Post #88: A Thank You Note

IMG_1113

Dearest All,

Welcome to post #88.

Sometimes I think one of the great miracles of my life is just that I’ve been able to put my fingers to keyboard to type out these small essays every other week. Like most of us my life is a convoluted mixture of the mundane and the significant. Even so, I have still jittered out a piece every other Tuesday, with the regular and rhythmic rat-a-tat tat of a Morse code tap, eighty-eight times in a row. I am never sure I can do it. And then somehow I do.

I do because I need to write. I write as a respite, to jump off the merry go round for a bit and actually think, even if I’m never quite sure what I’m going to think about. I write sometimes simply to bash back fears. I write because I’m not terribly brave and in some ways it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

But today’s post is written for a different reason entirely.

Today’s post is to say thank you.

If you’re reading, and especially good at reading between the lines, every single post relates to something that has actually been happening in my life at the very moment in time each piece is written. Most of those connections are a bit obscure. This one however is very straightforward.

It has to do with winter house terrors involving freezing temperatures, freezing pipes and being frozen with fear about the anticipation of what will happen next.

But I will tell you exactly what happened next. A whole series of people who came and helped: Dawn, our broker from Caldwell Banker, a woman who thought to call with cold weather tips that helped protect us in a house she helped us buy over a year ago, our friend Ralph, the apartment superintendent, who dropped everything to stanch a veritable waterfall in my basement and was at my door before I could sharply exhale breath, and the Robison 3 AM boiler fixers who went above and beyond to help us figure out a water piping system in our basement that resembled nothing less than the snarl of most of my knitting efforts.

Leonardo DaVinci said “Water is the driver of Nature.” I completely agree. But I’ll be honest. I would never have argued the point anyway.

So on this scheduled blog day Tuesday I want to thank all of the kind people above who are so very good and so very decent. We are beyond grateful for your help. And I would like to take a moment as well to thank you, Dear Readers, for your kindness reading along with me, for connecting me, for thinking along with me. You’ve created a bit of a miracle yourselves. What you’ve done is make me feel not quite so alone in the world.

Thank you very much. Until next time then.

As ever, C

Photo: Casey and Annie Rose waiting out the weekend storm.

Advertisements

Post #87: Come to the Table

IMG_1839

There is never ever a plan.  But does it matter?

A cavernous, empty pot sits on the stove, it’s gaping mouth almost crying out to be filled.   But, ah, with what? A flash of the knife,  a bloom of blue flame and suddenly it begins!  I’ve a sizzling swirl of mirepoix, fancy French for plain old onions and carrots and celery. A spirited rummage through the cupboard:  Kale or cabbage?   Crushed tomatoes or cubed potatoes?  Barley or farro or pasta or rice?  Zucchini or beans or chicken or beef?   A dollop of hot sauce or sprinkle of cheese? It matters not. No matter what, no matter how, I will stir up my pot to make, as the Mock Turtle blissfully intones, “Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”

The dreamy scent wafts through the kitchen, curls around the hallway, up the stairs and down. Oh please, let them fly and float through the air to me like the etherial lovers from a Chagall!

I promise there will be enough for everyone.  The door opens.

***

My Great Grandma Rachel Leah, 1962

She comes down the stairs sideways oh so slowly, clutching the railing with both hands, her face contorted with the effort.  It’s so hard for her to walk but she is insistent and determined she will do this, step by laborious step.  Then finally a sigh and a settle into her chair. No one can keep her away.  No one would.  She sees me and her body relaxes, her arms unfurl.  In a moment I am relaxing, melting  into her lap.  As she strokes my hair I can feel the knots in her fingers.   I twist to see her face. She is smiling. Her eyes are the simply softest brown.

***

My Little Gram, 1971

Not a whisper, not a word! We know to tiptoe, how to pull the door  shut with only the tiniest woosh and never a slam.  It’s just us, the early risers!  We creep into the car and drive stealthy, squinting into the early morning sunshine.  We are on a dual mission, to find both the Sunday papers and the bags of hot bagels.  Neither of us knows which we love more, to eat or to read. Don’t make us choose!

***

My Grandpa Lou, 1960

He is tired.  He works so very hard. And it’s been such a long day.  Even so still he walks through the door with the confident  stride of a natural athlete.  Although his dark curls are receding back from his forehead, his jaw is still so strong, his gaze direct and searching.  Before he has his dinner, before he even takes off his coat, he digs into his pockets and pulls up fistfuls of coins: Roosevelt dimes,  Indian Head nickels, Lincoln pennies, some of them still made of World War II steel.  The coins are for me. Every night my Grandpa Lou showers his pocket change into my bank for my future.

***

My Bubbe Slava, 1961

Adored by my Dad, your grandson.  Adored by my Mom, his young wife.  It was said you were beloved by everyone who ever knew you.  So missed by them, and so too then,  by me.

***

My Grandma and Papa, 1968

Chest puffed out proudly, hands on hips, the Superman of Lauder Avenue rises from his chair to greet us.  Calm and controlled, the master of the living room.  Clothes perfectly pressed. A clatter from the kitchen and he is joined by my grandmother, perspiring and wrinkled and aproned, hair flyaway.  He bestows a regal kiss on each of our foreheads. She squeezes us into the tightest of hugs. At dinner he sits at the head of the table and waits to be served. At dinner, she is always on her feet and is constantly serving. And yet when she presents him with his plate, meat, vegetables, potatoes just so, their eyes lock, just for a moment. Did you catch it? They love each other so.

***

My Aunt Bess and My Aunt Rose and My Cousin Marty, 1972

Sit with us, talk with us, be with us! Around the table, around the living room, glance to glance, phrase to phrase, heart to heart. Around and around we are forever warmed.  We never get our fill.

***

My In-Laws, Lillian and David, 1988

It is the most elegant of places, delicate chandeliers giving off a muted, almost viscous light, the silverware arrayed with the precision of a marching band,  flanking a platter of the purest white. Yet in this impressive place I am the one who is meant to impress. You sit beside me eagerly,  your words reaching out yearningly across the table to the almost impassive couple across from us. I feel as if they only have eyes for you, their boy. While my smile is calm my hands are not,  as under the table I am twisting my napkin into a harsh knotty rope. But when I get up for a moment to leave the table, I take a quick glance back.  Your father is grinning.  He gives you two thumbs up. And satisfied,  your mother smiles and nods in agreement.

***

Come back to us, please, come sit at the table!  Of course there is room.  Can you see, can you smell, I have made the soup?   You’ll know us, here are my sisters, one with armloads of daffodils, the other holding aloft a tray of the most exquisite cakes.  Our husbands, strong and kind and good are here with us, as well as all of our funny, kind and wonderful sons and daughters, nephews and nieces.  At the head of the table is our Mother, ever solicitous, chooser of the most perfect presents.  Dad, still the clever jokester, remains at her side.

Waiting expectantly too are  Shayna and Sam, Rorschach and Roscoe, Charlotte and Tina, dearest Golda, sweet Cody and ever so intelligent Jess.  Overseeing it all of course is Big Nick, large, orange and masterfully in charge. They do not wait for scraps.  As befits all of the beloved, full plates for all.

To all those we love, to all we so miss. You are cherished. Come try the soup. Come to the table. There is, and always will be, a place set  for you.

 

Photo: My Little Gram, Ann Venitsky Chudler

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.

 

 

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”

IMG_0589

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!