Musing on Musing
Fill In the Blanks...
Suspicious stories. Impeccable stories. Love stories. Stories set in stone. Fevered stories. High-pitched stories. Floor after floor after floor of groundbreaking skyscraper stories.
Some are short, bitterly sweet, barely a breath in and out, just long enough for a lifetime. Some stories are long and windy, tenderly related by a crackling fire, a generational inheritance. Some stories rise quickly and fall fast, breathless, wind knocked out of, world weary chapters shouldered alone.
Some stories start slowly and aimlessly wander until at last the bungled beginning evolves into a stirring ascent and a soaring finish. Some stories teem with character, honesty and truth. Some stories are too big for their breaches of faith and falsehood.
Some stories are so insistent they itch to be told and demand details, definition and dedication. Some stories wait and must be carried far afield until the words manifest themselves in their own time. Some stories are plain and true. Some stories are loud and boisterous affairs that resonate only from the stage and with a sold-out audience on their feet demanding an encore. Some stories move from ear to ear embellished in time after time over time. Some stories are soft, touchable and serene. Some stories are flawed remembrances, carelessly cataloged.
Some stories are confessions offered in hope for redemption.
Some stories are songs that must be sung from a mountaintop,
to echo in the valley.
Some stories are promises of a yet to be published novel.
Some stories are epilogs, summations of effort.
Some stories are worn like badges awarded for bravery.
Some stories are sermons, ponderous and pounding.
Some stories are vagabonds, traipsing and traveling.
Some stories are practical straightforward efficient.
Some stories end with happily ever after.
Some stories end dignified by the sweetness of mercy.
Some stories end abruptly, loose ends dangling sadly.
Some stories come to their own conclusions.
Whatever your life, your story...you write it. Others may try to write their own adaptations, follow up with footnotes or fill in the blanks that lapses in memory may erase.
Your stories and mine are quite simply...ours...to tell. A beginning, a middle and an end, choreographed step by step, by our own footprints made through the act of artful living.
In the days to come, I will tell you my stories. What you will find, I hope, is how your stories, each and every one, fill my pages.
My garden pages.
Because this is how it all began...
I wrote down my stories...
then you came and told me yours...
As we move through our lives, and lose our beloved historical partners, often we begin to question if what we recall is myth or memory. Tell your stories now, while you still have a few friendly editors to keep your life in full perspective.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Running Out of Options
May Help You See
I was a bride.
He was a groom.
We drove away from the church. On our way to a new life as one. We ignored the omen. As the preacher introduced us to the congregation, he hailed us as Mr. and Mrs. Lang. That is NOT our surname. People in the pews howled. We looked at one another. Well now.
On the way to our wedding night hotel, we had a fight. I lost the directions. In the parking lot, I grabbed my suitcase and mumbled something snarky. He did too. Our reservations for our wedding dinner mysteriously misplaced, meant we only had champagne to consume until 11 PM. It was now 5 PM. At 5:35 PM my mother called to see how we were doing. Another obnoxious ominous omen.
We sat glowering and inebriated on the balcony.
The next morning, we loaded my '65 Buick Skylark and hooked the UHaul, loaded with all our worldly possessions, to the bumper. On to Dallas. Our new home.
Tears, no, make that sobs, of good-bye. That was me.
A sigh. That was him.
The first day out. The car overheated.
The second day out. The car spewed vapor. We came to a rolling stop. We stood on the side of the road in pouring rain until the car cooled down enough to drive. We pulled into a garage in a strange city, late at night. We left our car and our UHaul, with all our worldly possessions, in a gas station. Two very non-charming and somewhat disreputable looking men, announced we had a cracked block, locked up our car in their garage and gave us a ride to a similarly non-charming and disreputable motel. They, smilingly, drove away into the night with our car keys jangling in their pockets. That night I told Mr. Lang I made a mistake. I, Mrs. Lang, wanted out. I wanted to go home. Trouble was I had no where to go and no way to get there.
Many many many hundreds of dollars of our precious wedding stash later, we returned to the road.
For about an hour. The car overheated once again. We pulled over onto the shoulder and stood drenched in the drizzle. I cried. He swore. I sneezed. He coughed. A state trooper stopped. He took one look under the hood and swiped his finger across his throat in the universal sign that translates into "This car is toast."
It was the fourth of July. Nothing. Nothing was open. No one to help. We waited for the car to cool, then followed the trooper out to a rural area and pulled into the gravel driveway of a local farm. The farmer was good with cars. Just not today. He would put our car and the UHaul in his barn overnight. We could pick it up in the morning. The trooper drove us into Joplin. On the edge of town. A U shaped motel. He dropped us off. Our room was teeny with a tiny TV, one station, with no picture, only sound. Both of us were sick. Neither of us wanted to walk to the office to ask for the toilet paper for the empty spool in the tiniest bathroom.
He went. I refused. We fell into bed exhausted.
We did not sleep long.
Bombs began bursting outside our front door. No, amend that. Multiple explosions followed by the loud roars and oohs and aahs of a crowd. We inched the door open. During our ten minutes of slumber, bleachers were erected, crowds had assembled and fireworks prevailed. We were in the midst of Fourth of July revelry at its finest.
Broke, tapped out, sick and crabby,
the anonymous Mr. and Mrs. Lang simply shut the door.
Morning light. Our friend the trooper picked us up and hauled us out to the farm. There, a generous soul, our farmer/garage mechanic/ guardian angel handed us a bill for $10. No cracked block. Never was. No mysterious automotive ailment. A plugged radiator. Needed a little flush. A bit of TLC.
We shook hands with the trooper,
hugged the farmer and headed down the road.
We lost all of our wedding money. We almost lost our sanity. We could have lost our possessions. My mother could have called. Instead, we arrived in Dallas. Unloaded boxes.
And Mr. Lang, handkerchief in hand, headed off to work.
I sat in the middle of the living room and cried, until I found a picture of us.
Before the wedding.
Standing together and laughing.
And I knew, right then, that one day soon,
we would look back and do that again...stand together and laugh.
Again and again and again.
...Because that was the part,
back at the church,
that came out just right.
The promise. Not I do. We do. Promise. For better or worse.
Better is the easy part.
It's standing in the rain together that is the glue.
I was stuck.
So was he.
Mr. and Mrs. What Was Their Name?
'Til death do us part.
The moral of the story:
It's not what you have..it's who...
oh and be sure to check under the hood once in awhile
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Crossing the threshold..
Your Way Home
My first home was the Chateau Hotel. Specifically, a one bedroom hotel room shared with my two older brothers and my parents. The front of the building stood separated from the sidewalk by a low stone wall and was shaded by a wide green awning. In its day, the hotel must have been a grand place to spend the night. Across the street, the remains of what was once a fancy nightclub stood lit by the black blinking neon outline of a large top hat and a lobster.
I have only two memories of my three years in the hotel. One is my own recollection, the other, shared. The first, me standing behind the low stone wall as a Great Dane lurched from its leash and lunged dangerously near. My mother pulled me into the safety of her arms and leaped onto the rock ledge. I was terrified of dogs for many years after that one instance. I stuck with goldfish.
The second remembrance is more poignant. My Dad told me that the day my mother announced she was pregnant with me, he walked across the Wabash Avenue bridge, hiked up one leg and prepared to jump. He didn't. He decided to take a chance on me, and with a prayer in his heart, headed for home. It was not until both of my parents passed that I found some old receipts and the stubs of their welfare checks.
When I was four, our situation had improved enough for us to move into our own apartment across town. We took a cab, in the middle of the night, with my goldfish sloshing in a milk carton, held close to my chest. Our new home was a two bedroom, one bath apartment with a kitchen, living room, dining room and a large backyard porch with a pull up and down bamboo shade. I can, at this moment, close my eyes and walk through each and every room as though time has never passed.
There were nine units in all. To our upper right, an Italian immigrant family and to their right, a family from Poland whose grandmother had just arrived from Latvia, a heartbeat before the Iron Curtain slammed shut.
In the farthest corner, an elderly lady lived in the basement unit, her windows level with the alley outside. We all knew one another. With no air conditioning, we sat on our porches side by side. Some nights, the air filled with the aroma of all day simmering meatballs and sauce. We would wait patiently for the small wave, signaling come and get it.
Occasionally, as I passed through the small yard, grandma Latvia would peek out from under her babushka and smile shyly at me. She spent hours on that porch, just standing, staring and smiling. The only English word I ever heard her say was...free.
Often, when the flooding spring rains poured down, we all pulled on our rubber boots, waded through a foot or so of standing water in the little basement apartment, gaping at the torrent rushing through the seams of the casement windows. We would haul out the furniture and rugs, spread them to dry on the sidewalk in the sun, then return it all to its former, though now damp, space. The apartment always wore a soft mildewed fragrance, but what I remember most was the look of peace that would settle over its tenant's face, when all had been restored to its rightful place.
I moved on to college and shared rooms once again. I did not have my own apartment until I graduated and began teaching. Next, marriage and a series of apartments, as we moved across the country. I was in my late twenties when we bought our first house. It was wonderful and scary all at the same time. My parents never lived together in a house of their own, though as children they had. I, on the other hand, had no frame of reference. No landlord to call when the pipes froze. No neighbors making a comforting racket of proximity through a shared wall.
I loved that house. It sheltered us through storms, welcomed us home for the few moments between work and the nightly shuttle off to graduate school. We filled the house with the furniture we bought the first year we were married. Everything, sofas, chairs, tables, beds, we bought at a tiny store in Dallas for $400.
I smile now at the memory, as I can hear the echoes of that house. I think too of how fear nipped at my heels. The frightening awareness that someone could come and take everything away if we missed a payment or lost a job. There were days, when I too, thought of the almost me tugging at my father's sleeve on the edge of the bridge.
Yet, somehow we made it through. That's not to say we were lucky. We worked hard. We were blessed. Not by the four walls that surrounded us, or the knicks and the knacks we acquired along the way. Like my father before me, many hands held us steady...our neighbors, our family, our friends.
Imagine that no matter which hemisphere, continent, or country you or I call home, we are all sitting on the porch, leaning over the railing, ready to offer a hand, a smile, a greeting, as we all look up at the night sky and see our reflections in the twinkling of the stars.
Whether you are married or single, alone or beside, no matter how simple or elaborate the space you hold dear, it is temporary, a rental if you will.
We all have a landlord.
We will always have a home.
You will always be my neighbor.
For a home is where everyone is welcome and the door is always open.
Home is the place, the space
with the needlepoint
on the mantle
Love lives here.
You are the night light on the porch
that leads me home through the dark.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I have a cold. An irrational and ridiculous retreat from relentless heat. It is one hundred and fifty-five degrees outside with a heat index of three hundred and twenty-five. I could sear a rump roast on concrete. I could sizzle bacon on the sidewalk. I think I saw a camel lumbering across the arid plain behind my house. I have a fever. I could be hallucinating. From my fevered view, all is withered, shriveled and parched. Wait, that was my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
But, alas, my pots are huddled under the shade of the patio umbrella and they are wilting. Curled around the edges. First too much sun and now not enough. Me too.
One thousand degrees, I know it is one thousand degrees outside, and here I sit shivering, tucked up in bed, wearing flannel pajama pants and socks. Socks! Oh, and a sweater. Sans make up, I sit amid piles of wadded up Kleenex, sequestered and surrounded by CD's, magazines, three novels, a stack of unfinished blog pages, my laptop, two legal pads and a pen, none of which is currently in use.
I am a melodramatic, medically challenged, meandering, malingerer.
Bedraggled. Dilapidated. Lackluster. Pallid, frail and infirm.
A limp, loose, unbecoming recluse.
I am an overly seasoned highly peppered sneeze sanctuary. Be glad you are THERE and I am HERE.
The truth is I am glad I am here. I have not had a summer cold in the past five years. An amazing record. A significant lapse in a perfect run of luck.
What I prefer to call this situation is a climatic catharsis.
A respite from reality.
A cooling off period.
A state of grace.
Coiffed in my bedhead hairdo, I melt into the malaise and it is good. Not to be perfect. Not to be even close to perfection. Rather, to meld into the mess and moan. Now, before this becomes too maudlin, even for my own taste, this is just a cold. I know that people. Akin to a stubbed toe or a pulled muscle in the total scheme of things. But...
....there is nothing wrong with giving in. Not giving up. Just giving in. Sometimes, and I know you women out there can relate, I try to do too much. Manage too much. Care too much. Worry too much. The fact that my inner sanctum is covered in "stuff I should really be doing", tells you more about me than I actually want you to know. But it's okay, 'cause I know that you do it too. Take care of others first and lovingly accept the leftovers. Serve up the good stuff and gnaw on the charred chicken wing.
So here's the deal. Perfection doesn't exist. Anywhere. That's a good thing. Like a new car. The first dent always makes me feel better. Just a tiny ding, and I feel myself relax. Or the appearance of little crow's feet, around the eyes, a signal of aging, yes, but also a symbol of smiling. Wide-eyed foolish grins.
To seek solace is an indulgence. A soothing, selfish, effort to ease into equilibrium. To mend. To repair. Restore and refresh.
It is as simple as pressing the Pause button. For yourself. And if you cannot do it for yourself, just wait, and life will intrude and Achoo you into acceptance. Once, even, as I was barreling through town on a mission, with too much on my mind, too many places to be and too little time, a tree fell on my car. An entire tree. Out of nowhere. On a windless sky blue day. For no reasonable reason. I stopped. I had to. Tree branches riddled the roof of my Jeep. I looked up and I swear I saw a wink. A tiny, barely perceptible wink I would never have seen unless a tree stalked me.
So do yourself a favor. Cozy up and take a break. Fill a bowl with ice cream. Snuggle in with the remote and your favorite ratty old robe. Give perfect a rest. Hush. Sing yourself a lullaby.
The prodigal child in you will return,
just as sure as the weather will break...
This prodigal will return as soon as my fever breaks.