Soon after this picture was taken, he disappeared over the South of France
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—
Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you …”
Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
Then it has done you no good at all!”
It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from The Little Prince
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
Saturday evening. Gradually clearing, low 70’s.
A slow day. I stayed up quite late and got up quite late, so I’m feeling more than a bit discombobulated, that, and the omnipresent headache that is thrumming in my temples.
I should mention off the bat that this post’s images all come from 35photo.ru, a site that I found through tumblr. I apologize if I have inadvertently infringed on someone’s copyright, but I looked carefully at the images that I downloaded and did not see a copyright, part of the problem of using a foreign site.
Last night (early this morning?) Corey and I had a heart-to-heart talk about what we are facing. He has very mixed feelings about the job with the sheriff’s office, which has caught him off-guard, and he is considering trying to pick up a hitch with the shipping company that approached him right after he had enrolled in school. If he does a few hitches with them next year, he can make as much money as he would make in a year with the other job, and he can still go to school.
I really don’t want him to have to postpone school for two years because he has already waited so long on this particular dream—a dream deferred, if you will—and, truth be told, I am not to keen on the idea of him having to work in the city jail, just too many possible bad scenarios there. But ultimately, I will leave it up to him.
The downside of going back to sea is that we have to come up with the money to renew his licenses, and he would probably not be able to go out until the beginning of 2012, so a few more months of this.
“You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains have no word for ocean, but if you live here you begin to believe they know everything. They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine, a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls slowly between the pines and the wind dies to less than a whisper and you can barely catch your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.” ~ Philip Levine, “Our Valley”
He also admitted that he does not think the idea of me giving up my disability coverage is the best idea. When he asked if I wanted to go back to work because of the money or because I wanted to go back to work, I immediately said that it was the money, and that’s the truth.
I have agreed to postpone submitting my application package a few days (as the deadline is not for another five days) until I can give the issue some more thought. Of course, having said that, I must admit that today I feel worse than I’ve felt in weeks, what with my back and my head, and I realize that the stress is probably a factor in that. So the question is, how would I do with the stress of a full-time job?
I have no idea.
Any type of job that I would take would be a high stress situation as that is the nature of marketing and publishing—constant deadlines and budgetary factors. Client whims and needs. All of that. I must approach this with my mind fully aware of all of the mitigating factors, not the least of which is the disputation of my graduate school loans. If I stay on disability, my loans are phased out. If I go back to work, they are reinstated, as they should be, but that’s a big chunk of change. Getting a graduate degree from a private university, even one for which you work, is not inexpensive.
More to consider.
“This body, which has become a sarcophagus with stone handles, lies perfectly motionless; the dreamer rises out of it, like a vapor, to circumnavigate the world . . . he tries on one body after another, but they are all misfits. Finally he is obliged to return to his own body, to reassume the leaden mold, to become a prisoner of the flesh, to carry on in torpor, pain and ennui.” ~ Henry Miller in Sexus
I want to pause to acknowledge that some beautiful verse has been showing up on my tumblr dash lately. As I’ve mentioned before, I garner most of my quotes and poems from my tumblr, which I find to be an inspiring resource. I had never heard of Matthew Harvey or Lucian Blaga, both of which I have included in this post.
Corey had a chat with Eamonn today in which he reminded eldest son that missing classes is unacceptable as we footed the bill for his last ditch effort to do something with his college career. The proposition was that he would work his hardest and make A’s, B’s at the very least, so that he can bring up his GPA and possibly be accepted into the radiation technology program.
In the last week, Eamonn missed one session of each class, and he is carrying a low B in his biology class. He admitted to me that he did not study for his recent test.
Why doesn’t he get it? Why doesn’t he understand that we invested this money in him (money that we could ill afford) because we want him to succeed, because we want him to have a career and not to have to work in some low-paying job for the rest of his life?
Corey told him that he (Eamonn) is acting like this is still high school, which is exactly what the problem is. I could go on ad nauseum about how this isn’t how he was brought up, how my family has a strong work ethic and a deep belief in higher education, but the truth is that Eamonn is spoiled, and that fact lands squarely back in my lap.
It’s hard to be a single parent. The desire to give your children everything, to be everything, to make things seem as normal as possible—these things can cause a sense of unbelievable guilt, and Eamonn is good for piling on the guilt, telling me more than once that he blames me for the divorce. It’s an argument that I cannot win and have long since abandoned trying to gain any ground with, so admittedly, I spoiled my children as much as I could.
Still, this sense of entitlement makes me want to scream.
Same old song and dance, I suppose . . .
“If there is no fog on the day you come home I will build a bonfire So the smoke will make the cedars look the way you like them” ~ Matthea Harvey, from “In Defense of Our Overgrown Garden”
In other news . . . Brett is still sick today, so he’s been quiet and resting. Em went shopping with her aunt, which is always a good distraction for her. She has developed a nice relationship with both her aunt and uncle in the past few months, and I know that fact means a lot to her.
Alexis has spent the fast week or so in Maryland with Mike, who is due to finish his hitch there soon. He makes good money while he’s there, and I think that the time that she spends up there with him is good for their relationship. Plus it means that she’s not just staying in her apartment alone sleeping. I know that she’s been incredibly depressed since losing her grandmother.
Yesterday was Ann’s birthday. I called and texted but never got to speak to her, so I left a voice mail in which I sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” á la Marilyn Monroe. I’m hoping that she wasn’t too depressed. The first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries after losing a parent are so hard. It still bothers me to be on the card aisle before Father’s Day. I’m not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas without my m-in-law, which is probably why I dreamed that she was decorating for Christmas. It will be so strange for her not to be here.
I’ve been borrowing my m-in-law’s car to drive back and forth to ODU when Corey is working. We’re hoping that our neighbor who is supposed to be working on Corey’s truck will finish the job soon. He’s been paid in full, and we have the parts. We’re just waiting on the labor now. I still need to make arrangements to have my uncle’s Explorer shipped from Florida. And Brett still needs to get off his butt and take his DMV test to get his learner’s permit, which he has to keep for 30 days before getting his license now that he’s over 19.
“Such a deep silence surrounds me, that I think I hear moonbeams striking on the windows.
In my chest, a strange voice awakens and a song plays inside me a longing that is not mine.” ~ Lucian Blaga, from “Silence” (trans. by MariGoes)
Yesterday, while I was on my way to ODU to pick up Brett and Em, I had the local classical station on, and some symphony was playing. Forgive me, but I did not get the name. It was not one with which I was already familiar. But I turned up the tinny car radio, and listened to the beautiful music, which ended perfectly just as I pulled up.
I remember when I was teaching at ODU, fall would always be the time that I would switch my car stereo to classical, and one day Mari walked in and said, “Geez, how many times are they going to play “The Emperor’s Concerto” (Beethoven’s fifth concerto)? I had to laugh because I had just been thinking the same thing as I walked into the office.
It’s funny how Mari and I were so synchronized in our likes and dislikes, how we changed with the seasons, how our moods were affected by the weather and by what we wore. I remember one day when we were out, and I made her go to what was then Hecht’s department store so that I could buy a blouse to change into because what I was wearing made me feel so ugly. She completely understood.
God I miss having that in a female friend. But mostly, I still miss Mari. When I was going through my files before updating my resume, I came across a resume that I had put together for Mari back in 2005 when she was trying to get a job down here. I hadn’t realized that it had been that long. We were both working so hard to get her down here, but it never happened. That’s over six years ago.
It seems like last year. Does time pass faster the older that you are? Or does it just seem to fly away on the wind when you are running so fast to catch up?
More later. Peace.
Music by Jeff Beal, “Waltz for Mary,” perfect day for some keyboard
Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost
Sunday afternoon. Chilly and cloudy.
I awoke with a migraine, this after not falling asleep until well after 4 a.m. Not the best night.
I dreamed about a neighbor’s yard sale in which couches of all kinds were spread across the lawn for sale. As I moved among the couches, I began to encounter pianos of all ages and in various states. Most of the couches were ugly, and most of the pianos were beautiful. It was a strange dream.
Corey is just coming off a double shift (16 hours straight), so I imagine that he will be going to bed after spending a little time playing with Tillie. All three dogs had baths yesterday so that we could administer flea medicine before fleas become a problem; living so near a marsh, fleas abound in this area. Shakes always has the worst time with any kind of biting insect, but today he is already noticeably scratching less.
I have two upcoming doctors’ appointments this week, but I will have to postpone both as the input of cash did not stretch far enough for the output demands. Hate it when that happens.
And yes, I will freely admit it: I watched the royal nuptials, and realized a few things: I am old enough to remember the wedding between Diana and Charles (hated that dress), and the princes being born, and the new Duchess’s dress had the same Queen Anne neckline and Chantilly lace that my first wedding dress had. Was she retro, or was I ahead of my time?
“Today I’m mixed up, like someone who thought something and grasped it, then lost it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa
So I haven’t really moved beyond this downturn in my mood, and the fact that this computer is really acting up today is not helping anything. For example, the poem excerpt that I have included below—I’m searching on key lines to find the title of the poem, not just the title of the book, but I’m getting absolutely nowhere. I hope that I am able to post without going through hours of aggravation. I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens.
I think that part of it is that I’m having lots of work dreams again, and in these dreams my consciousness always interrupts and says you can’t be working because you’re on disability. I’ve done this again and again in my dreams: gone back to one of my former jobs, not told anyone that I was on disability, lost my benefits. It happened again last night.
And then I remember all of those years while I was working, and I wished so badly that I didn’t have to work so that I would have the time to write. Yep. See how that’s working out for me?
Do I even know what I’m saying? Probably not.
Mother’s day is coming up, and to be truthful, I’m approaching it with a sense of dread, a sense that something is going to happen. You see, several years ago after Alexis graduated and before she was dating Mike, she spent about half a year living with various friends, sometimes sleeping in her car because she didn’t want to have to follow any rules.
Then when Mother’s Day came, and I was certain that I wouldn’t hear from her, I came home and found a long letter from her in which she apologized for how she had been acting. I called her and asked her to come back home. I don’t want one of those letters this year, mostly because I don’t want to have to react, don’t know how I would react.
This whole situation gives me such angst. If I can keep myself from dwelling on it, I find that I am better.
“A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves. That’s all any room is.” ~ Jean Rhys, from Good Morning, Midnight, 1939
I’ve been thinking about Belgium. Don’t know why really other than it seems that it would be a lovely place to live or at least, to visit, near France without being in France. Of course, I know nothing about Belgium other than what I see in pictures.
Do you know what I really want at this moment? I want windows. How very boring of me, right? You see, our windows are very old storm windows, and most of the screens are gone or torn, which means that opening windows on a day such as today is worthless; the lack of screens means that all kinds of flying critters could come in. Not being able to open the windows means that I cannot sit on my bed and read while enjoying a fresh breeze.
I used to love morning breezes that made the curtains sway ever so slightly, the scents from the roses and the jasmine wafting in subtly on the breeze. I miss that.
It’s such a simple thing; I know, but I miss many simple things. I miss our drives to the Outer Banks when the boys were young, how we would spend Sundays on the beach, climbing the dunes, having dinner and then driving home tired and sandy. Of course, I miss the boys being boys and not the young men they are now, with their own lives, their own favorite things to do that have nothing to do with me or Corey.
I miss so much and so little that it’s hard to discern between the two. Is my longing to be back in front of a classroom a small or a big thing? My dreams of pianos, which I have been having of late, do they signify my longing to get back to playing Chopin and Beethoven, or is it just the idea of sitting at the piano that I miss?
I miss friendship on a daily basis, friendship with Mari, our lunches together at the cafeteria, sitting in her back yard in the Adirondack chairs, drinking tea or Lime Rickeys, talking about everything.
I miss: such a powerful phrase, loaded with meaning and intent.
“And more and more my language appears to me like a veil which one has to tear apart in order to get to those things (or the nothingness) lying behind it.” ~ Samuel Beckett, The Letters
So many words, so many possible interpretations.
When Corey and I first married, we had such plans to do so many things. Some of them we have done, yet so many are yet to be realized. Our tenth anniversary is in two weeks. We’ve been together eleven years. But the reality is that the past three years have been to a great extent years of being on hold, waiting for circumstances to change, to get better, so that we can . . . fill in the blank here.
Life on hold isn’t living, not really. And I fear that both of us have become so used to living this way that we have become gun shy, hesitant to bank on too much for fear of yet again being unable to make the dream a reality. This isn’t living; it’s existing, and that isn’t how it was supposed to be.
So many things beyond our control on which to affix the blame, and then how much of the blame is ours? I fear that we have become inured to hardship, so much so that we have begun to forget how to dream. That saddens me more than I can begin to express.
I know that I wear my heart upon my sleeve; that is quite obvious by the things that I write here, that I put out into the ether for general consumption. I have always been this way, but that’s not to say that it is a good thing as I know that it can be painful, that it can feed that pain. This is why I chose the particular passage that I did to accompany this post: at times, I am like Hamlet: both melancholy and in need of vengeance, the two opposing emotions constantly at battle.
But at times I feel that I am also like Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, stranded on an island for so long that my vision has become occluded, in the midst of a storm of my own creation, with some of my books and a daughter who longs to know who she is. Past is prologue . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Lizz Wright, “When I Fall”
Do you, like Hamlet, dread the unknown?
But what is known? What do you really
Such that you can call anything “unknown”?
Do you, like Falstaff,
love life with all its fat?
If you love it so materially, then love it even
By becoming a bodily part of the earth and of
Scatter yourself, O physicochemical system
Over the nocturnal consciousness of the unconsciousness of
Over the huge blanket of appearances that blankets
Over the grass and weeds of proliferating beings,
Over the atomic
fog of things,
Over the whirling walls
Of the dynamic void that’s the
world . . .
~ Fernando Pessoa, from A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe
“Well, everybody hurts, sometimes” ~ From “Everybody Hurts” by REM
“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henker
I’ve been wiped out for over 24 hours now with a killer migraine. I had to stop taking my migraine prevention medicine cold turkey (instead of the usual method of backing down gradually) because I had developed a rash on my upper body that had blisters. I know—too much information, but I just wanted to explain my absence. I actually spent most of today lying on the bed in the fetal position with cold packs on my head. Even walking into the brighter living room and kitchen caused me pain. Just have to say how much this sucks in case you couldn’t tell how not happy I am.
Mother’s Day is in two days, and I’m also feeling sorry for myself about this. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with eldest son. This time it’s my daughter. She’s been getting progressively aloof in the last four months. Corey and I have been trying to figure out what’s going on. But when I ask her about it, she says that nothing is wrong. This is kind of her normal reaction when confronted: denial.
“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~ Oscar Wilde
I should say that Alexis has always gone through these phases. I remember when she was in school, she and her best friend would suddenly not be speaking, and when I would ask what was wrong, Alexis would say “nothing.” I mean, she and her best friend would be like sisters one day, and then a complete rift would arise the next day. I always found that odd, but I knew that it was none of my business.
I’m not even sure that she realizes that she does this, but she did the same thing at the beginning of last year. She just began to withdraw from our lives, and when I asked about it, she assured me that nothing was wrong. And just as suddenly as she withdrew, she was back, and everything was fine.
This time, her displeasure seems to be aimed at Corey, but we aren’t sure why. Their relationship has been close ever since Corey and I got married, and when her boyfriend got a new job that causes him to be out of town sometimes, it has always been Corey who she calls when she needs something: clogged toilet . . . mouse in a trap . . . broken coffee table . . . whatever. Corey would drop everything to help her, even if he was in the middle of something here.
Now, she doesn’t call him at all. He has tried to find out what is wrong, as have I, but the only response we get is that nothing is wrong. She’s busy. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, so I can empathize with what Corey is feeling: frustrated from the lack of information and the ways in which his attempts at reconciliation have been ignored.
“Young girl…violins…center of her own attention” ~ “Daughter,” by Pearl Jam
As far as friendships are concerned, Alexis is actually a lot like her father and eldest brother in believing in the idea that the whole world revolves around them. Don’t get me wrong. Alexis is a wonderful, generous friend. Always there to help her friends when they need it, and most of the time, always there for her family. Her father was like that; if one of his friends called and asked him to help chop down a tree, he was there. In the meantime, things around the house that needed repairing were never attended to.
Friendships for all three of them are very important. I, too, believe that friends are important, that if a friend needs me, I should be there. However, the big difference is that I put family first. This inability to put family first was a big bone of contention between my ex and myself. It was also what caused Alexis to leave home after she graduated. She was absolutely clueless or perhaps indifferent as to how her actions were adversely affecting her family. We finally had to draw a line, and she chose to leave.
“If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent.” ~ Bette Davis
I remember so many sleepless nights during that period, worrying about whether or not she was alive and safe. I wanted to call the police but didn’t. Instead, I would sometimes drive through the neighborhood to see if her car was parked by one of her friends’ houses. In that way, I knew where she was and could take some small comfort in the knowledge that she had found some place to stay.
Oddly enough, our reconciliation occurred on a Mother’s Day when I came home to find a card from her and a long letter apologizing for her behavior. I called her immediately and asked her to come home, and she did. From that point, things were very good, until she began to go into these phases of isolation again.
“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” ~ Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986
When you are a parent, it’s so hard to know if you are making the right choices, if you have made the right choices, if you could have done something differently that might have resulted in a better outcome. I have learned that parenting is one of those on-the-job training situations. You can never be fully prepared, no matter how many books and articles you read.
There is no other job in the world that can make you feel so completely insufficient and that can cause so much self-doubt. It is a job filled with regret over words spoken in anger and frustration and actions taken in an attempt to reign in unruly offspring. Parenting can make you feel completely unqualified, whether you are raising sons or daughters or both.
“To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself.” ~ Chinese Proverb
And then there is the “mother curse” that comes back to haunt you: “I hope you grow up and have children exactly like you.” And you do. Your children may not be exactly like you, but they test you in the same ways that you tested your own parents. They push the boundaries and break your heart just as you did the same to your own mother and father. In this way, history doesrepeat itself.
A friend of mine, in responding to my recent post on Eamonn, had this wonderful analogy: “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jello to the wall.” Oh how true. Except that I would change the word teenager to children, because no mater how young or old they are, your children still retain that ability to make you feel as if you are somehow wanting, unfit, and unreasonable, even when you are certain that you are not.
“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” ~ David Bly
In my heart, I have no doubts that Alexis loves me and loves her family. I also know that the very aspects of her personality that grate on me so much are those aspects that are similar to my own disposition: her moodiness, her mercurial swings, her absolute fierceness in her devotion to her friends. So I do keep these things in mind.
Another thing that I know is that I still have the ability to hurt my own mother and she me, even when we don’t intend to do so, which only shows that regardless of age, the relationships between mothers and daughters are fraught with landmines.
The risk diminishes with age and maturity as both parties reach a point at which they understand each other more than they don’t understand each other. But the need to step carefully never completely goes away.
So in the end, I will wait out this current estrangement, try to be patient, knowing that this pulling away is a necessary part of her growing up. And I will try to remind myself not to be hurt, even when I am . . . in spite of the fact that my daughter, who lives in the same city as I, mailed my mother’s day card.
“A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping . . .”
“. . . and, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ~ Arabian Proverb
My second semester of teaching at ODU was one of the hardest. Caitlin had died the previous November, and I had managed to finish the Fall semester with my two classes. But going into Spring semester was an endurance test.
I was just trying to survive the fact that my entire life had been turned upside down. I frequently burst into tears, and was more depressed than I ever had been or have been since. The one good thing about that semester was the entrance of a new person into my life: Mari LoNano.
Mari’s (pronounced like Mary) office was right next to mine. We had talked briefly during the Fall term, and then more after Caitlin died, but our friendship really bloomed during the Spring (no pun intended). We began to eat lunch together and to have long conversations about life, death, and survival. By that summer, we had become inseparable, and by the fall semester, when Marty, Mari’s former office mate, moved up in the hierarchy and was given an office to herself, Mari and I became office mates.
It had been a long time since I had had friendship with another woman on a daily basis, and it was something that I really cherished. In fact, I’m not sure that I would have survived that first year after Caitlin if not for Mari.
“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
I realized in those first painful months that I was but a shell of my former self. I wasn’t sure about anything, least of all life and my own existence. Mari offered me comfort in so many ways, but probably the most meaningful way in which she became an important part in my life was through our long conversations. Mari told me about the death of her mother years before. It was obviously still very painful for her.
Like me, Mari carried around an immense amount of survivor’s guilt. After caring for her mother during her illness, Mari had not been with her when she died. I could tell that this fact bothered her tremendously. It colored all of her relationships.
We were two lost souls, and we found each other. I have no doubts that fate brought us together.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Goethe
Another important aspect of our friendship was that we were both aspiring poets. Mari had more experience in the craft than I did. At the time, I was still writing mostly from my gut, paying little attention to the actual craft of poetry. We shared our poems, and from her I learned more about line breaks and rhythm than I had ever learned in my undergraduate workshops.
She was also responsible for broadening my horizons into contemporary poets. From her I learned about Bruce Weigl, Christopher Buckley, Molly Peacock, Kate Daniels, and countless other wonderful poets. It was the opening of an important door for me: Writers become better by reading the works of those they admire.
Most of my poetry dealt with grief, while Mari wrote about a wide range of topics: her sister’s horse, her mother, her grandfather, her dogs, nature. I was amazed by her ability to bring to life images and to capture feelings.
We tried to inspire each other into writing more, and we talked about going to poetry retreats some day—something that unfortunately, we never managed to do.
“No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” ~ Francois Mocuriac
We found that another thing that we had in common was that both of our husbands had attended Virginia Tech in the forestry and wildlife program. Ironically, neither of our husbands were working in their fields.
Mari’s husband was working for UPS, and mine was working for the medical school as a radiation safety officer. Luckily for us, Buddy and Paul hit it off, and we started to do things together as couples; going to dinner along with Marty and Jack was always a nice evening out. And the four of us would try new restaurants in the area. Those dinners were great fun.
But mostly, it was Mari and me together. One of our favorite things to do was to eat at the cafeteria near the mall where they had those great rolls and then go shopping. Boy did we shop. For about four straight years, we went shopping at least once a week. Unfortunately, my shopping addiction was my way of dealing with my grief, not a very healthy coping mechanism, especially because of the debt that I incurred.
Mari shopped for a lot of reasons: she loved fashion; she had the money to buy pretty much what she wanted, and I believe that shopping also filled a void for her as well. Regardless, we had some great times finding bargains at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, two of our favorite stores.
“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon
I ended up at The Chrysler Museum after doing some freelance work, and Mari got a job at a very prominent private school. I have to admit that even though I loved my job at the museum, I was envious of her new teaching position. Our new jobs caused us to see each other less frequently, and then, suddenly, abruptly, our friendship ended.
Mari was going through a very turbulent time in her life, and I was trying to be supportive, but it seems that something came between us. I spent months trying to get Mari to explain to me what had gone wrong, but I never really got an explanation. Finally, hurt and frustrated, I stopped trying.
One of the last times that I saw her before she moved out of the area was purely by accident. We ran into each other at the post office. By that time, she had divorced Buddy, and I was separated from Paul. Our lives were still moving on parallel paths, but they were not intersecting as they once had.
I truly grieved the loss of my friendship with Mari. At first I didn’t realize that I was grieving. It took my therapist pointing it out to me before I acknowledged the obvious. Mari’s exit from my life was a significant loss, so important and integral had she been for years.
“Hold a true friend with both your hands.” ~ Nigerian Proverb
I thought about Mari a great deal over the years. Finally, in 2005 when I was working for the realty company, I did a Google search to try to locate Mari. I found out where she was working, and I e-mailed her and included a poem that I had written about her. It was called “Your Mother’s Pink Sweater.” I had written it in response to a poem that she had written about her mother that I never forgot, “Flying Into the Sun.” The poem was about her mother, and it mentioned a pink sweater that her mother asked for when she was dying.
I was surprised but incredibly happy when Mari wrote back to me. It was as if the years and distance between us had never happened. We started writing and calling each other, and we are still in touch today. We’ve never had the long talk about what went wrong. We’ve been saving it for the day when we live near each other again and can float around in the pool, sipping iced tea together. I’m content with that.
“For believe me, in this world which is ever slipping from under our feet, it is the prerogative of friendship to grow old with one’s friends.” ~ Arthur S. Hardy
I’m glad that I finally decided to find her. I had been talking about it for years, and Corey kept urging me to do something about it. I suppose I waited because I was terribly afraid of being rejected again, and I just wasn’t sure that I could handle that. Luckily, that is not how things turned out, and I got my best friend back.
When Mari and I were writing together, we used to talk about growing old together, how we would get a house by the sea and two Adirondack chairs. And then we would spend our days growing flowers, watching birds, and reading. It was a wonderful fantasy. I don’t know that our plans will ever come to fruition, but if I had to choose one friend to grow old with together, it would be Mari.
More later. Peace.
*Most of the images in this post are from Janson Jones’s blog, Floridana Alaskiana. I know that Mari loves beautiful photography and nature and would appreciate the beauty of these pictures. To see more of this incredible photography, please visit http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/.
Rice Paper Butterflies by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
“Stand By Me” ~ Ben E. King
“I’ll Stand By You” ~ The Pretenders
A lot of the posts that I have written recently have dealt with matters in the past, which has led to my pondering the people who have played significant roles in my life, my friends. So I thought that I would write a post or two on some friends that I have mentioned only by name but have never really elaborated upon in any posts.
My first real best friend entered my life when I was 14. Her name was Sarah, and she lived a few streets over from my parent’s house. Sarah and I both went to the same junior high school. As much as I’ve tried, I cannot remember exactly how we met. I believe that it was through another friend of mine at the time, Erica, who lived directly behind me.
I was actually very close to Erica’s entire family; her mother and mine were and are very close friends, and we still keep in touch with them to this day. But at the time, Erica and I used to walk to school together. The junior high was almost an exact mile from our house, and we would spend our time laughing and having a great time on our walks to and from school. After Sarah entered our lives, she began to walk with us as well, unless her father drove her to school.
Like me, Sarah is an only child, which probably is what drew us together in the first place. Sarah and I became fast friends, and spent most of our time together after school. Both of her parents worked, so her house was preferable to mine. We could get into more trouble that way.
We shared everything: makeup, clothes (even though she was larger in the chest and shorter by several inches), food, jewelry, records (you know, those things before CDs). I remember going to her house in the morning to pick her up for school and walking in to the sounds of Black Oak Arkansas playing very loudly on her stereo. That was a wake-up call!
Unlike my mother, Sarah’s mom gave her some privacy when she was on the phone, and we used to spend hours on the phone together. It’s amazing how much you have to talk about when you are that age: boys (of course), girls (who we liked and who we didn’t like), television, boys, our hair, boys . . .
“It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.” ~ Epicurus
I got my first serious boyfriend when I was in the 9th grade, and of course, Sarah was my biggest adviser. When I had a fight with my boyfriend, she would be there to cheer me up. When I wanted to talk about things, Sarah always knew the answers. In fact, it was Sarah who told me how to use tampons (too much information?) because my mother didn’t believe in them.
Obviously, there were a lot of things about Sarah that I envied, but that never stopped us from being close. She was there for my first big love, and I was there for hers. If you wanted to date either one of us, you had to accept me or accept Sarah. It was that simple.
When I got my first car, a VW Bug, Sarah and I drove everywhere. I loved that car, and I loved spending time with my friend. There really wasn’t anything that we couldn’t talk about or do together. This was my first time with this kind of friendship, and it taught me a lot about being a friend: that you were there for your friend no matter what, that you never put a boy before your friend, that you trusted your friend with your deepest secrets and reciprocated in that trust. Not having siblings, especially sisters, I had to learn a lot of this.
Sarah really was the first friend that I had that I could call at 4 in the morning if I needed her, and she would be there. Of course, I never did call her parents’ house at 4 in the morning, but I probably could have. Her parents loved me. If there was one bone of contention between Sarah and me, it was that her father was always saying “Why can’t you be more like Lita?” If only he knew . . .
” . . . the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship.” ~ Cicero
One of the great ironies of our friendship was that Sarah dated several of my guy friends, including my first husband. Oh she was really smitten with him. Sarah was actually Paul’s date to the senior prom. At the time, I had just started dating my very Catholic boyfriend, who was one of the best guys I ever had a relationship with (but that’s another story). Eventually, Paul broke Sarah’s heart, and I was her crying shoulder.
I could no more explain why he broke up with her than the man in the moon, but she thought that I might have some words of wisdom since he and I were such good friends. Paul and I were good friends, and he had broken up with another of my friends to date Sarah. It was always amusing years later to recall how my husband had dated my friends, and I had dated his.
But I digress . . .
Sarah fell in love with the man that would become her husband at a very young age—18. At first, I really didn’t like the whole situation. I thought that Sarah had not chosen wisely. But when I realized that she really did love him and he her, I changed my mind.
I was the only bridesmaid at her wedding. It was a small church wedding, and I remember it well. My former high school boyfriend (the love of my life, I thought then) showed up, and we briefly and mistakenly rekindled our doomed relationship. Other than that, it was a great wedding, except for the fact that her father really did not want her to get married.
“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When Paul and I got married, Sarah was very pregnant with her first and only child, Leyna. Paul and I moved to Blacksburg right after the wedding so that I could start graduate school and he could finish his bachelor’s degree, so I was not in town when Sarah gave birth to her daughter. We tried to stay in touch by phone as much as possible while I was away, but as with all things, our lives started to move in different directions.
Sarah and I never lost touch completely, though, mostly because of efforts on her part I’ll have to admit. She would drop by my Mom’s, and later drop by our house. It never really mattered if she hadn’t called. I was just glad to see her.
“True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.” ~ Ben Jonson
When Catlin died, Sarah was right there, offering her love and support. By then, she and Joe had been married almost 11 years. The marriage that I never thought would last was still going strong, and Sarah was still there for me, regardless of time passed between us.
We run into each other from time to time at the store, and she e-mails me. She also is a loyal reader of my blog. Out of all of the people who have been in and out of my life over the years, Sarah is one constant that I know that I can still count on. I may not need to call her at 4 in the morning, but I know that I still could if I had to. I also know that if she dropped by my house one day, she wouldn’t judge me by the disarray that my house is in. Now that’s true friendship.
You don’t get too many people like that in your life, so when you do, you should cherish them. I hope that Sarah realizes just how much she still means to me, no matter how much time and distance have come between us. She was my first true best friend, and that’s not a slot that can be replaced by anyone, no matter how long you live. Other people will come along, move in and out of your life, supplant the best friend moniker, but no one can replace your first true friend.
Note: this entry was originally posted in January. I am reposting parts 1-3 since so much time has passed between those entries and part 4, which I will post tomorrow.
Part One: Young and Seemingly Immortal
This is the story of three friendships, four little girls, and a box of many beautiful dresses. It spans over two decades, four cities, and touches countless individuals. Two of the key people in this story are gone now, taken too soon by similar circumstances. One was my daughter, and one was my friend. Both live on in the memory of the dresses. This is the story of lives left in pieces of fabric from those dresses and how one person has pieced the story together with words, and another person has sewn the story together with thread and fabric, and how both have lost sleep, time, and ultimately, pieces of themselves. This is memento mori and memento amor.
This is the tale of how two women have attempted to complete a Viking story that began long ago.
I once had a very dear friend named Pat Swann. Pat had long brown hair and a big smile. Pat and I first met when we were working at our part-time jobs in a steak house in Norfolk, Virginia. She had worked there for a while, and she took me under her wing and helped me out when I first started. She took karate classes in college, and on the night before her wedding, she threw her fiance over her shoulder with one hand. We all laughed until we cried. Pat had the ability to make people laugh effortlessly. She was incredibly intelligent, hard-working, and did not suffer fools gladly.
I was the maid of honor at her wedding, which was a lovely outdoor affair on her in-law’s land, and she reciprocated the honor at my first wedding. I remember that she had just given birth to her first daughter two months before my wedding, and she was worried about how she would look, but she absolutely glowed. And I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else standing beside me on that day.
Before I got married and went to graduate school at Virginia Tech, Pat and I car pooled to Old Dominion University where she was working on dual degrees in German and Education, and I was working on my bachelor’s in English. During these years we became very close, and when I married my first husband, Pat and her husband Winn were among our best friends. My ex-husband used to go running with Winn, and then we would have cookouts at their townhouse in Virginia Beach. We had parties at our small apartment, and Pat and Winn were always there.
When Paul and I moved to northern Virginia for my big corporate job transfer, we made a few friends, one of whom is integral to this story, but Pat and I remained close. So it was only natural that she was very excited when I became pregnant with my first child. She had already had her two daughters, beautiful girls; one looked more like Pat, and one looked more like Win, which is how it often happens in families with more than one child. Pat was tremendously helpful in calming my first-time mother fears, and she donated a lot of things to the cause because Paul and I were really just starting out.
Pat and Winn and their two daughters eventually bought a bigger house in an older suburban area of Virginia Beach, and when we moved back from Alexandria, we continued with our visits and family parties. We bought or own house in the suburbs of Norfolk and settled into our own version of the predictable “American Dream.”
Unfortunately while we were away, Pat had been diagnosed with a brain tumor; luckily, it was operable, and she seemed to bounce back fairly well. I’ll say this about her, she was one of those people who, even though she had a cutting wit, was genuinely cheerful. I remember that she smiled a lot, and she had a chipped tooth right in the front that she never got fixed, even though she could have, because she felt like she wouldn’t be herself if she changed it. That was Pat: unpretentious, genuine.
The first chance we had to visit her after her illness, I brought her a silk scarf to wear where her hair had fallen out. She protested that it was much too fancy for her. Plain cotton bandanas were just fine. After all, she was certain that her hair would grow back, and she was right. Almost all of it did grow back except for a few places near the front. It was darker, but it was there.
After the incident with her tumor, Pat, who had planned to teach full-time once her girls were older, stayed at home for a while, substituting on occasion, and it seemed that she and Winn had a really good life. Of course there were the usual problems for a family of four with one income, but overall, I always looked on them as an incredibly well-suited couple. Pat’s near-fatal experience had seemed to bring them even closer, and for all appearances, they really were a typical family of four living in the suburbs.
When Alexis turned around three, Pat brought out all of these lovely dresses that her daughters had worn when they were younger. Most were presents from her mother-in-law. They were beautiful smocked dresses, with lace around the sleeves, and Peter Pan collars. So many dresses in so many colors. Pat offered them to me, and of course, I accepted. I was actually a little naive, though, because it never occurred to me that she might be offering to sell me the dresses, which she was, but I didn’t find that out until much later, and I was chagrined by my thoughtlessness.
Pat, being the generous person that she was, never said anything to me. She just let me take the armload of dresses home. Most looked as if they had only been worn once or twice. They were very feminine dresses, pale greens, pinks, small floral prints with white pinafores. Alexis looked beautiful in them. She always liked to wear dresses and to be dressed up, that is until the second grade when she had an incident on the playground that caused her dress to flip over and her underwear to show. After that, she didn’t want to wear dresses any more. I didn’t find this out until years later.
But as usual, I am digressing.
My mother and I also bought Alexis dresses, even though she didn’t really need them, and my mother-in-law made her some beautiful dresses as well. So by the time I gave birth to Caitlin when Alexis was four, the collection of dresses was really quite overwhelming, and far too much for one little girl. And again, many of them still looked as if they had only been worn once or twice because in fact, they had.
I have so many pictures of Alexis in these different dresses with her long hair, light brown, pulled back with bows, a big smile on her face. We used to have her portrait made at least twice a year so that we could give pictures to all of the family. She was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and it was obvious in how much attention she was paid. She wasn’t a brat, but she was precocious. She was a very petite child, although her birth weight was average. And her coloring favored her father: she was fairer than I, and interestingly, as she got older, we noticed that she had two different eye colors: one was more green, and one was more grey/blue.
Caitlin was her opposite. Eager to be born, I had to go on bedrest with my second pregnancy, and Caitlin arrived three weeks early. She was a bigger baby, and she was born with a head full of almost black hair and dark eyes. She had very chubby arms and legs in comparison to Alexis’s very skinny ones. Like Pat and Winn’s two daughters, ours were opposites: one looking more like her father, and one looking more like her mother, at least in coloring.
My friend Kathleen came down from northern Virginia for my baby shower for Caitlin, which we had to have at my house because of my bedrest. It was at this shower that I received the cradle that I had really wanted so that I could put my baby girl at the foot of my bed and rock her to sleep at night. Pat was at my shower as well. I remember wearing an electric blue maternity dress that my mother-in-law had made for me. I felt wonderful, very much at peace with myself and the world. I experienced none of the fears I had had with my first pregnancy. In fact, it was probably the most at peace I have ever felt in my entire life.
At the time, both Paul and I worked at the medical school in Norfolk, and everyone in his office gave him a huge baby shower. I remember this because Paul came home with so many presents, including more dresses. I remember this beautiful sleeveless, baby blue one with smocking on the front. Funny the things you remember after so long.