a flock of small, black birds
swoops over the pond,
Like a magician’s clock, snapping.
She sees the birds as a sign:
refusing to blink, she watches the flight.
She has missed her flock now
and will have to remain here.
They are both standing on the wall
above the pond wearing sweaters
with wreaths knit around their necks.
A hawk dips with a long hook,
dips down just over where they stand.
Then, he is gone, towed up and away.
She doesn’t remember blinking.
In one moment everything changes.
She is alone.
He is thin air.
Her sweater begins to unravel
on its own.
People say they are sorry.
She can’t tell them how he left.
No one will believe a hawk could tow away
But in this case he was weightless
this year like soft tears pouring from the eaves of this house.
No reason for them to stay tucked away in splendor
any longer so they free fall, one by one, patterning
the herringbone of the brick, still warm under my feet.
Looking down, I see the purple stars showing me the path
where our feet walked and paused and turned together
into the wash of our sunshine life.
Behind the old wooden statue of Ganesh, shredded and proud,
propped up against the deeply lined copper lamp from another woman’s
dream comes the sweet soft sound of my angels from a perfectly flat
violin which has come back to life just yesterday.
I was descending the front steps and heard the beginnings
of the same old alleluia chorus which used to play just
for me each morning in the pink light of morning joy.
Ah, I think, ah, and thank you and here is another gift
this music which only I can hear that celebrates my gift,
We are all naked in the back seat of a
1957 Plymouth wagon sticky in late June
in Connecticut. The seat is shiny, clear plastic
with cracks that bite us and my sister,Olive, takes
the window seat again. My mother says its 87 degrees and
counting but no one is saying a word. Our white
dresses like paper doll clothes are layered across the way
back and I can hear them crackle against each other like
we do at home. We are all too hot but my mother says sit still as
she drives like a slithery snake up the curves of the Merritt
Parkway to my Grandfather’s brown square cement pile of a
house. My Mom pulls off at a rest stop and makes us get out one by
one to be robed like a bride of Christ. Stiffened by our dresses
we reenter the car now starched for preservation and my mother
is pleased with her flock settling in her seat, saffron skirt
plumped around her like a fertility goddess of old. We are visiting
Grandfather and my Mom says we are never clean
enough so we are straitjacketed into our white dresses,
the back seat and her hopes
of being accepted after nine years,six children,
five daughters, one son, who
rides shotgun and wears what he wants.
Photograph Found version three
She’s lying there, faintly amused, staring at the camera from her
spot on a beach in front of an old hotel with fat,
white, columns too short to mean anything.
She’s wearing a bathing suit slightly too large from her cousin, Edwina,
who lives with her Grandmother Field in a house with a cook.
She is this family’s last resort
so she can never eat dinner.
She hopes she’s the prettiest
girl around and knows what she’s supposed to do.
“its just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one!” said her mother.
She sidles at men like a spider with the most elaborate web
all sparkly and wet,
glistening in its tempting circle around her.
Her hair tangled into a moist cap, untamed and dark,
her worst feature this unbridled mass says her mother.
She practices what she’s been taught and shifts her eyes
which sometimes glisten like fish in a cold mountain stream,
She is a hungry chameleon.
She is tempting.
She will always feel alone
In my bedroom atop a credenza (circa 1830)
A red robin sits alongside a great gray owl
The owl, that is.
The robin never sits still
His breast plump and breathless
Effervescent, optimistic, romantic.
The Great Gray swivels
Like a tennis match
Never sure who to listen to
Large White Bed Speaks
For so long there was weight
Only on my left side:
Tranquil and fragrant,
When restless, a soft spinning
I grew used to the small sighs
And random patterns.
One night a large section
Of my right side was displaced:
Like water in a bath tub
When placing a large object or person
Or so I imagine having only heard this splish and sigh
From where I stand on my four sturdy legs
Heavy and commanding I felt
This weight submerge my right side
With authority and the heaviness or height
And heft and hearty drink and my dear
Sweet left side seemed to gurgle like a happy pot of chocolate
Or a silly daffodil.
The molding and mating have become constant now.
I am never left alone.
I can’t bear the co-mingling
Yet that’s what I was built for.
It’s a love poem written in several voices as we were younger and now we are nearly old though you will never admit that. You are kinder now and more tuned in to me though that is not to say you were not tuned in before. I look at you and see silver hair which I am certain someone dyed just before I woke up and though your eyes are larger now they are still sometimes bluely sad. Your hands are warm and I could hold them all night while we travel through the strains of our past accompanied by the Beach Boys, Elvis and Barry Manilow, maybe Bob Dylan will elect to ride along as we fly towards morning. Your hand on my hip as we travel and the warmth of your arm still strong supports my flight of fancy and your finger knows the electric switch we rarely turn off. Where shall we go tonight we wonder and there the discussion stops as flight is infinitely appealing, fueled by the scent of stardust and fog, pathway cut by the blue moon ahead, we fly in circles hovering over the ground just to see if we can still do it. There are no seasons to this love as they have combined into themselves: folded together like egg whites, we feel the sharp pinch of winter while we are savoring the pussy willows of spring. If one of us was pulled apart, the other might shrink and pale and lose the blush of summer: wandering forever while searching for the taste of salted bliss. Your grace, like a wandering minstrel, makes my eyes widen and hunger and your laugh makes every cell in my body recirculate. Having waited all my life for you, I want to put my finger on the ground and stop the world.
Remembering Something You Thought You Wouldn’t Again
I believe in love and second chances. I believe in the power of memory. I love to reflect on whom I might have married or where I might have lived. I love nothing more than a glance from an attractive man in a public place which says to me “I am interested.”
What I love most of all, however, is the return of a flirtation you thought you had lost and the possibility of an old passion being rekindled.
There is nothing better in life than friendship begun at age four which continues to flourish. Nothing finer than an old designer piece which you wore at 30 still cupping your shoulders with certainly and still making you feel great.
I prefer the old to the new. I prefer the childhood memories to many new memories. I find the thought of an erotic encounter which took place at 24 infinitely more erotic in my mind today than any new ones I might have, except with one single man!
The art of writing romantic letters is seemingly lost today but I have been experiencing it recently with the greatest of pleasure. Imagine before going to sleep that you receive an email from someone you thought you had lost many years ago and that email was filled with love and remembrances of your past together, even painting a bit of what might be in future?
Imagine how that feels? How happy it makes you to think someone else many miles away is having the same thoughts you are having. Isn’t life grand? The really amazing thing is if you have no attachment to the outcome and only feel the joy of love, you can enjoy it even more.
Each little sound bite being sent electronically over IPAD’s day to day add to the wonderful building and waxing and waning tension of this feeling of love and desire yet there may be no consummation. I think I have learned one lesson in life after all these years: don’t live in a fantasy state particularly when starting out in a relationship or the hope of a relationship. It’s a bad idea. Really looking and listening and understanding what the other person is about is a good thing. Feeling giddy is a really good thing. Having hope is an even better thing. Holding hands is the best thing in the whole world even when it is done electronically.
Start your Sunday with a fantasy: it doesn’t matter where or what. Forget everything that bothers you as you walk to get the paper. Look at the sky and smile. There is nothing you can do to change anyone else, you can only choose how to be with them.Sometimes the hardest choice is letting go of a negative person in order for them to see the possibility of being positive.Work on letting go of any kind of pain or attachment. We can see the reward in having no expectations of the world and simply allowing it to unfold without judgement..I think laughing yoga is a good idea.
Last winter I dated briefly a man who preferred women to have had plastic surgery. I didn’t know this initially and liked the fact that he seemed to have dated women in his age range which is highly unusual among men who are in their sixties. I have met so many men who think nothing of dating women who are younger than their daughters and actually believe these women are with them because of their “sophisticated outlook on the world and their wisdom.” The latter is a direct quote from a very rich man who was 65 and had been dating a woman who was 34. I know, I know. This sounds like the beginning of a lament from an older woman but I can’t help it. The arrogance of the male sex never ceases to amaze me. Anyway back to the man who liked his women to have plastic surgery….On our second date he announced that he usually didn’t date women like me and that I didn’t match his list of things he wanted in a woman. Now this should have been a warning to me but I am a writer, after all, and continually curious as to what will come next. Some other woman might have asked what was on his list but I knew my ego was too fragile for that information. He asked me during our first phone call if I liked to drink. I asked what he meant by that? He responded that he liked to share a bottle of wine at dinner and didn’t want to waste the wine by leaving some in the bottle. I learned during our first dinner that he could easily drink the entire bottle on his own and then think nothing of getting in his very large and expensive car and driving home across the Golden Gate bridge completely plastered. On our third date he mentioned that he was a firm believer in plastic surgery for everyone. I said I didn’t like that idea and found it confusing to see people’s changed faces and lack of character. I also confessed I might change my mind when I got old and droopy myself. He said he liked the way women looked once they had a “procedure”. I asked what he meant. He said they just looked better, smoother and younger. I started to do a little research on this man as he had a few public hits on the internet: parties he had been to and a few pictures of his ex girlfriends and a wife. This was a really interesting foray for me as I noticed almost immediately what he was admiring. There was a similar character in all of the women’s faces whether they were really lovely looking or just pretty. The faces had no character: they lacked personality and actually did look like the actresses who played parts in “Stepford Wives.”I can’t explain precisely what it is about surgery that changes a face but it does. I know many have written about this before but what interests me is that a man would prefer a characterless face over a face that had not been altered. Even if a woman was lovely to look at and young in years, this man preferred to have her surgically altered to remove all history from her face. So then I wondered what this would do for a man and did other man feel this way? I am still wondering. I think most men are frightened of becoming old and hate the signs they see in themselves of aging so perhaps it is reassuring to have a women whose face shows no history. No reflection of what they have known together in the past. No reminder of what was or might have been. How interesting. This may be a new personality disorder in the DSM IV. The man who prefers a remodeled face each time he meets a new lady so he will feel as if it’s the first time for them both and anything is possible.
The drive back from where ever we happened to have gone for the summer seemed to go by in crawling seconds, each one of us fighting for the window seat and then elbowing each other if we were in the middle. We hung our elbows desperately out of the window trying to hook a bit of summer and keep ourselves in it for another week or two. The car was always hot and sticky from two months of spilled ice cream cones or bits of discarded Juicy Fruit gum. Olive and Helen always got car sick and were usually given the window seats out of respect but that meant there was one left. We passed all of the Merritt Parkway signs and read them out loud every time we did. “Don’t stick your elbow out too far, or it might go home in another car “was my personal favorite.
My mother seemed to enjoy these drives: her left arm hung out the window in order to maintain her perpetual state of tanness and her sense of humor intact and stimulated by the thought of fall party season in Greenwich ahead. We never stopped at rest stops or bought food at concession stands as we were supposed to save money so we packed our own lunches. Olive always had peanut butter and strawberry jam on white bread and I had the same. She sometimes varied her sandwich with bacon but that was only when she could snag some slices before breakfast was over.
Once we were home it took a while to air out the house from its long summer lock up. All the windows were opened and the fans put on and the kids sent out to play in the vast wasteland of back woods Greenwich. Down by the lake there were new families of deep throated frogs and more plentiful weeds grown around our dock which thwarted our canoe paddling. Neighbors were bustling with preparations for the fall and kids were nervously awaiting news of which teacher they were assigned to and how hard the work would be that year.
About a week before school started our mother would announce that it was time for all of us to go to Mead’s and buy our school supplies. This announcement was greeted with much excitement as going downtown was the highlight of our week. AT that time in the mid nineteen fifties, Greenwich Avenue was two ways and people left their car keys in the car while they shopped. I could never break my mother of this habit even in her 80’s. She’d say to me, “If they want my car, Dear, they can have it! I’m too old to drive anyway!” and that was absolutely true.
Mead’s of Greenwich was located mid way down Greenwich Avenue and took up almost two storefronts. The upstairs was mostly for books but the downstairs was for kids and descending the wide stairway never ceased to be an experience so exciting for me I could barely contain myself. The intoxicating fragrance of new paper and sharp pencils still slips into my memory today when I recall the place. There were aisles that went on forever filled with Eberhard Favor pencils numbers one through four, reams of paper of all grades, hard blue binder covers, paper with holes in it for these notebooks, instruments for math class made of hard, shiny steel, art supplies, craypas, colored pencils, watercolor paper, pens, inks, (my favorite was always “Peacock Blue”) large erasers and small erasers that fit on top of another eraser on your pencil. I always bought several of these figuring there were a lot of errors in my life.
It seemed my mother never gave us a budget for these supplies as none of my siblings seemed concerned about what was in their basket. Someone was in charge of the money and we just chose what we wanted. Sometimes we bought a new briefcase without anyone’s permission. Looking back I know this was the only time in our lives we had free rein to buy whatever we needed-wanted on that day. With our baskets brimming we approached the cash out counter and unloaded our stuff being careful not to mix our things with our sisters. Then we each left cradling our brown paper bags filled with hopes of a different kind of year ahead.
Looking back, I remember how hopeful I always was: as if that outing to purchase new school supplies would wash the slate of school experiences clean and from that day on the new pencils would write as none had before. The Math test answers would be noted cleanly on the paper and Phyllis and Betty would decide to be my friend again. I like seeing this streak of optimism in myself which was brought on by the annual visit to Meads. I went back to Greenwich a while ago and noted that Meads has been replaced by a jeans store as well as linen store. It doesn’t really matter to me as I can recreate that intoxicating scent in a second in my mind and there I am descending the double staircase once again, so excited that school is starting and I am buying pencils.
go see this film as it will shock you but inspire you. We need heroines and this film depicts one!It’s the best movie I have seen in ages!
I read the obituaries every morning as many people do. I have no idea why we do this. I look for reasons why people died, how old they were when they died, who survived them, etc. The other morning I saw that my childhood friend had died in February of a long term illness. There was a lovely picture of her taken when she was about 20 I would guess. I have no way of knowing as I last saw her in ninth grade at the graduation of Greenwich Country Day School. She was no longer my best friend having abandoned me for Phyllis and Priscilla and so we barely spoke on that day. I do remember feeling sad I was no longer friends with her and wondering what I had done for her to have lost interest in our friendship.
Betsey befriended me in fifth grade and whatever she told me to do I would do. I went to her house when she still had one (her father later left her mother) and spent the night many times. Her mother had a raspy voice, chain smoked L and M’s, and seemed sharp and unfriendly but stayed out of our way. She had two older sisters who were very glamorous and kind to me. I liked going to Betsey’s house as there was little supervision and we did whatever we wanted. Once in a while we would go bowling, something I never did with my own family.
Betsey told me in fifth grade I needed a bra: not because I was very developed but just because” every fifth grader needed one”. She took one from her sister’s drawer and told me to try it on which I did in the privacy of her bathroom. It was made of a harsh type of cotton and had straps with lengths sticking out which you pinned into place with small gold safety pins. When I wore the bra I felt incredibly sophisticated and old but nervous. What if someone touched my back and felt the strap and knew I was wearing a bra! What a terrifying thought!
In order to wear the bra I had to hide it in my drawer at night and then pack it in my school briefcase, carry it to school, and change into it in the girl’s room under Betsey’s supervision. The whole process seemed so time consuming but worth the excitement and the attention I seemed to get from Betsey for my obedience to her rules.
Betsey also taught me swear words which I did not know at that time. Today this seems startling but in the 60’s it was not surprising. I learned the three swear words that Betsy said were important to learn. “Shit” “fuck” and “dick”.
I found the words very difficult to define and kept returning to Betsy’s side asking her to let me know once again what they meant. I didn’t dare say them out loud and neither did she but writing them was also out of the question. I remember running back and forth most of that school day so I could remember the words, define them, and someday use them.
Once, about five years later out of the blue, Betsy called me and asked if I wanted to sneak out of my house and meet up with her. She said there would be a boy who could drive. I was really torn by this invitation as I never did anything wrong. It simply wasn’t worth the repercussions but Betsey’s invitation seemed irresistible as the “boy” was incredibly cute. I had seen him around town, he was a bit older than we were, and was considered really cool and very bad. Having never been in a car driven by anyone under the age of 40, I couldn’t resist.
As it turned out, my parents were out of town and our house was “loosely supervised” when this was the case. We had a nanny but she put my youngest sister to bed and then went to sleep herself by 9. At 9:10 I was downstairs trying to open the door without making a sound convinced I would be caught. I had no idea what I thought would happen but it wouldn’t be good. I finally opened the door and slipped out into the warm night air. It was very dark and I had no flashlight but I could see some outlines of the drive and the road behind it. I walked slowly past the night shrouded house of the Toby’s thinking of Button tucked safely in her bed and thinking to myself I must be really a wild child.
Waiting in the dark at the end of Meadowcroft Lane for Betsy and her crew was endless and by the time their car arrived I was a wreck. For some reason which I will never understand Betsy got out of the car and wanted me to sit next to Peter, the bad boy who was driving. In this position I felt as if I had been kidnapped by a scary witch on one side and an irresistible prince on the other. Hot and cold, yin and yang, good and bad, god knows what was happening but one side felt really good! Peter’s thigh was about as exciting to me as seeing Rhet Butler carry Vivien Leigh up the stairs in ”Gone With The Wind”. I could barely speak I found it so intoxicating. At one point the bad boy took his foot off the accelerator and moved my leg closer telling me to steer and use the gas pedal which of course I did.
Looking back on that night I see how important it was to me in my life of mostly dreams and few actual adventures. Sneaking out of my house at night, being driven by a bad boy around town, feeling the arousal a teenage boy could create, in me: it was an amazing memory for me to take out from time to time and smile over. Nothing happened. No one was hurt. No one even missed me, but it was magic.
So there was an obituary for me to read about my friend who created the memory but was lost to me for the rest of her life. As it turned out, she lived for many years less than five blocks from where I lived with my young family yet I never knew it. She worked cleaning houses for years and had her own small company. She never married or had children and died with her sister and a friend. by her side. I felt sad reading Betsy’s obituary as her life didn’t seem as large as her spirit and I was sorry. I will always be grateful to her for my night of magic.
Gloria Steinem and other reflections
Some years ago when I was young and just married I was asked by someone whose name I don’t remember to host a dinner for Gloria Steinem at our house in San Francisco. My husband was always curious about meeting new people and very happy to host any number of gatherings for whomever I thought might be interesting. I remember being very nervous about meeting her and worried I wouldn’t measure up as a feminist. I wondered why I had been asked to host the dinner, not believing I could be considered a “liberated woman”.
I read “The Feminine Mystique” when I was at Sarah Lawrence and discussed it at length in our freshman psychology class. In my heart I knew the author was right. We read Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer as well as Virginia Wolfe. All through elementary school I searched the stacks in our library looking for books about successful women. Finally I found a series of books about women like Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller, Marie Curie, and others and I read every book over and over. Looking back, without being tutored in the subject of female equality, I see that I was born with an instinctive sense that the world was not fair in its treatment of women. I observed this as a child and resented it without knowing how to address it.
Sarah Lawrence was a great place to be in the early seventies as there was no question on the campus that women were smart, capable and creative. I found myself pondering how it felt to be treated as if I were interesting, intelligent and had an opinion that was worthy of an audience. I wondered why my father was paying the tuition. It was a heady feeling that stimulated me and terrified me at the same time. I knew I wasn’t stupid but I suffered from a lack of self esteem which made it difficult to express myself in class. It was easier to be successful with men: pretty and charming meant a lot then and still does today. It seemed to me that my choice was either to behave as I was expected to or “cause trouble”. In my father’s eyes, I caused a lot of trouble.
So here I am, five years later in 1980, welcoming Gloria Steinem into my home with excitement and curiosity. The first good omen from the Ms. Foundation came in the form of the gift of a 16 mm movie called “Free to Be You and Me”, narrated by people like Marlo Thomas, Rosie Grier and others. We happened to own a 16 mm projector at the time and were able to show the film to our kids, I had only one child then , but until it was apparent in the mid eighties the projector had met its natural lifespan, most weekends I showed the film to one or two or three of my kids. I loved hearing Rosie Grier singing “It’s All Right to Cry” My daughter, Annabel, still sings it today and loved that movie. Looking back, it is surprising how my kids wanted to see the film over and over.
We think that feminism is a thing of the past but that is not true. Women are still paid less than men for work that is similar. Heads of state are still predominantly male as are heads of corporations. Men are still treated as if they deserve more respect than women and as if they were more capable. Women stay in relationships that are abusive and violent because they live in fear of their men and because they don’t think they can live without them. Men have affairs and wives forgive them saying to themselves that it meant nothing and the family is more important. There are many women I know who are living out their lives in a relationship that is empty and desolate yet they are afraid to leave believing they cannot survive alone. They say if they leave their husbands or lovers there will be another woman who will take their place immediately and they can’t live with this pain. My mother refused to go to the movies alone saying that people would think it was pathetic she had no man to accompany her after the death of my father. Some women still believe they are incomplete without a man by their side.
The other night I watched an HBO special on Gloria Steinem and I was in awe of her once again. We forget what it takes to go against the tide, to speak up for what you believe in, and to listen to the taunts of others who find your position so frightening they become enraged. Gloria Steinem is an amazing lady and my hat still goes off to her! She has lived a life devoted to her cause which is a common cause for all of us women. It doesn’t mean we hate men: quite the opposite! It means we ask for recognition and acceptance for being just as qualified and just as capable as men and deserving of the same respect in the world. I know she is now 78 years old and I hope she lives another 20 years as her work is very inspiring to me and to many women. There are few people in the world today, male or female, who would devote their life to a cause beyond all else. Without these people we would have neither social change nor progress. How wonderful it is to have Gloria still around and still fighting for all of us.
When the Kennedy’s came to stay..
Most of our childhood was spent in relative peace within the confines of 11 Meadowcroft Lane or Stowe, Vermont once my Dad made a little more money! There were so many of us it seemed to me it was impossible to be alone and I am sure that is why I am always searching for places to hide no matter where I live. Finding a place where no one can find me is a hard habit to break even as an adult. My parents had a few parties and we went to our cousins a lot but for the most part we stayed pretty much to ourselves: a tribe branded with our own traditions and indoctrinations.
My Dad had this habit of taking all of us on trips to various parts of this country and other places in the world where there would usually be some type of crisis forcing him to find a loyal friend or employee to leave most of us with while he went back to work. Once we were left in Denmark with a family for two weeks as we all had food poisoning and couldn’t continue the trip. I will never forget the lady of the house trying desperately to cope with six visiting children as well as four of her own all vomiting in unison all over the house.
My parents seemed to have friends who could act as caretakers at a moment’s notice all over the world but not a lot of friends in their neighborhood. This made life a little more stressful than it might have otherwise been as there was no one to deflect the attention from us kids.
We had a lot of small, mechanized vehicles and were given permission to drive some of them about age 7. My Dad loved cars of any kind be they miniature , gasoline powered, lawn motor type cars or old model T’s and he loved to go for rides in these vehicles with all of us following in our own. He actually had a sidewalk made on the outer rim of our property bordering the street so we wouldn’t drive into the street. Of course we never used it except when our parents were home.
These small cars went quite fast so my Dad put on what he called a “governor” so we couldn’t exceed the speed limit of safety I guess it never occurred to him that it was easy to remove a rubber band around the gas lever preventing it from being raised to go faster. We were the fastest kids in the neighborhood and there was no radar in those days.
So by now I bet you are wondering about when the Kennedy’s came to stay and what I am going to write about them. My mother was at fault here as she was Jack Kennedy’s girlfriend when he was at Choate and stayed in touch with him for years afterwards. She was described with frequency in the book, “Reckless Youth” about JFK and his exploits. I think my mother had a whole other life we never knew about as in those days one had to pretend to be chaste until marriage. My parents had a lot of famous friends but the Kennedy’s were their most famous. Well, maybe Bob Hope played a close second but we never met him. We did meet the Kennedy’s however and their visits created many memories for all of us.
Our first Kennedy was the President and we were invited to the White House to meet him one spring day. My mother dressed us all up in old clothes of hers as we didn’t seem to have appropriate outfits to meet the President in. I wore a violet wool suit with two snaps on the front and for some reason I decided to add white elbow length gloves I had found in my mother’s drawer. She didn’t see the gloves until we were already inside the white House doors and couldn’t tell me to remove them. How funny we must have looked: this family of women all dressed in clothes too old for them walking down the hall to the President’s office. My mother, of course, looked elegant and serene in her Chanel suit, stockings and alligator pumps.
We were introduced to the President who seemed very nice but boring and finally he asked if we wanted to go outside and meet “Macaroni”, his daughter’s pony. We ran like the wild children we were out on the lawn and down to where Macaroni was grazing on the lawn. It seemed infinitely more interesting to be down there messing about with the pony and we missed our mother’s call’s a few minutes later to return to the Oval office. Finally some men with suits on came running out to where we were asking us to return to our mother who was furious. She later exclaimed “I can’t believe when the President of the United States calls you don’t respond!”
My next Kennedy memory came when we went to walk by Robert Kennedy’s casket after he was shot. I recall a very dark and somber space in the White House and a slow and shuffling processional past a coffin. I knew I should remember what was happening but I couldn’t stay in my body as it seemed so completely terrifying. Things had changed by then and the sadness of the family was very apparent even to an adolescent. That summer Ethel and a large entourage came to Maine to visit us for a night or two. It was incredibly annoying when fancy people came to visit as we had to behave as if we always dressed in clothing belonging to our mother and walk around the house greeting all the guests and asking what we could do for them. The Kennedy’s were more entertaining than most guests, however, as at night they drank a lot and always played games. One of their favorites was Sardines.
It was almost impossible to sleep when they were playing these games as the players went wherever they wanted in the house no matter who was sleeping in the bedrooms. One night I woke up to find several people coming in and out of my closet. They used our vehicles even if they were way too big for them and never sat in cars, preferring to drape themselves over the car for the trip to town. Once I remember seeing four of them on the roof of an old Land Rover laughing and sliding from side to side. It never seemed to occur to them they might get hurt but of course it wouldn’t or couldn’t.
I found them entertaining but sad in that way grownups can feel sad to a child. Being around the Kennedy’s felt like the world was going too fast and there was no way to slow it down. The women seemed to laugh a lot in a high and choking way and the men looked like wolves hunting for another piece of prey. Everybody smoked. They tried to engage some of us kids but it made one feel on the spot and not genuine. Everything seemed a little too bright and too loud and I was always happy when they left. While they were there it was a question of avoiding them as they seemed to feel comfortable appearing anywhere in the house with a total disregard to privacy. I remember watching Ethel, pregnant with Rory, her last child, and feeling so sad for her. It seemed to me she was trying to keep a way of life going that had died some months ago with her husband, and had no idea how to do it. The planes of her face often fell into a deep sorrow and anguish that she would never lose.
I think most kids become annoyed if they feel their parents are paying more attention to their guests than to their kids. We liked the guests as they were a distraction and seemed to make my parents happy for a time. The dressing up became a real role and the laughter was a reflection they liked to see in their lives. It was fun to them and they liked the glamour of it all. Sometimes I think that living a glamorous life is not all bad. It’s like watching a continuous play with many costume changes and occasionally having a walk on role. There is a finale but then one begins to rehearse for the next show. There is no opportunity for analysis or reflection only for movement ahead.
Spain defaulting, Greece unstable, and we can’t agree on how to solve our own debit problems. Obama says things will get better but does anyone believe it? No wonder people seem angry all the time and drinking more all the time. I think drinking is a good indicator of your level of happiness: the more you drink, the less happy you are and usually the meaner you are to those around you. Drinking doesn’t just affect you in the moment but it also affects your behavior the following day in short tempered hangover spurts.
Drinkers make me nervous as I am more comfortable with consistency and people who are the same every time you see them. I am a drink counter and can tell you at any given dinner party how many glasses of wine each guest has consumed. This is not a great habit but I find myself unable to stop doing it. I also notice that as soon as I see one person is drinking a lot I become less interested in listening to what they have to say. I remember my children’s pediatrician talking about the difference between smoking (I was trying to quit) and drinking. He said, “Lucinda, smoking only destroys one life while drinking kills an entire family”.
Recently I moved into a wonderful house right next to a church where they hold AA meetings in the evening. I like to listen to the people chatting as they come out of the church sounding so happy and grateful to be with their friends and supported by them. I guess if you are an alcoholic it’s really hard to stop drinking as it is anesthesia for your life. If your life feels stressful most people don’t have the will power or knowledge to try meditation or exercise: a drink is easier, faster and more accessible to most.
Growing up, everyone around us drank too much from our parents to our household help to all the parents of our friends. No one thought anything about getting into a car and driving children anywhere they needed to go after a drink or two. To us kids, drinking adults weren’t usually frightening, just louder and less interested in us than usual. My parent’s generation was not really interested in kids at all most of the time as they found their own lives more entertaining. I don’t blame them and actually this was a good thing in a way.
One of my parent’s friends had a “baby” party one weekend. All the guests had to dress as babies and were given bottles of Vodka upon entering the house which was done by climbing up a slide placed inside the front door and sliding down it into the front hall. My parents thought this was one of the best parties they had ever been to. In order to outdo the hostess my mother planned her next party with care. It would be a “designing “party. The guests were divided into couples by having the men draw a woman’s name out of a hat. Each couple was given a paper bag filled with items from the five and ten cents store: a length of fabric, scissors, pins, sequins, glue and feathers. The couples were told they had one hour for the man to design a costume on the lady and sent out into the house to find places where they could be “creative”.
The next morning our butler quit and told my mother he couldn’t work in a house where shocking and immoral behavior happened. When my mother asked what that behavior was he stated,”Mrs. Watson! I heard Mr. Dewart tell Mrs. Ewald that she had to take off all of her clothes or he couldn’t be creative!”
My parent’s generation loved games and entertainment and dressing up in costumes. My father dressed up in a bear’s costume every Halloween. He found this infinitely entertaining: much more so than his real job. I think the good thing about that generation was the fact that they didn’t take much seriously including themselves. This is a different attitude from people today. Everyone takes themselves very seriously all the time and very few people take time to laugh.
Your life can get a lot better really quickly if you learn a few techniques to make other people laugh. Yesterday I was trying to learn my login name to register for some classed at a local university as I couldn’t log in without it. As it was, on this first day of registration there was a long wait on the phone and once I reached the person who could help me I was told me there was a very long line in the office as well. I asked her how I could retrieve my log in name and she said I would have to give her some information and with patience might receive it later that night. I laughed at the way she said this as it was in a very resigned manner. I said I thought she might make those lines into a very good country western song. She started laughing and so did I and she thanked me for making her laugh.
I hung up the phone and got an email less than three minutes later with all the information I needed.
The whole point of life is to love people and to enjoy yourself. I think we forget this most of the time. When we remember we are rewarded in many different ways.
Beginning in June
Beginning in June I would count the days until we had to go back to school. Even before the dull heat of a Connecticut summer had really hit our shores, I was thinking about math class. I was remembering with great clarity the stiff formality of Mr. Palmer with his heavy black glasses, pot belly, pants that were too short and too tight, and his darting eyes that seemed to reach into the conscience of every eighth grader at the Greenwich Country Day School. I hated math and always had since seventh grade and the advent of algebra. It seemed completely illogical to me we had to master equations which used letters instead of numbers. I could have cared less if A +B =C squared or not. I could do arithmetic in the blink of an eye as I had my trusty cash register bank to compare notes with. Mr. Palmer taught me how to really feel ashamed and it was my own entire fault.
That last week of school we had a pop quiz in class. Frankly it didn’t matter to me if the quiz was “pop” or not as I was bound to fail it. As soon as Mr. Palmer went up to the board and picked up a piece of chalk, a dull roar began in my mind and any chance of paying attention went out the window. Those early moments of explanation of a new concept were the most crucial as we all know and if you weren’t there with the teacher you never learned the problem. Consequently, I never learned the problems.
Mr. Palmer loved pop quizzes and had them all the time. This one had 8 problems and I knew the answer to four of them leaving me with a 50% score. I needed to find at least one more correct answer. I scratched and scratched at my sheet of paper, writing down possible ways to find an answer to no avail. Without consciously thinking about it I glanced over at Keith Funston’s paper and saw in his very clear and precise letters the answers to all the problems. Not being a greedy girl, I copied only one on to my sheet at the bottom of my chicken scratches.
Why did I do this, you might wonder? Summer was coming, I was failing math, if I failed math I would have to go to summer school and be even more miserable than I already was. I was desperate enough to try anything, even cheating.
The following day, back in math class, Mr. Palmer wished us all a happy summer and let us out early. After announcing this wonderful thing, he asked that “Cindy Watson” come up to his desk. I watched as my fellow students left the room staring at me surreptitiously under their eyelids and slowly walked up to Mr. Palmer’s desk. He looked up at me and said,” There is one answer on your test that is correct but your work does not show how you got there. Could you show me how you did it?”
I looked down at my Bass Weejuns and began to cry. “No, “I said, “I really can’t. I copied Keith’s paper because I was so afraid of failing again.”
To Mr. Palmer’s credit, he didn’t yell, threaten or frighten me in any way. In his soft yet stern voice he told me I would have to go to summer school for two weeks in order to pass the course and move on to 9th grade. All I could think of was who he was going to tell about my sin. Would there be a call to my parents? A scarlet “C” to be worn all the rest of the day? A visit to Mr. Webster’s office, the evil headmaster? I felt as if I was on my way to the Penitentiary never to see the light of day again.
Mr. Palmer asked me if I would ever do this again. I looked him right in the eye and told him no. I think he believed me because there was no call to anyone, not even my parents. I kept waiting for the call and am still waiting. I still feel the fear and shame of having to admit I had copied the answer. I know a lot of kids do this and don’t get off so easily but at the time I was terrified.
Summer came and went. Summer school passed with apparent ease. My mother and father continued to be lost in their separate world of fifties parenting which meant no parenting. My sister Olive and I played our usual summer game of “see who has left for the summer so we can swim in their pool”. Our town emptied of its inhabitants slowly as the round old station wagons headed north in a caravan of wasps looking forward to a new hive for a few months. Children sat in sticky seats in back and tormented their siblings and played games like “count the purple cars” or six cars from now will have your future husband in it.”
I watched the face of my father as he came home from work each day waiting for my punishment. Summer grew deeper and hotter and our mother took us to the beach almost daily always “forgetting” lunch so we could eat greasy burgers at the concession stand and blow the papers off our straws into each other’s faces.
Mr. Palmer never told anyone and this is my way of saying “thanks”. Maybe he knew I would torment myself enough without adding to the burden. Eventually I passed ninth grade, went away to school and graduate school and never copied another answer again.
May 27th, 2011
The following is quoted from brendabrush.com, a great resource for what’s in the stars for us all!
The signs of communication are taking center stage. The last couple of years the Eclipses have been in Cancer and Capricorn. This has brought our attention to jobs, security, real estate, home and family. That has certainly been the focus. Some people have lost their jobs and their homes have been foreclosed. You may not have endured the worst of this but it has brought these issues to the surface in some way. Hopefully you have celebrated some good things in these areas. Major family events may have taken place. Births, deaths, weddings, etc that bring family together. Eclipses bring a turning point. The Eclipses are now emphasizing the signs Gemini and Sagittarius.
December 21st, 2010 there was a Lunar Eclipse at the last degree of Gemini. It was in square to Uranus telling us to expect news of change. Mercury, the ruler of Gemini at that time, went retrograde conjunct Pluto. That began a six month period of potential change and endings. This was the beginning of what now will be a series of Eclipses in Gemini and Sagittarius over the next year and a half. Communication and information is the theme. How we connect with one another with the tools of communication that are available. In this day and age we have plenty of tools. This may have improved our ability to connect but it also has its pitfalls. How we deal with the mass of information that is available to us on every subject is the key. If you want to know something you can just Google it. You may get a variety of opinions that you then have to sort out. We are in the information age. It is the age of communication. In order to succeed you need to be proficient in language skills and the use of these tools. The lowest form of communication is gossip. This is toxic to our lives and to the collective consciousness. It is important for your own well-being to keep your mind focused on more interesting elevating conversation. It is time for us to learn about one another and make good connections. It is good to see the best and encourage its growth. A Lunar Eclipse affects us for 6 months. The December Lunar Eclipse has played out over the last 6 months. The last degree of a sign brings something inevitable. The news of the last 6 months has been pretty intense. It brought circumstances of finality. There was no negotiating or arguing with the information. It was laid out before us. Now what?
On June 1st, 2011 at 5:02 pm there is a Solar Eclipse at 11 degrees 02 minutes of Gemini. This Solar Eclipse will keep this Gemini energy moving. A Solar Eclipse affects us for a couple of years. What do we need to know? It is like the Universe saying, “Listen Up”! There is so much information flying around we need to filter out what is important to us. The Planet Mercury, the ruler of Gemini and Virgo, is the ruler of this Eclipse. Mercury is at the end of the sign Taurus. That message, coming from Taurus, is to take care of what we have. Taurus rules our values, money and it rules the economy. We are being inspired to live greener. We are inspired to simplify. It is time to appreciate what we have and take care of it. The economic down turn of the last few years has been an experience that has forced us to look at our values. It is time to take care…..We need information so we can learn what to do to improve our financial situation. We need information so we know what steps to take. This is why the eclipses are in the signs that give us that information. On a personal level we need to pay attention to what we are thinking and saying. What you say is what you are. What you think about is what you attract. It is important that you think good thoughts. Gossip will backfire on you. What you say about someone will manifest in you. Bring the best out in another person and you will attract that for yourself. This eclipse brings with it the need to have better relationship skills, communication skills, and stand up for what you believe. We could title this eclipse, “The Power of the Word”.
On June 4th, Jupiter moves into Taurus for a year. Jupiter is the Planet of higher knowledge, religion, expansion, and good luck. Taurus is the sign of the Zodiac that rules the economy: ours, the country, or the world. Jupiter’s aim is to educate us so we can live better. The Planet Saturn is the task master. It is in Libra and we are learning about balance and cooperation. The combination of energy is to know our own value, protect it, and bring it into balance. Saturn went retrograde in Libra on January 26th, backing off a bit to give us a chance to take a deeper look at our issues and fix them. Saturn will resume direct motion on June 12th, expecting that the correction has been made while it was retrograde. Get ready for things to begin to move after June 12th. Especially in the area of financial security and relationships.
On June 15th there is a Full Moon/Lunar Eclipse at 4:34 pm at 24 degrees 23 minutes of Sagittarius. This Lunar Eclipse will affect us for 6 months. Sagittarius is the sign of expansion, expert information, travel, education, and religion. Both Gemini and Sagittarius have to do with information but Gemini is local and Sagittarius is global. Gemini is word of mouth and Sagittarius comes from informed sources. It is interesting that the New Moon/Solar Eclipse June 1st had Mercury, the ruler, in Taurus and the June 15th Lunar Eclipse in Sagittarius has Jupiter, the ruler, in Taurus. The information, no matter where it comes from, the ruler of either eclipse is in Taurus. The knowledge we are receiving is practical, it is about survival, and it is about taking care of what we have. Greed is gone. It is not happening. It is time to live more authentically. It is time to live within our means. I think this is the message. We know it is the information age and we know the eclipses are emphasizing that, but the information that is useful to our well being is coming from the sign Taurus. This is practical, solid, and sustainable. We could title this eclipse, “Put Your Money where your Mouth is”.
A year and a half from now the Eclipses will move into Taurus and Scorpio, the signs of power and money. These current eclipses, in the signs of information, are giving us a heads up. It is time to get on top of things so we are coming from a secure spot. We have the opportunity over the next 12 months to improve our financial outlook and then when the eclipses begin to enhance those areas we will be prepared for more.
June is really a month that brings a turning point in our lives. We gain more tools, we learn more, and we can put this to use to improve our lives. Mars is an activator. When Mars touches the point where an Eclipse took place it activates it. Mars enters Gemini on June 20th at 10:50 pm EDT. This is an important moment because it is about 15 hours before the Summer Solstice on the 21st. It brings the Summer Season in with energy. Mars crosses 11 degrees of Gemini, the degree of the Solar Eclipse that occurred on June 1st, on the 4th through the 6th of July. It will be an important time for you to notice what is going on around you. Gemini rules your neighborhood, your community, and everything near at hand. It is time to be vigilant in thought, word, and deed.
On June 28th the Sun in Cancer is in opposition to Pluto in Capricorn. This is a Full Phase. The Sun joined Pluto to start a yearly cycle last December 26th at 5 degrees of Capricorn. This brings up territorial and boundary issues. What is yours and where do you belong? These things will be at the forefront of our minds. How can we live together peacefully? The things that have transpired since then, that you probably have had no control over will come to bear fruit on the 28th of June. A transformation in your life will have taken place. You will turn a corner.
This brings us to July 1st, a New Moon at 4:54 am EDT at 9 degrees Cancer 12 minutes is occurring, and by the way, it is a Solar Eclipse. The last two years we have had a series of Eclipses in Cancer and Capricorn. They have now given way to a new series of Eclipses in Gemini and Sagittarius. There is one straggler left and here it is; just to remind us that the issues at hand still have to do with home, family and career. At the time of this Eclipse, the Planet Mercury is at the last degree of Cancer. This brings us some important information. On July 21st, 2009 the first Eclipse in Cancer took place. It was a Solar Eclipse at the last degree of the sign Cancer. A Solar Eclipse stays active for a couple of years. On July 1st the last Solar Eclipse in Cancer of this series will occur and Mercury will be at 29 degrees of Cancer at that moment and is reactivating that major Eclipse of a couple years ago. This is reminding us about the issues around home, family, and security. We need to care about our own families as well as our world family. Let’s make this July a month where we establish loving connections with our families. The tools of communication that are available to us are helping to connect with long lost family members and friends. This will be a summer to remember. Make it wonderful. There may have been major changes within your family over the last couple of years. This is a time to accept, heal, and settle down.
The theme is to set our minds to creating a loving world to live in. It is time to have a beautiful vision of what you want: Think it, Feel it, and Communicate it. It will surely happen.
All times are for EST time and when appropriate EDT.
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My Grandfather’s house in New York City was on east sixty Fourth Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison ,very close to Central Park as well as the finest shopping area of Manhattan. It was an important house for an important man who had an important family and an important life. The house was brick and had six stories with a tiny elevator containing a small red velvet bench and a Persian carpet. When the front door was opened by the butler one entered the vestibule, offered your back to the butler to have your coat removed, and entered the elevator. As there were six children in our family and the elevator was small, the ascent to the living room often took several trips. If neither of our parents were in the elevator with us, we sometimes refused to exit on the living room floor and rode up and down until someone stopped us. The most entertaining part of the ride was slamming open the heavy Iron Gate before the actual door could be opened. It made a very satisfying noise.
My Grandfather never wore anything other than a three piece suit which he had made at Henry Poole in London. When I visited Henry Poole with my husband, we looked in the ledger and found his name first written there in 1937 for a three piece white suit. I spent a long time reading the black, Spenserian writing which detailed the suit: size, alterations, pocket placement and payment detail. I felt as if I were deciphering someone I had missed knowing a lot about. Taking in the measure of his chest, the length of his inseam, and the width of his waist as well as the length of his arms and even the breadth of his wrists made me feel closer to him. Almost as if I were there inside his head as he stood patiently waiting for his suit to be fitted, gazing at his reflection in the mirror, turning this way and that, I wonder if he thought of how far he had come.
I imagine my Grandfather fist hearing of Henry Poole from, no doubt, a very successful and respectable associate who informed him there was simply no other place where a gentleman had his suits made. My Grandfather had himself painted in this very same white suit sitting in a red tinted chair with his legs crossed casually and his hands patiently quiet. All traces of the young man from a simple farm in Painted Post, New York, were gone and in his place was a sophisticated and urbane man of the world. A man who held himself to very high standards, a man who never let his guard down or allowed himself to make mistakes.
Once, while on a sales call early in his career, he had stopped his horse and carriage in front of a tavern for a celebratory drink and when he emerged his carriage and all his supplies had been stolen. My Grandfather never had another drink in his life and discouraged IBM employees from drinking. He was a fatalist who believed in signs and events that shaped his behavior in life. On another occasion he was waiting in line with his wife and children at a county fair for a ride in an airplane. One of his children asked for an ice cream and so they stepped out of line. The plane the family would have been on crashed and my Grandfather never flew on an airplane again despite the fact that he traveled all over the world for IBM.
People in those days believed in fate and in the stars and in things happening for a reason much more so than we do today. It is interesting to think of how many leaders in that generation were swayed by the words of mystics and magicians, charlatans and guru’s. For all their practicality and hard work, the words of a profit were often thought of as words to live by.
My Grandfather loomed large in my life as a child as he and my father were often at war with one another. The details of whatever war was being fought at the moment were unknown to us children but the drama was something we were used to. We experienced many drives at high rates of speed up the Merit Parkway either north or south so my father could hold a meeting with his father. I don’t know why we were all herded into the car for these drives but we were. If it were summertime we really didn’t mind as my Grandparents had an enormous swimming pool with a very tall hurricane fence around it in the middle of their yard. As I recall there was even a slide into the pool and my sisters and I were allowed to swim alone: something that would never happen in today’s world. We spent hours in that old, clay colored pool diving and splashing and jumping into and out of the pool for an entire afternoon.
Voices could be heard from the pool bouncing off the great, long, covered front porch shrouded in huge boulders which held up the pillars on each end. My father and his father yelled at each other for long periods of time and we learned to ignore these yells preferring to focus on our own world of adventure and play. Sometimes my Grandfather would decide to have a lesson in one thing or another and would set up the lesson indoors so his audience (mostly us kids) would be captive. These times were more difficult to handle as there was no escape from the dull monotony of facts and figures and seemingly endless talk about one thing or another. It was very important for my Grandfather to be known as a learned man and he worked hard at this always believing himself to be lacking as he had little formal education.
What I remember most about him were his hands: gnarled and veined and having rather long but thick fingers which he often kept folded in his lap. He always looked for children to be with him and if a grandchild was not available he would go to a neighbor’s house and ask if their child wanted to go on an outing. He was at his best when acting as a mentor and loved nothing more than being with a small child while teaching them one thing or another. Once he took me with my Grandmother to FAO Schwarz and told me I could have anything I wanted in the whole store. I remember that trip, of course, but I remember more the sad but sweet feeling I felt around him of loneliness and self enforced solitude which always set him apart from the rest of the world.
He was iconic to all of us kids but also kind. Perhaps others didn’t see this side of him but I would guess most of the grandkids did. My mother remembered vividly when her first child died of crib death that it was my Grandfather who came into the restaurant where she was having lunch with a friend to bring her home. He gently held her hand in the car on the way back to the house where the baby lay dead and stayed by her side while arrangements were made for his burialn in the cemetery at Tarrytown, New York, where my Grandfather had purchased a plot. The baby is buried right under my Grandfather’s grave. There are no other Watsons buried there unlike the expectation.
When my mother became pregnant again my Grandfather had her meet him in the fur department of Saks Fifth Avenue. There she was hugely pregnant, trying on mink coats. My grandfather and my mother giggled over what the saleslady might think of this elderly gentleman buying a mink coat for this hugely pregnant young woman. My mother loved this story and she loved my Grandfather as he understood her and wanted her to feel comfortable and safe. He gave her quite a lot of IBM stock and told her she needed to always believe she was an independent woman and could survive on her own. How he knew this I will never know but my mother adored him and I can see why.
This year it is the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of IBM and there is going to be a large celebration in Yorktown Heights, New York. I like to imagine my Grandfather looking down on what he created and quietly smiling to himself. I think he would have been proud of what IBM has evolved into as the roots of what he created are still very present in the company. Was he difficult, demanding, and autocratic? Probably. Was he compassionate, loving, sensitive, thoughtful and kind, to me he certainly was.
Happy Mother’s Day, Olive
Olive C. Watson was born in Montclair, New Jersey, to a family with not many resources. It was clear from an early age to Olive that all she had to parlay herself into a better life were her looks and her mother reminded her of this on a daily basis. She attended the Kimberly School where they had two programs: one for the girls that were college bound and the other, for girls who hoped for a good marriage. My mother fell into the latter group. She spent her senior year making mountains out of papier mache while the other group studied for final exams and applied to the seven sisters. Her mother told her often that “It was just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one”.
My mother describes this period as a fun one, however, despite the bleak expectation for her future. She was the Peanut Queen of Montclair and wore a dress made out of peanut shells in the parade and spent a lot of time with her aunt who lived in the Hamptons in summer. She went to dances and dated Jack Kennedy.
My mother moved to New York at 18 and was hired by the Powers Agency to model. In those days a girl who was only 5’5 was still a good prospect for work in the glossy pages of Vogue. After a few months of living in the Barbizon and dating men she met at El Morocco, she was sent to Hollywood with a group of fellow models to work in a Walter Wanger film called “Vogues of 1938. They paid my mother $1000.00 dollars which was a fortune in those days and when she got home to her small bedroom she threw the cash up in the air over her bead and delighted in the sight of all that money falling around her. Unfortunately the next day she got appendicitis and had to spend all her hard earned money on the surgery.
She met my father, Thomas Watson, on a blind date arranged by friends. After dinner at a lovely restaurant in Manhattan he asked if she would like to go for a ride and, dazzled by my father’s handsome looks and persuasive charms, she accepted. They drove to a small airport outside of Manhattan where my father kept his single engine plane and they took off for a tour of the city. It was a full moon and they held hands.
They were married within the year and after six months my father returned to war leaving my mother to live in his mother’s country house in New Canaan with his sisters. Upon arrival she was instructed to make 100 double damask napkins by my Grandmother who insisted this was a wife’s duty and no household was complete without them. Night after night my mother sat in her third floor room heavily pregnant hemming the napkins while listening to the sounds of her sisters in laws entertaining friends for dinner. We used those napkins for as long as I can remember.
How alone she must have felt.
Once my father returned from war they settled down in Greenwich, Connecticut and added to their family almost on a yearly basis. My mother had a cook, a butler, a nanny, a housekeeper, a laundress, and nothing to do but stay in her room with the door closed. Even her children were forbidden to her.
I wonder now what she did in there. Was she napping or talking on the phone or simply lying on her bed and wondering how it would all end? Surely she was the most beautiful of all the women in Greenwich. Surely she had had all the children expected of her. She told me once that her biggest fear was getting fat as then “no one would want her”.
My mother invented reality for all of us. On Sunday nights when there was no one on duty she said it was “Make your own dinner night” which meant we could actually go into the kitchen and use the stove to make whatever we wanted. My sister, Olive, made pea soup while I always made tomato. Thank goodness for Campbell’s Soup with its red and white cans, always ready to be served. In summer my mother made ice tea which was always a production as she never went into the kitchen. She told a story of how on her honeymoon she cooked a chicken for dinner by putting the entire chicken, feathers and all, into the oven in a pan. She couldn’t bear to touch it and hoped it would emerge looking edible.
When hurricane season arrived she would pile us all into the station wagon and take us to the beach so we could really see the waves happening. In winter she would tie five flexible flyers to the back of the same station wagon and drive down Meadowcroft Lane in the snow with us screaming with fear behind the car swinging wildly back and forth on the slippery road. She taught us to ride a two wheeler by pushing us donw a hill behind our house all the while saying she wouldn’t let us go.
Sometimes she seemed happier than others. She loved summer and the deep heat of Connecticut and we would often find her in front of our house when we got home from school with her bra straps falling over her shoulders, and a scarf tied over her front so she could sunbathe and turn her olive skin even darker.
I think of her now on Mother’s Day and am grateful for what she gave us. Magic, imagination, spontaneity, romance and the best she could give as a mother. My clearest memory of her in old age was sitting in the seat of her airplane on our way to a meeting in Providence with her purse firmly on her lap saying to me. “Just look at me, Lucinda, little Olive Cawley sitting in her own airplane going somewhere! “
More on Match.com
All right all of you who responded so quickly to my blog on Match! I couldn’t believe how many of you were so interested or so in agreement with me. The interesting thing was most of my responders were women, but, then again, I don’t know why that surprises me.
I read somewhere that men spend a whole lot more time online on Match once they are members than women do. I wonder what they are doing all that time. I mean hours of time! Let’s face it, ladies; we do not trawl the profiles. I know that to be true. Most of us might look a little but basically many of us wait to be contacted by someone else. Hopefully an appropriate guy. So our online time is usually limited to responses to emails or perhaps a tentative rejoinder to someone we find attractive.
I had a bad thought during exercise class this morning. Maybe men who use Match for a while get addicted to the idea of so many available women out there who may be interested in them. Maybe even if they have someone interesting in their lives they are unable to resist the call of the internet and all those unexplored women. Maybe that happens to women as well. I know life seems rosier when there is more than one man interested in you.
So are we all living in a world where making a commitment to someone even for a trial period has become impossible? I wonder. There are so many people who are living alone and are terrified of abandonment and are desperate to find someone to be with. There are people who have no money and are desperate to find someone who does. There are people who are have no friends and would like to have a social life through someone else. There are happy people and sad people , lonely people and funny people. Basically all of what one finds in everyday life.
So some of you chickens out there asked how safe using Match was. Well, my answer is you have to rely a lot on your instinct , use Google to find out what you can, try to find someone in common you know, and never give out your real name and address until you are sure the guy is legit and you have faith in him. You can tell a lot from a voice, and from spending time on the phone listening to what he says, where he’s been in his life and what he believes in
So that’s all I have to say today about Match.com. I think it’s a valid tool in today’s world. I am just back from a great trip to New Orleans where I met a couple in their 70’s who met on Match 4 years ago and are happily married. So, you see, it can happen. I guess the trick is to find someone who really wants a partner and is willing to fill out their dance card with only one name for a while to see if it becomes permanent.
Finding a Match on Match.com
Yes, it may seem strange to married people that many are seeking love on Match.com, but it is very true in todays’ world of high tech compatibility. There are many young people on Match which is natural, but there are many older people as well. There are people from “good families” as well as hard working people who have little extra cash. There are doctors, lawyers, socialites, nurses and teachers: retirees as well as “still hard at work” people. I still don’t understand why married people are surprised to hear about their friends being on Match. I have been on Match and I have had success as well as disappointments yet I believe this type of dating is the way of the future.
Let’s face it, if you are single and want to find a partner it isn’t always easy. Your friends forget to keep looking for men for you and there are just so many ways to meet guys in today’s world. Match is a great way to see who is out there and it is easy to eliminate the wheat from the chaff. I have to admit, however, it presents a problem that I haven’t found an answer to and here it is.
Match informs people who check out your profile how active you have been on the site. There is a caption above each profile that states the hours, days or weeks since you have been logged on. Why is this important? Well, think about it this way. You meet a guy, see him a few times, begin to like him and when you go online to Match you see how recently active he has been. If you really like the guy it smarts to see he has been continually trolling since you began dating. If you find he is actively online it’s like hearing he was seen out with another woman from a friend. He might say in response to this, “Well you went online too!” and this would be true. So what do we have here? A public disclosure of online infidelity by both parties and it happens almost instantly.
I have no idea how to solve this issue because I am guilty as accused. If someone on Match winks at me, I am curious to see what that person is like. I am curious and easily flattered to a point. I like having online admirers but it doesn’t mean I want to meet them.
Sometimes it is nice to live in a Jane Austin world where one just continues to correspond and never actually meets the other person. I think what it boils down to is the lack of absolute trust in a relationship and the difficulty of finding this in todays’ world. In past generations people met their mates through their family or friends. In today’s world many of us have lost our “tribe” and with this loss come more of a sense of aloneness. I have met a few men on Match who seem to have no lives and are almost desperate to connect with a woman who will provide them with a life. I bet a number of men have found the same thing in women.
The solution would be for each party to resign from Match once they had found a relationship that seemed worth pursuing. For some reason this seems difficult to achieve. I may be the only woman who feels this way but I do believe this. I think it is a good sign that a guy is willing to forego Match in the hope that a relationship will work. It seems to be a sign of self-esteem. I am surprised at how unwilling Match members seem to be to do this and I wonder if it has to do with the fleeting nature of internet dating? Or worse, the fleeting nature of love.
So it’s Saturday night and I am at a beach where the waves are still in shock from the thought of a Tsunami. The evening is still and even the sea grass floats more slowly. Nothing could happen or anything could happen and no one really cares.
They say the force of the earthquake in Japan knocked the world off its axis a bit and changed the coast of Japan by 4 inches. Earthquakes can happen anywhere and at any time just like any unpredictable violence yet we go on living our lives as if they could go on without us.
On Saturday nights in Connecticut in the 50’s the evenings were warm and sometimes fragrant with the smell of cut grass and the families gathered in the muggy evening sitting on iron lawn chairs with small flowered pillows while placing their drinks on iron side tables with tops shaped like large, flat leaves. The mothers dressed in longer cotton dressed with full skirts and pointy high heel shoes. The fathers had hair slicked back from their high, hardworking foreheads that glistened in the evening light.
My father loved dancing more than anything else and had one of the first outdoor dancing floors built in a private home in Connecticut. He installed outdoor speakers: large white globes that looked like miniature space ships and hung high from the corner of our house. The music came out of the speakers with a faint lisp as if speaking a foreign language from a child’s point of view.
On Saturday nights my parents would occasionally have friends over who would dress in that fifties way and everyone would have cocktails. These cocktails came in tall glasses with fragile stems and frosted sides and were usually a pale pink. By the time dessert was over the cocktails seemed to have melted away any formality and out to the dance floor everyone would go.
My bedroom from the age of nine until I went away to school was right above the dance floor and supplied me a perfect view of these evenings. I saw Mrs. Ewald slither across the floor doing her own version of the snake on her belly, and watched with fascination the antics of Mrs. Dewart and Mr. Green who were throwing leaves onto the dancers from high on top of a wall they had climbed on. Mrs. Simmons danced like a graceful gazelle with almost anyone and Mrs. Gagarin was surely the most elegant, but no one could begin to compare with Olive Cawley Watson.
Ah yes, the beautiful Olive Cawley Watson with her dark curly hair and her deep and ever glistening brown eyes and her bewitching way of looking at men from a sideways glance and a gently tilted head. There was no one to compare with Olive out on the dance floor. Every man wanted his turn with her and she laughed up into their eyes with her neck tilted back and her tan arms around her partner like a wreath. The music never seemed long enough to her partners and they relinquished her with reluctance to another partner always following her with their eyes as she walked away. It didn’t seem to matter to Olive who she was dancing with, only that she was dancing as the beat of the music kept her heart alive and forced her feet to move and made her mind forget and dream about what never would be.
The night grew late and some people left while others found places in the curves of the terrace to sit and sip their sweet after dinner drinks made by the butler long gone to bed.
The dance floor was silent for a while and I, in my high bed, would almost fall asleep without the soft brush and whoosh sound of the slow dancing feet.
Then I heard it, the sound I always waited for, the sound of soft leather and scrape of shoe from Madame Arpel in New York, the sound of softly counting from a male throat and the warble of a closed throated sparrow in response. I rose from my bed to find my post and watched carefully from behind one curtain. The dancing pair was perfectly orchestrated to the music and each other moving across the floor in tandem with a natural lean and a curve like a soft crescent moon into the letter “K”. The soft sounds of bull frogs and crickets an orchestra to their dance and sometimes there was no one there at all. Sometimes they had no music. My father kept his tongue at the corner of his mouth in concentration while my mother closed her eyes thinking of nights when she was 17 and dancing with a movie star.
My father, concentrating on his dance lessons, may have missed the lightness and grace he had in his arms and my mother, lost in her world of memories, may have ignored the scent of my father’s Old Spice and the feel of his hand pressed firmly into her back. I could only see what was right in front of me and only sense what was real or what was imagined. I watched the float and twist of her dress and the half turn of her face into my father’s chest and squinted to count her breaths taken in to revive her spirit. I thought she was the most beautiful and fragile thing I would ever see and I used all my energy night after night to protect her as it didn’t seem to me anyone else was. You can’t protect anything that doesn’t want to be protected, not even the loveliest woma
An Evening at the Cinebistro in Vail….
So my friends and I decide to go to the movies in Vail where it has been so cold one doesn’t want to venture outside. We choose a movie we think will be entertaining and are excited to be going to a place where they serve dinner while you watch the movie.
After being shown to our very plush seats we discuss how exciting it is to be in these large and comfy black leather seats drinking a glass of wine and eating popcorn from an enormous bowl. We all comment on how wonderful this experience is and then we ponder the possibility of its business success. This mini math minute is solved once we see the bill for the movie, the wine, the popcorn and the water, but I still thought it was a fun deal to be sitting there as if you were in your own screening room.
The movie, “The Mechanic” was incredibly violent and bloody and the three of us spent much of the film with our eyes closed. People were killed for no apparent reason and the star of the film was so lacking in empathetic quality one couldn’t identify or root for any hero or heroine as there was none. All in all it was a high testosterone film with little to admire or engage with.
Next to our little group in the same row were three “Master of the Universe” men who were all in the late 50’s, early 60’s, well dressed and attractive: clearly a man’s night out in Vail. They ordered large, fat hamburgers and cokes. Not a drink among them.
During the film a couple arrived and sat in the front row where they began a conversation that consisted of loud giggling on the part of the woman and loud voiced remarks from her date. They ordered many drinks which the waiter brought to them despite the theater policy of no drinks after the show began. Their conversation became louder and more suggestive but the film was so loud I forgot about them. Apparently the three “masters of the Universe” did not.
When the film ended they pushed past us to exit the row and almost ran down the stairs to confront the couple. One man shoved the small, rather drunk man, saying “What do you think you were doing? You are asking for it. You want it? Come on, you want it? “
His friends joined in, shoving the drunk guy and pushing him to the ground. Others in the theater tried to intervene but the Masters were having none of it. The drunken guy just kept laughing. One of the master’s, the same guy I think, started in on the woman saying, “Where’s that slut that was with you?”
At this point I felt as if I was back in the film but I couldn’t leave the theater. Within one minute there was a violent fight going on in front of my nose and blocking the exit. Men who tried to intervene were shoved aside and the drunk guy was repeated shoved to the floor while the Master’s said, “Want more, oh yeah, you little creep, want some more?”
Finally we slipped by the fight scene and left the theater but not before asking the front desk woman to call 911. She responded that she couldn’t leave her post.
When we got home we all breathed a sigh of relief and none of us felt good. These men were out of control and beating up a much smaller and much drunker guy who only crime was alcohol abuse and silliness. Why did they do this, we wondered? They hadn’t been drinking which made their behavior even scarier. Why were they so angry and why did they cause a major scene in front of others, frightening all of us? They were clearly well off, attractive and successful guys so why did they get so out of control so quickly and indulge in behavior that was so wrong on so many levels?
Was it the combination of the film violence and the lack of empathy, perhaps the fact that the only woman in the film was a prostitute, or is this possibility for explosion lurking underneath all the high testosterone males today? A remnant from the cave man fighting for territory days.
I have no answer. All that I can say is that it was terrifying.
Lament to Valentine’s Day
I am not sure why it exists but do realize it has something to do with St Valentine, maybe Cupid, and definitely Hallmark cards. I start to worry about Valentine’s Day a few weeks before it happens. Why do I worry, you might ask? Right. Normal people don’t worry. Normal people just laugh at the reoccurrence of this holiday and sometimes buy chocolate, or send a sappy card, or maybe invite their significant other to dinner and then forget about it.
Single people get stressed! It is another example of how the whole world appears to be in love and you are the only loser who has no one to have dinner with on Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of admirers or even a big support system, being unable to count on a Valentine’s Day date is a problem.
I am in a vacation spot at the moment and it is filled with red, heart shaped objects. I can’t identify the origin of some of them. Most seem faintly pornographic to me. I know this is a bad sign and probably represents a huge jealous streak but it is the absolute truth. I am embarrassed to look into these windows feeling as if I am not entitled to look. I find this a really interesting feeling. I know if you want to find a partner you are supposed to visualize what that would feel and look like in your life. Sometimes it is hard to take this seriously as it gets tiresome. Most things that feel too serious to me are abandoned into humor.
So I have been working on this Valentine’s Day issue and thinking of what it means. I guess to many of us single people holidays remind us anyway of our lack of a partner and this is the worst one. Yes, it’s superficial and ridiculous and faintly pornographic as I said before but it still is bothersome to many. I found that even married people don’t like it as their expectations are often dashed and they are disappointed but unwilling to say anything. This applies to both men and women.
Love is not just a word. It’s a constantly changing force between two people whether mother and child, father and son, husband and wife, or two people who are slowly falling in love. Why do we call it “falling in love”? Think about it. You have the sense of falling and having no control at all. You can’t control the object of your affection nor can you make them behave in the way you think you want them to. In the beginning of a love affair nothing can be counted on, not even reciprocal love. Everything has to go on faith and for most of us this is really hard. The older you get the harder this becomes.
I wish I had an answer but I don’t. I think the only way to approach anything stressful is to remind yourself to detach all the time and to remember that longing or grasping or wanting is only doing harm to yourself. It feels much better to just observe and notice what’s going on and to love whomever you feel like loving without looking for something in return.
The meaning of the word is interesting, isn’t it? Someone can be stroked by someone else, be slapped by someone else, have a stroke of luck, or have their brain slapped by itself resulting in some kind of disability. Recently a friend of mine had a stroke and she happens to be 88.
She was at home and suddenly felt her left arm lose feeling, her mouth lose control, and she felt off balance. She had a friend drive her to the Emergency Room where she put on lipstick before the doctor came into the room. The doctor briefly examined her, inquired about her symptoms, and told her it was fine to go home saying there was nothing seriously wrong as far as he could see.
Being a dutiful sort of person she didn’t argue but meekly left the hospital for her home twenty minutes away. As she is a very intelligent woman she immediately went to her computer, got online and googled her symptoms: she realized she had, in all probability, had a stroke. The symptoms became more pronounced and in twelve hours she returned to the Emergency Room without makeup or sophisticated dress and was taken more seriously. This time she did not allow herself to be dismissed and the doctor on call immediately understood the seriousness of the situation. He ordered a CAT scan which clearly spelled out where in her brain the stroke had happened. She was admitted instantly and treatment was begun.
Why am I telling this story? Well, for a lot of reasons. The obvious reason is that here is a story of how an older WOMAN can be viewed by medical personnel if she is wearing nice clothing, has makeup on, and discounts her symptoms. My friend was trained in childhood never to complain and she doesn’t. She is constantly brave and stalwart no matter what happens in her life and a lot has happened.
I am also telling the story because it is about death and how we feel about death. My daughter brought my friend a copy of the video done by Jill Bolte Taylor called “My Stroke of Insight” and they watched it together. For those of you who have not seen the video it is about the author’s experience of having a stroke at age 37 and what happened to her during the time she was experiencing the stroke and her subsequent recovery. It has been all over the internet as people who watch it are inspired by Taylor’s description of her passage into a place where she had no control and her resulting “right brain consciousness” She describes her transition into spirituality and a deeper understanding of all that is possible in life.
To my daughter’s astonishment, my friend was disgusted by the video, claiming the scientist had publicized her experience to make money and discounting her insights into life and the spiritual side of things. The funny thing was later that day I visited the house bringing with me a copy of Taylor’s book not knowing my daughter had already previewed the film with my friend. I find this kind of synchronicity often happens with my daughter but that’s another tale.
Here’s my final analysis: I think all of us are frightened of death and the closer we get to it the more frightened we are. I have been with older people as they faced death and with younger people and I find that the younger people often have a more gentle outlook on what is going to happen after they move on from this life. Maybe because they have been exposed to a different type of spiritual understanding of life, the possibility of life after death, reincarnation or some type of reassuring picture that death is not a final journey where the light turns off and we are nonexistent. I think older people were not able to have the luxury that younger generations have of examining life and its meaning and hanging on to hope and to the idea of universal love. The power of actualization and the belief that you can create your own destiny. I have a feeling that if you haven’t ventured donw the spirituality path during your lifetime whether in church, temple or Buddhist meditation, you may have a hard time when faced with your own immortality.
My mother was terrified of death and often asked me what I thought happened once you stopped breathing. She once asked if I could go with her as it would “be more fun with me there”. In the end she fought dying with her every gasping breath, a death rattle that went on for two weeks. Painful to watch, not for me but for her.
My friend who had the stroke asked me recently what I thought happened after death and said she had read of those who meet dead friends who are sent to greet them. I agreed with her and said I believed this to be true. I am not sure she believed me but I was happy she was considering the possibility. I feel tremendous love for my friend and already a deep sense of loss for her place in my life. I like to be with people when they are at life’s end and hope that my comments are reassuring to them. It often surprises me at how reluctant the healthy are to discuss death with their loved ones who may be dying. If we spent a little time understanding and accepting death while we are still vibrantly alive it might be helpful when we face the real thing.
When being guided by the night sky
It is important to keep your eyes closed and your ears, open.
Watch carefully the distance between stars
And don’t try to steal third base when you are on Mars.
If you find yourself feeling joyful on Jupiter
Take the first right and keep on until morning.
The answer is there is no answer.
Nothing you know will be known any longer.
Trying to hedge your bets is ridiculous.
If I were you I would buy land somewhere
With a big house and a vegetable garden
Where they always do everything so well.
If I were you I have no idea what I would do
As it is hard enough being me.
Finding your bliss in the pool
Last night I went to a water aerobics class at a local pool and got there early as usual. The night was cool and the water, warm, and the sky was filled with stars. As I was the only one in the pool I half heartedly began a few laps. First I swam breaststroke as that is my relaxing mode, and then I did my dolphin turn over and began my favorite backstroke. I found it hard, initially; to continue my path across this pool I know so well but had never swam in at night time. The steam from the warm water created a thick mist which flowed in unexplained currents across the water. The night air chilled my arms and the top of my head yet the clouds of steam entranced me in a way that was mystical and very magical. I felt almost hypnotized by the appearance of sky and mist and then more sky and more mist. When the other members of the class began to appear in the pool I felt as if I were a part of the cast of Cocoon . People entered the pool with a great silence and yet a familiarity with each other. There were proper introductions all around of me, “the new kid” and I was welcomed to the class led by a very funny woman. I allowed myself to be directed by the leader for a while and then noticed I was disregarding the instructions and simply swimming where ever I wished which was mostly back to the backstroke which had produced this amazing feeling of hallucinogenic drugs but without having to swallow anything. I remarked several times to my fellow class members that the backstroke was definitely euphoric and the sight of the steamy water interspersed by the clouds was something they should see but I had no persuasive power.
I think I must have some type of autism as I know my behavior must have seemed odd to others but I really didn’t care. I just wanted to be lost again in the dream of the mist and the pleasures of the hemisphere. There is a reason I live alone, I know this.
There are many of us who live alone and some of the time it is a good thing and some of the time it feels lonely but I am not certain I know how to live in the company of others. Maybe I never did. I have always had this ability to see magic which I refuse to give up. People have found it annoying in me but I find it a secret treasure. I am very grateful that it is there in my mind and has refused to leave me all of these years.
I startle easily, am very sensitive to fragrance unless I have chosen to have it under my nose, and dislike loud and harsh sounds. My mother drank while pregnant, smoked L and M cigarettes and was heavily sedated while I was being born. Most of us boomers had the same kind of mother. In those days mothers didn’t think about all the things mothers have to think of today. When my very serious Grandfather visited my mother after giving birth in the hospital she was smoking. He knocked on the door to her room and she threw her cigarette in the drawer of the nightstand and told him to come in. The trail of smoke from the drawer never seemed to cross his attention and she told me the story with laughter in her voice every time. It is a funny story.
Life brings you stuff to deal with every day that may or may not be stressful, painful, difficult or joyful. Most of us worry a lot about things that never happen. Most of us live in the future all the time and constantly create fantasies that sometimes happen and sometimes don’t. In this New Year it is a good thing to try to stay in the present moment and find your own magic there. Maybe it is a glimpse of moss covered rock or heron fishing for lunch, or maybe it is the turn of an ear of your children, or maybe a conversation of a stranger you overhear, or maybe it is the steam from a pool you are swimming in at night.
I loved night swimming as a child and my mother would drive us up to the country club pool near where we lived in her glamorous car with her hair tied back like Audrey Hepburn and she would play old Frank Sinatra songs on the radio which would fade in and out according to the hills and dales of Connecticut. Her eyes would soften as she turned each curve and though we were right there sitting up high on the back of her convertible car we could have been anywhere as she was lost in her magic. I was happy to see her face glowing in the moonlight and her slight smile as she drove wistfully into the night. Happy she knew how to create magic for us and happy to find the pool, deserted and waiting.
There are a million people out there who haven’t had the new year come yet. Billions of us. All have some feeling of hope or loss or depression or gratitude. Here in Hawaii where there are many on vacation the air is filled with the heaviness of night and plumeria, sorrow and breathtaking joy, expectation and loss, fellowship and loneliness. The evening plays out against a sky of purple bruised by the day and backlit by the lost moon. The New year….what will it bring? To so many of us so much has been lost and so much is unknown. Our world is as fragile as the frangipani leaf which turns brown at the touch of a human hand or the monkey fruit which promises sweetness but tells a falsehood. I see the many families here on the beach: some who are young and adoring of their children and some with old fathers on their second or third set of children who seem desperate to see the horizon believing it will hold the youth they lost some time ago. There are couples who touch with tenderness and couples who never touch at all. The evening spreads out in front of all the world and unites us with its darkness. If we reach out a hand we can find comfort yet some of us rarely do. Families don’t always teach us safety and we have to find it on our own wearing miner’s caps with lights and bearing torches into the darkness. The journey into the underworld has a reward which we can savor bit by bit if we remind ourselves of this reward. It’s joy and light and comfort is there for all of us. Set a resolution to keep the light in your mind’s eye and follow that path. In this life you can either be joyful or sorrowful and the joyful have more fun which is what the Dali Llama says we should aspire for.That’s my message to all of those I love. Have fun!
An older and much wiser friend of mine said to me recently something I found very interesting. She commented on how those of us in the baby boomer generation have a hard time letting our children separate from us and live their own lives. She said she noticed how many adults were depending on their children to fulfill their lives and their hearts and not focusing on their own lives for this type of happiness. Her comments made me reflect on my own childhood and life now as a parent and a single person.
She described how her son had called her late one night, apologizing for the late hour of the returned call and she told him to not worry about it and to go and be with his wife. She really meant this statement and was not saying it for any other reason.
I thought about this for a long time and am still thinking about this as I wonder why this is true. In my childhood our parents were the focus of everything while the kids were simply kids. It would never have occurred to us to demand equal time or to want our parents to be more like us. We had no clue what their lives were like when we were out of the picture nor did we spend much time thinking about it. We didn’t want to know.
I remember thinking at one point when I was in my early 20’s wishing my father would just leave me alone as his emotional needs seemed very difficult to handle. I never wondered what he did in his spare time nor did I want to talk with him very often about much. I wanted to focus on my own life and not have to worry about him.
I have noticed in my group of single friends that we often are commenting on the state of our relationships with our kids. We wonder why they haven’t called us or why we don’t see more of them. Some of us are angry that our kids don’t seem interested in our lives or that they are not as dependant on us as we feel we are on them. This is where the term “co-dependency “comes from and I don’t like to look at its origin.
I am not sure why our generation is so filled with the pain of abandonment but we are. If we are in a relationship, we fear its end though it may be surviving perfectly well. If we are alone most of us hope to find a significant other believing that if we do we will have no pain.
The other night I was at dinner with a group of friends and was sitting next to a really interesting man who I admire a lot. He shared with me his own fear of ending relationships as he had felt so much pain from this in the past. He was saying that though he loves the woman he is with there are some problems with the relationship. I guess he was afraid of addressing the problems as he feared losing the relationship. I have great empathy for him as I know there are many people out there in the world like him.
The kid’s thing is interesting as it is very generational. Our parents may have been absent parents, preferring to take care of their own lives and relationships and work, while ours is focused on clinging to whatever shred of family we believe we have. Obviously the behavior our parents adhered to didn’t really work for us and enable us to become whole and separate beings. That makes me wonder what style of parenting our kids will adopt after dealing with our co-dependency.
I know I have been guilty of this and have had many moments where I felt angry or abandoned by family, yet if I rationally and compassionately think of what a good parent is I know this is an issue I must work to resolve.
Once we raise our kids we should let them fly away from the nest and not keep looking for a safe return. The searching for connection is a natural force but the element of desperation that comes with it in our generation is not healthy.
Maybe our generation doesn’t feel safe or loved or O K. on our own but depending on our kids to make our own lives all right isn’t good.
The holiday season is a tricky time as many of us revert to bad behavior with our family. We try to be compassionate and forgiving and not needy but those old tapes keep on playing. We think about how Christmas will play out, who is getting more of our children’s’ time, and how we are going to deal with the aloneness of it all.
This year I have had an experiment with myself on how to handle the holiday season. I have scheduled events with other single or childless friends and really enjoyed myself. It is almost sacrilegious behavior to a WASP. Not having a family Thanksgiving meal? Not having the traditional Christmas Eve dinner? Christmas Day without a tree and all the tinsel? Shocking but really fun.
I highly recommend it to all who wonder what they are missing out on when the kids chose to go elsewhere as they should. It is interesting how easy it is to change what you think is tradition and do things that are fun for you. Actually it is much less stressful than you think.
Please say a prayer for Richard Holbrooke who had a heart attack today. He is simply an amazing man who has brokered peace for years.
The year my heroes died
This year quite a few of my heroes and friends died: Howard Lester, Walter Shorenstein, Dodie Rosecrans, Dick Goldman, and on and on. Yes, it is true that for the most part their lives were long and fulfilled but I still miss them and always will.
I wonder if we are creating heroes as we did in past generations. People who accomplish a lot in their lives and give away a lot in return without looking back to see if what they have given away is still helping to make them more important. I love to have heroes and to me, heroes have been people who march to the beat of their own drum without looking around and listening to what others around them are playing. I know Howard did this as I was lucky enough to have a conversation with him about his “Maverick” side. Walter, Dodie and Dick were the same.
Dodie was vibrant, curious and very intelligent until her dying day and spent her life in a state of exploration and excitement about one thing or another. She could have cared less about someone’s background or wealth when she included them in gatherings at her home. She cared about creating new ideas and putting different people together for various causes.
Walter and Dick accomplished a lot in their work lives and gave a lot in their philanthropic lives. Howard ‘s generosity was apparent at his own memorial mass where a few spoke of his many charitable gifts and the difference he had made in the world.
I wonder where we are going to come up with another generation of like-minded people. People who give without looking back and people who are compassionate members of our community. I wonder who in the younger generation will fill these shoes and have a generous and mature approach to managing and contributing their wealth? Even if people do not have great wealth I wonder if they will keep on giving.
I found a hero in today’s New York Times: Liu Xiabo, a Chinese poet, writer and dissident who was awarded the Nobel Prize. As he is in prison he will not be able to accept it but his work is the kind of work that makes me think of heroes. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Chinese government and as a result of this has spent much time in prison.
His statement at his court hearing was quoted by the Times:” I have no enemies and no hatred. Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience.”
All I can say is that is a hero.
Much like my friend, Marla Ruzika who was killed by a car bomb in Iraq while counting civilian victims of war, and countless others who devote their lives with passion to improve the lives of others, thank you for living!
I look forward to reading and meeting more heroes in my life and being very grateful we have them in our world. Maybe some would argue that business leaders are not heroes but in return I would say that without the funds many contribute we would not have the world we do. Just as without the words of dissidents like Liu Ziabo governments would not be challenged into change and the lives of many see improvement and more freedom.
This time of year is always interesting as on occasion, despite attempts at maturity and evolvement, one may revert to a child’s perspective and remember all of the excitement and expectation surrounding Christmas. In our house acquiring the tree was always an interesting adventure. Our mother would ask who wanted to go on this adventure and we would all scream “yes”. Our car was one of those old fashioned “woodie” wagons with no seat belts or electric windows. The back seat could be flattened out with the help of four usually swearing men. There were six children in our family and we were spaced like Catholic children though I was repeatedly assured we were not Catholic. Cynthia Paterno lived next door to us and tried to convert me all the time. Apparently good Catholics gave all their allowance to their neighbors. Once I took all of the clothes out of my closet and made an altar out of my mother’s show boxes but when I lit a candle in there one caught on fire.
I liked being a temporary Catholic. I prayed every night and put a white towel over my head like Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story and admired myself a lot in the bathroom mirror being careful to look pious. I knew I would never sleep with a boy until I got married and that I really wasn’t supposed to actually swallow the wine during communion. I knew that good catholic girls didn’t wear patent leather shoes because boys could see their underpants if they did. I learned that if you did something wrong no matter what it was you went to confession and told the priest what your sin was. He would give you a penance and you would be forgiven. A clean slate.
Now that I am grown up and no longer a Catholic I wish I was one. How nice to have the ability of simply telling someone what you had done wrong and being forgiven for it. I think that no one does things that are consciously mean unless they are 14 or a criminal. Relationships are just tricky as we are all so fragile. A friend said to me the other day that you couldn’t reason or understand someone else and have a good relationship if the other person really didn’t want that good relationship. I think that is a very wise thing. We sometimes worry and think about all of the things we have done that are wrong and wonder why another person is angry with us and this is a waste of time. It is better to assume that sooner or later you will find out the truth and that in the meantime all you can do is think loving thoughts. Feeling guilty is a waste of time. Feeling shameful is, too.
This time of year it is important to tread lightly on the earth and with each other. We are all still hoping for a miracle.
December 5th: Today is Sunday, the day ruled by the Sun. The Sun is in Sagittarius, and it is time to be open and optimistic. There is a New Moon at 13 degrees Sagittarius 28 minutes at 12:36 pm EST today. This is quite a turning point day. Uranus goes direct today at 26 degrees of Pisces, and is on its way to finish what it started over the last few years. We need to get over ourselves, and move forward freer. Mercury joins Pluto today bringing our minds into intense focus on whatever issues are at hand. Mercury is slowing to go retrograde on the 10th of December through the 30th; so, Mercury stays close to Pluto for the next 6 weeks. You need a project, or a goal to immerse yourself in. This planetary energy needs to be directed into something that will bring permanent change for the better. This is all happening on this New Moon. What a month this is going to be. No one is getting by with anything. Keep your eye on the goal.
I was thinking about the loyalty of the round gray stone outside my front door this morning. Preparing patiently to be washed by the rain. Not objecting to an occasional kick and the resulting change of side to the light. The stone sits outside my front door for as long as I want it there: it suffers movement silently, hears word it shouldn’t have to hear, and feels the hot sun and the cold evening chill. The stone is an object, this is true, but you can count on it every day and every minute to remain there where you placed it. Unlike the brown palm tree who sheds its leaves and is reborn each spring. Unlike the rose bushes that flower and die and flower again, unlike the spreading moon lighting the bleak mountain, the stone has no such cycle of life. It simply sits in wonder and allows the world to happen all the while retaining its dignity: all the while retaining its loyalty and most of all, its truth.
Originally posted on Lucinda Watson's Blog:
There is an article in the December issue of Tricycle Magazine on the concept of “Lenchat” which is described as the attachment we feel in certain relationships in this life which are painful or stressful and come from a relationship with this person in a past life. I found this article to be very helpful as the principle of Lenchat is to understand the connection we had with others in past lives that reoccurs in this life and causes us pain, and bewilderment. When we are caught in the dynamic of Lenchat we have a relationship in this lifetime that repeats patterns learned in other lifetimes. We feel the same bewildering pain and worry and do not have a rational approach to this person.It could be with a man or a woman: it doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is we replicate the pain. We jump to the aid of this person feeling anxiety about fulfilling their…
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I’d like to write about alcohol but instead I’ll write about trees
because the tree,when felled, tells all her truth. Buzz saw
a tree and there is her soul laid out in concentric circles:
years of aimless joy, sunlit afternoons of umbrella splendor,
minutes of wild leaf dances and seconds of shivery wetness there
before your very eyes and you cannot resist touching the
inside of her splendor.
There,too, is the evidence of straw sipping dry spells, desperate root tips,
and so many years of thirst gone unnoticed
and the long lonely winters which froze certain limbs,
lost forever to the forest foragers.
A tree tells the truth at the end.
I watch you from behind a great gnarled oak tree its
finger like roots dug into the cement of a city. My
hands press against the bark reading the Braille of
betrayal. I’m hiding and watching like a falcon floating
for rats and I don’t want to watch but I have to.
Here you come out of the back lit brass arch of a door of 825 Fifth Avenue
your arm circling around her as your faces turn in unison towards the new awe
I watch. I cannot stop watching.
I watch the tilt of her head and the angle of your missing heart.
I see the swoop of your suited arm confusing her with its warmth
a promise of safety like a magician or Jack the Ripper.
I’m watching. I cannot stop watching.
Six hours ago I was that woman
under your spell .
Six hours ago we had tomorrow.
1963, Connecticut, President Kennedy, Cuba and My Dad
Before the house is sold I go down into it down
the rubber treaded stairs still squeaking at me,
down into the basement watching my feet change
from the pointy toed splendor of 2015 into red Keds, dirty
laced, and I’m an Iroquois again treading softly, listening to
the distant drumming of war songs beating.
There the old bomb shelter remains and it’s 1963
and the Cuban missile crisis holds our family frozen
and everyone has a job to do so we can survive.
There are the rows of bunk beds like saltines overlapping
in a cellophane rectangle, neat stacks of claustrophobia,
sealed containers of food: beans , rice, dried soup, water, peas,
petrified they will be brought to life again.
I open some up and am relieved to see everything
is still intact, in place, ready to sustain. Parchesi next to Bandaids,
Monopoly still monotonous. Our family never played games as
real life required too much attention but my parents were hopeful.
I see the air powered by continuous peddling on the stationary bike
and I sit on it once again and pedal. I am immediately tired.
I remember the drills, the duck and cover, the lie of it to us kids who
knew we could not be saved by a desk as radiation would find us like a
greedy hand reaching under doors and into throats and the handgun
hung by the door, loaded for the neighbors who would want in.
My father’s plan to save us written out in longhand on doors, pasted on
cabinets, read and remember, duck and cover, stay alive for me,
It’s not safe out there .I still hear his words and want to tell him
it is safe now but it’s too late.
When the Grandchildren Come to Visit
The minutes in the day become forgotten
like the one before you walk down the aisle
standing there with
your hand in your Dad’s arm
crooked like a delicate blue heron.
Would you like ice cream, you ask them, only so
you can see their round
small hopeful faces eyes closed
spoon grasped between thumb and forefinger,
the taste of sweet cream on their plump lips.
Let’s hide in the magic house where there are trains
hidden and a mat with tracks and round windows
like portholes out to the green and brown tales in the woods.
They think we are invisible and so we are.
Together you put tiny green wooden cows in train
cars and ferry them all over the rubber mat to Jersey
and Guernsey and your hippocampus.
Watch your grandson dive so deeply into the water
because he wants
you to watch and each time he
surfaces his eyes search for your joy in him.
My mother says store up your good memories
so you have them
to think of when you are dying.
I wouldn’t mind a slow death if I had more slow days
where the most important thing is to play marbles
on the grass or raise and lower a wooden bucket
filled with gravel.
Each time the same gravel, the same song, the same minute you will remember.
Who Put the Tiffany Paper in the Rat’s Cage?
My brother borrowed a rat for the week.
He doesn’t like to prolong the lives of animals but
this is an attempt at friendship with the rat owner.
My brother is lazy and has
very white skin and a low lying smell to him.
My father dislikes him though he knows this is wrong.
The rat is long, thin and white and lies passively in its cage for hours
which is unusual; for a rat.
I have observed it at great length from different
angles and varied times wearing disguises of fedora’s and
A crime has been discovered on this Saturday morning.
My mother’s perfectly blue like a Maine sky stationary from Tiffany’s
has been used to line the rat’s cage.
It’s pretty clear who did this but we are lined up anyway.
In the front hall underneath the curving gallows of stairs we six stand
not unlike the condemned in a holding pen.
We know we are all condemned no matter how this plays out.
My father stands in front of our lineup:
“One of you has committed a crime and is lying about it.
Until that person steps forward no one will leave this house.”
This life I am thinking.
We all know who has done this but my mother is standing behind my father making hand signals of don’t tell no matter what.
I feel like falsely confessing just so I can go to Betsey Beecher’s house.
Her father is never home and her mother thinks I am interesting.