Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nice things


Nice things.

Heard.

"Thank you, for being you."

"That bracelet is really.. you."
(This may not have been nice but I am taking it that way)

"I'm sorry Mom."

"Hi! How are you?" And they really wanted to know.

Said.

"I missed you." And I did, I really did.

"I have a quarter." To the woman who was short to pay for her milk in the line before me.

"I'm sorry too."

"You look so pretty today."

Promises.

To little guy.
I promise to focus more on how incredible you are and less on how much you are not like me. I tend to forget that what I see as imperfections are really the best parts of you that I have yet to understand. You are amazing, even when I don’t see.. maybe mostly when I do not see. I promise to spend more time and energy fostering your love of history and teaching you more about maps.


To big guy.
I promise to explain more. I have reasons for what I say, I always mean well, I always think (or at least hope) I am making the right choice. You did not come with instructions and sometimes you are smarter then I am. Thank you for trying so hard to understand. I will always return the favor.


To me.
I promise to shut up and enjoy it more. All of it. Them, him, you. I promise to worry less and breath more. I promise to say yes more. I promise to share more. I promise to write more poems and maybe let you see them. I promise to let others make mistakes without my attempts to stop them because I know, I know.. you need to make them yourself to understand why I so badly want to stop you.

I promise to be more fancy.. and less fancy all at once.

I promise to walk from my house to downtown at least once in the next seven days. When I get down there, I promise to buy whoever I've dragged with me an ice cream and then sit in the park and listen to all the nice things they have heard and said.

And most of all, in this moment... I promise to let it happen, I promise to hold your hand, I promise not to ask too many 'what if' questions. I promise to love you, all of you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I haven't forgotten


Someone mentioned my Gramma today. You have to say it that way too, Gramma. There is no n or d in her name. I miss her. I miss her in all the corny ways people miss each other in pretty songs and Meg Ryan movies. Except that there is no happy ending. She died in 2001, I think. I found out in 2006. We had fallen out of touch because she could no longer read my letters and I had children, a marriage, a divorce, a job and a million other things that really, in hindsight, were never as important as picking up the phone would have been. I found out because my letter was returned. Her house had been bulldozed. I would have sold my soul to have bought that rickety little house on the lake.

But I know she forgives me, because Gramma always forgives.

Her house smelled of my late grandfather’s pipe and it was filled with his wooden mallard ducks. The Lincoln logs were his and given to my father who never understood just how magical they were. They were my link to my Grandfather who loved me like sunshine in his pocket. I was too little to get much when he died, I don’t remember it. But I do remember driving back to Mass from Florida when I was 5 and suddenly feeling the weight of his loss. I was so inconsolable and so unable to find five year old words to tell my pissed off mother what was wrong that she pulled over and got out of the car and walked away for a while. I really don’t blame her.

My Gramma used to read readers digest magazine, or rather we would all read it to her. After I was 5 and we left New York for good I only saw her every few years but every time I did it was like we had been together all along. I’d read to her from readers digest and she would bake cookies even though she could barely see. Her kitchen was and is, the seat of my heart. If I ever have a daughter I'd want to name her Pauline for my Gramma.

I don’t even know how she died and I know there is someone I could ask but what if I don’t want to know? I want to think she died peacefully in her bed, surrounded by the millions of photographs she kept and her jewelry that, no matter how plastic and cheesy, I always thought was so glamorous and fine. I don’t know what happens to a person’s soul when you die. My son thinks your soul gets recycled. But I want to believe that somewhere, in new bodies or ethereal space.. My Gramma and Grampa are sitting somewhere in a little lopsided house on the lake, her in the kitchen reading a readers digest and he in that mallard duck nook smoking a pipe. And somewhere nearby is all my three year old happy, saved up in a pocket just for them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy Birthday

Birthdays are weird. The subject of them is stressful. They are not my favorite. Last year on my birthday I argued with my children about how old I was. I thought I was 33, a little quick math revealed I was mistaken, I was only 32. That’s how much I normally pay attention to my own birthday.

The boys both have holiday birthdays and that too, is stressful. Those birthdays are fun, I enjoy them even if they do make me a little sad. We have big parties at pizza places without absolutely any organization. No silly games or set times. People come and go and drop off cards and kisses. I like things like that.

I.. do not have birthday parties. I recall my fifth birthday party, in our backyard. My cousins were there and my mother’s boyfriend got really drunk and loud and I got a Holly Hobby sewing kit with a doll. Best. Birthday. Ever.

When I turned 11 I had a Mexican party. I wore a red dress and red shoes my mother had bought special and our neighbor Kim came and smoked over the cake and then I didn’t want to eat any. My friend Letty ate 4 large bowls of popcorn and then threw up in the white plastic terrarium. She had never had popcorn before. Yea.

When I was 16, in a bout of guilt over some nameless thing, my mother again threw me a party. I used to have a picture of that party, I was wearing a plaid ruffled shirt with a v neck and laces like a corset(shut up that shirt was AWESOME) and blue jeans tucked into my socks. My Aunt D and I were sipping soda and laughing really hard in that picture. I wish I still had it.

And that was it. When I turned 21 I had a six month old baby and a husband I didn’t like very much. He went to work before I woke up that day and came home after I was asleep. The baby and I had thrush. It was one of the most miserable days of my life.

Today is my birthday again and I am thirty three, roughly, and with a little luck, one third of my life is over. I didn’t do so bad. I have some giant gaping holes where I did the wrong thing.. but when set beside all the right things I did, they do not look so bad. My children took their ‘life savings’ and bought me a book about wraps, you know.. sandwiches without crusts? and pretty silver earrings I wouldn’t have bought myself. Most of my relatives, no matter how much space we have let fall between us, paused to say happy birthday. At work I got a card and a balloon and a gift too corny to mention. They bought a cake and everyone sang. Suddenly I like my birthday. I have friends and family and co-workers that for all their strange little twitches and sigh worthy moments.. I would not trade for anything.

The day is only half over but I do not think, in any way, it could possibly get any better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wicked proud


Last night the big kid sat on the couch, took up the whole couch with his sprawl actually, and turned on the TV. I was sitting at the kitchen table and watching a squirrel crack his head on a gravestone. We could hear all the other kids outside shrieking and laughing and catcalling. I was suddenly filled with a sense of.. time and how fast it passes.

My oldest son, you know the one who think he is the smartest thing to ever walk this earth? He used to called pharmacy’s..

Para-Mack-e’s

The little one once walked into the kitchen and declared that he knew where babies come from. I asked him, cautiously, where…

“From Virginia!”

When they were very little I once dropped the cordless phone into a pot of boiling spaghetti after a long and very bad day. I sat down on the floor with my back against the cabinet and cried. The older kid came over, crawled into my lap and promised to make everything okay again. And by doing that.. he did.

How did he go from sitting in my lap to rudely occupying the entire couch with his impossibly long limbs? How come they both comb their own hair now? When did they start not only liking Monty Python but actually getting the jokes? Why are we watching old black and white horror movies and I am the only one jumping at the scary bits?

Excuse me Mr. Time but I think you stole ten years of my life. Where did you put it?! I want some of it back. I want to take more pictures. I want to go outside more, I want to buy more ice cream cones and chase more rainbows. Because suddenly I am sitting in the kitchen alone and no one, at all, wants to color with me.

I am not sure I know these two miniature men. They sleep with their doors shut. They demand male products like green soap and deodorant that promises to make women love you. They shake new peoples hands without my prompting anymore and they check the mail on their own. They only kiss me if I ask. They blush if I touch them in public. They have come to realize my knowledge of everything great and good is woefully inferior to theirs and they make their own mac and cheese.

I am becoming obsolete.. Except that I can drive and I control the cash flow.

Now and then I catch a glimpse of them that slows down time, puts things back where I want them. Last night I heard them talking about me and what they got me for my birthday. They wanted to reuse an old gift bag because.. in the words of the little guy…

“That will make her wicked proud!”

and I am.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul


There is a library in Thebes with an inscription over the door that reads “Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul.” Every time I walk into the Holyoke Public Library I try to remember that. I want to remind myself that I am bringing my children to a real, live, tangible wonderland. We always go in the back door and take the elevator up to the first floor. We walk gingerly over the glass floor and then boisterously say hello to whoever is behind the desk. Thank goodness for understanding Librarians. We drop off whatever we are returning, perhaps renew a few longer reads and then I let my kids loose on Jason, the Gatekeeper of the Children’s section. Jason Lefebvre has been there as long as we have been frequenting the HPL and has become an extension of our personal community. My kids share with him their latest favorite books and movies, accomplishments at school and have even volunteered their time reshelving books with him. These are experiences I do not think we could have anywhere else. I have lived in other towns and frequented other Library’s but HPL will always be my favorite.

Perhaps that will help you understand why I was so shocked and disturbed by the recent sensationalized media coverage seen on CBS 3. Something terrible did happen last December at the Holyoke Library, while it was extremely unfortunate the offense was reported and the perpetrator caught....] The offense was discovered on a Friday and was reported on Monday morning. I agree it should have been reported immediately and, I agree it was a terrible crime but no one was harmed by this delay and I refuse to allow irresponsible reporting to incite me or my family to hysteria. The man in question was swiftly identified and apprehended. He has had his day in court and the Holyoke Police Department and Court System have made swift work of the matter and the people of Holyoke are grateful that this man will not be able to actually harm a child. I hope Library patrons and Holyoke Citizens keep in mind that computers and the internet have been freely used in Libraries across the country for at least a decade and the accessing of such illegal photographs is a national problem.

This was an isolated incident and I have been to the Library as a concerned parent, I have discussed my concerns with staff there. Unlike the news story recently aired, I actually asked about what measures are being taken to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. From what I understand, the Library is working on revamping the infrastructure of the computers' security and on training staff on how to respond to such an event in the future. I would like to mention as well that any Library patron found to be abusing the libraries free internet will not be welcomed back again. While this incident was unfortunate it was, I really must repeat, isolated.

The vicious and shameful reporting we have seen only serves to hurt the children of Holyoke whose parents may now be wary of the library. Parents will be frightened to allow their children there. A public Library is one of the greatest resources of any city or town and so irresponsibly try to damage or smear or inflict harm on its reputation is simply criminal.

Where else can our children go, at no cost, to be entertained, to fall in love with literature, to borrow movies, music and quite simply, absorb culture? My own children have grown as thoughtful human beings thanks, in large part, to the library. From the Holyoke Public Library I have learned about local events, my children learned how to play chess, I learned to cook Indian food, I studied anything that sparked my interest, my children learned to love the humor of Lewis Carroll, Lemony Snicket and to fall into the world of Spiderwick. We all became Harry Potter fans and experts on how to use the search feature on the computers. My children joined a book club, took water color painting and learned the dewey decimal system. I've listened to local writers and speakers and once spent an hour with the children’s Librarian as he happily helped me find all the books on my class list of about a hundred titles. I can assure you that very few librarians would be so helpful and unrushed.

I am a single working parent in Holyoke, I am active in various local groups, it is important to me to expose my children to all kinds of events and culture and literature. I am also a part time student at HCC. For all of those parts of our every day lives the Library has been an invaluable resource. I would hate to see another family lose the same opportunities due to the manipulative fear mongering and sensationalist reporting of the news media. This Holyoke family will not stand for it.


Thank you,
Just Another Holyoke Mom

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dear Jerk,


Dear Stop and Shop Parking Lot guy,

I'm totally not a prude and I am a terrible feminist. I actually grinned when you whistled at me from your truck even if I didn't look back. There was probably a little extra swagger in my step too. I worked pretty hard to look like I do, I don't mind that being noticed.

What I do freaking mind was your persistence. I did not look back, you did not see that I grinned. Do you have any women in your family? Would you want some dirty guy who couldn't be bothered to wash his hands after work to be checking out any of them and calling them a sexy bitch in a public parking lot?

I kept walking. That's a clue. I always park really far away because I like the long walk.. but thanks to you next time I will think twice. That walk never seemed so long. I am not yours to objectify and really, until you brush your goddamn teeth you really shouldn't open your mouth. I think your polluting, seriously.

As I started my car I saw a woman get in your truck. Was that your wife? Was that your toddler she was dragging by the arm as he screamed for more candy? Did you forget to buy her the bottom half of that dress? I am really sure there was supposed to be some kind of skirt. I wanted to go and tell her what a pig you are. How disrespectful you are to women. And when I imagined you interrupting me (probably telling me to shut the fuck up you stupid bitch, cause that kind of abuse is all over your face) from her enlightenment, I imagined putting my palm up and in your face without even looking at you. But.. she probably already knows, doesn't she?

I heard your mirror move, by the way, you should use some WD-40 for that before you go parking lot stalking again. You left a nasty taste in my mouth. It tasted like oil and grease and dirty sand. You made me feel.. out of place and uncomfortable in the worst kind of way. You made me feel like it was my fault.

I hope one day someone's husband sees you do that crap and kicks the last of your teeth in. I hope it's caught on a cell phone and posted to You Tube and I hope I see it so I can play it over and over again while I drink wine and eat popcorn.

Signed,
Pink Sweater.

And while I was not wearing a short skirt I was strongly reminded of this poem.

My Short Skirt
(from The Vagina Monologues)

My short skirt
is not an invitation
a provocation
an indication
that I want it
or give it
or that I hook

My short skirt
is not begging for it
it does not want you
to rip it off me
or pull it down.

My short skirt
is not a legal reason
for raping me
although it has been before
it will not hold up
in the new court.

My short skirt, believe it or not
has nothing to do with you.

My short skirt
is about discovering
the power of my lower calves
about cool autumn air traveling
up my inner thighs
about allowing everything I see
or pass or feel to live inside.

My short skirt is not proof
that I am stupid
or undecided
or a malleable little girl.

My short skirt is my defiance
I will not let you make me afraid
My short skirt is not showing off
this is who I am
before you made me cover it
or tone it down.
Get used to it.

My short skirt is happiness
I can feel myself on the ground.
I am here. I am hot.

My short skirt is a liberation
flag in the women’s army
I declare these streets, any streets
my vagina’s country.

My short skirt
is turquoise water
with swimming colored fish
a summery festival
in the starry dark
a bird calling
a train arriving in a foreign town
my short skirt is a wild spin
a full breath
a tango dip
my short skirt is
initiation
appreciation
excitation.

But mainly my short skirt
and everything under it
is Mine.
Mine.
Mine.

—Eve Ensler, 2001

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why do you Love Holyoke?


Nice things I heard lately.

"You have some talents there!"

"I washed your Yoga pants Mom"

"That sandwich was really good!"

"You should write more."

So I am writing more. I should write more, I like writing. I feel somewhat uncomfortable being very personal here which is weird right? Because on Face Book I once had a status that included my bra size.

I deleted it, stop looking.

My life in Holyoke is.. not like my life was in any other town I ever lived in. Nor like it was in New York, or Florida. In Holyoke I feel connected. I feel like I could go outside and put my palm on the pavement and feel the pulse of Holyoke. Holyoke has a personality, she has a flirty smile. She has strong reassuring hands. Apparently she has a gender.

Not so long ago I was out with a friend and someone mentioned Holyoke. My spine straightened and I turned slightly towards the speaker and began to extol the virtues of Holyoke. My companion laughed and said "Look how she just lit up." That guy will never know how much that sentence meant to me. I like to have my passions noticed. And I am passionate about Holyoke.

I tried to leave Holyoke once, I moved to a 'better' town with a 'better' school system. I had affluent friends (though I have major issues with the idea of affluence in America as our poorest family on welfare is still richer then the richest African farm worker, but anyway) and my kids got good grades. One day.. I realized that there were no minority children in either of my kids classes. They had no exposure to other languages or culture.

Dear God, I was raising Wonder Bread boys!

Luckily this realization coincided with the loss of my job and a small mental breakdown.. I had a lot of realizations at the same time and then had three TERRIBLE weeks that involved a house fire, a liar, a thief, my ex husbands couch, a Chicopee school and finally.. a crappy apartment in Holyoke.

Where else could I have gone? I was jobless and had made myself friendless. I lacked direction, I lacked self esteem. But Holyoke didn't care, Holyoke welcomed me with open arms. Holyoke schools didn't care about the brand of clothing my kids wore or what I drove. My children began to learn Spanish! They went to birthday parties and ate unidentifiable foods. They tasted REAL beans and rice.. they learned to relax.

And slowly.. I did too. While I was looking for a work, a very long, slow, depressing year, I began to post on masslive and I met people like VanDog and HiesRN. My kids found scouting and soccer.. and I found the very thing I had been lacking all along.

Community.

I eventually found work, 40 minutes away but worth the daily drive. I began to work on myself, my health (After a nasty health scare and a little surgery) and my.. at the risk of sounding dramatic, my soul.

Over the last 2 years I have made some wonderful amazing friends in Holyoke.. there are simply too many list and I am too frightened to leave anyone out. You all know who you are. We have eaten together, walked together, had wine together. With some of you I have begun my Yoga journey (thank you!) and with some of you I feel the desire to understand photography grow. We have discussed local politics, libraries and public schools. You have shaken hands with my children and made us all grin a little more.

That's what Holyoke means to me. A family of acceptance. A community desperately reaching out to everyone. A welcoming fold. A gentle wing.

Tomorrow when I go outside I will put my hand to the ground and close my eyes and remember all of that and I will smile. Ask me again why I love Holyoke and I will tell you the truth.

Because Holyoke loves me.
 
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