Category Archives: family

the Irish goodbye

The Irish goodbye is a thing, you know. I’d done it, more or less, my entire life before finding that out.

What is the Irish goodbye? It’s the swift, some would say ungracious, nonverbal exit from company — often well before a social event’s natural end point.

My husband sometimes accommodates me. Last night, all I had to say was, “time to go” and in a matter of minutes, we were donning our coats and inhaling the bracing December air.

When you consider how much we would’ve had to interrupt our hosts in order to say ‘goodnight’ and ‘thank you’ — it’s not THAT ungracious a maneuver. I sent a beautiful picture and note by email this morning, along with a dinner invite for January. I’m not a monster!

You have to understand — this internal, possibly genetically-imparted pressure has absolutely nothing to do with the society involved. Last night’s party, for instance, was filled with folks I don’t get to see much anymore. People I really, really like. Interesting people.

Plus, there was a long dining table sagging with a glorious array of home-cooked dishes. You don’t always get that at gatherings.

No, it’s my disposition — some weird mix of ADD, impatience, and thorough-going introversion (recall the touchstones of an introvert — energized by solitude, drained by company).

And, just so you know, sometimes I accommodate my husband, generally when visiting his family. My in-law’s style of goodbye is the polar opposite of the Irish goodbye. Picture long, drawn out exchanges, often on the driveway with coats on and motors running. Future plans are outlined, routes home discussed. Entire conversations rise and fall, then rise and fall again. There are hugs and more hugs. I married into such a kind and considerate family!

Where am I during that second round of hugs, you ask? Often sitting in the car preparing to deal with my husband’s abject failure to abide by a generous, pre-arranged limit.

Fortunately, there is humor and self-acceptance in all of this. That’s the really, really good news.

Days and wondering

Happy Solstice everyone! Boys due home the day after tomorrow and much prep left, so I’ll also take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year!

And to ask a question.

After literally feeling sick watching Maddow yesterday, today I heard a new blog title in my head : Pattern and Refuge.

And it makes me want to ask, although there is no getting away from the current political mess, where do you find Sanctuary?

The kitchen remains a place of refuge and solace for me. Today, it’s a hearty vegetable soup.

Vibrations

A Short Tale of Transformation

I was taking a selfie to illustrate the kind of snarky talk siblings sometimes share. Moments earlier I put on the pants that my sister says ‘make me look like white trash’. Then I donned a shirt the same color as the one that inspired her to say recently, “We’ve gotta get you out of dirt colors.” As I dressed, there was nasty self satisfaction and full authorship of my own oppositional nature.

I continued this unpleasantness (really) by taking a picture to illustrate the outfit. And something happened. A halo of sparkles appeared in the background around a recently finished felt critter. Just look at those sparkles! They’re inexplicable, though given the mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces nearby, probably not miraculous. Nevertheless, the sight of them did something to me. They changed my mind. Isn’t that a little miraculous, the effortless shift from brute rehash to wonder at the nature of light?

I was reminded of a podcast about a researcher from MIT who was able to record his voice with high powered video off of a BAG of POTATO chips. No surprise (but total surprise) — it’s all about vibrations. (And by the way, all you have to do is google “MIT” and “potato chips” and you’ll find the story — which is another kind of miracle, one made no less spectacular by our taking such things for granted these days).

Using a blurry picture of Miss Mousy and the app PRIMSA, I fooled around to get a sense of her vibrations.She’s rather divine, don’t you think? She’s going to the ballet! She wears a tulle skirt in solidarity with the dancers, revealing an attitude of celebratory participation. You won’t find a hint of bitter defeat about our Miss Mousy, even though at one time she wanted to be a ballerina herself. More than anything in the world, in fact.Look at her polka dot pocketbook! Her anticipatory smile!

Look at her long legs — all the better for being unnaturalistic and sourced from New Hampshire woods.

So yeah, I’m wearing unflattering  jeans and a shirt my sister might condemn in irrational terms, but how comfortable I am! It’s a day I’ve claimed for myself! I’ve cracked one puzzle and another awaits. And do you want to hear the big decision of the day: what shall I make for lunch? Homemade mushroom soup or chicken salad with pecans, shallots, and dried cranberries?

Thank you for the cheer alert, Miss Mousy! What a sweet reminder! She’d never preach, but if she did, she might say something like: focus on polka dots and stripes, my friend — they make you smile.

How unbelievably great

I didn’t stay long at the hospital this morning because as it turns out, my sister had to be transported from one hospital to a bigger one for testing.

In comes Handsome Ambulance Guy number one, named Jimmy. My sister bemoaned side boob. I commented, “Gee, couldn’t they have sent the guy with acne?” Jimmy was really handsome, not just a little handsome. Then another cute guy came in, all solicitation and sweet, professional regard for my sister. Also named Jimmy. As they wheeled my sister out, I said, “Well, you know I have to say it: Thank you, Jimmys!” They laughed.

I was heading home from the hospital when I got the text about my bag. Can you believe it? K and I dashed down to the Boston Police Department to pick it up. I got to meet the honey-voiced, uber-competent Officer James. He outranks the Jimmys as my hero of the day.

A morning filled with powerful proof of good people.

P.S. At first I thought my noise-cancelling headphones were the single item stolen out of the bag, but heading home on Route 9 my kind and sane husband made a suggestion: ‘Maybe you didn’t bring them?’

Sure enough. They’re in the drawer with the dog medications where, believe it or not, they live. NOTHING was taken.

It’s all good. My sister is getting the best medical care there is. K mowed the lawn in spite of sticky humidity and I deserve a nap. Maybe it’ll rain soon. That’d be nice.

Forms of distress

hipstamaticphoto-508700880.644213
img_0641img_0668img_0760img_0640
img_0781Ruin porn is a thing, you know. I learned the term after Season One of “True Detective” which was set in Louisiana and featured one ruined landscape after another. This post’s photos were taken at the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, SC. It’s a site dedicated to preservation rather than restoration, meaning a tour affords a gorgeous array of distressed surfaces. Evidence of life, sorrow, styles, labor, wealth, oppression, and the passage of time are made plain on every surface. I love history speaking this way. I find the peeling paint, scraped up wall paper, splintered wood, and decaying furnishings so evocative. I know it would make you swoon, too.

But here’s the thing: distress of the soul does not enamor me. It most certainly does not make me swoon. It is NOT where I want to start, thank you very much Pema Chodron.

After a morning of being told how unsympathetic I am, hearing my sister’s reports of ongoing (possibly life threatening?) diarrhea, and making multiple calls to arrange the dissembling of one hospital bed and the delivery of another (there is such a long and fraught story there), I’m on to ordering sheets and mattress covers and protectors, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just want that feeling to go away.

And then, there’s how the dog lunged at people this weekend! It’s discouraging, hard not to blame myself, or feel a stab of self-pity — (“Couldn’t I have gotten ONE easy dependent,” goes the whine). I’m watching Cesar Milan and adopting his interventions but worry they won’t work because I lack inner calm and confidence. (“My dog makes ME anxious not the other way around!” goes the defense). Finn’s distress might be partly physical, too — oh how he itches lately! He’s always been allergic, but that too has worsened. So far efforts to identify an allergen have failed.

Writing’s hard and sometimes (truthfully — OFTEN) I just hate it. Love it. Hate it.

There’s a new house renovation four doors up the street, meaning the summer of ’17 now rolls into its ninth or tenth week of jack hammering. On Friday I just couldn’t take it anymore and fled the house as if my pants were on fire. Writing in a coffee shop turned out to be a good thing, but still…

Then there’s the absence of compensatory external rewards, like you know, a paycheck or communicative children.

Image result for monty python it could always be worse

from “The Holy Grail”

I DO KNOW it could be worse, because it could always be worse. (Think: Monty Python’s crucified characters singing: “always look on the bright side of life!”).

For instance, I just read about a father who traveled to Texas last week with his family so his son could have brain surgery. The parents were stranded at the hotel, unable to visit their hospitalized boy on account of the flooding. The poor man said, “It’s bad enough that my son has to have brain surgery without also having to deal with a hurricane.”

So yeah. I have a lot to be grateful for. Today? The sun, the cool air, the time to write, the financial support to write, a stocked fridge, noise-cancelling headphones, tons of state-sponsored care for my sister, an upcoming trip to see Son #2, the coming of fall, friends, ice cream.

Ta-da! What’s on your gratitude or complaint list today?

Still life, figures, and Matisse

The Matisse show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts takes a novel approach by displaying objects the artist collected along with some of the paintings they appear in. It’s fascinating.


Naturally, I especially enjoyed the textiles but even to see chairs, vases, and pewter coffee pots alongside the paintings they inspired was interesting.

I was shocked to discover, standing in front of the well-known ‘Purple Robe’ portrait below, that early on Matisse was ‘afraid he would never do figures’.

Lucky for us, at some point the artist figured out how to transfer the confidence he felt giving life to inanimate objects to the human figure.

With that and my unpopulated quilts in mind, take a look at the right margin of this slightly wonky tower I’ve been working on. Doesn’t that dark grain suggest a female form — staring up at a butterfly, perhaps? She reminds me of one of Grace’s drawings in its early phases. Mightn’t the nascent figure be saying something — Come on — stitch me into an empty structure! Let me enliven the yard or a room or even the attic!

Somehow this quiet and solitary day felt full. Almost too full.

Our morning walk was replete with scenes like these, peaceful and lush, but riddled with thoughts about aggression, primarily about the differences between aggression expressed from and for power and reactive aggression. They might appear alike from the outside but are worlds apart. Working with Finn has been a real lesson in this, inspiring me to quip from time to time, “Dog training’s taught me that I may be a mouthy bitch, but I’m no alpha.”

Sad, but true. Finn had a set-to right before this yard. Bark, bark, bark. My sister and I are having set-tos all the time, but this week they’re about re-configuring the distance between us. Bark, bark, bark. I can’t take it anymore. It’s amazing I’ve put up with it for this long. If she can’t accept my moving away some, I will vanish from her life. I’ve done it before. I was hoping not to do it again, but I am exhausted, tattered, and unwilling to continue at current decibel levels. Bark. Bark. Bark.

After what seems an impossibly long time without sun, out it came for our afternoon walk, so the day contained cheer, too!

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img_4552-2Lastly, the TV is all fucked up and you know what that means (wink, wink)! I may be forced to read for a spell here (and miss The Great British Baking Show?) or watch LIVE TV on the tiny shit box in the kitchen. Boo-hoo. Then again, the house is filled with good books waiting to be read.

Five hours

This is an erasure post. The original version was both too long and too revealing. The skeleton version makes less sense but holds more mystery, I think.


In hours, pushed, eye-rolling, huffing.
Five hours. I found her angle.
Risk a fool, like picking a scab. A person,
a villain, at least refusal. If hope
would speed silence!

Little judgment next. I gathered my things.
Later! Bother! In five hours,
the scope, nothing.

What I meant was, I’m wracked. I’m shutting
the door, halfway. An about face. HEAVEN!
It took unreason to drive the welcome —
Oh file, reference — mantra even. Five hours.

Back. Just BE! Oops.
Like morning needing witness,
she would chance fact, impossible
keep. I am
undone.

Ask, “do I want to be tagged home?”

Christ can track down the days, night,
a person.