Sunday, January 27, 2013

One Photo

My Grandma Do. She is 18, standing on the deck of the ocean liner Rex. She and her mother are going to see the Olympic games in Berlin. It is 1936, and I have no idea what she is thinking.
If you read about the 1936 Olympics there is much about Hitler, how he used the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany, promoting his propaganda about "Aryan racial superiority." These are also the games where Jesse Owens achieved international fame by winning 4 gold medals, the most successful athlete at the Olympics that year.

5 years later my grandmother would be married with one son, and the night before my grandfather shipped out to fight the Nazis, my father was conceived. (My dad has always thought of Pearl Harbor Day as another kind of birthday.) Years later my grandfather returned from the war and my dad finally met him, though there is a quiet family belief that he returned irretrievably broken, mean.

My grandmother died when I was 12, though my memories of her are larger than life. She is my Auntie Mame, my own Ruth Gordon; it's easy to deify someone when you can still be bought with rainbow colored sprinkles. So I stare at this photo never knowing her as an adult. What was she thinking?

I put the pieces together like this. Also competing in those Olympic games was another African American athlete named Archie Williams. He won the gold for the 400 meter race, and 52 years later taught at my high school. How thin that is, I think, the wire...a photo of my 18 year old grandmother on her way to Berlin where she sees Hitler and watches a man win a gold medal, a man who later teaches her granddaughter math (or tried to) even though she is not yet married, does not yet have her sons or thinks of grandchildren, does not yet know that war is years away from tearing everything apart, or from putting everything together, depending on how you think of Pearl Harbor Day. Would I exist if not for a day that would live in infamy?

Sometimes my dad comments on my outfit, says I look trig, which is something his grandmother used to say. It means stylish, jauntily trim, and so I look at this photo and think my, how they look trig, greedily searching the photo for the story I know lies beneath.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday (Monday in Masquerade)

Some days, like today, I walk past homeless people sleeping on sidewalks and think how did we let this happen? As a society, I mean. The plaza I cut across on my way to work is home to bike messengers hocking loogies and homeless people huddled beneath blankets soiled stiff. Which makes it sound as if the bike messengers are huddled beneath the blankets with the homeless people, but no. They are just there smoking pot and the homeless people, they are just lying there. Sometimes I see them and feel sad; sometimes I don't notice them at all, and that is sadder still.

Bryan and I got into a big fight, the kind that we could not resolve so here we are, slowly creeping back toward one another with small offerings of kindness, a bowl of popcorn and a quiet i love you said at the end of a phone call. Because what is the alternative? Either we have this same fight for the rest of our lives together or we don't have the rest of our lives together. The thing of it is, he makes really good popcorn, adds extra salt and butter, and the kids have his eyes, so. There's that, which is all there needs to be.

I went online to my health insurance carrier to get my eyeglass prescription to order new glasses and couldn't find it. There I was poking around in the tab marked "Health Summary" and found that I have been formally diagnosed with an ongoing medical condition: Hypochondriasis. This is not a complete surprise, but still. Seeing it there on my permanent record like that. I ended up having to email my doctor because I never did find my eyeglass prescription and now I'm afraid she's going to email me back that I don't actually need glasses, what am I talking about? Freak.

That's all I've got today.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Une Femme d’un Certain Âge

Bryan thinks I like this photo because he looks afraid of me. He's only a little bit right.
Photo from my office post-holiday party this weekend.
I also like it because this is how I think I look as I go about my day. It is only when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in rogue windows that I realize the right light does not follow me around. I am 40. Neither old nor young, really, which brings me to middle-aged, a horrible phrase that conjures up things that are dry: toast, skin, flyaway hair but not humor. It reminds me of that A.A. Milne poem "Halfway Down":

Halfway down the stairs / Is a stair / Where I sit. / There isn’t any / Other stair / Quite like / It. / I’m not at the bottom, / I’m not at the top; / So this is the stair / Where / I always / Stop. / Halfway up the stairs / Isn’t up, / And isn’t down. / It isn’t in the nursery, / It isn’t in the town. / And all sorts of funny thoughts / Run round my head: / “It isn’t really / Anywhere! / It’s somewhere else / Instead!”

Which is where I am, I think, most days as I walk around thinking I look like this. Not up, not down, not afraid even, but somewhere else instead.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Way We Were/Are/Will Be

If you ask Zoey what her earliest memory is she will tell you it was when we lived in the city and there was an earthquake and I ran into her room and scooped her up, but this can't be true. Oh, I remember the earthquake, how Bryan and I looked at each other in the kitchen before one of us said "Big truck?" Then no, how we ran into Zoey's room and grabbed her from her crib beneath the large plate glass window. But she couldn't have remembered it. She was maybe 6 months old.
She used to say earthquick, not quake. And something for cereal, I can't remember. You got a feeling for a cavity, not a filling. Only the other day I finally corrected her--earthquake, too late realizing how quickly it's all falling away. Sometimes I look at her and see her making a decision because something must be done and things don't just magically happen anymore. I want to gobble her up, make it stop, everything moving too fast.
Far as I can tell there is one more word left: rememberies, the last of her toddler pronunciation. Apparently we talk about making memories a lot around here because she has always said this, rememberies or making a remembery. When she says it I think of tiny berries, for some reason, cramming them in with the joyful desperation of watching her grow up something tangible, how it all seems to be sliding from my mouth, the juice running down my chin, how most times I am a mess.
I decided that I am never going to correct her on this one: remembery.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Not For Human Consumption

I think Ozzy is on bath salts. Symptoms include: taking off your clothes (check), superhuman strength (check), and irrational, paranoid behavior (check). Here is just a partial list of things that have set him off lately:

Me cleaning his face
Nacho wouldn't let him poke his eyes
He couldn't have the remote/my phone/the calculator/the box cutter
I made him get off the ladder
I don't know what "mees" means
I pulled him out of the dishwasher
I ate the cookie he placed in my mouth
I poured the milk too slowly
I still don't know what "mees" means
I wouldn't eat the cookie he put in my mouth
Nacho wouldn't let him poke his butthole
I didn't let him run into the ocean
I lifted him up off the floor of the restaurant/grocery store/sidewalk
Mees, woman! MEEEES!

When I asked his pediatrician about this behavior he said that the terrible two's are a misnomer, that acting out starts at 18 months, but I know better because I Googled "I think my son is on bath salts" and learned to "be on the look-out for small packets similar to those that contain moist towelettes." Wouldn't you know it, I found a stash of those in Ozzy's sock drawer. Shit just got real, yo.'

Lately I have been asking all the men that I encounter, what is up with you people? I mean, really. Bryan, my dad, the guys at my work...what is it with you and your need to throw rocks into puddles? Boy energy is no joke, the constant drive to move, run, jump, smack, dodge, laugh, chew, throw and to touch your penis. Pretty sure it's still there, mkay?

And then there is the way Ozzy kisses me, my little testosterone-addled climbing boo-yah of a boy. Let's not go into the image of him eating my face off, per se, though he is all open-mouthed and hot-breathed, the taste of puppy dog tails something wild and reckless and full of a love I have never, ever known.

Mees out,