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Saturday, July 24

the mom speaks

When you have a child, the wishing starts immediately. For my son, I wished that he would be smart, brave and curious. Mostly because, although I was smart and curious, my timidity kept me stuck to home like a pin in a map. My wish came true.

The rest of it, well, he would have to navigate on his own. There are way too many circumstances to ponder, results to wish for, situations to conjure. His brain and heart and will would have to fill in.

As he made his way, I alternated between joy and fear and worry and relief. Like any parent. I celebrated his victories and listened late into the night when he was broken.

Of course, underlying it all was the main wish. The one we absolutely cannot control, the elusive prize.

And now, he has it. A promise from the woman he loves to love him always.

My work is done here. :)



Sunday, July 18

I write like...

This morning I read about a new web site called "I write Like" that lets you copy and paste a snippet of your own writing and find out to which famous author your writing compares. (see me being careful with syntax there). Pressure.

Well, that was just too tempting. So I copied a bit from a recent blog post, pasted it in and got:

David Foster Wallace.

Whoa!

After I stopped preening, I tried again, another post, another paste:

James Joyce

And I said yes I said yes I am yes

Now, I think I can turn a phrase, but Joyce?

So, I experimented. I pasted in a snippet of Joyce, from Ulysses, analyzed it and got:

Stephenie Meyer

I had to look her up. She writes the Twilight series. Vampires for the tween set.

A quote from the writings of James Joyce:


"And if he had judged her harshly? If her life were a simple rosary of hours, her life simple and strange as a bird's life, gay in the morning, restless all day, tired at sundown? Her heart simple and willful as a bird's heart?

A quote from the writing of Stephenie Meyer:

"Fall down again, Bella?'
No, Emmett, I punched a werewolf in the face."


I'm thinking that web site might need a little tweaking.

Friday, July 16

All booked up

Russell and I often talk about how our Summers are not what they used to be. Before we started doing art shows, we went to the beach, we went camping. Sometimes we would take a short vacation. To the Coast of Maine, or a weekend in the Finger Lakes. I loved the laziness of Summer. There is actual Summer furniture that encourages a person to lay back, curl up, nap. Imagine that.

But now Summer is my "season". It is one of two. There is "Summer" and there is "Holiday". The Summer runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and The Holiday runs from Columbus Day to mid-December. During these periods, we will do probably 12-15 shows that run 2 to 3 days each. And in between I have to make the stuff that we hope to sell.

Needless to say, no Coast of Maine. If we spend a weekend in the Finger Lakes it is because we are doing a show there. Beach? No. Although my reluctance to be seen in public in a bathing suit may be more of a problem than missing studio time. :)

This year, life gave me some Summer. I didn't get a couple of shows I expected to do, leaving me with more stock than usual as well as a July filled with real weekends. We had a Family Reunion over the 4th and 2 of our kids came home to visit and hang out. I was actually able to do that. Play.

I wander up to the studio every day and do prep work and stockpile components. But then the day beckons. Warm, sunny days that I had forgotten about. We have our meals on the veranda, watch the city walk by, enjoy the breeze.

And I am reading books. Lots of books. Crates of books. Beach books. Cook books. Short story collections. When I was a kid, that's what Summer meant. Long lazy days under the big willow in our back yard, a book on my lap and a few cookies in my pocket. Bliss.

Then, as a teenager and young adult, it was long, hot beach days, sand in the spine of the books I devoured while burning to a crisp.

Last month I found an old Morris chair at a yard sale and I settle into its cushions on the veranda and read.

I have read all the Nantucket novels by Elin Hildebrand. Perfect. Light but compelling. Like cotton candy. One a day. Gobble, gobble.

Revisited a couple of Richard Russo's.

Short stories by Maile Meloy.

A new Allegra Goodman.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

Almost every day there is an email from my library that a book I requested is in.



I've been scavenging for good books. While waiting in line at the grocery store I saw that the new "O" magazine had a feature of favorite Summer books, so I grabbed it and copied the titles into my iPhone while I waited. NPR was doing a similar feature one morning while I was doing dishes, so I wrote them on the kitchen chalkboard. I browse Amazon, reading reviews and summaries, requesting the ones that interest me, sending the library folks off to do my bidding via the internet. I can't wait for "The Pearticular Sadness of Lemon Cake". I heard about that one in the car, early one morning, en route to a show. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and tucked it in my wallet.

For a long while now, I have missed reading. It's not just being busy. The laptop consumes a lot of time, time that I would have spent in pages, I spend on screens. Oh, I read, but not like this, not like this summer of pages.

I was worried about the empty July calendar. And I won't deny that the loss of income from those events stings. But it has been a few weeks of family and festivals, theater, puttering in the garden, waking up in the early dawn with nothing to do but sip coffee on the porch and read books.

I'm not wishing to lose a couple of good shows again next year, but I will plan better because I have learned that Summer is not just work and more work. I remember now. I remember the perfumed early mornings, the late sunsets, the long lazy hours in between. Tomorrow we are going to the beach.

And I will be reading books.

Monday, July 12

Son-day

I think that Russ and I both try to accept the reality of our kids making lives away from us. We make a yearly pilgrimage to the West coast and sometimes they come to us. But, in reality, we probably spend a total of 3 weeks or so in the company of our children every year.

We talk about moving, we talk about being bi-coastal, we vow to visit more often, we talk and talk about it. We miss our kids and emails and facebook and phone calls just don't do it.

This week we were blessed with kids. Russ' youngest, Max, is here for 2 weeks and Billy is in Rochester with his sweetheart, Leisha, as they get ready to begin their new lives in Ann Arbor, so we are able to hang out every few days.

Sunday was rich with family. We went to Taste of Buffalo with Billy and Leisha (Max went early so he wouldn't miss World Cup) and then we all went to Shakespeare in the Park.

I sat there with my sweetheart next to me, my son and Leisha behind me, Max one spot over, a friend of Max on a blanket at our feet and we shared cheese and bread dip and macaroons and Coronas. We joked and chatted, teased each other, laughed.

It is how life should be but isn't, it's how our family could be but won't. No matter what changes we make, our kids will still be in 3 different states, 4 different cities. I want to have a compound, like the Kennedys. A bunch of houses on a big piece of land where everyone could live together but apart, touch football on Fall afternoons, huge Christmas dinners with generations around the table, always there for each other in joy or pain, minutes away from a hug, grandchildren popping in with wildflowers. It brings tears to me to think of it.

Instead I will take comfort in how all the kids turned out great, their lives moving as they should. My Billy will be closer to home now than he has been in many years. That is one check in the plus column. I vow, as I always do, to visit the Oregon/Washington kids more often. We have a new grandchild to hold, but it will be September before we get there.

I watched the groups of people at Shakespeare last night as they walked toward the hill with chairs and picnic baskets. Many families. I listened to banter, complaints, laughter. Children on blankets, leaning against their parents' knees as they watched the show. Young Mother soothing a fussy baby, hoping to be able to stay until the end. 2 young girls defiantly spreading their blanket 3 spots away from the folks so they could feel grown up, crawling over to get food every 5 minutes. :)

Do they really get how blessed they are?

We'll focus on the sons this week, enjoy them, cherish the time spent together. Then we will look forward to September and our visit West. and that's how it will be, I guess, for always. Coming together, taking leave. Holding close, letting go.

Well, until we get that compound thing built.

Thursday, July 8

The Mayor of Strawberry Fields and me

The day after the reunion, we ventured into the city. Russell and Max headed for MoMA, Walter (Russ' brother) and I took Quincy to Central Park.

It was a long, hot walk to the park, especially trying to constrain Q who was overwhelmed by the numbers of people and new smells. We settled on a bench to cool down and rest my trick knee that cooperates with me as long as I respect its limitations. I told Walter I'd like to visit Strawberry Fields. I usually do whenever I'm in Central Park. John Lennon holds a special place in my psyche, growing up with his music as I did. But it wasn't just the usual pilgrimage. I wanted to try to catch the Mayor of Strawberry Fields.

Last year we went to the premier of a documentary that had been done by local film makers. It was all about this homeless man who had carved a career of sorts, entertaining the visitors to the Lennon memorial. His story was compelling to me and I wanted to see him for myself. I knew the odds were long that he would be there, but off we went. Many blocks up, traversing across the park to Central Park West, keeping the towers of The Dakota in view as a sort of North Star navigation tool. As we rounded the curving walk to the mosaic, I heard chatter and, sure enough, there he was, giving his lecture, spreading his flower petals, working the crowd.

Walter was bemused by my fangirliness, I think, but he humored me while I took pictures and video. At one point, Gary offered a rosebud to a young girl who refused it. Probably a little afraid of the grubby man, even in a crowd. So he gave it to me.

video

We spent a peaceful half hour there, watching the show, resting Quincy who made a lot of friends as he pretended to be a good dog. Walter and I talked about finding your way in this world, carving out your little niche and finding joy there. Gary is most likely still a homeless man, but he seems clean and fed and healthy and happy in this little corner of the city. I watched the people watching him. Some were smiling, some were dismissive. A few registered scorn.

I saw freedom. Happiness. I heard Lennon "imagine all the people living for today" and I think he would approve of Gary. Living for today with his roses and broken petals, making beauty, connecting with strangers, collecting the dollars and quarters that would keep him going a little longer.




I'm not romanticizing homelessness, but I do respect Gary's clear-headed decision to live the way he chooses.

We wished him well as we left. He was still perfecting his design. He took a picture with me, a big hug around my shoulders, both of us flashing peace signs.



Russell picked us up across from the Dakota. Max said "We saw Christina's World!" I said "I saw the Mayor!"

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 7

come together

Months ago the missives started. There would be a celebration, a reunion, a coming together of the clan in honor of Dottie's 90th birthday. It would be on the 4th of July weekend, even though her real birthday was in the Fall. A bunch of rooms at the Hampton Inn were reserved, the caterer was hired, a family tree was designed, photos were collected, tasks were assigned. It was hard to imagine the Long Island heat and humidity when this all began, almost impossible to picture dozens of people in Summer clothes under a shelter in the park. But then, here it was and we were off to the reunion.

A word about "Dottie". She is Russell's Mom and I am crazy about her. She accepts everyone, flaws and all, but there is nothing sugary about her. She is just real. I guess raising 9 (nine!) kids sort of makes you reassess priorities and save the negativity for stuff that really matters. She is almost blind and almost deaf but her mind and wit are intact and firing. She never complains about what she is lacking. She smiles and carries on, waving off concern, laughing at her deficits, poking fun at herself. There is always a little smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

They passed around a guest book at the party and in it I wrote that the best thing Russell ever gave me was the opportunity to share his Mom. And I mean it.



We left our hotel early on the day of the party because we had a task. Pick up balloons. Lucked out on that one, I thought. Has to be the easiest assignment of the day. The balloons were helium. There were 25 of them. They did not behave.







We spent about an hour tying the balloons to weights and setting them on tables before people started to arrive. And then the caterers. Relatives bearing goodies and old photos. There was coffee and bagels in the morning that magically morphed into lunch from the grill and then made way for more deserts than I have ever seen in one place.

And through it all, Dottie smiled and the family laughed and hugged and everyone said how wonderful it was really almost perfect and wasn't the weather great?


















Rumor has it that plans for her 95th are underway.