Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm sure he's there now

When I was a young girl of five or six, I had distinct musical preference. Two albums, or 8-tracks, if you will, and only two were on my rotation list. The soundtracks to The Sound of Music, and Camelot. I recall when the family drove to our house in the hill country for summer vacation, I would sit in the front seat of our station wagon, between my father driving and my mother wishing I was not sitting in the front seat. Right between them, and right in front of the car stereo. I'd put The Sound of Music 8-track into the deck and when that was over, I'd pull it out and replace it with Camelot. When that was over, in went The Sound of Music again. I liked Julie Andrew's voice, I still do. And I liked Richard Burton. But I really liked Robert Goulet. I really liked Robert Goulet's voice. I had a bit of a crush on his voice, and Sir Lancelot, and Camelot in general was a place I wanted to visit one day.

Camelot came through Houston years ago and I took my mother to see the musical. Goulet had by then moved from his role of Lancelot to very successfully fill Burton's role of King Arthur. It was thrilling to watch him up there on the stage, absolutely thrilling. My face hurt from smiling for so long and my hands hurt from the long applause and standing ovation after the show. Afterwards, we milled about in a Meet the Stars area but I was too awe-struck to approach him. He was Lancelot and King Arthur rolled into one, after all.

Robert Goulet died yesterday. When I read the news in the paper this morning, I was struck with the musical memories and happiness this man provided me through my years. But I wasn't struck with the feeling of loss. I have no doubt where he is, where to find him.

In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What would you do?

Silly to write that for the post title. I know what most of, if not all, my friends would do. For their dog's birthday. Probably not much. Because most of my friends are normal line-separating people.

What I did was take Cheyenne to the park for a long time this evening. We stayed until she bored of every furry bottom available to her nose, and had sniffed out every scented message left behind for her on fallen leaf, barrier post, table leg. We stayed until I threw the ball to her and she watched it arc in the sky and fall beside her foot, then looked at me as if throwing the ball for her was so yesterday and didn't I know that she was into food for pleasure these days?

After she cooled down, I fixed her birthday dinner. This is where I'm pretty sure I crossed the line from healthy pet owner to over-the-top. Her birthday dinner consisted of the following:

~ Normal amount of her dog food
~ Two broccoli florets
~ Large spoonful of beef stew
~ Large splash of low sodium chicken broth
~ Quarter cup of water

And then...

I stirred it all together and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to give it a nice warm temperature.

While she danced in excited circles around my feet.

In the grand scheme of things, I figure that spoiling a dog is a tiny thing, the likes of which no one will keep track and which causes no damage, but giving happiness, even over-the-top happiness, to an animal who depends on me and gives me so very much in return? The spoiling and the wag of her tail tonight, they make my small world a very happy place to be.

Seven years old today

In my memory this morning, a morning years ago. At the cabin, cup of coffee in hand, standing on the back porch, throwing the ball to Cheyenne. As the normal tireless insanity of her breed, she chased it down the hill, ran back the hill and up the stairs, dropped it at my feet and ran back down the stairs again, excitedly waiting for me to throw it again. My father stepped out onto the porch, cup of coffee in hand, and smiled at her eagerness and play.

You've got a good dog there, Alison.

Yes, yes I do.

Birthday girl

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A gorgeous afternoon. One table outside. Two friends. Me.

The conversation relaxed and pleasantly unspectacular until this:

Friend One: Yeah, that'd be like a bull in a china cabinet.

Friend Two and Me: ???

Friend Two: Shop.

Friend One: ???

Friend Two: China shop. The bull isn't in a china cabinet, he's in a china shop.

The three of us then laugh. Just a laugh over something silly imagined, just a moment spent in mental simplicity. Our laughter takes rise on the air, through the trees, is picked up and carried away on the breeze. It's easy, this afternoon is. Unless, of course, that poor china cabinet is yours.

Monday, October 22, 2007

One word on the card was World

Sunday morning, going through the tall pile of mail I'd brought in and put on the dining table Saturday afternoon. Half the mail belonged next door, which turned out to be a lucky turn of events for me since in order for me to deliver the neighbor's mail, I had to walk out my front door, something I don't usually do since I park in the garage and use the garage entry to my house. There on my red brick doorstep was a complete surprise in the form of a tall and bright arrangement of flowers. I checked the card and, unlike the neighbor's mail, these were delivered to the correct address. Lilies and Gerber Daisies, Daisies and Sunflowers, all of deep yellows and Fall reds.

All day Sunday, those flowers were a big part of the smile on my face.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Four words

I sit beside her while she eats the fresh strawberries, blackberries and grapes I've brought her. It's peaceful here, pure, quiet, our own space, own time. Something is on the television, something in the background, filler we both ignore. I hold the plate, attentive to her needs, wipe her mouth. She turns her head to me, opens her mouth round. I lean in. She says in a voice just above a whisper, I love you, Alison.

My world, it's full of plans and details and what next. But it snaps clear, it gets perfectly clear, when she speaks.

I remember who I am when I hear her. I know what's important when I hear her. To hear her voice again!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Might be my favorite email this year

Received this afternoon from my friend in San Diego.

We have, as a society, absolutely lost our minds. Accessory lap-dogs, ten-year olds with cell phones, sixty dollar trucker hats, two-thousand dollar purses, reality television, daytime television, prime time television, "Music" Television, heck, all television; our decline into utter mindlessness has been swift and steady. But the capper, what has convinced me that we truly are without brains, that my impression of the universal idiocy of mankind is not merely a product of my admittedly limited patience is today's announcement of the release of the Spice Girls greatest hits album.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Between the two of us

At the end of the hall, rounding the corner of Room 417, I see her. In bed, immobile. Her head turns my way, eyes take a moment to focus, then a grin tears across her face like the sun splitting the clouds.

Hi Mom!

Her smile widens.

I sit beside her, hold her hand, kiss her, kiss her, kiss her.

She gently but purposefully pushes me away, eyes the fruit containers I've placed on the buffet.

What Mom? I tease her, Would you like some berries?

She brightens, widens her eyes a bit, shakes her head up and down.

We are learning how to communicate, she and I.

She hungrily grabs handful after handful from the plate. I hold the plate, waiting for her hand to reach for more, move the plate each time like a target for her reach, so that she always succeeds.

She looks at me, focuses on me, says Thank you. Out loud, her voice thanks me. Her words! Her voice! I smile at her, lean down and kiss her. Anything Mom, anything you need. I love you.

After the feast, I rest my feet on her bed, tell her about the day, the world, my dreams. She smiles at me like she holds a secret, moves her hand along the top of my foot, my ankle. At this moment, she is giving, rubbing, loving. More than feeling the heart-joy of her hand on my foot, I am thrilled to observe her, watch her hands move along my skin. Watch her alive and loving, listening.

Mom? I love you.

Welcoming the Lazy

This past weekend, rolled up with this morning, are rolled out in my mind like a carpet of Fall leaves, shared laughter, comfortable places. For the past four days, I have been able to make my decisions on how to fill my time based on what I felt like doing, what I wanted, no demands, no schedule, no obligations. Beyond the normal and the necessary, I mean to say. I have no problem with those two demands and obligations. All the details and scheduling and here-we-go-again-hold-on-tight emotional upheaval that comes with monumental change, those are gone from me now. This past weekend was filled with little things, simplistic things, most joyous of all, uneventful things. A manicure and pedicure with my niece, buying a corsage for my nephew to give his date for a homecoming game. My rear end on my couch. Ironing a shirt. The Sunday newspaper and Cheyenne at the park for two hours.

I think my head and my heart napped throughout the entire time. A much needed nap, a happy nap, a damn good nap.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Unfolding as it should


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Half full

What gets you through, for lack of a better word, a transition such as selling your parents' house, is first of all you. It's your faith, your spine, your heart. Your energy. Oh Lord, the energy it takes. But after all that, it's the continuity and the belief in what will remain the same, what will move forward and what will circle back.

She's coming home. Her text says that she'll be here in an hour. That girl, my niece, she is pure delight. She'll be here this weekend, her stuff will be here, her shoes on the floor, her slumber in the guestroom, her laundry in the washer, her life throughout. We have meetings tomorrow. All of you must be present, I'm told. We'll squirm. The pages and pages of details are necessary but also necessarily beyond us.

I'll take her and her brother to lunch; they'll appease me, allow me to do so, to feed them, slip twenties in their hands, push them off. Go, I'll tell them, be young, have fun.

Please check in and let me know where you are; that you are safe.

Back home, I'll grab the glass she left on the kitchen counter, open the dishwasher, hesitate, and put it back on the coutner. What's the hurry for the dishes anyway? I like the signs of her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

See it stream down your face

In the transferred-from-8mm-to-videotape images, I am no more than three years into this life. My finger-sucking habit is boldly evident, even switching hands when necessary, when the other hand is needed to balance or reach or touch, the switch is quick and seamless - so attached was I at the time to the security. The neighborhood children, Santa's presence, and even Santa's lap seem to be simultaneously thrilling and intimidating. I watch myself clamor to the front, put my hand on Santa's lap, jam my fingers in my mouth, switch hands, pick up an ashtray and spin it around, put it down and switch hands again. From the looks of it, the ashtray was empty. Good thing, that. The other children swarm around Santa, hungry for their turn. One child brings him a shiny package from beneath the Christmas tree. She's trying to cut in line, that one. She is told to return it. She pouts at the camera. Santa pulls me onto his lap, and I say something that he couldn't have possibly understood since I nervously jam both hands in my mouth, pause, jerk my head to my right, and hold my glance there.

There are five seconds of the grainy black and white film in which I jump from Santa's lap and run across the room to my father, place my hand on his knee, lean into him, and from that safe spot, turn my head to survey the chaos and excitement that was Santa in our living room.

That night and those five seconds, they tell the story of my entire life.

Monday, October 08, 2007

That house, this heart

My friend calls me Sunday, says, Your blog is boring lately, it's only photos.

I take an audible breath to fill the silence. Yeah, I tell her, sometimes that's all I have to say, the pictures. It's not a cop-out, it's just all I can do at the moment.

What I don't tell her is how tight my chest feels, just above my heart. And how rotten my stomach feels, just below my ribs. I don't tell her that this is making me more sick than poetic, more ill than wistful. I don't tell her that there are times in my life that I cannot put into words, or, better yet, even I recognize the futility in trying.

The last time my chest felt this tight, I cried for hours. I railed against my world, my life, my reality. I let it go, and where it went was safe but not pretty, pure to be sure, but still feeling weak. It's not impossible but it is challenging, to walk the rocky road without the one who used to support my fall.

Had my friend called on Saturday, I don't think I would have a word different, no argument. What do you want from me, I'd ask? You have my number, you can call if you want to know. This or anything. On Friday as well. Can you imagine a life, a home, blown apart? Blown to bits without any damage? Without anything breaking but you? That is what this move is like. We are breaking apart a whole: this goes there, this in that box, the ornaments we'll save for later, Do you want this, Someone should take this, What do we do with this? I've always loved that.

Everything lands someplace, somewhere, even if behind.

The things no one chooses, the things no one wants, they are left behind. They wait for the Estate Sales Company to arrive, separate, touch, highlight, sell. I feel guilt like heavy blocks on my heart and shoulders when I realize what I do not want, cannot store. But that, that is the sweater she like somuch, or that shoe polish smells like him. There is no more room. In my house, in my brother's house. We let some things go. We have to do so. It does not feel good, the decisions we make to keep or let go.

It tosses me awake at night. I should have kept the tray. I should have kept those buttons, that coat, the shoes.

You can't do that, you cannot. You have to let go. Trust me, or let me trust these words... it's impossible to keep everything and keep yourself as well. I know this is true.

We cannot go to the house until Tuesday night. Forbidden to go home. Other people manage the house now, manage the contents now. It's that Estate Sale. I want to toss a ball through the window, just to startle them, just to let them know that I know they're looking through our stuff. Just because I am me.

I think of Mom, in her room, open-mouthed like a baby bird waiting to be fed. I look at the photo of her young self, standing beside her horse, open-eyed, waiting for the magic of life to enter her bones and take her.

I wonder what it would have been like to be her friend, to know her then, through her journals she left in my hands, through the photos, on that camping trip where they went topless. Would I be there? Would she like me? Would we fill dance cards together and giggle the next day? Would I have teased her about the dance she went to with my father, and, very unlike her other dance cards, did not dance with another man?

I look at my watch, at the calendar. The days are ticking off. On Friday we close. On Friday, the familiar left from the freeway, stop at the light, right at the next stop with the blinking light, left at the next stop sign, past the elementary school, mine, the kids, don't pause just keep going, stop, go straight, and then right at the next, first house on the corner to the right -- will no longer be my path. I've driven home along those roads, those turns, so many nights I've driven that way home. How do I train myself to keep going, remind myself that road is no longer my drive on Christmas morning?

It's an empty house now. Vacant of life, echoing, swirling circles of dust and memories throughout. It's mysterious and magical, lonely and full, hungry to be filled again. It's everything we put there, and everything we pull from there. It's just a building, just bricks, but it's our bricks, hers and his, and we saturated them with our lives, our love. And the house we built, it looks at me crestfallen, asks for life again. I wouldn't deny the seeds we planted.

Our home, soon to be another's. Goodnight kisses, all around. Hugs across the air. Ssshhh, goodnight, love, go to sleep.

I stand on the street, beneath the Pines, the Oaks, the Moon. I look at the dark house. Goodnight, love, I breathe, I'll miss you. I will always miss you.

And then I let go, just let go. And I do not look back.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Linens and china

Wednesday afternoon, late, my sister-in-law and I met at the rapidly vacant house to go through my mother's massive collection of table linens and equally massive collection of good china.

I arrived at the house before she did. I walked through the rooms, down the halls, touched the wall paper, flipped the lights on and off and marvelled at how the illumination is harsh in a room without furniture. Off. On. I was tempted to fall into the emptiness again, but I did that Friday night. And to be honest, although the temptation was there, I am just too tired to entertain expectation of emotions, to feel anything other than what I feel, even if - especially if - I'm feeling okay with it all at the very moment.

I pulled out all the linens, placed them on the long dining table, stacked the hand-embroidered tea towels in matching sets, by color, by holiday, by my Mother and by my Grandmother. I pulled boxes from the attic, opened the cabinets in the Butler's pantry.

Then my sister-in-law arrived, and in her hands were a couple bottles of champagne. In her arms was a big hug for me.

We popped a cork and decided to sit on the back patio for a spell before we began our task. And on that back patio we sat for the rest of the night. Chatting, laughing, dropping a few tears, telling and retelling stories, clinking our glasses. It's was a scene my family has played out on that porch for years. Sometimes there was an occasion that brought us together - Christmas, my brother's wedding, the largest lobsters we'd ever seen - and sometimes it would simply start with one person sitting out there, joined by another, and so on, friends would stop by and before we knew it, we were all sitting out there, relaxing, talking, enjoying each other and the evening.

The night was cool, the breeze was slight, the company familiar and good. The linens and china? They could wait.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Definitely bragging

Led Zeppelin Reunion Concert. November. London.

I'll be there.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I sat with her Sunday. She reached for, grabbed for my hand. She held it, let it go, grabbed the fresh strawberries and grapes I brought her, fed herself, then rested her hand in mine. A moment later, she shook my hand loose and rested her hand on her stomach. A moment later, back to the fruit. Again and again the pattern.

Cheyenne was there. Cheyenne licked her face and Mom giggled while pushing Cheyenne away. That she giggles, even when inconvenienced, gives me joy.

Last night she stood before me in the hallway of her new home. She wore a blue and white striped, boat neck shirt, blue pants, her blue Sperry Topsider shoes. She spoke. I was sleeping when she arrived, very groggy, asked her, Mom, what are you doing?

She said she wanted to talk to me.

Nothing serious, just talk. Normalcy.

She was standing there before me, wearing blue and white. Her posture straight, her hair fixed, her image the same as in my heart. She was magical and impossible.

We stood face to face, mother to daughter. I questioned how she was standing. How'd you do it Mom? All of a sudden! She questioned why I would ask. I heard her. This wasn't real but I went along for the ride.

It was so easy, that ride. Who wouldn't want to see her mother standing?

It was a good dream, good to see her, hear her talking. Shocking though, surprising. Then accepting and warm and exciting.

Look at you! You can walk again. You can talk again!

I have no map for this journey I am on. I can only tell you that when she visits me in my dreams, when she comes calling, I believe I get a glimpse of the path along which she wants me to stroll with her, to lead her. I get a glimpse of her life and my life. I don't know where we are going, how could I know? But she shows me the way, she does. She takes my hand and makes our hands golden, she locks her cinnamon eyes to my heart, to my care. And I have no idea how, but with her, I know the way.