Tag Archives: Family

Growing Older, Alone

Is there a secret, a recipe, a manual for getting older? Or do we inherently know how, like a mother instinctually knows to pick up and nurture her child and the child to nourish from his mother? 

I don’t know why I ask this question as I don’t particularly feel old but my left knee has been in a bit of pain lately. This reminds me I’m not 25 anymore. Not that I have any desire to go back. Except to just spend an hour with my then-self and tell her to chill out with the worry and the self-consciousness and inhale life. Oh yeah and stop eating all the simple carbs and put down the damn cigarettes.

But we cannot go back in time. Or at least not right now. And when we do drift on thoughts of the past many of those memories are sad or regretful, so what is the point in the torture? Unless it is to remind ourselves why we shouldn’t make the same mistakes. And to be grateful for all the roads that lead us to the positives in our life.

I find it unbearable to think back to when my son was a baby. Or when he was 4. Or even 10. Those days are forever a wind off the crest of a wave, a photograph tucked neatly in an album. I love the boy he is and the man to become. But this child rearing thing is so fleeting it’s preposterous. Everyone warns you. Then your kid is a teenager and you’re divorced and you’re all trying to do the best you can peacefully with the choices and circumstances from within or thrust upon.

I can handle a Saturday night alone. I can marginally handle an entire week alone. But I cannot and will not handle growing older, alone. My grandparents slept in separate rooms but at least they had each other. But then they also drove each other nuts. I understand the women I know who are older and single. However they also have hobbies and friends and family so I suppose they are not really alone.

But the loneliness that engulfs when the moon is high or the lovers are kissing on the beach or the old couple is holding hands or the child is dancing and calling for Mommy does not absolve. No one is exempt.

I look to my stuffed animal Snuggles for cuddles and warmth when the proverbial cold night is present. Yes I still sleep with a lovey.

Point is I don’t want to grow old alone. I don’t think anybody really does. I believe we are here to connect with each other. And from that connection, love within and throughout.

Tonight I look to the almost full moon, its bright vanilla glow rising stately and calmly above the pines and palms. And in this moment I think of hope. Because that is all we can really do. For the goodness of our lonely souls.

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A Thanksgiving Feast, Intimate

We stood next to the dining room table, a 1920’s Art Deco antique passed down from my great-grandmother Nanny. Decades-old scratches laced its corners but a fresh coat of furniture polish and a sprinkling of orange and brown Thanksgiving-themed decor, carefully placed earlier before they arrived, brought it into modern festivity.

“How many meals have been eaten at this table over the generations?” my dad observed with a hint of nostalgia as he scanned the room, his grey-white hair neatly combed and a crisp flannel button-up clothing his smallish frame.

I eyed the antique buffet cupboard next to the table. “I thought about taking all that stuff off and putting the desserts on top,” I replied. It was strategically covered with recipe books and photographs and trinkets and candles. It was always covered with coconut pies and chocolate cakes during holidays at Nanny’s house.

This Thanksgiving it was just the four of us- my mom, dad, and teenage son. It still feels weird to say that, ‘teenage’. In so many ways he is still just a boy. His dark-blond hair tousled and his imagination still intact. Although his appetite is one of a teenager. His meat-eating is making up for all the mammals he did not consume the first several years of his life.

I’d also set the table before my parents arrived, arranging the crystal glasses and beautiful black and silver bone china plates on the brown and gold place-mats. The plates were as flawless as they’d been when they arrived in packages at the doorstep as wedding gifts for me and my soon-to-be husband. He did not ask for any of the china when we separated or officially divorced. I would have shared it with him, of course. It took a year or so afterwards for me to even look at the china. Now I wash and dry them carefully after holiday meals, tracing the raised etchings with my fingers.

My mom and I shared a bottle of wine, perfectly chilled and light and brisk, just as I imagine the vines in Washington, from where it came. Back in the small and warmly-lit kitchen our appetizer spread was a gorgeous mingling of banana bread, fine cheeses, fresh fruit, honey, and my mom’s amazing deviled eggs, sprinkled with paprika. We ate and drank and chatted while the teenager napped peacefully on the couch. The main course just an hour from ready to devour.

When the yeast rolls were browned and the salad tossed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, it was time. We filled our stately plates with an assortment of both mine and my parent’s favorite holiday dishes. The light and crunchy salad paired well with the warm green bean casserole and fluffy potatoes. Tart and sweet cranberry sauce made the perfect coupling with the savory, chicken casserole (we do that instead of the traditional turkey, it is a hundred times better). Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter is good any time of year.

We enjoyed the dinner back at the dining room table, my dad at the head and my son on the other end, my mom across from me. We filled our bellies and mused and laughed. The pumpkin-scented candles flickered on the dark wood. The open window left a cool breeze to gently cascade in as the squirrels played around the big oak tree. Frank Sinatra and the like serenaded through the stereo speakers. No phones buzzing or ringing.

The table was cleared and an engaging game of “Heads Up” began. Then we slipped into a family traditional card game of “Oh Heck” which brings out the competitive nature in even me and my mom. I finally won! After all these years!

Dessert followed, still on bone china, although these plates smaller and more delicate. Home-made creamy, spiced pumpkin pie from my mom, and Coke-cola chocolate cake made by me and my son. A perfectly sweet ending.

There were times when we had sort of a house full on Thanksgiving. Various friends and family over the years and in several different dining rooms or lanais. Although this one not a house full, it felt full in the way it does when company has encased you with good energy and love and you are left smiling and dancing as you clean the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast, intimate.

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Along Autumn’s Shadowy Road

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among scattered leaves
and ever-blooming hibiscus
a scent surrounds and encapsulates
a time when you were here

Lace curtains and tobacco
warm biscuits and apple butter
a long drive to your houses
the train chugging beside the highway
or heard in the distance at night

Afternoons on the red metal swing
climbing trees
stepping on crab apples
dancing clothes on the line
robust tomatoes in the garden

You came to me in a dream
respectively
young faces
and smiling eyes

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among a post-summer wind
a lamenting of the past
and an emptiness in the heart
yet peace settles in

Still I stare at the photographs
and pretend you are just a long drive
away.

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Energy Surrounding

Energies. We get in what we give out. September’s whirling storms coughed up darkness and laid it down to fester for a while. October’s breezes have blown it away, back to that no man’s land from whence it came. Halloween’s jubilant fare begins the season of social rebooting. November is on the horizon.

I went to a really good party last night. Quite spontaneous and so glad I went instead of curling up in my cave, which is sometimes needed, frankly. But not last night. There were kind people from all walks of life, better than average party chit-chat. Lots of cool photographs and art along the walls to appreciate. Music to sway to. One dear friend and lots of strangers who made me feel completely at ease. I went home with that good feeling of having ingested good people energy.

Now the wind outside the open window is doing a little dance.

Last week I kept thinking about how I miss my dad. He’s doing the snow-bird thing, up in Tennessee, and I haven’t talked to him in a while. It’s my mom who usually does the phone calling/texting. My mind flashed back to moments with him years ago. His coming home from a long day at work yet giving us his full attention. His reassuring words when I didn’t feel so assured. Raking the leaves and mowing the lawn together. Sitting across from him at any one number of meals over the last few decades.

He must’ve felt this across the miles because guess who was on the other line when my phone rang Friday night? We had a nice, light-hearted conversation and it was so good to hear his voice.

Sometimes the space held for these energies is closed down. And in those moments trudging through the marsh with shoes heavier than bricks. No carefree wind. The still branches either mirroring or mocking. These are the arduous of times.

But when that positive space is opened again, hope and wonderment carries along crests of waves and bursts of wind, reiterating the power of the energy surrounding. A phone call, a hug, a kind gesture, a twirl on the dance floor, a smile, a happy nod, a dancing tree, a reassuring touch on the shoulder, are welcome immensely.

 

 

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Mass Exodus

I hear the sounds of my youth outside the window, the various chirping and buzzing. And although so familiar also so distant to me now. The heat and sand and multitude of adventures of my home now for 16 years calls to me.

It was a mass exodus out of my beloved state of Florida. Those of us fleeing north in a perpetual gridlock. At one point I blew bubbles out the window to lighten the mood. 

This monster of a storm barreling towards us is imminent. And now it is hurry up and wait. Those who’ve stayed to fight it out have boarded up their homes and filled their tubs. I want to be there to hold their hand through the eye of it. But I can only send well wishes and pray to the Universe to have mercy, weaken this thing. Mother Nature in all her glory and zen can turn to desicrate within minutes. 

Before moving to Florida over 16 years ago I lived in Tennessee, in and around Nashville where I was born and raised. It will always be a part of me. Hell, I’ve got the ever-present accent to prove it. There are family and friends there I hold dear to my heart even when we go months or years without being in each other’s presence. 

My memories scatter over various times in my life. There was college and TV production shows we birthed and sent out into the airwaves over late nights and early mornings. There was childhood where the cedar trees in my backyard over looked the creek where we spent days exploring and trying to catch crawdaddies. There were the high school days of triumph and aggravation. Bonding with those of the same heart. And through it all my brother somewhere close by. 

So now I stay with him and his family in their home in Tennessee while we all wait for this storm to spin and crash its course. The course that is battering where my life is now. In all its quirkiness and troubles Florida is endearing to me and I wear it with me always. Even in the suffocating heat of August and the rainy hurricane season of September I still regard it with adoration. Various memories here, too. The birth and growing up of my son. The friends made from various other parts of the country who all came down for one reason or another. The beach, the springs, the trails, the cute little towns, all the parks, even the bland strip malls and constant flat earth. I love it all as I did when I’d come to visit in my youth. And of course the freeing opportunity to wear flip flops all year round. 

Oh Florida, and all of you there. Please be safe. Keep your walls in tact. Crouch and fight and breathe. And rise again with the sunshine waiting for another day. Those of us who fled will be back to hold and rise with you. 

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5 Glorious Scents

Because I last wrote about 5 songs that move me, and I am having trouble coming up with an interesting prompt, I’ll cover another list of favorites.

Smells, scents, aromas. Old man cologne will NOT be on the menu here. Don’t you hate when you hug someone who has way too much cologne and the smell transfers to your own hair and clothing for the remainder of the day? But I digress…

Cinnamon

This is probably my very favorite smell. I love to say the word, love to put it in my coffee every morning, love the spicy, sugary scent of it wafting through a kitchen or market. It reminds me of the tasty treats of autumn and the freedom of summer. It correlates to home, family, cooking, festivals, parties, cozy nooks, sweetness. When a rat died in my attic space and the pest control guy couldn’t find the body, the first scent I scoured the candle aisle for was cinnamon. But you can’t cover up the stench of dead rat, only suffer through its depressing and repulsive cloud with the strength of a thousand cinnamon sticks.

Gardenia

I could inhale this lily white beauty for hours. I’m envious of those in my neighborhood who have a gardenia bush. I’ve thought of stealthily plucking a bloom while no one is looking but then my conscience prevails over my olfactory. You may see me in someone’s side yard with my face buried within the pedals. Gardenia’s scent is not overly sweet and smells as fresh as clean sheets, baby skin, a cold spring after a cool rain shower. I’d wear them everyday in my hair if I could, and disperse them in my various little vases and jars in every room in the house.

Coffee

When I was pregnant with my son I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee. I chalked it up to nature’s way of telling me I should nix the caffeine for about 9 months. When the baby gloriously arrived into the air of the Universe so did my admiration for coffee bean. Every night when I prep the coffee maker for tomorrow’s brew I have to stick my face into the coffee can. It reminds me of breakfast (my favorite meal), my grandfather and his cling-clingy-cling-cling of the spoon against the mug as he mixed in the sugar. Nutty, robust, and warm, coffee in its various forms and flavors signifies both energy and relaxation. Add two Stevia and a dash of vanilla almond milk and my eyes are shut and I’m making that mmmmm sound along with a quiet “thank god for coffee.”

New Shoes

Not only do I get a high from purchasing a new pair of shoes (can I get a Yay-uh from my fellow shoe lovers, meaning all women?) but there is something about the smell of new shoes. I’ll walk into a shoe store in the mall, even if I have no use or money for purchasing a new pair, just to breathe in the scent of new shoe. I bet the employees there don’t even notice the smell anymore. Kind of like those people whose houses smell of cat yet profess rather matter-of-factly that see, “you can’t even smell Twinkles.”

Old Books

There’s an old book I keep on my bedside table. I don’t particularly love the writing but I love its worn leather cover and the brownish pages inside. I’m one of those weird people who sniffs things in grocery aisles or antique shops and bookstores are no different. Some of my students look at me in bewilderment when I inhale a book at school, but then they will also come at me with their finger pointed, demanding “Sniff this!” and then I am doing the wincing. Old books not only tell the stories within them, but the stories from all the places they’ve traveled,  the shelves on which they waited patiently, the hands of those who sifted through their mellowing pages.

So these are some of my very favorite smells. Also good are bacon, newborn baby, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies, lemon, fresh basil, funeral home (because of all the flowers), the familiar and intoxicating scent of someone you love (who obviously smells really good to you). What are yours? I’d love to know…

smellgood

 

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5 Amazing Songs

As per request (and writing prompt) from one of my dear readers and a fellow music devouter, I’d like to share 5 amazing songs that build up emotion in my chest, take me to happy and far away places, or just leave me whirlishly dancing on the chipped-tiled kitchen floor.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

This song of course is married to the ever-universal teen angst classic The Breakfast Club, making it even that much more endearing. That last scene when the song smacks in and John Bender gives a requited fist pump in a freeze frame forever is one of the best movie endings.

Don’t You Forget About Me reminds me of precious 80’s nostalgia, the innocence and simplicity there regarding music and hand-written letters and Walkmans and trips to the mall sans security personnel.

And the meaning: Don’t you forget about me. We all want to be remembered. We cannot let time or circumstance or distance allow the brain to turn us into static and the heart unforgiving or worse, ignored.

This one is for belting out fearlessly and dancing feverishly.  My students have seen me do this. On my fortieth birthday this is the song I boldly requested at the skating rink among all the preteens and their Taylor Swift enthusiasm. I’ll be singing and dancing to this one when I’m an old, old lady.

Don’t you forget about me. I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby…

 

Us and Them by Pink Floyd

I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on a constant loop along with The Cure’s Disintegration on a summer stint in Italy in my early teens. I know Roger Waters was talking about war in his lyrics but to me the “us” and “them” represented both the subtle and not-so-subtle differences I experienced between Americans and Italians. We spoke different languages, ate at different times of the day, looked different, but in the way we were different we were also the same. Just people trying to make it in the world, experience life, try not to trip on pebbles.

To this day, every time I hear that keyboard intro I feel the welling up in my chest. I am completely transported back to that balcony in Sardinia, back to that innocent 15 year old taking in everything never witnessed back in Antioch, Tennessee. I’m reminded of all the people I met and their cultural and nurturing influence on me.

Us, and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men…

 

The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles

The Beatles were a big part of my growing up. They were not forced on me but rather gently introduced as my parent’s record collections included many Beatles albums and 45s. My brother and I would sit on the shaggy carpeted floor of our basement-turned-playroom and listen to them on our Fisher-price turntable. We fashioned ourselves as rock singers, belting out tunes as the grated vinyl spun round and round.

But when Fool on the Hill rolled along and into the tiny speaker, we would quietly sing together. Never looking up, frozen in that moment with lyrics and melody I swear brought welling up in my goofy sibling’s eyes.

That is one of my strongest and most fond memories of us together as children. Later in our teens we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky with a group of like-minded friends to see Paul McCartney in concert. I was enthralled to be in the presence of a Great. And to enjoy it with my bro at my side.

But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round…

 

A Forest by The Cure

This haunting song is one of the reasons I will forever be a Cure fan and Classic Alternative junkie. I was first introduced to the Cure when Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came out. During this era I was blown away by this sound which at the time never reached the local radio airwaves.

A Forest mirrored my teen angst, depression, and need for creative inspiration as sheets of rain seemed to fall endlessly in the grey, Tennessee winter. This dirge didn’t exasperate my feelings as my parents agonized. Instead it encapsulated and provided solace. I wasn’t alone in my fervor.

And just the word forest. It conjures images of lush foliage where mystery hides and escape is possible.

A few summers ago I was driving alone in North Florida on a windy road away from friends and family with whom I’d just spent an unforgettable week. As soon as I entered Tate’s Hell State Forest, an unforgiving ominous expanse of swampy woodland, my GPS fell silent and A Forest shuffled on my auxiliary. I don’t know if there’s ever been more perfect timing between song and circumstance.

Come closer and see, see into the trees…

 

The Dead Heart by Midnight Oil

I could write an entire blog post about songs by Midnight Oil but for the purpose of not turning this into a biography I’ll sample this one.

I was introduced to Midnight Oil via the video for Bed’s Are Burning, seen on MTV’s Friday Night Videos. This unique sound from Australia fronted by a bald, passionate giant literally left me gasping in its strum guitar and water tank drum beats. I was instantly transformed. Life would never be the same. And then began a life-long love and adoration for the band, their extensive collection of songs throughout the decades, and their messages about equality and the environment.

The Dead Heart evokes singing and whirling, and to the tune of aboriginal rights in Australia. It’s as serious as it is heartfelt and in the end a hopeful dance. The Oils do a fantastic job of informing while entertaining and this song is no exception. When I hear it I’m in the Outback as well as on my old friend’s balcony (what’s with me and balconies) back in ’87 when all this alternative rock hoopla began voluntarily infiltrating my soul.

Midnight Oil will forever be my favorite band of all time. And The Dead Heart is just one of many that fill me with emotion, the need to research, to help bring about change, and yes, to belt it out and move.

These 5 songs helped shape who I am. What are yours?

 

 

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