Saturday, July 28, 2012

all in a week

I sit here looking out at another summer Saturday.  My hair is still wet from the creek, Eliana is sitting next to me with her crayons, Sol is sleeping peacefully and Jeff is on a mountain bike ride.  All is quiet and calm.  Yet when I think back on our week, it seems too full to express in one sitting.  I'll give it a go.

Friday morning Wendy and Piper arrived in Missoula for their annual summer funfest.  We love having that time with them.  It's all cousin goofiness, outdoor adventures and hanging hard.

I love approaching Missoula as a tourist every now and then.  I appreciate the laid-back vibe, the proximity to wilderness, all the freaks at the market.  Wendy and Piper have come enough times now that we have certain things that we love to do -- carousel, parks, Farmer's market.  One of the highlights is when Wendy and I get to go out to dinner and Jeff hangs with the cousins.  I shot this view of the sunset as we headed to dinner the other night.  I'm really into sunsets right now.

Just as we got into the swing of things, Jeff had to hop on a plane headed east.  He was bound for New Jersey to get his dad from a memory care facility there and bring him here where he would reside in a similar home.  It was an extremely intense visit for him.  Not only did he have to face his dad's decline head on, he had to then take two planes across the country with a man who is no condition to fly.  My heart swells with love when I think of what he's been through this week - how clear and positive he was when he finalized his plan to go get Mort, how he  stepped out of the car after finally making it home and fell into our arms, tears in his eyes and exclaimed, that was the hardest thing I've ever done.

So my story is all over the place.  Somewhere between Jeff returning and Wendy and Piper leaving, another major shift occurred.  My dear Hilary, far and away the closest person to me in my life pretty much, ever, went into labor.  We talked a few times as things slowly kicked into gear.  She was at Eliana's birth, so she had some first time experience with what birth can look like.  I pictured her walking in her little neighborhood, moving through contractions comparing our situations as I'm apt to do.  Imagined her up all night in the wild, hormonal haze of pre-birth.  That time when your body knows something is about to go down.  Something huge.  It's such a surrender this whole birth/mama thing.  It all seems about surrender these days.  Surrender to the baby as she moves through your body.  Surrender through the haze as your father-in-law slips deeper into a state of unknowing.

I knew that I would be in Montana when Hilary gave birth.  What I didn't know know was how hard it would be for me to be so far from her while it was going down.  And it was sort of a sandwich effect.  The combination of Jeff unexpectedly leaving coupled with my big sister and niece having to head home after too short of a visit left me feeling pretty dang alone and far, far, far from the people who know me the best.  As Hilary's very long labor carried on, I fell deeper into my far away pity party.  Everything was shifting all at once.  At one point I found myself listening to Brandon's tunes, loosing myself in the intensity that is the life-death trajectory.  I was filled with anxiety about my sister, about Mort, about Jeff, about everyone making it out okay.  I watched my children play their favorite games, naked with the hose in the yard, filling up the cooler with water and leaves to make potions and baths.  They seemed to exist in a different dimension, the absolute present, wholly free from the cloudy place that I was in.  Thank goodness for the children.  They always bring me back.

I picked myself up, plopped them in the stroller and we headed out the door.  I needed to go away from the phone, the stereo, the technology that was holding me in this weird place.  We hoofed it through the neighborhood, bought popsicles at the store, chatted.  When we got home our buddy Josh was there to hang, to listen, to jump in.  Eventually the sun had set and the children were settled.

And then the text came in.  Mazzy Rell is here! it read.  And all that angst and anxiety and weirdness moved again.  Tears came.  And with tears, relief.  I was too tired to write it all down.  Just wanted to lay down and feel the peace that comes from knowing everything is going to be okay.

This was Monday night.  Tuesday Jeff and Mort made it home.  And by Wednesday, I was driving around buying things for Pop Pop to help him settle into his new home.  Eliana and Solomon were so excited to go to Pop Pop's new house.  We  brought him ice cream sandwiches and watched him devour them, his own, then what was left of ours, then the last two in the box, just for good measure.  Some things never change.  Like Pop's love of ice cream.

Other than that, most things are pretty different.  He lives in a nice, little home with other older folks who struggle from dementia.  When we are there, Soli likes to play with their walkers.  Generally they don't seem to notice.  Except for the time when Jeff forgot Sol's pants and one lovely old woman pointed her shaking finger in the direction of his bum, her eyes asking, where the hell are his pants?  

Oh Pop Pop.  Your situation is it's own post, it's own poem, loads and loads of them.  For now, let's just say that he seems to be in a good place.  And he's close by.  And this helps my dear husband feel better about his dad's state.

I just like to look at his eyes.  The eyes have it all.  For a moment the same spark, the same sarcastic, devilish look is in Mort's eyes.

 And within minutes, it's gone.  His eyes flutter closed or float back to the TV set.  And then he's back.  And so it goes.

I'm having trouble wrapping this baby up but I"m ready to leave the computer and get on with my summer Saturday.  My girl is done with her drawing, my man is back from his bike ride, my boy is playing dinos, waiting to be rescued from behind his closed door.  I'm settling into this new state.  This new plan of old and new.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

soli boo

My boy is a mover and a shaker.  I absolutely adore him.  And he plum tuckers me out.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Eliana's fifth

My girl and I had a really good day.  We woke to boxes of gifts from Gran -- a "real" violin, dancing scarves, a play computer, a dress up necklace.  Really, the gifts could have stopped right there.  She was so content to go through them all right there in our little bed, our quiet morning. 
From there it was pancakes and playtime, cake making followed by impromptu bathing when the two funnies found themselves covered in cake batter.  Els and I dropped Sol off at Gussie's so we could really break it down.  I realized last night, upon falling to sleep, that I had no gift for Eliana.  She has not been a child who has needed anything, ever.  Months before her birth the karma of giving found her way into Eliana's life.  She has more clothes, toys and patio furniture than any child could need.  And, beautifully enough, I have paid for very little of it.

That said, it seemed appropriate that for her fifth birthday, her mama take her shopping.  So...gulp...we headed to the...mall.  The mall is not exactly a place that I frequent.  I'm not exactly a mall girl.  But I'll tell you what.  That made it all the more special.  Eliana and I lurk around downtown all the time.  But to go the extra mile to go to the mall -- the mall mile -- well, let's just say it felt special.

The goal was a new birthday dress (20 or under) and the pick of one new toy (20 or under).  Within minutes of entering the automatic doors, the dress fell into our lap.  At 70% off, no less.  With rhinestones and polka dots.  It's rad.  I brushed my hands together and we headed to The Learning Tree to find The Toy.  This wasn't as easy.  As I mentioned, Els has a lot of great stuff and needs nothing.  She had already told me that she wouldn't look at any doll houses because she really didn't need them.  She's really into need versus want right now.  She loves to tell Soli, you don't need your banjo, Sol, you just want your banjo.  You don't really need it at all. 

Homegirl certainly didn't need anything in The Learning Tree. She ended up with a few new Berstein Bear books and a really soft stuffed tiger.  Need versus want.  I'll take some books and a stuffed animal any day.  Good pick, Sister Bear. 

Then it was birthday lunch.  She had her pick of spots.  She picked Iza, probably for the boba tea and gummy worms that come with the kids bento box.  I was psyched though.  And we had such a sweet and civilized meal.  I can't wait til her brother can be civilized in a restaurant.  He's a Neanderthal.  But that's a story for another time.  Lord is he insane.

So we went and picked up the Wild One from his buddy's place and laid him to sleep.  At which point we went into cake decorating mode.  And then mama went into party planning crazy mode and wild cleaning maniac mode.  Eliana, thankfully, got really into her Disney Princess Polly Pockets.  She's particularly proud of the fact that she can now change their outfits.  Now that's she's five.  Now that's she's five she's also obsessed with the size of all her clothing.  Mama's gonna be cutting some tags out this weekend.  It's five T or bust around here. 

In the blink of an eye it was party time.  In fact, I laughed at myself as I drove towards the party site at two fifty two, as her party was to begin at three.  Thankfully this is Missoula and people are chronically late.  We unloaded way too much food and way too many dress up clothing and set up shop at Pineview.  Eliana's buddies quickly arrived and they became lost in the chaos of parks and parties and princesses and sidewalk chalk.  Before I knew it, it was time for cake (and ten thousand cupcakes, as the case may be).  Somewhere towards the end of, "Happy Birthday" we realized (well, to be totally honest, Jeff realized), that the birthday girl's brother was not among us.  So after passing out a dozen plus cupcakes, I coolly began to case the park.  On the periphery of the park there is a trail, barely beyond the trail, a creek.  Thank God Jeff headed straight to the creek.  While I was lurking somewhere out by the soccer field, Jeff found my son happily playing in the creek.  All alone.  Way, way far away from the rest of the party.

He was covered in dirt, wet and happy.  I had my heart in my mouth.  Jeff looked like he was going to puke.  Only a few of my guests had any clue what was going on.  Casey and Leslie hugged me.  They'd been looking for Sol too.  I was thankful for my dear old friends in that moment.  The girls I've always been so vulnerable with. 

The party continued on.  Eliana got her groove back, as she had suffered from a bit of the birthday girl who is totally overwhelmed and prone to emotional fits of madness, earlier in the festivities.  Nothing like a few cupcakes to restore equilibrium.  Our guests began to make their way back into their summer.  We cleaned and hauled loot and half eaten cheese platters back to the car. 

Eliana had wanted to go out for a sushi dinner after her party.  This was The Plan.  Eliana is really into The Plan.  So we stopped by the house to unload aforementioned cheese platters and left over cupcakes.  Sol was screaming, "I want sushi!" at the top of his lungs while Eliana was obsessing over which new toy she was going to play with next.  Jeff and I were giving each other exasperated looks of pity/exhaustion/frustration as we walked back and forth in the heat between the car and the house.  At which point I looked at Eliana and said, "Are you sure you want to get sushi?"

"Um, mom, actually, I just want to play with my fairies and my new Polly Pocket.  Can you, like, make me a burrito or something?"

Finally.  The voice of reason.  We came inside.  Sol switched his yell from wanting sushi to wanting Polly Pocket.  Little dynamo has not only found his stride, he's found his voice.  And I have new hearing aides.  And he's really, really loud. 

But here we are.  The house is dark and quiet.  New books have been read.  Over-stimulated children are finally asleep.  The counters wiped down for the fifteenth time today.  I could hit the keyboard with my forehead, I'm suddenly that sleepy. But the tale has been told.  The tale of the five year old girl with the golden curls and the incredible words.  The tale of the toddler who wandered to the creek, alone and unattended, in the middle of the birthday song.  The tale of the mom and dad who celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary tomorrow, whose lives are bursting with growing children and aging parents, weddings and dinners and friends, old and new.  The mom and dad whose lives burst open this day, five years ago.
 The way she flew from my body.  The sudden summer rain.  Red sheets.  Her new skin on my chest.  The absolute beginning of this whole new world. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

almost five

I taught a poetry workshop to some amazing girls last week.  It was a truly tremendous time and, not only did I get to see all sorts of brilliance as it flew forth from my students, I too was able to play with words, right along side them.  We play a game that Melissa and I dubbed, "Literatti" many moons ago on a boulder in Joshua Tree.  The rules are, roughly, grab a word, write for a few minutes without stopping and see where the word takes you.  One of the girls drew the word, "Fairy." I thought of my almost five year old girl.


My daughter is a fairy.
Her hair bounces as she flies,
ringlets of gold dance,
her words sharp,
her joy infectious.

My daughter is a fairy.
Her wings are pink tulle,
her eyes glitter,
her red shoes tap and
her hips sway.  

My daughter is a fairy.
She delivers special secrets,
she opens all the magic in the world.

Happy almost birthday, beautiful.  You astound me.  I am so, so proud of you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Morning Poem

 Morning Poem:  July 11, 2012

I woke today thinking of Mary.
The way she said my name with a slow, Texas drawl.
She spoke like a long, lost auntie.
She spoke like a shaded porch on
a sweltering day,
lemonade in a glass pitcher,
a rocking chair that moves,
back and forth.

I woke with questions for my dad.
When did they meet?
I know they were young.
Did they stay in touch all those years
or were their lapses of silence?
Then that moment of reconnect.
That moment of remembered connection.

I woke thinking of Mary.
Her perfect hair and
little barettes and
good taste in lipstick shades.

How she loved to play
make believe games with Eliana.
How Eliana then named her
little plastic doll, Mary.

I see Mary in a little chair,
her long legs tucked
primly beneath her.
She sips make believe tea
from a tiny porcelain cup.

I see Mary holding hands
with dark skinned children,
walking boldly through
dusty streets
far, far away.

She sees this new world for the first time,
so late in life.

I commend her.
It takes guts to leave
all you know
for love.
After six decades on earth.
After children.

I was so touched
by the quilt
made by her lady friends
in Texas.  A parting gift
when she moved away.
It lay perfectly on
their bed in California.

Mary did things perfectly.

Only an incredible woman could
receive such a gift.
Each square of fabric
another piece of her past,
another carefully
Something to
hold on to.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

rainbow brite

A decade ago yesterday, we arrived in Missoula.  We drove our two old cars, our two cars that we still drive, through hot, dusty state-lines and arrived in a town we'd never before seen.  We arrived in the evening, about the same time these rainbow pictures were shot yesterday.  We stumbled out of our driving haze and decided to walk the river trail towards downtown, a way to stretch our legs and find some much needed dinner.  I remember it so clearly, that first walk along the river trail.  The tanned, healthy folk that jogged past.  Bikes and dogs and strollers and hippies and old folk.  The smell in the air.  We found our way  downtown and began our first amble along Higgins.  To think I had no idea how cool our little downtown was!  I don't think I even used the Internet then, probably hadn't even Googled Missoula.  It was a weird leap of faith that brought us here.

So we read menus and marquees as we walked.  One thing we had given up when we left L.A. was our weekly sushi habit.  I think I'd probably have saved a lot more money from my early twenties if Jeff and I hadn't indulged in sushi every Friday night.  It was one of our best rituals.  I'd assumed there was no sushi in Missoula.

And then we saw it.  The sign for Sushi Hana.   
Does that say sushi, Jeff?  
Yeah, I think it does
Even our conversation feels pretty clear in my mind.  We walked in.  I admired the high ceilings, the cool, ornate white designs.  I remember the artwork that hung in the hallway as I wandered to the restroom.  I remember how cool the air inside of the restaurant felt. 

We ordered a feast that night.  And while it wasn't exactly Kabuki quality, it was gonna be just fine.  And then somewhere in the middle of our Hamachi, a summer storm appeared.  It was a downpour, fast and furious.  I got that wild feeling that I get when there's weather of any kind.  It was the first of many, many times that I'd continue to have that weird weather feeling. 

The storm ended.  The sun returned, as fierce as ever.  And then it appeared.  An incredible double rainbow above our new, little town.  All the patrons in the restaurant ran outside to get a closer glimpse.  We joined them, our first foray into our new community.  People smiled, pointed, focused.  Slowly they began to make their way back inside, back towards their dinners, moving out of the moment of total awe.

A decade has passed since that night.  And last night we found ourselves, quite arbitrarily, back on the river trail.  This time, two wild haired children were there to help us oogle at the rainbow.  They held our breath just as the rainbow had ten years earlier. 

girlfriend shennanigans

I'm not sure how I would have made it through this Mamahood journey without a few things.  Number one would have to be my husband.  He's back after eight days away and we are all so much more grounded, so much more our best selves.  With him gone, though, it's my girlfriends who keep me totally sane.  They are there to hear all my ridiculousness, all my whines, all my frustrations.  They are here to foster my shiny goodness.  They keep my feet firmly rooted to the earth.  Or, as the case may be last weekend, to the river.  Thank you, beauties.  Thank you for including me in your adventures.  I'm sort of addicted to my little poetry journal right now.  Here are a few thoughts from my weekend adventure on the Blackfoot.

 It's vast here
the sky an impossible blue.
Off in the distance
dust rises like fire
frm a black pickup on
an old road.
Dust to fire to breath.
If it were cooler, perhaps mist,
but on this impossible
late June morning
the bunch grasses sing
like a plump ladies chorus,
the lavendar lupine
and black-eyed Susans
dot the stage like guest stars,
wild roses of the deepest pink
mingle like the elite on the perifery.

I'm perched on a scratchy, mossy
boulder in the center of it all,
not quite ready to socialize,
not quite ready to 
break myself open,
even if it's just a little piece,
for the world today.
This circle of trees around me,
impossible mountains.
What do I hold sacred?
This bend in the river
the twist, the shifts that
pull downstream
feet push forward
cold washes over my head, my ears.
For a minute,
all is wild, a rush,
until I plant my feet again,
stand tall in my strong body
smile like a girl
and walk up the bank to do it again.

This near island home,
rocks beneath me,
water surrounds me,
a few, most perfect provisions,
a chilled pineapple slice,
dark, hot coffee,
another cut of salty cheese.

I never would have thought
that I could have this.
My six-lane highway life,
all chaos and dance studios,
cars and air-conditioned
department stores.

This move to the primitive
one tent
one boat
one small bag with
all I'd ever need.
And the feeling of being on the                                               
river all day,
just a raft                                                                                       
filled with words,   
the depths and truths of 
beautiful friends,
all candid and sincere,
all laughter and goofiness.

We watch the river as
it changes,
the spurts of white water,
we read each moment,
as present as ever.