Another year around the sun complete. Some words which moved me – to smile, to laugh, to think, to cry.
Life is full. Times passes quickly. Each day is a gift.
It must have been the unfortunate choice of Pandora station – U2’s Running to Stand Still, that prompted my run to be filled with thoughts of love. Many of the songs were familiar, but I forged a new understanding of them as the lyrics relentlessly pounded me for 5 miles.
As my mind sought an escape from the music, which was a combination of cloying and consolatory, some thoughts I recently had, began to knit themselves together. There must be water. If there’s a lack of oxygen, one can’t breathe. Light encourages development. A little dirt and fire are required. Love is earth.
Love is organic. It makes me believe in science in a way that my high school biology class failed to do. In fact, nothing has convinced me that human beings consist of atoms and electricity so much as love. From the moment those individual particles attach themselves to those of another, there’s no denying the force. There is an almost pungent scent from pheromones, palpable and intensely intimate. I’ve smelled it.
I’ve come to believe that we each possess an internal well which needs to be continually replenished. What fills the well for each of us is marvelously unique and ever evolving. Sometimes it’s a shower of loving words or shared thoughts which soothe our soul. At other times salty tears. There also needs to be a balance of air and light to enable growth. Without oxygen, there is suffocation. In the dark, love withers and fails to reach its true potential. Fresh air and sunshine truly are the antidote to sorrow. I know this to be true.
Dirt and fire can bring excitement and exhilaration to a union. Getting a little messy together, in whatever fashion you mutually appreciate, can be joyful. The heat of passion can meld two into one. I’ve felt this.
If these individual elements are absent, or present yet unbalanced, instead of desirable rich and earthy soil, mud or dust may result. We become bogged down or inclined to be blown away. Equilibrium, damn it, it’s about creating a positive balance between these individual essential fundamentals. It’s true about the earth, it’s true about love.
It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. The longer you live, the smaller the world becomes and the more likely it is that the individual spheres of one’s personal world will begin to overlap. Last night I helped train our new server at the Wine Bar. She is a former student. Sigh.
I obviously share a lot of my personal life and thoughts here, but it mostly feels anonymous. I don’t really know who reads this stuff and thus am often surprised when I meet someone in real life who knows about me or my adventures and antics. I do think, though, that I’ve done a decent job of keeping my day time school life separate from my night-time restaurant life. Until yesterday, that is.
I kind of pride myself about being ‘Me” wherever I am. That doesn’t mean, though, that I necessarily am comfortable being my blunt and sometimes bawdy self behind the bar with a young woman who used to attend the school where I teach. Must I now censor myself?
As I consider what I can and can not say while in the presence of a former student, why don’t you take a moment to ponder the First Amendment and the right to free speech on a literary level? Next weeks marks the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week. While I figure out the best way to say what I want, you can maybe read a book by authors who have used their words to freely express themselves.
I’ve noticed some reporting recently about cat calls, social media buzz word stuff. I haven’t yet had a moment to click through and read any of what has been written, but intend to momentarily. Before I read what the discussion is, I wanted to express my own experiences and opinion without influence.I don’t remember when I personally received my first catcall, but I do know that each time I hear one these days, I laugh and wonder if it will be my last. Catcalls don’t bother me. They don’t make me feel objectified or threatened. Usually, they make me laugh, once when I was about 8.5 months pregnant hard enough to almost pee myself.
Maybe I should define “catcalls.” I’m talking about a couple of complimentary words spoken in an appreciative tone of voice, not a barrage of filthy language. That I most definitely find offensive. I don’t know, maybe it was growing up around NYC or something, but a construction worker giving me a “Hey, pretty lady,” doesn’t feel like harassment to me.
Ok, now I’ll go read some of what’s going on. I’m back.
This seemed to be the article which helped to ignite the current conversation about catcalling. The author must have been writing an ironic piece because I can’t imagine that a woman would truly encourage attention on the street in the way she did. It had to have been intentionally hyperbolic, right?
This was written in response to a segment of some television program which I’ve been fortunate enough to have never had inflicted upon me. The writer makes some excellent points and I can understand her perspective.
The focus here was primarily on Kirsten Gillibrand’s assertions regarding inappropriate comments made to her by other members of Congress. The examples she provided were outrageous and demonstrated a complete lack of propriety and common decency, but I didn’t perceive them to be “catcalls.” They were personal criticism and commentary about her physical self and as such were deplorable.
My conclusion after this minimal amount of “research?” Well, we all have differing thresholds for what we are willing to tolerate. In my mind there’s a vast difference between a light “Looking good” and detailed descriptions about “what I’d like to do to you, baby.” Does this sort of reasoning strip me of my feminist crown? Is it somehow demeaning to all women that one of my favorite moments as a young woman was when I received a standing ovation from a roomful of cadets at West Point, something I was given in response to how I looked and not related to my intellectual capacity? Does the pleasure I felt at that moment somehow diminish me as a woman? Only if I let it.
One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers. Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace. I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else? Very.
Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend. Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros. I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter. Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage. Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage. There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.
Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition. I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves, sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force. Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating. Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected. That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent. Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.
As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything. She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.
We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now. There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long. For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach. There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family. She’s truly the mother of my heart.
Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:
“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…
I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”
It breaks my heart a little bit each time.
Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.
I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.
Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.
“In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”
There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.
When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.
Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.
You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.
Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.
Some girls are really lucky.