SUPERGIRL IN A SWEATSHIRT

IMG_5524

It was sunny and breezy; at least that’s how I want to remember it. I know I went on a walk around the block with Charlotte our Sheepdog on one leash and Tina our Chihuahua on the other. Walking them wasn’t easy. As you can imagine, those two always wanted to go in opposite directions but I could handle it.   I could have even ridden my bike with a leash in each hand and gotten them around the block at the same time if I’d wanted to. Of course I could. I was Supergirl in a powder blue Snoopy sweatshirt.   There was going to be an ice cream cake from Baskin and Robbins later. It was a great day. I was ten, at last I was ten and I was as happy and as proud as I’ve ever been. And all I’d really done is make it to the double digits.

That’s the picture in the scrapbook of my mind. I return to it over and over, absolutely refusing to let the memory pull away like a piece of taffy leaving only wispy, tenuous strands. I want this one solid.

Time passes. Full of vigor and purpose, we spend our energy and our days doing Things. Becoming Someone. Crafting our own myths. Grappling, striving, racking up accolades and degrees and connections. Going to the right events. Seeing. Being seen. Inventing and reinventing ourselves. It’s called living and sometimes it’s a whirlwind so intense and so wonderful that there are no words to express it. And sometimes it’s a hurricane so awful, so dreadful that we can’t breathe and we are choked for words and we don’t know how we can go on. But we do.

Even if some of us are lucky enough to do what we dreamed of doing when we were ten it’s likely there’ve been a few disappointments, plenty of tedium, and many compromises along the way. Every Supergirl needs to file taxes and wash her cape occasionally.

Sometimes dreams themselves are thwarted or deferred because of unexpected forks in the road or demands of those who love and need us.   At those moments a chasm opens. And in those really bad and lonely times, some of us may even do ourselves the ultimate cruelty by convincing ourselves that our greatest success has been in our repeated failure.

Well then. It really is time to be Supergirl.

When you’re young you’re sure that adults have total control over everything. Every adult knows for sure that you have control over virtually nothing. Half the time we feel as if we’re bobbing about in the ocean, frantically clutching after a buoy.  Even the most overtly successful of us sometimes feel as if we’re phonies and that we’ve failed.

But we haven’t.

If life is complex, let’s at least keep this part of things simple:

You’ve remembered which of your children likes peanut butter sandwiches and which likes tuna. They will never forget that you always remembered.

You took a minute to respond to and then forward on some unknown kid’s email to a colleague. That kid found his mentor. Finding his mentor changed course of his whole life.

You looked a clerk in the eye at the grocery store. You said thanks.

You’ve really listened to a whole phone conversation with your mother without folding laundry, playing Words with Friends, or mentally working on your repartee.

You were wrong. You said so. You apologized.

You never mentioned that your friend didn’t utter one single coherent sentence that time when she was upset.

You responded to the email.

You were careful not to give standing ovations for every show.

You let someone lie to save face.

You looked behind you and held the door open.

You didn’t give away the punch line.

Your feelings were hurt. You talked it out. You got over it. Your friendship continued.

You didn’t jump to conclusions when it would have felt so self-righteously great to do so.

You noticed the new haircut.

You knew when to ask questions. You knew when not to.

You did that little bit extra. It might have even been a loved one’s birthday. You were far away. You went out and bought a slice of their favorite cake to eat so you could celebrate together from afar. This was not your favorite cake. You ate it anyway.

Let’s face it; the above list does not constitute the makings of a traditional killer resume. But that doesn’t make each tiny scenario any less powerful.  These are just the small heroics that punctuate our days, that form the ongoing web that invisibly binds us together. These are just a few of the unsung, unselfish and very kind acts of all you quiet superheroes.

You’re out there. You’re doing good. And thank you.

Advertisements

FEEDING THE SOUL

IMG_0341

There are a lot of escapes and I am very adept at all of them. My specialty, when feelings of awkwardness threaten to turn me robotic at parties or gatherings, is to stash my wine glass in the nearest flower pot, and head for the nearest exit with the speed of a salamander that leaves it’s tail in an effort to survive. But the Houdini-que escape I’ve used most often was my arguably my best: a daily half hour round trip to the radiance and warmth of summer in the French countryside, circa the turn of the century. I used to slip away alone to spend virtually every lunch hour on an upper floor of MoMA, embraced by and immersed in Monet’s Water Lilies.

This is an age ago, before sluggish lines snaked down 53rd Street and museum entry fees cost a king’s ransom. The Water Lilies were given their own room back then at MoMA, the massive paintings taking up three walls with a couch that wrapped around the remainder of the room. Too often museums make you feel as if you’re a passenger on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at the Disneyland, but this installation was truly a vest pocket of calm in the land of Broadway Boogie Woogie. When I left my job in that neighborhood, it was my quiet, intensely private lunch sojourns I missed the most. The experience of simply sitting and feeling –not even actively thinking – in front of beautiful works of art is something I had lost.

So it is a very odd that the thing I loved most about the city is the thing I’ve actually denied myself for all these years. I’ve been back to the museums of course, but it’s different. I’m either tense the whole time because I’m leading a pack of children toward the exhibits and away from the gift shop or I’m fretting because the clock is ticking away on the gargantuan museum parking fees or much worse, I’m showing off, self-consciously feeling the need to pontificate on the artistic merits and deeper connections of the works I’m viewing.

Last week though, on yet another bitterly cold and snowy day, I was once again swept away, as of old.  I was on the arm of one of my sons. Somehow between his schedule and mine we found a whole unfettered, unbroken day to spend together. The Museum this time was not MoMA but the Metropolitan.

The plan was that there was no plan, no fixed schedule, no agenda.  Like a pair in a rudderless rowboat on a lazy summer afternoon, we drifted from room to room.   From ancient Babylonia to the Belle Époque. Modern Japan to the Italian Renaissance. We walked and walked and as we did, the crowds just seemed to give way. There was calm.

Lunch on trays in the cafeteria, a bottle of Chablis and two plastic wine glasses. Afterwards, my son brandished the map, as an explorer on his way to finding buried treasure, discovering whatever artistic jewels he wanted to unearth.

Hour piled upon hour, but still no tension, no rush.  At last I blurted out, almost desperately, “I really wish that I could be Claudia.” My son didn’t miss a beat, “and I wish I could be Jamie.” He had remembered. From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The runaways who stayed over at the most beautiful place that they could imagine: Metropolitan Museum of Art. (If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t be sorry.)

It had to end though. But it was a true escape, perhaps my best ever. As before, when I broke free of petty tensions and typing and office frolics by forgoing actual lunch for feeding my soul with the Water Lilies, once again I’m unbending. Unfreezing. Outside the drifts of snow are still so high. But the sun is out and it’s bright and warm. Spring is coming.

I can’t really remember what artworks I saw that day. It doesn’t matter. But know exactly how I felt. Deeply happy and utterly at peace.

“If thou of fortune be bereft, and of thine earthly store hath left, two loaves; sell one and with the dole, by hyacinths to feed the soul.” John Greenleaf Whittier

Wishing everyone a warm and reviving Spring.

FEEDING THE SOUL

IMG_0341

There are a lot of escapes and I am very adept at all of them. My specialty, when feelings of awkwardness threaten to turn me robotic at parties or gatherings, is to stash my wine glass in the nearest flower pot and head for the nearest exit with the speed of a lizard that leaves it’s tail in an effort to survive. But the Houdini-esque escape I’ve used most often was my arguably my best: a daily half hour round trip to the radiance and warmth of summer in the French countryside, circa the turn of the century. I used to slip away alone to spend virtually every lunch hour on an upper floor of MoMA, embraced by and immersed in Monet’s Water Lilies.

This is an age ago, before sluggish lines snaked down 53rd Street and museum entry fees cost a king’s ransom. The Water Lilies were given their own room back then at MoMA, the massive paintings taking up three walls with a couch that wrapped around the remainder of the room. Too often museums make you feel as if you’re a passenger on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at the Disneyland, but this installation was truly a vest pocket of calm in the land of Broadway Boogie Woogie. When I left my job in that neighborhood, it was my quiet, intensely private lunch sojourns I missed the most. The experience of simply sitting and feeling –not even actively thinking – in front of beautiful works of art is something I had lost.

So it is a very odd that the thing I loved most about the city is the thing I’ve actually denied myself for all these years. I’ve been back to the museums of course, but it’s different. I’m either tense the whole time because I’m leading a pack of children toward the exhibits and away from the gift shop or I’m fretting because the clock is ticking away on the gargantuan museum parking fees or much worse, I’m showing off, self-consciously feeling the need to pontificate on the artistic merits and deeper connections of the works I’m viewing.

Last week though, on yet another bitterly cold and snowy day, I was once again swept away, as of old.  I was on the arm of one of my sons. Somehow between his schedule and mine we found a whole unfettered, unbroken day to spend together. The Museum this time was not MoMA but the Metropolitan.

The plan was that there was no plan, no fixed schedule, no agenda.  Like a pair in a rudderless boat on a lazy summer afternoon, we drifted from room to room.   From ancient Babylonia to the Belle Époque. Modern Japan to the Italian Renaissance. We walked and walked and as we did, the crowds just seemed to give way.

Lunch on trays in the cafeteria, a bottle of Chablis and two plastic wine glasses. Afterwards, my son brandished the map, as an explorer on his way to finding buried treasure, discovering whatever artistic jewels he wanted to unearth.

Hour piled upon hour, but still no tension, no rush.  At last I blurted out, almost desperately, “I really wish that I could be Claudia.” My son didn’t miss a beat, “and I wish I could be Jamie.” He had remembered. From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The runaways who stayed over at the most beautiful place that they could imagine: Metropolitan Museum of Art. (If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t be sorry.)

It had to end though. But it was a true escape, perhaps my best ever. As before, when I broke free of petty tensions and typing and office frolics by forgoing actual lunch for feeding my soul with the Water Lilies, once again I’m unbending. Unfreezing. Outside the drifts of snow are still so high. But the sun is out and it’s bright and warm. Spring is coming.

I can’t really remember what artworks I saw that day. It doesn’t matter. But know exactly how I felt. Deeply happy and utterly at peace.

“If thou of fortune be bereft, and of thine earthly store hath left, two loaves; sell one and with the dole, by hyacinths to feed the soul.” John Greenleaf Whittier

Wishing everyone a warm and reviving Spring.