Friday, November 30, 2007


Went to see that dear girl this afternoon. I wheeled her out of the building into what they call a patio, which is a chain-linked-fence-enclosed area. There is a tree, thank God, right in the middle of all the concrete.
I grabbed an ice cream from the aide giving out the sweet stuff in the dining room and I fed her that while the breeze blew on us and the leaves dropped from the tree. It wasn't glorious, but it was as good an experience as we could share, I think. While she ate the ice cream I talked about the time she made homemade peach ice cream for me on my birthday when my oldest child was only a month old. I don't know if she knew what I was talking about, but when I say these things to her, remind her of things she's done for me, things we've done together, it makes me feel better.
We sat in the sweet, drowsy air for awhile and I talked a little bit to some of the other folks sitting outside. One fellow fascinates me. He doesn't talk (I think he's had a stroke) but he comes out of the building in his wheelchair like a bullet from a gun. Fast. Then he proceeds to straighten up the patio area. He pulls the tables and chairs into an arrangement that he finds pleasing. He does this sitting in his wheelchair with the use of only one hand. I'm always impressed with his ability to do this chore which I'm sure he finds some sort of meaning in. After he's done, he sits back in the sunshine and admires his work.
I admire him.
After awhile, we went back inside and I left my friend in the care of the nursing home staff.
"I love you," I said to her as I always do. "Do you know that?"
She didn't give me the response she usually does and I don't know if she really, actually knew it was me.
But she knows I love her. I have no doubts about that.
And I promise that I'm going to write about something lighter and funnier soon. It's just that right now, this girl is taking up a whole lot of room in my thoughts and my heart.
And that's all there is to it.

These Things Happen

I wimped.
We gathered and had a cup of tea, some cheese and apples. It was time to go see Lynn. I suddenly saw her at the nursing home, either medicated for bed or awake and aware. And it suddenly was quite clear to me that if we three women showed up she would either not know who we were or she'd know all too well and I couldn't see it bringing her one ounce of joy to know that we were going out without her.
I told my friends what I was thinking. I began to cry a little.
"It's okay," they said. "You're right."
And so we went on and had our little ritual and then we went to supper and it was all fine, but I couldn't quit thinking about Lynn, lying in a bed in a nursing home and I couldn't quit wondering where her mind was and what she was seeing and hearing and whether or not she somehow knew we were out without her.
I knew and it was hard for me to keep my mind where it should have been- concentrating on what was going on right then, right there, which was where I wanted to be because I love these women, too.
We ended up the night, toasting to "next year" with a shared last bite of pumpkin cheesecake.
Next year.
Where will we all be?
I pray that by next year, Lynn is somewhere where she truly knows what light is.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Very Best Tradition

Almost thirty years ago, my friend Lynn and I started a holiday tradition which, as good traditions do, bloomed and evolved and changed and became a part of our lives. It began very simply. We were young and had no money to speak of, but Lynn told me that Shaw's downtown was so beautifully decorated for Christmas that we should go down there and walk around the store, just to see it. So we did. We put Downtown Guy, who was a toddler, and his little sister, who was a baby, in strollers and strolled them down to Shaw's, which was on College Avenue. It was a big furniture/decorating store and it was gloriously decorated. We didn't buy anything, but we enjoyed the visit, and it was a lovely day.

We may have done this one other time and then Lynn moved to Houston, sobbing every mile of the journey because she couldn't believe that my babies could possibly grow up without the hands-on care of their Aunt Lynn. Or Aunt Yen, as the youngest called her.

Somehow I managed to get through those years that Lynn was in Houston, and the kids did too. Our friendship remained intact and active, bound together as the best friendships are, by that glue made up of chemistry, love, and a persistent desire to keep it alive.

When Lynn moved back to Tallahassee, she had a baby of her own, born late in her life. She had long since given up ever having a child of her own and then out of the blue, she was given the miracle of her son, which was her heart's greatest desire, as the best miracles are.

We restarted our holiday tradition, but instead of taking babies to Shaw's, we began to go, just us ladies, to LeMoyne to wander and be in awe and buy a few ornaments to bring home or to give as gifts. We decided to incorporate going for drinks and dinner after our trips to LeMoyne and asked my brother if he'd like to come along as our designated driver. He said he would. And then the next year, we asked another dear friend if she'd like to come with us. And then another was asked. And another.

It was always one of my very favorite parts of the holiday. Actually, one of the few of the Christmas season that I actually enjoyed and which held meaning for me.

We'd meet at LeMoyne, dressed up and feeling all festive and go through the rooms, saying, "Oh, look at this! How sweet, how precious. How much?" Before we checked out, we'd all meet up outside in the sculpture garden where we'd head towards the gazebo. We would crowd inside it to stand in a bit of a circle and pass around a flask containing sacred (and I assure you, it was) rum. We'd sip and then we'd each take our turn, saying what was in our hearts. It was never formal, it was never long. We spoke of the things that had happened in the last year. Coming marriages were announced, babies were celebrated, then grandbabies. Thanks were given for grave illnesses recovered from. Sometimes, all there was to say was, "I'm so grateful for this," with a gesture that included us all, the ladies, my brother, the shining twinkling lights around us that defined and bordered the darkness. Some of us had been friends for so long that we were mere children ourselves when we met, although we hadn't known it at the time. And here we were- still here! Wearing lipstick and velvet and able to celebrate or to mourn or to hope or to share with each other.

Then Lynn got sick and the tradition took on new meaning. It became harder for her to find her words. The evening became more bittersweet. She sipped sweet cider instead of her beloved rum. We circled around her more fiercely. Each year I wondered if this would be her last with us.

Last year was her last with us there.

We didn't wait until night time to go, but went in the daylight, and there were just a few of us. The hardcore core of the tradition. We went to the assisted living place where Lynn was living then and dressed her up as best we could and took her out and she was so excited. She even managed to say some words and although we couldn't understand them so much as words, we knew their meaning. She was happy.

This year, tonight, only three of us are going. And we're not going to LeMoyne. We're going to the nursing home to see her and then I think we'll go to Dorothy Oven park. We'll take our flask and find a private spot and we'll toast to Lynn and we'll say a few words that maybe our hearts need to let out. I don't know. You can't plan these things.

And then we're going to dinner. It would just be too sad to go to LeMoyne without our Lynn.
I think that when we go see her in the home, she is going to know exactly who we are and exactly what we're doing and I'm so afraid it's going to break her heart that she can't come with us.

It's going to break mine.

But dammit, we have to do this. It's tradition.

And traditions, the very best traditions, are here to give our lives meaning, to allow us to stop and make a moment special enough to remember for a lifetime.

Tonight we'll celebrate Lynn's lifetime with the sort of joy that can only leak out of a broken heart. It's a lifetime that is going to be way too short, but believe me, I know it's been a lifetime that has been joyously full. I am so grateful to have so many memories we've made together. And the memories of us standing in the gazebo behind LeMoyne in the cold winter night air with the twinkly lights and the warmth of our friends around us, are among the very best.

Here's to you, baby. Here's to you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Just Saw A Face

Prosopagnosia. Ever hear of it? I have it. I think.
You might, too. According to some recent studies, 2 percent of the population may. So what is it? It's a neurological condition which might be hereditary or can be the result of a head injury which causes something called face blindness. So what the hell does that mean?
It means that it's really, really hard for me to remember faces. As in, if I know you from some place, like working at Publix, if I see you at Barnes and Noble I probably won't recognize you. I may not even recognize the fact that I've seen you a thousand times.
Weird. The odds that I will recognize you are better if you have some unusual features or a very unique look. But if you're sort of a generic type person, I probably won't.
I've always had this problem and just thought I didn't pay attention to faces. And then one day, I was reading a book by (saint) Jane Goodall and she described the condition exactly. She said that the hardest part of going around the world on speaking tours was not recognizing people she'd met before. She even got in touch with the famous neurologist, Oliver Sachs, who told her he had the same problem and gave her the name for it- Prosopagnosia.
I think I must have been born with the condition although my mother says I did hit my head pretty hard on the metal dashboard once when I was quite young in the before-the-child-seat era, so it may have been a result of injury. Who knows? But I remember distinctly, at the age of four or so, running home from playing with a friend and begging my mother to put my hair up in pigtails and letting me change my clothes so he wouldn't recognize me. I wanted to fool him. So I suppose I was already making my identifications with the aid of hair and clothing on the people I knew, which is very common in people with prosopagnosia.
It's not that we can't see faces. We can. We just have a very hard time identifying them later and it's very hard for us to visualize what people's faces look like. I know it sounds so odd and ridiculous, but I think it's a bit like trying to explain to a color-blind person what red looks like, or blue.
I've always had a terrible time watching movies and following the story, especially if some of the characters have similar coloring and hair styles. I'm constantly asking questions like, "Is that the bad guy?"
I think this condition is one of the reasons I am sort of socially shy. It's so embarrassing to be in a situation where someone comes up and starts talking to me as if he or she knows me quite well and I have absolutely no idea who they are. I know everyone does this to some extent, but in my case, it almost always happens. When I was a volunteer in my children's classrooms, it was not uncommon for me not to recognize and remember the kids' names after an entire year of being with them weekly. It happens for me with kids, men, women, children, black folks, white folks, all sorts of folks.
I hear that the problem is so intense for some people that they don't even recognize their own family members if they come across them in unexpected places. Thank God it's not that severe in my case, but I do understand how it could happen.
I tell people sometimes that I have this problem and that if I meet them again somewhere and don't recognize them, to please just tell me who they are. Most people look at me when I tell them this like I'm a complete moron and I feel like one, but the truth is the truth.
There's quite a few resources on the Internet, including this one-
which has some links to some quick tests for face and object recognition. Quite frequently, those two things go together. People who have problems recognizing faces may have problems recognizing cars, of all things, and also places. I call myself directionally dyslexic and this may be related. Who knows?
There's a lot of research going on in the field. The diagnosis wasn't even coined until 1947. It will be interesting to see what comes of it as new things are discovered.
At the very least, people may be more understanding when I don't recognize them. But I'll still feel like a moron.
And the image I have used for this blog is a portrait by a friend of mine named Karen Davidson. She has just begun painting and I am amazed at her work. This piece perfectly illustrates what prosopognosia feels like, although I doubt that's what she had in mind when she did it.
Thanks, Karen! Keep painting!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If Music Be The Food Of Love....

Well, it's all over except for the vat o' turkey soup in the refrigerator and a cooler with some oysters in it.
Okay, that and the new roll of fat that makes buttoning our jeans even more of a challenge. I swear, next year we're having pinto beans and rice for Thanksgiving dinner and maybe, if I'm feeling really productive, I'll make some cornbread and if you want dessert you can pour some syrup over a chunk of that.
I say this because despite the fact that on Thursday we had a feast that couldn't be beat, the real Thanksgiving, the good part, the sweetest part, the most magical and joyous part happened the night before and had nothing to do with turkey or sweet potatoes or even pecan pie.
There was food, but it was just a big bowl of pasta with jarred sauce and some salad. And a cooler full of oysters. There were beverages too.
But what made it so special and what made it so magic was the people and the music.
A sort of spontaneous party arose Wednesday night that made me about as happy as I've ever been in my life. The sort of party that almost never, in my experience, actually happens. The sort of party that warmed this old house and this old heart in ways I can't explain. There was family and sort-of-family and friends so old that they might as well be family and new people that are now family and we all had the very best time. I think everyone did, anyway. It sure seemed like it.
There was music- fiddle, guitar, mandolin and singing. There was dancing. There was hugging and oyster-eating and beer drinking and rum drinking and soda drinking and there was a lot of laughter and there was a lot of light and the dogs went from lap to lap, getting the overflow of the love.
It reminded me of the old days when we were younger and music was made for the joy of it and the babies were little and our hearts were lighter and our feet were too. The babies have grown up and it brings me more joy than I can say to have them sing and play and dance to the old songs with us old folks. Really, more than I can say.
It was the kind of night that I wished could never end, but of course it had to. The musicians played Good Night Irene and we all sang and then begged for ONE more and we got it, but then it was really time for the instruments to be put away. Folks started thinking about the turkeys they had to get in the oven the next morning and the pies they had to make and so it all ended. There were more good hugs and promises for same-time-next-year and drive carefully's and my husband washed the dishes and we all made a desultory attempt to bag up the bottles and cans and paper plates and then it was time for bed.
I laid there awake for a few minutes, buzzing with it all. I thought about how good it had been to see folks that I've known and loved since high school, about how proud I am that my ex-husband and his wife and my husband and I are all good friends and how our kids have benefited from that. I thought about how precious it was to see my daughter playing music with folks I've been lucky enough to listen to for over thirty years. I thought about how wonderful it had been to meet a few new people whom I felt like I'd known forever. I thought about how I'd been wanting to have a party like this since I laid eyes on this house. And I thought about how damn lucky I am. How rare it is to have an evening where so many parts of the whole cloth of a life come together to make one vibrant, glowing quilt of joy.
It was as if the whole map of my life had been laid out right there on my back porch and I could trace the history of it through this person, through that bloodline, all the while listening to the songs that have made me happy for a lifetime. The songs that may have, at one time or another, saved my life, played by the people who may have done the same.
And then I slept in my house where all my children were, and when I woke up I felt the same way.
I still do.
You just can't get better than that. The feast we had the next day was terrific and the people there were other parts of the quilt, the map, the whole of my life, but it was different. It was more work and less music, more clean-up and less joy. It was more about the food and less about the love.
But I got both parts and that makes me just about the luckiest woman on earth. Friends and family that blur into one, along with a feast.
And now I have the memories and the turkey soup and it's really good turkey soup. And the oysters, which I will make into some oyster stew tonight for my husband. He loves oyster stew because his mama used to make it for him. He swears she didn't put a thing in that stew but oysters, cream, butter, salt and pepper. I am almost congenitally unable to make a dish so simple, but I'll try to recreate his mother's oyster stew as best as I can because I know what it's like to taste something that brings back the memories of happy times. His mama and daddy are gone now but I can hopefully bring them back in his heart just a little with the taste of salty oysters, sweet butter and black pepper.
Because food is love. And music is love. And on Wednesday night, everywhere I looked was love. I drank it in, it filled my heart and it spills out now.
I swear, I could have done like my dogs and gone from lap to lap. Well, maybe not. Only dogs can get away with that sort of thing. We poor humans have to get ours in other, a bit more subtle ways.
But we clumsy humans do get it sometimes. Sometimes, we do.
Wednesday night I sure did.
And it has left me filled with Thanks-giving in a way that pecan pie never will.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just a Quick Prayer of Thanksgiving To Whatever Is Making It All Happen

I'm about to make the stuffing and get that bird in the oven. All the kids are still asleep and the rain is coming down. Thank-you, thank-you.
Thank-you, too, for the music last night and the friends and the family and the dancing and the singing and the sharing of hearts. Thank-you for letting me have loved people whom I can still love thirty-something years on. Thank-you for new folks whose places in my heart have been staked out. Thank-you for the children who are coming behind us with so many special gifts and light of their own. Thank-you for their beauty and the joy they bring me.
Thank-you to the man I love for seeing this dream with me and working so hard to make it happen.
Thank-you for this life and it's incredible fullness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgivings I Have Known

It's funny. I don't specifically remember any of my childhood Thanksgivings. My mother doesn't really like to cook , but she did it, and she put on a very adequate spread every year.
She always made the turkey with a regular type dressing (Pepperidge Farm was involved) and other traditional dishes including broccoli with Cheez Whiz melted over it, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. I don't fault her for the Cheez Whiz- she was a cook of her time and Cheez Whiz was really quite the treat at our house. If a gun was put to my head, I'd have to admit that I still love that unnaturally yellow goop, as well as it's more solidified cousin, Velveeta.
I don't consider either Cheez Whiz or Velveeta to be cheeses, but just some other random foods, and therefore it's okay to like them. I don't actually eat them, but I know they're out there, just in case I get an overwhelming craving for their golden, chemical goodness.
I do remember distinctly a Thanksgiving when I was attending University of Denver. It wasn't feasible for me to fly all the way back to Florida when Christmas was coming up so soon, so I stayed in the dorm while all the other kids packed up to go home or to Aspen to ski. A great many of the students at DU were skiiers, which is why they chose the school to begin with but I only knew about water skiing and the one time I did try snow skiing I almost fell off the mountain.
Anyway, it was me and the Girl from Hawaii in the room next door, all alone in that great big dorm. Somehow she had an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner and may have even asked me to come with her. However, I was in intense Martyr Training, I guess, and had decided to take the opportunity to fast for four days and so spent that Thanksgiving NOT eating, probably lying on my bed and reading and listening to the Bonnie Raitt album, Love Has No Pride and the Joni Mitchell album, Blue, and as you can imagine, it was not a very happy holiday.
I also remember the Thanksgiving I did go home and made the whole wheat rolls for the feast. I remember this because they were such hard lumps of bread and my poor little Granny, sprung from the nursing home for the dinner, upon trying to eat one, asked, "What is this?" and upon being told that it was a roll, she asked, "Must I eat it?"
Ah me.
The first Thanksgiving I cooked all by myself was in a little apartment on Miccosukee Road that my first husband and I lived in with our five-month old son, Hank. My mother-in-law and her boyfriend came for dinner and she was a saint and did all the clean-up and I still use the recipe she sent me beforehand for cornbread stuffing. Hank grew up to live in that apartment himself, many years later, but I don't think he ever cooked a turkey there.
Since then, I've probably hosted Thanksgiving every year but for a few. This totals out to at last twenty-five of them and you'd think I'd be completely at ease doing it by now, but you'd be wrong. I've developed an eye-twitch in the last few days and I know it's because I can't figure out how I'm going to get everything in the refrigerator that needs to be there and also, because I always worry that I won't have all the dishes done on time and together and mainly that there won't be enough food which is absolutely ridiculous. But still, I must worry and for example, yesterday after I bought the turkey I decided that it just wasn't big enough and have prevailed upon my husband to smoke another outside just in case. So there will be two turkeys, a pot of black-eyed peas, oysters, and hopefully a big pot of venison pozole, just for the protein needs.
There won't be any Cheez Whiz (dammit) but there will be many casseroles wherein perfectly healthy and nutritious vegetables will be rendered into junk food with the addition of "french-fried" onion rings, Campbell's soups, and regular, real cheese. I'd change all that up if I could, but the kids would revolt. I will cook a pot of greens and make a salad from the garden (that chicken shit is working, folks!) and so that'll be healthy enough.
There will be pies, a rice thing, sweet potatoes (and yes, they will have tiny marshmallows on top), two kinds of cranberries, one a relish and one the traditional whole-berry sauce and I make that just because it's so damn beautiful. Good God! It's like rubies you can eat. And gravy (Juancho?) and angel biscuits and oh, I don't know what all else. Every year I put my foot down and say, "No mashed potatoes!" and I mean it, and then I end up making them anyway. But not this year and I really mean it.
But really, it's not about the food anyway. I don't remember what all I cooked the first Thanksgiving that I stuffed a turkey (beyond the turkey, anyway), but I remember my baby at the table and my dear mother-in-law and her long-time boyfriend and my then-husband.
And when we sit down this year, I'll remember all the people who have sat at my various tables for Thanksgiving and I'll have a moment of silence for the ones who aren't here any more. It seems to me that there are too many of those.
That first mother-in-law died years ago. The incredibly precious folks who were my now-husband's parents who died way too young and I miss them with all my heart. My sister-in-law died two years ago and she won't be here, but I'll light a candle for her. My dear friend Sue, who always came to eat with us, left a huge hole in my heart with her passing.
My friend Lynn, who lives in the nursing home came and ate with us two years ago but she isn't leaving the facility these days. Back when she was healthy, we had a tradition where she would come over early, while I was still cooking, just to have a drink with me and then we'd do a little dance to maybe some Jimmy Buffett and she'd taste whatever I had going on, food-wise before leaving to go to her mother's house. Although she's technically still with us, she won't be here for a sip of rum and a hip-shaking dance in the hallway and I miss that more than I can say.
But there will be lots of other good folks here and we'll carry on the traditions as best we can. We'll throw tablecloths on various tables and pull up all the mismatched chairs and eat off the mismatched plates and it'll all be good. The kids are going to spend the night and this big old house will be filled up again which I believe makes the house as happy as it makes me. There will be lots of light and laughter and we'll probably play some stupid games and drink too much and the husband and I will go to bed early and the kids'll stay up until all hours doing God knows what, maybe watching Pants Off, Dance Off, which they swear is a real show, but I don't believe it.
Perhaps there will be music and perhaps there will be dancing. There will certainly be eating of leftovers, which is when I can really enjoy the eating part because by the time I get dinner made, all I want is a big old drink and a nap.
Thanksgiving is a good day, even a joyful day for me, despite all the work, the worry, the eye-twitches and the ones who can't be with us.
And let's face it- any Thanksgiving not spent in a dorm in Denver, Colorado, all alone with Joni Mitchell has to be a good one. I'll probably listen to Blue, at least once while I'm cooking, just to remind myself of that and also because it's such a great album.
And I'll think of the ones who can't be with us and I'll sing Oh I could drink a case of you softly as I chop greens or roll out the biscuits and I'll remember snow falling outside a lonely window and I'll look around me to see all my babies and my beloved and lots of friends and I'll be happy.
I hope you are too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Time Of Year

I just spent about an hour trying to write a blog about the way I feel concerning Christmas and this time of year, but basically it all boiled down to me being a bitter asshole who hates the holidays.
Yeah, yeah. I know it. And everybody that knows me knows it. And now you do too.
There are a million good reasons to hate Christmas, not the least of which is that we are constantly reminded that if we don't all go out and buy a bunch of crap we don't need with money we don't have, the American economy will fail, but I think you either like Christmas or you don't and I really don't.
They're already playing Christmas carols in the store and I'm getting about one devastated rain forest's worth of catalogs a day in the mail and all the stores have their decorations up and frankly, I'm wondering, once again, how I'm going to make it through the rest of the year.
Now I do like Thanksgiving just fine. All I'm expected to do is buy a whole lot of groceries, cook up a feast, clean the house and put on a clean apron when folks start arriving. This is fine. I equate food with love and I have a lot to be thankful for, so it works out for me, this Thanksgiving thing.
Christmas, however, is another matter entirely and I just want to say that if you suddenly notice that I haven't posted a blog in over two weeks, it is because I have fulfilled my life-long fantasy of getting on a plane in December and going to some country that doesn't celebrate the Birth of Our Lord with the purchase of salad spinners.
And really, that's all I should say about it right now.
Stay tuned for more options.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just A Little Heartwarming Story

Well the temperature did a freakazoid nosedive this week, catching us all with our porch plants unprotected. And you know how you're supposed to check your heater before you actually need it to make sure it's working so that when you do actually need it, it'll be there for you?
Well, we had this thermostat that was theoretically programmable, and I say "theoretically" because I couldn't even figure out how to get the heat or AC to come on without going through the book, which never really helped, but somehow in my fumblings I usually managed to get the damn thing on. But I was never quite sure whether it was me or the thermostat and I did try to get the heater to come on before the cold snap, but I couldn't, and by Wednesday morning I was pretty sure it was the heater itself that needed fixing, not me. The burner sound would come on and then it would go off and I'd smell gas.
Bummer. I called the heat repair place and since the temperature was supposed to drop into the thirties that night, they were of course booked solid for service calls, but promised to have someone come out between one p.m. and five p.m. I said I'd be here, and since I was supposed to be going to an event in Monticello that evening, I baked cookies to take with me while waiting for the Heater Guy to show up.
At five thirty, TWO heater guys showed up, brothers, and they got right to work. About the same time they got here I got the word that the event in Monticello was canceled and so I offered the guys some cookies, which they greatly appreciated. As they worked to try to diagnose my problem, the night began to fall (darn this time change) and so I made them a pot of coffee and poured them cups and served them another round of cookies (oatmeal/raisin/chocolate chip/pecan, in case you're curious) and they really appreciated the snack. It was getting cold.
My daughter and a friend of hers came out for supper so there was a lot going on for awhile. Luckily, all seven of the fireplaces in this old house have been converted to gas logs which actually provide heat, so we weren't freezing and I wasn't desperate when the heater brothers sadly told me that they were going to have to come back the next day with parts, leaving us without the central heat for the night.
I was in a good mood so I told them it was okay, not to worry, we had the gas logs and we wouldn't freeze to death. And they were so apologetic and sweet that I almost invited them to stay for supper but I knew they had families to get home to.
It did freeze that night and several of my begonias are now icky green mush and my datura, which was just one day away from blooming, is too.
And I froze all day yesterday. I got warm when I walked but then I got cold again and so I decided to draw a hot bath and when I got out of that, the sweet heater guys were back and had the parts replaced and the heater working. It was like magic, only better, maybe.
I had mentioned how much I hated the programmable thermostat and they put in a new one that you can actually turn off and on and it's so simple to operate that even I can do it. For this, they charged me nothing, still feeling bad that I'd had to go a cold night without heat. Also, I think they liked those cookies.
And the parts were still under warranty so I didn't have to pay for that and they charged me what I consider to be a minimal service charge.
So it pays to be nice and it pays to be gracious, is what I say.
By the time they left I knew a little bit about their lives and had seen pictures on the younger brother's cell phone of the deer he'd shot that morning. "You're a good hunter!" I told him. "That's because I'm from Perry," he said.
So God bless central heating units and God bless fellows from Perry that are good hunters and really care about their customers and their job.
When they left I told them to stop by any time and I really meant it.
Hell, I'd make cookies again for those boys.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dearly Beloved

Have you gotten your computerized call asking if you'd like to sign a petition to get a state constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is something that can only be entered into between a man and a woman in order to protect the sanctity of marriage?

I have.

Scary shit there.

I've never understood why a marriage between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman threatens my own marriage. I mean, no matter how hard I try, I just can't see any correlation between gay marriage and the downfall of straight marriage. I guess that if two married gay guys moved in next door and they looked like they were having so much fun that my husband decided to divorce me and find a man of his own, it might threaten me, but I don't think it would really be the fault of the guys next door.

Frankly, it would seem to me that straight people are doing a fine job of screwing up the sacred sacrament of marriage all on their own.

Another one of the arguments these nimrods use against gay marriage is that God created marriage between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. But we all know plenty of straight couples who enter into marriage with no intention whatsoever of having children. Are we going to tell that darling 84-year old gent and his 80-year old sweetheart who met in the nursing home that they can't be married because they can't have children? What about the couple who just knows in their hearts that they don't want kids? On the other hand, there are plenty of gay couples who desperately want children and who will (and do) make terrific parents, no matter how the babies come their way. So that argument surely doesn't work for me.

Another reason cited frequently for denying gay marriage is that if we let gay people marry each other, then the next thing you know, polygamy will be legal and then, oh, I don't know, so will marrying sheep or your cousin or your brother or something on that order. One thing will lead to another, as we know.

Which all sounds a bit daunting, at first thought, but then the more I think about it, the less I care who marries whom. Frankly, if all parties are consenting adults (and I do mean consenting and I DO mean adults) then why should I care? If some lucky guy can find eight women who want to marry him and he can be an adequate husband and father to the women and all the children he produces, who am I to stand in his way?
And although it sounds...icky...and on a really deep emotional level...wrong, if a brother and a sister want to be married, and if they get genetic counseling before they breed, again- why should I care?

Now as to the sheep thing- I don't think a sheep can be consenting nor can a German Shepherd or a chimpanzee, no matter how intelligent. So forget the whole animal thing.


So yeah, if legalizing gay marriage leads to other alternative types of marriage, I guess I don't really care. Again, I don't think it's going to affect my own marriage.
I've had people ask me to officiate at weddings and I have always been honored to do so. I have married maybe a dozen couples, some straight and therefore legally, some gay and therefore illegally, but my criteria has always been more about love than the law. I respect anyone who chooses to get up in front of friends and family and vow to make a life together out of love. It's such a universally human desire to be married and I think it's a human right. I don't know if I'd perform a marriage for a man and his sister or a woman and two men, but maybe, if I knew the folks and they seemed sincerely in love and sincerely dedicated to each other, I might.

Yeah, I'm weird.

But God's honest truth is, is that my marriage is not like yours, even if you are a woman married to a man. Every marriage is as different as the people in it and every couple (or whatever) finds their own way to share their hearts and their lives together. How your marriage works is none of my business and how mine works is none of yours. That marriage works at all is a miracle and I don't think the gender of the participants is a huge factor.

So, no, I don't care to sign that petition. But thanks for asking.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Here and There, Both Perfect

Some days are just so damn beautiful that they'll break your heart. Today has been one of those. One of those perfect fall days with cool air and sunlight pouring out of a blue sky to paint all the leaves in silver.
Ah. It's enough to just be alive today.
And as my son pointed out in his most recent blog Thursday's Child Has Far To Go at , changes in the weather can throw us into deep nostalgia for places we've been, things we've done. Fall especially, I think, has a natural tendency to do that. It's a time when we start to draw into ourselves more, to think and to feel.
My son thinks of Atlanta when the weather turns cool but I think of Cozumel, Mexico. Sometimes, the brush of cool air, the way it smells on these early fall mornings, throws me completely back to that small island in the Caribbean where my husband and I have spent so many anniversaries. Our first trip there was in 1987 and since then, we've probably been back eight times. More or less. Mas o menos. I can close my eyes and see the little town of San Miguel, smell the garlic grilling as supper time approaches, feel the sidewalk under my feet, hear the sounds of mopeds, the waves hitting the shore, the bread man banging a metal pipe to announce his wares as he pedals his cart along the street, see the way the sea goes from green to blue to violet, all of it crystal clear, like a fabulous jewel, and I can taste the Ixnepech, the ubiquitous fresh salsa that tastes perfect on everything from the morning's eggs to the evening's fresh snapper. Most of all, I can see the Mayan people, small and brown and always smiling, ever-patient and gentle, always eager to talk about their island and their families, always curious about where we live, always eager to help in any way.
Cozumel is my magic place. It is the place in the world that besides my own home, I feel safest and most in love with my husband. Every one of our trips there has been a honeymoon. There isn't a whole lot to do beyond snorkle and explore and watch the sunset. And it's such a small island- thirty three miles long, eight and a half miles wide. It was sacred to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, who was the goddess of childbirth, the sea, the moon, seashells and weaving. Mayan women were expected to make a pilgrimage there during their lifetime and I guess I've made enough trips there for several lifetimes, but somehow, it's never enough.
I have to admit that the over the course of twenty years, the island has changed considerably, mostly due to the fact that it's become a port of call for cruise ships. Don't get me started on that subject. Just...don'
When we first visited, it was still a sleepy place, a diver's destination, "discovered" by Jacques Cousteau. It was, and still is, a place where actual families lived, where people worked and lived and raised their children. And oh, what beautiful, so-obviously loved children!
But since the cruise ships have taken over, so much of the island seems geared to catch the folks vomited off those monstrous boats as they take their six hour shore leaves and sell them jewelry, cheap trinkets, Kahlua, and T-shirts, and send them back drunk on bad tequila. The cruisers love to eat at places they know so Ruby Tuesdays and Margaritaville do booming businesses while the restaurants that families own and which have served delicious meals to thousands for decades stand empty.
Oh yeah. I got started.
I'm sorry. That's not what I meant to write about. What I meant to write about is how this time of year, my heart yearns to go back there, cruisers or not, to feel that soft air blow over my body, to walk down the seafront and say "Buenos tardes" to the people we pass in the evening and to hear them say it back to me. I want to go to the Zocalo on Sunday night and watch the families dressed in their best, walk around the square and dance and eat and I want to hear their voices. I want to stand on a balcony with a drink of rum in my hand and my husband by my side to watch the sun go down. I want to hear the liquid notes of the Mexican blackbirds as they gather at dusk and call their contentment with the day. I want to watch the lights come on across the water at Playa del Carmen. I want to see images of the Virgin of Guadalupe everywhere and hear the street musicians play the Cozumel song.
I guess I want to make another pilgrimage and I know it won't happen this year.
But I know it's still there. I know that time and even cruise ships can't destroy all that magic.
But I yearn, oh how I yearn! Even as I am content to be exactly where I am, there is a part of me that is there, right now, this very second. That part is wearing a dress and silver earrings and she is discussing with her husband where they should eat their supper. She is smiling. Oh, how she is smiling! And she is happy.