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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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uff da! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

bumper sticker on the car in front of us

every week we would drive to st. james so that i could take norwegian lessons. my sweet momma and poppo took them too. i had no idea why i was taking these lessons, but far be it from me to question the stubborn pull of the sons of norway lodge for my parents, who loved their membership there, a little inland from the north shore of long island. i belonged to the sons of norway youth group as well. one of my really close high school friends belonged to the greek youth group, so my membership at the loyal lodge didn’t seem quite so weird, but the greek youth group was way more lively than the norwegian’s, with many festivals and dances. i mean, just think of the food alone: norwegian fish pudding vs. greek moussaka, lapskaus vs. souvlaki, krumkake vs. baklava, akvavit vs. ouzo…there is a different level of excitement and celebration. anyway, i felt less like an anomaly going to norwegian lessons because angela went to greek school.

not much of the norwegian tradition has carried on. there have been times when we have made krumkake, filling the plain waffle cookies off the iron with fruit or whipped cream. there have – never – been times that we have sought out norwegian fish pudding nor lutefisk. never ever. i have never – ever – used my norwegian lessons. sadly, even if i went to norway, which is most definitely on a bucket list, i would not understand any of the language now’days.

but “uff da” has endured.

my dad used the expression often. it was a substitution for “oof!” or “oh geez!” to express surprise or dismay or just to buy a moment of thinking-time. “uff da!” is synonymous with him in our family. so it is likely if any of us sees a bumper sticker or what-have-you that says “uff da!” we will send it on and around. it’s like we have had a tiny visit from my dad; erling has spoken.

we have a couple “uff da” magnets on our fridge that came from their fridge. and my nephew named his children beautiful and unique heritage-rich norwegian names, carrying on legacy my dad passed down. i get to carry my dad’s name with me (as well as his jowls). and you can sometimes – though not too often – hear me say “uff da” out loud.

my sons of norway days are no longer, but i remember fondly the cute boy “j-r” in my class, the norwegian dancing instruction, the man from the lodge who built our stone fireplace rock-by-rock, the miss norway pageant in the city and the marzipan.

always the marzipan.

uff da!!

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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just a meow away. [merely-a-thought monday]

you cannot underestimate the connection. beyond joy, beyond telepathy, beyond sheer love, we are tethered with the silkiest, most incandescent beautiful strings to our pets. words do not explain this.

it is not quite a year ago now when babycat suddenly took ill and died. it was devastating to lose him, this cherished fattest tuxedo cat who had stood with me through some of the most difficult days in my life. he was there for all the tough stuff: divorce, empty-nest-entrance, loneliness, unexplainable challenges, loss of both my poppo and my sweet momma, wrist breakages, job losses, pandemic agoraphobic necessities. he was there for all the joyous stuff too, though his facial expression rarely changed for either end of the spectrum of emotions. most importantly, he was there. his lugging body soft in my arms, his purr softly – and not so softly – easing me to rest. i miss him.

babycat would be 13 today. it’s a made-up birthday he had all his life because he was a rescue kitty, found with no birth certificate or ancestry information. pronounced to be called “wilson” he never really knew his real name – the one on the initial veterinarian paperwork. he knew he was “babycat”, “b-cat”, “baby-the-c”; he had a theme song to prove it.

it is never easy losing a beloved pet. i still remember losing each treasured dog. those are moments you don’t forget. but babycat was my first cat. and i had no idea what to do. so i taught him to be a dog. he came when called. he sat when asked. he meowed when i said “speak”. he sat up for treats. he answered “meh” when i called his name out, looking for him. he refused, for his entire life, to wear a collar. and, for the first year or two or four, he – adoringly – bit my ankles when he wanted food. he propelled himself into the double-hung-window sills of this old house, watching the world go by. he laid by the dog’s dish, full of food, taunting him. they were the best pals, babycat and dogga.

dogga was second and he knew it. babycat was alpha in every way and he knew it. but there were those days you’d walk into the living room and they were laying next to each other in sunshine streaming through the windows. or you’d walk into the kitchen after breakfast and they would both be in there – sleeping. or you’d walk into the bedroom and there they were, together.

the day babycat died, a short time before i rushed him to the vet, he and dogga were laying on the bed with me. they nosed each other gently. it was an ultra-sweet moment. and i wondered after if they were saying goodbye. i fight the lump in my throat thinking about it.

i still wake sometimes thinking i am spooning the cat.

*****

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steady and predictable. [k.s. friday]

each time we stood in line at the little grocery in paris, we had a kinder bueno bar in our hands. we also had a baguette and camembert and a container of caprese salad and a bottle of wine. sometimes we had a fruit tart. just one.

i didn’t know it then, but the bueno bar is related to ferrero rocher which is related to tic-tacs. and so, in a roundabout way, we were honoring my sweet momma’s passion for tic-tacs. the ferrero group, clearly brilliant sweet-tooth satisfiers.

momma always had tic-tacs in her purse, in the car, in the cabinet in her kitchen. she never bought just one container, like when you are standing in line at target and see them and suddenly think of purchasing a tiny plastic box with the hinged flip-top. she bought multiples, all shrink-wrapped together, and shared them with everyone.

in recent days i decided to go through and reorganize the pantry in our kitchen. our kitchen, like our house, is old, so the pantry is not a walk-in, plastic-wrapped-wire-shelved cavern of space. there is a limit to this miniature cave of goodness, so one must plan and shop accordingly. we set up some metal shelves in the laundry room downstairs to hold rarely-used appliances, which gave us the illusion of more space in the kitchen. anyway….i was pulling everything out of the cabinet to restructure things.

diving into the recesses of the pantry, there it was, kind of hidden. a tiny plastic box of unopened tic-tacs. my momma was instantly there with me.

it is likely that this box came to wisconsin in a care package, for i cannot remember ever buying tic-tacs myself. we all had a never-ending supplier in my sweet momma, who eagerly gave them out “for your purse”, “for your pocket”, “for your backpack”, “for in the car”. and along with kraft macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, andes candies, poptarts, bags of peanut m&m’s, twizzlers, interesting news articles she cut out, coupons she painstakingly clipped just-for-you, she would tuck tic-tacs, her favorite freshmints. when the boxes would arrive, you knew what was in them. some things are just steady and predictable. some things you just know.

it was a good time for my momma to be standing with me in the kitchen. it’s been a helluva couple years for us, for so many of us. last night, in the middle of the night, sharing a banana, we talked again about these last two years. in some strange way things feel both foggily distant and freshly raw. but they are no less astonishing, no less confusing, no less painful. it is a grand mix – a caldron of emotions.

i spoke aloud to my mom in the kitchen. i told her in bits and spurts – though i’m certain she already knew – about all that had happened in the last years. i told her about how i had just alphabetized the spice cabinet, which made her slightly gleeful. i told her thank-you for all the care packages, all the letters, all the ramen and the mac-and-cheese and the clippings and coupons and m&ms and twizzlers and the unwavering belief, the unconditional love. i told her i was sorry for the times, like everyone, i got too busy. i asked her to hug my dad. i told her i missed her.

and i saved the tiny box of tic-tacs. not to eat them. they are on the shelf in the pantry. steady and predictable.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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momma’s crumb cake. [k.s. friday]

10.5 x 15. the size of my sweet momma’s crumb cake.

back in the 90s, her crumb cake preceded her. everyone knew about her crumb cake. and everyone loved it. “beaky’s crumb cake,” they’d anticipate it.

based on the beloved new york entenmann’s crumb cake, she took crumb cake to another level. she’d, very specifically, tell you about how to make crumbs, that you MUST mix with your hands. she’d tell you how to sprinkle the confectionary sugar on top. and she’d proudly march it into the school, the hangar, the state attorney’s office, the church, the party. her recipe is dated 10/87; she didn’t start making her own crumbs until almost a decade into living in florida.

the other day – the day i was writing last monday’s blogpost – i was craving her crumb cake. i just wanted to sit down with a huge slab o’ cake and a piping-hot cup of coffee and chat with her. i wanted to hear her voice, her laugh, see her raised eyebrow and piercing blue-hazel eyes. i wanted to tell her stories. i wanted to ask her questions. i wanted to hug her tightly. i wanted her to hug me.

i wanted crumb cake.

we went to woodman’s and looked for the entenmann’s display. sure enough, it was there, this brooklyn-based bakery from way-back-when.

if entenmann’s crumb cake tastes like anything, it tastes like long island and the table in the kitchen by the window overlooking the patio where you could look out and see the dog run and the woods and clay pitts park in the distance and, at different times, different years, the above-ground pool or the vegetable garden and the grove with the big stump where we’d place the metal picnic sticks in the ground to hold brightly colored aluminum tumblers. it tastes like family gathered around a table with placemats labeled in the corner with initials that spell out shabaeawaka. it tastes like after-school and sunday-brunch. it tastes like saturday morning. it tastes like my dad, whistling, and pouring coffee from the percolator. it tastes like early spring and forsythia, salty breezes and bike hikes.

we bought the crumb cake.

and each day, for a few days, i made us a nespresso and placed each tiny mug on a clear glass plate with a piece of crumb cake. i savored each bite, each sip, getting lost in thought as only taste and scent can evoke.

and each day, my sweet momma and my poppo smiled from just-on-the-other-side. i could hear my dad whistling and my mom ask, “another piece?”

*****

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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no time machine. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it flies by.

they all told me. they tell all of us. in those moments, when you think time is standing still, they tell you: time flies by. it is in retrospect – days, weeks, months, years down the road – you realize they are right.

i have awakened in this room for over thirty years.

the light has streamed in through the windows in that way i recognize and that gives me great comfort.

the radiator in the sitting room just outside the frosted-glass french door to the bedroom has clunked each cold morning as the boiler kicks on.

through the years multiple sweet dog-faces and one beloved cat-face have greeted me with breakfast and outdoor anticipation.

the smell of coffee manages to drift around the corner and waft its way toward my pillows.

i have had the good fortune of turning my head on the pillows and looking into the face of two very different men, husbands who have shared different times of life with me, one who drank nary a sip of coffee in the way-back-when and one who brings first coffee to the bedside table.

and my beloved children. i counted the months of pregnancy, reading “what to expect when you’re expecting” cover to cover perched in bed in this room. then suddenly, they lay in onesies in the crook of my arms, newborns nestled under the comforter with me. and suddenly, they wore footie pajamas and curled up after a dream. and suddenly, they were peeking their heads in the door to announce they were home so i could relax and sleep. and suddenly, they were home on college breaks and random weekends. and then, just as suddenly, they were no longer living here and the empty nest was a real thing.

and i awake every morning and they are the first thing i think of in the middle of familiar light rising and coffee brewing and dogdog’s gleeful greeting and d’s face on the other pillow.

our son cautioned us that we shouldn’t ask how he described us when he arrived at the restaurant and looked for our table, but of course, that was an open invitation and i couldn’t resist asking. “i asked where the older couple was sitting,” he said, watching me for my reaction. i poked him on the shoulder and rolled my eyes saying, “geez! we’re not THAT old!”. there was so much to talk about so the subject of us aging into ‘the older couple’ dropped, but i thought about it later.

when i was shy of 30 my parents were in their late 60s, a few years older than we are. i suppose it’s possible that i might have described them the same way. fair is fair, after all. and time probably flew for them too. even without them realizing it. as i think about it now, i bet they didn’t feel old either.

sometimes in the quiet moments of morning, as i sit with coffee perched against the pillows, i imagine the sounds of the house waking up thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago, twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, ten years ago.

and, although i would love to have those moments back – to live again, to embrace again – time has moved on and there is no time machine.

instead, i cherish the times that were – each and every slow-motion and flying-by-time – and look at my children, all grown-up and living life out on their own and celebrate them.

i look to each and every time i can see them with joy and excitement.

and at the end of the day as i lay my head on my pillow in this very-familiar-room, i thank my lucky stars to have had all of it, to have all of it.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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better. [two artists tuesday]

if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.

the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.

we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.

these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.

and yet.

as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.

in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.

i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.

*****

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on the front porch. [two artists tuesday]

an older gent, bearded and white-haired, he has lugged a lighweight rocking chair out his front door to sit in the sun and watch the traffic go by. we are across, on the front porch of this sweet house in this hallmark mountain town, doing much the same, chatting with people as they pass by.

each day now we’ve waved at the man-wearing-the-buffalo-plaid-shirt across the street, called over greetings. he holds up his hand in “love ya” sign language; we return the same. sipping coffee in the morning in bag chairs and tipping a glass of wine in the evening at our pop-up-dinner table. the luminaria are lit and i know my mom and dad – in a place where luminaria must always be lit – are close by, watching also.

we walked later at night on christmas, after arriving and unpacking littlebabyscion, after setting up our tiny tree with seed lights and draping a strand of happy lights over a cabinet and lighting the cypress-pine and balsam candles, after snack-time-happy-hour and before making dinner.

the middle of town is close by. in front yards on our walking-way there are posses of snowmen and herds of deer and the trees along the sidewalks of this tiny bustling place are wrapped in lights. we slow and look in every store window. christmas trees and stars and wreaths and snowflakes, santa stuck in a chimney and candy canes and a big town tree in the center at the top of the hill where, if you pause in the middle of the street while crossing, you can see a big range of mountains as you look north.

it was enchanting. no need to walk fast, we strolled the sidewalks and absorbed the spirit. different than any other christmas, it was just us. but this little town and these mountains embraced us and we immersed in it to help holiday wistfulness.

we went back into town in the daytime and wandered the shops. we found texturally-delicious cloth napkins to add to our collection and i imagine next week – or maybe this weekend – we’ll use those and they’ll bring us back here, to this place and to the peace we have felt here.

and the man with big metal sasquatch figures and lots of white christmas lights will likely sit outside in his rocking chair just off his front stoop again today. it will be unseasonable, another beautiful day, the sun over the mountain warm on his face.

we wonder if he’ll miss us.

*****

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every.single.time. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it doesn’t matter. how many times you have seen them. when the last time was. where. when. how. why. nothing. every single time there is a leaving – they walk out the door or you walk out the door – you pull away in the car or they pull away – or they get on the plane or you get on the plane – or, even, you hang up the zoom or they hang up the zoom, the facetime, the phone – you wonder. when is the next time?

so. much. love.

always.

it doesn’t matter.

*****

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SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com