Drool on It All If You Like: It’s Your Stuff

plastic covered couchFella comes to our house, wants to clean a rug that lies on the floor of a room where a zillion dust motes dance in the golden bars of daylong sunlight but the minute he walks in, his face goes pale.

“What have you done here?” he cries. “Your rugs are all faded! “

I look and he is right: The rug he has come to clean had been red, tan and navy when we bought it. Now it is rust, cream and baby blue.

“This rug is losing RADIANCE! “ he yelled.

“I’m losing radiance myself, “ I say. “It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt. “

“Here’s what you have to do, “ he goes on, ignoring me. “Pull down the shades. Draw the drapes.” He bustles around doing this until the room that has dazzled with sunlight a moment before looks ready now for a séance.

“But we love the sun!” I tell him feebly. We sit in this window seat here, and-”

“Then at least take a sheet and cover the area of greatest exposure!“ he snaps.

“You owe it to your rugs,“ he adds, scooping up the carpet in question and hurrying out the door.

I have thought a lot about this scene since that day. This is the man who sold us our rugs in the first place and I was sorry to let him down, but I just can’t run a house his way, keeping the rugs bright by locking the sunlight out. Keeping things perfect under plastic. Pleasant under glass.

I used to visit houses like this when I was a kid and they made me feel as though silken cords were stretched across the chair arms, and velvet ropes were hung across the doorways.

I vowed I would never run my own house that way.

And I don’t. We live in our house, dammit. We live all over those velvet sofas in the living room, which are only velvet because velvet is the toughest fabric there is.

But now the upholstery man has just gotten after me too. He came here once for the Victorian sofa I had tried reupholstering myself a decade ago that ended up looking like a lumpy pink bed with a person sewn inside it. He took that old thing out and turned it into a pale-blue dream of perfection.

Then this past month, a small visitor set her tiny bones upon a sofa even older than the Victorian one and blam! one Duncan Fife leg – ball, claw, and all – shot straight out from under it. So the guy was here now to perform diagnosis on the break.

But his gaze fell first upon toddler who was clumping quietly around in his little white shoes. 

You let your CHILDREN in this room?“ he squeaked, his voice ascending the scale of disbelief.

“Sure, “ I answered, as the child in question smiled sweetly and drooled a little onto the velvet.

“On THIS couch!? “ He squeaked. “MY couch?! “

“It’s going to lose radiance!” I could all but  hear him say next.

He didn’t say that though. Instead he picked up the most recent casualty and started for the door. “It’s your house, “ he shrugged washing his hands of us all.

“You bet!“ I called after him.

Because really it’s fine by me if our stuff is too worn out to pass down to our kids one day. What I would much rather pass down to them is permission to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings; permission to fade, as we all must fade, gloriously, in the sun.

Just Go With It

blanketsIt gets so cold in January and God I mind it, warm-blooded creature that I am. It turns out we humans aren’t that good at cheerfully soldiering on when the temperatures really plunge.

It makes me think of something a nice young cardiologist told me he says to his patients.  He tells them, “Embrace the pain,” and I had to smile a little, hearing it. I mean he’s a heart doctor; most of his patients are heart patients.

“How does THAT go over?” I had to ask. I needed him to explain more. “Well,” he said, “you have to just accept your pain on some level. Not fight it, or curse it, or stiffen against it but sort of… open up to it instead. “

 Ok I thought. Maybe the way an animal does, when confronted with the wounded paw or the bitten ear, or the fear of the unknown that arises at the sight of that examining table in the vet’s office.

 It’s a compelling theory; I’ll give him that. Not sure it works with the cold though.

Cold of the kind we have known lately sets off the body’s most unignorable alarm bells. “Danger to the Organism!” it says, the direst message the body can send.

 Because cold is the enemy, plain and simple.  

These days I pity every cold thing I see out there, except maybe the dead in their cemeteries. 

I pity the cemeteries though. The little flags on the veterans’ graves shivering on their wee stalks. The headstones themselves, and the thin old ones especially, blading into those winds that seem bent on completely scouring off the names and dates their engravings seek to memorialize.

I pity the waters in ponds and rivers that got frozen – zap! – all at once, as they rippled; that were just stopped like people in some sci-fi movie, turned to stone in mid-gesture. 

I pity the birds, hopping stiffly about on their sipping-straw legs, finding who knows what to peck from soil that rings like iron under the foot. I pity the squirrel I saw last week, hanging limply from the talons of a hawk that swooped down just eight feet from me to carry him off for supper. My heart pounded at the sight. I thought for a split-second it was one of our cats he carried off.

But no, not the cats.Because the cats are smarter than all of us.  

They stay inside on days like the ones we’ve had lately, lounging around in their pj’s, and sleeping late and waking to lick their paws with all the delicacy of ballerinas smoothing the sides of their satin slippers.

As a matter of fact, the cats gave me the only smile I remember enjoying throughout all of this winter cold.

It was one night when my mate and I were curled in sleep, the only human beings in the house.

Under our pile of quilts and blankets we made a single mound, which the cats, in an uncharacteristic move, decided to scale.

I woke with an unaccustomed sense of pins-and-needles on account of their weight. And I started to shoo them off – until it came to me what we must have looked like: Two little pats of butter on a big warm stack of hotcakes.

That image in mind, I turned over again, thought “Embrace it, girl!“ then hugged my pillow tighter and went back to sleep.

‘The Dead Are Not Under the Earth’

sweet honey 09The brother of  one of our ABC scholars is about to be laid to rest.

His sudden death occurred on January 2nd but the funeral was scheduled for the 17th, which is today.

Six people from Winchester ABC have travelled from Boston to Philadelphia for the 10am Homegoing Ceremony.

Sadly, I will not be  one of them due to some ill fortune in my own family, meager enough by comparison. 

But though I can’t be there, the words to this song, by Sweet Honey in the Rock, have been playing in my ear for two weeks, every time I have thought of the Sawyer family.

Now by some miracle I find it here on YouTube accompanied by a very moving video.

Blessings on whoever made this blend, marrying these Eye-of-God kind visuals to Sweet Honey’s beautiful and reassuring words. God’s blessings on the whole grieving family as they gather to celebrate, and give thanks for, the life of 24-year of Gerald Michael Sawyer Jr. now gathered to his own ancestors.

listen more often to things than to beings
listen more often to things than to beings

tis the ancestors breath when the fire’s voice is heard
tis the ancestors breath in the voice of the water

those who have died have never, never left
the Dead are not under the earth

they are in the rustling trees, they are in the groaning woods
they are in the crying grass, they are in the moaning rocks 

And now, the song in its entirety: 







Sweet Honey in the Rock Ancestors’ Voices


stevie nicksI was at the mall yesterday at my new favorite store there, which specializes in so many types of diaphanous raiment you’d think it was another era entirely; for here seems to be gathered every lacy top and angel-sleeved dress ever worn by the Mamas and the Papa’s Michelle Phillips or Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

So absorbed was I admiring in  this little cream-colored lace number, which the sales people had paired with a kind of soft wool cape woven in tones of peach and ivory, just the exact shades of a Creamsicle, that I didn’t even notice the beefy guy hanging by the counter clutching a cup of iced coffee as big as a half-gallon jug of milk.

“Hmmm”, I thought, “you wouldn’t take this guy for your usual Free People shopper”,  but then neither am I that, I suppose. I suppose I belong up the way at the Women’s department at Macy’s, pawing my way through tidy double-knit suits, but what can I say? I can’t forget that decade I was a young and not yet a mother when all us girls went about, even to the office, dressed in after-bath fashion, like Michelle here:

Michelle phillps

This guy though: this guy finally broke his silence.

“Hey so can I leave my coffee here?”

The two young women who, come to think of it looked a lot LIKE Michelle Phillips and Steve Nicks, regarded him saucer-eyed.

“Excuse me?” they said together.

He didn’t like that. “I’m tryna walk the mall ,SEE. And I don’t want to carry my iced coffee, SEE. So I’m asking you: Can I park it here and come back and get it after, or not?”

They were both young enough to know only a world where you get asked again and again at the airport if a stranger has given you anything to take on the plane ; where you get asked again and again if you packed your bag yourself, so of course they were stunned by the suggestion. Anyone would be, in this day and age.

They said no they were afraid they could not keep his iced coffee, whereupon he uttered a series of nasty phrases and stomped off.

He was in the wrong church AND the wrong pew, poor dope – maybe a little like Yours Truly who left the store with the ivory dress, AND the peaches-and-cream serape AND a crisply white flowing long-sleeved top.

HE didn’t get away with his caper. I guess it remains to be seen whether or not I,  who was born just a few years after Stevie Nicks, will get away with mine, haha. Fie on the age-appropriate!



It Was Such a Pretty Dream

drinkin' in the tubYou may think it’ll all be easy after the holidays but no. Instead you’re right away dealing with all new challenges – like I was that New Year’s when the hot water heater turned everyone’s shower a lurid Book-of-Exodus red. 

The truth is, our troubles are never behind us, and today’s often pale in comparison to tomorrow’s. 

For example:

I’ve been inwardly whining for the last three months about the back pain I have on account of how the toy blocks of my little spine got stacked slightly off-kilter when God was knitting me up in my mother’s womb. I didn’t even know I had this problem until at one point about three years ago I started noticing that the zippers on my all my pants were zigging up in a northwesterly direction while the central seams on all my tops were zagging northeasterly. “What kind of cheap clothes are THESE?” I first thought. But a young friend, advised about this new condition, narrowed his eyes in assessment of my form and helped me better understand the issue.

“I see it” he cried, cheerily gesturing. “Your skirt is here and your top is over here!” They call it scoliosis. Anyway I dealt with this pain throughout the whole run-up to Christmas, even as I went about buying all the gifts, cooking all the food, addressing all 220 cards, etc.

But then the holiday passed and boy, was I psyched! One of those first post-Christmas nights, I found myself alone for the evening, always a cozy thing, and to celebrate this new lack-of-all-stress, I decided to take a long soak in a foamy bath.

While drinking a foamy Kahlua mudslide.  

And watching The Interview on my laptop, which I had set up on the clothes hamper not four feet from the suds.  

“I’m on Easy Street NOW!” I exulted.

And so I seemed to be until oh, about 30 minutes later when I climbed into my bed with its fresh clean sheets, sank back into the pillows – and felt settle into my body the worst virus I have ever had.

First, there was fever. Next, there were two whole days lost to memory, slept through entirely. And then, on Day Three, Fate poured five pounds of concrete into my sinuses. 

The concrete remains.  

With nose breathing impossible. I spend night after night moaning softly when, according to my mate, I’m not making noises like a wild animal. 

He is sympathetic though, except for the way he laughed out loud to find my semi-conscious self beside with a wet facecloth stuffed in my mouth to moisten a tongue so dry it turned white. More moaning! –  though the moaning sounds more like the underwater call of a whale.

But there is this, Dear Reader, there is this:  In the whole two-weeks-and-counting of this cold and virus misery, I haven’t been aware of so much as a tremor of pain in my lower back.  Joy snatched from suffering! I just know I’m on Easy Street now!

Always with the Exercise!

jane fonda gym togsWorking on new Resolutions for Self,  fetch fresh pad of paper, write “Use-it-or-Lose-It, Just-Do-It, Better-to-Wear-Out-Than-Rust-Out.”

Put pen down, stretching out on couch to ponder motivating strategies. 

Whistle.  Hum. Search ceiling corners for spider webs.

Thirty minutes later, sit up, print following words: “WHAT GOT SELF TO EXERCISE IN PAST?” Easy enough:

One, School System. Exercised because school forced Self to. In 8th Grade High, 90-year-old gym teacher with tight grey perm and pale dead eyes yelled at Self, struck Self’s calves with old-lady cane, merely to get Self to stand up and uncross arms.

Two, Cute Outfits, though these not in play in high school years when Self is made to wear inmate-style gym suit with name stitched on back. To avoid this fate, Self learns to fake low-level seizure activity every Tuesday and Friday. Works like charm.

Time travel past matriculation at women’s college with gym clothes from WWI: rough cotton tunics with, God help Self, bloomers underneath. Wear for all freshman and sophomore sports ‘til Student Revolution sweeps country, causing Phys Ed requirement and so much more to go down like the Titanic.\

Three, Adulthood and The Need to a Earn Living, requiring Self to look presentable, display admirable levels energy. Exercise methods in these years include:

  • Standing All Day at Work
  • Labor and Delivery
  • Baby/Child Care.

Four, Fact That Running for Running’s Sake Appears On Scene. Jogging invented! Self is out of house at 6am, alone for 25 whole minutes. Self thinks died, went Heaven.

Five, Exercise Morphs into National Obsession: Nautilus invented. People pay to push/pull/lift objects not in any way needing to be pushed/pulled/lifted. Also tossed up from same vast change: Aerobics. Cute outfits in play at last!  Self gives both resistance training AND aerobics a try in get-ups of the day: high-cut leotards and tights-with-leg-warmers, short-shorts and muscle shirts, giantly ballooning satiny workout pants and matching jackets.

Upshot of all the Above: Self goes full tilt at various modalities. Runs for six months, collapses arch. Aerobicizes for 12 months, turns ankle. Weight-trains for 12 years, working muscles to failure, but more than muscles fail.

Tired of so much me-focus, Self spends six months doing no exercise at all, has annual checkup with young doc who delivers stern lecture, mentioning his own daily soccer game.

Self nods head, pities guy’s wife.

Then one day Self sees old friend, tells her she looks great, what’s her secret? “Pilates at the Y” friend answers.

Self joins Y where Self does Pilates, too. Also Zumba, Yoga, Jazz, Tai Chi – not alone but with 20 to 30 others dressed any old way. When woman to the right of self reveals she is 88 real goal of exercise dawns on Self: to get to that age too.

Later, in Locker Room of Honesty, Self looks around at women of all shapes and sizes, ages and degrees of able-bodiedness. Smiles big at dawning enlightenment. Never mind “died and went to heaven;” let Self live and live, right here on Earth.

,But still who didn’t love Richard Simmons? 😉

richard simmons