Tuesday, July 26, 2011

everything that's lost will be found again

I've been losing things. My phone, multiple times. My handbag. Bottles of water around the house. I've managed to lose things that aren't even mine: Chip's phone, Alice's shoes, pieces of paper that I had no business relocating in the first place.

Chip tells me it's about patience, that these things aren't actually lost, just moved. He says I need to have the patience to retrace steps and remember more clearly where I put things. A suggestion to replace my current method of flailing around in a twirling dither on maniacal repeat: WHERE'S MY PHONE? WHERE'S MY PHONE? WHERE'S MY PHONE?

What's even harder is losing things in someone else's house, which is exactly what I've been doing since we're currently at my parents' house, Chez Winston---- mom and dad are making it perfectly acceptable to sigh every 15 minutes that I can't find that thing, that thing I just had 3 seconds ago. They tell me I'm joining the aged ranks. Maybe they're right, and maybe it's something else: a preoccupation with the things around me, giving meaning to who and what and where I am. I see it in Alice, how she gathers stuff around her - bits of ephemera that are just that: wings and fluff and bits of plastic, stuffed into handbags and backpacks and tiny boxes that fit into the palm of her hand. She seems incomplete unless she's carting around a knapsack full to the brim.

I watch her stop in the middle of the living room, contemplating mom's measuring spoons. She stuffs them into her pink backpack before moving on two yards to the left to pick up a tiny Altoid tin, a gift from Grampy. If I ask her why these things are important, she has no vocabulary to say these treasured wonders intrigue her into weighted meaning. She simply tells me that she wants them, wants them close.

If I let her, she'd sleep with empty packets of gum, red rubber balls, small tubs of lip balm. Instead, she places everything on a small table before bathtime, kissing each thing goodnight.

Being here with my parents creates an ache in me that can't be soothed, an ache of loneliness for the insubstantial lost things like holding Winson's hand while crossing the street or sitting on the countertop watching mom make chocolate chip cookies or the smell of Winston's workshop at the house on Raymond Avenue. It's the stabbing sense of the loss of my childhood, something that can't be rescued from beneath a couch cushion.

Instead, I watch them perform everyday tasks and memorize the turn of their heads, the angle of their hands in the sunlight. I watch mom water the backyard. I listen to Winston as he tells me about his childhood home. And I do my best to remember every inconsequential thing as they love Alice in the best ways they know how. Dad hands her some tiny Altoid boxes, and mom brings her cottonballs to put inside them. She brings these things to me, her eyes shining, "Treasures, mommy! Look at the treasures!"

And I answer her quietly, Yes. Exactly that.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

someone else's fear

These are the paper tigers: the ones you can't help but laugh at, the ones that earn your eyerolls and sighs of exasperation. The ones you can't see because they aren't there... for you. These are someone else's fears. Heights or closed-in spaces when you have always loved standing on the very edge of the precipice or never blinked when you stepped inside a too-small elevator. Fast cars or strange food or the number 13. Something that you simply don't understand because you never earned the fear. You didn't survive a near-fatal car crash or spend four days in the hospital after an alarming bout of E coli. You don't have elaborate worries about a specific number. And you most certainly aren't afraid of jumping into a swimming pool.

But wait--- you were. On that last one, you were afraid. When you were five and so tiny, when your older siblings and cousins ran in and around the water in an endless frenzy of splashes, when your dad stood at the side of the pool telling you to jump, just jump--- you found yourself paralyzed with the fear of it.

And this is how you know it's true, this memory of fear, because as you stand in the pool and call your three-year-old into your arms, you can remember that wiggling seed of worry over the flight and soar. Your memory is tangled in the one you're living now, calling Alice into your arms, telling her you won't drop her, promising her you will always catch her no matter what. But still she stalls at the edge, her bathing suit dripping in a sloppy puddle. She draws her hands up to her face to count with you--- a ONE, TWO, THREE of exaltation that is stunted at the end, her arms dropped down to her side and that forehead worry line even more pronounced. She is asking you to step closer to her now, willing you to simply pick her up and hold her in your arms. But you are frustrated with the hold-up. You insist she JUMP, even when you can hear the same echoed in your mind: this one from your dad as he tells you to just do it, just JUMP ALREADY. This is the five-year-old you, worrying that he won't catch your falling body, worrying that he will let you flail uncontrollably in the water, worrying that he simply won't be there even as he promises he will be, even as he stands so still.

You don't know how to do it, how to explain to your daughter that she is safe - even as you ask her to throw herself into the void and trust that she will be caught. You don't know how to talk to her without mocking the things she fears. This act of belittling will only make her back further from the edge, will only have her expect you to throw her in the ocean one day. She will bear her claws then, spitting with fury and betrayal, her legs running wobbly up the shore to dry sand, knowing that later she will refuse to hold your hand.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I am not a natural swimmer. I remember lessons in the impossibly deep pool on Glendon Way - our swimming teacher throwing weighted rings into the depths, instructing each of us how to dive. When it was my turn, I would stand shaking on the side, toes curled over the white rim on the concrete. Arms over head, together. Bend slightly at the waist. Head down. One, two, three: leap.

Except I wouldn't leap. Not immediately. Under the breath there was a second count, a count whispered quietly in shaky whisper. One.... two.... three.... three.... three.... three....

And I would imagine as I counted, the cold shock of the water, the pressure of depth on my body, and the topsy-turvy nonsense of leading deeply into the water with my legs high up over my head.

I thought of my lungs filling with that cold dark water, and a feeling of being trapped at the bottom of the pool while life above the rippled surface soldiered on without me.

I am not a natural swimmer. I sink when others float. My body fights the current that carries others so effortlessly. And the view from the water---- I hate how the line of blue obscures my perspective, makes it impossible to see anything beyond the few feet in front of me.

There is something to be said about those to whom swimming is a second life. Something to learn from them who can embrace the uncontrollable waves and ride them, smiling. There is something to emulate in those who can leap into the darkening depths without worry.

One, two, three...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

magic bean stock

We were laughing the other day, Chip and I, about all the little weird things that Bean does, so very grateful that I've managed to catch a lot of them with my camera. I usually post them on Facebook.

Then Chip told me, "I hope that people know that we don't pose her for these things. That she comes up with them all on her own."

It made me think, actually, like I wanted to jump on my small soapbox and shout I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. So begins a new series here at The Creamery, Magic Bean Stock. And for the record let's note: I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.

I'm calling this one Doppelganger.

...Doppelganger because I walked into the studio to find her wearing a travel pillow on her head and I immediately thought of this:

Monday, July 11, 2011

show and tell

Two recent Costco receipts, from different visits - with exciting artwork.

In case anyone thought I was joking.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

life in snippets, and having something to do with sand

We spent all day Saturday and all day Monday outside in the sun, building planter boxes and a sandbox. (Well, Chip built planter boxes and a sandbox. I painted. And wrangled a three-year-old.) In all that time, I didn't get a stitch of sunburn. Not a bit.

I spent 45 minutes in the front yard with Bean yesterday evening, and managed to burn the backs of my arms, my neck, and bits of my back - through my shirt, mind you.

- - - - - - -

We believe there is a conspiracy of Sand Box Sand Sourcing Companies to jack up the price of sand. Because SERIOUSLY.

- - - - - - -

I always thought that two was the Age of Getting Dirty, and somehow we'd sidestepped it. But it turns out, the Age of Getting Dirty, Really Really Dirty, is three. And we are rolling in it, people. I'm talking two and three clothing changes a day because I won't let her back in the house and up on the furniture when I can't tell the color of her pants for all the dirt.

Which was the origin of the sandbox: if she wants to be playing in organic matter, why not give her SAND instead of plain old DIRT?

- - - - - - -

In the grand scheme of things that Chip and I might have discussed over the weekend, some of those possibly were---- the sandbox sand pricing racket, the moral implications of a midnight run to the beach wherein a person (or persons) could liberate some of the perfectly available, and yes, FREE sand, and different methods for covering a sandbox to keep poop-burying creatures from turning a brand new sandbox into the neighborhood outdoor toilet facility. I'll let you guess which of those conversations took place more than once, each for an unseemly amount of time. Hint: there are a lot of details to plan for a fictitious midnight beach run.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

burning fast and bright

This is how we celebrate the Fourth of July at our house: with white noise cranked up to eleven, shhhhhhhing in the dark hallway and in Bean's bedroom. We listen to the too-close pops and claps of fireworks exploding furiously in the backyards of the houses surrounding ours, and hope--- hope and cringe that Alice will sleep, that the cats will eventually settle, and that our house will not burn down from an errant bottle rocket (one, two, or seven). This is what happens when neighbors can get their hands on any and every illegal incendiary device known to man, whatever is made and sold at local Indian reservations. There is barely a second between the pops, some high and whistling, others with a low booming depth that scares me silly.

But in the smallest quiet, I find myself thinking--- not of the excited teenagers surely clutching the lighters and matches fueling the explosions, and not of our country or the freedom so dearly bought with the sacrifice of patriots and rebels so long ago.

Instead, I'm thinking of the lives that remind me so much of the fireworks bursting in colorful blossoms around our dark house. I'm thinking of the people I've known who live lives so fast and so bright, they cannot sustain the burn. I'm thinking of Virginia, who ran up mountain trails and slid down rock falls, her dogs at her heels. She was the bossiest person I've ever known, but she loved her friends with a heart so fierce, her loyalty burned lines in the carpet. That was Virgina-- lover of the outdoors and friend to the canines, so strong in her own opinion, you just wanted to slap her silly. She left a hole in the world when she dropped so quickly out of it: breast cancer that ate her up in a single swallow. I wonder about the son she left behind.

I'm thinking of Carol. A nursing student who smoked a pack each day without irony. She sat in my bedroom and told me I was her favorite roommate, like, ever. And then six months later we argued over something stupid and I never talked to her again. She was gone just a year later, an inoperable brain tumor. She went home to Connecticut and got a dog who stayed by her side as she faded. Her parents dream of the grandchildren they will never meet.

I'm thinking of short lives and the burning trail they leave. Does it come down to fire? To fuel that ignites but cannot sustain a steady flame? I am sure there have always been human fireworks that light the sky, lives that cause us to turn our faces to the heavens and marvel at their astounding beauty.

And here is the noise they make around us: the loudest percussive boom, while the rest of us flicker quietly on the ground.