vendredi, décembre 11, 2009

The echo of cowbells

My friends left about 15 minutes ago. Don't get up, said the retired journalist who had also been one of the more scintillating guests.

She and her husband, a former editor, had gotten here before everyone else. I, of course, was in the shower. I am never quite able to pull it together before guests arrive.

Actually, they all were scintillating. Once started, conversations didn't stop until the last guest had closed the door.

Out into the chilled December air they all went in a blur of hugs, leaving this room, which had been filled with tales of domestic poverty and foreign wealth empty of all but me and the two cats.

Large buildings in Dubai. Music in the high mountains of Switzerland. Waves in Hawai. Stories of places I hadn't seen, and some I might never see. I let the thrum of chat flow around me, offering a perspective occasionally but mostly happy to let them talk.

Smiling was easier with feet propped up on the sofa.

Reclining I viewed volcanoes, transexxuals and huge glaciers through their experienced eyes -- pleased not to leaving my house tonight, even for beautiful sandy beaches or views embracing two thirds of Switzerland. Someday.

Afterwards, I hobbled to the kitchen to put the seafood stew away. My food is dicey, so the conversation better be good. Happily, most of the plates were in the dishwasher. I'm not used to chronic pain, and I'm not very good at dealing with it -- sometimes you can't just grit your teeth and get through it. Next Thursday-- the epidural.

But I am pleased when my guests enjoy themselves. Put the right people together and they will create a wonderful evening, regardless of the hostess.

I wonder if most single people hang with singles. I wonder about friendships and what makes them endure.

My pals are by no means all single -- or a particular age -- or a particular political conviction. I'm fortunate in the ones I do have -- they have to tolerate difference -- and, apparently, spend a lot of hours on airplanes .

And they have to know how to hold a conversation without lots of help from this hostess, in the kitchen, or on the couch.

Now...can I get off the couch and wend my slow way to the bedroom? I can't count on the felines to help with the kitchen cleanup. These cats are worse than kids when it comes to tidying up -- although Inky did try to help with the tilapia.

jeudi, décembre 10, 2009

Tossing the recipe

Are you Catholic? Do you also believe in having had a past life -- or two?

A Protestant -- and a person who finds energy in rocks, rivers, and the great outdoors?

A self-avowed atheist, yet you check that horoscope every day?

Not that you believe it, or anything...

We are a nation with many syncretists, as this article from Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today points out.

She includes some very interesting snippets from the latest Pew Poll, which you can
find in even more detail on their website.

Ranting and raving and condemnation from the orthodox, even the threat of excommunication, don't seem to keep Americans from throwing in a little eye of newt and tongue of dog.

What do you think might keep believers in one pew?

Where do YOU fall on the heterodoxy spectrum? Or are you more mono than stereo?

mercredi, décembre 09, 2009

Claws on the cliff

Our tuxedo cat rolls on his back, green eyes looking up at me, as papers slide to all corners of the small computer desk. Purring, he sticks his legs up in the air, ready for....a kiss on the head? A finger so that he can hook one of his sharp claws in it? A tummy rub and then the claw?

I have no clue. All three of us are convinced that Inky chose us, not the other way around. But what drives him is still as opaque as it was when we adopted him from the mean streets of a neighboring exurb on Halloween a few years ago.

But in rolling over, he has almost made a mistake -- one he has made before. He comes perilously close to rolling off the desk onto the floor, making a delicate adjustment to maintain his deceptively humble posture.

I think of my daughter, the DQ. In some ways she is, in adolescence, as hard to understand as this most lovable but most irritating feline. She is lovely, my daughter -- sometimes I think God gave her good looks to balance out the difficulties she constantly encounters in finding her way through the challenging terrain of friendships and academia.

Last night I went back to take another look at the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. I needed to remind myself that much of her inability to finish or even recall assignments is normative for such children. I don't know what I can expect. She doesn't know, either.

I'm more like dad than I am like you, she tells me -- and where once I was disturbed by this, now I am grateful that she feels that close connection to him.

Then there is the matter of social relationships. I don't know how to comfort her as she suffers when friendships fall away. Watching her interact, trying to find the key that so many others find by trial and error, is painful. Other girls sense that she isn't "like them" -- and they disappear. She covers it all up with bravado -- but there are times when the bafflement and hurt spill out.

So close to the edge -- knowing that increasingly I cannot keep her from dancing on the cliff, I will try to stand there with her, arms outstretched, in case she needs a hand to grab. Even when, sometimes, I know I will get the sharp edge of the claw.

lundi, décembre 07, 2009

Hope for Anissa, hope for us

As you know, I am skeptical about blogging, particularly relational blogging's real potential for creating intimacy -- or for creating much, in particular, but a kind of faux bonhomie.

Nice to know someone out there is listening.

But at evening's end you're still left with the distractable kid, and the mud where you ran over the lawn, and the empty bed.

I think I'm at least partly wrong. First of all, many bloggers, perhaps most in the relational arena, aren't as cynical as I am. There's a sometimes lovely innocence, an unstudied vulnerability about what they throw into the blogosphere.

Some of them are professional writers or teachers -- most, I'm guessing, are not.
While the artful posts are often more fun to read than the ones with major typos and warped grammar, I find myself more intrigued by those who only recently started to blog -- and are slowly finding their way.

But what's made me a little less cynical about motives of bloggers like me is the amazing outpouring of concern for 35 year old Anissa Mayhew. Anissa, a mommy blogger with a child who had cancer, had a stroke a few weeks ago. When he's not at the hospital, her husband has been keeping up with Anissa's blog, There is a sincerity and a lucidity about the way he writes that is extremely poignant -- and does make you feel like you are having a chat with him in an ICU waiting room.

But the good news is that Anissa Mayhew is out of the ICU -- and that thousands of people who never knew her are sending money to support the mother of three, and praying, and offering to help the Mayhew family.

The money is real.
The prayers are real.
And I have to believe that even if it is virtual, the friendship and love are also sincere.

So count me a believer tonight. Tomorrow...we'll see.

dimanche, décembre 06, 2009

In my sons eyes...

Looking back, it is no wonder that it became a rather stressful day.

In an act of either great trust or laziness, I had accepted my son's assertion that yes, he knew where today's chess tournament was to be held -- in the building right next to the Radnor Elementary School.

If one takes that to mean about a mile and a half from the new building on Louella, Mr. C was absolutely right.

The school where the Silver Knights had the competition isn't that easy to find. So we circled the lovely snowy streets of Wayne for about a half an hour, both of us growing more upset -- and he forfeited his first game.

Although I did find my way up to the gym for an hour to rid myself of the excess energy, the day felt oddly disorienting, partly because once familiar landmarks were covered with white. It was evidently that way for my son, who won a game and lost two.

On the way home, Mr. C cried a little, complaining that the light from the sun was bothering him. I think, from what I can tell, that the kid, who struggles with stomach and headaches, was having a migraine attack.

When we finally got back home he lay on my bed and tearfully asked me: why don't I do more for others? Why do I care only for myself?

Where did he come up with that? If you could only hear what others say about you, I said to my twelve-year-old. Teachers comment on what a kind person he is -- dunno where that comes from either, but I'm glad that he is an empathetic kid.

I wish I could, he said to me. Maybe I'd change.

Your job right now is to grow up and do the best you can in school, and help others when you can. There will be plenty of chances later on.

Looking into those sad blue eyes, so like mine, I wondered with some distress if I had somehow made him feel that he was self-absorbed, or uncaring. Or had he just inherited the family guilt -- never enough, never enough, always more to do to save the world.

He is a bit of an old soul, Mr. C. But there is still so much he has to learn. And when the questions get too huge, I hope he comes to me, to his father for the truth -- that he is loved, and loving.

After a while, he fell asleep. He even laughed a little bit tonight. And I was left to wonder at how, despite all that we do to create other universes in which our children can wander, they still find their way back to territory we often recall...and wish we could keep our kids from entering.

This morning, things are back to normal. He has shed the burdens of the cosmos, and is pondering a more immediate terror...that of having his hair, which currently acts like an insulation system for his ears, cut.

Trumpet in one hand, juggling balls in the other, he has stepped back into the present -- when the idealism surfaces again, I'll try to have a practical suggestion instead of a rush of motherly concern.

Even old souls need hobbies.