All of this is true. My truth is so much better than my fiction. Apologies to Mark Twain.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover"........
No,she isn't turning two, in fact, she's closer to turning ten. But, she and her sister have long been my muses and today, this just popped into my head as I prepare for a meeting of my writers group. The prompt is "anything to do with poetry". I really have a hard time with poetry. I do love it and interestingly, I find that poems are among the very few things I can recall from my years of schooling. I always wanted to become a teacher and "playing school" was one of my favorite past times. Poetry was part of my imaginary curriculum and little Stevie Honneker was an excellent student. I used to march home with him, he lived up the street, an show him off to his parents, so proud of my accomplishments until the day I realized that they were not speaking Hungarian, that they were not calling me "Cubbina", something that I mistook for a word of praise in their language. They were calling me "Chub-ina" because I probably was. Story over.
So, here it is,
Lucy Turning Two
It’s National Poetry Month and I am feeling the tug to do
something about it
I know I am not a poet
I cannot write anything that is not true; my curse
I feel responsible as if it were up to me to rescue a cause
that might be forgotten
to give it life, to breathe into it as if in my hands rested
a balloon waiting for a birthday party to begin, for the children to enter, all
dressed in their fancy clothing, ready for cake and ice cream and party favors
at the end
And as I do this, I ruminate in and out of my conscious thoughts,
waiting for the signal for the party to begin, and I am transported back in
I see a beautiful little girl, cheeks rosy, eyes wide in
anticipation, a room filled with balloons
a party atmosphere, stage all set
a little heart beating rapidly, wiggles and giggles
a little girl, just
turned two, about to welcome her entourage of bestest-ever friends, also two
I see them giggle and wiggle as they enter; eyes, like little torches, awaiting the feast about to unfold, cake and ice cream
the stuff toddler dreams are made of
Through eyes clouded from my tears, I watch the child,
drifting dreamily in her party dress, as she delivers to each of her little
guests, a token of her appreciation
the words, “thank you for coming to my
party” pass through a tiny valentine
sweet pink lips, too
sweet to bear
Lights out, I see the room softly illuminated by the glow of
two candles set upon that field of dreams and I hear a tiny chorus of happy
birthday to a princess
as I watch as the
first heiress to the family fortune of love push her tiny finger into the
foamy sea of white butter cream as the rest of her days, still just a vision in
the eyes of her proud parents, await their turn to become memories
In my morning ritual, I include a visit to two news apps on my phone. Both are New York papers, neither of them very esoteric but they do report the news adequately and most of the time, the articles are on a local level, either in Westchester County or NewYork City. I am shielded from feeling shamed about my choice of The New York Post over the New York Times, currently being a resident of New England. The Post carries a lot of the same new articles as Times but reports them in a much juicier, less erudite style if I may.
Already this week, there has been a lot of news, national and international. Ashamed as I am, I must admit that I have very little knowledge of what's happening locally because my head will explode if I have to read one more article that tells me that kids are dying like flies from drugs and ultra-liberals have proposed an answer which, instead of being tossed into the first toilet passed, became a front pager. The insane idea was to open "safe" clinics, staffed by nurses and doctors, where drug users could come, shoot up, and get not only clean needles, but after-care from professionals should they over dose. I've worked as a nurse in a detox unit, helping drug users to safely do quite the opposite and find the idea of asking nurses and doctors to work in a "safe shooting gallery" offensive. And don't get me started on the time and funds allotted to training police officers and supplying them with Narcan while programs get cut from schools and teachers laid off. Do not go there with me.
So, this morning, I read more about the terrible tragedy in Nepal, the loss of yet another thousand lives on top of the thousands about which we had already heard. Unavoidable, no warning, nothing to grab on to, no way to stop it. Earthquakes and tornadoes. Nature's most terrifying acts of defiance. I cannot imagine what that is like, such utter loss of control with such complete loss of everything as a result.
Next, in the Post, a lengthy article, written up in the style that draws me to keep reading and turns the Times readers away, furious and indignant because their intelligence was insulted. Damned the scholars and full-speed ahead, I plowed into the headline, "Baltimore Mom of the Year: 'I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray". This, in the aftermath of the death of a young black man in Baltimore at the hands of local police enforcement. The online article warns of explicit content. Toya Graham, in exercising her maternal instincts, minced no words. She's the mother who turned on the evening news and saw her own son on TV throwing rocks at cops in the streets during Monday's riots. She told it like it was and she's become a national hero after smacking some sense into her son Michael and dragging him back home without one thought to who might be observing her behavior. She referred to herself as a "no-tolerant mom," one who does not play "that", one who has done her best to shield her son in her home, grounding him in the past to keep him off the streets. At one point, she tells the news reporters that she knows she can't do this for the rest of her life and comments "Is he a perfect boy? No, he's not. But he's mine!" From her language and her actions, I'm kind of guessing she would be a Post reader but from her statements, I would love to see her on the Supreme Court. Videos of Toya Graham, taking action, have gone viral. By now, millions of others have had the opportunity to observe, first-hand, the art of taking control. No, Toya did not have to deal with a tornado or an earthquake. She was not facing a tsunami, She had a kid, one who's future she's hoping will be a better one for her current stance and her courage to do what comes naturally. She followed her instincts and hopefully she's not only taught Michael, but millions of other Mothers and kids the lesson that there are things that we can change if we realize that we have to power to.
After seven solid years, a period of time that we set aside in our lives for "being available" and for retiring from what we were doing before, we're getting ready to move again. The property selection and purchase have taken a lot of my time and taken me away from what I like best to do in the mornings, write. But, there's always a story or a word in my mind. I'm sure that the people who tell me that they "can't" write have the same thing going on, it's just that they publish their thoughts before writing them down, by speaking them out loud. Once you've published, it simply isn't going to work the same way. So, I keep the thoughts, juggle them around in my own brain, and hopefully, find myself with my fingers on the keyboard, ready to bring it all on. While I refer to myself as a person who only writes essays and opinions, I somehow think I'm more of a memoirist in hiding. So much of what I write is based upon what I am experiencing or have experienced and oftentimes, I use the tool to make more sense of it all or as my personal documentary.
This morning, my brain received another prompt. As I waltzed around my living room with my dance partner, the dust mop, the words "clean break" broke through. I was unusually happy to have received such a prompt and that I had the time to play with it, to wonder why those words had come to me. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Proprioceptive Writing and for those who read that and still do not understand it, this is a classic example. In processing the words, I ask myself what do I mean by them and where do they fit into a bigger picture or a future write. I'm delighted to think that I have acquired the skill and that I can put it to good use. That far surpasses my experiences in trying to learn Algebra or how to string pearls.
The day after we had the offer on our condo accepted, I visited with my father and during our conversation, I asked if I might take Mom's set of pots and pans on to the new home. A few years ago, when she was feeling well, she bought a nice set and now, they sit in the kitchen cabinets untouched. I figured it was a reasonable request, one made to a man who eats frozen dinners exclusively. He said "I'll have to think about it" and my heart sank. I became angry and bitter about the answer. After all, I was there, having coffee with him, coffee that I brought, after doing his grocery shopping for the week, a chore I have done for the past three years without failure. I politely replied that it was okay and vowed to not ask again. The following week, after grocery shopping, we sat down to coffee again and now it was his turn to bring it up. "When are you moving?" was the question. I replied and then, "I don't want you to take anything from the kitchen". I was not surprised but in an instant I got the picture. It was a total epiphany in one tiny slice of time. And as I thought, a bolt of lightning went through my head and the words "when we die, we understand everything" appeared. No, I wasn't dying, but all of a sudden.......I understood. "Okay, Dad, I get it. You want to leave everything just as it was when Mom was here, don't you?" He nodded and seemed relieved that his rejection of my idea was not going to be met with an emotion. "It's fine. I think it is very sweet of you and I totally respect that". And then, I thought of the coffee pot story, one to which I had attached so much sentiment. Not long after Mom died, I asked for the large electric pot to replace a broken one at our house. Why would he ever have need for a ten-cup pot? Instead, he told me to use his credit card and buy myself a new one. I seriously mistook the gesture for one in which he might have recognized all the favors done and thought it nice to have a new coffee pot in return. Alas, I was wrong, I understand that now.
I'm not Mom. I don't want to be Mom. I look a lot like Mom but I'm Lynn and every time I show up, I bring a vision with me. Mom. Granted, some people who lose people they have loved, are happy to have carbon copies who are still alive. My Mom was that good, that loved, that irreplaceable, my father's One-And-Only, and I'm a constant reminder of what he no longer has. Sure, it's hard for him but think about how incredibly difficult it is for me. He probably would be happier were I to open the door and throw his groceries in. He sits in his sun-room with me, drinks coffee, only to be polite or to have the minimum of social contact required. He does not enjoy it nor do I. We both do what we have to do and I'm not always certain that what we do is good for either of us. He needs to really feel her loss, to really get it that she is not there and never will be. That she will not be clanking pots and pans around. He still needs to grieve.
In orthopedics you learn that there are two basic types of bone fractures, simple and compound, that one is less complicated than the other and heals quickly. A simple fracture in totally internal, along clean lines. A compound or Greenstick fracture is one in which the bone actually bends, sometimes penetrating to the outside, and they are nasty little fellows. They take more time to heal, cause more pain and more complications but eventually, they do heal, scarring is very likely to occur, and the affected limb might look different. My father has suffered a massive compound fracture.
Just like the pilgrims, our search is over. And, we're probably just as surprised as they were when they first hit the shore in America. Our ship was out there, floundering around for months. We knew we had to find a new home, one that would make us feel free and happy, the owners once again of our own lives. We had endured a cruel, harsh Winter and as we sailed through it, it was hard to keep the final destination in sight. With the knowledge that we have a lease on our lovely apartment that will expire in July, we set out from our comfort zone and embarked on the journey that would eventually lead us to what we call our "Five Year Plan:". We could have stayed on, signed for another year and thrown thousands of hard-earned dollars into the bucket of an already overly-endowed land lord. It would have been so easy but also so bad for us. Another Winter surely will come. But, there was greater motivation. We live in a lovely setting, we have a great view from the back of our apartment, onto a pond where we see ducks and turkeys and birds, so many birds. From the front of our apartment, the view is entirely different. We see old people, a parking lot, garages filled with cars, most of them silver or grey, that never, ever move. I can't help but feel that we are surrounded by people who are just passing time, waiting to die. They never go anywhere, their cars, parked in the garages attest to that. Rarely does one see a light on through a window in the evenings, making it possible to imagine that everyone has turned in, called it a day, before the sun has set. We're simply not ready to be a part of this scene and so.........we're moving. A nice condo awaits us, on the opposite side of the Cape, in another town. We'll be home-owners again and we're very, very happy.Very happy.
When my son was selecting his college, he was very young. A precocious child, he was skipped a grade in elementary school, making him younger than his classmates and, at the end of high school, perhaps a bit too young to start the rest of his life. It was a situation with which I was familiar, having a January birth day that allowed me to enter school early after not even having attended Kindergarten. It wasn't mandatory in those days and I was a fiver year old first grader, something that I know impacted on the rest of my school days if not the rest of my life. In both cases, parental poor decisions might have been made. Guilty as charged.
So, the selection of college came, scholarship was offered, and our young man went off to a school that was highly regarded by the Christian Brothers who drummed such choices into their flocks of students, and the result was a totally unproductive and unhappy first year of college followed by some very uncertain times in our house as we had to patiently sit back and wait. We weren't quite sure what we were awaiting and as the weeks went by, I found solace in my old belief that there are some chicks that simply need more time in the warmer, that incubators in hospital nurseries were proof that living-breathing humans aren't always fully equipped for their solo flights using their tiny lungs without support, that their lack of fat would stop their lives should they come in constant contact with variations in temperatures too soon. I used these thoughts as a mantra, pulling strength from them as each day passed into the next, a summer that brought long and troubled days in place of the carefree ones usually associated with time between school years. Instead of moving ahead toward fully responsible adulthood, we had to accept the fact that our first-born was slipping backwards, or so it seemed to us and all who knew us. This surely was not the plan but what was the plan? Was there even a plan? I needed a new mantra. I was the one who needed to formulate a plan, to find the ring to catch and ride the carousel to its end so I thought and I thought and I came up with this, which made all the difference. Our son can't pack his bags for the rest of the journey because he does not yet know the destination. When he does, he will collect all that he needs and be on his way again. I made this announcement to my husband and everyone else who was willing to listen.
Eventually, the bags got packed,the Internet discovered (no, not by Al Gore), and we, the anguished parents got to see the fruits of our labor of patience and understanding. From the incubator emerged a young man who was almost ready for the real world. One who just needed that extra time to find that which would supply the passion to keep on going, a way to communicate that was new and almost unfathomable just a few years before. Yes, he returned to school. One of his choice, not the Christian Brothers in New Rochelle. One that was exactly right for his needs. And he did graduate and he made decisions outside the warm nest and today, he has a wonderful job as a software engineer for a large company.
I've used the same lines, the one about the kids who need more time, the one about not being able to pack if you don't know where you're going, many times over the years. I hope that it helped quiet the anxious souls of other parents who came to me in the workplace seeking guidance or maybe I've had the privilege of using my wisdom to help more than one little chickie get through a scary day at a job that asked for grown up behavior from one who was still a child. And now, I find myself faced with a situation not that unlike the one my son was in twenty six years ago. We need to pack. We don't know where we are headed. The time is coming to make decisions and it's all so hard because we don't have anyone older than us who can push us back into the warming oven, give us the chance to breathe with assistance, to let our bodies adjust to a new age, a new way to live, a new place if that is the choice we make.