Sunday, December 11, 2016

Give That Woman A Fish

It’s a winter wonderland out there. Snow is snowing. Wind is blowing. All this snow, plus all the pretty lights on peoples’ house fronts, plus all the ads for sales—Amazon keeps flashing me images of forbidden treats, jiggling temptations before my computer illuminated eyes (could this be customer harassment?) all this Xmasy stuff leaves no doubt that it’s present giving time.

Santa will be coming soonI’ve known that since October when Costco had Xmas candles and Halloween costumes doing row dances for the holly/jolly days.

But, Hey! What happened to Thanksgiving?

Ahh, but Gobble-Gobble day—a sweet dream of a trip to the country, over the river and through the woods—is past, spent devouring my brother Tom’s turkey slathered in bacon. Family. It’s a good thing.

Black Friday is over too, and I duly supported Citi Cards. Now, as Xmas eve draws near, I look forward to the delight of another family gathering...and I’m thinking of my mother.

My mother was a bit of a Grinch. For many years she balanced herself on a tiny stool in the back of the Birmingham Post Office throwing/sorting mail on the midnight shift. Christmas involved everyone in the world sending everyone else in the world a card. She never got a day off from Thanksgiving to New Years, which tends to make a one cranky or go postal. She chose cranky. She slept days, and dreaded the holidays. 

I was already a grown-up with my own family then. She lived with my grandmother and my (way younger) brother and sister. She was a very overworked single mom, and adored by all of us, including our friends. She was a person you could talk to about anything.  She was funny (I got my weird sense of humor from her), sarcastic (I got that too), and loving (I hope I got that). 

“So, Mom, when aren't you working or sleeping so we can celebrate Christmas,” I’d ask.

Baa, humbug,” she’d answer. But she did get one day offChristmas Dayand we did get together.

Gifts were a serious problem. She didn’t like anything. I gave her some cute outfits, but at Easter they still graced the dining room table in their boxes. One year Tom gave her a beautiful down coat that she never wore.

She was compulsively frugal. Seriously. Clinically frugal. Maybe because of the Depression, maybe because most of the time she was the bread-winner and women didn't get paid all that well. 

Her greatest pleasure was finding good (not bulging) dented cans of food and day old bread. She liked brussel sprouts, so one autumn I gave her a stalk of sprouts from the Farmers’ Market. She called me a couple days later and said, “Don’t ever do that again.” The sprouts were too much work.

At Christmas, birthdays, and any, and all holidays, if you gave her a card it should be unsigned so she could give it back to you on the next holiday. Cards were not her favorite thing...remember, she worked at the post office.

So one Christmas, when I was at a total loss of what to get her, I bought her a whole salmon. A whole friggin’ salmon is more work than a stalk of sprouts, but I did it anyway. I was nervous. How should you wrap a twelve-pound salmon? In Santa paper? No, she wouldn’t want me to waste money on wrapping. So I just left it in the grocery bag, and when I handed it to her, I said, “Merry Christmas, Mom.” She took the fish. 

And then, shock of all shocks: it was the best present she ever got. She told me so.

So, Dear Friends, the lesson here is if you’re ever in doubt about a giftgive that woman a fish.

Merry Christmas, Everyone. 

I miss you, Mom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What's Left

I had a terrible headache last night. When I woke up this morning, it was worse. In bed, I reached one hand up to my head, analyzing where the pain was located. I opened my eyesno spots. I used to get migraines. This wasn’t one.

5:00 a.m. I checked my iPhone. NY Times News Alert...Donald Trump won the election.

After some aspirin and a mouthful of bread, I just wanted quiet. No news is good news right? But being a glutton for punishment, I pressed the TV remote’s buttons anyway. Someone said, “The educated coastal elites haven’t been paying enough attention to middle America... and that’s why Trump lovers were so mad” or something like that. That’s why Trump won. I turned the TV off.

I am a rustbelt-far-left-leaning-liberal.

I voted for Bernie, and then, without holding my nose, or thinking I was picking the lesser of too evilsI voted for Hillary. She had devoted her life to public service. Trump devoted his to acquiring: wives, buildings, debts he didn’t pay, a school that was a con, etc.

The first hours of grief are the hardest. The novel I’ve been working on for the past two years seemed worthless. Why bother. But there’s always eating, so I did quite a bit of that, then I decided to clean...something I don’t decide to do very often.

Next, I checked out what my liberal friends were saying on Facebook. There were several mentions of moving to Canada.

I thought again about the derogatory comment about liberals. So I asked myself what is a liberal? What am I?

Answer: I am a leftie. Right handed, left politically. Actually, I’m one of those dangerous extreme liberals.

As an Extreme Leftie:
  • I believe that we should treat each other with respect—whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, or financial status.
  • I believe that sick people should be able to get health care.
  • I believe that children are entitled to a good public education.
  • I believe in helping the less privileged.
  • I believe old people (especially those in physical jobs) shouldn’t have to work until 70 to get Social Security. 
  • I believe college should be affordable.
  • I believe in paying my taxes.
  • I believe people must have clean water.
  • I believe black lives matter. 
  • I believe that each woman should be able to decide whether or not she gives birth.
  • I believe that climate change is real.
  • I believe in kindness, caring and listening. (I’m trying to get better at that listening one).

Although Canada is a lovely country, I will stay here. I'm an American. And I will continue having (and expressing) my extreme views.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dull Drums

I confess. I’ve been in the dull drums for months (yes, I intended to say dull drums, not doldrums). Feeling dull, my drums gone quiet. I’ve been pacing the house or sitting watching TV. Feeling old. Tired. Not in the mood for anything, even murder mysteries on the boob tube couldn’t hold my full attention. I was getting sick of myself. I did shower, and cook, and grocery shop, but beyond that I just wasn’t happy. Maybe “depressed” fits. Maybe it doesn’t.

My next novel, A Bird in the House, was sitting in the computer. Waiting. I thought about it often. What happens next? Who does what to whom? Couldn’t make up my mind. Too many pieces. Too complicated. Too hard.

One day I decided to clean a closet. There was a huge plastic garbage bag filled with fabric scraps that hadn’t been touched in at least fifteen years. It was a jumble of little squares, tangles of frayed thread, and odd bigger chunks of cotton cloth. I pulled the bag out and started sorting by colors. All the greens went into a zip-lock bag. All the beiges went into another. Eventually I had sorted all the scraps into their own little color coordinated homes. Bags of colors filled two wicker baskets. 

That was months ago. 

Recently, I cleaned out another closet. I discovered 18 inch squares of pieced together red and purple fabric that had been centerpieces for a dinner I organized eighteen years ago. Memories of that dinner aren’t happy, but the pieced squares were nice. I spread the nine squares out, side by side on my bed. If I added few more pieces (sixteen), it would be a whole quilt.

I moved the sewing machine into the room where I write and loaded it with red thread. For the past two weeks I’ve been buying more fabric and sewing my silly head off. No TV in the daytime. 

Three days ago I opened the laptop and read some of the novel.  I read pieces of story, events not fully sewn. I found lines that needed to be cleaner, straighter, more to the point. Dark sections needed more humor. Purple needs red. Short sentences need long ones to avoid boredom. Fabric combined in little squares and big chunks is more interesting. Words are little squares. Paragraphs are pieced together blocks. And what about transitions, how should I connect the pieces or paragraphs to create flow.

Yesterday, in the middle of quilting mayhem, the novel got 900 new words. Today I wrote another 800. Life is good. 

This afternoon, I have work to do. I have another idea for the quilt. One craft feeds the other.