Friday, July 28, 2017

Eric

Tomorrow is your Birthday. The birth of a son is an unparalleled gift to his mother and I was especially blessed. You arrived when I was a mere 25 years old, a babe yet myself. I delivered you alone with my one unrestrained hand, a metaphor for our life together which had yet to unroll. The nurses whisked you away telling me that you were contaminated because I had touched you. I never knew exactly why you spent that first night of your life without me by your side while your Dad and I enjoyed a lavish dinner sent in by my OB, a consolation prize for missing your birth.

It was the seventies and saccharin lyrics poured freely through the ether tenderly washing up emotions long dormant or newly discovered. There was something hauntingly real in Helen Reddy's "You And Me Against the World " the lyrics caressing us with "and when one of us is gone, and one of us is left to carry on. Then remembering will have to do, those memories alone will get us through Think about the days of me and you, Of you and me against the world". When you were months old I penned this little ode to you.
                                                       Eric

                    Tiny man, feet tapping in heart's hollows
                     You have filled my life with a new rhythm
                       wildly racing, wonderful.

                    Teeming chambers no longer vacant
                      Speed your sap through ice choked chambers
                          crystals rising, ride the rims creating salty rapids
                             eye's love gifts.

                     Tiny man, your laughter lingering in brain's burrows
                         Bow, chisle, paint my hours with your baby beauties
                            As my life becomes a love lullaby
                                 Just for you.

                      Wombless waif I wonder in the marvel that you have
                            delivered me, birthed me
                                  given me life.

Time has towed us, heart to heart, into this present moment where life's middle and end meet. What an honor to have had such a magnificent traveling companion. I love you Eric. Happy Birthday!





Tuesday, July 18, 2017

That Inevitable Rowing

Something peculiar began on the day the last digit in my age flipped from 9 to 0. Like a door opening to a vast vault, my journey changed. What had previously stretched forward like a malleable ribbon from day to day was transformed into a shortened matchstick, the inevitable burning out waiting at it's end. In truth, nothing had changed. The book of "me" read the same from cover to cover, memories good bad and transformative inhabited it's pages. Only the eye of the writer had shifted, narrowing into that myoptic lense of geriatric vision which seeks to devour every new opportunity with a cloak of mortality. An uninvited intruder had entered my mind, visiting often in the darkness of lonely nights. A would be thief armed with his trade tools of fear and doubt, ready to steal my confidence and peace of mind. Emily Dickinson named the thief that "awful rowing towards God".

I am startled by the visage that greets me in a passing mirror or window, my mind does not immediately own the face recognition technology to register the image as "me". Last weekend was alumni reunion for Sidney High School where I graduated in the Class of"65. My sweet, lifelong best friend send me messages and photos because I did not attend the 70th Birthday Celebration of my fellow classmates. That "thief" had managed to capture, as hostage, the courage that would have allowed me to drive the 6 hours through the city and mountains of upstate New York alone. There they were, arriving through cyberspace to greet me. Some felt like strangers in the flat 2D of my screen, devoid of the personal cellular recognition that activates when we meet in person, flesh to flesh, still sharing the oars in that common boat.

There were catalysts igniting my present shift. Two years ago in July my adult best friend left to reside in that ethereal place towards which I row. With a shocking suddenness my daughter-in-law's mom left in December. We had shared the daily babysitting for my grandaughter and suddenly I was the lone Grandma filling that space.. With the precision of a double edged sword, my greatest joy,  sharing Lina's days, had become a haunting, ever present reminder that I had inherited my joy through another's loss.

The mantra of living in the moment has become greater than an abstract idea. I feel the teeming life around me in more vivid hues.Days cannot end withour the reflection of the multitude of miracles I've shared through the vision of a 4 year old. A day ending anywhere but on the beach watching the sunset is a wasted day .I choose to row the length of this journey awake. I did not choose to row it alone.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ezra

It was a cold Thursday morning and the few falling snowflakes held an air of anticipation suitably matching my emotionally charged state of mind. I was awaiting the phone call that would forever change my life title to Grandma. I had driven to school and was awaiting my first period choral rehearsal when my phone rang. An excited Eric informed me that you had crossed that unknown curtain between worlds at 9:08 a.m. now travelling in that cuddly 7lbs. 8 oz. vehicle that would be your transportation while on planet earth. I could not contain myself, telling everyone I saw including my chorus of 25 High School students. The eternity of 1st period ended and I made my way through the snowflakes to the Principal's office to arrange for a sub for Friday. He was an angel of a man who really cared for his "family". Upon hearing the news he spoke words I will never forget, "What are you doing here? This is one of the most special days of your life". Frank, who had just become a grandfather himself, picked up the phone and dialed reservations at the Cross Island Ferry in Port Jefferson making a spot for me on the next ferry to Bridgeport, Conn. "Hurry now and don't miss it" he said kissing me on the cheek. Little did I then know that he was harboring a secret of the immanent closing of the institution for which he cared so much. Two weeks later we were all jobless.

You were a mere 4 hours old when I first held you in my arms. The first phrase of the story we would write together had begun. Only 14 miles of ocean separated us then. I saw you almost every weekend and had resurrected an old nursery at my house. On days that I took the ferry to see you in Stamford we would take long, cold walks with you bundled in the old pram I had saved from your Dad's infancy. There was a bench in the park near the Connecticut River where I told you long stories about the things I loved, the beach, the squirrels and birds and then the piano. I clearly remembered touching your tiny fingers and telling you how magical it felt to touch a field of black and white keys capable of recreating vast waves of human ecstasy and agony that your innocence was yet to experience. Today those tiny fingers have grown to dwarf mine both in stature and in mastery of the great pianistic works that were composed for them. The great wheel which spawns the cosmic harmonies has spun full circle enabling us to share a language which knows no boundaries of age, two souls on fire with a common love clothed in black and ivory.

On that day in the third month of your life when the miles between us grew from 14 to over 1,400 it was that wordless language of music which would continue to write our familial saga. My first grandchild, child of my soul, we can never be far from each other as long as the music plays on. I love you, Ezra. Happy Fifteenth Birthday.



















Monday, December 14, 2015

The" Peck, Peck" Tree

I freely admit to being an outdoors woman. I live on my deck as long as weather makes it possible, and sometimes longer, adorn sandals until November and try to never miss a meteor shower or the first snowfall of the season. An eternal childlike wonder calls me towards the beach at sunset. Until recently, I mostly savored these gifts of the earth in a solitary state then Grace gifted me with a granddaughter.

My son and his family lived in a century old house which rested on a huge, treed property bounded by seas of ivy and a plethora of tiny forest creatures and birds. For the past two years, Lina and I have explored this fairylike habitat where everything is a newborn revelation. We charted the comings and goings of Mrs. Squirrel and Mr. Woodpecker, an occasional squeaky mouse and an armada of fireflies.

An ancient soul lies within this little girl. It has not forgotten that all is a mystery waiting to be discovered. I had been given a likeminded companion in my later years, someone who was as excited as I to go outside and look at the full moon on a crispy December night. A partner who loves the sound of crinkling, dry leaves under her feet and the slow, soothing motion of the yard swing's rhythmic accompaniment against a background of the pointillism of nature's autumnal brush.

A gnarled old tree stands in the middle of the massive front yard. It is Mr. Woodpecker's home and bears an odyssey of his lifetime foraging for the small insects who live, in symbiosis, there. Lina, one day on a trek by the tree discovered these many little holes and began to repeat "peck, peck" announcing her discovery of his many victorious foraging's. Lina had owned and named the tree with an eloquence bearing witness to the recognition and subsequent naming of the fox by Guy De Maupassant's Petit Prince. Homage now had to be daily bestowed upon the tree.
 
I hate change with the same passion that I love nature. In late November it became necessary for my son and his little family to move to a larger house nearby. A house with a similar lineage but without the palatial yard where Lina and I had been discovering and naming her world. I will admit that I was grieving it's loss and the change it would have on my daily experiences with Lina. The naissance of a new relationship was encased within that property. As moving day approached we visited all our treasured haunts and creatures. Of course childhood protects little one's from the nostalgia of the adult world but I was experiencing separation anxiety. On moving day Lina and I ventured outside acting as sentries observing the moving process. Our last vigil was by the "Peck, Peck Tree". She showed her teddy bear "Pete" a few choice pecking holes and demanded that I do the same for my Bear "Panda" who has become Pete's companion. My heart was breaking at the impending loss of our palace, her ancient heart opened wide with childhood's miraculous marveling. Together we will find new wonders to cherish and explore.
 
 





























Friday, October 3, 2014

The Wheels On The Bus

The Wheels On The Bus

As I sit on my deck midst the aging trees, relishing morning coffee, the familiar roar of the big yellow school bus Dopplers past and its yellow splash coordinates with the first autumnal bursts of color in the woods. A familiar nostalgia sours towards my heart as my cells calibrate the 30 some years which have passed since the birth of my youngest son on this October day. I used to call the bus the"Yellow Dragon", a benign monster who daily carried my little boys into a world of experiences, some good some bad, over which I had no control. Today this drama replicates with a new generation of neighborhood little boys riding above the wheels on the yellow bus.

Without my permission, life fast forwards writing a script unconsciously fashioned, some of it good, some unwanted, exclusively mine.

My fifteen month old granddaughter and I have a ritual we indulge in on my babysitting day. After donning little shoes on little feet we make our way to the aging porch of the Victorian house on the hill where she lives with my youngest son, her Daddy, and her mom.We make homage to the resident Daddy Long Legs and Mr. Buddha in the garden and our ritual can begin. We sit and watch for the miracle of her day, the appearance of the yellow school bus.

If there be a God and he fashions gifts for His charges on earth, surely one of those gifts is the honor of grand mothering. Bearing witness to the everyday minutia which is transformed from the commonplace to the miraculous through the eyes of a little child her warm, soft little legs swing from my lap as the world goes by. We label that world with names like squirrel, cardinal and "fly aways". Daily the list grows as does she. The crowning moment of the celebration arrives with the roar of changing gears as the great yellow bus grinds up the hill in front of our cathedral amongst the trees, She squeals and clenches her fists in a divine delight as the bus passes on its way to the school at the top of the hill. As perfect as sacrament, her degree of astonishment upon the arrival of the great yellow dragon never wanes. Her glee washes my heart anew with love each time too.

And the wheels on the bus continue to go round and round, all through the town.






Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moral Compass




Moral Compass?

It is a question which increasingly keeps me awake at night.  What force of nature causes the flipping of the poles of the human moral compass? Do the internal tectonics, eroded by discompassionate acts, gradually slip into dissonance or are some humans born with some magnetic abnormality which cleaves toward blackness rather than the light?

The bright, young alleged Boston Bombers are a case in point. News stories abound with theories about what decay in moral standards allowed two brothers, full of promise to turn to the dark side. When did that frightening egress into evil transpire? A transition powerful enough to spawn righteous beliefs in mass murder.

I have witnessed this erosion of human values and respect. I need look no farther than my own backyard. My neighbor, of at least 20 years, yesterday destroyed what  was left of my fence which separates our property line. I left for several hours and came home to the towering piles of trees that used to live several houses down on our street. A forklift was depositing them over what is left of my fence. It has been a long saga of petty vandalism and an errant tree which I removed at my expense. I have tried to remain true to my own moral compass which, I think, values compassion, kindness and respect for human life. The stone Buddha and Namaste sign in Sanskrit at my front door seem to be no match for the selfishness and moral righteousness of my neighbors. Rational requests for a ceasing of destruction have yielded only angry, demeaning outbursts.

Last week I engaged in a furtive search to find replacement slats for the split rail fence which had been in place since the infancy of my youngest, curiosity seeking son. I had abandoned the hope of promised repair by the people who had damaged it and decided that I could, and would, fix it myself. It was fun.  I had envisioned exactly what I would have to do to transport and install the new slats and how nice it would look even against the disgusting backdrop of trash and brush that had been piled against it. My moral compass even allowed me to believe that it would spur my neighbors to clean up their mess.

Sadly, I let the darkness in and yesterday, as my neighbor and 3 workmen stood laughing at me, I let slip a barrage of most un- Zenlike profanity. Yes I am sorry for giving voice to what should have never entered my mind. Is this an indication that my own moral compass has been swayed from true North? I hope not.




Friday, November 23, 2012

A Seasonal Saga

Today is "Black Friday". The post Thanksgiving celebration has begun. Pagan parades of greedy shoppers trek towards a materialistic mecca, armed with the belief that a sale will buy the indulgence of salvation and a transient high. Or, for those of us bitten by the seasonal spirit of verdant green, it is the day to begin the quest for the perfect Christmas Tree.

Many seasons ago, when my boys were small, we began a tradition of heading eastward towards that one special tree which we knew was waiting for us in the woods of the East End. I think I even composed little extemporaneous songs about a little tree yearning for the perfect family. Well, the perfect family, we weren't.
We were slowly going from poor to destitute and one Christmas, in particular, has become a family legend of sorts.

Over the years the designer trees of the North Fork had risen beyond our lumberjack coffers and miraculously, not wanting to abandon tradition, I had discovered a little Greek woman who lived right on25a in Wading River. She and her husband had a small grove of pine trees which they offered for cutting and sale for a mere pittance. I think they just loved seeing the little families come and select their treasures. There were candy canes and hugs for the kids, exclamations about how they had grown. It was pure Christmas nirvana and it fit my dwindling budget.

As the Christmas of family legend approached the three of us bundled up and headed out towards Wading River where, we trusted, our perfect Christmas Tree had been waiting all year. This was a really lean year. My light blue Chevy Cavalier station wagon was aging, it's stick shift refusing to go into reverse. For weeks I had been driving back and forth from Riverhead to work praying that I would not get into a situation which required backing up because, it just wasn't possible. Much to my chagrin in remembering this tale ,we had even been adopted by a large insurance agency as their Christmas Family. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it was snowing lightly. Perfectly festive. I pulled into the Greek lady's crescent driveway and we paid her our $5. It was evident that she too, had fallen on hard times. Her husband had passed away during the spring. The lawn was not mowed and a gutter was hanging mournfully from the garage roof. Even sadder, however was the poor, scraggly collection of trees left in the grove. Charlie Brown's tree was a Tiffany jewel in comparison to these. I heard "Mom, these trees stink" and raised a hushing finger to protect our aging friend. "We have to pick one, I admonished so it's your call. Which one do you want?"

We made the default selection just as it really began to snow. That thick, wet stuff that sticks and builds up fast on the roads. The rust encrusted saw that my father had given me years ago made the cut and panting and freezing we began to drag the tree back towards the station wagon. We tied it to the top of the Chevy and thanked Mrs. M  for the candy canes. "Merry Christmas!" We trolled. And then it struck me like a ton of ice. I couldn't back up!

There was but one solution. Eric, who was 13 and the eldest got behind the wheel with Ethan, his younger 6 year old brother manning the passenger seat. I put the car in neutral and showed Eric which pedals to step on as I took my position in front ,wedged between the garage door and the bumper, ready to push the car into a position where I could steer it onto 25a. Elbow grease ready I yelled "Okay Eric, step on the brake." He queried, always a little obsessive compulsive about doing things the right way "Which pedal is it, Mom" to which his brother answered "It's the long one stupid". The gears slipped, and well, you get the picture. Some piece of Grace saved me from being  forever one with that garage door beneath the one armed crucifix of the hanging gutter. We changed places and the boys righted the position of the car with me at the helm. I wish this saga stopped here and we travelled Westward home, but it didn't.

Once out on the highway it was evident that seasonal had turned to treacherous. The car slipped and slid and suddenly there was a flying swatch of verdant green and a sickening thud. The tree had gotten lose and was scattering traffic in all directions. I stopped the car by the side of the road and while laughter and tears shared the same breath space, stopped traffic and retrieved our tree from its snowy grave in the middle of 25a. "What are we going to do now, Mommy," my little one cried. "We're going to shove it into the car and take her home" I cried. The three of us shoved the poor, spindly, bedraggled tree into the back of the station wagon and, in 3rd gear, it was Westward Ho!

Act III of this saga proceeds as such.  I drive Eric to our church in Mt. Sinai for his JPF meeting and Ethan and I proceed to drag the tree into the house and attempt to make it stand erect. The magnificent mockery of a tree is at least 3 feet too tall for our living room and after sawing , pruning and pulling it erect Ethan offers with great mockery "Mom, this tree REALLY stinks." "Isn't that the truth" I reply and we promptly give our tree a "home" complete with stand, in the front yard where we will later trim it for the birds, and go to the nursery around the corner where I  use plastic to pay for a perfect tree, cut by some lumberjack who knows his trade.

Will I cut my own tree again this year? The season is early and that remains to be seen.