Could be the Keys

img_2374Last night I dreamed I parked at our local transfer station, turned off the car and climbed out, tossing the keys back in through the open window and onto the passenger seat. That was safe to do, I figured; I was only there to throw a few bags of trash onto the conveyor belt, that great River of No Longer My Problem.

But as I was doing this, I happened to see out of the corner of my eye that an old white guy had slid in under the steering wheel, picked up my key ring and was fumbling with it in search of the key he would need to turn the car on. I remember thinking “So here’s the value of carrying so many keys around! It foils thieves!”

He got away with my car anyway, as well as my money and all my credit cards, but that isn’t the part of the dream that sticks with me.

Really the dream got me thinking about all the keys we carry these days.

Used to be, people carried their keys around in a small hard-shelled key case. All three or at the most four of your keys could be tucked away in there until you flipped one out when you were ready to use it. But now most of the people I know don’t use key cases. Instead, they have what I have: a series of strong rings from which dangle five or six or eight keys, some from rings that in turn dangle from the big ring.

So who do we think we are, Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey, managing a household brimming with larders and linen closets for a late-sleeping landed family and a large live-in staff? Do we think we’re St. Peter and these are the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and its Many Mansions? Why do I have literally 13 keys that I carry around in my fist? They weigh a pound if they weigh an ounce. I mean, I could use them as brass knuckles.

I recently read that some 80% of Americans complain about back pain. Under our 20 pounds of skin and the circuitry of our nerves and blood vessels, under the mighty muscles and the tendons and the strong, strong ligaments we have a skeleton,  this delicate scaffolding that we must  keep balanced like a tower of teacups as we move.

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Isn’t it just possible that it’s these 16-odd ounces of  keys that throws us  out of kilter and gives us pain? If we keep them in a pocket they pull down that side of our pelvis. If we carry them in our purse, they yank down that side of our shoulder girdle.

THINK ABOUT IT! And then pray for the day we can start our cars AND open our houses with retinal scans that let us walk around free. And who knows? Maybe by then all our official docouments and our credit card info will be neatly imbedded in our skulls.🙂

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Farewell to Summer

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The Summer came and the summer passed and now it’s mid-September and the dauntless ivy has once again taken over the screens on the front of our house . So is too late to look back at this season of long days and steamy nights?

I hope not.

In July, our  niece and godchild Grace celebrated a big birthday here, with all her siblings who came from all over; and also my own sister Nan from Florida who is her mum, and her husband Troy and Troy’s parents and so many great others. It was a happy day, with food and drink and maybe just ONE small pack of smokes.

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There were games…

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There were drinks, and strolls, and smiles.

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Lots of smiles..

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And this  was just one sweet weekend in July.

August came and Nan had elective surgery the complications fro which kept her in the ICU for 8 days and THAT was sure scary, for what would any of us in this family do without Na, the mother of Grace, this first friend to me her little sister?

Thank God she is mending now. In fact, apart from learning to walk with a titanium knee joint implanted in her living flesh, she is sharper than ever, more ‘Nan-like’ than ever, as I saw when I flew to Tarpon Springs to help with the transition from the hospital to home.

And so the season wound down. We had a whole week with three of our four grandchildren and a little guest and that was great, though some old guy tried to hustle them at pool.(Haha, no. That’s my husband David, their grandpa.)

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During that week we climbed ev’ry mountain, we forded every stream..img_2238

Also in August had a Marotta Family Weekend with all of David’s brothers and their kids and played  baseball..

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A sort of an unrecognizable kind of baseball.

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One day we all got back-to-school haircuts.

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 Always we dressed for the sun, I in a get-up that USED to button, back in my skinny-day 40s..

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And finally we had one last weekend together, on Labor Day when we we sat around some more…

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The children joyfully in the momentimg_2285

and we older one often in more pensive moods.

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Because we knew it was coming: The Autumn.

And now here we are on the lip of it and I’m remembering all over again that the descent into winter is in fact every bit as lovely as that long slow climb into summer.

Because, I mean, what’s nicer than a view through a latticework of ivy buzzing with the happy bees?

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Unhitched

I wake these mornings without the daily dread of a deadline. Like the dog that sleeps in the bed with you, I sigh and turn onto one side for ten minutes to look out the window. Then I sigh again and turn to my other side. I think about Time. Then I shift to my back, take up my phone and read about the daily horrors as recounted on the various news sites. After that, I really sigh, and as antidote, read my book for ten minutes, which right now is The Boys in the Boat.

I read this book both because a young person to whom I am deeply committed recommended it and because as a lover of old things – see awesome photo – I delight in being transported back to a long-ago time like the 1930s, when the action in that true story occurs.

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You wonder who once sat on these porches of a summer night, with the dews descending and the fireflies winking.

Speaking of summer nights, this summer just ending has been a strange one for me, because for the first time since the years when gals wore poufy hair like this…

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…I have not been filing a weekly column. And as it stands I’m not going to be filing any, until October at the soonest.

I both chose this non-writing path and had it chosen for me in that the parent company that owns most of the papers I appear in announced in July it had no budget for freelancers at least until then. I know I could have done a Gandhi and kept writing for free but to do so would break solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the scribbling game. For about six hours after hearing the news though, I did feel I should go on sending a fresh column to the other papers that subscribe to me column and are not part of this giant chain. But then, sitting outside the dry cleaners at around 4 that afternoon, it dawned on me that this could be the universe sending me a message.

I asked the editors of these independent papers if they‘d mind my taking a break and they couldn’t have been nicer. “Take it!“ they said. “Take it by all means and we’ll be glad to have you back in October.”

And so I decided, I would take the time, and wouldn’t I have scads of it!

I didn’t have scads of it, of course. For one thing, our span of time is brief and swiftly passing no matter what we are doing. And for another, there were some family events, some joyful in the extreme and some that same degree of terrifying and to them I turned all my attention.

But over these weeks I did learn this, I did learn this: I learned that I feel at my happiest when I write, and that I feel most lost and somehow lonely when I don’t.

So, I’m back, ready to catch more small moments of Time in my little net and tell of them here.

Of course we writers never know who is reading what we write, if indeed anyone reads any more, but that’s fine. It’s the writing that counts, the saying what we saw. I have always felt my purpose in life was to do just that. Just as it says in that early-days Elton John song with its lyrics by the great Bernie Taupin, “My gift is my song and this one’s for you.”

 

 

Grandma

IMG_2261I  saw this picture of Cher taken at a Clinton rally the other day and it has me  wondering: When did she start looking like an Italian grandmother circe 1930?

It must be the ruffles at the wrist. If you’re getting up there in age and your relatives don’t strictly forbid it, the undertakers will try dressing you in ruffles for your viewing; this I have noted at more than one wake.

Though I don’t look at all like Cher with my thin lips and map-of-Ireland face, I definitely do feel like a grandma on this family vacation anyway, which is to say:

I’m doing a LOT of laundry.

In fact it feels like that’s all I’m doing.

I have learned this week if I had forgotten it, that kids shed clothes like a snake sheds skin. One of these grandchildren of mine yesterday had so many clothes strewn about his sleeping area  that there was no telling which ones were clean and which were dirty.

So, I washed them all.

Another, the first one’s younger brother, seemingly had no dirty clothes at all, since, as I just this morning realized, he has been wearing basically the same clothes since he arrived last Saturday.

The third grandchild, their four-year-old sister,wears long tea-length early-20th century ‘frocks’ pretty much exclusively , which I find myself not only washing but also  ironing God help me. Still, she looks very nice in them, even when she wore one to climb Rattlesnake the day before yesterday with her doll.

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Her mom’s job that day was to forge the path up and up and up the hill. The job of her dad, now called “papa,” was to keep things moving in the middle portions of the line of march. My job, I was told, was  to be last.

As it happens, I did an excellent job at being last but I have to say: the Grandma who does all the wash and can be counted on to go slow is not exactly the Grandma I had hoped to be. I liked it much better last summer when I was the Grandma who took the kids and bought the kind of stuff that was instantly condemned by their parents and summarily confiscated.

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At least that job had some fun to it.

But I’m not complaining, not really. It’s kind of nice being one of the old ones, the  ones who are definitely NOT in charge of much of anything even though this is still our house. Just please, if any of you are around when I finally kick the bucket, put me in tattered workout clothes like these before those undertakers begin coming at me with the ruffles.  :-)

 

 

 

CAN You Think Too Much?

Salem MA, that until the last few years was a sober working class burg but now belongs to the tourist trade, which is to to say to everything witchy, with a focus on images of lipsticked witches dressed as if ready to begin the night shift at Hooters.

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We all know this guy: Rodin’s The Thinker, the original version of which is housed in a special museum in Paris  which I tried to get on a trip to Paris once, but couldn’t it was so crowded. Instead, my friends and I hung out in the museum’s sculpture garden where we capered like second graders, putting our arms around the statuary and making faces – all before showing up in the nearest cafe for our 11am feeding of baked goods so rich and buttery they made you mourn all over again the state of your bad cholesterol (though not enough to stop you reaching  for that second croissant.

Anyway, I saw the casting here pictured, a copy of course, on Wednesday at the Peabody Essex Museum which has mounted a special exhibit of Rodin’s works that will be “up” until early September. The museum sits in the heart of historic Salem Massachusetts, a place that until the last couple of decades was a sober working class burg  and now belongs to the tourist trade, which is to to say everything witchy, with a focus on images of luscious looking lipsticked witches dressed as if ready to begin the night shift at Hooters.

Those ladies celebrate the human body you could say, just as Rodin did in his in his work -and in case you didn’t know more than a few of his smaller works show something yet more intimate that what we now so mincingly call ‘full frontal nudity.’

What would Rodin make of this wonderful statue of of Roger Conant, credited as the founder of Salem, a man who had nothing whatever to do with the 1692 witch hunt that that brought about the deaths of 24 innocent people?  

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the guy who had nothing to do with it

He would have liked it, I think, monumental as it is, with the living folds of the cloak.  The statue of this Puritan was sculpted by H.H Kiston, a man who himself has just the quirky kind of looks Rodin enjoyed capturing. (I mean look at the face of literary giant Balzac, whose likeness we also saw in that Paris Garden.)

Balzac’s face, as rendered by Rodin, and H.H. Kitson’s, caught on camera. (Love the hair!)

I sit just now delighted by all I have learned by hopping from one site  to the next to learn some things . It’s fun  to think and learn and then to think some more as we are all called to do at all times in our lives. But look now at this final shot I got of Rodin’s signature work. What is that tiny filament stretching from the Thinker’s nose to his fist but a spider web? And look, there’s another the same little arachnid spun farther down.

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What might this say  but “Enough thinking!  It’s time to stand up and move!”

I’m thinking that too right now because you know what they say:  Sitting is the new smoking. So arise and stride out, hot weather or not. Blaze a fresh trail! Be the pioneer your immigrant ancestors were!

 

 

 

The Nicest Kind of Houseguests

Ray ready to take on the lake

For me the nicest kind of houseguests are the ones who:

  • Sleep until noon haha.

  • Know where everything is in your kitchen.

  • Don’t just ask if they can help with the bacon and eggs and coffee but get up and start scrambling and frying.

  • Don’t ask where the vacuum is because they know  – and they know what it’s for too.

  • Are enough younger than you that they understand your electronics better than you do.

  • Are just plain fun. (Who knew you could drink a Heineken while IN the water in a lifejacket that eliminates any need to even try to stay afloat?)

  • Really know what an oar is for (See below. Maybe this  6’8″ guest will be one of the ‘Boys in the Boat’ at the 2020 Olympics :-))

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  • And finally, and most importantly, are happy to hang out at the supper table, laughing and talking about everything from what it’s like to be an identical twin, to the nature of time to the worst job you ever had.

  • We had six guests at the lake here Friday to Sunday and ended up feeling almost as young as they are – good times!

 

 

 

 

3 Summers Pass in a Flash

Here‘s a piece I wrote three years ago almost to the day, from the exact spot where I sit now. So happy to be visiting friends and family this weekend at the Cape!

A Fresh Wind, July 29, 2016

looking toward hyannisportYikes what a summer this has been, just weatherwise alone. One minute my grass looked like this kind of grass, bright blinding green and so perennially wet you couldn’t mow it. Then in blew the searing heat and within three days it looked like someone trained a blowtorch on it. It’s no longer even grass, by the look of it. It’s Corn Flakes, just Corn Flakes.

 Once a year we get to go to the summer home of our friends at the beach for an all-too-brief 48 hours. This past week, I didn’t see how I was going to live long enough to get there.. A family of three is moving in with us for a while as they continue to look for a house in this daunting overpriced market.

We’re crazy about all three –  they’re family! – but all week long I could NOT stop stressing over how I would make space for them. I spent five solid days taking our stuff out of closets and bureaus, bureaus and closets and trying to figure out what to do with it all.  Of course I also had to work every day as everyone does, plus get to the doctor,  oversee some details around the estate of our much missed Uncle Ed and feed the hungry young mouths of a few other people, also staying with us this summer.

I was a tight bundle of stress by the time we pulled late into our friends’ driveway in other words. It was pouring rain and the trip took hours. and while David gamely went out to a karaoke bar with the guy half of the couple that is hosting us, I fell exhausted into bed.

Then, in the night, the wind came up. It rattled the bedroom door and set the window screen to singing and I slept like a stone – and woke in the morning to the sea across the street and the sun overhead and one gorgeously crisp flags-snapping day. Deliverance!

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