Thursday, September 25, 2014

You're that baby

Today as I was checking out at a local bookstore, I noticed the unusual name of the young woman helping me out. "There was a baby with that name at my wedding," I ventured, basically knowing already what was about to happen.

And sure enough, I asked after her last name and discovered her to be, in fact, the 22-year-old daughter of friends with whom we'd lost touch, but with whom we were quite close for a time. The last time I'd seen her, she was peeking out of a sling on her mother's hip as our friends and family toasted our marriage.

"You're that baby!"

At first she was delighted--but then the tiniest, sweetest little crinkle did its best to furrow her alabaster brow at me, whom she'd last seen in a long dress with flowers in my hair and the Whole Thing ahead of me.

"Am I THAT old??" she marvelled.

 Oh yes, my sweet, yes you are. And it's a swift road to where you're headed, believe me. We were both babies, once.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fine and Dry in the Lesser Antilles

One of the things I like best about Al Jazeera is the international weather forecast. Tonight, for example, despite beheadings in the Maghreb, ebola in Liberia, Tomahawk missiles in Iraq, and the sweaty spectre of global warning, I hear this: it is fine and dry in the Lesser Antilles.

And that means the Lesser Antillean macaw is safe.

Beautiful plumage. Good to know that it's not wet and miserable.

This guy, a solendon, is also, at least tonight, secure.
Solendons are venomous and nocturnal--basically, they're poisonous shrews--and apparently are very similar to species that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs. They look super scary to me and will probably appear very soon in a nightmare near me, but they are warm and dry for now. Endangered as a species, but individually warm and dry.

Look at those teeth.

The neotropical otters of Trinidad are similarly well set up.

I don't know about you, but that otter's fur is weirdly soothing to me. No conditioner or anti-frizz products and just look at that do. It's perfect. Some of us are made perfectly. 

Speaking of Trinidad, they seem like really nice people; today they're celebrating 38 years as a republic. San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein speaks of them as "one large family."If you call this number, 1 868 358 9261, you can pick up some Calypso records for $10. Here's the first calypso song ever recorded, by Lovey's String Band (1912). Nice little pick-me-up as we try not to contemplate what's happening in eastern Ukraine. Personally, I imagine Lovey's players as all being neotropical otters with excellent hair.

If you are experiencing despair in any of its forms as a result of being an informed citizen of the world, take a moment and remember that, for the moment, some of us are doing fairly well. In Trinidad, for example, the million or so people, 450 bird species, 108 types of mammals, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians and 620 types of butterflies are all warm and dry. God bless them.

And, at the risk of sounding maudlin, or monotheistic, or overly dramatic, I hope he or she or it or they blesses all of us. We could use it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Witch of Oakridge

Yesterday before driving Kid to school, I got up and obeyed Mr Nenshi, as we all do, and went out back with the broom to save the trees from their crushing burden of summer snow. Here's the thing about that: unless your trees are bonsai, there's an excellent chance that you're going to be standing under them while trying to remove snow from their branches. Within 5 minutes I was drenched in snow, had been bonked on the head with many small, mean-spirited and never-to-grow-old apples, and had been soundly cursed by a pair of squirrels for no good reason. I was cold all day and I was mean all day.

Turns out I was also something else all day.

This morning in the shower, I discovered three downy feathers and bits of bird nest in my hair.

Clearly, I had been wearing them for an entire day AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

The feathers were smallish and maybe white enough to blend into my hair, but the twigs and string? All I can conclude is that everyone thought it was something I did on purpose and they were too frightened to mention it.

I think I might be the neighborhood witch.

I bet the children tell tales about how I have chicken legs, how I have a stuffed badger on my mantlepiece that I talk to at night, that they should never come here for Halloween because I might slip them a poison apple. My whiskery chin is much commented upon. Bullies probably push terrified smaller kids onto my lawn. It's why the neighbors don't wave, why I've not been invited to a book club, why the mailman mysteriously does not deliver mail on Wednesdays.

There are upsides and there are downsides to this situation.

Downside: I will never find a babysitter.
Upside: I won't need one as I will be at home, cackling over insalubrious soup.
Downside: When I actually am old, no kid will be my Snow Angel.
Upside: No one will report me to the city for not shoveling my walk.
Upside: Loud next-door neighbors might be diverted from loudness by feverishly making witch cake.
Downside: They would feed it to Elvis and he needs no help in the upset stomach department.
Upside: I never have to read "Tuesdays with Morrie." 
Downside: There isn't one. 
Biggest Upside of Them All: Witches are supposed to have chin whiskers.

Today, the Witch of Oakridge is off to purchase bulk quantities of fillet of fenny snake and maybe a little hemlock or venomous toad. It won't be worse than what I usually cook for dinner.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


My experience of having elderly parents has been mostly very excellent. They are too slow to catch one when one is running fast from the scene of That Was My Grandmother's Teapot. Their days of rising at dawn are long gone, making it possible for one to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons for many Saturday-morning hours while consuming an entire box of Cap'n Crunch and holding one's younger siblings in a variety of acrobatic headlocks, also for hours. Their hearing is imperfect, making at least vaguely possible such largely implausible situations as "Well, even 'puck face' isn't a nice thing to call your sister." Later in all of our lives, they have forgotten what a lot of trouble one has been, how expensive, how annoying, how disrespectful, and recall only things like that time when you brought them a lovely lasagne three Februarys ago.

This week, however, my elderly father--obsessed by the goal of having a house more or less completely emptied before he dies--issued an ultimatum. Either the three of us girls get down into that basement and decide which vinyl records we wanted to keep or they were all going to the garbage dump.

My mind went back to my Lakeview Village adolescence. Watching FM Moving Pictures Sunday night on public access TV, running out the next afternoon to buy records at Sam the Record Man, records that would confirm my identity as "alternative." I was as alternative as a well-brought-up pudgy rich kid with good grades, bad hair, baggy burlap clothing and a vast array of sensible shoes could be.  I needed that music desperately, for reasons that had about as much to do with the actual music as it had to do with what I believed myself to be, despite all visible clues to the contrary. Joy Division, The Cure,  Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Yazoo, Bowie, Roxy Music.  My life was elsewhere. In a very cool place that was not our Tudor-inflected basement with its sauna and red shag rug. It was probably in London, it was definitely dressed in black, and if its footwear was sensible, it was sensible because no way I was going to trip and fall while dancing my ass off at Club for Heroes, Billy's, or some random night clubs on battleships moored on the Thames.

This is going to be fabulous, I tell my own family. We can take some of those iconic covers and decorate that one tricky wall with them. I envision myself playing the no-doubt scratchy LPs to my son, letting him get a taste of what "real music" is and helping him see his boring old mother in a new way.  I imagine my husband remembering our shared-but-separate youth and recalibrating his decades-old idea of who he married. Maybe we would all go internet shopping for some tasteful punk-inflected jackets. Some pointy-toed boots. MAYBE KID WOULD WANT SOME EYELINER. We are all about to become super interesting to one another.

A portly middle-aged work-at-home mother with silver hair and a trick knee, I bounce with uncharacteristic energy into my parents' basement to greet my super-interesting younger self.

And find this. 


I am writing this under the light of a single naked bulb, crouched on the unfinished cement floor near the water softener. Clearly, it is here, in the actually pretty empty confines of my folks' basement that I must remain to the end of my days. Go ahead, bury me in this, I am already dead of shame.

And tell Bryan Ferry that I always loved him, despite the "my dentures hurt" face he couldn't stop making.

I guess it happens to all of us.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 1

It's the first day of school! It's the first day of school!


I can change back into my pajamas, eat a bag of chips for breakfast, watch the Season 3 finale of Once Upon a Time, play music with inappropriate lyrics, paint my toenails in the kitchen, go out for coffee, go shoe shopping, chat online with certain favorite people in Minnesota and Germany and across the park, I can finally sit down in front of my long-neglected manuscript, and I generally celebrate my freedom.

Mostly, though, I will be sitting quietly on the couch, missing my boy, hoping he solves his girl trouble, smiling at the thought of his inevitable lunchtime chocolate-milk mustache and what that says about his relative maturity, and waiting to hear the first tales about Grade 6 with his favorite teacher.  It's Day 1 of the last year of real childhood.

Let the bell ring. Soon.

(PS: I will get over it. We'll talk tomorrow.)