Tag Archives: memories

Memories and Moonglow

I realize that I no longer know how to measure or track time. I own two watches, an iPhone. The house and car and office are filled with clocks, and the computer, iPad, all have the time. It’s not the actual hour or minute that mystifies me. I know the days of the week, the month and the year so I am not anymore disoriented than usual. It’s just more of trying to ponder how long ago things have occurred in my lifetime. Context…yesterday I read that it was thirty-eight years ago that Harry Chapin died . I was thinking about him and then thought of Jim Croce and wondered when he died. Not a matter of morbid curiosity but more about just checking the date to see how my memory is, since somehow I get them mixed up for no good reason. Jim Croce died in 1973. So that’s almost fifty years ago. Now we are all talking about it being fifty years since the first two astronauts landed and walked, hopped, and jumped on the moon. We all watched. My story was much the same as yours, I would imagine. My parents took my sister and me, two apartments down the hall to a lovely neighbor’s home. She was an older woman (seemed ancient, was probably 70) and she had a color television. It was late and we were in our pajamas and she was very hospitable. She gave us cookies and we sat silently, almost reverently, and watched history being made.

I have, somewhere, a copy of the issue of Life magazine’s souvenir issue of the coverage. I also own the cover of the Lennart Nilsson photos of the drama of birth and babies. When I try and sort and discard these possessions, I always look at them carefully and closely. I remember seeing them for the first time when the issue arrived at the house. My parents would read the magazine and I was asked “do you want to keep this to remember and show your children?”. I was 11 in 1965 when that baby issue was printed. I saved them, but wasn’t thinking about children I might have or grandchildren. I was only 11. I seemed to be the archivist of old newspapers of assassinations, elections, scientific moments, victories, tragedies. They still are kept safe. I may have shown my children at some point. They may have had vague interest. Will I show my grandgirls? Perhaps. I can’t throw them away. Not yet.

I love the moon. if I had to choose between the sun and the moon, the moon wins, every time. It’s approachable. People have been there. People like us. The sun, not so approachable. The moon is ours….everyone’s. It belongs to every living creature we share the earth with. It belongs to the earth, our earth, our only earth, our only moon. My moon, your moon, our moon. There are plenty of songs about the sun but the ones about the moon seem endless. The moon is a river, it has a dark side, it’s over Miami and Frank Sinatra sang about flying there. The moon and Frank. That’s a winning combination. Would I go there? Sure, why not? And then again, I’m not so sure anyone should go there. Twelve astronauts have been there. I just like to imagine it as being left to sing about, and wonder about, and contemplate on, but left alone. We have this earth, our only earth and we have not done a good job of caring for it, have we. I think we have not set a good precedent for caretaking of our only personal planet. So, don’t fly me to the moon. Just let me and the rest of us bask in the moon glow and moon shadows and maybe write a song. Does anybody really know what time it is?

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Catching Time

Where does the time go? One of those rhetorical and metaphysical questions most of us wonder for which there is no definitive answer, for sure. I don’t feel an internal change of who I am, other than the aches and pains related to having the same body aging that we all experience some days. In my mind, I feel young and very alive. Yet, I am alive but alas not young by the calendar or the clock. This weekend is the twentieth anniversary of my father’s death. It seems like moments ago in many ways since I can remember him vividly, hear his voice easily in my head, and see examples of his impact on my life and others he connected with all around me. It is jarring. If twenty years seems so recent, how will twenty years from now appear?

Several weeks ago, a very dear friend and colleague had arranged for us to meet up with our mentor from about twenty-five years ago as we had last seen him about twenty years ago (another number that keeps popping up, it seems). We had talked about seeing him and she took the initiative to arrange a lunch date near to Boston. We all are busy people, so it required a concerted effort to coordinate this date. She and I drove up to meet him at the restaurant and we talked about what he might look like, because we remembered him a certain way, in our own anticipated “Dorian Gray” experience. We were somewhat excited, yet there was some trepidation, as to whether we had truly recalled him as he was, or as we had imagined he might have been. We wondered if we would have something to say, or whether it would be awkward, and then we arrived. We were there first and made a little fuss about how we should be seated and where, giving that decision probably too much meaning.

While she stepped away from the table before he arrived, I looked around toward the entrance to see if I would recognized him. In that brief moment, I almost believed that I must look the same as I did so long ago, and thought would he remember me…and then realized, I know I am older, too. In an instant, he appeared, looking around, a bit lost, and I called him by name and he smiled broadly as I approached. He said “Barb! You haven’t changed a bit!”. I laughed out loud and said, “Let’s sit down and be more comfortable as we lie to one other”. My friend came back to the table and they greeted one another warmly. He spoke easily and comfortably and the time faded away. While they spoke, I looked at his face, his eighty year old face.The same face I had seen almost daily, in the past, with the same smile and voice and timbre and tone. We had so much to ask and to tell and catch up, the time evaporated quickly and then it was time to say goodbye and wish one another safe travels and the words “let’s do this again, soon” passed through all our lips.

She and I got back in the car. She spoke excitedly about how well he looked and how much fun it was to catch up and share our stories. She’s quite a bit younger that he and I. I felt that, and yet, I felt a melancholy feeling of loss with a hint of sadness. It was partly the realization that in fact, he was the same in a myriad of familiar ways. He was engaging and charming, but he also had shared stories of loss and adjustments to profound life changes, and it was startling to recognize that he is fifteen years ahead of me in life, and the feeling that he was a beacon of the future journey was present in my consciousness.

The melancholy faded a bit, replaced by the recognition that time is measured in discreet moments, for us to catalogue (the good ones) or discard (the not so good ones). Sometimes we have to consciously choose what goes where but in that mindset, we have already chosen, haven’t we? My father was a bright and brash young man, who had been challenged by the history being made around and in his life, as a Jewish child, teenager and young adult in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany. He was an immigrant at 15, and an American soldier less than ten years later, a husband within five more years and a father within five years after that. He taught us to love nature, and classical (the only “great”) music, and love of family and history, personal and world. He worked hard, was successful in business, and regarded with affection and respect by many people, including his daughters and his wife. His death came quickly and unexpectedly at age 77. That number looms closer and closer.

The aftermath of loss, the comfort of re-engagement with old friends, the recognition of how to manage this construct of time, is the takeaway from recent experiences. If there is a finite definition of time, we can’t be tethered to it because that is like counting the ticks of the clock for no good reason. I am going to honor my father in a way that allows me to remember and hold memories, but make an effort to make more memories in a proactive way. He would like that quite a bit, and even more so, if I could set it to music, a little Mozart perhaps.

Currency

Last Saturday was the quintessential spring into summer beach day. Our spring in the Northeast has been less than stellar, weatherwise, but without any intervention, human or otherwise, it lands and somehow, the pain of rain, not only on the plain, fades into the brightest greens and blues. The ground bursts with flowers, almost as though they have been waiting behind doors, like the impatient young women at a Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides. We breathe a satisfied collective sigh, that we have not been forgotten, just a bit delayed and we forgive because we just do.

We tend to be loyal to certain local beaches, for the quiet and convenience this time of year. The usual crowds have not yet ventured there, so we park and walk between the tall grasses over the wooden walkway until we see the water. Buzzards Bay is spectacular, alive and so very blue. My FHB and I like to walk along the shore setting a goal to an area less familiar just to say we have. It’s like our own passport to stamp with just our footprints. We pass the occasional fellow beachcomber with the nod of a head and a smile behind our sunglasses. We feel rich inside.

A woman a bit older than me smiled as she approached and hailed me with a hearty hello. She reminded me of one of my mother’s older sisters, lean and tan, with a soft buttery leather tone, smile lines around her mouth and an energy that comes with being comfortable in her own skin. As she got closer she asked, “are you looking for beach glass?” and I was awkward and said “always!” and she stopped and told me to wait, as she reached into her pockets and the folds of her blue denim pouch, and poured a handful of tawny gold, green and blue pieces of glass into my hands. I immediately felt as though she was giving me some precious jewels, and I felt a bit shy and had a childlike thought of whether one accepts a gift from a stranger. I looked at her face, her eyes hidden by sunglasses, and felt the warmth and genuine kindness and desire to share. I thought, I have nothing to give her in exchange and that felt strange. I asked if she was sure that she wanted to give the glass to me because it seemed as though I should not just presume what I felt was all right. She laughed and assured me that there was more to be found and picked up her bag from the sand and we exchanged good wishes and we went our separate ways.

My FHB stood at a distance from this exchange, more curious than protective and then walked along, waiting for me to catch up. We seldom talk as we walk, as we each have our internal conversations with ourselves. It is a time of quiet reverie. My thoughts reviewed the moments before of a stranger encounter and my initial inner doubts. I thought that she reminded me of someone I knew and had always felt safe with, my aunt, who has been gone for almost sixteen years who walked the beaches of Maine.She shared her love of animals, and the beach and had the quiet resilient demeanor I just had seen. I settled down to a calm that mirrored the in and out of the pull of the tides.

My father studied economics and financial trends. It was not in the context of money, but more the thought behind the value of what we acquire over time. This translated for me into awareness of the subtle differences in the concept of wealth, riches, value and sustainable states of being. He would often remark that something’s value was identified merely by someone’s else’s need for that “thing” and that is what made it worth negotiating for.

Sea glass as currency. The enchange of something tangible that both parties recognize as making us richer, not in the bank account sense of accumulated funds, but in the wealth of all our connections, even in the briefest of moments. My aunt never had human children, but many dogs, cats and as a “baby nurse” she cared for and nurtured many people. The sea glass lady made me remember my aunt, and the glass exchanged enhanced my memories.

RecentIy, found among my writing notes (which are on small pieces of paper, hidden in drawers, pockets, robes, and other unexplained and wonderfully disorganized locations), a thought that had occurred to me as I walked another beach, not that long ago.

“My pockets are lined with shells, not dimes. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, am I in trouble?”

I am rich.

#tinythanks

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A few days ago, as I was driving to work, Norah Jones’ “Come Away with Me” played on the radio.  The song brought back a memory instantaneously, and I smiled.  Almost sixteen years ago this June, I had surgery.  It had a good outcome and while I recovered at my sister’s house,  I received a Norah Jones CD as a get well gift from one of my sister’s closest friends.  It became one of my played-a-million-times favorites.  It was such a good gift.  I liked remembering that time in my life.  It propelled me to get her email address,  and send her a thank you note to let her know that I appreciated the gift, the thought, and the feelings that went with the gesture, sixteen years earlier.  It just made sense to relive the memory and share it with her.  She wrote back a couple of days later and told me that she didn’t remember having done that but thought that hearing it from me delighted her.  A full circle, in more ways than one.

When we get to a certain age in our lives we can look back and know that many of our relationships have changed due to loss or other circumstances, and present and future relationships may be lessened in number by time passing more quickly than we imagine.  I like remembering moments where I recall lessons learned, and pivotal memories that left an impact or possible change that I can pinpoint as something that changed me, in some small but satisfying ways. We come in contact with so many people over the course of our lives.. Almost every day, something triggers me to recall these moments. The more I have thought about it led me to conjure up a plan to recycle the memory with the person who helped me, either knowingly or who may be completely unaware of it.  It’s never to late to say thanks, again.  I’m calling these #tinythanks.

These #tinythanks can be done in a variety of ways.  I like the idea of the written word (or virtual written word, i.e. email) but a thank you note of any kind, virtual or snailmail might do the trick.  My FHB and I were talking about the process. He says that during this last year he has made a conscious effort to speak to his longtime customers over his forty plus years in his line of work through a phone call, just to say hello and let them know he has thought and remembered their connection over time.  He says each call gets a positive response, both for the person as well as for him, as they share their stories and acknowledge the length of the relationship.  He said he finds it often surprises the customer and creates that link, not necessarily looking to do business, but more to feel and share those memories. As in other relationships, a business relationship often grows into an enduring human connection.  If you are good at your job, you get more than an order.  It’s a win-win.  It might be a teacher, a colleague, an acquaintance, or perhaps a doctor or nurse who you have had ongoing contact with, who you appreciate for their work or the comfort you have felt at a difficult time.  It’s their job, but that human connection is so vital.

The most recent #tinythanks I have given were two memories of some minor what-to-dos and how-to-dos.  One of the first friends I met when  I moved to Massachusetts lived in an apartment and I notice that she kept all her makeup well organized in a big basket under her sink or next to her sink.  It left quite an impression forty three years ago since from that day that I observed how much sense it made, I have kept a similar set up which has made things easy and accessible and neater.  I like neatness.  I am fairly sure she hasn’t ever known that she taught me about that, but now she will.  The other email will be to my sister-in-law across the country, who, when we first met, had  basket of cloth napkins that I helped my brother-in-law fold after they came out of the dryer.  It was an ahah! moment.  I didn’t need to buy paper napkins ever again and they were pivotal in influencing a change in how I did things from that day on.  Good for the environment and good for us! Hence #tinythanks.

This is a bandwagon anyone can hop on.  It does good and feels good and makes most people a little happier to remember and be remembered.  There’s no scientific reason or statistics but this is one of those little things that can go a long way.  Building and maintaining this emotional bridge helps us maintain our memories.  There is so much we try and forget at times because of discontent and frustration.  #tinythanks makes me choose to remember.

 

 

Skip This

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Recently on Facebook someone asked the question to the universe of FB friends, family, and those who read your posts but don’t comment, to quantify one’s age, but not in numbers.  I posted that I was Howdy Doody and Good Humor old.  That should give you a clue as to my demographics, more or less.  Howdy Doody was my friend and cloth covered companion until a family friend, who’s house I left it at…I was four, tossed it down the incinerator thinking it was just a worn out and battered toy.  That was a growing up moment and a first loss.

Today my mother would have had her 94th birthday.  When she was four, and she lived in Germany, they celebrated a meld of Hanukah and Christmas, which I recently read was a thing then…called

“Chrismukkah, according to the Jewish Museum Berlin, was first used in 19th century Germany by German Jews. Except the term was in German, not English: Instead of Chrismukkah, they called the holiday Weihnukkah. Like how Chrismukkah is a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah, Weihnukkah is a combination of Weihnachten, Christmas in German, and Hanukkah. The more you know!” (credit to a cool website called Hey Alma!)

I always think of the questions I would like to ask her, which of course I could do, but I would be unsure how she would send me that answer from wherever she might be in the universe.  Another loss but then, it is the way we move through life, managing the losses, experiencing some miracles, celebrating the ordinary and the extraordinary.  She would like that sentence and that itself is an answer, when we can still predict the words of those who are not around.

I would ask her if she skipped as a child.  I dreamt last night that I was skipping around, in my current 65 year old self.  I was quite impressed with myself.  I wasn’t much of a skipp-er as a kid.  I was a tripper and fall downer.  Not full of grace, ever.  I often dream that I run, not in the sense of a monster chasing me, but more like a distance runner, metered and in a lovely cadence. One of my favorite dreams.  I think that some dreams are better than the reality.  I know I will never run like in my dreams, but I will always enjoy the dreams where I run.

Today we celebrate the day with the earliest sunset.  That’s different from the winter solstice which is still a few weeks away.  I would ask my mother what she remembered of December.  I know a story she told of the day she turned seventeen.  She worked in a factory in New York City at a company that made bows.  It was the day after Pearl Harbor and she told the story of how all the employees silently gathered around the radio to listen to President Franklin Roosevelt tell the citizens of the U.S. that this was day that we would declare war  against Japan, and enter W.W. II. It was the day my father, who was a supervisor at the same company, would turn to my mother and mouth the words “Happy Birthday” as they listened to the speech.

History is in the making every moment, every day.  For some it’s personal, for some it’s just another day.  Happy Birthday, Inge.  I remember you every day and I imagine  that you liked to skip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trips Around the Sun

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Today I applied for Medicare, and yesterday the world lost the Queen of Soul.  Two completely different events, one extremely less relevant, but necessary, and the other so relevant and sad, and so seemingly, unnecessary.  Here’s the bridge…we age, but we think about that fact in a context that explains how things happen in time, our time.  Aretha Franklin’s death makes us stop in our tracks, and remember how old we were when we heard her and fell in love with her and her music, and her grasp on telling the story of loss and love and hardship and becoming powerful, when folks were trying to silence the voices of the oppressed.  We, the baby boomers, have lived through a lot, and the music of our generation still defines us, and  the history of change.  Every generation has those power houses of music who brought us along with them.  Aretha was one of those transcendent beings.  She was on my bucket list of musicians  who I wanted to see in a live  performance.  My FHB and I had tickets for a show in Boston that she was scheduled to perform, this past June.  It was cancelled at the last minute, and now we have a clearer understanding of how illness takes the best laid plans.

The clock is ticking much louder today.  The mundane mandate that suggests (or be penalized) that three months or less prior to my 65th birthday, I must apply for Medicare, even if retirement is not in the forefront of my thinking.  It is a reminder that, at some point, in the future, it will be.  In my head, I remain a teenager at times, a 34 year old mother of two, a newlywed twice, a mother-in-law twice, and a grandmother twice, all in the same head.  It gets busy in there.  Hard to fathom, but yet, reality bellows…” YOU ARE GETTING OLDER”.  We go through a lot of gains in life and then there are the losses.  We consider the people who aren’t with us, and they then remain fixed at the age they died, in our memories.  We are grateful to have those memories, and then we hope that we grow older to make new memories.

Our loft  was filled with music today.  We watched and listened to hold those sounds in our hearts.  I teared up and remembered.  She was a force of nature, that Queen of Soul.  Thank you Aretha for who you are and for showing us the way.  Your voice and music are immortal.  Peace to you and love to your family for allowing us to  sharing you, and your fierce musical passion  with the world.  It is a big deal and so are you.   .

 

The Maine Road

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So, in about 168 hours,  we will be sitting in a little cottage on a lake.  There will be mosquitos and no wifi.  Last year we saw the fjords of Norway.  This summer, we will see the sights of Skowhegan, Maine.  We will visit places with names like The Broken Hag and the Good Karma Farm.  We might see Bruce the llama.  We will take a tour of the Stanley Museum to be wowed by the inventions that the Stanley brothers created.  We will visit the towns of Unity, Freedom and Liberty.  We will be on vacation. We will do a lot of nothing which is something we don’t usually get to do.  We will eat vegan in Skowhegan.  We will buy the best bagels in Maine in L.A. (the other L.A., Lewiston-Auburn).  We will have time to hear our thoughts.

Do I seem pumped to hit the road?  You betcha.  I want to travel the back roads and country roads.  I want to stop and greet cows….I alway stop and say “Hi Ladies” when I see cows.  My FHB will be on the lookout for moose, which is not dissimilar to Waiting for Godot.  No Godot, no moose.  The meaning of life, and yet we meander on and on.  My FHB has fond memories of childhood trips to Skowhegan.  It was inhabited by the Akanaki indiginous people who named it for “watching the fish”. He will be hoping for a few bites on his fishing pole, and maybe there will be a couple of teases or tugs and maybe this time, a fish and not just a fish story.

Skowhegan has a history much like many of the towns of New England, battles and conflict, forts and more battles, the industrial revolution and a town that was and probably still is a place where people worked hard to make a living.  One of my FHB’s memories was going to “Shirley and Walter’s” which was a restaurant that served “very American food”.  Apparently, according to my sources, Shirley and Walter divorced and there went the restaurant.  I think it will be nice to see where it used to be….or not.  Seems like at this point in our travels, we see or try to see a lot of places that used to be, that we remember from travels with our families.  Nostalgia will be sitting in the backseat, reminding us of “remember when and where”.

My family spent a lot of time traversing the roads of Maine.  We crossed the border from Canada (when it was easier) at Jackman.  We rode through the 45th parallel in Rangeley.  My father would point out the Echo satellite as it moved across the sky.  Then we would head to the coast, to Acadia National Park and to Blue Hill and stand on the jagged rocks and look across to Paris.  Then I found out that Maine was filled with places named Norway, Peru, Paris, Carthage and Bath as an homage to places I hadn’t yet travelled to but hoped to see one day.

When we travel to Maine, we often talk about our respective summer vacations with our families.  Sweet memories and we wonder, in our conversations of past moments in the remote and touristy places, whether a dark haired boy ever saw a short dirty blonde haired  girl and maybe even held a door, or got in a car and  perhaps looked through the window at one another.  Maine is our destination, but maybe it was our destiny, long, long ago.