Today, I sent a letter to my friend, Ethridge:
The grass under my back was so itchy, but iolana had fallen asleep on my legs and belly, so i dared not to move. The symphony filled the air with the songs of the armed forces, the 1812 Overture, the Star Spangled Banner…and , suddenly, the sky was full of exploding green, gold, silver, purple cascading flowers of shining, melting liquid light. color bursts immediately became smokey spiders, their tendrils extended, gray, into the good night. it was a display that brought out the oohs and aahs as the conductor shook his passion filled fists and the band played on.
Then, this afternoon, we swam with friends at Reed Park. Ants came over our blanket and descended on a partial chip. I’m not sure why, but ants just fascinate me. They swirl onto a piece of food, and without realizing it, they catch the corner of your eye—what is that movement, there, one wonders? Then there is that slight revulsion—“Ugh! Ants! Look out!”—but, after you realize they are oblivious to you (unless you stick your finger or toe into the midst of their business), it is fascinating to watch them work. At least, I always get sucked into what they are up to—a giant voyeur, peeking down onto a world singularly focused on consumption. Hmm. Sounds so familiar!
It was a glad day, to be with friends. Especially watching how our children have grown and changed over the years and become their own people. Seeing them socialize in and out of the pool, playing “Marco Polo”, seeing little feet leave little wet footprints on the cement, hopping over to the park next door to sell pretend ice cream and realizing, too late, someone is about to slide down a hot afternoon slide in their bikini…Don’t fret. All was well. Just wet enough that it was a slight discomfort, not a burned bottom!
Then, back to home where we prepared for my friend from first grade, Jill, to arrive. I hadn’t seen her since…gosh! Sixth grade? Eighth grade? However long ago that is, long enough! She arrived with her children, smart and beautiful and strong, and we had breakfast for dinner (waffles, bacon, sausage, eggs, fresh smoothies)…So, my new friends and my old friends got to meet, and pictures were shown and laughs were had and questions arose and names of long ago were bandied about and I thought to myself…these are all the moments
collected in one place, right now…what more could we ask for then to have our past catch up to our present in a very, very good way…To feel shy and happy and unsure (much like prom, is how I felt!) mixed with confidence, maturity and
Yes, liberty is an amazing thing. I have had my share of not understanding the grace and respect behind liberty. There were times in my past I didn’t know better and made silly attempts to be “grown up”. Or “cool”. And now, over the years, and landing, here, at 41, I am beginning to see that true liberty isn’t just doing what one wants to do RIGHT NOW, it is taking into account how one’s actions affect everything…and I mean “everything”. How being a parent makes so much apparent.
I have put pink streaks in my hair. Funny, you put color in your hair and people aren’t sure what to do, or feel compelled to say something witty about what I must have been thinking when I did it. I just did it. The color on the box looked nice. Lily and I wanted streaks. Is that liberty? Is that doing what I want to RIGHT NOW, and how does that affect anyone…anyone, other than, say, my hair, truly? Is that the kind of choice that changes the world? Or is it finding happiness in a small change that frees me further from western expectations?
It seems dated to me, putting pink in my hair (especially since I did it back when Lily was two and my hair was simultaneously bleached white, as well…white and pink…I was a punk rock skunk!) But current fads seem goofier (no way am I piercing anything else on my body or adding another tattoo or
going to a vampire bar or whatever weird thing I have no idea about!)
Ok. To answer the question of my family..how did it affect me? I promised to answer this question that Gary and his wife had directed to me…Here is
what I have to say about my family:
Growing up, my parents were married. We visited family in Arkansas and Atlanta and sometimes Heflin and New Orleans every summer. We had Christmas trees and Santa Claus and Thanksgiving was a big deal and we all did the “I Love You” squeeze of the hand at the end of the prayer. Tradition.
Consistency. Good things.
My dad went to work at the University. He still works there. He is a painter.
I mean he IS a painter. It is his muse. He paints all day and all night and would eat paint, if he could. He loves to paint. He had a studio, always, no matter where we lived…Illinois to Texas. Going into his studio while growing up was like visiting Moses on the mountaintop. It felt holy and mysterious and dad’s back was always to you as you entered the studio space…he was always adding a line or filling something with orange and there were baby jars full of paint lining the walls as far as my eyes could see…Brushes and brushes and more brushes in coffee cans and the smell of acrylic paint was what hit you as you opened the mouth to his retreat…
My mom was a weaver. She tells me, now, she was a fiber artist. I still call her a weaver. That was what I heard as a child; it has stuck with me. She had a twelve foot loom. She made beautiful things: throws and structural beings
that hung from the ceiling and you could run around between these creations and they would move. One piece on our living room wall: you could pop your head out of the middle and say, “This is what it is like to be born!” and all my friends would laugh. “Let me try!” they’d say. It was cool and weird having artists for parents. My mom had her own room full of jute and fibers died assorted colors, all neatly wound into figure eights, sitting up on walls in old ice cream containers from Baskin Robbins. My parents were both tidy artists, I must tell you! Very organized people.
I don’t remember any yelling or hitting or anything bad. I remember lots of storytelling and guinea pigs and homemade brisket and chalk drawing under the stars and kick the can and putting Barbie in the freezer just to see what would happen and going to the opera on Wednesday afternoons and art museums and parties with good food and homemade cookies and watching the man walk on the moon. I remember the awe of the whole world, watching that black and white t.v. and not quite understanding but the teacher at school saying we get to watch tv today and everything hush hush as if we were about to walk on the moon, too. I remember riding my bike to Jill’s house and Steve dressing up like a girl scout for Halloween and sleepovers and dancing to the Jackson Five and listening to “The Streak” seven thousand times in a row.
Life was good until the divorce. Then there was yelling and hitting and everything was bad and no one got along and four people who were a family of four became the four corners of a square…distant, uncommunicative, scared, broken, trembling, crying, lost. The square was so big no one could find the middle of it; no one could start over. What was was gone. What was to become of these four people? No one had a map and no one dared even mention a map. So, two children were lost in confusion and two parents were in pain and everyone did the best they could to find happiness.
The mother went on to marry her friend; first, she tried dating and she got a “real” job as a receptionist. And three more children were introduced into the square.
The father went on to marry a woman he met in a square dancing class..he kept painting and learned about antiques and traveled the world…and two more children were brought into the square.
The oldest daughter fell into her guitar and found solace in sharing her days in her room with strings and wood. Writing and soaring and falling through music.
She was lonely and shy. She became an empath.
The youngest daughter played soccer and made families outside of the square.
She traveled the world and moved away. She made jewelry and hiked and fished.
And now the daughters have children of their own and they make their way weaving in and out of this painting called life and everyone is doing the best that they can. The mother and oldest daughter talk and argue and move back and forth, forward and sideways, finding ways to connect and never giving up on the hope that this is family and all is good.
The youngest daughter and mother still talk and visit and find ways to
connect in the moment. The two sisters are no longer talking and that is simple and complicated and sad and scary and one day the square will either be so large that all hope will be forgotten or the square will continue to get smaller and they will be nose to nose and work out whatever it is that keeps them seperate. Memories can cause distraction and distort the desire to BE HERE NOW so the sisters are mindful of being good parents. That is what they focus on. They give to their children what they think was lacking in their own upbringing, or what was lovely, or a mixture of it all, because they love their children and wake up every day aware that something is not perfect, but that is
part of the whole damn deal….you just have to give the best of yourself and hope that the whole picture falls into place as it should, leaving each of us with the postcards of joy, which, in turn, can turn into novellas, depending on which ending you are placing your energy towards.