Monday, April 30, 2012

Where I want to be today

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, where my mom sits in her chair feeling too dizzy to move. 


This is where my son works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor, a state of the art Olympic sized pool with floors that can be raised and lowered, sliding panels that can divide the pool into different competition areas, and competitive diving platforms at one end, where you can flip a switch and the pool churns the water under the diving boards, so that a diver slices into a soft foam of bubbles instead of a hard unforgiving sheet of water. When we visited him at college two weekends ago, he showed us around, pointing out all the technological marvels that made this recently completed world-class athletic center on his campus exciting to him. "When you call me and I'm at work, I'm sitting right there," he said, pointing to the desk from which the supervising lifeguard takes in the whole sweep of the pool. He's a track and field athlete, but perhaps water sports are about to find their way into the mix. He was recently recruited to join the dive team. This child is all about the efficient and graceful movement of bodies in space, which is mildly ironic given his mother's physical limitations. We live through our children. If we are careful, they will feel the freedom and exhilaration of that and not the burden.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Posts I did not write

1. The great prom dress search, success at last
2. My son, discovering he is a writer after all, experiencing that pure writer's high for a story that made his creative writing professor cry
3. My continuing round of doctors' visits, the good, the bad, the indifferent
4. My mother's failing memory and the loss of her life's best friend
5. Changes at work, for better and worse remains to be seen
6. My daughter's new obsession with Friday Night Lights, move over Psych
7. Love and basketball and cheerleading the New York Knicks

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poem in My Pocket

Today is Poem in Your Pocket day, a celebration of which I am newly aware, even though it began right here in New York City in 2002. This is the poem I will be carrying in my pocket. It is one of my favorites, I've posted it on this blog before. It's by the St. Lucian poet, playwright, essayist, painter and winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in literature, Derek Walcott.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Work

The painting is called "In the Twilight." It is by Nathan Jalani Taylor. I seem to be continuing the theme of trees, but really I just want to say it's not easy in this world to be an artist but my friend, he's doing it, living his dream in bold swirling sumptuous color.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meditating on Trees

I like to ride home through Central Park, watching the trees dance past, the lacy branches like filigree, the sun at a slant, the colors shimmering in the almost night, lending a mystery and otherworldliness that looks nothing like what people imagine when they conjure New York. This is also my city.

(I took these photos with the camera on my BlackBerry pointed randomly out the car window.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

What the City Knows

When my kids were small and would visit their cousins in Jamaica and Antigua, and my son or daughter would start to boast about some aspect of living in New York, I would take them aside, and I would whisper, Do not be the obnoxious cousin from New York. Ah, it's true. New Yorkers can be obnoxious about their city. They know there is no other place like it on the planet, that it is a hard place to call home but if you give in to its charms, it will make you its own, and you'll love the city even if you scrap with it forever.

New Yorker Colson Whitehead, author of The Colossus of New York, conveys something of the complicated relationship New Yorkers, born or arrived, have with the city.

“You say you know these streets pretty well?" he writes. "The city knows you better than any living person because it has seen you when you are alone. It saw you steeling yourself for the job interview, slowly walking home after the late date, tripping over nonexistent impediments on the sidewalk. It saw you wince when the single frigid drop fell from the air-conditioner twelve stories up and zapped you. It saw the bewilderment on your face as you stepped out of the stolen matinee, incredulous that there was still daylight after such a long movie. It saw you half-running up the street after you got the keys to your first apartment. It saw all that. Remembers too."

It is a strange comfort, all these years later, to look down at the corner of a particular stretch of sidewalk and see my initials carved into the concrete, small and neat against the curb. The squares of concrete had been freshly poured when I passed by on the day after I graduated college, and I used a twig to draw the letters and inscribe the date, and there they remain, proof of my history etched into the very stone. I know what the city remembers. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sisters

One of my blog sisters posted this poem a few days ago, and it just climbed inside me and made a home. It's my mother and her five sisters. It is them exactly. They are in their eighties and nineties now, and after a lifetime of devotion to one another such as I have never witnessed again, they can no longer travel to be together. But they talk, a round robin of phone calls, every single day. They are each other's "alternate me." The photo above is of my mom and one of her sisters in my cousin's pool in Jamaica two years ago.

I Wish I Had More Sisters
Brenda Shaughnessy

I wish I had more sisters,
enough to fight with and still
have plenty more to confess to,
embellishing the fight so that I
look like I'm right and then turn
all my sisters, one by one, against
my sister. One sister will be so bad
the rest of us will have a purpose
in bringing her back to where
it's good (with us) and we'll feel
useful, and she will feel loved.

Then another sister
will have a tragedy, and again
we will unite in our grief, judging
her much less that we did the bad
sister. This time it was not
our sister's fault. This time
it could have happened to any
of us and in a way it did. We'll
know she wasn't the only
sister to suffer. We all suffer
with our choices, and we
all have our choice of sisters.

My sisters will seem like a bunch
of alternate me's, all the ways
I could have gone. I could see
how things pan out without
having to do the things myself.
The abortions, the divorces,
the arson, swindles, poison jelly.
But who could say they weren't
myself, we are so close. I mean,
who can tell the difference?

I could choose to be a fisherman's
wife, since I'd be able to visit
my sister in her mansion, sipping
bubbly for once, braying
to the others, who weren't invited.
I could be a traveller, a seer,
a poet, a potter, a flyswatter.
None of those choices would be
as desperate as they seem now.
My life would be like one finger
on a hand, a beautiful, usable, ringed,
wrung, piano-and-dishpan hand.

There would be both more and less
of me to have to bear. None of us
would be forced to be stronger
than we could be. Each of us could
be all of us. The pretty one.
The smart one. The bitter one.
The unaccountably-happy-
for-no-reason one. I could be,
for example, the hopeless
one, and the next day my sister
would take my place, and I would
hold her up until my arms gave way
and another sister would relieve me.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I have been playing with the idea of making this blog private. I feel so exposed sometimes, weirdly vulnerable. Those of you who have closed your blogs to the public, how did it change the process of blogging for you? Did it alter the way you engage in this place? In the meantime, if you want to have access to this blog if I do decide to close it, please leave me your email in comments or send me an email. Click on my profile for the address.

Monday, April 16, 2012


We are just back from our trip to deliver our youngest to her college overnight, which we did, leaving her at the appointed place to meet her host and other prospective freshmen, then getting out the way.

Long story short, our daughter has decided where she will go to college next year. In the end, she chose here. One of the admissions counselors told us they had decided they wanted our girl in their school from the day they met her last year. All that needless worry. Life is a wondrous thing.

While she was away making her decision, we visited with our son and niece, and my son's best friend from childhood, and his best friend from high school, all of whom attend school in the same town. Our son gave us his time this trip. He hung out with us all day yesterday, and this morning, we picked him up from his dorm for breakfast and he hung out with us again, until his friends started calling to see if he wanted to go swimming in the gorges because it was, for the season and the place, a spectacularly blue day.

I soaked in the gift of being around him, and my niece, and the other two young men.We all went to dinner in town last night, laughing and telling stories and the college kids musing on after-college futures in the diplomatic corps or the secret service or in finance on Wall Street, or in an artists' studio, or maybe an architect's, and of course one a fire department paramedic and the other a dentist, and all of us wondering how our girl's overnight was going, and marveling that our baby was old enough now to be making college decisions and weighing a grown up future of her own.

An update: My mom is home from the hospital and is on the mend. Thank you for the prayers and good wishes and healing chants. Keep them coming. You are all magical beings. Love.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


My mom is in the hospital in St. Lucia. She had a cyst removed from the center of her chest yesterday and last night it began to bleed through the stitches and then the water pump for her house quit on her this morning and there was not a drop of water coming out the pipes so the doctor said I'm going to arrange a room for you at the hospital where the windows overlook the hills and the blue Caribbean sea and the breeze dances in through the open doors like a trickster rippling the covers and kissing you all over.

I am making the best of this news.

My mom has people all around her who arrange hospital beds at a moment's notice and call repair men to fix the water pump and get out of their beds at six in the morning to drive her to the hospital and her voice when she called to tell me she was on her way there sounded strong with no quaver at all so I have to believe her when she says she's going to be just fine.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Young 'Uns

These are my Aunt Winnie's great grandsons. The one in the red jacket looks just like his grandad, my cousin who died suddenly last October. These boys deepened their grandfather's spirit and filled him with love before he died. Aren't they handsome little angels?

This little one is named after my daughter. She is the first born of my cousin's daughter in the Bahamas. The joy in her is irresistible, and her floppy pink hat and colorful sundress aren't too shabby either. These pictures make me happy today.

Spring in the City

Fellow Americans

Walter Mosely in The Daily Beast

"The crime is an unarmed man-child shot down in the streets of America when the admitted shooter is allowed to walk free. The crime is a nation of possible Florida vacationers who have to march in protest in order to get the tourism-based state to turn its eye toward justice. The crime is a corporate-owned media that picks and chooses among the cases for which it will open the floodgates of national opinion. The crime is the everyday citizen of America in the 21st century using archaic and inaccurate terms such as white and black rather than fellow American. The crime is a broader media that has convinced our citizens that they are in such imminent danger that they feel it necessary to vote for legislation such as Stand Your Ground."

Monday, April 9, 2012

True South

A few weeks ago, I overheard my niece and my daughter talking. My niece said, "Isn't it time for Grandma to go back to St. Lucia? She always gets stronger in St. Lucia." Her Grandma did fly home to St. Lucia this past weekend. She traveled with one of her daughters of the heart, my niece's beautiful mother. All those in St. Lucia who love my mom were shocked to see how much more frail she is than the last time she was there. On the phone to me, she said, "I am just realizing how helpless I am. I can see it in everyone's eyes." Being old and unable to make your body obey, remembering being young and able to move without thought, must be the hardest thing. But my mom has good neighbors and friends and heart daughters and sons in St. Lucia. That's how she rolls.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


So we have a brand new 42-inch high definition TV. The screen is gorgeous, the color sumptuous. I watched Game of Thrones on it last night and just about fell into the rich, deep hues, the cinematic sweep and detail. Yes, my husband took back the other TV, the one he brought home last weekend to surprise us. The one I hated. When he took it back to the store on Monday night, he took our daughter and me with him. Once there, I saw his plan. He said, "Okay, choose the one you want," and then he just stood aside while I wrung my hands. I couldn't choose! All the pictures looked horrible and blurry to my eye. That's because the store did not have any of these models, all of them high definition sets, hooked up with high def cables. (See, ellen, I'm on to that now. Thanks for the tip you left in my comments!) After getting over how idiotic a sales strategy that is, I walked up and down the aisles comparing screens in our price category, looking for the one that did the best under these circumstances. My daughter periodically whispered at my ear, "Okay, Mom, what about this one?" coaching me gently. I asked question after question about how these screens would fare when hooked up with HD cables. The bored salesman kept shrugging and saying in a thick Eastern European accent, "Will look better." My husband stood at the back of the store, determined to wait patiently. Occasionally our daughter would go back there to him and I'd see them exchange comments and laughter. Oh, I knew they were in cahoots! I finally chose an LG model, praying I would like it once we got it home and properly hooked up, knowing that if I didn't like it, I had been maneuvered, and would have to live with it. But I did like it! And I love that my husband didn't make this whole episode mean anything deeper than it was, a preference for one HD screen over another. I mean, men and technology, all that. Our girl, as usual, was Switzerland.

My husband left early this morning to go down to the flower district to buy blooms for the altar arrangements he's making for Easter Sunday, in honor of his mom. He does this every year. This will be his third Easter without her. When he came back home, a long box of flowers in his arms, he saw the maintenance guys wheeling out our old, massively heavy and humongous TV set from the basement, where he had deposited it last night. That's what happens in apartment buildings. You put your old stuff in a designated place in the basement and the maintenance crew drags it out to the curb to be picked up as trash. He said, "Excuse me, gentlemen, but that TV works. The picture is a little faded, but that might be because it's not HD and our cable box is HD." They said, "Don't worry, brother. Pretty sure someone is going to take it." My husband then went to the supermarket (he's making scones for breakfast, yay!) and on his way back he came upon a conversation between the maintenance guys and a man who lives across the street. The man wanted the TV and was telling the men that he had a hand truck that could carry it, and he'd be right back. Turned out someone else had put out a smaller, broken TV, along with its remote, and that remote worked for our TV, so the man got both a TV and a remote, and I got to feel less guilty about the consumerism that allows us to buy a new TV while the old one still has some life left in it.

It's a beautiful blue Saturday morning in New York City. The trees outside our windows are budding and I want to say thank you to everyone who commented on that post earlier this week, in which I was worrying about my son. He's doing fine. He sounds back to normal, pressing ahead. In fact, he sent a short story he'd written for his creative writing class for me to read this morning. The tenses were a little all over the place but I was so impressed by the emotional content of the piece, the inner narrative that drove the story, and the twist at the end. I like to think if we weave our collective good thoughts into a protective net around him, around all our beloveds, they will be okay. More. They will thrive.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My son called on Sunday and told me a story that left a big rock in my chest. I can't write it here. He was very upset. I wished I could have climbed through the phone and sat with him, pulled him into my arms like when he was small, and let him talk it all out. He felt so betrayed, so vulnerable. Endangered. This is how it is to walk through the world in the skin he's in. He knows it too. He is such a good kid. Maybe he is this way because he knows his conduct has to be impeccable at all times, because every black male knows that if it ever comes to it, no one will take his word above anyone else's, especially not when the other word is white.

I raised my children in Harlem. I counseled them on street awareness, helped them hone their spidey sense, taught them that whenever they saw trouble brewing, they should just move on—which my son wisely did on Saturday night. I used to consider our neighborhood not quite safe, but now I think perhaps my children have been safer here than elsewhere. Harlem is fairly gentrified these days, but when my children walk out the door, many people look like them, no one is trying to challenge their right to be here. It's true I can't ever count on my son getting a cab on a New York City street, or my husband for that matter, but these streets are theirs nonetheless, no one questions that. And if I really examine this more deeply, when it came to my son, I worried less about street crime than about cops mistaking my boy for a street criminal. Turns out the chances of that happening are greatly reduced in a mostly black neighborhood.

What the fuck is going on in this country right now? This race shit is exploding everywhere. I feel so powerless to protect my loved ones sometimes.

Never wonder why I pray.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Glass Wings

“In the kingdom of glass 
everything is transparent, 
and there is no place 
to hide a dark heart.” 

—Vera Nazarian