turn around, bright eyes

This morning the phone rang early; I answered to a small coutille shop across the country who wanted to know if I really did want their rather arcane and old-fashioned form of tracing paper. It was like: they were vetting me to see if I knew what it was for. In truth I am very happy to have found the product as, as a seamstress, my tools and fabrics are everything. And I’m going to be looking forward to that tracing paper like a huge, huge nerd.

Anyway after the brief call I hung up the phone, arose and brushed my teeth and hair, then fell back in bed.

My son was loving when he woke before I; he arose, dressed and cleaned up, and fixed himself a breakfast. Eventually he opened the door, “Mom? Do you want to get up?” Yes, yes I do.

I had trouble for the first hour I was vertically walking around. I am tapering off medicine that was prescribed to me in late May. I am feeling uncomfortable at times. I have good support. But wake-ups – a little groggy, still.

I am grateful for my family who is very patient with my limitations.

Tonight: Ralph (with a good-natured assist from Eric), busking. Today marked the official last day of the brick-and-mortar of local shop Gray’s General, which I adored. I think I was literally in there, their first five minutes being opened about two years ago. I’ve written blog posts and tutorials, hosted a class or two, and shopped for all sorts of wonderful craft this-and-that. Living where I do – with no fabric store, which is like a personal horror – Gray’s has been a well-loved experience for me. I will miss them, but I am so glad to have had them.

My daughter; looking half-grown. Today I told her to make sure to ignore any boys who were bugging her. She said, “There won’t be any kids [where we’re going].” I said, “Yeah, maybe not. But… even though you’re only twelve, men are going to start in with their stuff.” She immediately got my drift. I told her to read a book and ignore dudes who bothered her. She already knows how to do this, by the way.

A candle, lit for those in need. I told someone today, “We put other things where God belongs. We trust in things that don’t work.” Nothing is constant but that choice we have, to put our trust and our faith in something larger than ourselves and our limited understanding. This has, many times, been the only thing that has got me through.

dancing / kneeling

Today would have been my father’s 71st birthday. I miss him terribly. He taught me so much.

 

After he died I wrote his obituary – I believe I began it with his body still in the room. Re-reading it now it fucking kills me he never knew my daughter’s real name. He never knew how homeschooling would go for us. He didn’t know Ralph and I would get through some hard years and build a strong marriage.

He never saw me get sober. I don’t think my dad thought of me as an alcoholic but I know he knew I was troubled. It is only through some ministration of divinity I am not in personal agonies that he died before I could make direct amends to him.

I don’t believe he “knows” somehow, anything, now. Or that he is “with” me in some way, watching over me like those maudlin Family Circus comic strips. I believe we have been separated in some profound way and his form will never be reassembled again. “Everything dies”, and from that stark sentence springs a beauty so fierce I want to cry. From that stark sentence springs a faith that is simple and indefensible.

Sometimes I think it was my father’s gentleness, and his witness to my life that enabled me to survive so many trials. My father didn’t rescue me from so many perilous situations, but he seemed to know a lot more about me than anyone else did. I didn’t think anything I did could separate me from his love.

As he sickened and died it was my mother and I alone who stayed witness. Sometimes I think that is a bond she and I share that could also never be broken. I remember watching him in his deathbed and watching him waste away and feeling a profound, keening helplessness that was beautiful in its simplicity. I could cook or clean but nothing would change a thing. I could wait on him but he needed me less and less until he left.

I can remember the panic in my mother’s voice as my father fell into the suffocating last moments of his life, not enough oxygen. She cried out for me while holding his head to her breast. It was a horrible way to die maybe, but we do not know how exactly the body suffers, and our own time will come soon enough. There is no part of me that regrets being there. I only hope I offered him some sort of comfort, some sort of Presence, just like he’d given me.

My heart breaks to think about it. Today would have been a wonderful day to remember him in some way, besides the small slice of lemon meringue pie (his favorite) that my mother procured me. I would have liked to do more – but I was tired, preoccupied, I had a hard day of my own. I know that sometimes these milestones pass and there is only this scuffling sound and an inert sadness.

But even so: one never knows. Tonight in searching his obituary I find his Guest Book hosted by the mortuary; I had never seen these notes before. There is a glimmer of something; someone out there cares. Whatever struggles I go through, mediocre or keenly-felt, there are those who care and who are there to keep pace.

a tigress

Phoenix Turns 12

Today my oldest child turned twelve. She and I took a wonderful morning swim together; then Ralph and I treated her and a few of her close friends to a turn at the rollerskating rink. We brought the kiddos home for gift-opening followed by one of her favorite dinners – spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and homemade garlic bread. Ralph made up a delightful cake. All in all, a day on the quiet.

All in all, a good day.

But – I’ve felt this odd sense of sadness as well.

A decade ago my first counselor predicted I’d go back through my own childhood, as I watched my daughter grow. This was true as she reached age two (which was an important age for me); and while I watched this unfold, I remember thinking it might happen around age thirteen, as well.

I hadn’t thought about that conversation, or that counselor, for several years. But now the day has arrived, and the time has come.

Twelve years old, things were getting rough for me. They didn’t get measurably better for a very long, long time.

My daughter is not me, though. She is herself. I remind myself of this.

Yesterday Phoenix and I joined Ralph and Nels at a local brake shop; we were seeking a quote for his car. The moment, and I mean the moment we arrived at a table to sit, an older, odd-looking fellow came right up to our daughter – RIGHT up to her – and started speaking at her presumptuously. She huffed this angry little huff and turned her back right on him and walked away. It couldn’t have been a more pointed message had she said something aloud. The man kept talking, and raised his voice to get her attention – but she didn’t turn around.

I stood between the man and my girl, my heart. I said aloud, “I guess she doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.”

I could easily see how my daughter had responded; at the same time, I felt stunned. I was surprised at her unfailing intuition. I know I didn’t have it, not at her age, and not for many years. I am still rebuilding it. I’d been trained to listen to any old (or young) creep who wanted to bend my ear, or tell an overlong story, “flirt” or “compliment”, or talk at me in whatever way he pleased. I learned this not at my father’s knee (he wasn’t such a boor – thank God); but I’d learned it from other elders. And as the fellow finally stopped talking and drifted away again, I had an odd feeling of disconnect observing my daughter’s instincts.

A little while later, she and I leave the shop. As we step into my car I ask her: “You didn’t do anything wrong – but I’m wondering, why did you walk away from that man when he began talking to you?”

“I have a right to when I feel uneasy,” she replies simply.

I put the car in gear and blink back tears. She is her preternatural calm, as usual. She is that fierce ice storm. She is that loving girl who slides her left hand into mine, and finds the New Wave pop tune she loves on my iPod. She says, “I want to sleep with you tonight.”

My wish for her isn’t just that she is loved, and cared for, and fed, and kept safe – but that she is kept safe where it matters most; in her own heart. When it comes down to it, she will be the one keeping herself, she will be the one caring for herself. I will be gone some day but maybe I live on in her breast.

She is growing herself up, and everything is as it should be.

yet nothing can resist it

My daughter and I hop into the pool a mere forty minutes before it’s set to close. Swim team, classes, and other lap swimmers have kept it busy, so the water has churned itself up into being cold and inhospitable. Unpleasant; but, I know after only half a length I’ll feel just fine.

Phoenix hits the water ahead of me, striking out for the other side and the shadow of the diving board. Experiencing what can only be described as a sense of bemused dismay I am stunned at how quickly she can swim, a full year since she quit swim team. She is completely confident and displays correct, if a bit choppy, technique: swinging her head to take that breath, her arms golden and sleek churning the water. Her energy makes me feel tired, but – give me a break, I still have a head cold. I follow behind and make it there, eventually. She remarks on my speed. “Give me a break,” I tell her. “I’m just learning.” Re-learning, really. But it’s been about twenty years.

We finish my half-mile at my pace, and in between my lengths she darts back and forth, easily outstripping me and the other two adults in the pool. Every now and then she pulls herself up to the side of the pool, arms folded across her long and lean belly. Her eyes like tiger stripes, long inked hair framing her serene but savage beauty.

I feel this helpless sense of something after our half hour is up, when we finally emerge from the now-empty lap pool and head for a few minutes in the hot tub. I’m thinking she won’t want to come along next time, especially with me swimming as slowly as I am (still learning to breathe properly and it’s a slog). But instead of trying to beg or hint or anything I simply lean in and tell her, “Thank you for coming with me. You are an inspiration to me as a swimmer.” She replies, “Thank you.” Fifteen minutes later in the car – hair washed, lights spangling against the windshield’s rain – she says, “I want to come with you next time.”

It has been wonderful having her home – no school this week. She is resting, drawing, helping with housework, and in general being a lovely presence. The additional sleep, and the lack of a grueling school schedule, provides her with more patience for her brother than she has shown this school year. This morning: when I wake, I find her curled up in my new oversized chair, drawing quietly and waiting for our day to start. An hour later she dresses for errands including deep plum eyeshadow and her coat with a fur-lined hood; she joins Nels and I for lunch out – and takes to a hot cup of soup with precision and hunger, like a lady.

She is nearly silent when she’s not giggling at video games or a goofy cartoon movie of her brother’s choosing. She is a flower in my home. With her blue-black hair, sharp hips, and long legs, she is a reedy and dangerous exotic orchid twining up the furniture, growing before my very eyes! I have to grab her belly or pull her down on top of me on the couch to get her to giggle helplessly and then I can see it: that brief glimpse of babyhood, the only softness left to her – a gentleness under her chin, a tender oasis hiding above her slim neck.

Rain outside; but the storm, for now, has passed. A soft bed and a warm room; cats, dogs, even the rabbit sleeping now. A bit of bread and olives; a glass of hot water and Chinese herbs.

Sleep.

like a firefly without the light

This morning: I arrive home after swim class to an empty house – Ralph and the kids heading up to Olympia. A day to myself – truly, a gift, and a rarity. I am recovering from a sore throat and head cold which just hit yesterday. With patience, rest, and raw garlic and honey I hope to be restored to full health soon.

Swimming. I only started two weeks ago and already I am respectably pulling laps. Hard to be patient and rest – swim less than I want – when I’m just becoming exhilarated with the acquisition of new skills. Yet I know if I don’t rest, I will get sick in earnest. I am determined to take care of my body – and thus avoid unnecessary stress.

Tonight. My son. Tall, and blonde, and full of Plans. “Mom? Here are the foods I want you to pack for my trip tomorrow. A couple hardboiled eggs, and some pancakes – and a food of your choice. Like maybe a sandwich.”

No one says “sandwich” better than my children. Also: no one is more grateful for the simple gift of food. Tonight: rolling meatballs and cooking them up so we can cool them down and reheat for tomorrow’s dinner. Slicing pear, ripened on the windowsill. Hot black tea with cream and sugar.

Tonight: fatigue. Braved the rainstorm to get to a Recovery commitment, “only” a few souls there to help, but it matters. The beat goes on, day in and day out, doing what I’m supposed to do, one foot in front of the other whether I feel much like it or not. Most days I like it a great deal, indeed.

A homemade Valentine; my children heap more than one card upon us. Their demonstrative nature is an immensely cheering force in what otherwise might be a drab, wet, hopeless-feeling day.

speechless, for once

A Gift

Our Christmas morning was full of a lot of laughter and wonderful, thoughtful gifts. A great many people in my life put a lot of thought, time, and money into wonderful gifts for one another. Me? I was up until 5 AM finishing the handsewn & hand-knit items for my loved ones.

But one gift in particular, today, bears a bit of mentioning: and that is, a little gift my husband gave me.

Halfway through present-opening I unwrapped a small package and pulled out some lovely, handmade socks. Wool. Wonderful! Anyone who knows me knows I love wool – and lately, my sock supply has been threadbare AF. These are a very pretty autumnal colorway and I can tell they will fit.

I ask Ralph, “Where did you get these?”

and he replies,

“I made them.”

So like…

since before Thanksgiving he has been teaching himself to knit – by meeting with a mentor, and by knitting every spare moment he is not in sight of me. He kept the whole thing hush-hush, and so did our children.

Most incredible to me, for his first project he made me socks. SOCKS! People told him that wasn’t something you could do your first time. But he stuck with it. They are amazing socks! He made every stitch himself!

Not only that but he tells me, “All of Grays Harbor knows about these socks,” because apparently he’s had to knit every second he could get it in. At the bus stop while he waits for our daughter’s bus. Weekend mornings before I get up. At work, he’s been meeting with a mentor on his lunch hour, sitting in her car and getting help. Knitting at holiday parties. Knitting while I’m out, furiously knitting, then throwing the socks aside to quickly finish up dishes or dinner before I get home.

More touching than all of this is sitting next to him on the couch after I put the socks on. My mind keeps going back to all the hours and effort spent and I blink back tears. Now that the secret is out, he is free to come out of the closet as a knitter. I watch pull out his current project, his second project – and I watch my husband knit. I always knew he would be skilled at knitting and he would enjoy it, but to see him doing it… it’s hard to explain how touching and incredible it is.

He made me cry. Damn it takes a lot to get this girl off-kilter but he did it.

I’m truly floored.

forever ’til the end of time

“Sometimes when I see you I feel a tiny bit strange. Then a little tiny flame ignites inside my heart. it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and I know it is extreme Love. When I see you I feel less ill.”

Nels tells me this only a few minutes after succumbing to a short bout of crying – he’d read part of a Japanese comic book where a kitten was separated from his littermate, and was struck with a sudden wrenching sorrow. His tenderness and compassion surprise me because many children his age don’t express it so openly. But then again, he has always been this way. Tonight while bathing he tells me he is sad because he crushed a moth that he inadvertently swiped at. At their young ages my children understand, or perhaps have not been programmed to forget, that all beings desire to live in safety and peace.

I tell my children I’m proud of them. Their compassion serves them well, and it will serve others well. The world is a still-suffering entity as I have much reason to know.

but they’ll never find that cure

“You are the diamond of my world,” my 11 year old daughter says to me as we get ready for bed.

I’m quiet at first because my children are often saying such niceties. Just as I’m thinking how wonderful it is to live with such demonstrative children she says,

“But you are not polished – yet.”

I ask her, “What do you mean by that?” – genuinely curious.

She pauses for so long I think she’s ignoring me. But then she responds. “Think of it like Buddhism. Like a flower that’s going to open. You are beautiful but you have not awakened the Buddha within – yet.”

I hold her close and kiss her forehead. I feel suddenly that little gap, that moment of acceptance and peace and a little bit of fatigue. I am tired and only a little bit sad but I am utterly teachable. I hold her and I ask her simply, “When will that happen for me?”

She looks at me with her tiger eyes and says slowly, as if explaining a very simple concept for the second time, “It will happen… when… it happens.”

There is not one small bit of doubt in her countenance.

is it real?

“Would you like to see my Christ Box?” my son asks me. He is holding a small, carved, wooden hingeless bowl with a lid. “These are things of God,” he tells me by way of introduction. He removes the lid and reveals two golden coins of indeterminate origin, a dime-sized smooth blue agate-like rock, and what looks like a beat-up brass washer. Now he holds the rock up now and instructs me: “This is blue and smooth and beautiful, for the Water God.” He thumbs through the two coins but rushes through these descriptions, instead finding the washer-like item to caress it. “And this is something God must have left for me, because I found it and it is beautiful.”

My son is so beautiful it breaks my heart. Daily he retreats from me, growing up and growing wild in his way, tall and lean and like a bramble, twisting up and up daily, growing without remorse. His hair is long and full of knots, his eyes infused with light and love, his summer tan and freckles glowing in the warm light of evening. His face is thin and wolf-like, changeling, but his smile is still innocent and mischievous, still the smile of his babyhood, and his skin and hair smell dusty and sweet the exact way his father smells. I hold him close and tell him it’s very important to notice such things, and then he is gone, to return his Christ Box to where he keeps it – I know not where.

It’s 11 PM now and I’m sitting after scrubbing a floor then cooking up a from-scratch chocolate cream pie. I’m not sure if there’s anything I find more cheering, humble, and heartfelt than cooking a few specific dishes – and chocolate cream pie is one of them. And there might not be anything better than doing this late at night, house clean and feet dirty, with the cheerful assistance of my daughter who is also wickedly funny. We’re discussing tonight’s viewing options, the bit of family movie we watch before we all get too sleepy to concentrate. I’m advocating for one of those documentaries on cryptids – predictable fare for me, I might add. “Most episodes are weaksauce, but that chupacabra was pure nightmare fuel,” my daughter laughs, a little tremor in her voice. She doesn’t get like her brother, terrified even to tears at times. It is hard to know what she is frightened of, what she fears. She runs deep but she is frank. Her brown is a deeper fawn-like brown and her cheeks blush like a rose, and her laughter has more warmth and is less harsh than her brother’s.

My feet ache and my knees have a twinge. Tomorrow I’ve an x-ray report I’m supposed to pick up, and we go from there to figure out the source of my mild, but chronic, hip and knee and shin pain. I pace myself, “the walk of an elephant”, yet even at this pace the home changes, opens up and blooms as I scrub windowsills and fold fabrics and wash windows. This evening in the waning daylight Ralph and I swept and scrubbed the living room and closets and a few places downstairs, in preparation for new furniture being delivered tomorrow. New for-reals-New, by the way. Perhaps my first-ever new piece of furniture? I’d have to think about it to figure it out, and I’m too tired for the mental exercise.

Gratitude beats down in my hard heels and is the company of the drum, even into the dark and into a bed of clean linens and a warm man and tangled-up children.