reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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ten thousand wishes. [two artists tuesday]

“it is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” (mary oliver)

really, truly exquisite. the last few mornings have been exquisite. we woke up early-early on saturday and sunday morning, nowhere to be, sat and sipped coffee and listened to the quiet world outside. our impulse was to be home, to read together, to write, to go slow, to exercise in the basement, to sit on the deck and watch the birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks, to cook good meals. we felt no need to go anywhere. instead, feeling the sun and breathing in a cool breeze, we reveled in the staying-here.

as headlines point out, the pandemic is heating up. again. the prediction that there will be 300,000 diagnosed daily in mid-august is stunning. so much sickness, so much loss. we feel fortunate to be vaccinated and we are dedicated to continued safe practices. we want at least ten thousand more exquisite mornings, at least ten thousand more days, ten thousand more sleeps. to sacrifice now, we feel, is to bestow upon ourselves a chance at those ten thousand wishes. it IS a serious thing just to be alive. and, even in moments of taking it for granted, we don’t take it for granted.

if i could find a four-leaf clover or blow the puffball off a dandelion or spot a shooting star or spy a haywagon from the back, i would issue a hope for each of us to recognize the gloriousness of this very day, each very-day. to stand in responsibility for each other and to seriously choose to mend the tiniest piece of this broken world for the rest. to stitch together the biggest quilt honoring the inhabitants of this good earth, each thread an acknowledgement of gratitude, each piece of fabric a choice to take care of each other, to live in community the best we can, to do everything possible to keep each other healthy.

just to be alive in this broken world takes some chutzpah. sacrificing for the whole takes some humility. bowing to safety guidelines in a pandemic takes some love.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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she-birds. [merely-a-thought monday]

“old birds have stronger wings.” (aarp magazine)

“but grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” (anne lamott)

resilience. strength. sisu.

we have flown through many storms, we have weathered many droughts and much deluge. we have built nests from scratch and we have re-built them again. we have given birth through birth canals and through love choices. we have sought security and food for our young when security and food were scarce. we have attached wings to ideas and rube-goldberg solutions; we have made do. we have made piss-poor decisions and grandiose ones that have changed everything. we have broken treasures and fixed stuff; we have learned reverse threading. we have been emotional and we have necessarily let go. we have withstood fires of damaging words and we have recuperated from physical blows to our body, our sexuality, our hearts. we have tried to understand, we have been seekers of closure in times of strife. yet, even without understanding or closure, we have kept on keeping on. we are soon old birds and we have stronger wings.

because life, as life, presents gain and loss, winning and losing, achievement and failure, rich and poor, rising and falling, young and old, crepey and supple elasticity, as juxtapositions, as two sides of a pendulum ever-swinging, we have been measured in these competing narratives.

but we are aging birds with wings who have felt the sun of more than twenty-thousand mornings, the moon’s gravitational pull of decades, the grace of time and gardens through fallow and fruit. we are aging birds who have both soared and plummeted. we are aging birds who do not need the measure of others for our definition, for defining ourselves, continuing to learn, takes enough time and is complex enough.

we imagine unicorns in clouds, names in the stars of the galaxy. we catch the scent of sunshine on a wafting breeze and listen to the calls of mourning doves, wondering. we have come a long way. the path we have taken has not been straight. we have been courageous and we have been tenacious. we have flapped our way to here. we proudly wing our way forward, ever-forward. we are ever-stronger.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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a little bitta chalk. [merely-a-thought monday]

sidewalk chalk is pretty cheap. we have several little buckets of it, all different colors, chunky and at the ready.

one day last week some good parent brought out the sidewalk chalk and some delightful children wrote on the sidewalks on 7th avenue. walking our ‘hood, we were two of the recipients of their light-blue messaging.

“i just wanted to say you look awesome,” the sidewalk said to us. it was a hot day and i had on old multi-colored patchwork shorts and a sleeveless top seemingly older than the hills, thinning flipflops from old navy, humidity-messy-curly hair and a hot-flash-aided-shall-we-say-glistening-face. i felt anything but awesome. but this message made me smile. it reminded me of heidi’s sweet momma who said, “you will never be any more beautiful than you are right now.” wise words.

positive messages are free. it doesn’t cost any one any thing to say something positive. it doesn’t detract from any serious issue at hand; it doesn’t lessen the issuer’s importance. instead, it sets up concentric ripples of goodness, of kindness, of value to each person it touches.

“there are a hundred ways they could have said that,” david would say. indeed, a hundred ways to go about doing each moment in life. probably way more than a hundred. and yet, so often, people passing, people in relationship, people in power choose a way that is toxic, that demeans others, oppresses others, suffocates others, debilitates others. so often they choose aggression, argumentative, antagonistic words or actions.

someone in power once said to me, “i’m sick and tired of you.” it was the moment he jerked the heart-string i had to the organization, the moment i realized that all his negativity was intentional; it was toxic, demeaning, oppressive, suffocating and debilitating, not to mention shocking. i wonder what other 99 things he could have said, the other 99 ways he could have acted. i wonder what message he would have chalked on the sidewalk.

appreciation of each other, our beloveds, our friends, our colleagues, our community, this world, is contagious. its goodness is seed for growth, for collaboration, for mutually existing on this good earth in actual harmony.

simple words, spoken gently, simple acts of valuing, can make the difference in a person’s day. whether or not we intimately know that person seems irrelevant. to believe that we have made someone smile, have made someone breathe easier, have made someone’s day better, have inspired someone to pass it on, is irrefutably virtuous. to be optimistic, recognize others in their success, to stand in even-keeled integrity, to bring tender and honest concern, are traits of wisdom. to believe that we have softened a circumstance, diffused a conflict, dispersed anger is actual power.

and goodness begets goodness, in the long run.

for power does not come from negativity and control. instead, it comes from positivity and generosity, from empowering others rather than pushing them down. it comes from not thinking one is righteous, but instead recognizing one’s fallibility, one’s flaws. it comes with recognizing we all have much to learn. it comes when simplicity and kindness come together, in both random and intentional acts.

ask the little kids with the light-blue sidewalk chalk. they seem to really know that.

*****

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“try to make room.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“basic logical reasoning” seems to be in short supply. instead, there is a vast vat of hook-line-and-sinker-ism with a side of blind, unquestioning ideological buy-in.

i have been stunned time and again reading social media threads these days. i thought that i grew up – and attended a high school – in an area that valued education . . . even at its simplest – to learn the lifelong skill of complex critical thinking and rational deductive reasoning based on learning how to research, how to gather factual information and observations and weigh all these elements appropriately and objectively, working toward a conclusion. i would have guessed that most of the people i went to high school with, like my dear friend marc, – all those years ago – having been taught by world-class teachers – would have this skill but this is apparently not so. social media has proven me wrong.

again and again, i read with horror the comments of those who have narrowed the spectrum of the tools they use to garner information. again and again, i shudder to see how limited they have made their worlds – how learning is restricted to resources that have their same opinion, how crossing any aisle to ponder, question, discuss, evaluate, negotiate – in any arena – is impossible. i’m astounded by the sheer ignoring (note the similarity to the word ignorance here) of factual information. it’s staggering to see so much anger directed so quickly and pointedly – with extensive name-calling – by people who use limited vocabulary, use limited or no citations of unbiased truth, clearly have limited empathy for others different than themselves, but have unlimited dedication to their beliefs – particularly under the ever-widening umbrella of extreme political beliefs these days – with no evidence to substantiate them. behaviors that are outlandish – even in this day and age after the last administration’s unleashed and continued field day on hatred and vitriol and lies – perversity at its best.

it’s disheartening to casually scroll through social media and stumble into a thread in which a participant has gone from zero to warp speed in milliseconds, spouting, spouting, spouting. the spew may be ‘big lie’ related, voting-restriction related, vaccination related, pandemic related, mask related, race or gender related, gun-control related, climate related, taxation related, social programs related, science related, any-color-koolaid related. i – maybe like you – have been the target time and again of being called names (really?!) by people i don’t know, people i’d think would know (or at least speak) better, people who are ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, people from my old high school, people who are just clearly ticked off in a big way and need a target. if you even attempt to engage in a conversation, it quickly disintegrates into stupefying borrowed rhetoric.

i suppose this trend will continue, as a large part of our country has made it perfectly acceptable to just unconsciously follow pied pipers or obnoxious acolytes thereof. it’s somehow become perfectly acceptable, even noteworthily cheered on, to use aggressive language, to be hostile and combative, to be both prey and purveyor of distraction and mediocrity, to state and re-state and post and forward false information, to not ask questions, to disregard facts, to be so deep into belief that it’s no longer necessary to examine knowledge, seek anything evidentiary, or look for relevant logic.

i’m still proud of john glenn high school. i’m proud of the teachers i was lucky enough to be taught by back then. i’m glad i paid attention, that i made learning and how to learn a priority. it’s a fluid and continual lesson. i believe it’s that which is essential for existence, vital for living. i know we’re never done.

but it doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at those whose “room for some basic logical reasoning” is scant. it’s dispiriting.

and i just want to add one more thing while i’m at it. a tiny peeve of mine. please check your spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, auto-correct – maybe consider proofreading – before you opine on social media. particularly if you want to be taken seriously. (consider, if you will, a posting of the words: “voter freud“.) words, punctuation, coherence – they all matter. perhaps not as much as your intention, but still…

my sweet momma always said, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” she also famously said, “look it up!”

she, like me, would be aghast at these more recent trends. and she, like me, would still hold out hope for human decency.

*****

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“difficult” women. [merely-a-thought monday]

“it actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. that’s why there are so many of us.” (jane goodall)

and because of just exactly this, i will tread lightly as i write.

for the rules are still different in this world – the rules for men, the rules for women. the word “difficult” – and arriving at the word “difficult” – should present its own debate. how does one get this label, one would ask. does difficult mean speaking up, speaking out? does difficult mean raising the bar on expectations? does difficult equate with uncompromising? is agile adaptability difficult? does talent or education or expertise or experience make one difficult? is difficult attached to success? does difficult mean not accepting discriminatory treatment? is difficult shunning a lack of respect or other indignities? does difficult mean pointing out the lack of transparency in an organization, an institution, a company? does difficult mean urging truth? does difficult mean following process? does difficult mean requesting financial equity between genders, between races? does difficult mean asking to be rewarded on one’s merits? does difficult mean asking hard questions? does difficult mean – heavens forbid – talking back? does difficult mean suggesting change? does difficult describe “good trouble“?

do those things applied to a woman make her difficult? do those things applied to a man make him difficult? is the measuring stick different? might there be a double standard? just where is the dividing line and why is there one?

if indeed those define “difficult”, i’d further suggest that a difficult man is considered a powerhouse, a strong leader, a go-getter whereas a difficult woman is considered, well, difficult, out-of-line, disrespectful, even egregious.

jane goodall is right. it doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. not back in the day. not now.

and for that, i would hope that all women would get mighty difficult.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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momma’s 100th birthday. [merely-a-thought monday]

i hope there is chocolate ganache cake and asti spumante. today is my sweet momma’s 100th birthday and, wherever she is roaming in that other plane of existence, i want there to be an enormous celebration of this day she was born back in 1921. there is not a moment i don’t miss her. there is not a moment that i am unaware of her presence.

the dining room table is piled with all kinds of finnish glassware and etched crystal and scandinavian birchwood as i empty bins that have been packed for years. i carefully unwrap the end-of-roll-clean-newsprint that layers between these and i’m immediately reminiscent. every here and there there is a tiny note, written by my mom, to explain the origins of this vase or that kissing-couple-wine-stopper. i have many questions and know that they will now go unanswered. i find myself researching and researching, a google-fest of information about these items, some of which have no story i can access.

i am drawn to pieces and carefully clean them. we poured chilled white wine into a pair of chunky goblets, ittala ultima thule glass designed by tapio wirkkala, inspired by melting ice in lapland. yesterday i made strawberry rose sangria and poured it into glasses from a heavy crystal etched pitcher, which i remember was a gift to my parents early in their marriage. the other day we had happy hour snacks out on the deck, olives and crackers and goat cheese on hand-painted japanese china, a post-world-war-two-origin lost to me, served on a glass mid-century hazel atlas boopie berwick party platter (which is actually called a ‘smoke and snack tray’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that.)

the history gathers in our dining room and i can almost feel the cheers of my momma and my dad, my grandmother mama dear and grandfather gramps. they encourage my googling and they also encourage me to sort through and find the things that really resonate with me. i can hear my momma telling me, “pass it on to someone” or “sell it!” as i unpack more bins of things, things, things that would otherwise remain packed. although i still abide by the unspoken ‘beaky rule’ to saaave new things for a bit before using them, keeping all these things packed in bins for years, no, decades – unused – is silliness and it is rewarding time spent opening it all up, seeing what’s there, going through, incorporating these jewels into our daily life. i know that is making my momma smile.

today we will lift our glasses to my momma, our beaky, and celebrate her. her spirit and spunk live on. her stink eye penetrating look, her raised eyebrow “oh?”, her ‘write-a-lettuh’, her sisu, her new-yorkishness. her kindness, her storytelling, her love.

today i will light a candle and gently ring the delicate glass bell she and my dad received as a wedding gift and i will be grateful that this day – 100 years ago – my momma was born on this earth. for that, this world is better.

*****

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blooming. [merely-a-thought monday]

as i stand with david, together with his mom and siblings, watching his dad walk down the path of dementia, i am deep in thought of my own parents, missing them. elusive complexities become simple and unimportant as i think about my sweet momma and poppo and their stamp on the world. though certainly worthy, they will not be detailed in history books or in record-holding guiness lists, nor will they be featured in paintings in state buildings or referenced in periodicals, footnotes of prestige. but, just as the life that columbus is forgetting, a life rich in experience and love, so were the lives of my parents. their lives had purpose, their stories were and are important. their dreams counted and their voices mattered. and, though it need not be said, they made an impact.

there are moments when i gaze around and marvel at the rapid movement around us. i feel as if i step back away from the edge of the chaos that is everyday life in a society that values ‘more’ and i just wonder. i wonder about how we all fit in, how, from beginning to end, our lives – in the swirl of everyone’s lives – play a part in this world. i wonder how our very molecules affect other molecules, how permanent or impermanent this effect we have.

pat said, “it’s why you’re here.” she seemed much more certain of that than i. middle age, or maybe it is later middle age, as ross pointed out the other day, is complicated. there is a bit of that elusive complexity whirling around, waiting for us to reach up and cup it in our hands, like catching fireflies on a muggy summer night. holding memories close, we glance back at our lives, pondering the rights and the wrongs and the joys and blisses and the mistakes and the regrets and the happies and the sadnesses, and we watch the glimmering light, surprised at the time that has gone by, stunned by the arc of life that even the tiniest path-choices brought us. in the looking-back we notice the insignificant. in the looking-back, we notice the significant. and sometimes, when we are lucky, we realize how absolutely preposterous it is that we are here at all, how miraculous that we can feel, that we are breathing in this very time.

and i think about my mom and dad. though perhaps generations from now – even possibly just a few – there may be no more out-loud mention of their names or their stories, but they will have been here and, for that, the world is different. i think about columbus, who, though forgetting, is still here, is still holding to life and the filmy stories he can access, his innate and unspoken courage on that path – so painful – moves us, brings us to tears, yet, inspires us. his forgetting reminds us to remember – to live.

we are all on our way to changing the world. each and every one of us, despite our differences, despite anything. it’s why we’re here. it’s ridiculously simple and ridiculously complex.

*****

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the ice cream truck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“stop!!!!” we’d yell at the top of our lungs.

it didn’t happen often, but every now and then, we got to stop the ice cream man as he jingled his way around the neighborhood. then began The Choice. toasted almond bars or chocolate eclairs or or creamsicles or nutty buddy cones or italian ices (although we most often got those on the way out of modells sporting goods store, which, for some reason, had a stand by the doors). my momma would buy fudgsicles and ice cream sandwiches for in the freezer, so those weren’t viable options. and we would never-ever just buy a cup of ice cream with those wooden spoon things you got in elementary school or with your modells italian ice. that would be lame. it seemed important to get something more novel than what was inside your own house. particularly if it was ice cream on a stick. we knew, at the time, that it was a splurge and we loved every single second of it. we’d sit on the curb or on the grass or on the stoop and relish whatever treat we picked. summer in east northport. summer on long island.

you can hear it coming – “pop goes the weasel” playing incessantly around the ‘hood. it used to drive both my girl and my boy crazy as it approached and passed by – the pitch of the ‘song’ changing keys as it approached, drove by eventually and was in the distance. we laugh now as it passes us these days, for the same reason and because it would likely take a small mortgage to feed ice cream treats to a family from the ice cream man these days. we have marveled at watching families with small children gather together in the park eating dairy queen. a medium blizzard is $4 so a family of five would be $20 just for an afternoon carry-out treat. i don’t know but, to us, that seems like a lot.

harry burt, the founder of good humor, apparently stumbled into ice cream kingdom rule when he froze chocolate topping to use with ice cream. it turned out to be a messy affair so his son suggested using the sticks from his previous invention (jolly boy suckers) and – voila! – the ice cream bar was a hit. his decision to start the ice cream truck/wagon/push-cart was on the heels of his treat-success and, believing that good “humor” had everything to do with the humor of the palate, he had his company name picked out. good humor is synonymous with yummy ice cream and childhood. what a legacy!

a few days ago, 20 went to his freezer after we finished a scrumptious dinner with him. he gestured to 14 to be quiet and reached his hand in, pulling out a container but shielding it from my view. it turned out to be a half gallon of coffee ice cream, which is my favorite tied with mint chocolate chip. it was not cashew or almond; this was straight-up ice cream, which he guiltily knew i couldn’t have. he and 14 enjoyed bowls of this dessert. i had two tiny bites, which were amazing. coffee ice cream always makes me think of my big brother who, night after night, would load his bowl up and eat to his heart’s content. after my minuscule taste-test, i googled cashew/almond coffee ice cream and have a photo of a couple options saved on my phone so that i might seek them out.

someday when i pass a freezer with talenti dairy-free-sorbetto cold-brew-coffee displayed, i will literally yell, “stop!”

it won’t be the ice cream truck ringing bells or playing “it’s a small world” or “pop goes the weasel”. it won’t be standing at the side of the road in the hot sun with a dollar held tightly in my hand in line behind other sweaty, excited kids. it won’t be staring at the poster on the side of the truck with too many choices, the scent of coppertone wafting through the air. but, like all the children gathered around the proverbial ice cream truck in full glorious summer, i will be filled with good humor.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

and a little reminder from our CHICKEN MARSALA:


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NNE/ENE/NE, please. [merely-a-thought monday]

NNE. or ENE. or just plain NE. that’s what i look for. the weather app accuweather has a lot of information but, during long hot and humid stretches along southeastern wisconsin’s shoreline, it’s the wind that matters.

we live a couple blocks off the lake. on days before the trees are in full leaf, if you look out the foyer window or the bedroom sunrise window you can see it. if you sit on the flat roof outside the window of the boy’s old room you can see it. we can hear it at night with our windows open and can feel its fury in the winter. in the fall the lake keeps the coast a little warmer. and in the spring it is touted to be cooler near the lake.

20 says this all the time, i’m sure deliberately and to drive me crazy. it is not – most certainly not – always cooler by the lake. there are blistering hot, humid days here, trust me. the kind of days when we wish this old house had central air conditioning like all the new developments, when we wish our heat was forced air and not workhorse radiators so installation of a/c would be easier. the countdown is already on this season to carry up the window units and install them. though they are not our favorites visually or from a constant-noise point of view, they help us, tripper and this old house keep our wits about us in the dog days. i always hold out as long as possible. and right now, june seems too early.

so, i look at the weather app. a lot. it’s not just me. it’s a thing in wisconsin. kind of a mania. blame it on storm teams and weather alerts and interactive radar. so much information at our fingertips. why do we study-study-study the weather, you ask? because – on these hot summer days when there aren’t enough ice pops to quell the crabbiness and when everything feels just a bit sticky – if the wind is blowing from just the right direction with any velocity across the top of the lake, the air temperature will shift intensely and everything and everyone will be heard sighing an audible ahhh. it’s lake effect. and, if you are lucky enough to be within about a mile of the lake – 20 blocks or so – you will feel it.

the other day we took a walk after dinner. it was late and still hot out as we strolled. we walked the ‘hood and talked, noticing flowers blooming and admiring people’s fences, our new obsession. as we walked toward the lake, the wind suddenly shifted and, instantly, the fog began to roll in, blurring the shoreline, hiding the lake and intensifying the soft focus sunset to our west. i was immediately in heaven, the cool air swirling around us. that NNE/ENE/NE thing is amazing.

later that evening we talked to 20. he talked about the heat, about how early it is in the summer to be this hot, how the dew point and the humidity were astoundingly high. had he been able to see us, he would have seen us shrug in overly-feigned flippancy before we said, “oh, really??? it’s muuuch cooler by the lake!”

duh, 20, it’s that lake effect you’re always going on about. 😉

ok, so, i give. it may not alwaysss be cooler here, but when it is, it’s magical.

*****

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the lateral list. [merely-a-thought monday]

it’s on the list. i explained to d yesterday that i have a lateral list of things that need my attention, in addition to a vertical list. cleaning the attic, sorting through the basement, going through the closets, these are all on the lateral list somewhere vertically among a number of other things that need to be done. every so often, this lateral push-pull bobs to the top. but procrastination is a fierce reactor and readily slaps the bobbing tedium down.

lately, though, it has risen – triumphantly – and called my name. since the attic is hotter than heck right now, the basement will be first up. it may take me weeks just to decide what to wear down there – how to dress for the plethora of memories mixed with spider carcasses and a whole bunch of sunflower seeds i noticed a while back in the storage room. at the time i wondered why the boy had eaten sunflower seeds and disposed the shells in the storage room and how i hadn’t noticed these and cleaned them out years earlier. the realist raised her hand, shooing off the ridiculous and suggested that cute little mice had made the mess. the boy is now off the hook and there will be a broom ready. so, yes, the outfit might be important…something i might leave down there to specifically don for the lateral look-through. as chores go, this one will be to leave no stone unturned, to peer into every box, unearth each bin, gingerly throw away every spider and centipede carcass. there is no telling what treasures we might find. if it wasn’t so much work, i would be totally looking forward to it. ok, admittedly, part of me is happily anticipating it. because – it is rich in memories. and therein lies the root problem.

i explained to d that this will take some time. that he should not be thinking that – poof! – it will be done quickly. oh no…every single everything down there has a story. and, to jump on ann landers’ bandwagon, some things have words. lots of them. like old greeting cards, stories my children wrote when they were little, scrapbooks of adventures, brochures saved from, well, everywhere. not to mention old report cards, newspaper clippings, letters penned by my sweet momma, tiny notes on pa pad paper written by my poppo. so, draw up a chair, d, this could take a while. but, hey, don’t go away, because i’d love to share it all with you.

we recently brought home a bin from colorado in which david’s mom and dad had saved miscellaneous clippings and photos and playbills about him. we combed slowly through it; for me, it was my first viewing of many of these pieces. articles and wedding invitations, school letters and the note that the man in the neighborhood wrote to the editor of the paper bragging about what “a little gentleman” david was as his paperboy. sitting at the table going through all these was like having a viewmaster toy full of different slides, snippets of his life during which i wasn’t there.

though i may have a few more slides, bins full, shall we say, it will be a chance for him to peek into the viewmaster and see me as a little girl, a teenager, a young woman, someone who wore a bikini and went water-skiing and sought out all the lighthouses on long island. to see the tangible evidence of me as a young mother: art projects and cheerios containers, favorite rattles and the tassels of high school graduations. so many artifacts, so many stories to tell.

this might be the right week for that. the temperatures will be in the high 80s, the humidity will be drippy and this-old-house-with-no-central-air will be cooler in the basement.

i need to plan my basement work clothes. cue-up the lateral list. full-speed ahead.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY