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Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

IN PRAISE OF TECHNOLOGY/PRINTED 5/16/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on January 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

When you get to a certain age,  Facebook postings (besides the bragging and ridiculous platitudes) seem to focus on how much better life used to be, how lucky we were to grow up before computers, texting, Twitter and Snapchat, and how our music was superior to today’s. Few people show any respect to the present day, and I often wonder what world I living in .The way I remember it, is despite the abundance of green grass and high tides, most of us couldn’t wait to move on and get to the next level. No one seemed as content as they now claim they were with their 20/20 hindsight. Everyone had ‘plans’…and none of them included taking in the perfection we claim we lived in.

It seems like nothing is good enough anymore to people of a certain age- it’s one big complaint. No one considers that every single generation since the beginning of time has made the same asinine blanket statements (things were so much better back when did XYZ….) and it sounds like nothing as much as sour grapes and resentment about growing older, about the spotlight no longer being on you. Waaah!

I understand that most people have a warm, nostalgic feeling about the ‘old days’- the cars they drove, the clothes they wore and the music that served as a backdrop to high school, first loves, parties and hot summer nights.

What I don’t understand is why anyone thinks their cars, clothes and music are any more important, better, or more revered  than their kid’s cars, clothes, etc. Sure, I prefer a ’69 Charger to a flashy Fast & Furious Tuner any day of the week, but I don’t expect anyone younger than thirty to agree with me. My cars aren’t the backdrop to his/her life. And that’s the only difference. That it’s not about me.

I personally prefer physical books to the Kindle, yet I have a Kindle, because I understand the world forges ahead, and I’m willing to bend a little to keep up.  I still prefer the books, but the Kindle is gaining-especially when you add in Netflix (which rocks!) My generation complains about technology-even while they invest in it. Does my generation believe they have some kind of lock on ‘real’ fun, music and style?

Posts that make me question the existence of any ‘self-awareness’ are the ones about technology. First off- they are posting these opinions about technology on technology. The difference between an opinion on music and one about technology is that the old fogeys who condemn rap and hip-hop in one fell swoop, while they wax poetic about The Who and Pink Floyd, don’t listen to rap and hip hop, but judge anyway because it’s not about them (nor-and this is the most important thing- does it want to be!) 

On the other hand, the Boomers who condemn technology actual use that very technology to denounce it. The two cancel each other out, no?

There is a plenitude of posts that declare ‘Kids These Days Don’T Know What This Is!’ while showing a Pinterest culled photo of a cassette or VHS tape. The statement is intended to sound like the current generation is missing out on something, but here’s the thing: who cares? I didn’t have a Victrola, and I spent zero-point-zero seconds thinking about my ‘missing out’. But do any of us ‘boomers’ not have a cell phone? GPS? Satellite? If technology is so bad, why are we tethered to it, just like the kids you bash (and raised, by the way!)

I have dismal memories of walking to school on cold New England winter mornings back in the day- feeling tired, gloomy and self-conscious- wrapped up in all kinds of teenage angst. I had no choice but to deal with it. It was raw. I didn’t have a phone to text anyone with, or a Tumblr page to rant on, or an Instagram account where I could  look at the latest photos posted by Peter Frampton, the cast of Saturday Night Live, or my best friend.

Instead, I had to stew in those depressing feelings of anxiety and insecurity. I walked across busy streets with carloads of people staring at me, while my nose-hairs froze, feeling humiliated about being physically evaluated, on my way to a place I hated. (In the grand scale of life-big deal-but in my teenage reality head: BIG EFFING DEAL!)

Some people would insist that those mornings made me a better person, but I don’t agree. I had plenty of discomfort in my teen years, I didn’t need thirty minutes to dread every single day. I would have given anything to  have some form of technology- say an i-Pod. Having something to engage in while I trudged to school would have released some of the pressure of feeling unbearably awkward. (Even pretending to text would have been a relief) And once I was actually at school? Being able to text someone while being surrounded by the ‘Heathers’ like cliques? It would have been godsend! It would have been supportive. A lifeline!

I think underneath all of the nay-saying about kids with their eyes glued to their i-phone screens, or  constantly listening to music on their Beats headphones is a kind of jealousy that we weren’t privy to those kinds of escape hatches. We had to be by a radio, or record player, or cassette deck to hear our music- and even then we had to listen to a lot of crap on an album  before we got to the actual songs we liked. We had to be in front of a television at a certain time to watch our favorite shows- and if we missed them, it was a four month wait until re-run season.

(Forget about what you had to endure on a lame show like ‘Ron Kirschner’s Rock Concert’ just to see a cool band, at the very end, for three minutes. I still hate that he always did that! Some old guy, so unhip, completely square, always mired in the mainstream yet in charge of my rarely seen hard rock bands, whom he obviously despised! Waves ‘special’ finger!)

We had to dial our friends phone numbers by hand at home, and wait them out if we got a busy signal- sometimes for hours. If we got lost on the way to a party, we were usually out of luck – we couldn’t  enter street names into the GPS/phone and get precise directions to the location. If our friends weren’t at one hang-out, we had to literally drive to another one, fingers crossed. Many a story came from these situations (sometimes being lost leads to a better place) but wouldn’t many a story also come from making it to the party, or meeting up with our friends after all? Everything is a story. No one is ever going to run out of stories! Hating technology is like hating cars- you have every right, but I’ll believe you more if you don’t drive one!

Sometimes I see a kid out to dinner with her parents who doesn’t look up once to engage with them, but she also doesn’t end up in a fight with them, or spend the dinner being criticized and berated. Not everyone has a supportive family. Again-for the people in the back: NOT EVERYONE HAS A SUPPORTIVE FAMILY! I would have loved to have that option. I also love a smart phone in a waiting room, or any public downtime rather than just waiting impatiently. Where’s the lie?

I’m not for texting every time you feel a feeling – I think it’s good to stop and feel that feeling (and sometimes cry-and cry hard!) but so much of our teenage life was spent being bored, uncomfortable, picked on,  insecure or angry-and given the choice- wouldn’t we have liked to fill that time with distractions? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just that it’s preferable. And I think if people were being honest they’d admit they are a little jealous- of technology and of youth. And they need to separate their feelings of technology from their envy of the people who just happen to have way more time left on this planet.

Camp Aspetuck 1971/Part 1: 5/16/15

In The 60's, Writing on January 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm

It was Kris who talked me into joining the Brownies first, followed by the Girl Scouts (and the coveted badges) And it was with said Girl Scouts that we were heading to Camp Aspetuck in the summer of 1971. I was both excited (it’ll be like a three day slumber party!) and hesitant (it’ll be like a three day slumber party) The thought of sleeping in a tent, amid the elements was okay, but in all honesty, I never saw the downside of my own cozy, lavender chenille covered bed. At least Kris and I were guaranteed to bunk in the same tent, because her Mom was a troop leader, and we were bound to be getting special treatment. Like most people, I hated nepotism until I could hitch my wagon to it.

the camp P.R.

the camp P.R.

We left early on a Friday morning in late June. My father, dressed in his suit and tie for work, dropped me off in the school’s parking lot at the ungodly hour of six-thirty am. As usual, he dazzled a few of the Scout moms with his presence and small talk, which led to questions after he left. “Is that your father?’ Mrs. Grey asked, sounding impressed. “He’s really nice!” agreed Mrs. DeRosa, winking. Ewww.

Kris and her mom, along with most of the the scout troop were already there. We wore street clothes to camp, but Kris and I packed our sashes in case we had the chance to one-up other girls who’d earned less badges. We set for the long drive- a drive that was an estimated thirty- two minutes in length. Or, as we interpreted it: ‘way out in the boonies’

I had  a few misgivings about this trip- like I said, I wasn’t a huge fan of sleeping outside. I could spend entire days out at Khakini or Ram Island with my family on the boat, but I would never stay the weekend like my brothers did, swearing they had a blast in their little tent city with all of their friends. (Imagine leaving a pack of eight to twelve year old boys on an island, alone for an entire weekend, with coolers of perishable food, lighters for making fires and fully loaded BB guns!…and yet, everyone lived) I would always opt to cruise back to shore with my parents on our boat ‘The Pisces’ and not only bask in my creature comforts- but enjoy them more, sans brothers. Camping in the woods with the Girl Scouts was automatically better because: girls! but it was still roughing it.

I  was concerned about my trusted reading- myself- to- sleep ritual (still in effect to this day) and  wondered if I could conk off without it. I brought along three books ( Heidi, Mother West Wind ‘Why’ Stories, and ‘The Cricket In Times Square’) but doubted I’d be able to relax in comfort, shoved inside a sleeping bag with a flat pillow, armed only with a weak flashlight.

To say nothing of my eating idiosyncrasies. I didn’t know much about camping food, but even a fool could figure out that the food probably ‘touched’. And because I was in public, I knew I couldn’t flee the room (make that flee the outside), or start gagging if a kernel of corn bounced off a hamburger patty and landed on a french fry  like it did at home, causing me to freak out, followed by chaotic family uproar, a chain reaction that rivaled my favorite game, Mousetrap. My disdain for milk, mayonnaise, and onions might also come into play. On the bright side, chances were no adults would be paying that much attention to my plate, as I was sure they were nowhere near as invested as my family was.

Another concern: rumor had it that the shower situation was something along the lines of a plastic bucket swinging from a rope, tied to a tree, rationed by the gallon and cold, and I had doubts that it would cut it when it came to my long hair. My mom suggested I ‘tie it up in a bandanna and be done with it’ then  ‘just wash it when you get home’. Sh-yeah! Like I’m going to walk around with gross, greasy hair for a whole weekend in front of 40 judgemental girls. (Ever since she’d ambushed me with those pixie cuts as a child, I didn’t trust my mom for hair advice anyway) So I brought my half-full bottle of Breck shampoo along, as well as my Herbal Essence creme rinse, and hoped for the best. (I noticed later that my mom had stuffed a can of ‘PSSST!’- her dry shampoo- into my bag as well. Dry Shampoo- a scam if I’d ever seen one!)

Forest Fashion by GS America

Forest Fashion by GS America

Though these micro-management asides jammed my head, I said nothing. Even at age ten I was aware of how off-putting neurotic people were, that they had no place in a vibrant social life. Luckily for me, these negative thoughts ran parallel to those that were the complete opposite. Being away from my parents (who also could use the break) and my brothers for two days was a plus, not to mention non-stop hanging out with Kris (and sharing her mother by proxy, if need be)

Sleeping in a tent full of girls and having late night ‘bull’ sessions was bound to be both informative and exciting (I planned on really prying it up) We’d have the opportunity to earn more patches, which of course would make for groovier sashes, and strike up some serious envy from the lowly Brownie crowd.

I already had a decent amount of patches (all neatly sewn on by my mother or grandmother, including my ‘Sewing’ patch). I also had Personal Health, Indian Lore, Toymaker, Pets, Homemaker, and Observer.

Kris and I planned to earn Troop Camper, Water Fun, and Outdoor Cook on this sojourn. It was a shame that there were no patches issued for some of my best skills, though: “Complaining’, ‘Moodiness’, ‘Dramatic Sighing’ ‘Eating like an Asshole’ and ‘Sibling Fight Club’….because if they had-there would barely be room for all of the patches I could earn – I might have even become a double sasher!

Without saying, I was assigned to Kris’s mom’s car for the ride to camp. Also with us, three other scouts: tiny Lara ‘Thumbelina’ Sandberg, Renee “VaVa-Voom’ Siegel, and Karen (‘Marcia Brady’) Edwards. Kris and I sat on the bench seat in the front of Mrs. Alden’s Oldsmobile -me by the window, Kris in the middle, Mrs. Alden at the wheel .

Being in the front meant that we got to control the radio, absolute power in fourth grade. I say ‘we’ because even though Kris was the only one close enough to touch the dial, it was my ‘approving’ eyebrows (up high) or ‘disapproving ‘(lowered into a ‘V’) that sealed (or unsealed) the deal. The girls in the back had no say. This meant we could wield our musical preferences like  dictators drunk with power, something that delighted us to no end.

#1 = my favorite song ever.

#3 = my favorite song ever. #5 =a song Kristen’s mother likes. #6 =Gordon Lightfoot. #7 =Classical. #9=News and Weather.

Camp Aspetuck/Part 2: 5/16/15

In The 60's on January 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Before we left, and after it was assessed that everyone was present  (a checklist was bandied about) we settled into our seats, and prepared for take-off. We drove through our hometown in a caravan of mom commandeered cars, taking in all the familiar places and landmarks that had suddenly become more interesting simply by the bearing of witnesses. Riding through the center of town, which ordinarily was as rote and mundane as watching the grass grow, suddenly became alive with comments and stories. We all had them, for better or worse.

“I take music lessons there!’ Lara pointed out as we passed a large red house that had been converted into  a music store- guitars, drums and all of brass instruments propped up in the front window, Johnny Boomba’s. We’d seen it a million times. Snooze.

“I always see Alex there, because he takes his lesson right after mine.” she added, matter of factly. Say what? Our ears perked at the news- Alex was the cutest boy in the fourth grade. I would never again pass this store without checking for Alex. This continued for the next fifteen years.

“Really?” Kris asked,  wheels turning as she swiveled her head around to the backseat “How much are lessons?”

Kristina!” Mrs. Alden scolded suddenly. “You know our Agreement!!”

“Oh, mom! I’m just asking!” she huffed loudly, surrendering up jazz hands.

Evidently-as told by Mrs. Alden, Kris was currently enrolled in an after-school Drama Class (in my opinion she should have been the teacher), and had used up her quota of activities- and the money to pay for them. She had two younger sisters, and between the Scouts, Drama, Dance and Tumbling classes Mrs. Alden was being run ragged, her pockets picked. We listened as she pleaded her case, and for just one minute to herself. She sounded exactly like our own mothers -another shared experience.

We drove by Kiddy Town, the local toy store, which kicked off an oral history of what we’d gotten for Christmas and Hanukkah last year, and for our birthdays, and well, ever. Mostly, we coveted macrame and tie-dye kits, peace sign patches, Partridge Family bubble gum cards, transistor radios and figure skates. At ten, we were already too old for many toys.

This exercise of listing our possessions  was good practice for future Facebook posts, as we tried to one up each other, and gushed incessantly about our superior gifts. Some (for instance, me) even exaggerated a bit (yeah- I got Partridge cards, but 2 packs, not 10!) Was there a Girl Scouts patch for bragging?

We spotted the local movie theater, now showing ‘Willard’ (about rats! ewww!) and ‘Escape From The Planet Of The Apes’ which many of us had seen at the local Drive-In. A few comments were made regarding the female ape being named Lisa (my name!), but a squinty-eyed glare towards the peanut gallery in the back, snuffed that thread out. (Admittedly there were some giggles, but they were muffled) Kris, who didn’t miss a thing , gave me the ‘Can you believe it?’ expression (open mouth, dead eyes) and a subtle shake of the head, as we both mentally filed it into our ‘talk about it behind everyone’s back later’ folder.

It was starting to look like a rainy day, the overcast sky a slate gray.  The wind picked up as the trees, thick with deep green leaves swished to and fro. Mrs. Alden said she had hoped it wasn’t going to rain on our first day at camp, but it appeared Mother Nature hadn’t been apprised of our schedule. Soon, fat plops of summer rain fell onto the windshield. This made for an inventive Carpenters re-mix “Rainy Days and Fridays” followed by a sarcastic rendition of “Joy To The World” (the word ‘Joy’ sung in Eeyore voice) as we listened to our fave jams on Music Radio WABC. We squealed with actual joy when the Partridge Family’s “I’ll Meet You Halfway” came on- all of us emphasizing the words and nuances of the song (it’s the nuances that set you apart, in my opinion. Shirley and Laurie’s ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahhs?’ Key.) We’d have made any fandom proud.

By the time we pulled into the dirt driveway of the camp, past the wooden sign that announced ‘Camp Aspetuck’, we were giggling with excitement, despite the rain, and even despite the fact that Renee had just pointed out that we’d be missing ‘The Partridge Family’ tonight because we’d be at camp with no tv..Sometimes she could be such a witch that starts with a ‘B’. I could tell Renee liked being a buzzkill at that moment, as she sat back there with her little smirk, so self-satisfied, popping pink bubbles and jangling around her (unauthorized, but very cool) bangle bracelets.

Last Dance For Mary Jayne/Part 1/15/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 15, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I didn’t believe my mother was dead.

I thought of all of our fights, how angry we would get at each other, just seething, dripping anger- and now it all seems so trivial. You hear this all of the time: Don’t fight with your loved ones, you never know when the last time you’ll see them is. You hear it ad nauseum, but it is so hard to put into practice. In the heat of the moment, when your anger sizzles, it seems like you and this person are here to stay for infinity, in fact the leaving would be the good part. Terrible thoughts. I wished I could take them back, or at least apologize for my part in these rows. As Elizabeth Strout put it, in The Burgess Boys: ‘And it was too late. No one wants to believe something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is’

This isn’t to say that my mother and I fought all the time- far from it. My mother was my one true champion. Other than my husband and son, she was the one person who had my back. She pointed out my strengths, glossed over my flaws, and she truly wanted the best for me. I didn’t come from a family that was close- in fact, once my ‘original’ family was broken up by divorce when I was just eleven, there was a step-mother a new brother,  and relocations , even side chicks.  Families morphing into different families- like television shows being re-cast, only to fail in the ratings. None of these combinations even remotely worked.(And I didn’t even blame the step-mother: How can you possibly love new, half-formed kids anywhere close to how much you love your own flesh and blood? It’s not possible) During it all, my mother was there to let me vent, and always took my side.

The last time my mother came to visit me, I met her at the airport, taking for granted that this was just another visit from Mom. Happy-but not over-the-moon: I’ve always been a little put out by overnight company. Throws my routine completely out of whack- even when I adore the guests.

I started getting restless, as her plane had already arrived from New York.  I’d watched  what seemed like a hundred passengers  spill into the arrival area- everyone but her. A woman stood directly in front of me, and I looked around her trying to  find my Mom. I remember thinking ‘Gosh, Lady- can I have some personal space here?’ until  the woman cleared her throat in a familiar way and said my name. The ‘woman’ was my mother. She’d lost about 40 pounds, and her cheeks were hollow. Her white-blonde hair was up in a neat bun. She wore a tan trench coat over dark jeans and bright white Keds. She looked tiny. None of this seemed right- I’d just seen her a few months prior. “Oh, Lee-Lee!” she said, hugging me- realizing I hadn’t recognized her.

“Mom???” I was shocked. “What happened, Ma? You’re  so skinny!” I said, alarmed.

“I know- finally!” she said, laughing. She handed me the hardcover book in her hand, telling me I’d love it. Books were our thing. My mother sent me shipments of books- two, three, sometimes four at a time, all current, all hardcover. She made me promise to never send her any books: ‘They’re so gosh darn expensive, and I get them on sale, she’d say! Spend your money on your family!” I pretended I didn’t know she wasn’t buying the books on sale. Sometimes a receipt would flutter out of one of the books, and I’d be surprised at how much she spent.  Since she insisted I not buy her books we sent each other bookmarks as well- writing things on them, personalizing them according to our likes. Mom liked Marilyn Monroe, nautical designs, the Cathy cartoon (I would explain to the salesperson ‘This is for my mother’- like he or she really cared, embarrassed that they might think was the Cathy fan) My mom sent me : Leopard print, crescent moons, black cats and bookmarks advertising book stores. I never ran out of bookmarks or books, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s still the best way to live, crammed in with books.

“Mom- is something wrong?” I asked, opening up her unbuttoned coat like a curtain, and seeing her much smaller body, bordering on frail. Mom was 58, far from old, but she seemed to have aged tremendously in the face, and had lost so much weight since last year, when I’d visited her in Connecticut.

“Look at my nails, Lee Lee!” she said, pulling away, holding out one hand and hoisting her purse onto her shoulder with the other. She was standing guard above the N.Y. Giants duffle bag she’d carried on by placing a bright white ked on either side. No criminal mind could outsmart this woman, no sirree! If you were in the market for pastel turtlenecks, coral based lipsticks and enamel brooches, look elsewhere, pal. You weren’t swiping her stuff.

She fanned her fingers in front of me, showing off ultra long  fingernails painted coral, which matched her lipstick. “Wow!” I said “I love them! Acrylics?”

“Yup! I splurged. I figured: What the hell?” she said, laughing. I loved long nails- even when every fashion magazine and maven said they were tacky and a ‘Don’t’, I still really liked the way they looked. The few times I tried acrylics they incapacitated me, and I couldn’t do the simplest of things. I kept trying them, but when I had to drive to a friend’s house and have her zip up a beautiful dress on a night I suspected I was being proposed to, that was it for me and fake daggers. So I was relegated to admiring them on others. I reached down and picked up her Giants bag, hoisting it up, surprised at the weight of it, quickly adjusting to hold the strap with both hands, the book in the crook of my arm. My own purse zip-lined down my arm, landing on the bag. A comedy of errors. I sighed and readjusted everything, while Mom laughed.

“C’mon- let’s go to the car..” I said, and we walked through the fancy Palm Beach International terminal. Mom whistled, long and slow:”Boy, This airport is really something else!” she said. “Fancy Schmancy!..I wish we had something like this!”

“Are you kidding?” I asked, scrunching up my face “I looove the New York airport! It’s so  much more…..epic!”

“Yeah, well, ‘epic’ you can have , missy!” she said, rolling her eyes. My mom rarely traveled, so her opinion of airports wasn’t exactly based on experience. She had flown down to Florida when my son was two. Before that,  the last flight she’d been on had been shortly after my parent’s divorce, when she went to Lake Tahoe with her  single gal pals in search of  Tequila Sunrises,  mustachioed men and conferences on women’s lib. I was twelve at the time. And here she was, gushing about the airport like a seasoned traveler. “Just look around!” she said, “everything is so clean! There’s no pushing or shoving, or any of those ‘outta my way’ people, like back home, where everyone is in such a gosh darn hurry!” Mom shook her head. The way she said ‘back home’ made me long for the days of living up North.

“Well, you know- a lot of the population down here is elderly, so they can’t really hurry…..you know…what with osteoporosis and all!” I laughed with the pure joy and disconnect of someone well under forty, someone who wouldn’t have to deal with aging issues anytime soon, if ever.

We drove to the house my husband and I had recently bought, our first. She loved it. She made a big fuss over her grandson, now 9- marveling over everything he did, wore and said. She stalked him like the paparazzi taking pictures and ambushing him with hugs.  She  claimed a white plastic chair out by our kidney shaped pool, where she’d sit and smoke her Salem’s, sometimes starting as early as 5 am. My mother didn’t start smoking when she was 33. (who does that?) She soaked up the sun, and was soon as brown as a chestnut. It was overall a fun, stress free visit.

But there were still moments when she drove me nuts. She was always washing dishes (fine-have at it!) but I started noticing a film on the glasses, a dullness to the plates. After several days, I finally spoke up and asked her if she knew what that was about. She admitted she couldn’t find the dish detergent, and hadn’t asked me about it, assuming I was out. In a way, I could understand- I had taken to using a fancy glass bottle with a pouring spout as my clear dish liquid container. But it was right there next to the sponge. I pointed this out to her. It was an idea I’d gotten from Martha Stewart (whose advice could only lead to no good) But if in fact, I was out- why wouldn’t she ask me to get some from the store five minutes away? She shrugged  her shoulders.

“Didn’t you see  this bottle, right here?’ I asked her, holding it up.

“Yes, but I didn’t know it was soap”

“What did you think it was? Right there next to the sponge?” I asked.

“To be honest, it looked like vodka” she answered quietly.

Oh my God! Did my mother think I had a full bottle of vodka at the edge of the sink with a convenient pouring spout attached? That I was swiggin’ it down like Neely, from Valley Of The Dolls?  And if she did, why wouldn’t she say something?! Needless to say, that ended my foray into Martha-land. I immediately went back to the Palmolive Green in its plastic squirt bottle, and my glasses and dishware once again sparkled. And I suppose a mom who minded her own business was a blessing as well…..as long as she wasn’t in charge of the dishes.

Last Dance For Mary Jayne: Part 2: 1/14/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

My mother spent a week in the sun, and then, just like that we were back in the airport, bidding goodbyes and promises to call. I don’t remember, but I was probably relieved to have my house back after company, which is my usual M.O. She loved the sun, and decided on that visit that she was going to move to Florida once and for all, where she would garden and soak up the sun like a sponge. She had no fear of the sun, or sun-damage, and unlike me, would spend as much time in it as humanly possible. I’m convinced that had she been given the chance to migrate south, she would have drained the sun of some of its power, and perhaps set global warming on it’s ass. And  shares of old school Bain de Soleil would have gone through the roof.

It all changed when my younger brother called me one morning from Connecticut, the middle of the week, asking me if I’d heard from my mother or knew where she was. I was in Florida, thousands of miles away, so no-  I hadn’t. He went on to explain he’d just seen her on Sunday when he took her grocery shopping.(She couldn’t drive because of her epilepsy) She had left a shopping bag in his car and he was trying to return it. He became alarmed when she didn’t answer the door on Monday night. It was now Wednesday. No one in the family had seen or heard from her. I think we all know where this is going.

Later  that day, my brother enlisted the help of the landlord to open the apartment door- and this is where they found her- slumped over in a chair, dead for days (we still don’t know exactly how long….medical examiners gave a three day window. The official date of death was the day after she’d been last seen alive- the day she’d been shopping with my brother, January 21)  Obviously, this was a horrible thing for him to discover and go through, and was the very thing one worries about when a parent lives on their own. It’s the worse case scenario we all dread, but ultimately hope won’t really happen to our family, or us. And the very thing we all live in fear of: dying alone and having no one notice our passing. She was fifty nine years old. The only thing that could have made this story sadder, would be if she’d owned the proverbial single-lady cats, who’d be hungry and becoming feral as they circled her body on the chair.

My brother called me from my mother’s house to break the news. Of course, when I saw her number flashing on the caller I.D., I breathed a sigh of relief- see, it was all a big misunderstanding, like an episode of Three’s Company! I knew my brother was over-reacting. Everything’s fine, now!. I could hear my mother laughing about the mix-up. “Oh, you goonie-birds! Stop worrying about me! I’m fine!’ she’d giggle. She was constantly being baby-sat and second guessed by  friends and relatives because of her illness, and heaved sighs of discontent at us regularly over all of the interference. This was just another one of those things: An adult woman (with epilepsy and prone to gran maul seizures) does something out of her routine and everyone freaks. She probably took the bus downtown. Even though it was the January, and the  dead of winter, the roads slippery with black ice, and below zero and why would she, especially since she was loaded up with supplies from her Sunday shopping expedition. But it had to make sense in order for my mom to be okay.

“She’s dead!’, my brother told me in an urgent, high-register voice. ‘I told you something was wrong!”

He was distraught, and on the verge of tears as he gave me the assignment of calling our other brother with the news. I immediately dialed him at work and blurted it out, and his reaction was similar to mine: ‘What? Are you sure? No- that can’t be’ then the sound of a dial tone as he hung up abruptly. He told me later he ran out of his office and through the parking lot outside, literally trying to outrun the bad news. Meanwhile, I went into a low-grade shock, and tried to recall the last phone conversation I’d had with her: were there any clues? Did she say anything telling? Chances are it was focused on my son (her’ boo-ba-lah’) and her impending move south.

I made quick, halting calls to my husband, and made arrangements to fly north.  I missed the winter, and meant to visit Connecticut in the bleakest month (January) to experience not so much the biting wind and icy snow- as the cozy feeling of sitting beside the fireplace,  gently blowing on a a cup of Swiss Miss- looking out the window as snow fell like confectioners sugar. But it took the loss of my mom to make that happen and I thought of how many times she played the part of sacrificial lamb. Always taking less for herself so that we would have more. Even in death. I stood in my living room that day, tugging on my hair and rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet, staring blankly out the sliding doors towards the plastic chair my mom favored, wondering why, if sitting by this pool again was all the woman wanted out of life, couldn’t it just be afforded to her?

Last Dance For Mary Jayne: Part 3: 1/14/14

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

My brother  (an Irish twin, just ten months my junior) -who lived near me in Florida, picked me up after we’d both hastily packed what few winter clothes we had in carry- on bags for the trip up north. We’d made hasty travel arrangements and were short on time The day was full of surreal moments…carrying a long, gray winter coat through the airport’s open-air parking garage in the 80 degree sunshine (in two hours I’d need the coat, which seemed unthinkable in the current warmth) exchanging glances with my brother over our shared experience, all various takes on defeatist glances, sad eyes, shrugged shoulders and random sighs. Being rushed was somewhat of a godsend-it kept us busy, as we hopped from counter to counter and pushed through the airport. I noticed every mother and child with a diamond-sharp clarity, and marveled at how casual they looked, as if to say: of course I have a mom! Doesn’t everyone? Because that was me, yesterday.

We had one more security checkpoint to go through, when an odd thing happened. My brother was striding as quickly as he could, and urging me on, well out in front of me. I had to wait for my bags to clear. The security guards had walked away from their post after I proceeded through, as there was no one behind me. Rob was pulling away in the distance, irritating me by not waiting. When my things came through, I quickly adjusted my carry-on, purse, and heavy winter coat, and glanced over at the security kiosk, out of which my bag had just appeared on the conveyor belt.  I noticed something sitting atop the the x-ray machine, a piece of paper, maybe a plane ticket? I reached for it, and was startled to be holding a bookmark. I looked behind me and in front, scanning for an owner, but no one was there. It was weirdly quiet, and no one was within fifty feet of where I stood. I took in the words on the bookmark, which read:

‘I AM THERE,

‘Do you need me? I am there. You cannot see me, yet I am the light you see by. You cannot hear me, yet I speak through your voice…..’

And so on and so forth. I froze, then felt dizzy. Bookmarks were ‘our thing’. I’d spent countless hours debating and debunking the existence of God, the afterlife, religious tales, and yet at that moment- as ridiculous as it sounds, I felt my mother was speaking to me. It was shocking. In the distance, my brother let out a two-fingered whistle and implored me to ‘hurry up!’. Though my feet felt steeped in cement, and my heart was drumming with shock I managed to get going. I held the bookmark against my chest as I worked my legs up into a fast walk and caught up with my brother, bags flailing. We were ushered directly onto our plane and into our seats, where  I stared into space, still stunned, until my brother nudged me. Evidently, the flight attendant had been trying to get my attention- it was time to fasten my seat-belt.  Once we were in the air I told my brother what had happened and showed him the bookmark. “Wow” he said, and not much more. He didn’t see it as I did (no big surprise- we’re very different) He hadn’t experienced what I did. It was as if it was our mom (maybe?) was saying ‘I’m somewhere’ instead of ‘I no longer exist’. I put the bookmark in my wallet carefully for safe-keeping, and braced myself for what lay ahead.

Looking back, I can see that the bookmark was a mundane coincidence.  But a tiny part of me will always remember that feeling of- what it would feel like to have my mom reaching out to me in such a personal way, using something that meant so much to us. I don’t believe in God per se (there are just too many awful things ‘he’ neglects to intervene in, including proof of his own existence) and I doubt there’s an afterlife, so I look at the here and now as all there is and no, it’s not sad, it makes sense to me. This is my one shot to live the life I  want to live.

But if I happen to be wrong, (and I’d be cool with being incorrect–after all, who could resist the notion of eternal existence? A forever of me, me, me!) and if there is something in the great beyond, I won’t exactly be pissed off. I’ll roll with it, and chalk my doubt up to using the logical side of my brain, issued to me by said supreme being. And then I’ll ask  why he stopped with the grand gestures, why he didn’t part the sea or turn water into wine during my lifetime, why all the secrets? Why no receipts?

I still have that bookmark and when I run across it I look at it with the curiosity of a spectator at a magic show. Is it special? It is to me.

Life is different without a mother, if you were lucky enough to have one. There will never be anyone who so unconditionally loves me and wants the best for me, no one I can call and vent in that certain way, no one I can ask the questions about my past that only she has the answers to. I still feel a tinge of jealousy towards me friends who still have moms-especially since they can’t possibly properly appreciate them until they’re gone.

Where We Write What We Write

In Writing on January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

WritenowzWhere do you write? I have a room with bookshelves and memorabilia on the walls- it’s always cluttery, with papers here and there, and I’m always promising myself to straighten it out until I sit down at the desk and begin writing. Four hours later, I’m so mentally spent from writing, I just close the door on the mess and forget about it until the next day. Once every two weeks or so, I clean it to within an inch of it’s life, but next thing you know, I’m pulling the thesaurus off the shelf, clipping an article out of a magazine for reference, sharpening pencils and placing coffee cups on the coasters-that is, until a couple of days later, when the coasters are hidden under an avalanche of papers, at which point I just give up and put the cup anywhere on the damn desk.

Exactly.

Exactly.

I have bookshelves bursting with books in my writing room. Many are quirky thrift store finds from the 60’s and 70’s. Books like “A Paycheck Of Your Own'(1974) which instructs women on how to have a job and keep their marriages alive (this involves foot massages for your husband when you get home from your full day at work) and suggests “Make it perfectly clear [to the children] who’s the chief provider. “Even though we actually pool our two salaries and pay for everything out of our joint bank account.” says one woman, “we tell the kids that we use Daddy’s money for basics like the house and the food, and my money for extras like the new stereo.” Nifty!

Another ‘Is There A Teenage Driver In Your House?'(1967) talks about ‘night cruising’ and the bad kids the author calls ‘Highway Junkies'(for which he formed a self help group: ‘Motorists Anonymous’) Evidently, these kids have ‘Road Disease’ which can be recognized through these symptoms:”A sexual excitement as speed increases, a tense burning of the throat, a heavy stifling sensation in the chest, and a blinding determination ‘they shall not pass’ There are ‘hooligans’ who try to set records on who can drive the farthest without their headlights on at night, and others who take BB guns along with them to shoot up the town from car windows!”

And you wonder why I thrift!

These books are a godsend when I have writer’s block, or if I’m writing about a decade long past, for which I need to immerse myself in a ‘feel’ for the social climate, including the fringes.

Thrift Stores are a treasure trove of 'what the what?'

Thrift Stores are a treasure trove of ‘what the what?’

Back to the writing space: There’s an old metal filing cabinet for papers, a few black crows perched about (decorative, of course though real would be cooler!) personal pics, a clock, some paper cranes (given to me by a dear friend) and small cut outs of Joe Perry in the 70’s, Jon Bon Jovi in the 80s and Jay Z in the now. Oh- and Tom Brady with long hair. (Don’t judge me)

There are magnets on the file cabinet- Sons of Anarchy, my cats (not surprised, are you?) and a postcard from Salem. Mass (my spiritual hometown) There’s a statue of the Virgin Mary (wearing Mardi Gras beads) and a few ceramic owls. A black lamp with a leopard-print shade.

 

In the middle of all of this chaos is a two year old Dell computer with a flat screen, a basic keyboard, a scanner, a printer and an external hard-drive for back-up. It is here where I write, and here alone. I have a tablet, but I find writing on it cumbersome. I’ve never had a laptop, though the rest of my household prefers them. I have a million journals (there can never be too many) and I carry one with me at all times in case an idea hits me while I’m out (yesterday, while shopping- and because I was driving and couldn’t reach my purse in the backseat, I wrote an idea on a carton of eggs with a pen from my glove compartment at a red light) My journals are filled with ideas that only I can understand-but I’m so glad I keep them. Again- these are great for writer’s block.

Typewriter1

I admire people who can write at say- Starbucks, or some other public place. I could never concentrate deeply enough to write in public, though I’ve burned quite a few hours  talking about writing in these type settings. The bottom line is that we are all different- and the answer to the best places to write would have to be wherever works! As long as you are actually writing- it’s all good. Am I write?

J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter in cafes!...if it works, go for it!

J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter in cafes!…if it works, go for it!

Out Of The Woodwork/ 01/06/2014

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on January 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

There’s an ongoing debate going on about ‘free speech’ and the rights of cantankerous, old redneck Phil Robertson to gay-bash, and insist ‘black people were happy picking cotton’ while suggesting young girls should be married off at 15 (presumably to old creeps such as himself) He’s got a whole arsenal of backwoods ignorance to impart.

In some ways it’s  funny- like someone’s drunk grandpa in the corner of the room during the family re-union.  No one really worries about him because he’ll be gone soon anyway. I understand Phil Robertson is just your average nut from a reality show (who cares what he thinks?) But still….

What seems to have been lost in the controversy is that once again (drum-roll please…) these are’ religious’ people, who play the  God card quite a bit. Isn’t it alarming how much hate originates from religion? Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive?

I’d like to point out that no one is hindering anyone’s right to free speech. One can say anything one wants to. What Sarah Palin and other right-wingers are really angry about is the reaction to said speech.

They are angry because too many people aren’t high-fiving them and  pandering to gay-bashing, racism, sexism and ignorance.  They’re angry that the world is moving on without them, and that so many people don’t hate, that so many don’t try to hold their thumbs against the necks of people who are different than than them. It pisses them off that so many have come around to accept the differences in the human race, and don’t judge. They simply can’t wrap their heads around it. 

Years ago- in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond- the FCC was on a tear to limit free speech. Howard Stern in particular was singled out as a menace to society and many of these right wingers did everything in their power to shut him down. Eventually it drove him to satellite, and the furor finally simmered down -with terrestrial radio on life support as a result. (How did they NOT see that coming?)

This is an example of conservatives who are only protective of ‘free speech’ when the speech is touting their opinions and beliefs. But they’ll donate money to organizations designed to suffocate the kind of free speech they don’t approve of. Laughable.

Speech is free.  This applies to reactions to your free speech as well.

Speech is free. This applies to reactions to your free speech as well.

There’s another conservative phenomena that takes place when these haters spew their garbage. It happened when Paula Dean was brought to task for her use of the ‘N’ word (did anyone ever think she didn’t use that word?), it happened with Duck Dynasty- even when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin: the closet racists and homophobes come out of the woodwork and ‘reward’ their ‘hero’ for voicing what they are too cowardly to say (in public). Paula Dean’s cookbooks shot up the charts, Duck Dynasty had record viewers, and even George Zimmerman was gifted thousands of dollars. It may be the best way to tell the real temperature of the country- it’s not what people say, it’s what they do. Haters/Cowards put their money where someone else’s mouth is!

American history proves, time and time again, that it’s the oppressed that always prevail in the long run. The gay bashers, racists, chauvinists, elitists, etc.  will be portrayed in the history books just like the witch burners of Salem were. As despicable, and deplorable.

 

But we must hope the hateful keep talking, the louder and more openly. Far better to know who these people are, than to have them walk silently among us.

Weight A Minute!

In Angreads: Reading Mixed With Anger, Should I Even Be Talking About This? on January 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

 

Formerfattie3

Bing! Bang! It’s the New Year! Soon we’re all going to be inundated with weight loss articles, shows, miracle cleanses and juicing systems- not to mention gym membership testimonies galore. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.

But may I make a suggestion? To all of those companies who are trying to sell me something, and want to avoid an  eye-roll, and dramatically  heaved sigh (all indications that my wallet will remain closed) here are a few suggestions:

Please stop regaling me with stories about the dangerously overweight ‘reader’ ‘listener’ or ‘viewer’ – who was so fat that she: had to use a scooter at the grocery store, couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without hyperventilating,  once ate an entire six-tiered wedding cake alone, couldn’t fit into a roller-coaster seat, inadvertently ran with a herd of cows, had to ask for a extension on her airplane seat-belt…….or whatever paints a picture of a slovenly, unfortunate, pitiful overweight female unfit to breathe the air on this planet because she’s taking up too much space.  This same woman who eventually ‘gets with (your) program’ (i.e: hands over the cash) follows your plan and somehow miraculously! not only loses the weight- but becomes a marathon marathon runner, (meaning she just ran her third 10K this week!) or fitness instructor (she now teaches four boot-camp classes before 6am each morning!) or model (she is now dating Leonardo DiCaprio and is renovating his villa in the South Of France by installing a yoga studio) I mean- how did this mythical creature-surely she runs among the unicorns- get fat in the first place, one wonders?

Because, as soon as I read something like this, I know the product/plan/idea is not for me. A) because even if I could, I choose not to be obsessed with my body to the point where I spend five hours a day on it- or make it my profession! and b) these kind of results-if they even exist- are not the norm! How about a story of a woman who loses twenty-pounds (a mere bag of shells!) over the course of a year, and simply feels healthier, as she continues living the life that she already loves? How about that story?

Oh, riiiight..we don’t need you for that kind of story! We can do that one for free.

Watching The Play-Offs Like A Girl/Jan.2014 (1/14)

In Game Day Sweet, Game Day Sweet 2013 on January 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I hate this time of the year- when the end of football looms. It seems to fly by quicker each year- and once it’s gone it takes forever to come back. But enough about me….

You tell' em!

You tell’ em!

It’s a sad time of the year for the fans of the rest of the NFL teams, all but two not in the Big Game. Jets, Giants, Cowboys, Dolphins Eagles…just to name a few (these are the teams of most of my friends, family and neighbors) I’m sure it’s not so bad for the actual players on these teams, if Twitter and Instagram are any indication. Posting from beaches all over the world on the coldest days of the year-cashin’ checks, drinking umbrella drinks, feet in the sand- it seems to me they’re gonna be just fine.

RICHARD SHERMAN JUST GOT ‘FAMOUS’ FAMOUS….

So, Richard Sherman hollered back to Michael Crabtree after the game, and like a touchdown celebration, we’ll have to endure a week of ‘oh my god, that was so inappropriate/classless/disgusting/uncalled for’ from uptight announcers- while the majority of us loved it, and can totally see why Sherman was caught up in his emotions.  He was going back and forth with Crabtree all day-and made the winning interception/catch, sending his team to the Super Bowl. So there. But, as usual, Erin ‘Why Are You Even There’ Andrews was put off by the show of unscripted emotion and reacted like a lily-white country club lady who must endure the help for a minute or two in order to get her cocktail. 

I have such mixed feelings about some female sideline reporters. Some, like Pam Oliver and Suzy Kolber seem to genuinely like football and the men who play it, but women like Andrews stand there giving their ‘Florence Nightingale‘ reports (“So-and-so is on the bench with a lower hamstring strain…” Thanks, nurse…) and always seem off-put when they have to (I see it as ‘get to’) talk to the players. Isn’t there a tennis, polo or golf sideline for these women to go report on? And do they ever smile?

A non-offensive sport for Erin...

A non-offensive sport for Erin…

WANT SOME TEARS TO WELL UP??

Check out this adorable letter from a hearing impaired little girl to Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks. Coleman is the first deaf offensive lineman in NFL history.

Hearing

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