Archive for ‘Way Back Machine’

The Poetics of Reverie

August 13th, 2016

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“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event”
― Gaston Bachelard

I borrowed the title of this post from one of my favorite writers, French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, because that’s what I feel I’m in the midst of right now. I’m on the 67th day and the second notebook of writing down 100 childhood memories, a project I’ve embarked on with a faraway writer friend, a project that has no purpose, no lofty goal, no intended outcomes. The memories themselves are not as important as the side roads they take me down. I find myself drawing diagrams of the house where my soul was sheltered and nurtured and maps of the small town I grew up in. The rudimentary maps I dash off lead me to want more detail, more annotating of sacred spaces where insights or illuminations or wounds occurred. Some days I wish I had a whole wall on which to draw that map. Here is where we gathered bittersweet and milkweed pods. This country road is where I lost my virginity in an old blue Chevy. This fireplace is where my brothers and I huddled the day my father abandoned us. Here is the creek that would one day flood and drown two of my cousins on the same day. Just down the road is the old church where the farmers stood around outside in their clean white shirts and Sunday trousers while the women and children worshipped inside. This field is where I rode the hay wagon with my grandfather and ate sugar and butter sandwiches that my grandmother packed in a brown paper sack. I’m swimming backwards in time, and I need a map to lead me to all the forgotten memories and names and scars. A map that exists in child time, that never changes, where the brick schoolhouse has not yet been demolished, a Walmart is still in the future and I am always on the verge of becoming.

On Being Ordinary

July 13th, 2015

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Is it just my imagination, or is everyone extraordinary these days? Innovative, visionary, simply amazing. We’re all trying to have the most Likes, the most Retweets, the most Friends. To have our blogs optioned for books. To lead memoir-worthy lives. To have our videos go viral. It’s not enough to knit our days together with simple things like calling friends, taking a walk, noticing sunsets, admiring clouds that will never come again just so, loving Fridays, making bread without taking its picture, learning something without the need to be the best at it, honoring beautiful boring dailiness. No. We must be Commented on, gold-starred, entrepreneurial, singled out, TED-talked. We crave recognition. It’s our designer drug. I’m not immune to the addiction, but I try to remember what life was like when I was not instantly uploading it, sharing it, starring in it. When information didn’t substitute for inspiration. When the moment at dinner when our minds clicked over wine was more indelible than the Instagram of that moment. When the full moon was the whole show, not the photo that proved we saw it. When life just unfolded before our eyes without being curated.

Love’s Song

December 23rd, 2014

This video is a mashup of Darlene Love’s appearances singing “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home” on the Letterman show every holiday for almost 30 years. This year was the last one for this tradition, but it’s a total treat to watch her belt it out over the years, with the last one just as strong and joyous as the first. What a song, what a voice, what a woman!

 

Friday Night in Fridaville

April 28th, 2013

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I’d forgotten how a Friday night alone feeds me with something I can’t get in a bar or restaurant. Tonight, I made a bison burger and slaw from scratch. Added a couple of glasses of Malbec and an all-Sinatra playlist and I could feel my soul curl up like a cat in a patch of sunlight. Alone but not lonely. Remembering but not regretting. Sometimes it feels as if I rushed through my life, with one crisis or passion or loss piling onto another so fast that I couldn’t stop to assimilate them. But when there’s no work or man or worry to distract me, all the ghosts come to the campfire. The ones I loved, the ones who slipped through my fingers, the ones I struggled with, the ones I didn’t fully appreciate, the ones I never made amends with — their stories elbow me, demanding attention, asking for someone to remember them. I have a barely born hope that their stories will begin to come through me someday.

The Encyclopedia Man

October 8th, 2010

I’ve been reliving so many sad memories this week that I couldn’t help smiling when The Encyclopedia Salesman popped up in my mournful trek backwards in time. It was around 1970 and my husband had decided he didn’t want to be married anymore, leaving me at 27 with three kids (2, 3 and 5), tiny child support and zero self confidence in a city where I didn’t have any family or many friends. I only had a high school education at that time, so to make extra money, I babysat for other people’s kids. And there were plenty around. We lived in a row of rental townhouses, which were crawling with mothers who needed babysitters so they could go to work. I was too broke and beaten down by my marriage to be able to afford my own babysitter or go out, so there I was, no prospects for the future (except I was no longer being beaten and brow-beaten by my ex) and no experience of the dating world or the world at all. I had spent my marriage pregnant and passive, so being on my own was intoxicating and frightening. One summer night at dinner time, there was a knock on the front door, and there he stood–The Encyclopedia Man. Young and good-looking in a sleazy, Urban Cowboy, I-could-have-a-disease kind of way and of course, a smooth talker. He was working for one of those companies that hauled young people from town to town and dropped them off in neighborhoods to fan out and sell magazines or encyclopedias, picking them up at the end of the night and moving on. Even though I told him I was broke and there was no chance in hell of selling me anything, he talked his way into the apartment, ate dinner with us, waited til the kids went to bed and then seduced me on the living room floor. My first sexual experience after my husband left. And it was good, simply because it was illicit, crazy and impersonal. I refused to tell him my name, but he got my number off the front of the wall phone and used to call me occasionally “Person-to-Person to person.” I never saw him again, never wanted to and freaked out about it so much later that I got tested for VD…the only thing you had to worry about in those days. It was still the leftover age of love, I was a hippie and it never occurred to me that he might kill me, cut me or beat me up. So young and dumb. I have a lot of regrets and sorrow about relationships with men that I cared about, but none at all about The Encyclopedia Salesman. He made me feel beautiful, sexy and primal after being knocked around and put down by my husband for 10 years. It was one time in my life that I followed my instincts without worrying about the outcome or fantasizing about true love or making it into more than it was. It was only later, when I started falling in love with the men I slept with, that Trouble knocked on my door, stayed for dinner and refused to leave until nothing was left but bones.

Begin with Red

September 4th, 2010

The cushy lining of the uterus. The angry cry at being pulled loose. My favorite story of Little Red Riding Hood and the shivery feeling I get when the wolf steps into her path. Hell fire where I will probably end up unless I’m saved, which I am a dozen times at the altar of my youth by a trumpet-playing preacher. Twelve  years old and yearning to be swept off my feet by Jesus. Until I meet David when I’m 13 and wearing a red dress and red shoes the first day of high school and he is leaning, lanky and broad-shouldered,  against the wall checking out the new girls in the freshman class. “Hi, Red,” he says. And that’s how it begins.

Goodnight Moon

August 20th, 2010

I read today that the moon is shrinking and that Barnes & Noble is up for sale. I know there are more urgent problems in the world (like Sarah Palin’s shrinking IQ and expanding ego being in charge of our future), but I just cannot handle a diminished moon and no shelves of books to lose myself in on a Sunday afternoon. We’ve  already lost handwritten letters, and printing out emails for posterity doesn’t have the same feel without the eccentric handwriting, different textures of paper, colorful stamps. I have a cigar box with a bundle of pale blue airmail love letters written by two different men from two different countries in a long-ago summer, and they still exude a bit of moonlight and wantonness when I come across them and open the lid. So I don’t want to think of the moon forever waning or sexting replacing love letters or books becoming museum exhibits — even though I’m the most gadget-crazy person I know. I still need the mystery of love and mysteries published on paper and a moon so full and ripe it renders me speechless with awe.

Sign of Times Past

April 9th, 2010

I love this pedestrian crossing sign near my house because it reminds me of the illustrations in the reading books we used to have in grade school, back when men went to work and women wore stockings and sensible pumps to  shop for dinner. The man on this sign is carrying a briefcase and escorting a woman who is carrying a purse. I guess you could also interpret this as a mom wearing a pantsuit and escorting her daughter, who’s carrying a lunchbox, but that’s kind of a stretch. I prefer to see a couple crossing the street to get a house loan from Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life at the Bailey Building and Loan Association. Or maybe Robert Young and Jane Wyatt going to pick up Kitten from school or get Bud out of a jam in Father Knows Best. Every time I pass it, I feel like I’ve time-traveled back to a simpler, sweeter time, a fantasy of the paperdoll functional family I never had.

I’m an April Fool

April 1st, 2010

Fourteen years ago today, I was in a hospital room waiting to be operated on for some unidentified foreign object in my lung. I woke up packed in ice with a chest tube and pump to be told by my surgeon that  based on the biopsy they’d done during the operation, I had cancer. Bad news, right? But wait! After a few days of doped-up terror, an in-depth biopsy came back showing I did indeed have cancer but it was a “benign” kind called a carcenoid tumor. No treatment required except follow-up xrays–yay! For years, though, I lived with a kind of survivor guilt, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Why was I so fortunate while other people I knew hadn’t been? After all, I hadn’t done anything to deserve that close that second chance. Recently I’ve come to accept that there’s simply no answer to why the Universe played an April Fool’s joke on me and let me go with just a lucky horseshoe scar stretching around my ribs and under my breast. A reminder not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but instead to whisper “thank you” in its ear.

Empty Chairs

January 6th, 2010

When I go back home, the people and places I knew are like the heat shimmers on an August road. Something you think you can touch it until you get right up on it and then it vanishes. My mother, my husband, my son, all my grandparents, my sweet cousin, all my greataunts and greatuncles. My first love. My mother and father in law. All my aunts but one. The second cousins, the spinsters and distant branches of family whose names I can’t even remember. Best friends. Boyfriends who broke my heart. Teachers. The old brick school building in the center of town. The erasers I cleaned after class. The sounds of basketball games in the gym that no longer exists. The wrist corsages and back seats. The smell of Sunday dinner and reading the funny papers in front of the fire at my grandmother’s house. Summer afternoon shadows.