Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Catalog of the past

I have invited in a very high end auction gallery (think "Antiques Road Show" folks) to look at the best of Mom's antiques, which have been in storage for a few years. The initial appraiser will come out on June 9th to look at the 60-80 so items I have set by for her to review. I have been deluging her with e-photos of many of them -- from an ominous antique lion's claw set in 22 carat gold as a watchfob, to a music box that plays 12 inch tin disks, to a grandfather clock, to a lovely birdseye maple bureau, to sets of Haviland china. There are other bureaus, antique chairs, oriental prayer rugs, and majolica pottery.

I had once thought I would never be able to part with any of it, but I have apparently learned the magic lesson. Stuff is not Mom. It won't bring her back, or make her memory any more indelible. Selling it will not irritate her or disappoint her. (The only thing that might get her cranky is if I would dispose of it imprudently, not getting a fair price.)

I might mention that I have two storage rooms FULL of stuff.

And she paid for almost none of it. Lest you think I come from the posh side of town.

Mom was an orphan, and she unconsciously sought parents through her whole life, which was why she was always befriending old people. She also loved antiques and would always say yes when asked if she would enjoy having item x or y. And she was clever.

We furnished our first house because she was clever, not because we had money. Mom saw a house that was for sale by owner. It was an old New England colonial home, full of junk. She looked through the dirty widows and saw a room full of antiques and 10 or 12 toilets. The house was a mess. She went to the owners and made them a deal. She and Dad would clean out all the trash in the house if we could keep anything we found that we liked. This would enable the owners to get a higher price for it by far than what they could have gotten with it used as a storage bin, without having to incur expense. (My Mom noticed that their house was full of "modern furniture", so she knew they would not care about the antiques. Nonetheless she told them there were antiques there that could be resold if the owners wanted to do the work themselves

Well, that is how we got beds for the guestroom, bureaus, a diningroom table and chairs, a pump organ, miscellaneous glass, pottery, etc. Some of it lasted through the years, and I will be finding out what monetary value it now has soon. She'd be tickled pink.

I had thought it might be emotionally more gruelling than it was. Instead I felt her delight in the fact that a big gallery was going to be looking at *her* things. Mom, who came from abject poverty. I am hoping to give her a posthumous "Roadshow Moment" -- and am hoping that there is one AHA! sort of discovery made when the appraiser comes. We'll see. I'll keep you posted !

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gone- Fallwell

I am not sad that Jerry Fallwell is dead. I am not happy that Jerry Fallwell is dead. I neither mourn nor celebrate his passing. His family, I am sure, mourns.

I am sorry that no one was ever able to convince him that God's love was wider than he thought, more inclusive.

I am sorry that Fallwell's contorted view of a faith I love causes people to wince when I say I am a Christian, as they wait to see if I am going to be cruel, or mean, or rejecting.

I am sorry that so many of his followers are anti-intellectual. I am worried that his legacy of intolerance and suspicion will be carried out by his
powerful and influential colleagues.

Jerry is with God now, experiencing the grace and love that he might have thought would be denied to others. My prayer is that his eyes are finally opened.

For those of you who are not from America, here are some quotations attributed to Rev Fallwell that hint at the spiritual damage that has been done. Damage that has been done by the man himself, the people who believed him, and all of us who may have kept too silent.

And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."
-- Rev Jerry Falwell, blaming civil libertarians, feminists, homosexuals, and abortion rights supporters for the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, The Washington Post (September 14, 2001)

"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"

“Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions”

“If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being”

"It is God's planet - and he's taking care of it. And I don't believe that anything we do will raise or lower the temperature one point."

“Someone must not be afraid to say, ‘moral perversion is wrong.’ If we do not act now, homosexuals will own America!.. If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way…and our nation will pay a terrible price!”

“I listen to feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men - that’s their problem.”

Jerry Fallwell, RIP.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Other Mothers

I write a fair amount about my outrageously fabulous Mom here (bless her memory), so I'd like to use some space today to talk about my two "other Moms" - two women who had substantial roles in my upbringing , and who were welcomed by my Mom as lovely additions to my life.

The first was Leona D., the mother of my best friend. Leona passed away over 20 years ago, but her presence is vibrant in memory. She was a force of nature. She had been raised on a farm, and had all the practical earthiness to go with it. When my overprotective Mom did not want me to have a two wheel bicycle because she was afraid I would get hurt in traffic, it was Leona D. who taught me how to ride one in secret. I was so afraid that my Mom would be upset, but Mrs. D said, "*I* will deal with your Mother." And so she did -- my Mom would get a stubborn streak on that no one could break -- except Mrs D. Within days of her visit to my mother, I had my very own aqua two wheel Columbia bike. It was Mrs D who put a copy of the biography of Margaret Sanger into my hands when I was 14. Her daughter Sandy was and is my best friend. We met at age 5, and recently celebrated 52 years of friendship. In our growing-up years our mothers were interchangeable. Mrs D taught me about courage and taught me the joy that can be found in being shockingly honest at just the right moment. She was feisty on the outside and soft as satin on the inside. She noticed what my Mom might have missed or couldn't do. And her heart was deep as an ocean and just as strong. Woe betide anyone who crossed her beloved family. She always made me feel welcomed, loved, safe and of worth.

Then there was Barbara B, my high school English teacher and dear friend. We kept in touch until she died -- two weeks after my mother did. Attending her funeral was agony, but I would not have missed the chance to honor her. She saw the writer in me and nurtured that - showed me resources that my Mom didn't know, cultivated my love of reading, my passion for language, my love of wit. There was a small group of us -- the nerdy, brainy English-major types -- that used to visit her home up in the country where we would be treated as family -- for many years after high school. When a high school friend of mine from that nerdy gang had gone on to college and had a falling out with his (alcoholic) family, Barbara and her husband Larry took him in. That was where Marty went on holidays and over the summers. She was just that kind of gal.

And, bless her, my own Mom, who knew that all kids need a few extra adults in their lives to round out their upbringing.

So here is to The Nurturers in our lives, the ones who step up to love a child or for that matter an adult -- at just the right time, with just the right idea. Whether its taking off our training wheels or introducing us to Winnie the Pooh -- they make our lives richer, more whole, happier. Bless them all.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Home? Yoo Hooo? Where Are You?

The house hunt goes on. Last weekend's houses:

1. Description: 2 acres of wooded land. Lovely location near fairly remote lake. Charming bungalow. 1200 sq feet.
Reality: Every window rotting out. House smells like 20 years of mold. Moss growing on external walls. House appears to have been untended for years. PO Box knocked over with vines growing over it. WILDLY overpriced. 700 sq feet and maybe not that much.

2. Description: Loads of floor space. Finished basement. Needs some minor updating.
Reality: Filthy. Every room has some sort of cheezy built in feature that would have to be ripped out (ex - entry way wall to ceiling open shelves with chipped, yellowing, clear plastic insert panels of dead pressed butterflies.) Impossible to access cellar - stairs covered with boxes.

3. Lovely little house -- Issue: 50 feet from bedroom window are active railroad tracks.

4. Lovely house - Issue - over my price ceiling and all-electric in a town that imports its electricity at a high rate. Very expensive to run.

You get the idea.

Then I saw it -- the perfect listing. We arrived to find that they had just accepted a deposit from another buyer.

So I press on ..going about my business....looking, praying, turning it over to God. Hoping this isn't a 40 years in the desert thing.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spirits in my garden

I have cross posted this largely from my entry at BlogHer.org where I am the Contributing Editor of the Religion & Spirituality section.

As a kid, I didn’t just dislike gardening. I hated it. We had a huge vegetable garden every summer, not for fun, but because we needed the produce. My garden chores would be done under the hypercritical eye of my father.


Sucker the tomato plants.

Pick big, fat, horrible green and squishy worm-like bugs off things.

Pick and shuck the corn.

Snap the peas.

I’d come into the house itchy from prickly garden leaves, dirt ground under my nails, tiny bits of corn tassel clinging like glue to my clothes. I would watch American Bandstand, a show full of teens a million miles away in every way. I’d snap the peas and feel every mile.

My mother’s garden was different – full of flowers and vines, colored leaves and blossoms. I liked spending time there, but still hated doing garden work. Not so for my Mom, who would wake up at five to be out in her garden wearing her “dungarees” and weeding with joy. She’d be humming to herself as she’d flip back a vagrant hair from her brow, and then fall happily back into her tasks. She took ecstatic pleasure in gardening until the day she died. We knew Mom died while she was happy, because she died in the blink of an eye while reading her latest garden catalog, planning her spring garden.

I hated gardening entirely -- until after my Mom died. The following spring I was filled with a lust for gardening, an unslakable thirst to get my hands in the dirt and plant things. I could not explain it. Nor could I prevent it from taking me over.

I live in an apartment with a screened in balcony porch. I bought big ceramic pots, plant stands, built shelves, hung trellis, carted bags of dirt upstairs. I planted seeds and seedlings, whole plants and vines. Plants hung, perched, clung and climbed over almost every inch of wall space. I put out a table and chairs and spent hours there, sipping tea, reading the paper, relaxing. I ate meals there, entertained guests under the leaves, dining on arugula and fig salads and wine.

I was (and still am) a woman swallowed up by the longing for a garden.

My garden smelled green and magical, fecund and full. And every winter I pine for it, yearning for the time I can plant it again. After a while, I began to think that this was more than just remembering my mother – somehow it was as if she had found me from afar in the deepest part of her longing for earth and growth.

I know every year that somehow, despite my ability to find any logic to explain it, she gardens with me. If I pause while reading my newspaper on some summer’s mornings I can almost see her out of the corner of my eye, wiping that vagrant hair from her forehead and smiling as she trims my petunias.

I remember laughing when she said that after she died she would find a way to reach back and let me know she was around me. I would laugh and tell her how stubborn she was.

Now, I think she had her way. And yes, I know how crazy that sounds. I think, though I cannot know why or how, that people can somehow intersect again.

Sometimes it is while hearing a familiar song. Sometimes it is a sudden sense that we are not alone. Or a scent, or a sound that calls us out into a place that is not here, yet profoundly here. It is a place, a moment, a quick shadow, a flash, a sense grazing the skin of memory. It is beyond language.

It is an experience that makes us feel foolish, like wishful thinkers on holiday.

And sometimes, as it is for me and Mom, it is just a quiet and familiar smile when our hands somehow reach together again into the warm spring soil.

Mother's Day: Not Everyone Celebrates

First, congratulations to all those Moms out there and all those children of Moms out there who have relationships that can be actively and lovingly celebrated. I hope you all have a full-tilt heaping of joy on that day, just over a week from now. I honestly do.

My Mom has been dead for 12 years; and if she were alive I would be full-tilting it with her. She and I had become, in her later years, dearest friends and confidants. I miss her like fire. So when Mother's Day rolls around I try to do something that I know she liked, or that we liked doing together. I also had uterine cancer surgery at age 32, 8 months after my divorce. Because of that, I was never able to become a mother -- something I had very much wanted to do. I did not want to start out as a single mother, so adoption was not an option, especially since I have never remarried.

So, on Mother's Day I'll be fine, just a bit more pensive and thoughtful than I would be otherwise.

But there are lots of folks around who aren't that lucky. There are people for whom Mother's Day is an open wound. There are people whose Mother's have hurt them, abused them, abandoned them. There are women who have lost children they loved deeply, or who are estranged from their children. There are women who gave children up for adoption and always wonder about them. There are any number of situations that women and children find ourselves in that are not the "Hallmark norm". To all of those people I offer my heartfelt prayer for comfort and consolation.

During this week I'm sure I'll be chatting here about my Mom, but I didn't want to ignore the fact that not everyone was blessed with a loving relationship between Mother and child. Fortunately, I was -- because on Father's Day I get to sit on the "unHallmark" side of the fence.
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