Archive for the 'the fam' Category

games

I was sitting at my patio the other day and scanning our yard, plotting where these flowers would go, and those would go. Ferns, maybe? And so on. Noted the two giant plastic playscapes, one passed along from new friends, the other, held onto for us by dear friends while we were in the shelter. The kids love to make all sorts of creative obstacle courses with them. And I think to myself, beyond all the pretty flowers and birdie stuff…we’re missing…games. How could that be? I love games! Playing. Games. In a good way. Fun, fun.

So I got two tennis rackets for me; one wood, another, metal (we live practically right next to a tennis court and I finally found someone to play with.). A soccer net for the kiddo, who’s obsessed with the idea, lately.  A badminton set. And I’m on the search for the croquet set of my dreams. I love lawn games. Very proper, but tweaked with a touch of competition and a mite of bitchiness (well, back in the day. Remember, Pentyne?).

I grew up playing games. When my parents got our house, the big lawn, though, technically; shared, right in half, was the selling point. There were many soccer games. Baseball, of course. My father would come home from a hard day’s labor on his construction job in the summers, and hit fly balls out for us to shag. Or, we’d play my favorite game, called Pickle, which was a variation on base stealing, in which a runner ran a length of distance between to glovemen, and tries  to beat the tag. Didn’t matter if you were the runner or the gloveman…it was fun. And Roz, my mom, played with us too…mostly softball or badminton. My parents were the only parents on my street who did that. Played with with their kids.

This summer, we will, the rest of us, in our family, go to the Adirondacks, probably my favorite place on the planet, and go play. We’ll swim, and canoe and take Roz out on the water and hope she doesn’t capsize dramatically this time (I secretly think she likes it. Seriously. ).  The kiddo will go out with my sweet brother Will, who’s a dead ringer for my late  father,  and learn to fish. And at night, there will be card games (guys, you really should consider Hearts or Spades. For me. I’m just not a poker player.), and Scrabble (T. will win 90% of the time). And maybe, just maybe, a new generation of kiddos will learn the joyful snarkiness that is croquet. Just save a game for Pentyne and I, please.

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Late Valentine

“Sagittarian Jakob Dylan has created a solid musical career for himself. He’s a bit defensive, however, about the possibility that the fame of his father, Bob Dylan, has played a role in his success. His contracts specify that he should never be called “Bob Dylan’s son.” I understand his longing to have his work be judged on its own merits, and I sympathize with his urge to be independent of his heritage. But in the coming weeks, Sagittarius, I advise the opposite approach for you. You will place yourself in alignment with cosmic rhythms by expansively acknowledging all of the influences that helped you become the person you want to be.”

-Rob Brezsny

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology. It’s my required reading in the Hartford Advocate every week. Never miss it. It’s also the only horoscope I read, not just for the forecast, but for Rob’s quirky goodness and free associations. Damned if he isn’t usually right, too.

Thing is, I’ve been thinking of stuff like this a lot, recently. Specifically, I’ve been musing on my mother, Roz. Dear Mom. I’ve kind of come to see her as a sort of peer in my later years, something I’d never imagined when I was a angry  young thing.

I’d always emulated and near worshiped my late father. If I’d wanted to be anything, it was him: Calm. Measured. Logical. Tres intelligent. Except for a quiet demeanor and shy nature, we couldn’t be more unalike. It took me a very long time to figure that out. He knew, though. As much as I tried to fit into this ideal, I just couldn’t cut it. It was too easy to be as willful as my ego demanded instead of the team player he was.  My creative side mystified him and his nicknames, often uttered in patronizing, mocking tones,  for me were —The Artiste, and when he was really frustrated, “la Actrice” (that would be actress).  They were pretty much spot on labels, then.

We all still talk about my father, almost thirty years later. Who’s the most like him? Wouldn’t he just love his grandchildren? (Absolutely). Were we really going to move to….Florida….before he died? He is an elevated and very much missed figure in our clan. Poor mom never had a chance, unless she’d gone first, and only maybe. But none of us really wanted to cop to any of her qualities, anyhow. So flighty. Erratic. Exasperating.

I’ve come to realize that actually, I really am alot  like Roz though. I’d give the shirt and more off of my back for anyone I loved. And I,  too, never met an auction or tag sale I could resist. Or an animal in need.

How did this reckoning happen? At first, because I’d become a mother myself. Don’t most daughters nudge back into the maternal fold that way? But largely, it’s been through my experience with attention deficit disorder and its maddening travails and daily frustrations, that I can relate to what Being Roz, with everything that comes with that, is. “You must get that from me”, Roz offered, when I told her the news.  I’d have to agree.

Roz is an almost ceaseless screwball comedy. That is, when she isn’t enduring the untimely heartbreaks of losing the father to her children  and a daughter much too soon. Or raising six children on her own at age 33, one of which had special needs.  She’s even named for an actress known for screwball humor. I always think of Lucille Ball when I think of her though. Despite of all evidence to the contrary, I believe my mother is really a redhead. Except that she hates red hair. On a good day, Roz could probably trump anything Lucy did  in spades without even breaking a sweat.  

There really is a reason, and somewhere, a rhyme, in whatever madcap episode of Being Roz constitutes, but it’s not always easily recognized, or accepted. She’s always late. Always. Missed her own daughter’s wedding and couldn’t show up until the reception. Actually, that wasn’t entirely her fault though. But everyone knows to invite her extra early in order that she might just get to wherever she’s going on time. Usually, she doesn’t.

I’d wondered often just what my father saw in Roz, whom he met on the job at Sunoco. My mom walked home from her job at the hospital, but everyday, she’d stop in for chips and a Coke. He must of loved her rotten, for  Roz was an event. Roz  once smashed a car into a McDonald’s in driver ed. Roz had a wicked temper. The little hot head once took a hammer to the most recent addition to my father’s snowmobile collection in the early, hardscrabble, impoverished years of their marriage. She then hotfooted it down the street to her parent’s house, with my father in furious pursuit. “Are you coming back?”, he’d asked, finally. “Are you still mad?”, countered Roz. I guess he wasn’t anymore. Roz would lock him out of the trailer if he came home late (he’d just unscrew the doors and giggle the whole time), and once bombarded him with mustard in the middle of a fight. Dad reciprocated, and the pair  ended up covered in  tangy, sunshiney globs of day-glo yellow. Right before some colleagues from the hospital  showed up. I’d  never do anything like that. Ketchup bottles are so much easier to squeeze. I don’t think they had those back in the day though. Roz made do.

We never really got along much when I was growing up. I was more than a little scared of that temper. And she confused me. Alot. Still, I’d stick up for her in fights, and let her in through the window once in the early hours of the morning when my father forbade her to go to some country concert at the county fair.

I gave it to her hard in my adolescent years, and made her cry more than once. She really tried at times. Like the time she offered to take me out to dinner after I was to accept a medal at some art show…which was right after I was supposed to meet  the bishop for a pre-confirmation thing that she practically had to bribe me to do. (Confirmation is a Catholic coming of age rite to all of you incredibly fortunate non-Catholics. It’s sort of like…marrying the faith. “Do you take this faith  sham to be….I do! I do!” Or coming out. Except the shame never quite goes away. At least that’s how it seemed to me at the time. Anyone who knows me well would get why this was such an issue trauma for me.)  How did I respond? By getting as drunk as a top at a secret celebration of my own with friends the night before.

“You are going. You are especially meeting the bishop for this, little girl! I don’t care if you have a fathead! That’s what you get for drinking!,” roared old Roz.

“I did NOT! I’m actually sick! I can’t believe you’re doing this to me! I need ginger ale! I need crackers!”, I’d wailed.

I got the ginger ale and crackers. And eventually, my medal. Roz eventually got her  freaking confirmation sacrament ceremony, but not without some heavy duty balking and sulking, and a wad of cold hard cash. I needed those drinks. And I’m still not one bit sorry for imbibing practially every weekend in high school. I figured if I kept strict observance of The Cardinal Rule, which would be no association with the opposite sex (which is not an easy feat when you’re drunk—but I accomplished it) while under her roof  (Unless it was M. Pierce, who’d graduated first in my class and liked me. I was lukewarm to him. Roz still talks about him.)—then,  she could put up with my chosen  indulgence, especially if she didn’t know about it most of the time.

She’d give me and everybody else hell at the dinner table. I’d respond by flipping  my paper plate and its contents over and storming upstairs to my headquarters. She never made me clean it up. The kiddo surely would, if she ever pulled something like that.

Roz understood things though. She always stuck up for me in my running spats with teachers. She’d let me stay home from school whenever I wanted, as long I actually stayed home. She kind of mostly understood my absolute need to create art, even if it meant plaster and india ink all over the bed quilts, the curtains, and the shag rug. And surely Roz might understand (if she ever found out) vengeance in the name of loyalty to a pal; the kind of teenaged drunken caper in which freshly caught frogs are stuffed into the car of some  redkneck cur who’d foolishly betrayed a friend of mine. Hell, Roz might’ve actually  jumped right into the pond and probably capture the frogs herself!  I just held the bag. Most recently, she understood and never questioned the empathy and compassion  I’d felt for someone  too long in a relationship that was unhealthy. Never questioned me or made me feel bad about it, but when I finally got myself out, she was also behind me all the way, and my most sympathetic and reliable ear.

She hurt me in ways that I won’t  reveal on a public blog, and in which no doubt obstructed a fully realized relationship until well into my adult years. But underneath it all, and without condoning it, I recognize that wasn’t who mother really was. I know her now. I know and understand  now, thanks to my diagnosis, what it is to be inconsistent, confused, and impossibly, helplessly, overwhelmed on a daily basis, as she was then. I know I loved her then, and longed for her, always.

Kathryn Harrison says:

“We’re taught to expect unconditional love from our parents, but I think it is more the gift our children give us. It’s they who love us helplessly, no matter what or who we are.”

Agreed.

mmm, orange

Every so often, when I feel like being super nutritionally pure, I buy up a horde of betacarotene packed, orange foods….squashes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and so on. So tonight, I took out a big ol’ rutabaga/turnip, something I usually only eat when I go home to New York to visit. The proper preparation is a point of contention with my mother and a certain sister of hers. I don’t even bring up Thanksgiving dinners  anymore, because she could go on, and on, and on about how bad this sister’s turnips are. Like most things of this nature, it’s probably about a lot more than turnips.

Have you ever tried to cube up a turnip?!? Not the little, pink and white ones…the big, waxy melon size ones. Ohmygod. I actually thought it would be harder to peel, but halfway through attempting to halve the thing, I gave up and stuck it in a saucepan full of water, where it’s boiling now, like a soggy orange softball. I have no idea how long it’s going to take to cook through.

My mom always cubed hers. And I’m not surprised. She’s a very physically strong woman, a horse. When I was a teenager, you knew my mother meant business when she’d pound her bare index finger repeatedly and loudly on the table to emphasize a point (there were many, often). Do not try this. It hurts like hell! That shoe pounder over in Russia had nothing on my mom.

here comes a bride

My sister is getting married! My baby sister. Sweet Pentyne. Well finally…. a wedding I want to attend! Hell, not only attend, I expect a behind the scenes role of some sort.

: that was my not so subtle hint, sweetie; ahem, did you catch that? :

The wedding will take place next year at a nice little park with ducks and swans. It was only five years ago that I was there at one of our family picnics, pregnant and stuffing fallen corn husks into empty hot dog roll bags while keeping a sharp eye out for deserted paper plates with scraps of fruit salad to go into my compost pile at home. Perhaps Pentyne will by then have a compost of her own and I could do the same for her. Because I know she won’t let me anywhere near the wedding cake; what with my nifty substituitions in the name of health. Such a shame.

I will not marry, myself; no, thank you very much. I have only one set of formal plans in place, the rest I just improvise as I go along. Someday, when I part this earth, there are orders…I mean, gentle reminders…regarding how I would like my body to be escorted out; things involving cremation, poetry, possibly bagpipes, and a quiet send-off into a moving body of water; river or ocean, I don’t care, as long as I’m NOT in some stagnant pond, contained for all eternity. Throw me into the nearest fountain if you must. I need to be sort of metaphorically moving around and going somewhere, and as long as those needs are met, I promise not to scorch the earth beneath the feet of any of my loved ones. I make no promises regarding ghostly frolics; er, visitiations, or other wierdness; I can’t possibly be expected to resist such fun if it’s available.

It surprises and somewhat amuses the kiddo’s babci that I have already thought of these things, but hey, her Polish genes have proven to live to 100 and beyond; she has time to plan. I’m not taking any chances. Any serious relationship I agree to always involves a careful segue into a discussion of these matters.

Babci giggles at me when I mention that will NOT, whatsoever, under any circumstances save for a few chosen family members, be viewed. But if she knew my 13 year old self, the one who barked orders to anyone within 50 feet of me, “stop looooooking at me!, “Don’t TOUCH me! Just Don’t!”, she wouldn’t bat an eye at my supposed wierdness. It’s ok, though, my father laughed at me too. But I haven’t changed. I’m an affectionate mama, but I’m otherwise not the touchy-feely sort. The thought of laying in some box while someone I barely knew in passing – or worse– didn’t even like, tenderly presses my hand or strokes my cheek while I’m stuck there, frozen as concrete and unable to grab them and give them the whatfor, creeps me out.

How did I even get on this?

I’ll not be going anywhere anytime soon. And this wedding is much, much more exciting. I wish my sweet Pentyne the very, very best. And I’ll try not to slip anything green, healthful, or socially conscious into the wedding favors, k? I could make you, dear one, a beautiful, elaborate paper wedding dress if you’re up for it though. Dare ya!

Guy

If you’ve seen the video I’d posted last night, well, this post is about that. And my brother, Guy. I was thrilled to find this video…it was like glimpsing just a bit into the thought process of my brother Guy, who’s also autistic. I’m soooooo glad that she is doing this. I hope people understand and perhaps accept that autistic people have these thoughts, and just process and relate to the world and of the world differently. I’m not sure. Some, yes. But others would need to look at that, and alot of things, differently. I’ve wondered often about what would happen if….everyone’s veil of perception were torn away and they were forced to look at everything…everything…through different lenses….you know, like when you go to the optometrist’s and look through that instrument with the lenses that slide back and forth until you’re able to focus.

Guy is sweet. Gentle. Acutely sensitive. He has my father’s hands. Thick fingers. When he eats his chicken, he cuts it from the bones with the precision of a surgeon. When I’d first learned that he was autistic, I was about twelve, and thought of his situation as diminished. I felt guilty. I could do anything I’d set my mind to, had an open world in front of me, and didn’t always try very hard. He’d had his work cut out for him, trying to cross a bridge from where he was at, the way he did everything, to a life that was considered “normal”. Later, I learned that he probably felt and related to things more, not less. In an intense way. That’s the word that comes to mind often when I think of him. Intense.

Sometimes, we’ve been, he and I, on the same plane. I don’t understand everything. I’ve suspected more than once that the select phrases he repeats rotely, again and again, were a code for some other meaning. I did understand that to interact with him, one didn’t touch him. Not a hug, or a tap. Nothing. One didn’t stare at him, or he’d turn away, or put his hand up in front of his face. And he didn’t like personal questions. One summer, about a decade ago, I was able to spend a lot time with him, and we’d developed a regular habit of walking in the evening and stopping by at an ice cream parlor in town. He loved that. And one evening, which I’ve never forgotten, we were walking home with our cones, and almost there, when some kids yelled out the window of a passing car, “hey retard!”. Guy;s cone dropped, and he began running hard, and didn’t stop til he got all the way home. I couldn’t keep up with him. Guy is a big man. He was breathing hard, almost choking, and red, when I got home. He wouldn’t look at me. I think it was a slur he was used to, but not in front of me. Because there were no more walks to the ice cream parlor after that, no matter how many times I’d asked.

I hate it when people who are different are denied their humanity; treated like things. This video showed a person inside, with poetry and feeling, the way I’ve come to see Guy.

for pentyne…

someone did a search for the term “drawing pentyne”, and found Pentyne here. I had no idea there was such a thing. Other than you,  dear sister. This is what I found at Wickipedia. Evidently, I’ve been calling you some sort of chemical. Or something.

happy, happy, nice-nice!

the kiddo tweets this phrase randomly throughout the day. I thought I’d think of some happy-happy, nice-nice things of my own:

  • Princess Pine…..I love this stuff and collected armfuls of it this weekend. It’s very wispy, delicate looking green, the kind some wood fairy or thumbelina would hang out on among the moss and lichens. You have to look down on the ground for it, because it’s only two or three inches high. But it’s tough stuff…it has to be, it gets trampled underfoot alot. I wish it had more of a scent though. It’s commonly used in Christmas arrangements and wreaths at this time of the year.
  • blue icicle lights in my window. the kiddo and I love to snuggle up together and gaze at them before we go to bed.
  • razzberries that tickle my tummy from the kiddo.
  • This piece by local artist Patricia Carrigan. I’ve been to her sun flooded studio and I’m jealous of her verrrrry tall windows. I wish she had a website because there’s much more of her work that I like.
  • getting to see my brothers and sisters during the holidays. Mr. B, who’s always calm and knows exactly what to do. My brilliant, socially and politically aware sister T…and sweet and generous Pentyne, whose absurd sense of humor is one of my favorite things…. oh, and there’s her great taste in dogs. I wish I could have seen my brother Guy, who tells me I’m a good woman, many times, every time I see him.
  • ok, girlie moment alert…I’m not much of a makeup person anymore, but this mineral makeup that I tried this weekend…is awesome. Very natural, light and clean. Not a mask. And at the end of your transaction, Carina offers you a choice of at least five charities to donate a portion of her profit to. My kind of business woman. I’ll be back.
  • catching up with Felix, who agrees with me on all of the wonderful qualities of the male body, which we go over in detail. Because it’s important to take stock every now and then, you know?
  • We also adore the great Pedro Almodovar and agree that he’s the closest thing to Fellini that we have now. Must see Volver.
  • We think it’s unfortunate that Gael Garcia Bernal is a diminutive 5′ 4″ but agree on his very beautiful face. I think I’ve mentioned him at least five times maybe in this blog. Have you noticed?
  • little prezzies in the mail from sweet Betty Lou.
  • This recipe for brown sugar scrub ….is fabulous massaged into the skin and then rinsed fifteen minutes later….my skin loves it. Sometimes in lieu of essential oil, I’ll throw in loose leaves from my favorite herbal teas.