Post #86: Transformations

IMG_0209To be honest, I’ve always cared much more than I let on. Sbould I let my limbs swim in oversized sweatshirted significance? Prickle to the starched white splendor of a crisply ironed shirt? Thrill to the chill of an Armani silk?

Enrobed, encased, and otherwised armored: time to dress.

***
Ruffled Socks

I sit tensed, my eyes squinting beneath Buster Brown bangs. The man behind the camera snuffles and grumps and fusses with the lens. I am perched birdlike sitting high on a box. I am so very proud! Not just dressed but so dressed up. A starchy white outfit, my own initials CLA stitched in red right on my dress. White ruffled anklets turned over just so. Ruffles on the socks? But then poof! The camera flashes! My wide smile is frozen, set to be frozen in time. It should be over, but all I can think of is yanking those ruffled socks away from propriety, up up up high to my knees!

***

Plaid

A plaid belted jacket. A plaid pleated skirt. A plaid collared vest. A plaid brimmed hat. Non plaid knee socks, but you know, that’s okay. All the plaid pieces fit together, and fit together just so. I’m ready for school.

But is school ready for me? An outfit so stupendous, I am elevated to the stars! Or at least lofted to the top of a desk. I am the model. My classmates are forced to sketch my outfit. And forced, it seems, to sketch me.

***

The White Shirt

Longed for, dreamed of, I had never had one before. But there it was. Perfectly creased and standing at attention, the uniform of grown ups everywhere. I slid into it and was instantly transformed. A second grade grown up. I surely would wear it every day and forever. But alas! My tightly gripped left-hand drags the pencil led straight through my left cuff! In to the wash instead.

***

lLeather Patches

A handful of dimes. A tiny, shiny pile of quarters. A few creased and crumpled dollar bills. Longed for, scrounged for, scrabbed for and saved. Poured into an old sock and then clutched hard all the way to the store.

All those saved allowances to allow me purchase this this prize all for myself. A rumpled brown sweater. A rumpled brown sweater? Really? But of course!That sweater had leather patches on the elbows. The perfect accompaniment to fit with the pile of books that were always in my arms.

***

Powder Blue

Hair feathered, dress polyestered, feet encased in platforms stacked on high! I am the lead-footed, self-conscious youth queen of the disco! Gyrate, point, and twist through the motions. Perhaps subconsciously dreaming of jazz rhythms yet to be discovered?

***

Wide-Legged Jeans

Worn and worn and worn again. Wide-legged jeans, both tight and loose. Week of salads? Loose and loose. Week of sundaes? Tight and tight. No matter. Worn and worn and worn again.

***

The Very Big Sweater

Home for the holidays, snoozing on the sofa, slowly being consumed into the couch pillows. I am woken by the steady sound of my mother’s knitting needles, clacking away like a set of Carmen Miranda maracas. Did I want to try? I did. And so I find myself beside her trying to match her, stitch by steady stitch, adding on, casting off deep into the night. In the early morning, we have a flecked, turtlenecked sweater, green as the valleys of Ireland, made for me and meant of me.

***

The Silk Blouses

Charge into to the workplace in transformative armor, suits by Donna Karan or Tahari (always dreaming of Dior). Beneath it all, the softening silks, neatly knotted at the neck. Stand proud and tall.

***

The Wedding Dress

Simple and square necked, made all of lace, I am wearing the so longed for dress of my dreams, designed for me, and only me, by sister. A dress I will wear only once. And yet, once I slip it on it doesn’t matter.  My thoughts are only on the tall bespeckled man in the double-breasted tuxedo. The one with the perfectly tied bow tie.

***

Black Stretch Overalls

Like paintings displayed on the walls of a museum, exquisite and distant, I gaze absently into my closet. Were these things truly actually mine? There is my entire hard won wardrobe, sized out of reach. I don’t care. Instead, I am absurdly and proudly wearing a pair of black stretch overalls (the better to match with a variety of t-shirts). Perfect. The babies will be born very soon.

***

Black on Black

A jumble of sweaters, a knot of shirts, a pile of pants. All in black. Unseeing, I grab something, anything and throw it all on. Start running. Then up the stairs and down the stairs then up the stairs again. My arms are always so filled with books. My head so filled with ideas. My mouth so filled with words. I scurry from room to room barely able to catch my breath before diving into the next class. Chalk smudged in black.

But sometimes as I run, something lovely will catch my mind’s eye. A lavender mohair sweater. A silvery beaded jacket. A slim, long jacketed pearl grey suit. And I’m certain soon I’ll slip on a new outfit and transform once again.

 

 

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Post #85: The Valley of Deepest Darkness

IMG_0341 (1)Soft and fragile as rose petals, their stems left long in the vase, one stands poised and tensed over the yawning abyss, toes curled just over the edge. Terrified and overwhelmed, a sweet cake pulled too soon from the oven, the center slowly sinking.

A wire severed? A connection lost? But no! Remember!

***

He takes his lunch to sit with a kid he doesn’t much like because the kid is alone at a lunch table.

He insists on saying hello every single day to one who is unable to say hello back.

She listened when nothing said made any sense.

He faces his tormentors, is unexpectedly kind to them, and then walks away.

She made the phone call she didn’t want to make.

He found a few right words and said them out loud.

She stopped what she was doing to fix the copy machine.

She noticed the new haircut.

She said “I love you” when it was least expected and needed most.

He shared the Ring Dings.

He forgave the unexpected outburst.

She said she was sorry. And really was.

He shared the idea.

She stayed up all night to read the poems.

He remembered not just the birthday, but so many other un special special days as well.

He held my hand.

She attempts to understand the heretofore incomprehensible, from football to lyric poetry, simply because the loved people loved these things.

She was the person to mention a weight loss when one thought no one noticed.

He did the dishes. Night after night.

She knew when to say nothing at all.

***

Reaching out and reaching beyond ourselves. We do. These moments float around us like the nearly imperceivable motes from a dandelion. Look up. They are there.

Is being kind the bravest act of all? And if one has been kind, if one has been loved, is the soul then set free?

Psalm 23: The Tanakh (The Hebrew Bible, 1985)
1. The Lord is my shepherd;
I lack nothing.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures:
He leads me to water in places of repose;
3. He renews my life;
He guides me in right paths
as befits His name.
4. Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness
I fear no harm, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me.
5. You spread a table before me in full view of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my drink is abundant.
6. Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for many long years.

 

For SAB, z”l

Post #84: Evanescence

IMG_7354

It happens when I least expect it.  Thoughts of you drift through my mind like the atomized wafts of exquisite scent sprayed and spritzed with abandon through the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue. Oh the perfume lingers!

Once I knew precisely  how many days in a row you’d wear that striped shirt.

That no matter how many strawberries I bought it would never be enough.

That there is no joy as complete as four days off from school with new video games and  hanging on to power in  a power outage.

That there is no rushing when one is lucky enough to spot a sand wasp.

That pizza is meant to be Pepe’s and carved into strips not slices.

That Red Notebooks are for poetry and just the beginning.

That the joy of the Bach Double redoubled when you played half of it.

That jokes can zing and ping around the room like popcorn from an unending popper.

That breakfast in bed is not just for special occasions.

That bow ties are cool, especially when you wear them.

That we are ever and always outnumbered by cats.

That for you a book in hand is a book in heart.

That Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday, turkeyless and inviolate.

That three is the perfect number except when we are five.

Time,  I think, is  not torn asunder so much as it is the soft ripping of well worn, well loved flannel. They are missed. They are remembered. They are celebrated. They are so very loved.

They are coming home soon. Diving deep into memory to make memories anew!

Post #84: Evanescence

IMG_7354It happens when I least expect it. Thoughts of you drift through my mind like the atomized wafts of exquisite scent sprayed and spritzed with abandon through the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue. Oh the perfume lingers!

Once I knew precisely how many days in a row you’d wear that striped shirt.

That no matter how many strawberries I bought it would never be enough.

That there is no joy as complete as four days off from school with new video games and hanging on to power in a power outage.

That there is no rushing when one is lucky enough to spot a sand wasp.

That pizza is meant to be Pepe’s and carved into strips not slices.

That Red Notebooks are for poetry and just the beginning.

That the joy of the Bach Double redoubled when you played half of it.

That jokes can zing and ping around the room like popcorn from an unending popper.

That breakfast in bed is not just for special occasions.

That bow ties are cool, especially when you wear them.

That we are ever and always outnumbered by cats.

That for you a book in hand is a book in heart.

That Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday, turkeyless and inviolate.

That three is the perfect number except when we are five.

Time, I think, is not torn asunder so much as it is the soft ripping of well worn, well loved flannel. They are missed. They are remembered. They are celebrated. They are so very loved.

They are coming home soon. Diving deep into memory to make memories anew!

 

Post #83: “The Saints and Poets, Maybe”

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We ebb and flow through our days, sometimes roiled with the current, often drifting aimlessly, occasionally caught in the undertow. The days go by like a flash book riffled by a casual thumb, with the occasional pause for Thanksgiving or a graduation, a wedding or a birthday, the first day of school or the last day of work.

So many marvelous moments!

*Black and white checkered sheets draped over the kitchen table, couch pillows cushioning the floor, oatmeal cookie crumbs crushed over everything like the jewels from Ali Baba’s cave, two tiny boys hide identically in plain sight, squeezing their juice boxes into a sweet fountain of stickiness.

*There they are again! Leaping from their side-by-side stroller like miniature superheroes their velcroed sneakers clump on to the carpet and they are off, banging away at the petrified wood with a conga beat! In step they patter up the ramps and down, around the Jade and in-between the Lapis Lazuli. Completely unimpressed by the Star of India, they turn the renowned Hall of Rocks and Minerals into the glittering playground of their dreams.

*With the smile and swagger of the Bambino, the tiny boy in the green striped shirt balances his blue plastic bat on his shoulder and squints at the pitcher. One swing and the wiffle ball bangs off the bookcase, pings off the wall and sails over the couch! Then he’s flying around the makeshift bases with the light-footed grace of the great Jeter, past first, the yellow bean bag, coasting past second, the stuffed bear, a toe touch on third, a copy of Busy, Busy World, his little legs churning, his curls bouncing, his eyes honed on home, the plastic Arthur and Friends plate, and he slides! And there you have it! Another inside the living room home run!

*Will it be turkey with avocado and Russian dressing or tuna with extra virgin olive oil, capers and red onion? Brisket with sour pickle or a goat cheese with kalamatas? Hummus and shredded carrot or fresh mozzarella and tapenade? So many lunch boxes filled and then emptied, emptied then filled. Peanut butter and jelly is clearly for everybody else.

*A doughnut on a plate is sweet but a doughnut hung from the ceiling, hands behind your back, icing coating your nose, your cheeks, your tongue before you manage a bite, a bite, a bite, of double chocolate, Bavarian Kreme, or strawberry frosted is so very much sweeter.

***

Little moments scatter through my memory hither and thither, whenever and wherever.

Once, long ago there was high school performance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with an arch and scrawny Stage Manager and really a very good Emily, the sound system dicy, the timing a bit off, the blocking a bit stiff, but as earnest and loving and passionate as any show I’ve ever seen. At the end, Emily wishes to rejoin the world of the living if only for a day. Her yearning for the the small, insignificant joys of life, even the mundane and even arduous moments of any day of her time on earth were quietly and exquisitely painful.

She wonders aloud if anyone really understands how valuable, how astonishing even a small, quiet life is. The Stage Manager gently answers, “No. The saints and poets maybe.”

I wonder.

But if not a saint, perhaps those of us who just try to be good? I not a poet, perhaps any of us who just try to put a few words to paper, or work to express ourselves in word or song?

As life flashes by we do remember snatches of wonder. And those moments alone do in fact remind us of how marvelous each life is and how grateful we are to be part of it.

 

 

Post #82: Away

IMG_0502We arrived lost, remained so, didn’t care!

No suitcases, no responsibilities, no rules. We were off on a spree, unfettered, blissfully unprepared, bursting out of the front door, wiggling down the walk, sinuously twisting around the corner, skipping down the street. My quicktime double step whirling away to keep up with his laconic, leggy stride. Hand in hand, together. Just as before. Just as always.

The iced vodka chill of the MetroNorth cars gives way to the stultifying heat of the subways. Then up the stairs to the street. There is no cover. But there are waterfalls of rain sheeting from the sky.

The umbrellas are safely tucked away in the front hall closet. I tilt my face and feel the drops hit me fair and square like tiny bursts of joy. In moments, we are soaked through to the skin. I can’t remember the last time I stood in the rain, soaking wet, hair askew, completely and properly improper.

It is a double decker bus and we find seats on top. We dry in degrees as our clothes steam from the heaters, bumping along the highway.

Independence Hall

A stars and stripes shawl is purchased with the dual purpose of celebrating our independence and for sheer warmth. And that is all.

The Reading Terminal Market

Our eyes devour everything from donuts to oysters, sandwiches to schnitzels, burgers to brisket, cheesesteaks and turkey and ribs and corn dogs.

But we choose exactly the same thing: sweet and delicate salmon curries, elegant and etherial, as our twin plastic forks dig like tiny steam shovels into mounds of rice.

The Rosenbach

A few twists and turns on the streets. Then through the doors to a treasure trove.

Cherished leather-bound jewels, missives from times past, bound together, standing proudly, spine to spine:

*A rare first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
* the earliest surviving work by the young Charles Dickens, a parody of Shakespeare’s Othello from 1832
*Two 15th century manuscripts of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales
*Lewis Carroll’s own first edition of Alice in Wonderland
*presentation copy of Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum from 1519 with woodcuts by Hans Holbein

When I encounter series of volumes printed on Gutenberg’s own press I begin to weep, an acolyte at the altar, a devoted scriblarian to my soul.

Zahav

Each nibble tingles then rolls deliciously across our tongues like the unfurling of of banners on the Fourth of July. A bite of this and a bite of that. So much and yet never enough.

The Barnes Foundation

Like a bottomless tureen of caviar, like a never before discovered cache of Mozart Symphonies, like a whole wardrobe designed by Dior, we sat surrounded in long dreamed of splendor.

Monet, Renoir, Matisse,  Cezanne, Seurat, Modigliani.

With only a slight tip one could be immersed, submerged, subsumed, each image a portal to distant universes that somehow still feel so close.

But then it’s time to go. Back to the bus to the subway to the train to the trudge to return home, wrinkled and rusticated and perhaps still slightly damp. But we will be back.

Up the stairs to the porch. A glimmer of light? A darting shadow? There they are! The cats are waiting to welcome us home!

 

Post #81: From Beginning to End

IMG_0353Now why, oh why was this the rarest of pleasures?  Unlashed from the bedsheets, my feet warmed to the nubbles of the carpet, then cooled to the smooth of the hardwood, I made my way silently across the floors and step by careful step down the stairs.   Hair touseled, glasses askew, barefoot and nightgowned. Still dark, the house hummed.

Ah! It was just where I left it.  In a moment it was cradled in my arms. A moment more and I was cushioned into an armchair, feet tucked under and the book—oh that book—cracked open at last! 

Today there would be no rules, no convention, no conversation.  No heart-pounding have-tos, no  “should be doing” guilt, no getting dressed, no real meals. 

Today there would be no breathless snatches of a slap-dash quick read, a wrench back to reality coupled with an anxious pining for more, desperate for the torn moments and a hungering return to the story.

Today I am subsumed and submerged yet wafted aloft, buffeted and plummeted with my story from beginning to end. I float from armchair to sofa, from the lounge to the porch, from the attic to flat out on the floor.  A progressive read from the bottom of the house to the  top,  my eyes never leaving the page.  Oh what a ride!

Dawn becomes noon and noon becomes night.  Thousands of sizzling words jumbled into a joyous Jenga tower! And then at breathtaking last, with a contented sigh I am done.

Like the sweet never-ending all day giant jawbreakers of my childhood, a whole day read.

I’ll do it again!