Saturday, January 29, 2022

1970 and 2022

I saw a meme informing us that 1970 and 2022 is the same span of years apart as 1918 and 1970. For some reason, that hit me hard. My Aunt Winnie was born in 1918 and she is long gone. And she was old and beyond frail when she died. One of the last understandable sentences she spoke was "I stayed too long." It haunts me. Meanwhile, I fully recall where I was in 1970, laughing with my friends at the Queen's School, the beach days with cousins at Doctor's Cave, the time spent dreaming on my bed at 37 Paddington Terrace, the door to my little private terrace open to a gentle breeze, the leaves of the mango tree beyond it rustling like maracas, my dogs, Ringo and Sly, dozing on the cool green terrazzo tile squares of my tiny furniture-free patio. As a teen, my brother used to knock at this door at night when he got home after curfew, and I would let him in, holding my breath as he tip toed to his bedroom on the other side of the house, with our parents none the wiser. And on afternoons after school, I sprawled at the foot of my bed doing homework, warmed by a slant of sun that found me through the open door, and I was keenly aware of my privilege, especially compared to my best friend, who was growing up in a Catholic children's home on Constant Spring Road. The photo is of me in 1970.

Flash forward to 2022. It's snowing today, with a foot of fine powdery flakes expected, not wet enough to cling to branches, but light enough to blow everywhere, accumulating in huge drifts. My niece and goddaughter Dani starts a new job next week, a rather amazing one that has everyone slapping her on the back proudly, knowing she richly deserves it, and that this company, a prominent one in the entertainment field, showed great discernment in hiring her as its social media coordinator. A lovely footnote is she had applied to this same company just out of college in 2019, but didn't get a call back, and this time despite the fact that more than 3,000 people applied, and she sent her application in as a lark, she was the one the judged most qualified, and good on them. They could not have chosen a more conscientious and creative soul to join their team. She is a wonderful writer, too, and a delightful human, as you can see for yourself from her latest post at Living Life Like...

Dani's last day at her previous job as the editorial and social media coordinator for a travel website was a week ago, and she decided to spend the interval before starting the new position next Monday with her cousin (my daughter) in Boston. The two of them have been having a wonderful time doing the town. I'm going to share some of the photos Dani has been posting, because I'm just so impressed by her ability to distill what she sees around her into images of poignant beauty.

And here are my niece and my daughter, enjoying breakfast in a Boston diner, out and about exploring their world, as twentysomethings still do in the time of plague. No judgment here, just a prayer they stay safe. I've noted that even the most responsible young people bow to an imperative to pursue very social lives. No doubt it is the nature of youth. From my distance of years, I remember it well. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Things are afoot over here

We will be replacing our floors through the living room, kitchen, and hallway early next week, we settled on the same maple color, and once that is completed, our new couches will be delivered. The long-planned and much-bemoaned home front refresh has officially kicked into high gear. We shall have to do things in stages, of course, observing the dictates of our pockets, but I believe we have found the contractor who can accomplish it all—floors, new kitchen, full bathroom renos (or cheaper cosmetic upgrades), and even the refinishing my mother's beloved but battered coffee table! Moments ago the contractor and one of his workers came and removed our beaten up brown couch, loveseat, and armchair in anticipation of the floor work, and this weekend, the man and I will need to remove all the books, photographs, art pieces, and what nots from the hallway shelves so they can move them more easily to lay the planks beneath them. This contractor has also shown us preliminary drawings for the kitchen re-do, though we don't have any quotes for that job yet, as some decisions are still being made. I'm working away on the sidelines of all this, but just wanted to pop in and report that this is happening! 

Our son just called, and was hearing about all the plans for the first time, as we only jump started everything last week when we got the call that the couches were ready to be delivered. Figuring the time to do the floors was before the new couches arrived, I called the contractor who had been recommended to me by some of my neighbors, whose work they had invited me to see in their apartments. I'd been impressed by the obvious care he took in his work, the impeccable way he finished each of his jobs that I viewed. When I met him in person for a consultation last Thursday, it didn't take me but a minute to decide he was the one. 

Only yesterday, my husband and I settled on laying all new vinyl plank floors as opposed to refinishing our worn maple veneers—so much cleaner, no dust from sanding, extra durable and waterproof, a fraction of the time needed for installation, plus we could still closely approximate the warm look of hardwood. In case you forgot the woeful state of our floors, take a look at that kitchen photo. The contractor told us he couldn't guarantee bringing them back to perfect condition, and that in a matter of months they would begin to get scuffed all over again. Hence our new direction.

On hearing the plans, our darling boy volunteered to come over tomorrow and move everything off the hallway bookshelves for us. "You can just keep working while I move the books shelf by shelf and stack them in the back bedroom," he told me, and what did we ever do to deserve our wonderful boy and girl. The man and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of philanthropic karma in this life. I'm humbled and grateful.

Monday, January 24, 2022

100 years ago today she was born

On the front of this photo that my mom gave to my dad soon after they met, she decorously wrote “With all good wishes from your friend, Gloria.” All across the back, my father rhapsodized in blue fountain pen ink, “She is the one!!!!” She was 25 years old in this picture, and working as a postmistress in Spanish Town, where Daddy was clerk of the courts. Three years later, in lieu of an engagement ring that he couldn't afford, my dad presented the love of his life with his acceptance letter to Lincoln's Inn Law College in London, and asked her to accompany him to England as his wife. Today our gracious Lady Gloria would turn 100 years old. Happy birthday in heaven Mommy. You are so loved.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

A chain of hands

My Aunt Winnie once commented that if there were a fire or flood or political crisis, her sister Grace would grab her husband Ken and call to her offspring, "Come along, children!" but if my mother Gloria were in the same situation, she would grab my brother and me and call to her husband, "Come along, Las!" (short for Lascelles). I was in college when apropos of nothing Winnie made this observation as we sat on her terrace one summer afternoon, and for some reason it stuck with me, made me wonder what kind of wife and mother would I be? Would I grab my children and call my husband or grab my husband and call my kids? Grace and Ken had a great love story, so perhaps Winnie was making a statement about their epic involvement with one another. But I always thought my own parents had a great love story, too, though theirs was more rooted in practicalities, at least as far as I could see, so I couldn't quite get a fix on the point Aunt Winnie was making. I don't even know that she was accurate in her opinion of her sisters' relational priorities, but I do think she was making a comment, indeed a judgment, about said priorities. I have no idea why I woke up remembering this today, marveling that Winnie's tossed off reflection back when I was twenty had stayed so present in memory. I pondered it anew and realized that if faced with a need to escape, my husband and I would each grab a child with one hand and then grab each other, and maybe you can do that when it's two of you and you have only two children, whereas Grace and Ken had three. Still, what's to stop any family making a chain of clasped hands in the name of love and survival, and that is my rumination for today. I have no idea what it means, except maybe I am missing my mom and her sisters, and knowing them, they might all be together in the spirit world right now, happily debating this very question.

In other news, our daughter's love came down from Boston for an event in the city this weekend, and he bunked with us. Our girl stayed up north with their pup, happy not to be traveling anywhere or having to find a boarder for Munch. On Friday evening, her young man asked my husband and me a question that made us all very happy. The moment was heartfelt and beautiful and blessings and bear hugs were freely given. I won't go into it any more than that because people deserve to reveal themselves to the world in their own time. Even though I'm being a little bit cryptic here, I'm sure you can probably guess what comes next. Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe that's why Gloria, Grace, and Winnie were visiting during that interval between sleep and waking this morning. Maybe they were a family welcome committee. Makes me smile to think it.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Woman at work

I’m a bit slammed with work, y’all. For a freelancer, this is good. I’m reading your posts on my phone when I fall into bed at night, but my phone won’t let me comment and by then the last thing I want to do is get back in front of my computer. There's much to share, but life is a river, and as much as I've wanted to pause and engage with what's happening, I have to flow with the current and let events swirl for now. Lots of people I know have Covid. Someone new tests positive each day it seems. All are recovering, proof the vaccine works. I look forward to when my wordsmithing mojo isn’t being fully consumed by the book, and I can sort through my thoughts again, rail at the news, wander down random paths, take pictures, hug my beloveds, and visit with you here. Soon. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

This loved boy

Our son is all better from his bout with Covid. To celebrate his release from quarantine on day ten, he went for a solo hike in the Hudson Valley before driving to New Jersey to pick up his fiancĂ©e from her parents' house, where she had been since he tested positive just after Christmas. He said he felt restored being outdoors in nature again, rather than staring at the walls of his home. He's back at work today, ready to fight fires and otherwise "serve and protect" his fellow citizens. He's made for this. Not for the first time, he reflected that if he'd had to stay home at the start of Covid lock downs, instead of going out each day and doing his part as a member of New York's Bravest, he would have slowly lost his mind. I guess there was always a purpose brewing for the little boy who wore us out because he never stopped moving. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Here again


How many times have I taken that picture, sitting in exactly that place. It was raining out when I captured the scene again yesterday, our not-yet-dismantled table top Christmas tree still in front of me. This is my life, sitting here beside the big window, writing people's lives. I'm not complaining. I am grateful to have found my way to such work, and that it continues to sustain me. I am here again today, in the same spot beside the window, landscapers on the lawn below me digging holes along a line of white painted X's on the ground. I suppose the holes will soon receive plantings of some sort, and with the tree in front of my window recently cut down, I will have a full view of this new evolution of the gardens where I live. There are still scaffolds everywhere, as the city inspectors have not yet signed off on the recent repaving of the pathways and re-pointing of the brick facades, but the refurbishing of the sorely neglected grounds at least seems to have begun. I have just finished Chapter 13 in the memoir I am writing for my subject, and am about to begin the next chapter, which I believe to be the most pivotal one in the narrative. Perhaps I should pause here, at fifty-five-thousand words, on my way to the eighty-five-thousand asked for by contract, and allow the upcoming action to build more fully into view. Sometimes I think writing might be as straightforward as entering an internally visualized reality and looking around at what is happening, noticing all the human and physical details, gesture, emotion, atmosphere, place, and then looking again and noticing more, and faithfully setting it all down.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Skipping into the New Year like...


There's a meme going around that says don't go claiming 2022 as "your year." Instead, it says, "we're all going to walk in real slow. Be good. Be quiet. Be cautious and respectful. Don't touch anything." I get it, but the way I see it, we can't afford such reticence. There's too much at stake. We need to get out there and raise hell about the decline of our democracy, it's happening before our eyes. But while we're at it, I do believe that we also need to notice or create moments of connection and joy.

Our girl and her guy came to the city to spend New Years with the man and me. My husband rustled up many little plates of party food, including pigs in a blanket (he knows they evoke fond memories of childhood New Years Eve festivities at my uncle's house), phyllo-wrapped brie bites, two kinds of charred chicken wings, Philly cheese steak sliders, salsa, guacamole, and chips, and individual key lime pies. My girl added a tray of cupcakes and near midnight we popped open the bubbly and raised a glass to the sweetness of being able to spend New Years Eve together after such a year. When the ball dropped in Times Square, we called our son, who was at his apartment in Astoria alone, on day five of his ten-day quarantine while his love waits him out at her parents' house in New Jersey. This is the year they plan to marry. He tested positive on the PCR test he took a couple of days after getting the telltale red line on a home test a week ago. He's feeling okay again. His symptoms were light: a couple of days of body aches, a bad headache the day after, and now just a lingering cough, though we all drove by to exchange gifts and put eyes on him on New Years Day, and he didn't cough once. 

After a slow start to the first day of 2022, it was dark and raining by the time we got to his house, but we stayed outdoors, the five of us masked on the sidewalk in front of his building, chatting and catching up. He was so happy to see people he kept prolonging the visit, though he wouldn't allow any of us to hug him. "Munch is the only one who gets a hug," he announced, picking up the pup and twirling around with him. I wondered about the wisdom of a boy who had been sick standing out in the rain, but he brushed away my concerns, sharing that that he goes walking for an hour every day, rain or shine.

The whole time my girl and her guy were here, they kept getting texts from upstate about yet another family member who had just tested positive, eventually five of them, all of whom they had been with on Christmas Day. Our girl was anxious that they might have brought Covid to us, but her dad told her to relax, that he'd rather get Covid from one of his children than from anyone else, and if there was a variant to get, the relatively mild omicron might be the one. 

Honestly, we suspected that every one of us just might be positive, given how many people we know who have contracted Covid over the season, but since none of us were exhibiting any symptoms, we released worry and just cherished being together. Our girl and her love left early yesterday morning to head back to Boston, where they can get tested easily on campus, and don't have to stand in line for hours as we do in New York City. They dropped off their test samples yesterday afternoon and will let us know the results. We all continue to feel fine. I pray all of you, and your loved ones, will remain safe and healthy in 2022.

Update: Our beloveds in Boston just got back their results—both tested negative.