reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the piñata. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

middle age is called that because it is the middle of aging. with that comes a bundle of surprises that seem to arrive overnight. suddenly, new wrinkles. suddenly, crepey skin. suddenly, age spots and creeping-on lovehandles. suddenly, menopausal insomnia, achier joints, keeping track of rest areas on the way to everywhere. suddenly, jowls. it’s like a piñata that is slowly letting out candy, treats to relish with this person you are aging with.

we have decided that we simply cannot pine for what our bodies were like or could do back before we knew each other. now is now and we are lucky to have that. and so, we will celebrate the laughlines and the readers and changing bodies and funny long errant eyebrows. we’ll roll with the surprises as they arrive, with gratitude, laughing as much as we can, and we’ll stay right here in the middle of this aging thing – together.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB.

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never enough coffee. [saturday morning smack-dab]

coffee was a recurring theme in our early days. it does not have as big a spotlight role these days, sharing the limelight with wine and lets-try-to-drink-more-water. but back in the day of our writing-back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth it was a super star and you could see how often our bucks were spent on it in photographs taken of coffee cups around the country to send each other. (which literally gives me pause for thought, wondering if that is how starbucks got its name….)

these days? it is more of a guiding light, illuminating the mornings-after-little-to-no-sleep, the balm to heal insomnia, the salve of achier joints, the massage of slower starts. though it is not the only star smack-dab in our beverage list, it is a lifesaver. and there are some days when there simply is not enough of it.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB

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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

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time is flying. [saturday morning smack-dab]

these days, in the middle of middle age, time seems to just fly by. at inordinate speed. slowing it down doesn’t seem to be an option. i guess my sweet momma was right when she said, “live life, my sweet potato.” don’t wait.

“LIVE LIFE, MY SWEET POTATO” stuff

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the last time. [two artists tuesday]

we knew it was the last evening we’d sit out on that big patio under the awning next to the garage in the backyard. and so, with a glass of wine in hand, we got a couple chairs and cushions and walked out into a gorgeous denver night. we watched as the light waned and talked about this house, the home in which david mostly grew up. i remembered the first time i was there, years ago, and how much time we have spent out on the patio, visiting, in years since. my favorite spot at that house, it’s an early-morning coffee place, an eat-dinner-out place and a late-night nightcap place. and this was our last time.

soon this house will be sold and a new family will patio-sit. a new family will plant in the garden out back. a new family will fill the old shed and park their cars in the garage. a new family will cook meals in the kitchen and play in the playroom downstairs. and this sweet house, sturdy and steadfast, will hold them safe and keep them warm and ground their dreams with the security of home. simple and mostly unadorned, it will, like it has always been, be embellished by the love of people together. but this was our last time.

driving back down from the high mountains we passed the exits that easily would take us there. in those minutes we knew that it was the last time we had the option of taking those exits to lead us to their home. we did not exit. they were not there. the time of life has flown by and new chapters were opening for them; out of necessity his mom and dad have flipped the page over and we start new times with them. change is never easy, but we seek the positive in it and lean on trust. the next time we drive down from the mountains we will take different highway exits. this was the last time these two could take us there – to what was home.

i have been past my growing-up house maybe five times in the last forty years or so, once, maybe twice, in the last decade. one time, about twenty-five years ago, i actually went inside. the owners pulled into the driveway while i was gawking at their house from the street. in an effort to help them feel safer, i explained why i was staring at their house. they invited me inside, showed me the main part of the house, brought me into the garage where my brother’s peanuts drawings still graced the walls. i can’t remember the changes they made; it’s all blurry now. i just know it was a gift to be able to step on the wood floors of that house, to touch the walls once again. it would be yet another gift to be able to show david that house, then all the stories would have a base-place, and i could linger for a few moments in the what-was.

i wonder if someday we will take the exit to his old house again. if we will drive in the double-concrete-poured driveway and walk up to the front door, trellis gracing it. i wonder if some new owner will invite us in, to peek at some of the renovating they have done. i wonder if we will step out back onto the patio, a place of so many memories.

or if the last time was the last time.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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just know. [two artists tuesday]

loves me loves me not

we passed the daisy on the trail and i went back to take a picture.  it was instant recognition of  “loves me, loves me not” as i saw it.  the questions we threw willy-nilly to the universe, the don’t-step-on-a-crack, knock-wood, bread-and-butter reflexes of our 60s-70s childhoods.

were it all still to be so easy.

i remember sitting in the grass making clover chains.  i remember the transistor radio playing on the bazooka bubble gum beach towel.  i remember playing in the woods out back with the neighbors.  i remember kickball in the street and badminton and croquet in the yard.  i remember hula-hoops and skateboards on my driveway.  i remember the “boing” the pogo stick made.  i remember koolaid and ice pops that seemed to never run out.  i remember bike hikes with sue and carvel ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles.  i remember frisbee at the beach and making apple pies.  i remember listening to cassettes and practicing piano.  i remember the trunk of the maple tree against my back, the branches holding me as i wrote.  i remember the sound the pressure-filled-from-the-sun-light-purple-hosta-flowers along our sidewalk made when popped.  i remember it was time to go home when it got dark and i remember catching fireflies in jars with holes punched in the lids.  i remember sunday drives and picking apples and kentucky fried chicken on picnic tables further out on the island.  i remember cabins in state parks and wide-eyed flirting with older lake lifeguards upstate.  i remember duck ponds and friendly’s.  i remember my puppy riding in my bike basket and ponytails.  i remember loves-me-loves-me-not.

it seemed an innocent time.  a time of marvel.  a time of safety.  never did i wonder if my parents loved me.  i just knew.

babycat just rolled onto his back, all four paws outstretched, his big black and white belly just begging for a pet.  he doesn’t ask questions.  his world is relatively small – since his kittenhood adoption, the littlehouse was the only other house he has known other than our house.  yesterday we brought him and dogdog into the basement as the tornado siren went off.  dogga was nervous but babycat adapted, finding a place to lay on the carpet.  his only demand is for food, several times a day with clockwork precision.  otherwise, he is unconditional.  his presence in my life has brought me eleven years of a gift i really needed when he arrived.

babycat is laying right next to me now as i type.  tucked close in, his snoring is punctuated only by his purring – it’s a two measure repeat in 4/4, each breath a half note.  it is the 11th anniversary of his “gotcha day” and he’s marking the day with a celebration of naps. no worry of “loves me, loves me not” crosses his mind.  he just knows.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“don’t grow up. it’s a trap.” [merely-a-thought monday]

dontgrowup

grown-up (adj):  1. not childish or immature 2. of, for, or characteristic of adults.ie:  insisted on wearing grown-up clothes.  grown-up (noun):  adult.

(according to miriam-webster)

there are perils.  adulthood is full of them.  frequently searching, searching, looking for sense, seeking our meaning, evaluating ourselves, measuring, bettering, struggling, comparing, falling short.  so many opportunities for falling short.

i suppose that life is somewhat like an experiment.  but by the time you get to writing the lab report, it is unclear what the hypothesis was; there have been so many tangents the original purpose is muddied by much emotional research.  the sheer volume of subjective data falls under too many objective categories to make it all absolute, to make it all clear.  adulthood: not childish – is a certain definition in the dictionary.  adulthood: not childlike – is certainly a sad story.

“you are enough,” i’ve seen, written as quick success-signage, a succinct unembellished positive.

yet, the path is never really certain.  it is fraught with all the dr.seuss-monsters imaginable.  but in the midst of all that, in the vortex of all the searching and figuring out and listening and learning and choosing and getting lost and finding and hiding and being seen, standing still and watching a butterfly open and close its wings, tracking a caterpillar’s journey across a dirt path, tracing clouds in the sky, sharing a seesaw, chalking a driveway all take on exponential meaning.  this moment.  this hug.  this breath.

lilah splashes in her blow-up pool, nestled in lush grass in the shade of graceful birch trees, in the warmth of a steamy summer day, surrounded by adoring parents, grandparents, friends.  she is in her delight.  a wise and untrapped seven-months old.

we each slow down and watch her hug the moment she is in.  her day is full of these snippets of time, each a minute of her tiny life-so-far.  unconcerned about the experiment of growing-up ahead, sweet lilah reflects back a universe of “you are enough” to us.  if you look in her eyes, you will see what love is, what hope is, what living is.

someone said, “life is hard and then you die.”  maybe that person was just too grown-up.

i guess growin’ isn’t hard to do, just stand against the wall.
once i was just two feet high;
today i’m six feet tall.
but knowin’ who to listen to, is somethin’ else again.
words just whistle around my head,
like seasons in the wind.
all across the water the clouds are sailin’.
they won’t let me look at the sky.
all I want to do is try to find myself;
come and let me look in your eyes.
in searchin’ for the way to go, i’ve followed all the rules:
the way they say to choose between the wise men and the fools.
i listened to the words they say;
i read what i should read.
i do whatever’s right to do,
try to be what i should be.
someone let me in i think the sky is falling;
seems i’ve gotten lost on my way.
all i want to do is try to find myself;
come and let me look in your eyes.
but wisdom isn’t underground, nor on a mountainside.
where am i to take myself?  there’s no place here to hide. where can i hide?
all across the universe the stars are fadin’;
seems i’ve gotten lost on my way.
all i want to do is try to find myself.
come and let me look in your eyes.
come and let me look in your eyes
come and let me look in your eyes.

 

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

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things i learned at the little red schoolhouse. [merely-a-thought monday]

a bar owner

the little red schoolhouse on cuba hill road was the place i went to kindergarten.  built in 1903 it was a place of important early learnings – the stuff you learn at five and six – things this back-in-the-day first teacher, who you fall desperately in love with, would impart to you through kind, objective, steady lessons.  it wasn’t that my sweet momma or poppo weren’t teaching me kindergarten-level-rules, but learning them in a place where i was surrounded by other children and could practice them immediately in-real-life i would guess had more impact.  lasting lessons are often those that come through experience, through feeling and doing rather than simply hearing.

share your toys.  take your turn.  say please and thank you.  wash your hands.  do your own work.  hold the door for others.  keep your hands to yourself.  be kind.  help others.  listen when others speak.   be respectful of your elders.  follow the rules.

i don’t specifically remember days in kindergarten but i know that i have always been a rule-follower in school and would not imperil another’s playground time by not paying attention, by disobeying, by being impervious to an adult’s directions for work that needed to be done or instructions for safe practices.  i would not have ignored the be-absolutely-quiet rule during fire or duck-and-cover drills.  i would not have continued talking or wreaking havoc were my teacher – or any other teacher, for that matter – to have asked for silence.

the rules seemed simple at five.  we were each individually and as a group asked to follow them.  those easy rules were designed to preclude chaos and our freedom to learn and have fun was never sacrificed in the process of following them.  the consequences of disregarding them seemed dire – staying in during playtime.  one child’s misbehavior often led to the whole class missing playground.  to be THAT child was not a sought-after title.  instead, we would work together – in our five-year-old beehive fashion – to clean up the classroom and desks and chairs so that we were all ready – together – to go play.

it’s the way i feel about masks.  it hasn’t been recommended to us by medical and science professionals to wear masks as a lark.  this recommendation comes with passionate imploring.  it is a simple rule.  if this, then that.  conditional.   if we wear masks, we will dramatically lower the transmission of this global pandemic raging through our country.  it is a proven fact and other countries have shown their adherence to mask-wearing has flattened the curve of the disease.  pretty simple, yes.  a mask.

instead, there are those people who flagrantly ignore this simple if-this-then-that.  we see them everywhere.  it’s breathtaking.  and their display of arrogant individualism at a time of an intense need to care-for-community means one thing:  we will not get to go out to play.

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

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incessant. my sweet momma. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

good morning sunshine

she was incessant.  every morning she greeted me with the words, “good morning sunshine.”  rain, sleet, snow or ice – none would dampen her good-morning-spirit.  a new day, a new beginning, another chance.

my parents weren’t complicated people.  they grew up with great-depression-survival parents.  they were married and almost immediately separated by the second world war, by my dad’s missing-in-action status, by his time as a prisoner-of-war and, thus, they navigated the loss of their first daughter on two continents, my mom without knowledge of my dad’s whereabouts.  they processed-without-processing the end of the war and my dad’s escape and return home to struggle through post-war times.  they had two more children, another girl and a boy and began to raise a family on long island in a cape cod house with a chainlink fence and a dachshund.  after i was born they moved to the house i grew up in, the only house i remember without looking at old photographs.  we had a single driveway with a grass strip in the middle.  some neighbors had solid concrete or asphalt driveways, no grass strip, and even as a child, i suspected this meant something.  they were thrifty and conserving.

my parents weren’t hip.  through the rebellious 60s and mod 70s they raised me, older than most of my friends’ parents by at least a decade or more.  i listened to jim nabors and doris day and robert goulet in the house, herb alpert and the tijuana brass and frank sinatra on the stereo and the old wgsn on the radio on top of the refrigerator, while friends were hearing their moms sing to carole king and simon and garfunkel crooned in their kitchens, the mamas and the papas and herman’s hermits in the family rooms.  my dad would whistle for hours; hearing anyone whistling now feels like a hug from him.

my parents weren’t frivolous.  my dad would turn boxes inside out to repurpose them.  my mom would assign him tasks first in in his basement workshop and, later, his garage workshop, giving him something to focus on.  he was always rube-goldberg-ing everything; he could make or fix anything.  they didn’t splurge on stuff, well, until they discovered ikea.  after years and years and years of exclusive use, the aluminum colander they gave to me (and after a couple more decades and the loss of a foot, i finally retired) is likely 70 years old.

my parents weren’t problem-obsessive.  my mom would do laundry, especially later in life.  i think it centered her.  the simple task of cleaning a garment or bath towel and putting it away felt grounding; i have learned this from her and you will find me scouring the house for laundry items in times of stress.  they were reasonable and rational; nothing needed be too complex.

but they were loving and encouraging and accepting.  i could tease or cajole my dad into doing almost anything.  and, when my dad’s reaction to a circumstance was more impatient, my mom would listen, listen, listen.  she would admonish him, “Erling!” she’d hammer.

simple.  no fancy titles.  no wildly exotic trips.  no fancy foods.  only one fancy car to try-on-for-size.  no fancy clothes or shoes. simple furnishings, treasured mementos.

simple.  no emmys, oscars, grammys.   no nobel peace prize.  hardworking and uncomplaining.  a lot of volunteering.  a jewelry store failure in early days of big box stores.  early retirement and a move-down-I95 south.  self-admonishments to do-the-photo-albums and clean-out-the-file-cabinets.

simple.  a dedication to handyman magazine, national geographic, jigsaw puzzles, crytoquotes and crosswords.  tomato plants and hosta.  forsythia and four-o-clocks that ran along the whole side of the house.  succulents and bougainvillea.  harlequin romance novels and old doris day/rock hudson movies.  bird-watching and klondike bars.  feeding their family.  entertaining their friends.

simple.  times around the table coffee-sitting.  long conversations on the couch.  egg mc-arnsons or waffles and ice cream on sunday mornings.  time on the stoop and in the lanai, just talking.  time.  spending time.

she was incessant.  her joy at the day, her exuberance, her kindness, her piercing eyes, her absolute, uncompromised, unconditional love.

i woke today thinking about this day five years ago today, when i was not physically there to hold her hand as she passed from this life to another plane.  we were on the way, driving there, on an interstate when we found out.  in el paso, illinois.  we pulled off and found a park not far from the highway.  we walked and walked and walked, trying to process.  i have no doubt that she knew i was right there with her, always, and how much i love her.

life will never be the same without my sweet momma on this earth.  ever.  i can only hope that in some way, as a new day dawns and i think to myself, “good morning sunshine,” that i will be somewhat like her.  somewhat as incessant.

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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there is a place, a canopy. [d.r. thursday]

canopy

CANOPY 48″x48″

there is a place on a washington island road where the rest of the world disappears.  you are walking alongside forest and can see the sky as you look up, tall trees framing blue, the sound of sandhill cranes and red-eyed vireos accompanying your steps.  and then you enter this place.  the trees gently arc over the road and you are covered by a canopy; we have sheltered in this spot during more than one sudden rainfall.  even in the bright day, the green above you – which turns to brilliant umber, rich red, flaming orange during summer’s release on the forest – allows for little light.  and at dusk, while the sun sinks into the water hundreds of feet away, walking in the middle of the road, it is dark-dark, the canopy a lure for night creatures, safe in the shadows.

there is a place in a tree in the yard of my growing-up house outside the window of my old room where the branches invited sitting.  for hours i would sit there, write, ponder.  in the summer the maple seemed to grant me privacy from the world, its branches full of leaves and canopying my little spot.  a shelter.

there was a place in the wooden structure in our backyard that had a yellow awning that made a fort.  when My Girl and My Boy were little they would play up there for hours, The Boy lining up matchbox cars, The Girl often reading a book.  a special space, this little fort, it was hard when it was time to dismantle it and pass it on to friends with little ones.

these places of shelter – places of canopy – provide such a sense of protection, a sense of being held from harm – from the elements, away from others, in our own private place.  much like our homes, they can give us pause, a deep breath, safety.

in this time of distancing and stay-safe-stay-at-home, i look around our house and give thanks for its canopy of shelter, for the way it holds us from harm, for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years it keeps us safe.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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