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.

IMG_2244

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.

IMG_0287

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.

IMG_2117

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?  

salem ma roger conant

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.

IMG_2115

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 :-))

IMG_0094

  • 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!

IMG_2021

 

Sleeping Outside

sleeping bag funWhen my big sister Nan and I were simple kids living in a house thick with ancient relatives, we yearned for that rare occasion when we got to sleep outside.

We never did that in our own yard, so small it could hardly fit its in-ground garbage can and its creaky old clothesline. But oh when we went to visit our cousins in West Roxbury!

There were no trolley cars screeching past the end of their street. There were no alleys between brick buildings like the one we had with its revolving store of interesting things, bits of brightly colored glass, a discarded lady’s scarf, and once, for a thrilling six-week period, the remains of a small dead animal, flat as an envelope.

Their neighborhood felt like the neighborhood we saw on Leave it to Beaver. Their mom wore an actual apron. They had a real screened-in porch, and we could roller skate as much as we liked along smooth sidewalks.

And best of all I would get to “camp out.” Nan would do other, older things with the other, older cousins but I was always matched with cousin Mary Lou, who was closest to me in age, and boy did Mary Lou know how to have fun. For our big campouts she would fashion a little tent for us, expertly pounding its pegs into the grass. She would produce real sleeping bags, the old-fashioned kind, made of cotton and lined with plaid flannel.

There, as evening gathered in, we would feast gloriously on Franco American spaghetti heated up over small cans of Sterno and lie back in that soft grass, telling ghost stories and waiting for the stars

It was heaven. And I believe I remember it today because last week I came upon a passage I had copied out just 20 years ago from T.H. White’s wonderful bThe Once and Future King. 

The passage goes like this:

The boy slept well in a woodland nest when he laid himself down, in that kind of thin but refreshing sleep, which people have when they begin to lie out-of-doors.

At first he only dipped below the surface of sleep and skimmed along like a salmon in shallow water so close to the surface that he fancied himself in air. He saw himself awake when he was already asleep.

He saw the stars above his face, whirling on their silent and sleepless axis and the leaves of the trees rustling against them, and he heard small changes in the grass. These little noises the footsteps and soft-fringed wing beats and stealthy bellies drawn over the grass blades or rattling against the bracken at first frightened but interested him so that he no longer cared to see what they were but trusted them to be themselves, and finally left them all together as he swam down deeper and deeper, nuzzling into the scented turf, into the unending waters under the earth.

Perhaps it was the part about trust that moved me to copy this out in the summer of ’96. Anyway, it’s the part that moves me now. And tonight when the darkness gathers, I want to look up at the still-swollen moon and those steady stars and remember to trust more; to trust, as Lincoln said in his farewell to the people in Springfield, that all may yet be well.    

sleeping in the woods (1)

 

On the Starship Colonoscopy

colonoscopy fearsSit with any group of 50-somethings long enough and sooner or later the talk will turn to the various strategies for getting through the  colonoscopy prep.This regimen, in case there are small pockets of the population who have not heard, involves the drinking of eight 8-ounce glasses of a thick chalky cocktail, at 15-minute intervals, until the entire 64-ounce pitcher has been drained.

That’s a gallon of gritty sludge, downed within the space of just two hours.

As one who was recently contemplating her own date with destiny, I consulted my 900 stranger-friends on Facebook for advice on how best to approach the ordeal.

“Make the drink as cold as you can!” many said. “Use a straw!” advised a second faction. “Skip the straw and just fire it down!” counseled a third group.

I had used all three techniques by the time I was finished, and let me just say I wasn’t exactly yodeling out a Julia-Child-like “Bon Appetit!” with each glass.

But as unpleasant as the prep is, everything turns rosy when, in your hospital gown and booties, you are escorted into the hospital’s ‘scope suite, where you all at once feel like a guest on board the Starship Enterprise, with the many uniformed crew members circling and circling as they tend and monitor.

You are ushered to a gurney where, alongside 15 or 20 other pre- and post-procedure folk, you stretch out like so many limp strips of bacon.

Someone comes and covers you with a warm blanket.

Then a cheerful medical professional in a pirate-like headscarf comes along to take your vital signs. His hands make a sort of Sign of the Cross as they move from your left arm to your forehead to your chest and then over to your right hand. This is where the needle goes to deliver the I-love-everything drug that cancels all fears. You will then discover another cheery young crew member sitting inches away and peering into a monitor that offers a minute-by-minute account of what’s happening inside you. You feel like the coolest guest at the dinner party. Everyone finds you so interesting!

At last you are wheeled into the operatory for the “periscope up” procedure that has brought you here. A neat slice of time is cut from your life, and the next thing you know you’re back in Mission Control with your fellow strips of bacon.

After a woozy interval, the doctor materializes and, with a somber clergyperson’s air, tells you how things looked. He dematerializes again and you yawn.

Somebody brings you a snack of juice and crackers.

You yawn again and have a little snooze. It’s like being in pre-school again, but without the singing.

In short, it is Heaven and you  have come through. you have been seen, and accepted for who you are. And when you depart, you depart smiling, with a strange but unmistakable sense of blessing, and bits of graham cracker crumb still clinging to your lips.

 

 

Crazy Fun

archer has funYou’ve got to love a holiday! We’re here on this Glorious Fourth eating eggs for lunch and left over fried chicken for breakfast, going out on paddle boards and fishing off the dock. Even baseball right IN the water was on the agenda this weekend.

Archer, this handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback of a canine, captured the spirit nicely.

By day there was the swimming and the spraying of hoses on sturdy baby legs by sturdy baby humans.

IMG_1979

Then the  in-the-water baseball looked like this:

IMG_1964

…while and the paddleboarding looked like this:

IMG_1956

By night there were fireworks, every night leading up to the Fourth,  and man they were CRAZY fireworks, that went on and one for an hour, because this is after all New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state where nobody dares tell anyone else what to do. They were going off from every corner of the cove and from two towns both up and down the lake from this cove.

To me the din was awful which seems strange since you’d think the older you get the deafer you’ll be so no problem about the loud noises.

For sure I am old: if I didn’t know it before the weekend, I know it now. The little baseball player pictured above asked me the other night just how old I was.

“I’m sixty-seven,” I said.

He looked up at me with his large brown eyes and said so sweetly, “I knew you were old, TT! You know how?”

“How?”

“Because your face has those crinkles.  And you have to bend down to hear me. Also, your voice.”

I’m not sure how my voice gives me away. To me, inside the chambers of my old skull my voice sounds to the same way it always has, but who knows? Maybe to the young I sound like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. 

ursula

It is what it is, eh? All I know is I’m just glad to be here on this anniversary of our nation’s birth! Here I am three years ago on the same day with grandson David. It’s the kids who keep us smiling!

IMG_8770