Saturday, March 29, 2008

Images

There are certain images that I can call up in an instant...

one is a photo of my nephew, Mark, in it he is probably about a year old. He sits on a couch in a striped shirt and he has one hand outstretched in a tiny fist. His little face is so serious, all big brown eyes and full pout. For some reason that it the image of him I have carried with my my whole life. He is so small, vulnerable, innocent and achingly beautiful... Never mind he turns 38 this year, owns his own business, is strong, smart, successful and just one of the best men in the world, in my heart he is always my first baby nephew.

Another image I carry with me is my mom winking at me. I was a teenager when she had her first heart attack. My aunt Catherine picked me up at school and took me to the ER where my mom was. I walked into the room and she was in bed hooked to wires and machines beeping and lighting up. Tubes were in her arms, oxygen hooked to her face and I stood stock still seeing my mother so vulnerable and defeated, scared and scary. I just stood there silently terrified that she was dying but then she opened her eyes and smiled and winked at me. And suddenly I knew it would be ok. That it wasn't her time yet, that I wouldn't be an orphan, that my mom would come home. Somehow that gesture, that wink conveyed all that and I let Aunt Catherine lead me out to wait...

The last image is a happy one. My favorite image of Molly (my big red dog) is from the first summer we had her and I would let her off the lead in the parking lot of the ball park. She would take off trotting, her long red fur flowing in the breeze, her ears flapping, her tail high and wagging, her head turning to look back at me, making sure I was within a safe distance, not too close, not too far, as she happily trotted in circles enjoying the sun, the breeze, and freedom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More NYC stories.

I spent much of my time in New York in darkness; sitting in small dark rooms running a light board connected to other humans by a headset, watching plays night after night...
I learned to play Scrabble during a long run of one play. I met my husband at one of the theaters I worked at where I was the electrician and he was in the box office.
I met a few famous people along the way, a lot of not so famous, and some who would become famous.
One of the nicest famous people I ever met was Werner Klemperer, aka "Col. Clink" on Hogan's Heroes. He was in a show and was incredibly gracious to everyone, especially the crew. (This is not always the case.) Even after that show, when I had moved on to other theaters, if Werner noticed my name in the program, he always made a point to come back to the light booth and say hello. He was very much a gentleman. He also had his share of tragedy in his life and I think he had an air of sadness about him that was often overlooked. I also think he was a much more brilliant actor than anyone ever realized too.
It was those small gestures that will forever make me a fan.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jill Merzon

This is about Jill. My first, best friend I made on my own in New York. She was mystical and wild and a freer spirit than I have ever before or since met.
Her apartment was tiny. Nothing more than one moderate sized room that was kitchen/bath/living room with a room on one side taken up completely by a bed and one on the other that held a chest of drawers and her clothes and a chair. The toilet was in a tiny closet and the tub was in the kitchen with a plywood top that served as a table when needed. She had beads and mirrors everywhere, art and books and plants crowded one another for space. We sat there so many hours drinking french press coffee, laughing, crying, talking, sitting in silence, just being together. Jill was a native New Yorker, Jewish, red-haired, gypsy/hippie, I was a southerner up for a while...
We connected from the very beginning. She and I worked backstage at Manhattan Theater Club, (an off Broadway theater), she ran sound, I ran lights. Together we were a great team. She introduced me to lentil soup, pumpernickel bread and incense. I introduced her to cornbread and Southern Literature.
We had one of those connections where I would pick up the phone to call her and she would be on the line (before it even rang!) Or we would show up at the same place on a whim to find the other there reading or having coffee...
In such a large city we found each other again and again.
She made me laugh and dance and feel much more savvy and cool than I probably was. She would take off on a whim going to Mexico or England or where ever her fancy took her once she had enough money saved for the fare.
Jill read tarot and is the only person I ever truly believed who could. She was just that magic. She loved fiercely and passionately and I saw her through several broken hearts. And she in turn was there when my own was trampled a few times. I once did a water color for her of us, she as the sun, me as the moon. That was how I saw us, she was all fire and light and I was just a reflector of her light...
When I was leaving New York, she was the one person I really had to say goodbye to. I knew by leaving, the bond would break somehow. I don't remember what we did or said that last time. I just remember sitting in her magical apartment, drinking cup after cup of Cafe Bustelo, laughing, crying, talking and sitting in silence.
I think maybe we tried to write, but over the years we lost touch. And I grieve that now. There is a part of me that longs for the days of discovery; of running down dark New York streets, singing "All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray..."
I feel a bittersweet longing to go back one more time, to see those young women, to tell them they are wondrous, beautiful, and that it will all be okay someday. That the tears they shed over the men in their lives will be dried by someone better, stronger, sweeter. That life will even out its crazy rollercoaster ride, but for now enjoy the hills and dips, twists and turns, the craziness. For it is fleeting; their time as sisters and friends.This time will go so fast. In a blink, it will be gone and they will be settled and content and remembering each other from a lifetime ago...

Violets

I remember a bank of violets
blooming deep in the woods.
Coming upon them one day unexpectedly,
seeing hundreds and hundreds of deep purple flowers
pushing through the dark soil,
the green waxy leaves like emerald hearts,
my breath caught at the beauty,
the discovery,
the miracle that was spring.

spring fever

For the past few weeks I have been fighting a cold. The cold won.
This past weekend was another lost weekend; I slept it away, getting up to swill Nyquil, drink juice and growl at my long suffering husband...
In and out of fevered dreams, I would have half awake memories tugging at me.
The past kept tapping at my dreams, inserting true life images, which became distorted as I drifted in and out of slumber...
I remember as a child I had the measles and my mother held me on her lap under a blanket so the light would not damage my eyes and rocked me while I listened to the sounds of the family; the television playing, news followed by a show with a canned laugh track, my father turning the pages of the newspaper, the scratching of my brother Paul's pencil on paper as he did homework, the rhythmic creak of the old platform rocker that I can hear to this day.
I remember the smells too; the cherry almond scent of Jergens lotion on my mother's hands as she felt my forehead for fever, my sister's Noxzema, my father's cigar, the smell of dinner recently cooked and eaten. I remember feeling safe, even though I was sick and feverish. In my dreams, I long for that safety again. I no longer have a mom to care for me, a father to dote on me and older siblings to baby me...
I am a grown woman, middle aged, independent, grumpy as h*** when I am sick. But inside, I am that feverish 5 year old, wanting a cool drink, the sheets smoothed and a gentle hand on my brow. Really, aren't we all?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

sicko

sorry for the lack of posts... i have been sick w/ a really nasty cold... maybe even a sinus infection. ( I will spare the yucky details....)
more later.
M

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mrs. H

Since learning of the death of Mrs. H, I have been grieving the loss of my friend.
She was such a wondrous lady. As I wrote in a previous post, she was born in 1915 in Hawaii, granting her dual citizenship in America and Japan. She grew up in Japan, lived in NYC most of her adult life working as a beautician. When I think of the span of her life, I am amazed. She lived through two World Wars. I cannot imagine what WWII was like for her, seeing her two countries fight against each other in such horrific and deadly ways.
When she left NYC, she left behind a life of independence, friends, possessions and memories... She shared those memories with me: sometimes they brought a beautiful smile to her face, sometimes her voice grew rough with pain...
Her tiny apartment held the essentials: necessary furniture and pictures of her family spanning the generations.
The last time I saw her, I took my husband. He finally got to meet the lady who had become so much of my life. One of my professor's once commented to me "Doing laundry is not social work!" No, it was God's work. I cannot express the honor of serving her, of doing the chores she could no longer do, of assisting her with simple everyday tasks. Working with Mrs. H kept me grounded in the real world when I was finishing Grad school. On days I was stressing because an "A" was the most important thing in the world and my life depended on it, she was there to remind me that no, there are more important things in life. Love, gratitude, helping others, truly sharing ourselves trumps the "A" every time. Mrs. H taught me that simplicity is enough; that there is a difference between wanting and needing. She was so gracious and grateful. Being diabetic, she couldn't eat the cookies that came with her "meals on wheels" and would save them for me to give to my kids at school or for my husband and me to share over a cup of tea. It wasn't much in the conventional sense, but that gesture was so full of love that to think of it breaks my heart and tears cloud my eyes. I think of this tiny woman, carefully wrapping those cookies and storing them in ziplock bags to keep them fresh, thinking of me, of my work and I just fall in love with her again...
Sometimes we would share a meal of sushi. She loved her some sushi! We would discuss which place had the better rice, if the ginger was fresh and how much we loved wasabi.
She tickled me because she would often point out that the people working in the sushi places were "not Japanese, they are Asians!" as if they were trying to put something over on her and she had trumped them by knowing!!!
She loved plants. Like my mother, Mrs. H had a green thumb. She would stick a sprout, sprig or cutting into dirt and weeks later it was a thriving plant, flourishing on her window sill. I watered her plants whenever I could, knowing it took her hours to walk back and forth carrying a small pitcher of water...
Often when I was there doing things, she would stand nearby and talk, that is when she told me about her life. Later, near the end, she didn't talk as much, and I would often find her napping on the couch. I would watch her a moment, making sure she was breathing, and then go on with my chores. She became very frail and fragile. Sheand I both knew things were changing. The last time we spoke she was in the hospital. I never got a chance to see her again or really say goodbye...
She was one of my greatest teachers. I feel that by honoring her with my work, I in a small way, was paying back all those who helped my own mother before her death when I was so far away in NYC. I guess that may be why I bonded so deeply with Mrs. H, I could see shadows of my mom in her.

Mrs. H died on my birthday. That is something I will need to process, but for now it is another enduring link between us.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sad news

It is with great sadness that I must let you all know of the death of Mrs. Frances (Fusano) Hagihara on Monday March 3rd. I was her Faith In Action volunteer for almost 4 years. I had the honor and privilege of serving Mrs. Hagihara at least 2 times a month to assist her w/ laundry, shopping, light housekeeping, or whatever she needed to maintain her independent life at age 92.
Mrs. Hagihara had dual citizenship as an American and Japanese citizen born in 1915 in Hawaii.
She wed a Japanese man she was introduced to in a tea ceremony in an arranged marriage w/ a ceremony lasting a few days, using several kimonos in what was considered a "small" wedding in Japanese culture.
She was the epitome of grace and dignity. She would often accompany me to Walmart or Kroger and we had many funny and enjoyable moments overcoming the language barrier. She was always gracious and never failed to thank me, when in reality, I should have thanked her for teaching me so many lessons about aging well with dignity and honor.
She was a private person, not given to huge displays of emotion, but she would quietly tell me stories of her life, she was proud of her two sons, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She loved her husband and missed him to this day. She suffered many losses, but bore them with courage and faith.
She was a great lady and I came to love and respect her deeply. I mourn my loss, but celebrate her life, honored that she shared it, in part, with me.
May light perpetual shine upon her. God Bless Mrs. Hagihara.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Whistlepigs and redtails



The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Most marmots, such as yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. In the west it is found only in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, and northern Washington.

Today I pulled into our driveway to see a most beautiful woodchuck sunning himself on the blacktop in front of our garage door! He was fat and sleek with shiny eyes and a black button nose! I immediately fell in love with him/her. I think it lives in our falling down garage which means when we tear it down I shall have to make it a groundhog house or something... I think I am going to call it "Whistlepig". (see above)

A few snowy days ago as Molly and I went out to do her early morning voiding, across the street on my neighbors fence perched a hawk. It watched us for a short while, then as silent as the falling snow it swooped low over my head and soared into the sky. For a moment we made eye contact. It was breathtaking.

Today on my drive to church I saw another hawk. The drive to Cynthiana is lovely and quiet on a Sunday morning. I go past fields of cows and horses, creeks, farms, tumbling down houses, and woods. In a large sweet gum tree a hawk was stretching its wings, and then SWOOP! across the road in front of me and low over the field searching for prey. I was lucky enough to be there at the right time to watch it in glorious flight, its wings wide, its head swiveling just enough to spot the unlucky creature that would become its lunch...

I hope the redtailed hawk doesn't eat Whistlepig's babies. I would like to see baby woodchucks very much...

FYI: * Groundhogs have four toes on the front foot and
five on the back
* Groundhogs can remove 700 pounds of soil to complete a 20 to 25-foot-long burrow with multiple chambers
* The closer it is to autumn the fatter a groundhog will become
* During hibernation a groundhogs temperature will drop from 99° F to 40°F, its heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5 per minute and its breathing reduced from 12 breaths a minute to about 4
* Weather has nothing to with a groundhog emerging from hibernation, they appear when the mating season begins
* Groundhogs have great eyesight and sensitive hearing
* Groundhogs are fond of garden beans, peas, herbs, strawberries, pansies, and impatiens

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Brothers


I have two brothers that I don't see often enough. Both are older that me. I am the baby sister. Even approaching 50 at a furious pace, I am and always will be, I suspect, the baby sister.
I remember my oldest brother used to play a game where he would toss me in the air and catch me. It was wonderfully scary. That moment of flying, that moment of safety. I loved it. He also taught me that thunder wasn't scary, it was angels bowling. Lightning was God taking pictures. To this day I love a good thunder storm.
As I grew up, he married and had children. I was 10 when his son was born. 12 when his daughter arrived. They are now wonderful, beautiful adults. My nephew is running his own business, with integrity, fairness, honesty and hard work. All learned from my brother's sterling example of how a man should live his life. I am proud of them both. So proud I could bust!
My niece is a teacher, with 2 beautiful daughters. She is loving, strong and funny. Again I am so proud. In a world where kids can and often do go wrong, these two didn't. These two had a dad who loved them fiercely and stood by them through thick and thin.
My other brother is an adventurer. He has traveled everywhere. He has hang glided, climbed mountains, scuba dived and for all I know bungee jumped! Up on the left is his picture after a day on the mountain on a thin wooden board... I tell you he is fearless!
I admire him because he lives, really, really lives life. He enjoys whatever day he is given. He tries new things, reads, explores, questions. He is curious and smart and never stops learning. He inspires me to do the same.
I think I have become the woman I am largely because of these two men. My brothers. Doug and Paul. One gave me roots, the other gave me wings. I love them; I am proud to call them my brothers, my inspiration, my heroes. Thank God for big brothers.

Souvenir

1.a usually small and relatively inexpensive article given, kept, or purchased as a reminder of a place visited, an occasion, etc.; memento.
2.a memory.

John Prine has a song about souvenirs and it makes my heart ache whenever I hear it.



I have been thinking about souvenirs a lot lately as I go through the boxes in the basement. About why we keep what we keep. Why we humans need those tangible elements to bring back intangible times...
I wonder if we are the only species to remember so vividly, so keenly, regretfully, remorsefully and so wonderfully?
Where does memory cross from instinct to magic?
I can remember my first memories, they are all sensory: my father holding 3 year old Martha at the back door watching the sunset, while mama cooked supper and brother sat doing homework at the kitchen table on Water Street. Waking up from a nap in the station wagon, lying in the front seat, the vinyl warm and new smelling, the grasshoppers and locusts buzzing, the sound of the wind in the trees, sitting up to look for Daddy and seeing him in the field working on our farm. Common ordinary events, so why are they my first memories? They make me feel safe somehow, loved, protected. I am fascinated by what turns an event into a memory. What makes it a souvenir.
Why we can't choose a memory. Why we often forget things we desperately want to remember, remember things we desperately want to forget...
Sometimes I feel my life is cluttered with meaningless junk. Sometimes I feel richly endowed with souvenirs. I suppose it all depends on how I view it, who views it and why.

Solitude Saturday

The husband is away in San Antonio, where he tells me, it is spring. Here there are glimmers of the approaching season.
I noticed the beginnings of tulips and hyacinth tips pushing up through the mud. The buds on the magnolia are looking furrier. Molly is shedding her coat. So warmth must be on its way.
I woke this morning sleeping diagonally across the bed. A little chilled. A lot alone. It has been quite awhile since Bob has traveled and I have stayed home. Usually I am the "roamer" and he is the "homer"!
But this time he is the one off experiencing new places, new people, and I am the one sitting home with the furfaces. He sounded excited last night on the phone. Apparently San Antonio is gorgeous. He is going to walk over to the Alamo! How wacky is that? I asked for a pencil souvenir.
He is with a coworker who also wed a woman named Martha. They went to dinner and sat outside watching the sunset, the lights come on reflected on the river. They had wonderful fish and a glorious dessert involving coconut milk and flan. Next time they must take the "marthas" along...