The Question: More a task. Can you capture in photos with captions, describe in written ‘snapshots’, or even in video, three events in the next few days which illustrate the reality of your life?
If you know me, you know that I’m a mensch among mensches. Curse or blessing, I can’t help it. So when my husband left 3 years ago, I was very sad but I never wondered if I could pull off single parenting of our two girls. Recently, I have taught myself to grill meat and have perfected the art of getting a Christmas tree up and down and flight of stairs. I have picked up children all over the city in the wee hours and I have filed my FAFSA to get college help. I am fiercely independent and proud of it.
That’s why I was surprised at myself when I kind of melted into a puddle of gratitude last week when my little brother “rescued” me and my girls.
We were all at my parents’ beach house for the holidays. John, my brother, was on the beach with his wife and kids and I was in the house with my two teens. When he ran up onto the deck, panting, I thought maybe he was chasing his two-year-old, but he explained that there had been a guy they didn’t know sitting on our beach, and then he had disappeared. John thought maybe he had come up to the house to cause trouble, so John came after him to make sure we were okay. John, a gentle guy who stopped eating meat at eight years old purely out of empathy for animals, was dead serious now about addressing the threat if there was one and, at six-foot-two, he could probably do that handily.
I never feel like I need a man or anyone else protecting me. I go where I wish and I teach my girls to walk tall and carry themselves tough. But on this tropical morning as I washed a few dishes, I was touched that my brother John would keep us in mind and, out of nothing but pure love for us, make certain we were safe.
Back in Chicago. I cut the onions and rest them in the olive oil where they bubble. The smell fills my small kitchen. Ground turkey next, and I put a lid on the cast-iron skillet. In another pot, I settle two peeled potatoes into boiling water. Oatmeal cooks in a third pot. When the turkey is browned, I make a home-made Italian meat sauce that will go over pasta. It simmers while I force the cooked potatoes through a ricer, adding milk and butter. I fashion a quick double-boiler out of two pots and transfer the mashed potatoes. They bubble over low heat while I finish the red sauce. I turn off the flame beneath the oatmeal and scoop a portion into my blue bowl. Bright sun floods the kitchen and beckons, even though today’s high is 7 degrees. I add milk and sugar to my bowl, grab my coffee, and sit at the dining room table for a moment. There’s that sun again, bending around into the dining room. It’s 7:15 a.m. on a winter Thursday morning, almost time to go to work.
It’s Friday at four and I’m crawling through weekend traffic, headed south on Harlem Avenue to the North Riverside mall. My older daughter is my passenger, antsy after a week off school. We are about to exchange a Christmas gift. As we drive, I remind her of an event she has coming up for the college where she has been accepted. I expect a little grumble when I remind her of the 9 a.m.-on-a-Saturday start time, but I’m not expecting the full-on reaction I get: “I’m not going.” I try a little cajoling as we progress toward the mall, stop and go, but then I drop it: she sounds hungry and I plan to bring it up again post food.
It’s not too long before we’re immersed in the lingerie aisle at Forever 21, digging through unkempt bins and looking for her size. Her phone rings and she somehow hears it over the blasting pop music. It’s a number she doesn’t know and she asks me if she should pick it up; I say yes. I hear her put on her best game face, “Oh, hi. Yes, this is she. Hi Michael. Yes, I’ll be there. Okay, look forward to meeting you.” And she hangs up. It was a current student at her soon-to-be school, welcoming her and reminding her of the upcoming Saturday event which, it turns out, she will be attending after all. Like anything else in life, you have to be invited by the right person and I was not the right person. Also, I did not engineer that phone call, but I couldn’t have finessed that better had I tried.
Last Thursday, our dog Harvey was bit by a snake for a second time. During his recovery, it meant everything, with the exception of our old, old dog whose mind is shrouded in dementia, eclipsed about everything else.
The money, the waiting.
It was a hard last few days. He is now home, and he is alive. It is a wonderful relief. This video captures three constants and the accidental of my life: the roads I drive each day, the interruption of my job as I navigate the unexpected, and my everyday landscape.
This is a shelf that holds the library books I read during the last week and a half.
In the past month I’ve read about 60 books by M.C. Beaton. Inspired by watching an Agatha Raisin marathon on Acorn TV, I thought I would try on one of the novels for size and see if I enjoyed it. So I visited the Open Library at the Internet Archive and borrowed Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. I started to read and then vanished into the rabbit hole under the spell of her addictively readable prose.
I slurped up the Agatha Raisin series and then polished off the last of the Hamish Macbeth series, Saturday morning, feeling a little forlorn. One thing I discovered while reading the M.C.Beaton novels was how it revived my taste for writing. Her creative flow is inspiring, so much so, that I decided to go back to keeping a daily journal.
I started to keep daily journals when I turned 20, but lost the daily habit when I joined the army back in 1976 when I was 25. I have been an intermittent diarist ever since. Journals have helped me focus my thoughts, feelings and dreams. Sometimes the boring sameness of my daily struggles would make me want to turn away from recording them, or just the sheer busyness of my life. Finding time to keep a diary was, at times, more an exercise in misery than a pleasure. The unobserved life is worth living and at times, I have been living proof.
This is my Daisy cat, the sweetest little cat in the whole wide world, with the sharpest little claws.
Sometimes she pesters me mercilessly, taking up residence on my shoulder and then proceeding to groom herself ad nauseum with a lick, lick, lick, lick lick. In five minutes I get sick of her and then plop her up onto the fleece blanket on the back of the couch. Here she is my bookmark, keeping my place before I resume reading in bed. She’s a snuggly buddy who loves to climb up and settle on my back when I’m on my stomach and read over my shoulder.
So, that’s a lot of my life right now. Books, a journal and a very fine cuddly cat named Daisy.