ON THE EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD: 1972

IMG_1045If you wanted it—and I mean really wanted it—there were rules to follow. You had to be willing to shoehorn yourself out of your top bunk in the black licorice dark of night. You had to be brave enough to survive the seemingly bottomless drop to the carpet if your groping foot somehow missed the ladder again. You had to have the conjuring abilities of Houdini escaping a straightjacket to be able to in fling your nightgown off and your sweatshirt on in one single fluid motion.

I was so good at this!  But I should have been. I did this every single Sunday morning.

I made my way downstairs. The walls of the house seemed almost to breathe with a steady rise and fall to the gentle rhythm of everyone sleeping.

My mother was already waiting in the kitchen. She’d beaten me downstairs again. I come from a proud line of light sleepers, early risers. Plus she knew how to be quiet. My mother could get out the door without a squeak of her shoe or a jangle of her keys. She motioned for me to follow and I did.

Buckled into the Delta 88 we were on our way. If we got to the bakery early enough—and we almost always did–the bagels would be hot out of the oven. These were Detroit bagels, small and a little sweet and really pretty good. Better still were the onion rolls, the round flaky ones and the square ones that were called New Yorkers. A perfect silver rectangle of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Sometimes we added an incredibly valuable pink packet: prepackaged lox, yearned for mouthfuls to be carefully divided and dolled out only in slivers. Once in a great while we’d get my very favorite, a whole chunk of sable.

Greedy little thing that I was, greedy little thing that I am, I wanted more. I always did.

My mother got that for me too. Three inches thick and an all day read: The Sunday New York Times. Pages and pages of jazzy, neon blitzed sophistication and elegance. I couldn’t believe that it miraculously appeared where I lived; on what I was sure was the edge of the known world, the suburbs of Detroit. Hot off the presses, the world and all it’s possibilities, now lay in my lap. Along with hot bagels in a crackling brown bag.

If there was a straight route home we never took it. Instead we meandered, driving slowly through the sleepy, tree lined streets of Birmingham. It was much too early for anyone to be out. The trim houses were Tudor or brick or ranch and contained by sidewalks. They were all different but uniformly tidy, with yards that were so manicured they appeared to have been combed out and then precisely hand-edged with nail scissors. Through the open windows, even the breeze felt just right.

As we drove slowly, yearningly past I could almost imagine each perfect house tied up with a bow. Unmade beds, messy closets, dishes in the sink an unimaginable impossibility. Did they read The New York Times? Did they live The New York Times?

Someday in Times Square I’d pluck newly folded copy of the Sunday Times right from a newsstand’s big stack. It was Saturday night but I’d already be living Sunday.

Someday, in a doorman building on Riverside Drive, piles and piles of Sunday papers would teeter in unread towers as night gowned and exhausted, I double fed infant twins.

Someday I swore I’d finish reading an article or maybe two—just as soon as I got back from a pick up or a drop off. Just as soon dinner was made and the laundry folded. I swear.

Someday Sunday mornings would again be very quiet. Three inches thick and an all day read.

The sun was coming up. We drove home. Everyone else was waking up. We were home once again to the happy cacophony of TV and spilled dog food and unmatched pajamas. But we had hot bagels. And we also had the delicious possibility of The Sunday New York Times.

Thanks, Mom.

 

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Tangled Quilts

FullSizeRender (2)I don’t really remember the movie. But I do remember this scene.

At the end of Reuben, Reuben, (Tom Conti and Kelly McGillis, 1983) the two lovers are outside in a park and they angrily part ways. It’s over.

But as the woman leaves she turns and looks back tentatively to the man. He’s looking down and misses her vulnerable, longing glance. She turns away. Just as she turns away, the man looks up hopefully but sees only the woman’s back, walking resolutely away from him. And so the relationship irrevocably breaks, lives are forever changed, for want of split second of timing.

I can hardly bear it. So much conveyed in a glance. But the glances were missed. What would have could have happened?

**

I desperately do not want to miss glances. Nor do I want to misconstrue notes or emails or texts. And those looks and notes and calls keep coming at me, they come at all of us, so thick and so fast! I try to keep up—I can’t really keep up. I delay, I phumpher, I make mistakes. I know that I do. Worse, even if I am looking up am I reading that glance or that text the right way? What am I missing? What might I misinterpret? And selfishly, how fearful might misunderstanding make me? Worse still, if I err, how alone?

Interpreting glances, bold attempts to understand the clumsy, truncated haiku of a tweet, text, or an email is an art form, one made of split second timing and the kind of bravery that cliff jumpers possess.

I know it’s a kind of bravery worth cultivating. Bravery worth having.

Even though I’ve placed so much emphasis on the meaning of a fleeting glance, on possibly misinterpreting the off-hand wording of a message, there is something even more important to consider.

If you’ve ever said, “I love you”, you know. Because if one is brave enough to say those words, to feel them, to mean them, one has to be brave enough to fight through the inevitable insecurity and fear—all the missed glances, all half-written thoughts—that will follow.

A relationship is far more than a series of glances—missed or otherwise — haphazardly laid atop one another. Instead I think of relationships as wonderfully tangled quilts —those sewn together steadily, slowly, over time– which we can pull from our bags and wrap ourselves in whenever, however we need to. These are the words and the stories and met glances that knit together to tell the deeper stories of our connection, of our lives and to remind us, as we all need to be reminded sometimes, of our love.

We want our connections to be like a firm, unbroken chains when too often they’re twisted like those little metal conundrum puzzles. The kind that take patience to work through and give such pleasure when they’re completed.

Remember the puzzles. Reach for the quilt when you need it. Much love.

TANGLED QUILTS

FullSizeRender (2)

I don’t really remember the movie. But I do remember this scene.

At the end of Reuben, Reuben, (Tom Conti and Kelly McGillis, 1983) the two lovers are outside in a park and they angrily part ways. It’s over.

But as the woman leaves she turns and looks back tentatively to the man. He’s looking down and misses her vulnerable, longing glance. She turns away. Just as she turns away, the man looks up hopefully but sees only the woman’s back, walking resolutely away from him. And so the relationship irrevocably breaks, lives are forever changed, for want of split second of timing.

I can hardly bear it. So much conveyed in a glance. But the glances were missed. What would have could have happened?

**

I desperately do not want to miss glances. Nor do I want to misconstrue notes or emails or texts. And those looks and notes and calls keep coming at me, they come at all of us, so thick and so fast! I try to keep up—I can’t really keep up. I delay, I phumpher, I make mistakes. I know that I do. Worse, even if I am looking up am I reading that glance or that text the right way? What am I missing? What might I misinterpret? And selfishly, how fearful might misunderstanding make me? Worse still, if I err, how alone?

Interpreting glances, bold attempts to understand the clumsy, truncated haiku of a tweet, text, or an email is an art form, one made of split second timing and the kind of bravery that cliff jumpers possess.

I know it’s a kind of bravery worth cultivating. Bravery worth having.

Even though I’ve placed so much emphasis on the meaning of a fleeting glance, on possibly misinterpreting the off-hand wording of a message, there is something even more important to consider.

If you’ve ever said, “I love you”, you know. Because if one is brave enough to say those words, to feel them, to mean them, one has to be brave enough to fight through the inevitable insecurity and fear—all the missed glances, all half-written thoughts—that will follow.

A relationship is far more than a series of glances—missed or otherwise — haphazardly laid atop one another. Instead I think of relationships as wonderfully tangled quilts —those sewn together steadily, slowly, over time– which we can pull from our bags and wrap ourselves in whenever, however we need to. These are the words and the stories and met glances that knit together to tell the deeper stories of our connection, of our lives and to remind us, as we all need to be reminded sometimes, of our love.

We want our connections to be like a firm, unbroken chains when too often they’re twisted like those little metal conundrum puzzles. The kind that take patience to work through and give such pleasure when they’re completed.

Remember the puzzles. Reach for the quilt when you need it. Much love.

NOW HOW CAN THIS BE?

IMG_4258Now how can this be? I know him so well. I’ve known him for so long. I love him so much.

I wasn’t quite sure that I recognized him, the sweet and animated face of this beloved person. It hadn’t been that long. A few months? But even so.

Looking at him I felt the angles shifting, a real-life Picasso, cubist period. He seemed to be changing before my eyes. Squint as I might I couldn’t get a clear view. I was shy and awkward. He grinned anyway. My boy.

It didn’t quite make sense.   I should have been able to see him clearly, to recognize him! I kept his photos close, looked at them often. But then really I should have known.

Photos don’t tell the whole story but rather the stories we want them to tell. I look at my own photo, my profile shot, the image of myself that I want all of you to know me by. It was taken on a good day where I look relatively thin and my hair is reasonably neat.   My cat, Big Nick, is not expressing utter devotion but actually demanding lunch. My photo is not just my presentation of myself, but my shield. You’ll know me by what I want you to know. As Wilfred Sheed once said of author Clare Boothe Luce, “She crafted herself a myth and lived up to her invented creation. “ Don’t we all?

We primp, we post and we manipulate shots for best angles covering ourselves in photos like a Roman phalanx heading into battle, their overlapping shields an impenetrable barrier to the coming onslaught.

And why not? Why not, indeed.

***

After our wedding I actually refused to look at the wedding photographs for months. I was afraid if I looked at the photos my own memories might get lost. They were not. And so I remember:

*That there were lilacs strewn everywhere and the scent, as always, was intoxicating.

*The sheer terror that overcame me before I walked down the aisle.

*My husband’s adorable and scrunched face when he had to take a bite of vanilla wedding cake when he yearned for chocolate.

*The swoon that nearly overcame me as I circled my husband under the huppah. Or perhaps I swooned from something else entirely?

*The solitary wedding guest, hidden away in small room, who spotted me and thinking me lost at my own wedding, invited me to share her slice of cake.

Not one of these images is captured on film but they are still firmly etched in my memory.  I am so grateful.

***

And yet, I think, all of us deserve the right, if we so choose, to protect ourselves with the images we want to present to the world. But sometimes, maybe even often, that protection can be a barrier to what many of us want even more. To truly know and connect with those we love most. To remember things in a way that even with a photographic record we might otherwise not.

***

And so to my boy, shifting and changing before my eyes. The person behind the photos. He was still there. I knew it for sure the moment he hugged me hello.

.