Garden Sprinkler, Sun, parents
their joyous life brief
My first published article: https://www.unigo.com/blog/son-is-awesome-college-rejections-dont-change-that/
I like my dogs, how they know to lean their bodies soft and warm against me on those days when my mood is as mean as a winter's day.
I marvel at their alarm-clock precision in waking me each morning before the sun gets her chance, their expectant, devoted stares grabbing me through my sleep.
I enjoy Puppy's outward scrappiness all the much more because it's just a loud front for his insecurities. He's the first to bark and bark and bark, but he does it on the steps, as Daisy bounds ahead. Only after she has given the okay through a slow nod, will Puppy charge forward to the gate, ready to show a squirrel or mailman who's boss.
I sigh when Daisy knits her brows together any time a voice, even a happy one, is just a little too loud. Or, when her ears go back, not over something she has done, but because Puppy once again has eaten or done something he shouldn't. While she sits conscience-stricken for a crime she didn't commit, Puppy has already moved on to his next offense.
I adore how my sons are crazy for each dog individually and for the animated interplay between the mismatched mutts. I love how Puppy and Daisy return the feeling tenfold, sitting sadly against the boys' closed bedroom doors waiting for however long it takes for them to open it. I miss how their sweet predecessor Hershey did the same.
Just as Hershey has left us, so too will Daisy or Puppy one day, their time an even more tangible, temporary blip than ours. But for right here, right now, as they lie next to me side-by-side, I am happy, happy for a dog's life.
My kitchen is a mess. There are syrup-covered plates and Cheerio-encrusted cereal bowls and a large black pot piled into the sink. The dishwasher is halfway emptied. My wine glass from last night stands at attention, waiting to be washed.
There is a basket of towels and whites and color clothes needing laundering. Our cream bath rugs look brown. They're covered in Puppy's muddy paw prints, in no particular order, as if he was doing some frenetic rain dance on top of them hoping to end our drought.
Bills are on a chair next to me as I type this, one on top of another, with a few hanging off the side as if trying to escape. In the pile is a calendar I handwrote. It's an itinerary and to-do list for our summer trip, and like the dishwasher, it's only halfway done.
My husband left me a shopping list that reads "Costco: Paper plates, Izzy Sodas, Pelligrino." Yesterday I logged into Costco online and ordered some compostable paper plates and bowls, but I don't think that's what he pictured when he wrote the list.
All of this is a departure from who I am. It's unsettling. It's uncomfortable. It's intentional.
You see I am consciously changing who I am. I am changing who I am for my family, the outside world, and, most importantly, for me.
My grandmother who raised me was the consummate housewife: she kept an immaculate house, cooked restaurant-worthy meals, and prepared sweet desserts from scratch. Her days were spent ensuring that my brother and I and especially my grandfather were well-fed, clean, and happy. Who I am as a mother and wife is because who she was as a mother and wife.
But if you asked me what her interests or passions or even likes and dislikes were, I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you then and I couldn't tell you now. They were buried with her 35 years ago when she dropped dead, boom, of a heart attack at the age of 61 while I was at the Bronx Zoo on a class trip. Maybe she wanted to perform on the stage. Perhaps the smell of lilacs recalled the first time she kissed a boy. Could she have longed to live on the coast of Italy surrounded by bergamot orange and meyer lemon trees because they reminded her of her parents? I will never know.
Just like viewing a polaroid of yourself when you were younger and thinking "I remember that person, but yet I don't" I see myself in a way that is both familiar and unfamiliar. I am still a wife and mother, but I don't do the scutwork in the same way and with the same zeal, because that takes up too much psychic space and energy from who I am. So, who am I?
With intention I tell myself every day "I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a student." Like walking in a new pair of shoes, it feels uncomfortable saying these things, but just as shoes get more comfortable, so too do these statements. Consciously I am not saying "I write. I draw. I go to school." To do so would allow gaps and spaces in, and in these gaps and spaces daily minutia would creep like destructive weeds. A protective wall automatically goes up with the definitive I am.
Because I am now a mother, a housewife, a student, an artist, and a writer, who I am is someone who is complete and being complete allows me to be the best thing of all -- happy.
My sons and I just got back from Seattle. The last (and only other) time I was there was when my great aunt and uncle flew me out the summer I was 16. I had never encountered a more magical place.
The landscape was lush in every shade of green. The air was a mixture of pine and phlox floating on summer's breeze. The restaurants with their large clear plated glass windows served vegetables grown in gardens down the street. I had avocado for the first time, on a sandwich filled with veggies, a vast departure from the salami and cheese subs I was used to back in New York. Neighbors greeted each other on their brisk walks with their large, hearty dogs walking in unison by their side.
It was here, as a teenager, that I learned about the dangers of pesticides. To rid your garden of snails naturally and humanely just leave out a bowl of beer at night and let them quietly drink themselves to sleep forever! I also discovered the power of almonds and parsley (that garnish I used to throw out became my daily source of Vitamin A) and of nutrition in general.
When I inevitably had to say goodbye to my aunt and uncle at the airport -- under protest from them because it was during the air-traffic controllers' strike and they were convinced it was too dangerous -- I promised to return, like Dorothy in her hot-air balloon declaring her love to the Lion most of all. Just as I'm sure the Scarecrow and Tinman and even the beloved Lion waited futilely for Dorothy, I too never returned.
So for more than three decades now I have been holding a torch for Seattle in the same way a middle-aged woman longs for her high-school crush. You can imagine how excited I was when my son got accepted to the University of Washington. I couldn't wait to go back.
Seattle is still lush and green except for some reason the pine, at least outside our hotel room, smelled of homeless-man sweat. Not literally, mind you. The fragrance of the trees were tangy in a way that urged us to close our patio door. There were still restaurants with vegetables grown in local gardens, except now they are being served by twenty somethings who don't have the energy or care to make eye contact. Neighbors still go on their brisk walk but can't be bothered to lift their Patagonia-clad arms to give a little wave. And I'm sure there are plenty of people who care about the environment and nutrition, because there were tons of Priuses and high-end markets.
So to continue the comparison of the middle-age woman and her first crush, I've gone to my high-school reunion and my once down-to-earth, home-grown local boy has turned into a hipster wannabe. What the Wizard should have told Dorothy is that she is hopelessly naive, while handing her a copy of Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again."
There's a dead fly in the window shades in my office right behind my desk. The poor guy probably flew into the fabric thinking it led outside, got stuck, and couldn't make his way out. He's been there for weeks, maybe months.
Except for some missing legs - which lay below him - he is a perfectly preserved specimen of gossamer wings against gauzy fabric. If I look closely, I can see his three, distinct body parts. His thorax holds his one remaining leg; his head futively faces forward.
Though I will spend half my day cleaning fingerprints from light switches, I can't bring myself to remove him. It's not altruism. I have killed bugs before (though always with a twinge of guilt). In fact, my reason for leaving the fly is pure selfishness. By cavalierly canceling his existence and leaving nothing in his place would be too cutting a reminder of how fleeting This all is. We live, we get stuck, we struggle, we die.
But I am not a fly. I am a wife, mother, sister, friend. I live and in living I create words and pictures and memories. I get stuck and in getting stuck I receive help and hope and healing. I struggle and in struggling I get stronger. And because of this living and getting stuck and struggling something will remain when I die.
I am ready to let my fly go. I gently tilt the shades to the side, allowing him to finally fall freely on to my desk. There I am able to get a closer look at him. His body is a green and blue metallic iridescence, his wings silvery strands. He is beautiful. As I gently place him into a tissue to bring him outside, back to the dust, I let him know that something of him will remain with me long after he is gone.
I'm just trying to figure it out, like everyone else.