Saturday, November 26, 2011

Norman Rockwell Does Not Live Here...........

The table has long since been cleared, the dishwasher loaded, the leftovers stowed, Tom's carcass simmered overnight, turkey soup made, supped, and frozen.

There has been a rare sighting of the OC at the head of the table. The Prince of Carpathia faced him at the other end, with his Nursemaid in attendance, she giddy with joy to be dining on food not tasting like farina! There were not one, but two Sons, one Girlfriend, myself and the cat rounding out the company, though I hasten to assure you the cat was under the table....

The Prince was animated to have an audience for his stories. He fancied himself a wag and  master teller of tales in days long gone. Most eyes get glassy when he starts on the thousandth telling, but hark! Yon maiden, the Girlfriend, she of the limpid eyes and the spellbound look, thinly covering her desperation---he has found a live one and has pinned her in place with his own ancient blues. No pity from her Boyfriend who is enjoying her predicament. Oldest son, more tolerant, asks leading questions, tongue in cheek, as though any encouragement were needed! Other conversations fly back and forth, plates are refilled, wine glasses replenished, and if the Prince is a little miffed that everyone is not hanging on his every word he has learned to deal with it. He sees it as one of the more disturbing trends in modern society. But what can you do? The tales must be told, over and over and over again.

The  turkey was juicy, the mashed potatoes fluffy, the gravy tasty, the cranberry sauce tart, the sweet potatoes delectable, as usual, the new recipe stuffing uninspiring [back to the tried and true next year!] the green salad crunchy, a perfect compliment to the creaminess elsewhere.....Pumpkin praline cheesecake for dessert and no fear anyone would go to bed hungry.

Everyone behaved themselves [well, the Prince did try to get on his Obama hobby horse, but voices were raised and he doesn't have the strength to shout......] So yes, you could say that everyone behaved themselves.

There was no bloodshed. In spite of its ever present possibility, we do have much to be thankful for!

And so we gave thanks, with hearts hopeful for the future, and glad to be together in the present.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ragged And Random.....

My sister, The Little Blister, appeared on my blogroll yesterday! No warning, no mention in our last phone conversation, just there: "Empty Nest, Riseoutofme." I felt a surge of delight! How long has it been?  A year! Twelve long months of nothing new? I speak to her regularly by telephone. I had her here in May and June. But I love it when she writes, and reading her blog was another connecting thread that I have sorely missed.

What brought her back? Loneliness? The rattling emptiness of her nest? We long to have time to sit and think, time for ourselves, time to finally do all the things we never had time to do while they were growing up. Time to read all the books, time to write, time to sew. So we sit and think....

........about them, about how far away they are, about how much we'd like a "just because" call.  Sometimes I ruefully think I'm getting my comeuppance. How did my mother feel when I blithely took off across the ocean without so much as a backward glance, and only a sporadic letter here and there? No computers, no cell phones, just miles and miles of distance....and silence. I'm so sorry mum.  Now that it's too late.

The older I get the more I appreciate my mother. She was a very private person and things were much more formal back then. She never bared her soul to me. She was the mother and I was the child. No blurring of the lines...... How appalled she would be at this blogging lark, where you hang your heart on your sleeve, for total strangers to see. I used to be more like her, but life has a chastening effect. It  humbles you and makes you care much less about keeping up appearances, especially if those appearances are false.

But, ay. Total strangers. There's the rub. With actual friends spread far and wide you get to thinking of your blogging friends as real friends. Connecting with them lessens the lonliness. And life is a lonely business.

There, I said it.

 Humans need connection, at least the female of the species, And the male too, though they're more about the tough exrterior, and maybe some of them don't need, or even want, connection on an emotional level ----- God forbid I should be emotional. How weak and needy and annoying. Just give me the facts ma'am; stick with the facts and we'll be on terra firma......Oy.

The lure of the blog....Reach out into the darkness with a humble bouquet of random thoughts, some of them ragged and ill-formed, but no matter. There's always a chance you'll hit a chord and some empathy will come winging back to you whilst you sleep, and there in the morning you find it. Validation. Your crazy thoughts are maybe not so crazy after all. Others have felt just so. Thank you God for bloggy friends!

I would hazzard a guess we're not the first to feel this way, to long for the empty nest and then not care much for the cavernous echoes.

Freedom takes a little getting used to when your life has been over-scheduled for thirty years, but we're up to the job. With a nest not quite empty yet, I'm ready. Put me in coach. If we can only weather this latest glitch, I will be embracing freedom, though, sigh, I'm not holding my breath.

We're in this together Blister. Not just you and me, but anyone who has ever arrived in the delivery room and realised, in consternation

"There's no room here to turn around, I have to see this through! "

And see it through we did. Thus far. They just forgot to tell us, amid all those contractions, that it wouldn't end when they turned eighteen; it wouldn't end when they graduated from college.....

What they forgot to tell us was that it would never end. Being a mother changes you forever. Crazy, crowded nest, nest with only a few stray feathers, or Empty Nest. No matter. They've got us in thrall. Until we die.

Courage Blister! You'll have more time to write!        

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaBloPoMo Dropout

Ambitions were lofty but then I just couldn't---Drone on and on about the humdrum details of my days---every day. You should be grateful.

Today for instance. Would you prefer to hear about my alarm clock making rude and obnoxious noises at 6:30 this morning, and my brain indignantly responding.........It's Tuesday for pity's sake! I get to sleep at least one more hour....But.......oh yes! I did agree to go in for an hour to cover for an absent Pat who, sadly, had to attend the funeral of a dear friend; 

Or about my visit to the doctor where I was scolded for not having shown my face since May......Really??May?? I thought time flew when you were having fun, so what I want to know is where's all this fun I must be having if time is flying by so quickly?? Since I'd played hooky for so long, the rn, Donna, lined up all that had to be done [to keep me from crumpling into a pile of dust on the clinic floor] starting with a TB test on the forearm-sting like a bee, come back in two days---what? Can't I just call and tell you how it looks? But she was adamant. The law requires that I actually see it...That's what I get for playing hooky....Another hour-long drive in two day's time.....that must be a component of all that fun I haven't been noticing myself having! Likewise the chest x-ray for which I was lined up next. [RA is what ails me, though as long as I take the magic potions it really doesn't bother me.]

Or, how about getting blood drawn? Hmmm? Always exciting.....We have to make sure those magic potions don't suddenly turn toxic and mess with my innards...]Jeff the big, genial, teddy bear of a man who draws blood left me sitting a minute while he went off to find butterflies---No, not out in a meadow, but in the supply room. His preferred method. How he wished he'd invented them.
I agreed, and we sighed a while about how, if he had invented them, he would not be here drawing my blood, but off sailing around his island in his yacht. For myself, I told him, I'd be happy to have been the office grunt who had the bright idea for Post It notes......And Pat would like to have invented Whiteout......and if the moon were made of green cheese the residents of Wisconsin would be ecstatic!  I wonder what it is, maybe frustration, at a lack, that sows the seed of an idea for a new invention?

Or maybe you'd find it more riveting to sit in my passenger seat and navigate the tortuous path from the doctor's office to the university; you could read the map so I wouldn't have to, thereby enabling me to safely arrive at, and inspect the Bean's new living quarters.....

Or how about joining us on the trip home? We stayed off the interstate, choosing instead the quieter, more scenic route, only to inch along at tortoise speed due to, not one, but two accidents, within a few miles of each other. Which totally negated the restorative benefits of the scenery.....

You see what I mean? Could you stand a daily dose of that?

Rejoice and be glad.

How about a nice cup of tea?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bliss = A Good Book

When The Little Blister came to visit, back in May she came laden, as usual, with books, because we are Barbarians here and she wants to civilize us! So I piled them on top of the already groaning stack on my night table. One of them was The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It took me a long time to get into it. At the time I was mired in other matters, and by the time I'd crawl into bed and open the book, I was too exhausted to read more than a few pages before my head slumped over and my eyes sealed shut. I expressed to her my lack of enthusiasm.

"You just have to read more of it at each sitting," she scolded me. So, like a good girl, I soldiered on.  And was glad. She recommends going back and reading it again, but, too many books, too little time.

Next I started on Ghost Light by Joseph O'Conner, a fictionalized story of a love affair between the Irish playwright, John Millington Synge, and a working class girl who acted in some of his plays. He was of the Protestant landed gentry and she a Catholic from a Dublin tenement. Not the usual recipe for great Irish romance! It starts when she is an old lady living in a London slum, freezing because she has no heat, and close to starvation because she has no money for food. Bleak sounding I know, but a story wonderfully told. She warms and nourishes herself, and us, with her memories.

Here's a taste from the last chapter......

"There are eras of every life that have a carapace about them, a scar grown out of the woundedness. We gaze back on them as though they had meaning, contained intimations of future things - the seeds of the very subsequence we are now in a position to see. It is tempting to persuade ourselves we suffered a kind of illiteracy - we could not read the runes because we were young, or green, or undiscerning, or blind to the consequence. But that is not the truth, or not the whole truth, unmediated; for we sensed, even then, that this framed time must end and that all would be changed from this out. But we were adrift in a maelstrom of human feeling; already it was too late to swim. And we must somehow have wanted it, preferring the storm to the harbour; the hurts, the shattered feelings - the hurts to others too. We are innocent of nothing we chose. All our lives we do battle in the manacles of our mothers. But even the shaken chain has its music."

There's still a tottering pile on my night table, but they can wait. I'm busy rereading Ghost Light.

Give it a try. You might love it, as I did.

Thank you Little Blister!

And thank you Mr. O'Conner for a great yarn.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Oh The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird,She Sings As She Flies----In English, Irish, Latin, French....

There was a brief lull in the action this morning at work. For several minutes after messages were listened to and charts pulled for the day the phones didn't ring and we got to talking about what we'd do if and when we ever have enough time on our hands. I'm there two days a week and Pat, who manages our small office, is there four days. She would like to get more time in her sewing room. I'd like that too, but I'd also like, some day soon, to be involved with teaching English as a second language. Pat, who is a very positive and encouraging person, was instantly enthusiastic and said she thought I'd be wonderful at that, especially as I knew what it was like to have to learn English..................

Ahhhh, say what?

"What do you mean Pat?" I asked, puzzled.

I speak English, have done all my life. And I can limp along in German and French, albeit causing great mental anguish to myself and whoever is listening. None of which makes me any more qualified than the next person to teach English to foreigners.

Turns out Pat thought I'd grown up speaking Irish, that everyone in Ireland spoke Irish. Which is a logical thing to assume. but so far from the truth. The Sassenachs did a grand job of almost squashing Irish. Children back in the old days got punished for every word of Irish they spoke, so very soon, being Irish and therefore brilliant, they learned to speak English instead. When I was a child, and Ireland was independent again, Irish, which is a very difficult language, was just something we had to slog through as the nuns tried to undo the damage done by generations of English rule.

It was an uphill battle. They started us in Kindergarten and pounded it into our heads every day until we left school at eighteen.  I liked it well enough, but shhhh! Don't tell the nuns, I liked French much more! That is something I can only now admit. Back then I would have been branded a traitor.  How unpatriotic! Irish was up there with Latin. I loved the words, but Dear God! The grammar!

On our honeymoon we drove all around the west and northwest of Ireland. One day, walking along a road in Donegal we met a local. He raised his hat to us and greeted us in Irish.

"Dia is Muire guit!" I gamely replied.

All those years of daily slogging should be good for something, right? And besides, I had a newly minted American husband to impress and I was quick to recognize an opportunity to knock his socks off. So I spouted some small talk about the weather to our new acquaintance. He wrinkled his weathered brow in puzzlement.  He didn't seem to comprehend a word and hit me with several sentences in a row, not one word of which I could understand. I knew he was speaking Irish, but that was as far as it went. The newly minted husband was having trouble keeping a straight face, and my own face was turning a deeper shade of red with every Irish word the man spoke.

Ochone, ochone!!

Alas and alack Patricia my dear, I won't be bringing any special linguistic brilliance to the teaching of English as a second language!

Note to Ali Honey: I don't think I speak with too much of an accent. At least not until I hear my own voice on a phone message....Then I think it's my sister I'm hearing!

Strange Sounds From The Cuckoo's Nest

There I was this morning, sitting at a corner table at a Dunkin' Donuts, not in my neighborhood, a cup of coffee untouched in front of me, gazing out at Tampa driving by. The morning was clear and crisp. The sky was wish-you-were here blue, proving that,while blue skies may be a component of happiness, they cannot do the job alone. An Hispanic woman sits with her back to me, energetically bombarding the man sitting across from her with questions, giving him no space to answer. Another little Latin lady pushes a broom by my table and smiles. I smile back.

Across the street a sign for "Lupton's Buffet" peeks out from behind a palm tree and transports me instantly to our first base in California and Claire, who lived down the street from us and was doing a PhD in mediaeval literature. I imagine she felt, as I did, that she had arrived in Outer Mongolia, but this was where Uncle Sam had sent our second lieutenant husbands so there was nothing to be done but grin and bear it. The husbands all car pooled to the rocket lab every day and when the car of the day arrived at Lupton's the door would open and disgorge N, briefcase in one hand, hamburger and coke in the other [at 6:30 a.m.!] proving that just because you were a graduate of Yale didn't mean you had a clue. Just look at  Dubbya.

But Claire was classy. I took a Rennaissance Literature class from her that made me wonder why on earth I'd done P.E. But then, that was back when I didn't have a clue either. We dipped into all kinds of famous and fascinating works including Dante's Inferno [Claire's cat was named Beatrice] and The Decameron. They're on my bookshelves still in hopes that one day soon I'll drop everything and read them. I've heard  of procrastination and taking a while to get around to reading something-----but forty years?? The time may finally be right, the stars correctly aligned.....should start with the Inferno, as, given the events of the past year, it would be, hands down, the most appropriate choice.

And then I was out of time. The last of the morning customers, sitting alone in the corner, intermittently chewing on the end of my pen  and scribbling, because it's NaBloPoMo time and I'm going to do one day of it at least.....