December 30, 2017 § 7 Comments
Growing up, New Year’s Eve meant eating chili on the couch, watching the ball drop, and each of us declaring to my mother (the family scribe) our New Year’s resolutions.
All were recorded in an innocuous notebook with a cover the color of dried peas.
If we didn’t make them for ourselves, she did. My father’s made-for-him resolution every year? Lose ten pounds.
Looking at that book I see one made in high school, definitely by me: to sing as well as Judy Collins.
No one in the family lived up to those vows, no matter who had made them. From the get-go I knew this was a system that broke down somewhere between plan and execution.
But after leaving home I still made resolutions in a notebook of my own:
Write 25 songs, paint the living room, finish the novel.
The resolutions are numbered and everything.
December 21, 2017 § Leave a comment
Welcome to the blessed season of the universal excuse:
“I won’t be able to __________ because it’s Christmas.”
We fabricate and tender excuses all year long. I won’t be able to _________ because I am getting married.
I have the flu.
My car broke down.
My kid is sick.
Even when our excuse is legitimate, we feel as if we are shirking, because all around us the hum of busy people doing busy things reminds us that we are not keeping up!
Except at Christmas.
If we can resist the urge to wrap everything in sight in shiny paper, resist the premise that love requires lavish gift giving. If we can recognize the act of kindness on the part of the calendar and a long ago birth, we can, all of us together…
take a deep breath…
and look around as if we have just awakened from a relentless, whirring dream.
Because we have. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 2, 2017 § 4 Comments
It is a pessimist’s warning, delivered with a frown.
Getting what you wish for is sure to disappoint!
Or bite you on the butt.
You’re better off with the known, the as-is, the just-okay.
But that doesn’t stop us from wishing for the long shot, the impossible, the rainbow. It is why we buy a lottery ticket.
We spend hours imagining what isn’t, and often what can never be.
Perhaps we are testing the boundary between the possible and the impossible. Maybe that line is chalk, and maybe it can be scuffed out with the sole of a sneaker, a new one drawn in. Who knows?
November 4, 2017 § 2 Comments
A single paper clip.
A sheet of paper, one side clean.
The heel of a loaf of bread.
A handful of rubber bands.
What are they worth?
They’re not worth the trouble of storing them until needed.
Not worth the effort or ingenuity required to put them to use right now.
So, without thought, we default to the easiest solution. We toss them in the trash.
This cavalier treatment of the small-but-useful object is not a constant when it comes to human behavior, but it has held steady for quite a while in this period of prolonged bounty.
Here is an adage that expressed our relationship with small but useful objects during the Great Depression:
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
If there were a saying that summed up our treatment of the objects in our lives today, it would surely end with, “throw it out.” « Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2017 § 9 Comments
My husband, Ray, says there are no ugly young people, an exaggeration, but not a whopping big one.
Consider what the young have going for them. Smooth skin, and if it is tan, their skin has not yet begun to pay the price for that glow. Wide eyes, the lids fully open. Straight backs. Limber joints. The young body exhibits an appealing ease.
What I write next is mostly for women, the sex afflicted with the expectation of beauty.
This post will come as no surprise, but sometimes we only question the things we take for granted when we say them out loud or state them in print.
Physical attractiveness is not an absolute requirement for guys. Funny is just as good. Athleticism or smarts; those work too.
And for those with young-buck good looks, with age these attributes are seamlessly replaced by a growth in stature and authority, a good job.
I don’t know whether this is because women are more broad-minded than men, more willing to judge worth based on a range of positive qualities, or because men, as members of the dominant sex, have used their power to write the terms of their own attractiveness.
October 9, 2017 § 1 Comment
Some seventy years ago
Ray was a Catholic kid at Holy Redeemer,
a DC school with nuns in black and white,
girls who flashed bare chapped knees
below navy blue pleats,
and boys who, in defiance
of their mandatory neckties,
were as wondering and
irreverent as any.
In addition to the rote round of
the squeal of chalk on board,
was the annual field trip.
Even then DC was rich
But the Holy Redeemers went to just one.
Not the Smithsonian,
not The National Gallery,
not the Renwick.
No, the band of Catholics single-filed
onto the street car
(the tracks ran right by the school)
and rode to
The Medical Museum,
to ogle its two-headed baby,
its anatomical anomalies in murky jars.
But every year the same rumor
was passed around,
boy to boy,
elbow to ribs.
September 27, 2017 § 7 Comments
All the earlier selves are hidden inside the one you see, still there, preserved.
But unlike those wooden dolls, each of the selves hidden inside that old body is different.
One has skinned knees.
A second is reading a Nancy Drew book.
A third wears a prom corsage.
Another holds a baby in her arms.
I wish I’d known that when I was a kid seeing my grandparents as only that, grandparents. Inside each of them was a kid as young as I was, and on the outside, a kid as old as the one I would become.
I know about these hidden selves because, much to my surprise, I am old. And young. And everything in between. I am every one of those dolls down to the tiny one at the very center.
2. The inanimate is just the animate holding still.
Existence is an addition problem. It is the sum of everything.
Each rock, feather, man-made object, holds the life force.
It moves like a cloud shadow across the landscape but we are too distracted, too human-centric to notice.
We, the kinetic, the perpetually in motion, are not attuned to it, but if we become aware, the inanimate befriends and anchors us, it puts our insignificance into perspective. Feel that force and we understand that we are just one more number in that long, long addition problem.
I know, because I feel the life in the rock I rest against, and in the favorite sweater I wear year after year. Still my whirring self, and the company of all that is surrounds me. « Read the rest of this entry »