You genuflected outside the gothic cathedral
the day after I got officially old.
My nose was running and cold and
I turned from the great grey edifice
to see the only familiar face
for miles. On that face,
the expression I tried to capture:
irreverent yet strangely penitent,
maybe just tired from walking
or overwhelmed by unfamiliar vowels
or musing how new it feels to feel this old.
Post-shower dresser scrambling prompted the rediscovery of this amazing creation, my wedding purse.
My mom made this by hand, which still stuns me. I was fortunate to inherit a little of her capability in this realm, but nothing to this degree.
While visiting Gargunnock House with friends over Christmas, I got into a little chat with some fellow crafters, and in it I described one of the earliest Mom-projects I can remember. She sewed these adorable Christmas ornaments that were puffy stars and bells and trees with little sculpted faces in the middle of them. My description doesn’t do it justice, and I don’t have any of our ornaments here so I can’t take a photo.
It made me happy and proud and also intensely nostalgic for home at Christmas all at once.
Christmas was difficult on a few levels, some of them obvious — our first away from the people and places with whom we have grown accustomed to spending the holiday — and some of them not. One of the less obvious difficulties that I am still trying to address is feeling like I am a terrible conversationalist. I mentioned the chat earlier as if it was some effortless thing, and it definitely became easier as it went along, but to start I second-guessed everything I said. Everything. And there were cultural references I simply do not have yet, which required explanations. I am so used to being the explainer and not the explainee.
I swallow my pride and elbow my stubbornness in the ribs on a daily basis.
It will get easier, and to make it easier I have to forgive myself a little awkwardness while being less comfortable in my new home. Someday I will be nostalgic for this, too, I remind myself. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of memory: it forgives, if you let it.
It was not the quesadilla, the sloppy concoction of flat and goo. No, she decided, it was most certainly not the quesadilla itself, but the idea of the quesadilla, the meta-dilla that offended her. Even now, even hours after lunch, six washings with perfumed soap, six applications of scented lotion, and in between all that an hour at the firing range. Lavender? No. Gunpowder? No. Only the crass grease and onion stink.
Lovers, too, were like this. Long after they should have gone, they persisted with deserted panties, apostrophes of basin-beached hair. Now email and its hungrier cousins encroached on every absence. The heart grew annoyed, not fonder. She longed for the gentleness of memory in all of this rotting truth.
At dinner tonight, we got to talking. We talked about so many things, but one I wanted to write about before it slipped through the old brain-sieve. I am listening right now to a song that makes me think of someone I have not seen in years, someone I loved desperately with my then-heart. If I saw him again, I likely would have a flash of feeling, that electric eel around the collar one, remembering what it was like. Then I would have that certain relief of not having to love him anymore, of not having to succumb to muscle memory. The love is under glass in a museum I no longer visit. Sometimes I walk past the museum, and I can hear this song playing inside.
One crow sits on the porch and his caw seems timed, a perfect heartbeat. I am putting moisturizer on my face, stuff I bought because it was additive-free and on sale, stuff I would not buy normally even if I could afford it, which I can’t. I am thinking of what I am not thinking of.
I don’t often get caught in this loop, just sometimes when I am tracing an old pattern. The crow’s caws trick my brain into silence. Thoughts settle like sediment and then I think: what am I not thinking of?
For once, I am not thinking of guilt over my morning routine, of how long it takes or how loud each movement might be.
The house smells like last night’s sage and ginger. One cat’s meow forces syncopation. Then the crow leaves, and it is just bare feet on wood floor, fur against shin, the rustling of a comforter. Time ticks again, and tugs with it a long rope of schedules and increments. That moment of no-moment was enough.
Today’s blockbuster prompt is from Davmoo: “Please write 100 words on …your favorite childhood memory.”
The wood stove in our living room was surrounded by pieces of slate. Old radiators kept the corners of the other rooms warm, but the wood stove, the old general, boomed forth waves of heat well into winter nights. Cats curled up to it as close as they dared. My parents each tended the fire in such an unassuming way while working on their other projects, another grownup ability that I found quietly glamorous. During nights spent around the stove, I would write and draw on the slate pieces with chalk while the three of us listened to albums of classical music. To this day, whenever I hear Satie’s Gymnopédies, I feel safe.
[Want to help me bust through my writer's block this month? Read about this exercise!]
I spotted a vintage Pelikan 100 in the wild — the reference desk, really — on Monday. It was burgundy with a bright gold “beak” clip and its owner let me write with it. It was filled with Private Reserve Chocolat, an excellent choice for this smooth writer. I let the patron write with my Lamy 2000, which is the new hotness of my collection and the Pelikan’s opposite in form and character; while the Pelikan reminded me of an antique Bentley, my Lamy is more of an Audi TT.
It was a random treat in the middle of a dull day.
Now I am flipping through Fountain Pens Past and Present and it smells just like my high school yearbooks used to smell. That combined with the smell of freshly-baking bread is making me homesick for Chicago, but only the Chicago of my teenaged self, all Wax Trax and Café Voltaire and living for that first burst of Friday afternoon air, half-past three and everything is possible as long as someone borrows a car.