Chosen poverty.

June 30, 2012 § 8 Comments

My first view of poverty was given to me in the shape of stories told by parents and grandparents about the Great Depression.

Those stories had an unexpected luster, as if  they had been polished on a sleeve before being handed to me.

There was the one about my maternal grandfather risking death for two dollars to repair a broken elevator.

The one about my paternal grandfather and his brothers feeding their extended families out of a sprawling Victory Garden

The one about my painfully shy uncle telling a desperate lie to ensure that he would come home with the five cent loaf of bread when he only had four pennies—he claimed he’d lost the fifth through a hole in his pocket, and could he pay that last penny later?

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Going home with strangers.

June 23, 2012 § 12 Comments

Riding down 231, headed to Panama City Beach, my husband was at the wheel, my daughter and grandson in the backseat.

I was firmly fixed in the constellation of my own life and family.

And then a nondescript old truck dogged even with us on the inside lane.

At first the driver was one sunburned arm slung out an open window.  I craned to see a thin, equally tan face beneath the visor of a ball cap. The face looked passive and indifferent.

The truck’s bed was loaded with a mismatched living room suite that could have been picked up off the curb in my neighborhood any day of the week. Beige and stained, the jammed-in loveseat tilted as if about to fall on its face.

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Dear Dad,

June 14, 2012 § 21 Comments

Does it surprise you that the fifth anniversary of your death is coming up in July?

It surprises me. And it doesn’t.

I still say “Hi, Dad,” when I go in your house, although I say it less often than I did at first. The illusion that I’ll walk in and look through your bedroom door and see you sitting at the computer doesn’t hold up. The desk is gone. It is no longer even a bedroom.

I’ve never missed anyone as I’ve missed you, not even Mom, who you know was one of my best friends. Although I was alone with her when she died, I couldn’t face her death and so I walled it off. What I didn’t know was that walling off her death walled off her life as well.

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The center of the universe.

June 8, 2012 § 11 Comments

Galileo lived out the end of his life under house arrest, imprisoned by the Roman Inquisition for a heretical thought.

Our earth is not the center of the universe, but only one of several planets circling the sun—and not even the largest.

I’d like to state something that, on an emotional level, is just as heretical.

The big “I” each of us has, is not the center of the universe either. That “I” is one speck in an infinite cloud. Yet an “I” centered universe is hard to avoid when everything we know of existence comes through the tiny portal of self. That conscious speck called self values everything else based on whether it furthers or hinders a small personal agenda. « Read the rest of this entry »

Walking the circle.

June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

The European tradition of storytelling is linear—the main character starts somewhere and ends up somewhere completely different. This story-form views life as a tale of change and progress.

Native American stories walk the well-worn path of seasons and cycles that repeat.

I may tell linear stories, but in real life I prefer the native American story-form. Life walks a circle and I like it that way.

Take vegetable gardens. They happen every year—twice for the dedicated gardener, winter and summer.

I am now at the hopeful beginning of the summer garden season, a season that has risen again and again over the horizon of the year for me, and for my father, putting in Jersey tomatoes in Princeton Junction, and for my grandfather, thumbing pea seeds into the ground in Congers, New York.

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