My sister Carol has a lovely post about my Dad, along with a handsome photos of him in his youthful army days. Check it out.
My sister Carol has a lovely post about my Dad, along with a handsome photos of him in his youthful army days. Check it out.
The weather is just glorious! Sunny, cool, crisp days, with breezy white puffs scudding across a cerulean sky. Stan and I were up early and out to the diner to eat breakfast near the water. The air was fresh and every tree leafed out in paint box shades of green. Neon red geraniums cascade out of freshly-painted white window boxes. Cedar trellises worn silver by the sun are trimmed with dark green ivy. Big clay pots hold magenta and eggplant cascading petunias. Red, white, and blue flags waved from white houses with black shutters. It was a very New England day, the kind that makes me want to go antiquing or eat fried clams at the pier. As we passed the wide harbor of Mamaroneck, Stan and I we both go "aaahhhh" as we see the docks lined with sailboats and yachts waiting to ply the sparkling waters of Long Island Sound. We both look at each other and cry in unison: "We want a boat!”
They we go to the diner, eat eggs and toast, and come to our senses.
We had a boat once, a trim little 21' clipper with a small cabin. Stan and his best friend purchased it together as a graduation present to themselves after college. We all envisioned weekends swimming off the boat, sleeping under the stars, grilling fresh fish off the stern. But first they had to get it out of the boatyard and find a slip.
This may sound like a simple and mindless task to those of you who live in civilized parts of the country. When I went to Seattle, I traveled with a friend to a town where the municipal marina was a gorgeous, clean, organized harbor where boat owners could leave their boats at the dock, have them pulled out of the water, and put back in for them with a half-hour's notice. When we got to the marina, the boat was tied up and waiting for us. We motored down to Seattle harbor, had a picnic dinner with the skyline of Seattle as our backdrop, cruised back home, and left the boat at the pier for the marina workers to take care of. This is owning a boat!
Our experience in New York was a smidgen different. First off, you have to find an empty slip, somewhere between Hell's Gate and Stamford, Ct., not a small area to cover. Second, you have to find an empty slip one can afford. When the monthly slip fee is three-quarters of your rent, you have to look long and hard for a dock you can afford. So after about a month, we forget about a dock space, and try for a mooring, which essentially is a space where a harbor master sunk a buoy and now has the right to charge you a fortune to tie up your boat for the season.
Before we find a slip, the guys were using the shipyard's dock to take the boat out. Stan used to sail with his father when he was a kid. Or so he says. Neither his friend nor I have any sailing experience. The first day we take the boat out, it is tied up with several other large, expensive boats at the dock. Stan hands me a line to hold as he maneuvers the sailboat out of the queue. A line that holds the several, expensive other boats at the dock. Boats float. Especially boats to which you are attached by a line which you hold in your puny, under-exercised hand attached to your puny, under-exercised arm. As the boats start to float perilously close to other expensive boats (note: the words perilous and expensive will be used extensively throughout the rest of this post), Stan comes to the rescue and ties off the other boats and we board the boat for our inaugural sail.
Now, you don’t sail out of the harbor, you use your engine. So I figured, hey, he can drive, how hard can it be? But for some reason, the boat is not responding to the tiller and we are zigging and zagging all over the harbor lined with expensive (is there any other kind?) boats. Suddenly we are headed directly at a very large, very white, very trim, yacht with many people looking down at us. Stan, in his impression of “Before the Mast”, yells out “prepare to shove off!”
Are you looking at me?
Yes, it seems he is. This man to whom I am engaged to be married for life is ordering me to sprint to the prow of the boat, stand erect, extend my arms, and prepare to act as a human bumper so we don’t pierce a hole into this very large yacht where people are sitting in yacht clothes having cocktails. Really. And I did.
After that, we clear the harbor and the men have time to go down below and determine that the source of our boat acting like an ice skater at a rink is that the retractable keel is up, not down. Oh. No problem! Now we are sailing. We sneak back into the harbor after dusk to avoid all the prying eyes that saw our ignominious leave-taking.
By now, the shipyard is pissed that we are using the dock as our personal slip. They decide to move our sailboat while we search for space. Only thing is, remember the retractable keel? Well, it seems that the co-captains forgot to retract it when we moored last night and when the shipyard moves the boat, the keel jams. So now we have a broken, jammed keel.
They end up getting a mooring in an old, municipal harbor with no amenities and a rickety dock. Of course, with the boat off-shore, we needed a boat to get to the boat. After shopping around for a used dinghy, Stan comes up with an old inflatable army raft. We find a bicycle pump but it still takes too long to pump up the raft each time and we'd end up exhausted before we even got to the sailboat. Someone turns up with a very heavy, old rowboat and we're set.
Finally, the keel gets fixed; the guys sail up to the new harbor. I row out and meet them with the dinghy and we spend a great weekend sailing and swimming and drinking beer. We get past the big rock jetty with no problem, and sail into the harbor Sunday evening. Hmm. It’s low tide. No problem, we just retract our keel. See how smart they were to buy the sailboat with a retractable keel? We swab the deck, empty the cooler, trim the sails, etc and climb into the dingy. We row to shore. Oops. We row as close to shore as we can get which is about twenty muddy yards off-shore due to low tide. Next time we will know to check the tide charts. We all get out and drag the dingy threw the mud. Then we look at the dock. Or UP at the dock, which is now about twenty feet above us. So we now lug the very heavy dingy over the rocks, up the beach and into the parking lot where they padlock it to a fence. What I just described in two sentences took about an hour of muddy, sweaty, mosquito-biting, snarling work, which we repeat numerous times over the course of the summer because time and tide waits for no man and we want to go sailing in the daylight.
I’m beginning to reconsider the joys of boat ownership, sailing weekends, and our engagement altogether.
But despite all this, the truly hair-raising part of the adventure is the actual time spent sailing. When we first got the boat, we decided to end the summer with a trip to Block Island. I remember looking at it on a chart and having one of my uncles advise that it might be a bit too much of a sail for our first trip out of the Sound. Pshaw, we thought, we’ll have a whole summer under out belt. Well, he needn’t have worried because by the end of summer, I would barely set foot in the boat, let alone take it out of the Sound. Unfortunately, their sailing skills were put to the test on our second trip, when an enormous thunderstorm sneaked up on us in the middle of the Sound as we heading in for the evening. What I remember best from it is Stan pleading with me to release my grip on the table in the cabin and come topside so if the boat heels over I won’t drown in the cabin.
Honey, if the boat heels over I’m gonna drown whether in the damn cabin or on the damn deck. I officially become One Who Hates to Sail and spend every moment thereafter with a lifejacket on and my hands gripped around whatever railing I can reach. Stan decides that the only way to get me over my fear is to teach me to sail and I admit that having the feel of the rudder in my hands and controlling the heeling of the boat does allay my fears somewhat. However, now he’s the one freaking out when I casually mention that despite my best efforts, we seem to heading straight for a barge and he has to do some creative tacking to avoid us smashing into the big, hulking thing.
At the end of the summer, they dry dock the boat and forget about it for the winter. The next spring they never quite get around to putting it in, and by the next summer, his friend is having a baby and we’re saving for a house, so the boat is sold. We cancel the subscription to “Sailing” and get busy having babies and putting down roots up county on a lake. Where we buy a canoe. A very heavy canoe. A canoe that neither of us seems capable of paddling except in a circle. On the very windy lake. With the baby crying to be fed on shore, husband and wife yelling at each other, neighbors watching and laughing.
I’ll end with this aphorism: “The two happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.”
But lately, we have been looking at kayaks……
The reason for this holiday weekend has largely been forgotten except for wreath-laying and newspaper articles about the aged veterans of WWII. My own Dad is gone, but even when alive, I don't recall him treating this day as different from any other. As a salesman, holiday weekends meant long hours of work and the hope for big sales commissions, and certainly little thought was given to fallen comrades.
My Dad never talked to us about the war. He didn't share many stories with his five daughters about his time in the Asian theater of WWII. I had to wait until my husband came along and my father spoke to him of his time as a radio operator, the flight in the glider when he had to jettison all his belongings in order to stay in the air, and the malaria that eventually sent him home. We learned of the vision of his barefoot father visiting him in a dream the night before his father's death from a heart attack. He returned home to his widowed mother, and 3 older brothers and 4 sisters.
A few months after my father's death at 71, my mother received a call from someone in his unit that they were having a reunion, their first we heard of. I remember an overwhelming feeling of frustration and helplessness that he had missed it. I wondered if my father would have gone. He was very emotional and vulnerable in his last few months. His stories came easily now and he shared memories with me, good and bad. In one of our last quiet times together, we watched the movie, "Glory", about the 54th Regiment from Massachusetts of free black men. My father cried through the end of it, we both did, and wordlessly we acknowledged the pain and death and fear that he had suffered and buried with his comrades in arms.
There is much to memorialize this year. Soldiers fallen, citizens blown to bits, young men slaughtered, sisters burying a sister. There is so much violence, so much sadness, so much blood shed in a war that has no end, no resolution, no balancing of scales of justice. It is a whirlpool of blood and regret. I don't see Congress funding a classical, symmetrical memorial to this war in 50 years.
I am glad the WWII Memorial was finally built. Too bad they had to wait until 90% of the veterans were dead and the survivors dying at the rate of 1000 a day. We are quick to go to war, slow to honor those who lives we shipped out to fight our battles.
So for this Memorial Day, I offer my own memorials in memory and prayer for peace.
Thursday night before Memorial Day. My boss told me to call after work before I come back to the office tomorrow because they are probably closing early. God, I love this job! (snirk) Is it right to love a job just because of the hours? I mean, shouldn't I be more serious about my career and my advancement?
All I know is that it's a three and a half day weekend and I'm kicking back. I have immediate plans and they all center around my art room. I really wanted to go to Artiology last weekend, but I just didn't have the money this year. So I am creating my own art retreat. This is my plan:
I am working on two projects right now. The first is an artist book that is in the early planning stages. I bought a big, thick journal from Daniel Smith filled with handmade rough textured, watercolor paper. The paper, however, is not the greatest. It doesn't seem to have any sizing! The watercolor just sits on it in little splotches. Last weekend I dragged out the gallon of Daniel Smith buff gesso that I bought last fall. I'd planned to paint a some furniture with it, but that never came to be. But it works great on the new journal pages. After I gessoed the pages, I created a background on each page of a rectangle of color in shades reminiscent to me of vintage children's book from the 1940's: dusty brown, red orange, blue greens, and grayed out blues. I'm not sure where I'm going with it yet, but I've been thinking all week about childhood games and treasure hunts and marbles and toy soldiers......and we'll see!
The other project is inspired by this quarter's Quilting Arts magazine. This issue seems to have been written just for me. Every article is a winner and I don't know what to try first. Well, that's not true, I know what I'm doing first. I'm diving into my fabric pile and making "quilt sketches" a la Elinor Peace Bailey. They are just what they sound like, sketches done in fabric with simple outline shapes appliqued onto small layered backgrounds. The fun is looking through the piles of fabric nestled into the big, straw baskets on the bottom of my closet. There are the batiks, the Asian fabrics, the Bali prints, the vintage reproductions, the chartreuse, magenta, cerise, marigold yellow, cornflower blue, black and white checks, soft pinks and browns, watery blues and greens, striking hand-blocked prints and slubby silks.
Somewhere in the mess of the artroom is a roll of Wonder Under, a paper-backed fusible web interfacing. It replaces the hours of hand turning under a quarter inch of applique into one pressing motion with the iron. It's perfect for small, fast piece like the quilt sketches. Once you've cut and pressed, you're ready to hunt through the boxes of buttons and beads and start embellishing, which is the whole reason to do it in the first place.
If I get really ambitious, I'll start putting together the scrapbook for the Mystery Man, who graduates in three weeks. I have the paper, the photos, the ephemera, even stickers. I just haven't decided on a format yet. I'm leaning towards a book with wooden covers and screw posts. I have to take a trip to the Depot to see what wood I can find that is easy to work with.
In between my art retreat, we hopefully will go the pool on Sunday, which is supposed to be the best day of the weekend. The Princess's friend is visiting from Memphis and right now there are five girls squealing downstairs. The husband has taken refuge in the bed next to me and is making noises about too many women in the house and me hogging three pillows behind my back and one under my laptop.
It's great to be home!
It's only Wednesday, but I'm ready for the weekend! Nothing particular going on, just very busy at work and end of the year school activities. Tonight is the last band concert for my son and we are gong to SUNY Purchase for the concert. It has a state-of-the-art concert facility and it's always a pleasure to listen to the band play in a professional setting. Last year the school played at Lincoln Center. I don't think my son will ever forget that experience.
This morning is the medieval fair where Julia gets to wear her monk's robe and tonsure wig and show off her castle. I have the morning off to attend, then I go to my ofice, then I run down to the Bronx, then back to the office, home, and then to the concert. It's that king of week.
I feel guilty that I haven't been blogging daily. However, I'mgrateful that I have this blog or I wouldn't be doing any writing. This blog gives me the responsiblity of coming up with some writing several times a week, which is 100% more than I would be doing in weeks like this. I haven't done much art journaling, and will soon run out of scanned in artwork, so I better get busy this weekend and create some art to share with all of you.
Of course, for me, what I share here is selective. I can't write about everything in my life on line. I rarely write about my job, for example, except for generalities about court. I never write about my office or office colleagues, and wow, what good fodder I would have! But I respect the privacy of those I work with and obviously, I can't write about my cases due to attorney client privilege.
I also draw a veil over select portions of my family life. Although I write about my husband and kids and sisters, there are areas I never touch. As for my own personal life, there are subjects that are verboten. I struggle with depression on a daily basis and if I wrote about every dark morning I have, no one would click onto this page.
So as far as this being a Journal of My Life, well, it is an art to portray it. I am a spin master, presenting a picture of myself and my life that I want you to know. I emphasize this, and gloss over that. I feature the relationships I want and censor those I cannot or will not share with the public.
Who knows what lies behind the mask? But that is the mark of any artist. Masked or stripped bare, we present the image that we control and no more.
I come from the town that I live in now. If you drew a line from my current house to my childhood home and then to the house where I lived the first 5 years of my life, it would make an isosceles triangle. Captured in the triangle would be the house that my mother was born in, one of those 3-story, narrow brick homes that housed her family, her grandparents, and her aunt's family. It was in the "Italian section" of town, and my grandmother's sister-in-law still lives there. The roses my great-grandmother planted by the fence still bloom each spring.
There are a million stories about that neighborhood, not very different from the stories that every hyphenated American carries in their pockets like talismans from the old country. I have a wealth of photos that document these days: seaside photos of fat relatives wearing bathing costumes down to their knees; religious processions with statues being held aloft and transported down city streets; goofy baby photos where I can see the adult faces of aunts and uncles encased in the pudgy cheeks of baby fat, and my aged relatives’ faces shiny with youth and vigor.
But those stories aren't my stories. Yes, I embrace them now and wish I'd spent even more time with my elderly relatives before they died so I could learn more. However, I spent a good chunk of my adolescence and teen age years denying I was Italian and trying to place as much distance as I could from those loud, crowded origins on Second Street from the rolling lawns of our mainly Jewish neighborhood and the kilt-clad bodies of the predominantly wealthy, Irish families who were enrolled in our Catholic school.
It's not a new or startling story. I feel silly writing about them when I think of the death and torture that millions have experienced in the name of prejudice and racial hatred. No one in my family was ever murdered for whistling at a white woman, nor was any of my ancestors slaves to another. We were never sent to a gulag, branded with numbers, segregated in ghettoes, nor faced mass extermination. However, substitute Polish for Italian, or Hispanic for African American, or any one of hundreds of ethnic nationalities that were pervasive in the second half of the twentieth century, and you have the same stories of bigotry, both trivial and profound, that I and thousands of others experienced growing up in middle class America.
This all came to mind as I watched "Sunday Morning", and the piece they did to promote a new book about "passing", that is, people who pretend to be a race or gender or sexual orientation that they are not. The most obvious examples were those of mixed racial heritage who chose to pass for white in order to gain better educations, jobs, homes, even friends, that would be denied to them because they had both white and non-white lineage.
I’ve spent a large chunk of my life trying to pass for someone else. My youth was in an Irish vs. Italian vs. Jewish world, a typical Northeast set of hatred and prejudices. Most of the Irish kids that I knew were wealthy, belonged to country clubs, had long, straight blonde hair, brothers who were jocks, and sisters who were Prom Queens. The girls wore sweaters and kilts and gold circle pins, and had weekend wardrobes of tennis whites.
The Italian girls spent their weekends helping to clean the house, take care of their siblings, and visiting family. We straightened our hair with chemicals, huge rollers, and even ironed it in order to tame its "Roseanne Roseannadanna" look. I pored over Seventeen in order to practice all the make up tricks that would hide the bump in my nose. I battled my weight constantly so my pediatrician would stop asking me each year if we ate macaroni every night. I tried to distinguish myself by doing well in school so the teachers would pay attention to me, instead of just to the girls whose mothers ran the bake sales in their Lily Pulitzer shifts and Capezio flats.
When I transferred to public high school after the tuition became too high at the Catholic school, I met all the Jewish kids who lived in the north end of town. These kids were brainy and cheerleaders and officer in the Student Senate. It was a whole new subculture where you could be smart and pretty and popular. Looking back on it now, the Jewish girls had the additional pressure of getting into Ivy League schools, and they were probably ironing their hair and worrying about their weight and their noses, but at the time, all I knew was that I wasn't as smart or pretty and certainly not rich.
My one friend convinced me to sign up for an alternative school where we didn't have grades or cut notices (think 1970's and "Summerhill"). We wore black armbands and marched to protest Vietnam, cleaned parks for the first Earth Day and had openly gay students. I was trying to keep up in the harder classes, be outrageous enough to fit in, and still make it to my after school job at Shopwell's where I check out groceries. These were the kids printing "fuck" in the school newspaper and being suspended because they wouldn't take it out. Hell, my parents would have locked me in my room for that and I couldn't keep up with their liberalism and spent most of junior year cutting class and watching Bewitched on morning TV while stuffing my face with food.
In college, I continued the tightrope walk of being a good Italian American daughter and a rebellious college kid. A girl in the suite across the hall would double over in laughter when I practiced my French, screaming at the Noo Yawk accent I didn't know I had. I was mortified when my philosophy professor would roll out the "rrrs" in my name with an Italian accent amidst the good ol' "American" names he called for the rest of the class. I changed my hair, clothes, and jewelry in order to fit in with a precociously intellectual and literary group. I tried to discuss Sartre while smoking my Gauloises, swilling Mateus wine, my feet in Frye boots propped up on some guy's bed. I became the caretaker of the group in order to fit in. I was the one who held the heads of my friends when they threw up after a night of drinking and called their parents with some lie when they went to Florida with their boyfriends. I was a rebel in my family, and goody-two shoes to my friends.
By the time I became a lawyer, I looked down my noses at my Italian colleagues. They were mostly conservative Republicans, trying to make it into the same country clubs that their parents had been denied access to. I didn’t fit in with serious, Italian American women who wore no make up and cut their hair as short and blunt as nuns, yet, I felt myself stiffen when a colleague with loud jewelry and fingernails as long as talons tried to get me to join the Columbian Bar Association.
My kids think it funny that I ever tried to disassociate myself from my Italian heritage. My daughter doesn’t understand why my friend ordered a wedding dress and then had the store remove every seed pearl from the bodice of her gown because she thought it was "too Italian". They don’t get why a friend made a “Mafioso” comment when I gave my husband a black golf shirt. It’s not that things have changed here, though I hope they have, but my kids were raised in California and the South, where being white mattered more than other ethnic origins, so they were left alone. The bigotry they witnessed was race and class without reference to heritage (which is the topic for another day). They didn't go to schools where all the Italian kids in vocational school were called "greasers" (the term may have originated in auto shop, but spread to be used to all ethnic, non-college prep kids).
When I think about the kid who used to follow me home screaming "ginny" and "wop", I wonder what was going on in his house that he had so much hatred and what he feared about us the most. I ran into him years later when I was finishing law school. I was interning at a prosecutor's office and was asked to go undercover for a sting operation, and I had to wear a wire. They sent me to the Investigator's Office to have the wire put on. The detective on duty was the very guy that had followed me down the street screaming "ginny" and "wop" for four blocks. He'd become a big, burly Irish cop, no surprise there. We pretended we didn't know each other. I still wasn't sure of myself and didn't have the nerve to confront him, but the revenge was sweet that he wore a cop badge and I was becoming a lawyer. Just another flip of the class distinctions.
I wonder about the one black family in my grade school and how Lynn felt each day as she went to school surrounded by hordes and hordes of white faces. I wonder about Suneel, who was a popular Middle Eastern student on my college campus and what bigotry he has undergone due to his Middle Eastern background, although he's been in the United States for some forty years. And those big, wealthy Catholic families who appeared so perfect to my young eyes, I realize how silly we were to think they were different from us, as if they had the key to happiness. Where did they all end up? How many divorces, gay children, and hidden pregnancies have they denied in their quest to be "Americans”?
Nowadays I honor my heritage. I use my maiden name and my married name on everything I sign. I write long and often about my family, my culture, my upbringing. I make sure to pass the house on Second Street to see if the roses are blooming. Age and maturity have worn me down, melded the schizophrenia I felt within in and allowed me to make peace with my heritage and my self, a separate identity, but one that owes as much to what I came from as to what I have become.
Though I continue to “pass” each day as we all do. I pass as a writer disguised as a lawyer, as a free spirit disguised as a Mom. I pass each day when I say my prayers and wonder if there's anyone/thing out there tuned in to my frequency. I am more open at allowing people to see the real me. I no longer stand in front of the mirror and agonize over my features and think that if I part my hair on the other side of my head, I'll have friends. I will tell you that I write, and maybe even show you some artwork, if I sense you are kind.
Origins. We spend the first half of our life trying to run from them and the second half trying to retrace them.
Getting dressed for work in the cold-weather months is easy. It's usually just a matter of opening the closet and picking out one of a number of dark-colored suits. Should I wear black, navy blue, or brown today? Yuck and boring. But safe. There's little risk in a two-piece suit and a blouse. Maybe the height of the heels - almost all are black - is the only thing that stumps me at 7:00 a.m. Behind the wall of black wool, I am safe, my figure flaws hidden as much as possible, but more, I am armored, ready to battle.
With spring, comes a softening of the profile. The black grey and brown is tweaked with color. It started this year with a bag, a totebag, in a soft, chalky pink. The fashion mags scream at me this year that pink is the new black for spring. So in March when I saw the bag hanging on a metal rack at a designer discount store, I snatched it up and it's been waiting on my closet shelf for the day to let it bloom. I wasn't sure when that date would be. My sister offered the opinion that it couldn't be worn with a winter coat. Absolutely. And I didn't feel right using it when the predominant fabric clothing the bar was still flannel.
Then my husband broke the logjam by giving me a powder blue bag for Mother's Day. Oh, it's a pretty thing. Very feminine, flirty, light-hearted. In short, as my husband said, like nothing he's ever seen me use before. I transferred the contents out of the black bag I'd been using for six months into the new designer blue. It was kind of heavy, a shoulder bag that didn't quite balance on my shoulder with all I had to cram into it. And I had to carry my files separately; this was no workhorse of a bag, but a dainty, "accessory".
What to wear it with was the problem. It needed the right balance of a lightweight fabric with an understated color so as not to compete. I decided on a black pantsuit with a powder blue shell. When I got to court, I made certain not to fling it under a bench as I would my workhorse bag. I kept it on my shoulder. As I walked over to the courtroom, I noticed a young attorney looking at it, then another stealing a glance at it. Jumbled around the desk, a friend noticed it and complimented me. AFter a day of compliments on the blue bag, I decided I have the bravery to trot out the pink.
The next morning, when I was crowded in front of the calendar, trying to find my cases, I saw an unfamiliar, curvy silhouette in front of me. She was wearing a short black, fitted jacket, with a pink, white, and black flirty skirt. Tucked under her arm was a deep pink leather bag in the shape of a barrel. Oooh, another pink bag. Suddenly, I realized that the curvy shape in front of me was an attorney who usually wore pants, a raincoat, and her hair pulled back into a ponytail every day.
"Nice skirt, Mary, and I LOVE the bag." She turned and blushed a little, then we both laughed at out pink accessories. . "I was buying my mother a Mother's Day bag, and had to get this one for myself." She looked adorable and very unlike her usual all business self. Another friend complimented her and several male attorneys gave her the old lecherous stare down as they walked by. She was having trouble keeping her usual stern demeanor.
"I got a new bag for Mother's Day, too", another attorney piped up. She's about seven months pregnant with her second pregnancy in 30 months. She has deep circles under her eyes which she doesn't try to hide with make up since she has no time to put on in the morning. She took off a cute little designer backpack and proudly displayed it to us. "Ooh, how cute," we all hummed together.
Just then the elevator opened and our judge came out. She didn't have her robes on yet and she was wearing a lightweight, two piece pantsuit. In pink. Beautiful spring pink. We all looked at each other and raised our eyebrows.
When I went into the courtroom on my motion, I plopped my pink totebag onto the counsel table and said "Good morning, your honor," and prepared to tell her what my case was.
The judge looked up."Oh, a pink bag!"" The judge smiled at me and looked at her law clerk. "Pink is everywhere this spring," her law clerk assented, nodding with a smile.
"Anytime you'd like to borrow, it your Honor, just let me know, " I said with a smile, not losing the chance to suck up to a woman who is generally considered as buttoned-up as an eighty-year old nun.
For the second after our exchange finished, the atmosphere in the courtroom had dramatically changed from business to pleasure. The usual harassed atmosphere had the caress of spring, like a window had opened in the air conditioned room and the smell of freesia lilted in on a breeze. We all smiled at one another.
The male attorney shifted uncomfortably next to me. His dark blue suit suddenly looked so stuffy. He was a regular in the courtroom also, but all of a sudden, he wasn't part of the crowd.
I came out of the courtroom with my eyebrows raised. I told my colleagues what had transpired. Our strict, uptight judge who never makes eye contact, had been charmed by a bag. A pink bag. My God, I thought, I've discovered the Old Girls Network! This is what it feels like! And instead of the entry being a golf bag and the box scores, it's the right bag!
[NOTE - So, okay, before I get a ton of emails, let me say that I was a charter subscriber to Ms. and have been accused of being strident many times. But let's face it, Ms is really boring these days. Women are finding their pink inner self and still managing to run companies, drive a hard bargain and prosecute death penalty cases.]
I'm tired of being green in a world of pink. I'm tired of being under the glass ceiling, outside the locker room, and trying to force my way in encased in uniform of black. I'm sheding my layers of wool and faille. I'm taking back my right to wear a navy blue suit with tiny white polka dots and a swirly skirt. (OK, you're right, I never wear a skirt) But maybe I should start wearing a skirt.
So take out the pink, girls. Or the lemon yellow, coral orange, fuschia, magenta, or whatever it is that give a lift to your step. And you guys out there, my faithful male readers, try a pink shirt, or a pink tie. The women will love it! And the men.
Still, I hate when I become disconnected with words and paint. I know I am disengaged when I stare at the typepad empty post template and can't think of anything to write.
My good friend, Paula, sent me a copy of a post I'd written a few years ago. I'd forgotten about it and enjoyed reading it as though someone else had written it. Here's some snips of it:
This week I've been amazed by all the greens of spring. We've had days of rain which have brought out all the lushness of the trees and everything has popped at once. The highways I take to work are up into the more northern areas of the county. I was used to seeing glimpses of the Hudson River on my way to and from work, but by Friday, my vistas were being leafed out.
The river is at its widest up near Croton-on-Hudson. Some days it sparkles like effervescence. Friday it was a roiling mass of brown from the all the rain and it's current was more swift than the cars going 70 mph on Route 9A. I missed it more than the Long Island Sound when we lived out of state. When we moved to Memphis, I couldn't wait to see the Mississippi. Our first week there, we spent the night of Fourth of July on the riverbank watching fireworks explode over the "M" bridge to Arkansas (with it's sign: Home of President Clinton). A full moon shone gracefully over the river and the fireworks bursts revealed hundreds of small boats that had come up and down river to see the show. I expected to see Tom and Huck floating on a raft. We pinched ourselves that we were now in the South when just the year before, we'd celebrated the Fourth in Haverford, California, watching a fireworks display set to music and dance. The moon there was as golden as corn and floated up like a stage prop behind the dancers.
But the Mississippi in daylight was disappointing. Flat, brown, muddy, and with featureless banks. Scary to think of anyone on it in a raft; they'd drown in no time. For nineteenth century beauty, come to New York, and drive up to Bear Mountain, over the switchbacks and around the curves and then down to the old ironwork Bear Mountain Bridge. Look up river at the gorge, the gorgeous tree-studded, worn down mountains that spill into the river. Catch a glimpse of the citadel wall of West Point and the historic Victorian mansions that sit high up on the hills. Come for the and take a leaf cruise and sail past Iona island, past the little antique-filled town of Cold Spring, and up to Hyde Park.
After reading this post, I realize what I'm missing from my daily life. I have almost no view of water in this job. Yes, I am next to the upper reached of the Harlem River for about one minute, but it is so contained, flat, and brown, that it is more like a muddy canal than anything wild and alive and roiling and rushing with life. And there isn't a bit of green anywhere around except some weeds. With no daily time spent in the natural beauty of this place, I've lost the sense of place that was still so new to me when I wrote this two years ago.
I've fallen into the trap of living in my mind too much. I haven't taken a ride up the Hudson; I haven't been to the Sound except for a brief drive by a few weeks ago; I haven't set foot in the Botanic Gardens since I joined. I've let work and family and never-ending errands keep me house bound and hubris has deluded me into believing that I can find the fodder to write and paint from the recesses of my mind.
There are sheaves of green waiting to fall into my arms during a walk in the woods. Luscious lemon tulips are waiting to be licked by lolipops on the lawns of every house. Masses of azaleas are flinging armfuls of crimson, magenta, orange, and white like brides throwing their bouquets.
Ironically, on Saturday I have an appointment to have my eyes checked. I'll walk away with a new prescription, and maybe for the rest of the day, I'll examine why I am not seeing the beauty around me. I've lost the joie de vivre of being returned to a place I'd longed for. I am becoming one of those people who only go to the Statute of Liberty when guests are in town.
Time to go outside.
I haven't written any posts of substance since the weekend because our evenings have been very busy with kid stuff. As you can see, the 2000 cubes of sugar have been assembled into the requisite castle. Praise the Lord! The last six weeks of school are always intense for both parent and child. There are major projects due that need guidance, trips to the library, art store, and generally parental oversight and nagging. This year is particularly busy with the different rites of passage they are all experiencing. It's a challenge to juggle the demands of three kids when the age difference is seven years between the oldest and the youngest. Then again, my parents' children have a ten year age difference, and the effect was that of different "sub-families" under the same roof at different times.
An enormous amount of parenting is simply perseverance. If you wait long enough, the issue will be resolved. The child will learn to drive a car, or even replace the cap on the toothpaste. If you can grit your teeth through that age around 7 when they tend to develop small behavioral tics, like excessive throat clearing, you will be ready to bite your tongue when they go through the pre-adolescence stage when you have to drag them by the hair into the shower, and that will only make you stronger for when you have to drag yourself down to the basement each night to turn off the water so the teenager will get out of their one-hour shower. In short, just when you are patting yourself on the back that neither Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura have a thing on you, a child will walk in the door and prove you wrong.
Last night was the last big push to finish the medieval projects. (why 2 major projects, dear teacher, why a costume AND a castle?Did you have just a little too much to drink the night before you assigned this monster?) It was a long evening, but the glue finally set and she was able to add the little touches that she had planned, although the spray-painting was scrapped when we decided it was too humid. I'm most proud that she designed and built the castle without any adult help except for a ride to the store to buy the cubes. Granted, we both almost had a meltdown last night, but it was a good lesson for her in time management. It was worth it to see this big smile on her face.
This is the invitation I designed for my son's grad/birthday party. It's a photo of him on Nauset Beach in Cape Cod when he was about four years old, getting his kite up in the air for the first time.
We are all coming down with colds, so no writing last night. As my husband and I struggled to stay awake past nine o'clock, Mystery Man appeared and preceeded to fling himself on our bed, no mean feat for my almost six-feet tall son. He's decided that he doesn't want to work the job that was supposed to make him big money this summer. His first 11 hour shift was too much for him. Instead, he'll stay with his current job, with a promise of a raise and full time hours for summer. He feels badly about it, after a neighbor's mother got him the job, but says he can't deal with working from 10 in the morning till10 at night each day. So we told him just to make sure he can get full time hours at his current job.
Then we even talked about the prom. What they're doing after the prom is still up in the air, and that worries me the most. I offer to have everyone sleep here, with breakfast provided and he declines. Says his friends will try to sneak alcohol in and he doesn't want them here. I don't go into too much, don't want to turn the conversation in to an inquisition, so I just told him that if he doesn't have an activity lined up for after-prom, that he'll have to come home when the prom is over. He agreed without a lot of fuss. He also decided that he doesn't want to do the last-minute offer to be part of a band performing for two weeks in California. The cost is too high and I suspect that the fact that the band is only 4 other guys that he doesn't know, may be what is too weird for him to consider spending two weeks with them on the road.
And the monk's robe is done and the castle supposedly "almost finished". I will post photos if I can find a camera with film tonight.
So for a Tuesday morning, we're doing pretty well.
Romantic indeed: the three children are all home, together, for the summer, three months, together, under one roof. The oldest has returned from college. She hates it here, it's so boring! Do I want to rearrange her room with her at 10:30 at night? Why not? Why am I tired? SHE had to take an exam, then drive home three hours, then unload her car that lots of cute boys loaded for her. Why can't she say "prick" in front of the 12 year old; it's not like she hasn't heard it before! No, her shorts are not too rolled down and hiked up. EVERYONE walks around like this at college. Give me a break, Mom. Do you have any money? I'm bored, I miss my friends. The middle child is bucking so hard at the reins that he threatens to be fined for an false start. He has finished his three AP exams, started a new job today, and only has Band and Gym to go for the next two weeks before Senior Week, the Prom, Graduation, his 18th Birthday, and then 7 weeks to college. So with all his spare time, he is deep into developing the "Mystery Man" persona that he has cultivated off and on for the last two years,only now he is Mystery Snarly Man. Me: Who are you taking to the prom? 4 weeks later: 2 weeks later: him from new job: did you call me? I won't bore you with more erudite conversation. I dont' have time - I have to make the little one's life miserable next. She decided that her project for the medieval fair was to have her mother make her a monk's costume and for she to build a castle from sugar cubes. A month ago: her: take me to buy the sugar cubes take me to buy the sugar cubes take me right now to buy the sugar cubes Two weeks ago: her: I built the base, I have plenty of time One week ago: her: it doesn't look any bigger because I spent all night trying to sew two one-inch pieces of fabric together to make a flag for the tower. No, I didn't want to ask you, I wanted to do it. All right! I'LL FINISH IT! Three days to due-date: I have all weekend! Two days to due-date: Mom, it's beautiful out! If you let me go to the beach with Jess, I promise I"ll work all night. One and half days to due-date: Why can't I play basketball after dinner?? I never said I'd work all night if you let me go to the beach! I didn't even have fun at the beach! I didn't even want to go to the beach! Geez, you're always on my case. Leave me alone. I'll do it!!! ******************************
him: I don't know.
Me: I thought I just heard you tell your sister.
him: I'll tell you tomorrow.
Me: did you have a limo
me: with whom?
him: I don't know
me: you don't know?
him: IT'S CYNTHIA'S FRIENDS, I DON'T KNOW THEM, OKAY??
me: when are you going to rent a tux?
him: a bunch of us are going
him: I DON'T KNOW
me: you can't wait till it.s the week before
me: did you ask her where you're going after the prom?
him: she never answers me
me: I know you need to buy tickets in advance, what are you going to do
him: I DON'T KNOW IF YOU ASK ME AGAIN MAYBE I WON'T GO TO THE PROM AT ALL
me: I saw you called on my cell phone and thought you needed me
him: not anymore
me: is there a problem?
me: where are you
him: AT MY NEW JOB!
I would like to scintillate you more with the romantic life of Artjournaler, but instead, I must go play with Polar Fleece and transform it into a monk's robe on the coolest, sunniest, Sunday of the year. Why?? Because I said so!!!!
Romantic indeed: the three children are all home, together, for the summer, three months, together, under one roof.
The oldest has returned from college. She hates it here, it's so boring! Do I want to rearrange her room with her at 10:30 at night? Why not? Why am I tired? SHE had to take an exam, then drive home three hours, then unload her car that lots of cute boys loaded for her. Why can't she say "prick" in front of the 12 year old; it's not like she hasn't heard it before! No, her shorts are not too rolled down and hiked up. EVERYONE walks around like this at college. Give me a break, Mom. Do you have any money? I'm bored, I miss my friends.
The middle child is bucking so hard at the reins that he threatens to be fined for an false start. He has finished his three AP exams, started a new job today, and only has Band and Gym to go for the next two weeks before Senior Week, the Prom, Graduation, his 18th Birthday, and then 7 weeks to college. So with all his spare time, he is deep into developing the "Mystery Man" persona that he has cultivated off and on for the last two years,only now he is Mystery Snarly Man.
Me: Who are you taking to the prom?
4 weeks later:
2 weeks later:
him from new job: did you call me?
I won't bore you with more erudite conversation.
I dont' have time - I have to make the little one's life miserable next. She decided that her project for the medieval fair was to have her mother make her a monk's costume and for she to build a castle from sugar cubes.
A month ago:
her: take me to buy the sugar cubes take me to buy the sugar cubes take me right now to buy the sugar cubes
Two weeks ago:
her: I built the base, I have plenty of time
One week ago:
her: it doesn't look any bigger because I spent all night trying to sew two one-inch pieces of fabric together to make a flag for the tower. No, I didn't want to ask you, I wanted to do it. All right! I'LL FINISH IT!
Three days to due-date: I have all weekend!
Two days to due-date: Mom, it's beautiful out! If you let me go to the beach with Jess, I promise I"ll work all night.
One and half days to due-date: Why can't I play basketball after dinner?? I never said I'd work all night if you let me go to the beach! I didn't even have fun at the beach! I didn't even want to go to the beach! Geez, you're always on my case. Leave me alone. I'll do it!!!
We had the old bed for about 16 years. It was my idea of high fashion at the time: a Shaker style 4 poster with a canopy, so high off the floor I needed a stool to get in (or take a running leap and inelegantly fall onto my husband - he suggested the stool). My mother in law gave us a heavy crocheted bedcover that we fastened over the canopy frame. It was a giant dust collector and after many moves, the frame warped and we disassembled it and stored it under the bed. Along with suitcases, frames, shoes, and a a ton of stuff that fit under the high bed. Very bad feng shui and a bitch to clean.
But those prblems were nothing compared to how loud the bed creaked. And boy, did it creak. Loudly. Loud enough to wake up the other person in the bed when you tossed and turned. Also loud enough that when you banged your legs on the mattress, the noise woke up the other person who was snoring like a banshee, which was the whole point of banging your legs on the mattress.
Over the past few months, I'd been feeling like my side of the bed was listing towards the floor. I seemed to have to struggle uphill to stay in the middle. Now I know I have weight to lose, but I didn't think it was bad enough that I would be compressing a mattress. We flipped the mattress and things seemed better for awhile. Then one night I realized that I was grabbing at the sheets with my hands in my sleep because half my body was off the bed. Even out of the bed, you could notice a definite slant to the mattress. We decided to investigate under the bed and discovered that the side rail was warped and about to torque us onto the floor. With my son's help, we took off the mattress and box spring and took apart the bed and banged out the side rail and figured all was well.
The next morning, I sat on the back edge of the bed to make a call and I heard a snap and the mattress reared up in front of me and I sank inside the frame to the floor. Stan was in the shower and the kids in bed. My cries for help were unheard - actually ignored, I later learned, but kids who thought it was a ploy to get them up for church. This time the back rail had snapped its housing. The bed was declared officially dead. Stan and I did a little dance for joy. Finally, we had reason to get rid of the creaker! And I was really tired of climbing that damn stool.
While we've waited for the new bed to be delivered, I've gotten used to the mattress and box spring on the floor. It's like being back in the dorm. I can truly fall into bed at night. Our bedroom looks a lot bigger without the headboard, footboard, and four posters sticking up in the air. And I've enjoyed sleepful night on a sturdy, level surface, though I've had to resort to other methods to get the snoring to stop.
Our bedroom is pretty pathetic. The hardwood floor are so worn that the finish is off in several places from prior occupants. The yellow paint I picked out long distance is too green and I've hated it since the moment we moved in. On top of that is half a coat of blue that I thought I would love, but tried too dark. We have a tiny balcony off the bedroom but it looks directly into my neighbor's windows. A former owner must have been bugged by lack of privacy, so he or she took out one half of the french doors and replaced it with glass block. Truly ugly. We've searched every eave of the house in the hopes of finding the original door, but it must have been trashed. Replacing it is on the "some day list". Along with carpeting and curtains. (Yes, I know I sew - but when??)
We've had our share of weird bedrooms. Our first bedroom was in an apartment where our neighbor could be heard yelling at her husband "get off of me". Very charming at 3:00 a.m.
Our bedroom in our first house was a wreck, but we had to keep renovating children's rooms as we had each kid. We finally had it painted and carpeted when we put it on the market.
The Fresno house had a master bedroom large enough to roller skate in. The wall opposite the bed was so far away that we would have needed binoculars to see the TV. It had huge sliding glass doors that opened to the back patio and the garden. That would be the same back patio where the kids played and had friends over while you were lying on your bed trying to take a nap as you recuperated from surgery. And the garden would be the garden that lined the walkway to the guest house where the mother in law had taken up residence and from whose door one could see directly into the bedroom where the husband and wife would be asleep on weekend mornings. First day there we ripped down the ugly vertical blinds. Second day we ran out and bought drapes. We learned to love the dark.
The Memphis house had a large bedroom with a fake fireplace. The sellers took the fireplace with them and revealed a big waterstain down the wall, which was painted jailhouse grey. The carpeting was a lovely 1970's grey shag with an inset border of higher pile shag. Can you say tacky? You didn't know whether to vacuum it or comb it. There were floor to ceiling windows that must have been doors at one time because there were steps outside each one. My kids were forever jimmying up the windows and crawling into my bedroom when they'd forgotten their house keys. Made me feel very secure.
Right before Stan lost one of his jobs, we had the room painted a lovely basket color which set off the crown moldings painted the color of meringue, and carpeted with sisal. I do hope the new owners are enjoying it.
So here we are in yet another bedroom waiting for us to pour our sweat and money into it. It'd be nice to have a grown up bedroom after two decades of marriage. But I'm kind of afraid to do anything to it, because the minute we do, the moving truck will pull up outside.
It turned sultry hot here overnight, like someone forgot to turn the oven off after dinner. The air is rank with humidity and we are sweltering in the courthouse as the 60 year old ventilation systems struggles to keep up with the demand. The corridor where my courtroom is located lacks any air conditioning ducts. Years past, I hurried through it, checking the calendar on the wall and fled into a different courtroom where the temperature was arctic cold. In our sweat-soaked bodies, we would pick the side of the room furthest from the retrograded vents to sit, trying to forestall the spasms of shivering that would overtake us as our wet clothes turned frosty.
This year, the courtroom they have relegated us to is a tissue box-sized room created a few years ago to provide a non-jury trial court. There's just enough room for the judge's bench, witness box, clerk's desk and two counsel tables. We are called into the courtroom one by one for the calendar through the morning. This means we spend all our morning, except for 90 seconds or so at a time in the actual courtroom, in the hall. The hall without air conditioning.
Now we are a hardy, yet downtrodden bunch. We've already gotten used to hanging out in the hall, mixing it up with the bridal parties on the way to the license chapel on the other end of the corridor. Often we are arguing about a stipulation for a motion, voices raised, when the crowds part to allow a bride and groom, often in full wedding regalia, pass by. The parties are usually nervous and sometimes have grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, and friends in tow. More often, the party is small, young, and includes a baby or two. I've seen brides in full wedding dress and veil, brides in jeans, and brides in slip dresses (with no apparent underwear) slit up to the top of their thigh. They are always more dressed up than the groom. The most spectacular were the Goth couple: the bride was a six foot tall Nordic blonde who wore a dress right out Moulin Rouge, only she was in black from the veil on her head down to her kick-ass laced up boots. She carried a few stalks of blood red roses in her hand. Even the most hardened court officers left their posts to watch her procession down the hall.
So picture the dark-suited, sweaty attorneys, the court officer opening the door every minute screaming out a new case, people asking in Spanish for Small Claims, and couples hunting for the wedding chapel. Throw in a bomb scare, like last Thursday, and that's pretty much my morning each day. Never dull, always some comic relief.
Like Monday morning. Last Friday the calendar was packed. Everyone I knew was hanging out in the hall. A group of us started talking and laughing as we waited out the morning until our cases were called. There are three benches right outside the courtroom and we all were squeezed in, trying to accomodate as many people as we could. At one point, I was in the middle of a hilarious story about a former colleague who used to be a cop, when the court officer threw opened the court door and told us to keep it down, that they could hear us in the courtroom. We meekly shut up, but one thing led to another, and my friend Lynne, who really could be a stand up comedian, was laughing in her loud, brassy, take no prisoners voice.
The courtroom door flew open once again. The court office came out. She didn't say a word, but she glared at us. And glared. And glared. A fit of giggling overtook me. I put my papers up in front of my face. I felt like I was in third grade again and Miss Boyle was complaining to Sister that I was talking again. The court officer continued to glare. Lynne, in desperation, tried to throw me to the wolves.
"She's making me laugh!" she snorted, pointing at me.
"But all I hear is you!" was the surly reply from Madame Officer, who slammed the door closed.
Chastened, we tried not to wet our pants, and whispered for the rest of the morning.
Monday morning came and I strolled into the courthouse, took the stairs to my floor and walked around the corner - and wait - WHERE ARE THE BENCHES? They were gone. Every last one. Pushed all the way down the hall and around the corner. Omigod, they took away the fucking benches because Lynne and I were talking too loud.
They took away our benches.
The court officer started calling the calendar. We said not a word. She said not a word. I left to look something up in the computer. When I came back, another bench and a chair had appeared and two attorneys were sitting on them.
"You see", someone said, "We're just paranoid. They're just moving furniture around."
So we sat there, four of us. Very quietly. And waited for the officer to open the door. She called a motion. Didn't say a word. We all nodded at our foolishness, except for one particularly cynical attorney.
"Wait. Just wait until she comes out again."
The door opened. Madame Officer came out. "Number 13 on Part 40, Prime against - WHERE DID THAT BENCH COME FROM? WHO PUT THAT BENCH THERE?" she screeeched.
She left her station at the door and approached us. "Where did this come from? Get off that bench!" We all looked at her mutely as everyone in the hall turned around to see what was going on. We've been well trained to give only name, rank, and serial number.
"Don't get comfortable!" she warned and spun on her army boot back into the courtroom. We could hear her on the phone. She came out again. "That bench has to go. We have to move it down to the other end. Get up, right now."
Well, she does carry a gun, so we got up. But we were damned if we were going to push the benches anywhere.
"I asked you where that bench came from and you're all just staring at me. I called around and no one knows anything about moving a bench here. Where did it come from??"
Where did it come from?
OK, I can take almost any abuse in court. My boss once told me that when I unbuttoned my shirt, if my chest wasn't full of scars, then I wasn't practicing law. (Please - I work for an insurance company). But I'd be damned if I was going to be accused of stealing furniture!
"Someone from the court put it here. Wha' d'ya think - I brought a bench in my pocket this morning?"
A hush fell over the crowd. Madame Officer turned around and squared off at me.
"I didn't say you had a bench in your pocket, did I, counselor?" she leaned into me and dragged out the word counselor.
We stared off at each other.
I scurried off into the crowd. I had broken the cardinal rule. Never call attention to yourself. You do NOT want to make the woman who controls WHEN your case is called, WHEN your stips are signed, and WHEN your day is over, pissed off. And she is easily pissed off. And now she is pissed off at me. Like major, fucking pissed off at me.
Suddenly the freight elevator opened and two dudes appeared with yet another bench. Seems they'd been told to pull some old benches off the upper floors where they were getting new benches and drag the old ones down here. Where the rats live. Let them have the old, scarred benches! They're scum!
Well, Madame Officer told them where they could put those benches. She had them shoving them back in the freight elevator faster than she could say "All Rise". And when they came back down again with another bench that had to go somewhere else, she made them turn it around. Facing the wall. So none of the lawyers could sit on it for the ten minutes it would be there. I offered 50 bucks to anyone who would sit in the bench and face the wall. No takers. No one would risk the wrath of Madame Officer. We are incensed, livid. We make noises about bringing in folding chairs, or beach chairs with umbrellas. But when the courtroom door opens, we all shut up and avert our eyes.
So now we hang out at the unmanned information desk, jostling for space. We patiently try to answer the questions of visitors who are naive enough to think that the courthouse actually has a manned information desk. We lean against it, lifting our weight off one leg and then the other. The top of the desk is slate and its cool on the mornings when the temp is rising and the humidity from the stone foundation makes the floor slick and high heels go flying. Some brave souls actually sit on the floor where the benches used to be. But only a couple of guys who don't mind getting their suits dirty.
The other day the biggest freaking roach I've ever seen crawled out from under the desk. We all went shrieking (quietly) men and women, to the other side of the hall. Then we watched it silently scuttle across the floor and disappear under the benches by the wedding chapel. None of us made a move to kill it. .
Something has to be lower on the food chain than we are/
My sister, Maria, admonishes me that I haven't posted since Sunday. What day is it? Wednesday? No, I posted Sunday NIGHT - so actually, yeah, it's still three days. It's just been one of those busy weeks, with after school games and family stuff.
And after I write a long essay, I like to let it simmer for awhile as the blog entry. It needs time to be absorbed into blogdom, as it were.
So tonight I'm posting some of my favorite sites for fun surfing while I think of something else to write about:
The Guild of Silk Painters: read about her take on the color wheel and browse through the other tutorials on the site for a real mix of art lessons.
Written Road Blog is a great site for those who like travel writing. The site is loaded with links and it'll take you weeks to browse it all. Very good writing all around.
Noiseways is an interactive site that is a virtual and not-so-virtual tour of New York complete with video and music. You can visit everywhere from the Brooklyn Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike.
I love SARK. her new website is gorgeous and has lots to read. There's even a place to sign up for real-time Wild Woman Groups in your area.
This is the most amazing site. It is an index of Artists and Naturalists. What a wealth of artwork!
Logan Franklin is a very accomplished artist. Take a peek through his very cool sketchbook.
Very Danny Gregory in feel.
I don't remember how I found this site, but it is about a wall in Italy where people post their thanks for prayers answered. It reminds me of the wall in The Secret Life of Bees, but in the novel it was a "wailing wall". I have to see this wall in Italy. It's so intriguing. It has to find its way into my novel. The site simply says: " In Rome, on viale Trastevere, there's a wall of Per Grazie Ricevute, a kind of ThankSgiving Wall. Those who've had prayers answered manifest their gratitude by attaching on the wall little plaques with PGR written on them."
Lastly, these are three artists whose work just send me around the bend. As soon as I click on these sites, I have to run into my artroom and make something! Anne Danberg Fine Art; Julia Wood Fine Art; Mary Daniel Hobson.
I've been thinking a lot today about artifacts. Mother's Day is laden with artifacts: old cards that I've kept in my dresser for years along with clunky art projects executed under the tutelage of well-meaning teachers to mark the day. In my art room, my bedroom, and all over the house, I have accumulated thick layers of objects and images that are imbued with meaning. Some are obvious, like photographs of family and the vases I inherited from my grandmother. Some are whimsical, like the glass-front cabinet full of my children's baby dishes, tiny booties, and silver spoons, the gifts that mothers never actually use, but cherish none the less.
Some objects are tucked away for safekeeping. Stan has a baggie full of "tooth fairy" teeth from all the kids, which he keeps in his sock drawer. I have a pipe of my Dad's that stays in the little hidden drawer in the Victorian side-by-side in the dining room, along with a handful of heavy silver dollars from my aunt who passed away last spring.
Some are physically comforting, like the pillowcases trimmed with my great-grandmother's handmade lace. They are soft as cotton can become after 75 years of hand-washing. And I'd love to pack my father's pipe with Brindley's tobacco one more time and have the house infused with the earthy smell of his tobacco, if I didn't think it would be just too weird.
I don't pay much attention to these objects on a daily basis. They are part of the house, as much as the windows and doors and the heavy, oak dining room table. Sometimes they threaten to pile up in corners like forgotten whispers, and when I see them rising higher with each tidal day, I sweep them into drawers or closets where they can rest and restore their luster in the quiet dark, like poinsettias waiting to blush crimson again.
My sisters and I have politely fought over some of these heirlooms, if you want to call a jar of doodads worthy of Cracker Jack prizes as heirlooms. We didn't have a problem with divvying up the cut glass lamps or my great-grandmother's china (though I would have liked more than a teacup and saucer) No, we tended to get bitchy over who inherited the milkglass sugar bowl with the tarnished silver lid that sat on my grandmother's kitchen table her entire life. We hoarded the giant baggy full of match boxes from every wedding attended by the extended family from 1950 to 1985. And the old New Year's Eve noisemakers, they were so coveted that no one but the heir knew they existed.
Although most of our treasures came from the attics and basements of our relatives, some we inherited by default. My mother had one tiny, leather bootie with pearl buttons that she herself wore as an infant. The bootie lived in my parents' bookcase, lovingly displayed atop a collection of baby books. Our first child, the Siberian Husky my husband and I adopted when we were dating, was having a rare run of my parents’ house when she remembered in her dog brain that leather = dead animal and before I stop her, she had the dainty little bootie in shreds. My mother gave it to me. Actually, I seem to remember her throwing it at me.
The kids each have a drawstring bag full of vintage marbles that belonged to my mother, my aunt, and my uncles. My aunt divvied them up among my kids a long time ago. I tried to get the marbles from them once to pour into a cool glass jar in the living room, but they all refused to give them to me. They were horrified that I would commingle the marbles and they'd never get the same ones back. They keep them hidden from me, in various drawers, under underwear or socks, next to the contraband like matches that are supposedly hidden from prying mother eyes.
When we drove to dinner today, we listened to the CD that my son gave me for Mother’s Day, John Mayer’s “Room for Squares”. When he was singing "My Body is a Wonderland” I cracked up. No middle aged woman can listen to that song without doubting that anyone thinks her body is a wonderland anymore. Mine is more like an artifact.My stomach is trisected with the scars of three Cesarean sections, one bikini and two vertical. The vertical incision used to be like an angry, red rope from my belly button to my pubic bone. It's quieted down in 12 years, but is still there as evidence of the deed. My breasts are droopy from breast-feeding and running after three kids. My stomach pooches (my word) on either side of the vertical scar like a loaf of bread tied in the middle. My body is saggy and poochy and fallen and flat where it should be round and round where it should be flat. But every piece of skin, down to the smallest molecule is imprinted with each second of my life, from my first cry on leaving my mother's womb, to the last breath I sigh.
Thus so, I am a living artifact. When my husband traces the scar on my stomach, his finger connects with a twenty-year line of child-birth and child-rearing. He hears the cries of the newborns wanting to be fed at 3:00 a.m. In the bumpy, thickened skin, he feels exhaustion of spending the weekend chasing three kids all over a park while teaching one to ride a bike. In the private dark of our bedroom, he sees their bright eyes shining out of the bundle of blanket that the nurse hands him in the delivery room. He relives his pride at giving life, not once, twice, but three miraculous times.
We keep artifacts around as talismans to ward off anonyminity. Like the polished marbles we hold in our hand, they are more impressive together than as a solitary orb. We gather these talismans around us and marvel at their weight and heft, at their fragility, at their softness, at their evocation of the past. My kids hardly ever take their marbles out, but they know where they are safely kept, in their drawstring bags. They don’t need artifacts at this stage of their life, though my youngest is developing into quite a sentimentalist, dissolving into tears over every skirt or pair of shoes I suggest she pass onto her cousin. She cannot bear to part with even a barrette that was given to her as a gift. She assuages her anxiety as the youngest in an aging family by keeping every piece of her belongings close around her in a tight circle of safety.
But no matter how many pieces of the past we pile up around us, death will come. The moat, or garbage pile, of belongings is as permeable as our skin. While we allow the past to infuse our life with hard-edged memory, death overtakes us all and transforms even the flintiest into a shadow. Even our angriest scars will not outlive us, shedding their toughened flakes of skin as fast as the tender flesh in the crook of the arm. Gradually, the body will sag until it meets the spine, and eventually, even bone will return to the earth, victim to microbe and scavenger. All that will be left is our imprint, the weight of water upon the land.
Until then, we continue to hide the scars of child-bearing, holding in secret the scars or silvery stretch marks that spread out from the navel, connecting two births with a spidery web of lines. If we are lucky, there will be someone who traces those lines with a soft finger and a kiss, fingering the sagging flesh with remembered lust and tender mercy.
Someday I’ll clean out my children’s bureaus, long after they have left home for the last time. I hope to give the left behind bags of marbles to grandchildren who will tie them to their belts and run down the street listening to the satisfying clack of marble against marble in the drawstring bags. I expect that after they’d been put to bed at night, they’ll sneak out the marbles and arrange them in patterns on their bedcovers. They’ll hold the blue, green, and rare red glass in their hands, enjoying the cold weight on a hot summer night. Then they’ll put them back in the bag one by one, listening to the neat click one more time before tucking the bag back into the nest of socks. I hope they’ll go to sleep marveling over the collection of their days.
Saturday and sunny skies have placed me in a much better frame of mind. But still, it is a fragile state, and I am on guard against falling in to the “weekend malaise”. I sat in bed this morning with a cup of coffee that my husband kindly brought for me and I listed for him all the things I should do today, or rather all the things I FELT I needed to do in order to get them off my mind.
This was my list:
• Make my son’s invitations for his grad party, address and mail them
• Go to the fabric store across the county and get fabric for my daughter’s school costume and sew the costume
• Sew the fabric that I bought a month ago into hall curtains
• Find the yellow paint from our bedroom in the basement and redo the walls I started to paint blue and then hated
• Buy soil and flowering plants for the window box
• Scrape the porch floor and put three coats of paint on it
• Put away all the Easter decorations
• Make my mother a Mother’s Day card and go out and buy one
• Begin the scrapbook for my son’s graduation/18th birthday gift
• Throw in a few loads of wash
• Go to the grocery store
• Paint the kitchen walls that we had primed three years ago and never finished
• Make curtains for the kitchen
• Fix the cement that’s cracking on the walk all around the driveway
• Weed the flower beds
And, don’t forget to pick up a cake and my mother to take her to my sister’s tonight.
It was good to tell my husband all the festering, moldering “I need to’s” I had stored up in my little guilt-ridden blame. After all, relatives I only see at big family events are coming here in June! The house is in worse shape than it was when they were here two years ago for my daughter’s graduation! And then I had the excuse that we had moved in only 15 months before!
Snap out of it woman! (Picture me slapping my own face several times).
Shut up and sit down and just make something, you crazy fool!
So I did.
I made my son’s invitations, which I did by scanning in a picture of him when he was three and photoshopping it. I pawed through all my art paper and found enough paper and envelopes that I didn’t have to buy a thing. I think it looks very arty and cute and they’ll be in the mail on Monday.
I feel so much better after having done something creative. I got back in touch with that feeling of happiness that comes from making something with my hands. I get so caught up in old standards of what I THINK my life should be like that I neglect the vital, sacred pieces of my life that exist here and now, not in the future, not in the eyes of some distant relations, and certainly not in the mind of anyone else because no one cares about this stuff but me.
It was very healing to print out the invitations, crease them with the bone folders, and address the envelopes in a beautiful cocoa ink. My son will think they’re too sentimental, and would probably have preferred a card with a photo of his Chevy Nova on it – but I’m his mother and it is Mother’s Day weekend, so I get to chose.
And now I am going to lie on my bed and look through magazines until it’s time to go to my sister’s.
Blessings on all the mothers, whether mothers by choice, biology, or soul. Blessings on all those who nurture their creativity. Blessings on the practitioners of the art of creativity.
It's Friday and I'm tired. Wednesday and Thursday I felt like I could nod off at any moment. I feel every pound of my weight as I walk up the courthouse in the morning. A friend told me that she felt this way last spring and her doctor told her it was allergies. I think I am more than a little depressed.
A lot of pressure on us right now to pay for two kids in college. And the continuing spectre of my husband's health issues hanging over our heads. I think I just woke up to the fact that I will be working full time long past when my friends who worked steadily from law school, will be retiring. The urge to go away for a month and just plunge through my novel is overwhelming. And definitely not happening.
So I'm Artjournaler The Sad today. And it's cold and raining. Happy May. Aren't you sorry you clicked on? I promise I'll be more uplifting tomorrow!
So enjoy the art from a day when I didn't feel like pulling the covers back over my head.
Do you know that "Friends" is having its final episode tomorrow? No? HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW?? Do you live under a rock?? And why does anyone care??? Give me a f-ing break!!! Yeah, I've watched it, liked it at times, and laughed a lot, but come on, we should all go off from our jobs with such celebrity, fanfare, and careers waiting for us.
So maybe I'm bitter. I'd like a retrospective of my last ten years, and the chance to walk away from it all and do something completely different, with the guarantee of lots and lots of money. Wouldn't you?
Let's see, this is how the retrospective of my ten-year series would play:
Loretta and her family move out to California, and in a surprising casting, the mother in law moves in with them. Their surroundings are tropical and plush. They swim in the black-bottomed pool, pick oranges from their own trees, and get away for weekends in Carmel, San Francisco and Yosemite.
But all is not wonderful in paradise. The mother in law has a hard time leaving her friends and employment and bitterly resents the move. The writers decide to go heavy on the pathos and Loretta finds out two months after they move that she has to have a hysterectomy. Stan's new boss decides to leave the cast after three months after they get there, and the company decides to close down the California production office and move them -again- to Tennessee where production costs are cheaper.
Their kids,good little professionals, change states and school for the second time in 18 months. The stage set for the new school in Tennessee is a bit "rough". Grunge is the uniform and the daughter's blonde pigtails and plaid Bemuda shorts are ridiculed. The actress cast as the son's third grade teacher has an accent so thick that the audience asks for subtitles. But the new house is grand, and Stan and Loretta make a lot of friends and enjoy margaritas around the pool. Their new church is a welcoming oasis and as a ratings grabber, Stan converts to Catholicism after 15 years of marriage.
But wait - after a few commercials, there are problems on the horizon. The government is closing down cotton houses and hysteria sweeps through the white-gloved Garden Clubs of Memphis. Our stars wait for the axe to fall, but somehow the company is spared. Until - ominious music - the company loses a crapload of money and the parent company pulls the plug.
Oops - time to move again. Stan flies off hither and yon in scouting locations, returning from hot spots like Omaha saying things like, "well we could live there, it wouldn't be the same, but we could live there". The older children, now in high school threaten to quit the profession and run away. Stan is cast in a starring role in a company in Portland, OR. Off they all go on location to see their new coast. Though they are coy at first, the cast signs the contracts for the new roles and wardrobe stocks up on ski clothes. But behind the scenes there are major problems. The producers are having a difficult time finding the right location for the house shots. They decide to name the new show, "Portland: no house not on stilts costs less than $750,000".
The new season begin with the heroine in Memphis trying to sell the house, while Stan's in Portland having a recurrence of his old back problem. (Writers are so trite!) Soon our hero is working from his bed in a furnished apartment. In a dramatic highlight of a ratings sweep month, Stan calls Loretta at 3:00 a.m. to tell her that he is in massive pain and is waiting for an ambulance. Our heroine hopes on a plane at 5:00 a.m. and finds Stan in agony. After much negotiation with the producers, a new role is cast: the GI Doc. Stan is diagnosed with diverticulitis, and through the excellent nursing care of our heroine, is spared surgery. But in Memphis the children are running amuck and the mother in law is pulling out what is left of her hair Loretta starts having heart palipitations.
Will our hero and heroine survive?
Cut to the new season - always leave a cliffhanger.
In the opening show, Stan has recuperated from diverticulitis, but has to quit the new job in order to have spinal fusion. The new doctor is a national celebrity. Will his magic techniques work? The producers drag out the conclusion for a year, and still no clear answer.
The stars' bank account is now empty. Dire times are predicted. Then, on a trip to NY to visit family, a job tip comes through. Husband hustles to interviews. Things begin to click. Offers are made. Our hero and heroine go home and pack up the house - again. Or rather the heroine does, while the husband struggles with his back and working twelve hours a day. The sister and brother in law take recurring supporting roles, providing Stan with a place to live while Loretta wrestles with house purchasers and screams at realtors,
The daughter hates the New York high school. The littlest daughter, however,adores her new grade school. The son pines for his friends and the freedom he had in the woods and streams of Tennessee (cut to flashbacks and country music). Loretta stares at the mess of their new house and begins overeating again. Family have recurring roles and on location shots are rampant as the family celebrates New York.
Fast forward through Stan losing his job again due to that old back problem (fire the writers!), going to many new doctors, then getting his old job back. Loretta suffers through the humiliation of trying to revive her legal career (a great hankie moment for the women) and after a few lucky breaks is employed. The children settle down although Loretta lobbies hard to recast the "boyfriend" role, gaining her much emnity among the cast.
Now,four years later, the cast are still together, but the oldest daughter has spun off her own series: "The College Years", and the son has his agent fielding offers for his own. The youngest daughter has left acting to enter the sports arena. Our stars are tired and are talking about taking the series to a new location to revive it. Maybe by the water? But the producers don't agree.
Stan and Loretta sign contracts for another ten years. When they get the scripts, they are relieved to see that the role of the orthopedic surgeon has not yet been cast. Loretta is being difficult, she's demanding shorter hours and wants to produce. Stan is soldiering on but has increasingly more outbursts on the set after thirteen hour days. Meanwhile, budget demands are skyrocketing and the producers are refusing to invest any more money into the series. Is the handwriting is on the wall?
I opened up the cupboard last night to take out three bowls for dinner. The smell of coffee grounds greeted me and I sniffed deeply, enjoying the earthy aroma. In our house, we drink coffee in the morning, and only after dinner if we have company. During the week, both Stan and I drink our coffee at work, rarely making a pot at home. I miss the aroma of coffee perking - or dripping, these days - while my hands are up to the elbow in soapy water and the dishes become squeaky clean.
The smell of coffee brewing after dinner always reminds me of my parents' house. My mother had a weekly mahjong group, and when it was her turn, the kitchen was hurriedly cleared after dinner and we kids would disappear to our rooms to do homework and get out of the way. When we smelled the coffee perking, we came down, knowing that they were taking a break and cake was being served. We'd say hello and head to the kitchen to search for leftovers. Usually there'd be some trail mix and leftover coffee cake for us.
My mother had many percolators in her life. I remember a glass one that went on the stove, and several large metal electric percolators that failed over the years. She settled eventually on an 8 cup Farberware and a 16 for when company came. She finally bought a small, drip pot for herself now that she only needs a few cups in the morning.
We've been through a ton of coffee makers. We've had the plug in electric pots that always end up burning out. We've purchased just about every model of drip and sooner or later they don't keep the coffee warm anymore. I used to have a glass Melitta. I don't remember what happened to it, but I'm pretty sure the carafe broke. After my sister returned from Italy, she bought a stove top espresso maker and started buying a brand of coffee she could only find at the bodega by her school. I've lusted after the model in Williams Sonoma that has a timer that you can set to grind the grounds at an appointed time, then brew the coffee directly into a thermos that keeps the coffee warm, not cooked.
Until I can justify the expense, we'll make do with our cheap Braun.
I'll confess that these days, most of my coffee comes from Starbucks (don't hate me). I LIKE their coffee, I LOVE their lattes. Rich, smooth, just like the commercials.
I hope to have another life sometime in the future, where mornings are for smelling the coffee and getting newsprint on your hands. For now, I'll continue to run into Starbucks and drink most of my coffee in the car.
Where's the support group?
You know, the one for middle-aged women who want to finish their novels.
And control their spending.
And cut out sugar.
And walk 10,000 steps a day.
And sit quietly on the porch with glasses of wine with their husbands.
And have all the laundry folded and put away
Rather than live out of baskets all week
Until the dirty laundry commingles with the clean and
Nobody knows what's what anymore.
And the children wear dirty uniforms to their games.
And the other children make fun of them.
So they cry when they come home
And their homework doesn't get done.
And they get failure notices.
And have to go to summer school.
So they run away and join
Soccer teams on the Fiji islands.
And their fathers take up drink.
And their grandmothers pray novenas
24 hours on their knees.
And their mothers' PTA cards are ripped up in their faces.
So they take to their beds with tabloid newspapers.
And coffee laced with rum.
And their bra straps hang low on their arms.
And they spend the night searching the sky.
And write new novels about interterestrial abductions.
Which end up on the best seller list.
So they hire laundresses to do the wash.
And tutors for the children
And private coaches for the games.
And do book tours and TV interviews.
Which means they still don't have time.
To sit on the porch and have a glass of wine with their husbands.
Where's the support group?