There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about and miss my father. Perhaps it was the kindness that was so much his hallmark… perhaps it was his endless patience and his willingness to drop whatever he was doing to listen, to care, to act.
“Want to read me a book, Papa?” I would ask eagerly.
“Want to play catch?”
“Want to hear me recite the poem I just memorized?”
You name it, tired or not, busy or not, preoccupied or not, the answer was always a smile and a yes. It isn’t until you’re a parent yourself that you realize just how much love and patience and unselfishness it takes for that gift to be given. Continue reading “Happy Father’s Day” »
Posted on June 7th 2014 in Family
Bronwyn at three and a half was already a Montessori scholar. Daily she trudged to an enlightened classroom where a teacher who genuinely liked children taught her how to scrub her desk with soapsuds, mess it up with fingerpaint and repeat the process. She was understandably enthralled. So much so, that Cee Cee at 2½ wanted to study soapsuds, too.
We arrived at the registrar’s office promptly at eight, on the theory that if I caught her early she might be groggy enough not to notice Cee Cee’s callow youth, for three years was the requisite age for admission to Montessori. My determined and very articulate 2½ year old marched in briskly and headed for the lady in charge, not waiting for me to explain our visit. Continue reading “A True Story About Motherhood from the Past” »
Posted on May 9th 2014 in Family
I had a very hard time with my Mother, her words mostly wounding, her anger terrifying. It was my father’s kind and loving heart that saved my childhood and my spirit. So when Mother’s Day comes round a tug of war ensues. I feel my heart segue-ing not to memories of my own childhood but rather to my experience as a mother – and that, too, is complicated and bittersweet because of the loss of two daughters.
That and the fact that we never know the truth of parenting until we do it ourselves – the sacrifices, the hard work, the unselfishness, the solving of unsolvable riddles – all that our parents gave and did stands out in bold relief as we struggle to do as well as they did, never mind better. So for me, the emotions of this celebratory day are exponential and complex. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts on Mother’s Day” »
Posted on May 9th 2014 in Family
I’m in love with my dog. There’s really no other way to express it. He’s a former pound-puppy, rescued from the Humane Society at 5 months, now grown to 120 pounds of pure, unadulterated love and devotion.
When Dakota went off to college five years ago, and my nest was disturbingly empty for the first time since I was 22 years old, I knew I’d never be able to face life alone unless I found a dog to share it with me. Not just any dog, of course – it had to be my perfect dog, because during a long and circuitous life, I’d been blessed by the gods with perfect dogs, as well as a couple of clinkers, so I knew the difference. Continue reading “I Love My Dog” »
Posted on December 21st 2013 in Family
There it was on top of the armoire, quiet in the dust of the years, the bright red newsboy cap that had been my Father’s favorite as long as I could remember. Like the tin soldier in Eugene Field’s poem Little Boy Blue, “awaiting the touch of a little hand, the smile of a little face,” tucked away long ago and then forgotten in the crush of every day needs and the inexorable turning of the years.
Touching it with reverent fingers, I was a child again, the years dissolved, my father’s hand in mine, laughing with me in the snow. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. I felt suddenly buoyed with that astounding sense of loving safety only childhood allows. The safety a wonderful Father can embody for his child, that says, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. I won’t let anything harm you.” Continue reading “The Christmas Cap” »
Posted on December 13th 2013 in Family
My mother could foretell death, my daughter described her own death in heartbreaking detail a month before it happened, we had a family Banshee and my aunts tended to communicate by telepathy. In short, we were Irish, so none of that was beyond the Pale of plausibility.
You can imagine why, coming from such a family, my being somewhat psychic didn’t seem particularly noteworthy to me in childhood, just interesting. I could frequently see glimpses of things before they happened, and had Far Memory of other lifetimes that were quite specific. Continue reading “What’s Outside the Box?” »
It occurred to me today, as I found myself standing in the middle of the family plot talking to the people I love who are no longer with me except in spirit and memory, that anyone not Irish might consider it odd to find comfort in a cemetery. Yet, I always do.
I’d gone there to to talk to my family about life and I’d brought coffee because they’d loved it and because I thought it might be a lengthy conversation. A middle-aged woman passing by smiled and waved at me from the road below. “I’m so happy to see I’m not the only one who brings coffee when I come to chat, ” she called out and we both laughed at the loveable absurdity of the scene.
Maybe it’s the fact that we used to visit old graveyards when I was a child – admiring the tumbledown tombstones, scrying the inscriptions, imagining the heartaches both recent and long ago. So much history captured in moldering memorials – died in childbirth… lost in infancy… gone but not forgotten… we will miss you forever – so much of love and anguish preserved forever in a line or two. I used to wander from stone to stone reading the messages, imagining lives. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve lost so many of those dearest to my heart that makes this a place of solace for me. Continue reading “The Family Plot” »
Posted on January 12th 2013 in Death
It’s just me and the tree. The house is quiet. Nobody else loves the morning as I do, since my father’s gone. There’s snow on the ground and sleet has turned the trees outside to fairyland, ice palaces crisscrossing my front yard, transforming the winter-blue light into a magical dreamscape.
I throw a log on the fire and warm my hands that have carried the wood in from the porch. The fragrance of the coffee pot tumbles memories out of their store house in my heart. Continue reading “My Alone Time with the Tree” »
Posted on January 4th 2013 in Family
Love manifests in the strangest ways. Just like courage. And understanding.
Sometimes it sneaks up on you and you don’t realize how great a gift it is or how much self-sacrifice was required of the giver. Until later, much later in the game of life, when you’ve grown old enough to know that nothing is like our perfectly sensible expectations and most of it is so much harder than we’d ever dreamed.
Christmas joy was just such a gift, given to me long ago by my Mother, for whom joy was not a frequent visitor. Let me explain. Continue reading “A Christmas Story” »
Posted on December 16th 2012 in Family
I have a beloved sister, Conny, nearly 13 years younger than I. We’re quite different in appearance, profession, proclivities, talents and even in sexual orientation, but in our hearts, we’re pretty much cut from the same cloth. We’ve worked together in one way or another, for a lifetime, certain this is not the first lifetime we’ve spent together – we knew each other too well from the start, for this to be the first time. Listening, helping, shoring each other up in the dark times, laughing together when given half a chance to… sharing history, joy, memories, anguish… we’ve pretty much been there for each other for a half century or so. Continue reading “My Sister” »
Posted on December 7th 2012 in Family
This blog appeared in the New York Times on January 15, 2013. If you’d like to read it, please follow this link for the full text: New York Times, Face to Face With Mom in the Mirror
Posted on October 6th 2012 in Family
I confess to feeling slightly foolish blogging about Titanic, but the phenomenon of Dakota and her pals going to see it in Imax 3-D – for their 34th lifetime viewing – set me to pondering what on earth could have precipitated that kind of devotion to a movie. OK. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I’ve read all three volumes of Kristin Lavransdatter eight times, sobbing through every one of the readings, so maybe this is just this generation’s great love story, but still…
It made me remember the first time round when she and her friends – then 8 years old – fell under the enchantment of what turned out to be a life event. Let me explain:
No longer did they play Barbie or American Girl Doll, they sat instead listening rapt to the Titanic CD, or they put on Rose and Jack costumes and went down with the ship in tearful splendor. Dakota and her friend Sydney went Trick or Treating dressed as the Titanic and the Iceberg, and made the local papers! Continue reading “You Jump… I Jump…” »
Posted on September 22nd 2012 in Family
I’ve blogged so much about Dakota you probably already feel you know her, but maybe you don’t know her work yet, so I’d like to introduce you on the cusp of her graduation from Parsons.
Of course, Colleges of Art are not quite like any others… Dakota’s cap and gown were fire engine red and her commencement speaker, Dwayne Michaels, a brilliant 85 year old Fine Arts Photographer, advised the class to kick over the traces, never do anything the way the authority figures say to, and live every single minute of every day being true to their own vision and dreams. He was an outrageous sage, brimming with uproarious life force. I wish I’d recorded every word – I think I’d play it for myself once a month as a reminder of how those of us who toil in the Arts must constantly renew our belief in ourselves and our work, against all odds. Continue reading “Dakota/Class of 2012” »
Posted on September 14th 2012 in Family
When I was a child, I thought of my mother’s sister Mary as the Dowager Empress of the World. She was tall and stately and would sit on her chair like a queen on a throne, her adoring daughters dancing attendance on her as if she thoroughly deserved it. In truth, she probably did, as I remember her best for her marvelous laughter. Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, says the poem, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.*
She had an outsized, robust approach to life that somehow managed to combine outrageous wit and grace with merriment, and she, unlike my mother, knew about sex and heartily approved of it. My mother disapproved of Mary altogether, which amused her sister no end and prompted her to say outrageous things she knew would get my mother’s goat. But there was history between them and an oddball twist of fate that neither of them could alter. Continue reading “What’s in a Name?” »
Posted on July 7th 2012 in Family
My childhood was spent in a haze of books and familial propriety. The small-town-America life, where children safely walked alone to school and dawdled their way home, lulled into daydreams by the sweetness of the neighbors’ gardens, is probably gone now, but the visuals are clear to me still. A wall of rambling roses at Mrs. Flynn’s… an exaltation of wildflowers behind Dr. Goldstein’s mansion… the New York skyline beyond the great river that separated me from my destiny, or so I believed. Wait for me New York, I’m coming… I’d breathe to it from Boulevard East, staring out at the glittering, beckoning megaliths of Manhattan. All those childhood images are as close to me now, as the scene outside my office window.
Life was good, except for my mother’s Vesuvian temper, which I’d more or less learned to deal with by going underground to my imagination. I also went to the library, a magnificent old edifice with all-but crenellated battlements, an ivy covered round tower and several leftover suits of armor, collected by some turn of the century tycoon, who’d created a castle that would become a book depository… and my escape to Paradise. Continue reading “The Moving Finger Writes…” »
Posted on February 24th 2012 in Family
, The Philosopher’s Teacup