: Rhetoric and Media Studies.

Now don't get me wrong--the few classes I took in formulating an argument, the mechanics of a speech and logic have served me well. I can win any discussion-slash-argument with my husband, even if I'm dead wrong. He'll leave the conversation scratching his head, undoubtedly asking himself how 'it' happened...again. Poor guy. But I never got to the classes that covered the actual trial. And I certainly never had need to spell the word subpoena.

And yet yesterday, in the midst of an otherwise normal day of princess tea parties and baby-coos, I was served.

If you've read this blog before, you may recall a post I made a year ago about a girl named Angie. If you need a refresher...

This is what the public thinks of her. The Saving Caylee website has a page about her case, as does half a dozen websites that refer to her as a selfish murderer. It may be because I know her as Angie and not Angelica May Swartout, but my opinion differs.

Which is why I'm now a defense witness in an Aggravated Murder Trial. In all honesty, I have no idea whether those words are supposed to be capitalized, but it seems to me they should be given the weight they carry.

So as I'm swimming through my days of tea parties and baby-coos, I am occasionally finding myself thinking about how soon I'll be trading in my princess dress for a suit, and my dress-up heels for something a little more grown up.

Wish her luck, and me some cojones.