Category Archives: family

Change… Organic and Otherwise

Standard

We rented a house on the Outer Banks (“OBX”) of North Carolina, which is a place in and of itself accustomed to change despite the earnest and feckless desires of mere mortals who decide to defy Nature by building houses yards from the Atlantic.

We arrived on a cool March afternoon after driving several hours from our roost near Washington, DC. The two younger sons traveled with me and my husband in our giant SUV. They in the back seat enjoying their various iDevices and occasionally participating in conversations as we collectively listened to the entertaining and dubious Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.

The sky was overcast, the winds pretty fierce and the shoreline was booming as the high tide was due in a couple hours. My youngest son, known as “Thing 3” to anyone who’s familiar with my writing (which has taken a back seat to my 11-times a week yoga teaching schedule) has been renamed “Tech Support” from time to time because of his interest in all things technological. (Don’t confuse “interest” with “competency” as he’s still learning and when I got a new computer a few weeks ago he scrubbed my old one and it took a shit ton of data supposedly stored on the “CLOUD” with it… but it’s only 1s and 0s right?).

When we pulled in to the OBX driveway, he said, “we’re under a storm surge warning which will cause high surf from tomorrow night at 8pm until the following evening at 8pm.” He was correct. The waves were truly the highest I’ve ever seen and the accompanying winds gave me pause to recall my numerous dreams I’ve had wherein I’m in a seafront home and utterly surrounded by sea water. I haven’t had one of those dreams in a while, and as stirring as they can be, I don’t wake destroyed as one might expect.

Back in early March, most of the east coast endured a nor’easter named “Riley” (is it me? When did they start naming winter storms? Are they like the names of Mother Nature’s children? I think we should rename them things like “Scott Pruitt”; “industrial age” and “Valdez”) and what about gender neutral names? “Riley” is safe, I must say, different from “Katrina” or “Hanna” or “Andrew” I believe most storms used to be named after females, but it’s not so far off when we will have a Storm Robert or Nor’Easter Stan… I digress (get used to it).

Riley slammed where I live with 70mph gusts and 40mph sustained winds for an entire weekend. Power went out all over the region, but not at my house. My father stayed with us overnight and that was probably enough for everyone, mostly him. His power was restored the next afternoon. Where I’m from, Buffalo NY, my cousins got slammed with several feet of snow. Boston got hammered … it’s how it goes. But down here, in OBX, it appears that the seas still have not receded. Riley pushed the sands up the shore; buried in-ground pools and turned 6′ privacy fences to knee-high shin scrapers. Pools installed behind some of those now-demolished privacy fences are overcome with sand.

Here’s my view from the deck of the house we rented… the “bush” below is what’s left of the first dune garrison. I’ve marked up the photos immediately following to explain what the what used to be what.

In this next photo, the steps leading up the walkway used to take you to another “bridge” over the first dune garrison and then you would descend a second set of steps to sit access the beach. Locals tell me these steps, walkways and bridges were installed last Easter. Bummer. These first two photos are of the same property; the one immediately to my left (north). You’ll notice that things look relatively normal and typical for a winter recovery. What you won’t notice is the missing dune line because it’s been so completely taken out. Nor would you notice that the shore’s depth to the water is probably 100 feet shallower.These next photos so perfectly depict for me the example of the objective “luck of the draw” that Nature and Fate so deftly provide at every moment. This is the seaside of the house immediately to my right (south). I’ve marked it up to explain what the what used to be what. If you examine closely, in the area marked “pool” and you don’t believe me, you’ll see a set of entry / exit ladder handles for access to that pool (almost in the dead center of this photo). The fence line outside the pool and hot tub used to be 6′ off the ground. I doubt the owners of this property have personally viewed the situation. I can’t say I blame them. Slightly “above” the box marked “pool” is another box that denotes what used to be a pool next door.

This is what used to be the entrance driveway belonging to house to my right (south). The red area denotes a driveway. The green denotes the grass / foliage and the blue is the water that said ” HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!” to all those ideas of driveways and gardens.

While these situations certainly aren’t’ catastrophic and none of these properties are a total loss, these are changes. Most people who own beachfront property usually just have to clean out the cobwebs, freshen up the carpets, steam clean the curtains and wipe down their windows to prepare for the rental season. The owners to my south are probably wistfully recalling those days of such burdens. We met a man one morning during our walks who owns a home several doors south on the shore here. His name was Bob. (For reals.) “It was the most beautiful property on the island,” he said (and I get it, we all think our home is the best or our kids are the smartest and best looking), but even what survived the storm wasn’t terribly impressive to me… it looked pretty weathered and neglected compared to other properties around his house. He had “a gorgeous pool” since surrounded by and filled with sand. Hanging at a 45˚ angle was a woeful five-and-dime “TIKI BAR” sign hanging and flappimg from one nail. Just below it was a faded and operative rainbow-themed windsock that somehow fared better than his obliterated privacy wall. It’s weird what survives these storms. “I’m screwed,” he crowed. I nodded in sympathy even though I didn’t agree with his summary. The house is still standing. He’s not exactly homeless and the lot alone is worth at least $2mm. And it was not t his only residence — he chose this lifestyle to rent their home in OBX to vacationers and then travel by RV the rest of the year. But who am I to decide who’s screwed and who isn’t? Bob was sad, but he was feeling sorry for himself. I heard later from neighbors drinking beers on the 20′ of boardwalk in front of our house that Bob opted to NOT have the maintenance and cedar fortification of his dunes and now he’s reaping that. Walking by Bob’s place a few days later I noticed that all evidence of the pool is gone and the sand is flat where it used to be. It seems that everyone has a Tiki Bar here.

Riley and its ilk are largely organic phenomena. I have little doubt that humanity and our “advances” have greatly sped up the oft-debated climate change process, but by and large, isn’t all change, effected directly or indirectly by humans, thus organic seeing as how we arent’ exactly inorganic to the planet?

I miss writing. I enjoy the yoga teaching, but I really miss the writing. Things have changed so much in my life (as I’m sure it has in yours) in the last several months that at times I feel as though I’ve aged 10 years. In my little tribe we’ve experienced a fair amount of turbulence, but what is life without change? And change without turbulence really isn’t change, it’s just “different.” The short of it is that parenting is not for wimps. The long of it is that it’s been difficult being a parent. Three boys, all teenagers now, and the boundary-pushing, shitty attitudes and straight-out rebellion is exhausting. I’m not so absurd to say that “I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it is a blessing…” because trust me, I’d change plenty. Kids make stupid choices and end up hurting themselves. We all did it and we will all do it again and those of us who managed to get here, this far, I guess are the norm… there are a lot of us still out there, aren’t there? So does that mean that the odds my kids will all make it to 90 with fun and compelling stories but not horrific ones of personal destruction and devastation? I sure hope so. I don’t like change. I don’t like my kids growing up and I don’t like my dad getting older. I can fight it, like an idiot, or I can continue to look for the silver linings (not necessarily the blessings) of even the most crushing experiences, for every experience is a teacher.

Thank you.

Dear Auto Insurance, 

Standard

Dear Auto Insurance, 
I’m writing to let you know we’ve given up. We’ve prolonged this as much as we could, but today it happened. 

Our oldest son, Thing 1 (the moniker of which I have assigned to keep him off search engines and college inquiries because his mother –me– has a big mouth and flying typing hands) is all-but officially licensed to drive. I mean, he has completed his courses and he can drive alone and whatnot, but he still has to go before a judge (not because of his mother, me, but because the Commonwealth requires it) to get it all official like. I dig that stand-before-the-judge thing. 

So he can run errands now. And drive himself to guitar lessons. And take his brothers to soccer practice (when that begins again). And pick up take-out, but not Chipotle because of e. coli. And drive to school. And he’s tall enough now to peel his mother, me, off the ceiling from worry about his whereabouts and safety! Isn’t that great? 

And then in eight short months he will be pushing off to college. 
  
Auto Insurance, can you slow things down a little? Maybe just make each day last 36 hours instead of 24?  Here we are, attempting to slow time. 
  
   
   

His first time driving Nigel. 

 When the driving began, when he was ready, last summer. 

 He was so little he fit (and resisted smiling) for the tote bag photo.   

    
I love my son. So very much. I know it’s not your job, Auto Insurance, to protect him, but I just thought I’d put out the request and the energy. The SUV will do its job. 
Now for the big quandary: how to let him go…. 
Thank you. 
    

Call Me Observant. And Confused. And Distracted. And Supportive.

Standard

I came home Tuesday afternoon to my kids asking me if I’d heard about Caitlin.

“Caitlin who?” I asked them.

“Caitlin Jenner,” one son said.

“Caitlin… Caitlin Jenner… You mean Kaitlin Jenner? One of the Kardashians?” I asked.

I’ve only recently become interested in the Kardashians as Laundry Support Entertainment, so I have no opinion of them other than they are hugely successful at getting people to talk about them.

They’re not on the forefront of my consciousness. I know they aren’t thinking about me.

So it took a little bit, honestly, to figure it out.

“It’s all over the internet…” the other son said.

“I don’t think there is a Kaitlin… there’s only the two Jenner girls, the one with the fake lips and the one with the supermodel eyebrows…” I said, drifting off, slipping into old age.

“The sex change one… ” the first son said.

“AAAAOOOOOMAAAAIIIIGAAAAADDDD!!!” I shouted. “BRUCE?! You mean BRUCE JENNER???” It was clicking in now.

I raced to my phone.

Not to call Caitlin, nor anyone, but to go online.

“Yikes!” I honestly said, when I first saw the now-famous Vanity Fair cover photo; that was Bruce Jenner. “That’s insane. That’s a complete change… ” I didn’t have any expectation, frankly, but I didn’t think a Vanity Fair cover would be it; nor did I consider this new visage in, essentially, a merry widow.

Egads, I guess I did have an expectation.

Vanity Fair has always had amazing covers. Annie Leibowitz is … I don’t need to even say anything; she is synonymous with renown photographs, regardless of the subject. It seems rather fitting, now in retrospect, that Annie do the shoot and Vanity Fair host the unveiling. It’s very 21st Century.

I have no opinion on the situation, really, OTHER than to say that we have other things going on, too, in the world.

I’m not going to say this isn’t news, nor that it’s not historic, because it is. It’s huge, frankly.

Back to watching the Kardashians.

I watched, since Tuesday, the second part of the Kardashian/Jenner girls’ interviews / meetings with then-Bruce, about his situation, his decision to come out as a transgender male and his interest in surgery to become a woman.

The girls are all quite bright, despite what the media say about them. I don’t really think much about them other than to say that if you think poorly on them, it’s a waste of your energy. They ask intelligent questions, and have the same types of concerns any child or step-child of a person in Bruce Jenner’s situation would have.

Bruce Jenner is father to six of his own biological children and step-father to four? Kardashian kids. He was married to Kris Kardashian for almost 23 years. That’s a big, long time: My husband and I have been an item for almost 25 years and will be married for 21 years (woot!) in a couple weeks. So that’s a long time.

The youngest of the kids, the Jenner girls, were (in the televised interviews) pretty disturbed. I’m sure they put on their brave faces and kept it together, but they have a lot to process. Kris Kardashian, the ex-wife and mother to the youngest two, was the final person Bruce spoke to in the series of chats he had with everyone.

Their conversation, the one which was televised, was the most raw and real marriage conversation, without a lot of selfishness and digs and jabs, I’ve ever seen.

Yes, it’s a train wreck, all those people… they put themselves out there; they reap what they sew; they made their bed, they sleep in it; blah blah blah… it still doesn’t take away from the fact that in the universal scheme of things:

1) There are people hurting out there,

and

2) Fear and deceit destroy people.

The exchanges between Bruce and Kris were stunning and she was firm yet supple. A body language / eye roll expert would nail the contempt in Bruce for Kris’ questioning. He pouted, his voice went high and little, he avoided, he looked at the floor, he deflected. He did everything he could — fear driven (so don’t tell me I’m being bitchy, I know what fear does to people, I get it) — to avoid her reasonable, clear, insistent and detailed line of questioning. She was sincerely grieving.

These two had a marriage.

She married an Olympian. A freakin’ decathlete. Gold medalist. Cereal boxes an’ shit. They had kids together.

He was weak. He deceived her. I can’t help this opinion; it’s how I feel. He chose the easy route which was really the hard route. He didn’t want to disappoint her. He had to live up to a standard. He had to be something he’s not.

He said he was honest with her, that she knew he had a thing for women’s clothing. He said in other interviews that he knew since he was 10 that he was a woman trapped inside a man’s body. But she said she never knew it would come to this level; that “Bruce” would be gone.

It’s a clear case of sins of omission and not asking enough of the right questions. It’s also a matter of people simply not owning their truths.

And yet, he said “I’m not going anywhere…” and “I love you…” and “I’m still in here…” and I’m thinking, “Ok…  but who the hell is that? You don’t really know yet do you, Caitlin? It’s all new territory. Because who you were to them is not who you are to yourself…  How can it be?

There are MANY paths this can go; I’m not going to go on most of them.

All I know is that when we lie to ourselves, we lie to the world. We lash out. We act flip and glib and say things without thinking about them.

When an addict comes out of rehab, everything has to change. The lifestyle the addict experienced before, has to change. Bruce was sort of addicted to a lie. Shame kept the lie going.

All the while, he was afraid.

When we are afraid, we lash out. We are like wounded bears. We withhold. We go within. We build walls. We put on façades. We perform for others. We are unpredictable and moody and sensitive. We do what we can to keep going though. And so does everyone else.

Kendall Jenner, the oldest of the Kardashian / Jenner girls said in the interviews that she encountered him cross-dressed at 4am when she went downstairs to get a drink of water. She cried as she sympathetically recounted it (I’m paraphrasing), “If your only way to safely be the person you feel yourself to be is to do it at 4am when no one else is awake, and to be like that for almost 65 years… That’s so sad. That’s so awful…” She said she, too, snuck around the room to escape his discovery of her discovery.

The people whom it most affects, his kids, get it. The rest of the world should too.

There were lots of questions about the woman version of Bruce… will she still be interested in women? “YES!” He sort of said. Then recanted, but no one picked up on it… If so, does that make Caitin gay? He didn’t comment on that, “I’m not going to go into that…” Bruce said. The daughters praised him as the best dad…. “Will we still have a dad?” Kylie asked. “I’ll always be your father…” he said, his voice full of sportscaster confidence and certainty, but his face, had a sort of wince, because … well … it’s just going to be really different now.

The nice thing, for the Jenner girls, is that it’s out in the open and they don’t have to explain anything. Bruce took care of that with the VF cover. Caitlin can field those questions now, or the daughters can have them referred to Caitlin’s publicist. But it sure does create a new dynamic, doesn’t it?

So what this entire thing does, for me anyhow, is create a new level of awareness and a discussion about labels and brands and identification with standards and how we speak to and about each other. And the use of pronouns and gender possessive tense: “her purse” and “his jockstrap.” Maybe it’s “her jockstrap” now… . And “mother” and “father” and birth certificates… what I am feeling is that it’s none of my business. And while it’s none of my business, that makes sympathy hard.

I’m not trying to pick a fight; it’s in my nature to question things when they don’t make sense to me — but what is “sensical” to me? It’s all based on a set of standards which are based on expectations which are based on biases. And then there are people who really like their HIS or HER status. Bruce Jenner wanted the pronouns. He wanted the gender possessives: HER and SHE and … hmm… I guess that’s all there is to it. No… because there are transgendered people who don’t want any gender identifiers. I got hissed at about a year ago for saying “goodnight ladies!” to people when I wasn’t aware of the context for my invitation to lead a meditation for them. Can’t win for losing.

I was watching, remotely, with interest and anxiety, the media storm over this situation. Lots of people are pissed this is considered news. But it is news. It’s just not super depressing, racist, ISIS-related, political, FIFA, scandalous, nor horrifying. The best and most succinct approach to this news is:

“It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman.” — Jon Stewart

Everyone talked about Caitlin’s appearance. Then her comparability to her ex-wife and Kim Kardashian. And then, her age. And then, what she looks like without the make-up. I’m floored and yet not.

There is no justice.

I heard someone say “I’m jealous of her legs! They’re awesome!” and I’m sitting there, SILENT, thinking, “that’s because they are the legs of a world-class decathlete you moron….” There is a part of me who doesn’t ever want to forget about Cereal Box Bruce, not because I’m a _____phobe (you pick the type), but because Bruce accomplished some seriously awesome feats and it was amazing. His decision to become Caitlin does not at all take away from 1976. Sorry. That doesn’t get wiped out. Nor do his kids, or his tax returns or his speeding tickets or his authenticity; well… I guess it takes away from his authenticity. That, he has to rebuild.

When we live without fear, we live fully.

In the final analysis, Caitlin’s not talking about me, so I’m going to stop talking about her.

Thank you.

50 Things about Mimi

Standard

Sunday night, Mother’s Evening, a friend shared a post she read on Salon. It was written by a surviving daughter about her mother who had died when the writer was 25. I was struck by the seemingly enormous task of writing 50 fifty FIFTY! things about my own mother, in ways which did not repeat themselves from things I’ve shared here (likely impossible). I would also like to do my very best to keep things positive, because as we all know mother / daughter relationships can be storied. Mine was no different in that I suppose.

God did not give me daughters. There is a reason for that.

Yesterday morning, I watched the penultimate episode of Mad Men. The scene when Sally reads a letter from her mother (whom she always called Betty) was so lovely, especially that she signed the letter “Love, Mom.” Betty and Sally were a bit like me and Mom. But I was Betty and mom was Sally. But one thing I heard a lot about myself from my mom was that she knew I would make it. In much the same way, Betty tells Sally that she knows she doesn’t have to worry about her anymore because Sally moves to the beat of her own drum.

I’ll not bore you again with our history, but we were two souls who intersected for 45 years and I know we loved one another deeply.

So, off the cuff and mostly positive if not striving for it and it’s likely you’ve read a couple of these before if you’ve read anything I’ve written about Mom…

=-=-=

Mom always had a glass of water by her bedside. It was never a cup. Never plastic. Always a glass and it was always, amazingly, filled.

She did not understand electronics. I think in some very primitive Irish way, she suspected they were instruments of faeries and pixies.

She loved her Polaroid camera.

She loved photo booths. Alone, with her kids, with my dad. She loved the capture of a moment, staged or organic. She loved to remember.

She would listen to Caruso at very odd hours at a concert-hall volume.

Her self-applied hair colorings were inventive. I distinctly remember a purple time and a green time. (Keeping things positive.)

She had cheekbones and a facial serenity which belied her inner consternations. She often was looking into the middle distance.

When she was a child, her left? eye / pupil was damaged, horribly, by a classmate and his pencil tip. She would recount that story with bravery and bittersweetness. I don’t know if she could see out of that eye; she said it was often difficult. I remember looking into that eye, she would never tell me not to, and feel pain in my body at the thought of the injury.

She never said a really mean or critical thing about anyone she knew socially. She was always very positive and sincere. I remember one person who was particularly unattractive, in more than a physical way, and she said, “He’s very smart.” 

She loved roller coasters. Again! Again!

As an obsessive, she had collections of things: books, audio tapes, handbags, clothing… much of it never opened. I see that in myself, to a very small degree: just having something, and it reminds me of her a little.

She would take my drawings of flowers and vases, pulled from those tiny little spiral notebooks, and she’d nudge them between the frame and her vanity mirror, alongside singular or folded frames from photo booths. 

She loved a Reuben. Pickle on the side. The musher the better. She was all about the sauerkraut. I see the allure of the Reuben but I prefer its cousin, a grilled ham & cheese on seeded deli rye. Pickle mandatory. 

Rosaries. Rosaries were practically everywhere — not out in the open, that would be too weird, too “ethnic” (my assumption, not hers); she had them in drawers and on bookshelves, tucked away. In a coat pocket. In a teacup on a shelf. In the spoon compartment. In the ashtray. I never saw her use one though.

Sometimes I would encounter a filled glass of water in a cabinet. And it would spill all over me. Sometimes I would encounter a glass of water in the refrigerator. I remember asking about putting a pitcher of water in the fridge and having it that way, but she didn’t like it cold. She just wanted to “keep it fresh.” 

She had her own climate with her mother, who was lovely, but psychologically encumbered to a degree that she made my mother look like the trapeze girl at the circus.

Speaking of the circus, Mom was a majorette, in her all-girl’s high school. I can see her now in her felt wool skirt twirling her baton and marching in her little boots. I remember finding one of her half-dozen batons in her closet in our Canada house and running downstairs with it to try it. At first she was all, “Where did you get that…?” but she relaxed. It was safe, she was safe. She loved to watch me, and she gave me tips. “Here, like this…” she’d say and she’d take the baton, and show me how to twirl it between her fingers, running it up one side and then flipping her hand and coming back for more… “like this… just … you know … start here … ” the sun glinting off the rifled, chrome finish and one of her hands on her hip while her feet gently marched in place, feathery footfalls, just to keep a tempo. I’d end up sitting down, dazzled by her trancelike state as she twirled it and tossed it up in the air, spinning to catch it, as easily as breathing. “Now you try!” I passed. I suppose at some point in my life I took her talent with the baton as an affront, showing off, but as I type this, I recall it with awe and pride.

At Sherks’ Hardware in Canada (which sold everything, not just hose nozzles and 3-in-One oil), I got a hula hoop the next week. I was better at that. She was terrible at it. I remember coaching her, “Here, like this…” We laughed.

She loved the Canada house. Loved the sound of rain on the roof and the click-click-click of the squirrels running over the eaves. She would cry when branches were cut from the tall sugar maples because they were breaching the roof. She liked the idea of being in a forest, hidden, secluded and quiet. She rests eternally beneath a sugar maple now in Crittenden, NY.

She would cook coffee on the stove in a pot. Just pour the grounds right in the pot and let the water boil and then just pour the liquid, deftly, into her M. A. Hadley mug.

IMG_4857 I think she took milk in it. 

She was one of those moms who could peel an apple with a knife; I still can’t do that. Her hands were like a surgeon’s.

She would capture a moment or a phrase and plug it into a cartoon in a breath. Her sense of humor and observation skills were keen; in my jaded years, I used to think she was just projecting, but I do believe she was acutely aware of her own issues and used the cartoons as a vehicle for releasing them. Some people make lists, my mother did too, but she also made cartoons. I think she was acutely aware of the ephemera of the human condition.

She would bound around the Canada house at times quoting Moliére or Shakespeare or Wilde, usually their funnier stuff. In moments of strife, I’m pretty sure she would quote them too, but I tried to hit the road.

She had favorite things to wear: a green and orange “bumble bee” dress her sister-in-law made her. 

  

Her Dr. Scholl’s sandals. I remember begging her for a pair for myself, but that never happened. She said they didn’t make them for kids, but I saw them … (keeping it positive…)

She would wear five static gold choker necklaces at a time. If you gave her jewelry, and it was valuable, it went on and never came off. If it was plastic or you made it at camp, she wore it, but it would end up in the jewelry box on her vanity. I see this in myself now; and I suspect it’s for a similar reason: the gold and silver are durable, they will last and be able to withstand daily domestic life. Those cute little plastic beads strung together with elastic won’t. There’s a part of me which wants to preserve those pieces, I think that was her angle too.

Family. Family Family Family. She was a master triangulator. I can feel her now, at times, nudging me to go one way or another. To be softer. She hated rifts. She hated divorces. They tore her apart, in ways I’ll never understand. I think watching her brothers go through theirs and the damage it did to the entire extended family network was galvanizing for her. She would never ever divorce. Never.

She was an absolutely terrible driver. Just … the worst. I think the first accident in modern times in Northern Virginia — when the vehicle in front which was rear-ended was blamed for the accident — was hers. She did NOT understand turning lanes… coming from a city, they just didn’t exist. They proliferate suburbia.

She hated suburbia. She just did. She liked the energy of a city, even a small town. I watch Mad Men, she’s a contemporary of Betty Draper’s, when Betty moved to the suburbs, a part of her died. In 1980s suburbia, Mom never fit in. I wish I were older, maybe 18 or so when we’d moved here, maybe I could have tooled around with her.

Pens. Pens were everywhere. Notepads too.

Kleenex in the pocket. Balled up. Unused for the most part, save for a lipstick kiss. Standard Mom issue. Smelled like leather, wool, Chanel No. 5 and dust.

Lipstick. Never left the house without lipstick. The one time I encountered her without it was at my younger niece’s 2nd birthday. Mom look positively ashen without it. I went through her purse and asked if I could put it on her. She brightened at the offer. I’ll never forget putting it on her. Her lipsticks were always flattened. Mine are pointed. We always joked about that: how hers were blunted and mine were not, “How did you do that?” we’d ask each other.

Cashmere. Every season was the reason.

Upper lip sweat. I remember it so clearly. She would be be drawing or cooking or sitting or reading. Sweat would form on her upper lip. She never brushed it off.

Skin. Her skin was beautiful. She had a car accident in the 70s and had to go to the ER. She needed stitches on her lower lip. She was devastated by the news and the scarring. After a few years, you could barely see it, but she knew. Lipstick helped her deal with that.

Egg nog. Duck lips. My mother had an egg allergy but loved egg nog. You couldn’t stop her. Mom had a streak in her: if she found out that something was tasty or delicious or good for you: she took it all at once. She encountered someone’s egg nog, I want to say “Giant brand” from a store down here and she drank an entire quart. Her face swelled up and her lips reminded me of the lips on Daffy Duck’s girlfriend, “Daphne.” She would get so mad when I said that to her, but I was terrified she’d never be OK again, so I think it was my humor kicking in to save the day and to keep me from coming unglued.

Bike rides. She had an old 3-speed “Why would you want anything more?” bike with a wicker basket. It had a bell on it. She would ride that around, again, free as a bird. 

As the mother in the Salon article, Mom, too, liked to stay for the credits. I don’t remember watching movies in a theater with her, but on TV, she would wait for the credits. “It’s THOSE PEOPLE who make the film, Maaallly,” she would say to me. “They’re the most important.”

“I’m doing yoga,” she would say, lying on her back on our olive green wool living room carpet with one leg elevated straight up at 90˚ and the other leg on the ground. Knowing what I knew of yoga in the 70s: turbans, contortions, the Maharishi and the Beatles, I suspected it was just another Momism. Little did I know then, but I do now, she was doing yoga. She was.

Local was better. Mom loved the idea of Broadway, but preferred local genius. She directed many plays benefiting Buffalo’s charities. She was a volunteer who knew her strengths. I have apparently followed in her footsteps that way. Mom was not and I am not a baker. Bakers are great people, we just aren’t them.

If you could buy it at a Hallmark store, it should stay there. Mom was all about the handmade, unique, “esoteric” being one of her favorite words. “Provincial” and “providential” were others.

She used to say that “symmetry was overrated.” I have come to understand symmetry as balance. I feel I have a better handle on what she really meant but didn’t know she was saying. Balance was hard for her, maintaining a rhythm, equal footing; I suspect so because she felt uneasy about it, internal conflicts and all. I don’t know if she strove for balance, ever.

“Cool it, Mimsy!” was one of her favorite phrases for me. She borrowed it from Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suites” — look it up, it suits me.

“Piffle” was another word of Mom’s. It’s perfect, actually.

My father bought me a long red cashmere overcoat. My brother bought me a red wool hat to go with it. She would call me “the raging pimento” when I would be off somewhere. Usually in a huff, I guess. I feel like red was her favorite color. It had to be a blue, cool red though. Nothing hot. Not “cherry” red, that was too common for her.

Bangles. Mom wore bangles like how the Kardashians wear false eyelashes. Her collection grew after her mother died. She took those on as well along with her monogrammed and cuff bracelets. Sometimes those danced along her forearm with a rogue pink or taupe rubber band, perfect for the impromptu hair bun.

She never did pony tails. Always did hair buns. I remember putting her hair, it was very thick hair, in pig tails and pony tails once. She indulged me, but when I saw her, it never felt right. She wasn’t athletic, so pony tails were out; she wasn’t coquettish either. I remember her saying that pig tails on a grown woman always seemed forced, raw. Unless the woman was a hippie or a farmer. Or in a play.

Linen napkins. If there was one available, Mom was using it.

She loved nature. Trees, birds, clouds, torrential rain and then a clear sky. She loved the unpredictability of nature. I dare say she preferred it to people.

She was cool to animals. I blame her mother for that. She loved cats though and we had many as children. She resoundingly did not like dogs. She was bitten as a child. The dog we had as a family, Toby, was a mess. He was untrained and just having him made her twitchy, I’m sure of it. But she knew I loved them and that when we had “big news!” as a newly married couple, we told her and my father to welcome their new grand-puppy, Maggie, she probably wanted to stab me. But Maggie was sweet and trained and she grew to like her. She even trusted her with my kids. My dogs, as you know, like anyone with a chip. I remember many times, how Murphy often would sit by mom, even if she didn’t have food. I think he enjoyed her mellowness as she entered her twilight.

She would chirp and squeal with delight at anything we did; I used to think she was unhinged. I didn’t understand such huge reactions to what I considered to be just something I got to become good at. “DO IT AGAIN!” She would cheer. I wouldn’t. I don’t regret that; she was in her space. I see my own kids astound me with their intelligence, reserve, kindness, humor and talents and I cheer once and then gush later. This is theirs, not mine.

She used to chew her milk. I never understood it and the sound of the compression of her jaw sent shivers down my spine as a child. 

Her favorite stroke was the butterfly. She used to swim it, laconically and loudly, in Lake Erie lake outside my cousin’s house in her star-spangled Speedo swimsuit. Her hair coming loose and wild from her bun, like tentacles. 

She said to me often, “When you’re a mother, you’ll understand.” I used to think she was nuts. Now I know she was right.

I loved seeing that sweet message at the bottom of her mug of hot cocoa. She used salt, butter and brown sugar in it.

I loved seeing that sweet message at the bottom of her mug of hot cocoa. She used salt, butter and brown sugar in it.

Gratefully, I could go on. That was nice.

Mom, know that you are remembered. Your most favorite thing of all to do, to remember. I remember you. I miss you, I wish I could undo a whole bunch of stuff I said and did, but I don’t dare ask anymore.

Thank you.