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Thursday, February 10

loose ends

Mom had a minor heart attack a couple of weeks ago. After a few days in the hospital they determined her heart was in pretty bad shape but she was not a candidate for surgery. They basically sent her home to enjoy the rest of her life, a period of time that might be weeks, might be months. She may outlive us all. Nobody knows.

So, in addition to dealing with the sadness of this whole thing, we are doing businesslike stuff. Rifling through her "special boxes" digging out wills and deeds and insurance policies and delicately asking what her wishes are just in case, what if, should the time come...

In one of her special boxes, we found an old driver's license with a note clipped to it: "Bob, this is the picture for the paper". She must have liked the way her hair looked that day. It is quite the bubble. And then a poem cut from a magazine about not grieving, she is always with us, which brought tears to my brother's eyes.

Combing through the mundane bits of a person's life can be an awakening. Most women of my Mom's generation left their jobs behind to raise their families and their lives seem to be measured, not by recognized accomplishments, but by loads of laundry and pots of homemade soup. I remember watching my Mom iron. She ironed everything. She ironed Dad's underwear. She ironed sheets and towels. Some items got spritzed with water, some were sprayed with starch and the house would fill with the warm smell of clean. It was comforting and frightening at once. I feared that my life would be like hers. Stuck in a kitchen, behind an ironing board, in the basement laundry room.

So I pursued college with a vengence. I dreamed of the Peace Corps, of writing a great novel. I would be a Mom with a life. I would work, earn money, be valuable.

But will it be much different when I finally take time to look back? What will be in that special box? A deed, an insurance policy. Who will remember how I fought to be different?

Perhaps what matters, in the end, is not the paperwork of a common life, but the life itself. I'm sure it was not all ironing and sweeping for my Mother, no matter how my adolescent eyes saw it. There had to have been moments of great passion, of love, of joy, laughter. I remember how the folks would get all dressed up for the occassional "affair" which involved dancing in fancy clothes, not illicit activity. I remember the dining room table surrounded by friends, drinking coffe, eating pastry, laughing. I remember the backyard pool and the parties of grownups that seemed too old to be having such fun in so little clothing, but they were probably just in their 40's.

And my parents loved each other, stayed true. Raised 2 kids who turned out OK. Worked hard for what they had and took pride in that.

There's no paperwork for accomplishments like that, no award certificates. Nothing to put in special boxes or folders tied with string. When the time comes, the taking care will be in the hands of her children, their spouses, their children. A constellation of souls that would not exist if not for her, a legacy of love.

It is enough. It is more than enough.

Tuesday, February 1

Dear Allentown Arts Festival:

I love you, I do. When I first started coming to your show, I was wearing tie dye and fringe, my hair was in two braids like Pocahontas and I was probably barefoot. OK, not much has changed except the braids but I digress..

It was a rite of Spring to break out the light weight clothes and come out into the sun, blinking, like a bear emerging from a cave. I fell in love at your show a couple of times. I was manhandled by a cop and tear-gassed once. I don't know how many times I claimed the window seat at Gabriel's Gate just so I could watch the people. I thought those artists in the white tents were the most exotic beings imagineable and I envied them their lifestyle.

Then I became one of them.

When I first started to apply, it was one rejection after another so I eventually gave up on it. But by then I was getting accepted to shows that were much more competitive and it perplexed me. Some local artists claim that you like to fill the show with artists from more glamorous places like California and Iowa, so we locals have a hard road.

I tried again and started to actually be accepted once in a while. The first year I flashed back to my college, braid days and smiled thinking that some of the folks wandering the streets might actually find me exotic, too.

But now you are starting to get on my nerves. I read and folded and unfolded and read again the app this year which is exactly the same as every year except for changing the dates and the cover picture. Slides instead of digital images. I mean, does anyone even make slides anymore? I can think of no other show that is so out of touch with the millenium. And no place to write in descriptions of what the jury is seeing. Oh, I type my own up and attach it. I imagine most do. But it makes me wonder if you even know what you are seeing as that slide projector whirrs away. Do you know I made the paper that covers that book? Do you know that mirror is actually cast paper? Or do you just see book, mirror, nothing unusual? That's too bad, because last time I was set up next to a man selling tacky metal whirly gigs that I would bet the farm were imported. His slides must have been killer.

So I unfolded the app again and considered whether you were worth it. I decided you were not, but I would apply anyway, with whatever slides I had left over from the Crusades, and I would damn well write up descriptions of what you were seeing, but I was no longer in love with you. It's not you, it's me.

It's me because I have no patience for a show that requires the best of me and then rejects me in favor of metal whirly gigs. I deserve better. It's me because I am one of the few hand bookmakers left in this region and you jury in about 250 jewelers-or so it seems.

It's me because I actually live in your neighborhood and when I don't get accepted to exhibit, I have to watch thousands of people walk by my house to get to you to buy things from everybody but me.

The irony is that I live in your neighborhood because I fell in love with you back then. With your funky old houses and trendy shops and restaurants and the people who got to live there. I visited just once a year, but it was enough.

So, thanks for showing me where I would eventually live, because I may not love you so much anymore, but I love my neighborhood and, in a sense, you gave me that.

Let's not break up, let's just take a break. Like Ross and Rachael. I am free to apply to another show, you can offer to let me back in your life and I'll consider it. Meanwhile I'll be dating other shows, seeing what they have to offer, happily burning CD's or applying on line. Like it's 2011, not 1968.

I don't wear braids any more. Or tie dye. Now it's your turn to grow up.

I'll be waiting, right here in the neighborhood.