Thursday, July 24, 2008

Old friends

I spent last weekend with one of my dearest friends. I’ve known her since the day I turned fourteen. I was a quiet insecure girl on my first day at a new school, desperate to leave behind six miserable years at an elite private school where I was excluded for being middle class, chubby, and dreamy. At the time I met her, I had no sense of myself beyond wanting to please people and to be liked. She, on the other hand, seemed to be impossibly confident. She was extremely smart and made deservedly great grades – in ninth grade Social Studies she did a report on apartheid while everyone else did idiot reports on pop bands and food fads. She knew who she was and wasn’t afraid to be herself – she had a long mouthful of a name but wouldn’t answer to anyone who shortened it, while I was pathetically thrilled to answer to anything anyone called me. She was original and funny – once a truck crashed into the wall around her house and afterwards she orchestrated a photo shoot with the two of us posed as victims under the rubble. In short, she was everything I wasn’t and I was totally enchanted. I was a shy Ethel to her Lucy, which was fine with me. I was just happy to be with her on the show.

We’ve been friends – off and on, up and down – ever since. In the past decades, we’ve both been through some rough stuff – as anyone who’s faced life rather than running away from it has. I know it’s been a hard time for her in the past several years, and she’s been weighed down by fatigue and worry. And I know there’s nothing I can do to take away her cares. But what I didn’t say over the weekend, what I want to say now, is that when I’m with her, I still see the bright, entirely original, stubborn, enchanting girl she was that first day I met her. That she contains within her still, that girl and all the promise and potential in her, only deepened now and made more beautiful by the strength she’s gained in carrying her burdens, by the compassion she’s gained under their weight. She is still, and always will be, Lucy, the funny, rubber-faced, brilliant star in the sit com of my life. And if I’m any less the shy Ethel now, it’s because, at the beginning of my journey, she showed me the way forward.

I hope she knows that I will love her forever.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Me and my eye

Just crowing for a minute. I was at Goodwill yesterday looking for posters to put in my youngest daughter's room. She wants more "grown-up stuff" to hang on the walls. There were the usual cheesy kitties, big-eyed kids, and Thomas Kincaid rip offs. And a picture, in a tacky frame, covered by grimy plexiglass, surrounded by a hideous brown mat. For some reason I stopped and gave it a second look. There was a signature on it and a series number. So I gave it a third look. Here it is:

It turns out to be a signed lithograph called "Marchande de Fleurs au Perou" by a French artist named Eliane Thiollier. It's not the greatest litho in the world, but considering that I bought it for $2.99 and It's listed on-line as worth over $300, I'm pretty happy. Hello ebay!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


It's true Summer at last. Sunflowers and zinnias are blooming in my garden. Tomatoes are still just green ping-pong balls on the vine, but growing toward the time when we'll have so many tomato sandwiches, so much gazpacho, that we get sick of fresh warm tomatoes and give them away. The windows are open wide and I can hear my neighbor's lives. The insane-lawn-care man who lives in the big, fancy house across the street,and who we don't know, is watering his driveway. That's how he washes every last speck of dirt off it. I think his middle name is Sisyphus. My neighbor two doors down, who has a Mrs. Rochester-like schizophrenic wife we never see, is out tending his roses, which grow in happy, predictable perfection. Sometimes in the evening, I hear him and his wife in the back yard, under the rose bowers, talking. His voice is always tender and loving. Hers sometimes matches his, sometimes flies away into keening madness.

Our neighbors hear us too. Our autistic daughter goes out on the swing in the back yard and talks/sings to herself. "Hi angel," she croons. "You are my angel." I'm always so glad we don't cuss at her because, if we did, she'd be crooning obscenities instead. The teens go in and out in their whispering, giggling, independent orbit. In the cooling evening, I work on the front yard, while the youngest one plays up and down the sidewalk. Other neighbors emerge with their babies and toddlers. We chat and I fuss over the babies and beg to hold them.

I love Summer - the profligate messy abundance of it. I love that the walls and fences that contain our lives thin in Summer, allowing us to hear and see and know each other with more depth and compassion. (Or, in the case of the lawn-care man, with self-congratulatory eye rolling, because it's always fun to congratulate yourself every now and then.) But mostly I love the restful enforced boredom of these days when it's too hot to cook, too hot to go outside, too hot to do anything but lie on the sofa and read while the ceiling fan goes around and around.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Here we go again....

Yesterday I was taking my nine-year old daughter shopping for summer clothes. This is the child who couldn't choose a decent-looking outfit if it was dancing up and down in front of her. This is the child who I have to send back up to her room nine (school) mornings out of ten because whatever she's thrown on looks so hideous that I'm afraid she'll be beaten to a pulp by bullies the moment she walks out the front door. And this is my last little one, the last one who looks at me with utter adoration and still thinks I do everything right. Anyway, we were shopping and I was doing what I have always done, which is to choose stuff for her, hold it up for her to look at (just to be polite), and say "This will be good for you," then buy it. So there I was, barging along, grabbing this, rejecting that, filling the cart with whatever I liked. Finally I got to the perfunctory hold-em-up-for-her part. I showed her a pair of white capri pants - perfect for the playground because your legs don't get slide burn, perfect for summer because they're knee-length. She looked. I refrained from rolling my eyes at her and tossing them in the buy pile. She pondered them deeply. "Well?" I said impatiently. Finally she shook her head and said, "Mom, I'm just not feeling 'em."

They grow up. It's what they're supposed to do. It's what we examine our hearts and tear our hair out to help them do. Still, it surprises me every time.