A different take on Thanksgiving

You don’t want me to bore you with the usual kind of Thanksgiving post, do you?

It would be easy, you know. My family and I are at such a happy point on our journey, and have so many blessings to be thankful for, that I could gleefully fall on my knees and bore both my readers and my Savior with an unimaginative litany expressing our appreciation. We’re blessed our children are in love, and our daughter has had the wedding of her dreams. We’re thankful Jeff has found a job where he feels more appreciated, and we’re thrilled we’ve made it through the first year of my retirement. We’re downright giddy that our son has found employment at which he’s good, useful, well-remunerated, and happy… and we’re so indebted to our darling cousin Shari who put him on the right path. We’re thankful for friends who are kinder than we deserve, for a home we can manage, cars that run, the teeth we have left, and the company of a disreputable passel of pussycats whose questionable hygiene is balanced by their irresistible cuteness.

It’s easy for us to be thankful for those things in our lives that are going well.

But you know what? I want to go deeper than that. I want to express thanks for all the blessings that look like challenges, because those are the ones that strengthen our bond with God and with each other.

I want to thank God that we’re not young anymore. My husband and I no longer have to wonder whether we’ll grow old together; we’ve done it. I have stopped fearing he’ll leave me for someone younger, prettier, smarter, sexier, funnier, or more adept at housecleaning, because at this point in life, I know what keeps him around: good cooking, a quirky and impolitic sense of humor, fierce loyalty, and lust interspersed with laughter.

I remember the days when I’d get out of bed half an hour before he was due to wake up, so that I could put on my makeup and freshen my breath before letting him see me. In due course, this man would see me lying spread-eagle in a hospital bed, screaming like a banshee as his children were born. He even saw me in an emergency room right after I’d left my scalp on Route 287; he stayed with me as I asked whether I still had eyes and teeth, and afterward when my freshly shaved head sported more stitches than Frankenweenie.

I’m thankful he stuck around. I’m thankful that now, every morning, he goes to work without waking me up, even though I look like a drooling whale, and sound like a deaf percussion band. He thinks the noises I make are funny. He looks forward to hearing them again, and comes home to be with me every evening. Tell me that’s not cause for gratitude.

I’m thankful that as I’m aging, my faculties are wearing away gently. My memory is sneaking away in the kindest manner: I cannot remember how books or movies end, so I can experience the same ones over and over without losing interest. My eyesight is filtering as it falters; while I can look in the mirror and see my eyes, nose, and mouth, I cannot see the blemishes that surround them, or the lines that have grown between them. Even my voice has lost its strength; it’s been a long time since I could sing, and years since I’ve been able to produce consistent sound when speaking for more than a few minutes. That has taught me to listen, and what a wonderful discovery it has been! To hear music too sublime for most of us to master; to hear ideas instead of striving to come up with a witty retort. I’ve learned so much since I’ve had to produce more silence. I’m grateful for that, and hope it will continue as long as I do.

I’m thankful for the friends and family with whom we share our days, whether in person or electronically… and who wouldn’t be thankful to live in an age when virtual communication makes continuing life-long friendships possible! Of course, I’m grateful for the good things that are happening in their lives, but I’m also appreciative that they trust me enough to share their vicissitudes. I weep with the ones who are experiencing failing relationships, even as I trust that their companions will take different, better-cast roles in their lives, and that new companions will enter their sphere and bring them unexpected happiness. I fear for the friends who are battling serious illness, but I rejoice whenever one takes a step forward, and avidly pray for the day when their illness will be simply a memory.

But how about the loved ones who don’t make it? I’m grateful for them too. I’m glad to have known them, glad to have loved them, and thankful that they left something of their personality and their essence in my life and in my heart. Two of the moments in my life for which I am most grateful are those which one might conventionally describe as the saddest. My mother died in my arms, and my mother-in-law died with her hand in mine. What a gift it was to be with them as they took their last breaths, and what a privilege it was to make sure they knew they were loved even as they departed this world!

I’m grateful to believe that once we leave this world, we go on to experience a different, more magnificent existence, in the presence of an almighty God who has, thankfully, never ceased to show me that He exists and that He loves. I’m grateful that I’ve always been able to dispel the doubts of the adult by recapturing the wonder of the child. I don’t need to know why things are as they are. I just need to know that Someone Else is in charge… Someone loving, forgiving, and good.

I’m thankful for Thanksgiving… a time to take stock of where we are, what we have, who we’re with, and whose we are. I like to see that, when all is said and done, the life we have is good.

Thank you for reading this… and thank you for being part of my life.

Good bless you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Call me Mrs. Strakosh.

somIn the musical comedy “Funny Girl,” there is a character, Mrs. Strakosh, who is fully defined in most viewers’ minds, even though we only know one thing about her: she is the mother of Sadie, who is a “married lady.” Her daughter (played by a decidely plain young woman) has managed to nab a husband… and not just a husband, either: a dentist! This is an achievement of great magnitude:  every time Sadie grins, flashing a mouthful of braces, every woman in the room sighs in approbation. Mrs. Strakosh beams with pride; she basks in her friends’ admiration and envy.  She has completed her life’s work. She has married off her daughter.

Five days ago, when I watched my beautiful daughter get married, I felt just like Mrs. Strakosh. I still do.

Part of me is appalled. I am not, like Jane Austen’s archaic Mrs. Bennett, the type of mother who believes that a young woman’s personal worth and financial future are solely dependent on the match one arranges for her. I take great pride and pleasure in knowing that my daughter is a woman of the modern age.

She resisted every match I tried to make for her… quite sensibly, since I can barely spell algorithm, let alone develop one that can match her to a perfect stranger in twelve essential dimensions.

She has an education far more impressive than her father’s or mine; she is a hard-working and well-respected professional with reasonable prospects for life-long, remunerative employment. She has long been an impressively busy person, with many friends who could easily take up all of her free time; I don’t know how she manages to find  the hours she needs to mentor youngsters, study her faith, and put up with her aged parents, who revel in her company.

She’s a funny lady, and a good one…always sought by others, but able to find fulfillment when she’s by herself, too. She reads, she crochets, she draws, she plays violin, and she bakes magnificently. She’s what people used to call “an accomplished person;”  one of the best-rounded human beings I will ever meet.

Had my daughter never met her wonderful spouse, I know she would have been a worthy person and in many ways a happy human being. She might have given and received every kind of love; she might have even raised children!

But she wouldn’t have been “a Sadie,” and I would have always lamented the experiences she would have missed had she never been a married lady.

Now, let me tell you something else: I don’t measure my own self worth exclusively by the achievements of my children, either. I don’t know what Mrs. Strakosh did other than to raise Sadie, but I have a few extra-maternal activities on my resume. I’ve worked, I’ve made friends, I have painted and written. Thank God I can cite these credits, because I am a lousy housewife and a very unconventional mother. My cleaning skills are questionable, and I certainly don’t sew. I’ve never baked a pie for my kids. On the other hand,  I found them a website from which to import guava shells in syrup, and there is no better dessert. I’ve taught them one does not need to be conventional in order to live enjoyably.

Perhaps that’s why I am so puzzled by the conventional delight in which I’m cocooned right now.

I lived to see my kid get married. I got to watch her stand at the altar, in front of a hundred members of the community, and pledge herself to an outstanding young man. I watched her add a link to a chain that goes back to the dawn of time, as they established themselves as a new household… a new family. I was there as she received the church’s blessing to love in every sense of the word, and the admonition that this love must persist no matter what life dishes out. I was there as the wedding ceremony ended, when Amanda and Ben turned around: no longer two independent people, but one unit, one family, one branch from which humanity will continue to flower.

And I knew, as Mrs. Strakosh must have, that the child once born of my womb had grown, prospered, and grasped her rightful place in society, while giving and receiving a love that I’m certain will last a lifetime.

It makes me want to sing.

An apologia for my tardiness

desk

You know why I am always late? It’s because I am always happy to be wherever I am, and I usually see no reason to go anywhere else.

In the morning, I don’t want to get out of bed. I like sleeping. I also like waking to the first dazzling ray of morning sunshine, as it dances into my bedroom window. I like basking in it while I’m wrapped in a warm quilt, enjoying the caresses of an affectionate cat.

When I force myself to leave the bed and take a hot shower, I am delighted to stand there as cascades of clear, cleansing water pelts me. I could spend hours scrubbing myself with a bracing terrycloth towel, replacing the scent of sleep with the perfume of pomegranate, or coconut, or even oatmeal, depending on the body wash that suits my fancy.

I could take days priming myself to leave the house: experimenting with hair and makeup, trying on different fashions, choosing the pair of shoes that looks and fits best at the moment, exploring my reflection in the mirror. Which aged relative do I resemble today, and what loving memories do I have of that person? There are days I almost need a Dumbledore to pry myself away from this font of remembrance.

And what could be better than lingering over breakfast? Shall I have a quick, life-giving American coffee, or splurge on my national libation, café con leche? Shall I have breakfast at home, or splurge on Dunkin Donuts, with their delicious coffee rolls? Each one is so enormous, and so easily consumed before it’s properly savored!

Once I’m on the road, the delights are many. Shall I play with the car’s temperature gauges until I am as cozy as a bean in a burrito, or shall I open all the windows and the sunroof, riding in wind like a Valkyrie? Shall I ride in introspective silence, or wrap myself in the kind of music that’s best enjoyed alone? For me, that is the music of the stage, whether it be Broadway, the opera, or an intimate cabaret. It’s music that must be sung, even if your voice has been gone for years, and it is music that must be savored from beginning to end. I can’t count the times I’ve sat in the car after reaching my destination, singing along to a masterpiece, refusing to leave until the last glorious note has resounded throughout my soul.

The places I visit during the day are almost always captivating, even when they’re not particularly pleasant. When I had a job, I hated feeling confined, but I was always intrigued by my work. I knew if I stayed with a task I could find a way to do it better, to make the product more enjoyable, more instructive, more innovative. As much as I hated going in every morning, I stayed around at the end of the day, consumed with the wish to encounter the muse once again.

As for other unpleasant places, I find charm in each one. Doctor’s and dentist’s offices are almost sybaritic; although pain may be involved, I love being in a place where learned professionals explore a complicated landscape:  the body I inhabit.

Supermarkets and malls are treasure-filled caverns; you could spend all day perusing shelves and displays without finding every tidbit you’d enjoy.

I’m even fascinated by horrible places like repair shops and government offices: what opportunities they offer for sociological study!

Of course, certain places are so delightful that the urge to linger is unquestionably justifiable: any dinner table graced by my husband’s conversation, any house that a friend calls home, any place where I can have a long, laugh-filled conversation with my children… any beach where waves lap against the sand… any mountain peak overlooking God’s creation.

No matter where I am, it’s where I want to be… and the charms of my next destination are never quite enough to urge me to rush away from the experience in which I’m immersed.

A little self control.

desk

Most every night I have a drink.
One cocktail can’t be much, I think.
But though I know I’d love a second
(And though that gin has surely beckoned)
I fear, my dear, that I have reckoned
One more might take me past the brink.
So I don’t have another drink.

Now that I’ve finished tonight’s drink,
My eyes won’t close, or even blink
And I’m afraid I’m too clear-headed
To probe those fantasies embedded
Dreaded, shredded and retreaded
That plague me when I’m forced to think.
I’d rather have another drink.

But damn me, I won’t make that drink.
I wish my armor had a chink
That freed me to be  indecorous,
Drunken and perhaps obstreperous!
I think it would be splendiferous.
But I’m a coward, that’s the kink.
I will not have that other drink.

 

 

 

What sleep may come

hermie and me

My need for sleep has started to frighten me.

Granted, I’ve always been a sleepyhead, but now, I am out of control. On Monday night last week, I fell asleep sometime after midnight… but sometime before one o’clock in the morning. I awakened the next day to unexpectedly bright sunlight. Then, I paddled to the kitchen, looked at the oven clock, and said, “damn, the power must have gone out last night. The clock stopped at 4:44.” I went over to my phone to look at the real time, and got an unpleasant surprise. It was 4:44.

In the afternoon.

I had slept damn near into the evening.

The phone revealed that my husband and kids had been trying to contact me all day, to no avail, and they were starting to get worried. It was embarrassing to call them back and say, “Sorry… I just woke up.” What kind of a loser goes to bed at midnight and wakes up in time to get ready for dinner? I started my conversation with each of them with the same kind of self-appalled apology, and then answered their logical questions. No, I wasn’t sick. No, I hadn’t had anything to drink the night before. Yes, I have been taking all my meds.

There’s nothing wrong physically, and I’m in a very good place psychologically. I just slept for about fifteen hours.

That night, I was afraid to fall asleep again… or maybe I was just afraid of staying asleep. I made sure of getting nothing better than a light slumber. Instead of going to bed, I lay on the overstuffed living room couch, and started streaming favorite operas on You Tube. Tosca was first. I fell asleep at some point before the heroine offed the villain, but woke up in time to hear her lover get shot. Then I streamed Lucia Di Lammermoor, but I’m afraid the poor old thing went crazy without me: I slept through my beloved Mad Scene.  Something else came on afterward, but I don’t remember what it was. It made a very loud noise sometime after 6:00 a.m., though, so I got up, took my meds, had three successive cups of coffee, and managed to stay awake until it was time for my nap.

It was lovely and very restful… as afternoon sleep generally is.

I’ve done the same thing every night and day for a week now… and really, it has to stop. To begin with, I miss my bed… and I miss my cat, Pewter, who lives in my room, and only plays with me when I’m reasonably awake. Her grandmother, Hermione, keeps me company in the living room, but she is not one to respect personal boundaries. After I’d finally nodded off last night, she woke me by shoving her paw in my mouth.

Furthermore, those afternoon naps are going a bit too late into the post meridien, if you know what I mean. When Jeff gets home from work, I like to pretend I’ve been productive… or at least, I like to pretend I’ve bathed, dressed, combed my hair and started dinner. More than once last week, he came  home to a pillow-wrinkled, generally disheveled old lady who had a wonderful idea: “Chinese?”

I don’t know what to do. I am now afraid to sleep and too tired to stay awake.

I do have to ask though: is there really any valid reason why I should keep to a traditional schedule anymore? I don’t have to be at work at any given time. I don’t have to drive the kids to school, or pick them up, or taxi them to their activities. I do have to get dinner on the table for Jeff, but he really does enjoy General Tso’s.

Is there really any reason I shouldn’t sleep for fifteen consecutive hours if that’s what my body feels that it needs?

I wish it didn’t remind me that I’m approaching the day when I won’t wake up.

 

 

 

If you’ve got the money, honey…

bags

I am not here to write. I am here to keep myself busy so I don’t go online and buy a third pair of shoes to wear to my daughter’s wedding.

I can justify having two pairs: the high-heeled leather shoes I bought for the ceremony itself, and the gray sneakers that match my outfit perfectly, which I will wear to the reception.

The problem is that I just found another pair of gray sneakers that I like even better.

I found them while shopping online for bridal shoes for my daughter, even though she’d texted me a picture of another pair of shoes, which I told her to buy. They were okay… but is something out there completely splendiferous? I have to find out.

It’s not just shoes, either. After I selected my outfit a few months ago, I bought a light ruana which would complement it nicely. When it arrived, I worried it might be too flimsy… so I bought a woolen ruana with a delightful autumn flair. Today, of course, it occurred to me that these silly kids are getting married in upstate New York in November, when really cold weather is possible. I found a beautiful, fur-lined Dennis Basso cape that would keep me warm in Siberia. It’s now on my Ebay watch list, and I’m hoping to stop myself from buying that too.

And my hat? Please! I bought a very plain little fascinator a few weeks ago, which will be quite flattering and perfectly tasteful… but wouldn’t a big gray fedora be fun? Or a cloche, with lovely diamond pin? At my own wedding, I wore a Juliet cap with a scrumptious little veil around my face… wouldn’t something of the sort be lovely, and useful to hide the scars and wrinkles I’ve acquired in the ensuing years? Or how about a big ol’ Western hat, like the Stetson I wore at my reception? Wouldn’t that add a sense of whimsy to the proceedings?

As for my outfit itself, I don’t know. When I purchased it, I thought a jumpsuit would be ever so nice and unusual… which it is. I hoped it would fit beautifully… which it does. Am I happy with it? Yes, until anyone asks me what sort of dress I’m planning to wear to my daughter’s wedding.

Dress?

I found a website which makes dresses to your measurements, and had them make me a frock for the bridal shower. Once it arrived, and I saw how lovely it was, the agony began. Should I have them make me a dress? The affair isn’t going to be formal at all, so a gown is out of the question, but would a tea-length dress be more appropriate than the outfit in my closet? Would a navy blue dress imprinted with moons and stars clash with what everyone else is wearing, or would it be too Harry Potter?

For that matter, are my new wire-framed, roundish glasses a little too Harry Potter as well? Will they photograph nicely, or is it time to spring for contacts? And could I get used to wearing them within a month?

I don’t know why I am agonizing over such minutiae. After all, it isn’t MY wedding; my goal is to remain as invisible as possible. However, I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my kid; I want to be someone she’s proud to introduce as her mom.

Wisely, she is keeping me away from the purchase and acquisition of important wedding items like the cake, flowers, invitations, and decorations. Everything her guests see on the all-important day will reflect her taste and her fiance’s, which is as it should be.

But since I have no control over anything that matters, I am obsessing over the few things that are within my power to choose… and I’m making myself crazy.

Thank God I don’t have a job… if I had any real money to spend on this stuff, I could outshop any housewife in Beverly Hills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end is near

grim reaper

The world is supposed to end this weekend.

Actually, it depends on what you read. Some sources are predicting an impact with Planet X; others are just saying it’s time for The Rapture.

Since The Rapture has the same record for tardiness that I did back when I had a job, I’m not going to worry about it… but I would really hate to see my daughter disappear right before her wedding.

There are all kinds of apocalyptic portents. Last month, on the 21st, there was an eclipse; on the 25th, there was an awful hurricane that triggered flooding on the 26th. This is supposed to send us running to Luke 21:25-26: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Oh dear.

And a “Christian numerologist” named David Meade claimed that tomorrow, 33 days after the Eclipse, the planet Nibiru will collide with the earth.

Correction: I just saw that he changed his mind. There will be no big bang tomorrow… but there will be “a series of catastrophic events” in the next few weeks, and the world will have changed significantly by the start of next month.

Considering the fact that we’ve recently seen two monster hurricanes and a couple of very large earthquakes, I would say the world has changed significantly already.

Not to mention the fact that we’re on the brink of nuclear war with a roaring mouse.

But am I worried about tomorrow?

Nah.

For starters, I take great solace in Matthew 24:36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mr. Meade, I presume, is NOT the Father.

Secondly, should I be wrong and should Mr. Meade be right, there are many reasons I will be relieved:

1) I didn’t have to clean my house before calling Comcast to come and check the outlet in Jeff’s man cave. It has blown up two converters this week.

2) I will not regret my decision to have both dessert and a glass of sweet wine last night, even though I am supposed to be cutting back on my sugary treats. Neither my health nor my closet can harm me if the world ends on the morrow.

3) I will not feel the least bit guilty about all the TV I’ve binge-watched this week: four Sondheim musicals, an entire mini-series, three delightful documentaries about obscure British royals, and Project Runway.

4) I’ll never hear Bob Dylan’s voice again.

I don’t think there’s any point in worrying about the end of the world… but I DO believe there’s plenty of reason to worry about its continued existence. We should be putting our energies into working for peace… into helping those affected by natural and man-made catastrophes… into making alliances, not enemies… into feeding and clothing the sick, poor, and homeless, instead of chasing after ostentatious wealth.

I should think about cleaning my floors, making my husband’s dinner and brushing my cats.

But what I will not do is pay any further attention to idiots who twist the Scriptures in order to frighten the foolish.

There are too many real reasons to be frightened.

There are also too many real reasons to be grateful.