” . . . we could teach our daughters and our sons that it is absolutely, positively, socially unacceptable to engage in behavior that threatens or condones or turns a blind eye to physical abuse. That’s how we’ll end this abuse. That’s how we’ll meet the goal that every single solitary woman and girl in America is entitled to be free of abuse of any kind.” ~ VP Joe Biden in 2012 speech on Violence Against Women Act

Emma Sulkowicz Tackles the Issue of College Rape
Emma Sulkowicz Tackles the Issue of College Rape

“The next challenge is making sure, ironically, we get college presidents and colleges to understand that they have a responsibility for the safety of women on their campus. They have a responsibility to do what we know from great experience works. Bringing the experts. Provide people, give the young woman the support that she needs. Psychological support. the medical support, and if need be, the legal support. Societal change is taking place. It takes time. But I really believe it’s taking root, and we have an obligation to just keep pushing it.” ~ Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview with Tamron Hall (August 9, 2014)

Saturday afternoon. Intermittent thunderstorms, warmer and very, very humid, 80 degrees.

Still no phone, and you would think that I could live with that, but I’m finding that I need to make calls, and I go to text someone, and, um, not so much. Oh well . . . Just an aside note: Today’s post marks 1700 posts. Not too shabby, eh?

CU Students at Protest Friday in Support of Rape Victims

You know, Joe Biden can seem like a goofball a lot of the time, but get him talking about the issue closest to his heart—violence against women—and no one can match his articulate passion. The Emma Sulkowicz case, in case you haven’t heard about it, is yet another case of a young woman being raped on campus only to find that the school’s administration won’t do anything about it.

It’s just plain sickening, and I am so tired that these situations are still being treated lightly. I can remember a former student of mine who was date-raped on campus. This young woman was so traumatized that she had to drop out mid-semester. I stayed in touch and did what I could for her, but the case was troubling for so very many reasons.

Look. Violence against women must not be shied away from, must not be treated as the status quo. This issue is too important to ignore, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any daughters—there have to be women in your life in some fashion, whether it is family or friends or colleagues. And besides, those of you with sons are even more responsible for making sure this message gets delivered—again and again and again. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to wait until it happens to someone you know or someone you love.

                   

Carrying the Weight Together: Students help Emma Sulkowicz carry mattress to class in first collective carry (from The Columbia Spectator)

The following is reblogged from The Huffington Post:

Columbia University Student Will Drag Her Mattress Around Campus Until Her Rapist Is Gone

Emma Sulkowicz is a senior visual arts student at Columbia University. On the first day of her sophomore year, she says, she was raped by a classmate on her mattress.

“Rape can happen anywhere,” she explains in the video above. “For me, I was raped in my own dorm bed. Since then, it has basically become fraught for me, and I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”

Sulkowicz’ senior thesis, titled “Mattress Performance” or “Carry That Weight,” is a literal expression of that emotional weight. In what she calls an endurance art piece, she will drag her mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled or leaves. The project, she says, could extend for one day or for the entire remainder of her time at Columbia.

“The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space and bringing it out into the light,” she says. “So I think the act of carrying something that is normally found in our bedroom out into the light is supposed to mirror the way I’ve talked to the media and talked to different news channels, etc.”

When Sulkowicz’s case made it to a university hearing seven months after the actual incident occurred, administrators were confused about how anal rape could happen and she had to draw a diagram. The experience left her feeling physically ill.

Two other women came forward to say they had been assaulted by the same student, but all believe their cases were mishandled, in part by mistake-riddled record-keeping on the part of university authorities (note: aliases were used in early reporting on the case to protect the identity of those involved).

Their alleged attacker was found not responsible by the university, and remains at the school.

“I was so naive that I guess I thought they would just believe me because I was telling the truth,” Sulkowicz told The Huffington Post in February. “I didn’t expect the school was going to try to not take my side.”

Sulkowicz was one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia for mishandling sexual assault cases, in violation of the gender equity law Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education has yet to determine whether it will investigate the university.

“Carry That Weight” is especially powerful protest against injustice, while also forcing her community to face the emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault. While one of her rules for the performance is that she can’t ask for help carrying it around, Sulkowicz said others are allowed to offer their help.

“I’m hoping that not only do I get better at carrying the mattress, but… I’m very interested in seeing where this piece goes and what sort of life it takes on,” she says.

Additional reporting by Tyler Kingkade.

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

                     

Parochial Air

Prescription drugs do well here. Normal
balance seems easily disturbed.
Karen’s neck is bothering her again and
I am suffering in this city which,
for all its humidity, has never had
a major Star Trek convention with
inflammation the physician’s assistant
found by hand. The things we pay to have
done to us while perfectly good dresses
hang on sale racks. I don’t need
inflammation explained. What is there
to do with evidence but burn it. We all
know the temperature of sin. And so
these blue pills are for vaginitis and
oval with patience these help me sleep
when I let them. Also they keep the
dreams from me leaving me with only
this steaming local air to contend with
in the dark. Things form in this climate,
my therapist explains, unknown further
north. Calm talk of fungus follows. He
means to suggest I suppose this condition
I am carrying on so about in extreme
language may have nothing to do with the
man who first dropped to his knees.
Sniffed at me like an animal or a man
gone mad. I just want to smell it, he said,
but he lied.

~ Frances Driscoll

                   

“Rape Poem to End All Rape Poems,” by Justice Hehir, Lindsey Michelle Williams, Kate Thomas, and Lillie Hannon, Rutgers University Students

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“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Sea Star from Bunaken Marine Park, Indonesia, from The Right Blue 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Colors from The Right Blue

I’ve been meaning to comment on a beautiful site that I stumbled across: The Right Blue. According to the site’s about page, the title “refers to the goal of a lifelong pursuit. Sea water viewed from beneath the surface comes in many hues and shades. Surfers wait for the perfect wave; divers seek the right blue.” The blog contains beautiful pictures from dives, information about the ocean, and many other ocean-related topics. 

The writers, who live in Hawaii, decided that instead of letting their beautiful photographs and slides get dusty in binders and boxes they would scan and post them. What joy, especially for those of us who love all things related to the sea. The images are incredible, and Bobbie and Jerry have generously posted their work under a Creative Commons license, which means that their images can be reposted non-commercially with proper attribution. 

So today’s post features images from The Right Blue. Please give them a visit. 

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle by The Right Blue

Another restless night, in fact, one of the worse in a while. For some reason, Tillie was very restless last night, which meant that she kept asking to go out just about every hour. At one point, I had put my eye mask on, which I wear sometimes if I have a headache, and Tillie nudged me. Need I say that she scared the crap out of me? Anyway, I slept in fits and starts, and I don’t know if I ever achieved REM as my head is ringing today. 

Anyway, a holiday today celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have used quotes from King in my post before, often with quotes by Gandhi, one of King’s major influences. 

I think that it is worth noting that King was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights’ efforts. When you think about what King did and when he did it, it really is an amazing thing: organizing non-violent protests in the South at a time when most of the white population view minorities  as second class citizens who needed to use separate bathrooms and separate drinking fountains so as not to contaminate them. It was a time in which minorities could not eat wherever they wanted, stay in any hotel they wished to stay in, or even perform in any venue. 

That the United States was once such a country is mind-boggling to generations who never saw these things first-hand. That there are still those in this country who believe that things were better before King, Thurman, and the civil rights movements is what boggles my mind. But then, as I have been the victim of discrimination myself and have had people call me names just because my skin is darker, or my eyes a different shape, or my last name is not Smith, I am not surprised, just saddened. 

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Lunar Fusiliers, Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia, from The Right Blue

In keeping with my recent stroll down memory lane, I got a friend request on Facebook from another person from my past, this time a former student who worked for me at Old Dominion University. While I was in the English Department there, I managed the two computer labs for a couple of years. This person was one of the twelve student workers I supervised in the labs. 

She was extremely intelligent and very likable, with a cutting wit and insight well beyond her years. For the most part, all the students who worked for me were really terrific, a good blend of personalities. I remember them in a very positive way as that was a very good period for me. Of course, not all of it was good, but nothing has ever topped teaching college as being my favorite profession. 

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Feather Stars from The Right Blue

Other than that, not much going on today. I thought that I might give the Harry Potter books my annual read. It usually takes a week to read all seven, and I like to start with book one and read my way through. Yep. My exciting plans for the week: reading the Harry Potter books. I tell you I just don’t know how much more excitement I can take. 

Last night was the season premiere of 24, one of my favorite shows. I am hoping that this season is better than last season. Last season was better than the very weak season 6, but I’m not sure that the show will ever be able to recapture the frenzied storylines that involved Presidents Palmer and Logan. Those were the best. And last year’s season tested the boundaries of believability (of course, the entire show does that) by bringing back Tony. That being said, I taped last night’s two-hour premiere, and I’m going to watch that tonight while the next two hours are taping. 

Personally, I am not bothered by the character of Jack Bauer. He is single-minded, and he serves a purpose. What I love about him is his Aristotelian tragic mien: He is the tragic hero, fallen from grace, torn apart by his own hubris. Like Hamlet, he knows that he is flawed but cannot stop himself. Like Othello, he is caught up in webs of deceit. Bauer represents all that is good and evil in a post-September 11 society. I just wish that his daughter wasn’t such a whiny wimp. 

I have always loved Kiefer Sutherland, though, all the way back to The Lost Boys, one of my favorite camp vampire flicks. And much like his father, I think that Kiefer just gets better with age. Too bad his personal life is always such a mess. 

That’s all for today. More later. Peace

Music from Karl Jenkins, “Adiemus” 

 

 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.

 

Just When You Think That It Can’t Possibly Get Any Worse . . .

people-falling-down-by-maniac-world1
People Falling Down by Maniac World 

This Is Why My Mother Did Not Name Me Grace

tortoise-on-its-back-by-joe-carroll-and-world-of-stock1My recent physical lows hit an all-time high today: I tripped down the stairs going into the garage and landed on one knee with my left foot twisted awkwardly beneath me. I’m blaming it on Tillie the lab as she was gamboling in front of me on the way down.

So I am currently sporting an ace bandage around my left ankle, and a wrist brace on my left wrist as that has begun to throb as well.

Corey’s first question was if I had hurt my back. Believe it or not, that’s the part of my body that hurts the least at the moment. Small favors.

“My friend, you are not graceful—not at all; your gait’s between a stagger and a sprawl” ~ Ambat Delaso about tortoises

yogaI was not always this clumsy. In fact, when I was a teenager, I cheered, which required a certain amount of grace and agility. I have practiced yoga, which gave me great flexibility. And as a youth, one of my favorite things to do was to climb trees. I swear that I never fell out of a tree.

I skied quite well and never took a major tumble, a few minor ones here and there. And believe it or not, I have never broken a bone, just a few sprains. I also studied ballet, granted not for long as it is one of those things that you can assess your natural abilities for fairly quickly. It was good exercise, but I was never going to dance Swan Lake.

So what’s up with my increasing stumbling in recent years? I’m assuming that it’s related to my back surgery and my other ailments. But I have to tell you, it’s not a very attractive trait to have.

“She was terrified of tripping and falling” (about Gloria Swanson playing Norma Desmond descending the stairs)

My fall today brought to mind some of the more famous clumsy people I have watched and known. I’ll never forget when Carol Burnett played Norma Desmond on her show. Burnett descended that curving staircase with such feigned grace that I was sure that she was going to make falling part of the act, but she did not.

chevy-chase-and-gerald-ford-by-david-hume-kennerlyAnother one of my favorite physical comics has to be Chevy Chase. His imitations of President Gerald Ford’s clumsiness are what skyrocketed Chase’s career. He carried that tripping and falling routine into his movie career, and few of his movies do not have Chase tripping at least once. 

John Belushi was an incredibly agile comedian. But because of his girth, most people did not expect his gracefulness. Belushi could do hand stands and acrobatics and land perfectly. He could also crash against walls and into furniture in ways that appeared had to cause him injury. But he would bounce back up, literally, unhurt. Of course, the cocaine could have kept him from feeling pain, but he was still great at his craft.

“In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet” ~ Alice Abrams

My former sister-in-law Ann is also very accident prone. I remember that during a school talent show she was in a routine in which the players wore pillowcases over their arms crossed above their heads, giving them the appearance of having short legs. The pillowcases had no eye-holes, so everyone had to be very aware of where they were moving.

Ann finished the entire routine without any problem. However, when it came time to leave the stage, she walked forward instead of to the side. As a result, she landed in the orchestra pit below the stage. Major ouch. I can’t remember, but I think that she broke her arm.

slicing-tomatoesWhen the two of us are together, we tend to bring out the clumsiness in each other; it seems that one of us always ends up with an injury whenever we are in proximity of each other. Last summer during one of the outdoor family gatherings, we both tripped and fell on her deck (at different points during the day). I survived with only a minor bruise on one leg. Ann, on the other hand, ended up with a huge bruise, about six inches wide and eight inches long, on her thigh.

Another time, Ann was slicing something, tomatoes I think. She went right past the vegetable and proceeded to cut a deep slice into her hand that required stitches.

” . . . the great art of treading on the brink of the precipice without falling into it.” ~ Giacomo Casanova

For my part, I have had a few interesting accidents that required stitches and trips to the emergency room. Ever since I was a young child, I have hated to wear shoes. I walk barefoot outside most of the time, and when I was a teenager, I rarely went place with my feet clad in anything. One day I was riding my bike with Erica, and of course, I had no shoes on. My soles were so toughened that the rough pedals on the bike did not bother me.

That is, not until I crashed my bicycle into Erica and landed on the street with my bike on top of me. What I did not realize at first is that when I crashed, my foot dug into the peddle and scraped forward (makes me  shudder now to even think about it). This resulted in a very large flap of loose skin on the bottom of my foot.

Together, Erica and I walked the bicycles home, and when I walked in the door, I was bleeding everywhere. That was my first occasion with stitches.

old-diaper-pinAnother time that my disdain of shoes caused me pain was when I was playing tag with my cousins in Great Bridge. We were playing in the field behind my aunt’s house, which was covered with fallen leaves and sticks. I was wearing only a pair of flip flops.

As I was running, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in one foot. I lifted the foot and found an old, rusty diaper pin sticking out of the bottom of my foot. The pin had impaled the shoe and attached it to my foot. I adamantly refused to let anyone pull the pin out, my logic being that if it hurt that much going in, coming out had to be worse.

The diaper pin was pulled out, and I was driven to the doctor to get a tetanus shot.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” ~ Albert Einstein

But undoubtedly one of the most doltish accidents I have ever had was one that I knew in my head was going to happen, but I did it anyway. This one occurred when I was teaching English at Old Dominion University.

I was putting away clean wine glasses on the top shelf of a cabinet, which required me to be on a step stool. A glass fell out of my hand and crashed to the floor, breaking into several large, very sharp-edged pieces.

btoken-glassHave you ever known that you were about to do something stupid, but you just couldn’t stop yourself? That’s what happened in this instance. I looked down at the glass and thought, “I could really cut myself badly if I stepped on that,” because of course, I was not wearing shoes. I then proceeded to step down from the stool right onto a huge piece of glass, cutting a deep, comma-shaped gash into the sole of my foot.

Luckily, by this time there was an urgent care facility fairly close to the house. I wrapped up my foot in a towel and drove to the center. More stitches, but some really good pain pills.

I went back to school with my injured foot in a bandage, and one shoe on. I still vividly remember going into my Technical Writing class and trying to teach the group of engineers that were enrolled in my class. They asked what had happened, and I told them. They were merciless in taunting me, especially after I tried to talk to them and couldn’t form coherent sentences because of the medication.

Of course, there are other incidents, but I think that I have revealed enough about this less than graceful side of myself for now. I think that I’ll go lie down and put some ice on my ankle. I can hardly wait to see what happens next . . .

More later. Peace.

Lives in Pieces: Vale et memini (Goodbye and I Remember)

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.

white-and-lavendar-smocked-dressWhen 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.blue-smocked-dress1

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.

end of part 1