My favorite tree in the whole wide world got all dressed up for me.
She dances divinely.
She even self-corsages.
I just can’t take my eyes off her.
She’s worth every sneeze
the sringimg eyes
The runny nose.
Monday, 25 Aug 2014.
It’s striking how much the sunrise looks like the sunset from this high up. I’d show you a picture to prove my point, except I can’t get my damn camera out of my new pink bag that’s under the seat in front of me in time to snap the sunset because the woman has her seat reclined to the maximum quarter inch allowed. We paid Delta $69 each for 3/4 inch more leg room . . . but we didn’t get it on account of an equipment change. How do I know? I asked the flight attendant. But not until we were in landing mode, knowing that I would spend the entire 8 hours worth of flight time fuming and feeling even more claustrophobic. “Will the extra fare we paid automatically be refunded to our credit card?” I asked.
“No. You’ll have to call a Delta agent at the one-eight-hundred number when we land,” she says.
This is ridiculous, and though it’s true to my experience with Delta, I remain hopeful that it’s untrue. I spent money texting my sister (a Delta gate agent) asking her to check and make sure we’re refunded. It ought to happen automatically, we both agree. Cross your fingers that she remembers to look into it and take care of it if needbe. For Delta’s sake, I hope to see a refund on our credit card statement without me having to spend an additional thirteen hours waiting online to request something we paid for but did not receive.
I am a firm believer in having those who work in the healthcare field being patients at least once a year, and I now suggest that the CEO of Delta who assured us of Delta’s commitment to service and satisfaction in the little video we were all forced to watch sit in the sucks-to-be-you seats at least twice a year. Without anybody knowing who he is, I mean.
The way the air conditioner blows behind me (no amount of readjustment changes it to blow anywhere near my hot self) and the way my light button turns on not my light but the light of my seat mate makes me suspect that Delta once ripped out all the seats in this plane and squished them together upon re-assembly, giving them a full 15 or so rows of tickets they could sell.
Yes, I am cranky. Not sleeping for 3 nights does that to a girl. I doubt even the sleeping pill would’ve induced sleep sitting straight up in a sardine can.
In honor of going to Ireland, I re-read John O’Donohue’s book Beauty. On page 18 I read about stale ways of seeing that block possibility, so I’m determined to find something, well, beautiful. Right here, right now that has to be The Engineer. Bless his heart, his brain is so brilliant, so simple, so exasperating at times. He sits there with his earbuds in, watching some movie on the tiny little screen in front of him and, when asked if he’d like something to drink, he shouts his answer quite loudly to be heard over the voices only he can hear. Yes, laughter is my beautiful, now and always.
To pass the time, I watch 6 episodes of Game of Thrones – episodes skip me seasons ahead of where we are watching at home, but it doesn’t pose much of a problem, really. Costumes that bring on drooling. Flags and banners that make me want to create one specially for us. Men and women who apparently don’t have enough to do tending to their own proverbial backyard, so they go out into the world and try to create a bigger backyard for themselves through conquest. I don’t think I missed all that much.
One of the documentaries is called Mondays in Racine, and it profiles two sisters who open their salon on Mondays to women who are going through the woes of cancer. “We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose. When we say from our heart to someone, ‘You are beautiful,’ it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur, and grace of their spirit.” (John O’Donohue, Beauty, page 15) This . . . this is what these sisters do. This . . . this right here is why I spill a few tears at the sight of the sisters holding the hands of women getting their heads shaved. At the sight of the sisters crying with them at the shock and loss and reality of it all. Yes. Beauty.
I work up a sweat, but I do finally manage to wrench the camera from my bag – just in time to see sunrise over Ireland.
And ribbons for our landing.
Next installment in Another Great Adventure 2014:
Things We Now Know and Things We Still Don’t Know
Saturday was World War 2 Heritage Days, an event in Peachtree City, GA honoring those who served in WW2. Veterans wear their uniforms or at least a hat to indicate their field of service.
My daughter travels around to various events, portraying Betty Grable, and let me tell you: she has the legs and the voice and the hair to pull it off. Years ago I bought a 1940s era dress just because I liked it. It’s hung in the closet since then, but on Saturday morning, I pulled it out and put it on, along with my black gloves, a 1940ish pocketbook, and the cutest hat you’ve ever seen, all topped off with shoes to die for (and by the end of the day, my feet almost had) (died, I mean). My hair is now too long to hold pin curls, and I didn’t know how to do victory rolls, so I decided I’d just tell the stitch nazis (women who delight in pointing out inadequacies and unauthenticies) to (a) bug off or (b) that I’d been out picking cotton that morning and simply hadn’t had time to do my hair. Thank goodness I didn’t hear from the stitch nazis, but I’ll have you know that three men asked me where I bought my dress. Not cross-dressers, mind you, just men who say they find shirtwaist dresses (accessorized with black gloves and a purse that snapped shut with an attitude) like mine sexier than today’s dresses. Here she is, my daughter, singing the national anthem.
Later when she sings The Armed Forces Medley, veterans stand when she gets to the theme song for their branch of service. These fellas were able to name the song Anchors Away in three notes.
This is my mother’s boyfriend, Walter, cheering as his song – Army Air Corps – ends. Loyalty runs deep.
Speaking of loyalty, this is Helen Denton telling some young girls what it was like to be General Eisenhower’s secretary. Though she joined in hopes of meeting a man, she had some pretty important jobs during her tour of duty . . . some things she couldn’t talk about for 50 years – not even to her husband – because she’d promised she wouldn’t.
Re-enactors don period attire and engage in immersion imagination as the veterans watch and remember, telling stories and shedding tears all along the day. The re-enactors spend an awful lot of time and money doing their research and trekking to these events. They take history seriously, and do not tolerate revisionists well. Their equipment and uniforms are authentically correct but they are not government-issued like the originals.
When they’re not in character, you see things like a German giving a ride to US military folk . . . and they are all smiling. This vehicle, by the way, was a gift from the driver’s wife one Christmas. Yes, really.
When they came home, the veterans were told they could wear their uniforms for 3 months until they found a job and got settled. They were given special pins to wear to indicate that they had served and were now discharged, reacclimatizing themselves into society. Though the pin had an official name, the veterans called it The Ruptured Duck. All veterans were given a Ruptured Duck pin Saturday morning. This is my 98 year old Uncle Joseph receiving his pin.
And this is Walter receiving his pin.
The hangar is filled with rows of tables filled with ribbons, pins, uniforms, photos, and other memorabilia on Saturday. In one corner of the hangar, young women have set up a 1940s kitchen, complete with the cutest stove I’ve ever seen, a ringer washing machine I’m glad I don’t have to use, a wooden ironing board that looks like it positively salivates at the thought of pinching fingers, a Hoosier cabinet that reminds me of the one in my Aunt Rene’s kitchen, and a small kitchen table from that era. I like that there was some attention shone on the domestic arts of the time.
There’s a camp show that is performed word-for-word from the transcripts of camp shows of the era. This is Thomas Eastin (the best of the good guys, if you ask me), a college student who’s been portraying Bob Hope for several years.
When the whistle sounds at 4 o’clock, tired volunteers find a second wind and leap into action, clearing the hangar of military paraphernalia and transforming it into a ballroom for The Swing Dance. The tired young re-enactors change into their dress uniforms, and just as they must have back in the 1940’s, line up to ask pretty young women to dance. I look at the young men in those WW2 uniforms and think about how the 93 and 94 year old men sitting across the table from me were about that age when they trotted off to war. How did their mothers ever stop crying?
When I interviewed him for the book I wrote about him, my father-in-law told me that he received his marching orders the same day he was to graduate from Georgia Tech. Said the school moved the graduation ceremony up, making it earlier in the day so graduates would have time to gather their belongings and take their leave into the wild blue yonder and beyond. He said he and the other graduates walked up on stage, received their lambskin, then stepped off the stage and immediately received their orders. In the space of the few hours separating graduation from shipping out, many of them – including my father-in-law – got married.
But it’s not just the young re-enactors who take to the dance floor. Here’s my mother dancing with Walter while Alison sings “Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time . . . ”
At one point during the evening, this 94 year old veteran was dancing with Jenny (left) when Alison went up and in the spirit of fun, staged a cat fight for his attention. Is it just me, or does this fella seem to enjoy all the commotion?
In the end, he chose Alison, I mean Betty Grable. His daughter cautioned Alison to hold on to him tightly, but there was magic in the air that night, magic that took his body back in time – maybe not to a foxhole, but he sure didn’t need any help finding his way around the dance floor.
Freddie hails from Long Island, New York and travels around the country making appearances as JFK. This is my mother being totally won over by his charming personality. Look out, Marilyn. You may be able to sing Happy birthday, Mr. President, but you can’t cook like my mother.
We can argue that memory is construct and fallible, and we might agree that we’d rather war be the last avenue taken rather than the first, but surely we all agree that there’s nothing like learning about history from the lips of those who lived it. You can’t learn history like this from books. You just can’t.
“It’s wrong,” he said, “to take away the story a pot can tell.”
A pot should tell about the passing of time. It should speak of the woman with swirls on her fingertips, who smoothed the inside surface with a piece of gourd. It should raise a prickle of wonder at the artist who looked at a lizard and saw the geometry of its back limbs, right angles framing the curve of its tail. It should lay bare the disaster of its breaking and what else might have been broken with it. If it has empty space in its skin, that emptiness is part of what it is.
Clay that holds a story of human creative power holds also a story of the fragmenting power of time and weather and irretrievable loss. The beauty in a bowl is the truth of it. If part of its truth is the wounds it has endured, then those wounds are part of its beauty.
From Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore
~ /// ~
She messaged me in mild panic: my granddog had broken my son’s favorite bowl. “Send it to me,” I told her, and I spent months mending it. Not because it took that long, but because I enjoyed the process. He assured me he didn’t want it, my son, so I’ve adopted it, and for some unfathomable reason, I can’t bear to finish mending it.
~ /// ~
I bought two bags filled with shards of broken dishes – five dollars a bag – and years later, I am still tickled with my treasure. “What will you do with them?” my husband asks in a chuckle. That was a long time ago, and the shards still just sit in a dish, treating my imagination to stories untold.
~ /// ~
We visited Nancy last week, my friend Angela and I. After she finished her brownie sundae with strawberry milkshake, I put paper in front of her and a pen in her hand, and our Nancy drew like a woman possessed. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills to turn a single page at a time, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. She drew then stopped, waiting on me to find her a fresh page. She filled the remaining pages in my pocketbook notebook then Angela’s notebook then a few bits of paper I happened to have tucked to the side. That night I bought her a 6-pack of composition books and a side of pens, and the next day when we took her to lunch, I opened them in front of her. Though she didn’t draw with quite the same intensity as the day before, she was nevertheless focused, and filled the better part of three of those six books.
Yesterday and the day before, I scanned those images, and purchased several yards of white fabric – some broadcloth and some white textured fabric purchased at a thrift shop. (I’ll explain my choice of fabrics another day in another post.) Today I cut the fabric into pieces, and tomorrow I’ll set about stitching each of Nancy’s 163 drawings – one image to one piece of cloth – using purple thread because purple is her favorite color and Angela’s purple pen is the one she obviously preferred. I’ll be posting occasional updates here where I do my long form writing, but mostly I’ll be documenting this journey at my new blog, Gone with the Thread, specially created for such inexplicable but necessary pursuits of my heart.
~ /// ~
I keep the shards without so much as an idea of making a wailing wall like the one in The Secret Life of Bees or the mosaic wall in How to Make an American Quilt. I don’t want to remake them into something they once were, and I don’t want to make them into something else entirely. I keep the shards and the pieces of the bowl just as they are because even in their (so called) brokenness, they speak. Because even in their (so called) brokenness, their possibilities are limited only by my limitations. Because even in their (so called) brokenness, they are beautiful.
personal appearance is important to mother and alison.
both know how to throw an outfit together.
both know what looks good on them.
both know how to talk to hair dressers
and know their way around a makeup counter.
both are beautiful, beautiful women.
did it skip a generation?
that would be the easiest explanation.
but actually, there was a time when
i was pretty
when i threw together
and interesting outfits
but then responsibilities grew
while finances shrunk,
so i learned to
on things other than my appearance.
i told myself
that being pretty was
and that’s true
i still want to
comfortable in the
instead of feeling like
i should apologize
and explain my presence
and be grateful that the
hair dresser doesn’t
see my name on the book
and put a bag over her head.
i want to feel
but there’s an important difference:
i cared most
about what other people
thought about me,
felt like my appearance
and was the sum total
of what i had to offer.
it’s all about me.
i want to feel comfortable.
i want to feel pretty –
not because of what others think,
but because i want to smile
when i see me.
and i’m finding that as i
make time to write,
as i dare to speak what’s
true to me,
the weight slowly
of how my hair looks
or what i’m wearing
or whether i’m wearing makeup or not,
i begin to feel pretty