17th Anniversary

on staying married

17th Anniversary

I met Ralph when we were seventeen, in a church. At a word from my mother I shifted and looked back to see him at the head of the aisle; his head was turned. He had a long lean body and tousled red hair and thrillingly alternative sideburns and he was easily handsome. He had expressive hands; he was a drummer. It’s rather incredible I can remember this to the day, how I felt.

Night Drive

believe

Night Drive

We are in for several  months of absolutely stunning, perfect weather. We’ve had nothing but sunshine and warmth, and delicious soft rains. The daylight lasts well past nine PM and I’m taken back to my childhood and how much I loved those late twilights. During the blue and white, perfect daylight the life springs from the soil and everywhere the scent of green grass and blooms; the peonies we brought in to fill a vase are startlingly redolent with a heady scent. Everything is in bloom and the hot earth is panting and giving forth greenery. It’s beautiful here; I live by the mountains and by the sea. I may travel but I would have such a difficult time living anywhere else.

My youngest son has become irascible and peevish in this last half a year. I’ve parented long enough to not worry too much, But I don’t ignore those kinds of things either: children need interventions when things aren’t going well, when they are struggling. Tonight I made an offhand comment and he took offense; this is happening with relative frequency of late. He comes in the bedroom and lays down next to me I do not say all the things the adults in my life used to say to me. I don’t tell him he has a bad attitude or he’s snotty or selfish. I do not make condescending remarks about puberty or “teen attitude”. It’s a little damned depressing these thoughts even come to mind but, that’s how I was raised. Still, It is ending with me, I won’t parent that way. I won’t treat mine the way I myself was treated. My son holds me and I put my head on his chest. Both kids’ voices are deepening, and they are getting broader through the shoulders and they are taller than I and although we laugh about it, it puts me off track a bit. Impending old age and death, a ways off perhaps but sometimes it doesn’t seem so.

The older child soon creeps in and I hold him a while too. The two children seek me out several times a day. This is why, exciting as my career is, I can’t and won’t work fulltime as long as there are kids that need this. All kids need this. To think when I was pregnant with my first, I worried I wouldn’t have enough love, wouldn’t have what it takes. Well. I have what it takes. Turns out. What surprises me is that every day I can return to that intention, that not one day goes by I’m on autopilot all day. Sometimes I think parenting taught me mindfulness more than any other practice, or tradition, or lecture, or book.

The windows are open and I can feel the sea air and I can hear the trainyard; a sole candle burns on the dresser. The house is quieting although the younglings stay up late; they too are comforted by the long summer evenings, I think. Children of their mother.

 

Post-Blood Donation

only a little

Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.

Post-Blood Donation

It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.

Walking Buddy
Moral Support
WHO'S A GOOD BOY
I have these ethereal beings in my life and I don’t want to spend one moment of the day forgetting this.

brewing up stews / of cats’ mews

We are back to what seems, to me, one of the more idyllic ways to live – my husband off to work early in the morning, and I about my house, making coffee while the kids sleep. They sleep for hours and hours, unfettered by school’s schedule.

Busy as I am – currently making a video tutorial on a silk dress – when I hear them stirring I go sit on their bed, or crawl in for a bit.

This morning: “What was the deal…” my son asks, his brown body curled up with his back to me, “with witches?”

I ask him what he means.

“Why did people put them to death?” I can see he is troubled. I breathe. It hurts to think about.

I tell him what I know: men are afraid of women. So women with power affect them most of all. .”Witches” were independents: midwives, women who worked on their own or in some way did not meet cultural standards. So it wasn’t right, but some of these women were persecuted, tortured, and killed.

He asks if witches are real, though. I’m like – I don’t know. But my friend N____ is a witch. He asks, “How does that work?”

“It’s like religion. It’s very personal. So you can’t always go up to someone and ask them ‘how it works’.”

As we talk I feel his body, which had been curled up defensively, possibly a bad dream – I feel his body soften. He turns his cheek under my arm, and pulls me close. “You are so nice,” he says. “So lovely!”  Because it’s not that children can’t handle harsh reality. It’s that they aren’t meant to handle adults who don’t give shit, or adults who don’t commit to being the one to make it better.

I’m thinking how powerful it is to be a parent. I am almost never prepared for the responsibility.

Last Day Of School 2015

what air is to the lungs; or, how suddenly summer is upon us again

Last Day Of School 2015
My children’s first year at school together, come and gone. Not much fanfare after all; I brought out some homemade food on the last day of class – simply to be relevant, to impress upon the children there that their time is honored, that we do indeed see them and love them. And yes, I am glad to be there if only for this brief hour. The food in hand: deviled eggs and pretzel sticks, the eggs created in my kitchen only the half hour before. I carry the parcel to a few other classrooms, teachers. My footfalls are weary but I’m glad to ghost about the hall and experience the privacy of my thoughts. 

The edifice, the institution, the classroom, is as it always has been now that I’m an adult: a bit dirty, small-minded, housing implausibly-cheerful young citizens and adults paid a wage for honorable work. My throat constricts and my heart thunders with hope, and despair. My children are happy – everyone seems to be! – but I am ambivalent, an experience that will follow me the rest of the day.

And I am distracted. Our grocery reserves are limited to a bit of folding money in my pocket, and we are paid Thursday next. But even this is familiar, an adventure. Only distressing if I decide it is. Instead: it just means on our last school roadtrip I text my husband to send me coupons for take-and-bake pizza; I think of what we have in the fridge, and of when in the next week or so I can reasonably set up something special for the kids. They have, after all, completed a year on their own steam.

Driving home I know the car full of children – four in all – are feeling joy, and sadness, and a since of pulsing life. Even now today’s memories are blooming in their chest, to be touched upon lightly in years to come. Music and singing, the wind through our hair, the sunshine painting the winding road flanking the Wishkah river. They can afford to let the moment come and pass, while it lives wretched and sublime through my body, manifested in my fingers resting on the steering wheel, tapping out a rhythm more cheerful than I feel.

Summer, then. And already my son is half-feral: he has plans to do his banking – he packs his stamped-leather piggy bank in my car and is querulous I don’t make the time to stop at his branch. He tells me he will stay a week at a friends’, someone he hardly knows. His summer tan returns seemingly overnight, his hair lightens from honey into an earnest, bedeviled blonde. He is outside and running the neighborhood as much as we let him; home, he cooks meals at late hours, and tries to take a bowl of soup to eat in his bed, although perhaps I have scolded the children for this kind of thing hundreds of times. He painstakingly arranges his most treasured effects in the many small wooden boxes and metal-clasped receptacles he’s squirreled away over the years. In one such repository: miniature Lego pieces, a geode, a key, foreign currency, fossilized sharks’ teeth, and nondescript rocks imbuing a meaning known only to he. “I wish I could keep your heart inside,” he says – then, with a quick glance lest I misunderstand, amends his statement to mean my soul, my spirit, not my anatomical heart.

He tells me he will forgo school next year – but who can tell? This time last year, we had no hint he’d want to attend, and we wouldn’t have predicted how that would go in any case.

I have a leadership role in my household. This is evident to anyone who knows our family. This is something we four know. Yet in so many ways I am blind and striking out, making way in hostile, confusing terrain so the family can grow into themselves. They thrive in confidence in this shadow, lush and verdant greenery twining in the loamy darkness, growing strong. They fall asleep easily while at night I am prone to anxiety.

And tonight – as evening falls, sitting on our couch with my legs folded underneath my body – I talk with my husband. I speak of the disappointment and sadness I feel to watch so many I know, falter in their spiritual path. I speak of Doubt, which is so much harder for me than Fear. A mirage of illusion. “There are a small number of people I have found to be faithful,” I tell him. “You’re one of those people -” I say, and turn my head strategically for just a beat, to let this pass, before I complete my thought.

I am glad of their faith because, if I cannot always be happy, be sure, they are still the best thing to have come along, to awaken me to something beyond my own machinations and limited understanding.

Pip

we’re all sensitive people, with so much to give

Pip: He is a doll. Truly. He is feeling so much better.

Pip

Plants: I set aside a few for a teacher who wanted some for her classroom. And put them in cute little pots. It felt right.

Avocado, Spider, Succulent, Wandering Jew

Progress. We are fixing some flooring in need of repair. I’m trying to find some old tongue-in-groove fir, 3 1/4″. This flooring is common as dirt but I haven’t yet found it around these parts!

Flooring

Plans. Taking a break from an overstuffed schedule of sewing for clients, I… sew for another client. In this case, a project to donate to a local auction. 

Auction

Perfect. Turns out the kittens are way into Ralph’s beard. Like really into it.

Ralph Cooks

10 PM: a warm oven

I remember when my husband and I used to fight a lot. In between fights, that tension we tried to ignore. Or at least I did.

Today he makes me my favorite bagels… today I think of anniversary gift after anniversary gift for him.

Ralph Cooks

Bagelz

I’m tired – my feet are tired. My back is tense. The bed calls – cool linens and warm bodies, laughter and inviting arms.

#goodnight

turn around, bright eyes

This morning the phone rang early; I answered to a small coutille shop across the country who wanted to know if I really did want their rather arcane and old-fashioned form of tracing paper. It was like: they were vetting me to see if I knew what it was for. In truth I am very happy to have found the product as, as a seamstress, my tools and fabrics are everything. And I’m going to be looking forward to that tracing paper like a huge, huge nerd.

Anyway after the brief call I hung up the phone, arose and brushed my teeth and hair, then fell back in bed.

My son was loving when he woke before I; he arose, dressed and cleaned up, and fixed himself a breakfast. Eventually he opened the door, “Mom? Do you want to get up?” Yes, yes I do.

I had trouble for the first hour I was vertically walking around. I am tapering off medicine that was prescribed to me in late May. I am feeling uncomfortable at times. I have good support. But wake-ups – a little groggy, still.

I am grateful for my family who is very patient with my limitations.

Tonight: Ralph (with a good-natured assist from Eric), busking. Today marked the official last day of the brick-and-mortar of local shop Gray’s General, which I adored. I think I was literally in there, their first five minutes being opened about two years ago. I’ve written blog posts and tutorials, hosted a class or two, and shopped for all sorts of wonderful craft this-and-that. Living where I do – with no fabric store, which is like a personal horror – Gray’s has been a well-loved experience for me. I will miss them, but I am so glad to have had them.

My daughter; looking half-grown. Today I told her to make sure to ignore any boys who were bugging her. She said, “There won’t be any kids [where we’re going].” I said, “Yeah, maybe not. But… even though you’re only twelve, men are going to start in with their stuff.” She immediately got my drift. I told her to read a book and ignore dudes who bothered her. She already knows how to do this, by the way.

A candle, lit for those in need. I told someone today, “We put other things where God belongs. We trust in things that don’t work.” Nothing is constant but that choice we have, to put our trust and our faith in something larger than ourselves and our limited understanding. This has, many times, been the only thing that has got me through.

dancing / kneeling

Today would have been my father’s 71st birthday. I miss him terribly. He taught me so much.

 

After he died I wrote his obituary – I believe I began it with his body still in the room. Re-reading it now it fucking kills me he never knew my daughter’s real name. He never knew how homeschooling would go for us. He didn’t know Ralph and I would get through some hard years and build a strong marriage.

He never saw me get sober. I don’t think my dad thought of me as an alcoholic but I know he knew I was troubled. It is only through some ministration of divinity I am not in personal agonies that he died before I could make direct amends to him.

I don’t believe he “knows” somehow, anything, now. Or that he is “with” me in some way, watching over me like those maudlin Family Circus comic strips. I believe we have been separated in some profound way and his form will never be reassembled again. “Everything dies”, and from that stark sentence springs a beauty so fierce I want to cry. From that stark sentence springs a faith that is simple and indefensible.

Sometimes I think it was my father’s gentleness, and his witness to my life that enabled me to survive so many trials. My father didn’t rescue me from so many perilous situations, but he seemed to know a lot more about me than anyone else did. I didn’t think anything I did could separate me from his love.

As he sickened and died it was my mother and I alone who stayed witness. Sometimes I think that is a bond she and I share that could also never be broken. I remember watching him in his deathbed and watching him waste away and feeling a profound, keening helplessness that was beautiful in its simplicity. I could cook or clean but nothing would change a thing. I could wait on him but he needed me less and less until he left.

I can remember the panic in my mother’s voice as my father fell into the suffocating last moments of his life, not enough oxygen. She cried out for me while holding his head to her breast. It was a horrible way to die maybe, but we do not know how exactly the body suffers, and our own time will come soon enough. There is no part of me that regrets being there. I only hope I offered him some sort of comfort, some sort of Presence, just like he’d given me.

My heart breaks to think about it. Today would have been a wonderful day to remember him in some way, besides the small slice of lemon meringue pie (his favorite) that my mother procured me. I would have liked to do more – but I was tired, preoccupied, I had a hard day of my own. I know that sometimes these milestones pass and there is only this scuffling sound and an inert sadness.

But even so: one never knows. Tonight in searching his obituary I find his Guest Book hosted by the mortuary; I had never seen these notes before. There is a glimmer of something; someone out there cares. Whatever struggles I go through, mediocre or keenly-felt, there are those who care and who are there to keep pace.

like a firefly without the light

This morning: I arrive home after swim class to an empty house – Ralph and the kids heading up to Olympia. A day to myself – truly, a gift, and a rarity. I am recovering from a sore throat and head cold which just hit yesterday. With patience, rest, and raw garlic and honey I hope to be restored to full health soon.

Swimming. I only started two weeks ago and already I am respectably pulling laps. Hard to be patient and rest – swim less than I want – when I’m just becoming exhilarated with the acquisition of new skills. Yet I know if I don’t rest, I will get sick in earnest. I am determined to take care of my body – and thus avoid unnecessary stress.

Tonight. My son. Tall, and blonde, and full of Plans. “Mom? Here are the foods I want you to pack for my trip tomorrow. A couple hardboiled eggs, and some pancakes – and a food of your choice. Like maybe a sandwich.”

No one says “sandwich” better than my children. Also: no one is more grateful for the simple gift of food. Tonight: rolling meatballs and cooking them up so we can cool them down and reheat for tomorrow’s dinner. Slicing pear, ripened on the windowsill. Hot black tea with cream and sugar.

Tonight: fatigue. Braved the rainstorm to get to a Recovery commitment, “only” a few souls there to help, but it matters. The beat goes on, day in and day out, doing what I’m supposed to do, one foot in front of the other whether I feel much like it or not. Most days I like it a great deal, indeed.

A homemade Valentine; my children heap more than one card upon us. Their demonstrative nature is an immensely cheering force in what otherwise might be a drab, wet, hopeless-feeling day.