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Rabbit rabbit. I had never heard of that before I met D. A west coast thing, perhaps? Nope. British. And superstitious in origin, of course. I caught myself "touching wood" the other day and thought of Betty Dab, who did that in front of the rabbi who married her son and me, leading him to explain to her that this was not something Jews did, as it was about touching the wood of the cross. Jesus's cross. But Betty was not easily swayed, and she continued her ritual, making sure never to toucher du bois in front of Orthodox Jews.
Three of our five parents died within four February days of each other. Different years, of course, and Nate the odd man out in August. And so very long ago. So what are the odds that Mom will die in February, I mused aloud. One in twelve, he replied without missing a beat, making me laugh when laughter was the furthest thing from my mind. I can't seem to find a ritual to stick to, other than the candle lighting. One year I ordered proper yahrzeit licht in little cans. How they all would have chuckled (or worse) at that.
When I got an Apple IIe in 1985, I asked "Is it fast?" And was told "It depends what you're used to." Ain't that the truth. Now that we have instant, nothing is fast enough. I wasn't tapping my foot, but the receptionist at PT apologized for her computer's delay. I know my own jaw-clenching frustration when a web page takes more than a second to load. We are all rapidly losing the ability to wait for something. Cooking is the perfect antidote. You just can't rush a good braise, and muffins will bake in their own sweet time.
Watched a movie from 1980s and felt so nostalgic for the pacing of life before the electronics invasion. Everything took a little more time, and it didn't make people impatient. When the phone rang, you had to stop what you were doing and go answer it. Cordless phones were still a novelty. Most notably, people were present with each other, uninterrupted by dinging and beeping or needing to check what the world was up to every other second. I wonder what my granddaughter will think when she's 64 and looks at videos of her playing with an ancient iPhone 6.
If I should ever forget the date, I just have to look up Super Bowl 2013. One minute I was taking spicy Thai wings out of the oven, and the next I was booking a flight and packing. It was twentysomething below when I got there, but the cold was inconsequential, except when we had to go outside to make calls. A small, hot little room, crowded with family, all ours. Familiar staff - Linda, and Michael, who stiffened disappointingly when I turned and hugged him in helpless sorrow and loss and desolation, moments after watching the monitor descend to zero.
Daffodils at sea level, many feet of pristine snow up at Alpental. Finally, after 13 years here, I make it into the mountains to snowshoe with Mary in real winter. No sun, but an otherwise perfect day - mild, some pretty flurries, not too many people, a gorgeous forest of Alpine hemlocks, trails already cut up to a picturesque waterfall, where we stop for a lunch of pb&j sandwiches, apple slices and chocolate. I'm wearing my 30-year-old gloves that remind me of cross-country skiing with Pauline. Body's that much older, too, but still works just fine. Yay Pilates!
Fourteen years ago just about now, I was descending into SeaTac for the first time, bottle of champagne from the flight attendant hidden in an Air Canada pillowcase (they still gave you pillows then), heart pounding like the stereotypic rain against my window. He smelled of leather and himself and it felt like a done deal then and there, although a fair bit of doing and dealing still lay ahead. Tonight, the champagne is undrunk in the fridge, because I have a terrible cold and it's Super Bowl Sunday and I can hardly follow because my head is so stuffed.
Reality check. I'm not gone yet. Don't even know when or where I'm going. But I seem to have started leaving already and that's no damn good to anyone, least of all me. So it's once again into the breach, into the same damn classroom I can never seem to graduate from, kicking and screaming (and cursing), to learn the present tense, over and over, like Groundhog Day, till I get it right. I got you, Babe... and you got me, and we knew the Four Obstacles and the red flags and the job was dangerous when we took it.
Me being me, peas will be planted on President's Day. And me being me, there will be experimenting to see just how many 9-year-old pea seeds will germinate (more than 50%)! And me being me, there will be no throwing out of a single viable seed (can't drop a pea, tee tee) which means a crowded pea trellis (again) this year, and gifts of green shoots to garden neighbors. How confident and optimistic to place those wizened green balls between damp paper towels and wait for them to plump up and grow their little white tails. Miracles happen.
It was Marx Brothers madness for a little while today. Everything happening at once: FaceTime, texting, land line, cell phone, door bell emails... everyone wanting something, even if only just to know how I was feeling. Then the funniest cross-cultural misunderstanding ever, when Terry told me he was "sur trois chats en même temps." I thought "clever metaphor for being busy! wonder why I never heard it before" and wrote back saying "same here - i think your three cats are visiting me!" He said, "Wha???" and it turned out the French word for chat is of course chat.
Thoughts on watching the PBS Sanders-Clinton debate: He sees the bigger picture - wants to change the whole framework and then figures that rearranging the pieces will be easier and make more sense. Her focus is more on the pieces. They both recognize how everything is connected She appears more comfortable in her skin now, owning and articulating her opinions, looking much less like a puppet controlled by her message managers. Both of them have brains, gravitas, education and maturity, which is more than can be said for the fear-mongerers, biblethumpers, weirdos and mediocre wannabes on the other side.
Several pounds of baby board books and some purple and green sparkly ribbon, Theo and Fran's chocolates, baggies of Good Earth tea, my half-caf coffee blend, a pungent sachet of homegrown lavender, my favorite old superlight superwarm knee-length cardigan hoodie, socks thin and thick, a half-dozen sweaters and tops, warm leggings, the black fleece vest, my purple sparkle Bubbie hat, a few scarves to brighten up the monochrome, and on impulse at the drugstore, a small stuffed monkey for her to find in my purse. Also a haircut, colour and freshly purpled tail. Readying to leave. Again.
Two people, at least half a dozen instruments, 20 fingers (and some well-shod feet) and a few zillion amazing notes, plucked, clawed, hammered and sung. I knew it was going to be fun, but had no idea a whole night of banjo music could be so hauntingly gorgeous. Béla and Abby tour together now, kid in tow, their combined creative talent filling up the empty stage with traditional, classical, folk, jazz and humor. And her voice!!! Made for hollering across a holler, and for pulling every hard-felt emotion up by the roots. By golly it was fun.
We always think they won't, but memories dull and scrapbooks come in handy. From the original invitation 7/7/01 to the concert tickets, theatre programs, boarding passes, photos, and cards upon cards upon cards. So sure we knew which ones were ours, but we were wrong often enough to think twice. A fine champagne middle to a day that began with coffee, chocolate and a red shoe, moseyed over to Ray's for one of everything and a stunning view, and ended with another hilarious speak-along Harry and Sally. " We can do this anywhere. Except maybe for the view.
In the midst of everything, a Supreme goes belly-up. And now the children are taunting each other with more gusto than ever and I can't believe my ears ever more than I couldn't believe them before. I know I have to take these people seriously, but it is beyond reason on so many levels. Adding insanity to insanity, Trump finally speaks a few words of actual sense and truth, and of course is roundly booed for it. Escape is not the answer, but I feel dull and hollow (when I'm not boiling over). It's good to be leaving tomorrow.
Almost wrote the same entry twice, hah! As though we don't have repeat signs at the end of some days. This one has the sameness of all other "one more sleep" days, and there have been so many of them I long ago lost count, yet it also has the unique quality of this particular day-before-leaving day: rain that opened to sun, and the happy-sad visit with my doctor who told me I'm inspirationally healthy and am on my way to 100, but she's leaving in June. It would take a special kind of chutzpah to complain.
Language and place, blurring of borders and boundaries, but easy to identify where you are by the touchstones of sight and sound. Crossing YVR international terminal through a sea of Mandarin, navigating eddies of Japanese and little pools of other Asian languages, arriving at the domestic terminal, where French laps at English shores with occasional harsh accents of Vietnamese. Everything is back to bilingual, too. The view out the window is the same as this morning, but when I land it will be 20 degrees colder, with ice and snow underfoot. That all this is even possible still amazes me.
We were horsing around on the bed, me flipping you front to back and over again, then pretending to be tired and collapsing with big fake snores to your great giggling delight. Your Daddy came in to enjoy the action and asked, "Did you do the socks yet?" I didn't know what he meant, until he proceeded to play the same game with you that I invented with him when he was your age, grabbing your toes and pretending he could't pull off the sock, then finally letting go and spinning dramatically out of the room. The things that stick...
A house full of toys, yet we spend a good half hour playing on the kitchen floor with a salad spinner, your bowl, an empty yogurt container, a plastic measuring cup, three potatoes, and a half-eaten apple. You concentrate mightily as you transfer the potatoes from one container to the next, sometimes using your hand, sometimes just letting them tip out. Occasionally, you sneak a bite from a potato, even though you know it doesn't taste very good. The look you give me in so doing is priceless, and I marvel at how kids learn coy so early on.
Last visit, I spent three weeks and we never touched the keyboard. Today, we sight-read Schubert and Bach till every last one of our neurons yelled Uncle. Somehow, we ended up switching parts in the Passacaglia we've been playing since I was a kid. Sitting on the "wrong" side of the bench, we tackled the complex counting, key changes, and sixteenth notes and staved off dementia in a hail of wrong notes and bumbled runs, breathlessly giggling and swearing, and marveling every time we managed to end a page together. 93 and 64 and it's more fun than ever.
A car encased in ice is a beautiful, ephemeral thing, like the crust of a crème brulée waiting for the first tap of the spoon. Start the engine to begin the melt to allow great sheets to slide off the windows and hood as soon as they have been separated by a decisive scrape with the plastic end of the snow brush. I try to lift the thin plates of ice in single piece but they shatter, and anyway my fingers are freezing now despite the fur-lined gloves and the fun erodes quickly in a bitter wind.
--I'm not really that vain, am I?
--Well, what do you call it when we FaceTime together but you won't let me see you because you don't like the way you look?
--Oh, that's just because I can't stand what's happened to me.
--What's happened to you??? You've gotten old, that's all. You should be celebrating, not hiding. Dementia, cancer, emphysema...those are terrible things to happen. But you're still healthy, bright, energetic and optimistic. You're the cat's meow! Arthritis is your worst problem. Can we please celebrate that and stop worrying about a decline that hasn't even seriously begun?
Longing - a strong desire for, wishing with one's whole heart (and often striving to attain); also yearning, hankering, pining, hungering, thirsting. Yearn suggests an eager, restless, or painful longing, hanker perhaps more the uneasy promptings of unsatisfied appetite or desire. Pine implies a languishing or a fruitless longing for what is impossible. Hunger and thirst, an insistent or impatient craving or a compelling need. Thus, I long to be closer and enjoy the perks of easy access to my beloveds, and occasionally I may yearn or even hanker. I don't pine or hunger/thirst, except for the compelling need part.
At street level, a morning snow storm is treacherous. But from a 12th floor window, it is other-worldly, transforming flat grey skies, stark black trees and gritty sidewalks into a fantasyland scene of swirlery. Snow drives left to white across the closed brick faces of the stately homes across the boulevard. Tucked under woolen blankets like an invalid in an O. Henry story, I am entranced by the dance. One by one, irregular clumps of feathery flakes stick to each other, raising an ephemeral band on railings and sills. It is like watching time-lapse photography in real time.
Hillary to Bernie and back again, head speaks to gut, debating, rationalizing, reading every thoughtful article in every earnest Facebook post, and every corresponding counter-argument posted in equal earnestness, 2 am eyes blinking away the blear as I valiantly wade through yet another "definitive" reason why it must be Bernie (or Hillary). And through it all, trying to figure out how we got here and how little information I - and most others - really have, and hating how nobody makes connections or goes beyond the first level of reasoning. Has it always been like this? Does it matter more now?
Walking Hutchison Street is like reading a favorite book for the umpteenth time and noticing something new every time. A digit has tumbled from the address on my grandparent's once-elegant home with the grey stone facade, making it 525 instead of the iconic 5253. Men and boys in 17th-century Hasidic garb climb the now-battered stairs to welcome Shabbos in the hall where my grandfather the cantor once officiated at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and where my cousins and I ran around, red-faced and sweaty, stopping occasionally to take turns pumping the pedals of the ancient organ.
What would happen if I spoke to them? I fantasize about looking one in the eye and saying "Gut Shabbos," or feigning outrage and telling a kid (in Yiddish) to make a little room on the sidewalk. But a) they wouldn't look at me or speak to me, a woman, never mind a purple-haired non-religious one, and b) they probably wouldn't recognize that I was speaking Yiddish, since they would not be expecting it. I can never stop staring at them, in their fancy dress fur streimels, black satin-finish coats, black sashes, white stockings, heavy black shoes.
The genetic power of a pout, the persistence of a particular arch of a brow, or soft curve of a cheek, mutated over (surely more than) four generations but nonetheless identifiable as family traits. No less apparent are the character traits -- the willful stubbornness, the hearty giggle, the curiosity, the sociability, the ear for music, the appetite for food and experience. As with fashion trends that repeat but don't copy, she wears our ancient identity with her own unique style, genetic hat tilted at her own rakish angle. It is a marvel and a wonder and a welling, superlative joy.
Learning by doing sounds so easy until faced with a tough lesson that reminds me what it really means when people say "easier said than done." Buttons pushed, body responds, but thankfully memory - and reason - kick in to calm the butterfly belly and not take it personally, in the sense that yes, I did it, and it bothered her, but it's not a serious flaw, just a matter of preference, and that is so simple to accommodate. Which I did and no harm done and bravo to her for telling me as she felt it. That's what I call progress.
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