the threads are stretching, stretching…but not ripping.
barney stretches and yawns, still a piano, always a piano. his soul – tenacious and flexible and resilient – centering back to itself, despite weather, despite weathering. it’s late day and the shadows are long. there are small mounds of birdseed, assorted fallen leaves, bits of white at the leading edge of the keyboard. no matter. his aging exterior belies the zeal inside of him, the sorting of memories being played, sustain pedal lifting notes into the air and holding them there. barney has come to knowing that all the notes are still there – stretched across the atmosphere, lingering. he is not fearful of this process in the sun and the rain, snow and blustering winds.
“if you let your fears control your actions, then you are not going 100 mph through it, enjoying it.” (sue aikens)
barney does little these days. he is home for wildlife, the birds, the chippies, the squirrels – they know him well. but he is still going 100 mph through it, whirling and dancing in his beautiful body in our backyard. one day he will look even less like an upright.
but the chickadees and house finches, the cardinals and robins will glance over at him and think, “there’s that sweet piano.” for they, too, will still recognize him.
there is a magazine i look at most every day. it is a simple-magazine publication and features container gardens of all sorts. each time i page through it i see something new, get ideas, wonder about unique re-purposing, changing old typewriters or baskets into succulent planters or large-animal feed scoops or galvanized tubs into fence pots. the photography shows beautiful plants in all seasons of growth and it makes creative juju pick up pace.
we walked slowly through the daniel stowe botanical garden with our daughter and her boyfriend, enjoying every second. the greenhouse was steamy and we got misted as we walked. gorgeous orchids punctuated the tropical plants. we stopped to read information, take pictures, admire textures and the colors that looked like dr seuss had taken crayons to everything.
the monstera deliciosa (or aptly-named swiss cheese plant) captured our attention. nature has a way of making sure that rainwater and dew are properly retained yet the leaves are not perpetuating algae or molds, fungus or disease. amazing. instead, waxy fronds or holey swiss-cheesed leaves let the droplets roll off, keeping them open to sunlight. each plant has its own system for balance, all depending on its ever-changing circumstances.
the day at the garden was over too soon; visiting is like that. there were only a few days and it’s hard to fit months and months of not-seeing into bits and pieces of 72 hours.
i now know why my sweet momma always had lists when i called or visited with her. there were things she wanted to know, needed to know, that she didn’t want to forget to ask. there were tiny and big questions about my daily life she wondered about – the extraordinary and the mundane, my feelings about things happening in the world, curiosities she had about my comings and goings and adventures and challenges and transitions. she just simply wished to hear my stories, have a window into my life. without being too invasive, without crossing the ever-changing-invisible-tightrope-line, she wanted to share in it, be a part of it. i get it.
kc, my bonsai gardenia plant, is difficult, “one of the most loved and challenging plants”. i never know if i am watering her enough or too much, if her brown-edged leaves are due to too much attention or too little attention. she has not had a bloom, though she did have two hopeful buds. she is not easy, but she is beautiful and particular and i am determined. charlie, my heart-leaf philodendron, the other plant that was also a lovely gift from my beloved daughter, is easy. she grows no matter what. she is healthy and thriving. she is green and lush and i can practically see her smiling. charlie is the opposite of kc. treasured plants on our garden table in ever-changing light and seasons as they grow, so much like the diversity of real living, i talk to them every day; i appreciate and adore them. they are lessons.
and it occurs to me that these two beautiful plants, both on the table in our sunroom, are – indeed – the spectrum definition of motherhood, the nature of every single cherished relationship, the easy-hard, the fragile-resilient, the holding-on-letting-go, bursting blooms and foliage or the missing of blooms, the learnings, the balance of unconditional love. perhaps a good addition would be this happy swiss cheese plant, a reminder to let it all roll off and keep on keeping on.
on hangers festooning the basement laundry room, ballerina tutus of leotard and tulle challenge my drive to go through, sort, clean out, organize. tiny costumes and pink slippers that held fifth position and twirled pirouettes taunt me. i stand and gaze. and stare, lost in thought. they are the stuff of dearest memories, of watching my daughter dance, of sitting on the wood floor in the back hallway of the ballet studio, of heartbreakingly sweet recitals and pink roses and light smudges of blushy rouge on softest four-year-old smiling cheeks. how, then, do i sort these, i wonder. how, then, do i clean them out, i wonder.
though i am mostly not a fancy-schmancy, the bubbles and the bits of lace and tiny crystals will get me along with the art and the twinkling lights. there is that piece of lace of my wedding gown from 39 years ago held in an embroidery hoop. there is that first bubble nightlight that my son loved when he was little-little. there is that delicate crystal bracelet my sweet momma wore. there are those handkerchiefs my grandmother crocheted, colorful scalloped edges on tiny cloths of linen. and artwork circa 1990s: glittery tissue-paper poofed trees of construction paper, crayon and pencil drawings of me, of family, of flowers, of cars and trucks. stories on pa-pads-paper cut with kindergarten scissors and stapled, stories in notebooks, stories on looseleaf. the cursive script of my mom’s handwritten letters. sugary white ornaments i can still see on our long island christmas trees. the signed fine crystal stemware of my grandparents. the tiniest-tiny graceful bud vase with a handwritten scrap-of-paper note my mom wrote indicating it had been her grandmother’s. the 1943 floral-etched bell my parents got as a wedding gift. what does one do, i wonder.
on rare days i didn’t feel well – you may skip this part if you wish, dear gentlemen – when i had horribly yucky cramps, my sweet momma would pour the tiniest amount of manischewitz into the tiniest green beautifully etched vaseline glass. we’d sit and talk on the couch by the front window and the tiny bubbles of elderberry, a blanket and momma’s care would soothe me. there are six of these vintage glasses and a tray to match. i have no doubt what one does.
one keeps the bubbles and the lace and the crystal and the tulle and art-in-all-its-forms. isn’t that what basements and attics, treasure chests and the old corner cabinet in the dining room are for?
“when we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. from that time on there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can. our children are extensions of ourselves.” (mr. fred rogers)
i simply cannot think of a more succinct way to say this but for the words of mr. rogers.
forever changed, i am sensitive to every little thing my even-as-grown-ups-children are experiencing, celebrating, enduring, adventuring, loving, suffering, yearning for, achieving. i feel their joy as my joy, their sadness as my sadness.
parenthood, a profound honor, in all its diamond-facets is no small feat. the vexing complexities, the moments of sheer joy, the heart-wrenching worry, the holding-on-letting-go-ness, the unconditional love. all of it.
like the moon, their tide surely affects my tide. and i would have it no other way.
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