i wouldn’t say it’s completely autobiographical. but one has to get one’s idea nuggets from somewhere. and – since our lives together have some really ordinary moments – truly ordinarily-ordinary with a smidge of extra as frosting here and there – they are somewhat easy to pull from.
day-to-day living has enough funny stuff. really. stuff happens. big stuff. little stuff. silly stuff. stupid stuff. hard stuff. poignant stuff. goobery stuff. one just has to notice, to pay attention.
and then – in the case of of a sort-of-autobiographical-sort-of-construed-sort-of-vulnerable-sort-of-stand-up cartoon – one has to be willing to share.
the perils and the summits of middle age. there are plenty.
he was going on and on about – fictitiously – going to steinhafel’s (a big furniture store) or ashley furniture or colder’s and finding a giant twenty-drawer-dresser. and then he would find a hutch to go on top of this enormous dresser. and it would all go in the bedroom – in lieu of most everything else in there, including the bed. he went on about how then i would have a dresser with the vaaaaaaast amount of space i had talked about/pined for/whined over and we would sleep on the rug in the living room on blow-up air mattresses, practicing for our thru-hikes.
he had me in stitches as he described this, in the middle of which i snorted.
now – that is good living – snorting while laughing.
and there – in the fleeting instants of this dresser-fantasy – was one of those moments.
it might be easy to forget – to pass by – the dresser-scheming, the fictitious dresser to fix all my dresser inadequacies, the dresser-to-rise-above-all-dressers – but the belly-laughing and the need to hold my ribs and the participation in the high-brow voice deeming my new fancy dresser worthy – these were not forgettable. and the look on his face – total seriousness, a dedication to making my dresser-dreams come true – was priceless.
you just can’t walk on by without noticing.
the moon was almost full on the way home from milwaukee. we pointed and ooh-ed and ahhh-ed at it. it rarely escapes us, unless behind the curtain of drab clouds that has been hanging around. the stars, the sun, happy lights on fences and porch railings…they make us all dreamy-like.
i’m guessing we notice the little stuff even more when the big stuff is in peril. the way setting sun makes cattails glow. the way pistachio shells still connected but sans nut look like talking heads or pac-man. the way it feels to see a smile on either child. the way his hand feels on the small of my back, steadying me. the way dogdog has started kissing us. a note from someone about an album or a song. the familiar creak on the stairs and the mindless latch-release opening a pantry of food. the eye doctor telling us we “seem pretty good” together. tiny kindnesses and big generosities. going on a little adventure and coming home.
after richard curtis left our dinner together – monday’s post – he wrote us a handwritten note. handwritten…like those notes and all those letters i have saved from my sweet momma or those tiny scraps of paper from my children from when they were little or, really, any time at all.
in his note – ok, not really, but i would surely guess this were there to be a note (and, for that matter, a dinner) – he wrote, “remember…don’t pass by too fast.”
“it was so romantic. i will never forget,” she texted.
reminders are good. we all get lost in the shuffle of life and all its challenges that we sometimes forget the tiny details that add up to the big stuff.
each day – this advent – we open one tiny door of twenty-four on the big box that was delivered to us from dear friends. we take out a small glass bottle and pour two glasses of wine. we clink and, one by one – back and forth – we speak aloud gratitudes for the day. but sometimes…sometimes it is still hard to remember.
this little snowman was wrapped and hanging on our front door, “you had me at merlot,” its message.
in this time of uncertainty, it was perfect timing.
our roadtrip together started with almost six months of daily emails…back and forth…stories and questions and yearnings and news of our every day taking place across the country from each other. it progressed to photographs of coffee mugs texted back and forth and talk of merlot and a raising of the glass to the other. all before we met in person. a foundation, solid, like the snowball base of a snowman. we read parts of this story – our roadtrip – at our wedding years ago, wanting to share our story with all the beloveds gathered there with us.
and she remembered.
so the snowman will sit on the windowsill by the kitchen sink between the small silver tree and a cairn of long island and colorado rocks. the snowman…a nudge for us also to not-forget, to not get lost in the worry, but, instead, to immerse in the magic of our own story and the angels who remind us.
“about love…in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass…” (desiderata)
it’s some time after sundown – the time we have declared happy hour. we aren’t at a bar or a lounge or a restaurant or a pub. if we are lucky, we are outside somewhere – in the woods, on a trail, even in our backyard sitting by the pond in the last wee bit of waning sunlight.
these days – when cold gets through our fleece quarter-zips and vests – we are likely to be found at the happy-lit table in front of the window in our sunroom, dogga by our feet. we will put a christmas tree out there on the deck and it will add festivity to the string of lights out back.
in these last days we have encountered major stress. i mean, what couple hasn’t? we have returned to a place of unemployment. there is a big sense of loss, there is anger, there is tremendous angst. though no fault of ours – the company closed its doors entirely – there is also some embarrassment…to be back here. all of this – loss, anger, angst, embarrassment – adds up to shorter tempers than usual and some listing on the side of hopeless, incredulous. all of that – i wouldn’t be honest if i didn’t say it – adds up to some ugly moments. we are struggling to stay balanced, to stay even. this is our story. we know everyone has one.
so we instituted a new rule. a survival rule. during happy hour – regardless of beverage – spirits or not – we will list the gratitudes of the day. from the tiniest morsel to bigger wins, we are taking turns remembering the day and all it brought and we are choosing to speak to the kindnesses, the beauty, the accomplishments, the striving, even the bite of flax-4-life brownie. anything. nothing is measured. nothing is off the table. it all counts.
so as the sun goes down on the trail and we haul to the finish as quickly as possible, we express gratitude for the palette in the sky, for the leaves crunching under our feet, for being able to get outside, for each other. we choose to let go the hard-hard moments, knowing that being human is a pendulum. there will be surprises of good and surprises of not-good. and, like newton’s cradle pendulum with its perpetual-motion swinging kinetic balls, it will just keep going. back and forth. back and forth.
there is always time. nothing we do is more important than the time we spend together. all of us.
my sweet poppo always said, “you can’t take it with you!” and was referring to money. but it generalizes to pretty much everything. in the end, you can’t take your possessions, your achievements, your investments, even your failures, with you. they will stay behind and it’s love that will carry you on, love that you will carry with you.
so even in the middle of important checklists of chores, work tasks, more achievements and more failures, more, more, more anything – cars, clothes, houses, boats, snowblowers and appliances, shoes, hairdos, all the fancypants trappings of “made-it” – there is time. to walk and talk and be silent and swish your feet through crunchy fallen autumn leaves.
cause you can’t take the other stuff with you.
my dad’s last words to me were, “i love you, kook.” my last words to him were, “i love you, my poppo.”
he’s watching us swish our feet through the leaves now. and smiling.
we can’t decide between the kind you drive and the kind you pull.
i mean, if you drive it, then you have to drive it everywhere, unless we tow littlebabyscion behind it, in which case it would be a really-really-big rv and neither of us can picture driving that kind of lumbering size down the highway. but if it’s the kind you pull, you have a vehicle. but then you have to pull it. and back it up. and fit it into parking lots. and juggle it around to get it into camping spots. that brings me back to the kind you drive. the small kind you drive.
a bathroom. and, preferably, a shower.
with a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, a shower and wifi we can go anywhere; we can rule the world. every other day i talk about this. because who doesn’t think about this, i wonder…
the wander women have figured it out. of course, they planned with great intention and are retired, so access to wifi on all workdays is not a sink-or-swim. for us, right now, we need to just-keep-swimming and wifi is the life preserver as we continue to work on our own plan.
i keep transferring visiting the rv place from one weekend to the next. probably because my rent-it-now signature pen is itching, the brochures are stacking up. ahhh. plan….
but really. it’s just delicious to think about all those backroads, all those mountains and canyonlands and seashore beaches at our disposal, dogdog hanging out with us, a tiny fridge filled with good food to make on our tiny stove, grilled on our tiny grill. music and art and wordswordswords created on an adventure Out There on-the-road-again.
england dan and john ford coley played over and over on my bedside cassette player. even now i’d happily pay dearly for tickets to a concert. it’s not possible anymore. but they rank up there as one of my favorite duos in the 70s and certainly must have been rumi fans. radio listeners in my graduating class would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t know every word of the songs “i’d really love to see you tonight” and “nights are forever without you”, both top-tens.
before i moved from long island, there was this boy who made dinner for me at his tiny apartment above his mom and dad’s house. at the end of dinner he tried to lure me into staying on the island, playing dan and john’s song “we’ll never have to say goodbye again”, which also peaked on the ac chart at number one. or wait…was it christopher cross’ “never be the same”??? either way, i barely knew him. before dessert, i waved from the window of my car as i pulled away.
the wall leading to the underpass was painted and we passed it each time we drove over to our girl’s place. finally, we caught the stoplight and i could take a picture. rumi’s words in a mural, simplifying it all, “love is the bridge between you and everything else.”
it makes me think of england dan and john ford coley.
“light of the world, shine on me, love is the answer shine on us all, set us free, love is the answer
and when you feel afraid, love one another when you’ve lost your way, love one another when you’re all alone, love one another when you’re far from home, love one another when you’re down and out, love one another whenall your hope’s run out, love one another when you need a friend, love one another when you’re near the end, love we got to love, we got to love one another…”
(john wilcox / kasim sulton / roger powell / todd rundgren)
i daresay that leading with love – demonstrably powerful, full of kindness and fairness and grace, sans fear and agenda and grudge – might really be the answer. to most questions.
the lyrics are going through my head. “stretch your coffee break! top it off with juicy fruit gum!” i can hear the jingle. over and over.
there is only sooo much you can stretch a coffee break. a few minutes is merely that – a few minutes. kinda like there is only so far you can stretch a $dollah. i mean, one $dollah does not go as far as it used to. stating the obvious. just saying. anyone shopping at the grocery store or filling their vehicle with gas can tell you that. not to mention house sales, rents, deferred maintenance items and – the big one – healthcare. the mighty $dollah just doesn’t stretch.
so, for two artists, in carefully planning how to execute a retirement, there is much to finagle, much to calculate, much to belabor, much to bemoan. and then – like the rogue waves they are – stuff gets in the way. and the aggressive efforts at The Plan get undermined, waylaid, jolted.
we will retire. someday.
frank sinatra croons to me, “fairy tales do come true. it can happen to you. if you’re young at heart…”
circa 1968/1969 and EVERYone – literally everyone – at least in MY mind – had a wristlet wallet. long rectangular leather wallets on a wriststrap, they opened to reveal a couple places for pictures and change and dollar bills. a clutch, the style was s.p.e.c.i.f.i.c. they were s.p.e.c.i.f.i.c.
christmas rolled around and i, in great anticipation, opened my presents. untucking the used tissue paper, i got excited to catch a glimpse. the box revealed a wristlet wallet.
wrong. it was wrong. it was faux leather. it was not rectangular. it had different compartments, a different strap. not specific. it was different. i was a misfit.
my 1970 construction boots were different too. so were my earth shoes, an off-brand. i wore pants from the boy’s department – my sweet momma thought they fit my – whatwasslimbackthen – body better. and my white cable-knit v-neck sweater with maroon and navy stripes at the v was – waitforit – a boy’s handmedown. i ate cucumber sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into repurposed hallmark card store bags with pleasesayitisn’tso sandwich bags of chips – not individual commercial bags – and wore homemade crocheted ponchos with fringe. different. i took organ lessons as well as piano and i loved to sit in my maple tree, writing. i had a cb home-based radio on which i spent hours chatting with crunch, merely a few miles away. i had nieces and a nephew way before anyone else and i loved mathletes. different.
i guess my sweet momma was getting me ready for the world, after all. the wristlet wallet – though a disappointment at age 12 – was just the tip of the iceberg.
as i go about throwing on jeans and a black top – what other color IS there anyway? – i wonder whatever became of that wallet. i wouldn’t mind using that right now. i look around at the repurposed stuff in our house and, though my momma hasn’t been here in over fifteen years, i know she’d be nodding her head in approval.
it was the early 90s and my girlfriend carol and i were shopping in the mall. there was a new bra out at the vs store – the miracle bra – and we were fixin’ to get us a couple.
we wandered in, chatting and laughing, our modus operandi no matter where we went those days, and went directly to the miracle bras. we were gonna buy these miracles and just shock the living heck out of our husbands and, really, everyone else. because, lord knows, everyone cares.
we selected a few different colors and looked for our sizes.
that was when the problem started.
i have not been graced, let’s just say, with a vast bosom. on the contrary, i take more after my …waitforit… father. nevertheless, “the secret” had promised me a miracle and i was after it.
however…there was no miracle made in my size.
i – with great hope – carried in a few other sizes and tried them on. it didn’t help that in the fitting room next to me carol – supposedly the best of friends, supportive in every moment and situation – was ooh-ing and aah-ing over HER new miracle.
in MY fitting room, i was wondering who else might want to share the bra i was trying on; there was extra space, extra fabric, extra everything. well, everything except the miracle.
the sales associate tried to assuage me by lofting into the fitting room various other bra styles and sizes. it was all to no avail. i literally cried.
victoria’s secret had not created a miracle. it had created a soul-wrenching sense of humiliating failure. my breasts did not measure up. “the secret’s” standards of beauty…oppressive. what the hell. we are talking about bras here.
with that in my history-dna, i was ultra proud of jax, a singer-songwriter, who flash-mobbed VS with her new song about their body shaming. i felt just a little sense of satisfaction. it WAS made up by a dude, and dudes everywhere, despite their own body-imperfections, seem to buy into it. the really, really sad part is that women have too. and i had been one of them. jax’s actions and song earned millions of hits. i say, “you go, sistah!”.
this amazing daylily caught my attention out front of our old brick wall. i named it the “i-wanna-be-a-bird” daylily. gorgeous, it reminded me also of origami cranes and its graceful curves were beautiful. i whispered to it, “you don’t have to be a bird. you are a stunning daylily, so be a daylily!”
it whispered back, “but, but…” and i shushed it, “you’re perfect the way you are.”