Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

New Year’s Eve 2009

January 1, 2010

     New year’s eve, the day I throw away the trash collected in the pockets of last year, and admire the shiny treasures worth keeping.  At midnight, I start new, donning stiff jeans, starched shirt, a strong leather belt, no holes in my socks and the brim of my hat will point forward to 2010.

      I’ve lost some dear friends this year.  Vicki, was fifty. She died of pneumonia.  No one dies from pneumonia anymore, well, maybe old people with compromised health, but not someone just reaching her stride.  Vicki hadn’t walked the outer banks enough.  She was the most honest person I ever knew. She fought for the independence and rights of old folks, offered marital counseling, sticks of gum, and recipes as she cut and styled hair.  She called me when I was sick and paid for a pedicure and massage for me when my grandma died.  She understood my loss and comforted me with touch.  My only solace in losing her, is knowing Vicki was welcomed into heaven by her own Grandmother’s arms.

     Sailing ships, seed catalogues, rooting my Grandma’s French lilac, pruning perennials, plowing the earth, counting inches of rainfall, hugging away hurts and cherry cigar smoke rings are all things that speak to me of Granddad Thomas.  He lived next door and I knew his kindness for forty-eight years. He was almost ninety when he died.  Ryan and I were with him when the rescue squad came. His spirit left him on a clear, dark, November night. I think it slipped quietly from his body and then exited his house through a crack in the window. He is sailing among the constellations now, dipping his net for the stars that are his children David and Judy and his Granddaughter, Monica. He will pull them up into his boat, and the four of them will sail on, waiting for Grammie.

      My step brother, Randy, died December 4.  I met him when I was 21, at my father’s third wedding.  He was four years older than me and already had a wife and two boys who were seven and five.  He laughed hard and often.  He lived life large, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and downed his struggles with cases of Budweiser. His daring always skimmed the surface of foolish, like he understood he’d leave the game at half-time.  Off shore oil rigs let him smell the salt air, feel the power of God’s hands in the crashing waves and glimpse the brushstrokes of uninterrupted sunrises in the Gulf.   He made the trip to Virginia in September to gift us with a tight squeeze and one last look into his blue eyes.  He didn’t tell anyone, but he knew.

     I have plans for the new year.  Some will work out.  If I write them down, they’ll feel more real to me, but in feeling real, I have to own them.  I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet.  It’s only 2:18 on New Year’s Eve. I’m warm and comfortable in my patched and faded jeans of 2009. My soft sweatshirt has a hole in the elbow and a vegetable soup stain running down its front, my belt is cinched just right and my big toe peeks out of my sock.  I lost my hat to the wind in June.  I still have almost ten hours to sort through what is left of this year, to revel in its comfort and decide what I keep, what I toss, and what I add to my new pockets for 2010.  
    
  The countdown has begun. Why do we hear the ticking so clearly on Dec. 31st and not so much the rest of the year?
     Happy New Year.

The Attic

December 29, 2009

        I remember this space from childhood.  It was shadowy with questions, exciting in my wonder. It smelled of pine and old times. The wooden beams sweated drops of sap in the summer that hardened into amber beads in winter.  I opened trunks and sorted through scalloped bordered black and white photographs of my family, and letters tied in blue ribbons. Their fancy faded script spoke of love and longing, homesickness, missing the taste of pot roast and potato salad, buddies being shot, and cold nights without blankets. The envelopes were white with blue and red stripes. USA Air Mail was stamped across them. The pages were fragile from their unfolding.  The words made me sigh when I read them.

      My grandmother’s wedding dress, nestled in pink tissue, whispered her innocence under my fingers. I pulled apart the translucent paper and touched the white Chantilly lace with a curious index finger. Tiny pearl buttons, like treasures from a jewel box were encircled by loops of satin. I imagined this cloud of femininity wrapped around my small, skinny body.  The gown  transforming me into someone more beautiful than I was. 

      Sometimes, I unwrapped my mother’s china tea set with plates that fit in the palm of my hand. I poured imaginary Earl Gray from a pot with a cracked lid.  “It broke,” my mother told me, “when my cat, Boots, knocked it over a long time ago.”   I could see boots, in all of his black and white finery, come to tea with my mother, the Queen.  Boots wore high top white fancy foot ware for the occasion.  When the dogs arrived, he was frightened away and spilled the tea, upsetting the party, and my mother. 

        I sat under the light of the eaves, turning the pages of old picture books illustrated with exotic orange birds and line drawings of old black men. I explored green jungles, swinging from tree to tree on vines.  Camels carried me to an oasis with a  palm tree and mirror bright water.  Princes kissed me awake and dwarves kept me safe from poisonous apples.  Sometimes I fell down rabbit holes and met smiling cats.  I got lost in time and adventure until my grandpa came looking for me. 

   “Mom, where are you?” 

    “Up here,” I call back.

    The attic stairs squeak under the weight of my son’s feet.  I see him emerge from below.  “Wow,” he says. “This place is a mess.”

       “I know,” I say.

     “Do you remember how much fun I used to have in the attic when I was little?” he asks.

     “Yeah, I remember.”