Wednesday, June 28, 2023

It's been a week

First, there was the frightening news last Tuesday that one of my daughter's friends since they were four had collapsed while riding his bike and the hospital, unable to revive him, had to put him in an induced coma and on a ventilator. All the kids and their parents gathered and prayed, even the agnostics and atheists among us. We prayed that when our boy woke up, his brain would be undamaged despite the length of time it had been without oxygen. And we prayed for his parents, our friends, unable to imagine what they were going through. Two days later, when the doctors stopped administering the coma medicine, our boy did wake up, and though he could not recall what had happened, he was otherwise completely himself. God, we exhaled. He will now need a device implanted in his chest to regulate the beating of his heart, as that was the cause of the terror. He will also have to undergo weeks of physical therapy, but he's going to fine.

Just as I was breathing normally again, on Sunday came the news that my niece and goddaughter who lives in Yellowknife in the far north of Canada, had died in a car accident overnight. Drunk driver with no license. She had been traveling home from spending a few joyful days with family in Halifax and Vancouver, driving through Alberta on the way back to Yellowknife with her partner of 14 years. They’d been together since she was 19. She had just earned her masters in social work, they'd just bought a house, everything was in a good place. Her love was driving, their dog between them. The impact came on the passenger side. My niece sustained massive trauma and died at the scene. Her love suffered a broken arm and a shattered life. My niece's mom and sisters and his parents flew to him in Edmonton, where he had been transported so that a well-equipped hospital could perform needed surgery. I have no idea what comes next for a family that is now so broken. "It doesn't seem real," her sister told me. "Everybody else lived. Why didn't Christine live, too?"

Is it obscene to also celebrate what's happy? This week my daughter and her love texted the family chat that they'd picked a wedding date in July 2024 and settled on their dream venue, so now everything on that front is becoming real. I imagine the news of the week made them decide not to waste time, to embrace the good and give their loved ones some joy to look forward to, reasons to dance.

The image here is a digital piece by artist Nettie Beatrice, posted for no reason other than I love the colors. Everyone here is reeling. Hold your loved ones close.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The continuing chronicles of going gray

I finally got my hair cut. Finally trimmed off all those "light golden brown" L'Oreal Color ends. The dye had made my hair weirdly straight and wispy as it grew, rendering it more difficult to style. You couldn't tell, because I would pat it down with conditioning mousse, and whatever wayward spirals refused to comply, I'd just snip them off with a scissors. My hair is back to its natural self once again, curling and waving against my scalp as it used to and happy to breathe without color. When I did that post a while back confessing my distress at the visible signs of aging, I was grateful for your openhearted comments, especially the ones that advised that I would embrace this new transition soon, and be at peace. That made me feel hopeful. Let's see how long I'm at peace with the incoming gray. Pro tip: Makeup definitely lifts the look.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Harper's first photoshoot

One of her aunts asked her parents, "How does it feel to have the most perfect baby on earth?" Lord, but my grand-niece is adorable. Be still my heart.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Something of value

How I love this son of mine. His darling wife took the photo and texted it to me. My boy is very upset with me for not having asked him to accompany me to the Apple Store to buy my new laptop. He believes he could have guided me to a choice that would have met my needs for significantly less than I spent. He is also chagrined that I did not ask my niece's husband Grant, who is an exec at Apple, to apply his lovely discount on my behalf. "What were you thinking?" my son wanted to know. "I was thinking that Grant is a new dad and he's busy with little Harper right now," I said. "He only had to tap a few buttons on his phone!" my son exclaimed.

Indeed, when my niece Leisa read my last post and learned that I had bought a new laptop, she FaceTimed me at once. "Why didn't you call us?" she wailed. She and Grant, who was sitting next to her on their couch in Dallas, agreed with my son that I spent more than I had to. Grant was already busy tapping said buttons on his phone. "Okay," he said, "I've reserved the MacBook Air for you if you want to exchange the MacBook Pro you got. You have ten days to decide." He said that once I paid, he could get the Air delivered to my door that very day, and that I wouldn't need to return the Pro till I had safely migrated all my data to the Air, at which point I could reset the Pro to factory settings and get a full refund. 

They all say I bought more processing power than I will ever need, and they are probably right. I did the same thing with my last laptop, despite my son telling me I didn't need that much memory, and so on. But you know, that laptop ended up giving me ten good years, so no regrets there. The way I see it, this is my work, and I'd like to know I don't have to worry about maxing out on storage or lethargic processing speeds or batteries overheating or anything else. 

Apparently I can make whole movies on the machine I bought. "I just might do that, then," I joked to my concerned young people, who were still lamenting the savings I was failing to realize. "Apart from the money, is there any reason for me not to keep the Pro," I asked them. No, none at all, they all said. It's a fantastic machine. 

Later, I asked my husband what he thought, whether I should consider switching to the cheaper but still excellent laptop. "Well, the kids all want to feel as if they can contribute something of value to you," he said, "and that's why they're all so insistent." I told him his was a more compelling argument for changing than the one about me saving money. "That's because I know you," he shrugged. "I know that once they swipe that card you almost superstitiously refuse to care that the money is gone." He has often rolled his eyes at this attitude of mine, so he didn't bother this time.

The upshot: I have decided not to make a change. All my data is already successfully migrated to the new machine, everything is working fine, and maybe this bad boy will last me another ten years. But at least I now understand to thank the kids for their loving concern, and let them know how much I appreciate them looking out for me.

Monday, June 12, 2023

All kinds of portals

Here is a picture of a woman going to gray. How long will I embrace the silver, I wonder. This post is a précis of all the posts I’ve wanted to write but didn’t because I’m on deadline. I need to deliver a good portion of the book at the end of this month, seventy thousand of the contracted one hundred thousand words, though I can see now that I will blow right past that. The last ten thousand words have been the hardest to write of the book so far. Perhaps that had to do with our having had house guests and my divided mind as I tried to help our niece set up her own place. 

In the midst of it all, my computer trackpad suddenly gave up the ghost, scaring me witless that the system was about to crash and I’d lose all my research and notes, though the manuscript itself is backed up. I didn’t want to fuck around and find out, and so I swallowed hard and purchased a whole new machine this week. It certainly wasn’t in the budget but it was time; my old laptop was ten years old and I wrote six books on that thing. Now I’ll finish a seventh on the new laptop I got on Friday. My niece came with me to the Apple Store and got me a student discount with her college ID card, which also got us a $150 gift card that I handed over to her. 

Our college grad moved into her new apartment this weekend. We transported her and her boxes to Brooklyn and helped her unpack a bit, then took her and her roommate out to dinner afterward. Our daughter came too, bringing her joy. I have to get back to work now so I'll rely on pictures to tell what went unrecorded this past week, some of it quite weird—that smoky day in New York City when the sky looked like Mars, for example—and some of it wonderful—an avant garde dance performance by Urban Bush Women in an overgrown church garden in Harlem. That photo up top of a neon lit portal is from that extraordinary evening. Don’t miss the spirit levitating in the trees. 

I have the most wonderful daughters. My girl and my son's wife went with my daughter's fiancé’s mother and me to see The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, Lorraine Hansberry's last play, currently in revival on Broadway. Set in the Village in the early 'sixties and starring Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan, it made us all feel like artsy intellectuals with deep thoughts. What an unbound talent Lorraine Hansberry was! We mothers had a lovely time with our beautiful daughters. I grabbed this image of them during intermission.

On Wednesday last, the sky in New York City was filled with ash from fires north of us in Canada. At a certain point, the slant of the sun on the particles turned to air to a bright orange soup, and people I love from all over the planet started texting and WhatsApping me wanting to know if we were okay. One person joked that the sky was so smoky and apocalyptic because hell had to open its doors to admit Pat Robertson, who died that day. Don't speak ill of the dead, they say, so I'll leave it there.

The air quality was so bad that people's throats and eyes burned just from being outside, and N95 masks made a comeback. This was brand new for our city, but with climate change, it likely won't be the last time. Inside our apartment, we kept all the windows closed, but the air purifier wheezed anyway, as if it was experiencing terminal meldown. Welcome to New York, my darling niece.

The con artist in chief was indicted under the espionage act on Thursday. He will be tried in Florida. The case is strong, and anyone else would be facing certain jail, but with this POS there's never any guarantee. The photo is by the talented writer and editor David Friend. He captioned it "Drip ... drip ...." I thought it said everything in one clever image so I swiped it from the gram.

After we moved our niece into her apartment on Saturday, the man and I took the roommates and our daughter out for dinner. The vibe of the place was jumping, music pounding, championship sports blaring from TV screens mounted near the ceiling, hipsters and people too cool for school all around us. "This is why they all move to Brooklyn," I said to my husband. Our newest baby bird is now airborne.

He didn't know I was taking his picture. I think he's cute. We've become the aunt and uncle whose home is now the portal for family members choosing to settle in New York. Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie did that for our generation. I lived with them my freshman year at Barnard, before moving into the dorms for my sophomore year. Several other cousins also came through their apartment when they first moved to the city. Now it's our turn. Our niece thanked us profusely for all our support as she got herself together. "Happy to do it," her uncle said. "One day it will be your turn when Harper calls and says 'Auntie Leah, I'm moving to New York. Can I stay with you while I figure it out?'" 

Here is Harper, born three weeks ago to Leah's older sister Leisa, who grew up so close to my two that they call each other siblings. My husband says he can see exactly what is happening in this photo. "Little Harper is busy making her dad her willing slave for life," he laughed, but he wasn't joking.

This was the churchyard that hosted that surreal and deeply affecting performance of the Urban Bush Women's newest offering, "Haint Blu." The performance is a moving tableau, with the audience traveling with the dancers all over the site of the churchyard and rectory and ending inside the church sanctuary, interacting with the movement and music and stories of this journey we have taken on American shores. You just had to give yourself to what unfolded, feeling it in your cells rather than understanding it with your brain.

My man took the photo up top, and he snapped the last two photos as we were leaving. He looked back at the overgrown churchyard that had been the stage for such an uncategorizable performance, and he raised his phone camera. Whatever you feel looking at those last two photos, the dancers evoked that and so much more. I want to go back and experience all of it again.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Manhattanhenge 2023

The man, my niece and I went down to Seventy-ninth Street to catch Manhattanhenge on Tuesday night. I sent the pictures to my niece's mom in Jamaica, who was rather confused. "It looks like something from the apocalypse," she texted me back. "Or Day of the Walking Dead." In fact, it's one of those moments when New Yorkers pour out of their homes to participate in something simple and shared, a sunset perfectly aligned with the East-West grid of Manhattan's streets, and everyone is just taking it in, many with cameras raised in a kind of ritual salute, and for a moment, the city feels like a community. An interesting note, the windows of my husband's department in the newly built wing at the natural history museum where he is an ichthyologist look directly down this street, as if purposely angled for optimal viewing of this annual celestial event. The geek in me finds that incredibly cool. I think he was kind of stoked when he realized it, too.